If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in the bustling, beautiful megalopolis of Tokyo, then the city really is yours – you just have to know where to look. And if you want to get away from the tourist trail and get down close to the beating heart of the capital, a journey into the back streets of the 23 wards is where you’ll wind up.

Come with us as we take you into different neighbourhoods and spend an afternoon exploring some of Tokyo’s best-kept secrets. Today we’ll take you around some of Shibuya’s lesser known backstreets, where you can chow down on falafels, pick up some of the best coffee and soak up a hip, laid-back atmosphere.

We start our journey with lunch at Shinsencho, which is one stop from Shibuya Station on the Inokashira line or a pleasant 15-minute stroll away from Shibuya’s world-famous scramble crossing. This time we’re heading for some of Tokyo’s tastiest falafels at a place called Kuumba du Falafel.


There are only a handful of falafel joints in Tokyo, and for many locals this one is considered the best. Inside, customers eat at a marble bench, alongside rows of jars filled with nuts, dates and other dried fruits. They also offer a take-out service, which was popular with several customers who dropped by on their way home for lunch.


While the menu will obviously appeal to vegans, you don’t have to be vegan to enjoy what’s on offer here. We ordered the Falafel Plate for 1,500 yen (US$14.77) and a lunch special which included a half falafel sandwich and lentil soup for 1,000 yen (US$9.85).


The half falafel sandwich was a burst of colour and flavour, with lettuce, tomatoes, red cabbage, fried eggplant, pickled Japanese radish, hummus, tahini, Genovese Basilic paste and crunchy falafel pieces. What a mouthful! This was so big and filling we were actually glad we didn’t order the full sandwich.


The falafel plate had pretty much the same ingredients as the sandwich, only it was spread out on a plate, in a do-it-yourself style. The plate included five whole, Israeli-style falafels, which were crunchy on the outside and crumbly on the inside, with delicious hints of parsely and garlic.


After lunch you can head out for a stroll around nearby Nabeshima Shoto Park, a secret oasis not far from the busy streets of Shibuya. This was once once a tea plantation back in 1876, where Shoto tea was grown and processed. Today the park is popular with families and couples, and there are many park benches where you can rest your weary feet while gazing at stone lanterns and the gently spinning water wheel.


Taking the exit at the rear of the park takes you into the residential streets of Shoto, Japan’s most exclusive address. Often described as the Beverly Hills of Tokyo, you’ll find large plots of land and enormous houses here, owned mostly by CEOs and celebrities. The Governor of Tokyo’s Residence is here, and former Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso is another famous resident.


Walking through the quiet streets of Shoto is a wonderful alternative to using the busy main roads, and you’ll see plenty of interesting architecture along the way. You’ll also come across Chez Matsuo, a high-class restaurant and wedding venue disguised as a residential estate.


Further down the street, you’ll walk by the Shoto Museum of Art and the Kanze Nogakudo, a highly regarded Noh theatre, pictured below.


After passing the Noh Theatre, you’ll be making your way through Kamiyamacho, where you’ll notice the streets becoming busier and more crowded with shops. This will take you down to the main hub of Shibuya again, where, in one of the back lanes of Udagawacho, you’ll find the entrance to one of the best shops around: Loft.


You’ll find all types of cute Japanese gifts here, and with six floors to choose from, they cover everything from health and beauty goods to stationery, kitchenware, jewellery, and all manner of household items.

When we visited, there was a whole section dedicated to the hugely popular Fuchiko, a tiny office lady figurine that sits on the edge of your cup. There were also a number of interesting capsule toy machines, including this one that dispenses panty-shaped pouches designed by Japanese pop artist Dehara Yukinori.


After browsing through several levels of Loft, it’s time to brave the traffic and cross over Meiji Road to reach the next quiet enclave on the way to Omotesando and Harajuku. Here you’ll find yourself in another maze of lovely, quiet residential streets until you stumble upon the Smokehouse by T.Y. Harbor Brewery.


Opened in October 2013, the place takes its inspiration from American West Coast food culture, and specialises in craft beers and Western food. We ordered the smoked Norwegian salmon with fat capers, along with a Belgian-style wheat ale and a seasonal citrus beer. These were fantastic, and we loved the atmosphere so much we can’t wait to return.


Downstairs at the back, the two-storey establishment houses an on-site roastery, in collaboration with Nozy coffee company. Here you can choose from two different types of single-origin coffees and they’ll even let you sniff the beans to help you make your choice.


With outdoor seating and espressos served in champagne flutes, this is the ideal spot for some people-watching.


Walking along the pedestrian-only street up to Omotesando, you’ll pass by some of Tokyo’s coolest shops. And see some urban farm animals along the way.




We even spotted the infamous Tokyo character famous for walking pet “things” on a leash! Here he has two scrubbers with him, one of which was fashioned into a cute snail.


Now we’re officially in the side streets of Omotesando, but the atmosphere is still entirely different to the traffic and crowds just metres away. Residential homes are lined up alongside traditional store-fronts and more modern buildings, giving the place a relaxed, local vibe.


Crossing over Omotesando will take you into the heart of what’s known as Ura-Harajuku, or Ura-Hara, the back streets of Harajuku. With a plethora of funky stores and young customers, window shopping here takes on a whole new meaning.



If you’re looking for a sweet break before you head back home from Harajuku Station, Eggs ‘n Things is a popular destination. Originally from Waikiki, this Hawaiian eatery is an institution among young people in Tokyo, with a constant line outside to get in. But they’re not coming here for the alcohole.


They line up for the pancakes which come served with a mountain of cream. If you love pancakes, then this is definitely the place for you.


A short walk through the back streets and up Takeshita Dori will take you to Harajuku Station and have you on your way home.

For full details of our walk through the back streets, take a look at the map below. Happy travels and we’ll see you next time!

Kuumba du Falafel
Address: 23-1 Shinsencho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Phone: 03 6416 8396
Hours: Tue-Sat 11.30am-2.30pm, 5.30pm-8.30pm (last order), Sun 11.30am-6.30pm (last order) / Closed Mon

Nabeshima Shoto Park
Address: 2-10-7 ShotoShibuya, Tokyo

Kanze Nogakudo
Address: 1-16-4 Shoto, Shibuya, Tokyo
Phone: 03-3469-5241

Address: 21-1 Udagawacho, Shibuya, Tokyo
Phone: 03-3462-3807
Hours: 10.00am-9:00pm Everyday

T.Y. Harbor Brewing Smokehouse
Address: 5−17−13, Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Phone: 03-6450-5855
Hours: Weekday 11:30〜15:00 (last order) 17:30〜22:00 (last order) Drink 〜22:30(last order) Sat・Sun・Hol 11:30〜22:00(last order) Drink 〜22:30(last order)

Eggs ‘n Things Japan
Address: 4-30-2 Jingumae, Shibuya
Phone: 03-5775-5735