Tokyo is one of my favorite major cities in the world, as it offers some of the best restaurants, attractions, game centers, high-end shopping, boutique shopping, and history. Tokyo has a convenient transportation system that has a city within the stations all being as clean as the rest of the city, which is more sanitary than any first world city.
Simply put: I love Tokyo, and in this article, I will describe some of the best neighborhoods and districts in Tokyo to stay (whether you’re on a budget with kids or willing to splurge on luxury hotels). I’ll also recommend a lot of unique things to do to really get a sense of the culture and what to expect when it comes to one of my favorite cities.
Table of Contents
What is great about Tokyo
You can get almost anywhere in Tokyo within 20 minutes. For example, you can go from Shinjuku to Akihabara, Ginza, Ueno, Roppongi, and other inner-city neighborhoods in about 20 minutes. That is the magic of Tokyo and what makes this one of my favorite major cities in the world.
You can find unique pop culture trends that drive Tokyo. In fact, pop culture drives most of Japan, but Tokyo is where it is most prominent. For example, game centers are huge in Japan partly because the gaming industry in Japan is very domestic driven as many games are driven by the anime industry as well.
Food is everywhere, even in the five convenience stores in one tiny block. Small basement restaurants offering just bar seating and an aunty cooking homemade food with a limited menu never disappoints.
While you can find all of that said above outside of Tokyo, it’s still a completely different vibe within Tokyo. Tokyo is truly a flagship city. Below, I’ll discuss the neighborhoods that I enjoy the most and the ones that are great to visit every time I am in Tokyo.
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One of my favorite neighborhoods is Akihabara as it’s everything pop culture. Game centers spread out with many shops geared towards pop culture called anime and manga. Geeks, also known as weebs or otakus, flock to Akihabara for both manufacturer and second-hand shops that cover the area where you can find figures from any mainstream or niche anime, movie, or live action TV-series.
You can easily find video game shops that allow you to buy games that are absolute classics or modern games. Playing arcade games at game centers are a joy as is watching fellow master gamers play rhythm games like no tomorrow.
Why stay in Akihabara
Akihabara is for the geeks inside us. It’s great for the people that don’t want to go around clubbing all the time and want to shop pop culture items and play games with fellow geeks. If you want budget friendly, out of the five neighborhoods, this is by far the most budget-friendly.
Things you have to do
Go into a figure shop. I personally collect anime figures, about 50 now, and it’s undoubtedly fun to people watch in there as people find a figure they love. The great thing about Akihabara is the fact that you can find any type of figure shop. Want mecha? There is a shop just for mecha or a floor of a shop dedicated to that. Do you want to see Star War figures? You can, and it’s easier than you might think.
Game centers are the place to visit alone, as a family, with friends, or on a date as it’s an arcade on steroids. You can find UFO machines (claw games), Dance Dance Revolution, combat fighting games, rhythm games, etc. It’s what arcades used to be like, but 7 stories tall. It’s one of my favorite things to do in Japan, and Akihabara has almost every type of game center.
Specific game centers that are iconic in Japan would be Sega and TAITO.
Maid cafes are almost as typical as a game center. Maid cafes, or other forms of cafes like butler cafes, are themed cafés complete with maid and butler costumes. Sometimes there will be performances by the staff that range from cute to somewhat interesting to say the least but note this isn’t that kid friendly.
Electronics shopping in Akihabara goes along with the nerdy ward culture with many unique new and second-hand electronic shops selling almost anything you can think of. No, it’s not like Shenzhen electronics market with many components, but this is specifically manufactured legitimate merchandise that makes you wish you had more money to buy every niche tech gear that is available.
Jimbocho is the place to go if you’re a book lover as it’s about 160 second-hand bookstores all in one little neighborhood close to Akihabara.
Watch sumo wrestling practice
Located in Ryogoku, sumo wrestling practice is held within 2 stops from Akihabara. You can watch two giant forces fight in one of the most fascinating and unique styles known to man.
Akihabara is one of the biggest stations in all of Tokyo, serving many lines form JR and Tokyo Metro. It’s easy to get around as it’s a hub that is also close to Tokyo Station (city center for all transportation).
