Exploring local neighbourhoods of Tokyo – Nakano and Koenji

Having visited Tokyo five times in the past three years, I’m always on the lookout for new places to explore.

I’m pretty much ‘done’ with the usual touristy attractions – Meji Shrine, Skytree, Odaiba, Disneyland – and now I’m trying to find and visit the hidden gems of Tokyo (and greater Tokyo).

In my previous trips, I’ve visited the fortune cat temple in Setagaya and climbed Mt Takao last December.

In my most recent trip, I made a visit to Nakano, a neighbourhood known to be a shopping haven for Otaku (minus the crowd of Akihabara) and Kichijoji (a place for hipsters and art lovers).

Nakano

Nearest Train Station: Nakano Station, JR Chuo Line (5 mins from Shinjuku Station)

The best part of the shopping street is that it comes with sheltered roofing (similar to the dotonburi in Osaka) which makes it a perfect place to visit if it rains. Also, Nakano is pretty much a place where there are more locals than foreigners. Apart from the usual drug/cosmetic stores, local brands like uniqlo, eateries, fast food, it is also home to several thrift shops where you could score some bargain hunts!

The main attraction at Nakano would definitely be the Nakano Broadway, a pretty nostalgic shopping mall (opened in 1966) which houses a lot of anime and manga shops. Looking for action figures? You’ll probably have a chance of finding one here and prices are likely to be cheaper than Akihabara!

When you walk down the Nakano Sun Mall (the 225m sheltered shopping street), you will chance upon a watch shop called ‘The Watch Company‘. This is a tax-free watch shop that buys & sells new and used watches! There are many brands available in the shop, including popular ones like Rolex, Tag Heuer, Omega and Hamilton.

Address: 5 Chome-58-6 Nakano, Nakano-ku, Tōkyō-to 164-0001, Japan

Do you know that buying luxury watches in Japan could be cheaper than your home country? The 8% tax-free benefit, together with the depreciating Japanese yen in recent years reduces the prices of these watches. To see their collection (which includes many limited edition designs), feel free to visit their website and compare the prices!

When I was in the area, I also had the chance to try this awesome Aoba Nakano Honten ‘Green Leaf’ Ramen shop.

Address: 5 Chome-58-1 Nakano, 中野区 Nakano-ku, Tōkyō-to 164-0001, Japan
Website: http://www.nakano-aoba.jp/

It is a pretty small shop and you will have to place your order via the vending machine outside the shop before heading in. As recommended, I ate the dipping ramen (fish-based broth) and it was pretty delicious but the portion was so huge that.. I couldn’t finish everything. I remember the noodles were very springy and chewy and the piece of meat was so delicious that I gobbled it up very quickly.

If you have a chance to visit in the evening, don’t forget to check out the izakayas dotting the back alleys stemming out from the main Nakano Sun Mall.

Kichijoji

A friend of mine, who had been staying in Japan for more than a year, chose to bring me to this place on a Sunday afternoon. I’ve heard of this place a couple of times and (if I didn’t recall wrongly) this is the neighbourhood where the eatyourkimchi (Simon & Martina) stays at.

My friend was an arts student and she recommended this area as being rather ‘local’ and described it as a neighbourhood with a character.

We first explored the Inokashira Park (which would bring us to Studio Ghibli museum) which looked pretty sad when I visited in end February. It would have been a lot prettier in Spring or Autumn but.. the winter/spring season makes the park look bare. There was some sort of cleaning up done in the lake and it was not filled which made me realised that it was probably a man-made lake. ha.

Apart from the park, there are many shopping options in this area – from the larger department shops to the individual hipster small shops to shops that sell secondhand items.

Don’t forget to check out this place called ‘Harmonica Yokocho’ which used to be a black market back in the old days.

Well, my best ‘find’ for the day was this pancakes brand called ‘Flippers’.

Address: Japan, 〒180-0004 Kichijōji Honchō, 2 Chome−10, 2-10-5 1F etc. JOURNAL STANDARD内

 

After my disappointing visit to bills back in December, I wasn’t too keen on eating pancakes again but my friend told me that Flippers was her favourite pancake. I thought that I should give pancakes another try and gosh, flippers was kind of mindblowing and I’m falling in love with souffle pancakes again!

The shop is very small and we had to wait approximately 30 mins for a seat. After placing your orders, you need to wait quite a while for the pancakes to come. It was definitely a lot of waiting but I felt it was totally worth the wait!

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Do you know any more neighbourhoods to recommend that are not too far from Tokyo? Feel free to leave a comment and I’ll be glad to explore more areas in my next visit!

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