Tokyo 2021 Hearts Compilation | To travel
Todoroki, Komazawa, Ookayama… Our Heartlands series delves into the local charm and atmospheres of Tokyo’s less-visited neighborhoods, digging beyond typical tourist spots and sprawling shopping malls to uncover local gems and top spots. To celebrate the end of 2021 and welcome 2022, we’re rounding up our favorite Heartlands items from the year and reintroducing the areas you need to add to your list of places to explore in early 2022.
An incessant flow of people pulses through the station; crowds of hurried commuters, dinner seekers and tourists. Ebisu feels like it has a bit of everything: entertainment, workspaces, and dining. Taking its name from the Japanese god of fishermen and luck, Ebisu has not always been a place of posh urban development, city trains and high-rise office space. A statue of the region’s smiling namesake happily watches the action on a podium just outside the main train station exit – a hint of the city’s brewing roots. Perhaps due to Ebisu’s proximity to the elegant neighborhoods of Meguro and a wealth of upscale accommodations nearby, the bustling town may be part of Shibuya but has an attitude of its own. It’s a satisfying combination of Tokyo life, part down to earth and part glam.
Read more Heartlands: Ebisu
Unlike Yoyogi, Komazawa Olympic Park was not re-commissioned to compete in Tokyo 2020, but with its sci-fi sports structures, it’s a must-visit for anyone interested in architecture, sport or just hang out in one of Tokyo’s best parks. But the park is not just about athletics. The steps leading to the main entrance become a meeting place for couples and friends. People sip drinks, eat snacks and enjoy the wide open sky; below, basketball players compete for the hoop and large gangs of dance groups practice their choreographed jump rope routines. And skaters polish their tricks at the skate park. Sitting here on the steps, next to the buzz of others on a summer evening, you feel happy to be in Tokyo.
Read more Heartlands: Komazawa
Koenji gives off an edgy and lively vibe. There’s a punk vibe that goes along with neighborhood establishments, grocery stores and generations-old cafes that continue to spin alongside their younger neighbors. But away from the gritty alleys (at least for Tokyo), Shinkoenji sleeps south of Koenji. As well as vintage shops, independent cafes and other stylish hangouts, this peaceful part of town is also home to a collection of shrines and temples. In fact, whole groups of them can be found around Shinkoenji streets, adding a historical touch to the counterculture for which this part of Tokyo has become so famous – a great place for a slow stroll on an afternoon. sunny.
Read more Heartlands: Shinkoenji
1960s pop hit melodies ring out from Ookayama speakers shotengai (shopping street). A village-like area home to young students, families, and older generations who grew up in the neighborhood, Ookayama has an easy vibe – a small-town silence that almost makes it feel like a separate entity from high speed city life. A combination of old-fashioned downtown charisma and modern conveniences make Ookayama an inviting place to live, but a visit is also a relaxing way to spend a day exploring a lesser-known part of town. At first glance, this may seem calm and uninteresting. But as laid-back tunes wash over shotengai and locals stroll the streets, it feels like visitors can easily slip in to sample the sights and sounds of this village within a city.
Read more Heartlands: Ookayama
Beneath the looming Tokyo Skytree lies the dense shitamachi (downtown) of northern Koto Ward. This part of the capital is criss-crossed by waterways, haunted by old industry and dotted with residential sprawls. Amidst it all are areas that are eminently discoverable, businesses once etched out of necessity that have become livable spaces. One of them is the Yokojikken River, a waterway transformed into a maze of waterfront parks and paths, forming a huge outdoor space much loved by local residents. Nearby, with his fortune made feeding factory workers, is Sunamachi Ginza. Both are rooted in a regenerating city of the past and both endure, important as ever; something that can be hard to see among the confused crowds of central Tokyo.
Read more Heartlands: Sunamachi Ginza
Want to be an expert on the neighborhoods of Tokyo and beyond? Also see our travel page.