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Travel Guide / Japan

A guide to Tokyo’s coolest neighbourhoods

Tokyo can seem crazier than a Saturday night scramble across Shibuya. Thankfully, Saki is here to break it down.

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Hey, I’m Saki. Originally from Cairns, I spent the last five years in Brisbane studying and once my degree was done, I jumped on my one-way flight to Japan.

I’ve been living in Tokyo for about three months now and it has truly been a dream come true. I used to visit my grandparents in rural Japan once a year before the pandemic, but after not being able to visit for three years, I knew I had to go back – but for much longer this time. The city, the food, the people, the seasons – it’s so different from Australia but that’s what drew me in to Japan and easily convinced me to call it home.

If Japan has been on your wish list for YEARS and you’ve been waiting with anticipation for the borders to open again – well pack those bags because your lifelong dream adventure (it really is a dream) is waiting for you! But with so much to see and do, where do you even begin?

Let me take that decision fatigue away from you with my guide to the main neighbourhoods you should check out in Tokyo.

Shibuya

You’ve heard about it, you’ve seen it on Instagram… the world's biggest pedestrian crossing in the world! And not just that, Shibuya is hands down one of the most lively, colourful, exciting and interesting places I’ve been to in Tokyo. When you first step out of the JR station, you’ll be greeted by a huge crowd of people waiting on all sides to get ‘the’ photo and capture this chaotically busy but weirdly organised group of people. It’s guaranteed to be buzzing on a weekend night.

Weekend plans | Head to the top floor of the Starbucks right next to the crossing to see the Shibuya scramble from a birdseye perspective. If you want an even better view of the city and the crossing, check out Celavi – one of my favourite bars in Shibuya.

Now you’re back on ground level, grab some dinner at the Shibuya Yokocho (Izakaya street along Miyashita Park). The beauty of these Izakaya is that you can walk into any, take a seat, use their snazzy iPad menu and order just about any Japanese classic. From gyoza and takoyaki to karaage, yakitori and edamame – every traditional Japanese dish you can think of! My favourite Izakaya dishes are – Takowasabi (octopus wasabi) and Chicken Nanbam (chicken with teriyaki/egg sauce). Now you’re suitably stuffed, get lost in the three-storey game centres all around Shibuya – their crane games are particularly addictive, the dance mat pros are great to watch, and don’t forget to try out the dress-up photobooths.

Saki Ueda, JENZA Guest Contributor

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Saki Ueda

Jenza Community

Guest Contributor in, Queensland, Australia

Our content is shaped by our community. If you also have a way with words and a travel tale to tell, drop us a line about writing for JENZA.

Follow Saki on Insta @saki.pan

"I am so excited for you explore Tokyo – this city makes me so happy and I know you will love it just as much as I do"

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Enjoying some matcha at the Matcha Tokyo

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Saki and friends and the Tokyo skyline

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Saki Ueda, JENZA Guest Contributor

Harajuku

If I ever need to pick up a fun new outfit, Harajuku is my go-to spot. As soon as you get out at Harajuku station, you’re greeted by this bustling famous shopping district (Gwen Stefani sang about its inhabitants for a reason), filled with vibrant colours, neon signs and curated shopfronts. If 'kawaii' had to have a place, it'd definitely be Harajuku.

Weekend plans | Get your walking shoes on and join the creatively dressed Harajuku girls on Takeshita Doori. Starting from the top of the street, work your way down whilst shop hopping the unique stores displaying candy-coloured everything, all the latest fashion trends, quirky knick-knacks and cool vintage shops. Take a break to enjoy rainbow coloured fairy-floss, bubble waffles and sample Japanese cheap eats from the many street food stalls. Make sure you give yourself at least three hours to get from the very start of the shopping street all the way to the end!

Omotesando

Omotesando is one of my favourite areas in Tokyo to grab lunch and stroll around. The tree-lined streets are home to beautiful storefronts (on the luxe side but fun to window shop), trendy cafés and lots of restaurants. On one end you have the Meiji Shrine that links up with Harajuku so you could make a walking tour of it.

