Off the beaten path, Tokyo is full of surprises. Even as one of the most visited cities in the world, Tokyo still has many hidden gem destinations that are ripe for exploring.
Like in any city, most locals don’t regularly visit the major tourist destinations. Instead, they head toward lesser known places full of charm and local history. There are so many neighborhoods, temples, and parks that deserve more limelight.
Keep reading to discover Tokyo off the beaten path.
Tokyo’s off-the-beaten-path destinations
At just over an hour by train from Shibuya Station, Kawagoe is one of the best half day trips from Tokyo.
This small city is nicknamed “Little Edo” due to its charming streets lined with Edo-style architecture. You’ll find several small temples and shrines dotted throughout the city that make you feel far away from Tokyo’s busy city center.
The main street has many restaurants and boutique shops to explore, but the moment you step a block or two away from it there are almost no tourists.
Kawagoe is one of the best and easy-to-access getaways from Tokyo. Surprisingly, it is relatively unknown among foreign travelers.
Learn all the details you need to plan a trip to Kawagoe.
Kiyosumi Shirakawa is a historic neighborhood in eastern Tokyo well known for its many trendy coffee shops and cafes. The neighborhood streets are free from crowds and are lined with buildings of distinctly Japanese architecture.
The Kiyosumi-Shirakawa Station is approximately 25 minutes from Shibuya Station on the Hanzomon Line, making the area an easy visit from central Tokyo.
Kiyosumi Shirakawa is flanked by various waterways and has lovely promenades along Sumida-gawa, Onagi River, and Sendaibori River.
Kiyosumi Gardens is one of the best kept secrets in Tokyo. This stunning Japanese garden has few visitors, costs only ¥150 to enter as an adult, and is teeming with birds and flowers. Walk through Kiyosumi Gardens as part of your visit to the area.
The neighborhood is also home to the Fukagawa Edo Museum which has a life-size recreation of the area in 1840. This museum is a really cool immersion into Edo Period Japan.
Kiyosumi Shirakawa is a wonderful neighborhood to spend an afternoon exploring. Pop into a coffee shop or two as you wander through the old streets, walk along the rivers, and sit in Kiyosumi Gardens.
Favorite local coffee shops in Kiyosumi Shirakawa include tallskogen, Arise Coffee Roasters, iki ESPRESSO, iki Roastery & Eatery, and B2.
Want to visit more coffee shops? Check out the best local coffee shops in Tokyo.
Yanaka is a small neighborhood in northeastern Tokyo that still retains the rustic charm of the old city. You can walk from Ueno Park’s many museums to Yanaka, yet feel like you are in a completely different place and time.
Nippori Station and Sendagi Subway Station are the closest stops to Yanaka. From either of those, walk to Yanaka Cemetery to see the peaceful area where locals lay loved ones to rest. Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the last Edo Period shogun, is also buried in the cemetery.
At one of the corners of the cemetery, check out the Jizodo, the small Buddhist statue meant to protect travelers and children.
Yanaka Ginza is the narrow, main road of the neighborhood and where you can find many casual food and souvenir vendors. The street is one of the best places in Tokyo to get the authentic shitamachi feel.
Shitamachi literally means “lower town” and refers to the common people’s way of life in the old parts of east Tokyo before WWII. Experiencing shitamachi or “old Tokyo” is becoming increasingly desirable with locals and international visitors alike.
Jindaiji Temple is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in the Tokyo area and just 40 minutes west by train and bus from Shinjuku Station. The temple area was founded in 733 and rebuilt in 1919. Today, the temple and its surrounding village are a great hidden gem and half-day trip destination from Tokyo.
Visit Jindaiji to browse for souvenirs and sample traditional Japanese snacks. The area is particularly known for its fresh soba, so be sure to try a bowl for lunch.
A large botanical garden is behind Jindaji Temple that you can also visit as part of your trip.
