Tokyo Neighbourhood Guide
Tokyo is a capital city that’s very much made up by its neighbourhoods. No two are alike and each area has a totally different vibe, and speciality making Tokyo one of the most interesting capitals to explore. While it is what makes Tokyo special among cities, it does make it difficult to conquer as a visitor and it can be difficult to know where to start and more importantly where to stay. Luckily it’s very easy to get around Tokyo on public transport and one of the highlights of taking a trip here is getting lost and seeing what you find. These neighbourhoods are a great starting point for any visitor to explore. Start here and see where you end up.
Where to Stay — Shibuya
Famous for its crossing – the crossing everyone thinks of when they picture Tokyo – and the statue of Hachiko the dog, found just outside several of the station’s exits. Shibuya is the cosmopolitan capital area of the city, full of local foods and international brands, as well as bars, clubs, and smokey izakaya pubs. The crossroads is a sight to behold, and best viewed from the Starbucks ideally located above it. Taking a photo with Hachiko, Japan’s most famous dog, is also a must. Shibuya is also a hub for independent cinemas, like Yebisu Garden Cinema, most of the films shown in these cinemas have English subtitles but check before you buy.
Where to Stay — Shinjuku
Shinjuku is most famous for its Kabukicho area, a vibrant and varied world of museums, restaurants, cafes, and stores. Here can be found the world famous Robot Restaurant, as well as the Samurai Museum, and some of the city’s best ramen and curry restaurants. There’s something for everyone in Shinjuku; the area is lively and bustling with people from all walks of life shopping, working, and exploring. In many ways, Shinjuku is a kind of shrunken microcosm of all great things Tokyo.
Where to Stay — Ginza
Ginza is a popular shopping district featuring local department stores and famous brands, with buildings dating back to the Edo period. Chuo-dori, or ‘central street’ is the main shopping avenue of Ginza where you’ll find famous products from all over Japan and stores with artwork by Japanese artists. A highlight of the area, aside from the shopping, is the Kabukiza Theatre, a famous Kabuki theatre where you can enjoy the traditional Japanese performing art and if you’re not up for an entire show you can go for a cheaper, shorter alternative ‘hitomaku-mi’ which is a single act. Dine at Ippudo for some delicious ramen after or try some Michelin star sushi at Sushi Aoki.
Where to stay — Akihabara
Akihabara is what many people imagine when they picture the Tokyo so culturally popular and vibrant in the ‘90s. This ‘Electric Town’ is a hub of Japanese geek culture, full to bursting with stores and cafes focussing on anime, manga, and video games. Here you’ll find themed anime cafes as well as maid cafes, and multi-storeyed stores overflowing with toys, plushies, books, and games which celebrated the brightest and most colorful of Japanese modern pop culture. A must visit for gamers is the world-famous Super Potato arcade and game store full of nostalgia and retro vibes.
Where to stay — Asakusa and Ueno
Considered to be northern Tokyo, and the ‘old quarter’ this is where you can see a lot of the Edo style architecture, take rickshaw rides, and enjoy some of the more traditionally tourist things to do like wear a Kimono. This is the perfect area for taking a walking tour of to soak up all the history, you’ll find the gorgeous Senso-Ji temple Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple, the old merchants quarters and many nostalgic olde-worlde bars. You’ll also find the Tokyo Skytree, one of the tallest towers in the world, just fifteen minutes’ walk from the temple. The area has a rich history full of theatre and red-light districts. Ueno Park is the largest park in Tokyo and has a multitude of shrines, statues, and museums including Tokyo National Museum.
Where to stay — Harajuku
Harajuku is known for being the youthful, fashionable hub of Japanese alternative culture. While, it definitely is that, and great for people watching as a result, it’s so much more. Exploring the back streets and the Ometesando stretch, you’ll find the most artisanal cafes in Tokyo, rooftop bars, and all of the vintage and thrift stores you could want. The main touristy shopping area Takeshita Street is a sight to behold, known for quirky clothing, extravagant crepes at Marion, colourful cotton candy at Totti Candy Factory. This is also where you’ll find the infamous Kawaii Monster Café to carry on the crazy food journey. Nearby is the tourist hotspots of Meiji Shrine and Meiji-jingu park.
Where to stay — Roppongi/ Akasaka
This area is known for its nightlife, collection of Western restaurants and being the location of the iconic Tokyo Tower. You’ll find the most English spoken in this area with most restaurants and cafes being catered towards visitors. Roppongi Hills is another highlight of the area, it’s where the Tokyo Film Festival and many other special events are held every year and is a mall, museum, and amazing piece of architecture worth exploring. A lovely area to wander around, you’ll also find a number of the city’s animal cafes here including the infamous Harry’s Café where you can pet and even adopt hedgehogs.
Where to stay — Shimokitazawa
This bohemian area is full of small music venues, theatres, cafes, and vintage shops so is perfect for getting lost in and people-watching. With a youthful vibe that’s more laid back than many other areas in Tokyo it’s perfect for people who love hole in the wall eateries, street art, handmade items, and hipster cafes (a great choice of café being Bear Pond Espresso Roasters). It’s a paradise for shoppers with boutiques and thrift shopping a popular choice being Haight & Ashbury you’ll find plenty of second-hand items in this area making it fantastic for authentic souvenir shopping. A must-visit for dessert or Studio Ghibli fans is Shiro-Hige’s Cream Puff Factory ran by Miyazaki’s cousin with many Ghibli themed items and gifts to take home.
Jess is the creator and editor of Books and Bao. She's passionate about the world, it's literature, food, culture, and people. She enjoys sharing her travel tips with others and capturing those perfect moments.