If you’re visiting Tokyo for the first time, you may not know where are good locations to stay. Convenient, safe, affordable and able to make the most out of your time in Tokyo. I’m hoping this list will help you find a great place to stay and make the most of your time during your trip.
When you come to Tokyo you want to make sure you stay in an area which is conveniently located, so you can easily get to the most popular areas for first time visitors.
For first time visitors, the main train line you’ll be travelling on will be the Yamanote Line (山手線), which is the light green line:
Image from Kanpai Japan (Source)
By the end of your trip, you’ll probably be able to remember nearly all the stations on this line in order and hum the unique chimes of each station.
The most popular stations on this line for visitors are Shinjuku, Harajuku, Shibuya, Ebisu, Tokyo, Ueno, Akihabara and Ikebukuro.
So what are the best areas and why should you be staying there?
1. Shinjuku (新宿)
Shinjuku has it all when it comes to places to stay. Plenty of great restaurants for any taste, easy transport, parks, nightlife areas and plenty of shopping until late at night including a few 24/7 stores.
Shinjuku has some restaurants for every budget and type, from the best restaurants in the world to small ramen shops to fast food. It has it all!
If you’re looking for homewares, fashion, 100 Yen store, snacks, Japanese goods or the latest kicks from Tokyo. Shinjuku probably has it.
Since it is one of the major stations in Tokyo, the lights are on all night. Shinjuku is also home to a late night restaurants, bars, pubs and the tourist popular robot restaurant. Not to mention the red light district (Kabukicho) and gay clubbing area are both walking distance from Shinjuku.
Plenty of options for accommodation including AirBnB, hotels, capsule hotels and shared spaces. The downside is that since Shinjuku is so popular the prices are higher than other areas but you can find decently priced accommodation.
Recommend that you stay at an AirBnB within 10 mins walk to Shinjuku Station or a hotel. Centrally located hotels are Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku, Keio Hotel and Shinjuku Prince Hotel.
Shinjuku Station is the busiest station in the world and allows easy connection by bus or train to both Narita and Haneda airport. Also express, local and super-express trains to different parts of Japan. It is also on the line most used by visitors to Japan, the Yamanote Line.
The only thing it doesn’t have is the bullet train at Shinjuku Station.
2. Shibuya (渋谷)
Similar to Shinjuku in that it has so many great restaurants, a vibrant nightlife, loads of shopping and is a tourist paradise. The areas it is lacking are transport, since it only has a limited number of train lines available, and its can get quite overcrowded.
Food for every budget and a great selection of Japanese fast food, medium priced and expensive food to choose from. Some great restaurants in the Shibuya area and open to very late in the evening.
Shibuya has large shopping centres, fashion and lots of stores to satisfy your shopping needs. Also some great stores for sneaker heads and not too far from Harajuku which is also popular for limited edition shoes. Though Shibuya isn’t as great a shopping area compared to other more surrounding areas.
The best shopping malls in the main area are Shibuya Hikarie, Shibuya Mark City, Shibuya Parco and Shibuya Seibu. All of which have shops and food.
Shibuya has clubs, pubs, karaoke and music pumping throughout the night. They even have the famous Love Hotel hill. So when it comes to night life you can’t go past Shibuya.
Plenty of options for accommodation including some great hotels, AirBnB, and shared spaces. Shibuya is on the pricier side but you can find some affordable options around the place.
If you can afford it, Shibuya Excel Tokyu is very central and has a great view overlooking Shibuya crosswalk.
Only a few train lines are connected to Shibuya Station including the Yamanote Line. There is also a bus terminal if you prefer to see more of the cityscape.
To be clear when I say Tokyo area, we mean near Tokyo Station. While there are mainly a lot of workplaces around that area, if you are travelling to different cities like Osaka and Kyoto, Tokyo Station can serve as your hub.
This station is on the other side of the Yamanote Line loop and closer to tourist areas like Akihabara and Ueno.
Image from JapanStation (Source)
A lot of famous and affordable restaurants around this area and one of the best places to get Japanese snacks. Check out the Tokyo Station and my page A Japanese Person’s Top 5 Places to Buy Souvenir Snacks in Tokyo for some recommendations.
During weekdays try to beat the lunch hour rush, since this area has a lot of offices and hungry workers.
A lot of places to shop but more of an expensive area comparatively. The main shopping malls in this area are Kitte and Yaesu but you could spend the whole day eating and buying inside Tokyo Station.
Not much of a nightlife scene in this area except for some cafes and restaurants. So if you want a quiet area at night, this is a good choice but its not what I would consider a nightlife area.
A lot of good choices for hotels in this area although seems like its limited when it comes to AirBnB and the hotels are on the more expensive side.
Links up almost all train lines to this station and as the primary bullet train (shinkansen) station, this is an ideal station to enjoy travel.