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Nakameguro is a neighbourhood in Tokyo that is home to lots of hip and unique boutiques. It's one of the places where creative minds go to play, a district with an artsy and edgy streak while retaining some of the posh-ness and upmarket fashion flowing from the nearby neighbourhoods of Daikanyama and Ebisu. Interestingly, Nakameguro identifies more as a residential area than a shopping district, something that is quickly evident once stepping out of Nakameguro Station - the main station servicing the neighbourhood - and seeing the apartment buildings that line the main street.
Nakameguro is a popular and well known cherry blossom spot in Tokyo when the cherry trees that line the Meguro River are in bloom. The trees are also illuminated during the sakura season as well as at the end of the year usually in the week leading up to Christmas. These seasonal events bring lots of visitors to Nakameguro, setting the typically tranquil neighbourhood ablaze with activity.
I visited Nakameguro in mid August and proof of its wide-ranging attractions, the neighbourhood was still lovely to visit. There were no crazy lines at restaurants nor was it super crowded with visitors, just a leisurely time to walk around and pop into shops that caught my fancy. A couple of my favourite things about Nakameguro were the quality of restaurants that can be found there, as well as the lack of big chains and major upmarket boutiques. Every little shop seemed to be more interested in doing their own thing, honing their craft and generally what seemed like not caring what others thought of them.
From Nakameguro Station (one stop on the Hibiya Subway Line from Ebisu, or two stops on the Tokyu Toyoko Line from Shibuya), I started my day one block north of the Meguro River at the Sato Sakura Museum. This small museum is dedicated to showcasing Japanese-style paintings (nihonga) and one of its features is the sakura gallery named "100 views of Sakura" which allows visitors to see cherry blossom nihonga all year round.
After that I went for a walk along the Meguro River, checking out the shops and enjoying the shade along the riverside. It wasn't long before I needed a drink, and picked one of the many cafes for a drink and to cool down from the summer heat. The one thing that Nakameguro does quite well is making small spaces feel shareable and not too cramped.
The main street of Nakameguro and the space under the train tracks have the highest concentration of shops and restaurants and views start getting very residential just one or two blocks away from the main street. However, it is also on these side streets where some of the nicest and most delicious restaurants can be found though requiring a little bit of hunting down. Visitors are literally spoilt for choices when it comes to dining in Nakameguro.
After walking about a kilometer away from Nakameguro Station, I decided to head back for some food. Lunch was a simple affair at one of Tokyo's best kept secret: Seirinkan, a pizzaria that offers only two choices of pizzas, margherita or marinara. There is a larger selection of pasta, sides and drinks but the draw at Seirinkan is their pizza. I went for the delicious and basic margherita which hit the spot and destroyed my tastebuds for other kinds of pizza.
With my pizza craving satisfied, I made my way futher south of the station to the Meguro Ward Office. A little known fact about this ward office or for that matter, a number of prefectural offices in Japan, is that they were designed by famous architects. The Meguro Ward Office was designed by Murano Togo who also renovated the Tokyo State Guest House and further improved the Takashimaya department store in Nihonbashi amongst other high profile works during his illustrious career in the Showa Period (1926-1989).
The ward office is open to visitors who wish to view the unique architecture and two of my favourite sections were the rooftop garden as well as the Japanese style rooms where visitors can spend some quiet time resting or reading. You definitely will not find similar places like that in other ward or city offices!
On the way back to the station, I found myself at yet another cafe for an afternoon cuppa while trying to hide from the heat. While having my coffee, I wondered just how was it that Nakameguro came to have so many possible quality products in just the few blocks from the station, and each one seemingly more hip than the previous ones. This neighbourhood definitely has no lack of secret nooks and hideouts each with their unique characteristics.
After sunset, the mood of the Nakameguro changes when bars and restaurants open for dinner service. Exposed light bulbs and tinsel lights warm up the street and cast a somewhat romantic glow. Every open restaurant looks like a cosy place to be in to hang out with friends, and everyone looks like they're having a good time. I'll be coming back to Nakameguro, and next time staying all the way till closing time soaking in the good vibes with friends.
The Chotto Zeitaku Japan series by japan-guide.com is a continuing project to seek out places that allow us to enjoy the better things in life. Not exactly a sightseeing guide, but one that transports the visitor into a different space to relax and get away from it all.
By Raina Ong, japan-guide.com