Cherry blossoms along Meguro River1/3
Photo: Edward Ma/Unsplash
The Garden2/3
Seiji Semenov Live at PAVILION3/3

One day in... Nakameguro

A top cherry blossom viewing spot thanks to the sakura-lined Meguro River, this trendy neighbourhood rewards exploration at any time of year

By Kaila Imada
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This trendy Tokyo neighbourhood is best known for the Meguro River that runs through the district and the revamped under-the-tracks area. The former is flanked by cherry trees, eateries and independent shops while the latter is home to some of the area's best cafés, restaurants and bars, including our favourite oden restaurant Samon and minimalist coffeeshop Artless.

In spring, the river turns into a photogenic landscape of cherry blossoms. However, the entire area surrounding the station always makes for a nice walk anytime of the year. Venture away from the Meguro riverside, follow the train tracks, and you’ll find a weath of hidden art galleries, independent shops, and cute cafés.

Unfortunately, this year's cherry blossom festival along the Meguro River has been cancelled due to the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak – but you'll still be able to enjoy the gorgeous blooms in the day with (hopefully) less crowds.

RECOMMENDED: Our ultimate guide to enjoying Tokyo on the cheap

Eat

Canteen

Restaurants Nakameguro

This light, airy eatery boasts a selection of unique international dishes with a Japanese twist. For starters, you can enjoy a zesty, refreshing dish of avocado in a citrus dressing, or seasonal strawberries tossed with anise and fennel seed. Then, dig into pasta topped with shirasu (whitebait) or more conventional local dishes such as oden. The wine list is also noteworthy, offering a well-curated selection of vino from across the globe. 

Ohka the Bestdays

Restaurants Ikejiri-Ohashi

Offering a decent selection of craft beer and some not-so traditional gyoza, this quirky, playful eatery is a reliable casual hangout. Its handmade dumpling menu includes unusual options like gyoza topped with cilantro salsa, a strange sounding combo which works brilliantly. Pair your gyoza with a local craft beer or one of the many brews from Gigantic Brewing Company of Portland, and you’re good to go for an extended evening in Nakameguro.

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Sidewalk Stand Baisen & Bagel

Restaurants Cafés Nakameguro

Nakameguro has two Sidewalk Stands: there’s one by the river, but we much prefer the one tucked away down a backstreet, set in a vine-covered house. This location stands out for its wide selection of bagels, with classic flavours such as poppyseed and cheese, complemented by tasty spreads including homemade lox and cream cheese. And good news for coffee drinkers: Sidewalk Stand roasts its own beans onsite. Take it to go, or enjoy the spacious seating on the second floor.

Samon

Restaurants Nakameguro

Popular in its native Nagoya, this oden specialist laid its first roots in the Kanto area by opening under the railway tracks in Nakameguro. They've placed a rather eye-catching (and oversized) oden pot outside – a stunt that surely lures in quite a few customers. Standing out with the way they cook their oden, Samon offer a mixture simmered in a chicken and vegetable stock noted for its full-bodied and rich taste. We'd definitely recommend having the daikon, which soaks up the stock beautifully, and the succulent chicken skewers. The Nagoya Cochin soft-boiled eggs are also rather impressive and well worth driving your chopsticks into. 

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Kushiwakamaru

Restaurants Japanese Nakameguro

This lively yakitori joint is always packed in the evenings, and if the convivial atmosphere doesn’t tempt you in, the smoky aroma of grilled chicken probably will. If you lack a penchant for poultry, they also serve alluring options like chargrilled bacon-wrapped mochi (coined ‘mochi-be’ for short) and Hokkaido potatoes, which are grilled over charcoal before being slathered with a generous slab of butter. Bonus points for the English menu – indulging in a yakitori feast has never been easier.

Tokyo Dosanjin

Restaurants Japanese Ikejiri-Ohashi

Located along the Meguro River, this quaint soba restaurant is open for both lunch and dinner – prepare to stand in line for the former, and ensure you make a reservation for the latter. They’ve got all the classics here, from your tempura and tororo soba to the refreshing sudachi soba that’s always a good option in the warmer months. The soba noodles are made from scratch, and depending on your order, are adjusted for the perfect flavour, texture and consistency.

