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Where to stay in Tokyo for tourists and first time visitors

It can be rather challenging to find where to stay in Tokyo for tourists and first-time visitors. There are several questions to ask yourself such as: Are you looking for the best accommodation in the city centre or are you happy to commute? Would you like to stay in a Japanese hotel pod? Are you visiting with your loved ones and want to find a cheap family accommodation in Tokyo? What is the best area to stay for a first time visitor?

Finding the best cheap hotel in Tokyo proved difficult the first time I visited Japan. I remember having no clue about the best neighborhoods in Tokyo for example. Where was I suppose to sleep? Which place was I meant to avoid during night time to stay safe? I had so many questions and found absolutely no answers. I spent a month travelling around Japan and in this article I'm going to tell you exactly how to find the best accommodation in Japan in 2017. 

Where to stay in Tokyo for tourists

What is the best accommodation and where to stay in Tokyo

Finding the best accommodation in Tokyo depends on several things: budget, type of visit, location and of course, personal preference. But don't worry, I'm here to help and explain how I found where to stay in Tokyo, especially for the first time. 

The best websites for hotels in Tokyo

Best area to stay in Tokyo for a first-time visitor?

Below, you will find a list with my favourite neighbourhoods in Tokyo, which I believe offer something for everyone. I'm going to explain why to pick a particular place, alongside hotel recommendations. Asking what is the best place to stay in Tokyo may not be the right question, as each individual place is tailored to your own preferences. For example, you might want to enjoy thriving nightlife, in which case you should get a hotel in Shinjuku. You might be visiting with your family, hence you should focus on finding a great budget hotel somewhere in a quieter area of Tokyo. 

Tokyo Neon Lights

Shinjuku - The best area for tourists

Before I go any further, I am going to tell you that Shinjuku is the best area for tourists to stay in Tokyo. This is where you will find those giant neon adverts, colourful lit up streets, entertainment establishments and epic street food. This is the real heart of Tokyo, and also home to Asia's largest red district. I recommend walking around Shinjuku in the evening where you can really see how bright this place really is. As always, I recommend all tourists be vigilant around Shinjuku and try to avoid going into dodgy looking establishments, as there are a lot of place being run by the Yakuza. When you dig deep, you realise there are a lot of tourist scams going on, especially for those interested in the Japanese sex industry. Shinjuku has Japan's largest adult entertainment quarters, which include hostess bars, love hotels, and sex parlours. Don't worry, though, there is so much more to Shinjuku than its darker side, being, in my opinion, the best area for tourists, due to its epic skyscrapers, narrow and bright streets large malls and affordable shops. If you would only have time for one neighbourhood in Tokyo, then Shinjuku should be it. 

Why stay in Shinjuku

Shinjuku is the most vibrant district in Tokyo. There is no getting around to the fact that you can find a ridiculous amount of restaurants, amazing street food, and epic bars. 

Have you ever heard of Golden Gai? It's a great place to grab a bite and have a drink like a local. The area has tonnes of small bars, whereby only a handful of people can take a seat and order. The spaces are cramped and intimate, and you have to be aware that a lot of Japanese people come here to socialise and have a drink after work. Don't be offended if the owner refuses your custom, it's because a few of these tiny bars are reserved for a loyal clientele. Watch out for menus in English, it's the best indication that foreigners are welcome. 

Do you know what the Piss Alley is? It's a street dotted with tiny holes in the wall which serve food (and drinks). It's best known for its yakitori, which are chicken skewers. Don't freak out if you see some out of ordinary parts of the chicken being served to you on a stick. It's part of the culinary experience and I promise, the taste won't let you down. 

We covered food and drinks, but what about having fun in Shinjuku? This is the mecca for adult entertainment in Tokyo so you can find anything you ever imagined. There are multistory malls selling all types of sex toys you might have ever dreamed off. There are massage parlours, hostess bars, and even robot restaurants where sexy girls in robotic armour fight around. If shopping if your calling, Shinjuku also has a labyrinth of narrow streets dotted with stalls selling cheap knockouts and branded goods. This is also the best place for crazy epic street food. Who doesn't want to try some magical street food in Tokyo?

Shinjuku Streets

Best Luxury Hotels Shinjuku

Do you still need convincing? Shinjuku is an epic hub and home to the busiest train station in Japan. It's a great place with connections to the rest of the Tokyo neighbneighbourhoodspublic transportation is epic in Japan, so you just need to worry about finding the right accommodation next to a train or subway station, as the rest is history. 

