Tokyo’s backstreets teem with local shops, traditional bars and restaurants, inconspicuous shrines and temples, and Tokyoites going about their daily lives—it’s a side of the city every visitor should experience. Here are some of the best places to do so.
Step back into old Japan with a stroll through the backstreets of Asakusa. This neighborhood on the banks of the Sumida-gawa is dotted with soba and tempura shops, Buddhist shrines, artisan boutiques, and Tokyo’s oldest temple, Senso-ji Temple.
Famous for its extreme youth fashion, Harajuku’s back streets are filled with hidden gems. In these alleys, known as ura Harajuku or simply ura Hara for short, you’ll find quirky galleries, cozy cafes, vintage clothing shops, and even a tarot fortune teller.
The maze-like streets of the three neighborhoods collectively known as Yanesen (Yanaka, Nezu, and Sendagi) offer a glimpse of retro Tokyo, where highlights include a sweet shop dating back to 1912, a century-old bamboo shop, soba noodle stands, and small shops selling beckoning cat-related items.
Best known as Tokyo’s red light entertainment district, Shinjuku is also home to one of the city’s best food-centric back alleys, Omoide Yokocho. Nicknamed Memory Lake or Piss Alley depending on who you ask, this narrow lane is lined with stalls selling yakitori skewers to wash down with sake and beer. It’s a lively nighttime destination for great food.