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Swanky neighbourhoods near JR stations! (Part 1)

Swanky neighbourhoods near JR stations! (Part 1)

Tokyo is one of the most popular destinations in Japan for foreign visitors. It basically has everything: food, sightseeing, and even hot springs, if they venture out from the metropolitan area. And the city also has the most comprehensive train network in the entire country; many first-time travellers to Tokyo are intimidated by the sheer complexity of the network.

 

I was like that when I first travelled to Tokyo: intimidated and unsure if I could ever navigate the network. To my surprise, I did manage to understand it on my first try and since then, I have been using it―especially JR local lines―to explore places that are not often mentioned by other foreign visitors.

 

JR Yamanote Line. (Image credit: Pakutaso)

 

Most people would visit the usual central places in Tokyo: Shinjuku, Ginza, Shibuya, and the like. Personally, I try to avoid them especially in recent times because I have been there too many times. In fact, I find it more fascinating to explore the quieter neighbourhoods, especially those near JR stations so that I can drop by easily and make my way on foot. I did manage to find some, and I will introduce them in this two-part article!

 

JR Meguro station: Nakameguro (中目黒)

Nakameguro is one of the stations along the JR Yamanote Line (JR山手線 Yamanote-sen), and is popular for being a trendy and upscale neighbourhood. It is home to a range of hipster cafés, Western-style restaurants, and upmarket bars. On top of that, it is one of the most popular sites for cherry blossom viewing!

 

Nakameguro neighbourhood in July 2014. (Image credit: JR East / Nazrul Buang)

 

I first visited Nakameguro in August 2014, during my month-long training programs in my previous company. I wanted the check the neighbourhood out because it is along the Yamanote Line, and also heard that the neighbourhood was preparing for a summer festival (夏祭り natsumatsuri).

 

Nakameguro preparing for upcoming summer festival. (Image credit: JR East / Nazrul Buang)

 

I personally love Nakameguro. It is unlike many other more popular areas in Tokyo; it has a sense of understated charm and unique character. The neighbourhood is known to be chic and classy, and I have to agree! Unless it is during the cherry blossom season, it is not crowded so walking aimlessly and making discoveries of local stores is a pleasant experience!

 

Lanterns for summer festival in Nakameguro. (Image credit: JR East / Nazrul Buang)

 

Nakameguro is known for their cafes and restaurants along the Meguro River. (Image credit: JR East / Nazrul Buang)

 

Lanterns during Nakameguro's summer festival. (Image credit: JR East / Nazrul Buang)

 

The centrepiece of Nakameguro is the Meguro River, an 8km-long picturesque stream that cuts through several neighbourhoods (including Nakameguro) until the Tokyo Bay. It is here that people would flock to see cherry blossoms blooming from late March to early April.

 

Nakameguro River in the summer. (Image credit: JR East / Nazrul Buang)

 

Meguro River Spring.jpg (449 KB)

Meguro River in spring. (Image credit: M S / CC BY 2.0)

 

It is unfortunate that I did not get to visit Nakameguro in spring; I would have loved it to see the river covered in cherry blossom petals with my own eyes, or enjoy a drink at one of the many cafes or pubs at the riverside. Plus, there is even the Nakameguro Parasitological Museum (目黒寄生虫館 Meguro Kiseichū-kan) nearby, which intrigues me!

 

Meguro Parasitological Museum. (Image credit: Guilhem Vellut / CC BY 2.0)

 

I would highly recommend people to visit Nakameguro especially during spring, and not just because of the cherry blossoms. The walk from JR Meguro station towards Nakameguro will be an unforgettable stroll that is a sensory treat!

 

How to get to Nakameguro

Nakameguro is equally accessible from either JR Meguro Station (JR目黒駅 Meguro-eki), or JR Ebisu station (JR恵比寿駅 Ebisu-eki). From JR Meguro Station, visitors can walk westwards until they reach Meguro River, and then walk upstream to Nakameguro (this is also the more scenic route; it should take 20–30 minutes). Or, visitors can walk south-westwards from JR Ebisu Station for approximately 15 minutes.

 

JR Shibuya Station: Daikanyama (代官山)

Daikanyama is another trendy neighbourhood on the western side of central Tokyo. It is in the centre of the ‘trendy triangle’ is comprises of Shibuya, Nakameguro, and Ebisu. But unlike Shibuya―which is perpetually crowded with teenagers―or Ebisu―which is known for their upscale restaurants and nightlife―Daikanyama is much quieter and more charming.

 

Daikanyama: quiet, serene, and charming. (Image credit: JR East / Nazrul Buang)

 

In a way, Daikanyama is the older and more mature version of Shibuya. With its fair share of chic cafes and popular bookstores, it is the place that attracts visitors who want to get away from crowds and spend their quiet afternoon meeting up with friends over brunch, or with a book over a cup of latte. In some ways, it is like Omotesando but much less crowded. And for book lovers, they must take note that Daikanyama is home Japanese bookstore giant TSUTAYA’s iconic T-SITE, a store designed to resemble a library in the woods!

 

Tsutaya Daikanyama.jpg (472 KB)

DAIKANYAMA TSUTAYA BOOKS – T-SITE. (Image credit: Bit Boy / CC BY 2.0)

 

What’s more, Daikanyama is a haven for café crawlers. The alleys of Daikanyama are filled with hipster cafes offering many Western-inspired menus, and it is easily to be spoiled for choice! It is the perfect place to spend your quiet Sunday away from crowds; better yet, it is only a 10–15-minute walk away from JR Shibuya Station or JR Ebisu Station!

 

One of the many cafes found at Daikanyama. (Image credit: Wajun Kuwahara / CC BY 2.0)

 

Shibuya and Ebisu remain to be the place that attracts a lot more people, but for those making a stop at JR Shibuya Station or JR Ebisu Station, I would implore them to make a detour to Daikanyama for something a little different and surprising!

 

How to get to Daikanyama

Daikanyama is between JR Shibuya Station (JR渋谷駅 Shibuya-eki) and JR Ebisu Station. From JR Shibuya station, visitors can walk southwards, following the JR Yamanote Line route towards JR Ebisu Station’s direction. Alternatively, visitors can walk northwards from JR Ebisu station, following JR Yamanote Line route towards JR Shibuya Station’s direction. For both routes, it should take approximately 20–30 minutes on foot.

 

Stay tuned for part two of my article, as I continue to explore other lesser known neighbourhoods that are only a walking distance away from a JR train station!

(INSIDER TIP: for all the above, if you have the JR TOKYO Wide PASS, all the train trips on the abovementioned lines are free!)

 

JR TOKYO Wide Pass

The JR TOKYO Wide Pass, and where you can use it. (Image credit: JR East)

 

The JR TOKYO Wide Pass is an affordable pass offering unlimited rail travel on JR East lines (including bullet trains) in the valid area for 3 consecutive days. At ¥15,000, you can use it to travel from Tokyo to many other places within the designated areas, such as Nikko, GALA Yuzawa, Karuizawa and more. You can also make seat reservations online for free, up to 1 month in advance, on the JR-EAST Train Reservation.

 

The JR-EAST Train Reservation. (Image credit: JR East)

 

 

Header image credit: JR East / Nazrul Buang

 

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