Akihabara is only 5 minutes away from Tokyo Station, 17 minutes from Shinjuku, and 22 minutes from Roppongi when taking JR or Tokyo Metro.
Where to eat in Akihabara
Akihabara isn’t the food capital of Tokyo filled with Michelin starred restaurants, but it still has a few catering to Michelin starred junkies.
Food found in Akihabara will be ramen, udon, sushi, and katsu. You cannot find many places open 24 hours, but there are some options. These types of places will be on the cheaper end as it’s limited service where you order at a kiosk, get a ticket, sit down and hand the ticket to the staff. Within minutes you will typically find your food at the table.
Ishibashi is a Michelin star sukiyaki restaurant located in Akihabara that has been passed down at each generation. The dining experience is very much traditional making you step back in time with a charming family restaurant vibe. No need to dress up too.
The one downside about Akihabara is the lack of luxury accommodations. You can undoubtedly find your fair share of business hotels, ryokan, hostels, guest houses, and Airbnb, but you won’t find a hotel that is similar to luxury hotels in Ginza or Shinjuku. That being said, if you are on more of a budget and want slightly cheaper accommodations for 3 to 4-star hotels, Akihabara is your place.
If you want to use hotel points in Akihabara like Bonvoy, IHG, Hilton, or Hyatt you won’t find any points property.
Remm Akihabara hotel is right at Akihabara station, easy to access, but very small. Rooms, even mid category rooms, aren’t big. I stayed at this hotel back in 2015; I found it charming and cramped. However, the price isn’t bad and averages between $107 to $273 a night.
Airbnb or guest houses
Airbnb or guest houses is where Akihabara shines as hosts have a video game or anime themed listings that make the geek inside you go bananas. I highly suggest looking in Akihabara for Airbnb if that’s the way you like to go.
Shinjuku is regarded as the happening place in all of Tokyo that is known for shopping, entertainment, clubs, hotels, and restaurants. It’s the place in Tokyo where you can find good nightlife as it’s the part of the city that doesn’t sleep.
Being the part of the city that doesn’t sleep, Shinjuku is great for bar and clubs where you can find an abundance of clubs that caters to both wild nights out with your friends or a place to meet new people. Just remember, some clubs are better than others.
Shinjuku hosts one of the most prominent red-light districts in all of Tokyo in Kabukicho. Not the most kid-friendly place, but if you are into redlight districts, this can offer a lot, just stay away from sleazy street hustlers.
Why stay in Shinjuku
Shinjuku is geared towards the people that party. Busy during all times of the day, with drunk white-collared workers at night, but that adds more to the fun when you’re out and about after a fun night. If you don’t have kids, this is the best neighborhood for you.
Things to do
Bars and clubs
Clubbing and bar hopping is one activity that is famous in Shinjuku. At midnight it’s common to see people go from one place to another. It’s a place where you can actively find drinks and people that want to have a good time.
Not many nightclubs in Shinjuku, but as always there are new ones popping up. One of the most popular club is WARP Shinjuku for one of the first real nightclubs in Shinjuku. Another would be Decabar Z with it’s toy box feel as it’s very colorful, people dress up in costumes, and have candy themed menu.
Shops in Shinjuku are open later than other neighborhoods. It’s easy to shop after 10pm. Shops include both department, electronic stores, and niche shops. However, it’s not the boutique or high-end shopping capital of Tokyo.
Check out Shinjuku-dori street where you can find many department stores, malls, and electronic stores buzzing late into the night. Also, around Shinjuku station, you will find many shops.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is like any other cities government building, but with an observation deck on the top floor that is entirely free! It’s worth a visit to see Mt. Fuji on a clear sunny day.
Kabukichō is the red-light district of Shinjuku with many love hotels, host clubs, and what creates the name of Shinjuku as being the “sleepless town”.
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is one of the most beautiful gardens you can find in possibly all of Tokyo.
Robot Resturant is not just a restaurant, but a performance theater that has robots and people performing elaborate shows. The great thing about this futuristic show is the fact its kid-friendly making it a good option for families.
