It’s no secret anymore! Welcome to Nakameguro, one of Tokyo’s most underrated districts – and there are a tonne of those. If a city could be mature, this would be it. Meguro city, interweaving chic style with beautiful scenery and a lax vibe, is the perfect place to impress that special someone or have a wholesome time with family and friends. It has to be said, you really Tok-yo time finding this spot!
Let’s not ignore the elephant in the room, since it is literally the thumbnail of this article… Meguro river! Or more generally, the whole package; warm lights with twinkling cherry blossoms and a calm flowing river winding through the city. If you couldn’t tell already, Nakameguro is not your regular holiday location. Before I get too carried away, let’s have a look at the facts and figures…
Nakameguro is the name of the district, which lies within Meguro city. When translated, Nakameguro (中目黒) literally means ‘inside of Meguro’ or ‘in the middle of Meguro’. In the sense of Meguro city (目黒), ‘Meguro’ translates to ‘black eyes’, referring to the black-eyed statue placed in the area during the Edo period. The area known as Meguro city was formed through the merging of two towns, Meguro and Hibusuma around 1932, but it has been an area of little change, observing the surrounding urban landscape quietly for decades. Nakameguro alone has a population of over 280,000, so it’s not like the area is unknown. However, because of its distance from central Tokyo it tends to be a best-kept secret among locals. In this blog, you’ll discover the irresistible appeal of Nakameguro, as well as uncover some of the things the area has to offer.
Because Nakameguro is best known for its scenic sakura (cherry blossom) walkway along Meguro river, this is the obvious spot to discuss. While we will cover this, Meguro city is actually bursting with jaw-dropping locations that you can’t get enough of.
1) Meguro River Walk
Nakameguro’s most famous location, this 5 km long river walk is really the heart of Meguro city – literally, it runs through the middle! The entire pathway is free to access and is open in all seasons, although obviously the sakura won’t be in bloom for the majority of the year.
The Japanese government actually releases a precise sakura forecast each Spring, since they come and go in a matter of one or two weeks. So watch out for this before booking your holiday, because unless you book for late March you likely won’t get the sakura action… That being said, the pathway is incredibly pretty year-round, as greenery spreads along it in the Summer. In the Winter, the famous pink and yellow lights are lit in a deep blue, which makes this a magical spot even in the colder months. You can walk from one side to the other in about an hour. This would take you from Gotanda to Meguro Sky Garden. There are over 800 sakura lining this section of the river, and quite frankly you’d have to be crazy to stop by Nakameguro and not visit!
Want to grow your own little sakura at home? Check out this seedling pack below from the Japan Nakama store! Or maybe you’re looking to surprise that special someone – after all, Nakameguro is known for its romance… In that case, how about some of the other sakura themed gift ideas below?
2) Meguro City Sky Garden
Well that led on nicely! The next spot on the list is a calming green space in the middle of Nakameguro’s urban sprawl; Meguro Sky Garden. For lack of a better description, this attraction is basically a garden… In the sky! While many other green locations throughout Meguro city, but also Tokyo as a whole, are focused on blowing away visitors with beautiful and awe-inspiring scenes, Meguro Sky Garden is really just a space to relax. It is composed of multiple connecting sections of flower beds and gardens, as well as some water features, child-friendly spaces and even a tennis and football court. The Sky Garden is open from 7am-7pm, so whenever you finish your river walk it should be open… Oh, and it’s free entry!
3) Nakameguro Shotengai
Finally, here is a classic option for those that love a good shopping trip. There are a couple of shotengai (商店街) dotted throughout Meguro city. Shotengai are shopping streets that stretch in one direction – they’re typically covered by a roof which makes them a pretty practical outdoor shopping experience. Nakameguro shotengai aren’t covered, but my goodness are they packed with everything you can imagine! From stylish boutiques to spacious bookstores, there is certainly no shortage of physical shopping to be done. In addition to this though, there are myriads of cute corner cafes and independent businesses that offer delicious and refreshing snacks and meals.
