Cute, Fashionable, and Sophisticated Finds at the Variety Shops in Shimokitazawa

Tokyo is known as one of the fashion capitals of the world, but styles differ depending on the area. Those who gravitate towards unique and sophisticated will likely thrive in the Shimokitazawa neighborhood, which is only a 3-minute train ride from Shibuya, one of Tokyo’s trendiest neighborhoods. For this edition of our “Area of Japan” series, we took the Keio Inokashira Line to the multicultural neighborhood of Shimokitazawa to find treasures in its variety shops that add sparkle to our daily lives.

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What Kind of Place Is Shimokitazawa?

Shimokitazawa, with its retro townscape and unique clothing shops and variety stores, is extremely popular among Tokyo’s youth. There are many music clubs (also known as “livehouses”) and small theaters, so you can also see many musicians carrying guitars and other instruments walking through the streets. The mix of modern and traditional, international cultures, and music and theater gives the area a distinctive vibe that is different from the fashionable neighborhoods of Shinjuku and Shibuya.

By the way, did you know that "Shimokitazawa" is actually not the area's official name, but is actually a general name for the Kitazawa area in the Setagaya Ward of Tokyo? There are various theories as to how it came to be known as "Shimokitazawa," one of which being that it is located north ("kita" in Japanese) but downwards ("shimo" in Japanese) of a stream ("sawa" in Japanese) located in the Musashino Plateau.

How to Get to Shimokitazawa

There are two train lines that service Shimokitazawa.

Keio Inokashira Line: A train line that connects Shibuya and Kichijoji. Shimokitazawa is an approximately 3-minute ride from Shibuya on the express train and an approximately 6-minute ride on the local train. It costs 130 yen one way.

Odakyu Odawara Line: A train line that connects Shinjuku and Kanagawa Prefecture. Shimokitazawa is an approximately 7-minute ride from Shinjuku on the express train and an approximately 10-minute ride on the local train. It costs 170 yen one way.

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Introducing Some of Our Favorite Shimokitazawa Variety Stores

Détour à Bleuet Shimokitazawa Branch - Bringing Color To Your Daily Life

A 3-minute walk from the East Exit of Shimokitazawa Station will bring you to Détour à Bleuet, a spin-off brand of the popular Bleu Bleuet variety store. The name is French and translates to "detour," as the shop intends to be a place where people stop by and shop while taking a little breather.

Détour à Bleuet Shimokitazawa Branch has an elegant European-style interior and displays numerous treats, packaged food, kitchen knick knacks, fashion accessories, and other daily necessities. According to the shop's PR staff, all the products have been carefully selected by their buyers to bring fun and color to customers' lives. It is a wonderful place for those looking for unique items to supplement their daily lives or give away as presents.

Among the many wonderful items available, we particularly recommend the Cream Soda Foldable Umbrella, which is a collaboration item between three companies: Bleu Bleuet, the retro cafe TABI SURU KISSA, and the famous rain gear brand Wpc. When the umbrella is closed, it looks like a tall glass of cream soda. When it is opened, it creates a magical feeling with the bubble pattern on the cool, partially transparent soda colors mixing with the raindrops.

Bleu Bleuet also sells original items such as wristwatches and hair accessories featuring worldwide-famous paintings. This series of products has gained popularity for not only letting users wear masterpieces such as Monet's "Water Lilies" and Van Gogh's "Starry Sky," but also for giving off a unique, artistic atmosphere!

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BCL PICTORIAL NETWORK - Share Your Travel Memories the Old-Fashioned Way

Since the dawn of the internet, email and instant messaging has allowed us to share information in a flash, making traditional methods of communication like letters obsolete. Nevertheless, sending relatives and friends postcards on your trip is still one of the highlights of traveling, but it can be hard to find good postcards in the limited selection most stores offer nowadays.

For those wishing to express themselves through the warmth of handwriting and the texture of paper, we recommend popping into Shimokitazawa’s BCL PICTORIAL NETWORK. You’ll find a fantastic lineup of cards with gorgeous designs and landscapes promising something truly special.

This quaint store has been doing business in Shimokitazawa for over 35 years, serving as a “card library” catering to all genders and age groups. You’ll be able to sort through a collection of over 2,000 postcards and greeting cards featuring illustrations of popular characters, original designs from Japanese artists, scenery from all over Japan, famous international films and artworks, and more. Stepping into the store, we were astonished to see rows of shelves taller than us jam-packed with cards - paradise for stationery lovers like ourselves!

