Tokyo with Kids: Hanging with the Hipsters in Shimokitazawa

Things to do in Tokyo with Kids: Shimokitazawa

Tokyo. It’s all about cloud busting skyscrapers, bright lights, the blur of the bullet train, the heaving suburb-sized train stations, crowded mega street crossings, J-pop and Hello Kitty, right?

Umm, not exactly. At least not in Shimokitazawa, a low-rise haven for hipsters just minutes from the neon beanstalks of Shinjuku and Shibuya and colourful Harajuku, that is like something from a boho fairy tale.


It’s my second visit to this funky town but this time I have my little rock stars in tow, and one of them is decidedly unhappy when we step out of Shimokitazawa Station into a quiet little laneway lined with tiny two-storey buildings.

When a confused Sugarpuff plaintively cries “but where are the kitties?” I gently explain that Shimokitazawa is more about cool cats than kitty cats. She looks forlorn until we spot Caterium, a cat café that is just the thing to appease her need for feline interaction.

$20 bucks later her Kitty addiction is sated and we head further into the narrow traffic free streets. The kids are surprised by the distinct lack of cars. In fact, the only traffic at all is the occasional bicycle wheeling by in this pedestrian friendly village.

Shimokitazawa vintage shopping

We pass amazing street art, vinyl shops, music stores, incredible restaurants, rehearsal studios for musicians, bric-a- brac shops and bohemian vintage stores stocking everything from used couture to 70’s throwbacks.  

Flamingo vintage store in Shimokitazawa

There’s no glitz, no flash, and the relatively little neon has a touch of 70’s Vegas about it.

Raffles trawls through the vintage and too cool for school boutiques, oohing and aahing over a serious collection of Docs with all the reverence of the most dedicated hipster.

Docs on display at Shimokitazawa

While Sugarpuff is in conniptions over a suitcase of vintage teddies and dolls.

Vinatge stores in Shimokitizawa

The streets and stores are relatively quiet, and as they down shutters for the day the streets start coming alive with people. Extremely cool people. With tattoos, blue hair and artistically ripped jeans. Not to mention killer shoes. And guitar cases, the carrying of which is so common I begin to wonder if it is a legal requirement.

Sex drugs and rock'n'roll in Shimokitazawa

Oh, and some surprisingly creative facial hair… at least on the males. 

Shisha bar in Shimokitazawa

There are tourists sucking shisha pipes on the footpath outside a cafe, Hawaiian shirted hedonists delving into a tiki bar, grungy guys heading for an English-themed rock bar and vintage-clad artsy types taking to tiny amateur theatres. It’s like New York’s Williamsburg or Melbourne’s Fitzroy have dropped a Japanese trip.

izakaya in Shimokitazawa

We stop at one of the dozens of tiny izakaya and down a few plates of spicy chicken yakitori and agedashi tofu while we enjoy a spot of people watching. And come away with the distinct impression that these artfully cool people really do like to be watched.

When Raffles hears the sounds of reggae pulsing from a doorway nearby and then spies the entrance for Shelter, which I explain to him is an uber cool punk venue housed in a bomb shelter that wont be open for hours… and that he wont be old enough to visit for a good dozen years, my music-loving baby declares he’s growing an appropriately sparse goatee and moving here.

But his pursuit of becoming hirsute will also take a good dozen years and, as it’s getting a little late for a small boy and his even smaller sister to be getting down in funky town, this short taste of hipster life the Tokyo way will have to suffice.

For 17 more reasons to visit Tokyo, click here.

30 Comments on Tokyo with Kids: Hanging with the Hipsters in Shimokitazawa

  1. Vicki @ Knocked Up & Abroad
    August 2, 2016 at 9:39 am (8 years ago)

    Oh wow. It looks so vibrant and funky! I’m quite captivated by it. I have a Japanese sister in law so Mr Vick has been four times to Japan and I am still waiting. It’s definitely a family trip we intend to take in a few years. Tokyo! What a fascinating place!

      August 3, 2016 at 9:41 am (8 years ago)

      Shimokitasawa has a really fabulous vibe, cool and edgy but like all of Japan completely safe. Love it x

  2. Melinda
    August 2, 2016 at 10:03 am (8 years ago)

    We were in Tokyo for the first time earlier in the year- I absolutely loved it! Old and new, traditional and modern,slick and boho, conservative and manga- so much to see and stumble upon. We didn’t get here (even though we stayed in Shunjuku), I’ll have to check it out when I go back. Loved this post!

      August 3, 2016 at 9:42 am (8 years ago)

      IT’s a fabulous place and there are so many great places. The first time i visited I found Shimokitazawa quite by accident and just had to go back for more. CAn’t wait to visit again without kids so I can check out some of those cool venues later at night.