Shinjuku Golden Gai
Shinjuku Golden Gai is excellent if you want to see narrow alleys of old Tokyo buildings that offer many eateries along with taverns.
Shinjuku Golden Gai
Shinjuku Station is one of the busiest stations in the world with an overwhelming three million passengers a day. It’s easy to get around, but during rush-hour, when people are going home from school and work, it’s going to be tougher to ride the metro compared to other wards in Tokyo.
Many bus and train lines are leading you to many parts inside and outside of the city. You can smoothly go to Mt. Fuji or Narita Airport (NRT) with minimal effort from Shinjuku.
Shinjuku station to Tokyo Station takes 14 minutes, 17 minutes to Akihabara, and 9 minutes to Roppongi.
Where to eat
Shinjuku has both high-end eateries and cheaper eateries. With a right amount of eateries that cater to Michelin star followers, it’s easy to find a good quality restaurant in Shinjuku.
You can find almost any type of restaurant here like French, Sushi, Italian, American, Ramen, Udon, Indian, Thai, BBQ, and Izakaya.
Shinjuku Kappo Nakajima is a unique restaurant owned by the grandson of the chef Rosanjin. It’s famous for kombu and katsuo-bushi with dishes made to eat whole. It’s a traditional Japanese with a modern taste. It was delightful to dine here.
Fūunji is a wonderful Ramen restaurant that will take your taste buds away. While there are many ramen restaurants to try in Tokyo alone, this should be used as a benchmark of what ramen should taste like.
With many luxury hotels and business hotels, you won’t have a hard time finding a property that could host you. Plus, you can still find hostels, guest houses, ryokans, and Airbnbs in Shinjuku for cheaper accommodations.
Park Hyatt Tokyo
Park Hyatt Tokyo is old but iconic that ages well. This luxury hotel is easy to use points on, with good sized rooms, club lounge that doesn’t disappoint, with both public and in-room onsens. The location is nicely settled in the heart of Shinjuku next to Tokyo’s government’s buildings with easy access to public transit. This is a category 7 property when using Hyatt points.
Hyatt Regency Tokyo is a decent 4-star hotel that has a price tag that is easier to swallow compared to the Park Hyatt a few blocks away from it. It’s right next to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building with easy access to public transit. This is a category 3 property when using Hyatt points.
Hilton Tokyo is yet another good option when it comes to Shinjuku. Located a few blocks away from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, you have easy access to public transit. You can use your Hilton points at this property.
Ginza and Tokyo Station
Upmarket shopping with every public transit line in and out of the city, Ginza and Tokyo Station (also known as Chiyoda City) is the place to be if you desire connectivity via public transit and luxury shopping. With many luxury hotels, a train station that has shopping comparable to shopping malls, and streets lined with shopping.
Traditionally this was the top place to stay, but Shinjuku took its spot for its nightlife. However, Ginza is very much a lovely area during the day with lots of shopping and easy access to the rest of the city being in the city center physically with Tokyo Station and the number of lines the station has.
Why stay in Ginza/Tokyo Station
Ginza and Tokyo Station is excellent for people if they want to have super easy access to everywhere in and outside of the city with upmarket shopping and luxury hotels all in one of the safest parts of what is already a safe city. If you want to spend money and don’t care about your budget, Ginza is the place to stay. For kid-friendly neighborhoods, this is one of the most kid-friendly places.
Things to do
Premium and luxury shops
Upmarket shopping in Ginza won’t disappoint you. From cosmetics and clothes to musical instruments in flagship stores. If you love high-end brands, Ginza is the place. The main shopping street of Ginza Chuo Dori closes during the weekend, making it a pedestrian-only street.
Visit the Imperial Palace, where the emperor lives at this beautiful Edo period built castle. You can tour the grounds of the palace, which are massive in size and impressively upkeep. The entrance is free which is a nice benefit. The only thing to keep in mind is the imperial grounds have to be booked via the Imperial Household Agency`s website.
Upscale art galleries and cafes are a treat with many offering an excellent place to both browse and relax.
Hamarikyu Gardens is a beautiful garden right at the end of the Sumida River leading into the Tokyo Bay.
