Like London or New York, Tokyo is a city of diverse communities, joined together by the circular Yamanote railway line, taking an hour to complete the full loop. Like the Circle Line in London, the Yamanote line connects the major centres and the terminals of the various private and previously public (JR) rail network. So location can be critical in minimising travel and tailoring the experience that is best for you.
Ueno – Gateway to Narita and Old Tokyo
If you have an early or late flight, Ueno’s convenience with direct trains to Narita Airport cannot be beaten. Its proximity to the markets and the zoo, along with affordable accommodation, also makes it suitable for families. Nearby is Asakusa, an icon of old Tokyo with a quaint amusement park and Sensoji, Tokyo's oldest Temple.
Akihabara & Kanda – Modern and Traditional
Akihabara is an Anime and consumer electronics heaven, while Kanda is a traditional area famous for its bookstores. Its compact size makes suitable for first timers.
Tokyo – Executive Luxury
Tokyo is a mecca for five star international chain hotels, and combined with its convenience by the Japan Rail (JR) train to the Airport and bullet train or Shinkansen to cities like Kanazawa, Kyoto, and Sendai, has made it a destination of choice for executives. For families, the direct train to Disneyland is a key drawcard, though cheaper options are available at Kanda or Higashi Ginza. The expensive real estate here has meant a dearth of the more affordable 3 star business hotels, which are a common sight in other parts of this city.
Ginza & Tsukiji – Shopping and Sushimi
Ginza is the traditional home for high class department stores, while staying in a local 3 star hotel at Higashi Ginza gives walking access to the Tsukiji Fish Markets, a definite plus for the first in first serve registrations for the fish auctions before the morning trains. While it is east of the loop line, the subway or underground metro trains provide convenient connections with the loop line and the rest of the city.
Hamamatsucho – Portside Hub
With the convenience of a direct monorail to Haneda Airport, this quiet location is also suitable for first timers, with an easy to navigate station layout, reasonably priced accommodation and views of Tokyo Tower from the hotel.
Shinagawa – Tokyo’s Southern Gateway
This office district has a bullet train stop, giving convenient day trip access to Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima, as well as railway access to Haneda Airport. There is a good range of restaurants and hotels, from the 3 star Toyoko Inn up to the top of the range Inter-Continental. If you are prepared to sacrifice convenience, cheaper hotels are available within a 30 minute radius. The Sheraton, for example has lower rates than the Inter-continental, but is reached by subway or a shuttle bus from Shinagawa.
Shibuya & Shinjuku – Activity Central
Famed for its vibrant night life, these two mega railway hubs are also close to some of the largest park lands in Tokyo, making it perfect for a morning jog.
On the other hand, Shibuya is also close to the youth fashion capital of Harajuku, while Shinjuku is the terminus for the Hakone sightseeing trains, with easy access to Mount Fuji, which you may get a glimpse of at the top of its highest observatory buildings and hotels.
Ikebukuro – More Anime and Entertainment
The last stop of many of JR Airport Limited Express trains, Ikebukuro is another centre for entertainment and shopping. While there is a small red light area, this is a relatively safe place to stay, with an underground warren of shops leading out of the huge railway station.
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