Where to stay in Tokyo?
December 17, 2010 3:35 PM   Subscribe

You are familiar with Tokyo. You are giving advice to a first-time visitor who is looking to experience some of the best of what the city has to offer. Where would you have them stay?

In a little less than three weeks I will be going to Japan with my roomate and our college buddy. College buddy is Japanese-American and semi-speaks the language ('well enough to get by' in his words). We will be in Japan for 10 days, spending most of our time at a friends pad in Osaka...but we will be arriving in, and spending a few days in, Tokyo. I am in charge of sussing out where we will stay in Tokyo. We are at the mercy of our friend while in Osaka.

I have just started familiarizing myself with the city, but am hoping the hiveMind might point me in a better direction.

Ideally I'd like to stay in a location that has easy access to a variety of points of interest as to maximize the potential for us to get out and see and do fun and interesting things. My friends are going to want to go clubbing / dancing - so that should factor into the suggestions. Beyond that, however, i'd love some general "first time in Tokyo" advice on where to stay. Bonus points for things to do / see. Time in Tokyo will be limited to the weekends...budget for accommodations is lower mid-range.

Tall order I know!
posted by jnnla to Travel & Transportation around Tokyo, Japan (18 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
If you'll be up late dancing one night, STAY UP and go visit the fish market and have sushi and beer for breakfast, and THEN go back to your hotel.
posted by cyndigo at 3:47 PM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

My wife and I loved the Chisun Grand in Akasaka. It was super clean and very comfortable. The rooms are small, but they have the tiniest trash cans that I've ever seen. Quite reasonably priced as well. There's a subway stop very close by. It's a quiet neighborhood, which I enjoyed but there is easy access to others. When we go back, we will totally stay there.

If you are all men in your group, you might try staying at a capsule hotel.

Definitely go to the fish market. It was totally freaky. Then you can have the best sushi right next door in the little marketplace.
posted by reddot at 3:59 PM on December 17, 2010

Akasaka is a good central location, with many affordable (but not grungy) hotels.

Really, though, Tokyo is a compact city with excellent public transportation, so you shouldn't sweat so much about finding the perfect hotel location.

There is one caveat about the excellent public transportation: the trains stop running at around midnight. If you're going to go clubbing and are fine with staying out all night, great. Otherwise, pick a hotel close to the clubs (Shibuya, probably) or be willing to pay for a cab.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:06 PM on December 17, 2010

Hotel.com has results for Japan. Personally, I would stay in Ueno or Yaesu. These are both transportation hubs that are easy to access from the airport, and get you on a train to Osaka easily as well. Both are in the general vicinity of Tsukiji.

Visiting Takashima Times Square in Shinjuku is pretty fun - lots of shopping - as is visiting the Science Museum in Ueno Park. Hachiko Square in Shibuya in the evening should not be missed. Kappa-bashi Street in Asakusa is also pretty interesting, as it has the plastic food. It's also close to Ueno.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:37 PM on December 17, 2010

I stayed in Akasaka too at this place, which has dorm and single person rooms, is clean, relatively cheap, and is very conveniently walking distance from Roppongi, which is where you're likely to party as foreigners.
posted by blueyellow at 4:37 PM on December 17, 2010

Please note that Akasaka and Asakusa are two different locations.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:37 PM on December 17, 2010

I agree with previous posts. The transportation is excellent and staying in central Tokyo area is fine. For clubs, you could check out Roppongi, it's full of people (and expats) in the evenings and lots of choices for bars and clubs, plus good places to eat though we are talking about Tokyo here so you're fortunate. Shibuya has some fun clubs and take your ID, they totally check it in order to get in!

Trains do stop running after midnight and cab rides (say a 15-20 minute ride) costs around $50+ so be prepared to either stay out all night or split the fare back to the hotel. There are a good number of places that are open 24 hours you can go to and kill time until the trains run again. You'll see a lot of other people waiting for the trains on the weekends.

The fish market is a lot of fun, and there is so much to see and do in Tokyo. Have a good trip!
posted by loquat at 4:38 PM on December 17, 2010

Somewhere very close to a Yamanote station. My first trips, that station was Shinagawa; others I'd find acceptable (that have hotels nearby) would be along the Gotanda-Meguro-Ebisu-Shibuya arc.
posted by Rash at 5:17 PM on December 17, 2010

If you're looking for a hostel, K's House in Asakusa is nice. Not near clubbing locations, but the area is a bit old school and has attractions (Sensoji temple, Kappabashi street) and, IMHO, is a nice introduction to Japan for a first-time visitor. There is no JR station, but two subway lines stop there.

Something useful for travelling around--you can get day passes for the Tokyo subway! I don't know if I'm just dumb but I didn't realize this the first 3 times I was in the city. This can definitely be worthwhile. You can buy them at stations. (I didn't discover this until the end of a visit so I've never actually bought one, but that's what the info I found said.)
posted by equivocator at 5:30 PM on December 17, 2010

If you want something walking distance to things you want to see, Ueno or Asakusa would be good for temples (Senso-ji and it's souveniry surroundings), museums (Ueno), a view of older Tokyo (the whole area between Asakusa and, say, Kanda, if you get off the main streets), cooking stuff (Kappabashi), and of course, electronics (Akihabara). Depending on the timing, you might be here for the New Year's sumo tournament (in Ryogoku, just down the river from Asakusa). All of those (except for Ryogoku) are within 20 minutes walk of Ueno, though there are trains as well.

