Bitten by the travel bug or not, Japan is one of the top tourist spots, and a must-visit for travellers around the world. Whether you’re into their food, culture or fashion, there’s something for everyone in the land of the rising sun.
As borders open up, many will be flocking to its busiest and most popular city, Tokyo, for a long-awaited taste of its metropolitan wonder. If you’re in the midst of planning your trip, here’s a list of lesser-known spots you can visit in Tokyo.
1. Jiyugaoka, Tokyo’s Little Europe
Often referred to as osharena machi by the locals, which translates to “a stylish and sophisticated place,” Jiyugaoka is Tokyo’s little paradise that feels distinctly European.
Be transported to the continent without leaving Japan – you can journey along the stretches of boutique stores, restaurants, cafes and narrow paths that look very much like the iconic streets of Paris, Berlin or Venice.
Speaking of Venice, there’s even a small canal with a gondola should you feel the need to soak in the European vibes.
To step back into the Japanese atmosphere, visit the local 800-year-old Kumano Shrine, famous for hosting the traditional Jiyugaoka International Friendship Mikoshi Festival every September. Or take a stroll down Marie Claire Street and Green Street, which are laden with cherry blossom trees. Visit during the spring season, and you’ll see the trees in full pink bloom.
Besides the plethora of fashion boutiques, you can also find stores that carry unique designer homeware items.
Jiyugaoka can be easily accessed from Shibuya and Yokohama. Take the Tokyu Toyoko line from Shibuya to Jiyugaoka; Tokyu Oimachi line from Futako Tamagawa; or the express train from Minato Mirai in Yokohama on the Tokyu Toyoko line express service.
Address: Jiyugaoka, Meguro 152-0035, Tokyo Prefecture.
2. Inokashira Park
An iconic park that’s over 100 years old, Inokashira Park is beloved among Japanese locals for its tranquil walking trails that offer scenery aplenty.
If the hustle and bustle of Tokyo can feel overwhelming, this forest from a fairytale book will restore your gentle soul. Perfect for clicks, this is one place to make the most of your camera phone.
This lush oasis in the heart of the Kichijoji district is where you can picnic freely among the greenery. You will also find the Ghibli Museum, where many from all around the world visit to check out the works of the Japanese animation studio, Studio Ghibli, which has produced popular animated films like Spirited Away. As you can imagine, it’s a tourist hotspot, so be sure to reserve your tickets in advance on their official website.
The park is truly a sight to behold, especially during cherry blossom season (late March to mid-April, or even early May) that bloom near the shore of the Inokashira Pond.
Starting at ¥600 (S$7.69), you can rent a rowboat or swan boat and paddle around the cherry blossom trees. You can find the park conveniently right next to Inokashira-koen Station.
Address: 1 Chome-18-31 Gotenyama, Musashino, Tokyo 180-0005
To truly experience peak Japanese quirkiness, one has to visit Harajuku. More specifically, Takeshita Street.
Wacky, youth-driven and insanely kawaii, Takeshita street is the place to be for all things hip.
Since we promised something a little more off-beat and less travelled, check out Shimokitazawa, or Shimokita, a bohemian cultural quarter where the vibes of old Tokyo linger.
Located on the west side of Shibuya, Shimokitazawa Station is just seven minutes from Shinjuku Station via the Odakyu line. If you’re into thrifting and love to indulge in a more hipster vibe, Shimokitazawa’s narrow, crisscrossing alleyways are filled with vintage shops, cafes, restaurants, music venues, independent cinemas and theatres.
Not so much into shopping? Stop by the traditional temples and shrines. Visit the 400-year-old Shinganji Temple and the 500-year-old Kitazawa Hachiman Shrine, or visit a few parks for a touch of nature.
Roka Koshun-en Gardens, Soshigaya Park, Setagaya Park, and Hanegi Park, are all in the vicinity for some extra touch of spirituality.
Address: Kitazawa, Setagaya City, Tokyo 155-0031, Japan
4. Tokyo’s Farmers Market (United Nations University)
Japan does not play around when it comes to the quality of produce, and Tokyo’s Farmers Market (found outside United Nations University) lets you get up close and personal with local farmers so you can see what the hype is truly about.
UNU Headquarters in Tokyo is located on Aoyama Dori, five minutes from Omotesando station (Exit B2) or 10 minutes from Shibuya station. Fresh produce, herbs, spices, oils—you’ll find it all at this market, giving you a chance to experience an authentic Japanese farmers' market.
