In a city as big as Tokyo you can travel around the world in a single day—from shopping for Korean skincare to relaxing with a coffee on an Italian piazza, this city has it all.

cultural neighborhoods in Tokyo
Photo by Kabacchi used under CC

If you’re looking to explore Asia but don’t quite have the budget for all the flights, you can get a taster right here in the city. Tokyo and neighboring prefecture Yokohama are home to some fantastic corners of culture that will introduce you to new places, cure any cravings and help you stock up with missing ingredients and new skincare treats. You can travel a little further afield too—with a mini-Europe and even a sliver of India hidden away in the city streets—so leave your passport behind and grab your Pasmo card instead and explore these cultual neighborhoods in Tokyo!

Cultural neighborhoods in Tokyo

Yokohama: Japan’s largest Chinatown

ethnic neighborhoods in Tokyo
Photo by Luca Mascaro used under CC

Ok, so it isn’t exactly in Tokyo, but as Japan’s (and Asia’s) largest Chinatown, it couldn’t really be left off the list. As one of the first ports to open to foreign trade in 1859, the area was soon a hub of international activity and the settlers from China gathered. Now complete with an ornate temple and entrance gates, the area is filled with shops, restaurants and businesses.

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Whether you’re after street food like steamed buns or want a full meal, there are countless options to choose from including many that have an all-you-can-eat option. Try some bubble tea, pick up some souvenirs and even enjoy one of the lantern or spring festivals—Chinatown is a feast for the senses (and especially the stomach).

Access: Motomachi Chukagai Station, 10 minutes from Yokohama

Shin-Okubo: All things Korea

One of Japan’s nearest neighbors, Korea has plenty that Japan loves, from skin-care ranges to traditional barbecue nights. In Shin Ogikubo (on the Yamanote Line) you’ll find everything you could ever want, from K-pop karaoke nights to some amazing new Innisfree face masks you’re dead keen to try out. If you thought Japan was good for cosmetics, you have a whole new world to explore; Korea is the country of the 10-step skincare routine and the beauty-product mecca of the world, so get exploring.

All that singing and/or shopping is bound to work up an appetite, and luckily there’s plenty of food to try, from traditional Korean barbecue joints to street food stalls serving treats like Korean pancakes and everyone’s guilty-pleasure of Korean fried chicken. If you’re after a coffee, try one of the K-pop cafes—and if you’re a fan, you can explore some of the intense K-pop stores for more cherub-like faces than you ever knew existed.

Access: Shin-Okubo is two minutes from Shinjuku on the Yamanote Line, headed toward Ikebukuro (not the Shibuya direction).

Nishi-Kasai: (Very) Little India

ethnic neighborhoods in Tokyo
Photo by ayako used under CC

One of the more subtle areas of foreign influence in Tokyo, Nishi-Kasai has slowly become the center of the Indian community in Japan. Today, over 10% of the city’s population is from India, and although you can find restaurants all over the city, this is where you’ll find the best stores and shops to make your own as well as the most authentic restaurants. One of the top shopping spots is the Swagat Indian Bazaar which stocks everything you’ve struggled to find (or afford) at the fancy international supermarkets.

For food, the most well known is Spice Magic Calcutta, which has a spot on either side of the station, but you’ll not be short of options with a variety of specialised options with very reasonable sets available. The best time to see the real spirit of the area is during traditional Indian festivals in March and October—so maybe save this for a more festive time if you can.

Access: Nishi-kasai is about 30 minutes from Shibuya if you catch the Ginza Line, then swap to the Tozai Line at Nihombashi or Kudanshita.

Jiyugaoka: Escape to Europe

cultural neighborhoods in Tokyo
Photo by ajari used under CC

More of a vibe than a literal presence of shops and stores, Jiyugaoka has something about it which just screams Europe. It could be the al-fresco restaurants, the pedestrianized streets or the distinctly Venetian piazza known as La Vita. Ok, so it’s probably that last one that swings it, but the general Sunday-feel the luxe area has is what makes it work.

Explore the boutiques, pick a cafe to relax in with a book and leave Japan behind for a day. Filled with trendy fashion and homeware stores, the streets are perfect for strolling, with leafy borders and benches to rest on. Check out Lisette for French clothing and Acme for furniture, as well as the international bakeries like Backerei Himmel, Bons Moments (for amazing pastries and quiches) and cafes like Chapon for ice cream and an unusual style.

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Access: Jiyugaoka is 10 minutes from Shibuya on the Tokyoko/Minatomirai line.

Best international festivals

cultural neighborhoods in Tokyo
Asakusa Samba Carnival | Photo by Grigoris Miliaresis

Bringing a whole host of cultures to life for annual festivals, Tokyo has a busy event schedule with over 20 official international celebrations—most of them taking place in the spring and throughout the summer. The perfect chance to try new food or get your craving fixes, the festivals are filled with music, performances and sometimes street parades—as well as workshops and demonstrations. Often held in Yoyogi or Hibiya Park, the events are the perfect weekend activity and let you dip your toes in a new culture! Be sure to check out our events section for international festivals coming up.

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