MUST READ – Where to Stay in Tokyo (2019 )

 

where to stay in tokyo guide

This is the ultimate Tokyo neighborhood guide!

Tokyo is far and away one of the coolest cities you will ever visit. Whether you are a veteran traveler or a newbie, Tokyo fills everyone with a sense of culture shock and wonder.

But with 10 million people sprawled over 47 neighborhoods – Tokyo is massive! And sorting through the best areas in Tokyo to stay in can be super overwhelming.

Which is why we put together this no-stress guide for where to stay in Tokyo!

With the help of this guide, you’ll get a feel for the different neighborhoods, and based on your style of travel, we’ll make recommendations for exactly where to be in Tokyo.

So whether you are traveling to Tokyo solo or as a family, are looking to stay in a hostel, hotel, or Airbnb, our ultimate guide will show you the best spots – eliminating any guesswork for you!

This way you can focus on what matters – eating sushi and dining in cat cafes   🙂

Let’s take a look at the coolest neighborhoods and the best places to stay in Tokyo.

 

Quick Answers: These are the Best Areas to Stay in Tokyo

  • Shinjuku – Where to Stay in Tokyo for First Time

  • Asakusa – Where to Stay in Tokyo on a Budget

  • Roppongi – Best Area to Stay in Tokyo for Nightlife

  • Shibuya – Coolest Place to Stay in Tokyo

  • Tokyo Bay – Best Neighborhood to Stay in Tokyo for Families

 

In a Hurry? Here's Where to Stay in Tokyo for One Night:

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Shinjuku
Shinjuku has everything that could possibly want out of your trip to Tokyo: food, neon lights, bars, location, and countless opportunities.
Places to Visit:
  • Stroll around the old-world area of Golden Gai
  • Go bar hopping in Kabukicho
  • Relax in the lush Central Park

 

Tokyo Neighborhood Guide

where to stay in tokyo map

Map of Tokyo. source: wikitravel

Tokyo is a huge and sprawling city with diverse neighborhoods to appeal to different people. Bustling and lively, the Greater Tokyo Area is the world’s most populous metro area; it’s definitely not a place for people who hate crowds!

The Japanese capital has many neighborhoods, with most locals connecting the neighboring with the closest train station that serves the area.

With some 1,000 train stations through Tokyo, that’s an awful lot of neighborhoods! There’s even a neighborhood that occupies its own artificial island—Odaiba.

While many visitors have heard of famous areas, like Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ebisu, Ginza, and Gaienmae, some of the more offbeat city areas include Tsukiji, with its mammoth fish market, geeky Akihabara, the well-planned Shiodome, the olde-worlde Sugamo, and quirky Harajuku.

most popular neighborhoods in tokyo

Shibuya is one of Tokyo's most popular neighborhoods (photo credit - trulytokyo)

Nippori is a top place to immerse yourself in history and culture, Kagurazaka has a French-like air and many traditional Geishas, and Shimokitazawa has a distinct hipster vibe.

Major business areas include Marunouchi, Kyobashi, Shimbashi, Shinagawa, and Yurakucho. There’s an “unlucky” Tokyo neighborhood too—Ueno. Located in a direction that is seen as being inauspicious and unfavorable, property prices are relatively low here.

Visitors can enjoy a wealth of sights, however, including several museums and art galleries, a large zoo, an expansive park, and a number of thriving markets.

Almost all of Tokyo’s neighborhoods have things of interest for tourists. Accommodation, eateries, and shops can be found all around the city.

That doesn’t necessarily mean, though, that you should stay just anywhere—there are some areas that are great for a visit and others that are ideal for a fabulous stay.

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The Best Neighborhoods in Tokyo to Stay in

Excellent public transportation links make moving between Tokyo’s different neighborhoods easy and relatively fast.

No matter where you stay, Tokyo’s vibrant energy and myriad sights are within easy reach.

That said, some neighborhoods are more suited to different requirements, with some offering overall cheaper accommodation costs, some right at the heart of the partying hotspots, those that have an overall more suburban and residential vibe, and those that are a bit quirky and offbeat.

Whatever you’re looking for, here are some of the best areas in Tokyo to stay in:

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Shinjuku

  • Centrally located and with a little bit of everything, Shinjuku offers the best overall experience.
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Asakusa

  • An historical part of Tokyo, complete with temples and shrines, that also offers good deals on lodging.
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Roppongi

  • A high-octane, neon-drenched district that appeals most to those who don’t wish to sleep and/or want to find a hookup.
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Shibuya

  • A large district with multiple neighborhoods that cater to all sorts of people be them hipster, yuppy, grungy, bohemian, whatever.
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Tokyo Bay

  • A developed area that hosts most of the city’s theme parks, including Disney World, Legoland, and Palette Town.
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1. Shinjuku - Best Place to Stay in Tokyo for your First Time

Shinjuku is a very famous Tokyo neighborhood and our recommendation for where to stay in Tokyo for first time.

If you like to be right in the action, Shinjuku is often said to be the city’s tourism heart and soul. Skyscrapers make for a dazzling skyline and bright neon lights cannot help but grab your attention. There are numerous places to stay as well as a plethora of eating, drinking, shopping, and entertainment options.

best tokyo nightlife

One of the most interesting places to stay in Tokyo! (photo credit - wildtanuki)

 

Top things to do in Shinjuku

- Shop till you drop at places like Odakyu, Lumine, Beams Japan, and Takashimaya Times Square.

- Stroll around the old-world area of Golden Gai.

- Go bar hopping in Kabukicho.

- Soak up the views from the 45th-floor observation deck of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.

- Wander through the delightful garden of Shinjuku Gyoen.

- Appreciate photography at Place M.

