If quirky Tokyo is on your list of must-see cities or if you find yourself with a long ten-hour layover at Narita airport – just enough time to get to the city and explore – surely, you want to find out the best areas to go to in the most populated city in the world. Here’s a little guide to seven neighbourhoods in Tokyo that are definitely worth exploring.
7 Neighbourhoods to Check out in Tokyo
If you are into luxury brands and high-end, flashy things, then the upscale district of Ginza is the place for you to visit. Known for its sophisticated shopping experience, Ginza is one of the most popular neighbourhoods in Tokyo because two of the city’s major attractions are right next to it: Tsujiki Fish Market and the Imperial Palace. Feast on the freshest sashimi and other delicious treats from the sea at the fish market and check out the massive stone walls of the Imperial Palace, Ginza and its surrounding area will be a good place to check out.
Note: Tsujiki Fish Market will be moving to a new location this November.
Known as Electric Town, Akihabara lives up to its name with its numerous shops selling all kinds of tech gadgets you could ever think of: computers, cameras, DVDS, games, etc. Since the Tokyo Anime Centre is also located in this neighbourhood, the anime/manga culture (known as otaku) is hard to miss. Buildings covered with popular anime icons and arcade games and cosplay cafes populating its streets make Akihabara such an interesting sensory experience.
If you are trying to look for culture in the midst of the madness of Tokyo, head out to Ueno Park in Ueno. Ueno Park, a massive public park that draws over ten millions visitors a year (especially during the cherry blossom festival), is home to various museums like the Tokyo National Museum, National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, temples, shrines, Ueno zoo, Shinobazu pond, Concert Hall, Children’s Library, Japan Academy, and much more. There is so much to see and experience in this place that it should it be on everyone’s Tokyo to-do list.
Experience the dazzling city lights and the busiest crosswalk in the world: Shibuya Crossing. Right outside Shibuya station by the famous Hachiko statue, you will find a sea of pedestrians scurrying to Centre Gai, Shibuya’s centre of youth culture where Tokyo’s cool kids waste their nights away. The busy narrow streets of Centre Gai are always crowded with shoppers, bar hoppers, and people looking for some big city fun and Shibuya definitely doesn’t fall short of that.
Asakusa is all about tradition, so if you want to get a a feel of old Tokyo, this is the place to be. Senso-ji temple, a buddhist temple dedicated to bodhisattva Kannon and also the grandest temple in Tokyo is the main attraction in Asakusa. The busy street leading to the temple known as Nakamise-Dori is lined up with souvenir shops and eateries that will feed your love for traditional Japanese culture.
Asakusa was also Tokyo’s entertainment district during the Edo period, so it’s no surprise that there are still 45 actively working geishas keeping the ancient customs there. Try the tempura while you’re there and you will understand why this district is known for it.
The fashion mecca of Tokyo and the capital of kawaii culture, Harajuku is bursting with excitement, cuteness, and style. It’s hard not to get carried away with shopping in Takeshita-Dori’s many gift shops and fashion boutiques or savouring those delicious-looking crepes and soft-serve ice cream that tempt every visitor.
On a budget? People watching in Harajuku is a fun sport, too. There will be no dull moment in this neighbourhood for sure. Meiji Shrine, Tokyo’s most famous Shinto shrine is also close to Harajuku. Although Meiji Shrine can’t promise peace and quiet because it’s always busy, it’s still good break from Harajuku’s colourful madness.
If you want to get a glimpse of Godzilla tucked in the middle of the city’s buildings, Shinjuku is the place to find charmingly bizarre Tokyo attractions. Head to Shinjuku for the famous Robot Restaurant (where you will find glittery glow-in-the-dark robots out to entertain you) and of course, Kabukicho, Tokyo’s red light city district inhabited with host and hostess clubs, bars, and love hotels. Even if you are not interested in partaking in any kind of Kabukicho entertainment, this area will still be very interesting to check out at night.
If you are looking for a night cap, Golden Gai, a unique place where you will find more than 200 tiny drinking holes all crammed up in a spectacle of maze-like little neighbourhood is definitely a must-do. Some bars at Golden Gai has a cover charge but the experience makes it worth shelling out a few more yens for. Piss Alley, another Shinjuku attraction is also a great place to visit if you want some delicious yakitori paired with your ice-cold glass of Asahi. Just follow that yakitori aroma wafting through the air near the Yamanote Line railway tracks and you’ll be in for a treat.
Whether you love it or hate, Tokyo is a league on its own. Its uniqueness and quirkiness can never be replicated. For those who have never experienced Tokyo, time to add this on to your bucket list. Want to know more about traveling to Japan? Check out this article about taking a trip to Japan on a budget.