Planning a trip and getting around Tokyo are about discovering the cosmopolitan, modern yet quirky neighborhoods that each has to offer. This multifaceted city has plenty of nooks full of ancient landmarks, fabulous restaurants and cheeky bars. Here’s an easy and quick breakdown of 19 neighborhoods in one of the most major cities in the world!
Reputation: Diplomatic haven.
The 411: Although Akasaka isn’t a neighborhood frequented by travelers, it’s home to Japanese bureaucrats and businessmen. This area hubs many countries’ embassies, and headquarter offices of major companies including: Fujifilm, EMI Music Japan, Universal Music Japan and Johnny & Associates. If you’re craving for delicious Korean food, Akasaka has some of Tokyo’s best Korean restaurants.
Don’t miss: Akasaka Sacas, Nogi Shrine, Tōgū Palace and Akasaka Palace.
Reputation: Mecca of geekdom
The 411: Really, this is where the Japanese refer to as: otaku (meaning: geek.) Along the streets of Akihabara, you’ll see infinite shops selling the latest technology gadgets, cameras, electrical appliances and accessories.
Don’t miss: Electronic stores, maid cafes, manga and anime bookshops.
Reputation: Chic & trendy.
The 411: Located right next to Harajuku, Aoyama’s famous Omotesando dori and Omotesando Hills cannot be more opposite from the land of cosplay. Streets lined with stylish boutiques, cafes and restaurants captivate the sophisticated crowd.
Don’t miss: Omotesando Dori, Omotesando Hills, Spiral Building, and Blue Note Tokyo.
Flickr/Noli Fernan “Dudut” Perez
Reputation: Tokyo’s oldest geisha district.
The 411: No one ever leaves Tokyo without making a stop in Asakusa, as it’s home to the ever popular Sensoji Temple. Along the streets surrounding Sensoji, indulge in shops selling Japanese souvenirs and traditional crafts. Historically, Asakusa was an entertainment district during the Edo period. Today, budget travelers can find fantastic lodging options in this area.
Don’t miss: Sensoji Temple, Asakusa Shrine, Hanayashiki (oldest amusement park in Japan,) and Sumida River.
Ebisu (or Yebisu) 恵比寿
Reputation: Expat central.
The 411: Since 1995, Ebisu has become a gathering ground for expats and posh residents often hanging out at Yebisu Garden Place. Here you’ll find luxurious apartments and hotels, a photography museum, and many references to Sapporo Beer since the community here was first developed around Japan Beer Brewery Company.
Don’t miss: Yebisu Garden Place, Museum of Yebisu Beer, Sapporo Breweries, Yebisu Garden Place Tower (skyscraper restaurant,) Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, and Château Restaurant Joël Robuchon.
Reputation: Upscale, luxurious & posh.
The 411: Ginza is known as the most expensive and posh shopping area not simply in Tokyo but possibly in the world. Upscale department stores, boutiques, restaurants and cafes can be discovered here. In late 1800s, the Meiji government designated the Ginza area as a “model of modernization.” Today, thanks to popular magazines and newspapers located in Ginza, this luxurious district is a symbol of “civilization and enlightenment.”
Don’t miss: Kabuki-za Theater (where people could catch Kabuki productions.) The Peninsula Hotel, the Apple Store, Chanel, Dior, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton…etc.
Reputation: Teeny-boppers & cosplay.
The 411: If you want to peek inside what the younger generation in Japan is craving for, Harajuku represents everything about it: fashion, music, accessories…etc. Once exiting Harajuku Train Station, enter the main street, you’ll also capture young Japanese dressed in cosplay.
Don’t miss: Meiji Jingu Shrine, Ukyo-e Ota Memorial Museum of Art, Togo Shrine, Omotesando Dori.
Reputation: Old Edo Castle.
The 411: Although you find grounds where the Edo Castle was built upon, today’s Hibiya is also known as the business center of the city.
Don’t miss: Hibiya Park, Imperial Palace, and East Garden.
Reputation: Some say shady, some say nice.
The 411: Ikebukuro is an area where various types of Japanese locals co-exist: families, salarymen, urban artists and yakuzas (members of “transnational organized crime syndicates.)
Don’t miss: Two large department stores: Seibu and Tobu, Japanese Traditional Craft Center, and Jiyugakuen Myonichikan, and the owl statue outside of Ikebukuro Train Station.
