The hidden side of the city of Tokyo
A recent trip to the Land of the Rising Sun unearthed some very interesting discoveries. Foreign sartorialists have typically flocked to Tokyo to indulge their appetites for all things new (and technologically improved), but few have tip-toed the streets of Shimo-Kitazawa. Lying just west of more-famous neighbour, Shibuya, this little suburban quarter has experienced the same subtle transformation as Bushwick in New York.
The hallmarks of trendy youthful changemakers are here: Jumbled streets conceal small theatres, converted cafes and curious second-hand stores attract creative self-starters, but the feeling you may be jumped at any time is markedly absent.
Passerbys sporting Commes des Garçons and battered (but immaculately laced) military boots dropping in to galleries such as the beautiful Gallery Hana space mark this area as somewhere to watch, but the atmosphere here is distinctly unique by comparison to its trendy twin-towns in the West. Visit in February and you can partake in the month-long Shimokita zawa Theater Festival, or arrive in July to witness the street parties that accompany the self-styled Kitazawa Music Festival. The vibe is undoubtedly more Cali than chaotic.
Re-fuelling in Japan can be a tricky decision. Possibly even more difficult that deciding where to shop. Lured by the speakeasy concept we stumbled upon the Mois Cafe. Disguised within a converted house, Mois circumspect location creates an intimate atmosphere a cut above its more visible rivals. Enter the house, choose a dish from the chalked menu and be seduced by this charming one-off residence-cum-diner.
As the witching hour approaches, we’d recommend pulling up a chair around the indoor tree at the 3rd Stone Cafe for an immersion in style from the local night owls over a tumbler of rice wine from the giant coloured bottles that populate the worn wooden bar. The night thereon may not be one you remember so well, but slipping under the skin of Japan’s lesser-known districts is certainly an experience you will not forget.