Strolling in Tokyo’s shitamachi districts
Tokyo (東京) is one of the most populous cities in the world, and there are many ways to get around in a city of that size. One way is by walking, and taking strolls around Tokyo can be surprisingly fun. In particular, there is a region in Tokyo where strolls can be an enriching and rewarding experience: the city’s waterfront area, where it used to be the downtown centre of an old era.
For this article, we will be going on strolling tours around the shitamachi (下町) areas of Tokyo, which are low-lying areas located near the Tokyo Bay (東京湾 Tōkyō-wan) and the Sumida River (隅田川 Sumida-gawa). The region includes popular districts such as Asakusa, Nihonbashi, Yaesu, Tsukiji, and many others, and was the original downtown centre of Edo (江戸 former name of Tokyo) during the Edo Period (江戸時代 Edo-jidai, 1603–1867). These areas have undergone major changes through the generations, transforming into lively commercial and entertainment districts.
Strolling tours in Tokyo’s shitamachi areas. (Image credit: Google Maps)
This year’s Olympic Games are also finally underway, so Tokyo is currently hosting one of the biggest sports events in the world. What better way to celebrate this festive occasion than with a stroll around the host venue! Let us see what we can find in the shitamachi areas of the city.
① Asakusa → ② TOKYO SKYTREE
For the first segment of our strolling tour in Tokyo's shitamachi areas, we will explore Asakusa, a famous district that has attracted visitors from all over the world for generations. Asakusa was historically known as a boisterous entertainment district during the Edo Period, and today it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area. When it comes to exploring this district, one outstanding spot immediately comes to mind.
Senso-ji Temple (浅草寺)
Kaminarimon, an iconic landmark in Asakusa. (Image credit: Japan Rail Cafe Tokyo / Nakamura)
Asakusa is synonymous with Sensō-ji Temple, one of Tokyo’s oldest and most significant temples, and also one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. And when it comes to Sensō-ji Temple, most people would immediately envision the imposing image of Kaminarimon (雷門 Thunder Gate). Standing at 11.7m and spanning 11.4m, this is the outer gate of the temple, and it’s a favourite photo-taking spot among visitors.
Four statues depicting Shinto gods are also housed within the gate: Fūjin (風神 Wind God) and Raijin (雷神 Thunder God) on the front side, and Tenryū (天龍 Heavenly Dragon) and Kinryū (金龍 Golden Dragon) on the reverse side.
Nakamise Shopping District. (Image credit: Japan Rail Cafe Tokyo / Nakamura)
Step beyond Kaminarimon, and you will set foot into the famous Nakamise Shopping Street (仲見世商店街 Nakamise-shōtengai). This shopping street is on the property of Sensō-ji Temple, and ‘nakamise’ is a traditional name given to shopping streets located on temple grounds. Here you can find stores selling traditionally Japanese products and souvenirs, such as traditional snacks and sweets (お菓子 okashi), traditional clothes such as kimono (着物) and geta (下駄 traditional wooden clogs), traditional handicrafts, and much more. You can even find a store here that sells authentic Japanese swords!
Aerial view of Nakamise Shopping Street. (Image credit: Japan Rail Cafe Tokyo / Nakamura)
After exploring all the many stores that line both sides of the street, make your way to the end of the stretch and you shall reach Hōzōmon Gate (宝蔵門 Treasure-House Gate), the Sensō-ji Temple’s inner gate. This gate is even bigger than Kaminarimon, standing over 22m high and spanning more than 20m wide!
Hōzōmon Gate (left) and Sensō-ji Temple. (Image credit: Japan Rail Cafe Tokyo / Nakamura)
After Hōzōmon Gate is finally Sensō-ji Temple, the centrepiece of the entire compound. The Buddhist Temple is dedicated to Kannon Bosatsu, the Bodhisattva of compassion, and numerous visitors from all over the world come here to pay respects to the deity. There are also many omikuji (おみくじ) stalls here where they can donate ¥100 and get a fortune slip and get divine answers.
