Tokyo is the sprawling, seething, neon-hazed capital of Japan. A megacity of more than 37 million people, it’s a heady overload of ramen stalls and sizzling BBQ kitchens, manga emporiums and steel-dressed skyscrapers that sprout like a forest of trees across the midriff of Honshu Island. At least it’s a heady overload until you discover those gingko-peppered, cherry-blossoming Shinto shrines and the lovely serene interiors of the traditional ryokan inns. Party nights, Michelin-starred food, East Asian art collections, sumo showdowns – there’s all sorts awaiting in this fantastic capital. It’s not one to miss out on.
Airbnb is a major source of private rooms and short-term property rentals in Tokyo. Check out the thousands of listings across the vast cityscape to discover everything from cheap and cheerful box rooms with comfy double beds to grand penthouses with their own terraces that gaze over the skyline. This guide can help you home in on the perfect pad in the Japanese metropolis, and offers insights into the parts of the city that will stoke your wanderlust the most.
Yep. Airbnb in Tokyo is all perfectly legal. The government did impose a few extra rules for hosts back in 2018, but it simply asked for renters to register their properties with local authorities. That seems to have caused a temporary dip in the number of listings in the capital that are available on the platform, but things are slowly creeping back to normal. As a guest, you will be asked to present your passport upon check-in (or even before) and might have to pay a small tourist tax to boot.
Where should I stay in Tokyo Airbnb?
Tokyo is such a vast and seemingly endless metropolis that it can be a real chore getting your head around the wealth of neighbourhoods that are on the Airbnb menu. Perhaps you could start with the bright lights and buzz of Shibuya(1), before moving to the chic shopping strips of Ginza(2). Then, the strange and wonderful teen fashion enclave of Harajuku(3) makes an appearance, soon giving way to the tech-heavy hub of Akihabara(4). Further out is the burgeoning hipster hood of Koenji(5) and the chilled local area of Shimokitazawa(6), while Asakusa(7) sports rich history and uplifting Shinto shrines nearer to the capital’s beating heart.
This is iconic Tokyo
The sight of Shibuya crossing
Excellent dining and drinking
Loads of traffic
Shibuya centres on one of the busiest crossroads on planet Earth. Bustling and packed with people, it’s perhaps Tokyo’s most iconic quarter. Bright lights and neon ads rear up on all sides. Cars whiz this way and that between tall skyscrapers. And while you simply have to see the amazing flow of humans at the Shibuya Crossing, the real life of this area resides in its backstreets. They brim with rowdy izakaya pubs and noodle kitchens that go on until sunup.
Treat yourself to a taste of luxury in the Japanese capital by hopping over to Ginza. Boulevards and blocks laden with department stores and fashion brands and home furnishings outlets unfold throughout the district, which spreads north from the peaceful Hamarikyu Gardens down the shopping mecca of Chuo Dori. When it comes to dining and drinking out, you’ll have an overload of cocktail bars and fine-dining eateries on the doorstep, not to mention some of Japan’s most prestigious theatre houses for later in the evening.
Technically speaking, Harajuku is an enclave within the electrifying area of Shibuya. But it’s worth a mention on its own because it’s the epicentre of Japan’s unique teenybopper subculture. Delve in to find crazy fashion outlets selling pink-rimmed dresses and pop-punk clothes, backed up by all manner of anime and manga fan stores. Takeshita Street is the hub of the lot, but the alleys around that burst with strange comic emporiums and unique coffee bars and bubble tea shops galore.
Akihabara is Tokyo’s Electric City; a quarter filled to the brim with games arcades, computer stores, and multi-story tech outlets. It’s the sort of Tokyo you’ve probably imagined, with crammed streets strewn with telephone wires and manga shops on every corner. If you’re keen to hit the boutiques for cameras, consoles or computers, this is certainly the place to be. But there’s also more to Akihabara than just wires and chips. It’s also got a thriving business scene, top cafés, and great links to the rest of the capital.
