After my first few days in Japan, my sleep schedule normalized. From my hotel window, Tokyo seemed to spread like a network of densely packed buildings and arterial streets all the way to Mt. Fuji, which sat hazily on the horizon. Street level, each neighborhood had a unique look and feel, yet the city still felt whole as if unified by a cultural pulse, which revealed itself through reverent tradition, forward-looking modernity, and the hundreds of tiny shrines tucked away between busy streets.
Find my recommendations below. They are hardly comprehensive, but they are some of the best places that I found and loved in Tokyo.
Akihabara (or “Akiba” for short) is known as the electric town of Tokyo. Here you can find hundreds of small electronic shops and everything otaku (geek). You’ll find huge stores devoted to game arcades, anime, and manga.
Shibuya is the Tokyo most visitors expect — neon lights, tall buildings, and bustling crowds, but it is probably best known for Shibuya Crossing — the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing. It’s a major entertainment area and a great place to eat and drink late into the night.
Head to nearby Yoyogi Park for a break from the crowds. This is also where you’ll find Meiji Jingu Shrine.
Harajuku is the place to find all the latest trends in street fashion. Walk down Takeshita Dori on a Sunday for some serious people watching. This small pedestrian alley is filled with inexpensive clothing, accessory shops, teens in cosplay, and cat cafes.
Shinjuku is a popular business district with an even more popular nightlife. Here, you will find plenty of bars and restaurants, as well as Kabuki-cho (Tokyo’s red light district) and Shinjuku Ni-chome (Tokyo’s gay bar district). In my opinion, this is where to stay because there’s food, nightlife, and it’s fairly central to the rest of Tokyo.
Hibiya is home to many parks and the nearby Imperial Palace in central Tokyo.
Imperial influences are everywhere from Kokyo Gaien to the Imperial Theater, Hibiya Park, and the lush Imperial Palace East Gardens.
For a small but thriving nightlife, check out the area east of Ebisu Station. Less intense than Shibuya and somewhat more of an international feel.
Daikanyama is best described as chill and residential. Walking through the winding streets, you’ll find upscale shops, cafes, and bars.
For high-end shopping, go to Ginza, which is home to many luxury fashion brands like Gucci, Channel, and Louis Vuitton. For some of the best food, head to the basement of the sprawling department store. Here you will find the incredible grocery-filled basements, or depachika, filled with tea, pastry, tempura, noodles, sushi, and more.
The famous Tsukiji Fish Market is also just two stops from Ginza.
Roppongi is Tokyo’s best-known nightlife district for foreigners and young locals. The area is filled with bars and clubs, which remain crowded until dawn. During the day visit the Roppongi Hills shopping complexes, which are quite impressive.