The name of this area, 中野 Nakano, means “middle field.” The name is said to derive from the fact that Nakano sat smack in the middle of former 武蔵国 Musashi no Kuni Mushashi Province.
Nakano-Sakaue is located near the border of Shinjuku Ward and Nakano Ward which is marked by the 神田川 Kanda-gawa Kanda River. The bridge that links Shinjuku and Nakano is called 淀橋 Yodobashi – literally Yodo Bridge. If you’re familiar with Japanese electronics retailers, you’ve probably heard of Yodobashi Camera. The store’s name derives from this bridge.
There is a temple near the station called 宝仙寺 Hōsen-ji that boasts an Edo Period 仁王門 Niō Mon and a 3 story pagoda that was one of the 6 Towers of Edo. The list of 6 towers included the pagodas at Sensō-ji in Asakusa and the two Tokugawa funerary temples of Kan’ei-ji in Ueno and Zōjō-ji in Shiba. That is to say, it had some pretty high pedigree in its day. Today the temple is a shadow of its former glory and even the local people don’t know much about it. Every year in February, a bunch of old men dress up like warrior monks and put on a parade that amounts to little more than a clownshow for elementary school students who have no interest in samurai or old men.
In the Edo Period, the area was dotted with small villages along the 青梅街道 Ōmekaidō Ōme Highway and the Kanda River. Today, it’s primarily a residential area and while I love Nakano, there isn’t anything touristy to do in Nakano-Sakaue. There’s a good 串揚げ kushiage place there. Kushiage refers to finger foods that are skewered, battered, and deep fried. It goes best with beer, shōchu, or sake. The shop is super cheap and has a good local vibe. It’s called 平田屋 Hirata-ya and can be found here, a 5 min walk from the station[i].
The station was attacked with Sarin gas in the spring of 1995 by a religion called オウム真理教 Aumu Shinrikyō. The attack left 12 dead and irreparably injured many more.
When I lived in Nakano, I met a person whose husband was among the dead. She still suffers various after-effects to this day including severe memory loss. She could even remember family members’ names. She would start cooking dinner, then take walks, while her smoke alarm went off for hours. She lives with the tragedy of that day’s terror, but 20 years later, most people don’t make any connection between this station and terrorism. It seems like any other normal station.
[i] Nakano-Sakaue Station is home to the 丸ノ内線 Marunouchi-sen Marunouchi Line, too. So it has great access from Shinjuku Station. I would walk from Shinjuku to there, but I’m a walking maniac. If you don’t know the area, it’s better to take the train.