So you want to come to Tokyo and you’re looking for places to go, things to do, sights to see, and if I had to guess, amazing food to eat — I mean, c’mon, Tokyo is truly the food capital of the world (sorry France).
You’re in the right place.
After 23 years of living in Tokyo, I’ve learned a few things to help you enjoy this remarkable city. But first, do you know where you’re going within Tokyo?
Tokyo is a sprawling mega-city that really feels more like a whole bunch of cities came together to form Tokyo (they did).
Check out my Tokyo orientation for a quick look at where Tokyo is and how the various wards/districts relate to each other on the map.
In a nutshell, there are 23 special wards that form what I like to call “downtown Tokyo.” Then to the West of those are a bunch of small cities forming the “suburbs” of Tokyo.
That leads to a question you probably have but don’t know you have it yet.
What is the difference between Tokyo, Tokyo Metropolis and Greater Tokyo?
Great question! 🙂
It breaks down simply like this.
Tokyo is the 23 special wards (what I call “downtown Tokyo”).
Tokyo Metropolis is the special wards plus the Tama area to the west (which I call the suburbs of Tokyo).
Finally, the greater Tokyo area is referring to Tokyo Metropolis plus some areas stretching into Chiba, Kanagawa, and Saitama (prefectures surrounding Tokyo).
That also means there’s a lot to see — and a lot for me to show you.
But rather than cover every tiny thing there is right now (I will update this guide with more and more over time), let’s start with the popular areas where you’ll find some really interesting things to enjoy in Tokyo.
Oh, wait, before I go through each of the wards and why they’re awesome, let me show you how these downtown wards group together nicely.
The downtown wards come together into neighborhoods
An important thing to keep straight in your mind while I cover the different wards/districts/areas, they’re all inside Tokyo and many are bunched together into hubs, sometimes referred to as neighborhoods.
This really just means they are close together so that you could visit them at the same time.
They group something like this:
- Akihabara, Kanda, and Jimbocho
- Chiyoda (Imperial Palace) & Marunouchi (Tokyo Station)
- Ebisu & Meguro
- Harajuku & Aoyama
- Roppongi & Akasaka
- Shimbashi & Shinagawa
- Tsukiji Market & Ginza
Think of it like this. If you’re in Harajuku looking for that hot new t-shirt, you’re close enough to the Nezu Museum in Aoyama to check it out the same day without wasting a lot of time.
I’ll focus the Tokyo City Guide around Tokyo, then topic such as “things to do” or “eating & drinking” — but then I further divide those into the neighborhoods to help you pick exactly what you need.
Okay, phew… that was a high-level overview of the districts and areas in Tokyo. It’s probably not all making a lot of sense to you right now.
But once you’re in the middle of planning your time in Tokyo it will all begin to click.