First time in Tokyo: Where should you stay?
A look at the best areas to stay during your trip to Japan’s capital
With the re-opening of Japan around the horizon (hopefully), I decided to write a series of blog posts to help first-timers in the country find their bearings. Today, we’re going to have a look at which area of the city you should base yourself in.
Tokyo, unlike European and American cities, does not really have the concept of a city center and urban sprawl around it; rather, each major train station acts as a mini-city center with restaurants, shopping malls, and stores spread around it. Therefore, there isn’t really a “central” location and where you stay will depend on your interests. With that said, let’s have a look at some potential areas:
Located on the East side of the city next to the Edogawa River, this area has always been popular with travelers with many guesthouses, hostels, and hotels being located here. Nearby, you also have two of the city’s biggest attractions: Senso-Ji Shrine and Tokyo Skytree (recently connected to Asakusa via a nice new walkway). Asakusa also has many old traditional buildings and is generally more quiet and laid-back than some other options in Tokyo. This, however, is a problem if you are looking to go out and party at night. Many of the good bars and clubs are located on the other side of town around Shinjuku and Shibuya, a roughly 30-minute train ride away. With the last trains stopping at around midnight, you might have to call in an early night to make it home on time. Lastly, one thing to consider is that Asakusa is not directly on the Yamanote Line (more on that below) and therefore will usually require a transfer to get to many places.
Tl;dr verdict: Asakusa is a good choice if you do not care too much about partying and want to stay in a quieter, traditional area of Tokyo.
2. Anywhere along the Yamanote Loop
Within Tokyo, the most convenient way to get around is the train. And the most popular train line is the Yamanote Loop which endlessly circles most major stations around the city including Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ueno, Ikebukuro, etc. Staying anywhere within walking distance to one of Yamanote’s train stations gives you easy access to transportation around the city and makes getting around very convenient.
If you are looking to explore much of Western Tokyo and go out at night, Shinjuku/Shibuya is a great place to base yourself in. With many new high-rise buildings and malls, Western Tokyo certainly represents a more, modern, futuristic part of Japan. Both stations are also on the Yamanote Loop, making access to other parts of the city easy.
If you are looking to stay somewhere with many foreigners and stores geared towards them, the central areas of Azabu and Roppongi are great and popular options. The iconic Tokyo Tower and Imperial Palace are also just a stone’s throw away, providing some great spots for sightseeing. While these places are not nearby the Yamanote Line, you can easily get around with the very efficient metro system.
If you want to experience old-school Tokyo with wooden houses, narrow alleys, and mom-and-pop shops, Yanaka is the place to be. Spreading roughly from North of Ueno Park to Sugamo station, this area has managed to keep its old town Tokyo vibe, and it was actually the area I first lived in Tokyo for a month in a share house. With many stations on the Yamanote Line, you can still get around many parts of the city easily.
Where to find your accommodation
I usually use booking.com for hotels and Airbnb for apartments, though you can sometimes also find apartments on booking. There are Japan-specific sites as well, such as Jalan or Rakuten Travel, but their UI makes them rather bothersome to use.
I hope that this list will help you with finding accommodation in Tokyo, and stay tuned for more blog posts for first-time travelers to Japan!