Tokyo, the capital of Japan, is one of the favourite tourist destinations in the world. Being the world’s largest metropolitan area, there is so much to do and experience even for the repeat visitor. In this article, you will be brought to districts in west Tokyo, guiding you to key highlights in each neighbourhood to live like a local.
1. Shibuya - Tokyo’s Time Square
Shibuya is one of the most lively commuter stations in the world, often referred to as the Times Square of Tokyo. Right outside the station, the Shibuya Crossing is always busy with a constant stream of traffic flow, regardless of when you visit. Before you head to the crossing, do look out for the famous Hachiko dog statue, a popular meeting point at Shibuya. Make sure Shibuya is on your itinerary as it is an amazing place to feel the vibes of the metropolitan city.
Shop, dine and drink to your heart’s content at Shibuya
How does Shibuya maintain such a massive constant stream of traffic? It’s all thanks to the numerous shopping malls, restaurants, bars and late night entertainment such as karaoke joints here. Shop till you drop in the day at Shibuya 109, Shibuya Hikarie and so on. Rest and replenish your energy in the cosy cafes and restaurants in between retail therapy. At night, follow the local salarymen who head to the happening Hyakkendana area in Dogenzaka for some drinks, or sing your lungs out at cool karaoke joints. The list of entertainment options in Shibuya is long and seemingly endless!
To save the hassle of rushing for the last train back to your accommodation, opt to stay within this hip neighbourhood. Take your pick from boutique hotels like Shibuya Hotel En or Granbell Hotel Shibuya, unique ladies-only capsule hotels like Nadeshiko Hotel Shibuya, or cosy Airbnb apartments.
2. Harajuku - the trendsetting hot spot
Just one station away from Shibuya, arrive at Tokyo’s most fashionable place for young Tokyoites - Harajuku. Takeshita Dori, the main street in front of Harajuku Station, is always crowded with young people who are on the lookout for trendy and inexpensive fashion. Visit on a Sunday and be amazed by the massive crowd filling the narrow alleys in this area, with many decked out in outrageous cosplay fashion. This is a great place to people-watch and discover the latest trends in street fashion. In addition, you can also hone your street photography skills, as the cosplayers will gladly pose for you without demanding any fees. Better still, you can also join in the fun and dress up like a Harajuku boy or girl!
Seek respite in the city’s oasis - Yoyogi Park
Finding your way through the jam-packed Takeshita Dori can be quite tiring after some time. Seek respite from all the buzz by entering the nearby Yoyogi Park (代々木公園), one of Tokyo’s largest city parks, through Aoyama 1-chome. Enjoy a relaxing stroll along the Avenue of Gingko Trees to arrive at the sacred Meiji Shrine (明治神宮). As this is a popular spot for holding traditional Shinto wedding processions, thank your lucky stars if you manage to witness one at the shrine grounds!
Yoyogi Park and Meiji Shrine
Address: 2-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo 151-0052
Opening Hours: Always open.
Access: 5-minute walk from Harajuku Station. Meiji Shrine is next to the park.
Contact: +81 3-3469-6081
3. Shinjuku - Tokyo’s administrative and commercial centre
Shinjuku, the administrative and commercial centre of Tokyo, is just one train stop away from Harajuku, but evokes a totally different atmosphere from the young and trendy Harajuku and Shibuya. Shinjuku is a busy transportation hub in the city, with superb connectivity to other parts of Japan. Nonetheless, it is slightly less busy compared with Shibuya, and you will see more working professionals in business suits instead of the more casual settings in the other two districts.
Venture to the eye-opening Kabukicho (歌舞伎町) entertainment district, located east of Seibu Shinjuku Station, for life after dark (and work). The thousands of hostess bars, strip joints, porno video and DVD outlets and numerous love hotels allow the tired professionals to unwind after a long stressful day at work. Visit with a local to gain more insights into this infamous entertainment district.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building - best views of the city skyline for free!
If Kabukicho is too much for you to stomach, grab awesome panoramic views of Tokyo’s skyline instead at the observation deck of Tokyo Metropolitan Government building. The 243-metre (797 feet) tall building used to be the tallest building in Tokyo until 2007 when Midtown Tower in Roppongi was completed. Nonetheless, this is still a great place to get free views of Tokyo and even as far as Mount Fuji if the weather is good!
