A Beginner’s Guide to the Neighborhoods of Tokyo

A Beginner’s Guide to the Neighborhoods of Tokyo

As the most populated metropolitan area in the world, Tokyo can be a bit intimidating for first-time visitors.

While most people have a few ideas of things they’d like to see or do in Tokyo, like climbing Tokyo Tower or seeing Shibuya Crossing, many don’t realize just how large and spread out everything is. Tokyo is not like most major US cities where you can visit all the major attractions by walking.

Instead of thinking of Tokyo as one giant city, you need to remember Tokyo is a metropolis. It’s almost better to break Tokyo down by its distinct neighborhoods. This will make it a lot easier, and more cost effective, when planning your trip.

People always ask me where to stay in Tokyo, and that totally depends on what you’re wanting to see and the vibe you want to feel. Even though most of the neighborhoods are conveniently connected by the famous JR East Yamanote line, each one has its own unique flavor, which can make the question “where to stay in Tokyo” hard to answer.

So which neighborhoods are worth a visit? Which neighborhood wins the question of where to stay in Tokyo?

Here’s a guide to ten of the most popular neighborhoods in Tokyo.

Tokyo, Japan

Marunouchi(丸の内)

Almost every traveler will pass through Marunouchi at some point during their visit because this is where the busy JR Tokyo Station is located. This station is the hub of all travel within Tokyo, as you’ll find airport lines and bullet trains here.

Located in the heart of Tokyo, this business district is filled with older office buildings and banks. Bordering the west side of Marunouchi is the Imperial Palace and the beautiful East Garden, which is free to the public.

Insider’s Tip: JR Tokyo Station is the perfect place to get all your souvenirs, and I mean all your souvenirs! 

Tokyo, Japan

Ginza(銀座)

If you are looking to go shopping for luxurious goods, Ginza is where you’ll want to go. Ginza is known for being the most expensive place in the world, and many luxury fashion brands such as Gucci, Channel, and Louis Vuitton have stores in this upscale area. It is also in Ginza that you will find Kabuki-za, a famous theater for Japanese Kabuki drama.

The famous Tsukiji Fish Market is also just 2 stops from the Ginza neighborhood.

Insider’s Tip: Visit Ginza on a Sunday, when the street becomes pedestrians only. Tables and chairs will be set up in the middle of the road, and they’re the perfect spot for people watching!

Tokyo, Japan

Akihabara(秋葉原)

Akihabara, often shortened to simply “Akiba”, is the iconic electric town of Tokyo. Here you can find over 200 small electronic shops selling anything from cameras to computers.

More recently Akihabara has become a Mecca for otaku (geek) sub-culture. You’ll find massive amounts of game arcades, video game stores and anything you can imagine relating to anime and manga, including the Tokyo Anime Center. 

Insider’s Tip: Just because the electronics are “made in Japan”, doesn’t mean they’ll be cheaper there! However, you will be able to purchase more electronics than you can even dream of that won’t be available in your home country.

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Tokyo, Japan

Asakusa(浅草)

Asakusa is a neighborhood with an interesting history. It had always been Tokyo’s largest pleasure district until the area was destroyed during the firebombing in World War II. Today the area is most known for Senso-ji, a famous Buddhist temple with recognizable giant lantern of Kaminarimon.

Leading up to the temple is Nakamise Dori, where many tourists shop for their Japanese souvenirs. The new Tokyo Skytree is also easily accessible from Asakusa Station.

Insider’s Tip: While Nakamise Dori is a convenient place to buy souvenirs, items here tend to be a bit more expensive then elsewhere, so try to hold off buying anything here unless you see something you just have to have.

Tokyo, Japan

Ueno(上野)

Ueno is a great place to experience old Tokyo atmosphere.

The area is filled with traditional homes and narrow streets, including nearby Ameyoko, a lively street market. However, what Ueno is most famous for is Ueno Park, one of the largest green spaces in all of Tokyo. The park is also home to Ueno Zoo, the oldest zoo in Japan, and the Tokyo National Museum.

Insider’s Tip: During spring, Ueno Park is one of the best locations for hanami, or cherry blossom, viewings.

Tokyo, Japan

Harajuku(原宿)

Known as the Mecca of fashion for young Tokyoites, Harajuku is the place to find all the latest trends in street fashion. If you’re brave, venture out to Takeshita Dori on a Sunday, which never ceases to be filled with people. This small pedestrian alley, is filled with inexpensive clothing and accessory shops.

Yoyogi Park, although technically located in Shinjuku, is easily access from Harajuku Station. This is also where you’ll find Meiji Jingu Shrine, one of the most famous in all of Tokyo.

Insider’s Tip: Visit Yoyogi Park on a Sunday to see people dressed up in cosplay and other outrageous fashions.

Tokyo, Japan

Shinjuku(新宿)

Shinjuku is a very popular business district and where Tokyo’s tallest skyscrapers are located, including the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. To complement all the business offices, there are plenty of restaurants and bars in the area as well.

