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Jan 5, 2013 05:11 PM

Where to stay in Tokyo for Chowhounds?

Undoubtedly there are great places to eat in Tokyo no matter what neighborhood you're in. But which neighborhoods are the best for a lover of food looking to gorge himself on the best cheap & mid-priced eats Tokyo has to offer? I don't need go chasing Michelin stars.

For example, I live in NYC and can quite certainly say our best neighborhood for food in Manhattan is the West Village, followed by East Village and Lower East Side. I think that's readily agreed upon by most NY'ers.

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  1. New York City is not really analogous to Tokyo because, quite frankly, NYC is small and not as dense. And really, Manhattan is what most people are considering when booking travel to NYC.

    For high option cheap to mid-range neighborhoods that are also good for tourists, consider Shinjuku or Shibuya. Both of these neighborhoods have more places to eat than those three NYC neighborhoods combined. They are both also on the Yamanote Line and have access to main subway lines.

    1. As Silverjay said, Shibuya and Shinjuku are good choices.

      Ebisu probably has the best ratio of good and interesting restaurants per square meter, but there aren't really many hotels there other than the Westin, which is far from the center of action.

      The Tokyu Stay in Gaienmae might be a good choice too - it's not a touristy neighborhood but it is filled with good places to ea.

      13 Replies
      1. re: Robb S

        I'm staying at the Westin for a few days. What's worth trying around there?

        1. re: Robb S

          Between those two, I would certainly choose Shibuya over Shibuya, but that's my choice.

          1. re: Sushi Otaku

            It's certainly tough to penetrate that wall of logic.

              1. re: Sushi Otaku

                What makes Shibuya better than Shibuya?

                1. re: prasantrin

                  That would be a tough call for me.

                  1. re: Robb S

                    It's clearly an apples to apples comparison.

                    ...oh man, we're killing this guy 'cause of a typo. I've probably done that a dozen times myself.

                    1. re: Silverjay

                      Good call. :-)


                      At least you kept it on-topic by referencing "soup".

                      1. re: Silverjay

                        Sorry, I meant SHIBUYA rather than Shibuya. Man, these 21st century keyboards are killing me.

                        1. re: Sushi Otaku

                          deja vu? Or is there really a difference?

                          1. re: prasantrin

                            All in fun. I absent-mindedly wrote the same area twice. It happens

          2. Everywhere, really. It's impossible to mention an area that is not excellent for cheap or mid-priced food. There's no city like Tokyo for food and you can't walk for 2 minutes without seeing a restaurant.

            But anyway, it might be a good idea to stay in the middle of the city (anywhere from Akasaka to Kagurazaka), near a convenient train line (Marunouchi line and Hanzomon line, for example). It makes train journeys shorter. If you stay in Ginza, for example (which may have the highest concentration of fancy restaurants in Tokyo, and a billion low-mid priced ones), you'll be far from Shinjuku and vice versa.

            I also like to stay in south-west Tokyo (around Meguro ward) for the quiet atmosphere. There're many fantastic low-mid priced "neighborhood restaurants" in that area, but fewer hotels.

            1 Reply
            1. re: babreu

              Recently I read that Shinjuku works well with cigarette, the atmosphere of a cafe in Shinjuku that comes to mind. With such an atmosphere, in Shinjuku, there is so many izakaya... but to be honest, I do know more places in Shibuya than Shinjuku, as I have a preference for this young, dynamic area. But still, I would like to recommend a 'shita machi(down town)' area, the Sendagi/Nezu, where you can find the ramen tsukemen Tetsu, the cheapest 'unagi(eel)' founded Inageya, the udon NenoZu, .. the Ueno -Okachimachi is 10mn walk and very enjoyable ! The Japanese lives there, so they don't spend usually to eat near their home.. if you want something particularly Japanese to stay, try Ryokan Katsutaro Annex(modern Japanese auberge). In Ueno, you will have actually too much choice... and if you want to try an Izakaya without reservation, try the Renkon-Ya !! In Tokyo, there are actually quiet different towns in a big megapole, each one with its kind of feeling ! And follow your nose ...

