Alternative ‘hoods

Experience the real Tokyo at these cool and hip neighbourhoods

Cherry blossoms lining the Meguro River
Cherry blossoms lining the Meguro River

Meguro
South of Tokyo’s inner city circle and just a short train ride from the action in Shibuya, Meguro is a residential enclave that’s perfect for travellers who prefer low-key vibes. It’s also an affordable spot to base yourself in while still remaining close to the rest of the city’s hot spots. The area is dotted with organic cafes, great izakayas and charming bookstores. Nearby Nakameguro is famous for the cherry blossom trees that line the Meguro River, as well as cool bars, trendy cafes and hipster boutiques.

Shimokitazawa
A few train stops from Shibuya and Shijuku, this neighbourhood is Tokyo’s rising bohemian star, and endearing in an unplanned, haphazard way. Come here to be amongst some of Tokyo’s coolest cats. Expect narrow streets packed with tons of hidden gems for you to discover — think quirky cafes, art studios, vintage boutiques and old-school bars.

The Yebisu Garden Palce with its European aesthetic
The Yebisu Garden Palce with its European aesthetic
Ebisu

A well-known spot among expats as well as older locals, Ebisu offers a tiny oasis of calm in the hectic city. This laid-back residential neighbourhood is famous for tachinomiya, an old Japanese tradition of standing bars. As the name suggests, there are no seats; only drinks and honest to goodness izakaya fare. Don’t miss the Yebisu Garden Place for its European aesthetics. 

Fashionistas will love the vintage clothing shops in Koenji
Fashionistas will love the vintage clothing shops in Koenji

Koenji
Said to be the stomping ground for Tokyo’s punk scene in the late 70s, this neighbourhood is now famed for its underground music scene. Home to artists and musicians, this is where music lovers will find tons of secondhand record shops, cool bars and live houses, and also where fashionistas will have a whale of a time poking about vintage clothing shops. Koenji also hosts Tokyo’s annual Awa Odori, a summer dance festival celebrated in August.

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