Thursday 18 September 2014

An evening of surprises - Nakano (part 2)

This is part 2 of a post about Nakano.  I recommend reading part 1 first if you have not already done so.

Halfway between Koenji and Nakano stations I paused as a train flew past overhead to have a drink and rehydrate.

There were some seriously nice old houses along here which was a nice preview of what I was going to see soon.  It reminded me a lot of Yanaka.

I soon arrived at Nakano station and found myself looking at Nakano Broadway.

Nakano Broadway is a long (very long...) undercover shopping mall on what I guess used to be a regular street.  It has a lot of regular shops, but also a lot of anime, manga, idol and fantasy figurines.  Akihabara is the hotspot for this subculture, but Nakano Broadway has a fairly impressive offering of these shops as well.  Forgive me for not taking photos of a lot of these shops, but that was not the purpose of my visit to Nakano, but I did take a few photos on the walk along the Broadway.  This particular day was a Sunday so there were quite a few people out.

Lots of clothes shops, restaurants, cafes and even a maid cafe where the staff dress up in outfits resembling black cats........

Well, I guess Japan has a large enough population to cater for these niche markets!  The guy looking in the door was obviously part of that niche!

As I had walked along Broadway, I had noticed some places outside, off to the right-hand side that looked like what I had come to Nakano looking for, so, out to the right I went.

Now, this is what I had come for!

Much better!  Little alleyways snaking their way around Nakano lined with uncountable small restaurants, izakayas, yakitori (grilled chicken on a stick), bars and who knows what else!  I thought, okay, here is my next couple of hours booked!  So I started roaming the streets of Nakano, spending almost the entire next 2 hours with my jaw dragging on the ground in amazement.  I have a friend, Mikey, who lives in Nakano and I messaged him telling him that he lives in an awesome neighbourhood! (Mikey has a youtube channel where he does videos about the game Minecraft with a Japanese theme, so if you are into Minecraft, you can find his channel here).

Let me allow some of the pictures to tell the story much better than my words could ever do.

Some kind of izakaya (I think),


okonomiyaki (hiroshima style, the best.....),

monjayaki (Tokyo's version of okonomiyaki),

yakitori, oh, delicious, smokey yakitori,

500 yen ($5) pizza (and 500 yen pizza is pretty good in Japan!),

and another small little open-air izakaya.

The alleys kept on going and going.  If I didn't have my smartphone with me and Google maps, I would have surely wandered around the alleys of Nakano for weeks, not being able to find my way out, but was I ever loving it!

This guy looked like he had been roaming the streets lost for weeks....

Suddenly I saw something that stopped me dead.......

An Australian bar?  I stood there stunned for about thirty seconds not able to move.  In the middle of Nakano I had stumbled across an Australian bar.  Unfortunately it was not yet open, so I had to find somewhere else to kill some time so I wandered off and found another little bar and wandered in.

Inside, I messaged Mikey and told him of my find and he suggested waiting there until he arrived and he would join me for a beer at the Australian place.  When he arrived, we walked back to the bar and went inside.  The name of the bar is Meatoco and it's facebook page is here.  The owner, Yasuhito told us that he had set up the bar one year ago and had lived in Melbourne, Australia for a while when he was a university student.

So we ordered ourselves a Coopers pale ale and a meat pie and enjoyed this little patch of Oz right here in Japan.

Satisfied, I left Mikey to head home while I walked back to the station to do the same.

I thoroughly recommend heading to Nakano when you visit Tokyo as it's alleys are an opportunity to immerse yourself in an older, much less visited side of Japanese life.

Thanks again for reading.  If anyone has any places they would like to read about, feel free to leave a message and I will see if I can do so.

Until next time, bye. 

Friday 12 September 2014

An evening of surprises - Nakano (part 1)

I had a free day recently and I started wondering a few days before what I would do with it.  Not long after I visited Koenji some of my Japanese coworkers suggested that I visit Nakano as it had a similar feel with the small alleys with numerous restaurants and bars lining them.

People say that Nakano has a Showa era feel to it.  The Showa era ran from 1926 - 1989 when the economic bubble burst.  I can imagine at that time lifestyles were changing and eating out was becoming more and more popular and common (which I guess is why Nakano is lined with small restaurants and eateries.  

In 2011, Nakano was voted the best place place to live in Tokyo by readers of the popular Tokyo Walker magazine after having finished second the previous year, so there was obviously a great deal of appeal to the area.  All of this was enough for me to finally decide to go and check it out.