- See the greatest live show on the planet at Robot Restaurant (as proclaimed by the late Anthony Bourdain).

- Ride in a swan boat and see a shrine honoring the sea goddess of Benzaiten at Inokashira-Koen Park.

- Relax in the lush Central Park.

- Bat away any tensions at Shinjuku Batting Centre.

- See global clothes from throughout the ages at Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum.

- Watch an enchanting puppet show at Puk Pupa Teatro.

- Get a sense of nostalgia at Omoide Yokocho.

- Snap a selfie with the LOVE statue.

 

Where to Stay in Shinjuku (For all budgets)

The best place to stay in Shinjuku depends on your travel-needs and travel-budget. Take a look at our highest recommendations for the best place to stay in Shinjuku for hostels, hotels, and Airbnb.

where to stay in tokyo for nightlife

Shinjuku is the most popular choice for good reason.

 

Best Hostel in Shinjuku - Imano Tokyo Hostel

In the heart of Shinjuku, Imano Tokyo Hostel has private rooms and single-sex dorms. All dorm beds are capsule style with a curtain. There are common areas for dining, working, and socializing, and the onsite restaurant-bar serves tasty meals and drinks. Other perks: laundry facilities, housekeeping services, and luggage storage.

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Best Hotel in Shinjuku - Shinjuku Granbell Hotel

best hotel in shinjukuAttractive and stylish, rooms have fresh and modern designs. All rooms have a private bathroom with free toiletries and a hairdryer, air-conditioning, a mini fridge and kettle, TV, Wi-Fi, and an iPod docking station. Some have seating areas. The hotel has a restaurant, bar, and garden, and massage services can be booked for a surcharge.

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Best Airbnb in Shinjuku - Shinjuku Apartment

best airbnb in shinjukuA lovely and tasteful studio apartment in Shinjuku. Close to three train stations, four people can stay here, with one double bed and one sofa bed. Complete with a fridge, stove, microwave, WiFi, and tableware, and washing machine. 

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2. Asakusa - Where to Stay in Tokyo on a Budget

If you want to visit Tokyo on a budget - Asakusa is an excellent pick. Tucked away from Tokyo’s main hustle and bustle, Asakusa is one of the cheapest neighborhoods to stay in Tokyo.

Looking rather like it’s been stuck in a time warp when compared with the rest of the modern city, the area has a rather charming old-fashioned vibe. Relatively quiet and relaxed, Asakusa is also a top place to shop for traditional handicrafts.

coolest neighborhoods in tokyo temples

Where to stay in Asakusa (photo credit - actravel)

 

Top Things to do in Asakusa

- Admire the modern wonder that is Tokyo Sky Tree before visiting one of the observation decks for fabulous city views.

- Observe creatures from the ocean deep at Sumida Aquarium.

- Learn more about the skies at Konica Minolta Planetarium.

- Buy tickets to watch a wrestling match at the National Sumo Stadium Kokugikan.

- Visit the beautiful Senso-ji Temple and marvel at the towering pagoda and gleaming statue of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy

- Step back in time at the 17th-century Edo-period Asakusa-jinja Shrine.

- Travel the globe through beer at the large beer hall that is the World Beer Museum.

- See how Tokyo has changed through the ages at the Edo-Tokyo Museum.

- Appreciate modern works at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

- Rub the sacred cow’s stomach at Ushijima Shrine to cure a range of ills.

- Ride the antiquated roller coasters and other rides at Hanayashiki amusement park.

- Relax in Sumida Park and see the beautiful cherry blossom when in season.

- Take a stroll alongside the Sumida River.

 

Where to Stay in Asakusa - A Pick for Every Budget

Best Hostel in Asakusa - Sakura Hostel Asakusa

best hostel in asakusaA lively and sociable purpose-built hostel, the program of events includes Geisha shows, Sumo matches, and walking tours. There’s a kitchen to help keep costs down further and the lounge, complete with a TV and PS2, terrace, and bar are perfect places to chill and mingle.

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Best Hotel in Asakusa - Agora Place Asakusa

best hotel in akasuka

Within easy walking distance of the neighborhood’s major sights, the hotel offers free-use computers and free Wi-Fi, laundry facilities, luggage storage, and a restaurant. Rooms are en suite and each has a flat-screen TV, telephone, fridge, and safety deposit box. There are both smoking and non-smoking rooms.

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Best Airbnb in Asakusa - Asakusa Traditional House

best airbnb akasukaWith eight traditional floor matresses spread between two rooms, this is an ideal apartment for a family or group of friends. The large apartment has a kitchen, a bathroom with a bathtub, a washing machine, storage space, and Wi-Fi. Great location in Asakusa and highly reviewed.

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3. Roppongi - Where to Stay in Tokyo for Nightlife (and a crazy time!)

Pulsating, vibrant, and electric, Roppongi is one of the best districts in Tokyo for a diverse, fun, and cool night scene which is why it's our pick for best area to stay in Tokyo for nightlife.

Tokyo nightlife in Roppongi is world class, and you'll never have to wonder what to do at Roppongi at night! The party’s keep pumping every night of the week and you’ll never be short of something to do when the sun goes down. The neighbourhood also has plenty to enjoy during the daytimes too; it’s not only a place for night owls!

roppongi coolest place in tokyo

Roppongi is one of the most energetic neighborhoods in Japan

 

Top Things to Do in Roppongi

- Visit Nogi-jinja Shrine, dedicated to a war hero, General Nogi, who tragically killed himself through grief.

- Gaze up at the soaring Tokyo Tower before heading to one of the two observation decks for panoramic city views.

- Climb the huge lantern-lit stone steps at Atago-jinja Shrine to reach Tokyo’s highest natural point.

