Heart Beeps: A City Adventure in Nakano

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Nakano Ward, just minutes from Shinjuku, is an area known as much for its temples and green spaces as it is for its confluence of subcultures — a place where bargain hunters, fashion-forward students, foodies and manga otaku converge.

While the sprawl of Akihabara and its popular and iconic nerd culture focuses more on maid cafés and crazy gadgets, Nakano keeps its plethora of manga libraries, anime collectibles and crazy karaoke joints condensed.

One could easily spend a weekend combing over its parks, shopping areas, unique boutiques and side streets — much like students from the nearby Waseda, Teikyo Heisei and Meiji universities do — for whatever collectible item you may be obsessed with finding. There are also sacred spaces for contemplation, grounds to picnic on and eateries galore to satisfy any gastronomic craving.

If you only have an afternoon to spare, the following spots will give you a sense of the vibrant street life, mélange of old and new and the fast-paced subculture that comprises the pulsating heart of Nakano.

Tetsugakudo Park

The philosophers’ stones

This hillside park was created as a place dedicated to philosophical theory by Enryo Inoue. Tetsugakudo Park comprises a unique square garden and a temple to worship the teachings of Socrates, Kant, Confucius and the Buddha. Placed in the “philosophy garden” are statues of great thinkers who played a part in the development of the academic discipline concerned with “being,” religion and society. Located in a beautiful, natural setting, the park sees visitors year round and is especially popular during cherry blossom season in spring and for the splash of red and yellow maple leaves in autumn. Other seasonal events occur from time-to-time throughout the year.

Ochiai-Minami-Nagasaki station on the Toei Oedo line.
1-34-28 Matsugaoka, Nakano-ku

Nakano Broadway

Revenge of the nerds

An otaku paradise, Nakano Broadway is famous for its covered shopping arcade and multi-floored complex filled with manga and rare copies of anime at stores like Mandarake and Fujiya Avic, as well as many smaller shops that are a treasure trove of collectible, limited edition action figures. The fun here is searching its nooks and crannies — for besides the noisy pulse of games, music, animation, toys and cosplay there are plenty of questionable fashion bargains to be found. You never know what you might find!

North exit of Nakano station on the JR and Tokyo Metro Tozai line.
5-52-15 Nakano, Nakano-ku

Vow’s Bar & Anison Karaoke Bar

Leap of Faith

The Nakano station area is one of extremes — profundity and contemplation at its temples and parks while its shopping arcade and side streets offer a cacophony of sights and sounds. At the end of your day trip, may we suggest unwinding at one of these establishments, each of which follows a different path.

Vow’s Bar has been serving up mindfulness and playful cocktail koans for the past 12 years. Run by a practicing Buddhist monk, master Genko Shaku, this quiet and reflective respite in the heart of otaku territory offers beverages that are playful Japanese puns — even the name “Vow’s” is a play on the Japanese pronunciation for Bose speakers, the house sound system, and bozu, the Japanese term for a monk.

The other path leads just down the stairs to the Anison Karaoke Bar. A place where 30-something salarymen come to relax after work and sing their favorite anime songs with energetic young staff who are all dressed in the appropriate cosplay. Don’t feel like singing? The hostess of your choice will sing it for you — at a price.

North exit of Nakano station on the JR and Tokyo Metro Tozai line.
Vow’s Bar 2F, Anison Karaoke Bar B1, 5-55-6, Nakano, Nakano-ku

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