Back streets, or Main streets? A little of both?
In Tokyo, you can feel like you’re off the beaten path from time to time. And believe it or not, you don’t have to go far to find yourself in an empty alleyway, or desolate industrial street, as most people, when out and about, cram themselves into the same shopping and entertainment areas such as Shibuya, or Shinjuku. When in these areas, unless you’re totally new to Tokyo, you never really feel disconnected, and you’re also never in want of anything, as everything you could want out of urban lifestyles is all right there, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But every now and then, taking a few steps away from the heart of central, it’s nice to wander the back streets a little bit.
You can of course wander here and there, not really minding where you end up, or you can stick to the central hubs, where you know there will be people, shops and excitement. Both have their merits, but these days it seems, we have all grown dependent (at least in Tokyo) on knowing at all times what is available whether it be shops, restaurants, or train stations, so many choose not to cut loose and explore random streets. But still, don’t you desire at least a little bit of gritty urban adventure while you’re in the biggest metropolis on the planet?
The new phrase I have just coined to respond to this emotion is simple: Main backstreets. This is in a sense a simulated backstreet area, such that you feel as though you are in a groovy underground nook of the backstreet empire, but in reality you are quite close to anything you may want, and if you really need to, you can get back to Shibuya in about 10 minutes. The place featured on H&R’s blog is Shimokitazawa.
Shortened to “Shimo-kita”, this area has developed into a hub of hipster fashion spliced with retro vibes, but reserves a dash of prestige that allows for some high class dining and shopping amongst the punk-rock bars and sofa-laden coffee shops in someone’s basement. There’s something for everyone, and it still feels like you’re getting off the beaten path. An urban fantasy of sorts.
This place is just funky in general, and it will most likely always be that way for a number of reasons. It’s in a tight residential area, so there is not much room for cars to pass through, and not much room for space-consuming shopping centers. Although Shimokitazawa station is a transfer point for the Keio and Odakyu train lines, it is not a crucial junction point such as Shibuya with many subway lines. In a sense, Shimokitazawa falls in a central location, without central characteristics, so it remains a discreet yet popular and accessible haven for urbanites.