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Swanky neighbourhoods near JR stations! (Part 2)

Swanky neighbourhoods near JR stations! (Part 2)

It is easy to be overwhelmed by Tokyo’s complex train network from first glance, especially if one is trying it out for the first time. It felt overwhelmed the first time I saw Tokyo’s web-like train map, but I soon realised that it is not as perplexing as I thought. Soon after, I learned to enjoy train hopping and explore lesser known neighbourhoods in the city, making new discoveries along the way while learning the most convenient ways to get to places.


In the first part of this article, I covered two neighbourhoods I found that are swanky: Nakameguro and Daikanyama. Nakameguro is known for its chic feel, where many Western-styled cafes and restaurants line up along the picturesque Meguro River. It is also one of the best places to visit to see blooming cherry blossoms in spring. Daikanyama is the quieter and more charming version of Omotesando: lots of greenery and cafes too, with an amazing and iconic bookstore nearby.


JR Yamanote Line. (Image credit: Pakutaso)


For this article, I will introduce two more neighbourhoods I found which took me by surprise. Both are also a short walk from a JR train station, and they are not as widely popular as the central areas such as Shibuya or Ginza (read: much less crowded). I make it a personal mission to learn more about such neighbourhoods as much as possible, and now I present to you: Nakano and Jimbocho.


JR Nakano Station: Nakano (中野)

Nakano is on the western side of central Tokyo, and the easiest way to get there is to use the JR Chuo-Sobu Line (JR中央・総武緩行線 Chuo-Sobu-kankō-sen). Nakano is known as a haven for geeks, otherwise known locally as otaku (おたく). Nakano is primarily famous because of one place: Nakano Broadway, a shopping mall focusing on geek culture and hobbies!


Shopping district (商店街 shōtengai) in Nakano. (Image credit: JR East / Nazrul Buang)


I have been meaning to come to Nakano for a long time, and I got to visit the place in April 2018. I confess that I am an otaku myself, so I wanted to see what the famous shopping mall has to offer. Indeed, it reminded me of Akihabara a little but with a more neighbourhood feel. Better yet, unlike Akihabara which is a huge district focusing solely on electronics and anime subculture, Nakano has a lot of alleys and small streets filled with neighbourhood shops, pubs, and restaurant.


Inside Nakano Broadway. (Image credit: JR East / Nazrul Buang)


What attracts me about Nakano is how, despite the shops centred around hobbyists, it has a very homely feel to it. The neighbourhood is picturesque and walkable; if one has plenty of time in their hands, I will highly recommend them to explore the surrounding areas. There is a particular avenue nearby which I find particularly relaxing to walk through!


One of the many streets I enjoyed walking through. (Image credit: JR East / Nazrul Buang)


Here you can find quaint neighbourhood shops, or just enjoy the greenery. (Image credit: JR East / Nazrul Buang)


Do you know one amazing thing I discovered in Nakano? Amazing food! Nakano is also particularly known for their fair share of food―evident from the sheer number of pubs and restaurants found here―and that includes ramen! The one place I found is called Hashimoto (面屋はしもと Menya Hashimoto), and it is easily one of the best ramens I have ever had.


Hashimoto's tonkotsu ramen. (Image credit: JR East / Nazrul Buang)


Menya Hashimoto (麺屋はし本)
Address: 1-25-4 Arai, Nakano Ward, Tokyo
Nearest station: JR Nakano Station (中野駅)
Opening hours: 11:30am–10pm (Mondays to Fridays), 11:30am–5pm (Saturdays and Sundays), closed on Wednesdays
Tel: +81-3-3386-0550


I only spent a few hours here due to lack of time, but despite the short amount of time, I thoroughly enjoyed being there. I also learned that there is a place for pure tranquillity nearby; visitors with more time on their hands can visit Tetsugakudo Park (also known as Tetsugakudo Temple Garden of Philosophy), which has many small structures dedicated to philosophical teachings. There is also a Buddhist temple there named Araiyakushi Baishoin, best for those seeking a moment of meditativeness.


