Insider's guide to Tokyo

Five Tokyo neighbourhoods to explore like a local

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RETRO: Treasures await In Yanaka Ginza, home to a thriving art scene and lots of yummy snacks to discover.

RETRO: Treasures await In Yanaka Ginza, home to a thriving art scene and lots of yummy snacks to discover.

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See the areas of Tokyo where the locals come out to eat, play and shop.

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Asakusa and Kappabashi: Looking for true Japanese traditions, arts and crafts with a local downtown atmosphere? Welcome to Asakusa, where Tokyo's iconic Sensoji Temple is the oldest Buddhist temple in the capital.

The temple entrance Kaminarimon Gate (Thunder Gate) with its giant red lantern is unmissable. Asakusa is on the Sumida River and can be reached by Tokyo Water Bus ferries, which operate from Asakusa to Hamarikyu Garden, Odaiba and Toyosu.

One of the best views of Tokyo's tallest landmark, Tokyo Skytree, can be enjoyed from the Asakusa side of Sumida River and there is good access to it from Asakusa.

Neighbouring Kappabashi, Tokyo's famous kitchenware town, is within walking distance of Asakusa. Most stores specialise in cooking and catering goods as well as traditional and modern hospitality items such as pots, pans and knives.

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ANOTHER TIME: Known as Tokyo's "Little Paris", Kagurazaka was once a lively geisha district, traces of which still exist.

ANOTHER TIME: Known as Tokyo's "Little Paris", Kagurazaka was once a lively geisha district, traces of which still exist.

Yanaka and Nezu: Often referred to as Tokyo's downtown (shitamachi), these areas escaped major damage during war and natural disaster and thus have preserved a sense of a bygone era.

The general vibe is friendly, retro and charming.

Historic sites of Yanaka Cemetery and Nezu Shrine (one of Japan's oldest shrines) are tucked away among narrow back alleys and traditional wooden houses.

Yanaka Ginza, the retro shopping street, has around 70 shops. Enjoy street food and Japanese snacks such as juicy pork cutlets, grilled squid, and freshly baked rice crackers (senbei). Yanaka and Nezu are also home to a thriving art scene.

HAGISO is a renovated wooden apartment building transformed into a hip café and gallery. SCAI the Bathhouse, formerly a public bathhouse (sento), has been turned into a contemporary art gallery.

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Nakameguro: Centered on the Meguro River and within walking distance of the fashionable districts of Daikanyama and Ebisu, Nakameguro holds its own in the sophistication stakes.

The area is home to a range of cool cafes and restaurants, hip interior and accessory shops and the newly developed Nakameguro Koukashita - 700 metres of bars and stores anchored by uber-modern bookstore Nakameguro Tsutaya Books.

Nakameguro is a bustling bastion of cool throughout the year, but you'll find the crowds swell in late March and early April when the densely packed riverside cherry trees bud and blossom, creating an ultra-photogenic tunnel of pink.

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Kagurazaka: This is a small stylish neighbourhood close to Shinjuku that was once a lively geisha district.

These days, with cobbled streets, chic shops, French schools and French restaurants, Kagurazaka is better known as Tokyo's "Little Paris".

Stroll the quiet backstreets and you'll still find signs of the area's geisha heritage: elegant traditional ryotei restaurants and kimono stores are flanked by modern Michelin-starred establishments and minimalist galleries. You may even catch a glimpse of the few remaining geisha going to their appointments.

Kagurazaka is now a relaxing place where you can explore the mix of shrines, cafes and fashionable new stores as cats sun themselves in quiet corners.

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Kichijoji:This area often tops Tokyo's most-desirable-place-to-live list, primarily because Inokashira Park is just minutes away from Kichijoji Station, and Shibuya and Shinjuku are both relatively close by.

Head out here for a day of relaxing recreation on boats and under trees, followed by an evening of authentic Japanese food and drink as you tour the standing bars of Harmonica Yokocho Alley.

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