Nakano is one stop from Shinjuku on the Chuo Line Rapid Service and one of most densely populated areas in Tokyo. A homely, suburban atmosphere coupled with good access to both east and west Tokyo mean that it’s a popular place to live.
For tourists, the reason to visit Nakano is really the maze of side streets that make up the commercial district (shoten-gai) just north of the station. This is a fun place: among the establishments you can find kiosk-sized bars into which only 5-6 people can squeeze, traditional izakaya, and 80s-themed music bars, among other establishments. Moreover, the stone-paved narrow side streets and abundance of red lanterns outside the izakaya give the area a very “Japanese” feel. Despite its proximity to Shinjuku, not many tourists visit the area.
To left of the shoten-gai and directly facing the North Exit of the station you have Nakano Sunmall: a 200+ metre indoor stretch of chain stores and fast-food restaurants that can be found just about anywhere around Tokyo. Not so interesting. But Nakano Sunmall is known for the resident that sits at the end of the arcade: Nakano Broadway, a dilapidated complex that sells comic books, anime, and idol figurines (Akihabara’s little sibling). Of note is the Mandarake store on the second floor which was established in the 1980s and sells second-hand comics for ¥100 or less a piece.
The area outside the south exit offers far less; although Renga Zaka, a sloping lane to the southwest of the station, has some trendy bars and eateries.
Getting to Nakano
The west bound Chuo Line (Rapid) from Shinjuku gets you to Kichijoji in under 5 minutes. From Shinjuku, the Chuo Special Rapid and Commuter Special Rapid do not stop at Nakano so take care which train you board. If unsure ask one of the station attendants.