We all know the famous neighbourhoods in Tokyo, like Shinjuku, Harajuku and Shibuya. If you’re anything like me, you might have been to these areas a lot and want to discover some new neighbourhoods. Here are 8 incredible underrated places in Tokyo that are definitely worth getting onto your next go-to list. You might have heard of some of these places or passed by, but never been. Let me tell you a bit about each neighbourhood and go into some of different spots you can visit in each place.
Underrated places in Tokyo
Shibamata is well-known among older Japanese people as the hometown of Tora-san, the main character of a film series called “Otoko wa Tsuraiyo”. The film title means “it’s tough being a man”. The film series stars Kiyoshi Atsumi as Tora-san, a traveling salesman wandering from town to town, hoping to return to his home in Shibamata. Each film featured a different leading lady and a different region of Japan.
In Shibamata, you can find multiple reminders of this film, like the bronze statues of Tora-san and his sister, Sakura, at Shibamata Station. Some of the shops along the shopping street, Taishakuten Sando, even have posters and decorations from the film.
At Taishakuten Sando, you can find shops such as dumpling shops, candy shops, and Japanese crakers shops. This retro street is filled with shops and buildings that have been in business for over 100 years. Enjoy eating while walking along this road. There are stores that rent out yukata here, so if you’re interested, try the yukata experience out for yourself.
There is the Tora-san Museum here along the Edo River, not only can you experience the world of “Otoko wa Tsuraiyo”, but even those who have never seen the movie can enjoy the retro atmosphere of the Showa era. It is a spot where you can feel the traditional Japanese atmosphere.
Yamamoto-tei is a Japanese-Western eclectic building that incorporates Western architecture, and is a very old mansion built in the late Taisho era.
Shibamata Taishakuten Temple is a symbol of Shibamata. Just inside the gate, there is a 500 year old pine tree that stretches across the hall. This temple is known for its wooden carvings and you can check out the panels of carvings covering the outer walls of the hall, each depicting a scene from Buddhist scripture and folklore.
Drop by the temple’s garden in the back that is unique and well-mainted, you can scroll around the garden in the covered walkway and enjoy the scenery regardless of the weather.
Speaking of Ryogoku, many people think of sumo wrestlers, but that’s not the only attraction of the area. It is a wonderful area where you can enjoy sumo, culture and nature.
Edo-Tokyo Museum is one of the major sights of the area. The museum offers exhibitions, where you can learn more about the city of “Edo” and “Tokyo”. The permanent exhibition room of the Edo-Tokyo Museum has a vast exhibition area of 9,000 square meters and it is divided into two areas, the Edo Zone’ and the Tokyo Zone.
Former Yasuda Garden is another spot you should visit in the area. You can enjoy the natural scenery of the four seasons. “Old Yasuda Garden” is a daimyo garden that is said to have been built during the Genroku era. It is known as the garden owned by Mr. Zenjiro Yasuda of Yasuda Zaibatsu. The healing space full of Japanese beauty, such as the Yukimi lanterns arranged in the garden full of greenery and the small islands floating in the pond where carp and turtles live, is popular not only with Japanese but also with foreigners.
Nishiogikubo is the town next to Kichijoji, which is said to be the number one town to live in.
Nishi-Ogikubo, nicknamed “Nishiogi,” has many old-fashioned shops and a retro townscape with a downtown atmosphere. At the same time, new shops such as fashionable old folk house cafes and antique stores are opening one after another, making it a great place to see the old and the new live side-by-side.
There are many shopping streets around Nishi-Ogikubo Station with a back alley atmosphere. The arcade of “Nakadori-gai” is coloured like a traffic light in green and red. For some reason, a pink statue is suspended on the ceiling of the arcade. There are many interesting shops, cafes and restaurants in “Nakadori-gai”, so make sure to take your time when scrolling along the street.
If you like alcohol, especially Japanese alcohol, then stop by Mitsuya Liquor Store. You can find all kinds of obscure nihonshu from all over Japan here. They’ve been in business since 1926 and the staff is friendly and helpful without being pushy. They have notes on recommended bottles, but only in Japanese. Watch out for genshu 原酒, because it can be up to 20% alcohol.
Hinoo might not be a neighbourhood that you know about, but it is definitely one that is worthy to get on your to-go list. Hinoo has gorgeous greenery and clear streams that make it hard to believe that it is Tokyo. Hinoo is located in the southern part of the Tama region that can be reached in 30 minutes from the city center.
Hino is well-known for its association with Shinsengumi, a special police force organised by the military government during the late Tokugawa shogunate. Hino City is the birthplace of Shinsengumi’s deputy chief, Toshizo Hijikata, and the leader of the 6th division, Inoue Genzaburo. During the Edo period, the village of Hino developed as a post station, places where travellers could rest on their journey around the country.
There are many different places for you to experience the history and culture of Shinsengumi here in Hinoo.
One of the places is the Shinsengumi Hometown History Museum. This museum holds a permanent exhibition covering the period from the birth to the end of the Shinsengumi and different special exhibitions related to the Shinsengumi. You can try out wearing Shinsengumi costumes here, making you feel like a soldier.