Shinjuku is best for tourists and first-time visitors to Tokyo. Shinjuku is also fab for nightlife seekers, eateries, cheap bars and epic entertainment. Shinjuku is a must for urban photographers. 

Ginza

Ginza - The best area for shopping

Although in my opinion, Shinjuku is the best area for a tourist, Ginza is definitely a close second option. Ginza is a spectacular neighborhood, especially during the evening when all shops tend to put up a fantastic light show. This is the luxurious and expensive neighborhood, where shopping is the national sport. But we are not talking about any type of shopping, it's about expensive boutiques and crazy big brands. Ginza is also fantastic during the weekend where no traffic is permitted. This is when Ginza becomes a formidable pedestrian heaven. 

Why stay in Ginza

Ginza is by all accounts a convenient location. With several subway stations around, you can make your way around Tokyo without a problem. Although is not as crowded as Shinjuku, Ginza has a great Japanese atmosphere. Although Ginza tends to be quite busy around the national holidays, walking along Ginza's boulevards remains an epic experience, as everyone respects your space and there is no background chattering. (Yes, the Japanese know not to stop in the middle of the street for no reason, or not to talk loudly in public spaces. But don't just take my word for it, read about Japanese manners and customs)

Being a high end, luxurious neighborhood, it's natural that Ginza is incredibly sought after, rather expensive and very safe. I would recommend staying in Ginza if you are travelling with your family or are a luxury type traveller. Don't worry, though, Ginza has some cards up its sleeve to cover the budget traveller too! You can find decent accommodation which represents good value for money. There are also several shops around Ginza which will satisfy the inner shopper for the money conscious traveller. I believe everyone needs to experience shopping in Ginza.

Shopping Ginza Nightlife

Still need convincing? You might not believe it, but there is a lot of nightlife going in Ginza. However, Ginza is usually tailored towards the well dressed, more mature crowd. Beyond being a shoppers' paradise, Ginza is also a fantastic spot for photography lovers. There are plenty of neon-lit streets, perfect for exploring during a lazy afternoon. There are a lot of art galleries and museums dotted all around Ginza, and this neighborhood is full of high-class restaurants. For something seriously special, head over to Ginza and have the most epic food. 

Ginza is a great choice for first-time visitors to Tokyo who have a larger budget and wish to spoil themselves. Ginza is located in central Tokyo with great connections everywhere else in the city, including the airports. I would also recommend Ginza for the family-oriented travelles, as this is a safe and epic neighborhood to treat your loved ones. 

Tokyo Subway Train Station

Chiyoda - The best central area in Tokyo

When I first came to Tokyo, I decided to stay in Chiyoda. Although looking back I might have done better with Shinjuku (hence why I'm recommending Shinjuku as the best place to stay for tourists) but in reality, I loved everything about Chiyoda. Chiyoda is central Tokyo with the Tokyo Train Station right at your doorstep. This is probably your safest bet as Chiyoda is well suited for all type of travellers. 

Why stay in Chiyoda

Funnily enough, the most obvious thing that comes to mind is: because Chiyoda is so damn quiet. I don't know about you, but I need a good night sleep to be able to be energetic, excited and explore a new destination, hence picking Chiyoda was the best Tokyo accommodation decision. I stepped out of the Tokyo Station in the evening and whilst I made my way towards the hotel, everything was silent. It was unreal and perfect! 

Chiyoda is great because you will have subway stations at every corner, hence you can make your way anywhere in the city. Being close to the Tokyo Station also means getting great food, and shopping opportunities, as well as the chance to jump on a train somewhere outside of Tokyo for a few days out

Chiyoda is perhaps not ideal for the nightlife seeker, being relatively quiet, but it's definitely a few subway stops away from Shinjuku or Ginza which makes Chiyoda the perfect hub. I think Chiyoda is great for budget travellers, luxury travellers, couples, and families. Being close to everything, yet in a quiet neighborhood, it enables you to explore, yet sleep well. 

Still need convincing? Chiyoda is home to the Imperial Palace, the residence of the Emperor of Japan. Part of the Imperial gardens is open to the public, where you can spend a quiet, zen afternoon. Being so close to the Tokyo Station, you can access the shinkansen and visit places outside of Tokyo. I strongly recommend getting the Japan Rail Pass for the duration of your stay. 

