Tokyo neighbourhoods
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Updated 11 months ago

Tokyo and its special wards are fascinating. Each of them has its own identity and you will find yourself not in front of a single capital but in the heart of a multifaceted city. Here is an overview of Tokyo's most popular neighbourhoods.

The most popular neighbourhoods

Shinjuku

It represents all Tokyoite-style diversity on its own. More than a district, Shinjuku is a group of areas where each of them has its unique characteristics. Passers-by meet in the huge station. It is a real cultural experience! Shinjuku station is the busiest in the world.

West Shinjuku: the business area

Quiet and modern this area is mostly frequented by the 'Salaryman' - the name given to the Japanese employees. Shinjuku West accommodates Tokyo's impressive city hall. The building, better known as the "Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building", quickly became a potent symbol of Tokyo and that of Japan too. Its unique architecture (the building is made up of two high towers, rising like arrows) makes it easily distinguishable.

Shinjuku is: the district of hyperconsumption

There's lots of entertainment, shops, restaurants, music, and constant noise. The audience itself is changing: it is getting younger and more colourful

Kabuki Cho: the city that doesn't sleep

A few steps take you to the other entertainment district. Kabukicho indeed reveals itself at night. It is one of Tokyo's hot spots, with bars and other host clubs. Kabukicho is also known to be frequented by the yakuza, the Japanese mafia. You can easily walk around the neighbourhood though the atmosphere is sometimes oppressive. Be careful not to get caught up in any bar or club.

Shinjuku South: consumption in a chic version

There are shops and consumption, in a less noisy spirit than that of Shinjuku is. Shinjuku South is best known for its "Southern terrace", a wide commercial alleyway located in the open air.

Shinjuku gyoen: the green bubble

It is one of the largest gardens in Tokyo. This is where Japanese, English and French styles blend. Especially famed in autumn (kôyô season, Japanese maple leaves) and spring (sakura season, Japanese cherry trees), Shinjuku gyoen offers a calm, soothing break, far from the city's hustle and bustle.

Nakano

A little more discreet than the other districts, Nakano cultivates a small village atmosphere. A village that nevertheless hosts the gigantic Nakano Broadway, a commercial zone dedicated to entertainment, shopping and leisure and above all, a considerable area faithful to manga-anime and pop-culture. The area has begun to compete with the very famous Akihabra district, though the Nakano Broadway is still not visited by a lot of tourists.

Nakano Zero is another zone dedicated to culture. It is in Shin-Nakano that the imposing building was built, bounded by the Momijiyama Park. It includes a Planetarium, rehearsal rooms (dance, yoga, music...), audio-visual space, auditorium, etc. Many students come to train at Nakano Zero, not hesitating to rehearse in front of the building itself, or around Momijiyama Park. Numerous concerts and shows make Nakano Zero one of the new sanctuaries of culture.

Roppongi

Roppongi is the world of the night, and it is well known by tourists and locals mainly for that particular reason. It is the other Kabukicho, in a more cosmopolitan and westernised version. During the Second World War, GI's took up residence in the district, Japan at the time being under American occupation.

Roppongi is also a trendy district. Even though it is easy to party, the same oppressive atmosphere as Kabukicho swings over the neighbourhood.

At the start of 2000: the government wanted to give Roppongi a different image. Still trendy, but with extra security he launched the "Roppongi Hills" project.

Roppongi Hills can be considered as 'a city inside the city'. To make people forget the sulfurous reputation of the nightlife district, the government has opted for a "new city", a commercial complex dedicated to art (contemporary museums, exhibitions), culture (library, cinema...), commerce (a profusion of shops) and workspaces. Roppongi Hills is home to luxury houses, offices and even political parties! Many embassies (including those of Singapore, Spain, Saudi Arabia, and Sweden) have chosen Roppongi Hills as their headquarters.

When questioned on this project, particularly in terms of environmental impact, Roppongi Hills assures that it is part of an eco-responsible approach. Thus, some 40% of its space is dedicated to parks and gardens, following the example of the Mori garden.

