Top 5 Neighborhoods To Visit In Tokyo
Welcome to Tokyo; the biggest metropolitan area in the world! Even though I only got to call this place home for six months, it did not take me long to discover what a monster of a city Tokyo is. Every time you step out of a station, you would walk into what feels like a whole different city from the stop before. While it is a tough list to narrow down, here is my guide to the top 5 Tokyo neighborhoods; where I ate, drank, partied and shopped.
Shinjuku is one of the many neighborhoods that I would consider the “Times Square” of Tokyo. With bustling intersections, high end shopping and tasty restaurants, it is a must see during your stay in Japan. Luckily, my school was located just a few blocks away from this district. Shinjuku is where you can find the famous Shinjuku Gyoen; with admission only a few yen, this huge park is a great place to relax or have a picnic during cherry blossom season. This ward is where you can also find the famous Golden Gai area which is filled with bars, with some only having as few as five seats. Nichome, home to the majority of Tokyo’s gay bars, is also found in this ward. Also, don’t forget to get lost in the world’s busiest station, Shinjuku Station.
Step out of Shibuya Station and into one of the most popular tourist spots in all of the city. Home to Shibuya Crossing, the Harajuku and plenty of cute cafes, it’s easy to see why. As one of the major fashion centers in Tokyo, Shibuya is also the place to get your shop on. Squeeze your way down Takeshita-Dori to check out the Japanese youth’s latest trends and grab yourself a crepe, or you can make your way to Cat Street where vintage shops abound. The Omotesando part of Shibuya is known for its high-end fashion. End your day of shopping petting kitties at a cat café or spending the night at one of the many popular dance clubs. If shopping isn’t your thing, you can always spend your day at Yoyogi Park; home of Meiji Shrine. You might even be able to get a glimpse of a traditional Japanese wedding.
Take away the bright lights and touristy-crowds of Shibuya and Shinjuku and you have Ueno. What locals call “old Edo”, this eccentric ward is filled with so much charm that I recommend putting it on your list of places to visit. Modern expansion has pushed this part of town much more north than it once was and Ueno station used to be the last stop for major train lines coming from the north, which brought many migrant workers here. You can see the mix of cultures on Ameya-Yokocho; an open-air street market filled with food stands and clothing shops. In Ueno Park, the first park to be established in Japan, you can visit the pandas in Ueno Zoo, several national museums, and a few different temples and shrines. There is always something interesting going on in Ueno.
Side Note: From Ueno, take a walk or hop on the subway to another one of Tokyo’s older gems: Asakusa. Here you can walk down Nakamise-Dori to Sensō-ji Temple and take a look over the Sumida River to catch a glimpse of Tokyo Sky Tree.
Shimokitazawa is what many would describe as Tokyo’s “hipster” neighborhood, which is located only a few stops from the crowded streets of Shibuya. It is home to tons of independent vintage clothing stores, live music venues, bars and unique cafes. With a renovated station and new shops continuing to pop up, Shimokita has continued to gain popularity, but surprisingly, from my visit there, I found it not to be as populated with tourists as I had originally guessed. This is a good place to visit if you want to take a break from the crowds.
Any list of places to visit in Tokyo wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Akihabara. Nicknamed Electric Town, it is one of the biggest hubs of electronic stores in all of Tokyo. It’s also where you can find your average sumo wrestler taking a stroll down the street. Here you can also fulfill all your little otaku-heart’s desires with all the manga and anime goods you can get your hands on. This area is also where you can dine at either the famous Gundam or AKB 48 Cafes (or, you know, both!). With too many shops to name, it isn’t hard to find what you are looking for in Akiba.
Even though these are my top recommended go-to districts in Tokyo, the list really doesn’t stop here. If you find yourself with some spare time while in Tokyo, don’t forget to check out Tsukiji Market next to Ginza, the Emperor’s Imperial Palace outside of Tokyo Station, or climbing to the top of Tokyo Tower in Minato. You won’t be disappointed!