Nakano: A Guide To Tokyo’s Underground Otaku And Foodie Paradise

Tokyo Neighborhood Strolls

If you're looking for an alternative to Akihabara's busy streets or want to find some new enticing ramen spots, Nakano offers a charming escape from its busy neighbors.

Although a seemingly local and residential area, anyone heading West on the Chuo line will find much to explore in Nakano. Beloved by fans of video games, anime, and manga for offering a quieter version of Akihabara within its multi-floor department store Nakano Broadway, the neighborhood also suits anyone who loves to dig into the local side streets and seek out some gems. Nakano hides over 50 ramen restaurants (some of which are known to be the best in the city) which can mostly be found nestled around the energetic station exits and along the restaurant and bar strip of Rengazaka Street. Although Nakano is one of the most highly populated districts of Tokyo and surrounded by lively neighborhoods such as Koenji and Shinjuku, it’s easily accessible, retains a local, retro vibe and exudes charm.

History and Background

Whereas Koenji resonated with the punk scene of Tokyo in the 80s, Nakano very much became the darling of Japan’s otaku. The famous Nakano Broadway opened in 1966 as a sign of modernization in the primarily residential working area but the building was reserved for exclusive apartments and high-end shopping. Quickly, however, nearby neighborhoods such as Ikebukuro and Shinjuku outshone Nakano leaving the building worse for wear until the 1980s when Mandarake opened a store, others soon followed and created the otaku subculture which resonates strongly there today.

The name Nakano translates to “middle fields” as it was once the center of the Musashi no Kuni district, and it became the Tokyo district we know today in 1932 when the towns of Nogata and Nakano were merged into the former Tokyo city. Still very much deserving of its central name, Nakano is surrounded by the busiest districts in Tokyo including Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Toshima.

Things to Do

Get lost in Tetsugakudo Park

© Photo by Инариский

Also known as “The Park of Philosophy,” this special park was created by the late philosopher Dr. Enryo Inoue who wanted to create a space where people could lose themselves and contemplate the universe. You can see over 70 incredible sculptures and structures around the park. Interestingly, you enter through the “Gate of Common Sense,” make a tough choice as to which route you should take at the “Junction of Doubt,” and then exit the park through the “Gate of the Irrational” as you head back into everyday life. You can also find Wagnor Nandor’s famous sculpture “Garden of Philosophy” which features famous philosophers from around the world. With some quirky aspects, the park is a genuinely beautiful and a great place to catch the sakura or autumn leaves.

Find peace at Zenjoji Temple & Araiyakushi Temple

Although not the grandest temples in Tokyo, both of these green peaceful spaces offer a welcome rest bite after a day shopping in Nakano. Araiyakushi Temple (pictured above) is just 15 minutes’ walk from Nakano station and many people come here to pray for the restoration of poor eyesight. The Edo period legend which inspired this involved a blind shogun’s daughter who supposedly prayed here and had her sight restored. While you’re there, you can also visit 12 statues of generals who protect Budddah within the grounds of the temple. Zenzoji Temple is a small, tranquil space favored by locals and worth having a walk around.

Learn a new skill at The Fruit Academy

This is a fun place if you’re looking for something a bit different to do or you’ve got friends visiting and want a foreigner-friendly class. Much like the name suggests, this is a school for learning how to cut fruit properly and into stunning and intricate designs and shapes. Lessons are taken with renowned fruit artist Taizo Hirano and are ideal for anyone who loves creating their own bento boxes and wants another food art skill in their arsenal.

Relax in the friendly Kotobukiyu Onsen

This traditional bath is ideally located in Nakano for relaxing after spending a busy day exploring the area. Built on top of a natural hot spring, this local onsen opened in 1951 and is tremendously popular with locals and visitors alike due to their foreigner friendly policy (which also welcome people with tattoos!). Aside from the baths, you can also enjoy a separate sauna and a comic reading room.

Where to Shop

Nakano Broadway

One of the biggest draws to the area, and what has given Nakano its reputation as the go-to place for otaku culture alongside Akihabara, this multi-story shopping center opened in 1966 and betrays very little of its geek culture upon first glance since the bottom floor is made up of local grocery stores and spots to grab everyday items. Once you start climbing the floors however it all becomes clear. There are over 250 shops in the buildings and most of them are brimming with anime and manga related goodies including cosplay shops. You’ll also find more memorabilia related to video games, or older more obscure anime, here than in Akihabara where the stores tend to focus on the most popular things. You’ll also find some fantastic restaurants and souvenir shops here so if you’re looking for some goodies to take back home or somewhere to recharge after shopping, you’ll find them here.

Nakano Sun Mall Shopping Street


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Head to the North Exit of Nakano Station and you’ll emerge onto this iconic shopping arcade which eventually leads to Nakano Broadway. This is such a fun place to go shopping, particularly if you like cute stationery or are looking for souvenir shops. You’ll also find plenty of game centers (a hint of what’s to come in Nakano Broadway) and a plethora of cheap, and local restaurants to enjoy. It’s a lively place to go shopping where you can find everyday items alongside handmade goods and groceries. The north side of the station, adjacent to the street, offers visitors rows of tiny eateries, izakayas, sake bars, and Korean cuisine to enjoy. Well suited to foodies on a budget!