Sensō-ji Temple (浅草寺)
Address: 2-3-1 Asakusa, Taito, Tokyo 111-0032
Nearest station: Asakusa Station (浅草駅)
Opening hours: 6:00–17:00 (from 6:30 onwards from October to March)
Admission fee: none
Bonus: a rickshaw ride!
Enjoying a rickshaw ride while in Asakusa. (Image credit: Japan Rail Cafe Tokyo / Nakamura)
While visiting Sensō-ji Temple and Asakusa as a whole, why not enjoy a ride on a rickshaw? Asakusa and the area around Kaminarimon are filled with energetic rickshaw pullers who are more than happy to bring you around the district on two wheels! For a small fee, the rickshaw pullers will bring you around famous sites in Asakusa as well as lesser-known spots worthy of your interest. Some of them speak English, and can even regale you with lore about the places!
For the next part of our walking adventure, we will be making our way eastwards to another imposing structure that, unlike Sensō-ji Temple, effuses modernity and towers high into the sky.
TOKYO SKYTREE (東京スカイツリー)
Just a 20-minute walk from Sensō-ji Temple, and across the Sumida River, is the magnificent TOKYO SKYTREE. This broadcasting and observation tower was completed and opened in 2012, and with a height of 634m, it is the tallest structure in Japan and the second tallest in the world.
Here’s a fun fact for you: the tower’s height can also be read as ‘Mu-sa-shi’ (6-3-4), which is a reference to the old name of the area around the tower!
TOKYO SKYTREE, viewed from the ground. (Image credit: Japan Rail Cafe Tokyo / Nakamura)
There are two observation decks on the tower, both of which offer amazing 360-degree panoramic views of Tokyo’s skyline. One is named TEMBO DECK, at an altitude of 350m and accommodating capacity of up to 2,000 people. This deck is made up of three floors, and specially features the following:
- Floor 340: a glass floor where visitors can walk on and view the steep drop below (not for the faint-hearted!)
- Floor 345: Sky Restaurant 634, serving ‘Tokyo Cuisine’ inspired by the ‘spirit and character of Shitamachi’ with a sky view
- Floor 350: Tembo Deck Floor 350 Commemorative Photography corner, and SKY CAFÉ
TEMBO DECK directory (left) and Sorakara Point on TEMBO GALLERIA (right). (Image credit: Japan Rail Cafe Tokyo / Nakamura)
The other observation deck is named TEMBO GALLERIA, at an altitude of 450m and accommodating capacity of 900 people. This deck has two floors, and specially features the following:
- Floor 445: the Tembo Galleria Floor 445 Commemorative Photography corner
- Floor 450: Sorakara Point (ソラカラポイント), the highest point in the tower accessible to visitors (451.2m)
Panoramic view of Tokyo’s skyline from TEMBO GALLERIA. (Image credit: Japan Rail Cafe Tokyo / Nakamura)
The base of the tower features a shopping mall named Tokyo Solamachi on the second and third floor, housing all kinds of stores and restaurants, and a tourist information counter on the fifth floor.
Going up the tower is naturally the goal of most visitors at TOKYO SKYTREE, and needless to say, it’s a memorable experience to have an unobstructed view of the entire city. I personally remember the first time I visited the tower in June 2012 when it just opened, and it became one of my favourite go-to spots in Tokyo. Give this place a try; it’s an opportunity you don’t want to miss.
