Metropolis, Tokyo. The city with more than 15 million people has a variety of downtowns attracting people both day and night. Each downtown of Tokyo has its own characteristics. From my personal viewpoint, I will pick up major downtowns of Tokyo and explain its characteristics.
Shibuya, the city for the young
Shibuya Scramble Crossings and Hachiko Statues are the two most famous tourist attractions of Shibuya. Tokyu Corporation developed the city, and it has become the city for the young from the 1970’s. “109” is a department store which collects young fashion brands and is always the center of young fashion trend. The city has led not only the trend of fashion, but music, as a genre called “Shibuya-kei” exists, and theaters as well. Shibuya is literally a cultural center of Japan.
Recently, many startup companies, especially IT related companies, hold offices in Shibuya. Shibuya has been the city for the young from now and then, so many people from young to old give life to the town.
Harajuku and Omotesando, the sophisticated urban beauty
Takeshita Street in Harajuku is so famous as the center of young culture. The culture is unique and I personally feel unapproachable. Omotesando, just a few minutes walk from Takeshita Street, has a sophisticated atmosphere. Walking from Omotesando to Aoyama Street and Shibuya is the golden route to enjoy modern shops and cafes. If you want to feel the sophisticated urban beauty of Tokyo, take a walk in this area. Especially in the autumn where leaves all get colored, you will get to enjoy a stunning view in this area.
Shinjuku, the business center and hundreds of bars
Shinjuku has been developed as a post-town. Now, it is the center of Tokyo as the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office is located. Station staffs pushing people into a train is a famous icon of Japan. Shinjuku station has the largest number of passengers in Japan.
Shinjuku has an entirely different face on the west side and the east side. On the west side, there is a concrete jungle of skyscrapers, but on the east side, there are old bars which continue for generations. Kabukicho, Golden Gai have both became famous throughout the world as nightlife districts. However, at the same time, the rise of crime rate have become a problem recently. This could be because Shinjuku is one of the largest downtowns in Tokyo. The characteristic of Shinjuku is this mixture of light and darkness.
Ikebukuro, the multifaceted town in the north
Ikebukuro is located in the northern area of Tokyo. This town is very familiar to people living in the north of the Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture which is next to Tokyo. I think the most appropriate word to describe this city is “multifaceted”. Some parts of Ikebukuro feels like a China Town recently, and there are lots of real Chinese restaurants. Sunshine 60 where attracts people with observation deck and aquarium, was known as the highest building in Asia when it opened. This is rather personal but I have a special feeling about Ikebukuro, and I would like to emphasize that the attraction of this town is “multifaceted”.
Ginza, the high-end downtown
Ginza has the highest land price in Tokyo and certain status of “Ginza” still exists. High-end boutiques and world class brand stores and hundreds of authentic restaurants gather. The quality is assured here, the high-end shopping district and downtown. There is a word “Gin-Bura” in Japanese, meaning to walk around Ginza. As the term describes, this town is enjoyable just walking around. All the first class restaurants of sushi, tempura, clubs, bars, etc. gather and not all people can come here frequently, but it is considered as a status to come to Ginza in a way. By the way, in certain groups of people call this activity to visit Ginza “Zagin de Shisu (=paraphrasing Sushi in Ginza).
Also, Ginza is very close to Tsujiki and Shinbashi, Yurakucho areas. If you walk to Shinbashi and Yurakucho, you can enjoy the ordinary people’s atmosphere at Izakayas under underpasses.
Akasaka, Roppongi, Ebisu, the international downtown
Especially Akasaka originally was a Geisha Town. Recently, Akasaka, and Roppongi are famous for the center of nightlife. There are lots of embassies from a variety of countries gather in this area, so there are influences from all parts of the world here.
Ebisu was named from one of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune. One of the largest beer producers in Japan, Sapporo has the headquarter here. Ebisu has become a popular town to live for especially females, as there are lots of fashionable cafes and shops. You will get to hear unique train music when a train leaves at Ebisu station.
Ueno, traditional downtown and wholesale district
Ueno is a terminal station as many Shinkansen stop at this station. Ueno has a long history, and there are lots to see; The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo National Museum, Ueno Zoo, Shinobazu Pond, Ueno Toshogu and more. Ameyoko is a shopping street which sells various food and daily products. It is so lively as it feels like a festival every day. Ueno has an entirely different atmosphere from other downtowns I have introduced in this article. Ueno is more traditional, friendly, and lively. Ueno is close to Akihabara and Asakusa so add a list to stop by. I recommend experiencing Izakaya culture at a town like this.
“Tokyo” has various faces. Especially, north/east area and west/south area have entirely different cultural background historically, and it affects how the town is shaped today. I introduced parts of attractions of different areas of Tokyo from a perspective of downtown. I hope this article be a help for planning trip to Tokyo.