Yakushi Ai Road Shopping Street

Nakano does shopping so well, and Ai Road is one of the most popular shopping strips in the area. Wandering down this lane is a dream for anyone looking to indulge in some traditional Japanese culture with artisanal tea, liqueur, and mochi shops abound. The famous Sakamoto Miso store is also based here. Open since the 1950s, here you can choose from over 40 blends of handmade miso paste for every occasion. This is also where you’ll find the Kotobukiyu Onsen and the Araiyakushi Temple mentioned above making this a great stop for shopping, unwinding, and enjoying some delicious ramen.

Where to Eat and Drink

Rengazaka Street


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The hippest spot for restaurants and bar hopping in the area with over thirty international and Japanese eateries located here, there’s definitely something for everyone. Not just for the hungry, however, there are also some absolute gems for anyone looking for handmade Japanese goods, jewelry, organic clothing, or specialty alcohol.

Aoba Nakano Main Store 


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Named one of Tokyo’s best ramen spots, which for a district boasting as many ramen restaurants as Nakano is saying something. Aoba offers four hearty ramen dishes all made with their thick homemade noodles. Dishes include their popular chuka-soba and tsukemen options and broth options include their scrumptious seafood broth as well as meat. Aoba is also well suited to those looking for a budget lunch as their basic ramen starts at ¥650. They’re located within five minutes’ walk of Nakano Station’s North exit and are well worth waiting through any queues you may find there.

Muto Coffee Roastery


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If you like delicious homemade desserts, creamy affogato served in teacups, and freshly roasted coffee then this cozy spot hidden behind Nakano Station is a real treat. It’s the perfect place to relax after all the shopping in the area. They carefully select beans from around the world and put real passion into every cup. You can also buy their specialty beans and coffee related gifts.


This is an ideal restaurant for taking visiting friends and relatives or if you just want to treat yourself to the full Japanese dining experience with tatami mats and incredible hospitality. This soba restaurant was first established in 1924 and has become very much the local classic restaurant. They hand make the soba and udon noodles daily and their dipping sauces are to die for. One of the must-tries is the Kamo (duck) Seiro and the Ten Seiro set which comes with prawn and vegetable tempura. Prices range from ¥650 to ¥1,500 for the set.

Rainbow Spice Café Chai Stall


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Located in the basement of Nakano Broadway, this is where you come if you’re craving Indian curry or chai tea. They have eight styles of curry ranging from mild to spicy and have a full menu of chai tea drinks. So if you’re looking for a change from katsu curry then or want to immerse yourself in the scent of Indian spices for a while, this is a great choice.

Daily Chico


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Located on the basement level of Nakano Broadway is the world-famous ice-cream parlor, Daily Chico. This soft-serve spot became a bit of Instagram sensation due to their extra-large (40cm!) eight-flavor tower of ice-cream. With a variety of wonderful flavors to choose from ranging from black sesame and red beans to candy floss and blue soda, you can make that tower as quirky and colorful as you deem fit.

Getting There

To reach Nakano Station, you can take the JR Chuo and Sobu lines as well as the Tokyo Tozai Line. It only takes 10 minutes from Shinjuku or 30 minutes from Tokyo Station on the JR Chuo line so it’s easily accessible if you’re looking for somewhere different to explore after these bigger areas.

Daily Chico: 5-52-15 Nakano Broadway, Nakano-ku, Tokyo 

Rainbow Spice Cafe: BF1, 5-52-15 Nakano Broadway, Nakano-ku, Tokyo

Asahian3-7-11 Numabukuro, Nakano-ku, Tokyo

Muto Coffee Roastery: 3-34-18 Nakano, Nakano-ku, Tokyo 

Aoba Nakano Main Store: 5-58-1 Nakano, Nakano-ku, Tokyo

Rengazaka Street: 3-34, Nakano, Nakano-ku, Tokyo

Yakushi Road Shopping Street: 1-8 Arai, Nakano-ku, Tokyo 

Nakano Sun Mall Shopping Street: 5-63-3 Nakano, Nakano-ku, Tokyo 

Nakano Broadway: 5-52 Nakano, Nakano-ku, Tokyo

Kotobukiyu Onsen: 1-14-13 Arai, Nakano-ku, Tokyo 

The Fruit Academy: 3-1-16 Saginomiya, Nakano-ku, Tokyo

Tetsugakudo Park: 1-34-28, Matsugaoka, Nakano-ku, Tokyo

Zenjoji Temple: 3-39-10 Nakano, Nakano-ku, Tokyo

Araiyakushi Baishoin Temple: 5-3-5 Arai, Nakano-ku, Tokyo

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