Making our way through their enormous selection, what caught our eye were the cards depicting the seasons of Japan. With pink cherry blossoms for spring, deep red foliage for autumn, and more, they are one of the store’s best-selling items. Made with thin yet durable traditional “washi” paper, they are a hit even with overseas shoppers. 

An assortment of stationery also sits by the counter, including masking tape, stickers, stamps, envelopes, and writing paper. We spotted some “shugi-bukuro,” which are ornate envelopes used by Japanese people to give money for celebrations. Even if you’re not planning on attending any Japanese weddings and such, their delightful designs make for an excellent home decoration that will remind you of Japan.

Sukonbu - Find Yourself Something Unique

The Shimokitazawa neighborhood is known for its abundance of stores stocking unique clothing, but if you’re looking for something even more offbeat, then we suggest spending your time treasure hunting at Sukonbu! Inside Sukonbu is a jumble of rental boxes where roughly 700 creators exhibit and sell their items. Sukonbu has been doing business in Shimokitazawa for around 20 years, and currently has two stores in Shimokitazawa - including the North Exit store inside the Toyo Department Store, a local landmark which we visited for this article.

The name “Sukonbu” is made from three Japanese kanji characters that abbreviate the phrase “[a place for] amateurs to take their first step.” When Sukonbu started 20 years ago, online shops and tools were not as efficient as they are now, so the store played a vital role in giving new creators the chance to exhibit their works. Creators can showcase their wares in Sukonbu’s boxes, decorating and arranging it as they like to match their style and worldview.

Most of the boxes at Sukonbu display and sell handmade accessories like earrings and necklaces, but there are also those with clothes, bags, tableware, postcards, and plenty more to check out. Visitors can browse through a variety of themes, styles, and materials, from cute to flashy, including those made of resin and bent wire. Being handmade instead of mass-produced, even items bearing the same design have their own uniqueness colored by the material and more, ensuring no two are the same. Join the customers leisurely milling about the store and eventually something special should pop out at you!

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Sekai Class - For Those Pursuing a Luxurious Lifestyle

In recent years, the Shimokitazawa area has been undergoing large-scale urban redevelopment. A big part of this project was burying a stretch of the Odakyu Line between Setagaya-Daita Station and Higashi-Kitazawa Station in 2019, allowing for the establishment of facilities like shopping malls, hot spring hotels, kindergartens, student dormitories, and more, along the 1.7-kilometer stretch of empty land that appeared after the line was removed. This bustling new town within a town is called “Shimokita Senrogai,” and Sekai Class, the final spot we’ll be introducing, sits within its sophisticated “reload” facility, which houses a collection of unique shops.

Sekai Class currently has three stores in Japan, each with a different concept and product range. The one in Shimokitazawa is based around the theme of “from Japan to the world,” and aims to introduce the world to high-quality made-in-Japan household goods. 

The store has a relaxed atmosphere, and presents a hefty lineup of cups, plates, and more products showcasing various elements of Japan’s food culture. According to the manager, everything is handmade by craftspeople across Japan. Each flaunts exquisite craftsmanship allowing one to feel the delicate artistic senses of the Japanese people, making them valuable as both works of art and practical wares to improve your life.

Our eyes were immediately drawn to the cups made of Yamanaka lacquerware by studio Gato Mikio in Ishikawa Prefecture. They have a smooth surface brandishing the texture of wood, bolstered by elegant curves and super thin stems. Each embodies the exceptional techniques of the Japanese craftspeople, successfully earning them a strong reputation overseas.

To add a touch of Japanese sensibility to your everyday meals, we suggest checking out the tableware made in Tsubame-Sanjo, Niigata Prefecture, which is one of Japan’s premier metalworking hubs; along with the bowls and plates made by potters across the country.


While not far from Tokyo's fashionable districts of Shinjuku and Shibuya, Shimokitazawa is a town that simmers with its own sense of “coolness” totally different from other parts of the city, gained from the influence of its music, performance, and art cultures. Alongside the variety shops introduced in this article, Shimokitazawa is also known for its vintage clothing stores and more, making it well worth spending a day wandering its streets. With redevelopment plans focusing on local history and culture currently moving forward, we're also excited to see the face of Shimokitazawa in the future, too!


If you want to give feedback on any of our articles, you have an idea that you'd really like to see come to life, or you just have a question on Japan, hit us up on our FacebookTwitter, or Instagram!

Kanto Feature

The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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Ying Lu
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