Reputation: Financial district.
The 411: Home to three largest banks in Japan. Travelers can take advantage of the Marunouchi Shuttle which is free to the public. This area is becoming fashionable with many high-end boutiques and designer shops.
Don’t miss: Tokyo Station, where you’ll catch the Shinkansen High-speed Rail.
Reputation: “Japan Bridge”
The 411: Where Tokyo Stock Exchange is located, connected to major banks and large Japanese corporate companies.
Don’t miss: For shoppers, the oldest Mitsukoshi and Takashimaya department stores can also be found in this district. Hotel Mandarin Oriental Tokyo and its Michelin-star restaurants: Sense, Signature and Tapas Molecular Bar are also located in Nihombashi.
Reputation: Hot date spot.
The 411: As a large artificial island in Tokyo Bay, Odaiba is home to the famous ferris wheel that you see a part of the city’s skyline. Odaiba is also Tokyo’s newest district, and one of two (besides Yokohama) that seashore is reachable.
Don’t miss: Rainbow Bridge, Palette Town, Museum of Maritime Science, National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, Megaweb, and a replica of the Statue of Liberty.
Reputation: Completely cosmopolitan.
The 411: Besides Shinjuku, Roppongi hosts some of Tokyo’s best bars and night clubs. Home of Roppongi Hills – largest integrated property developments – this district is modern and contemporary. Travelers can check out the local high-rise inner-urban communities that allow people to live, work, play, and shop all in this sophisticated neighborhood.
Don’t miss: Mori Tower, Tokyo Midtown, The National Art Center Tokyo.
Reputation: One word: sumo.
The 411: Ryogoku is where you’ll find Tokyo’s largest sumo stadium and museum. And that’ll probably be the only reason why you’ll be in this neighborhood. As the heartland of sumo, you’ll be able to visit training stable and watch one of six annual official tournaments here.
Don’t miss: Edo-Tokyo Museum, Ryogoku Kokugikan stadium.
Reputation: What you see in every movie.
The 411: Shibuya caters to a younger professionals who love to shop and a colorful nightlife. Expect to see many shops, restaurants and bars surrounding the busiest intersection: Shibuya Crossing which you’ve seen in blockbusters such as Lost in Translation and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.
Don’t miss: Shibuya Crossing, Meiji Shrine, Yoyogi Park, Shinjuku Gyoen, and Hachikō dog statue outside of Shibuya Train Station.
Reputation: Core of multifaceted city life.
The 411: Shinjuku has anything and everything that city slickers could ever ask for: fantastic shopping (Takashimaya Times Square,) business administrative offices, skyscrapers, fabulous restaurants and happening bars. Shinjuku is also known for its gay nightlife. You wouldn’t come here for sightseeing but you’ll find yourself often in Shinjuku for food and drinks.
Don’t miss: Takashimaya Times Square, and Shinjuku Gyoen Park.
Reputation: Skyscrapers galore.
The 411: Situated in the south of Ginza, Shiodome is home to glorious skyscrapers in Tokyo and it’s one of the most modern districts in the city.
Don’t miss: Hama Rikyu Garden where you can sip on matcha in garden’s teahouse. If you’re fan of architecture, you’ll love to check out: Acty Shiodome (Japan’s tallest condo,) Shiodome City Center (All Nippon Airways and Fujitsu headquarters,) Shiodome Sumitomo Building (home of Hotel Villa Fontaine Shiodome,) and Tokyo Shiodome Building (SoftBank headquarter.)
Reputation: Home of the fish market.
The 411: Tsukiji is close to Ginza but carries a much different atmosphere. Definitely visit the Tsukiji Fish Market, where you’ll witness one of the largest wholesale fish markets in the world.
Don’t miss: Tsukiji Fish Market, Tsukiji-Hongan-ji – a temple of the Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism.
Reputation: Attention, museum lovers!
The 411: This is where you can find some of Tokyo’s top cultural sites. Because Ueno is a transportation hub, this is where experimental travelers can also find numerous Japanese-style housing with tatami beds.
Don’t miss: Ueno Park (cherry blossom viewings, hell yeah,) Tokyo National Museum which showcases the biggest collection of Japanese antiquities and art in the world, The National Museum of Western Art, and National Museum of Nature and Science.