Let me confess: I’m a huge fan of Japan. I would pretty much want to explore the whole country whenever possible. I’ve been to Tokyo 3 times now, and sadly, I’m still far from done with this bustling city. The most common question I get asked from people is: Where should I stay in Tokyo? That’s because, there are so many parts of Tokyo that are considered “touristy”, “downtown”, “happening”, well you get my drift. So without further adieu, let’s see how you can start planning your Tokyo itinerary!

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The first big question would be WHERE?

Tokyo is divided into

1. WESTERN TOKYO
places to go: Shibuya, Shinjuku, Meiji Shrine, Harajuku, Yoyogi Park, Yebisu Garden Place.

2. SOUTHERN TOKYO
places to go: Roppongi Hills, Tokyo Midtown, Tokyo Tower, Shinagawa, Odaiba.

3. CENTRAL TOKYO
places to go: Tsukiji Fish Market, Akihabara, Ginza, Nihonbashi, Tokyo Dome City.

4. NORTHERN TOKYO
places to go: Tokyo Sky Tree, Asakusa, Sensoji Temple, Ueno Park, Tokyo National Museum.

These are the main attractions of Tokyo that people are more familiar with. In any case, you could see that each region has so many things to do and see, and it’s hard to decide where to go first. Therefore, with these locations in mind, you come to the next question:

WHEN?

When are you going? How long are you going for?

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When is crucial because both the season and the duration are strong deciding factors for WHERE you’re going to go and WHERE you’re going to stay. For example, if you’re going in Spring, then you’ll see yourself roaming more in the goen (park in Japanese) than indoors to admire cherry blossoms. And any later, you might even experience typhoon/ strong winds/ rain. If you’re going in Winter, you’d see yourself heading indoors more often to avoid the cold.

Most people tend to spend about a week or so in Tokyo, so I’ll use that as a guide. You can adjust accordingly to your own. 🙂

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So with WHERE and WHEN answered, here’s HOW to plan your accommodation:

For a start, if you’re going Tokyo for the first time, I’d recommend staying somewhere between Western and Southern Tokyo. These places, stereotypically, are more iconic of Tokyo: Shibuya, Harajuku, Meiji Shrine, Tokyo Tower etc. 1 week may not even cover these two regions, so do selective picking if you must! Not to forget, you’d probably want to go day trips out of Tokyo to Disneyland and Disneysea, or Studio Ghibli.

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But if you’re going Tokyo for the second time, you’d have more choices. Where have you been previously? Do you want to go again? But this time, stay in another region than you previously have! In my case, I stayed in Shinagawa area in Southern Tokyo for my first visit, and Asakusa in Northern Tokyo for my second. So I explored more of the Northern Tokyo the second time, where you’ll get a much different feel of Tokyo. 🙂

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Let’s say you’re going Tokyo for the third time, and you’re still not done (just like me), then try to stay in another region again! But I guess you get the idea. However, this time you may want to explore other less known areas such as Jiyūgaoka and Kichijōji. Since they’re not in the city centre, the things sold there are usually slightly cheaper.

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It seems like I’ve asked you to plan your accommodation according to where you want to explore most in your trip, but WHY?

Because public transport in Japan is expensive. Other than getting the suica or pasmo card which gives a little discount, I’d suggest you walk around as much as possible. Tokyo in general is an expensive city compared to other parts of Japan, so if you’re on a budget, just keep walking! The Japanese themselves walk a lot everyday, so when in Japan, do what the Japanese do. 😉

hope this quick guide helps! how about you? have you been to Tokyo and find it hard to plan?

keep travelling,
J