Meguro city, just like any other Tokyo district, or indeed any other place in Japan, has no shortage of festivals! As you may have guessed, the festivals, or matsuri (祭り) in Nakameguro are focused on celebrating the beauty of the sakura.
So there is no better fitting name for Nakameguro’s main matsuri than ‘Nakameguro Cherry Blossom Festival’! Matsuri in Japan tend (typically) to last anywhere between one day and a week… But not this one! Basically the entirety of Spring is one big festival, as the beautiful lantern and spotlight illuminations kick off around March 18th and don’t cease until past April 9th. One of the reasons for the long length is because of how unpredictable the timings of sakura bloom are each year. By having an extended matsuri, it can be made sure that the peak cherry blossom beauty is captured.
Since the festival is held primarily along the Meguro City river pathway, entrance is free for all. Also, look out for the street vendors on the sidewalks selling sweet treats, drinks and adorable accessories. While many Japanese festivals feature dancers, street walks and shrine carrying (mikoshi – 神輿), this event is slightly different in that it occurs in a much more laid back style, with couples and keen photographers taking in the beauty of the sakura.
Meguro City doesn’t technically have a ‘signature dish’, but the moment you set foot in Nakameguro there’s no way you can ignore the plethora of yakiniku (焼き肉) options! For those of you who have been sleeping on Japanese cuisine, yakiniku is a broad term for grilled meat. Typically, you’ll find chicken is the most popular option, but there are also beef and pork variations. Yakiniku can be served on a skewer, which makes it a popular, convenient snack. Alternatively, it can be eaten in thin slices after a grilling on the fire. Anyway, aside from yakiniku of all shapes and sizes, you’ll find that Nakameguro has unlimited independent corner shops serving snacks and sweet treats. I would recommend just exploring and picking a place to eat by yourself once you’re in Nakameguro. However, here are three quick, delicious options too!
1) Lotus Baguette
Starting off with a location right next to Meguro river. Lotus Baguette is an organic bakery that has grown in popularity over the past few years. In a way, this bakery has a slightly Western vibe to it in that the baked goods aren’t traditionally Japanese. However, the large array of menu items, including a charcoal croissant, are unique and bursting with flavour!
2) Beeftei Restaurant
Beeftei is a pretty popular spot among locals. This restaurant offers more or less what you would expect from a yakiniku restaurant, and at reasonably low prices too. The showstopper here is really the beef, no matter what beef item you order. The cuts are fresh, but add to that the ability to grill it to perfection and you have an unmissable dinner (or lunch from Tuesday to Thursday) spot!
3) Mahakara Ureshi Pudding
Finally, let’s end with a delicious independent pudding store. Order out of a cute window and receive your heavenly goodness! Mahakara Ureshi pudding specialises in a cheesecake/mousse type dessert. Some of the flavours include honey and lemon and the original flavour, caramel. Priced at about $4, these little pots of joy can’t be missed!
Well, I hope this tour of Nakameguro was enough to get you packing your suitcases! Before we end, I’ll quickly point out some other bits and bobs around Meguro City…
1) Starbucks Reserve Roastery Nakameguro – one of Starbucks largest roasteries! Designed by famous Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, this is that jaw-dropping and thirst-quenching thing to do!
2) Sato Sakura Museum – Showcasing stunning contemporary art in a building that will get you out of the sweltering summer heat. This museum is primarily used for highlighting the beauty of sakura as the majority of the paintings are cherry blossom themed!
3) Nakameguro Tsutaya Bookstore – The name speaks for itself; take a look around one of Japan’s most chic bookstore chains in this relatively new bookstore.
Don’t want to leave so soon? Feel free to check out the range of items we have to offer right here on the Japan Nakama online store. Oh, and don’t forget about the sakura gift ideas from earlier!
If you want a glimpse of this stylish neighbourhood before arriving, why not check out this walking tour of Nakameguro?