1. Koenji
    Photo: Kisa Toyoshima
  2. Koenji
    Photo: Kisa ToyoshimaKoenji's Pal Shotengai
  3. 読書喫茶室 アール座読書館
    Photo: Kisa ToyoshimaReading Café R-za Dokushokan
  4. 小杉湯
    小杉湯Kosugi-yu
  5. Jules Verne Coffee
    Photo: Kisa ToyoshimaJules Verne Coffee

20 best things to do in Koenji: restaurants, cafés, coffee, shops and more

Explore this cool 'hood in Suginami City known for its vintage shopping, underground music scene and hip eateries

Kaila Imada
Written by
Time Out Tokyo Editors
Contributor
Kaila Imada
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Thanks to its old-school shopping streets and abundance of retro venues, walking around Koenji feels as if you've stepped back in time. Famed for its underground music scene and scores of hip eateries and bars, Koenji hosts Tokyo's premier Awa Odori (dance) festival in August and is undoubtedly one of Tokyo's most underrated cool 'hoods.

To begin your Koenji adventure, we suggest starting your day with a stroll through Koenji's covered Pal Shotengai, which is found just outside the station. From there, you can wind your way through the streets north and south of the station.

If you're up for more exploring in the Suginami area, don't miss Koenji's nearby neighbours of Asagaya, Ogikubo and Nishi-Ogikubo.

RECOMMENDED: The coolest neighbourhoods in Tokyo

Eat and drink

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Koenji

This tiny café near the train tracks west of Koenji Station is known for its artistic fruit sandwiches, in-house roasted coffee and kakigori shaved ice (served in the warmer months). Interestingly, the café's name comes from French novelist, poet and playwright Jules Gabriel Verne and is inspired by the analog ways of the eighteenth century. 

Keeping with the theme, you can find books by Verne scattered around the café from which you can freely pick up to read as you wait for your order. On the menu are sweet crepes, savoury galettes and, of course, the beautiful fruit sandwiches that are filled with seasonal offerings like Tochiotome strawberries. Lattes come with adorable latte art, and you can also purchase bags of freshly roasted beans to take home with you.

  • Restaurants
  • Bakeries
  • Koenji

This rustic bakery is so discreet, you might miss it if you’re not looking hard enough. However, it’s been in business for about 24 years and has amassed a loyal following, especially in the surrounding ‘hood. To give it more credit, the bakery was even listed as one of the 100 best bakeries in Tokyo by restaurant guide Tabelog in 2022.

Shigekuniya functions as a takeaway bakery with fresh bread displayed out front. Popular items include its shokupan milk bread made with different flours, banana bread and a wide variety of bagels – a true rarity in Tokyo. If you’re on the hunt for something more hearty, check out the tiny refrigerator stocked with a rotating selection of sandwiches. To accompany your bread, you can also pick up jars of seasonal fruit preserves.

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  • Restaurants
  • Ramen
  • Koenji

Ramen Kenta serves up authentic bowls of Hakata-style ramen, otherwise known as tonkotsu pork bone broth ramen, which originated in Fukuoka. You’ll often find a long queue outside the shop, but it’s well worth the wait for one of these coveted bowls of noodles. The owner trained at the famous ramen shop Komaya in Fukuoka and has crafted the perfect umami-rich broth made from shaba-kei pork bones.

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Koenji

The cosy R-za Dokushokan café near Koenji Station is the perfect place to unwind and catch up on your reading as it has a no-talking policy. The entrance may seem unassuming, but head up to the second floor and you’ll find yourself in a place that looks like it came straight out of a Ghibli movie.

The quiet, soothing café offers a much needed respite from Tokyo’s hustle and bustle. It’s stocked with over 1,500 books, in a lush interior filled with potted plants and small decorative items from the owner’s personal collection. On the menu are coffee and tea options starting from ¥680. You can pair your drink with a chocolate brownie, a caramel waffle or a selection of cookies. 

 

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  • Restaurants
  • Coffeeshops
  • Koenji
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Tucked down a cosy shopping street in Koenji, Amp is run by a husband-wife duo who have been turning out carefully roasted beans and quality cups of coffee since 2010. The roaster is the first thing you'll notice on entering – space is at a premium in this narrow shop, with weathered floorboards and seats for just over a dozen people, none of them especially comfortable.

There's not much opportunity for dawdling at the bar: drinkers are given a simple choice of latte, mocha, espresso or regular coffee, the latter served in a cafetiere and with a choice of different beans. Whether single-origin or one of their house blends, you know you’re always getting a quality cup as the shop has been sourcing beans from the same importers since its inception. 

  • Shopping
  • Off licences
  • Koenji

Located near the intersection of Mabashi street and Waseda street in Koenji is craft beer shop Drink Up, stocked with a good range of local and western beers. However, don't expect any of these beers to be available on tap here. All of them come in cans, which you can pick out from the refridgerator.

The selection changes roughly every two weeks, but you'll always find a good mix of about a dozen beers including classic IPAs, blonde ales and pilsners as well as more unusual flavoured brews like apple pie, guava and lime, and white chocolate.

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  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Koenji

Tucked away in the hodgepodge of shops and galleries in Koenji’s chaotic Kita-Kore Building is this quaint chai stand. Unlike most cafés in the city, Julay is open until 1am, catering to the late night crowds looking for something to nurse other than alcohol.

The shop's classic masala chai is made with an original blend of five spices including cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Each cup is made-to-order with spices freshly crushed every time. Aside from the classic masala chai, you can get variations like ginger chai, vanilla chai and even a spiked rum chai. A selection of refreshing lassi drinks are also on the menu including fruity concoctions like lemon and mango lassi.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Koenji

Love secondhand books? Love drinking? Love snacking? Do all three at this quiet ‘book bar’ whose characterful owner creates dishes often inspired by fiction – for example, the Taisho Croquette, made from tofu pulp and fish paste, is based on a recipe in a novel.

