There are many different options for accommodation in Tokyo. In every neighborhood you’ve got luxury hotels, business hotels (characterized by small rooms that, while TINY, still have everything you could ever need), hostels, ryokans (traditional guesthouses), and homestays through companies like Airbnb. All the options may seem overwhelming so let’s first start by picking a neighborhood. Here’s my rundown of my favorite neighborhoods to stay in Tokyo.
Thanks to the generosity of the JET Programme, the program that first brought me to Japan, my first stay in the country was at the Keio Plaza Hotel, a huge, impressive, luxury hotel that is right next to the Park Hyatt Hotel of Lost in Translation fame. This neighborhood is home to a ton of bars (look up Kabuki-cho for more details) , restaurants, shopping opportunities, and Tokyo’s (and possibly the world’s) busiest train station. There are plenty options regardless of your budget in this neighborhood.
Pros: everything you need right outside of your door and easy access to anywhere you need to go via the many train and subway lines flowing through Shinjuku Station.
Cons: really crowded, overwhelming, and often confusing to navigate.
This is definitely my favorite neighborhood to explore in the day time. It is home to Yoyogi-koen, a great park for people (and dog) watching on the weekends. The uber hip shopping neighborhoods of Harajuku and Aoyama are a short walk from the park. I could spend all day strolling through the small alleys in that neighborhood checking out all the funky fashion its boutiques have to offer. The center of Shibuya is Shibuya station and the gigantic multi-crossing crosswalk that is iconic and worth a crossing (or five). Sadly, there aren’t a lot of hotels or guesthouses in the area, however, I have spotted a few Airbnb spots in the area, especially around Harajuku and Aoyama.
Pros: lots of fun to stroll around, lots of eating and drinking options, still busy but much more manageable than Shinjuku
Cons: not a lot of accommodation options
This area, home to neighborhoods like Roppongi and Azabu-juban, is traditionally the “Foreigner” neighborhood in Tokyo but outside of the central Roppongi area, it’s really nice and residential. It is home to many embassies and probably the highest concentration of “ethnic” restaurants in Tokyo including a Chipotle-esque burrito place and donner kabob stands (you really need to try one. or five. they’re amazing. especially when drunk.) This area is also home to a super fancy residential/commercial planned community called Tokyo Midtown. In the center of this area, at the top of Morii Tower, is the Morii Art Museum which is my absolute favorite place in all of Tokyo and is a place I visit every time I am in town. You’ll find a lot of luxury and business hotel options in the area, as well as a growing amount of Airbnb rentals.
Pros: Morii Art Museum. Seriously guys, it’s amazing. If you are in town during their Roppongi Crossing show it is a MUST. Also, lots of dining and drinking options AND home to one of my favorite Tokyo clubs, a-life.
Cons: While it is well connected to the rest of Tokyo by subway lines, there is not a lot of connections to the JR train lines. Also the area has a reputation of being “dangerous” in Japanese terms , but really not dangerous at all in American terms.
This area is part of “old” Tokyo and home to some cool shrines and museums as well as lots of restaurants. This area is really residential and reminds me more of the smaller towns I lived in in other places in Japan, compared to the busier neighborhoods listed above. The neighborhoods of Ueno and Asakusa are well connected to the rest of Tokyo by both trains and subways. I’ve stayed here the most out of all other neighborhoods as it is home to a ton of cheap sleeping options like hostels and capsule hotels. I’ve stayed in a lot of the different hostels in the Khaosan chain of hostels and have nothing but good things to say about them. A quick scan of hostelworld.com shows me that a lot of cool options have popped up since the last time I’ve stayed there. On top of the traditional dorm bunks, a lot of these places also have private rooms for much cheaper than hotels. And there is also the cool people you run into at hostels, from staff to fellow travelers. Can you tell I’m a bit biased towards hostels? If hostels aren’t necessarily your scene (although I suggest you give them a try. they’re much cleaner and nicer than European hostels!) there are also a fair amount of ryokans (Japanese guesthouses) in the area as well. At these places you will most likely be sleeping on a futon on the floor, which is much more comfortable than you might think.
Pros: Cheap. Much cheaper than most of the other neighborhoods in Tokyo.
Cons: While these neighborhoods are well connected, they’re still a bit far from the action of Shinjuku and Shibuya. Which just means more time on the subways and trains, which are great people watching opportunities anyway so it’s not really time wasted.
And there you have it. My brief rundown of Tokyo neighborhoods I’ve stayed in and recommend. If you have any questions about specific places or other neighborhoods I didn’t mention, please leave a comment and I’ll see if I can help you out!