From the tech-savvy craziness to the traditional culture that’s kept in honor: Japan’s capital Tokyo will blow you away in every possible way. Disappear into the masses of busy districts like Shibuya and Shinjuku, or go shopping in trendy neighbourhoods such as Daikanyama and Nakameguro. We’ve already given you our tips for restaurants in Tokyo, now it’s time to introduce you to the coolest neighbourhoods of this huge metropolis.
We’ve become big fans of Tokyo in no time, and it’s definitely one of the coolest cities we’ve been to so far. It manages to perfectly mix overwhelming crowdedness with stunning serenity. We’ve never been more impressed by the silence a huge city like Tokyo can possess. Get ready to immerse yourself in Japanese extremes and fall in love with this incredible city!
The coolest neighbourhoods in Tokyo
Shibuya: trendy shopping paradise
Central point of this district is the world famous Shibuya crossing. Millions of people are crossing the road here in every direction on a daily base as soon as the lights turn green. From nearby Shibuya Station you can watch this impressive maze of people from above. Shibuya is the district where one can die shopping: from fashionable concept stores to gigantic department stores, you’ll find it all here in between the sky-high neon advertisements. It’s also conveniently located at walking distance from trendy neighbourhoods such as Harajuku or Daikanyama. Our favourite shopping hotspot in Shibuya? Loft! This department store literally has it all: 6 floors of great items and even greater souvenirs that you’ll want to take home with you.
In addition to being a great shopping area, Shibuya is also home to one of the nicest parks of the city: the beautiful Yoyogi park with the Meiji Shrine as the major attraction. Go by on a Sunday, and you’ll get to witness the most gorgeous traditional wedding ceremonies.
Shinjuku: Tokyo by night
Busy Shinjuku really comes to life at night. Here, you’ll find narrow street food lined streets like Omoidu Yokocho next to posh restaurants and gigantic fast food chains. Shinjuku really caters to everyone’s taste when it comes to food. It’s also the place where neon lighting, casinos and karaoke bars scream for your attention. In Europe, we’d think of these kinds of places as slightly wrong, but this really is the heart of Tokyo’s city night life. Don’t miss it!
Daikanyama: little Brooklyn of Tokyo
Away from the crowds and serene temples you’ll find small Daikanyama, a 15 minute walk from the busiest crossroad in the world. Daikanyama effortlessly combines trendy restaurants and shops with a laidback atmosphere. Stop by Log Road, a walking path reminiscent of the New York High Line where you’ll find the cool Spring Valley Brewery. The perfect hotspot for a drink or small bite!
Creative hubs Nakameguro and Ebisu
Just south of Shibuya, you’ll find the creative hipster neighbourhoods of Ebisu and Nakameguro. With plenty of great shops and restaurants, it’s an absolute must do when you’re in Tokyo. There’s nothing more relaxing than a walk along the Nakameguro Canal where cherry trees are lined up, showing off their beauty. It’s said to be spectacular in spring.
Another cool area where you’ll find mostly young adults is Harajuku. The many shopping malls and trendy shops are more than glad to see them drop by in their at times bizarre outfits. And they’re a feast for our eyes! Don’t miss Cat Street, one of the more relaxed streets filled with great shops.
Upscale Omotesando and Aoyama
With a higher concentration of luxury shops, Omotesando and Aoyama clearly cater to the rich and famous of Tokyo and far beyond. If you don’t own a pile of gold, you’re more than welcome to marvel at the gorgeous displays and do some shameless window shopping. Visit the fancy Louis Vuitton Shop and you’ll be rewarded with a nice view of the area ánd a small art exposition at the top of the building. Tired of all the shopping? Go and treat yourself to a visit of the Nezu Museum where you’ll find the most wonderful Zen garden.
Department stores in Ginza
Where Ginza used to be the most posh neighbourhood in Tokyo, it’s now somewhat surpassed in trendiness by the more southern districts if you’d ask us. Nevertheless, it’s still fun to go and discover the many upscale shops and department stores in the Ginza district. Don’t miss the impressive Sony building and Itoya, a true paradise for paper lovers: this 100-year old shop has 12 thematic floors filled with paper items you can’t even begin to dream of.
Ueno: green oasis
In the middle of the Ueno district you’ll find Ueno Park, the green long of the neighbourhood where locals like to come for a pleasant walk in the park. In spring, the area gets washed over by tourists craving a glimpse of the many blooming Japanese cherry trees. The area is also home to many important musea. It’s worth checking out the expositions on display at your time of travelling.
There are two reasons why you should put this more business-like district in Tokyo on your to do list. The first is the very nice Mori Art Museum which always has some interesting exhibition on. The second reason is the spectacular panoramic view offered by Tokyo City View all the way up in the same Roppongi Tower. You can buy a combi ticket to visit both. It’s rather expensive, but really worth doing.
Which areas can you miss in Tokyo
- Asakusa: this older part of Tokyo sets the scene for the big Buddha temple Senso-ji. For us, there were way too many tourists, which killed the serene vibes a temple like this should have. The shopping area Nakamise in front of the temple was overcrowded and the area itself didn’t have much else to offer. If you’re planning to do Nikko and Nara on your trip through Japan, Asakusa is definitely the part of Tokyo which you can easily skip when you don’t have time to do it all.
- Akihabara: this technological hub and manga district in Tokyo didn’t really charm us like the other districts. The manga cafés and maid bars made it look like the kind of neighbourhood where silly tourists get ripped off. If you’ve got time to spare and pass Akihabara, however, it’s fun to step into one of the many video game arcades. You’ll be out as fast as you entered, astonished by the look of all those Japanese men staring hypnotized at their screen while different kinds of music are screaming at you from every side of the room.
- Imperial Marunouchi: Marunouchi is home to the Imperial Palace. You can easily visit it in combination with the Ginza district. The palace itself is not open to visitors (unless on some special occasions), but you can walk through the imperial gardens surrounding it. If you’re racing against the clock, however, we’d recommend you skip unspectacular Marunouchi altogether.
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