Have you heard of the term “hipster”? They are intellectual and creative people who may be interested in counterculture, nature, liberal and progressive politics and environmental views, a different non-main stream fashion, vintage clothing or thrift store-bought clothing, contemporary art, indie rock or alternative music. They sometimes wear rimmed glasses and sport slightly thick and messy hairstyles. Their appearance is perhaps the opposite of your average company employee. In the case of women, they sometimes have black hair and straight bangs, wear long, vintage skirts and listen to music with headphones. On the male side, they may have facial hair, and wear tight-fitting jeans or old school sneakers. Hipster men and women often work in design, etc. They bring their MacBooks to fancy cafes around the world.
The following are a few places in Tokyo popular with people interested in this kind of culture:
Harajuku / Shibuya
Harajuku is known as the most active cosplay district in Japan. Nowadays many people from foreign countries try on anime costumes and hang out around Takeshita Street. But if you are not otaku, don’t worry. You can enjoy shopping for clothing in secondhand shops and also enjoy contemporary arts in small galleries.
Did you know? Almost all Japanese fashion trends have been created on Cat Street, Harajuku Street, and Meiji Street. So Harajuku and Shibuya especially are a source of unique Japanese style. That is why these places are loved by Avril Lavine, Lady Gaga, Gwen Stefani, Thom Yorke, Radiohead and a lot of other celebrities. They often visit Harajuku and Shibuya to look around at their favorite fashion boutiques.
Some of the works in the art galleries are not only conventional contemporary art. They are influenced by fashion in many cases. I’d like to introduce you to one legendary gallery, “Art Gallery ROCKET” in Harajuku. This gallery often holds unique exhibitions. You must go there when you come to Harajuku. It is a 10 minute walk from JR Harajuku Station. And if you also want to see fancy antique furniture stores, you can find those on Kotto street about a 10-15 minute walk from Harajuku. “Kotto” means antique, and for a long time there are many antique stores around here. I promise these places are not the kind that would ever bore creative young minds.
Koenji / Nakano
Koenji, one station away from Nakano, is known for being a liberal area and for its vintage clothing. There are numerous fancy cafes, antique shops and quaint restaurants and bars down every road and alley. You can enjoy the area just by walking around.
The next station from Koenji is Nakano. Nakano is also famous as a subculture city. For instance, Nakano Broadway is known as a popular place for anime lovers. There are many second-hand bookstores with the oldest Japanese cartoons in the world. Near Nakano Broadway there are some great bars. Firstly, a famous one takes inspiration from Anime “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure”. The name of the bar is “DIO”. A second pub, “Kaiju Sakaba”, includes monstrous beasts working as a staff, who will certainly show you a good time. The bars and cafes are not only anime-themed, but popular for the fancy townscape vibe they give off. There are many older-looking cafes, bars, and buildings. Some of the cafes look like old Japanese-style houses. These are very popular with people from foreign countries. One of the cafe’s names is “Cafe Momo Garten”, about a 10 minute walk from JR Nakano Station. These places are good for people who have grown used to modern Japanese culture. You will find everything here fresh and stimulating.
Most Tokyoites call this place “Shimokita”. Shimokita is known as a haven for music lovers because there are many live music clubs and CD stores, for instance “CLUB Que”, “SHELTER” and “GARAGE”. Tons of famous bands found their start in these live music clubs. Naturally, many musicians live here, and if you come often you may run into some of your favorite artists someday. Shimokita is very close to Shibuya, and you can take the train directly between the two without transfer. But if you visit here, unlike in Shibuya you will feel more relaxed and calm thanks to the townscape. This place is not busy. For that reason, a lot of music festivals are held outside around Shimokita on weekends. They are generally casual and not so big, but almost all music festivals are free. Shimokita is the best city for music lovers. If you drop by some of the live music clubs as you please, it won’t be hard for you to find your favorite high-quality indie music.
As you know, hipsters are not so populous around the world. But there are hipster hubs in many countries, and these spots in Tokyo are great for experiencing hipster culture in Japan. So if you are interested in this sort of counterculture, music, etc., I bet these areas will give you fresh and memorable experiences. Enjoy!
Pompochi / Japan