Shibuya, home to the busiest intersection in the world, is the go-to destination for every traveller in Tokyo. One can’t just say he or she has visited Tokyo without experiencing its bright night lights and endless waves of people passing through the bustling district. But take a walk to the less visited part of Shibuya, and you’ll find yourself in a quieter district that still offers all of Tokyo’s charms — and more.
Oku-Shibuya, meaning “inner Shibuya” has emerged as the latest up-and-coming area in the Japanese capital over the past year. Tucked behind office towers and department stores, this unassuming area — made up of Tomigaya, Kamiyama-cho and Udagawa-cho — was once overshadowed by its neighbouring downtown Shibuya.
Populated by Tokyo’s creative community, this quiet enclave is still relatively unknown and is a hidden gem only a few minutes walk from Tokyo’s trendy district. It is an artist’s haven filled with trendy cafes, boutiques that look like they belong on your Instagram feed, and Japanese gastropubs nestled between two-storey homes.
The peaceful place is home to swanky restaurants and bars, art galleries and quirky concept stores and bookshops. There is also a smorgasbord of hip cafés where you can indulge in a hearty sandwich or warm soup.
Let us introduce you to a local favourite: Camelback Sandwich & Espresso, an excellent hole-in-the-wall spot that doubles up as a take-out coffee counter. Spearheaded by barista Keitaro Suzuki (who is an alumnus of Shibuya’s popular Streamer Coffee) and trained sushi chef Hayato Naruse, Camelback is a great place to go for a sandwich and flat white on a Sunday afternoon. Check out Naruse’s wasabi-accented egg sandwich and monkfish liver banh mi, which are highly raved about by locals.
Tomigaya Terrace, a five-minute walk from the Yoyogi-Koen Station on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line, is the place to be for a variety of cuisines from French to Mediterranean and Vietnamese. The front terrace seats are perfect for relaxing with a cup of hot chocolate or tea, especially during springtime.
If you’re a coffee lover, Little Nap is located just across the road from Yoyogi Park. The café is owned by Daisuke Hamada, who roasts the beans together with a friend and does single-origin drip coffee in addition to the espresso-based drinks.
Japanese (and Norwegian) tipples
Originally from Oslo, Fuglen is hip espresso cafe by day — selling tea and artisanal coffee — and cocktail bar by night. Fuglen attracts the well-heeled crowd and offers Japanese and Norwegian craft beers, as well as a menu of cocktails devised by champion bartender Halvor Digernes. A must try? The refreshing ginger daiquiri, which is a white rum-based brew prepared with lime juice, honey and sugar syrup, and fine grated ginger.
If you’re a wine connoisseur, check out San-Sun, a wine bar specialising in Japanese wine. Offering locally produced wine from all over Japan, San-Sun is a cosy locale with minimalist decor — perfect for days where you just want to kick back and relax after experiencing all Tokyo has to offer.
The sophisticated enclave is home to international lifestyle magazine Monocle‘s retail store and Tokyo bureau, deeming it the perfect place for the “in” crowd.
If you enjoy browsing thrift stores, check out ShuShu and Jojo, which carry mostly French accessories, miscellaneous vintage trinkets and unique collector’s items from all over the world. Also worth checking out is Archivando, a shop that carries a range of high-quality, carefully curated home products ranging from Japanese design goods to international brands.
Oku-Shibuya is a place to visit if you want to get away from the hordes of selfie sticks you often find in the busier parts of Tokyo. Here’s how to find it: Walk to the intersection of Shibuya where Don Quijote and the Bunkamura Culture Centre are opposite each other. Continue walking ahead and you’ll encounter a stretch of parking lots that leads you to Oku-Shibuya. You can thank us later.