TOKYO SKYTREE (東京スカイツリー)
Address: 1-1-2 Oshiage, Sumida, Tokyo 131-0045
Nearest station: Tokyo Skytree Station (とうきょうスカイツリー駅) / Oshiage Station (押上駅)
Opening hours: 10:00–20:00 (last entry at 19:00, subject to change on New Year’s holidays)
Weekdays: ¥3,100 per adult (combo ticket for TEMBO DECK and TEMBO GALLERIA)
Weekends / holidays: ¥3,400 per adult (combo ticket for TEMBO DECK and TEMBO GALLERIA)
Bonus: Sumida River Terrace, Part 1 (隅田川テラス)
Sumida River Terrace, with TOKYO SKYTREE in the distance. (Image credit: Japan Rail Cafe Tokyo / Nakamura)
The Sumida River is a river that is over 27km long, and flows through many parts of Tokyo and into the Tokyo Bay. Many visitors love the serene river, and a great way to enjoy it is via the Sumida River Terrace, which are terraces built along the riverbanks. These terraces are located across a few kilometres along the river, and make for scenic spots for visitors to relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings by the water.
One scenic spot along the Sumida River Terrace is located in Asakusa where, as visitors make their way from the district to TOKYO SKYTREE, can capture a view of the tower in the background of the river alongside the Asahi Flame, an iconic monument of a golden fire atop Asahi Beer Hall. Don’t miss this amazing scene when you make your way across Sumida River to the tower!
③ Nihonbashi (日本橋)
An ukiyo-e painting of Nihonbashi during the Edo Period. (Image credit: MaaYu / MEIBIS+)
To understand the history of Tokyo's shitamachi areas, we must explore Nihonbashi, the central business district of Tokyo. Named after the namesake bridge that stretches over the Nihonbashi River (日本橋川 Nihonbashi-gawa) and connects the two sides of it, this district is one of the major business hubs in Tokyo. However, historically it was the epicentre of Edo’s shitamachi areas and has always been a major commercial hub in Japan.
In fact, it was the starting point of the ‘Five Routes’ (五街道 Gokaidō), which were five major commercial routes that connected Edo to other parts of Japan, so many people and goods gathered from all parts of the country to this district. This is how the current national highways of Japan came to be, and this district is where it all began. You can even say that all roads (in Japan) lead to Nihonbashi!
Nihonbashi Bridge in Nihonbashi. (Image credit: photoAC)
The iconic namesake Nihonbashi Bridge, originally built as a simple wooden bridge in 1603 and later rebuilt with stone and steel in 1911, still stands today in the district. It stretches underneath a highway that was built in conjunction with the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Many locals petitioned for the highway to be moved underground, and a lot of planning was made to realise this huge endeavour. The construction to move the highway underground is scheduled to begin this year, in conjunction with this year’s Tokyo Olympics, and is expected to be completed by 2040.
The highway over the Nihonbashi Bridge. (Image credit: photoAC)
Nihonbashi is one of the most historically significant districts in Tokyo and Japan as a whole. To understand Tokyo’s shitamachi areas, you have to explore one of the core districts, so do check this place out.
④ Tsukiji → ⑤ Tsukishima
Next up, we’re moving to Tsukiji and Tsukishima, two districts in the shitamachi areas that is specially for all foodies out there. These two districts have a well-known reputation of being gourmet streets, and we begin with one that is synonymous with fresh and delicious seafood.
Tsukiji Outer Market (築地場外市場)
Tsukiji Outer Market entrance. (Image credit: Japan Rail Cafe Tokyo / Nakamura)
Tsukiji’s name would immediately invoke vivid images for many people: a wholesale market selling fresh a wide variety of fish, numerous shops selling fresh seafood straight from the market next door, and the all-famous tuna auction held in the wee hours of the morning. Tsukiji was home to the Tsujiki Market (築地市場 Tsukiji shijō), which was the largest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world, and many people from all the world have come here to experience the wonders of Tsukiji’s seafood.
Tsukiji was built on reclaimed land that was constructed from the low-lying marshes of the Sumida River delta. In fact, the name ‘Tsukiji’ actually means ‘constructed land’ or ‘reclaimed land’. Tsukiji Market opened here in 1935, and as the years passed, the traffic volume rapidly increased and talks began on moving Tsukiji’s inner wholesale market (場内市場 jōnai-shijō) to Toyosu (豊洲). The inner market’s move to Toyosu was to take place in 2016, in preparation of upcoming Tokyo Olympics originally scheduled in 2020, but was delayed until 2018.