- Connect with your inner creative at diverse art museums and galleries such as the National Art Centre Tokyo, Gallery Side 2, Perrotin Tokyo, and the Mori Art Museum

- Shop, eat, and be entertained at the massive Roppongi Hills complex.

- Sip craft beers and gorge on homemade pub-grub favourites at BrewDog Roppongi.

- Take in some local culture and history at the 14th-century Zojo-ji Temple, home to a gigantic Edo-era bell.

- Aim for the bull’s eye or try for one-hundred-and-eighty at I Darts Tokyo.

- Enjoy fresh air and nature at Hinokicho Park.

- Hop from bar to bar and party hard in the area’s numerous nightclubs.

 

Where to Stay in Roppongi (no matter your style of travel)

Best Hostel in Roppongi - Kaisu Hostel

Kaisu Hostel Best hostel Tokyo 2018

Kaisu hostel is one of Tokyo’s top rated hostels because of its location, modern decor and feel, and large, comfortable dorm beds. Kaisu Hostel also has an awesome bar onsite and a cafe the latterr of which used to be a traditional Japanese restaurant with performing geishas. Many locals hang out at the bar and cafe as well.

The drawback is that there is no available kitchen for guest’s use, but they serve free breakfast from 8-10am (toast, hard-boiled eggs, bananas, and coffee drink).

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Best Hotel in Roppongi - Sotetsu Fresa Inn Tokyo Roppongi

best hotel in Roppongi Situated a short walk from the famous Roppongi Hills, there are heaps of leisure and entertainment options close to hand. Onsite facilities include a café, laundry services, and luggage storage. Massages can be arranged for an additional fee. All rooms have a private bathroom and TV.

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Best Airbnb in Roppongi - Roppngi Apartment

best airbnb roppongiLocated in Roppongi, this stylish apartment is spacious and can sleep up to eight people. It has four beds in two bedrooms and the comfy living area. The kitchen and bathroom are cozy, and there’s a lovely dining area too. 

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Staying in Shiodome vs Roppongi

Let’s call a spade a spade - Roppongi can be a little bit overwhelming, even by Tokyo standards. The nightlife can be full-on here and for some this may lead to overstimulation and not having a good time.

If you want to stay somewhere a little more tame without sacrificing location or leisures, then consider staying in Tokyo’s Shiodome district instead.

Shiodome is one of the newest parts of Tokyo, having only been open to the public for the last decade or so. The district inhabits the remnants of a derelict railyard, which was built on top of reclaimed marshland.

The difference between the Shiodome today and the Shiodome of 25 years ago couldn’t be greater.

staying in shiodome

source: flickr

Now, Shiodome is an ultra-modern area, defined by densely packed skyscrapers and high speed rails. It is ultimately a business district, which is obvious from the hordes of scampering businessmen.

Shiodome has its fair share of shopping strips and restaurants as well as some prime waterfront boardwalks. There are a couple of small attractions around Shiodome, like the Advertising Museum and Hama Rikyu, but you may be more interested in going “under the rails.” The underside of Shinbashi station is jam packed with bars and izakayas, which help to ease local workers and their stresses.

So if you’re looking for a neighborhood near Roppongi that isn’t as in-your-face or high-charged, Shiodome may be a better option. When you do feel like partying, Roppongi is only a short train ride away. As my mother once told me: “don’t stay in the party house; make friends with the party house so you don’t have to clean afterwards.”

Looking for a place to stay in Shiodome? The Capsule Hotel Anshin Oyado Shinbashi Shiodome is a cool spot that is popular with travelers.

 

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4. Shibuya - Coolest Place to Stay in Tokyo

One of Tokyo’s most popular areas, Shibuya is also one of the best neighborhoods in Tokyo to stay in. There’s always plenty going on and, whether by day or by night, it’s all but impossible to feel bored here. Youthful and hip, Shibuya is a favourite hangout spot for trendy locals. There are tons of funky shops, cafes, restaurants, and bars, not to mention a heap of terrific things to do and see.

things to do in shibuya

Shibuya is one of the most interesting neighborhoods in Tokyo (photo credit - Landlopers)

 

Top Things to do in Shibuya

- Travel back in time at Nonbei Yokocho and grab a drink in one of the dinky bars.

- Hunt for your all-time favourite tunes at the enormous Disk Union..

- Brave the frenzy that is The Scramble, the world-famous frenetic pedestrian crossing.

- Be impressed by the collections at the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum.

- Admire the edgy pieces in the Diesel Art Gallery.

- Flick through the diverse titles at ultra-hip book stores like Yamashita Shoten.

- Watch arty and indie movies from Japan and overseas at Uplink.

- Feast your eyes on the marvellous Meiji-jingu Shrine, the most opulent shrine in Tokyo.

- Bag a bargain on second-hand clothes along Cat Street and Harajuku Street and give your credit cards a workout along the high-end Omote-sando street.

- Go people watching in Harajuku, an area known for its quirky stores that attract alternative groups.

- Snap a picture of the bronze effigy of Hachiko, a Japanese Akita with a sad tale.

- Visit the family-run Maruara Watanabe to pick up a selection of souvenirs and grab some kitsch from the vending machines.

- Head to Yoyogi-koen Park at the weekends to watch varied street performers entertaining passersby.

 

Where to Stay in Shibuya (To see it all!)