  3. Lauren
    August 2, 2016 at 12:41 pm (8 years ago)

    Sounds like an fabulous little place to visit!

      August 3, 2016 at 9:44 am (8 years ago)

      Poor possum was devastated. But she was happy with her cat cafe fix. We visited quite a few to appease her need for live action kitty fun

  4. Rachel
    August 2, 2016 at 12:57 pm (8 years ago)

    You guys have the most amazing adventures! This looks incredible, I’d be drooling over that Doc boot collection too ;).

      August 3, 2016 at 9:44 am (8 years ago)

      I wanted to bring them all home with me too! x

  5. Renee Wilson
    August 2, 2016 at 1:02 pm (8 years ago)

    This is so cool! I can’t wait to get over there!!! Plus my six year old is obsessed with the new Shibajuku dolls and of course Hello Kitty 🙂 #teamIBOT

      August 3, 2016 at 9:43 am (8 years ago)

      THen Japan is for your six-tear old. Hello Kitty rules Tokyo. 🙂

      August 3, 2016 at 9:46 am (8 years ago)

      It really is. But wrapped up in a vintage bundle. 🙂

  6. Denise
    August 2, 2016 at 5:07 pm (8 years ago)

    I really want to visit Japan, my son would be fascinated although he’s a bit young to join the hipsters just yet too:-)

      August 3, 2016 at 9:45 am (8 years ago)

      Yeah, the little hispters in training can at least get a taste of how the cool kids live, but there’s also splenty of non-hipster activity in Tokyo to keep them excited

  7. Hugzillablog
    August 2, 2016 at 8:50 pm (8 years ago)

    OMG OMHG OMG OMG OMG OMG….. THIS. “We pass amazing street art, vinyl shops, music stores, incredible restaurants, rehearsal studios for musicians, bric-a- brac shops and bohemian vintage stores stocking everything from used couture to 70’s throwbacks.” I AM HYPERVENTILATING. Sooooo cool!

      August 3, 2016 at 9:37 am (8 years ago)

      Breathe…. I thought of you while I was there. Think your cool band posters only in Japanese, the coolest, weirdest bric a brac, and awesome vintage everything. Just standing in the same strip as these shops and these people makes you feel cool by osmosis. 🙂

  8. Katie M Little
    August 2, 2016 at 10:20 pm (8 years ago)

    Oh cool! I’m planning a trip to Japan next year with my mob! This is just what I needed to read – thanks!

      August 3, 2016 at 9:39 am (8 years ago)

      You will have a brilliant time. Japan is impossible not to love

  9. Tash @ Gift Grapevine
    August 3, 2016 at 12:06 am (8 years ago)

    We visited Tokyo twice pre-kids and fell in love with it (the powder snow further north had a lot to do with our love affair with Japan!). I wish I knew about this place. I was too distracted by the bright lights of Shinjuku and the people watching and shopping in Harajuku. Next time – it’s on the list! Can’t wait to introduce my two tornadoes to Japan. It’s going to blow their little minds xx

      August 3, 2016 at 9:47 am (8 years ago)

      IT will totally blow there minds. x

  10. Karin @ Calm to Conniption
    August 3, 2016 at 9:51 am (8 years ago)

    Wow! That is very cool! I love your stunning photos taking me there. I think I would be walking around thinking I am not rad enough to be there.

  11. Maxabella
    August 3, 2016 at 11:18 am (8 years ago)

    We would LOVE Tokyo. I’m trying to convince my sushi-addict youngest to pick Japan for her ’10 years old’ travel destination. It’s definitely my pick! x

  12. Mummy Muckups (Anna)
    August 3, 2016 at 1:48 pm (8 years ago)

    Wow you are totally raising two super cool cats! What a fantastic experience for them. Love your reviews.

  13. Seana
    August 3, 2016 at 2:13 pm (8 years ago)

    Fantastic read, Aleney. I’ve never been to japan, with kids or without, and wouldn’t have imagined this sort of grooviness. Most enthusiastic about a visit here one day.

  14. Lorraine @Not Quite Nigella
    August 4, 2016 at 2:28 pm (8 years ago)

    No way!! I went here years ago when I lived in Tokyo and it was so nice seeing this place again 😀 I had almost forgotten about it!


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Hey, I’m Aleney! A mum, award-winning travel writer, magazine editor and gallivanting glutton. He’s Raff, the “boy” in boyeatsworld, and a fearless foodie, adventurer and eco-warrior. Along with his all-singing, all-dancing, all-adventurous sister, Sugarpuff, we’re exploring the world’s colour, culture and cuisine on a food safari for the junior set.

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