Tokyo – Yoyogi Park – Shimokitazawa

Dance Battle Yoyogi Park

Heading over to Yoyogi Park on the weekend is a must-do while in Tokyo, especially during the summer. There is always something interesting going on and you can literally spend the whole day in this huge urbanized park. While we were there, we saw hip hop dance battles, a DJ on the stage, food & beer vendors and random sporting events. Later on in the evening, we wandered around Shimokitazawa–the home of Tokyo’s hipsters.

See & Do

  • Yoyogi Park on Sunday: Yoyogi park is a well known meeting ground for the youth of Tokyo on weekends, and this Sunday we visited was no exception. It seems like break dancing is the current fad going on in Tokyo, and we were able to witness a bunch of extremely talented dancers have “dance battles” with each other–it’s seriously just like something you’d see in a cheesy Hollywood dance movie, but these guys seem so dedicated to their craft and have some insane dancing skills. A few other things we spotted were some guys jumping around with moon boots, some kind of intense bicycle polo competition, and craft beer trucks selling fairly pricey draft beer. Rating: 4/5

Practice Hip Hop Dance Yoyogi Park


Jumping Stilts Yoyogi Park

  • B-Side Label: We stumbled upon this place in Shimokitazawa (there is also a branch in Harajuku), it’s a store that sells only one thing: stickers. These stickers can be placed almost anywhere like your cell phone or on your car or bike. They have all sorts of designs ranging from cute to scary, and you are bound to find a few cool stickers that suit your personality. We bought a handful of stickers, and when we told the shop clerk we’re visiting from NYC she let us pick up one more for free! Rating: 5/5

B-Side Label in Shimokitazawa

  • Shimokitazawa: A pretty funky area in the Setagaya ward, the best way to describe it would be to say it’s the Brooklyn of Tokyo, in what seems to be the center of alternative culture. People here are dressed casually, with long hair and tattoos openly displayed. There are plenty of cool little bars, interesting vintage shops, and good restaurants around. It’s a far cry from the suited up salaryman area of central Tokyo, and it’s only a 10 minute train ride from Shibuya station. I would say this area is a definite must visit when coming to Tokyo. On Sundays during the summer there is a matsuri (festival) on the streets where they have bands perform (pretty cool rock music) and there are games to play on the street. A famous street game in Japan is lifting balloons filled with water with a hook. If you can pick the balloon up without dropping it or bursting it, you can keep it. 200 yen gets you 3 tries, and M was so skilled that she picked up 2 out of 3 balloons on her first try. You can then play with the balloons like a yo-yo, but good luck disposing of it later on after it bursts…Rating: 5/5

Street fair in Shimokitazawa

Eat & Drink

  • Tsukemen Yasubee: We just picked this place completely randomly the first night we spent in Shimokitazawa. We didn’t even know what tsukemen was before we got in here–I’m not even going to lie, we even checked on Wikipedia to see what it was while waiting for our food to arrive (like at most places, we just picked from the menu randomly). Basically, it’s a normal ramen dish with the twist that the noodles and broth are served separately, and you dip the noodles in the broth as you eat (as opposed to ramen where everything is served together at once). Rating: 5/5

tsukemen yasubee

  • Monjayaki: This is the okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake) of the Kanto region (i.e. Tokyo). It’s way more liquidy than the Osaka and Hiroshima version of the dish–don’t be fooled by the picture below, that is still very early in the cooking process. When it comes time to eat, it will be a gigantic liquidy and doughy mess. I think I prefer the Kansai version of this dish. Also to be noted–you are given the ingredients and generally expected to cook the dish yourself on the griddle at your table. It’s not too complicated, but we luckily we came in at an odd off-peak time and the waiter prepared it for us without a single word of complaint. Rating: 3/5


  • Spuntino near apartment: “Western” dishes are sold here. There is no English menu so we did the best we could with our limited Japanese skills and ended up ordering some char su curry (braised pork belly) and spaghetti (Japanese style). Rating: 4/5

Char Su Curry at Spunito

  • Yakitori Eki: Skewered meat and veggies sold in an izakaya style atmosphere–this is a great chance for us to practice our hiragana and katakana and pick a few items off the menu. Oh, mushrooms, very nice. Tori? That means chicken, right? Let’s order that! Oh god, this chicken is raw. (N.B. It’s been a while and we haven’t died of food poisoning…yet) Rating: 3/5

Yakitori in Shimokitazawa

  • Ichiryu Ramen: The decent ramen options in Shimokitazawa are a bit sparse, but our AirBNB host recommended this place; at only 600 yen a bowl, this was some of the best ramen we had the pleasure of trying in our lives. I could probably eat this for lunch every day. Rating: 4/5

Chinese-style Ramen

  •  Higechochin Bar: We didn’t do much besides drink a few pints of beer here, but I just love the atmopshere of Japanese bars. There is no loud, thumping music. Everybody converses at a reasonable volume. You don’t have to go out of your way to find a nice low-key place to drink, there’s a place on every corner–this place is fairly unremarkable by itself, but it’s a great  representation of all that’s good in terms of Japanese bars. Rating: 5/5
  • Zakoya Izakaya: Izakayas are always fun, constantly ordering small little dishes and drinks until you’re both full and drunk. The eggplant dish (nasu) absolutely cannot be missed here. Rating: 5/5


  • Airbnb near Shibuya: We rented a small little apartment a few stops from Shibuya about a 10 minute walk from Shimokitazawa, and it ended up working out really well. The apartment itself was extremely convenient to have, and staying in a residential zone instead of a touristy one is a lot more fun. Shimokitazawa ended up being a great place to wander around at night for snacks and drinks without having to worry about catching the late train. One minor downside to the apartment was that there was no TV–but then again, we didn’t come all the way to Japan to watch TV. One major upside of our apartment (and it seems, more AirBnB rentals in Tokyo) is that they offered a free pocket WiFi device. So not only did we have WiFi in the apartment, we could bring the little device with us anywhere in Tokyo so we had full internet access on our phones for free, everywhere. It’s seriously genius, why is this not the standard everywhere? If I ever open up my own AirBnB place, this idea is going straight to the top of the list, as it makes life infinitely easier for foreign visitors. $531 for 4 nights. Rating: 4/5

Visit Dates

  • 08/17/2013 – 08/18/2013

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