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Monzen-nakacho, Japan: Explore a quieter side of Tokyo

By Safiya Quinley 7 January 2020

Tokyo is a sprawling metropolis. Many people think of Tokyo as just one city, but it’s actually a collection of many diverse cities together—and it can take hours by train to get from one side to another. Places like Harajuku, Shibuya, or Roppongi are well-known shopping and sightseeing destinations and can get overwhelmingly full of locals and tourists alike. For those of you looking to get off the beaten path and explore a more local side of Tokyo—one where you won’t bump into someone every five seconds—Tokyo’s smaller neighbourhoods, like Monzen-nakacho, are a good place to start.

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Monzen-nakacho, located in the Koto Ward in eastern Tokyo, is a town known for its good restaurants and fun atmosphere. With its close location to popular areas like Ginza and Akihabara, it’s an easy place to get to for those staying in the central part of the city. Monzennakacho Station is connected to the Toei Oedo Line and the Tozai Line and is only a five-minute train ride away from Tokyo Station.

For casual breakfast, brunch, or a cup of coffee, you can head to Rico+, a café located in the Saga neighbourhood and only about an eight-minute walk from Monzennakacho station. You can get different sets of food leaning towards savoury or sweet depending on your tastes.

Off the main street is the small Italian restaurant Trattoria Libro. The price of the food won’t break the bank and its cosy atmosphere is inviting. Try it for a date night, or just treat yourself to some pasta and a nice glass of wine.

A few minutes away from Trattoria Libro is a new shop that opened just a few months ago and is pulling curiosity from many locals in the area: Delicatessen La Pecco. With its clean, trendy kitchen and dining area, this makes for an upscale vibe in the neighbourhood.

If you’re looking for a more classic Asian style food, try the Dandan noodles at Goma-ya. Dandan noodles (or tantan-men) is a dish similar to ramen is usually a bit spicy. Be aware this place is cash only (like many small stores in Japan), so make sure you stop at an ATM before you sit down to eat!

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Only a 15-minute walk away from the station are the Kiyosumi Gardens. For an entrance fee of only ¥150, you can take a leisurely walk around this beautiful traditional Japanese garden. With its large pond full of turtles and fish, rare stones from across the nation, and stunning greenery, this historical location makes a great place for an afternoon picnic on a clear day. Monzen-nakacho is also home to two temples, Naritasan Fukagawa Fudodo and Tomioka Hachimangu. In mid-August, there is a five-day festival hosted by Tomioka Hachimangu, so if you’re in Japan in the summer, it’s worth checking out!

For some nightlife, check out Tatsumi Shindo, located near the Akafudado grocery store. It has a similar feel to the more famous Golden Gai in Shinjuku and is a short street full of tiny bars and restaurants, so if you’re into bar hopping, it’s an easy place to try lots of different Japanese style bars.

If you make it to Kimuraya Honten Monzen-nakacho on the main street before 8 pm, you can get all-you-can-drink deals for only ¥980. Pair it with the all-you-can-eat shabu shabu (¥1,000 or more) and for two hours, you can have unlimited food and drink for around ¥3,000 per person (including tax). The unlimited drink menu is smaller than the regular drink menu, but still has a wide variety of choices including shochu, beer, wine, and whiskey highballs.

And of course, we can’t forget dessert. Get your sweet tooth on at RICCO gelato. There’s not much space inside, but you can also buy small cartons to go and enjoy at home—or your hotel! Do make sure to get here earlier as they close promptly at 7.30 pm. If you aren’t sure where to eat, you can walk down the main road and look in the windows of the large collection of restaurants. After you’re full, you can hit up my favourite Japanese past-time—karaoke! There’s Big Echo across from the station. If you download the app (only available in the Japanese iTunes store), you can get a special discount of prices!

Come spend some in Monzen-nakacho when you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the busy city life.

Safiya Quinley

Contributor

Safiya Quinley is a Southern Californian living in Tokyo since September 2019. She studied theatre at the University of Southern California and studied abroad in Miyazaki, Japan, in high school. She spends way too much time on Instagram and loves Japanese convenience stores (7-11 is the best one).

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