Like at any destination, the Tokyo Metropolis offers tons of things to do, places to visit and experiences to have. But with over 13 million inhabitants and covering an area of approximately 2,194 km, knowing where to go and which area to visit, can be a little challenging. In addition, there is Tokyo within 23 wards, Tokyo Metropolis and The Greater Tokyo Area (also includes Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Yamanashi). When talking about Tokyo, most people are referring to Tokyo within 23 wards.
We have made a guide per neighbourhood in the special wards of Tokyo and selected our top things to do. In this article we will shortly introduce you to some of the most visited areas of Tokyo and provide you with our top picks. Discover the world’s largest city and all its treasures by following our recommendations!
Tokyo within 23 wards
From the image above you can see the special wards of Tokyo. Tokyo is made up of 23 wards, which are basically cities within the city. Each ward or tokubetsu-ku is further divided into districts, for example Harajuku or Asakusa. The 23 wards are certainly all beautiful and each ward or district has its’ own attractions, but you probably won’t have the time to visit them all, nor would you want to try visiting them in a few days of your trip in Tokyo. So for now, let’s focus on some of Tokyo’s most popular wards and districts, that you should visit!
Shibuya – 渋谷
Shibuya city is probably one of the, or maybe the, most famous areas of Tokyo. It has gained popularity around the world because of the scramble crossing, where at peak times 2.500 people cross the street at the same time. Shibuya is an entertainment district in the middle of Tokyo, with many restaurants, bars and cafe’s. You will also find many shops here, both Western brands as well as exclusive local designers. Due to its strategic location and its huge entertainment offer, the area is popular for younger people to eat, drink and meet each other. The most popular sights are Shibuya Scramble Crossing, Meiji Shrine and Harajuku.
Roppongi – 六本木
Roppongi distrcict is part of Minato City, on the central east side of Tokyo. The nightlife here is bustling, with many small bars and a number of night clubs popular among Tokyoites (inhabitants of Tokyo) as well as internationals. You will also find a number of art museums, Michelin-starred restaurants and lots of luxury shops here. This part of Tokyo has some height differences, giving it the nickname Roppongi Hills. The most popular sights are the Mori Art Museum and the Mori Tower.
Akihabara – 秋葉原
Electronic town or otaku no machi (geek town) or Akihabara in Taito city, is often described as a true paradise for manga and anime fans. Here you can find many shops selling all kinds of electronics, arcades where you can play (video)-games and many maid or animals cafe’s. When you are looking for a stereotypical experience to stimulate all your senses, Akihabara is the right place to go!
Shinjuku – 新宿
Did you know that Shinjuku station is the worlds busiest train station? With about over 260 exits and 1.26 billion people using this station each year, you can imagine it is easy to get lost here. Another great place to get lost in Shinjuku is the Golden Gai, which composed of a network of narrow alleys, connected by even narrower passageways with mismatched, (very) small bars. Golden Gai and Omoide Yokocho (Piss Alley) are popular places for the Japanese to go for a drink. Get your drinking boots on and discover the Japanese nightlife! During the day, don’t forgot to visit Shinjuku Gyoen, one of the biggest parks in Tokyo and take in the free panoramic view of Tokyo on the 44th floor of the Tokyo Government Building.
Ueno Park – 上野公園
Ueno district in Taito city is popular with travellers and locals as a weekend leisure destination and home to one of Japan’s first public parks Ueno Park. The park grounds were originally home to the Kaneiji Temples, Tokyo’s largest and wealthiest temples, but after the Battle of Ueno was fought here in 1868, most of the temple buildings were destroyed. Present day the park is home to several (art) museums, shrines and temples, and the Tokyo Zoo, but most of all the park is focus of all attention in April, when the many sakura trees are in full blossom.
Odaiba – お台場
Odaiba is a small artificial island in Tokyo Bay (Minato City) that was created in de Edo era to protect Tokyo from marine attacks. Today it serves a completely different purpose: a futuristic high-tech entertainment hub. Indulge your senses at TeamLab, shop till you drop in the malls, take a ride on the ferris wheel, enjoy some beach time or watch the illuminated Rainbow Bridge with the the skyline of Tokyo with in the background at night.
Ikebukuro – 池袋
Located in the heart of Tokyo in Toshima City, Ikebukuro is a busy commuter hub. It is home to one of the busiest stations of Tokyo and offers many shopping, dining and entertainment possibilities. Ikebukuro is center to the otaku (geek) culture and regarded by many as a anime paradise, though not as big as Akihabara. Also the cosplay and anime shops and butler cafe’s are more focused on the female clientele. The area’s most striking landmark is Sunshine City, with Tokyo’s first observation deck on the top.
Ryogoku – 両国
Ryogoku district in Sumida City is the centre of the sumo wrestling world and often described as sumo town. The area is home to the Ryogoku Stadium, where every year, 3 of the 6 Grand Sumo Tournaments are held. It is not unlikely to meet a sumo wrestler here, because several sumo stables are located in the area. The local food specialty of the area is chanko, a high calorie hot pot dish that sumo wrestlers consume every day. Many of these restaurants are run by former rikishi (former sumo wrestlers).
Nakano – 中野
This residential area, located west of Shinjuku, more or less escaped Tokyo’s modernisation push. Right in front of the station you will find Nakano Broadway, a true paradise for manga lovers, but also a fun for everyone else. Anything that you can collect (trains, action figures, etc.) you will be able to find here. Around Nakano broadway you will find many old-school izakaya and bars, where local people are generally very friendly, laid-back and up for a chat.
Kichijoji – 吉祥寺
Kichijoji is one of the most popular areas in Tokyo to live, only 15 minutes north east (Suginami City) from Shinjuku and Shibuya by train. It has a large park, several shopping streets and arcades, delicious restaurants and cafes and cute shops for knick-knacks. Most people will know this are as the home of the famous Ghibli Museum. A very popular go-to place for all the Ghibli fans from all over the world! The city is also known for jazz and its friendly hospitality and many standing bars. This area offers a not-so-typical experience of Tokyo!
Ginza – 銀座
Ginza is Tokyo’s most popular shopping district in Chuo City, historically the main commercial centre of Tokyo. Almost all international known designer brands have opened up a store in the area, but also many exclusive local brands have their outlet here. Ginza is also our top recommendation if you are into architecture and art. Many of the famous brands have a specially designed facade and the area is also home to many art galeries. When you are visiting Ginza, don’t forget to look up; the most beautiful (and free) things are above eye level!
Asakusa – 浅草
Asakusa is an old, relatively small district in Taito City, which is loved and visited by many tourists, both domestic and international travellers. This area offers you a great opportunity to experience the traditional side of Japan as well as new, modern things to see and enjoy. The famous Sensoji temple is an absolute highlight, that can be visited 24 hours a day and should not be left unvisited!
Take a (virtual) guided tour!
Hopefully you found this overview per area useful and do you feel ready to explore the incredible city of Tokyo! To make the best out of your experience, we recommend you take a guided tour to one or more of the destination that we have mentioned above. Or maybe you have another place that you’d like to discover. In any case we would be delighted to show you around!
If you can’t come to Japan right now, but you would like to learn about Tokyo or perhaps other parts of Japan, we have online tour you can join at home too! A local guide will show you some of the hotspots and tell you all about the destination and the Japanese culture. Check out our website for the Tokyo Virtual Highlight Tour and much more.
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