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Tokyo Off The Beaten Path (7 Areas To Explore)

Exploring Tokyo off the beaten path can lead you to discover hidden gems, local culture, and unique experiences that many tourists miss.

These are just a few examples of the many off-the-beaten-path experiences Tokyo has to offer. Exploring these neighbourhoods will give you a deeper understanding of the city’s diverse culture and rich history.


Off The Beaten Path In Tokyo

If you have more time in Tokyo then it’s a good idea to get away from the main crowds for a while and explore Tokyo off the beaten path where you will find mostly local people.

The few foreigners that you may see around these neighbourhoods tend to be mostly expats living there.

TOKYO OFF THE BEATEN PATH JAPAN


SHIMOKITAZAWA

Shimokitazawa is a trendy neighbourhood popular among Tokyo’s younger crowd, Shimokitazawa is filled with vintage clothing stores, indie boutiques, live music venues, and cosy cafes. It’s a great place to immerse yourself in Tokyo’s alternative culture.

It’s more a place where artists and alternative lifestyles take place, mixed along with just everyday life in a Tokyo neighbourhood.

I had visited this area to meet a friend on a previous trip and loved the mellow vibe.

But at the time of writing this post, I was lucky enough to stay in the area at a friend’s apartment.

It’s located only several minutes away by train from the bustling district of Shibuya, but they couldn’t be more different.

shimokitazawa-tokyo-japan-1

It’s full of chilled-out small “streets” with plenty of cafes serving up good coffee, pancakes, the usual ramen hole-in-the-wall joints, and lots of boutique shops.

There’s definitely a bohemian atmosphere.

It’s just one of those places where you can slow down and take your time, sit at a table outside a cafe and watch the local people go about their daily lives.

Experience a side of Tokyo you won’t see in the busier areas.

shimokitazaw-tokyo-japan

And if you love shopping at small boutique stores then you will be very happy wandering around there.

An escape from the massive shopping centres in Shinjuku and Shibuya.

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Being so close to Shibuya, even if you don’t have much time in Tokyo it will only take you several minutes out of your way and walking around without stopping to relax you can see the area in 30 minutes easily, it’s not so big.

It’s worth your while to see a more alternative Tokyo.


Kichijoji

inokashira-park-tokyo

I was recommended this Tokyo neighbourhood by an American expat I had met in Tokyo where he and his Japanese wife said it’s a good place to get away from the usual tourist crowds.

They were right.

Often overlooked by tourists, Kichijoji is a lively neighbourhood with a relaxed atmosphere. Visit Inokashira Park to enjoy a boat ride on the pond, explore the bustling shopping streets, and dine at local izakayas and cafes.

If you head north from the local station, Kichijoji, you will just come into a busy shopping area, but go south and you will come to quiet lanes and a really chilled-out park with a small lake.

inokashira-park-tokyo-japan-1

This is the ultimate place to seriously just people-watch and slow down. It’s all local families and a few expats. Even some of the main streets outside the park are not that bad compared to the rest of Tokyo.

There are a few boutique shops around and plenty of food options.

The one thing that will not be “Tokyo off the beaten path” is the Studio Ghibli Museum located at the edge of the park. This is super popular and often you have to book weeks, even months in advance to reserve a ticket.

From what I observed it appeared to be mostly Japanese visitors going in, and despite the popularity it certainly didn’t feel like overcrowded with visitors.

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It’s also a beautiful building and you can at least get your photo taken outside with one of the most beloved characters in animation history, Totoro 🙂

ghibli-museum-tokyo

The area is located about a 20-minute train ride from Shinjuku.


Yanesen District

Comprising the neighbourhoods of Yanaka, Nezu, and Sendagi, Yanesen offers a glimpse into Tokyo’s past with its old-fashioned streets, temples, and traditional shops.

You can wander through narrow lanes lined with wooden houses, visit Yanaka Cemetery, and explore the charming Yanaka Ginza shopping street.


Kagurazaka

This area has a distinctly Parisian vibe with its cobblestone streets, European-style cafes, and traditional Japanese architecture. Kagurazaka is known for its many small galleries, boutiques, and upscale restaurants serving both French and Japanese cuisine.


KŌENJI

KŌENJI tokyo off the beaten path

KŌenji has a very similar vibe to Shimokitazawa with a bohemian atmosphere, plenty more vintage stores, and a very cool arts scene.

Also like Shimokitazawa, it’s not that far from Shinjuku so it makes for a great off-the-beaten-path Tokyo neighbourhood to visit.

It’s not that far from Shimokitazawa itself, so you could combine the two easily.


Shibamata

Located in the northeastern part of Tokyo, Shibamata is a nostalgic neighbourhood known for its traditional atmosphere.

Visit Shibamata Taishakuten Temple, stroll along the old-fashioned shopping street, and enjoy a ride on the old-fashioned tram.


Jiyugaoka

Often described as Tokyo’s “Little Europe,” Jiyugaoka is a charming neighbourhood with tree-lined streets, trendy boutiques, and artisanal cafes.

It’s a great place to relax and soak in the atmosphere away from the hustle and bustle of central Tokyo.


Tokyo Off The Beaten Path

One option if you have plenty of time in the city is to combine a half day going to Shimokitazawa and Inokashira Park, which are only 20 minutes from each other, before heading back into Shinjuku or Shibuya.

These suggestions are only for those wanting to get a flavour of quieter local life and some hipster areas in Tokyo.


Useful Tokyo Links

Find out about more things to do in my Tokyo Guide.

Get a Tokyo Metro Pass here to get around Tokyo (recommended).

Also if you’re going to Japan and worried about expenses check out my post on how Japan may not be as expensive as you may think.

Definitely take travel insurance before going to Japan as it’s an expensive country for medical treatment if you get sick on your trip. I recommend using SafetyWing Travel Insurance for your trip, just in case, it’s best to be prepared.

Do you have any off-the-beaten-path suggestions for Tokyo that you have been to?


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2 thoughts on “Tokyo Off The Beaten Path (7 Areas To Explore)”

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  2. Pingback: 10 Awesome Day Trips From Tokyo

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