Best Hostel in Shibuya - Almond Hostel & Café Shibuya

Almond Hostel best hostel in Tokyo

Dorms may be large here, sleeping up to 26 people, but the private pods with curtains help you to sleep well. There are plenty of bathrooms to avoid long morning queues and the spacious common area and onsite café are great places to get to know your fellow travellers

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Best Hotel in Shibuya - Tokyu Stay Shibuya Shin-Minamiguchi

best hotel in shibuyaA comfortable city-centre base, each room has a private bathroom and a kitchenette, a TV, and even its own washing machine for total convenience. The hotel has a restaurant and you can start the day with a filling breakfast for a surcharge

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Best Airbnb in Shibuya - Shibuya Apartment

best airbnb in shibuyaThis one-bedroom apartment can sleep up to four people as there are two sofa beds in the living area. The apartment is a bit cozy but there is a small kitchen area, with a fridge and gas top, plus a washing machine. It's also an amazing deal. 

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Shibuya Neighborhood Guide

Shibuya is an enormous district and has many subsections. If you want to explore the edges of it a bit, then check out one of these interesting neighborhoods around Shibuya.

where to stay in tokyo night crossing

  • Daikanyama - This small, eccentric neighborhood is only a short walk from Shibuya but is worlds away in terms of vibes. Where Shibuya is bustling and hectic, Daikanyama is languid and best enjoyed at a leisurely pace. Some people have described this area as “Tokyo’s Little Brooklyn,” which can only be a good thing. There are plenty of high-end shops and boutiques here, but most visitors will probably enjoy the odd little cafes and shops more. 
  • Ebisu - This satellite neighborhood is a more residential part of Shibuya. It’s a laid back area, better for relaxing with a beer or some street food following a long day of exploring Tokyo. Locals love to hang out in the ubiquitous and microscopic tachinomiya (standing-room bars) that spread throughout the district like honeycombs. If you’d like to dive deeper into the alcoholic history of the region, then consider visiting the Tokyo Beer Museum, also located in Ebisu.
  • Harajuku - Harajuku is weird, but in that uncanny Japanese way that we’ve all come to know and accept. This eccentric neighborhood huas helped breed many of the most popular youth fashions in Tokyo, including the cringe worthy kawaii (hyper-cuteness) and the somewhat concerning Tokyo-goth. A walk around this area is a culture shock to the max voltage and you will walk away either astounded or just confused.

Editor's Note: Heading out to the rest of Japan? Check out our ultimate guide to traveling Japan on a budget!

 

5. Tokyo Bay - Where to Stay in Tokyo for Families

Completely different from the rest of the city, Tokyo Bay and the connected island of Odaiba are the best places for a family stay in Tokyo. Theme parks and fun galore will keep the whole family entertained for many days on end, and there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy some downtime on the beach too. The modern area feels more like a resort than part of a huge global city.

tokyo bay at night

Tokyo Bay is where to stay in Tokyo if you want to be near the theme parks (photo credit - airgms)

 

Top Things to do in Tokyo Bay

- Meet your favourite characters, have thrills and spills on the rides, and be thoroughly enchanted at Tokyo Disney, and have a unique underwater Disney experience at Tokyo Disney Sea.

- Soak up some rays at Tokyo Beach and chill out at Odaiba Seaside Park.

- Marvel at the views from Odaiba Ferris Wheel.

- Leap into the future at the National Museum of Emerging Science & Innovation, AKA Miraikan.

- Enjoy retail therapy at places like DiverCity Tokyo Plaza, Palette Town, Aqua City, Venus Fort, and Decks Tokyo Beach.

- Pose for pics with famous (wax) faces at Madame Tussauds Tokyo.

- Soak in the hot springs at Oedo Onsen Monogatari.

- Visit the gigantic Fuji TV Building.

- Feel shivers down your spine as you go ghost hunting at Daiba Kaiki Gakko.

- Take tons of cool pictures at the Tokyo Trick Art Museum.

- Try varied activities, including darts, pool, and karaoke, at Tokyo Leisure Land.

- Be impressed by plastic fantastic at Legoland Discovery Center Tokyo.

- Enter the world of video games at Joypolis, a theme park run by SEGA.

 

Staying in Tokyo Bay (one pick for every budget)

Best Hostel in Tokyo Bay - The Prime Pod Ginza Tokyo

best pod hotels in tokyo Although located a short distance from Tokyo Bay (hostels are somewhat lacking in this area), reaching the major attractions is a breeze by public transport. There are large single-sex dorms with private capsule-style beds. There’s an onsite bar and café, and other pluses include laundry facilities, free Wi-Fi, luggage storage, and 24-hour reception.

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Best Hotel in Tokyo Bay - Grand Nikko Tokyo Daiba

hotel near tokyo baySituated less than a ten-minute walk from the beach, the modern hotel has a selection of rooms to suit different group sizes and inter-connecting rooms are available. The hotel has a variety of restaurants and bars, a fitness centre, and a swimming pool. There are child-friendly services as well as free shuttles to Tokyo Disney Resort.

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Best Airbnb in Tokyo Bay - Big House on Kasai

best airbnb in tokyo bayPerfect for a family getaway! Eleven people can sleep in two large rooms. Snuggle in front of the TV, cook dinner in the kitchen, and enjoy a stay close to some of Tokyo’s most fun attractions. This apartment is vey spacious by Tokyo standards and even has a balcony!

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6. Ginza - Best Place to Stay in Tokyo for Big Spenders

Look at you fancy pants! You must be doing real well if you’re thinking about staying in Ginza. It is, after all, considered one of the most expensive districts in the world.

As one of the richest neighborhoods in Tokyo, Ginza is the epicenter for all things luxurious, classy, and chic. High-fashion retailers line the streets here and upscale restaurants serve exorbitant dishes that cost more than most could ever afford.

ginza clock tower at night tokyo

The district itself a bit of tourist attraction by now and is still worth experiencing. You can do all the window shopping and people watching you like here, as there are endless supplies of both here.

