Tokyo is comprised of 23 individual districts and while each is jam-packed with individual character and charm, some of Tokyo’s most illustrious neighbourhoods really steal the show. In a city that runs on efficiency and speed, Tokyo is bustling and the environment is nothing short of fast-paced. That said, for the tourist it’s a place where you’ll need a hint of a plan and a degree of know-how. Here’s what you need to know about Tokyo’s most visited districts.
Roppongi has a huge foreign population, 18,000 in fact, therefore it’s no surprise to hear that it’s a magnet for tourists missing the comforts of home. Pumping nightclubs, hip shops and bars line the streets, with karaoke bars slotted in between for good measure. It’s a thriving hub of activity and is the hottest English-speaking spot for indulgent nightlife in the city. It’s not all fun and games though, as in recent years this wild-child of a neighbourhood has started to gain itself a reputation as a cultural hot spot thanks to the arrival of The National Art Centre and Mori Art Museum.
This district flies the flag as Tokyo’s most upmarket and flashy. Renowned for its fine dining restaurants such as Sushi Mizutani and the Micheline Starred Bulgari Tokyo Restaurant, it’s a place to tantalise the taste buds during your stay. For those of you who love to shop for the finest brands on the planet, Ginza is where you’ll come to do it. It’s such a popular spot for retail therapy that the main street is closed on weekends to make way for the sea of pedestrians. It’s not all high-end price tags and glamorous shopping trips though, as the neighbourhood plays host to a number of charming boutiques and quirky cafes.
Shibuya is home to the world famous Shibuya Crossing. Hundreds of people cross this intersection at once from every angle, forming a wave of colour in place of the usual flood of cars honking their horns. It’s not until you’ve stepped foot onto this bustling intersection that you can say you’ve really done Tokyo. Popular amongst younger crowds, people flock here to witness the vibrancy of the neon screens and the hypnotic video adverts that flow across the surrounding high-rise buildings. Shibuya is also home to the famous Love Hotel Hill. An overnight stay here is a must-do on the list of many tourists, as these bizarre and extravagantly designed hotels are by western standards nothing short of off the wall.
Although it might seem that every station in the city of Tokyo is a hive of activity, Shinjuku is in fact hailed as the busiest station in the entire world. Quite the accolade, the streets of Shinjuku are a continuation of this. The district has gradually undergone heavy modernisation, however one unique part of Shinjuku remains the same. Head to the Golden Gai; a collection of 200 tiny traditional bars that all slot intricately into six narrow alleyways like a game of Tetris that got out of hand. Most are no bigger than a bedroom and benefit from an intimate environment coupled with a low-key vibe. For sweeping views of the city’s jagged skyline, head to the top floor of the Government Office Building which is set amongst the plethora of skyscrapers. And if you’re looking for a taste of nature, 20,000 trees form Shinjuku Park’s stunning landscape, which is at its most beautiful during the cherry blossom season. The park is home to traditional Japanese gardens and flashes of English and French landscaping- perfect for a picnic.
Thanks to the likes of Gwen Stefani name dropping this neighbourhood into international hit singles, Harajuku is probably one of the more familiar neighbourhoods to those visiting Tokyo. This district is buzzing. A fashion mecca for many, Takeshita Dori is where you’ll find teenage girls on the weekend looking to score the latest underground fashion at niche boutiques. It’s also home to the absolutely colossal toy store, Kiddyland. This is one to delight parents and children alike, as everyone’s favourite characters make an appearance in a setting so enormous and packed with entertainment that you can’t help but be impressed. Once you’ve had your fix of retail therapy, Meiji Jingu shrine is a calming place to get away from the rush.
This is one of Tokyo’s most prestigious business districts. Skyline views and rooftop dinners go hand in hand here, with skyscrapers in all directions providing incredible outlooks across the city. The area has recently undergone a heavy facelift and the result is a selection of fine dining restaurants, high-status businesses and swanky hotels. Nestled between the Imperial Palace Gardens and the unmistakably European red brickwork of Tokyo Station, Palace Hotel Tokyo is the ideal place to hang your hat for the evening. The Palace Hotel Tokyo not only ticks the boxes for all-encompassing service, stunning views and contemporary, refined accommodation but its fantastic location provides direct access to Tokyo’s best assets. This swanky hotel wins in every conceivable way if you’re looking for a luxury hotel in Tokyo.
A district inspired by technology and all things nerdy, this is the one true home of anime, manga and the latest gadgets. The streets are overlooked by high rise buildings and glowing lights, lined with hundreds of anime, DVD and comic book stores. If you know anything about Japanese music industry culture, then this is where you’ll come to get your fix. Home to the official AKB48 Café amongst an abundance of other J-Pop inspired shops, this is a paradise for lovers of Japanese music, games, film and technology. You’ll also find a selection of the infamous Maid Cafes to choose from- a kooky experience not to be missed whilst in Japan.
If you’re looking for a traditional Japanese drinking establishment far away from the bright lights of the likes of Roppongi, then you’ve come to the right place. The streets are clad with traditional izakaya. They offer an old-fashioned approach to drinking and dining out in Tokyo, as in true Japanese style you’ll have your legs crossed, sat on the floor, as you share food across the table. After a few bottles of sake, head over to the temple of Sensoji, as at night the warm glow from the lanterns truly brings the temple to life.