Did you know that it only takes 30 minutes to travel from Tokyo to Korea? Located in the North of Shinjuku, in Shin-Okubo, otherwise known as Japan’s Korean Town, is a popular gathering spot for Kpop lovers. Do you want to taste authentic Korean cuisine or buy merchandise of your favorite Kpop group or shop for Korean cosmetics without flying to Korea? Then Shin-Okubo is the place for you. With various stores and shops scattered around, you can enjoy the taste of Korea, even in Japan.
After South Korea lifted its restrictions on overseas travel in the 1980s, a large number of South Korean citizens have been moving to Japan. Coming in search of jobs due to the lack of labor in Japan at that time. Not only because of the job opportunities but also because of the exchange programs for Korean and Japanese students, Japan experienced an influx of people from South Korea.
Starting from one small restaurant, Shin-Okubo became the center of Korean culture and entertainment with various types of restaurants and shops. One station away from Shinjuku on the Yamanote line, Shin-Okubo station, is an easy visit for travelers. After walking out from the station, turn right, and follow the road to visit Japan’s Korean Town.
What you can find at Shin-Okubo
As you walk under the bridge, you would see that both sides of the road are lined with shops selling Kpop merchandise. From boy groups like BTS to girl groups like Twice. Shops sell various products, including posters, keychains, postcards, mugs, CDs, albums, and almost everything a Kpop fan would buy. You can buy your favorite group’s lightstick for your upcoming concert or posters to decorate your wall.
Moreover, you can find numerous Korean cosmetics in this area. From lipstick to skincare, you can try almost all types of Korean makeup in the various shops. Not only makeup and beauty products, but Shin-Okubo also has its very own Korean supermarket that you can buy ingredients for cooking your own Korean meal. You can now watch your favorite K-Drama while eating instant ramyeon from a Korean style aluminum pot!
Aside from the Kpop items that you can find at Shin-Okubo, another highlight that is a must here are the restaurants that serve authentic Korean food. You can find many grilled pork belly (samgyeopsals) shops around the area. The shops also serve menus like kimchi stew, bibimbap, japchae, teokpokki, fried chicken, and other Korean dishes that you could think of.
One food stall that always has people queuing in front is the cheese corn dogs. They are deep-fried and served hot, where you can enjoy the gooey cheese and the crispiness of the batter. They are very famous in Shin-Okubo and are often sold along with teokpokki and hotteok. You can savor the soft mochi-like teokpokki in a spicy sauce in the cold weather or enjoy hotteok, a Korean style pancake that has various fillings like cinnamon, nuts, and honey.
If you’ve ever watched a Korean series, you might be familiar with scenes where the female lead orders fried chicken along the Han River to cope with her heartbreak. One fried chicken shop that we would like to recommend is called the Kanton No Omoide Toriniku Kenkyujo. The shop offers up to six flavors of fried chicken, including the original, honey, garlic, chili and teriyaki flavor. There are also special sides like cheese fondue and salad to eat with your fried chicken. The shop also offers other menus like stews and samgyeopsals, but we recommend that you try the fried chicken at this place!
After your meal, you might want to visit a small shrine called the Kaichu Inari Shrine to boost your luck in buying your favorite Kpop group concert. It is believed that if you pray to the gods here, they will make you hit the target that you have set. It is commonly visited by concert goers who wish to secure their tickets in the Japanese lottery system. At the shrine, you can enjoy a peaceful stroll around the quiet environment and buy charms to increase your luck.
If you love Korean culture and would like to take a one day trip, Shin-Okubo is highly recommended for a fulfilling experience. Eat your favorite Korean dish, enjoy shopping for your favorite Kpop group’s merchandise, try on Korean makeup, and experience little Korea all in one place. The next time you crave samgyeopsal, remember Shin-Okubo!
Meeme // Thailand