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Beyond Shinjuku & Shibuya: Where To Go In Tokyo

Rachel
Updated Feb 19, 2018

As one of the most visited cities in the world, Tokyo is a familiar tourist destination to many. Meiji Shrine, Sensoji Temple, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Harajuku and Tokyo Disneyland are just some of the famous tourist attractions in Japan’s capital city. However, Tokyo is more than just these popular (and often crowded) attractions. With an enormous land area of 2,188 square kilometres (about 540,667 acres), there are a lot more interesting sights waiting to be unveiled by the curious traveller. Here are the hidden gems in Tokyo off the beaten tourist path!

1. Shibamata Taishakuten - travel back in time to the Edo period

Asakusa is a notable spot in the capital city where you can soak in the old Tokyo atmosphere. But it is always packed with people shopping at Tokyo’s biggest souvenir market and visiting the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo. To really get away from the hustle and bustle of the modern city, head to the peaceful temple town of Shibamata (柴又) about a 30-minute train ride away from Asakusa!

The moment you step out of Shibamata Station, you will come face to face with a bronze Tora-san statue. He is the leading character of a popular Japanese film series “Otoko wa tsurai yo” (男はつらいよ) that was filmed in this beautiful town. As you stroll along the charming Taishakuten Sando, Shibamata’s Nakamise Dori, find plenty of yummy snacks, such as dango dumplings and senbei crackers to nibble on, and interesting traditional souvenirs to bag home. Enjoy the walk with nostalgic views of Edo-style buildings as you approach Shibamata Taishakuten (柴又帝釈天) - the grand Nichiren-sect temple established since 1629.

Go past the main temple gate with impressive wooden carvings, and marvel at the beauty of the ancient architecture. Behind the main building is a walkway leading to the exquisite Japanese garden where you can seek solace in the amazing landscape. Visit Shibamata Taishakuten and you will understand why the ancient beauty is listed as one of the 100 Soundscapes of Japan.

Shibamata Taishakuten (柴又帝釈天)

Address: 7-10-3 Shibamata, Katsushika Ward, Tokyo

Price: Free admission to temple, 400 JPY (3.60 USD) for carvings and garden access.

Opening Hours: 9 am - 4 pm. Closed on 31 December and 1 January.

Duration: around 1 hour required.

Access: 5-minute walk from Shibamata Station on the Keisei Kanamachi Line.

Contact: +81 3-3657-288

Shibamata Taishakuten (Japanese only)

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2. Sugamo - the “Granny’s Ginza”

Ginza and Harajuku are well known shopping districts in Tokyo catering mainly to the young and trendy. Do you know that there is also a shopping district touted as the “Granny’s Ginza” or “Old Ladies’ Harajuku”, just a little north from Shinjuku? Located along Tokyo’s JR Yamanote Line, Sugamo (巣鴨) is this legendary shopping district lined with over 200 shops on the 800-metre (2,625 foot) long Jizo Dori shopping street. Find hand-knitted clothes, traditional foods and goods marketed towards the elderly here. Try the most popular traditional sweet, Shio-Daifuku when you visit Sugamo. The pounded rice cake contains sweet bean paste and salt to moderate its sweetness, making it a unique sweet that keeps you craving for more!

Source: Wikimedia

In the middle of the flat and wheelchair accessible Jizo Dori shopping street is the Koganji Temple. Home to the Togenuki Jizo statue with symbolic healing powers, you will see many obachan (grannies) visit the temple. Followers believe that you will be cured by washing a tired or painful body part with water from the fountain in front of the statue. On the 4th, 14th and 24th of each month, Sugamo becomes particularly lively as the temple holds a small festival. Make a trip down to Sugamo to experience a different shopping ambience in Tokyo!

Sugamo Jizo Dori shopping street (巣鴨地蔵通り商店街)

Address: 4-22-8 Sugamo, Toshima Ward, Tokyo

Price: Free admission.

Opening Hours: Varies by shops. Most shops open 10 am - 6 pm daily.

Duration: around 2 hours required.

Access: 5-minute walk northwest of Sugamo Station on the JR Yamanote and Mita Subway lines.

Contact: +81 3-3918-2101

Sugamo Jizo Dori shopping street (Japanese only)

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3. Monzen-Nakacho - a cultural treasure trove

Located in the east of Tokyo is another lesser known Monzen-Nakacho district, which is home to the Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine (富岡八幡宮). Also known as Fukagawa Hachiman, the Shinto shrine is famous for its Fukagawa Hachiman Matsuri, a grand festival held every 3 years. If you have been to the UNESCO World Heritage Town of Nikko, a small mountainous city north of Tokyo, you would be familiar with the mesmerising landscapes around Toshogu Shrine and Shinkyo Bridge. Visit Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine just a convenient 30-minute ride from Shinjuku instead of taking a 2-hour train ride out of Tokyo! The enchanting beauty here with its huge torii gate and beautiful red bridge by the Benten-ike Pond easily rivals the scene you get in Nikko. Don’t forget to check out its “ichi-no-miya” mikoshi (portable shrine), the biggest mikoshi in the Kanto region.

Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine (富岡八幡宮)

Address: 1-20-3 Tomioka, Koto Ward, Tokyo

Price: Free admission.

Opening Hours: Always open.

Duration: around 1 hour required.

Access: 5-minute walk from Monzen-Nakacho Station on the Tokyo Metro Tozai Line or Toei Oedo Line.

