The working title for the post was something like “Nakano – knackered? No!” but I have since rejected this for a couple of reasons, not just because it was a really crap pun (worse then usual?!), but mostly because half the photos here were taken of, well, the knackered bits of Nakano.

My friend B suggested that I take some photos of the more run-down aspects of Tokyo again, and I was kind of looking for an excuse to go for a walk – it was sunny, quite crisp, and walking from Koenji to Nakano is that kind of perfect journey on foot that’s not long enough to tire you out, but long enough to feel like you’ve actually had a walk.

I think it’s at this point I have to come out of the rather controversial closet and declare my love for modern Japanese residential architecture. It’s just kind of stereotypical and lazy to say that all houses and apartment buildings look the same in Tokyo – perhaps at first glance, but there’s also some really lovely flourishes of detail like wooden steps, painted sections, concrete curves and walls of glass. However, this is a bit at odds with my true love of old Japanese houses, those places that are made of rusty corrugated iron and wood and you’re never quite sure if anyone really lives there still… Just when I’ve discovered a great building, they tear it down and build some thing new! C’mon Japan, cut me a little slack here, and at least give me time to grab a few shots on the camera first!

Anyway, a few days ago we walked to Nakano and this is what we saw:

This cat is like my best friend in Koenji.

Only two metres of clearance? Seems like someone didn’t believe that!

Chuo line train mocking us for being on foot.

Weird sea mural near Nakano station.

Weird sea creatures. No, I wouldn’t eat them.

I’m also a bit obsessed with tiny alleyways, especially those are actually used. It feels like only a few people know they exist, like some kind of secret network running though Tokyo. I wonder if you could walk through the whole city just using this kind of alleyway?

And then we found the best bit:

This is a really strange block at the end of a pedestrian street that’s also quite close to a main road. It’s been abandoned, and seems to be part-way through being knocked down – score! It’s mostly old bars and cafes, and there was a section of scrubland in the middle, like a town square. Someone had put down food there, so there were quite a few stray cats too. The whole place had quite an eerie vibe to it, like everything was just waiting for the wrecking ball, all those hours spent in tiny smokey bars and clubs, all that alcohol, all those drunken promises, just waiting quietly to be absorbed into a new mini-mall or pachinko parlour.

I’m afraid I’m not really brave enough to venture inside, so I’ll leave the haikyo (urbexing) to someone else and these photos will have to suffice. I’d really like to go back there and take some more, but what’s the betting it will have disappeared?

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7 Responses to Reflections on the way to Nakano…

  1. Kate B says:

    Hey, great post. That half demolished area isn’t too far from my house! They’ve been knocking it down for years but the old lady in that last building (a bar called Pajanka) refuses to leave so the project had to be put on hold.
    If you’re after some interesting buildings then I’d recommend a walk around Nogata (back from Waseda street) or Arai (up to Heiwa no Mori park). There are some fantastic examples of residential architacture. 🙂
    Tokyo, the best city for walks!

  2. Kate B says:

    Urgh, spelling mistakes “architecture” damn….

  3. Rebecca says:

    @ Kate B – Thanks for the comment! (Sorry about the crap comment form – perhaps something for us to look into!)

    Wow, thanks for the info about that wee bit of Nakano & the walking recommendations, I’ll definitely have a trot around there later this week. Didn’t know we’re almost Tokyo neighbours!

    Oh and I didn’t realise you had a tumblr either so I shall add you right away! Such gorgeous photography 😉

  4. Kate B says:

    @Rebecca Hahaha no, my spelling is at fault rather than your comment form!

    I’ve lived in Nakano for about 5 years now and (in my opinion) it’s one of the best places for getting an idea of the “real” Tokyo. Not so futuristic, no rich families or snazzy high rise apartment buildings or fashionable connotations like Shibuya and Harajuku. There are some really lovely areas to wander about between Nakano and Ogikubo and plenty of cats to meet 😛 Plus some of the best eateries in West Tokyo.

    Thanks for the add on Tumblr, it’s something I’ve recently started and I’m loving it!

  5. Rebecca says:

    @ Kate – Ah, even though I’m kind of weirdly in love with Koenji I also really like Nakano! I much prefer living in this part of town compared to where we were before near Ikebukuro. I do agree with you – there’s just something about it that feels ‘real’ in a way that some other places don’t: maybe because it’s more residential? I’m really interested to see what will happen with all the new buildings that are popping up in Nakano, and I really hope it won’t change the awesome downtown vibe.

    Let me know if you’re even in Koenji and fancy a cuppa! 😉

  6. alex terris says:

    there are soooo many cats in Nakano! I actually made a pun to my boyfriend when we lived there … “Nakano? more like “NEKO”NO AM I RIGHT?” my very first Japanese pun. ^___________^

  7. Rebecca says:

    @ alex teris – Hey, great to hear from you! 🙂

    Oh, I love that pun. Cats + Nakano + bad puns = a dream come true! You should be very proud of that, hahaha.

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