Introduction

Where to Hang Out in Tokyo

Where to Hang Out in Tokyo

Tokyo’s hangout spots are overwhelmingly diverse. In terms of music, atmosphere, and menu, there is a venue to match almost anyone’s taste. Since there are few social spaces on the University of Tokyo’s campus, most socializing instead takes place in one of the surrounding neighbourhoods. In this post, I’ll share some of the spots that I’ve checked out with other University of Tokyo students since getting here.

1. Shibuya

Shibuya is popular amongst University of Tokyo students, largely because of its close proximity to campus. It only takes ten minutes to get from here:

This image shows a tree-lined corridor at the University of Tokyo's Komaba campus. It is dusk.
The University of Tokyo’s Komaba Campus.

to here:

This image shows Shibuya's crossing at night. It is surrounded by tall buildings featuring extensive neon signage.
Shibuya [source]
It’s home to countless restaurants and music venues, many of which are affordably priced for the students who go to its surrounding universities.

2. Shimokitazawa

Shimokitazawa is another favourite haunt for many University of Tokyo students, again because of its close proximity to campus. It’s a cozy neighbourhood characterized by winding streets and outdoor speakers playing laid-back music. An abundance of curry restaurants and independent cafés also define the neighbourhood, and attract Tokyoites from all over the city. Some friends and I have a favourite curry joint that we visit once every few weeks.

3. Shinjuku

Shinjuku is one of Tokyo’s busiest districts. Its central train station services ten different lines from five different train operators, and sees an average of 3.64 million passengers per day.

Shinjuku at night.
Shinjuku at night.

This area is farther away from campus than the other two, but its exciting bustle and central location make it a popular hangout spot. Its Golden-Gai (ゴールデン街) area is a particularly fun place to explore with friends. It consists of six narrow streets that collectively contain over 200 small izakaya, i.e. tapas restaurants like Guu Izakaya on Bloor Street, many of which feature highly specific themes and music. A friend and I celebrated the end of our first semester in this area. We ended up sitting next to a University of Tokyo alumnus, who was eager to share stories from his student days.

This image shows a narrow street lined with neon signs. It is part of a street in Shinjuku District's Golden-Gai area.
A Glimpse of Golden-Gai. [source]
4. Kichijoji

Lastly, the Kichijoji neighbourhood boasts a number of music (especially jazz) venues and delicious restaurants. It’s also close to many of the university’s dormitories, which is particular important when going out at night here. Tokyo’s public transport system does not accommodate nightlife, especially live shows, as well as many other major cities’; most bus routes and train lines shut down around midnight, which means that going out at night often requires heading home shortly after eleven, or staying out until five in the morning when the first trains run. Kichijoji’s proximity to the dormitories allows for an easy walk home. I can say from experience that being stranded until five in the morning is an unpleasant experience.

I hope this post offers a glimpse into some of the popular hangout spots amongst UTokyo students. If you have any questions, please comment below!

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