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Which area in Tokyo is best to stay in?

Cape Town Central...
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Which area in Tokyo is best to stay in?

Hi there,

I will be in Tokyo for 5 days in September with my husband and my mother. We are in our early 30s and my mom is in her 60s. It is our first time to Japan.

I'm really having a hard time trying to decide which area in Tokyo we should try to stay in and I would really appreciate it if all you experienced people out there would be able to help us make an informed decision!

I would like to stay in an area that is very convenient in terms of having easy access to well-connected public transport. With my mom's age, we don't wont to be located too far out of the centre and then have to take lots of trains or walk long distance to get into the thick of where we need to be.

We'd also like to stay in an area that has a good vibe with lots of good restaurants but hopefully not a place that goes completely dead at night. My husband and I would like to be able to walk around at night grabbing some food and a few drinks but we have no desire to go clubbing at all. I'm thinking along the lines of a place like Clarke's Quays or Orchard Road in Singapore and not as much along the lines of Koh San Road in Bangkok (which wouldn't be suitable for my mother). It would be a bonus if the area also has lots of the stunning architecture that Tokyo is famous for, but seeing as you can't escape experiencing that in Tokyo, this is not as important.

I have read that Shinduku is a good area because it is very well connected to public transport hubs, has a good vibe, has some great shopping and lots of restaurants and other entertainment in the area. At first, I thought that this would be the right choice for us, but then I started to read that Shinduku is basically the centre of the Tokyo red light district with lots of seedy parlours, love hotels, prostitutes, etc and that has really put me off the idea of Shinduku all together. Just how seedy are we talking about here? Is it as bad as Koh San Road in Bangkok where it is completely in your face and you can't avoid it? Or in other words, would Shinduku be the type of place suitable for families because the seedy element is only a small section of it and you can avoid going into those areas?

I have also read that Shibuya is also a good option because it is similar to Shinduku (great shopping, good location for public transport, vibe, etc) but because it is very popular for with Japanese youth, I wonder whether we would just be surrounded by teenagers (a horrible thought no matter where in the world you are ;) ) Is there a good mix of demographics in this area?

I'm starting to think that Ginzo is looking like the right area. It is a good location in terms of public transport and also has a good vibe with shopping and restaurants. I've read that it does get quieter at night, but how quiet are we walking here? Does the place completely empty out at night (like is typical of a business district) and there is little to do in terms of eating out and having a few drinks come nighttime?

I've also read about Roppongi Hill. I believe that it is a little further out from the centre. Is that correct? It sounds like a real up and coming place that may be worth visiting during our time there but is it enough to justify staying in the area during our time? I've read that a few of the things to avoid in this area is drunken American soldiers and African scammers... having come into contact with both of those in my lifetime, for me, that is reason enough not to stay in the area. It sounds a little bit like the tourist trap of Tokyo?

So you can see that I've heard some pros and cons on these areas and would really appreciate it if you guys could give me your opinions on this because its a once in a lifetime opportunity for us and we would really like to stay in the right area! At this point in time, we don't need advise on which hotels to stay at, only rather which area is the best to stay in in Tokyo.

Much appreciated in advance!!

130 replies to this topic
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1. Re: Which area in Tokyo is best to stay in?

Shinjuku or Shibuya would be your best options. Great transport options - including to/from the airports. All of the other areas you're referring to are a quick train ride away.

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2. Re: Which area in Tokyo is best to stay in?

Tokyo resembles Bangkok as much as New York does.

There really is no right area to stay in Tokyo as it's a huge city with great transport connections everywhere so you have a lot more options to choose other than the ones you have mentioned above. However, my views on the places you have mentioned are:

Roppongi Hills 'a concept development' I find extremely soulless - a shiny desert - lots of elevators, escalators & walkways to nowhere. (Similar feel to the Odaiba development) And you pretty much nailed the rest of Roppongi. It's never felt like the rest of Tokyo to me (but for others it IS Tokyo). The only positive for me is that Roppongi actually has some very good restaurants.

Shibuya doesn't have as many hotel choices as some other areas - and yes it is wall to wall teenagers. But aged as I am, I still really like the Shibuya vibe.

Shinjuku is a big commercial area & transport hub popular with tourists. It's a big area, much like a whole city itself. If you stay there you probably won't venture far from the station environs, Isetan or the free Tocho Govt observation deck. Shinjuku gyoen (a big Park that you pay to enter) is only worth it if the flora is out, otherwise only drop in if you don't get to see parks or green space in your regular life - that's why it's popular with Tokyoites - there are much better examples of gardens to be seen in Tokyo.

One tiny section within Shinjuku is the Kabukicho area that has sexual themed bars & entertainment but you don't have to go there. There are regular shops & cinemas there too that show the latest blockbuster movies. You will actually see more sexual explicitness on all the latest MTV videos than on the streets of Kabukicho. Anyhow most tourists will walk through oblivious & distracted by the glowing neon lights. You probably won't know that you are in Kabukicho unless you deliberately go there, scrutinise the signs & notice the touts (who are unlikely to approach you) & go into the bars.

