There is one neighborhood that ticks all the quality-of-life boxes: It has a sakura-tree-lined canal, clothing and design stores on narrow lanes, artisanal coffee shops, tiny restaurants, and, perhaps best of all, an ambience as laid-back as its community of creative people.
Welcome to Nakameguro. Despite being just a short train hop from the 24-hour neon blare of Shibuya, the area moves to an entirely different tempo. (Daikanyama is a few blocks east, and the two pair nicely.)
There is 1LDK Apartments (1-7-13 Kamimeguro, Meguro-ku; 1ldkshop.com), a minimalist design store of mainly Japanese products, from abstract clothing by Cosmic Wonder to butter-soft leather sneakers by Hender Scheme. Its café, Taste & Sense, fills with locals ordering coffee and lunch; the regularly changing menu ranges from Pan-Asian-influenced sandwiches to pasta.
Other stops to make are the river-fronting Cow Books (1-14-11 Aobadai, Meguro-ku; cowbooks.jp), a tiny shop selling used design titles; John Lawrence Sullivan (1-21-3 Aobadai, Meguro-ku; john-lawrence-sullivan.com), home of the edgy, clean-lined fashion brand by Hiroshima native and former boxer Arashi Yanagawa; and Tokyo Lampoon (1-7-6 Kamimeguro, Meguro-ku), a carefully curated vintage women’s wear store.
For an atmospheric lunch, follow a stone path to an old wooden house that’s home to Aoya (1-15-9 Aobadai, Meguro-ku; aoya-nakameguro.com) and tuck into deliciously prepared Kyoto-style vegetable dishes or steaming Korean hot pots.
Back along the canal is Sidewalk Stand (1-23-14 Aobadai, Meguro-ku), a spare café with friendly staff, specialty coffees, and craft beers. Opposite, in a second-floor space that resembles an apartment more than a boutique, is plant-filled Roots to Branches (1-16-7 Aobadai, Meguro-ku; roots-to-branches.jp) and its array of products, from clothing to ceramics.
The appeal of Nakameguro is not confined to the new. For an old-school taste of neighborhood life, head to Iroha Zushi (1-5-13 Kamimeguro, Meguro-ku), a low-key sushi place near the river. Farther afield (about a 20-minute walk downstream) is another local favorite: chef Shin Harakawa’s Beard (1-17-22 Meguro, Meguro-ku; b-e-a-r-d.com). Well worth the pilgrimage, the relaxed dining spot serves globally inspired bistro fare. (Reserve way in advance for dinner or go early and join the line for weekend brunch.)
Bring a day in Nakameguro to a close with a nightcap at the dimly lit bar at contemporary Japanese restaurant Higashiyama (1-21-25 Higashiyama, Meguro-ku; higashiyama-tokyo.jp).