A city at the forefront of modernisation, bullet trains and neon lights spark up the night. From tasteful bowls of ramen in tightly packed alleyways to delicate platters of sushi in an elegant restaurant, Tokyo offers endless possibilities to anyone who visits.
With the city quite expansive, it is important to know which places are best to stay at, especially if you are only visiting for a short time. Positive reasons as to why a specific area is desirable to stay at will be covered, as well as recommendations of places to stay.
When you think of Tokyo, what pops into your mind? Most likely, you are imagining bustling crowds navigating beside towering skyscrapers. The fluorescent glow from neon signs illuminating the night, and the skyline view of the city lit up like a circuit board. Well, you should be happy to know that these sites truly exist, and they can be witnessed with all your viewing pleasure in the area of Shinjuku.
While attractions and entertainment can be found all across Tokyo, shopping is the field that excels here. You can find numerous large shopping complexes, and lengthy streets lined with all your favourite stores. If there is something particular you are looking to buy in Tokyo, you will probably find it here.
Iconic spots such as the narrow alleyway filled to the brim with tiny restaurants and bars called ‘Omoide Yokocho’ is located here. Despite it being a popular place, outside of visiting the spot to take some great pictures, if you are looking for a place to eat, I would not really recommend it. This is not saying that the food is bad, but rather, the amount of money you would be spending to eat here would go a lot further in other restaurants nearby with world-class flavours. One place I highly recommend is ‘Gyukatsu Motomura’. For anyone familiar with the Japanese dish ‘tonkatsu’ or ‘chicken-katsu’, this is essentially the same thing but with the meat being a tender cutlet of beef instead. Deep-fried and coated in a‘panko’ breadcrumb coating, it will be hard to imagine anyone not experiencing a firework of flavours in their mouths with a grin of satisfaction.
Maybe you are looking to disconnect a bit from the hustle-and-bustle lifestyle of Tokyo? If so, look no further than ‘Shinjuku Gyoen’. This tranquil park is located in the heart of the city, and the stark contrast of the lush greenery paired with the industrial buildings in the back make for a striking sight. The park itself is very large and taking even just a short stroll through the gardens make for a soothing and peaceful atmosphere.
A central hub in the spiderweb of intricately connected train lines, the Shinjuku area provides excellent links to not only all places within Tokyo but outside it too. If you are planning on travelling towards areas outside of Tokyo or places within as much as possible, this is the place to be.
Where to stay in Shinjuku
Before getting into the accommodations, I would like to note that Tokyo is a densely packed city without a lot of room to work with. This is why you will find many places to be quite small and compact, even the streets are quite narrow. This is also the reason why cars are not allowed to park alongside streets, with only the exception of deliveries. Unless you are paying a lot of money, it will be very hard to find accommodation which is large in space and located in a good area like Shinjuku.
‘La’gent Hotel Shinjuku Kabukicho’, a decently priced four-star hotel located in a fantastic location, that itself makes the accommodation worth every penny. Situated only an eight-minute walk away from Shinjuku Station, you will be travelling around Tokyo in no time. Attractions like ‘Shinjuku Gyoen’ is within walking distance, and the area of Shibuya can be reached within a thirty-minute train ride. People may find some of the rooms to be quite small, but all the regular amenities are included, and the 24-hour front desk will be happy to help should you need it.
In the slightly quieter part of the city compared to areas like Shinjuku and Shibuya, Asakusa is the ideal spot for anyone looking to stay in a more laid-back and historic district. This neighbourhood strays far from the concrete monolithic buildings and dazzling signs, but instead relishes in an older architectural style and preserves its ancient roots. Although the older architectural style still remains quite beautiful, the lack of development in modernising the area including buildings does not make it a top contender as the most desirable area to stay at. Fortunately, this makes accommodations around here a lot cheaper, and I feel strikes the perfect balance between it being in a decent location and having a good price.