Chiyoda is the best place in Tokyo which can suit the requirements of all travellers. There are budget and luxury hotels dotted all around the central Tokyo. It's very close to the Tokyo Station, hence a wonderful place for those in need of day trips. The Tokyo Station is a multi-storey mall, hence you will find anything you need right in the heart of the Tokyo. Despite its central location, Chiyoda is quiet and perfect for those in need of a good night rest. 

Shibuya District

Shibuya - Best area for feeling Tokyo's vibe

Shibuya is a great option to stay in Tokyo for tourists because it offers everything you could ask for and more. There are a lot of similarities between Shibuya and Shinjuku for example, so if you are after a vibrant neighborhood where you could feel Tokyo's heartbeat, then Shibuya is one of the best places to stay in Tokyo for the first time. 

Why stay in Shibuya

Shibuya is known for its younger crowd, hence there are epic nightlife opportunities in Shibuya. There is no denying the fact that Shibuya is a transportation hub, thus you can access any parts of Tokyo with ease from the Shibuya station. Shibuya is a well-known meeting point and there are tons of attractions nearby, including shopping, eating and partying. I really liked sitting in Starbucks, admiring the famed Shibuya Crossing. It's actually really zen to just look at it from above. Despite the visual agitation, Shibuya has a chilled out atmosphere. It's home to many vending machine restaurants which makes it easier for tourists to order food. Shibuya is home to myriad shops and boutiques and it's not uncommon to see locals shopping in Shibuya. 

Shibuya is a great place for families travelling with teenage children. Beyond the famed pedestrian crossing, there are a lot of things to do in Shibuya which you can take full advantage of if you decide to base yourself in this epic neighborhood. 

Shibuya Crossing

Best Luxury Hotels in Shibuya

Still need convincing? Shibuya is a fantastic location which enables all visitors to travel around Tokyo. Shibuya station has JR and subway connections as well. Shibuya is perfect for shopping, nightlife, eating local cuisine and feeling the real Tokyo vibe. Just a stone throw away from Harajuku, Ometesando and Shinjuku. You can read about the best 15 things to do in Shibuya.

Shibuya is the best place to stay for tourists because although similar to Shinjuku, the vibe in Shibuya is more youngster oriented. Shibuya is a great meeting place, which makes this district a great hub from which you can access all parts of the city and beyond. Shibuya attracts a lot of fashion and food lovers and it's a great spot to just absorbed Tokyo's colourful vibes. Shibuya is great for a first time tourist, families travelling with children (especially teens) and fantastic for couples. 

Asakusa Shop

Asakusa - Best place in Tokyo for the bargain traveller

Do you love to shop but Shibuya or Ginza are a little over your budget? Don't worry, I got you covered because Asakusa is where you need to locate yourself. Beyond the spiritual Sensō-ji, Asakusa is home to an amazing network of streets all lined with stalls selling cheap merchandise. I loved my trip around Asakusa and really enjoyed shopping for proper Japanese products around here. This is where I bought lots of chopsticks, ramen bowls, small miso bowls, plates and bamboo spoons. It's a fantastic place for the budget traveller who is still interested in shopping and getting value for money. 

Why stay in Asakusa

Asakusa is a great place to stay in Tokyo on a budget. There are lots of budget hotels around and Asakusa is also a great place for families with children. A half an hour walk away is Ueno Park, where you can relax and stroll on a lazy afternoon. You can shop till you drop around Asakusa and find decent eateries which offer great quality food for cheap. Many first time travellers to Tokyo go to Sensō-ji, to get a proper introduction into the spiritual life of Japan. 

Thunder Gate Senso-ji

Still need convincing? Asakusa is a fantastic option for the budget traveller because you will find a great concentration of hostels and cheap hotel rooms in the area. Asakusa might not have the proximity you need to the Yamanote line, but I promise you, if you go to your nearby station and learn how to use the Tokyo subway map, you will actually love that you get to save money in Asakusa. 

I recommend Asakusa for the budget traveller or the first time tourist to Tokyo who wants to save money. Asakusa is a great choice for those interested in value for money and doesn't mind getting the subway for a few extra stops to get around the city. Asakusa is a fantastic option if you are wondering where to stay in Tokyo on a budget.

