Are you planning a trip to Tokyo? You probably have a couple of places you want to visit, but which ward/area in Tokyo should you stay in? Is there an area safer than others? Does the hotel you are looking to book have easy access to transportation? Read on for tips and advice on the best areas to stay in Tokyo!
A List of Contents
- Tokyo’s 23 Special Wards
- Choosing Your Accommodation Based on Your Arrival or Departure Airport
- Choosing Your Accommodation Based on Your Itinerary
- Book Your Accommodations Based on Your Budget
- Consider Staying in Kanagawa Prefecture (神奈川県)
- The Safest and Least Safe Wards in Tokyo
- A Summary of the Main Characteristics of the Hotels in Tokyo’s 23 Wards
Tokyo’s 23 Special Wards
Most of Tokyo’s attractions are within the 23 special wards. The famous oval-shaped Yamanote Line (山手線) is the train line that runs through all 23 wards. While it takes 60 minutes for the train to go past all stations on the Yamanote Line, you can cut the journey short by taking other train lines to travel from one side of Tokyo to another.
The area circled by the Yamanote Line can be roughly divided into four sub-areas, each with a different atmosphere.
Refer to HERE for JR East Group’s railway lines network map. Yamanote Line is the loop that passes through Ikebukuro, Ueno, Tokyo, Shinagawa, and Shinjuku.
- Upper right: Close to the Narita Airport, where the atmosphere of Tokyo’s traditional downtown is still preserved.
- Lower right: Close to the Haneda Airport, where many businesses and education facilities are located.
- Upper left: The cityscape is relatively older than other parts of Tokyo. Ikebukuro is the most lively spot in that area.
- Lower left: The most fashionable part of Tokyo.
Tip: Refer to our Guide to Tokyo’s Transportation System and Train Routes for a better idea of Japan’s capital’s train system.
Choosing Your Accommodation Based on Your Arrival or Departure Airport
If it is your first time traveling to Tokyo, or you don’t want to spend too much time deciding where to stay, staying close to the airport or stations on the airport lines would be ideal.
- Flying into and/or out of Narita Airport: You can choose hotels close to
- Ueno or Asakusa Station if you plan to take the Keisei Skyliner.
- Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Shinagawa, and Tokyo Station if you plan to take JR’s Narita Express.
- Flying into and/or out of Haneda Airport: You can choose hotels close to
- stations in the southeast of Tokyo, such as Shinagawa, Gotanda (五反田駅) or Ōimachi Station (大井町駅)
Is It Better to Stay in Hotels Around Tokyo’s Airports?
There are many business hotels close to Haneda Airport. While they are close to Tokyo’s city center, more than one transfer between train lines is usually required. And there are no shopping districts around those hotels.
Narita Airport also has a couple of hotels close to it. While the free shuttle bus services to the airport may sound attractive, these hotels are far away from Tokyo’s city center, and again, there is little you can do around the hotels.
In conclusion, unless your flight departs in the early morning or late evening, we don’t recommend staying in hotels near Narita or Haneda Airport.
Choosing Your Accommodation Based on Your Itinerary
If you want to make your life easier while traveling in Tokyo, we recommend booking your hotels based on your itinerary. Unless there is a hotel or ryokan that you are keen to stay with, we recommend staying close to a station that gives easy access to the attractions you plan to visit.
Tag the Places You Want to Visit on Google Maps
You can tag all the places you want to visit in and around Tokyo in Google Maps. That way, you will have a clear idea of whether the spots on your itinerary are within the same area and whether any train stations are nearby. You can then book your accommodations accordingly.
And don’t panic if the places you want to visit are scattered throughout Tokyo’s 23 wards. As confusing as it may look or sound, Japan’s capital’s public transportation is one of the best in the world. You can often find a train line that links the spots you are interested in. And even if there isn’t, you can always stay close to the major transportation hub such as Shinjuku, Shinagawa, and Tokyo Station for easy access to as many different train lines as possible without transferring.
