How to: Spend a day in Nakano - otaku paradise!

Following my article on how to experience Shibuya in just one day, I want to share my recommendations for another Tokyo neighborhood: Nakano.
Inside Nakano Sun Mall, and out in the side streets.
Nakano is located a few minutes west of Shinjuku and is easily accessed by train (only one stop away from Shinjuku on the Chuo Rapid train). The Nakano area is a densely populated part of Tokyo and there is a range of things this to see, do and eat here. This is ”local Tokyo” where you will find small shops and restaurants as well as bigger stores and game centers, and here and there a local shrine or temple. Although Nakano-ku is quite big (as one of the 23 special wards of Tokyo) this guide focuses on the area around Nakano station, which is the area commonly known as "Nakano".


SIGHTSEEING AND SHOPPING

It is mostly about shopping in Nakano. Here anime fans, both Japanese and tourists, mingle with locals on the streets leading from the station. But don’t worry if you are not the biggest lover of all things ”otaku” (the Japanese term for nerd) since Nakano is filled with other types of shopping and entertainment as well. 
This covered shotengai, or arcade, starts right outside Nakano station and leads to anime lovers paradise Nakano Broadway. Just exit the station to the north, and you will see the shopping street's colorful signs.
Nakano Sun Mall, a covered Japanese shotengai.
Nakano Sun Mall is a typical stotengai which means that you will find wide variety of shops, cafés, restaurants, amusements and goods, all in one area. Kaitenzushi, drug stores, fashion shops and some game centers can be found here and it is a great place to browse and shop during rainy days since it is covered! 

Nakano Broadway
Along with Akihabara, this is the place to go if you are in anyway interested in Japanese manga, anime and Japanese pop culture. At Nakano Broadway however, you will find retro and limited edition goods and a lot of old items that can’t really be found anywhere else in Tokyo. If you are looking for something particular, like a retro Gozilla figure or old school manga, or just want a unique souvenir to bring back home, head over to Nakano Broadway!
Entrance to Nakano Broadway shopping mall.
Aside from anime and manga goods there are other types of collectibles, antiques and vintage toys so even if you are not a big anime fan you will have a great time looking around in all the stores. The shoppingmall is packed with small shops and vendors selling everything you could possibly think of and you can easily spend hours here.
Shops crammed with collectibles and anime goods.
Mandarake 
One of the biggest and most famous stores in Nakano Broadway, Mandarake buys and resells Japanese pop culture merchandise of all kinds.
Mandarake inside Nakano Broadway.
The Nakano Mandarake store is divided into multiple shops and here you will find the largest and most quirky selection of goods. All ranging from a few hundred to tens of thousands of yen, for the more unique and old items. Vintage robots, limited edition manga, anime merchandise, retro toys and dolls can all be found here. The shops are located inside Nakano Broadway and can be recognized by the big red MANDARAKE signs, you can’t miss them. 

Daily Chico 8 layer ice cream
On the basement floor of Nakano Broadway there is a variety of food vendors and restaurants. Here you will find the famous, and very instagram worthy, ”eight layer” ice cream, a giant 20 cm tower containing all 8 of the different flavors of soft serve, sold at ice cream shop Daily Chico. This crazy ice cream will be yours for a mere ¥490.
8 flavors ice cream, yes please! Image source: https://www.instagram.com/p/BDGHbXzw8YK/
Daily Chico serves traditional flavors like vanilla, chocolate and strawberry as well as Japanese flavors like matcha, ramune (soda) and yuzu. The flavors change from time to time and if you are not hungry enough to go for the eight layer challenge you can still get one of the smaller ice creams on offer. 

Central Park / Shiki no Mori
Tired after shopping or just feel the need for som fresh air? Head over to Central Park area, just west of the station and Nakano Sun Mall. This area opened in 2012 and includes restaurants, shops and university buildings and what we are here for: the Shiki no Mori park. 
Central Park in autumn. Image source: https://www.instagram.com/up_in_tokyo/
The park area includes spacious lawns and it is a nice change from the bustling shopping streets and shotengai of Nakano. There are a lot of annual events held  here, like food markets and festivals, and it is a great place to both relax and people watch since it is a well visited area on days when the sun is out. In summer, when the fountain area can be used as a pool, it is a popular destination for families for cooling down on hot days. 

