Koenji is located in Suginami ward, in the western part of Tokyo, and is known for its trendy and underground vibe. It could be compared to Shimokitazawa, another trendy area west of Shibuya, although the crowd is relatively older here. Koenji boasts a large number of second hand clothing stores, cafés, record and book stores, as well as restaurants serving food from all over the world.
Most of the area is residential, with that delightfully old-fashioned ‘showa’ atmosphere (small noodle joints, old kissaten, snacks…), but Koenji has many bars and live venues, and it actually used to be the center of the Japanese punk scene back in the 1970s.
Get off at Koenji station on the JR Chuo-Sobu line, and go explore the neighborhood! You can start with the arcades around the station, but the best thing to do is to get lost and discover some hidden gems along the way. If you’re craving vegan or exotic food, if you’re looking for an old rock’n’roll record or want to have a drink in a trendy yet laid back bar, then Koenji is the place you’re looking for! Koenji also has a few temples and shrines that are worth visiting.
Last but not least, Koenji is home to the Koenji Awaodori Festival, one of Tokyo’s biggest festivals, held every year in August. Don’t miss it if you’re in Tokyo next summer!