Nakano is one of Tokyo’s most popular neighbourhoods. It is right next door to Tokyo’s famous Shinjuku area, but is more accessible, more affordable and filled with fabulous shopping and eateries. If you watched the movie ‘Lost in Translation’ then you will get a feel for Shinjuku. And yet right next door is Nakano, a whole new Japanese world. It’s busy, it’s bustling, it’s filled with bargains and it is also, surprisingly beautiful.
People stay in Nakano because of the shopping, the food, the nature, the Spas and the overall ambience. The shopping is incredible and you can buy noodles from a mom and pop store, vintage comics from a Japanese hipster, fireworks from a street side seller or a luxury watch from The Watch Company in Nakano. Nakano offers everything, small and big, and has become known as Tokyo’s shopping district. You will find the shotengai here, which is a long street that is jam packed with little stores and stalls, and you will find the Nakano Broadway, which is jam packed with everything from chopsticks to Rolex watches.
If you could only choose 5 things to do in Nakano, we would suggest.
A walk from the bottom of Shotengai to the top
The meaning of Shotengai is ‘street shop.’ The street shop in Nakano is long. You can literally spend a few hours walking and wandering, without seeing the same things twice. You will find everything on this street, including pots and pans, noodles, fireworks, chopsticks, anime dolls, video games, computers, cameras, phones, phone covers and if you can think it, you can find it.
A couple of hours in Nakano Broadway
Nakano Broadway is a 13 story indoor shopping complex and yes, we suggest you go through each floor. A lot of the time you will just be watching other people as they shop and window shop. It’s a fascinating culture and there are some fascinating shops. This complex is en enormous emporium filled with a lot of geek stuff – video games, anime characters, nostalgia and vintage items – but also has all the high-end luxury items. You will see some of Tokyo’s most beautiful people shopping here, and also some of Tokyo’s most outrageous people shopping here. There is an entire floor, few floors actually, selling everything to do with pop culture. Weird stuff, interesting stuff, extraordinary stuff. Don’t forget to visit the basement which is filled with foodie stuff.
Nakano Central Park
You will find Nakano Park easily, it’s a fabulous spot of greenery amongst the busy shopping areas. In cherry blossom season the park is absolutely divine, but it’s a really cool spot to hang out in and relax too. There are tons of food stalls here and you will find some of the best sushi in Nakano, but also some of the best ramen. And if you prefer Italian, there’s pizza, and if you’re into American, you may just find a burger. It’s a mix of cultures as there are many tourists who visit, and visitors come worldwide to spend time in Tokyo and in particular to shop in Nakano.
Hikawa Nakano Shrine
Nakano cannot only be about shopping and eating, you do need to get a little culture too. This lovely shrine is small, which is kind of a welcome respite, and despite it’s size it is significant politically and historically. It’s an eleven minute walk from the Chuo Line “Higashinakano” station, and you need to exit west. It’s lovely just walking the streets and we think you should visit. Then you can go back to shopping!
Araiyakushi Public Baths
Araiyakushi is an area rather than a particular place. It is filled with unusual shops and although on first glance it looks a little dull, it actually is incredibly interesting. We suggest you go and enjoy a herbal bath and then find an interesting looking Japanese restaurant, sit with the locals and just say ‘Ill have what he’s having.’ The bunkichi, a beef stew, is amazing, in case you do need help, and the shops are deceptively large. Wander through and have fun. And get clean!
Another thing to bear in mind in Nakano is The Watch Company Japan. Visitors specially come to the Nakano Broadway centre to look at, or buy, luxury watches. You will find the most astonishing collection, including Rolex, TAG Heuer, Cartier, Omega, Seiko, Citizen, Hamilton, IWC and so many more. The staff are brilliant and The Watch Company Nakano has become a tourist delight on its own. If you are interested in buying, take your passport with you, so that you are exempt from tax.
Japan has to be on everyone’s bucket list as a tourist destination. It is an expensive tourist destination but it doesn’t have to cost you a small fortune. There are a wide range of hotels and that includes guesthouses, boutique hotels and Airbnb. If you choose to eat in the five star restaurants and hotels, yes, you will pay a lot of money. But if you go for the food markets and fabulous street food, you can eat huge bowls of noodles or stew for very little. Japan has the big cities filled with skyscrapers and bright lights, but also has small and spiritual temples, magnificent scenery with mountains and rice paddies, amazing and unusual art, exquisite dance and theatre, and some of the most friendly people in the world.
If you are in Tokyo and want to stay close to the city but not in the city, try Nakano. You will find it so interesting that you may not leave. Rather than sky scrapers you have low rise buildings, small houses, cherry lined streets, extraordinary shopping of all kinds, interesting food and interesting culture. Do your research, start writing out your own ‘top five’ and then book in advance. You won’t be sorry.