Wherever you go in Tokyo, chances are that you’re going to do some walking.
Tokyo is one of the best walking cities in the world. It’s also one of the largest cities in the world (by both area and population). So if you find yourself in Tokyo, where should you go for a nice day of strolling?
The down side to walking in Tokyo is that there are not a lot of city benches. So when your feet start to ache and they ask for a break, you’ll most likely have to plop down some money to sit at a café or other eating establishment.
I lived in Tokyo for 8+ years and when I wanted to get out and take a walk, these were my go-to places.
General suggestions: get a good pair of walking shoes, carry some drinks and snacks with you, have an umbrella handy if the weather is threatening rain.
Upside: Plenty of shops and places to eat.
Downside: No good park or greenery to escape the urban landscape.
Ikebukuro is one of the major stations in Tokyo (the second busiest in the world, apparently, just behind Shinjuku Station), so it should be pretty easy to find if you can take a JR train or the subway.
Although there is an annual Jazz Festival on the west side of the station, most of the action is on the east side. Exit the station and cross the street. When you pass the Uniqlo on your right, turn left and you’ll find the main avenue leading to Sunshine City that houses shops, restaurants, and an aquarium.
Or just wander around. Sunshine City is the main focal point of the pedestrian traffic in Ikebukuro, but there are other things to see. There’s the eight-story bookstore Junkudo. There are ramen shops tucked away here and there. My favorite is a place called Kohmen; it’s on the same side as the station, a little bit just before you cross the street to Junkudo.
There’s a growing otaku presence in Ikebukuro, so if you’re into all things anime and manga, you’ll find some good stuff here. Animate is one of the bigger shops around. Going up all those flights of stairs will give you a work out unless you want to wait forever for the tiny elevator.
Also, in Sunshine City is one of the biggest Pokemon Center stores on the planet.
And there are owls. The bukuro in Ikebukuro is a pun for the world owl (fukuro in Japanese). So look for the owl faces, owl images, and owl motif all throughout Ikebukuro. How many can you find?
The only downside to Ikebukuro is that there isn’t a really good park there. I like to break up the hardcore urban experience with some greenery when walking, but Ikebukuro isn’t the place to do it.
Upside: Lots to see and do here, including Shinjuku Park.
Downside: Crowded. An overwhelming amount of people.
When most people imagine Tokyo, they’re probably thinking of the images they see of Shinjuku. “Neon” signs, bright lights, tons of people, and all around busy-ness. The hustle and bustle of Shinjuku can be overwhelming, but there’s no doubt that it’s a great place to walk.
My favorite place for a window-shopping-kind-of-stroll is the South Exit of Shinjuku Station. There’s a little more open space than the crowded sidewalks on the East end. (Which by the way, is a good place to go on weekends because they close some of the streets to cars and leave them open to only pedestrians.)
Just look for the Takashimaya Times Square building, and wander in and out and around there to your delight. And in this area there are some informal places to take a load of your feet.
You might also gaze at the NTT Tower (technically, the NTT Docomo Yoyogi Building). It resembles the Empire State Building and whenever I look at it, I imagine all sorts of nefarious activities are taking place inside. I don’t really know why; maybe it’s because the lack of windows tells me that they’re hiding something.
The other parts of Shinjuku include the East side where a ton of shopping and restaurants are.
Don’t miss Shinjuku Gyoen (Shinjuku Park) for a break from the concrete jungle. You have to pay a small admission fee to enter this peaceful place. If you’re a fan of Makoto Shinkai’s “The Garden of Words”, you can try to find the matching landscape from that movie.
Shinjuku is one of the busiest and most famous places in Tokyo. It also gives you tons of places to walk.
Upside: More open spaces, less crowded, different feel.
Downside: Although there are places to shop here and there, it’s not for the pure shopper.
For somewhere a little less crowded than Ikebukuro and Shinjuku, Marunouchi is the place to go. The architecture in this part of the city also differs greatly from the rest. First of all, there’s the façade of Tokyo Station. The old style brick building (which also includes a hotel) preserves the look of the original Tokyo Station.
From here, if you choose, you could walk to the most wide open space in all of Tokyo—The Imperial Palace. You can’t actually go into the palace, but the surrounding grounds are open for all to enjoy.
But when you’re ready, take the stroll down Marunouchi to Yurakucho (and then on to Ginza if you like). The walk from Marunouchi to Yurakucho has a laid back feel to it, with open air cafés and eateries. There’s a chocolatier (Cacao Sampaka) and museum (Mistubishi Ichigokan Museum Tokyo) along the way, too. The tree lined street also has a few benches if you’d like to take a seat.
No place in Tokyo is completely free of people, but usually the Marunouchi area is less crowded than many others.
Upside: Variety of landscapes in a small area. Shopping, a park, a shrine.
Downside: Might be too crowded and squeezed in for some.
The reason I like Harajuku to walk is not because it’s one of the hippest neighborhoods in Tokyo. The reason I like it is there are a variety of landscapes and things to see.
Usually, I like to go to Yoyogi Park first. It’s a big park with many wide walkways and free admission. When the weather is nice, it’s full of people. Take a seat on a bench and people watch. During cherry blossom season, the sakura (cherry blossoms) are spectacular. It’s also beautiful in the autumn.
Next to the park is Meiji Shrine. Personally, I’m in the camp that if you’ve seen one shrine in Japan, you’ve seen them all. So, if you’re in the other camp or if you’ve never seen a shrine yet during your visit, this one is a good one to go to.
