Don’t panic: Tokyo might be one of the world’s busiest cities, but when broken down into individual neighbourhoods and districts, the metropolis becomes far easier to navigate (not to mention enjoy). Here are five of our favourite areas as well as their corresponding Tokyo Metro station numbers.
Ginza (G-09, H-08, M-16)
Ginza’s reputation as one of the planet’s most upmarket shopping districts is well founded. But while the stores lining Chuo-dori (Ginza’s main street) read like a who’s who of luxury brands, the neighbourhood also boasts simpler pleasures. From noon to 5pm on weekends, Chuo-dori is closed to automobiles and turned into a hokoten (pedestrian paradise) that draws locals and visitors alike. The tributaries running east and west of the main street warrant serious exploration, too. Grab a value-packed weekday lunch box at specialist anago (conger eel) restaurant Ginza Hirai and then spend the afternoon shopping for handsome Japanese crockery at Takumi.
Shinjuku (M-09, F-13, S-02)
Bustling Shinjuku is a music lover’s paradise. While record stores are peppered through the Japanese capital, the legendary Disk Union remains the first port of call for serious shoppers. Across the multi-level store, rock fans will find everything from fresh local releases to hens’ teeth-rare items. DJs and record collectors, meanwhile, can lose themselves in dedicated Disk Unions specialising in vinyl-friendly genres such as jazz, hip-hop and classical music. All that browsing, listening and buying certainly builds up a thirst: head to Shot Bar Zoetrope for an introduction to the joys of Japanese whisky.
Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market is a heady – and not to mention slightly overwhelming – trip. While many go to the world’s biggest fish market to try their luck at the restaurant Sushi Dai and Tsukiji’s much-photographed tuna auction, these are just two of the neighbourhood’s attractions. Located on the market’s quieter outer fringes, the counter restaurant Chiaki serves bargain-priced lunch bowls during the week while toothsome handmade soba is the calling card of Tsukiji Yabusoba. Named after the ubiquitous trucks that zip around the market, Turret Coffee slings a memorable cup of joe including espressos in ochokos (sake cups).
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A handful of subway stops from the bustle of Shibuya is Tomigaya, a part of town regarded as one of the city’s most happening neighbourhoods. Part café, part bar, part vintage-furniture showroom and 100 per cent Scandinavian cool, Fuglen is a popular rallying point for locals and typical of the area’s creative bent. Rhythm and Books does a splendid line in outré music and publishing while renegade wine bar Ahiru Store is an active part of the city’s natural wine vanguard. A monthly antique and craft market is held at nearby Yoyogi Park.
Roppongi (H-04, E-23)
Roppongi’s plethora of bars, clubs and other nightspots make it a lively address when the sun goes down but many of its charms are – mercifully – of the quieter variety. Isana, a discrete sushi bar hidden behind a block of apartments, makes an ideal introduction to the joys of high-end sushi. Chef Junichi Onuki speaks English fluently and keeps the mood at Isana easy-going and relaxed. Osobanokouga and Yakitori Moe are two other eating addresses of note in the neighbourhood, the former a specialist soba restaurant, the latter a yakitori bar that grills chicken skewers late into the night. Head to the Roppongi Hills complex for great shopping and a visit to the contemporary Mori Art Museum.
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