Furthermore, just across the street from the government building is Shinjuku Central Park, which offers some respite from the dense built-up surroundings. You can practise skating on the vast space here like the locals, or check out the flea market held every Saturday.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government building observation decks
Address: 2-8-1, Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo 163-8001
Opening Hours: please refer to official website for details.
Access: 10-minute walk from west exit of Shinjuku Station, or direct access from Tocho-mae Station.
Contact: +81 3-5321-1111
Stay in Shinjuku for easy connectivity
Booking a stay in the Shinjuku district is a great choice because this major transportation hub in Tokyo has excellent connectivity to all parts of the city and country. Furthermore, there are a variety of options to suit travellers of all budgets, from affordable Airbnb apartments like Central Shinjuku Park Apartment 702, budget APA Shinjuku Gyoenmae hotel, to classy designer hotels like Shinjuku Granbell Hotel and traditional Japanese inn-style Business Hotel Yamamoto, you will surely find something to suit your needs.
4. Nakano - the happiest place for anime and manga fanatics
Just five minutes’ train ride from Shinjuku via the JR Chuo Line, Nakano Station is near to Nakano Broadway (中野ブロードウェイ), a shopping complex housing anime and manga collectibles. This is the place where otaku culture fans will go gaga over the extensive four levels of shopping for animation figurines, idol collectibles and accessories and so on. The best part of coming here is prices are relatively cheaper here compared with other parts of Tokyo.
After satisfying the shopaholic in you, take a breather and feed the hungry soul at the many cafes and restaurants available in the area. Despite being a densely populated district, Nakano evokes a unique laid-back feel that you don’t get in the other districts mentioned above.
Address: 5-52-15 Nakano Ward, Tokyo
Access info: outside Nakano Station
Opening hours: 12:00 - 20:00
Fixed holiday: depends on shop
Contact: +81 3-3388-7004
Entrance fee: free
5. Kichijoji - locals’ favourite district
Conveniently accessible by train in under 30 minutes from the city centre, Kichijoji is a quaint neighbourhood off the typical tourist path in Tokyo. Indeed, the locals love Kichijoji for its convenience yet retro feel and less hectic pace. Despite the numerous dining and shopping options available, it is a uniquely different experience to tour around compared with bustling hot spots like Shinjuku or Shibuya. Roam around at the Harmonica Alley next to Kichijoji Station to experience this for yourself!
Revel in an amazing Ghibli Museum tour and unwind at Inokashira Park
When you visit Kichijoji, do not just explore the area around the station. Make your way to the nature-rich Inokashira Park and the famous Japanese animation studio Ghibli Museum next to it. Lined with rows of tall trees, the park is a perfect spot for you to relax and unwind. Enjoy a lovely picnic with your family and friends under the shady trees, while soaking in the beautiful nature scenery. During spring, get a splendid view of cherry blossoms, and in autumn, marvel in awe at the sea of red and yellow foliage.
In addition, the Ghibli Museum is a must-visit for fans of the famed Japanese animation studio Studio Ghibli. Right from the museum’s colourful entrance, feel as if you have stepped into the wonderful world of Ghibli. Everything within the museum complex is carefully constructed to recreate the works of Studio Ghibli. Even if you aren’t an ardent fan, I’m sure you will enjoy this fascinating tour too!
Inokashira Park (井の頭恩賜公園)
Address: 3, 4, 5 Inokashira, Mitaka City, Tokyo 180-0005
Opening Hours: always open.
Access: 5-minute walk from Kichijoji Station, or 1-minute walk from Inokashira-koen Station.
Contact: +81 422-47-6900
Ghibli Museum (三鷹の森ジブリ美術館)
Address: 1-1-83 Shimorenjaku, Mitaka City, Tokyo 181-0013
Price: 1,000 JPY (9.40 USD), reserve your ticket online up to 1 month in advance (see official website for details)
Opening Hours: 10am - 6pm. Please refer to official website for closing dates.
Access: From Mitaka Station south exit, about 15-minute walk along the Tamagawa Josui “Waterworks”, or short bus ride to the museum.
Have you found your favourite district in West Tokyo yet?
After reading about the various interesting districts in West Tokyo, which district do you prefer the most? Regardless of your preference, West Tokyo has a diverse range of attractions for a pleasant and unforgettable holiday. Plan your next holiday there now!