Sightsee in Tokyo Without Leaving the Yamanote

The Tokyo train system is pretty hard to navigate, with the JR Train system intermingling with the Tokyo Metro system. Not to mention the similar colors (the red, magenta, and purple lines come to mind) and the lack of English romanization on many of the maps -- if you're not well-prepared, it can be nearly impossible to get anywhere you want to go. But no fear! You can easily see most of the sights of Tokyo by simply taking the Yamanote Line, which goes to most of the major neighborhoods in Tokyo. (Beware, though: the Yamanote serves almost 4 million people daily. To contrast, the New York subway system is ridden by 5 million people a day over 26 subway lines.)


Things to Do


The Yamanote is stylized on the maps as a perfect circle but it actually looks like an amoeba. The JR has a lot more English on the maps at every station, making it a little easier to navigate than the subway systems.

Hamamatsucho Station

Zojoji Temple and Tokyo Tower


A scant 7 minute walk from Hamamatsucho Station, you can take in the juxtaposition of old and new in one swoop. Also of note at Hamamatsucho is the Pokemon Center!

Standing next to Tokyo Tower, Zojoji Temple (増上寺, Zōjōji) is the head temple of the Jodo sect of Japanese Buddhism in the Kanto Region.

The temple was built in the year 1393 and moved to its present location in 1598 by Tokugawa Ieyasu who selected it as his family temple. A mausoleum of the Tokugawa family can be found on the temple grounds.

Ikebukuro Station

Want to shop but can't afford the high prices of Ginza or Shibuya? Ikebukuro's the place for you!
Ikebukuro has all sorts of restaurant and stores, including Otome Road (catering to female fangirls) and there's always street entertainment in the form of buskers.

Ikebukuro offers plenty of entertainment, shopping and dining opportunities. It is the battle ground between the Tobu and Seibu conglomerates which operate large department stores on each side of the station, as well as train lines from Ikebukuro into the suburbs. Seibu furthermore has a stake in the Sunshine City, a large shopping and entertainment complex not far from the station.

Shin-Okubo Station

Shin-Okubo is Tokyo's Koreatown. A must-stop for anyone who loves Korean food or k-pop. You can find authentic goods as well as excellent homemade kimchi here!

Koreatown is the Korean ethnic enclave in Tokyo, for which Shin Okubo Station is mainly known. The area developed after World War II when immigrants from Korea started moving into Japan. Koreatown is made up of the main street Okubo Dori and the maze of the many small streets that join it. Okubo Dori is a busy and lively Korean commercial street, lined on both sides with mainly Korean, and to a lesser extent Chinese and Thai, shops and restaurants.

Shinjuku Station

Thierry Draus/Flickr

Shinjuku Station is the world's busiest train station in the world, and can arguably called the heart of the city. Shinjuku is full of entertainment, restaurants, and shops, including the famed red-light district, Kabukicho, and Tokyo's biggest gay district, Nichome.

Shinjuku can be roughly divided into three areas: the West Exit area, an office town with a row of high-rise buildings such as the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office Building; the South Exit area, a newcomer to Shinjuku with complex establishments for shopping and amusement; and the prominent entertainment district around Kabukicho, a town that never sleeps. In the East Exit area there is a row of department stores and other large stores, all of which are integrated and linked together.

Akihabara Station


Akihabara is famous not only for being otaku paradise but also for its cheap electronics. Many of the massive electronic stores have floors dedicated to items that can be brought overseas, so make sure to check it out!

Akihabara, also called Akiba after a former local shrine, is a district in central Tokyo, that is famous for its many electronics shops. In more recent years, Akihabara has gained recognition as the center of Japan's otaku (diehard fan) culture, and many shops and establishments devoted to anime and manga are now dispersed among the electronic stores in the district.

Harajuku Station


Harajuku is well-known as the site of Japanese fashion subcultures and it's definitely on the list of stops for the fashion conscious. Omotesando, the main road, is trendy and expensive, but you have to check out the side streets for the quirkier side of clothing.

Harajuku refers to the area around Tokyo's Harajuku Station, which is between Shinjuku and Shibuya on the Yamanote Line. It is the center of Japan's most extreme teenage cultures and fashion styles, but also offers shopping for adults and some historic sights. The focal point of Harajuku's teenage culture is Takeshita Dori and its side streets.

Ueno Station


The area around Ueno is full of interesting museums, including the National Museum and the Shitamachi Museum. It also holds the famous Ueno Park, as well as a number of shopping alleys.

If you want to get a feel for old Tokyo, Ueno (上野) in the Taito district is a good place to start. Entirely lacking in high-rise condos or whiz-bang shopping malls, by Tokyo standards it's distinctly downmarket, but that means that eating, shopping and drinking are all affordably priced.

The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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