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  • Restaurants
  • Koenji
  • price 1 of 4

You wouldn’t think a tempura soft-boiled egg served over rice could be so delicious, but the Tamago Lunch dish at this counter seat-only speciality tempura spot is simply irresistible. The chefs’ unique frying ‘performance’ is pretty cool, and the owner speaks good English.

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Koenji

This no-frills coffee shop and roaster specialises in light and medium roast single-origin coffee beans selected according to the season. The beans are roasted in a heavy duty American Diedrich roaster that sits right in the café. You can even purchase bags of beans to take home with you. If you order only one thing, go for the hand-dripped coffee – it pairs well with the shop's fluffy toast served with butter. It's worth a frequent visit as the café also has a rotating lineup of artwork on its walls that changes every month.

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  • Restaurants
  • Organic
  • Koenji
  • price 1 of 4

With vegetables delivered directly from organic farmers, a daily changing menu, and coffee brewed with organic coffee beans, this is a natural-food gem. They also sell the delicious spices used in their dishes.

Shop

  • Shopping
  • Koenji

Tokyo is chock full of zakka stores, which are essentially shops filled with all sorts of miscellaneous items you never knew you needed until you see them. While these stores are often a jumble of random goods, Zakka Mikansei has some sort of overlying theme to tie the store together. Mikansei specialises in unique and colourful goods sourced from other Asian countries such as Thailand, Vietnam and China. 

Many of the items are extremely affordable including hair accessories, socks, cute plastic tableware and retro vinyl sandals. If you can find it in yourself to sift through the entire shop, you’ll also discover a collection of original items like handmade accessories by local artists and consignment vintage clothing.

  • Shopping
  • Vintage shops
  • Koenji

Koenji’s wealth of vintage stores can be an overwhelming experience to any shopper, but if you’re looking for a shop that has a bit of everything, Slat is your place. The shop offers a good range of clothing for both men and women as well as a small selection of children’s items – all at affordable prices. 

There's a particularly good range of US military items including cargo pants and khaki green jackets with plenty of large pockets. Looking for denim that won’t break the bank? Slat’s got a bit of that too. Sift through stacks of well-worn Levi’s 501s as well as denim jackets to match.

Good news for those of you outside Japan: Slat’s online shop delivers overseas.

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  • Shopping
  • Kitchen and bathroom
  • Koenji

Looking to stock your home with timeless kitchenware? Dealership is the perfect place to start your hunt for American vintage glassware including famous brands like Fire King. You might get hit with a wave of nostalgia while browsing the shelves as the shop specialises in vintage wares specifically from the 1930s to the 1980s as well as collectables like vintage Disney and Snoopy goods and toys by Little Tikes.

Japan definitely has a love for Fire King (there's even a dedicated café in Yoyogi-Uehara), and at this shop you’ll find all the classics. Bringing in more than 1,000 pieces a month (the shop also stocks approximately 5,000 pieces at a time), you’ll find an overwhelming variety including coloured glassware in a rainbow of colours and printed mugs. There are plenty of items in Fire King’s iconic jade green shade, too.

  • Shopping
  • Music and entertainment
  • Koenji

Founded in a Shinjuku apartment building back in 1994, this well-supported record shop was based in Hatagaya for well over a decade before moving to its current Koenji location in 2015. Underground records are the main draw, but you'll also find plenty of quirky T-shirts and self-published music mags here.

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  • Shopping
  • Menswear
  • Koenji

Since opening in 2011, Sokkyou continues to build a loyal fan base – even amid Koenji’s highly competitive used clothing scene. The store is carefully stocked with on-trend pieces for both men and women, mostly of American origin, so you can be sure your buys are fashion forward. Vintage pieces range from the 1920s to the 1990s (and every date in between), though there are a few finds from as early as the 1800s. Just a three-minute walk from the south exit of Koenji Station, find it near the elevated railway line.

  • Shopping
  • Koenji

Although this store mainly deals in picture books, both kids and adults will get a kick out of the innovative use of colours and illustrations found in the inspiring secondhand and new titles here. Located just past Koenji's Pal shopping street, the store stocks out-of-print Japanese books as well as foreign titles, especially from Russia and the Czech Republic. New titles include the works of artists like Tatyana Alekseevna Mavrina and Ilya Kabakov.

Do

  • Music
  • Koenji

The original 20000V was an institution on the Koenji live scene, until a tragic fire at the late-night yakitori shop upstairs put its building out of commission. Undeterred, some of the venue's staff decided to set up a new venue, this one just up the road from the venerable UFO Club. You can expect plenty of punk, hardcore and noise bands on stage day and night here.

  • Things to do
  • Koenji

Throw off your inhibitions and bathe with the regulars at this wonderfully old-school sento (public bathhouse) featuring an impressive menu of soaking options, including a scented bath and a milk bath. If the water feels a tad hot, try concentrating on the majestic Mt Fuji murals decorating both the men's and women's sections.

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  • Theatre
  • Performing arts space
  • Koenji

Pritzker award-winning architect Toyo Ito is the creative behind the interesting tent-like exterior of this public theatre, founded by Suginami City. Aside from staging dance and drama, they host readings of plays and illustrated books at the café, and hold 'story time' workshops for kids. Additionally, the building's three, highly adaptable performance spaces are used for conventional theatre, dance, film screenings, symposiums, workshops and concerts.

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