To help people to find each other easily in this new city, the authorities have created a "mascot": just like Shibuya has Hachiko (a sculpture paying tribute to the famous dog who kept waiting for its master), Roppongi Hills has its spider! Just like the Hachiko statue, which has become an easily identifiable meeting point, people have become accustomed to finding themselves in front of the giant spider. The sculpture, created by Louise Bourgeois, has been baptised "Maman".

Asakusa

Asakusa is the most often associated with Sensoji, the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo. Asakusa has become the ward of tradition and the Japan of former times following the example of the Edo Shitamachi Dentô Kôgeikan museum, which exhibits historical objects.

Another piece of art coming straight from Edo is the rakugo. The Asakusa Engei Hall Theatre offers rakugo, Japanese litterature. Literally, rakugo means "story ending with a humorous fall". Alone, in front of his audience, the storyteller discloses his story. In another way, we can say that the rakugo is the ancestor of the one-man show!

There are many shops in Nakamise, the main street of Asakusa. They offer traditional pastries, and other typical dishes and souvenirs in the traditional Japanese way.

Asakusa also encompasses entertainment through Hanayashiki, Japan's oldest amusement park (created in 1949). Though the park is small, it entails a corner for children as the ambience is family-centric: also reigns a vintage essence that correlates with the surroundings.

Akihabara

Initially known as the electronics ward, Akihabara has become, over time, the den of manga-anime pop-culture. The district offers many mangas, DVDs, figurines, cosplay clothes and collector's items.

These places have become famous, like the tower occupied by the Mandarake firm, which specialises in manga, DVDs, video games, figurines, and other items related to pop culture. Equally famous is the Super Potato store, dedicated to video games of the old days. In the past, the shop sold them at attractive prices. Super Potato became known to enthusiasts and the general public. While prices have risen significantly, trade has the advantage of offering items that are difficult to find anywhere else.

During weekends, the main road is closed to cars, allowing pedestrians to roam freely in the neighbourhood. Inhabitants and tourists come in large numbers (especially when the weather is fine) for a walk, a moment of relaxation, in a good mood.

Shibuya

Shibuya is the fashion temple and is reputed/known far beyond Japan's borders. The district is famous for its Hachiko statue which is a meeting point and photo shooting spot (everyone wants to take a picture next to the faithful dog), and for its tower 109, a high building entirely dedicated to women's fashion. Another smaller tower focuses on men's fashion: the 109 men's tower. Shibuya is a trendy, resolutely young district. Many youngsters walk the busy streets, day and night. From a higher perspective, you can admire the passers-by crossing a crossroads, and it has become a real attraction: it is the famous "Shibuya crossing".

Harajuku

The area is famous for Tokyo fashion, alternating between rock, gothic, streetwear, kawaii (cute, in Japanese), pop, punk, avant-garde, etc. All genres meet in the main street of the district: Takeshosyita-dori. The street which is always crowded brings together tourists and locals in a friendly atmosphere. Colours are everywhere: on clothes, shop fronts, even sweets, pancakes (being the best-seller) offering many flavours: chocolate, with cream, bananas, strawberries, etc. A famous Tokyoite proverb says that "there is no leaving Harajuku without buying a pancake".

The district has a different face which is more calm and meditative. At the exit of Harajuku station, a stone's throw from Takeshita-dori, there is room for meditation, at the Meiji-jingu Shinto shrine. It is built in the heart of the great imperial garden that bears its name.

A few steps away there is another park: Yoyogi - with large pools, a vast lawn, wide alleys, benches, etc. It's an ideal place to relax.

Omotesando

Back to fashion, but this time on the luxury side. Not far from Takeshita-dori street, Omotesando is a long avenue, where wealth is displayed through the shop window. The district is rightly known as "Tokyo's Champs-Elysées". The biggest brands own a shop there. The architecture is modern, sober and chic.

Ginza

Just like Omotesando, in Ginza, luxury is omnipresent. World-famous designers have a shop in this area. Ginza is assimilated to know-how, exceptional and luxurious products. You display your name as a brand. Ginza" is a guarantee of quality and refinement.