Once you’ve soaked up all that greenery, it’s time to enter the urban fray. There’s Takeshita Street, which is a can’t miss unless you have a phobia of crowded spaces. And there’s the main road, which follows the path of the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line. Don’t hesitate to walk around the backstreets, too. You don’t what little boutique or café you might find, and you’ll make your way back to the main road eventually.
There’s Tokyu Plaza Building with the Starbucks on the top floor. It’s a nice restful garden area, a perfect place to take a break.
In fact some of the best walks are from station to station. You never know what you’re going to find in between stations and it’s fun to see the transition from one designated area to the next.
Upside: More open spaces, great views, “new”.
Downside: It’ll most likely take two trains or more to get there. Nothing traditional.
Odaiba is an artificial island built in Tokyo Bay. It might be a little more tricky to get to than Shinjuku, but it’s not really hard at all. You’re going to have to take the Yurikamome line from Shimbashi Station or take the Rinkai Line to Tokyo Teleport Station.
Although Odaiba has a lot of skyscrapers, you’re not going to feel like the sky is being squeezed out above you. In fact, one of the best things about Odaiba are the views. You can see great vistas of Rainbow Bridge and behind that Tokyo. Stay for the night view. It’s spectacular with Rainbow Bridge lit up and Tokyo Tower in the background. It’s my number one view in Tokyo.
What else is there to do? You can walk along the boardwalk, along the artificial beach, and through many shopping areas, including one of the newer shopping malls in Tokyo called Zepp DiverCity.
There’s definitely a sense of openness and newness in Odaiba. There’s a lot more to see and do than I’ve mentioned here. Spend the day wandering around the whole island.
Upside: A lot of places to walk to. A lot to see.
Downside: It’s almost too much for one day.
Technically, this is not Tokyo. Yokohama is the second largest city in Japan, but it’s only about a 40-minute train ride from central Tokyo and it is the best spot for walking and open spaces.
After exiting Kannai Station, your first stop is Yokohama Stadium, home of the Yokohama DeNA Bay Stars. If you’re into baseball like me, this is a great place to catch a game. It is an outdoor stadium, so rainouts are a possibility. Stop in the gift shop to get some Bay Star goods.
Next, stroll for a few blocks down to Yamashita Park. It’s a nice open space next to the water. You’ll see the Hikamawaru docked there, and if you’re lucky you’ll see a cruise ship docked nearby as well. After you’re finished meandering in Yamashita Park, and grab a bottle of water or a snack from the “Happy” Lawson store, head towards Minato Mirai 21 (the water will be to your right).
The next major stop on your walk is the Red Brick Warehouse (Aka-renga Soko in Japanese). It’s an old warehouse turned into shops and restaurants. It has a nice aesthetic and there will be special events there throughout the year. In winter, there’s an ice skating rink if you want to try to squeeze in among the crowds.
Right after that is the small amusement park, called Yokohama Cosmo World. You can’t miss its huge Ferris wheel.
Finally, another shopping spot Landmark Tower, which includes a Hard Rock Café if you just need a big fat burger after all that walking. There are, of course, plenty of other food choices.
Before you leave, make sure to check out the observation deck of the Landmark Tower, which is the 2nd tallest building in Japan. There is a fee to go up to the top, but if you like beautiful views, it’s worth it.
Make your way to Sakuragicho Station, and you’ve completed a giant walking loop in Yokohama. Congratulations.
Now, pray for a seat on the train because your feet should be worn out by now.
By all means this should be on the main list, except for the fact that it doesn’t have the variety of the main list locations. There are plenty of eateries and shops. If you’re into Japanese pop culture, then I don’t have to tell you much about this place. There are electronics, anime / manga / video game stuff. Yeah, it’s awesome, but only if you’re into that stuff.
If the weather is bad, go into Yodobashi Camera and wander for hours. And like most Japanese department stores, you can get something to eat on the top floor.
It’s a little out of the way and doesn’t necessarily offer more than some other spots, so that’s why it didn’t make the main list.
There are those out there who will argue that Kichijoji is the best neighborhood in Tokyo, and I wouldn’t go against them either. So if you’re curious, head out there. Take the Chuo Main line or the Chuo-Sobu line and get off at Kichijoji Station. Besides the typical shops and places to eat, there’s also a nice park to walk around (Inokashira Park) and the Studio Ghibli Museum (advanced tickets are a must).
Ueno Park and Ameya-Yokocho are good places to walk. Ueno Park does have benches and places to take a load off your feet since it’s a park. This is a good place to go, maybe an alternative to Harajuku if you don’t care about hip shops. Instead of Yoyogi Park, you have Ueno Park. Instead of Takeshita Street you have Ameya-Yokocho.
You also have Ueno Zoo and a bunch of museums. So yes, Ueno is superior to Harajuku, depending on your tastes.
Tokyo Dome City —
Tokyo Dome City is a nice place to walk around, but there’s not a lot in the surrounding area. There are typical shops and places to eat, the Tokyo Dome (go watch the Yomiuri Giants or a concert or another event), and a few amusement park rides. The roller coaster looks impressive. There’s the open sky above. The only down side is that there are not a lot of places of interest to walk to in the immediate area.
Don’t forget to stop by the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame and a great shop of Nippon Baseball League goods (all teams, but the biggest selection is of Giants goods.)
You’re never going to run out of places to walk in the Tokyo area, so pick your place and wander. Happy journeys to you.