I jumped online to see how far away Nakano was from home and found that it was definitely within walking distance so I set off.  I hadn't planned to take any photos on the way there, only once I got to Nakano, but the walk started getting interesting too.  At one point I approached a tunnel of trees that completely covered the road.

Off to the left was a track that went into the trees.  That seemed more interesting to me, so I walked in.

It was one of the many little pockets of green that are all around Tokyo.

These little areas, you can enter, be surrounded by nature and forget about the metropolis that waits outside!  Enjoy the peace, just as the sign says.

Pretty soon I reached the other side and came back out into reality, but a few minutes further on was another park, so I once again entered the cone of silence that these places offer.

A little further on I came across a couple of very nice temples that had the usual beautifully manicured gardens.

Then there was this place........

That funky little cafe was a sign that we were approaching the Koenji area!

At this point I had to go up some stairs and across a walkway that went over a main highway.  As I got halfway up, I smelled an all too familiar smell..........tonkotsu (pork soup) ramen.  Looking around, sure enough, there it was!

10 minutes before, I had started to smell the unmistakable smell of rain in the air, and sure enough, it had now started, although it never got too heavy.

Back out to reality again.....

This one has become a two part post too, so I will finish part one now and I will start on part two, picking up from when I get to Nakano.  That is a blog post in itself!

Thanks for reading.

Friday 5 September 2014

Old Town Tokyo - Yanaka and Yanaka Ginza Shotengai (shopping street) -Part 2

This is part 2 of a post about Yanaka in Tokyo.  I recommend reading part 1 first if you haven't done so, so you can get the full experience.

I walked back out to the road I had been on before because I had seen something that needed further exploring.  A little (very little) side street.  Those of you who read often, know that I love these side streets!

I thought I had seen some older houses down here earlier, so I walked all the way through to the other side where I found myself at the edge of the cemetery again.  There definitely were some nice older houses here.

I walked back up the street again and as I did, I noticed a black cat sitting on a window ledge.  Remembering that the last time I had an encounter with a black cat, I ended up in hospital with amnesia and stitches in my head after falling off my bicycle, I looked around to make sure nothing was going to crash into me or fall on me.  It all looked safe so I called out to the cat and it jumped down from the ledge and wandered over to me meowing happily away.

I stayed and patted the cat for a few minutes as it purred happily before I told it that I had to leave as I needed to look around some more.

I continued along the street back in the direction of where I though the train station would be and found another of Yanaka's stunning temples (last one, I promise....)

I found my way back to the station and checked the time.  I was due to meet a couple of friends, Masa and Naz at 6pm before heading to Yanaka Ginza (the famous old shopping street in the area, but I was early so i wandered over to the other side of the station and was stunned by the completely and totally different atmosphere there.  Look at this!

Unbelievable to think that these two wildly different places are so close to each other!  I spied a bar and thought after a few hours wandering around on a hot day, a beer was in order.

Masa and Naz both showed up so we headed off toward Yanaka Ginza.  It was getting dark at this point.

What that meant was that most of the shops were closed already and there were less people around than usual so we had a quick walk along the street

before walking off to find some dinner.  We found a kushiage (or kushikatsu, depending on which part of Japan you are from) restaurant that we decided would be dinner.  Kushiage is basically different food covered in breadcrumbs and then deep fried.  The food used can be vegetables, fish, meat, cheese......basically anything that the chef can find in the fridge!!

There were also some pizza on the menu including an interesting curry pizza so we decided that we had to try them.

Soon enough, the night was over, but I had decided that I would go back to Yanaka Ginza the following weekend to check out the shopping street during the day.

So the following weekend came and I went back to Yanaka, this time at about 4pm.  It was a Sunday, but, even so, it wasn't too busy.

The Yanaka area is famous for it's many cats, pets, stray and also, statues.  There are cats on buildings all along Yanaka Ginza.

Well, all except this one......

Yanaka Ginza is home to shops of many different kinds from bags, baskets and things,


and food.

But I had come back for one food shop in particular.  Yanaka Ginza is home to one very famous menchi katsu shop.  

Menchi katsu is basically a hamburger pattie covered in breadcrumbs and then deep fried.  Pure unhealthy deliciousness!!

Nearby the menchi katsu shop is a liquor store that sells cups of beer and has a few seats outside for people to sit and enjoy a cold beer.

So I bought myself a cup of beer,

and sat down with my menchi katsu and watched the world go by.

My visit to Yanaka now finally complete, I walked back to the station to return to "present day" Tokyo.

I hope you enjoyed reading about Yanaka, it is very laid back, and has a great rustic charm that sets it apart from other places.

Thanks, and see you again soon.