Yasaka Shrine in Hino is another spot related to Shinsengumi. This shrine, also known as “Tenno-sama”. This shrine is said to be dedicated to sword fighters who are said to have learned the Tennen Rishin-ryu, a style that was practiced by the core members of the Shinsengumi and also commonly practised by farmers.
5. Jiyugaoka/ Todoroki
Jiyugaoka is one of the most fashionable cities in Tokyo. Named after a local school known for its liberal education, Jiyugaoka, literally “Freedom Hill”, used to be a rural area on the southern end of Meguro that started to develop in the 1920s after railways were introduced.
Although most of Jiyugaoka was demolished during WWII, the neighborhood was quickly rebuilt, modernised and currently ranks as one of the most desirable places to live in Tokyo. No matter what day of the week you visit Jiyugaoka, expect relaxing vibes with wide, pedestrian friendly avenues, fashionable boutiques, enticing craft stores and trendy cozy cafes.
La Vita is a unique spot here in Jiyugaoka that reminds you of Venice. It is a commercial complex with interior shops and general stores, so you can enjoy shopping and sightseeing in an open atmosphere. This place is lit up at night, making the world even more fantastic.
Just one stop away or a 20-min walk from Jiyugaoka area, you will get to Todoroki Valley. It is the only valley in the 23 wards of Tokyo, and because this place doesn’t get very popular you can truly indulge in the peaceful and beautiful scenery.
6. Tennōzu Isle
Tennozu Isle floats in the seaside area of Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward. It is a small area but filled with all kinds of attractions. Here in Tennōzu Isle, you will find an open boardwalk, where you can take a walk while looking at the waterside up close.
The view is good everywhere from all around the boardwalk and there are chairs in some places, so you can spend a relaxing time basking in the sun. At night, the surrounding buildings are lit up and you can take in the gorgeous night view here. There are many fashionable cafes and restaurants along the boardwalk, so you can have a cup of tea or a meal while gazing at the glittering skyscrapers.
Higashi-Shinagawa Marine Park is a green park connected by the Isle Bridge. From the deck on the rooftop, you can see the Tennozu Canal and the Meguro River Water Gate installed at the mouth of the Meguro River up close. There is also a mini botanical garden where you can enjoy seasonal flowers and herbs. The observatory here overlooks the waterfront park, the canals, and the skyscrapers beyond.
Toyosu is a popular city with plenty of activities and great food. With the relocation of the Tsukiji Market to Toyosu in November 2016, Toyosu has been getting more and more attention.
The Toyosu Market consists of three market buildings, a fisheries wholesale market, a fisheries wholesale market and fruits and vegetables. It was originally a wholesale market for professionals, but part of it is open to the general public and tourists.
The Toyosu Market is roughly divided into three buildings, the Fisheries Wholesale Market Building, the Fisheries Wholesale Market Building, and the Fruit and Vegetable Building, which are separated across the road. The restaurant area of Toyosu Market is also divided into three areas, with a variety of restaurants such as Japanese food, seafood bowl, tempura, western food, curry, Chinese food, and beef bowl. Even though there is a huge variety, most dishes are centered around seafood. Come here to enjoy a delicious meal when you visit Toyosu.
LaLaport Toyosu is a landmark of Toyosu. It is a large-scale commercial facility with about 180 stores, where you can shop for anything from home appliances, interior goods, and household goods, as well as a lot of different restaurants.
One of the major attractions here to visit is TeamLab Planets. It is a huge immersive space created by TeamLab, which creates art works using technology. You experience this place barefoot, and some of the seven works actually have you walking in water. It is a unique experience to enjoy while taking pictures and immersing yourself in digital art all around you.
If you are interested in sports, check out the Tokyo Sports Playground. It has 6 different areas, including a running track, a basketball court and different facilities for you to enjoy and use freely.
Kitasenju has many old buildings and it is a historic city where you can feel the atmosphere of Edo. Kitasenju has become a popular tourist destination for tourists and a great spot to live in because of its easy access to the five different train lines and the calm atmosphere of the city.
Senju Street Station was originally a fish store and it has become a tourist information center for Kitasenju. It has a nostalgic retro appearance. There is also a mini exhibition corner associated with Kitasenju for you to discover the history and culture of this area.
Arakawa river flows through Adachi Ward and brings a relaxing atmosphere to the area. The Adachi-ku Arakawa Visitor Center is located about a 15-minute walk from Kitasenju Station and different exhibits and activities related to Arakawa are held here. You can thoroughly learn about history and nature with the extensive exhibits about Arakawa and the insects and aquatic creatures derived from Arakawa.
Adachi is also known for the Adachi fireworks. Adachi fireworks began in the Meiji era. It is said that the fireworks were launched to celebrate the completion of Senju Ohashi. The 1st Senju Fireworks Festival was held in 1918, and now, it is held around the end of July every year, so if you are around Tokyo around then, make sure to drop by the Adachi fireworks!
These are just some of the many unique less well-known neighbourhoods around Tokyo. A lot of local neighbourhoods have a lot to offer so keep your eyes open and allow yourself to thoroughly explore this gorgeous city. Which of these neighbourhoods are you most interested in exploring?