Ginza is also centrally located, which makes it a great base for exploring the rest of Tokyo. You may be apprehensive to spend your money here but it’s easy enough to travel somewhere else to do that.

 

Things to do in Ginza

- Visit the famous Ginza Crossing.

- Join the masses on Chuo-Dori street during the weekends - the streets are all closed to vehicles during this time so it’s pedestrian only.

- See a show at one of the many theaters, which host both traditional and contemporary performances.

- Get a selfie in front of the iconic San-ai Building.

- Learn about Japanese cinema at the National Film Archive of Japan.

- Browse the mega-shops of some of Japan’s most famous brands, like Yamaha and Sony.

- Check out the free exhibitions of the Pola Museum Art Annex, located on the third floor of the Pola Ginza Building.

- Check the time at the Wako Clock, then go buy a watch ya bum.

Best Hostel in Ginza - Wise Owl Hostel Tokyo

wise owl hostel tokyoThis flagship hostel of the Wise Owl chain is stylish, immaculate, and has pretty damn comfortable beds. There’s a bar on site, which is run by the owner, and is a great place to meet fellow travelers as well.

Although the hostel located on the edge of Ginza, the latter is still very accessible. Plus, the Hatchobori train station is pretty much around the corner, which is a great means of visiting the rest of the city.

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Best Hotel in Ginza - Hotel Gracery Ginza

best hotel in ginza tokyoConsidering how crazy expensive Ginza is, the Hotel Gracery actually isn’t too bad. By staying here, you’ll get all of the usual 4-star services as well as an excellent location.

The rooms may be a little basic, but for these prices, we wouldn’t be complaining much.

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Best Airbnb in Ginza - WOW-GINZA

best airbnb in ginzaYou know, if you got the money to spend then why not just go all out and book your own private residence? Masaharu’s place is one such apartment in Ginza that is worth your attention. It has a queen-sized bed, a gorgeous design, private bath, and an amazing location next to Tokyo Station.

While the trains do pass by very close to the apartment (which is fun to watch), you won’t hear them much. Luckily it’s quiet at night, so you can sleep undisturbed.

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7. Shimokitazawa - Most Hipster Place in Tokyo

Daikanyama has been called the “hipster capital of Tokyo” - but that just means that it’s not really hipster anymore. The real area for all things counterculture in Tokyo is the Shimokitazawa district.

Shimokitazawa is where the independent spirit is nurtured in Tokyo. It is a neighborhood that values artistry, self-expression, bohemian lifestyles, and anything else that is not related to mass consumption. In fact, this neighborhood was founded about grassroot ideas, originally being the quarters for rural farmers escaping to Tokyo from the fields.

Shimokitazawa graffiti and cafes

source: wikicommons

Where Daikanyama and Shibuya are defined by boutique stores and charming little coffee shops, Shimokitazawa has gritty street art and dusty vintage shops. Where the former is clean and packaged, the latter is grungy and coarse. It’s narrow winding passages remind one of Melbourne’s Laneways, except less central and less prone to overactive tourism.

So if you’re looking for the actual most hipster place in Tokyo, Shimokitazawa is it.

 

Things to do in Shimokitazawa

- Go hunting for graffiti.

- Buy some secondhand clothing (always a good measure of a culture’s style).

- Get your organic, gluten-free, farm-to-table food here.

- Walk into one of the many old cinemas, like Tollywood Theater and the Honda Gekijo.

- Go antique shopping, and by that we mean window shopping because the prices can be steep.

- Attend one of the annual flea markets.

- Talk about why records are better than digital (not this again…) at one of the many shops.

- Get cheap drinks and be sure to drop one of the many music venues in the area.

 

Best Hostel in Shimokitazawa - Shimokitazawa Hostel

best hostel in Shimokitazawa Located right on the edge of the neighborhood, Shimokitazawa Hostel is probably your best bet for exploring the area. Be aware that there is no kitchen and limited communal space in this hostel due to the limited space they're working with. The beds are in capsule-style, but the mattresses themselves are large enough and quite comfy.

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Best Hotel in Shimokitazawa - NONE!

There are next to no hotels in the immediate vicinity of Shimokitazawa. How could there be when all of the streets are so narrow and the buildings are so compact?

You could stay somewhere nearby Shimokitazawa, like Setagaya. Honestly though, the hostel in Shimokitazawa is probably the best option. If you want some private quarters, get an Airbnb instead.

 

Best Airbnb in Shimokitazawa - K’s Place

best airbnb ShimokitazawaThe first thing that host says about his place is “please do not book this flat if you wanna sleep in a tranquil environment.” Located smack dab in the middle of Shimokitazawa, this apartment is the perfect base for exploring the area. It may not be tame, but it will be an action-packed experience.

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8. Meguro - The Best Place in Tokyo to Stay in for Cherry Blossoms

When springtime rolls around, this district goes absolutely nuts as local Tokyoites pile into Meguro to see the blooming cherry blossoms. The Meguro River, which runs through the middle of the neighborhood, is lined with over 800 of these trees and when they’re in bloom, it’s magical.

If you’d like to see the cherry blossom trees, there is no better place to stay in Tokyo than Meguro. Having a picnic under the trees is one of the best things to do in Tokyo, but, fair-warning, it’s prime real estate.

meguro river cherry blossoms in tokyo

source: wikicommons

When the cherry blossoms are over, Meguro is a normally laidback area that is mostly residential. Over the past few years, it’s actually picked up a trendier reputation as lots of art galleries and cafes are opening up. Combine those with an interesting selection of museums, and Meguro offers plenty to keep you occupied.

 

Things to do in Meguro

- Visit Hideki Aoyama’s new art gallery

- See what a tapeworm, among many other parasites, look like at the Meguro Parasitological Museum.