Harajuku Pop Culture

Harajuku - Best area for kawaii in Tokyo

Did anyone ask where is the mecca for kawaii in Tokyo? Harajuku, of course. This is the place for you if you love everything cute... or everything weird. I absolutely L-O-V-E Harajuku, because it's full of teens who really want to express themselves. There is so much to do in Harajuku, where do I even start?

Why stay in Harajuku?

Harajuku is the place to stay in Tokyo if you are young and want to explore an alternative side of Japan. Harajuku is colorful, vibrant, unconventional and a little bit weird. This is the place where I saw teens dressed as lolita girls and goths. It's the place where pink contact lenses and kitten hoodies are welcome and cactus shaped iPhone cases are encouraged. Harajuku is epic, and after a few hours in this neighborhood, I guarantee that Japan will change your life forever

Still need convincing? Harajuku is central and not far away from Yoyogi Park, Shinjuku or Shibuya. It's a great place for those young at heart who want to experience a new Tokyo, where teens are getting out of their shells and are not afraid to express themselves.

Harajuku Pancake Tokyo Options

I would recommend Harajuku for young travellers or for any families travelling with their teenage kids. Harajuku is also home to the Harajuku crazy pancakes, one of the best things I've eaten in my life. Harajuku has a lot of cheap fashion available for all budgets, as well as boutiques for those in search for a cool brand. 

Akihabara Tokyo

Akihabara - Best area for electronics lovers

I've already stated that you either love or hate Akihabara. I still maintain that opinion because when I visited this neighborhood, I found things I loved (like shopping and eating epic food) and things I hated (grown men seeking attention from rather young looking girls). 

Why stay in Akihabara? 

Akihabara is the best place for electronic lovers. There are shops upon shops which sell so many gadgets, figurines, and weird items. It's unreal really, and you will probably need months to explore the whole shopping side of Akihabara. There are lots of people waiting in line first thing in the morning to play something in a Japanese pachinko for example. There are people waiting to be taken to a maid café. There are lots of entertainment quarters in Akihabara too. But all in all, Akihabara is the electric heart of Tokyo, where people come to shops for electronic equipment, anime, and manga. 

Need more convincing? Akihabara is home to one of the Don Quixote stores, a multi-level shop which sells virtually anything and everything. You can find face masks, clothes, electronics and even food items. It's a fantastic option for shopping lovers who want to explore a cheaper side of Tokyo. I bought a talking fridge penguin from this shop. Yup, you read this right: a talking fridge penguin. When I open the fridge door, my little penguin simply talks to me. One of the great and weird things you can only find in Japan

Porn Akihabara

Best budget hotels in Akihabara

Best mid-range hotels in Akihabara

Akihabara is a great place for young ones interested in anime and manga. I would recommend it for travellers who want to have an adventure and are into electronics and cutting edge technology. It can be a great district for families travelling with kids who watch lots of cartoons, as you could find lots of figurines. 

Pssst...do you want unlimited travel across Japan?

What do you think about the best place to stay in Tokyo for tourists? Are you a first time traveller to Tokyo? What are you favorite things to do whilst you travel? Do you have any recommendations or wish to add something to the list? Please let me know in the comments section bellow. 

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11 Comments

Super comprehensive and helpful, Cory! When I went to Tokyo I basically followed your advice: I stayed in Shinjuku, and it was really convenient. There was also one night in Akihabara, and I agree it is definitely kinda polarizing! Accidentally wandered into the Hentai section of an anime store and saw some weeeeird stuff O_O

Hi Monica, thank you for your reply. Yes, Shinjuku is great for tourists whilst Akihabara is a little different, isn't it? Definitely not your ordinary place, but still had some charm in its own way.

I always love learning about different neighborhoods before visiting a big city. I can't decide for Tokyo...they all have so much to offer! But the magical street food....mmmm.

Oh the street food is divine! I mean I can't think of something better than just wandering around Tokyo and eating lots of food hehe

Hello Cory, great article. We are interested to go to Tokyo somewhere this year. It seems to me that near Tokyo train station would probably best for us as we need a more traditional and quiet area. But a lot of articles most suggest Shinjuku as the best for Tokyo first timer. Any suggestion for traveler wanting to stay in more traditional and quiet place but yet easy access to go around Tokyo: Chiyoda or Asakusa or Ueno? And what about the transport, between JR Yamanote vs subway 3 day pass? Which one is more advantageous or more practical? Thanks a lot !!

