Neighborhood Travel Guide: Koenji, Tokyo

Kōenji prides himself on being brave with a punk spirit. Its anti-consumer spirit is evident in thrift stores, old buildings, and low-cost, no-frills bars and restaurants, while its innovative bravery is evident in the shops. live street art and music venues. It is a stop on the JR Chūō-Sōbu Line, a suburban line that connects central Shinjuku with the western suburbs.

Koengi Hikawa-jinja

This otherwise ordinary neighborhood has Japan’s only shrine devoted entirely to the weather. For ¥500, you can purchase a prayer plate at the temple office for weather-related requests (like the sun on your wedding day).

Mural City Project

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There are six (and counting!) murals by different artists on buildings in the vicinity, as part of a project to bring more street art to Tokyo. See website for location.


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On Friday and Saturday nights, indie musicians often play on the floor here, but the small and cozy SUBStore is no ordinary venue: it’s an old record store that’s also an Indonesian restaurant and sometimes an art gallery.


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A rare early 20th century bathhouse with an impressive curved gable roof. The interior is clean and modern, with 4 different bathtubs on each side (divided by gender). The lounge acts as a gallery for local artists.


The iconic Okinawa restaurant offers all the classics, like goya-champuru (fried bitter gourd) and rafute (braised pork belly). Several times a month there is also live music: sometimes Okinawan folk music, sometimes indie rock.

Cocktail Shobo

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This beautifully maintained, centuries-old home is both a cocktail bar and second-hand bookstore. In keeping with the vintage theme, the dishes and glassware are antique and the cocktails are made with vintage soft drinks. At lunchtime, come for a curry and a coffee.

Nantoka Bar

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Every night, a different character runs the show here, setting the menu and the mood (nantoka means “something or other”). It was a low-budget, impromptu operation in an old dilapidated building. For when you really want to go with the flow.


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Open for more than 50 years, Poem is an old-fashioned coffee shop, with low tables, leather banquets and poured coffee.


It’s a very casual izakaya with transparent plastic tarps at the entrance, beer cans upside down on tables, and a loyal following (thanks to its very affordable prices). The menu is full of charcoal grilled skewers; Don’t miss the gyūsuji nikomi (stewed beef tendon). It’s under the elevated train tracks, where there are plenty of other restaurants and bars as well.


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Tokyo’s quirky clothing store, a tiny space filled with one-of-a-kind remakes, is all about making a statement about pop art.


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An avant-garde flea market where the selection is reduced to very random and very interesting. There is a discreet “open door” sign on the front.

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