Komazawakoen (Komazawa Olympic Park)
Komazawakoen (Komazawa Olympic Park) is a large park originally built for the 1964 Olympics. Located in Meguro and Setagaya, Komazawakoen has extensive sports facilities (like baseball fields, tennis courts, and a swimming pools) and also is a popular venue for local food festivals.
The annual Komazawa Ramen Festival invites dozens of top ramen restaurants in Tokyo to set up stands and sell their bestsellers. Check out the park’s upcoming food festival calendar.
Gotokuji Temple is a lovely temple about 30 minutes by train west of Shibuya Station that is famous for its hundreds of waving cat statues.
This peaceful temple is particularly lovely in the spring and autumn, when the surrounding trees erupt in color. Unlike many other temples in Tokyo, Gotokuji Temple remains fairly uncrowded.
Legend has it that during the Edo Period, a monk’s cat waved in a passing feudal lord to take refuge at the temple during a thunderstorm. Since then, the temple is lovingly referred to as the “Lucky Cat Temple” and has hundreds of small statues of waving cats.
Gotokuji Temple is one of the most unique hidden gem temples in Tokyo and absolutely worth a visit. Read more details here.
Wadabori Park is a serene, riverside park west of Tokyo with a pond, open fields, and many walkways. The park has several restaurants, cafes, and playgrounds and is a particularly great destination for families.
Next door to the park lies Omiya Hachiman Shrine, the third largest Shinto Shrine in the Tokyo area. The shrine was established in 1063 and is a beautiful place to visit before or after Wadabori Park.
Wadabori Park is one of the best off-the-beaten-path locations in Tokyo if you’re looking for a tranquil afternoon in the sun. Few tourists visit this area, so you’ll be able to experience a calm side of Tokyo.
Odaiba Beach is an urban beachfront with a long promenade that is the easiest beach to access from Tokyo. The beach is a 35 minute direct train ride on the Saikyō Line from Shibuya Station. Odaiba Beach has gorgeous views of the Tokyo skyline, particularly at night.
Note that you can sunbathe and play on the beach, but not swim in the water. The beach occasionally has local food events that you can check out.
Kagurazaka, Tokyo’s “Little Paris”, is a small neighborhood west of Iidabashi Station that is known for its many French restaurants and cafes. This neighborhood is often overlooked for larger, trendier areas like Shimokitazawa, but I argue that Kagurazaka is worth a visit. Kagurazaka tends to be less crowded and has a relaxed atmosphere for a leisurely lunch or stroll.
Some recommendations for French restaurants in Kagurazaka include: Bisous Kagurazaka, Kamikura, L’Alliance, Le Bretagne Creperie, and Le Bretagne Bar a Cidre.
Tamagawadai Park is a lovely park along the Tama River on the south side of Tokyo. The park has botanical gardens, many flowers, and is a great place to spend a few free hours enjoying the sunshine. You can also walk or run along the Tama River if you’d like to stretch your legs a bit.
Compared to many other parks in Tokyo, Tamagawadai Park is less known so you won’t find large crowds here. The park is just two stations past the up-and-coming Jiyugaoka neighborhood, so stop by Jiyugaoka for lunch or coffee before relaxing in the park.
Zojo-ji is a centuries-old Buddhist temple in the shadows of Tokyo Tower (most of the buildings are reconstructions as the original structures were destroyed over the centuries by fires, earthquakes, and war).
This temple offers some of the best views of Tokyo Tower in the city, yet is an often overlooked destination for visitors.
Every summer, Zojo-ji hosts a Tanabata celebration that features hundreds of paper lanterns lit along the staircase to the temple’s main hall. I highly recommend checking out this festival if you’re able to as it is a very special and unique visual experience.
The eastern Tokyo neighborhood of Shimabata harkens back to small-town, Edo Period Japan. This quaint area offers a main street with shops selling traditional Japanese goods, a historical temple, and several local museums.
Visit Shimabata as a quick half day trip from central Tokyo and meander through the neighborhood’s small streets. If you’re looking for a quiet escape to see traditional Japanese architecture and sample local foods, Shimabata is a lovely choice.