RESTAURANTS AND BARS

Winding side streets of Nakano, filled with small restaurants and bars.
The side and back streets of Nakano Broadway and Nakano Sun Mall are small, winding and filled with restaurants and bars. Whatever you feel like eating, you will probably find it here. Ramen, Japanese curry, yakiniku or izakaya style food as well as some small bars and family run shops. 

Rather than recommending any exact place to eat at, I suggest walking around these narrow streets and stopping to eat when you find somewhere that looks good. A quick look at google maps (zoom in to Nakano Sun Mall area) shows a large amount and variety of restaurants so you wont go hungry while in Nakano! Take a look at the map below for more exact directions.

The basement floor of Nakano Broadway is, as I mentioned previously, home to a bunch of shops and restaurants as well and at Nakano Central Park you can find a variety of food trucks during lunch hours. 

Nakano Beer Workshop
The craft beer scene i Japan is growing every year, and it is getting more and more popular to try locally crafted beer. In 2014 Nakano Beer Workshop opened and has served its home brewed beers, for a very reasonable price, since. The owner was trained by one of Tokyos best beer craftsmen and usually there are around 5 different beers on tap in the bar.
Nakano Beer Workshop. Image source: http://nakanobeer.blogspot.jp/
All beers go for ¥500 a glass and you get to keep the same beer glass during your visit, just rinse it in the ”glass rinsing machine” at the counter before ordering your next one. The food also go for ¥500, and there is supposedly plenty to eat. The interior and vibe of the place really reflects the ”workshop” in the name, it is a really cosy place. 

This place closes a bit earlier than most bars, so make sure to get there in time. 
(Mon-Fri 6pm-11pm. Sat, Sun & holidays 3pm-9pm according to the website.)

Dai-kaiju Salon
At this ”big monster” cafe and bar (dai kaiju literally means big monster in Japanese) owner and film director Takao Nakano serves drinks and showcases his large collection of Japanese monster figures, most of which were created by famous monster creator Picopico.
Monster bar selection. Image source: https://www.instagram.com/p/BPB-OlaDfx-/
The opening hours of this place is a bit confusing (somewhere stating it is only opened on Wednesdays, other sources claiming it is open daily), but since it is located close to Nakano Broadway you can always swing by and check if it is open. The website states ”fun for both kids and adults” and if you like monster memorabilia it will be worth a visit.

ENTERTAINMENT 

Karaoke in Tokyo!
Anison Karaoke Bar Z
If you are a big anime fan, and know your anime songs, then a visit to Anison Karaoke Bar Z might be for you! At this karaoke bar the employees are wearing cosplay and you can only choose from a variety of anime songs (anison is short for anime song). There are two branches of this karaoke bar in Nakano, both located close to Nakano broadway. Of course you can go to "regular" karaoke as well, if your confidence in singing anime songs happens to be low. 

Game centers 
Since Nakano (as previously stated) is the heaven of anime lovers and ”otaku” you wont have to look for long before finding a game center or arcade. Music games like Popin’ Music, Taiko no Tatsujin and different dance games can be found here, as well as Japanese fighting games. Namco is a big game centre located inside Nakano Broadway which is worth a visit, but be aware that you easily can spend hours and lots of yen in this type of place.
Arcade versions of drums and guitar as well as different rhythm and beat games.
Some game centers also have purikura (Japanese photo booths with cutely decorated sticker photos) and ufo catchers, where you can win your souvenirs or collectibles. Most games only cost ¥100 to play!
Nakano station (left) and Nakano Sun Mall (right) on an afternoon during hanami season.
You can easily spend a full day in Nakano walking around, browsing all the shops while stopping in between to get something to eat and drink and relax in the park. But you could also make it a shorter half-day and focus on one or two things, it really depends on your interests and how much time you have to spare while visiting Tokyo. 

Here is a map showing all the places in this article:


Have you been to Nakano? What is your favorite thing to do there? Let me know in the comments! 

Johanna Forsberg