Staying in or around Akasaka, Aoyama, Harajuku and the like puts you close to Roppongi (clubs and skeezy mcskeeziness), Shibuya (clubs and shopping), Harajuku (shopping, backstreets which are cool, with main streets covered in brand name shops), Shinjuku (shopping, crowds, that "I'm in Tokyo!" feeling), Aoyama (where the rich people live, and a pretty beautiful cemetary), Meiji-jingu (big, quieter shrine next to Harajuku station) and Yoyogi Park (a big park. It's winter, and it'll be cold). You're also reasonably close to the private train lines heading out from Shibuya, which can take you out to places like Shimo-kitazawa (lots of trendy young things, good food, live music venues, soon to be replaced by a highway).

I'd stay inside the Yamanote line, if possible. It might be a touch more expensive, but your options for a good wander are much better than if you're at the end of a subway line, and have to use the same line every day.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:52 PM on December 17, 2010

Response by poster: This is great info everyone. Thank you so much and keep it coming if you got it!
posted by jnnla at 8:00 PM on December 17, 2010

Oh yeah I should mention, Tokyo is no fun during New Year's. Stores close and there's like nothing touristy to do. It always felt like days of a trip wasted when I went in the winter because basically everything pretty much shuts down.
posted by loquat at 8:33 PM on December 17, 2010

I stayed at Tama Ryokan for a week this summer, and loved it. It came recommended in a previous thread. Super convenient ~5 minute walk to the Takadanobaba station on the Yamanote line. Nice neighborhood near Waseda University. The owners are extremely friendly. I would likely plan to stay here on future visits to Tokyo.

After I left there I stayed at the Hotel Granbell Shibuya, a more typical, modern hotel, and it was also quite nice. Highly recommended.
posted by casaubon at 8:55 PM on December 17, 2010

Actually, loquat, things have changed a great deal in the last ten years (since I've been here). When I first got here, everything was closed from the 31st to roughly the 3rd. No banks, no ATM, nothing. Supermarkets were usually closed for at least a couple days. Now, a good number of stores are actually open on the 1st, and those that aren't have huge sales on the 2nd. While there might not be much to do on the first, if you are here, going to one of the big temples (Meiji-jingu in Harajuku and Senso-ji in Asakusa in Tokyo, Kawasaki Dai-jingu (?) and Narita-san a bit further afield) is pretty awesome in terms of people watching. Most people here go a temple or a shrine on the first or second of January, and the one's I've mentioned above are probably the most popular ones in the Kanto area. It's a little bit like a festival (with the associated food stalls all around), and a lot of the temples open their gates at midnight on the 31st. My wife and I usually head to Narita-san on the 31st, but I've been to Senso-ji and Meiji-jingu as well, and if you're in Tokyo, I'd say Senso-ji is worth checking out.

One other plus from New Year's is that it's the one day of the year where the trains run all night long, which is pretty nifty in its own right.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:46 AM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's been years since I've stayed in one, so I can't recommend a specific one, but you might want to look into a capsule hotel for one or more of your nights. They're a definite almost-only in Japan experience (as long as none of the three of you is claustrophobic).
posted by birdsquared at 1:31 AM on December 18, 2010

The Villa Fontaine chain in Toyko is a great value for double-occupancy, with wired internet and free breakfast included. They even have triple-occupancy rooms at some of their locations (like Roppongi). The Ueno location is particularly inexpensive - it's not as close to Ueno proper as the name might suggest, but it's across the street from a train station and walkable to Ueno station and park, the Ameyoko 'black market' district with tons of restaurants, Kappabashi-dori (the famous kitchen supply and plastic-foods street), and Asakusa Temple. I stayed there on my first trip to Tokyo and had no regrets.

As for suggestions... get drunk and wander through a Don Quixote.
posted by Gortuk at 6:56 AM on December 18, 2010

Seconding Rash that you should stay near a station on the Yamanote Line. There are plenty of them, so you have a lot of choice, and not all of them are very central, so you won't be paying a premium for staying right in the centre. Shinjuku is the place to stay if you can afford it though!

Suggestions - hanging out at Studio Alta and then walking up Shinjuku-dori at night, going to Harajuku Park if you're there on a Sunday (or Harajuku any time), getting a coffee at Shibuya overlooking the very busy pedestrian crossing (it used to make me dizzy crossing it sometimes even though I lived in Tokyo for two years), walking through Shinjuku Station, going to an izakaya for snacks and beer...and definitely renting a karaoke booth for a couple of hours. Have a great time, Tokyo is amazing.
posted by mudkicker at 12:56 PM on December 19, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the input...this has really helped me get more specific with our plans. You all have made me that much more excited for this trip!
posted by jnnla at 1:10 PM on December 20, 2010

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