下北沢一番街、夜になると開く駄菓子屋「悪童処(ワルガキサロン)」 Tokyo’s most mysterious nighttime sweet shop


The setting: First Avenue, Shimokitazawa, Tokyo. It’s your typical downtown scene - narrow roads, railroad crossings and shops packed closely together. However, go right to the end of this inconspicuous little street and you’ll be greeted with a particularly unique old-fashioned candy store, Warugaki Salon (‘Bad Boy Salon’). Passing by the shop at noon you’d assume the business had been abandoned - there’s no sign of life or movement whatsoever. But that’s the whole point. This old sweet shop or ‘dagashiya’ only opens as the school day ends at around 7pm, and close just before the town begins its day at 5am. Warugaki Salon is a nighttime store.


Midnight snacks


Warugaki Salon has been in business for a whopping 57 years. It’s a tiny space - put about five people in there and it’ll already be a tight squeeze. The walls are lined with vintage Japanese candies - penny sweets, Yattermen crisps, mizuame drops...all of course sold at their original dirt-cheap prices. There are also vintage toys like paper soap and plastic rings. It’s like stepping into a tiny time machine.


Owner of the establishment Adou Higashikujo comes out to greet us as a female staff member tends to the shop. He has a group of friends that help watch the shop for him, he explains, and they all treat it as a meeting spot. The shop frontage is small yet mesmerising - the window display is one of those things you can’t tear your gaze away from. Plastic toys and animals sit in perfectly arranged lines - a free-for-all exhibit constantly being fiddled with by the customers and staff. “Every time I come here, the window display has changed. If you turn your back for a second it’s bound to be rearranged”, Adou laughs. The display is left as it is during the day, attracting photos from curious passers-by and tourists.


The one thing we can’t help but ask is, what’s with the midnight opening hours? “There’s no kids in Shimokitazawa, so all we can do is appeal to an adult audience. If there were kids around during the day I’d open, but I’ve never seen any around here”, Adou replies.


It was a Sunday night when we visited the shop and despite the deadness of the night, customers appeared out of nowhere. Foreign tourists intrigued by the strangeness, passers-by consumed by nostalgia. As cars drove by, they reduced their speed to catch a proper glimpse of the shop. However everybody had one thing in common - their expressions had a look of childlike excitement about them.


From life advice to horse racing tips


Owner Adou Higashikujo is also known throughout the area as extremely knowledgeable with regards to horse racing. Three guys fiddled with the shop’s various toys whilst Adou set up a blackboard to give a lecture on the matter. “You’ve gotta consider the horse’s age and weight”, he explained as he drew a complicated-looking table on the blackboard. Of course, there was more, but you’d have to go to Warugaki Salon to find out the rest.


Inside the shop lies an old notebook filled with various people’s dreams. “I want to win an Olympic gold medal”, “I’m going to be an internationally acclaimed artist” - the pages are filled with ambitions and goals. “All the kids who wrote in here have grown up to do great stuff”, Adou says with a proud smile. He’s a one-of-a-kind type of guy - easy to talk to yet straight to the point. “Anyone could go to Tokyo University if they really wanted to - they’re just not putting the effort in” - a classic example of his cutthroat advice. His words of wisdom are just another reason why people swarm to the little sweet shop. An ex-actor at Shintoho studios and past writer of TV dramas, Adou emits a sense of worldliness that everybody wants a bit of.


When the shutters to Warugaki Salon open at 7pm, there’s always somebody waiting to talk to Adou. Even if you don’t have anything to say, taking in the shop’s atmosphere without words is enough - try it and see.

駄菓子屋 悪童処


Dagashiya Warugaki Salon

Address: 3-34-4 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo