Inside Tokyo's Suburban Nakano Ward

The Basics: Brief History and Map of Nakano, Japan

Serving as one of the twenty-three special wards of Tokyo, Nakano ward exists as a simple residential area situated right beside Shinjuku. In the local language, it is also called "Nakano-ku", which uses the standard "-ku" suffix pertaining to any of the special wards of Tokyo metropolis.

The history of Nakano ward is brief. Having been annexed as part of Tokyo Prefecture officially in 1871, its current land area remains the same up to this day. The only changes that occurred within the ward are the varying land classification that was ruled out through the years. In 1897, Nakano was declared as a village within Tokyo. However, in 1932, government reforms brought Tokyo City to life which included Nakano within its jurisdiction.

In 1943, another change in government outlook once again changed Nakano's classification when Tokyo City was declared void and was transformed into Tokyo-to. It was only in 1947 when the land classification of Tokyo-to that people now know came to life. During that year, the government established several special wards that are to fall under an established Tokyo metropolis; with Nakano becoming one of the new wards.

Looking at the map of Tokyo metropolis, Nakano lies in between several busy wards such as Shibuya and Shinjuku, and other residential suburban wards such as Suginami, Nerima, and Toshima. However, it terms of distance, Nakano and Shinjuku are closest to each other, with Nakano situated just a little to the west of busy Shinjuku.

The Shocking Population of Nakano, Japan

For a small ward with a land area of 15 square kilometers, the number of people living inside Nakano is insanely high. Official records released in the year of 2015 estimates Nakano's population to be around 322,000 people. This puts the population density of  Nakano at around 20,000 people living within a single square kilometer. Reading about it is insane, but it's true. In fact, Nakano is one of the most, if not the most densely populated area in Japan.

The growth rate of Nakano's population rises exponentially every five years year. Back in 2000, the population growth rate to 2005 was just a mere 0.5%. This meant that in a span of five years, the population only grew by around a thousand people.

Between 2005 to 2010,  the population growth rate of Nakano has increased to 1% - translating into an additional four thousand people living within Nakano in a span of five years. However, recent years have seen Nakano's popularity as an ideal residential area due to its close proximity to Tokyo's main business areas. The rent is relatively cheap for properties within Nakano, and the commute would not take long thanks to the efficient railway system.

Due to the increasing popularity of Nakano, the surge in population grew exponentially in a span of five years. In between 2010 to 2015, the population grew by an astounding 4%. This translates to a whopping 14 thousand individuals who were born or have moved to Nakano in between just a span of five years.

Looking deeper into the statistics of Nakano's population, it would show that the ratio of males to females within the ward is almost at an exact fifty-fifty ratio. This means there are approximately 160 thousand males, and another 160 thousand females living in Nakano; with the female population, just slightly higher by three thousand people.

Its close proximity to the business districts has also led to a lot of young adults, and professionals to move to Nakano. This comes to no surprise since 223 thousand out of the 322 thousand populace belong to the 15 to 64-year-old age bracket Meanwhile, the second largest age bracket of 65 and above has an approximate headcount of just 67 thousand people, while the smallest population lies between 0 to 14 years old at only 26 thousand people.

Most of the residents living within the 15 to 64-year-old age bracket are concentrated at 20 to 49 years old. This just proves further that Nakano has been an ideal settlement for professionals who wish to live near their workplaces.

A Guide to Things to Do in Nakano, Japan

Being a suburban, residential suburban area, it comes to no surprise that there are not much tourist attractions within the vicinity. Eating and shopping are perhaps one of the most exciting activities to do while in this neighborhood. However, for those who find themselves in Nakano for various reasons, below is a guide on some things to do within the area.

For the vast majority of people, Nakano may fall short on options for places to visit and things to do. However, that is not the case for Otakus. For those who are not aware, Otaku culture is quite a popular phenomenon in Japan, and it refers to those individuals who are passionate about Japanese manga or anime. While the concept of Otaku has already evolved a lot through the years, and it is now used to refer to anyone with a distinct hobby or interest, there are still some negative connotations of Otaku that has stuck through time.

One of the negative terms that have been associated with Otaku is "nerd", which was borrowed from American culture to refer to someone who is seen as a loser, loner or weirdo. While being an Otaku is much more socially acceptable nowadays, the term nerd is still commonly used to refer to Otakus. For this very reason, Nakano ward has been referred to as a "Nerd Haven".

Manga and anime fans who are in Nakano would definitely enjoy visiting this massive multi-level shopping mall called Nakano Broadway. Nakano Broadway happens to be one of the prime shopping locations in Tokyo for buying Otaku-related goods. It is a four-story building filled with different shops, selling various forms of goods.

Nakano Broadway

Going through each floor one by one, the basement level perhaps is the most unexciting one due to the fact that it is nothing but a grocery. This supermarket contains the usual selection of poultry, meat, seafood, vegetables and other food items, among many others. There are no retail stalls related within this level.

Upon getting to the ground level of Nakano Broadway, shopping starts to become more exciting. This floor is mainly dedicated to fashion-related bits such as clothing, shoes, accessories and other pieces. While it is not purely dedicated to anime style fashion, there are plenty of options for those who are into cosplaying.

There is an entire shop on the ground floor that is purely dedicated to selling school uniforms. Foreigners may find this unusual since the school usually supplies uniforms; this is not the case in Japan. Instead, students are allowed to choose their own style as long as it resembles a usual high school uniform. Foreigners may buy their own set, however, since Japanese school uniforms can distinctly be used as costumes. Aside from this store, another noteworthy shop within this level is a thrift shop selling unique vintage finds.

Die–hard Otaku's would surely enjoy the last two (second and third floor) levels the most. Within these floors, there are plenty of shops selling tons of anime and manga related items. Hard to find, or unique collector items can be found here such as mangas and figurines. The selection is quite comparable to that of shops in Akibahara, which is considered to be Japan's Otaku capital.

Aside from collectibles, there are also other fan merchandises such as magazines, key chains, posters, and other items that anime fans of all ages would appreciate. Even gamers who are not particularly inclined to anime would appreciate going to Nakano Broadway for their selection of gaming consoles and video games.

While Nakano sounds like an absolute dream for every Otaku, individuals who do not feel as strongly towards manga and anime can still enjoy Nakano's other offerings. Those who are interested in doing retail therapy may want to head to Atre Vie Higashi and Unison Mall, which are the more popular malls within Nakano ward. Nakano Sunmall shopping street is also quite accessible for anyone coming from the JR's Nakano Station so it's also worth visiting.

Near Nakano Broadway, there are several pedestrian alleys that are brimming with food options. The establishments range from small food stalls, street food, cafés and casual dining restaurants. The choices are not entirely limited to Japanese food, there are also restaurants serving cuisines from all over the world.

Among many side streets in Nakano, izakayas tend to be a crowd favorite since they both serve food and alcoholic beverages.  There are several noteworthy izakayas within the area, all having their own specialty food.

Nakano is simply overflowing with food options that are available whether it is day or night. Since it is situated right beside Shinjuku, plenty of people opts to just eat at Nakano. It may be odd to think about since Nakano is densely populated, however, Shinjuku is quite a popular tourist spot so it can get cramped in there as well.

Getting Around Nakano, Japan: Navigating From and To Different Train Stations


Since Nakano ward is part of Tokyo City's metropolis, there are plenty of transportation options that one may wish to take while in the area. With Japan's mega-advanced railway system, it comes to no surprise that there are six railway lines that allow access to Nakano ward.

Japan Railway, popularly abbreviated as JR, has two main lines going through Nakano ward. The first line is JR East Chuo line, passing through Higashaki-Nakano Station, meanwhile, JR Chuo Line passes through Nakano Station.

Seibu Railway, on the other hand, has access to five different stations within Nakano through its railway. These stations are Arai Yakushi-mae, Numabukuro, Nogata, Toritsu-Kasei and Saginomiya stations respectively.

Tokyo Metro Company has also three different lines that pass through Nakano. Through Marunoichi line, it has access to Shin-Nakano and Nakano-Sakaue Stations. Through Tozai Line it has access to Nakano Station and Ochiai Station. However, it is worth noting that Ochiai Station falls on the border of Nakano and Shinjuku, hence, several of its entry points fall under Shinjuku while some are in Nakano.

The last option, but definitely not the least, is through Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation, which has access to the ward through its Toei Oedo Line. This passes through three stations, which are Nakano-Sakaue, Higashi-Nakano, and Shin-egota.

While the primary form of commuting in Nakano is through railway, there are also several bus routes that individuals may take while in Nakano. There are four bus companies who are responsible for operating the buses within the ward.

Like any other place in Tokyo, commuting to, from and within Nakano is quite easy. The choice on which commuting route to take will solely depend on the travel itinerary, choosing the stations that are closest to the desired destination.

Travel to Nakano, Japan: Best Hotels or Rentals Within The Area

Since Nakano is mostly a residential area, there are not a lot of hotel options for tourists to stay at, as compared to Shinjuku station. Those who want to visit Nakano may want to just book a hotel at Shinjuku, since traveling through train from Shinjuku to Nakano is just quick and cheap. However, there are still a limited number of options for those who are desperately in need to stay within the vicinity of Nakano.

Nakano Sun Plaza is perhaps the most popular hotel already in the vicinity. It has plenty of rooms, since it is a high-rise hotel, and there are several facilities that guests may enjoy. Its popularity among guests is probably due to the fact that there are no other big hotel chains that are available in the area.

There is also a very few selection of hostels for budget travelers who are in Nakano. The most popular hostel in the area happens to be YADOYA Guesthouse, which is great for backpackers as it is close to several train stations. For a decent price, guests can book a simple room with a bed and Wi-Fi.

Due to the rise of technology, however, there is another option for travelers who are looking for a place to stay in. The app Airbnb provides a great selection of privately owned spaces which can be rented for a duration ranging from days to weeks. The mobile app itself is extremely customizable, where users can filter available bookings based on their travel date, preferred number of rooms, and other personal preferences. A key tip when using apps like Airbnb is to check the reviews given out by guests who have previously stayed at the location.