View of Tokyo from high above

For those seeking reaffirmation that urban, central Tokyo has every dream possibly containable by concrete, the options are seemingly limitless. You should of course not miss Shinjuku, Shibuya, or Ginza. Ueno and Asakusa are also urban must-sees, but of the older variety. You’ve got that covered (or if you don’t, read more of our blog entries!). We’re going to take this space as an opportunity to share some lesser visited, but still far from obscure places. All these places are roughly within thirty minutes of a Yamanote (loop) Line station, and all are places we consider among the best places to visit in or near Tokyo.

Odaiba: Garbage In, Gloss Out

Windsurfing in Tokyo?

One of the best places to visit in or near Tokyo is also the final resting place for incinerated waste. What we now know today as Odaiba came to life a few decades or so ago. The island is easily accessible from both Shinagawa and Shimbashi Stations. Once you’re on the rock, there’s a pleasant coastline to walk along (as pictured above). There’s also lots of shopping (naturally), a TV studio, and a convention center called Big Sight. It’s the quintessential date spot, by the way, so be prepared to bask in the glow of others’ new love if you don’t bring your own.

Notably, there’s an intrinsically romantic Ferris wheel, from the arc of which you can see a purpose-built wedding complex. Talk about the future opening up in front of your very eyes! Hold on tight.

Specialty nerding is on tap when considering the best places to visit in or near Tokyo

Interested in maritime science? Don’t be shy. It’s a very important field. With that in mind, you shouldn’t miss the Museum of Maritime Science if that’s your bag. For car fans, Toyota runs a great auto museum located (again, naturally) inside a shopping center. We highly recommended a stop at this free attraction.

Note that there used to be a very popular hot spring resort called Tokyo Oedo Onsen, but it closed in 2021. Consider visiting their Urayasu branch, not too far from Tokyo Disneyland.

The Refined Life of Kichijoji

Serenity Now.

Ahh, to be in The Know. The dream can be yours. Just hop on out west from Shinjuku about twelve minutes by train and behold the Kichijoji life. It’s often said to be the most desirable neighborhood in Tokyo, and deservedly so. Kichijoji’s got it all. Close to the madness of Shinjuku and Shibuya, but (relatively speaking) almost pastoral at times. They’ve got a lovely park with a lake you can walk around and rental boats which you can use to glide across. The area between the train station and the park is understated hipsterdom at its finest, with all the right cafes and boutiques.

On the north side of Kichijoji Station you’ll find a more classic, mid-buzz Tokyo shopping scene. It’s all fine and good, but the real gem lies in the warren or narrow walking streets just to the west of the covered shopping arcade. Here you will find tiny little interesting restaurants and shops. This zone is a true bastion of character in an increasingly chain store dominated landscape.

Nakano: A Classic Shopping Arcade with an Anime Cherry on Top

Keep walking.

Easily paired with a visit to Kichijoji, Nakano is just a tiny bit grittier but all the more interesting for it. Getting the lay of the land is a cinch. As you walk out the JR Nakano’s north exit, the covered shopping arcade (“Sun Mall”) seems to run unrelentingly north. When it comes to the best places to visit in or near Tokyo, Nakano is a shoe-in for us. That’s because it’s truly pedestrian (in both senses) to a point, but then wildly niche from there. Case in point: Nakano Broadway, located at the far end of the shopping arcade. As per usual in Japan, don’t let the English name imply descriptive accuracy. Inside the ‘way, you’ll find an embarrassment of anime thrills and chills. It’s a multistory indoor space with lots of nooks and crannies. Go forth and discover.

Time your trip for the later afternoon so that you can spend some early evening hours in the restaurant, bar, and whatnot district that parallels Sun Mall on the east side. Visit interesting standing bars (have we mentioned how much we love those?), proper restaurants of all type, and get down to some good people watching while in the area.

On the Near of Best Places to Visit In or Near Tokyo: Kawagoe

And time was told to stand still.

It would be dishonest of us not warn you that this pick is a bit obscure for the casual Tokyo visitor. However, if you’re interested in Edo-era architecture, Kawagoe is definitely worth the thirty minute trip from Ikebukuro Station. Kawagoe flourished in the Edo era (1603-1868), but was significant for many years before that well. The city’s prime location almost guaranteed prosperity and continued importance. Notably, while World War II did tremendous damage to much of central Tokyo, Kawagoe largely eluded the bombings and fires. Elegant, historic architecture is the gift of that that lives on through today.

The helpful folks at Kawagoe’s tourism bureau have created an alluring website which sells the city well. Even if you don’t get dressed up for the occasion, strolling the historic district is fun and interesting. The old wooden water tower is a notable favorite. You’ll also want to take this opportunity to try yummy sweets and savories indicative of the region. Take it slowly here. It’s more about absorbing the vibe than checking off list items.

The Tip of the Iceberg

Our list of places to visit in or near Tokyo is ultimately just a starting point, inevitably the case when talking about a metropolitan area as large as greater Tokyo. Nakano and Kichijoji are distinctly different local neighborhoods without being tourist spots per se. Odaiba exposes you to how everyday Tokyo people enjoy a day of recreation. And Kawagoe is a special bonus for those interested in getting a bit more off the beaten path.

At Pinpoint Traveler, we pride ourselves on providing guests with experiences that expertly mix classic attractions with local insight. Check us out and see if something strikes your fancy, or simply email us from the Contact Us button above to open up a dialog. The possibilities truly are limitless.

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