Shinjuku is well known by Japanese locals for its nightlife, as it’s where Kabuki-cho, Tokyo’s red light district, and Shinjuku Ni-chome, Tokyo’s premier gay bar district, are found.

In my opinion, this is where to stay in Tokyo because there’s plenty of food, nightlife, it’s fairly central and yet it still has a residential feel on certain streets!

Insider’s Tip: The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building has an observation deck that gives some of the best views over Tokyo. Best part? It’s free!

Tokyo, Japan

Shibuya(渋谷)

The Times Square of Tokyo, Shibuya Station is one of the busiest commuter stations in the world. Right outside the station you’ll find Shibuya Crossing, which also happens to be the world’s busiest crosswalk. Revel in awe as you see the constant stream of people coming and going.

Make sure, before you head to the crossing, to check out the Hachiko statue and Moyai statue, both of which are famous meeting spots for friends. With its many stores like Shibuya 109, karaoke bars, and izakaya pubs, it is another great place to enjoy late into the night.

Insider’s Tip: Want to get great pictures of the scramble crossing? Don’t go inside the Starbucks as they now prohibit taking photos even if you purchase drinks! Instead, go inside the Keio Inokashira Line Shibuya Station for a perfect view.

Tokyo, Japan

Roppongi(六本木)

Roppongi is Tokyo’s best-known nightlife district for foreigners. Filled with an endless assortment of nightclubs, these party doesn’t stop here until the early hours of the morning. During the day, Roppongi is an urban center filled with offices, apartments and shops.

Roppongi Hills, a 27-acre complex, is the most famous with over 200 shops, restaurants, entertainment facilities and apartments.

Insider’s Tip: The iconic Tokyo Tower is located in an area next to Roppongi, and is an easy 10-15 minute walk away.

Tokyo, Japan

Odaiba(お台場)

Odaiba is Tokyo’s newest neighborhood, built on a man-made island in Tokyo Bay. Connected to the mainland by Rainbow Bridge, you’ll find plenty of entertaining options throughout this modern oasis of futuristic buildings. If you’re looking for shopping or gaming arcades, you’ll want to check out Aqua City, which also has a 1:1 replica Gundam outside.

Around Odaiba you’ll also find various museums, the Panasonic Center, Toyota’s Megaweb, the Fuji TV Building, as well as Tokyo Big Sight, Tokyo’s international convention center, where the famous Comiket is held.

Insider’s Tip: Rainbow Bridge is only lit up in rainbow colors during the winter season or for other special events.

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Been before? What’s YOUR favorite neighborhood? If you haven’t been, where would you like to visit?

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42 Comments

  1. kiley
    December 21, 2015 / 5:42 pm

    Ikebukuro is underrated! Lots of shopping and dining, international cuisines, Sunshine City, JR Ikebukuro Station, cat cafes, Cafe Du Monde, all very convenient!

  2. July 19, 2015 / 12:41 pm

    I enjoyed reading your post. I am always curious about different places outside of the US. Tokyo seems like it would be a wonderful place for me to visit.

  3. July 16, 2015 / 3:29 am

    I believe I’d experience sensory overload if I ever visited Tokyo. However, it sounds like a fun place to visit, nonetheless. :)

  4. Elizabeth O.
    July 15, 2015 / 9:48 am

    It’s been a long time since I last visited Tokyo. I have been to these places except for Odaiba. I miss all these places and the food. I hope to visit again, soon.

  5. July 15, 2015 / 9:22 am

    I love the differences in each area. It’s really fun to get a close look at Tokyo this way!

  6. July 15, 2015 / 9:19 am

    I’d love to explore Tokyo one day. Thanks for this post, it’s very useful.

  7. Rosey
    July 15, 2015 / 5:00 am

    I have not been before. It’s always been on a bucket list though, for places I’d like to see.

  8. July 15, 2015 / 4:01 am

    Tokyo is one of those places in ASIA I really wanted to visit. This is a very lively place where you can interact with a lot of people from different nations too!

  9. Crystal
    July 14, 2015 / 9:32 pm

    I love to travel. I’ve never even considered Tokyo but some of the places look and sound interesting.

  10. Kristen
    July 14, 2015 / 9:19 pm

    What awesome photos! I want to visit Tokyo so very bad! I have a friend living over there right now, I should try arrange something!

  11. July 14, 2015 / 4:12 pm

    My brother in law travels for work all of the time (he is a consultant) and would benefit from reading your articles. He is currently in Singapore…have any tips for there?!?

  12. Terri Ramsey Beavers
    July 14, 2015 / 3:36 pm

    I’ve never been to a city as large as that. It’s so stunning, I love all of the colorful buildings and lights, it’s incredible.

  13. Robin Rue (@massholemommy)
    July 14, 2015 / 12:46 pm

    Tokyo looks like such an amazing city. I hope I am lucky enough to get there myself someday.

