So, you’re thinking about where to stay in Tokyo. Sure, Shibuya and Shinjuku look cool- they’re right in the middle of everything!
The main downsides to these areas are that they’re:
1) Noisy at night if you decide you want to get some rest
2) Usually pricier than other areas of Tokyo as they’re right where most tourists want to stay
3) Harder to book at short notice because of their popularity
But thanks to Japan’s amazing public transport systems, staying just outside the epicentre of Tokyo doesn’t mean you can be there every day! What’s more, staying in a more low-key neighbourhood lets you soak up the everyday Japanese life missed by so many travellers.
A neighbourhood in the Sumida area, Ryogoku is 22 minutes from Shinjuku-Nishiguchi station on the Toei Oedo Line (although this feels much shorter for some reason). Here, you’re in the middle of Sumo Japan, with the Ryogoku Kokugikan (sumo stadium) an important landmark in the area, as well as the massively popular Edo-Tokyo Museum, my personal favourite pick of Tokyo’s museums.
In this neighbourhood, you’re also a short walk from:
– Dozens of places to eat chanko-nabe, the official dish of the sumo
– Beautiful gardens and sunny public areas
– The Tokyo Dome (baseball, anyone? Also home to a great anime and manga merchandise store)
– Views of the Tokyo Skytree
– Arguably the best Indian restaurant in Tokyo (ya know, if you need a break from chanko-nabe). I ate here TWICE and would have gone back again if so many other things hadn’t been calling my name… The staff are super friendly, speak English and Japanese, and have vegetarian options on offer.
– The Sumida Hokusai Museum (image below), where you can check out beautiful ukiyo-e art by the master, Hokusai
A personal account of staying in Ryogoku
I was lucky enough to stay in this area for around a week in mid-March (end of Winter and start of Spring in Tokyo). I stayed at the excellent Anne Hostel Yokozuna, voted the best hostel in Tokyo in 2016 and only a 4-minute walk from Ryogoku metro station.
Most days I’d get up and head to a local bakery (pan-ya in Japanese) and munch on some delicious Melon Bread and sip coffee before heading out to a nearby attraction such as the fantastic Jimbocho (the second-hand book capital of Japan, if not the world) or even Asakusa. Other days I’d walk along the river and admire the free public art displays on show.
Finding great food to eat in Ryogoku is never a difficult task. In fact, the only challenge is choosing from the wide variety of amazing things on offer! Sukemen (noodles dipped in broth), tempura, Indian curry… you’re spoilt for choice! Best of all, everything is right near the station, so you can easily catch up with friends and go grab a drink.
Some final thoughts
If you can, try to visit this area. It’s a laid-back and fun area to be in without being too busy, but there’s certainly enough to keep you entertained. Plus, you’re not too far from all of Tokyo’s famous sights and sounds!
All photos copyright Steph Newman 2017
This article also appeared on Japan Travel, a free resource for tourists in Japan