Tokyo Station is a beautiful red brick station that is massive in size with very good eateries in the station. It also allows you to be connected to the rest of Japan as it’s the main hub for JR.
Tsukiji Market was once the official market for seafood wholesales, but as they moved the market it’s still crowded with vendors that are selling delicious seafood. Consider taking a sushi class that might also offer a tour of the fish market for a unique cultural experience.
While you can do tea ceremonies anywhere in Tokyo, Ginza has a few as they are pricey and in need a good environment. So, I would recommend HiSui Tokyo located in central Ginza.
When staying near Tokyo Station, you will be amazed at the size of the station and how many layers there are to it. To first-time visitors, remember line colors and that many lines go to the same nearby stations.
That being said, Tokyo Station allows you to go anywhere you want in Tokyo and Japan. And if you aren’t taking JR you can easily access the Tokyo Metro station nearby.
Akihabara is 5 minutes away, Shinjuku is 14 minutes away, and Roppongi is 12 minutes away.
Where to eat
My first suggestion is eating at Tokyo Station or Tokyo Station Yaesu Chikagai as it’s huge with a good amount of special eateries. It’s basically a mall with many independent and franchised eateries in it.
Around Ginza and Tokyo Station you can find many Michelin star restaurants and casual restaurants ranging from French, Italian, Sushi, BBQ, Izakaya, Ramen, Udon, and American.
インデラ is not exactly in Ginza/Tokyo Station, but it’s close by in a quiet neighborhood. This is one of my favorite curry spots in all of Tokyo. It’s cheap, the curry is delicious, and the homemade pickled condiments are just ever so yummy.
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Ginza is a pricey area to stay as it’s mostly high-end luxury hotels. However, some of the best hotels are located in this area. Sadly, if you want cheaper accommodations, Ginza and Tokyo Station isn’t the best place to look.
Aman Tokyo is an ultra-luxury hotel that doesn’t disappoint. Being Aman’s biggest property at just 84 rooms, it is one of the most expensive hotels in Tokyo. It caters to food lovers as having different famous chefs making special menus and cooking every month. If you want one of the best city hotel experiences, here is your place.
The Tokyo Station Hotel
The Tokyo Station Hotel is a Small Luxury Hotels property that is right at Tokyo Station. As it’s a partner of Hyatt, you can enjoy earning or redeeming your Hyatt points at this lovely boutique hotel.
Hyatt Centric Ginza
Hyatt Centric Ginza Tokyo is Hyatt’s newest property in Tokyo that shines both from being a modern hotel but also from the age as it opened up in 2018. This property you can use your Hyatt points as it’s a category 6 property.
Conrad Tokyo is Hilton’s luxury brand that caters to the bathtub rubber duckies and modern luxury Japanese design being right next to the metro and Hamarikyu Gardens. Perfect hotel if you want to burn your Hilton points or pay cash as it’s cheaper than some of Hyatt’s offerings.
Millennium Mitsui Garden Hotel
Millennium Mitsui Garden Hotel was the first hotel I stayed at back when I visited Tokyo for the very first time back in 2015. When it comes to this Ginza Hotel, it’s a premium hotel that has good attentive staff.
Shibuya has the most iconic spot in all of Tokyo, Shibuya Crossing shows up in almost every movie or TV show featuring Tokyo as it’s the crosswalk that hundreds of people cross every minute in every direction.
Shibuya also features one of the most beautiful shrines in Tokyo, Meiji Shrine, along with cosplayers gatherings every Sunday to cosplay in Yoyogi park next to Meiji Shrine. If you love cheap shopping with cute cafes, Takeshita Street is the place to go. While shopping near Shibuya Crossing is cheap as well with lots of small shops selling clothing.
If you were in the mood for upscale boutique shopping, head down Cat Street where you sadly won’t see many cats. If you do want to see cats and drink some coffee or tea with them, head to one of the many cat cafes or even other animal cafes where you can pet and spend time with different types of animals in a relaxing environment.
In fact, Shibuya is my second favorite area to visit in Tokyo after Akihabara.
Why stay in Shibuya?
Shibuya is for the people that want a unique vibe with cheap shopping along with upscale boutique shops. You can easily find different types of cafes along with simple traditions like cosplaying in the park or shopping at 100 yen shops.
