6 Tokyo Hoods I love But You May Not Yet Know

A "live" or concert house in Shimokitazawa

A “live” or concert house in Shimokitazawa

One of the tentacles (oh my God, someone please take away my keyboard) that’s keeping me trapped in Japan is the Tokyoness of Tokyo. In my time here I’ve been all over central Tokyo’s most trendy, grungy, ethnic, fashionable and upper class neighborhoods, but there are a few that I keep gravitating to again and again. Places such as…

Roppongi Hills/Midtown

Here me out. I know you know Roppongi, but it has this reputation as party city for expats, and while it’s true that in Roppongi you’ll find “gentleman’s” bars and the sleaziest clubs this side of a swinger’s hook-up, Roppongi also has this very elegant side, bordering on bougie (urban dictionary, look it up). I feel a bit under dressed no matter what I’m wearing whenever I go to the Roppongi Hills shopping mall, but that’s where you’ll find the best cinema in Tokyo, Toho Cinemas Roppongi.

There are also great (normal) bars and restaurants in Tokyo Midtown, so even if you don’t have set plans it’s easy to find somewhere to eat, or grab a drink. And Hinokicho park is a beautiful place to take an evening walk. It’s not just about the partying in Roppongi.

Ginza

Ginza is Tokyo’s “rich” neighborhood, though all the neighborhoods seem rich to me. And it’s true that if you want to go shopping out there, it’s gonna cost you a kidney or something. But drinking? It’s surprisingly reasonable. In fact there’s a well-known bar out there slinging 300 yen drinks (about $3 USD).  Ginza also has it’s share of wine bars and a lot of Spanish restaurants for some reason, but I’m not complaining. Far from it. In Ginza you’ll also find Star Bar, were I had some of the most expensive, yet well-mixed drinks of my life. Star Bar shuns the closed-minded conventions of the common man like “drink menus”. Psssh. You just tell the bartender what flavors you like and he’ll come up with something that suites your taste. Pretty fancy, huh?

Shimokita-Fish

Shimokitazawa Storefront Art

Shimokitazawa

Love this place. There are a lot of theaters and small clubs where indie artists put on concerts. It’s got this artsy “bohemian” (if we’re still using that word) vibe and that speaks to me man. In Shimokita you’ll find a ton of second hand stores, boutiques, interesting cafes and intimate bars. One of my favorites has a big, fluffy couch and fairy lights strung from the ceiling. There are usually street performers, and many of them don’t sound half bad. It’s a great, laid back place to just chill. In fact whereas I often under dress for Roppongi and Ginza, I overdress for Shimokita.

Takadanobaba

Student and poor teacher’s heaven. It’s near Waseda university, full of restaurants and everything is cheap cheap cheap! I like Cotton Club, an Italian restaurant that has a cute patio and great cheese pizza. And speaking of pizza, my favorite place in Tokyo, Sempre Pizza, has a branch in Takadanobaba. Their pizza is made in a wood oven and it’s about 600 yen ($6 USD). Compare that with Dominoes and Pizza Hut and the rest, where a small pizza is at least $10 USD in Japan.

Takadanobaba is also home to my favorite ramen/tsukemen joint, Menya Mushashi. There’s always a line to get in but I loooove their tonkotsu, or pork broth, tsukemen–which is like ramen except the noodles come on the outside and the broth is a lot richer, to me at least.

Marunouchi

View from the Shin Marunouchi Building

View from the Shin Marunouchi Building

Recently I’ve been hanging out a lot at the area around Tokyo station, specifically the Shin Marunouchi building. The top floor is dedicated to restaurants, including one of my favorite Chinese joints “So Tired” (don’t ask me about the name, I don’t know either.)

In Summer you can eat out on the patio and it has a stunning of Marunouchi area and Tokyo station. I really get that “Wow, I live in Tokyo” feeling whenever I come here.

Korakuen

KorakuenBeautiful. It’s got an amusement park right in the center of a metropolis, two of my favorite things ever. How can I not love this place? Korakuen is an entertainment complex that’s home to the LaQua shopping center, featuring Spa LaQua, a hot spring in Tokyo.

Koichikawa Koraken

Koichikawa Koraken

There’s also Tokyo Dome Stadium, and nearby Koichikawa Korakuen Garden, one of the biggest and most beautiful gardens in Tokyo. If you want to impress a date, this is a good place to take them.

How about you, are there any Tokyo neighborhoods you love, or want to visit?

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