For example, if you want to go to Tokyo for shopping and anime-themed attractions, you can book a hotel close to a station on the Yamanote Line. The loop train line passes several shopping districts, including Shinjuku, Harajuku, and Ikebukuro. It will also bring you to Akihabara for anime-related shops and cafes. If you want to buy some electronic products, Akihabara is the place to head to after you land in Tokyo.
Tip: Refer to our Ultimate Guide to Tokyo’s Transportation Passes to better understand which pass might save you the most money on transportation in and around Tokyo.
Where Should I Stay If My Itinerary Covers Both Tokyo’s 23 Wards and Surrounding Destinations?
- If you plan to visit Nikkō (日光), consider staying close to Asakusa (浅草).
- You can take the Tobu-Nikko Line (東武日光線) from Asakusa Nikkō.
- If you plan to visit Hakone (箱根), consider staying close to Shinjuku (新宿).
- You can take Odakyu’s Romancecar from Shinjuku to Hakone.
- If you plan to visit Kamakura (鎌倉) and/or Enoshima (江の島), consider staying close to Tokyo (東京) or Shinjuku Station (新宿駅).
- If you plan to visit Kawaguchiko (河口湖)/Mt. Fuji (富士山), consider staying close to Shinjuku (新宿).
- Most limited express trains and direct buses depart for Kawaguchiko from Shinjuku Station (新宿駅).
- If you plan to visit Tokyo Disneyland and/or Tokyo DisneySea, consider staying close to Shinjuku (新宿), Tokyo (東京), or Shin-Kiba Station (新木場駅).
- There are direct trains to the Tokyo Disney Resort from these stations. Of course, you can stay around Maihama Station (舞浜駅), albeit the accommodation cost would be higher.
- If you plan to visit Nagano (長野), Karuizawa (軽井沢), or Jigokudani Monkey Park (地獄谷野猿公苑), consider staying close to Tokyo (東京), Shinagawa (品川), or Ueno Station (上野駅) as the bullet train will stop at these stations.
Tip: Refer to our Ultimate Guide to How to Get to Kawaguchiko from Tokyo for more information on how to get to Mt. Fuji.
Book Your Accommodations Based on Your Budget
When we travel, we usually have a budget. Unless there is a hotel that you really want to spend a night in, in a big city like Tokyo, sticking with the cheaper options would be a better idea. The facilities in high-end hotels are mostly similar around the world. Staying at the least expensive hotels in Tokyo frees up a part of your accommodation budget towards a nicer ryokan when you travel outside Tokyo’s city center.
In Japan, you can easily book a business hotel that is usually cheaper. If noise isn’t a major concern for you, staying at a hostel, a guest house, or even a capsule hotel will give you everything you need for a good night’s sleep.
If you are after these cheaper options, you can search for the ones around Asakusa (浅草), Ueno (上野), Kuramae (蔵前), and Oshiue (押上). These areas are where many of the hostels are located.
Important: Some trendy hotels in Tokyo are advertized as ideal accommodations for backpackers. But the cost of most of them is actually around the same price as business hotels. So choose carefully before booking.
In addition to the JR East Group’s Rail Lines Network Map above, refer to HERE for Tokyo Subway Route Map, which also has the Toei Line marked.
Consider Staying in Kanagawa Prefecture (神奈川県)
Finding a high-quality hotel that isn’t expensive but has easy access to transportation can be hard, especially if it is a last-minute booking. So if you are struggling to find a hotel that suits your budget, check out the hotels in Yokohama (横浜市) and/or Kawasaki (川崎市) in Kanagawa Prefecture.
Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, has a number of popular destinations that you may want to visit. This includes Yokohama, Hakone (箱根), Kamakura (鎌倉), and Enoshima (江の島). So if you plan to visit one of these places, booking your hotel in Kanagawa instead of Tokyo may suit your itinerary better.
If you plan to visit Atami (熱海) and/or the Izu Peninsula (伊豆), staying in Kanagawa Prefecture would be better than Tokyo’s 23 wards.
Is Kanagawa Prefecture Far from Tokyo?
The most lively city in Kanagawa Prefecture has to be Yokohama. It will only take you 20 minutes to travel from Yokohama Station to Shinagawa Station by train!
