My Tokyo Guide
See something interesting? Click on the heart button in the article to add a page from this site to My Favorites.
Main content starts here.
Updated: February 13, 2023
The liberal, bohemian Koenji neighborhood in western Tokyo grew out of Japan's radical student movements of the 1960s. Now it's a hub for alternative music culture and a shopping district, with bars, restaurants, vintage clothing shops, and discount stores that attract a local crowd.
Once the sun sets, grab a drink from one of the numerous izakaya bars, and see a live performance at a venue like 20000 Den-Atsu. The Koenji Awa Odori is a well-known summer tradition, and the second largest Awa Odori dance festival in Japan.
The closest access point is Koenji Station on the JR Chuo Line. Shin-Koenji Station on the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line is a 15-minute walk from the main attractions.
From Haneda Airport: approximately one hour by train. From Narita Airport: approximately two hours by train.
From Shinjuku Station: take the express train on the JR Chuo Line; approximately 15 minutes to Koenji Station.
From Tokyo Station: take the JR Chuo Line; approximately 30 minutes to Koenji Station.
The area around Koenji Station consists of shotengai shopping arcades and narrow alleys offering an abundance of shopping, dining, and drinking options. These include Koenji Junjo Shopping Street, Koenji Nakadori Shopping Street, Koenji Pal Shopping Street, and Koenji Look Shopping Street. It’s also known for its unique vintage clothing stores, which attract shoppers on weekends looking for a style of their own.
In the evening, these streets fill up with locals in search of cheap food and drink. The izakaya and restaurants here offer both standard Japanese and eclectic foreign cuisine. The narrow alleys and hidden streets are full of tiny bars catering to specific subcultures and art/music scenes.
In addition to affordable drinks and food, the neighborhood flourishes with live music. Punk rock is particularly well-received in this area, but virtually all music has a home here. There are many live music venues (called "live houses" in Japan) in Koenji. They play different genres of music on different nights, from J-pop to heavy metal, so it’s best to check the performance schedule beforehand.
If you’re visiting in the summer, don’t miss the Koenji Awa Odori Dance. This festival first began in 1957, with the aim of revitalizing the small shopping streets of the town, but has now grown to be the largest Awa Odori festival outside of Tokushima Prefecture, where the dance originated. Held on the last weekend of August, this is one of Tokyo’s largest summer street festivals, with over 10,000 dancers and a million visitors taking part.