Tokyo, the capital of the Land of the Rising Sun, is full of amazing treasures. The change of scenery is total and the traveler will never be at the end of his or her surprises.
Sensational discoveries await you at every corner of this city. Ancestral temples and dizzying buildings. Luxury shopping malls and traditional markets. Huge, soothing, spiritual parks and an artificial island entirely dedicated to entertainment. The many faces of Tokyo, its neighborhoods and districts are waiting to be explored.
How to enjoy all the rich experiences Tokyo offers? Where to start? Check out the ultimate guide of Tokyo's must-see districts.
Map with the main districts of Tokyo. Source : tokyoschooltrips.com
Traditional districts of Tokyo: an authentic and picturesque atmosphere
Asakusa and the majestic Senso-ji temple
The Asakusa district, with its red and golden hues, is truly magical. Early in the morning, you can see the awakening of the Senso-ji temple. Pass through the Kaminarimon gate and its huge lantern to reach Nakamise, the famous shopping alley featuring Japanese arts and crafts. The stalls open little by little and the smell of traditional street food gradually invades the nostrils. Carp slowly swim in the ponds, nestled under the stone bridges. In the background, we can notice the Tokyo Sky Tree which reminds us of the existence of the modern world... Small tip: try the sacred lottery of Asakusa and see what the future holds for you.
Kappabashi Street is the meeting place of gourmets. You will find cooking utensils, Japanese tableware and delicious pastries.
Other suggested activities: Asakusa Hanayashiki Amusement Park, Asakusa Engei Hall Theater to watch rakugo, Asahi Headquarter's golden sculpture, Sumida River cruise, Azuma-bashi Bridge.
Yanaka, old Tokyo
In the district of Yanaka, time has stopped. Japanese people cycle along the old streets, cats enjoy the sunshine near the Shinto shrines. The perfect place to take a break and leave behind the hustle and bustle of the city. You will discover the ideal market for buying souvenirs for your loved ones: kimonos, handicrafts, delicacies... You will find everything you need.
Behind the stone walls, you can notice breathtaking traditional houses. Yanaka is nicknamed "Old Tokyo" because these buildings escaped the bombings of the Second World War. This historical district and its cemetery will make you peacefully travel in time.
Tsukishima, for a gastronomic stroll
Head to the artificial island of Tsukishima to enjoy the best fish and seafood of the capital. Don't miss Tsukiji Market, where delicious sushi is prepared every morning with the catch of the day.
This island, built in the Tokyo bay, has its own atmosphere and its market offers the chance to taste specialties that you will not find anywhere else!
Sugamo, the elderly's neighborhood
If the peaceful Yanaka made an impression on you, then the Sugamo district nicknamed Obachan no Harajuku ("Grandma's district") should attract you as well. The Jizo-dori shopping street is not like the others. It is mainly dedicated to the needs of Japanese seniors. Thus, you can stroll among the traditional stalls and again immerse yourself in the atmosphere of old Tokyo. You may also go to the Kogan-ji temple, if you want to make a prayer for maintaining your health!
Ueno and its cherry blossoms
This very touristic and family-oriented district is known for its park where sakura trees bloom every year. Check out our article on Hanami, to learn more about this special event: Hanami, contemplating the cherry blossoms.
Don't hesitate to take a pedal boat ride on Shinobazu Pond, to visit the Buddhist temples in the park, and to visit the Tokyo National Museum.
Leaving Ueno Park, let the crowds guide you into the famous Ameyoko shopping street. A delicious taiyaki will not harm you!
Jinbocho, for book lovers
Jinbocho is ideal for those who like to browse through the shelves of bookstores and find the rare gem. In Tokyo's Latin Quarter, you can find valuable books in many languages. There are many second-hand bookstores waiting to be explored. In the Jinbocho district, there is also the Tokyo Book Binding Club, the headquarters of publishing houses, and the Jinbocho Theater.
Modern districts of Tokyo: neon cascades at night
Akihabara, at the cutting edge of technology
It's time to venture into the modern districts of Tokyo, which are obviously also worth a visit. Akihabara, nicknamed Akiba, is the land of geeks and otakus. In the heart of these large and colorful streets, against a background of advertisements and anime credits, you will witness the technological progress of Japan and the influence of its pop culture. Each building, with its brightly lit signs, contains its own treasures: electronics stores (Yodobashi Camera), manga and pre-publication magazines (Mandarake bookstore), figurines not found in other countries, legendary video games for retro gaming fans (Supa Potato store), arcades, fanzines and original goodies for japanimation fans.
Keep your eyes peeled, you'll surely spot passers-by cosplaying, i.e. dressed up as their favorite fictional character. Also, make sure you enter a Maid Café, (if you dare)!