Tsukiji Outer Market. (Image credit: Japan Rail Cafe Tokyo / Nakamura)
Although Tsukiji’s famous inner wholesale market is no longer in Tsukiji, the outer market still remains in the district. Tsukiji Outer Market features a mix of wholesale and retail shops selling products ranging from groceries and seafood to restaurant supplies and even Japanese knives. But most of all, the outer market has a wide range of sushi restaurants featuring the best sushi in the district.
One of the many sushi restaurants at Tsukiji. (Image credit: Japan Rail Cafe Tokyo / Nakamura)
Visitors craving for sushi will be spoilt for choice when they visit Tsukiji Outer Market. It’s very much still the go-to spot for sushi lovers, and it remains to be a highly popular place for breakfast or lunch. Some restaurants open as early as 5am in the morning, and most are open until late afternoon. The restaurants’ ingredients are currently delivered straight from Toyosu Market (豊洲市場 Toyosu-ichiba) a few kilometres away, so they’re just as fresh as they were when they were operating in Tsukiji.
Feast on a scrumptious sushi platter while at Tsukiji. (Image credit: Japan Rail Cafe Tokyo / Nakamura)
If picking a sushi restaurant at Tsukiji is hard, wait until you see the menus available! Every sushi restaurant here has something special to offer, especially when different varieties of fish and seafood are in season, so why not treat yourself to a luxurious sushi platter? And with direct access to the freshest seafood, the restaurants at Tsukiji will not only offer sushi made with the freshest ingredients, but you can also enjoy them at affordable prices.
Tsukiji Outer Market (築地場外市場)
Address: 4-16-2 Tsukiji, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0045
Nearest station: Tsukiji Station (築地駅)
Opening hours: typically 5:00–14:00 (differs by shop / restaurant)
Admission fee: None
Tsukishima Monja Street. (Image credit: photoAC)
Tsukishima is another place in the shitamachi area in Tokyo, located near the mouth of Sumida River. It is an island that, similar to Tsukiji, was built using land reclamation that was completed in 1892. The area used to be an industrial site, with many factories and warehouses located in the area. Nowadays, Tsukishima is witnessing more high-rise buildings and becoming more modern.
One interesting fact about this place lies in its name: one theory states that Tsukishima was originally spelled 築島 (tsukishima), which means ‘constructed island’ or ‘reclaimed island’, following the same naming convention as Tsukiji. However, another theory claims that the current name (月島 moon island) is named after a famous moon-viewing spot named Tsuki no Misaki (月の岬) in the Tokyo Bay area.
Tsukishima Monja Street directory. (Image credit: Japan Rail Cafe Tokyo / Nakamura)
But do you know the best part about Tsukishima? It’s home to the Tsukishima Monja Street (月島もんじゃストリート Tsukishima Monja sutorīto), where you can find an endless row of restaurants specialising in monjayaki (もんじゃ焼き)! The area is a haven for the popular dish, and with over 70 restaurants offering monjayaki, and visitors will be spoilt for choice yet again on which restaurant to go with.
Monjayaki is a pan-fried batter dish that is highly popular in the Kanto Region (関東地方 Kantō-chihō) and is said to have originated in Tsukishima. It is often compared to the more popular okonomiyaki (お好み焼き), which hails from the Kansai Region (関西地方 Kansai-chihō), because of its similarity in food type, ingredients, and cooking style. However, unlike okonomiyaki, more broth or water is added to the batter which makes it runnier.
