Where to stay in Tokyo, Japan – A guide for first-timers and repeat visitors
Tokyo is, like most of Japan, a rich mix of modern and traditional, which makes it a must-see on everyone’s’ bucket list.
It’s not a surprise that a city with so much to offer constantly ranks in the Top 10 most visited in the world.
Let’s explore the sunny capital of this proud country, to help you decide where to stay in Tokyo.
What are the best areas in Tokyo?
The city is one of the largest in the world, so it’s easy to get confused with the number of options you have.
To make things easy for you, we’ve narrowed it down to 3 neighborhoods we believe are worth checking out, based on convenience, affordability, and variety of things to do.
For each of these, we’ve also outlined the reason why we suggest them, so without further ado:
|Shinjuku||Best choice for first-timers|
|Shibuya||A youthful atmosphere with amazing nightlife|
Transportation, getting around Tokyo
Although we’ve picked locations specifically so you can have everything within walking distance, the only three public transportation system we can recommend are:
- Metro – The most popular form of public transportation and recommended for crossing between neighborhoods. Tokyo’s metros are world-famous, however, they can be overcrowded if you try to board them during rush hour when people go to or leave work.
- Taxi – There are designated taxi stops, but you can stop a taxi on the street as well, just look at the taxi sign on top – if it’s flashing it means the cab is available, if it’s turned off it means it’s occupied. The price will depend on the taximeter, but you can typically expect somewhere from 400 to 700 Yen for inner-city travel.
- Toei Lines – perhaps lesser known than the Tokyo metro, the Toei (Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation) company operates subway lines around the city, that compliment the metro lines.
- Uber – The service does operate in Tokyo, but it’s not outcompeting taxi services. Japanese are very prideful in their work ethic, meaning taxis don’t have the usual issues such as rude drivers, inflated prices, dirty cars, etc. The only advantage Uber has over Taxi in Tokyo is the fact the price doesn’t change throughout the day, making it slightly cheaper during night rides.
Prepaid rail passes can be bought at the stations, just make sure to get the one interchangeable between the metro and subway. They usually cost 2000 Yen (around $20) and hold a 500 ($5) Yen deposit that will be reimbursed, along with some of the remaining credit, if the card is returned. A single ride will cost around 200 ($2) to 400 Yen ($3.5), depending on how far you travel. Here’s a map containing the Metro and Toei lines.
Where to go on your first time – Shinjuku
Starting off the list is the area which most tour guides and travel enthusiasts recommend, and for good reason.
It is also well connected to other areas through public transportation like the Tokyo metro or the famous Yamanote railway line.
If you ever saw a photo or video of flashing lights in an urban district in Tokyo and thought, “I want to go there”, chances are you were looking at a photo of Shinjuku.
What to do in Shinjuku?
Visit the Imperial garden
While walking around the area and admiring its beauty can be a pastime of its own, one of the first things you have to see is the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. The garden is especially beautiful in early spring, during the cherry blossom season.
Visit the Samurai Museum:
Japan has a strong tradition and learning about it can be lots of fun, so this museum of famous Japanese warriors deserves a visit. Apart from the unique displays of armor and weapons, you get to wear and take pictures in replicas. Sometimes, there are even live reenactments of samurai battles.
Experience the nightlife
When the sun goes down, the lights do not go out as the district is well alive into the night and offers a variety of nightlife activities, such as bars, clubs, restaurants and other unique activities.
Where to stay in Shinjuku, our top AirBnB’s
Ideally, you want to stay near Shinjuku station for the sake of convenience.
Affordable price range: Shiny House – colorful apartment and good location
Moderate price range: Cozy Vibes Loft – compact apartment in a great location
Luxury price range: Stylish and Luxury – elegant apartment with modern furnishing and plenty of utilities
Where to go to experience the nightlife – Shibuya
Shibuya is much like Shinjuku, but younger.
If you’re a person in your early 20s (or feel like it) traveling for fun with friends, hoping to enjoy what modern cities have to offer to a youthful crowd, you’ll find yourself enjoying Shibuya the most.
This area is connected to the rest of Tokyo and outside areas identically to Shinjuku.
What to do in Shibuya?
See Shibuya Crossing
Can you imagine trying to cross the street at the same time as roughly 3000 other people? Well, that’s what Shibuya Crossing looks like in peak time. This world-famous crosswalk is a favorite of photography enthusiasts and professionals, and the busy streets it connects are great to take a walk on and experience the city.
Visit Shibuya Station
Right next to the crossing is Shibuya Station. Drop by to see and take pictures with the mural “Myth of Tomorrow” created Taro Okamoto, a Japanese artist.
Learn about Shintoism
When you get tired of urban scenery, visit Yoyogi Park, there you will find the Meiji Shrine a religious temple of Shintoism.
Time to party
As we mentioned, this part of Tokyo is especially known for the nightlife. Although there’s a variety of activities to choose from, such as bars and karaoke joints, definitely set aside at least one night to visit one of the famous clubs. Some highly recommended ones are:
- Sound Museum Vision
Where to stay in Shibuya, our top AirBnB’s
Shibuya Crossing is your landmark for orientation is Shibuya, here are some apartments nearby:
Affordable price range: Shibuya109 – cozy apartment with hot tub
Moderate price range: S103 – nice apartment in a great residential complex
Luxury price range: Japanese Elegance – modern meets traditional in this gorgeous, spacious apartment
Where to go for a luxury experience – Ginza (Chuo City)
Ginza is one of the oldest districts of Tokyo, with inceptions around the early 17th century, back when the city was still known as Edo. It is part of a larger district known as Chuo City. Those looking for authentic Tokyo, who have some extra cash to spend, should look no further than Ginza. The area is world-famous for its shopping experience, offering luxury retailers as well as some bargaining options.
What to do in Ginza?
Go luxury shopping
This is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend time in this district. Visit one of the many shopping centers, such as the Ginza Six, many of which pack additional features, such as restaurants and art galleries, on top of their luxury retail stores.
Hunt for bargains and discounts
Although Ginza is associated with luxury shopping, bargain stores, second-hand stores, and outlets also exist. It can be a lot of fun to look for these and the deals will be amazing.
Visit Hamarikyu Gardens
When you’re tired of shopping, stop by Hamarikyu Gardens. What makes them unique is the saltwater that comes directly from Tokyo Bay. If you look closely at the lake, you’ll see some fish species that are traditionally only seen in the ocean.
Embrace your sophisticated and artistic side
Visit places like Shiseido gallery and the Kabukiza theater – home of the world-famous Kabuki, a form of Japanese drama performed through dancing and singing.
Where to stay in Ginza, out top AirBnB’s
There are no direct AirBnB’s in the Ginza area, so we’ve chosen some in Chuo City that are nearby:
Affordable price range: Private Room close to Ginza – compact room in a good location
Moderate price range: Tsukiji area apartment – private apartment inside a hotel complex with 24-hour reception
Luxury price range: Just Jazz Studio – fully furnished modern studio with elegant interior