The Story of Shimokitazawa

Source: Gaijin Pot

Shimokitazawa, “Shimokita” to the locals or just “Shimo” to the syllable-adverse is a southwestern corner of the capital city that’s been touted as a hipster haven, a thrift store goldmine, an epicenter to the city’s boho community and Tokyo’s answer to Greenwich Village in New York.

Although these labels aren’t necessarily incorrect, there’s so much more to this former farming village turned black market, turned “World’s Coolest Neighborhood” according to a 2014 listing by Vogue, nestled between the well-trodden locations of Shibuya and Shinjuku.

It’s a corner of Tokyo that’s long thrived off the power of community, where local traditions and modern ideologies meld together to embody a vibe that can’t be matched. It’s innovative, but the area’s evolution couldn’t be more organic. There’s a reason why it’s so loved, but to really appreciate Shimokita, you’ve got to learn a little about its history.

Agricultural beginnings

Look at a map of Tokyo from the mid-1910s (if you can find one!), and you’d see the area that made up Shimokita was actually a mass of farming land, framed by fields and forests, with the Kitazawa river running through the middle from west to east. Shinganji Temple and Kitazawa Hachiman Shrine are the only real markers of the area in that time that still exist in their original location today.

Shimokitazawa is a stop after Shinjuku on the Odakyu Electric Railway Line.

After the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, residents of the inner-city settled in the area to avoid the dangers of a potential future disaster. Four years later (1927) the Odakyu Odawara line opened, and more Tokyoites started setting up home there, attracted to the positioning between the city’s major business hubs as well as the extra space suburban-style living offered. Word spread, and by the 1930s Shimokita’s landscape had begun its …continue reading