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Shabu Shabu Let Us
Photo: fb.com/277151892787509

Shabu Shabu Let Us

Restaurants Nakameguro

Shabu Shabu Let Us is a modern take on the hot pot dish. For starters, the interior looks cool and inviting, with an eye-catching vegetable bar presiding over the counter seats and tables. But what it really excels at is taking shabu shabu and all-you-can-eat dining, both commonly only available to groups (well, at least two persons), and making it enjoyable even to solo diners. Here, each diner gets their own pot – whether you’re alone at the counter or sitting together at the table. And the best part is, Shabu Shabu Let Us is all about variety. The soup stock choices go beyond the standard dashi to include a wide range of flavours from mild (creamy soy milk, Takumi’s kelp and green tea, etc) to spicy (Sichuan-style mala hot pot, spicy Korean, etc)...

The Garden

Shopping Nakameguro

Hidden in the streets of Nakameguro, The Garden is an all-encompassing venue featuring a plant shop, book wall, wine cellar and two restaurants. The lush greenery on the outside terrace looks inviting, and works perfectly with the store's concept of having a garden space where everyone can gather and hang out. You can browse the shop or sit in for lunch and coffee at the first floor trattoria, which pairs Italian-inspired dishes with wine. Head down to the basement floor restaurant for a more upscale Italian dining (get the ravioli topped with freshly shaved truffles).

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Oreryu Shio Ramen

Restaurants Nakameguro

Oreyu’s diverse ramen menu lists more than 30 options – so if you’re feeling overwhelmed, just go with the classics. The Oreryu shio ramen (¥670) is a clean, light-tasting yet flavourful bowl topped with a tender slice of pork, spring onions, spinach and mushrooms. The Oreryu juku shio ramen, on the other hand, is more customisable as it offers three broth options; our pick is the jukusei (rich salt), which features a creamy pure chicken bone broth (no dairy added!). This comforting bowl is topped with two slices of charsiu pork, fried chicken karaage as well as a soft-boiled egg...

Drink

Pavilion

Restaurants Nakameguro

Within moments of arriving at this artsy bar-restaurant under the Nakameguro Station train tracks, you’ll notice that it likes to do things a bit differently. Around the back of the restaurant you’ll find a telephone booth – make a call and you’ll be guided into a stunning hall of glowing pink lights (by artist Ichiro Yamaguchi), which leads you through to the restaurant and bar.

Here you’ll find prints, paintings and a few dazzling art installations, like the striking suspended Vespa-streetlamp hybrid by Tatzu Nishi and the black ball by sculptor Kohei Nawa. There’s even art in the washrooms, with a steep lamp-inspired installation hanging above the toilet.

Artless Craft Tea & Coffee
Photo: Artless on Facebook

Artless Craft Tea & Coffee

Restaurants Coffeeshops Nakameguro

Artist and interior designer Shun Kawakami of Artless Inc takes his minimalist game into the brew business with this coffee and tea stand. Decorated with tea utensils and tableware from the designer's own collection, the shop also serves as Kawakami's office and a community space open to all comers. The single-origin beans come courtesy of coffee authority Kentaro Maruyama himself, the organic tea is supplied by small-scale farmers, while the edibles are the work of the owner's wife. Any more homely and you'd be sitting in the Kawakami's living room.

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Onibus Coffee Nakameguro

Restaurants Coffeeshops Nakameguro

Occupying a renovated, traditional-style home right by Nakameguro Station, the most interesting café in town run by Jiyugaoka-based roasters and bean importers Onibus is equipped with a shiny espresso machine and newly acquired roaster. Just don’t expect to linger – this is a very functional spot with minimal frills. Onibus import top-grade beans from Rwanda and Guatemala among others and roast them in the shop. The menu is as simple as the décor: espresso, americano, latte or hand drip, nothing else.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery Tokyo

Restaurants Cafés Nakameguro

Located by the Meguro River, this is one of the largest Starbucks roasteries in the world. The building was designed by Japanese starchitect Kengo Kuma, while the interior was created by the Starbucks community design team. The massive four-story structure houses the roasting factory on the top floor, the Arriviamo cocktail bar on the third floor and the Teavana tea room on the second floor, while first floor is occupied by the Milanese bakery Princi, famous for its cronuts and focaccia pizza. You'll want to secure a seat at the fourth floor's outdoor terrace during sakura season for gorgeous views of the pink blossoms.

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Cafe Facon

Restaurants Coffeeshops Nakameguro

Reputed to be one of Nakameguro's top coffee spots, Cafe Facon appears to be angling for a more mature crowd. It's pocked with Parisian references, including a small library of Francophone books and a grotesque faux-naive painting of cherubs frolicking around the Eiffel Tower. But iffy decor aside, Facon clearly means business. The shop roasts its own beans, offering four blends and a selection of single-origin coffees, plus a few milky variations and a variety of teas. If you're feeling peckish, the best bet is to order a cake or sandwich set...