- Cherry blossom photo bombs galore!

- Get your fill of seafood at the Samna Festival in September - samna is poor man's fish that is famously grilled in Meguro.

- See some Art Deco at the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum.

- Check out the famous bamboo forest at Suzume-no Oyado Ryokuchi Park - this is one of the most Instagrammable places in Tokyo.

- Have some Japanese comfort food at Tonkatsu Tonki.

- Have a beer and develop your own photos (in a dark room) at Paper Pool.

 

Best Hostel in Meguro - Wise Owl Hostels Shibuya

best hostel in meguro wise owlsWhile this hostel is technically located in Shibuya, it still skims the northern edge of Maguro and is the only backpacker lodge in the area.

That being said, you can now benefit from the best of both worlds! You can drink and party in Shibuya and then have a chill day in Meguro, which is a win-win if you ask us. Given the outstanding reputation of this hostel, we don’t think it’s a stretch to stay here.

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Best Hotel in Meguro - Grand Residence Nakameguro

best hotel in meguro grand The Grand Residence Nakameguro is one of the eminent hotels in the area is a great choice fo those looking for a place to stay in Tokyo. It is clean, modern, and offers several complimentary amenities. There are even apartments equipped with kitchens available for booking, so you can save money and cook your own meals here.

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Best Airbnb in Meguro - “Cherry Blossom Viewing” Apartment

best airbnb in meguroYou can see the cherry blossom trees of Meguro from this apartment! Not only that, there’s plenty of shops and cafes around so you should be set. The apartment itself is small (this is Tokyo, afterall) but there’s a kitchen and even a seperate room for the bed.

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9. Akihabara-Ueno - Quirkiest Area in Tokyo

Akihabara is ground-zero for all things anime, manga, and video gaming! We’re talking about the cosplayers, the hardcore gamers, the weirdly sexualized maids; everything that we have come to know and be weirded out by in Japanese otaku culture. Staying here is like taking a dose of acid, so let’s just hope that you have a good trip.

Akihabara aka Electric Town is a very active place - full of costumed hospitality workers who run up to you and try to get you to come into their shop, all while the sounds of arcade and video games blair in the background. If you like peace and serenity, this is not the neighborhood for you.

akihabara electric city tokyo

If you’re looking for a less bombastic experience, you may do better further north in Ueno. Ueno is an older part of town, known more for its old temples and possibly even older sex clubs.

Yes, Ueno is the place you visit for cheap thrills. Traditional bars dominate the landscape and there are more than a few brothels around.

While Ueno’s seedy reputation does precede itself, please don’t write it off. There are still plenty of lovely attractions, like Ueno Park, that are worth visiting. The sex business here is not overbearing and you can easily avoid it if you want.

 

Things to do in Akihabara-Ueno

- See the cherry blossoms at Ueno Park.

- Walk around Akihabara with your best cosplay outfit! (Sunday is when the main street is pedestrian only.)

- Hit the sticks in one of Akihabara’s many arcades.

- See the statue of Saig? Takamori - the man who inspired the fictional character Katsumoto in The Last Samurai - in Ueno.

- Visit the massive Tokyo National Museum in Ueno.

- Go to an anime-themed cafe in Akihabara, like the Gundam iteration.

- Shop for anime memorabilia, fantastic babbles, cheap electronics, and anything else you would’ve loved as a kid.

 

Best Hostel in Akihabara-Ueno - GRIDS TOKYO AKIHABARA

grid akihabara best hostelA modern hostel that offers two types of accommodation: pods and private hotel rooms. The private rooms are what you’d expect from a good hotel, in both amenities and price.

The pods are the much cheaper option and you’ll be sleeping in the same room as 30 other people. If this strange weird to you, just remember you’re in Akihabara; strange is only the beginning.

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Best Hotel in Akihabara-Ueno - Super Hotel Akihabara Suehirocho

best hotel in akihabaraAn all-around excellent hotel that provides great service and comfortable rooms for a great price. The style seems a bit more old-school but everything runs very smoothly. Breakfast is free, which is great for those extra budget conscious travelers.

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Best Airbnb in Akihabara-Ueno - The Best Location in Akihabara

best airbnb in uenoWant to stay in a traditional Japanese home complete with tatami rooms? Then be sure to check out Hideo’s place located in Uedo near the Yukishima Station. It’s a pristine residence with everything you could ask for. Plus, there’s rooftop access!

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10. Koenji - The Original Cool Tokyo Neighborhood

It’s the place where Tokyo punk rock was born! How metal is that my brothers in arms!!!!

Suginami - the ward Koenji lies in - is also where the highest concentration of anime studios in Tokyo, most notably Sunrise of Gundam fame. If you don’t have images of giant robots fighting in your head while backed by epic guitar chords, well then, frankly, you may not be worthy of this awesome neighborhood in Tokyo.

For a long time, Koenji has been ranked as one of the most awesome districts in Tokyo. And while the punk rock may not be as popular as it once was, there’s still plenty of rad things to do here.

koeniji bars and streets tokyo

source: flickr

Underground music still reigns supreme in this part of Tokyo. There are clubs everywhere here playing all kinds of genres, from Japanese metal to house to electronic. To back them up, there are a ton of sweet bars tucked away in the streets.

Nightlife aside, Koenji also hosts a number of cultural festivals. The Awa Odori is one of the most interesting festivals in Tokyo is definitely worth seeing, even though there are no otaku or blaring guitars.

 

Things to do in Koenji

- Dance! At the Awa Odori Festival.

- Check out some Japanese underground physcadelic at U.F.O Club.

