Shin-Okubo: Tokyo’s Very Own Little Korea

Tokyo Neighborhood Strolls

A K-Pop, K-Beauty, and K-BBQ fan’s slice of heaven.

When living in Japan, you won’t need to purchase a plane ticket to visit Korea: enter Shin-Okubo, Tokyo’s very own Koreatown. Conveniently located just one subway station from Shinjuku (or about 20 minutes on foot), this trendy neighborhood is always filled with young locals and tourists alike. Whether you’re hunting for all the K-beauty products of the 10-step skincare routine, a spicy bibimbap (rice bowl) topped with even spicier kimchi, or just want to jam out to K-pop music blasting from every storefront, Shin-Okubo is an excellent place to immerse yourself in a youthful mix of Seoul and Tokyo

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History and Background

South Korean immigrants first moved into Shin-Okubo around 1983, when Japan opened its doors to foreign exchange students. Back then, it was an inexpensive neighborhood overshadowed by the commercial and economic city of Shinjuku that was just south of it. Over the last few decades, many South Korean immigrants have followed suit and settled in the Shin-Okubo area. 

It wasn’t until a huge boom in over-the-top Korean TV dramas that K-drama merchandise was practically flying off the shelves of the Shin-Okubo stores (Winter Sonata marathon, anyone?) More recently, the K-pop and K-beauty craze continues to support the popularity of the capital’s mini Korea. 

Things To Do

Stock up on Korean grocery items at Kankoku-hiroba


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A massive grocery store that translates to “Korean plaza” has all of your Korean grocery shopping needs. You can find all of your Korean cooking essentials like gochujang spice paste, doenjang soybean paste, bottles of Korean fish sauce and sesame oil. You can also splurge on seaweed snacks, Korean Ramyun noodles, and of course, take your pick from the wide variety of kimchi. 

Savor good-for-the-soul street food

Cheese Dogs - Shin-Okubo Neighborhood Guide© Photo by nami_106

Shin-Okubo is a crowded neighborhood during all hours of the day, partially because of all the customers lining up to buy their favorite street food. There are countless one-window shops and stands along Shin-Okubo’s alleyways, selling Insta-ready bits and bites. The air is filled with the warm smell of freshly fried cheese corn dogs (like a corn dog but replace the hot dog inside with an entire block of cheese—yum), hotteok (Korean sweet pancakes), tteokbokki (spicy mochi sticks), and so much more. Of course, you can get your fill on tapioca bubble tea here, too. 

Admire passionate street performers

Shin-Okubo Streets© Photo by d_marlop

The streets here are the stage for many dancers and singers trying to woo the Japanese music and media industries. For tourists and locals who aren’t scouting for the next biggest star, you won’t be able to tell the difference between these amateurs and the real thing so enjoy an entertaining and free show. Just follow the high-pitched screams of love-struck girls and you’ll be led right to the hottest performance of the night.

Where To Shop 

Myondon Cosme

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Among the dozens of beauty stores in this neighborhood, Myondon Cosme (明洞コスメ) continues to be one of the most popular. It has an insane collection of face masks, makeup, lotions, hair dyes, nail polish, and more, making it a staple shopping stop for all K-beauty hunters. Find popular and budget-friendly Korean brands like Missha, Tony Moly, and Skin Food here! 

Hanryu Plaza

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Hanryu Plaza (韓流 Plaza) has a deceivingly small storefront: a small wall covered in CDs and a TV screen running K-pop music videos on end. Walk down to the basement floor through a Korean heartthrob-lined tunnel for a pleasant shopping surprise. Once inside, you’ll face wall-to-ceiling Korean products of all varieties. Choose your favorite K-pop idol’s face printed on snuggly cushions, mugs, folders, and even trading cards. But it’s not just K-pop here, there are also Line Friends goods (beloved Cony, Brown, Moon, James, and more) and Korean cosmetics sold here. 

Idol Park

Idol Park

Sitting right next to Shin-Okubo station is another spot where K-pop fans can purchase all their favorite merch. Not only can you find all your favorite idols of today, but also iconic faces from K-pop history. Stock up on posters of all sizes, a variety of CDs and DVDs of your favorite performances, and button pins representing each idol group’s members that you can collect right on your canvas bag. You’re sure to walk out of Idol Park with a whole horde of new decorations. 

