Living Like A Local - East Tokyo Neighbourhood Guide

Living Like A Local - East Tokyo Neighbourhood Guide

As Japan’s capital, Tokyo is the most populous metropolitan area in the world, with 23 central city wards and multiple towns and villages west of the city centre under the same administration. With a total land area of 2,188 square kilometres (about 845 square miles), it will take you quite some time before you can proudly call yourself the “Tokyo guru”. This article will bring you on a tour to Tokyo’s eastern neighbourhood, highlighting signature things to do in the east, to live like a local.

1. Asakusa - district with an old Tokyo atmosphere

Sensoji - Asakusa Kannon Temple
Source: Photo by user IQRemix used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Map Location
Asakusa used to be the downtown area of Tokyo during the Edo Period, where the common people lived. Soak in the nostalgic ambience as you explore the little old town on foot, with the impressive Tokyo Sky Tree in the background. The ancient Buddhist temple - Sensoji (浅草寺, also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple) is its most famous landmark with a striking giant red Kaminarimon lantern at its main gate. It is almost customary that all visitors to Asakusa will take a shot or two in front of this icon. Of course, leading up to the temple, you can shop for souvenirs along the popular Nakamise shopping street. But is that all you can do in the old town? Below are things you can do just like a local!

Sensoji (浅草寺)

Address: 2-3-1 Asakusa, Taito Ward, Tokyo 111-0032

Price: free admission.

Opening Hours: Main hall: 6am - 5pm (October to March: from 6.30am); Temple grounds: Always open.

Access: a few steps from Asakusa Station, served by the Ginza Subway Line, Asakusa Subway Line and Tobu Railways.

Contact: +81 3-3842-0181

Sensoji (浅草寺)

Enjoy a therapeutic soak in the traditional bathhouse

One of the must-dos when in Japan is the traditional onsen experience. The highly-raved about onsens are usually located in the mountainous rural regions, but do you know you can hop into a traditional Japanese bathhouse just 5 minutes away from Asakusa Station? Despite the absence of breathtaking scenery here, enjoy a relaxing soak in the naturally dark brown hot spring waters at Jakotsuyu Bathhouse that locals have been enjoying since the Taisho Period!

Jakotsuyu Bathhouse (蛇骨湯)

Address: 1-11-11 Asakusa, Taito Ward, Tokyo

Price: 460 JPY (4.30 USD), includes use of shampoo and body soap.

Opening Hours: 1pm - midnight daily except Tuesday.

Access: 5-minute walk from Asakusa Station.

Contact: +81 3-3841-8645

Jakotsuyu Bathhouse (Japanese only)

Mingle with the friendly locals over good food and beer

Source: Photo by user kimishowota used under CC BY-SA 2.0

As Asakusa was traditionally a working-class neighbourhood, you can look forward to lots of affordable local restaurants and street food in the many alleys here. Hoppy-Dori (浅草ホッピー通り), a short and unassuming 80-metre long street not on the typical tourist to-do list, is a street where the working-class locals frequent for its old-fashioned izakayas. Don’t forget to try the Hoppy Beer, a popular alcoholic drink enjoyed since the Showa era, alongside delicious motsuyaki (grilled roast pork giblets) and yakitori (grilled chicken on a skewer). Strike up a conversation with the friendly locals sitting next to you when eating!

Furthermore, there are other delectable eats in the district such as the famous Hitotsubu Sushi, which literally means “one grain sushi”. Traditionally, the Japanese would make small sushi in celebration of the birth of a daughter or when a baby is weaned. The cosy Sushiya no Nohachi (すし屋の野八) tucked in a quiet alley in the area offers this tiny sushi made with a single grain of rice. Not only does the sushi make for a cute photo, it also tastes wonderful. And for those who love Japanese tempura (small battered fried fish), you may not know that Asakusa was the location of the first tempura restaurant opened in 1837. There are lots of famous tempura restaurants here waiting for you to try them!

Read more about the best food places in Asakusa here.

Hoppy-Dori (浅草ホッピー通り)

Address: 2-5 Asakusa, Taito Ward, Tokyo

Price: depends on shop.

Opening Hours: 12pm till late.

Access: 5-minute walk from Asakusa Station, next to the off-track betting zone on the west side of Sensoji.

Sushiya no Nohachi (すし屋の野八)

Address: 1-3-6 Kaminarimon, Taito Ward, Tokyo

Opening Hours: 5pm - 2am daily except Sunday.

Access: 5-minute walk from Asakusa Station.

Contact: +81 3-3841-3841

Sushiya no Nohachi (Japanese only)

Stay in the shitamachi district and feel the warmth of the locals

Most people have the misconception that you have to pay a hefty price for Tokyo accommodation, especially if it is in a convenient location. Fortunately, that doesn’t apply to accommodations in Asakusa. Regardless of your preferences - hostel, hotel or Airbnb apartment, you will find them reasonably priced here yet enjoy close proximity to major attractions in the city. There is the stylish Nui. Hostel for the budget conscious, and the Asakusa Explore, a private apartment for up to 3 guests. Stay in this district without worrying about how to return to your accommodation after late-night drinking, dining or catching a famous Japanese comedian perform at Asakusa Engei Hall (浅草演芸ホール).

