The distinctive mix of grunge and gentrification has made Williamsburg, Brooklyn – specifically the Bedford Avenue and Grand Street section – an international destination. Accents and languages from near and far can be heard on North Williamsburg’s narrow sidewalks, and the combination of chic shops, hidden treasures, and cute cafés has undeniable universal appeal. A charming section of Tokyo shares the qualities of Brooklyn’s hippest neighborhood: cool coffee shops, great vintage shopping, record shops full of vinyl, and fun bars where cocktails are taken seriously.
Geographically, Shimokitazawa is about two miles west of the major shopping and entertainment ward of Shibuya, home to the world’s busiest intersection, Shibuya Crossing (essentially Tokyo’s Times Square), though with its unhurried charm, the Williamsburg of Tokyo feels a world away. As in Brooklyn, there’s an abundance of unique shops and restaurants in Shimokitazawa. At New York Joe Exchange, which is housed in an old public bathhouse, you can find ironic hipster-vintage wear as well as on-trend secondhand clothes from Comme des Garçons, Supreme, Alexander Wang, and Levi’s. In the same area – known as the “neon district” for their signage – Flamingo, Haight & Ashbury, and Chicago (Shimokitazawa is the Tokyo chain’s largest branch) are other musts for secondhand shopping. Record shop standouts include Flash Disc Ranch, Jet Set, Best Sound Records, and City Country City, which, in a welcome twist, serves pasta and beer along with selling vinyl.
An exterior view of the Kengo Kuma–designed Tetchan yakitori bar.