In addition, another lively popular city to visit in Kanagawa is Kawasaki, in the prefecture’s north. It is even closer to Shinagawa as it is a 10-minute train ride away!
The Safest and Least Safe Wards in Tokyo
There is no doubt that Japan is a very safe country. But even so, a few parts of Tokyo still have higher crime rates. So to stay on the safe side, it is probably a good idea to have the below in mind while booking your accommodations and as you enjoy the nightlife in Tokyo.
The Least Safe Wards in Tokyo
- Taitō City (台東区), including Ueno (上野), Asakusa (淺草), Okachimachi (御徒町), and Uguishidani (鶯谷):
- While this part of Tokyo is a popular tourist destination, it isn’t quite safe at night. There are relatively more criminal/violent crimes reported in the area. So avoid wandering around the street late at night alone, especially if you are a female traveler.
- Shibuya City (渋谷区), including Shibuya (渋谷), Harajuku (原宿), and Omotesandō (表參道):
- Shibuya is one of the most bustling business districts in Tokyo. The total number of criminal cases (mostly theft) each year in Shibuya City is only second to Shinjuku in some years.
- Especially around Dogenzaka (道玄坂) and Udagawa (宇田川), keep a good eye on your belongings.
- Shinjuku City (新宿区), including Shinjuku (新宿), Ōkubo (大久保), and Takadanobaba (高田馬場):
- Shinjuku Station is one of Tokyo’s biggest transportation hubs, where many restaurants and Izakayas are located. With so many people coming and leaving, it shouldn’t be surprising that Shinjuku has the highest crime rate in Tokyo.
- In addition to Kabukichō (歌舞伎町), try to avoid Shinjuku 3-chōme (新宿3丁目) and Nishi-Shinjuku 1-chōme (西新宿1丁目) in Shinjuku Station’s north.
- You might want to avoid walking past areas where many Izakayas are located. Things can get messy when people are intoxicated.
- But as convenient as Shinjuku is, if you want to stay in Shinjuku, we recommend choosing the hotels in Nishi-Shinjuku 5-chōme (西新宿5丁目), Shinjuku 6-chōme (新宿6丁目), or Shinjuku 7-chōme (新宿7丁目).
- Toshima City (豊島区), including Ikebukuro (池袋), Ōtsuka (大塚), and Sugamo (巣鴨):
- Ikebukuro is the most representative area in Toshima City. It is, however, the least safe place to be at night. You might want to avoid the east and west exits of Ikebukuro Station and Higashi-Ikebukuro Station (東池袋駅). These are the areas where you will most likely run into thieves.
- If you would like to base in Toshima City, Zoshigaya (雑司が谷) and Tobu Railway’s Kita-Ikebukuro Station (北池袋駅) would be better.
- Chiyoda City (千代田区), including Tokyo Station, Marunouchi (丸の内), Kanda (神田), and Akihabara (秋葉原):
- It might be surprising that Chiyoda City, where the Imperial Palace is located, is considered a less safe ward in Tokyo. But as areas such as Akihabara and Tokyo Station are filled with tourists and commuters, the criminal rate is higher, especially with a small residential population as the base.
The Top Four Safest Wards in Tokyo
Other than the five wards mentioned above, Tokyo remains one of the safest cities. As long as you know how to stay safe while traveling, even female travelers can enjoy Tokyo alone!
And here are the four safest wards in Tokyo that even the Japanese would love to move into if they could:
- Bunkyo City (文京区), including Kōrakuen (後楽園), Suidōbashi (水道橋), and Honkomagome (本駒込):
- In addition to Tokyo University, Bunkyo City has a couple of more famous educational institutions, including the University of Tsukuba (筑波大学). The city is also where the royal cemetery is located. With 24/7 police patrol, Bunkyo City is the safest ward in Tokyo.
- Suginami City (杉並区), including Kōenji (高圓寺), Ogikubo (荻窪), and Asagaya (阿佐谷北):
- Suginami City is where most middle-class families reside. Theft and violent crimes are quite rare in the area.