Cooking up monjayaki on a grill. (Video credit: Japan Rail Cafe Tokyo / Nakamura)
There are important steps to take in order to make good monjayaki. The restaurants serve you the batter in a bowl with all the ingredients in it, but you must cook them in separate order. First, you should put the solid ingredients—meats, seafood, vegetables, etc.—to be fried on the grill to cook them (note: do not pour the broth just yet). You can chop them up into finer pieces using metal spatulas.
After they’re done, make a circle with the ingredients on the grill called a dote (土手 embankment) with the metal spatulas, and pour the broth into it. Once the broth thickens and becomes firm, you can then mix it with the rest of the ingredients and spread the batter out like a big flat pancake, and you’re done.
Enjoying monjayaki. (Image credit: Japan Rail Cafe Tokyo / Nakamura)
Monjayaki makes for a unique dining experience because of how it’s enjoyed. As the batter sizzles on top of the grill, diners use a small spatula to eat monjayaki straight from the grill. But be careful; you’re eating it straight from the grill, so it’s going to be hot.
It’s a fun dining experience best enjoyed in groups, so if you’re aching for some monjayaki, head on down to the ‘mecca of monjayaki’ that is Tsukishima and eat to your heart’s content.
Tsukishima Monja Street (月島もんじゃストリート)
Address: 3-9-9 Tsukishima, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0052
Nearest station: Tsukishima Station (月島駅)
Opening hours: 11:00–23:00 (differs according to restaurant, may be affected due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic)
Bonus: Sumida River Terrace, Part 2 (隅田川テラス)
Sumida River Terrace. (Image credit: photoAC)
As mentioned earlier in this article, the Sumida River Terrace spans along the river, and they make for a great place for people seeking a good view of the river and surrounding areas. Sumida River is particularly picturesque because it passes under many bridges, and one place to enjoy this scenery is near Tsukishima, in the area of Kachidoki between Kachidoki Bridge and Tsukiji Great Bridge.
This park is usually quiet and visited only by a few people, but it offers a peaceful respite from Tokyo’s hustle and bustle, and the night view is particularly pretty when the bridges nearby are lit up. It’s a hidden gem that’s not to be missed, so do remember to seek this place out if you’re nearby.
⑥ Takeshiba → ⑦ Hama-Rikyū Gardens
For the third and last segment of our strolling tour, we move on to Takeshiba (竹芝), a business district overlooking the Tokyo Bay. It is part of the city’s large-scale redevelopment project to transform this area into a global business hub, with new state-of-the-art buildings and complexes being built in the area. And with its close proximity to Haneda International Airport and Tokyo Bay, it is often regarded as the ‘gateway to the sea and sky’.
Here, we shall start our adventure with a visit to a pier that offers an amazing view of the bay area.
Takeshiba Pier Park (竹芝ふ頭公園)
Takeshiba Pier Park. (Image credit: photoAC)
Takeshiba Pier Park is a chic and picturesque park along Takeshiba Pier, which faces the Tokyo Bay. It’s the perfect place to chill and relax, and visitors can simply sit back, unwind, and enjoy the breathtaking view of the bay area. The park is also where visitors will pass by to reach Takeshiba Wharf and Ferry Terminal, the boarding point for amazing cruises around the Tokyo Bay.
View of Rainbow Bridge from Takeshiba Pier at night. (Image credit: photoAC)
What’s more, the park’s ambiance transforms as night falls, and visitors will be able to see the majestic Rainbow Bridge (レインボーブリッジ) lit up in the distance. The bridge is a suspension bridge that connects mainland Tokyo to Odaiba (お台場), and it’s magical to see it shining at night from the park. It makes for a perfectly romantic night, so do not miss the opportunity to check it out.
