Up until a few years ago, Nakameguro was best known for the narrow, cherry tree-lined Meguro River, which bisects the neighborhood and draws tourists from all corners of Japan, particularly during the spring festival season. Then came the cafes, restaurants, bars and boutiques, most of which are low-key and laid-back, especially when compared with the hustle and bustle in nearby Shibuya.
Today, Nakameguro has gained a reputation as one of Tokyo’s hippest neighborhoods, a harmonious melding of old and new, urban and rustic.
“It’s a hub of celebrities, musicians, designers and comedians,” said Fraser Cooke, who moved to Nakameguro from London three years ago to work as Nike’s global-brand energy leader. “It’s tipped as a major hot spot in the design community, more foreigners live here than ever before, and there’s new restaurants popping up everywhere.”
One of those restaurants, Kijima (1-23-3 Aobadai Towa Building, 3F; 81-3-5720-7366), opened in May; specialties include a delicious shabu shabu salad (1,200 yen, $12.03 at 99.78 yen to the dollar) and kakuni (simmered pork belly; 1,000 yen), as well as nikujaga (beef, potato and onion stew; 1,200 yen), which is finished at your table by a kimono-clad waitress. Kijima’s sliding doors, black walls and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the cherry trees create a vibe that is both elegant and earthy.
Across the river, Higashiya (1-13-12 Aobadai; 81-3-5428-1717; www.higashiya.com) approaches sweets with the same pageantry and detail that Tiffany & Company brings to jewelry. Their exquisite mochi, balls of gelatinous rice filled with edamame paste (300 yen), are eaten not with chopsticks, but a smooth wooden knife that’s as sculptural as it is functional. Handmade ceramics and minimalist décor create an experience that induces calm and serenity, and hints at the ancient tradition of the Japanese tea ceremony.
The LED-streaming signage that ribbons the walls of Cow Books (1-14-11 Aobadai; 81-3-5459-1747; www.cowbooks.jp) is thoroughly modern (during a recent visit, it repeatedly displayed the phrase “Book Bless You”), but the rare, out-of-print and first editions that fill the shelves point more to the 1950s and ’60s. Specializing in the Beats, psychedelia, and writers like Richard Brautigan, the satirist author of “Trout Fishing in America,” the shop is a veritable shrine to Japan’s peculiar, nuanced fascination with Americana.
The owners of Madeleine (1-25-5, Aobadai; 81-090-3500-0560) make a mean latte (390 yen). But perhaps more intriguingly, they do so in the back seat of a cream-colored vintage Citroën — located a literal stone’s throw from Cow Books, just across the Meguro — and serve it out of the rear hatch, which has been converted into a sort of makeshift cafe counter. It’s this kind of resourcefulness that gives the neighborhood its creative, youthful energy.
“Nakameguro is like its own small village,” says Hideaki Ishii, the dreadlocked proprietor of Research (1-14-11, Cooperative House Aobadai 105; 81-3-5459-4699; www.sett.co.jp), a clothing boutique that changes not only its collection each season, but its name too.
“Everything we need is right here — supermarket, bars, restaurants, record store, Thursday night D.J.’s,” said Mr. Ishii. “It’s gotten so that the locals don’t even leave anymore.”