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.
A neighborhood and shops unchanged for generations
Everything for the home altar!
Stores selling beautifully pieced Shinto home altars & incredibly expensive Buddhist family altars • Incense, Buddhist rosaries & brass bells on cushions
An undiscovered gem of a neighborhood, where you can feel what it was like to live in a bygone era
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
KOSHINZUKA STREET MARKET
A market 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
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 • Near 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
NIHON MINKA-EN THATCH-ROOFED FARMHOUSES Day Trip
A village of restored thatch-roofed houses just a short train ride from central Tokyo.
23 thatch-roofed houses • You can go inside • Visitor center showing how they are made • In a beautiful park
Sumo wrestlers & incredible models of ye olde Tokyo
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
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 Shrine • 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
OLD MEETS NEW
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
Shop with the fashion cults, or glimpse a wedding at a magnificent Imperial Shrine
Brand boutiques for Lolita, Gothic Lolita, Punk, Fairy Kei and more • Harajuku-style crepes • Extreme pancakes • Crazy entertainers in Yoyogi Park • See the most majestic imperial shrine in Tokyo • Nai-en Garden is famous for iris
ALL THE NEW
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.
A geek heaven for modelmakers and collectors
Figure & model stores • Comic book shops • Rare and antique J-pop goods • Cosplay supplies • Grill-at-your-own-table restaurant
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 museum • Walk across the Rainbow Bridge
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 Hands, Loft and Don Kihote
The perfect neighborhood for barhopping and sampling informal eateries
The biggest and wildest entertainment district in Tokyo
And while you’re there, read a novel set in Tokyo!
“A genuinely gripping crime thriller which wrong-foots and perplexes the reader throughout, drawing us in emotionally . . . Highly recommended.”