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 place to stay in Tokyo city centre or are you happy to commute? Would you like to stay in a Japanese capsule hotel? 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 Tokyo hotel proved difficult the first time I visited Japan. I spent two weeks in Japan at the time and I remember having no clue about the best neighbourhoods in Tokyo for example. Where was I suppose to sleep? What are the safe places to stay in Tokyo? I had so many questions and found absolutely no answers. In this article, I'm going to tell you exactly how to find the best accommodation in Japan.
Table of Contents
Where to stay in Tokyo for a first-time visitor?
Finding where to stay 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 to find the best place to stay in Tokyo especially for the first time.
Below, you will find a list of 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 where 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. So let me explain a little bit about each neighbourhood in order to find your best place to stay in Tokyo.
Where to stay in Tokyo? The best area for tourists is... Shinjuku
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 places 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. Oh, and there are plenty of 18+ only activities in Japan...
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?
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 neighbourhoods. Public 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.
Where To Stay In Tokyo? The Best Area For Shopping Is... Ginza
Although in my opinion, Shinjuku is the best place to stay in Tokyo, Ginza is definitely a close second option. Ginza is a spectacular neighbourhood, especially during the evening when all shops tend to put up a fantastic light show. This is the luxurious and expensive neighbourhood of Tokyo, 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 neighbourhood, 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.
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 neighbourhood 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 travellers, as this is a safe and epic neighbourhood to treat your loved ones.
Where To Stay In Tokyo? The Best Central Area In Tokyo Is... Chiyoda
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 subways 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 neighbourhood, it enables you to explore, yet sleep well. If I'm honest, when someone asks me where to stay in Tokyo, I always direct them to Chiyoda or Shinjuku.
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.
Where To Stay In Tokyo? The Best Area For Feeling Tokyo's Vibe Is... Shibuya
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 neighbourhood 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 neighbourhood.
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.
Where To Stay In Tokyo? The Best Place For Budget Traveller Is... Asakusa
Do you love to shop but Shibuya or Ginza is 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.
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.
Where To Stay In Tokyo? Best Area For Electronics Lovers Is... Akihabara
I've already stated that you either love or hate Akihabara. I still maintain that opinion because when I visited this neighbourhood, 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.
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.
Where To Stay In Tokyo? The Best Area For Kawaii Is... Harajuku
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 colourful, 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 neighbourhood, 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.
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 of a cool brand.
So what is it going to be for you? Do know now where to stay in Tokyo? What area did you pick and why? Let me know in the comments section below.