Hi Andreas, Thank you for your message. I would say Chiyoda was the quietest for us. We stayed 2 minutes away from the metro station. As long as you have a subway at your doorstep, I'd say go for Chiyoda. Alternatively, Asakusa is a great option for sure. Ueno can be a bit busy at times because it's a major station and people do change a lot. In fact, most Shinkansens stop there anyway.
Shinjuku is recommended because that is where the heart of Tokyo is. You can see everything you imagined about Tokyo...the lights, the ads, the busy streets, the fun food. I'd say maybe stay in a quieter place and take the subway to Shinjuku. The sub is incredibly clean and reliable.
I would just get the Pasmo card and pay as you go for the subway. If you plan on getting our of Tokyo and travelling around Japan, get the JR Pass. You can also use it on the Yamanote line (but not on the subway).
For flexibility, I would rely more on the subway though. :) I hope this helps. Any questions, please let me know.

Hi Cory, thanks for your reply. Chiyoda seems to be convenient for us. No, we don't plan to go anywhere else outside Tokyo. We only have around 7-8 days in total, not too long. Probably we'll go to Mt. Fuji but not farther than that. One more question: what would be the easiest way to go to Mt. Fuji?

To be honest, Tokyo really seems to us to be very complicated. The subway system, JR train system, areas in Tokyo for where to stay and what to visit, etc. End 2016 we went to Hong Kong and the planning was pretty simple. That's why now we are gathering all information that we can about Tokyo.

Hi Andreas,

No worries, I am here to help. Chiyoda is a good option as long as you are relatively close to the subway. I remember the first time I planned for Japan, scary stuff! Everything is sooo different.
I recommend getting the Shinkansen to Mount Fuji. It will take virtually no time to get there. You can visit either the Lakes or Hakone (most go for Hakone). But the train is the best (fastest and most convenient) option. From the Tokyo Station (Chiyoda is super close to it) ask for tickets to Fuji. They will direct you to the right line, plus there are virtually signs everywhere showing you which Shinkansen to board.

There are so many things you are going to love about Japan and the moment you get to understand it, you will become addicted to it. I know, I did!
Don't be too worried about the subway. In fact, I have an article explaining how it works. https://www.youcouldtravel.com/travel-blog/understanding-the-tokyo-subwa...
The idea is to remember that each line is colour coded, so it makes it a bit easier to navigate. When two colours touch on the map, it means you can change lines.

There are a few things I recommend for first-timers in Japan.

1. make sure you have internet on your phone. If your roaming is not that awesome, order your sim card directly to your hotel. Now, I appreciate they don't come cheap, but having internet around Tokyo is a life saver. Streets don't tend to have names on them, which makes it pretty difficult to navigate. So having google maps handy is the best thing ever :) We ordered our sim from these guys: https://www.econnectjapan.com/products/sim/
Just give them your hotel address. Then, let the hotel know there is a small letter arriving for you. The hotel staff will set it aside.

2. Pasmo Card. When you go to the machine, you can change the language to English. It's really easy to understand. Top up the card right away and simply tap at the subway gates. Easy peasy. Note that all stations in Tokyo have signs everywhere showing you where to go. Most arrows are also colour coded for the actual lines you need, so you can navigate with ease without getting lost. You will get the gist of it in no time!

3. Make sure you read a little bit about the Japanese manners. We made so many mistakes...like not understanding why there are no bins, or how to properly eat sushi. You, of course, don't have to adhere to the Japanese standards, but it's nice to try to integrate as much as possible to have a better experience. https://www.youcouldtravel.com/travel-blog/how-to-behave-in-japan-essent...

4. Please make sure you have cash on you. Japan is a cash based society and chances are your card won't be accepted anywhere. The good news is that Japan is super safe, so you can carry your money around without any worries (of course be vigilant as always). Alternatively, some 7/11 shops will have some international cash machines.

If you have any questions, I'm super happy to help so let me know. And enjoy Tokyo. Honestly, it will change your life. Have lots and lots of fun.

Best, Cory

This is great. Every time I start researching Japan, and Tokyo specifically I get overwhelmed. Seriously.

Hi Rob, thank you for your message. I am very glad I could help. I really hope you enjoy your stay in Tokyo. You will love it.

Hi Cory,

Super write up! Tokyo fascinates me. Unlike any city on earth. My wife taught English for a month in Hiroshima but never made it to the big city. Trip there soon, for sure.

Ryan

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