Odaiba, the artificial island dedicated to entertainment
Move closer to Tokyo Bay and access Odaiba's many mind-bending activities. On this island, shopping malls are equipped with immersive virtual reality experiences. The giant Gundam of Diver City is imposing by its size, but also by its movements! If you pass by this huge figurine of the Japanese animation series Gundam, you will surely have the chance to see it move. This performance takes place four times a day: at 11 am, 1 pm, 3 pm and 5 pm.
The island is perfect for keeping busy on a rainy day, thanks to the Miraikan Science Museum, the Maritime Science Museum, the Fuji TV building, the Borderless TeamLab which we highly recommend, and the Palette Town activity center.
Roppongi, nightlife in Tokyo
At night, the Roppongi district is transformed. Known as the place where foreign students and expatriates go out at night, its lights are quite breathtaking. For example, the Tokyo Tower, which radiates a beautiful orange halo. In summer only, the tower is adorned with a beautiful silver hue.
This cosmopolitan area has bars, clubs, nightclubs for dancing and karaoke for singing.
By day, you will find contemporary art museums in this area, as well as the impressive Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown shopping malls.
Shinjuku, Kabukicho and Golden Gai
Close your eyes and imagine yourself in Shinjuku district at night. You cross the famous Omoide Yokocho alley, decorated with cherry blossoms, traditional lanterns, and filled with food stalls with irresistible smells. You continue your walk between the buildings adorned with multicolored neon lights, until you arrive in front of the giant replica of Godzilla, which stands over the Kabukicho district. You hear the monster roar and spit its flames in the night... You are not dreaming.
Shinjuku is the busiest station in the world, as it provides access to many offices nestled in the skyscrapers. This area is known as Tokyo's business district and is also home to the Kagurazaka stores, which pay homage to French culture.
It is possible to escape the urban bustle by entering Shinjuku-Gyoen Park, a charming garden in the city.
Tokyo's shopping temples: Japanese fashion and luxury
Harajuku, Tokyo street fashion
Head to Tokyo's favorite youth district. Along the crowded Takeshita shopping street, you'll find a variety of fashion boutiques and stands selling sweet and trendy treats. Harajuku is the perfect stop for shopping and tasting Japanese street food in a themed cafe.
If you feel oppressed by the hustle and bustle of Takeshita, the beautiful Meji Jingu Shrine is just a few steps away... It is located in a huge forest: the Yoyogi Park. An opportunity to buy a delicious bento and lucky charms for your loved ones.
Going from one atmosphere to another in such a short time is always impressive.
Shibuya, the shopping district
How to mention Tokyo without mentioning the famous Shibuya district? As you leave the station, you will be greeted by the Hachiko statue and the Shibuya Crossing, which millions of people cross every day. A tip for watching the stream of Japanese and tourists using this crossing: hop into the Starbucks that overlooks it and enjoy the scene behind its high bay window.
In the streets of Shibuya, you can find both big international brands, but also small restaurants and museums. If you are not afraid of heights, we recommend you to visit the Shibuya Sky, the aerial observatory of the Scramble Square tower. The scenery is truly unforgettable.
Ikebukuro and Japanese pop culture
If you have not been satisfied by visiting Akihabara, Ikebukuro will satisfy you! In the Sunshine City tower, you can shop for manga in the Junkudo bookstore, and buy video games and figurines endlessly. Otome Street is special because it is dedicated to otaku women. The wallet may take a blow though...
Nakano, another otaku's place
Last stop for fans of japanimation and manga. Nakano Broadway is the ultimate destination for collectors of all kinds of goodies. Don't miss Mandarake, the temple of otakus. If you've had your fill of Japanese pop culture, don't worry: this shopping mall also offers gourmet breaks that are definitely worth it.
Omotesando, the luxury district
Omotesando is known for its European-style atmosphere, fine restaurants and fashionable stores. In the Omotesando Hills shopping mall designed by the famous architect Tadao Ando, you can pamper yourself in beauty salons and revamp your wardrobe with some of the world's top luxury brands.
Ginza, home of chic
Finally, we highly recommend visiting the Ginza district, nicknamed "The Champs Élysées of Tokyo". Here you can enjoy fine dining at the top of skyscrapers, stroll through the Wako department store and the Ginza Six luxury center.
Among the high-end stores, you will find traditional Kabuki theaters and art galleries.
As you may have understood through this little virtual trip to the four corners of Tokyo: the capital of Japan is full of treasures, culture, temples, parks where you can recharge your batteries and commercial centers where you can take in the sights. An inexhaustible wealth, between tradition and modernity. Well, now you know where to start!
In the article Things to do in Tokyo, we also list the dishes not to be missed, as well as other ideas of activities and places to spend the night.