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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
LET’S PIN IT!
BEEN BEFORE? WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE NEIGHBORHOOD? IF YOU HAVEN’T BEEN, WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO VISIT?
> Some other articles about Japan that may interest you:
- Chabudai Table – The traditional Japanese low table
- Japan by prefecture: Kyoto
- Japan by prefecture: Tokyo Metropolis