Because there’s so much more to this city than Shibuya, Shinjuku and Akihabara.
I don’t know where I got this figure from – and please don’t quote me on it – but I think I read one time that including metro and overland trains, there are close to 1,000 stations in Tokyo. Whatever the true figure is, it surely can’t be too far off.
Even after living in Tokyo for close to seven years, there are still whole train lines that are relatively unknown to me. Each station is essentially the heart of a self-contained village or town – and while there is no way I will be able to visit every single one of them, I enjoy exploring as many of these little stations as I can when I get the chance.
Japan is moving into unknown demographic terrain as its population, already the world’s oldest, simultaneously ages and shrinks. It makes me wonder, when the older generation passes, and there isn’t a younger one to replace it, what will happen to these smaller stations, and indeed Japan?
If you are interested in getting a feel for what living in Tokyo is like, I hope you will consider adding some of these locations to your next Tokyo itinerary.
Tateishi is a perfect example of a neighbourhood clinging to the past – embracing its slow decay and showing no desire to join modern Tokyo. I find areas like this beautiful, but there is also a sadness that comes from walking around these quiet streets and shopping arcades. More pics and info here.
YAHO / 谷保
Most guidebooks portray Tokyo as the biggest, craziest, most futuristic city on earth. But for me, the reality is quite different. Perhaps my fascination with these little quiet areas is a sign that I want to move out of the big city someday. But for now, I am content to have the best of both worlds. More pics and info here.
KAGURAZAKA / 神楽坂
Kagurazaka – a neighbourhood not too far from Iidabashi station – is perhaps most famous for its picturesque cobblestone streets, cute French restaurants and sophisticated atmosphere. While it’s one of the more well-known stations on this list, it’s still regularly neglected by many Tokyo guidebooks – a surprising fact, since it was actually a geisha district during the Edo era. More pics and info here.
SHOIN JINJA-MAE / 松陰神社前
Walking about Shoin Jinja-mae’s narrow streets, you really do get the sense that it’s a secret spot that noone has really twigged on to yet. I absolutely loved its laid-back vibe: a mixture of Old Tokyo and modern boutiques. More pics and info here.
HAKURAKU / 白楽
While technically not in Tokyo, Hakuraku (not to be confused with Harajuku) is a small neighbourhood not too far from Yokohama on the Toyoko line. It’s a neighbourhood lost in time, made up of one main street heading away from the station, and a covered arcade running parallel to it. Shops and restaurants are largely local and independent, with aging facades and an admittedly gloomy vibe. More pics and info here.
AKABANE / 赤羽
Akabane, in the northern Kita Ward of Tokyo, is a built-up neighbourhood with a collection of smokey alleyways and little shop windows. It’s yet another example of just how different every station in this city can be. More pics and info here.
SUGAMO / 巣鴨
Affectionately referred to as ‘Old Ladies Harajuku’ (Harajuku being where all the young fashionistas hang out), Sugamo’s famous jizō-dōri (地蔵通り) shopping street is filled with pensioners slowly shuffling between shops that seemingly cater just for them. If you’re looking for a new walking stick, a pair of ‘sensible’ shoes, or some rice crackers, this is most definitely the place to come. More pics and info here.
TSUKISHIMA / 月島
Tsukishima – a man-made island in Tokyo Bay, just across the channel from the old Tsukiji fish market – was created over 100 years ago using earth that was dredged from the bay during the construction of a shipping channel. Tsukishima is a place were the remnants of old Tokyo still remain, but with heavy development happening nearby for the 2020 Olympics, who knows how long it will last. More pics and info here.
SASAZUKA / 笹塚
Sasazuka is great little area just a few stops from Shinjuku, and a short fifteen-minute walk from Shimokitazawa. Despite its closeness to the centre of the city, it still manages to retain a sense of calm, with lots of winding backstreets to explore. If you’re thinking of renting an Airbnb in Tokyo, I’d say this would be a great location. More pics and info here.
DAITABASHI / 代田橋
Did you know there’s a small Okinawan Town in Tokyo? Well, I say town, but it’s more like a collection of cute shops and alleyways in a residential neighbourhood in Daitabashi, a station just a fifteen-minute walk from Shimokitazawa. More pics and info here.