When I was getting ready to move back to Japan, one of the most important things I had to do is decide where I wanted to live. I decided I wanted to live in the same area that I had done when I was here before. I was familiar with the area, it was a nice area, and not far away there was a simply amazing little place called Shimokitazawa.
Shimokita as it is affectionately known is loved by the hip and trendy crowd who shun the more built up, mainstream areas of Shinjuku and Shibuya. It is an area popular with the young, and popular with people who have a love of the arts, or who are artists, musicians, writers etc themselves. It has a very active live music and theatre scene. I love it because it has a vibrant atmosphere and wonderfully interesting small shopping streets that have an amazing array of little shops, cafes, bars and restaurants of every variety imaginable! There are an enormous amount of small shops in the area selling everything from fashion to household goods to donuts to..........everything!! And everything in between! As you can probably tell, I like Shimokita! But enough of the ranting, how about some pictures so you can see for yourself.
Shimokita is only 2 express train stops from my home station (about 5 minutes), so I took the 8 minute walk from home to the station.
Trains in Japan are interesting in themselves. People doing anything from talking to friends, texting others, surfing the net on their phones, reading a paper or just listening to music. The inside of the trains are covered in print advertisements to keep people busy if they want to read them.
The station is currently undergoing some major renovations that has involved sending one of the two train lines that intersect Shimokita underground, so the station has a bit of a temporary feel to it.
Unfortunately the first thing you see when you step out of the station is something that is not Japanese, but it has always been like that in all of my time in Japan.
I'll let the pictures do the talking for a while. Here are a selection of some of the shops you will find in Shimokita:
There are a couple of amusement arcades in the neighbourhood and these are always packed with young people and the noise of hundreds of video games washes out onto the street whenever the doors open.
In Shimokita, even KFC has a restaurant serving alcohol!
Is this a rhetorical question?
As mentioned before, Shimokita is loaded with restaurants of nearly every cuisine imaginable (although I don't recall having seen an African resaurant, that might be a business opening for someone!)
Italian and Mexican
beef bowl, curry rice and lots of other dishes
Steak and Hamburg (as it is know in Japan, it is not a burger, just the meat pattie)
Hiroshima style okonomiyaki which is a savoury pancake with cabbage, pork, green onions, noodles etc (my favourite Japanese food!)
I'm not sure, but probably and izakaya (Japanese dining bar, or like a Japanese tapas bar)
Natto (fermented soy beans) from a vending machine!
Another one of the things that makes Shimokita special is that it's streets are so narrow that the only cars that are brave enough to make their way along them are the highly skilled taxi drivers. This makes it quite safe to walk down the middle of the street.
By this time I was feeling a bit hungry so I contacted a friend Charlie who lives in Shimokita and organised to meet him at one of our favourite little restaurant/bars called Hishimo. The owner, Hiroki, and his staff are incredibly friendly people who always have time for a chat, even as they are madly cooking and working away to get the food they create out to their diners. Hishimo doesn't specialise in any one kind of food. What they do specialise in, however, is making incredibly delicious food influenced from spices all around the world. In fact, you can smell the spices in the air as soon as you walk in the doors. It is an amazing smell that any food lover would find irresistible.
Mmmmm, Blair's After Death chilli sauce, not for the faint hearted!
The spices that they create their delicious blends from!
Hiroki, the owner.
Here are a couple of their dishes that they prepared during the time we were there.
Lamb, my favourite red meat!!
mussels cooked in broth
Chili beans on rice.
Hiroki explained to me one time I was there how it is that Shimokita has retained the atmosphere it has, and kept the small shops, cafes , bars and restaurants that make the area unique. He told me that towards the end of WWII, Shimokita was not damaged in the constant bombings that occurred, so the land and property remained in the hands of the original owners, in many cases, individuals, rather than big corporations who are only looking to make a large profit who would allow large shops and malls to be introduced to the area. I personally am thankful for that!
Here is Hishimo's website (http://hishijapan.com/hishi/) which is in Japanese only, but if you view it with Google translate, you can see it in English. Hiroki has told me that they are working on an English website at the moment. They also have a facebook page. (https://www.facebook.com/hishimokita)
If you are thinking of heading to Shimokitazawa for dinner, I truly recommend Hishimo, your taste buds will thank you for it!!
Well that's it for today. I did take a whole lot more photos, but I have used enough of your time. Thanks for allowing me to take you to my favourite place in Tokyo. I hope I was able to do it justice and that you were able to get an idea of what the place feels like.
Thanks for reading, and I'll see you next week.