Tokyo is vast: it’s best thought of not as a single city, but a constellation of cities that have grown together. Tokyo’s districts vary wildly by character, from the electronic blare of Akihabara to the Imperial gardens and shrines of Chiyoda, from the hyperactive youth culture mecca of *Shibuya to the pottery shops and temple markets of Asakusa.
If you don’t like what you see, hop on the train and head to the next station, and you will find something entirely different.
For most visitors, the biggest part of the Tokyo experience is just wandering around at random and absorbing the vibe, poking your head into shops selling weird and wonderful things, sampling restaurants where you can’t recognize a single thing on the menu (or on your plate), and finding unexpected oases of calm in the tranquil grounds of a neighbourhood Shinto shrine.
Chiyoda (map) – The seat of Japanese power (both political and economic), the Imperial Palace (map), and the electronics mecca of Akihabara.
Chuo (map) – The famed department stores of Ginza (map) and the outer market of Tsukiji (map).
Minato (map) – The business centers of Akasaka (map) and Shinbashi (map) and the neighbouring nightclub district of Roppongi (map), the artificial island of Odaiba (map), and the skyscrapers of Shiodome (map).
Shinjuku (map) – Home to luxury hotels, giant camera stores, futuristic skyscrapers, hundreds of shops and restaurants, and *Kabukichō (map), Tokyo’s wildest nightlife and red-light district.
*Shibuya (map) – The fashionable shopping district which also encompasses the teenybopper haven of *Harajuku (map), home to the Meiji Shrine, map) and the nightlife of Ebisu (map).
Shinagawa (map) – A major train hub (Shinagawa Station, map). Historically, parts of this ward were known as Shimazuyama. Many feudal lords (daimyo) maintained estates in this area during the Tokugawa Shogunate.
*Toshima (map) – Including Ikebukuro (map), another giant train hub.
Meguro (map) – A residential area with a few nice parks and museums.
Old Tokyo (Shitamachi)
*Sumida (map) – It is home to a famous cherry blossom viewing area (along the Sumida River near Asakusa Station, map) in spring. The Edo-Tokyo Museum (map), an excellent and large museum on the history of Tokyo. Tokyo SkyTree (map)
*Taito (map) – The heart of Old Tokyo featuring the temples of Asakusa (map) and National Museums in Ueno (map), as well as some of Tokyo’s cheapest accommodation.
*Bunkyo (map) – Home to Tokyo Dome (map) and the University of Tokyo.
Go to an amusement park such as Tokyo Disney Resort / Park Tickets (map), which consists of Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea.
Serious collectors should head for the Antique Mall in Ginza (map) or the Antique Market in Omotesando (map), which despite the rustic names are collections of small very specialist shops (samurai armor, ukiyo-e prints, etc.) with head-spinning prices. Mere mortals can venture over to Nishi-Ogikubo (map), where you can pick up scrolls of calligraphy and such for a few thousand yen.
The Antique Festival (全国古民具骨董祭り, map) is held over the weekend about 5-6 times a year at the Tokyo Ryutsu Center.
Much of Tokyo’s budget accommodation can be found in the Taito area, especially Asakusa and Ueno. One of the cheapest ways to stay can be also a youth hostel, prices start at ¥1200, e.g. in the Shinjuku area.
Accessible Japan – general information, list of hotels with accessible rooms, tourist attractions.