Contact: +81 3-3642-1315

Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine (Japanese only)

a man in the middle wears orange robe is a holy archbishop who is 91years old! #naritasan #temple #Buddhism #Tokyo #japan

A photo posted by omotenashi japan (@omotenashi_japan) on

Nearby Monzen-Nakacho Station is Fukagawa Fudoson (深川不動尊), a notable Buddhist temple in the district. Better known as the traffic temple, pray for road safety at this temple first built in 1703. Admire the oldest wooden structure in Koto with grand interiors. Visit the temple on 1 May to witness the spectacular ritual featuring drum performances at the forecourt.

Monzen-Nakacho is not just a place for cultural buffs. On the 1st, 15th and 28th of each month, an open-air antique flea market is held in the area between the shrine and the temple. Discover rare old coins, postcards and stamps amidst the variety of goods sold by friendly locals.

Fukagawa Fudoson (深川不動尊)

Address: 1-17-13 Tomioka, Koto Ward, Tokyo

Price: Free admission.

Opening Hours: 8 am - 6 pm daily.

Duration: around 1 hour required.

Access: 5-minute walk from Monzen-Nakacho Station on the Tokyo Metro Tozai Line or Toei Oedo Line.

Contact: +81 3-3641-8288

Fukagawa Fudoson (Japanese only)

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Tokyo and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Tokyo

4. Kameido - bustling new town with a special retro charm

Kameido is part of the Kinshicho-Kameido fukutoshin (sub-metropolitan centre), an up-and-coming neighbourhood in eastern Tokyo. Traditionally, the quiet Kameido district was on the edge of the Edo downtown (shitamachi). But with an increasing number of singles and young families moving out of the central area, the old industrial area is now filled with exciting shops and eateries. Nonetheless, this calm neighbourhood exudes a unique charm that is hard to match in ultra-modern districts like Shinjuku and Harajuku.

Best known for the historic Kameido Tenshin (亀戸天神社) with its iconic arched bridge, it is a great dating spot for couples to enjoy a romantic walk. The shrine grounds are always blooming with lovely flowers, such as plum flowers in February, wisteria from mid-April to May and chrysanthemum flowers in November. Right at the foot of the arched bridge is Funabashiya, a famous traditional sweets shop established since 1805. After a refreshing walk in the shrine grounds, take a breather in the retro cafe and enjoy traditional Japanese sweets like Kuzumochi along with a cup of flavourful green tea. You can buy these delightful sweets home as souvenirs too!

Kameido Tenshin (亀戸天神社)

Address: 3-6-1 Kameido, Koto Ward, Tokyo

Price: From 400 JPY (3.60 USD).

Opening Hours: Always open.

Duration: around 1 hour required.

Access: 15-minute walk from north exit of Kameido Station on the JR Sobu Line or Tobu Kameido Line.

Contact: +81 3-3681-0010

Kameido Tenshin (Japanese only)

Funabashiya (船橋屋)

Address: 3-2-14 Kameido, Koto Ward, Tokyo

Price: From 400 JPY (3.60 USD).

Opening Hours: 9 am - 5 pm daily. Takeout counter closes at 6 pm.

Duration: around 1 hour required.

Access: 11-minute walk from Kameido Station on the Chuo-Sobu Line or Tobu Kameido Line.

Contact: +81 3-3681-2784

Funabashiya (Japanese only)

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Tokyo and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Tokyo

5. Kichjoji and Inokashira Park - the top residential district for Tokyoites

* こういった写真ばかりですね🤔

A photo posted by 紗世 (@arisayo_) on

Less than 30 minutes away from the city centre lies the offbeat Kichijoji neighbourhood. Because of its convenient location, nostalgic ambience and slower pace of life in Kichijoji, it is said to the local’s favourite district. Stroll along the narrow Harmonica Alley right next to Kichijoji Station lined with quaint little shops offering all sorts of merchandise and you will be amazed by the calm and retro feel here.

Venture beyond the area around the station to get in touch with nature at Inokashira Park. The 100-year-old park (in 2017) is an oasis in the densely populated city. In fact, the Inokashira Pond in the park was the first source of water service for the Edo city in the bygone era. With a land area of 428,000 square metres (4606953.7 square feet), the beautiful park is filled with a variety of flowering trees and shrubs, such as cherry blossoms in spring. Enjoy the gorgeous nature while relaxing under the shady trees in the park!

Inokashira Park (井の頭恩賜公園)

Address: 3, 4, 5 Inokashira, Mitaka City, Tokyo

Price: free.

Opening Hours: always open.

Access: 5-minute walk from Kichijoji Station, or 1-minute walk from Inokashira-koen Station.

Contact: +81 422-47-6900

Inokashira Park (井の頭恩賜公園)

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Tokyo and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Tokyo

Do something different for your next Tokyo trip

If you have visited usual tourist spots such as Harajuku, Ginza and Shinjuku so often that you are getting bored of the city, make your way to the above hidden gems in Tokyo! While these areas may not be as developed as typical tourist attractions yet, it is this exact quality that makes the place special. Do not let the language barrier stop you from visiting these gems. Add these places into your next Tokyo holiday itinerary for a truly memorable vacation!

This article was originally published on Mar 23, 2017
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Rachel has forgotten when and exactly how she caught the travel bug. What she does remember is the triumphant feeling she enjoys when she sees the fascinating world out there with her own eyes. She...Read more

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