Baird Taproom Nakameguro

Bars and pubs Craft beer pubs Nakameguro

Having opened a full-scale craft beer empire since, the first Tokyo pub opened by the Numazu-based Baird Brewing Company is very relaxed: all brick walls and wood panelling, with a long central table that's ripe for communal drinking. It's primarily an outlet for Baird's own brews, which tend to be pretty damn fine: we're particular fans of the Teikoku IPA and Angry Boy Brown Ale, available year-round. Check the blackboard above the bar for guest beers from the likes of Rogue and Brewdog, and keep an eye out for Baird's own seasonal specials. Don't miss the New Haven-style pizzas either, and note that this is a non-smoking venue.

Shop

Misc

Shopping Nakameguro

This fashion boutique-meets-juice bar is one of Nakameguro’s hidden gems, offering some of the latest sartorial trends for ladies along with a healthy selection of fruit juices, smoothies, coffees and teas. Expect a mix of international and domestic labels like Citizens of Humanity and Pretty Ballerinas for denim and shoes respectively, as well as its own house line of fashion basics – T-shirts, tank tops, well-cut pants and skirts. Lust-worthy home accents are also available; browse through luxurious candles, glass coasters and cool coffee drippers.

Cow Books

Shopping Nakameguro

A bijou but superbly executed concept bookstore that blends traditionally ‘bookish’ furnishings with sleek modernity, the shop specialises in rare literary and art tomes from underground and countercultural movements of the postwar period: the Cow Books manifesto of ‘Everything for the Freedom’ appears on a ‘ticker tape’ LED strip running around the space’s perimeter. The shop is perhaps more popular though for its range of stylish original goods, which includes bookends and book storage systems crafted from natural wood, t-shirts, tote bags and even ‘reading cushions’ designed to sit on your lap as you lose yourself in a favourite book.

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1LDK
Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa

1LDK Apartments

Shopping Nakameguro

This select shop has an air of confidence and maturity about it, and that’s due to its well-curated selection of fashion, homeware and lifestyle goods that are geared towards those who favour classic styles over fads. We love the highly wearable clothes for men and women, which focus on cult brands such as MM6, StudioNicholson and Kaptain Sunshine.

The Flavor Design

Shopping Perfumeries Nakameguro

This unique perfumery offers scents for your home. You’ll find everything from air fresheners to candles, including DIY sessions for shoppers looking to create their own fabric mist (¥4,500). To participate, simply make a reservation via its website. During the session you’ll sniff around 25 seasonal fragrances – the scents are inspired by surprisingly specific moods and settings, such as ‘a casual night in Los Angeles’ or ‘a country road in Hawaii’, as well as other fruity and floral aromas.

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J'antiques

Shopping Vintage shops Nakameguro

Vintage store J’antiques sells chic American clothing and furniture from its base in the Nakameguro shotengai (shopping street). It offers a good range of vintage items from throughout the 20th century – the bulk of which is menswear and womenswear. Interior items – including antique accessories, furniture and tableware dating from as late as the 1950s and as early as the 1800s – and vintage fabrics and buttons make up the rest of the stock. The floor is divided into three sections – secondhand and accessories, vintage menswear, and vintage womenswear, with the vintage clothing split across two equally grand rooms. It’s rumoured that the quality of the stock draws big names from the fashion industry in search of inspiration – and you can’t go wrong with an endorsement like that.

To do

Sato Sakura Museum Tokyo

Art Galleries Nakameguro

This art museum showcases contemporary Japanese paintings, with an emphasis on artists who were born in the Showa era (1926-1989) and onwards. Located a few minutes’ walk from the Meguro River, this venue offers some consolation to those who visit Nakameguro outside cherry blossom season – a ‘100 Views of Sakura’ exhibition featuring famous sakura spots from across Japan.

Nakameguro Tsutaya Books

Shopping Bookshops Nakameguro

Neighbouring Daikanyama has what's basically the world's greatest bookstore, and now Nakameguro gets an offshoot of that same bibliophile nirvana. Located underneath the railway tracks right outside Nakameguro Station, it consists of four interconnected but nominally separate spaces: 'lifestyle and gifts', 'ideas and inspiration', 'events' and a Starbucks café fit for laidback browsing and sipping...

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