The kanji for Tokyo literally translates as “eastern capital” and just as the term “capital” may suggest, it is huge!
Not only that, but each area within this capital has its own unique character and charm, so paired with the sheer size of the city, it’s difficult to see everything that you might want to in one trip.
Today, we will be introducing you to the areas we recommend based on the four themes of history, art, fashion, and music. Try planning your trip using our handy guide below so that you can base yourself close to what really floats your boat.
1. The East side is best for history
If you love history then the east side of Tokyo, still filled with remnants of old-fashioned Edo culture, is the place for you.
Places like Nihonbashi, Asakusa, and Ryogoku bustled with the culture of Japanese commoners during the Edo period and old stores full of history and tradition still line some of the streets today.
There’s also less hustle and bustle than areas like Shibuya and Shinjuku on the west side and you can enjoy taking your time and imagining what the days of old were really like.
You can also find museums that provide a window into Japan’s history, like the Edo-Tokyo Museum, which displays the history of Tokyo, and the Fukagawa Edo Museum, which allows you to experience life as a commoner during the Edo period.
Close to the Edo-Tokyo Museum, which is a three-minute walk from Ryogoku Station, is the home of sumo wrestling: Ryogoku Kokugikan.
You can also find out all about Sumo’s history at the nearby Sumo Museum. And if that weren’t enough, the Japanese Sword Museum is also minutes away.
Once you’ve discovered the history and culture of Tokyo, you’ll be able to appreciate this city in even more ways than before!
2. Artists should head to Roppongi and Aoyama
If you’re an art connoisseur, we recommend Roppongi, Aoyama, and Shibuya for their art galleries.
Around Roppongi, in particular, you will find the largest exhibition space in Japan, The National Art Center.
This is in addition to the Mori Gallery, which features many spirited artists from Japan and overseas, Suntory Museum of Art, which specializes in Japanese art, and 2121 Design Sight, which presents the charm of design in a variety of fascinating ways.
For those interested in Japanese art, you should definitely check out Nezu Museum, which is an eight-minute walk from Omotesando Station.
Here you can browse many antique-focused collections from Japan and other countries from East Asia. We also recommend Bunkamura, the Shoto Museum of Art, and the Toguri Museum of Art, all of which can be found in a quiet corner of Shibuya.
There are also plenty of unique galleries across the rest of Tokyo, including Spiral in Aoyama, Ginza Graphic Gallery in Ginza, and SCAI The Bathhouse in Yanaka. Take your time to walk around these neighborhoods and sample as many as you feel like!
3. Nakameguro and Daikanyama are the places for fashionistas
If you love fashion then grab a hotel in Nakameguro or Daikanyama.
Although places like Shibuya, Omotesando, and Harajuku are more well known as fashion hotspots, Nakameguro and Daikanyama are also full of little boutiques carrying brands to tickle every fashion lover’s fancy.
The boutique “vendor” in Nakameguro focuses on fashion but also stocks outdoor goods and musical items.
In fact, the whole Nakameguro/Daikanyama area is full to the brim with designer labels that you can pair up to create comfortable, metropolitan, and sophisticated outfits.
All sorts of people visit these districts to check out the stores and glean inspiration from all kinds of fancy fashion and lifestyle ideas. Even just people watching (perhaps from Daikanyama’s trendy Starbucks-in-a-bookstore) in this area is a fun way to spend an afternoon.
There are also plenty of nice bars and cafes to hang out in and you can easily enjoy your day in these areas even if you don’t plan on buying anything.
4. If you’re into music, hit up Shibuya
If you love music, then Shibuya, and all its live venues, is the neighborhood for you.
Different venues host both amateur and pro acts and feature bands from a plethora of genres, so it’s perfectly possible to spend each night in a different live venue and never get bored.
Shibuya-O in Shibuya was first opened in 1991 and was the first live venue in Tokyo that could hold up to 1,000 people.
It continues to sit at the forefront of the Japanese music scene, but it isn’t purely a music venue – you could catch a fashion show or even a play there if you wanted to!
If you take the Inokashira Line four stops, you’ll end up in Shimokitazawa, the king of music districts.
There you’ll soon find out why music fans love this town so much as you discover live houses like SHELTER, Rokudemonai Yoru, and CLUB Que, and tons of CD and record stores.
You can just watch the hours go by as you let the music take you away here.
You’ll find people hanging out until late at night around live venues and Shibuya Station, but remember, make sure to stay vigilant!
Japan may be a safe country, but you still need to be careful.
We’ve just given you our top picks in Tokyo for history, art, fashion, and music fans above, but this is a mere scratch on the surface…
There is still way more to Tokyo than these four things!
Experience Tokyo’s only Korea town in Shin-Okubo, visit the instrument Mecca of Ochanomizu, try Jinbocho’s old bookstores and curry houses, or even try the furniture and sundry shopping in Jiyugaoka!
Lastly, bear in mind that if you’re ever unsure of where you should go, feel free to get in touch with us at Helping Dragon at any time!