Day 19: Wandering into Nakano

My host mum had to go to work early this morning, so I left the house with her at 8:30 a.m. I spent two hours before class in one of Waseda’s libraries reading the Scarlet Gang of Asakusa. The novel is based in the Asakusa area of Tokyo, which I visited on Day 7. Before Asakusa became as traditional as it appears today, it used to be an entertainment hub. From prostitutes to dancers to pimps, it housed what was described as erotic and grotesque. It has been rebuilt twice in the last century-once after the Kanto earthquake and another time after the world war, during which it lost its entertainment value.

Jasmine flavored tea

I went to a new konbini today and picked up different kind of food, most of which turned out to be terrible. But I know that I can’t always expect to be pleasantly surprised.

After class, the weather was beautiful which made me ditch my original plan of going back to the library to finish reading the Scarlet Gang. I felt like walking around. So I bought an ice cream cone from a konbini and and started walking in a random direction. I passed by second hand bookstores, little restaurants and many convenience stores. I was soon at Takadanobaba station, which is one stop away from Waseda University. Not quite ready to stop walking, I decided to walk another two stops to Nakano, which is a place of arcades, manga and cheap shops.

As I walked, I was surprised to see the city change quickly. One minute I was among glittery billboards, tall buildings and lively crossings. The next minute I’d be walking along an isolated road with a tire shop on one side and apartment buildings on the other. Normally, I would just turn back when I find myself in such a neighborhood, expecting to find a dead end if I keep walking in the same direction. But today, I kept walking. I didn’t encounter any dead ends.

One of the more rustic parts of my walk

One of the many shrines I encountered on the way

After two hours and 5 km of walking, I reached Nakano. Once again, the sudden change of scenery surprised me. I looked up to find broad roads and pavements surrounded by beautiful greenery, leading into smaller lanes which housed restaurants and stores. I stopped by a little restaurant with a nice view of a seemingly busy Nakano crossing and over a strawberry smoothie, I just watched people. I later wandered around the tiny lanes of Nakano, finding bars and restaurants with waiters standing outside and shouting out their menus to attract the crowds.


..which meant broad roads and a lively activity hub
People watching over a strawberry smoothie


Broadway-the name of a building with stores, restaurants and arcades

The inside of broadway

One of the narrow alleys of Nakano

Spotted outside a restaurant-marketing stunt maybe? 

 On finding out that I’d have to switch at Shinjuku (the busiest train platform in the world) if I tried taking the train back home, I decided to take a bus instead. This was my first time taking a bus in Tokyo, and I had no idea how the bus system worked. But I asked myself, what’s the worse that can happen? And the answer didn’t seem too bad. So I asked an officer at the train station which bus I should take and made my way to the bus stop he’d mentioned. Taking the bus was a great choice! Not only did I get a seat, but the bus also went through tiny lanes and places I would never have seen had I taken the train. The bus itself was really cute. It had sliding door instead of the regular bus doors which open outwards or inwards and the steps inside the bus had lights on them so that no one would trip.

Taking my first local bus from Nakano to Ikebukuro!

I got off the bus at Ikebukoro, another activity hub. Not in the mood for Asian food, I looked for some western food. I found subway, and it seemed like the perfect choice. It really was. This was my first time eating at a subway in Japan, and the choices available here are much more diverse than the options I’ve seen in Singapore and India. They had calories listed for EVERYTHING, including the sauces and cheeses, which was a dream come true for me. The sandwich that caught my eye was an avocado and smoked salmon sub. I love both avocado and smoked salmon, and even before I tried it, I knew I’d like it. In addition they had sesame bread and basil sauce, which are also highly ranked on my list of favorite food items. As I predicted, the sandwich was amazing. It was easily among the top 5 sandwiches I have eaten in my life. 

An avocado and smoked salmon sub with sesame bread and basil. Made my day. 

All the walking and travelling from place to place that I did today reminded me the importance of enjoying the journey and not just the end. I spent more time getting to Nakano and Ikebukoro than the time I spent there. All that I got to see on the way was much more valuable than the destination itself. 

 When I came home, my host mum had snacks waiting for me. She had gone to Shizuoka for work today, and bought some local snacks from there. One of them was a sweet called unagi pie (Unagi refers to the animal, the eel). The other was asari senbei, a kind of rice cracker (senbei) made with sea weed. They were both delicious.

Unagi Pie, a sweet made of eel that my host mum brought home today. 

Asari Senbei, a seaweed rice cracker from Shizuoka