Avoid the Crowds! Little-known Tokyo Spots That are Worth a Visit!
One of the downsides to being a tourist in Tokyo is that all the main sightseeing spots are flooded with people hoping to see the exact same thing as you. If you’re looking for a more genuine Tokyo experience, why not explore a lesser-known part of Tokyo? They’re significantly less busy, yet still offer unique sights and delights that are sure to make your day. This article contains a list of lesser-known spots that are starting to gain attention in Japan and will soon become known worldwide. Keep reading to learn about them and what attractions they hold!
Everyone heads to Asakusa or Ueno to get a feel of old, traditional Japan, but did you know that the neighborhood of Yanaka is just as good as either of those neighborhoods? It is actually incredibly close to Ueno – in fact, some people even mistake it for Ueno! Unlike the tourist district that Ueno has become, however, Yanaka is still somewhat hidden away from the public eye and mainly functions as a residential district for the many Japanese people that live there. This means that you’ll truly get to see how Japanese people go about their daily lives!
The quickest way to get a feel for Yanaka’s old town atmosphere is by visiting Yanaka Ginza, a shopping arcade just six minutes away on foot from Nippori Station or Sendagi Station. Despite being a mere 170 meters in length, it is home to approximately 60 stores selling all kinds of goods, from delicious treats to traditional Japanese handicrafts. Browse around to see if you can find suitable souvenirs for your loved ones or visit all the different eateries to check out what kinds of delicacies they have! There are also plenty of hidden alleys where you’ll find many more shops to explore.
In the past, whenever Japanese people wanted to indulge in coffee and beautiful scenery that mixes urban buildings with nature, they would head to Naka-meguro. However, times have changed, and more people are visiting Kiyosumi Shirakawa instead.
Despite being an old-school neighborhood, Kiyosumi Shirakawa is home to Japan’s biggest modern art gallery as well as a plethora of trendy cafes, including one operated by the American coffee company Blue Bottle. It also has some lovely spots to appreciate nature.
With so many things to do in the area, it’s no wonder that Japanese people have started flocking to it in recent years. However, it is still relatively unknown to foreign tourists, making it a great location to check out Tokyo’s modern art and cafe scenes without worrying so much about the crowds.
One of the biggest attractions of the neighborhood is Kiyosumi Garden. Just three minutes away from Kiyosumi-shirakawa Station on foot, it was originally part of a residence owned by a wealthy merchant during the Edo period (1603 - 1868). Eventually, it was donated to the city of Tokyo and opened to the public in 1932.
The scenery that Kiyosumi Garden has on offer is stunning, with lush greenery surrounding a tranquil pond. Why not take a breather from the busy Tokyo metropolis by strolling through the garden and admiring the traditional Japanese architecture and landscaping?
Despite not many foreign tourists knowing of it, Kagurazaka is an popular urban neighborhood situated near Iidabashi Station that’s known as Tokyo’s "Little Paris" among Japanese residents. It is made up of trendy cafes, cobblestone streets, and stores selling all kinds of knickknacks and sweets.
What most people don’t know is that it is actually still retains vestiges of its geisha district past. You’ll find many high-class Japanese restaurants (ryotei) housed within old-school buildings, as well as backstreets and alleys that look like they came straight from the past.
Kagurazaka’s retro backstreets are so well hidden that most people don’t even know about them! One such location is Kakurenbo Yokocho, full of buildings with gorgeous black wooden walls and tasteful cobblestone pavement that let you almost envision what it must have looked like back when Kagurazaka was still a geisha district. Even today, many ryotei call this backstreet their home, so if you’re looking to try some high-class Japanese food within an old-Japan atmosphere without having to visit Kyoto, this is where you should visit.
Jiyugaoka offers a completely different experience from most neighborhood in Tokyo. Rather than offering a taste of old Japan, it is strangely reminiscent of a European town - with plenty of boutiques, hip cafes, and other features typical of such a town - yet at the same time still retains a Japanese air. Since most foreign tourists prefer to go to Ginza for a more modern townscape, Jiyugaoka is rarely busy on weekdays, giving you a great opportunity to look around and see the result of a unique blend of European and Japanese architectural elements.
Have you found a good pastry shop in Tokyo yet? Jiyugaoka is actually the sweets mecca of Tokyo, which is why you’ll see long lines in front of its confectioneries and bakeries during the weekend. One iconic pastry that you have to try while you’re in the area is the mont blanc. No, this isn’t a traditional Japanese sweet, but a shop in the neighborhood called MONT-BLANC was actually the first shop to introduce the mont blanc in Japan, so it's worth giving their version a try!
Roughly 20 minutes away from Shinjuku Station by train, Akabane is perhaps the best place for truly experiencing the lively, down-to-earth side of Tokyo. With an atmosphere nearly identical to the more rural parts of Japan, it is a great spot to visit for curious tourists who do not have the time or money to explore outside of the few main tourist cities. During the day, you’ll find most of the residents going about their daily routines at Akabane Suzuran-dori Shotengai, one of the neighborhood’s main shopping streets.
Akabane Ichibangai Shopping Street
Night, however, is where Akabane really shines. On weekday nights, you’ll find Japanese workers from all over Tokyo drinking away inside the many tachinomi-ya (standing bars) that grace Akabane Ichibangai Shopping Street. Cheap, convenient, and delicious – that’s the type of menu you’ll find in the eateries here. Not many foreign tourists visit this area, so if you’re looking to make friends with Japanese people or practice your Japanese, this can be a wonderful place to visit!
There’s no need to suffer the crowds just to experience the true Tokyo. It’s such a large city that even if you don’t visit the main sightseeing areas, you can still enjoy yourself and learn a lot about Japanese architecture, culture, history, and cuisine. Why not visit one of these spots the next time you come over? It may end up being the best Tokyo trip you’ve ever had!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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