- See what weirdo acts are playing at Sound Studio Dom (and BYOB!).

- See a show at the hallowed 20,000 Den-Atsu, just back from the dead.

- Geek out over anime and otaku at 44 Sonic.

- Take a tour of the Suginami Animation Museum.

- Give your ears a break at the Mabashi Inari Shrine.

- Shop for all things vintage at the shopping area outside the train station.

 

Best Hostel in Koenji - Top Edge Koenji Hostel

top edge best hotel in koenijiTop Edge is a relatively new hostel in a neighborhood that is relatively new to foreign eyes. This hostel does everything right though - welcoming staff, excellent location, and an onsite bar that does not disappoint. Stay in this hostel with the few Western tourists that actually make it here and enjoy the hell out of the neighborhood.

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Best Hotel in Koenji - BnA Art Hotel Koenji

best hotel in koenjiHow often do you have the opportunity to sleep inside of a piece of art? BnA Art Hotel Koenji provides a unique experience by allowing local artists to paint the inside of guest rooms here. A portion of the room rate goes to supporting the artists, which means that they can keep on creating. As such this hotel is not only comfortable - it’s conscious.

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Best Airbnb in Koenji - Koenji Loft

best airbnb in koenjiThis apartment is located in a quieter part of Koenji but is still very close to all of the usual attractions. (There’s never a vintage shop or a bookstore not nearby in Koenji afterall.) This loft is cozy, clean, and run by a very helpful host. Best of all, it’s the best deal in town!

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11. Tsukiji - Best Sushi in Tokyo

If you’re looking for the best sushi in Tokyo then why not just go straight to the source?

Tsukiji hosts one of the largest and most important fish markets in all of Japan. For almost a century, the enormous Tsukiji Fish Market has provided Tokyo with nearly every kind of seafood product imaginable. Seriously, you can find just about anything here from the finest cuts of maguro (bluefin tuna) to live tako (octopus) to creamy hotate (scallops).

tokyo fish market

Obviously, wherever there is seafood being imported, there are shops preparing it as well. The Outer Markets of Tsukiji are absolutely jam-packed with sushi stalls and street food vendors. Whether you want your fish fried, fresh, grilled, crushed, live, whatever, you can definitely find someone who does it here.

If you’re curious about the new Toyama Fish Market, you can walk there if you like (30 mins). Toyama is a much larger and more “sterile” facility that offers more restaurant fair, as opposed to Tsukiji’s street food.

NOTE: The Inner Market of Tsukiji, where the famous tuna auctions were held, has been moved to a different sight, Toyosu, which is several miles away. This shouldn’t affect your experience much though as tourist entry was heavily restricted in the first place. Even with the relocation of the main operations, Tsukiji is still as bustling as ever.

Don’t believe us? Watch this video of Tsukiji after the move.

 

Things to do in Tsukiji

- Find the best street food at the Tsukiji outer markets.

- Check out the new Toyama Markets nearby.

- Eat the freshest sashimi of your life.

- Grab some food to go and have a picnic in the Hamarikyu Gardens.

- Drop by the Tsukiji Honganji, located very near to the outer markets.

 

Best Hostel in Tsukiji - Imano Tokyo Ginza Hostel

best hostel in Tsukiji

While technically located in nearby Ginza, Iman Tokyo is still very close to the markets (15 mins walk). The hostel itself is very accommodating, not to mention very good looking, and is sure to provide you an excellent experience.

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Best Hotel in Tsukiji - Tokyo Stay Tsukiji

best hotel in Tsukiji This hotel is literally located in the Outer Market of Tsukiji! That means you can grab some the best sushi in Tokyo simply by walking out the front door. The facilities are excellent and some apartments even come equipped with a kitchenette (just in case you want to prepare your own sushi).

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Best Airbnb in Tsukiji - High Apartment in Tsukiji

best airbnb in Tsukiji A sparkling clean, brand-spanking new apartment located very close to the markets. Comes with a kitchen area and a balcony. A bit on the small side, but this is Tokyo afterall.

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12. Kichijoji - Best Local Place to Stay in Tokyo

Located at the far western end of Tokyo, Kichijoji is pretty far off any sort of tourist track. It’s a mostly local neighborhood that sees little in the way of non-Japanese visitors. That being said, it’s not at all boring.

Kichijoji is actually a really cool area, filled with intimate alleyways, hidden food vendors, vintage shops, and wonderful parklands. If it was located closer to the center of Tokyo, it would undoubtedly be overrun by foreigners. Luckily though, it’s managed to preserve its luster.

temple in kichijoji tokyo

source: flickr

Inokashira Park is often the most touted attraction in Kichijoji and dutifully so - it’s one of the most beautiful green spaces in Tokyo and makes for a very easy place to relax. This park also hosts the official Ghibli Museum, so if you’re a Miyazaki maniac, this is probably going to be a highlight of your tip.

 

Things to do in Kichijoji

- Let your inner child run free at the Ghibli Museum.

- Paddle a swan boat on Inokashira Pond.

- Visit Tokyo’s own Penny Lane.

- Shop at the local Sunroad Shotengai.

- Go bar hopping in the hidden alleys of Harmonica Yokocho.

- Check out the local jazz bars for which Kichijoji is famous.

 

Best Hostel in Kichijoji - None

Sorry y’all, Kichijoji is mostly inhabited by local Tokyoites and is pretty far from the tourist trail. This means that there isn’t a hostel here yet to accommodate backpackers. But hey, maybe you can set up your own lodge here after you visit and fall in love with the neighborhood?

