The Capital Playground

Tokyo, Urayasu

Tokyo is a colorful tapestry of contrasts: tradition and progress, minimalism and avant-garde, laid-back and high-energy, all coming together in one city. Japan’s capital is divided into 23 wards, then broken down into neighborhoods carrying their own distinct personalities. Deciding on where to go might get overwhelming, so we’ve gathered the city’s must-see districts to help you out. We’ve got all budgets, personas, and itineraries covered—all you need to do is get ready to play in the metropolis!

Updated a year ago

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Akihabara (Akiba)

秋葉原

Tokyo, Japan • Recommendation • 18 July 2018

Akihabara is famous for its devotion to otaku (オタク, fans of anime and manga) culture! Known for its abundance of arcades, the district is your top choice for a day of fun and games. Marvel at pros expertly maneuvering consoles at Hirose Entertainment Yard, relive your childhood at retro game shangri-la Super Potato, or spend all your change on the gachapons (ガチャポン, vending machines that dispense small toys) at Akihabara Gachapon Kaikan! Nicknamed “Electric Town,” Akihabara is also known for the technology shops that line its streets. Yodobashi Akiba sells everything from computers to accessories. Maid cafes are also popular must-visits here, where waitresses treat customers like masters. Just follow the French maid costume-clad ladies to stumble upon one!

Akihbara, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan

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Ebisu

恵比寿

Tokyo, Japan • Recommendation • 18 July 2018

Experience the best of Ebisu at Yebisu Garden Place! Built on a former brewery of Yebisu beer (a local brand of German-style beer), the city-within-a-city boasts a collection of restaurants, bars, shops, and entertainment facilities. Have a delicious Shio Ramen (chicken-based broth) meal at Afuri, and wash it down with sake from Buri, a well-known tachinomiya (立ち飲み屋, standing bar), or Japanese ale samplers at Beer Station. A treat for visual art lovers, the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum is also in Yebisu Garden Place. The space hosts an ever-changing roster of exhibits from various local shutterbugs, and they also have a library of photography-related literature for amateurs seeking to learn more about the form. Entrance is generally free, but certain galleries have corresponding charges.

Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan


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Ginza

銀座

Tokyo, Japan • Recommendation • 18 July 2018

Splurge on designer labels, shop at your favorite brand’s flagship locations, and get lost in the department stores of Ginza! Weekend afternoons are the best time to swing by, since Chuo-dori (the two-kilometer main street) is closed to vehicular traffic. Whether you’re enthusiastically swiping your credit card or longingly peering through windows, the luxury retail mecca is guaranteed to satisfy your inner shopaholic! Once you’re done with your spree, treat yourself to a show at Kabukiza Theatre—Tokyo’s grandest kabuki (Japanese dance-drama) stage!

Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, Japan


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Harajuku

原宿

Tokyo, Japan • Recommendation • 18 July 2018

You’re in for the (culture) shock of your life at Harajuku, Tokyo’s street fashion capital and alternative youth lifestyle hub. Spot teens flaunting outrageous costumes, mismatched styles, and punk-rock makeup as they casually strut their stuff along the district. Ask kindly, and they’ll even let you photograph them! While you’re here, get your fix of Japan’s over-the-top kawaii trend (かわいい, cute) at Takeshita Dori. It’s actually a street crammed with clothing boutiques, specialty stores, and fashionable food outlets. Take a break at Marion Crepes, and re-energize with one of the yummy (and pretty) French desserts displayed on the window.

Harajuku, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan

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Omotesando

表参道

Tokyo, Japan • Recommendation • 18 July 2018

Omotesando is characterized by its one-kilometer-long tree-lined boulevard, making the neighborhood extremely well-known as Tokyo’s Champs-Elysees. Get ready to splurge at Omotesando Hills, a shopping complex filled with international luxury brands, local designer boutiques, and upscale restaurants. The area is also a center for modern architecture, so feel free to walk around and appreciate the avant-garde structures—including the Prada Building, the Audi Forum, and the Gyre.