Takeshiba Pier Park (竹芝ふ頭公園)
Address: 1-12 Kaigan, Minato, Tokyo 105-0022
Nearest station: Takeshiba Station (竹芝駅)
Opening hours: 24 hours
Admission fee: none
BONUS: Seven Islands of Izu and Ogasawara Islands
Here’s a big insider info for all you adventurous travellers: the park and the ferry terminal are the starting point for visitors who want to embark on a journey to the Seven Islands of Izu (伊豆七島 Izu-shichitō), a group of volcanic islands located off the Izu Peninsula (伊豆半島 Izu-hantō). The islands are known for their pristine natural beauty—white sandy beaches, magnificent view of Mount Mihara (三原山 Mihara-yama), and unique flora—and are highly popular among tourists during the summer when they can take part in activities such as hiking, scuba diving, fishing, and bird watching.
A passenger ship bound for Ogasawara Islands. (Image credit: photoAC)
If you want to explore even more islands, you can set forth from Takeshiba Pier to the Ogasawara Islands (小笠原群島 Ogasawara Guntō), an archipelago of over 30 islands that is approximately 1,000km off the south of Tokyo. Regarded as the ‘Galapagos of the Orient’, the islands are listed under UNESCO’s World Heritage List for its unique ecosystem, where many flora and fauna here can’t be found elsewhere. There are liners embarking from Takeshiba Pier to these islands every week, and the journey on the sea may take more than 24 hours.
WATERS Takeshiba (ウォーターズ竹芝)
WATERS Takeshiba. (Image credit: Japan Rail Cafe Tokyo / Nakamura)
Next up is WATERS Takeshiba, a precinct that features a waterfront multiplex that combines modern architecture with natural greenery. It is part of the Takeshiba Waterfront Development Project by JR East, where it aims to create a new hub for business and tourism, heighten the value of Takeshiba by creating a focal point of arts and culture, and collaborate with local communities, municipal governments, and companies to invigorate the area.
Along with Takeshiba Pier Park, other facilities at WATERS Takeshiba include a 26-floor business tower, a 10-floor carpark, the shopping mall atré Takeshiba, and three theatres. Also, it includes one special hotel…
mesm Tokyo, Autograph Collection
mesm Tokyo, Autograph Collection. (Image credit: mesm Tokyo, Autograph Collection)
mesm Tokyo, Autograph Collection is a highly luxurious 5-star hotel located in the WATERS Takeshiba precinct. The hotel’s name derives from the word ‘mesmerise’, as the hotel seeks to mesmerise their patrons’ senses with music, art, food, and drinks.
View of Takeshiba and Tokyo’s skyline from mesm Tokyo. (Image credit: mesm Tokyo, Autograph Collection)
Moreover, with its strategic location in WATERS Takeshiba, mesm Tokyo offers a spectacular view of Takeshiba that simply leaves their patrons ‘mesmerised’. Patrons will enjoy the best waterfront view, and with the combination of Japanese hospitality and Western-style opulence, mesm Tokyo aims to pamper its patrons with an unparalleled staying experience.
For those who would relish a stay at a luxurious hotel in Takeshiba, look no further than mesm Tokyo!
mesm Tokyo offers a mesmerising staying experience in Takeshiba. (Image credit: mesm Tokyo, Autograph Collection)
mesm Tokyo, Autograph Collection (メズム東京、オートグラフ コレクション)
Address: 1-10-30 Kaigan, Minato, Tokyo 105-0022
Nearest station: Takeshiba Station (竹芝駅)
Hama-Rikyū Gardens (浜離宮恩賜庭園)
Aerial view of Hama-Rikyū Gardens. (Image credit: Japan Rail Cafe Tokyo / Nakamura)
Hama-Rikyū Gardens is a sprawling urban public park located at the mouth of Sumida River. With an area of over 25 hectares, the park is surrounded by a moat filled by the Tokyo Bay, and was first opened in 1946. It is also designated as a Special National Historic Site as well as a Special Place of Scenic Beauty.
Hama-Rikyū Gardens’s traditional Japanese landscape. (Image credit: photoAC)
What makes Hama-Rikyū Gardens particularly special is its rich history and distinctively Japanese landscape. The park used to belong to the ruling Tokugawa shogunate during the Edo Period, and after the Meiji Restoration, the site was named Hama-Rikyū (浜離宮 Hama Palace). After being destroyed during the Great Kanto Earthquake and then World War 2, the site was restored and transferred to the city, and finally opened to the public in 1946.
