Just south of the boutiques of Daikanyama sits lovely Nakameguro. From its canal-side shops to its increasingly hot bar and restaurant scene, Nakameguro is becoming one of Tokyo’s top hipster hot spots. Many of the venues are pricey… but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a delightful free day out while soaking up the coolness that is Nakameguro.
1. Stroll along the canal with locals and hipsters
It’s technically the Meguro River, but it’s really more of a canal, and both sides are lined by wide walkways (where cars only occasionally venture) that are perfect for both people watching and window-shopping. Fashionistas mingle with children riding bicycles and dogs in elaborate outfits in this unusual part of Tokyo that is oddly reminiscent of Amsterdam. The coolest section starts just north of Nakameguro Station and extends northwest to the very hipster Workers Cafe/Bar. Both sides of the canal are lined with coffee shops, bars, design shops, dog clothing boutiques, and even a specialist chocolate cafe. There are art galleries to explore, and boutiques that look like art galleries. This riverside is also a prime cherry blossom viewing spot in the right season.
- If you continue northwest along the canal, it turns into a stream alongside a great, little-known suburban walking/cycling path near Ikejiri-Ohashi Station that soon splits in two (Karasuyama and Kitazawa paths). Each are about 7km (you can join them up to create a 16km circuit). You will feel very far from the city as you explore these charming neighborhoods on foot or by bike.
- If you head southeast from Nakameguro Station you can follow the river path past several charming little parks down to the Meguro Citizens’ Center pool (which costs 200 yen for 2 hours of use; more for their indoor pool). They have a public library in the same building with a corner of English-language books. You could technically keep going all the way to Tennozu Isle. Or just get the train home from Meguro Station.
2. Spot Mt. Fuji from a garden in the sky
Following the canal from Nakameguro up towards Ikejiri-Ohashi Station, you will encounter the Meguro Sky Garden. At first sight, this round-ish building looks like a parking garage. But go inside, hunt for an elevator, ascend to the top floor, and you’ll exit to find yourself in a charmingly landscaped, 7,000-square-meter rooftop garden with great views over Tokyo and even Mt. Fuji in the right conditions, all for free. It’s open 7am-7pm (5pm in winter).
Bonus: From the highest part of the park, enter the building and find yourself in a public library. They have a small but good quality English-language book section, and some seats for reading.
3. Hang out in a park that was once home to a samurai’s brother
Saigoyama Park connects Daikanyama and Nakameguro, which means it is small but rather steep, and there are some good views from the top end. It was once the home of Saigo Tsugumichi, the younger brother of samurai Saigo Takamori. There are some nice lawns on which to relax, and a little cafe and restroom at the Daikanyama end. It’s another great cherry blossom spot too.
Bonus: Why not engage in a little embassy-spotting? The embassies of Denmark, Egypt, Guinea, Malaysia, Senegal and Uganda all surround the park.
4. Find a temple hidden in the quiet back streets
On a quiet street just a few minutes walk from Nakameguro station is Shokaku-ji temple, a Nichiren-sect Buddhist temple established in 1619. When not in the middle of a funeral, you’re free to explore it.
Bonus: Just across the street from the temple is Megurogawa Funa-iriba, a set of plazas where it’s fun to hang out, and there are often markets on the weekend.
5. Absorb all you ever wanted to know about the Meguro River
Megurogawa Funa-iriba plaza is also home to the River Museum of Meguro, which will tell you all about the management of the river, how to prevent flooding, and the history of the river, including a previous water wheel to process rice, and kimono dyeing in the river.
6. Learn about Meguro history from the Boy Scouts of America
Until recently, the Meguro History Museum documented the history of Meguro in Japanese only; now thanks to a Boy Scouts of America project, you can use your smartphone and various QR codes to access the information in English. The museum is open 9:30am-5pm and is closed on Mondays.
7. Veer off the beaten art path at the Museum of Contemporary Sculpture
The charming Museum of Contemporary Sculpture boasts more than 200 sculptures, all by contemporary Japanese artists. The pieces extend over two floors and into a little garden. It’s open 10am-5pm and is closed on Mondays. If you’re tired of visiting museums that are crammed with tourists, this off-the-beaten-track gem will make you particularly happy.
8. Be disturbed at the Meguro Parasitological Museum
The quirky and free Meguro Parasite Museum is a 20-minute walk from Nakameguro Station, but if you are a fan of parasites, or weird and wonderful museums, stroll southeast along the canal, and it will be worth it. The first floor offers educational materials about various parasites in Japan; then go upstairs for an array of alarming specimens. And if you’re feeling extravagant, don’t miss the parasite-themed gift shop: that’s your loved ones’ birthdays taken care of!
Bonus: It’s just a 4-minute walk from the parasites to Meguro Impact Hub’s Minedrip Coffee: grab a pay-what-you-want hipster coffee while enjoying free wifi and charging points.
9. Take a foot health walk in Nakameguro Park
Nakameguro Park boasts wide lawns, as well as lots of flowers, a special pond to view fish, frogs and the like, and even a little free nature center (open 9am-5pm, closed Sundays). It’s a great place for a picnic. But its special feature is hidden at the back of the park: a foot health walk. Take off your shoes and walk over specially designed stony ‘reflexology paths’ that are said to help reduce blood pressure and improve balance.
10. Relax in book heaven
Neighboring Daikanyama’s T-Site has been home to the last word in fabulous bookshops for a while, but now Tsutaya Nakameguro steps up to the plate. Directly opposite Nakameguro Station, and part of the new, cool Nakameguro Koukashita shops and restaurants complex, this bookshop oozes cool, and has plenty of nooks in which to settle down with a book. If you have a preference for indie bookshops, Cow Books, which sells out-of-print books that focus on 1960s-70s social movements, is just a few minutes away.
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A famous park, a former black market and a whole heap of museums—get to know Ueno:
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