            2. I have travelled extensively to Tokyo over a dozen business trips. I have used the opportunity during the first 5 or 6 trips, to split my time between 2 neighborhoods. Each of my trips was at least 1 week long, my first trip was split between Shinjuku and Shibuya-purposely by me, to get a feel for the city. Later trips took me to Akasaka/Ginza, Roppongi/Minato, Ebisu/ get the idea. I kept coming back to spending half of my time in Akasaka, then just staying there everytime for the entire trip. I'm 50 years old, a foodie and lover of music. Akasaka is perfect for me-lots of great food choices across all price spectrums, sophisticated and quieter than Shinjuku (quick subway ride) or Roppongi (walking distance from Akasaka), not for the 20 something crowd-Shibuya(just a quick cab ride away). Lots of sophisticated mid-priced food, including one of the best Fugu restaurants in Tokyo (reasonable by Fugu standards) and Akasaka Ramen, very famous also. Night life includes over a dozen inexpensive little jazz clubs including Birdland, Akasaka BB, Hashi no Shita, B-Flat and my favorite "Kei", an intimate bossa nova jazz club run by the lovely Kei herself, a brazilian jazz singer of Japanese descent.
              I've had fantastic meals at Asterix, a little french bistro in a basement a few doors down from Kei, last one was Steak Tartare(surprisingly made with rumproast-awesome-when asked the chef had to point to tell me what cut he used :)), Grilled Lamb chops and Banana Flambe for dessert-wow. Many other choices, international and japanese-centric in a sophisticated, yet not too swank or stuffy (Ginza fits this bill) area, very accessible to all of Tokyo via subway, taxi or on foot. The Hotel New Otani is a prime spot to relax over lunch with its beautiful multi-acre garden, and a fine place to stay also. One night I stumbled on the Danny Meyer Union Square Tokyo outpost, right in Akasaka, boardering Roppongi!! (I didn't eat there, but it speaks volumes of the area itself).
              I live in the West Village, and agree with your NYC synopsis of food-I highly recommend Akasaka, I consider it and the boardering residential area of Aoyama(home of the Blue Note Tokyo) to be the Greenwich Village of Tokyo(more West Village if you know what I mean), with low lying buildings, tree lined streets, and slower pace. It has become my home away from home when visting this amazing city.

              8 Replies
              1. re: mrjuggs

                Akasaka and Roppongi are prime corporate business traveler destinations. And Akasaka is one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the entire city. It's kind of known as a business expense playground, along with those back alley places for the government "officials" to meet (it's right next to Nagatacho where LDP is headquartered and also near PM's residence)...And the New Otani, which opened in 1964(!) when Tokyo hosted the Olympics, is 20,000+ YEN a night.

                If you're looking for a pre-gentrified more bohemian NYC Greenwich Village type of vibe, try Shimokitazawa or Sangenjaya. For West Village upscale resi vibe, try Jiyugaoka or Shirokane. Maybe Nishi and Minami-Azabu, if you don't mind being among a ton of other foreigners. For a plethora of cheap to mid-range options though, I still think Shinjuku, Shibuya, and the Nezu/Yanaka/Ueno areas are the best bets. I mean, there are other neighborhoods with plenty of places, but these have the best train connections if you are a short time visitor.

                1. re: Silverjay

                  The comment made by the questioner was that the Village had the best food in the city. The top Michelin star rated restaurants are congregated in midtown Manhattan, not Greenwich Village. The top restaurants in Tokyo were not to my knowledge in Akasaka, but there were scores of mid range restaurants and music venues, on quieter, tree lined streets, just like the Village I've called home for the last 30 years. Thus the analogy and my recommendation for Akasaka. I stand by it.
                  I've stayed in many nice midrange hotels in Akasaka, the Chisun Grand, the B Akasaka, and a couple of great "Apartment" style hotels with kitchens in the room. The Hotel Otani is actually quite competitive-$200/night in Tokyo? Shibuya is a young persons mecca, Shinjuku was Midtown Manhattan, Roppongi full of tourists, Akasaka made me feel at home.

