Shimo-kitazawa Area

This neighborhood is a delightful warren of bars & restaurants that are small in size but big on personality

Want a funky and inexpensive evening of bar hopping and live music? Shimo-kitazawa is my favorite place to find decent food, eccentric bars, excellent craft beer, and awesome music in places so small, you’ll feel like you’re part of the performance

After we wander around looking into all the fun shops, we’ll be ready for some food-bevs and entertainment. There are sidewalk signs pointing the way up to bars and eateries on the upper floors along all the streets and alleys. Unlike the tiny bars in Shinjuku’s Golden Gai, in Shimo-kita the places without live music usually don’t have a cover charge. Plus, they’re more relaxed about welcoming non-Japanese as well as locals. It’s unlikely you’ll find anyone who speaks English, but it’s not really necessary – eating, drinking & merrymaking are a universal language.

The Apollo is a tiny basement bar serves up live jazz most nights of the week. The music is always excellent, and because the place is so small (seats about 15), you really get up close and personal with the musicians! Cover charge is only around $15 plus a drink.


As you walk through the streets, it’s never a mistake to try little restaurants that strike your fancy, like this open-air yakitori (skewered chicken) café.
And we can’t leave without checking out the latest wild offerings at Village Vanguard. It’s stuffed to the rafters with prank gifts, I-need-that items, books, magazines, and more.
The little backstreets of Shimo-kitazawa always make me feel like I’m in Real Japan, far from the tourist centers, mingling with people who have lived there all their lives.


The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon

 For three hundred years, a missing tea bowl passes from one fortune-seeker to the next, changing the lives of all who possess it…read more

“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.” —Booklist

Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly e-magazine Japanagram, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

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