 

Best Hotel in Kichijoji - Kichijoji Daiichi Hotel

best hotel in Kichijoji A large hotel located a bit off the main road. Rooms are cozy but the main atrium is large and offers lots of room to breath. A unique characteristic of this hotel is that there is a bowling alley on site, which is free for guests! If you're looking for where to stay in Tokyo with kids, this is a great option.

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Best Airbnb in Kichijoji - Kichijoji Stn #41

best airbnb kichijojiIf you’re going to stay in Kichijoji, then you have to go local. Staying in an apartment is definitely the best way to explore this neighborhood and we suggest Emily’s place. It’s located right in the middle of the Kichijoji and actually has a really nice view of the town. There’s also a train station nearby so you can easily go to the busier areas of Tokyo if you so please.

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The Absolute Best Places to Stay in Tokyo

We are going to break down our favourite places in our favourite neighborhoods, but these are our top recommendations for where to stay in the entire city of Tokyo.

 

Best Hostel in Tokyo - Planetyze Hostel

best hostel in tokyoWith mixed and female-only dorms featuring pod-style beds with privacy curtains and lockers to keep your valuables safe, an onsite restaurant, a cosy common room, modern bathrooms, and laundry facilities, you can be sure of a comfortable stay. Meeting people is easy and the staff will help you make the most of your time in Tokyo.

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Best Hotel in Tokyo - Hotel Hokke Club Asakusa

best hotel in tokyoA clean and modern boutique-style hotel in Asakusa, rooms are well-designed with lots of storage space and natural light. Each room has a fridge, kettle, TV, free Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, and an en suite bathroom with complimentary toiletries and a bathtub. The hotel also has a restaurant.

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Best Airbnb in Tokyo - J's Apartment

best airbnb in tokyoThis aparrtment is located a little farther away in East Tokyo, but that just means you'll have more space for less money! This gorgeous apartment sleeps 4 and is made from natural materials, like cedar and mud walls, to allow breathability. If you don't mind the extra commute, this is an amazing accommodation in Tokyo.

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Extra Tokyo Travel Tips

How to Get Around Tokyo

It’s hard to comprehend the utter size of this place. Tokyo is absolutely gargantuan and seems to stretch on forever into the distance. Getting around Tokyo is not going to be a walk in the park (to use a  metaphor).

Crucially, Tokyo has an extremely modern and effective transportation system. Trains are fast, ubiquitous, and can transport you to just about any part of the city. You can visit Tokyo without ever having to step inside of a car and it’s probably better that way.

The train system in Tokyo is a bit confusing though, mostly due to the fact that there is no single agency managing the public transport. In fact, several companies - both private and public - run the show here:

  1. JR East - a private company with the most coverage.
  2. Tokyo Metro/Toei Metro - the city subways.
  3. 9 private companies - that offer various connections.

Note that each individual company requires a different ticket e.g. a JR East ticket will not work on the Toei subways.

bullet train in tokyo

Yes, Tokyo transit is a shitshow but, if you know how to use it, it can be very useful.

Learning how to use the train in Tokyo is a good idea because the alternatives are not as good.

- The buses, though numerous, are not nearly as convenient and still have to deal with traffic.

- Vehicular transport can be maddening not to mention ridiculously expensive, especially if you’re traveling far.

- Getting around on foot is ok within individual neighbohoods, but good luck if you’re going across town.

So study the Tokyo metro as much as you can (use this guide to Tokyo’s trains). Otherwise, it never hurts to ask for help - Tokyoites are very friendly and know how confusing their own system can be.

 

Best Time to Visit Tokyo

When to visit Tokyo really comes down to what you want to do while you’re there. Yes, spring is amazing in Japan and autumn ain’t too bad either, but summer and winter also have their merits.

If we’re being honest, spring is definitely the best to visit Tokyo. During this season, temperatures are pleasant, the weather is lovely, and there aren’t too many tourists. The exception to that last point is when the cherry blossoms bloom. People travel from all over the world to see the magical displays of blossoms and then leave as quickly as the petals fall.

Summer is generally not an ideal time to travel to Tokyo. This is the hottest and most humid time of year as well as the rainy season. Near the end of the summer is when the typhoon season starts, which can lead to downpours of rain. That being said, Tokyo doesn’t experience extreme weather, unless you count the occasional earthquake.

cherry blossoms in tokyo

Oddly enough, summer is when most people visit as that is their holiday time. This means higher prices, less availability, and more crowded attractions.

Autumn is another excellent time to travel to Tokyo.The typhoons should be over by October and the temperature will remain comfortable until December. The deciduous trees will begin to change color as well - to bright golds and deep reds - and could easily give the cherry blossoms a run for their money.

Winters in Tokyo can be cold but are most often dry. Snow sometimes falls but usually doesn’t last long.

A lot of people don’t like Tokyo in the winter but this is one of the best times to hit up the izakayas. Nothing beats a cup of sake and the heat of a grill when it’s cold outside.

 

Final Thoughts

things to do in tokyo at night

Shinjuku is the most vibrant and best place in Tokyo to stay in! (photo credit - tokyocheapo)

Tokyo can be overwhelming, but with the help of this guide it doesn't have to be. And with world-class public transit readily available, you can have the entire city at your fingertips.

But to reduce travel time and save a few extra travel-bucks, use this guide to help you pick the neighborhood that best suits your travel-needs.

And remember, if you can't decide where to stay in Tokyo - go with Shinjuku, our top pick for the best neighborhood to stay in Tokyo for your first time. It's the heart of Tokyo's tourism district for a reason!

Don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers – check it out here, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favourite travel insurance provider.

 

Do you own an awesome hostel, hotel or apartment? Want to be featured in our list? Email hostels@thebrokebackpacker.com to find out how.

Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your Tokyo accommodation through the site, The Broke Backpacker will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your support helps keep the site going.


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