10 Things To Do In Nakano - A Pop Culture And Shopping Paradise

10 Things To Do In Nakano - A Pop Culture And Shopping Paradise

Nakano 2018.07.06

Nakano, just 5 minutes away by train from Shinjuku, is an area famous for its vibrant subcultures, unique cafes, bars and anime related shops. From shopping at the popular Nakano Broadway to barhopping on Rengazaka, here's what to do for fun in Nakano.

Translated by Sandy Lau

Written by 五月女菜穂

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Nakano - A Center of Pop Culture

When it comes to otaku and anime culture in Japan, Akihabara often comes to mind. However, there is another pop culture center in Tokyo.

In this article we will introduce that center: Nakano, located just 5 minutes away by train from Shinjuku.

On the north exit side of Nakano Station is a lively area where you’ll find Nakano Broadway, a complex where you can enjoy subcultures such as comics and anime, and a shopping street bustling with customers. The south exit side of the station has a calmer atmosphere compared to the north exit. Here you'll find hip restaurants gathered on Rengazaka Street.

In this article, we cover the area near the north exit and introduce ten spots we hope you visit you go to Nakano, from shops with delicious desserts to nightlife.

1. Step into Nakano Broadway

A Pop Culture Center! 10 Things To Do In Nakano, Tokyo

Nakano Broadway, opened in 1966, is filled with many cultures representative of Nakano. It is a complex building combining a shopping center on its lower levels (from the first floor basement to the fourth floor) with a housing complex on its upper levels.

The shopping center houses a total of over 250 shops, including stores offering anime, comics, cosplay, and toys, local shops selling clothing, as well grocery stores.

Nakano Broadway may be known as being a popular spot for all things otaku, or geeky, but there are a variety of other stores in the complex, too. It’s a place that would be fun to leisurely browse around in.

Nakano Broadway
Address: Tokyo, Nakano, Nakano 5-52 Google Map
Access: 5 minute walk from the north exit at Nakano Station
Official Website: http://www.nbw.jp/#!/en

2. Treasure Hunting at MANDARAKE

A Pop Culture Center! 10 Things To Do In Nakano, Tokyo

MANDARAKE is a store that is especially popular within Nakano Broadway.

The store is split into various sections, with MANDARAKE Anime Hall (4F) selling anime animation cels and scripts, and MANDARAKE Infinity (3F) offering merchandise like male idol CDs and DVDs.

MANDARAKE itself is made up of about 30 specialty shops, including MANDARAKE Cosplay Hall (2F), where you can buy second-hand cosplay costumes and accessories such as wigs, and MANDARAKE Galaxy (2F) with used game software and strategy guides for sale. We are sure you will find something fun to take home with you if you search carefully.

MANDARAKE
Address: Tokyo, Nakano, Nakano 5-52-15 (inside Nakano Broadway) Google Map
Access: 5 minute walk from the north exit at Nakano Station

3. Amusement at Capsule Toy Specialty Shops

A Pop Culture Center! 10 Things To Do In Nakano, Tokyo

HAL Shop, located on the second floor of Nakano Broadway, is a capsule toy specialty shop selling palm-sized toys inside of capsules.

The store has over 100 capsule toy machines, ranging from game and anime character goods to unique, laughter-inducing toys, lined up in rows. These machines can be played at 100 yen per try. Why not try collecting all the toys at one machine, or getting some toys as souvenirs for your friends?

HAL Shop
Address: Tokyo, Nakano, Nakano 5-52-15 Nakano Broadway 2F Google Map
Access: 5 minute walk from the north exit at Nakano Station

4. Stroll Along the Sun Mall Shopping Street

A Pop Culture Center! 10 Things To Do In Nakano, Tokyo

There are many shopping streets in Nakano. Among them is Nakano Sun Mall Shopping Street, located right outside the north exit at Nakano Station, a 224-meter long shopping arcade.

There are a great variety of stores that line the arcade, including restaurants selling ramen, takoyaki, and sushi, boutiques, shoe stores, massage parlors. The street is busy with both neighborhood residents and tourists.

Nakano Fureai Road Shopping Street, found on the east side of Nakano Sun Mall Shopping Street, is home to several izakaya (Japanese bars) and restaurants. Here you can enjoy sampling and tasting different cuisines both day and night.

Nakano Sun Mall Shopping Street
Address: Tokyo, Nakano, Nakano 5-64  Google Map
Access: Immediately outside the north exit at Nakano Station

5. Try Koala’s March Yaki

A Pop Culture Center! 10 Things To Do In Nakano, Tokyo

Koala’s March is a popular treat in Japan that is a koala-shaped biscuit filled with chocolate. For Koala’s March Yaki (150 yen plus tax per biscuit), the company’s koala made into obanyaki (*1). This is a limited edition product only available at a certain number of stores in the country. It is sold at the Lotteria, a hamburger restaurant, found in the Nakano Sun Mall Shopping Street.

This sweet treat is made up of a fluffy batter filled with either red bean paste or cream, and is available in three standard flavors. These flavors are Ghana Milk Flavor, made with the Ghana milk chocolate from the candy manufacturer Lotte, Custard Flavor, and Azuki (Red Bean) Flavor. You can also sometimes try special flavors here depending on the time.