Things to do
Cosplay in the park every Sunday at Yoyogi Park right next to Meiji Shrine. You can see cosplays from anime, manga, and movies. No matter what type of cosplayer you are, amateur or professional, everyone is welcome to join talking, skits, or just goofing off.
Shibuya Crossing to experience one of the busiest pedestrian crosswalks that are as iconic as Tokyo itself.
Takeshita Street for cheap shops and cafes. You can find lots of cute outfits that are colorful, popping colors. It’s called Harajuku style. Easily find cheap 100 yen shops while fighting the crowded street on the busy weekend.
Fluffy pancakes are a must, while fluffy pancakes are everywhere in Tokyo, Takeshita Street has many cafes offering fluffy pancakes that are surprisingly wonderful.
Visit Cat Street for upmarket boutique funky shopping street with limited traffic and higher-end eateries.
Cat cafes or other animal cafes are common in Shibuya. While you can easily find animal cafes all throughout Tokyo, Shibuya has a ton to choose from.
Cheap mall shopping
Mall shopping close to Shibuya Crossing is a popular thing to do as there are cheap department stores with many different styles. You can technically spend a day in Shibuya just shopping department stores by Shibuya Crossing.
Meiji Jingu, aka Meiji Shrine, is a big Shrine that is inexpensive and big in size for both the grounds and the shrine. It’s so beautiful enough that you can visit it multiple times and find a new path you didn’t notice before.
Shibuya is similar to Shinjuku as it offers great connectivity throughout the city with both JR and Tokyo Metro. It’s close to Shinjuku if you want to take any buses outside of the city.
Shibuya to Shinjuku is only 6 minutes apart, Tokyo Station is 18 minutes apart, Akihabara is 24 minutes apart, while Roppongi is 11 minutes apart.
Where to eat
Shibuya has tons of eateries ranging from on a budget to expensive. You can find all types of food and cafes through Shibuya that won’t disappoint you, even Michelin star restaurants are available in Shibuya.
My second favorite Sushi restaurant is Sushi Masuda which is a Michelin two-star restaurant. It’s not exactly in Shibuya, but on the border of Shibuya so no need for public transport as you can walk to.
Shibuya doesn’t have much when it comes to accommodations. While the area is wonderful, it lacks high-end accommodations and typically has business hotels or Airbnb. If you want to use your hotel points at a hotel, Shibuya won’t give you any options.
The Millennials Shibuya
The Millennials Shibuya could be a good option if you’re traveling alone, want a “trendy” public space, and don’t mind capsules. This is probably the most modern capsule hotel in all of Tokyo, maybe even the nicest. It’s on the pricey side, but it certainly shines in peoples feedback.
Airbnb and residences
There are many other hotels in the area, but I personally think they are a little bit pricey for the property. Therefore, Airbnb, guest houses, or residences really shine in this area.
This small lively entertainment district filled with shopping, nightclubs, bars, and restaurants is more elegant than Shinjuku as it’s more laid back. Roppongi is near Tokyo Tower, so skyscrapers get great views of Tokyo Tower. Michelin star restaurants are through Roppongi along with other great eateries.
Interested in art galleries, museums, and theaters, Roppongi has many for you to visit. Roppongi Hills complex has over 220 restaurants in one area for you to choose from. You honestly won’t go hungry in Roppongi.
Why stay in Roppongi?
If you want Shinjuku nightlife, but laidback, Roppongi is your place as it is similar nightlife as Shinjuku while being more family-friendly and laid back with less drunks walking around club or bar hopping at night, but still with some awesome nightclubs like ageHa. If you’re looking for kid-friendly neighborhoods, this is one of the best.
Things to do
Museums are key in Roppongi as there are a bunch. You can go to museums like the Mori Art Museum, National Art Center Tokyo, and Suntory Museum of Art.
Tokyo Tower is a cute red and white Elfiel Tower that is actually fun to visit as it gives you views from above. It’s most beautiful at night as Tokyo Tower has specific themes before entering throughout the year.
Atago Shrine has a beautiful stone walkway leading up to the shrine that is lit up by lanterns at dusk.