                  1. re: mrjuggs

                    My point was that by comparison to other parts of Tokyo, Akasaka is expensive and known as a business part of the city. And I went into it thinking of putting a traveler among a wide range of Japanese restaurants, not lamp chops, steak tartare, and Danny Meyer outposts. It's great that you've carved out a little enclave for business visits that you can eat that sort of food and listen to jazz though.

                    1. re: Silverjay

                      I'll stop now. Akasaka has fantastic Japanese food, in addition to a wide mix of international food with a japanese twist, that i find a real treat-a place like Asterix, while French in approach, is uniquely Japanese. All over Tokyo you can find this depending on your personal likes. Tokyo is the business capital of Japan, and like NYC the restaurant scene is driven by it. The difficulty of navigating this city should be taken into consideration while visiting also. It sounds like jay is the expert-my perspective is as an international traveler who never did any business in Akasaka, but enjoyed living there.

                      1. re: mrjuggs

                        Mr Juggs, you'd be sad to see what has happened to Asterix - the proprietor was sick for a long time and eventially returned firing on much less than all cylinders. I am afraid he also makes rather unpleasant and xenophobic comments about his customers when he incorrectly assumes that they do not understand Japanese. (The unpleasantness is not reserved for foreign customers though - just take a look at his long-suffering wife.)

                        Otherwise I'm with you on Akasaka in terms of enjoying the area. Lived there for several years so know it very well. It is, however, full of very mediocre eateries. Lots and lots and lots of eateries, but sadly generally of pretty average standard.

                        1. re: Asomaniac

                          I take it that his wife is the lady running the front of the house? He was a bit intense :) . I was impressed how he handled everything himself, a la minute, including chopping the beef, making the Tartare to order. I sit at the counter and watch him work, sad if he has become more curmudgeonly, I found the whole encounter entertaining.

                    2. re: mrjuggs

                      As a New Yorker (and former West Village resident) living in Tokyo, I'd say that Akasaka reminds me more of someplace like Turtle Bay - sure there are restaurants, but it's pretty much dominated by office buildings.

                      I think Ebisu is closer in feel to the West Village - there are plenty of restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs, but not that many offices or department stores.

                      1. re: Robb S

                        Other than the Westin, I'm drawing a blank on other hotels in Ebisu- although I know there are a few right near Meguro Station. But Ebisu is one of my favorite neighborhoods. You're probably right on the analogy.

                2. Thanks for the recs everyone! We couldn't decide so we're staying in a couple neighborhoods. The Granbell Hotel in Shibuya for two nights and a week in Roppongi in an apt we found at a pretty reasonable rate. Still working on the restaurants, but I've scoured here and elsewhere, and have a pretty solid list together. Just behind the curve on making reservations for some spots considering our stay is at the end of this month.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: rushbikes

                    Ah, that's a good idea to split up your stay.

                    I was back in that neighborhood near the Granbell in Shibuya a few weeks ago (beers at Fujiya Honten with Tripeler). It's pretty much surrounded by cheap and mid-range places of all sorts. Not a ton, but a bunch. It's also more of a grown-up part of Shibuya than some other parts. You are also about a 15-minute walk from an excellent blended broth tonkotsu ramen shop called Warito-
           , not to mention a couple of other good ramen shops right closer to your hotel on Sakuragaoka, the hill that the hotel is situated on. And Kozasa (, a very good sushi shop, is not far either.

                    1. re: rushbikes

                      I've stayed at the Cerulean Tower Tokyo very close by to the Granbell. If you enjoy Jazz, JZ Bratt in the Cerulean was top notch and elegant, classy like one of the Lincoln Center Jazz venues... Additionally, while its not the Lost in Translation Bar, the Bellovisto Bar on the top floor has spectacular views of Tokyo with an extensive Wine and hard to find in Tokyo (for me a good Martini) done well, extensive cocktail list. They have a nice sunset special in the afternoon from 4-6 with some hors d'oeuvres and a cocktail to watch the sun set over Tokyo. I enjoyed that very much.