When you arrive in the Asakusa district, you will undoubtedly be greeted by the sight of the ‘Tokyo Skytree’, piercing itself into the sky. Built in 2012, it is the tallest structure in the whole of Japan, and the second tallest structure in the world only behind the ‘Burj Khalifa’ in Dubai. With the surrounding area compromised of older buildings, it is quite a marvel to see the work of such a constructive feat. The structure itself is actually located in the nearby area of Sumida, but given its impressive height, Asakusa is one of the best spots to get the perfect look of it. The observation deck hosts unbelievable views of the city skyline not only during the day but at night as well. Given the short distance of around a twenty-minute train journey from Asakusa, I could not see any other reason as to why someone staying in this area would not visit.
For people who are interested in hunting various shrines and temples, you will be delighted to hear that the oldest temple in Tokyo, ‘Senso-ji Temple’ resides right here. Holding the prestige as one the most visited spiritual sites in the entire world, you can not avoid a trip here. Just outside the temple, you will also find a row of stalls selling various traditional souvenirs from gifts to food. So why not enjoy your day by snacking on some traditional snacks with a bag full of souvenirs and exploring the temple grounds?
Where to stay in Asakusa
Despite Asakusa being a very affordable area in terms of accommodation, I felt that it would be most appropriate if I recommended a ‘ryokan’ in this instance as it would be quite fitting with the traditional aura this area gives. For people who are unfamiliar, a ‘ryokan’ is a traditional Japanese inn, typically with communal baths known as ‘onsen’, tatami-matted flooring, and a beautifully presented dinner known as ‘kaiseki ryori’.
All of this and more is available at ‘Ryokan Asakusa Shigetsu’. Most rooms are fitted with a futon bed, and Japanese style robes called ‘yukata’ are also provided to wear around the inn. The highlight is probably the ‘kaiseki ryori’ dinner, as it really is a unique experience that can be quite expensive if you go to a speciality restaurant for it. The location of the accommodation is remarkable with it being a less than one-minute walk to the famous ‘Senso-ji Temple’. Although it is on the pricier side, being able to stay in a traditional Japanese inn, feast on a dining experience of elegance, and be situated in the heart of Asakusa makes it all worth it.
Tokyo Station area
Similar to Shinjuku, the Tokyo Station area is a great place to stay because of its accessibility to the intricately connected transport links. Tokyo Station is the key transport hub in the city and acts as the entryway to places further away from Tokyo like Osaka and Kyoto, as it is the starting station for the bullet train.
This area, specifically Ginza, is also known for shopping, however focusing more on high-end luxury stores. ‘Chuo Dori’ is the name of the long shopping street, and on the weekends is closed off to traffic, allowing you to freely walk along the roads and get a unique perspective of the street which you otherwise would not have been able to.
The station is also right beside the ‘Tokyo Imperial Palace’. It is built on the site of the original ‘Edo Castle’, where construction of the city began outwards from it, quickly growing into Tokyo as we know it today. The gardens located here are vast and absolutely stunning. Remnants and rubble from an old structure can be found scattered and preserved around the grounds, making it truly feel as if you are walking through time.
Where to stay in the Tokyo Station area
As accommodation in this area is usually quite expensive because of the location and vicinity to the high-end shopping places, I have decided to go with a hotel on the cheaper end of the scale. ‘Sotetsu Fresa Inn Tokyo-Kyobashi’ is only a ten-minute walk from Tokyo Station, so it’s ideal for anyone arriving in Tokyo from there. There is air-conditioning in the rooms, essential for anyone travelling in the scorching humidity of Japanese summer, a coin launderette, and of course amenities are provided.
Tokyo is a city that has captured the hearts of many around the globe and has an endless list of possibilities. So, whether you are visiting for the shopping, food, culture, or anything else, by selecting the perfect place to stay, you will be able to maximise your limited time in this city. Do not hesitate, and embark on the trip that you have always dreamed of.