When you visit Tokyo, there are things that you certainly must do such as visit all the iconic sightseeing spots. If you want to make unforgettable memories in this city that never sleeps, follow the locals to see another side of Tokyo besides the iconic areas!
Here are 10 areas that aren’t so famous among tourists yet loved by locals. In these areas, you can enjoy the daily life of Tokyo people, feel the real atmosphere and best of all, avoid crowds.
Shimbashi is one of the stations that can be accessed by multiple trains but it’s usually only Tokyo people that stop here. It is a business area full of offices and workaholic salary men with suits so there are no must-see or iconic spots. For that reason, Shimbashi is one of the best places to feel a typical Japanese night with under-the-track shops and an entire new world in the basements of buildings. You can find many standing bars that are perfect for bar-hopping as well as delicious Japanese restaurants. Keep in mind however that the weekends are usually quiet as offices are closed 😉
While we’re talking about food, Tokyo has its own version of Osaka’s okonomiyaki called monjiayaki and the best place to try it is Monja Street in Tsukishima. Near the station, you can find many monja shops along the whole street. In these restaurants, you choose among a wide variety of ingredients and cook your own monjiayaki. Basically, you mix the ingredients then grill them on the teppan grill at your table. The staff will be happy to help you if you don’t feel confident. Eating monjayaki is a fun way to have dinner with friends – Hatago Experiences knows!
Monzen-nakacho is one of the shitamachi towns, the old areas of ancient Edo, where common people used to live. Nowadays it is still a local area where you can enjoy a quiet and old atmosphere. There aren’t many skyscrapers or huge buildings, but plenty of nice houses and parks. Here you can visit the temple where Sumo was born and attend a fire ceremony at Fukagawa Fudodo Temple. Monzen-nakacho is also called the “coffee town” of Tokyo due to its high number of nice coffee shops, including the Blue Bottle Shop. In addition, there is a small museum that explains about life in shitamachi during the Edo Period.
Another shitamachi area of Tokyo is Yanaka; this was one of the few areas of Tokyo that wasn’t destroyed by Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and bombings of WWII. Strolling around Yanaka Ginza means entering in the daily life of locals; small shops, markets, traditional wooden houses and many temples are the highlights of Yanaka. This is the best place to buy a cheap second-hand kimono and taste some delicious sweets. Yanaka is also known as “city of the cats” because you can often spot them in the narrow streets and gardens. You’ll find many shops that are cat-themed, including a special cat-shaped taiyaki shop.
Furthermore, the Yanaka Cemetery, one of the biggest cementeries in Tokyo, is an amazing place for cherry blossom viewing. It’s one of our stops on our Yanaka Tour.
This area is the bohemian and hipster side of Tokyo. Called “Shimokita” by locals, it is the place for creative minds, artists and musicians. It’s a paradise for vintage and second-hand lovers who want to find unique pieces at a cheap price. It’s great for alternative or emerging designers and stylists too. What’s the best pairing with vintage dress shopping? Coffee of course! In Shimokita you can taste some exceptional roasted coffee and unconventional coffee-based drinks.
Quite similar to Shimokitazawa, Koenji is also an alternative and artist-friendly area. There are many vintage shops, some frequented often by Lady Gaga during her trips to Tokyo! Not only can you find clothes here, Koenji is also a famous place for vinyl and music lovers. Koenji was the epicenter of punk scene in the 70s and to this day, still reflects the vibrant suburban underground culture. Temples and cute cafes for daytime, live bars and yakitoris for nighttime!
Get lost in this magical atmosphere full of slopes, cobblestone streets and narrow alleys, Kagurazaka is a secret well-preserved Edo town. It is one of the six places in Tokyo where there are still geishas. There are plenty of nice restaurants and coffee shops with European influence, thanks to the nearby French Institute. You can visit temples, shops, and cafes surrounded by greenery. Discover Kagurazaka during the daytime or wait for the sunset to discover its magical night-side with its nostalgic atmosphere.
Also called “Harajuku of Grannies”, Sugamo is a nice local area popular especially among the elders thanks to the various shops for them. It’s easy to walk around because there aren’t any slopes or stairs. There’s also a temple important to health, where people can wash and dry a Kannon statue to “wash away” their pain. If you want to spot some cute Japanese obaachans, this place is not to be missed.
We visit Sugamo during our Nostalgic Tokyo Tram Tour – book here!
The vibrant Kichijoji is often listed among the most desirable places to live in Tokyo being a residential area full of nice spots and attractions. Kichijoji is home to Inokashira Park that features a small lake and a temple; it is also where the Ghibli Museum is located – a must-see for all Ghibli movies lovers.
There are some universities in the area which makes Kichijoji one of the best places to enjoy life while saving money! Nice cafes, delicious street food and a bustling shopping street make Kichijoji the perfect local area to enjoy Tokyo nights.
Akihabara is popular among otaku-tourists, but the real otaku world is in Nakano. The shopping center called Nakano Broadway is one of the best places to find idol goods, anime and manga collection at a cheaper price than Akihabara. Of course, you don’t need to be an otaku to enjoy Nakano Broadway; it is also a good place to enjoy the art of Takashi Murakami, the father of the smiling flowers, thanks to Bar Zingaro and other exhibition spaces related to him.