At the time this article was written, we had the limited edition Strawberry Milk Flavor. The cream filled inside the biscuit had a sweet and rich flavor that we thought was addictively tasty.

*1 Obanyaki: a baked sweet with a batter consisting of wheat flour, sugar, and eggs poured into a mold.

Lotteria Nakano Sun Mall
Address: Tokyo, Nakano, Nakano 5-59-8 Google Map
Access: 5 minute walk from the north exit at Nakano Station

6. Indulge in Picture-Perfect 8 Layer Soft Serve

A Pop Culture Center! 10 Things To Do In Nakano, Tokyo

Daily Chiko is located on the first floor basement of Nakano Broadway. Though you can also eat a light meal of udon here, the shop is famous for their Extra-Large Soft Serve Ice Cream piled high with eight types of flavors (550 yen plus tax). It towers over an unbelievable 40cm tall!

In addition to standard vanilla and chocolate flavors, Daily Chiko offers different flavors depending on the season, like shikwasa (*1) and sakura latte (you cannot choose your eight flavors). Definitely try this colorful and photogenic soft serve ice cream. Daily Chiko also offers smaller sized soft serve in S and M sizes.

*1 Shikwasa: a lemon-like fruit harvested in areas such as Okinawa.

Daily Chiko
Address: Tokyo, Nakano, Nakano 5-52 Nakano Broadway B1F Google Map
Access: 5 minute walk from the north exit at Nakano Station

7. Try on a Laughter-Inducing T-Shirt

A Pop Culture Center! 10 Things To Do In Nakano, Tokyo

Harajuku I-Rie, located on the third floor of Nakano Broadway, sells interesting and hilarious T-shirts with Japanese writing.

The shop offers T-shirts with all kinds of expressions on them, with phrases stating “insufficient study”, “I don’t believe in anything but alcohol.” There are also some T-shirts stating “I’m the culprit,” which might be dangerous if you don’t know what it means in Japanese! There is no doubt that you’d attract some attention by wearing these shirts during your trip.

Harajuku I-Rie
Address: Tokyo, Nakano, Nakano 5-52 Nakano Broadway 3F Google Map
Access: 5 minute walk from the north exit at Nakano Station

8. Admire the Works of Takashi Murakami at a Cafe

A Pop Culture Center! 10 Things To Do In Nakano, Tokyo

Bar Zingaro, a cafe produced by international pop artist Mr. Takashi Murakami, is located on the second floor of Nakano Broadway.

Flower-themed artworks by the artist are displayed everywhere throughout the cafe with a menu of coffee, black tea, and different types of alcohol. The seats are spaciously arranged, perfect if you're feeling tired from walking during your Nakano adventure.

By the way, elaborate galleries affiliated with the café, such as Hidari Zingaro (3F) and Oz Zingaro (4F), are also located in Nakano Broadway.

Bar Zingaro
Address: Tokyo, Nakano, Nakano 5-52 Nakano Broadway 2F Google Map
Access: 5 minute walk from the north exit at Nakano Station

9. Have a Drink at Vow’s Bar

A Pop Culture Center! 10 Things To Do In Nakano, Tokyo

Vow’s Bar is located a five minute walk from the north exit at Nakano Station. It is a bar where Mr. Genko Shaku, a monk of the Jodo Shinshu Otani sect (a Buddhist sect), works as the owner.

The specialty of the bar are the original cocktails with Buddhist-related names. The bar has a cozy atmosphere accepting to both people interested in Buddhist and people that are not. It’s also said that many visitors come here to receive counseling and life advice.

Vow’s Bar
Address: Tokyo, Nakano, Nakano 5-55-6 World Building 2F Google Map
Access: 5 minute walk from the north exit at Nakano Station

10. Go Barhopping on Rengazaka Street

A Pop Culture Center! 10 Things To Do In Nakano, Tokyo

Nakano Rengazaka Street is about a minute walk from the south exit of Nakano Station. There are roughly about 30 restaurants that lined up on both sides of the brick-covered hill road.

This is a stylish street where a collection of famous shops are kept hidden, including Nakano Aonisai, where you can enjoy little tastings of dozens of types of Japanese alcohol, and Dining Kitchen root, where delicious meat dishes are cooked by a skillful chef. The street also has plenty of shops that are open late into the night, so we recommend barhopping and stopping by several spots.

Nakano Rengazaka Street
Address: Tokyo, Nakano, Nakano 3-36 Google Map
Access: 1 minute walk from the south exit at Nakano Station

Have Fun in Nakano, Just Five Minutes Away by Train from Shinjuku!

Beginning with Nakano Broadway, Nakano is known as a cultural center in Tokyo. It is also a city with an lively local shopping street and a plethora of unique restaurants, packed with a lot of charm.

Nakano is easily accessible, as it is just five minutes by train from Shinjuku Station, with a number of our favorite places gathered near the station. Definitely add these spots to your itinerary for sightseeing in Tokyo.

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