Tetsugakudo Park and Araiyakushi Baishoin. (Image credit: kanegen / CC BY 2.0 (left), Yu Morita / CC BY 2.0 (right))


I would highly recommend people to visit Nakano particularly in spring. I went there during spring, but I was too late for cherry blossoms (if any). Still, visitors will not leave empty-handed; the walk from and around JR Nakano Station is something pleasurable and peaceful that anyone can enjoy!


How to get to Nakano

Nakano is accessible by JR Nakano Station (JR中野駅 Nakano-eki), which is on the JR Chuo-Sobu Line. Upon alighting from JR Nakano Station, the Nakano Broadway is a 3-minute walk from the station along the main shopping district. The Tetsugakudo Park is a 30–40-minute walk in the northeast direction from the station.


JR Ochanomizu Station: Jimbocho (神保町)

Unlike Nakameguro, Daikanyama or Nakano which are slightly in the outskirts of central Tokyo, Jimbocho is right in the heart of it. It is only a few blocks away from the Imperial Palace, and in the centre of one of the city’s central business districts. Yet, despite its central location, it paradoxically retains the feel of a small and charming neighbourhood.


What stands out about Jimbocho is the sheer number of second-hand bookstores that line the streets. The bookstores here have many rare titles that are not easily to get anywhere else, and visitors can leisurely take their time browse through shelf after shelf of carefully preserved books.


Jimbocho is known for their second-hand bookstores. (Image credit: Antonio Tajuelo / CC BY 2.0)


Another thing that Jimbocho is known for: representing itself as a student hub. The district is flanked by two prominent universities in Tokyo: the prestigious University of Tokyo, and the Meiji University. Naturally, many students would flock here; some would head to the Mausoleum of Confucius at Yushima to pray for good exam results. And then there are those who will visit some of the many music shops there selling everything from electronic guitars to percussion instruments.


Jimbocho is known for their abundant music shops. (Image credit: Richie Johns / CC BY 2.0)


Jimbocho holds a special place in my heart. This is where I used to work for a month back in 2014, and I wholeheartedly enjoyed walking along the streets and making small discoveries around here. It has a particular charm that I do not see anywhere else in central Tokyo, and its convenient location makes it easy for me to go elsewhere too!


Jimbocho is also known for curries; one shop is Sumatra Curry Kyoeido. (Image credit: JR East / Nazrul Buang)


Sumatra Curry Kyoeido (スマトラカレー共栄堂)
Address: 1-6 Sanbiru B1, Kanda Jimbocho, Tokyo 101-0051
Nearest station: JR Jimbocho Station (神保町駅)
Opening hours: 11am-8pm daily (last order at 7:45pm)
Tel: +81-3-3291-1475


But do you know what Jimbocho is also known for? Curries! Surprisingly, the district is known for having many curry shops and visitors craving for it will have a hard time choosing from one of the many available here. If I may recommend one, try Sumatra Curry Kyoeido: this store’s fare is unusually dark in colour, and the chef uses over 20 ingredients to make it. Unlike most curries I have tried, this one tastes indescribably complex; I could tell that a lot of thought put into making it.


Visitors can make a detour to nearby places of worship such as the Mausoleum of Confucius and the Holy Resurrection Cathedral, nearer to Ochanomizu. (Image credit: Guilhem Vellut / CC BY 2.0)


Jimbocho bears many identities for everyone. For me, not only does it have charming bookstores and delicious foods, it also has many interesting places of worship that would interest many visitors. Despite having a month to explore the places, there are still many spots I did not get to see. No matter, however; I know that someday I will come back here again just to learn more about the district.


I highly recommend people to make a trip here, where all places of interest are a few minutes away from JR Ochanomizu Station. This is something different for visitors to see; sometimes the most discreet discoveries are right inside central Tokyo!


How to get to Jimbocho

Jimbocho is a three-minute walk southwest of JR Ochanomizu Station (JR御茶ノ水駅 Ochanomizu-eki), which is on the JR Chuo-Sobu Line. The Mausoleum of Confucious is right next to the station, and the Holy Resurrection Cathedral is two minutes away on foot from the station.


Make your own discoveries that are only a few minutes’ walk from JR train stations in Tokyo! Train hopping and exploring lesser known places can be fun, so try it out!

(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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