2. Ueno - immerse yourself in the cultural neighbourhood

Map Location
Like Asakusa, Ueno gives you the old Tokyo feel as you wander around the neighbourhood. In fact they are situated near to each other and you can take a lovely stroll from Asakusa to Ueno within 30 minutes. Filled with traditional houses and narrow streets, there are many arts galleries and museums in Ueno. This is the best destination to visit in Tokyo if you love arts and traditional culture.

Of course, a visit to Ueno is not complete without making your way to the famous Ueno Park. It is one of the biggest green spaces in Tokyo, and a top spot for viewing beautiful cherry blossoms in spring. Furthermore, it is home to the oldest museum in Japan, Tokyo National Museum, as well as Ueno Zoo, Japan’s oldest zoo with adorable pandas from China.

Ueno Park (上野公園)

Address: 3 Ikenohata, Taito Ward, Tokyo

Price: free admission. Separate charges apply for museum and zoo.

Opening Hours: 5am - 11pm. Closed from 29 December to 3 January.

Access: 2-minute walk from Ueno Station.

Contact: +81 3-3828-5644

Ueno Park (上野公園)

Have fun shopping and drinking like a local

Source: Photo by user Mikael Leppä used under CC BY 2.0

The Ueno Ameyoko shopping street is probably not unfamiliar to you, but did you know that it used to flourish as a black market for candy (ame) after the war? While that’s history now, explore this forever-busy shopping street with over 400 stores selling everything you can think of. Watch out for typical scenes of assertive shop owners with haggling customers. If you are looking for affordable and trendy ladies’ fashion, shop at ABAB Ueno, the local’s favourite.

Besides Asakusa’s Hoppy-Dori (浅草ホッピー通り) where you can enjoy cheap and good food and beer, you can also do the same at Ueno Izayaka-machi (上野居酒屋街). As its name suggests, you can find many izayakas along this street not far from Ueno Station. It is popular with the salarymen who come here after work. After all the shopping and sightseeing in the day, chill over great yakitori and beer with your friends here. You may like to stay in the cosy and functional Agora Place Asakusa hotel nearby so that you can eat and drink to your heart’s content till late!

Ueno Ameyoko shopping street

Address: 6-10-7 Ueno, Taito Ward, Tokyo 110-0005

Opening Hours: depends on shop.

Access: next to Ueno Station, central exit.

Contact: +81 3-3833-3111

Ueno Ameyoko shopping street (Japanese only)


Address: 4-8-4 Ueno, Taito Ward, Tokyo 110-8541

Opening Hours: 5am - 11pm. Closed from 29 December to 3 January.

Access: 2-minute walk from Ueno Station, Funin exit.

Contact: +81 3-3833-3111


3. Akihabara - Tokyo's electric town

Source: Photo by user Paul Bourke used under CC BY 2.0

Map Location
Akihabara is most widely recognized as the go-to place for electronics, thus earning it a reputation as Tokyo’s electric town. Nowadays, the otaku or geek culture seems to have overtaken the district by storm. Anime and manga (Japanese comics) fans will go wild in Akihabara with the massive variety of video game and manga stores, arcades etc available here. Even if you aren’t into electronics or geek culture, just a walk in Japan’s nerdiest neighbourhood will keep you entertained for the day.

Kanda Myojin - not your usual Japanese shrine

There are numerous temples and shrines in Japan, but Kanda Myojin (神田明神) is definitely a unique temple to look out for. While the shrine building looks “normal”, take a good look at the souvenir and omamori (good luck charms) store and you will discover what sets it apart from the other traditional shrines. The omamori is shaped like a computer chip, meant to protect your electronic devices such as laptops and tablets. There are also cute omamori featuring popular anime characters. No wonder Kanda Myojin is dubbed as the geekiest shrine ever. Visit the shrine to pray for success in your techie ventures or simply to bless your new computer from any potential viruses!

Kanda Myojin (神田明神)

Address: 2-16-2 Soto Kanda, Chiyod Ward, Tokyo 101-0021

Price: free admission.

Opening Hours: always open.

Access: 10-minute walk from Akihabara Station on Hibiya Line.

Contact: +81 3-3254-0753

Kanda Myojin

Enjoy the sheer number of interesting themed cafes

AKB48 Café Akihabara
Source: Photo by user Karl Baron used under CC BY 2.0

Akihabara is not just an electronics and anime haven. If you walk along its main street, you will see many quirky themed cafes. Amongst them all, look out for Japanese girls wearing cute French maid outfits handing out flyers to direct customers into the maid-themed cafes. Enjoy your meal while being served by the adorable “maids”. The AKB48 Cafe is also right smack in Akihabara. If you don’t already know, AKB48 is an extremely popular girl group in Japan with 48 members, and they originate from this neighbourhood, hence the name. So try your luck in catching a live performance by this popular idol group by dining here! Last but not least, Gundam (futuristic robot anime series) fans must check out the Gundam Cafe, where you will find various Gundam themed decor, food and drinks in this famous cafe.