  • Myondon Cosme: 2-32-2 Okubo, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 
  • Hanryu Plaza: K-Plaza2, 2-1-2 Hyakunincho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
  • Idol Park: Soritsu Bldg. 2-3-25 Hyakunincho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

Where to Eat & Drink

Shijan Dakgalbi

UFO Chicken© Photo by masemeshi

One food item you’ll see on more storefronts and billboards than any other in Shin-Okubo is cheese dak-galbi. Dak-galbi itself is spicy Korean stir-fried chicken. Add the “cheese” part to get a bowl of cheese fondue in the center to dunk your chicken in. In Shin-Okubo, you’ll see this often advertised as “UFO Chicken” because of the shape of the pot it comes in. With prices that are easy on your wallet, Shijan Dakgalbi (市場タッカルビー) is a favorite eatery for groups of friends and coworkers—you’ll definitely need a buddy or two to finish a whole UFO Chicken! 



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Shin-Chan (辛ちゃん) does one food really well: Korean-style fried chicken. Choose from five levels of spice and whether you want a whole chicken or half the bird that has been marinated in strong Korean sauces and spices. Crispy, juicy, crunchy, and flavorful, plus cheap beer and soju (Korean liquor) to pair, it’s no wonder that Shin-Chan is a popular spot for tourists, locals, and the Japanese after-work crowd. 

Myeong-dong Norimaki


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It’s called norimaki in Japanese, sushi rolls wrapped in seaweed for English speakers, and in Korean, it’s known as kimbap—whatever you choose to call these rice rolls, try them here at Myeong-dong Norimaki (明洞のり巻き). Several different kimbap are available on the menu here, including ones with traditional Korean flavors like kimchi and bulgogi (BBQ beef ribs), and ones with a Tokyo-twist like with tuna or tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette). Pair it with a variety of kimchi or a hot bowl of spicy ramen and you’ve got yourself a lovely Korean-Japanese fusion meal. 

Yopu no Oubuta-shioyaki

Yopu no Oubuta-shioyaki© Photo by yoyogiekimaeshita

If you didn’t grill your own food on a hot plate at your table, did you even go to Korea(town)? It’s similar to DIY yakiniku, or grilled meat, popular in Japan. At Yopu no Oubuta-shioyaki (ヨプの王豚塩焼), the meat is cured in-house for 14 days, and the vegetables are always fresh. Their specialty is samgyeopsal, a thick-cut pork belly that can be ordered with many different garnishes to complement flavors (spicy kimchi being one of them, of course!) With a wide variety of soups and side dishes that come with each order, be sure to wear pants with an elastic band because you’ll be leaving stuffed as a pig! 

Caesar Cafe


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Speaking of Instagram worthy food and drinks, K-pop lovers shouldn’t miss Caesar Cafe. The step of the stairs leading up the cafe features a different idol-inspired latte, so you can make your decision climbing up the stairs! What’s more, all of the drinks here are served in a ceramic mug featuring your favorite Korean heart-throbs, and you can choose any K-pop band logo to have printed on the foam. Have your favorite idol’s birthday marked on your calendar? Celebrate it here where extravagant birthday shrines are set up as the perfect photo backdrop. 

2D Cafe Shin-Okubo


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This 2D cafe is the latest trend taking Instagram by storm, which is difficult to do in a neighborhood already famous for its Instagrammable food choices. Here, you’ll be transported to a 2D world, so you’ll feel like you’re stuck between the pages of a book or a retro comic strip! The menu consists of plenty of sweets and drinks, so grab a refreshing shaved ice, bubble tea, or coffee, and pose like you’re a part of the 2D drawing.

Getting There

Shin-Okubo Access - Yamanote LineShin-Okubo is accessible on the JR Yamanote line and starts just east of Shin-Okubo’s North Exit. The neighborhood is also within walking distance from Okubo Station on the Chuo line and the Chuo-Sobu line, and from Higashi-Shinjuku Station on the Fukutoshin and Oedo subway lines.

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