  14. July 20, 2014 / 11:37 pm

    GREAT POST! thanks, i was getting confused with all these different areas already! Do you know if there are any skybars in Tokyo? Love having a drink with a view :D

    • Beth Williams
      July 21, 2014 / 5:04 am

      For the best one (and most affordable) head to Roppongi to Tokyo City View. It’s an observation deck, but they also have a separate bar and restaurant. The views are incredible at night!

  15. Connie
    June 10, 2014 / 11:58 pm

    Hi Beth,

    My family will be making a four night trip in Tokyo, do you think it is worth for us to make a trip to Yanaka in Nippori?

    Thanks.

    • Beth Williams
      June 25, 2014 / 6:04 am

      I’ve actually never been out there, but it’s not far away at all. Only two stops from Ueno I think. While there’s a lot to see and do in Tokyo proper, 4 days would be enough to stop by that area–especially if you’re not wasting a day going out to Fuji, Kamakura or Disneyland.

  16. March 30, 2014 / 6:05 pm

    Great overview! I will be headed to Tokyo in May and am just starting to research all there is to see. Thank you for all of the tips!
    I think I will definitely try to fit in trips to Akihabara, Asakusa, Ueno, Shibuya and hopefully Harajuku. Only there for five days and are discussing heading out via the bullet train too so we’ll see!

    • Beth Williams
      March 31, 2014 / 8:25 pm

      5 days is plenty of time!
      The first time I went to Tokyo, it was for only 3 days, with one full day at Disney.
      The other 2 days I split between Eastern Tokyo (Asakusa, Akiba, Tokyo Tower, Odaiba, etc) and then the next day Western Tokyo (Shibuya, Harajuku, Shinjuku). Luckily it’s easy to visit everywhere thanks to their convenient transportation system.

      • March 31, 2014 / 9:18 pm

        Great to hear, thank you!

  17. March 18, 2014 / 7:04 pm

    Ooh, really love your insider’s tips. We usually try to avoid the hustle and bustle of the city when we travel, but Tokyo certainly seems intriguing.

    • Beth Williams
      March 25, 2014 / 3:44 pm

      Tokyo is one of those cities where it gets difficult to avoid the hustle and bustle. Although, we did go during a holiday once and it was way less crowded as most people had returned to their hometowns.

  18. March 15, 2014 / 12:55 pm

    Great guide! Tokyo does sound intimidating, but I would love to visit. This makes me want to go even more–I will definitely bookmark this for when we finally make it there :)

    • Beth Williams
      March 17, 2014 / 8:07 pm

      I hope you get to go Jenna! Tokyo is a wonderful city.

  19. March 14, 2014 / 3:20 am

    I think I would prefer to visit Ueno; I’d love to get a taste for the old Tokyo atmosphere rather than the new & upcoming metropolis!

    • Beth Williams
      March 14, 2014 / 8:09 am

      I love Ueno, it’s much more peaceful than the rest of Tokyo with giant parks and green space. It’s especially nice at cherry blossom time!

  20. March 11, 2014 / 7:17 am

    I envy you Beth. Japan is somewhere I long to explore. I imagine it will be such a step out of my cultural comfort zone and I LOVE when I get that feeling of being a alien in a foreign land and learning to adapt. Great guide, I’ll keep it tucked away in my bookmarks for when I finally visit myself!

    • Beth Williams
      March 11, 2014 / 8:35 am

      I hope you get to go there soon! Japan is a country that makes people feel alien for sure! haha.
      Even after spending so much time there and years studying the culture and language, I still feel as though I’ve just scratched the surface and am longing to go back!

  21. March 9, 2014 / 11:41 pm

    I love this series of Japan, my friends want to push me into visiting in May and I’m more and more into it :)

    • Beth Williams
      March 11, 2014 / 7:47 am

      You should really go! May is a nice month to visit Japan, although try to avoid going at the beginning as prices are hiked up due to Golden Week.

  22. October 25, 2013 / 10:52 am

    I have been to Tokyo for the weekend to visit my friend, but there was not enough time to wander all the neighborhoods, which is a real pitty. I have been only to Akihabara and I absolutely love it there!

    • Beth Williams
      October 27, 2013 / 7:34 pm

      Akiba is my favorite as well. Such an interesting place!

  23. October 23, 2013 / 9:42 pm

    I love them all, especially Asakusa! I just love the energy and the food and the temples…all of it! Great post! I think this will come in handy for those that want to explore Tokyo.

    • Beth Williams
      October 27, 2013 / 7:32 pm

      I’ve always ended up staying in Asakusa when I visit Tokyo. I think it’s a great base for exploring the city!

  24. October 23, 2013 / 5:56 pm

    Hi Beth,

    You explain well Neighborhood of Tokyo. Really this guide is very helpful for many beginners.

    Thanks for the marvelous posting.

    • Beth Williams
      October 27, 2013 / 7:32 pm

      Thank you! Tokyo can be very intimidating to those who are unfamiliar with its layout.