Weekend plans | If you’re into your photography, head to Tokyu Plaza Omotesando and grab a snap with the impressive geometric-shaped mirror escalators. Window shop all the beautiful designer stores and grab a matcha from The Matcha Tokyo – my absolute favourite little cafe tucked into the cutest alleyway of smaller shops. Feeling hungry? Join the line at Luke’s Lobster for their famous lobster rolls or check out my favourite in the area, Onden Ippo, for more traditional Japanese flavours.

Ginza

Even though I don’t go to Ginza often and it’s not my go-to spot in Tokyo, I will always recommend anyone visiting Japan to see Ginza at least once. I can’t put into words how Ginza makes me feel, it’s like you are having a main character moment in your very own movie and everything feels like background noise. If you go on a weekend this place gets crowded, but the street somehow still feels neatly organised and still quiet.

Weekend plans | This is the time to put on your best Tokyo-ready outfit because you’ll get a glimpse of the local well-dressed cool kids strutting down this street. I recommend checking out the five-storey Uniqlo and MUJI store for any basics and grabbing some lunch at Tsuru Ton Tan. Then hit the pavement and enjoy a leisurely walk window shopping and spotting some of the cafés inspired by Polo Ralph, Dior and more designer brands.

Ueno

Ueno is one of my favourite neighbourhoods to visit on my days off – it’s about an hour train ride from central Shibuya and so worth it. When I want to have a nice, slow afternoon working on my laptop or doing some journaling, or simply just want to catch up with a friend, I always go to Ueno for the best cafés. Even the franchise cafés are great, like Tully’s, Starbucks, and Saint Marc Cafe – they always have the quirky seasonal drinks like Sweet Potato frappes (autumn), Pink Sakura frappes (spring) and Gingerbread lattes around Christmas time. Definitely worth a try.

Weekend plans | Start off at Everyone's Cafe for some fluffy soft pancake stacks or grab a high protein brekkie at Egg Baby Cafe. Take a stroll through beautiful Ueno Park and if you’re visiting during spring or autumn, the trees through the park will all be changing colours. After the sun goes down and the streetlights come on, walk down Ueno Ameyoko– cho to browse the street malls and eat at one of the sidewalk food stalls. Insider tip: The stalls with the best food are often the ones that have little to no seating areas.

Wildcard: Yokohama

If you're in Tokyo for a while, hop on the train for 30 minutes and head south to Yokohama, a city on the bay. Despite being the second biggest city in Japan, SO many travellers skip past Yokohama because the internet hasn’t picked up on it yet. But believe me, I love it so much I’m considering living there next!

Weekend plans | First, grab an easy conbini (Japanese convenience store) breakfast near the station, then spend the morning at the Cup Noodle Museum where you get to make your own personal Nissin Cup Noodle and take it home for a hungry moment. Lunch is calling so head to Yokohama ChinaTown and start eating your way down to the very end of the street FULL of homemade street food goodness – the Xiaolongbao and Panda Steam Buns are not to be missed (note: they are so cute you won't want to eat it).

Now for some chill time at Yamashita Park – enjoy a Japanese comic or when I go with a group of friends we love to bring a deck of cards to play together. At night, walk down the iconic bridge at Minato Mirai and take in the most beautiful Tokyo views of the night lights and Ferris wheel right next to the water.

I am so excited for you explore Tokyo – this city makes me so happy and I know you will love it just as much as I do! Eat lots of good food, take lots of pretty photos, talk to the locals (they are the friendliest people ever), and keep the city clean (if you can’t find a bin when you’re out in public walk into any conbini store, there will always be a bin).

Lots of love, Saki / @saki.pan xx

To work in Japan for up to a year with a pre-arranged English-speaking ski season job (Nov-Mar), check out JENZA Work Japan.

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Saki Ueda, JENZA Guest Contributor

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Saki Ueda

Jenza Community

Guest Contributor in, Queensland, Australia

Our content is shaped by our community. If you also have a way with words and a travel tale to tell, drop us a line about writing for JENZA.

Follow Saki on Insta @saki.pan

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