- Meguro City (目黒区), including Naka-Meguro (中目黑), Yūtenji (祐天寺), and Jiyūgaoka (自由が丘):
- According to statistics, Meguro is where many highly educated persons are based. You will find many nice boutique shops here, making Meguro a nice place in Tokyo to spend a relaxing afternoon.
- Setagaya City (世田谷区), including Shimokitazawa (下北沢), Sangenjaya (三軒茶屋), and Futakotamagawa (二子玉川):
- Setagaya City is one of Tokyo’s biggest wards with the largest residential population. With easy access to many good amenities, it is one of the top choices for celebrities and the rich to stay in.
A Summary of the Main Characteristics of the Hotels in Tokyo’s 23 Wards
|Area||Choice of Hotel/Price||Easy Access to Transportation?||Many choices are available, but they tend to be expensive.||Liveliness|
|Tokyo Station (東京駅)||Many choices are available, but they tend to be on the expensive end||Yes, especially with a bullet train station||Yes||Many shops inside Tokyo Station. But not many shops open at night unless you love to visit Izakaya.|
|Ginza (銀座), Hatchōbori (八丁堀)||Many choices of the middle (around Hatchōbori) to high-end (Ginza) hotels||Yes, close to Tokyo Station. Both JR and Tokyo Metro have stations in these areas.||Yes||Great for shopping and eating throughout the day|
|Shiodome (汐留), Odiba (台場)||Mostly high-end hotels, which are usually pretty expensive||You can pick up a direct bus to Haneda Airport from there.||Mostly company buildings||A great place to be for Tokyo’s night view|
|Akasaka (赤坂), Nagatachō (永田町)||Not many hotels in these areas||Yes and no, as there is no JR station, only Toei Subway||No||Mostly high-end restaurants and bars|
|Shibuya (渋谷)||A moderate amount of middle to high-end hotels||Yes, many train companies have a station in Shibuya.||Yes||Where many department stores are located|
|Shinagawa (品川)||Many choices are available, but they tend to be on the expensive end.||Yes, easy access to the Haneda Airport. The bullet train also stops here.||Mostly company buildings||Many shops inside the station, but not so many in the area|
|Daimon (大門), Hamamatsuchō (浜松町)||Many choices of business hotels||Yes, both JR and Toei have stations here||Yes, but it is also a business district||Not so good for shopping, but there are many Izakayas. You can also see Tokyo Tower here.|
|Shinjuku (新宿)||Many choices, and most have a high CP ratio.||Yes, where most train lines converge. The only con is that the bullet train won’t stop here.||Yes, but relatively less safe around Kabukichō||Great for shopping and eating. But you can get lost easily.|
|Ikebukuro (池袋)||Relatively cheaper options||Yes, also easy access to the Narita Airport||Yes, but relatively less safe around the north exit||Great for shopping and eating, especially ramen noodles|
|Ueno (上野), Asakusa (浅草)||There are many hostels in the area. Prices are usually cheap.||Yes, also easy access to the Narita Airport||Yes||Great for shopping, and you can see Tokyo Sky Tree from here.|
|Ochanomizu (御茶ノ水), Suidōbashi (水道橋)||Many choices of middle to high-end hotels. The ones close to Tokyo Dome are more expensive.||Yes and no, as access to the airports isn’t very convenient.||Okay||There are only a couple of restaurants open at night. Best to head to Akihabara.|
|Kawasaki (川崎), Yokohama (横浜)||Many choices and most have a high CP ratio.||Kawasaki is really close to Haneda Airport. Both have easy access to Shinagawa and destinations such as Hakone and Kamakura.||Yes||Less crowded than Tokyo, with many shopping malls|
One thing to keep in mind when booking your accommodation in Tokyo is that there is no area that is a ‘one size fit all’ as everyone has different preferences and concerns about where to stay while traveling. It is best to search for your ideal hotel or Airbnb according to your concerns on your next Japan trip.
Finding out the Tokyo Transportation Ticket that Suits You the Most
Whether it is your first time in Tokyo or you have been to Japan’s capital previously, deciding which Tokyo’s transportation pass is suitable for you can be tricky. So if you are unsure which discounted transportation ticket you should get, our Guide to Tokyo’s Transportation Passes should hopefully point you in the right direction!