Koenji has emerged as one of Tokyo’s coolest outer neighborhoods in recent years. Okay, so it’s quite far from the downtown sights of Shibuya and Chiyoda but going off the beaten track is part of the charm here. You’ll be greeted with arty hotels and Airbnbs, unique jewellery and vintage fashion boutiques, and – crucially – much quieter streets than in the centre. There’s a distinct hipster vibe around the place, along with a touch of history, found in the age-old ryokan inns and steaming onsen spas.
Shimokitazawa is wedged between the suburban sprawl of Setagaya City and the hubbub of famous Shibuya City. That gives it good balance between energy and laid-back vibes. So, don’t expect human-crammed streets, but instead quiet lanes where beer bars spill out of low-rise buildings and intriguing curry houses issue the scents of katsu and soy into the air. Flea markets and haberdasheries are something of a speciality of Shimokitazawa, as are independent coffee roasters.
You could consider Asakusa the historical and spiritual core of Tokyo. Steeped in Edo culture and heritage, it’s the sort of place where rickety rickshaws pedal past low-rise restaurants lit with lanterns. It’s also the home of the legendary Senso-Ji temple, which is by far the most iconic religious complex in the whole of Tokyo – nay, Japan. You’ll also find lovely parklands, atmospheric eateries (albeit often aimed at tourists) and the rich collections of the Tokyo National Museum in the vicinity.
Bringing you close to the upscale and exclusive department stores and cocktail bars of Ginza is this enticing flat with space enough for four guests. The interiors mix comfortable contemporary touches with a little bit of exotic East Asian flair to create something special. There’s a comfy lounge, a fitted kitchen, and air conditioning throughout.
Grab yourself a whole pad and a garden area in the central district of Shinjuku by opting for this entire place in Tokyo. It has space for up to eight people and creature comforts like laundry facilities and portable WiFi. However, the piece de resistance is surely that al fresco decking area with its own private pub-style seating.
There’s a surprise amount of space – at least for Tokyo – in this eight-person pad, which comes with huge floor-to-ceiling windows and even a sprawling wrap-around terrace that affords sweeping views across the bright lights of Shibuya. Families are sure to be entertained, what with the lively fashion and cosplay mecca of Harajuku just down below.
There’s an authentic feel in this large and luxurious pad in the midst of the manga and electronic stores of Akihabara. Paper shoji doors mingle with real-wood floors and futon beds to evoke the charm of the old-world ryokan inns that have been going in Japan for millennia. On top of that, you get a super-minimalist dining area with traditional floor seating and a stoop table.
Channelling the industrial-chic style of sleepless Shibuya, this designer flat is a jewel in the midst of Tokyo’s sprawl. Inside is all polished concrete and plain-wood floors, with nooks filled with intriguing artistry and antiques that create somewhere at once peaceful but fulfilling. There’s just a single bed and a small sitting area, making it the perfect choice for traveling couples.
Prices all depend on what you’re after, but you can usually expect Airbnbs to come in cheaper than comparable hotels in Tokyo. That’s not just because nightly rates tend to be a tad lower than other options, but also because you can reduce the cost further by choosing a rental that’s big enough to house your whole travel group (and then share the rate). Self-catering facilities and often-generous weekly price cuts are also common on the Airbnb platform, so look out for those if you’re being really careful with the travel budget.
Of course, hotels in Tokyo offer something Airbnbs simply can’t: Hands-on service. For daily housekeeping, on-site lobby bars, breakfast buffets and all that jazz, you’ll have to consider booking somewhere like the Mitsui Garden Hotel Ginza Premier. It’s a top-rated establishment in the stylish shopping quarter of Ginza that has all the frills you’d expect of a proper hotel.
Tokyo can smash those bucket-list dreams with the likes of neon-glazed Shibuya Crossing and the mystical shrines of Senso-Ji. Then comes the fizzing nightlife, the soy-doused food, the unique shopping – it’s endless!