Ikebukuro

Ikebukuro is a vast district, mainly known for its profusion of shops. People go there mainly for shopping. "Sunshine City", a huge shopping mall in Ikebukuro East, is found in this district, and it has fashion shops, entertainment, observatory, restaurants, etc. It also includes a mini amusement park and an aquarium! Everything is done to ensure that you spend a whole day in the same place.

Ikebukuro is also "the mini Akihabara". It is situated on the east side, not far from Sunshine city. A long street is entirely dedicated to manga, anime, figurines, cosplay, and other pop-culture items. You can take a refreshing break at the Ikemen café, the "maid café" in the boys' version: here, handsome young men ("ikemen" means "handsome boy") do the service. Female clients are treated with respect. In this part of Ikebukuro East, pop culture is combined with femininity. From manga shops (Mandarake) to figurines and other accessories (Animate), passing through the Ikemen café, is a delightful experience for customers.

Ueno

A green area in the middle of the skyscrapers, Ueno is especially appreciated for its large park, one of the oldest in Tokyo. It is a garden with a rich history.

Back in 1868, under the Meiji era: the shogun Yoshinobu Tokugawa abdicated and the emperor regained full power, and the Samurai lost their privileges. Protests and rebellions broke out. Some two thousand samurai, who remained loyal to the shogun, decided to take refuge in Ueno and fight against the emperor; they lost the fight.

The museums in the district portray history. For example, the Tokyo National Museum, Japan's oldest national museum (opened in 1872), traces the history of Japanese art - the oldest works dating back to prehistoric times. Ueno also lodges Japan's oldest zoological garden.

Odaiba

Odaiba is a sort of urban beach for Tokyo. A holiday atmosphere prevails on the artificial island. While Odaiba has a large number of offices, it lodges many shopping centres. We come here with family or friends, to relax and have fun.

Odaiba is also known for the Tokyo Big Sight, a gigantic showroom in which the Comiket (Comic Market) and Anime Japan, and conventions entirely dedicated to Japanese pop culture, are held. The Pop-culture has its mascot, which impresses and dazzles the public. To see it, you have to go to the large DiverCity shopping centre in Tokyo Plaza. There, a gigantic Gundam (RX-0 Unicorn, for connoisseurs) is enthroned. Gundam is a legend in Japan. This science fiction saga, begun in 1979, denouncing the atrocities of war, calls for the reconciliation of people, humility, and tolerance. On Tokyo Plaza, the giant Gundam (19.7m!) pays a vibrant tribute to the series - with a sound and light show: the machine comes to life at certain times of the day! At night, it offers a real concert, full of colours and special effects.

We stay in the future, with Fuji TV's huge building, the big private television channel. Like Shinjuku City Hall, Fuji TV's building has become Odaiba's emblem. It has an observatory, to better admire the beauty of the peninsula - a modern one and resolutely turned towards the future, with its Miraikan, where the National Museum of Emerging Sciences and Innovation. "Mirai" means "future" in Japanese. Here, we discuss with an android, and we wonder what 'being human' means? We experiment, we test, we touch and we feel. The Miraikan is also a museum of the senses, a unique place to better understand our planet.

What about parking?

Due to the high population density in Tokyo, the slightest square meter is exploited. You will find car parks in front of the shops. They are located in the vicinity of shopping centres (underground car parks). There are generally small car parks (sometimes only two spaces) in these areas.

In Tokyo, having a car is not essential. The city is designed for public transport: buses, subways, and bicycles! Tokyo has set up an infrastructure to offer many bicycle paths. You will also find car parks and bike parks. The pedestrians can rely on the incredible Tokyo-style rail network: punctual, precise, it allows them to travel from one end of the megalopolis to the other and at the same time enjoy the charms of its districts.

Contemplation in Tokyo is at every crossroads, in every district. They all have their charm, their atmosphere and their plea with a good security system as a bonus. Kabukicho and Roppongi are the exceptions that confirm the rule: Tokyo parades serenity and security. It is the city where you book your table in a restaurant by placing your bag on your seat. The city where many lost objects are found. The city where, day and night, people use transport without fear. This is also what Tokyo's wealth is all about.

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