Ginza is more upmarket - excellent transport, lots of Dept stores & boutiques & every street & building is jam packed with restaurants & places to drink, not all places are pricey but it is home to some of the best high end restaurants, private clubs & bars. So no, it doesn't shut down at night.

From Ginza you can walk or one stop to the shops, sights & restaurants/bars of Yurakucho, Hibiya & across to Shinbashi & Tsukiji & close to Tokyo station.

Singapore's Orchard Rd has trees & seems very planned -you won't get much of that in Tokyo - where 'higgledy piggledy' is the underlying planning objective. And it's very easy to get lost. Tokyo is urban - very urban. Narrow, dog-legged, crazy streets. (Shibuya & Shinjuku) Think concrete don't think green and nicely planned - handful of exceptions: Omotesando is a big street with trees & Ginza has straight streets but no trees - but they don't look much like the rest of Tokyo.

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3. Re: Which area in Tokyo is best to stay in?

>>Shinduku is basically the centre of the Tokyo red light district with lots of seedy parlours, love hotels, prostitutes, etc and that has really put me off the idea of Shinduku all together. Just how seedy are we talking about here?<<

Shinjuku is like a large city inside a megalopolis. There is a seedy area in a part of Shinjuku Ward called Kabukicho, which has red lights establishments as well as normal restaurants and bars, but if you'd like to avoid it, you can without difficulty.

Shinjuku is home to Tokyo Metropolitan Government, HQ of major businesses, family friendly department stores, lots of decent restaurants, and cheap & smokey barbecue stalls. It's a major transport hub (not the only one in Tokyo, but it could be the largest). It has a nice former Imperial Garden (Shinjuku Gyoen). There is also a gay people's quarter (Shinjuku 2-chome). There are also quiet residential areas out of the central parts of Shinjuku Ward.

It's a bit silly to avoid Shinjuku altogether just because it has a certain sleazy area. London, Paris, Moscow, Hong Kong, New York have such areas, and Shinjuku in Tokyo. You can avoid Best Western hotel, as it's near to the sleazy area. Hotel Century Southern Tower, Sunroute Plaza, or Keio Plaza might be your choice.

Edited: 8:29 am, March 14, 2013
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4. Re: Which area in Tokyo is best to stay in?

Yeah, Shinjuku is good. Well connected.

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5. Re: Which area in Tokyo is best to stay in?

Shinjuku is good, we spent the best part of a week there and never saw anything sleazy. That's because it's also very large. There is no real centre of things in Tokyo anyway.

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6. Re: Which area in Tokyo is best to stay in?

Hi Dave,

Thank you so much for your feedback!! Much appreciated!

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7. Re: Which area in Tokyo is best to stay in?

Hi Elly,

Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a detailed response! I really appreciate your feedback, it has been very helpful and has provided some good insights!

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8. Re: Which area in Tokyo is best to stay in?

Hi Yobeekool,

Thank you for your feedback, it has been helpful! It's nice to know that the sleaze element is not so in your face and can be avoided to a degree. Much appreciated!

Edited: 3:26 am, March 16, 2013
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9. Re: Which area in Tokyo is best to stay in?

To answer a couple of your questions, Shinjuku is "family friendly" and you shouldn't shy away from it because of what you read. Yobecool's (sorry, I can't see the spelling or other posts when responding on my iPhone app) explanation should make you feel at ease.

Unless I point out things, the people I am guiding around don't have a clue as to what types of businesses we are walking by. They are too distracted and the seedy side isn't really in your face.

Everything you described above as to what you are looking for would be right there in Shinjuku. There are some very cool buildings there with the architectural "wow" factor that you also said you desired. The train connections are excellent & very convenient. It is a lively area day & night. And there are so many bars & restaurants to choose from that you will have no problem finding a good time when you are out on the two with just the two of you. Everything is at your door step.

You asked about how diverse the crowd in Shibuya is and I find it to be pretty young in general. I like to go there during the day but don't really want to hang around in Shibuya for drinks. It was fun for me when I was in my 20's but now that I am still here and in my mid-30's, I don't want to be there for too long in the evening. My tastes have changed?

Ginza is great & I like it there a lot too but Shinjuku seems to fit well with what you are looking for when considering your mother in her 60's and you two in your 30's. But it is a great area and you would probably not be disappointed if you ended up there.

Roppongi Hills is very clean/ sanitized with high end dining, shops and hotel but it really dies down at night. It's not really a fun area.

Hope this helps a bit.

Good luck!

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10. Re: Which area in Tokyo is best to stay in?

Can I put in a vote for something different?

I really liked Asakusa as a base. It is the old part of Tokyo and therefore "human scale" in a way that other areas are not. I travelled around Tokyo during the day and have stayed in other areas, but Asakusa was my favourite for walking around in the evening and early morning.

The Sensoji temple is lovely and the stalls around it, many selling edible goodies, are great fun. It is touristy, but most of the tourists are Japanese.

There are lots of family run small restaurants, a great massage shop (for proper massages, wonderful after a long flight) and shops selling traditional crafts.

There are also residential areas up side streets with pots of plants outside the door.

Modern Tokyo is exciting, but can feel a bit intense. Asakusa is a different side of Tokyo.

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