Travel guide: Tokyo

Tokyo's best neighbourhoods, shopping, restaurants and more


Tokyo is the perfect blend of chaos and calm; this city will make you scratch your head and sigh with contentment in equal measure. If you're thinking about visiting, but don't know where to start, we've got the answer to your prayers.

We asked the team at Time Out Tokyo to share the best of their 'hood. Read on for the hottest neighbourhoods, the best shops, bars and restaurants, what to see and where to explore and much more.

Hottest neighbourhoods

Harajuku

Harajuku

Local characters in Harajuku


It’s the neighbourhood that gave us Lolita girls, decora and all sorts of other unorthodox styles. Walk down Takeshita Dori and you’ll understand why Lady Gaga likes to shop here.


Koenji

Famed for its underground music scene and scores of hip eateries and bars, Koenji hosts Tokyo’s premier Awa Odori (dance) festival in August and lays claim to the title of ‘Tokyo’s coolest neighbourhood’ year-round.


Shop

Xanadu Tokyo

One of the few independent stores that actively supports young, relatively unknown Japanese labels such as Roggykei and Nyte. It’s full of neo-futuristic brands.

Fourth Floor, Plaza F4, 3-34-7 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku (+81 3 6459 2826). For more information check out their website.


Toga Harajuku

Toga


Elle calls Toga ‘Katy Perry’s go-to Japanese label’. The brand presents sophisticated yet avant-garde garments and accessories for men and women and has shown at Paris and London fashion weeks.

6-31-10 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku (+81 3 6419 8136). For more information check out their website.


Eat

Afuri

The best ramen bar in Ebisu, in a side street out the back of Ebisu Yokocho. It serves dishes that are lighter than many, and attracts a hip young crowd who also appreciate Afuri’s sleekly industrial decor.

1-1-7 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku (+81 3 5795 0750).


Kibun Sohonten

Tsukiji street stall CREDIT KISA TOYOSHIMA

Kamaboko stick from Kiben Sohonten. Image: Kisa Toyoshima


Head to this street stall at Tsukiji Fish Market and try the Tsukiji Fry, a kamaboko stick made of crab-flavoured surimi seafood, or the Tuna Katsu Burger.

4-13-18 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku (+81 3 3541 3321).


Drink

Xex Daikanyama

This rooftop bar is all sultry jazz ambience and quality cocktails, while outside on the terrace you’ll find a pool, flickering lanterns and a perfect view.

Third Floor, La Fuente Daikanyama, 11-1 Sarugakucho, Shibuya-ku (+81 3 3476 0065).


Sasagin

An excellent place to start any expedition into the world of the famed Japanese spirit sake, this long-running izakaya (traditional bar concept that serves food) comes armed with a well-chosen selection of nihonshu.

1-33-15 Uehara, Shibuya-ku (+81 35454 3715)


See and explore


Gotokuji

'Cat Temple' is thought to be the origin of maneki-neko, Japan's famous 'beckoning cat' that serves as a symbol of good luck. Gotokuji may seem ordinary at first glance – until you see the army of cat figurines sitting in the corner next to the temple.

2-24-7 Gotokuji, Setagaya.


Nakagin Capsule Tower

You might recognise this futuristic cell-like building as the love hotel in The Wolverine. In real life, it is a rare remaining example of Metabolism – a post-war Japanese architectural movement that dreamed of cities filled with structures that would keep growing and evolving, like living organisms.

8-16-10 Ginza, Chuo-ku.


Hidden gems

Nakamise-dori (early AM or late PM)

Nakamise Dori


While most sightseers tend to visit the stalls on this shopping street during the day, if you pop by before 8am or after 8pm you’ll get to experience a colourful world of painted rolling doors featuring drawings of traditional festivals and ukiyo-e images.

2-3-1 Asakusa, Taito.


Ueno Daibutsu (Kaneiji temple)

Forget about the pandas – inside Ueno Park you’ll find Kaneiji temple, which is the site of Daibutsu Yama (Great Buddha Hill) and its impressive statue of Buddha. The Ueno Daibutsu statue dates back to 1631 and its large Buddha face sits serenely in the park. Go early – it’s open 9am-4pm.

Ueno Park, Taito (Ueno Station).


Don’t miss

Shinjuku Golden Gai

More than 270 tiny drinking dens are crammed into seven ramshackle streets here. Impressive, huh? each place has a unique vibe – ranging from high-end cocktails to hard rock – and the atmosphere can be anywhere from friendly to downright hostile.

1 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku.


Local’s tip

Skytree


If you’re planning to visit Tokyo Sky Tree – which, at 634m, is the tallest freestanding tower in the world – look for the ticket queue that’s specially for foreigners. That way you won’t have to wait six hours to get in.

1-1-13 Oshiage, Sumida-ku (+81 5 7055 0634).


For more great ideas on where to go and what to do, check out Time Out Tokyo.

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