Omotesando, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan


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Roppongi

六本木

Tokyo, Japan • Recommendation • 18 July 2018

Popular with expats, Roppongi is a nightlife district where the highest concentration of late night attractions in Tokyo can be found. Party hard at nightclubs such as Esprit Tokyo, V2 Tokyo, and A-Life or sip slow at lounge bars like Maduro Jazz Lounge and Mezzo Bar Lounge. There are also beer halls, pubs, and izakayas here (居酒屋, Japanese drinking establishments), perfect for watering hole regulars. Come morning, fight through the hangover and visit Roppongi’s different cultural sites! Make your way to the Meiji Shrine and Mori Art Museum, which is the city’s largest contemporary art museum. Book a reservation for lunch at Sushi Tsu to sample aged sushi, then grab dessert at Naniwaya Sohonten, the first taiyaki (鯛焼き, fish-shaped cake with filling) shop in Japan!

Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan

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Shibuya

渋谷

Tokyo, Japan • Recommendation • 18 July 2018

A quintessential Tokyo stopover, Shibuya is the epicenter of Japanese youth culture. Here, you will find the iconic Shibuya Crossing, the busiest pedestrian intersection in the world. Be up-to-date with the latest fads by perusing through Center Gai, Shibuya 109, and Mens 109, where you’ll find an unbelievable amount of fashion boutiques and trendy shops! The district is also crawling with karaoke (カラオケ, interactive singing entertainment) bars, izakayas, and street art to keep you occupied at any time of the day.

Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan

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Shinjuku

新宿

Tokyo, Japan • Recommendation • 18 July 2018

Get off at Shinjuku Station (the busiest train stop in the world) and bask in the eccentric, flashy atmosphere of Shinjuku! While there are plenty of shopping and dining destinations here, the main draw is its adult-friendly attractions. After drinking along the alleys of the Golden Gai (which has over 200 bars!), head to the red light district of Kabukicho. Experience the bright, futuristic Japan of your dreams at Robot Restaurant, gulp down on cocktails at a hostess bar, and stock up on scandalous souvenirs. It’s quite safe to traverse the area, but be prepared to see (and shut down) countless offers of love hotels and sketchy massages.

Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan

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Tsukiji

築地

Tokyo, Japan • Recommendation • 18 July 2018

Ready your market-appropriate footwear, flashless camera, and tolerance for fishy aromas—it’s time to explore Tsukiji Fish Market! The biggest wholesale fish and seafood establishment in Tokyo comes alive early in the morning, with chefs and restaurant buyers stocking up for the day’s menu. The Tuna Auctions are also quite famous here, but don’t forget to check the schedule before you visit to see if it’s open to the public. Stroll through the inner market to see lanes and alleys of every sea creature imaginable! The area is only open to tourists at 11:00AM, but those eyeing to buy the freshest catch (or taste the best sushi ever) may still enter—just remember to respect the rules. Food-loving travelers may continue their culinary expedition at the outer market where rows of ramen places, sushi counters, produce vendors, and stalls of Japanese staple ingredients abound!

Tsukiji, Chuo-ko, Tokyo, Japan

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Ueno

Tokyo, Japan • Recommendation • 18 July 2018

Soak up Japanese history and tradition in Ueno, the cultural capital of Tokyo! Start at Ueno Park, a sprawling green space believed to possess spiritual powers as it stands on former temple grounds. Take trips to religious institutions such as the Kaneiji Temple and Tonogu Shrine, as well as multiple museums like the Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, and the National Science Museum. Make sure to drop by Ueno Zoo, Japan’s oldest enclosed habitat, to see over 3,000 animals and some rare species! Before leaving Ueno, score a few bargains at Ameyoko—one of the cheapest shopping destinations in Tokyo! There are more than 500 stores lining the streets, selling everything from everyday living items to one-of-a-kind knick knacks at super-low prices.

Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo, Japan


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Urayasu

浦安市

Urayasu, Japan • Recommendation • 18 July 2018

Part of Chiba Prefecture, Urayasu is a little off Tokyo. However, it remains to be an essential stopover when in the capital as it is home to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea! Take a quick 15-minute ride on Japan Railway to Maihama Station, and let the little ones (and your inner child) run free. Tokyo Disneyland is ideal for young families, since it offers the classic attractions in addition to the spectacular shows and parades. Meanwhile, Tokyo DisneySea is the only one of its kind in the world—ideal for a unique experience! Be warned, though: many of the rides and activities in Tokyo DisneySea are geared towards a more mature audience. We’re talking spooky storylines and adrenaline-pumping coasters!

Urayasu, Chiba, Japan

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