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Where to Stay in Tokyo for the First Time

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Where to Stay in Tokyo for the First Time

 

Best spots to stay in Tokyo for cheap

Sorry for the burp in posting consistency. School, thesis, and job hunting happened. Huge thank you to everybody that's been reading these posts, and an even bigger thank you to the people giving me feedback! It really makes me so happy! <3


When traveling to Tokyo, setting up base is key to relaxing and enjoying the rest of your trip. Make sure you're maximizing your time on the streets instead of on the commute home before the last train. All my locations have great transportation, food, and are comfortable enough for the post-culture shock. These are popular locations in western Tokyo best for first timers. I've listed neighbor, cheaper alternatives.

  • Where's the best place to stay in Tokyo in general? Anywhere close to a train station.
  • Where's the cheapest option to stay in Tokyo? Outside the big names in small towns.
  • Where's your favorite place to stay in Tokyo? Ebisu. :)
  • Where's my least favorite place to stay in Tokyo? Roppongi. :(

Hotel, Hostel, or AirBnB?

My favorite question when traveling because it really does depend on what type of experience you're looking for. I'm personally a huge AirBnB fan but don't mind the other two.

HOTEL

Most comfortable yet expensive option. Hotels usually offer killer shuttle services and great breakfast if you decide to opt for it. There's nothing dramatically different from Japan vs Other Country hotels - which in itself has its ups and downs - except for the service. 
 

HOSTEL

Best option for solo travelers who are looking for an adventure. The great thing about hostel owners is they really value the space they're providing for you and treat it as their own. Every hostel has a unique character and whether it's clean or not (which in my experience are 90% clean), you can tell they're providing more than just a bed and shower. Also most solo travelers I've met from Tokyo hostels are pretty cool. Definitely met some characters that go beyond "Finding-Myself-on-an-Asia-Trip-,-Dude."
 

AIRBNB

Hit or miss. Good for groups who want to say central without dropping big $. Affordable rooms close to city centers are SMALL and have very little storage space. The host will probably leave the key for you in a mailbox, so you won't actually meet them face to face. Also check for a stove if you plan on cooking - lots of apartments only have a microwave or a single burner at most. Don't worry though, there's usually always a electric kettle for your tea and instant ramen. :) Also, some description translations:

  • "Sleeps 6 people" = Sleeps 6 100lb Japanese people who won't complain
  • "No private room" = No walls, no barrier separating you and your neighbor :)
  • "Free Pocket Wifi" = The best thing you will find. Free portable Wifi
     

(BONUS) RYOKAN

You probably won't run into many ryokans in Tokyo, but if you're doing a trip out to Hakone or Kamakura I highly recommend staying for at least a night. It's essentially a Japanese traditional hotel with tatami mats and all. Lounge around in the provided yukata, dip in the onsen, then dine on kaiseki, a traditional multicourse dinner. The best.


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Roppongi

(Akabanebashi, Azabujuban)

Perfect spot for those non-Japanese speakers because for some reason all internationals love to congregate in this area. Probably because of the trendy bars, restaurants, Japanese girls wanting to find foreign love, etc etc. Roppongi isn't on the JR line, but it's on the main subway lines. Tokyo Tower is right next door.

Great shopping and restaurants.. but can be a little pricey. There is a crazy nightlife scene here with all types of clubs and bars on the dirtier side compared to Shibuya. Lots of Africans trying to give you "free drink" vouchers into kinda shitty dance clubs. On the upside, Azabujuban is a station over and they have a much more laid back scene.

Where to stay: Akabanebashi or Azabujuban. They're both walking distance to Roppongi, and relatively affordable. Also Tokyo Tower views.

 
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Shinjuku

(Nishi-Shinjuku, Shin Okubo, Takadanobaba) 

The Tokyo hub that easily connects you to every other city in Japan. Has all major buses and train lines. Something for everybody - the solo traveler, the family, the artist, the hippie traveler. Shopping. Bars. Sightseeing. Everything. 

It's easy to spend days on days staying around Shinjuku area, there's so much to do. This isn't your typical Japanese neighborhood, but you'll have access to all train lines so you can easily make day trips out there. 

Where to stay: Nishi-Shinjuku, Shin-Okubo, or Takadanobaba. Nishi-Shinjuku is right by Golden Gai, the popular drinking area. Shin-Okubo is Korea Town and has 0 Japanese people. Takadanobaba is the Waseda University college town with a ton of cheap izakayas and college kids.

 
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Shibuya/Harajuku

(Yoyogi, Meguro, Ebisu)

Fashion, music, art, youth culture. Lots of great shops and areas to connect with young creatives who aren't your typical "Japanese." Tons of creative shops and galleries to explore in the Shibuya/Harajuku/Omote Sando area. You'll find all your favorite international brands here that blend in with everyone's favorite Japanese stores. Cool nightlife with wide range of pubs, jazz bars, speakeasies, and clubs. Music venues too.

Right on the Yamanote line. Omote Sando uses the subway. But honestly this area is so packed with interesting stores that walking shouldn't be a problem! Also food; you won't find the best. 

Where to stay: Yoyogi. Affordable, quiet, and relaxing. Great food and great vibes.

 
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Ebisu

(Well, Ebisu. Hiro. Sentagaya) 

Because, well, who didn't think I'd put this on here.  Close enough to the action, but cool enough where it can hold its own. Access to the Yamanote Line (one of the most popular lines) and subway line. The next station over from Shibuya. A lot of great neighboring towns, such as Hiro, are in walking distance. 

And even if you want to kick it lowkey, Ebisu offers an infinite amount of awesome restaurants, shops, and bars. The Liquid Room music venue hosts lots of shows, there's a cool gyoza spot on the East side, and the Ebisu Yokocho (an indoor "hall" that has lots of small bars in an open floorplan) are all minutes from the train station. Also Shake Shack.

Where to stay: Ebisu (heh), finding  good AirBnB's is difficult so book in advance. Hiro is also a good option.

 

Tokyo Disney Sea/Odaiba

A little out of the way from Shinjuku area, but a cute area with fun things to do on off days. Especially if you're not into the partying fashion scene, Odaiba's the spot. There's a mini beach where volleyball sessions are held, a nice park to set up picnics, and really close to Disney! I hear there's free shuttle services to-and-from, so don't book a Disney room if you want the best deal.

Where to stay: Not Disney unless you're really trying to big ball!!


There's a whole world of great places to stay in Tokyo, but I generally recommend staying in western Tokyo for first timers especially. All the big transportation lines run through there, loads of touristy activities, and there's always something exciting happening. 

I also forgot to mention love hotels and internet cafe's for the really, really bold ones. ;)

- Emilia Liu, Champloo