Are you heading to Tokyo and clueless about where to go, how to best enjoy this vibrant city, and whether the popular districts are really worth a trip? Don’t worry, we’ll walk you through some of the must-visit areas in the capital city of Japan so you’ll have an easier time planning your Tokyo getaway!
Short & sweet: The Times Square of Tokyo
In depth: Shibuya is easily the most well known district for fashion, shopping, and entertainment when travellers think of Tokyo. It’s literally impossible to find anyone dressed shabbily in this part of town. Ladies, be sure to hit up Shibuya 109, Tokyo’s fashion hub, where you can find a whole range of clothing stores to suit everyone’s tastes. As for the guys, they can get their clothing fix at 109 MEN’S next door. If shopping is not so much your thing, remember that no one goes to Tokyo without doing these two things: taking a photo with Hachiko dog’s statue at Shibuya station, and crossing the busy Shibuya intersection.
Short & sweet: An urban jungle
In depth: : The ever-busy Shinjuku is home to skyscraper offices, internationally renowned departmental malls, and Michelin-starred eating avenues, making it one of the must-visit districts in Tokyo for tourists. Shinjuku is also known as Gozilla’s hometown; sitting atop the Toho Cinemas building in Kabukicho, Shinjuku ward, is a life-size Gozilla head measuring over 40-feet tall. Make your way up to one of the two observation decks of Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building for a free panoramic view of Tokyo, where you’ll be able to see the iconic Tokyo Tower and Mount Fuji framed in a view with the rest of the capital!
Short & sweet: Tokyo’s teen fashion hub
In depth: Previously the epicenter for Lolita, gothic, and extreme fashion styles, Harajuku these days is bursting with teen fashion and local fashion boutiques, housing numerous second-hand shops with an abundance of vintage clothing. The popular shopping street, Takeshita-dori, is jam packed with shoppers everyday, and is also home to one of the biggest Daiso stores in Tokyo, where you’ll find 4 floors of 100yen goodness. A stroll down the street will bring you to several famous crepes shops, all sporting queues regardless of when you go. Right by Harajuku station is Meiji-Jinggu, one of Tokyo’s major shrines and is a must-go for first-timers to the capital.
Short & sweet: Home to Ueno Park
In depth: Best known for the blooming blanket of Sakura trees in Ueno Park during cherry blossom season, there are art galleries and museums to visit within its expansive grounds as well. Ueno is also a transportation hub – shinkansen connecting to Northern Japan makes a compulsory stop at Ueno – and a bustling shopping district. The Ameyoko Shopping Street, where many cheap and delicious izakaya and sushi restaurants are, is frequented by both locals and travellers.
Short & sweet: Land for the otakus
In depth: Once an electronic and gadgets heaven, Akihabara is now a mecca for anime and manga, as well as Japan’s otaku culture. While not unique to this district, Akihabara is home to numerous maid cafes such as @home café and maidreamin, which offers a rare experience for foreigners. Travellers can also pop by the many performing venues – Dear Stage, Twinbox and Akiba Culture Hall – to enjoy live shows put up by various Japanese idol groups. The main street in Akihabara is closed to car traffic every Sunday, making it a great photo opportunity for tourists and locals alike.
Short & sweet: Experience old Tokyo
In depth: The historic Asakusa is home to Tokyo’s busiest shrine, the Sensoji Temple, and is often crowded with devotees, and tourists wanting a feel of old-Tokyo. Leading to the temple is Nakamise-dori, a shopping street that carries various Japanese-styled goods such as Japanese clogs, kimonos and wooden dolls, as well as traditional Japanese snacks like rice crackers and dango. In spring, the nearby Sumida Park is a popular location for hanami, and the riverside park is also the site for Sumida River Fireworks Festival during the last week of July.
Short & sweet: Tokyo’s center of luxury and glitz
In depth: Upscale departmental stores, internationally renowned boutiques, celebrated art galleries, and restaurants with long history lined the streets in Ginza, the high-end shopping district in Tokyo. If you are in Tokyo during December, the gigantic Christmas tree that stands outside Mikomoto is especially popular amongst locals and is particularly famous on Instagram. Pedestrian Paradise happens every Saturday and Sunday’s afternoons, in which roads on the central street in Ginza are close to traffic, transforming the district into a huge pedestrian zone.
Short & sweet: The world’s most famous fish market
In depth: Tsukiji houses one of the world’s largest and busiest markets for seafood in Japan. It is also home to the famous tuna auction that takes place at 5 AM everyday, with visitors queuing as early as 3 AM to be one of the lucky 120 to be admitted daily. The rest of the wholesale market opens to the public after 10AM. If you’re after some of the best sushi in town, restaurants are open from 5AM, many having long lines throughout the day.
Short & sweet: Quaint neighborhood away from the crowds
In depth: While close to the busy Shibuya (just a train stop away!), Ebisu is the chilled out, casual neighborhood that houses many bars and izakayas. The former site of a brewery, it is now home to Yebisu Garden Place, built with a city within city concept – residential, offices, dining, entertainment, and shopping all found within close radius. Yebisu Garden Place is also one of the well-known locations with breath-taking Christmas illuminations in Tokyo
Short & sweet: Tokyo’s nightlife
In depth: Roppongi is the image of “Tokyo meets World”; a large number of foreign expats reside and frequent Roppongi, leading to an array of foreigners-friendly bars and establishments set up in this diverse and exciting ward. Large-scaled luxury complexes Roppongi Hills and Roppongi Midtown have, in the recent years, made the district appealing to a wider audience with its lavish retail and residential space. It is good to know that the night is always young in Roppongi, being home to countless bars and nightclubs.
Short & sweet: The IT place for cherry blossoms
In depth: A residential district two stops away from Shibuya, Naka-Meguro is hip and laid-back where you can find boutique stores along the river offering everything from books, coffee, vintage clothing, and more. During cherry blossom season, the Meguro river nearby is flooded with both locals and tourists trying to take Instagram-worthy shots of the sakura trees that line the two banks of the river while taking sips of champagne from makeshift food stalls along the road.