Eat your heart away as Roppongi is known for many foodie restaurants and Michelin star guide recommendations.
Roppongi is easy to get to as H and E lines of the Tokyo Metro operate through Roppongi, but no nearby JR stations. As it only serves two lines, which are still major frequently visited lines, it again connects you almost everywhere in the city with only one connection at most times.
Roppongi to Tokyo Station is 12 minutes away, Akihabara is 22 minutes away, and Shinjuku is 9 minutes away.
Where to eat
Eating in Roppongi is easy. You can find almost any type of food you want. High-end restaurants to casual eateries you can find it all. Your tastebuds won’t go bored in Roppongi with all types of international and Japanese food.
I cannot rave enough about visiting my very first Michelin two-star restaurant, the son of the Sushi master Jiro, my favorite sushi restaurant in all of Tokyo is Sukiyabashi Jiro Roppongiten.
Sushi Saito with lunch prices that are better than other Michelin three-star restaurants, this is a treat and another favorite Sushi restaurant of mine.
Roppongi doesn’t disappoint when it comes to accommodations with many favorite hotels by travelers. You can easily find points hotels as well making it easy to use your hotel points or earn them at these properties.
Grand Hyatt Tokyo
Grand Hyatt Tokyo this Hyatt property is connected to the subway offering 10 restaurants at the hotel along with the 220 restaurants in the Roppongi Hills complex. It is a category 6 for using your Hyatt points.
The Ritz-Carlton Tokyo
The Ritz-Carlton Tokyo is not my favorite Marriott property in Tokyo, but if you love Ritz properties (even though I don’t like Ritz brands) this property is wonderful and brings in many Japanese elements into it while keeping the Ritz feel.
You shouldn’t worry where you stay in Tokyo
Tokyo is the easiest city to move around in as there is either JR or Tokyo Metro within blocks. It’s one of the safest cities in the world in one of the safest countries in the world. You can easily find good food everywhere in Japan, let alone Tokyo. There is always something unique in Tokyo to see when you walk around randomly in new neighborhoods.
Each neighborhood is welcoming with its look and feel. Of course, some neighborhoods won’t have people speaking English everywhere, but most of Japan is not English friendly, so get ready to learn the basics like thank you.
In fact, some of my favorite hotels aren’t even in the neighborhoods I suggested. Does that mean my favorite hotels are in better or fun neighborhoods? No, I prefer laidback areas for my accommodation and take a short train ride to the area I want to hang out. Typically, you can go anywhere in Tokyo within 20 minutes by metro so I don’t care about what neighborhood I stay in. I personally care about my accommodation and how budget friendly it is over what is near. Luckily, Tokyo allows everything to be near.
Go out and explore Tokyo neighborhoods.
My favorite hotel in Tokyo
Tokyo has some great hotels that put hotels in other flagship cities to shame. My ideal hotel in Tokyo has to be The Prince Gallery Tokyo Kioicho, a Luxury Collection Hotel. The property offers the most beautiful views of Tokyo as rooms are only available above floor 30th floor all offering views of the city skyline. If you get a corner room you can have views of both Tokyo Skytree and Tokyo Tower.
When it comes to food, it also offers great food, for hotel prices, but probably one of the best wagyu burgers I have ever tried. I would say the wagyu burger was better than Aman Tokyo wagyu burger.
The hotel is located in quiet Kioicho, but like I mentioned before it’s easy to get everywhere as it’s Tokyo. For a Marriott property, this is in my top 5 favorite city hotels in the world.
Daniel stayed in the InterConinental Tokyo Bay during his visit to Tokyo. He wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this hotel as he found it clean, well maintained, and beautifully finished room with a yummy breakfast. He even comments about the location is not ideal, but with public transit options, it’s easy to roam around Tokyo.
I really suggest reading his review here as it gives you an insight into this bay hotel and the hotel itself.
I do hope this article helps anyone searching for their first visit to Tokyo or their return to Tokyo.
If you have any suggestions of places to stay or visit in the areas I suggested please comment below. I would love to know what you have experienced and done in Tokyo. 🙂
This article was originally published by Steve Smith.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.