If you're a nerd at heart with a yen for Japanese pop culture, then you should spend time in Nakano, Tokyo.
I love visiting this eccentric district with friends. We spend hours rummaging for Super Mario and Sailor Moon goods, followed by cocktails at a Godzilla bar. Watch me explore Nakano's bizarre attractions in my latest travel video.
I encourage visitors to stay in Nakano if they're visiting Tokyo for more than a few days. The location is convenient -- it's a direct, five minute subway ride to Shinjuku -- and the vibe is more laid-back than Shibuya or Roppongi.
Hotel bills add up quickly, so I suggest renting an apartment from a foreigner-friendly service like Live In Asia. An English-speaking representative met me at Nakano station and helped me get set up in a furnished flat, complete with a kitchen, TV, and WiFi.
There was a supermarket down the road and many inexpensive eateries nearby. My favorites were the takoyaki stand (octopus balls), tiny ramen shops, and North Exit bakeries that sold cute Totoro and Anpanman buns.
Nakano's main attraction is Broadway, a shopping complex dedicated to geekdom. A big blue robot guards Mandarake, known for its selection of anime (animation) and manga (comics). The surrounding shops are packed with collectibles, from creepy dolls to Astroboy lunchboxes. At the retro arcade, you can play Space Invaders and other classic video games.
This is a hub of subculture, as you can tell from the art-covered walls running alongside the train tracks. I went to little-known Goth cafe, Omega Algea, to drink rose tea in a basement decorated with human spines. The side room displayed underground art; at the time, the works were inspired by dark angels.
At night, I hopped between little bars, each with a distinctive theme such as heavy metal or karaoke. The award for "most outrageous" goes to Dai-Kaiju Salon. Every Wednesday, the space becomes a shrine to retro monsters like Mothra. The guests watched Ultraman movies and talked about toys. My friend even dressed up in a full-body monster costume, as you can see in my video!
Nakano is a kooky, weird, colorful area that is often overlooked by visitors. I hope you'll put it on your Tokyo to-do list, and consider staying here during your next trip.
Are you a fan of J-pop culture? Did you laugh at the monster scenes in this episode?