Where is “central Tokyo”?

Tokyo is one of the world’s great metropolises, with over 38 million people in the greater Tokyo area. It can be overwhelming to potential visitors. Sometimes they’ll seek advice on where to stay in “central Tokyo” that’s “close to the sights”. Tokyo doesn’t have a city centre in the way that many other cities do, so there’s no straightforward answer to give to these visitors.

Looking first at what could be considered the centre of Tokyo, there are a number of possibilities. I’ve given links to Google maps, so you can get your bearings and develop a sense of where these places are located.

Tokyo station is where the shinkansen to other parts of Japan leave from. There’s a major business district around it, and the Imperial Palace is close by. It’s not the most touristic part of town, but convenient for transport.

Shinjuku is often sold by travel agents as central. The area has excellent shopping and restaurant options, and it’s very convenient for transport including going to Hakone and Kawaguchiko to see Mt Fuji. To get the shinkansen to Kyoto, it is necessary to go to either Tokyo or Shinagawa stations, about a 15 minute journey.

The centre of Japan where distances are measured from is the Nihonbashi bridge. The headquarters of various financial institutions are in Nihonbashi, and Mitsukoshi has its main department store here. It has some very good hotels, although it’s a less likely area for tourists to stay in.

The centre of Japan
The plaque marking the centre of Japan in Tokyo

One piece of advice of advice sometimes given is to stay near a station on the Yamanote line, on the grounds that it goes around central Tokyo. While some locations on the Yamanote line are good places to stay (Tokyo, Shinjuku, Ueno, Shibuya) there are some others that are less inspiring. There’s also a lot to see and do in Tokyo that isn’t anywhere near the Yamanote line.

Being close to the sights

Tokyo’s sights are not conveniently grouped in one area, instead they are all over Tokyo. If you stay near a station, you will be able to go where you want, although it may take half an hour and a change of train.

The top 10 sights in Tokyo as listed by TripAdvisor at the time of writing are Shinjuku Gyoen, Meiji Jingu shrine, Asakusa, Senso-ji temple, Edo Tokyo Museum, Samurai Museum, Ueno Park, Ginza, Tokyo National Museum, and Tokyo Skytree. Locate these on a map and you’ll see how far apart they are. It should be clear now that there is no single area that is “close to the sights”.

A useful approach is to work out what you want to see and where it’s located. After doing that, you may find that most of your chosen sights are located in a couple of areas, so where to stay may become more obvious.

If this isn’t the case, and you’re still thinking about where to stay, take a look at my brief guide to where to stay in Tokyo. Choose an area with at least two ticks for transport, and you will be able to get around without spending too much time on trains and subways, or too many changes.

Do you have any questions about where to stay in Tokyo, or elsewhere? Please feel free to contact me.

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For further information, the ebook Japan Just for You is a practical step-by-step guide to planning your trip to Japan, starting with developing your own personal trip concept. It’s now available on Apple, Amazon and Kobo, and other stores.