AKB48 Official Cafe & Shop

Address: 1-1 Kanda Hanaokacho, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo 101-0028

Price: 3,000 JPY (28.10 USD) admission fee, food & drink prices range from 480 to 1,000 JPY (4.50 to 9.40 USD).

Opening Hours: please refer to official website.

Access: next to Akihabara Station.

Contact: +81 3-5297-4848

AKB48 Official Cafe & Shop

Gundam Cafe

Address: 1-1 Kanda Hanaokacho, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo 101-0028

Price: Food & drink prices range from 380 to 3,600 JPY (3.60 to 33.80 USD).

Opening Hours: please refer to official website.

Access: next to Akihabara Station.

Contact: +81 3-3251-0078

Gundam Cafe

4. Ginza - more than just for the rich

Car Free Ginza
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Rob Hooft used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Map Location
Ginza (銀座) is Tokyo’s most renowned upmarket shopping, dining and entertainment district. Known to be the most expensive place in the world, many luxury brands like Chanel, Louis Vuitton etc have boutiques here. Even sipping a cup of coffee will make you about 10 USD poorer. However, don’t let this stop you from visiting Ginza, because every Sunday afternoon, the central Chuo Dori street becomes a pedestrian-only street. That’s when tables and chairs will be set up in the middle of the street, making it the perfect place to people-watch on this trendy upmarket street! Here are two interesting activities in Ginza that won’t cost you a bomb to explore:

Tsukiji Market - a glimpse into the life of local merchants

Best known as one of the world’s biggest fish markets, Tsukiji Market (築地市場) is not only a tourist’s favourite, but also an important place where local merchants trade. Sacrifice some sleep just one morning and get to the market by 4am to apply for admission to the tuna auction area from 5.25am. Only 120 visitors are allowed per day in two sessions. So try to arrive as early as you can, otherwise you will miss this rare opportunity to witness the auction! Just to play safe, spend the night somewhere near Tsukiji Market so as to save on travel time and cost, since it’s impossible to get any public transport early in the morning. A great accommodation to consider will be the stylish First Cabin Tsukiji capsule hotel just a stone’s throw from the market.

Read also: Best Foods Guide around Tsukiji fish market, Tokyo!

Tsukiji Market (築地市場)

Address: 5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo Ward, Tokyo 104-0045

Price: free admission.

Opening Hours: Outer Market: varies by shop, typically 5am - 2pm; Wholesale Area: open to visitors after 10am; Tuna Auction: open to visitors from 5.25am to 6:15am (restricted to 120 visitors/day)

Access: 5-minute walk from Tsukiji Station.

Contact: +81 3-3542-1111

Tsukiji Market (築地市場)

Enjoy the restored Kabukiza Theatre without paying for a pricey ticket

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Rs1421 used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Kabuki (歌舞伎) is a traditional Japanese theatre performance that involves intricately designed costumes, conspicuous make-up, queer wigs, and most importantly, exaggerated actions by the actors. Reopened in April 2013 after reconstruction, the Kabukiza Theatre in Ginza district is a convenient kabuki theatre for you to enjoy this classic act. A ticket for an evening performance will cost up to 20,000 JPY (187.50 USD) at the theatre, but fret not, you don’t need to spend a lot to enjoy the cultural atmosphere here. Interesting activities include dressing up as a kabuki actor, touring the Kabukiza Gallery at the roof terrace, and buying a Hitomaku-mi Single Act ticket for not more than 3,000 JPY (28.10 USD).

Kabukiza Theatre

Address: 4-12-15 Ginza, Chuo Ward, Tokyo

Price: free admission. Performance ticket price varies.

Opening Hours: from 10 am till last performance ends

Access: direct access from Higashi-Ginza Station exit 3.

Contact: +81 3-3545-6800

Kabukiza Theatre

5. Kiyosumi Shirakawa - the hippy coffee town

Map Location

Kiyosumi Shirakawa is a humble town with little to boast of except gray concrete buildings. In fact, it appears somewhat out of place in a bustling urban city like Tokyo. However, recently this area has become a hub for coffee lovers. With international coffee brands like America’s Blue Bottle Coffee and New Zealand’s Allpress Espresso setting up cafes here, coffee addicts are flocking to Kiyosumi Shirakawa. Quaintly decorated cafes by independent local coffee businesses such as Arise Coffee Roasters have also opened in the area. If you are an avid cafe-hopper, do plan some time to visit Kiyosumi Shirakawa for great coffee experience!

Blue Bottle Coffee Kiyosumi Shirakawa

Address: 1-4-8 Hirano, Koto Ward, Tokyo

Access: 9 minutes’ walk south to Tokyo metro Kiyosumi Shirakawa station

Opening Hours: 8 am - 7 pm (no holiday)

Contact: +81 3-3641-0882

Official Website

Which is your favourite district in East Tokyo?

Now that you have gone on a virtual tour through the various districts in East Tokyo, have you found your favourite district yet? No matter where you decide to spend your time in Tokyo, remember the vibrant capital has an excellent train network to connect you to almost anywhere quickly. Have a great time!

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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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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