The park features a placid Shio-iri Pond (汐入の池 Shioiri-no-ike) and a teahouse in the middle that is connected by three wooden bridges. The whole park exudes an authentically Japanese atmosphere, and visitors can even enjoy a traditional experience of matcha and Japanese sweets here. There’s also peony garden, a plum tree grove, and a flowerbed featuring seasonal flowers.
Hama-Rikyū Gardens sits in pure serenity in the background of the bustling Tokyo skyline, in stark contrast of the city’s lively ambiance. It makes for the perfect quiet retreat from the city for all visitors, and I strongly recommend everyone to pay a visit to this aesthetically amazing park.
Hama-Rikyū Gardens (浜離宮恩賜庭園)
Address: 1-1 Hamarikyuteien, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0046
Nearest station: Shidome Station (汐留駅)
Opening hours: 24 hours
Admission fees: none
Bonus: Tokyo Mizube Cruising Line (東京水辺ライン)
Tokyo Mizube Cruising Line. (Image credit: photoAC)
Fancy a not-so-usual way of travelling around Tokyo? Why not try the Tokyo Mizube Cruising Line, a water bus service that traverses along the Tokyo Bay? By using the bay for its transport routing, it conveniently transports visitors to places around the area such as Odaiba and Hama-Rikyu. There are several courses available, and you can hop on it to explore different parts of Tokyo that you never thought possible, so do try this water bus service out.
As one of the largest cities in the world, Tokyo is full of unexplored places, so no matter how often you have visited the capital city, there’s always something new to learn and discover. The shitamachi areas are steeped with rich history and is constantly evolving, so it’s always fascinating to know how the region is changing with the times, especially with new large-scale development projects that will change the city landscape for the better. When you have the opportunity, make a trip to the capital city of Japan, and explore on foot the historical low-lying regions of the city that is full of surprises!
(Insider tip: if you’re planning to travel to Tokyo and other parts of eastern Japan, do check out JR East’s rail passes!)
JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area)
The new JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area) and where you can use it. (Image credit: JR East)
The JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area) is an affordable pass that offers unlimited train rides on JR East lines, including bullet trains, within the valid area for 5 consecutive days. It's only ¥20,000, making it a great option for visitors to Tohoku and parts of Tokyo. You can also make seat reservations for bullet trains, some limited express trains and Joyful Trains online for free, up to 1 month in advance, here. It can also be used for automatic ticket gates, and foreign passport holders living in Japan are also eligible to use this pass.
JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata area)
The new JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata area) and where you can use it. (Image credit: JR East)
The JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata area) is an affordable pass that offers unlimited rail travel on JR East lines (including bullet trains) in the valid area for 5 consecutive days. At only ¥18,000, making it a great option for visitors to Nagano, Niigata and parts of Tokyo. You can also make seat reservations for bullet trains, some limited express trains and Joyful Trains online for free, up to 1 month in advance, here. It can also be used for automatic ticket gates, and foreign passport holders living in Japan are also eligible to use this pass.
JR TOKYO Wide Pass
The JR TOKYO Wide Pass, and where you can use it. (Image credit: JR East)
If you’re thinking of visiting Tokyo and nearby areas within the region, then the JR TOKYO Wide Pass is the one for you. It is an affordable pass offering unlimited rail travel on JR East lines (including bullet trains) in the valid area for 3 consecutive days. At ¥10,180, you can use it to travel around Tokyo and many other places within the designated areas. You can also make seat reservations online for free, up to 1 month in advance, here. It can also be used for automatic ticket gates, and foreign passport holders living in Japan are also eligible to use this pass.
Header image credit: Japan Rail Cafe Tokyo / Nakamura