Koenji is the best place to eat and shop cheap. And also you’ll find some amazing sights in Koenji, Japan. So here’s a guide to Koenji Tokyo’s retro hub! Check out the best things to do and places to eat and shop at Koenji.
After just a short train ride from Shinjuku, you reach the beautiful streets of Koenji, which is considered to be Tokyo’s star neighborhood.
The place is going through an expansion of a creative scene. It is also a place that sees a huge crowd of youth and is a hub of fascinating youth culture.
The place is well-removed from the center of the city.
It is quite a cozy place that gives you such laid-back vibes that you will definitely love being here.
This is a place where you find tons of shoppers endlessly browsing through the items in the various shops. There are such hidden gems that you can find here.
This is the place to go if you are looking for vintage gems. This is a place that transports you to a whole different world.
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You can hear the sounds of clinking glasses, laughter that comes straight from the heart, buzzing conversations even during the wee hours of the night.
I am pretty sure you are imagining and dreaming about all of these.
Koenji really is a place that makes you fall in love with it every single time you visit it.
When you visit Koenji, you can choose to stay in an art hotel, soak yourself up in an onsen, or enjoy live music in an underground bar or even shop for vintage clothes.
There is so much to see, so many experiences to live, and so many activities to do.
This is the place for you even if you are low on your budget. Are you interested in this place already? Let’s go!
Everything You Need to Know About Koenji: Tokyo’s Retro Hub
History and Background of Koenji
Koenji is a place that is nestled within Suginami ward. It is neighbored by Asagaya, Ogibuko, and Nishi-Ogikubo.
The place was earlier a sleepy farming settlement located on Ome-Kaido Highway.
The place slowly started seeing a rise in the number of small merchants and laborers who came here from downtown Tokyo.
This influx took place after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 caused destruction on downtown Tokyo.
The increase in population here resulted in the development of the local economy.
The destiny of Koneji really took a turn for the better by the 1950s when it began to be respected and regarded for its tea and coffee houses.
These places really became highly popular. The Awaodori Festival also started in this town, which added to its popularity.
You cannot call it completely “hipster”, for it has a bit of maturity mixed with a certain amount of edginess to it.
Koenji was once home to the punk scene of Tokyo in the 1970s. It is probably because of this reason that it is what it is today.
Koenji was also chosen as the site of protest when the Japanese PSE law started restricting the sale of electronic goods that were built before 2001.
The reason it was chosen was because of its retro culture, and also because of all the equipment shops that are there in Koenji.
You can see these roots even to this date in Koenji. It is because of this rich history that the place is so vibrant.
The suburban underground scene of the place is also pretty hip and is known for its many records and clothing shops.
Koenji has also very successfully avoided the major modernization that happened in the 1980s.
Most of the houses and shops that you see here in Koenji are small and look quite retro. Everything about this area gives you a quaint feeling that transports you back in time.
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Best Things To Do In Koenji
There are so many things that you can do here.
There are so many cool live houses and traditional venues, as well as retro stores that you can visit.
Trust me, when you are here, there is nothing that can get you bored. Every single thing about this place is interesting.
Visit Local Shrines at Koenji
Okay, so you may not think that going to shrines can be very interesting.
However, believe me when I say that the shrines in Koenji are one of a kind. Koenji is known for its historical shrines.
These shrines have a rich history attached to them. Not only that, but they are also quite photogenic.
One of the shrines that you need to visit is the Mabashi Inari Shrine.
The shrine has three beautiful and majestic torii gates that take you inside the shrine. When you walk through it, you also have to walk over a little bridge.
The entire walk towards the main grounds of the shrine is extremely relaxing and soothing to the mind. You will love the shaded pathways that are lined with vermilion lanterns.
One of the torii gates is made of stone and it stands out from the other two.
It has stunning carvings of dragons on each of its sides that is known as soryu, which translates to paired dragons.
In this torii, you can see that one dragon is ascending while the other one is descending.
There is a wide belief that if you make a wish while touching the rising dragon, your wish will reach the heavens above and it will be fulfilled.
However, it is not as simple as it sounds. You need to figure out which is the dragon that is climbing up.
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Best Place to Shop at Koenji
We all love to shop, and when it comes to shopping, Koenji is a great hub.
There are so many thrift stores here in Koenji that you can check-out. These thrift stores are pretty gain when it comes to getting quaint products at quite a bargain.
There are such pretty second-hand thrift clothing items that you can get here.
The items that you find at the thrift stores here are priced well and they are also in pretty good condition. Two of my favorite thrift stores in Koenji are Lover Soul and Sokkyo.
Lover Soul is known for its range of the 60s and 70s retro clothing items that are all available at excellent prices.
Sokkyo, on the other hand, is known for its authentic vintage experience.
Here, you will find all the trends that are ruling the fashion world. Most of these clothing items have an American origin.
You can also find vintage clothing items here from the 1920s to the 1990s.
You can check out the Kirakuya store if you are looking for vintage kimono.
You can also find kimonos with unique motifs and patterns here. These are known as Mame Budou. If you are looking for vintage beaded bags, you can find them as well here.
Koenji is also a paradise for a music lover.
You can find a lot of rare items here that will make you very proud of your collection.
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Enjoy the Tunes at Live Houses
You can check out Rare Records if you are looking for some of the best items in the music world.
They mostly have rock, but they also have a pretty fascinating soul section that you must check out.
See the Famous Awaodori Festival
Awaodori has a rich history that goes back 400 years. It is a traditional dance of Tokushima.
The dance started off as a festival to revive the small shopping streets of Koenji.
However, over time, it has become one of Tokyo’s major summer events that see over 10,000 dancers and over 1,000,000 viewers.
Thanks to this popularity, Koenji is known for this Awaodari festival.
You should definitely visit Koenji during this time period to enjoy the whole vibe of this place and to dance to the tunes during this time.
Live houses are a huge part of Koenji’s culture.
These live houses are extremely popular there and are loved by tourists. Most music tastes of people are taken care of here.
Whether you love rock or jazz, you can enjoy them to the fullest here. One of these live houses is Jirokichi.
It is an extremely cool place that is located in a house that has over 40 years of history.
Where To Eat at Koenji
Koenji is the place to eat even when you are on a budget.
There are tons of cheap eats, coffee shops, and bars. Eating in Koenji has a whole different vibe to it.
Just grab a seat here and you can enjoy all the delicious food items here.
You should check out the Hattifnatt Koenji cafe for a unique experience.
It is a very cute cafe with a very beautiful interior design. There are such pretty and colorful illustrations inside the cafe that make you feel very happy from the inside.
There is also a treehouse that you will surely love exploring. Trust me, this place will bring out the kid in you.
And that’s not all. Walk around the streets of Koenji to find some of the most quaint cafes and eateries. Nothing over here will disappoint you.
The best of Koenji!
Koenji is a retro hub that is so full of amazing places to explore. This is a place that will fill you up with experiences. If you love quaint places and a very retro vibe that transports you back in time, you really should visit Koenji.
Hiya! I’m the main author of Japan Truly. I love everything Japan and love testing out Japanese products, be it skincare and makeup or gadgets! You’ll find reviews of some of the best selling Japanese products (tried and tested) right here!