Great walking neighborhoods

If you’re the kind of traveler who likes to wander the backstreets and discover a city’s delights for yourself, here are some neighborhoods where you can’t go wrong! Read on for places to catch a glimpse of “old Tokyo” and scroll down for where to see the new, newer, newest.


Tokyo is a big modern city, but there are pockets that are untouched by time. These neighborhoods feature shops that have been in business for generations, shrines & temples where age-old traditions live on, and well-preserved examples of Japanese buildings.


If you only have one day in Tokyo, this is where I’m going to take you.

Giant Buddhist temple (Senso-ji) • Asakusa Shrine (Shinto) • Impressive festivals in every season • Traditional shopping • The most beautiful lollipops in the worldGood luck cats matchmaking shrine • Rice crackers and taiyaki made while you wait • River and temple beautifully lit up at nightSecret garden only open in the spring for cherry blossom season

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Everything for the home altar!

Stores selling beautifully pieced Shinto home altars & incredibly expensive Buddhist family altars • Incense, Buddhist rosaries & brass bells on cushions • Extend your walk to Kappabashi and Asakusa

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Want to get out of Tokyo for the day and see the most entertaining shrines and temples in Japan?

Great photo ops • Biggest bronze Buddha in Japan •  Money Washing Shrine • The Divorce Temple • Tea at the Bamboo Temple • Ten foot tall gold-leafed figure of Kannon • Catch your own noodles

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Don’t miss the street where they sell plastic food!

Plastic food model stores • Make your own plastic food •  The flavoring store • Ultra-sharp knives • Lacquerware • Japanese cooking equipment • Random dinosaur heads • Extend your walk to Inari-cho and Asakusa

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An undiscovered gem of a neighborhood

Shitamachi museum with a life-sized samurai-era town you can walk around in • Serene Japanese garden with a large lake, gorgeous steppingstones, trickling water basins & exquisite views • Near the Monzen-Nakacho area, with the temple where you can watch a fire ceremony

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Stroll along a street where they still sell goods from a bygone era

Old-fashioned sweets • Lovely wrapping cloths and hand towels • Magic umbrellas • Handmade bamboo ear cleaners • Crispy cricket drinking snacks • Poisonous dried snake tea • Togenuki Jizo healing temple • The Honorable Duck Butt of Sugamo • Big Red Underwear Store

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This is a relatively undiscovered Old Tokyo neighborhood, with traditional shops, food, and a temple with a fascinating fire ceremony

Fire ceremonies with drums, five times a day • Hall of 10,000 crystal figures of Fudo-san • Room with 108 glow-in-the-dark paintings of gods • Dragon fountain that grants wishes written on dissolving amulets • Giant wooden Fudo figure • Extend your walk to the Kiyosumi-Shirakawa area, with its excellent museum that’s a life-sized samurai-era town you can walk around in and serene Japanese garden

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Sumo wrestlers & incredible models of life in Tokyo, from the samurai era to modern day

Even when there’s not a sumo tournament to watch, sumo wrestlers can be seen in the streets of this neighborhood and at the train station • The Edo-Tokyo Museum has amazing models & life-sized dioramas of everyday life in samurai era Tokyo and how it changed after Japan opened to the west • See some of Japan’s most famous woodblock prints at the Sumida Hokusai Museum

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A neighborhood that escaped the WWII firebombing is still home to many traditional shops and shrines

Tunnel of orange torii gates you can walk through at the Nezu ShrineHave your portrait painted by a puppet • Old-fashioned neighborhood, with shops that have been in business for generations • Chiyogami traditional patterned paper store • Handmade wooden buckets • Calligraphy brushes • Air-conditioned pillows • Yanaka Ginza shopping street

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There are a few neighborhoods where you can see excellent old Tokyo landmarks right next to cutting edge stuff. Here are a couple of neighborhoods with something for everyone.



 The famous electronics district

Maid cafés • Electronics superstores • Comic book & anime stores (including fan fiction) • Handcrafted wooden keyboards • Robot & character model shops • Gundam & AKB48 Cafés • Cosplay costumes, wigs & makeup • The anime & manga shrine

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Where all things young & fashionable meet classic traditions

Yoyogi Park dishes up the best free entertainment in Tokyo every Sunday afternoon • The Meiji Shrine – the most important and elegant shrine in Tokyo • Best place to see weddings and festivals • Lolita, Gothic Lolita and all kinds of cosplay boutiques on Takeshita Street  • Harajuku-style crepes

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If you’re looking for all things popcult, Tokyo is the best hunting ground on the planet. From anime & manga goods to the latest in electronic toilets, you’ll find everything you’re looking for, and plenty that you didn’t know you wanted…until now.


This island in Tokyo Bay is home to some of the most wacky things you can do in Tokyo.

Be immersed in an astounding digital environment at the Borderless Digital Museum • Take pictures of yourself in impossible situations at the Trick Art Museum • Eat, drink, play and soak at the hot spring theme park • Get educated at the Miraikan science museum • Challenge your compadres to a Smile Fight at the Explorascience museum • Five-story tall Gundam robot • Toyota megaweb otherworldly auto showroom and History Garage car museumWalk across the Rainbow Bridge

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Where everybody young goes to shop and play

Famous 5-way intersection: 1,000 people cross every minute • Love Hotel Hill • Extreme pancake café • Trendy fashion for men and women at 109, Parco & Marui • Shop for crazy souvenirs at Tokyu HandsLoft and Don Kihote

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The perfect neighborhood for barhopping and sampling informal eateries

Quirky, inexpensive bars & restaurants, many with live music • Vinegar bar & café • Village Vanguard store for wacky only-in-Japan gifts • Ohisama Rabbit Café

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The biggest and wildest entertainment district in Tokyo

Cat cafés • Golden Gai  theme bars • Princess Style kimonos • Host clubs, hostess bars and adult entertainment

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Jonelle Patrick is the author of five novels set in Japan, the monthly Japanagram newsletter, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

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