Shopping for groceries got you feeling peckish? Not to worry, as there are food trucks selling street food and beer.
For more quirky finds, they sometimes have antiques or used stuff sold in the area, so be sure to peruse! Note that you’ll be supporting local farmers and paying for fresh quality, so expect the goods to be on the pricier side. Trust us, they’re worth it.
During summer, the warmth gives way to cooler evenings—and that’s when Tokyo Night Market emerges. The evening vibes are livelier, with vintage fashion vendors, jewellery sellers, dinner-centric food and cheap pints of beer flowing.
A visit to the Tokyo Night Market and Farmers Market are indeed some of the best things to do here in Shibuya if you’re looking for a truly local experience.
Address: 5 Chome-53-70 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001
Saturday & Sunday: 10:00am – 4:00pm
5. Nippara Limestone Cave
Fancy something really off-beat away from sunlight? Visit a limestone cave in the middle of nowhere! A three-hour trip away from Shinjuku, the Nippara Limestone Cave is open to the public. There is a bus connecting it with Okutama Station a few times a day, for those travelling by train.
If you’re thinking of escaping the heat, the temperature inside the cave is a steady 11 degrees celsius, a welcome retreat during the country’s relentless summers. Nonetheless, it’s still worth a visit when you travel to Japan – at a monolithic 1270m in height – it’s the largest cave in the Kanto region.
Inside, you’ll find rock formations that are hundreds of years old – icicles and stalagmites of various jagged and smooth shapes. The cave trail is wonderfully illuminated by lights and ambient music, so you wouldn’t need to be an expert cave explorer to traverse its grounds.
However, you’ll have to be adequately prepared and dressed for the occasion. Pick your favourite pair of shoes that’s tailor-made for hiking challenging terrain, as the cave grounds are notoriously wet and slippery. There are also plenty of stairs to climb, so be sure to get sufficient rest (and pack enough water!) before your trip over there. A handy travel backpack to keep your essentials will do the trick!
Follow their Facebook page for updates – while the caves are generally open all year, they will be closed depending on extreme weather (like a heavy downpour or a challenging snow day).
Admission costs ¥800 (S$80) for adults, ¥600 (S$6) for teenagers, and ¥500 (S$5) for kids.
Address: 1052 Nippara, Okutama, Nishitama District, Tokyo, Tokyo 198-0211, Japan
Opening hours: Daily 9:00am–5:00pm
6. Yanaka (Old Town Tokyo)
You’ve probably heard of Ginza, Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Harijuku. But what about one of Tokyo’s most traditional neighbourhoods? Yanaka takes you back in time and is one of Tokyo’s best-kept secrets.
One of the few districts in Tokyo where the shitamachi atmosphere, an old town ambience reminiscent of Tokyo from past decades, lives on.
You’ll find a smorgasbord of Japanese food, lovely artisan workshops, and galleries, amidst elegant temples and shrines.
Be sure to make a stop to the Nezu Shrine, which dates from 1705 and is a beautiful piece of Edo-era architecture.
To visit this rustic town, alight at the JR Nippori Station (west exit) or Chiyoda Line's Sendagi Station (east exit).
Address: 3-chōme-13-1 Yanaka, Taito City, Tokyo 110-0001, Japan
Visiting Tokyo this year? We’re so jealous! This guide will bring you on a fun-filled adventure of food, culture and shopping. Even with a guide, nothing beats discovering a hidden nook unexpectedly, so we hope this helps you discover more interesting finds along the way! Plus, you can visit some interesting Japanese stores for a dose of quirkiness when you least expect it.
Headed to the Pokemon Centre in Shibuya City, making that memorable walk across the Shibuya Crossing, or adding the above to your Japan travel bucket list? Plan your itinerary alongside all the scrumptious food and drinks you can find in restaurants as well as sushi and sake bars, and rest assured, your trip down to the Land of the Rising Sun will be worth every dollar. Experience Japan like a local, and you’ll leave with memories like no other!
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Best time to visit
The best time to visit Tokyo, Japan is fall, between late September and November, and spring, between late June to end August.
The official currency of Japan is the Japanese yen.
You can hop on the subways to get around Tokyo with a prepaid Suica or Pasmo card. While taxis are fantastic, they may not be a viable option if you’re looking for a cheaper transportation alternative.
You can get to Japan from Singapore in less than 7hrs. Book your tickets to Japan here.