If you’re planning a trip to Tokyo, you’ve likely come across plenty of info about popular spots like Shinjuku, Shibuya, or Harajuku. While those areas are a blast, Tokyo neighborhoods off the beaten path are just as cool! If you’re keen to escape the crowds and soak up some local vibes, take a peek at this list we’ve compiled of our top local haunts and hidden gems in Tokyo.

Find out more about Japan travel here: Shopping in Japan, the best souvenirs to buy in Japan, nature in Japan, camping in Japan, overnight & day trips from Tokyo, top museums to visit in Tokyo, local neighbourhoods in Tokyo, and beaches near Tokyo.

One of the best ways to explore Tokyo is to visit the local areas and immerse yourself in the local culture. If you want to explore local areas, we have created scavenger hunt adventures personalised to your interests, filled with fun facts, clues and puzzles. If you’re curious, you can check out the games here!

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Tokyo Neighborhoods to Explore on Your Trip to Japan


Tokyo neighborhoods that are worth a visit shimokitazawa
Aw1805CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Affectionately nicknamed “Shimokita”, Shimokitazawa is hipster central. This local area in Tokyo is full of chill cafes, music bars, thrift stores, punk rock stores, novelty stores and more. This is the place for a relaxing early afternoon at a café with a book, drinking coffee that’s actually good (nearly impossible to find in other parts of Tokyo).

Shimokita is also good for a full afternoon of checking out second-hand stores that sell clothes, furniture, and antiques; what’s more, you can end the day by finding a cosy, boozy music bar and having an expertly crafted (but fairly priced) cocktail while enjoying jazz or grunge music. 


Local neighbourhoods in Tokyo that are worth a visit Nakano
Charlie fongCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This neighbourhood is slowly gaining recognition as a mini anime and manga town, with many stores selling figurines and comic books. All these stores are gathered in one area known as Nakano Broadway, so stop by there if you’re into Japanese cartoons. 

However, Nakano has more to offer than just that. The north of Nakano station is made up of small alleys and streets filled with restaurants serving all sorts of cuisines, from traditional Japanese dishes to fusion cuisine and Southeast Asian delights.

Among all these restaurants is a large number of bars usually frequented only by the locals. Don’t be surprised if many patrons already know each other or the bartender; it seems as though everyone’s a regular at every bar in Nakano. Just grab a couple of friends and join them! 


Local neighbourhoods in Tokyo that are worth a visit koenji
nakashi, via Wikimedia Commons

Koenji boasts a rich history that meanders through various eras. Back in the 1950s, it gained renown for its plethora of coffee shops. By the 1970s, it had morphed into Tokyo’s punk neighbourhood. Then, in the early 2000s, it earned a reputation for its retro vibe and thriving market for used electronics, even becoming a focal point for protests against restrictive laws in the industry.

Today, this Tokyo neighbourhood is celebrated for its affordable groceries, heavily discounted designer bags and clothing, as well as its array of antique goods and furniture. You’ll stumble upon many of these stores lining Koenji Pal Shopping Street.

Venture beneath the train tracks, and you’ll stumble upon a district brimming with intimate izakayas and quirky bars boasting outdoor seating. Some of these ‘seats’ aren’t seats at all; they’re merely boxes or crates ingeniously fashioned into makeshift chairs for patrons. During chillier seasons, some establishments shield their outdoor areas with transparent mats, creating a unique ambiance.

The majority of clientele are locals unwinding after a day’s work. Far from the stereotypical image of reserved Japanese folk, they’re a lively bunch, laughing heartily, indulging in drinks, and relishing the moment. Don’t hesitate to join in the fun!


Local neighbourhoods in Tokyo that are worth a visit Kichijoji
運転太郎, CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Koenji boasts a rich history that spans various epochs. Meanwhile, Kichijoji has held the title of the most desired place to live among Japanese residents since 1990. Its appeal lies in its accessibility; both Shibuya and Shinjuku are just a few stops away, and the stunning Inokashira Park, where you can paddle a swan boat on the lake, is a short stroll south of Kichijoji station. Residents of Kichijoji enjoy the best of both worlds: the vibrant energy of Tokyo and the tranquillity of its surroundings.

A must-visit spot in the area is Harmonica Alley, a collection of traditional Japanese bars scattered across several narrow alleys. This enclave remains largely unaffected by foreign or modern influences, offering an authentic Japanese drinking experience. Keep in mind that many of these bars lack seating, so you’ll have to stand while enjoying your drink. Standing-only establishments are becoming increasingly rare in Tokyo, making this experience all the more special.


Local neighbourhoods in Tokyo that are worth a visit Kagurazaka
Dick Thomas Johnson from Tokyo, JapanCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Might not be at the top of your list as one of the local neighbourhoods to visit in Tokyo, but it’s definitely unique! Back in the olden days, Kagurazaka was known for its many geisha houses, some of which are still there today. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a geisha and her maiko (an apprentice) on their way to an appointment. It’s an interesting sight to see traditional geisha in kimono against the backdrop of modern-day Kagurazaka with buildings, fast food restaurants, and neon lights.

Aligned with its reputation as a hub for Japanese tradition and culture, there are stores selling traditional Japanese teas and candies, as well as traditional Japanese restaurants (some of which allow you to hire a geisha yourself to entertain you for the evening).

Having said that, Kagurazaka is more recently known as a little French town. Many French eateries are popping up around the area, possibly due to the two French schools located there. If you’re craving French cuisine, come here.


Local neighbourhoods in Tokyo that are worth a visit Tsukiji
江戸村のとくぞうCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You may have heard of Tokyo’s famous tuna auctions, where restaurant owners show up in the wee hours of the morning to bid on the best catch of the day. These auctions were previously held here in Tsukiji until October 2018 (the auctions are now held in Toyosu). Though the auctions and wholesale fish market (known as the Inner Market) are no longer here, the Outer Market is still very much alive.

The Outer Market consists of many sushi restaurants, stalls that sell seafood and processed food, and cafes. Many have remarked that the sushi in Tsukiji is far fresher than in other areas (as its fish is delivered directly from the new fish market in Toyosu), so if you’re a big fan of this classic Japanese food, you’ll want to make a stop here. Many of these sushi restaurants are only open from early morning till noon or early afternoon, so make this your first stop of the day.

Besides exploring the many alleys of the Outer Market of this local area in Tokyo, sampling different types of sushi, and buying seafood, there isn’t much else to do in this area, so don’t expect to spend more than an hour or two here.


Local neighbourhoods in Tokyo that are worth a visit Jimbocho
運転太郎CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This neighbourhood is a haven for history and book enthusiasts. Jimbocho is renowned for its plethora of antique stores and bookshops but might be an undiscovered gem among Tokyo neighbourhoods.

If you’re into Japanese history (and why wouldn’t you be? It’s a rich tapestry!), there are stores here that sell old documents, art, or coins from the Meiji Era or Edo Era. You may even stumble upon practical antiques like old cigarette cases or smoking pipes.

For the bookworms seeking new literary adventures, take a leisurely stroll and explore the numerous bookstores. This is Tokyo’s literary hub, boasting close to 200 bookshops and even some publishing houses, ensuring there’s something for everyone. Whether your interests lie in European texts, Japanese literature, philosophy and history, art and photography, or beyond, you’ll find it here.

If you’re planning to visit this area, don’t forget to bring along a large, sturdy bag to carry your purchases.

Find out more about Japan travel here: Shopping in Japan, the best souvenirs to buy in Japan, nature in Japan, camping in Japan, overnight & day trips from Tokyo, top museums to visit in Tokyo, local neighbourhoods in Tokyo, and beaches near Tokyo.

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