Where to Stay in Tokyo — Best Neighborhoods and Accommodation

 

Where’s the best place to stay in Tokyo? This guide will help you pick out the best neighborhoods and accommodation for your trip!

You might remember from my recent trip to Tokyo that I met up with my friends Jessica and Hai from Notes of Nomads, who have lived in Tokyo for years. They are the ultimate Tokyo experts, and when I decided to put up a Tokyo accommodation guide on the site, there was no question that I wanted them to write it!

And for the record — my personal favorite neighborhood to stay in Tokyo is Shinjuku! And if you can afford the Park Hyatt Tokyo, DO IT. It was one of the best hotel experiences of my life.

Tokyo is a city that quickly takes ahold of you. Its eclectic mix of traditional and modern attractions, huge electronics stores and tiny counter bars, the brightest neon signs and the most dimly lit izakaya, make it surprising, chaotic, delightful and mind-boggling in the most incredible of ways!

Deciding on where to stay in the largest metropolis in the world can be overwhelming. However, the sheer size of the city has meant that many neighborhoods offer different looks, feels and points of interest to visitors. Deciding on your priorities for your trip will therefore make it considerably easier to decide on a Tokyo neighborhood that suits your travel style.

After almost a decade of being based in Tokyo, here are our recommendations for places to stay in this incredible mega-city!

Best Tokyo Neighborhood for Views, Nightlife, and Being in the Center of Things: Shinjuku
No accommodation guide for Tokyo would be complete without mentioning Shinjuku! If you’re wanting to jump right into the bright lights and constant hum of the city, then this is your place.

Shinjuku Station is the busiest train station in the world, serving more than 3.5 million passengers a day. While shinkansen trains do not depart from this station, a number of JR lines, private rail lines and subways do. Staying in the area means that you are always connected, even if that also means sometimes getting lost in the overwhelm of this station.

Shinjuku really has it all with a great variety of shops, electronics stores and depaato (department stores), as well as your pick of fantastic restaurants. If the idea of exploring Tokyo by night and being close to food, shopping and entertainment sounds like your idea of fun, Shinjuku is the place where you should stay in Tokyo.

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Popular places to visit at night include old-school Omoide Yokocho (Memory Lane) where small hole-in-the-wall eateries serve up everything from conventional noodle bowls to frog sashimi, Kabukicho district for its cheap izakaya and karaoke joints, and Golden Gai, where stacked wooden rabbit-warren bars take you back to former times. (Note from Kate: Golden Gai is so cool! I wrote about it here.)

In Shinjuku, you can enjoy the city lights at street level or head up the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building for free views over the city — a great place to catch the sunset, especially on a clear evening.

Click here to check hotel rates in Shinjuku.

Best Tokyo Neighborhood for Foodies: Asakusa
With 160,000 restaurants in central Tokyo alone, it’s no easy task to isolate one neighborhood in particular as the foodie destination. Honestly, you can find excellent food choices all over the city and restaurants to satisfy any taste or budget. Hell, many people even rate convenience store food among some of their best eats! (Note from Kate: Truth. I love my 100 yen convenience store onigiri!)

The whole city (and country for that matter) has extremely high food standards, but we settled on Asakusa for a few reasons. One is that it is filled with traditional snacks and restaurants where you can sample lots of different Japanese treats and dishes. Soba and tempura are two traditional Japanese dishes that Asakusa is particularly well known for.

Another is its food accessibility. Japan is typically a challenging country for those with dietary restrictions, especially with so much of the cuisine based on fish products. However, Asakusa has a great range of vegetarian, vegan and halal restaurants, making it easier to find food for all kinds of diets.

If Asakusa feels overwhelming at first, venture away from the highly visitor-frequented Sensoji Temple and the Nakamise shopping street leading up to it. You’ll quickly find a more residential side to Asakusa, one where life goes on at a slower pace and you can find many local shops.

Foodies will also no doubt be interested in the nearby Kappabashi Street. It has been coined “Kitchen Town” and is best known for its high-quality kitchen knives and plastic food models (like the ones you see in restaurant windows in Japan). You can actually book a lesson to learn how to make these fake food samples for yourself!

For those simply wanting to pick up some practical souvenirs, Kitchen Town also has beautiful bento boxes, useful kitchen gadgets and classic chopsticks.

Click here to check hotel rates in Asakusa.

Best Tokyo Neighborhood for Hipsters and Fashionistas: Shimokitazawa
Shimokitazawa is one of the most unique neighborhoods in all of Tokyo. Its residential feel makes it seem worlds apart from downtown, but it’s just a stone’s throw away from Shibuya and the popular youth district of Harajuku.

Shimo, as we like to call it locally, is always changing, which is both part of its eclectic charm and its heartbreak. What may be there on one visit may well not be there on another. The area has an interesting history that centers on the aftermath of WWII, when it served as a black market. The area’s addiction to blue jeans and vintage American apparel all originated from black market trading of US army surplus supplies obtained during the war.

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The area has quite a number of established second-hand clothing stores, but the ticket prices can be off-the-charts crazy (this place is full-on hipster chic, you guys). So if you’re like us and think of thrift-store shopping more in terms of a vintage treasure hunt, then we recommend “Don Don Down,” where items are discounted every Wednesday until sold.

Shimokitazawa also has a lot of hip coffee shops where you can count on a more diverse range of beverages than the usual Americano that dominates most menus in Japan. Oddly enough, it is also home to more than 100 curry shops. From Japanese curries, soup curries to Thai and Indian curries, and even curry balls, you’ll be spoiled for choice. You can stuff yourself on all of them during the town’s annual Curry Festival in October!

Click here to check hotel rates in Shimokitazawa.

Best Tokyo Neighborhood for Day Trippers: Tokyo Station/Marunouchi District
Tokyo Station in Marunouchi is one of the most convenient connections in the city. The surrounding neighborhood gives you easy access to both Narita and Haneda Airports and to a number of subway and train lines, including the city’s central loop, the Yamanote line.

It’s a great base for day trips, especially those to the Tokyo Bay area, such as Yokohama, Kamakura, the Tokyo Disney resorts, and for traveling between cities. From here you can take the shinkansen (bullet train) to other popular destinations like Kyoto and Osaka.

Marunouchi is at the heart of Tokyo’s financial district, and while it has long been a busy area for the city’s salary men and OL’s (office ladies), the refurbished Tokyo Station has transformed the area from a transport and business hub that trails of commuters would simply pass through, into a destination in and of itself.

Tokyo Station stands as a rather interesting contrast to the modern, non-descript office buildings that dominate the area. The iconic European-style redbrick building was originally constructed in 1914. After surviving the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, it was later burned and gutted during fire bombings in WWII. A reconstruction project to restore Tokyo Station to its former 1914 charm was completed in late 2012.

Tokyo Character Street features 20 stores dedicated to well-known Japanese characters and TV show merchandise, while if you’re in the mood for noodles, Tokyo Ramen Street is operated by eight renowned names on the city’s ramen scene. You can find more food variety on Kitchen Street on the first floor main concourse between the North Yaesu and North Marunouchi exits.

For those wanting to visit the Imperial Palace and its East Gardens, it’s an easy 10-15 minute walk from Tokyo Station.

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