Set apart from the center of Tokyo, Shimokitazawa, known by locals as "Shimokita", has a laid-back atmosphere that frees its visitors from the intensity of the city. While originally a residential area, a wave of music and arts during the 1960s turned this district into a hub of Japanese subculture. Given this history, it is no surprise that Shimokitazawa is home to many theaters, music venues, record shops, cafes, and thrift stores.
What makes Shimokitazawa truly special is its abundance of independently-owned small businesses. Unlike the commercial districts of Shibuya and Shinjuku, Shimokitazawa prides itself in its commitment to independent fashion retail of second-hand clothing. With heightened attention to sustainability, thrift stores in the Shimokitazawa area have been attracting greater crowds over the past few years.
Being a center of youth culture, Shimokitazawa is popular amongst students for its trendy bohemian vibe, as well as its walkability. Its narrow alleys with no traffic makes for calm and safe pedestrian walkways. The labyrinthine streets are somewhat loose and can be tricky to navigate, but are compact enough to allow visitors to an extensive view of the district within walking distance. Moreover, the lack of structure in the street planning ensures that for every visit, new gems will be always found.
Just a few steps from Shimokitazawa station, Ocean Blvd is a great first stop for thrifting in the area. Ocean Blvd has a unique selection of extremely affordable used and handmade clothing. While the store specializes in women's clothing, they have a wide variety of styles from feminine chic to cool streetwear. The store is located toward the entrance of the Shimokita Garage Department, an industrial garage that is now a shopping space for over 20 local vendors selling clothing, jewelry, and art. A visit to the other shops is highly recommended.
Having been in business for over 25 years, Chicago remains a fan favorite for thrifters. Offering both women's and men's clothing, Chicago has a classic American collection of graphic tees, hoodies, tie-dyes, polo shirts, tropical shirts, loungewear, and more. Inspired by 90's streetwear, the store gives off a nostalgic retro feel that will take you back in time. The interior of the store is well kept and organized, making it easy to browse.
New York Joe Exchange
Compared to other thrift stores in the area, New York Joe Exchange has a rapid flow of clothing coming in and out, with many of its customers bringing in their own clothes to sell. As a result of this sheer amount of clothing, New York Joe Exchange can feel chaotic at times, but their considerable assortment of second-hand clothing guarantees one-of-a-kind vintage finds. From fancy formal wear to loose streetwear, New York Joe Exchange is diverse in its style, quality, and subsequent pricing. While the store is not the most structured when it comes to organization, this makes those love at first sight moments even more delightful.
With branches in thrifting districts like Harajuku, Flamingo is a staple for frequent thrifters in Tokyo. The atmosphere is similar to Chicago, with a nicely organized interior that makes it easy for customers to navigate. Offering both women's and men's apparel, Flamingo has the ideal balance of variety and moderation. The store is selective in what they choose to display, making for a diverse array of clothing that is impressive but not overwhelming. Due to the care that goes into their selection, the prices can be high but are definitely worth the quality.
Ragtag is a go-to place for high-end second-hand clothing. Mostly comprised of luxury brands like ACME, Ralph Lauren, Stüssy, Supreme, Burberry, COACH, and GUESS, Ragtag is expensive for a thrift store, but all of their clothes are of great quality and feel like brand new pieces. In addition, many of the clothes sold at Ragtag are no longer sold commercially, making them even rarer. Given the retail value and good condition of the clothing, the prices are decent and purchases worthwhile. Ragtag also has a nice selection of shoes, bags, and accessories that is worth checking out.
I got the most gorgeous vintage separates at small independent consignment shops just off Omotesando.