That’s it! I am finally tackling all the Japan content I have! Over the next couple of weeks, I will be sharing my itineraries to help you plan your trip to the Land of the Rising Sun – starting with Tokyo!
As you can imagine, Tokyo is an amazing city; it is very old yet very modern, very calm yet very busy – it is a fascinating place! The itinerary below will take you to most of the main sights in Tokyo. The city is so vast that you could easily spend another five days exploring it, that is if you have a lot more time in Japan. If you are only there for a couple of weeks, five days is a good start for a first visit to Tokyo.
Day 1 – Arriving in Tokyo & Shinjuku
If coming from Europe, you will be landing in Tokyo around breakfast time. It will take you a good couple of hours to make it to Tokyo’s city-centre – time to grab your luggage, go through customs, taxi or train, etc. We were staying in Shinjuku where most of the big hotels are, so we decided to spend our first afternoon there.
Shinjuku is one of the busiest neighbourhoods of Tokyo and a very convenient place to base yourself during your stay with multiple train and subway stations around the area. We stayed at the Hilton which was very nice but a little bit expensive.
Shinjuku is also the perfect place to have a first taste of Tokyo. It is overwhelmingly crowded, but Japanese people are so quiet and respectful that it feels less busy than a London pub on a Friday night.
Day 2 – Meiji Jingu, Shibuya & Roppongi
The second day is a perfect mixture of modern and ancient Tokyo. First, stop Meiji Jingu in the heart of Harajuku. A beautiful shrine hidden in the middle of a park, offering a little bit of peace and quiet away from the buzzing streets of Harajuku, which I could best describe as the Shoreditch of Tokyo.
After enjoying the tranquillity of Meiju Jingu, we walked through Harajuku and headed toward Shibuya. Coming from that direction you will arrive straight to the famous Shibuya crossing, which, in real life, looks and feel smaller than what you may have seen in pictures or in movies. It is still busy though!
For the best views of the crossing head to Starbucks for a coffee and the best time-lapse spot.
Get lost in the back streets of Shibuya and make sure to grab lunch at Toritake.
Full of yakitori, we then headed to Roppongi, another very trendy neighbourhood of Tokyo and a great place to do a spot of shopping. We haven’t been there at night but it is supposed to be a very lively place to go out.
After walking all day, we ended the day back in Shinjuku with a delicious ramen at the very popular Ichiran.
Day 3 – Asakusa, Tokyo National Museum & Ueno
On the third day, we headed to an older part of Tokyo and started in Asakusa. Just outside of the station you will have a great view of the Skytree. We decide not to visit it though to have more time visiting Tokyo and less time waiting in the notoriously long queue.
Head to the ancient Sensō-ji temple, you will walk through charming ancient streets to get there.
Embrace the atmosphere of the old shrine and bathe yourself in incense smoke for good health.
Head to Tokyo National Museum and grab lunch on your way there. You can easily find bento boxes and onigiris in supermarkets for a lunch on the go. We had our lunch in Ueno Onshi Park.
The Tokyo National Museum is the perfect option if you only have time to visit one museum in Tokyo, or if you are not really into museums. It gives an overview of Japanese history and culture, from clothing to housing.
After a few hours wandering the corridors of the museum, we headed deep into Ueno and got lost in the little streets for an afternoon walk.
We ended the day, again in Shinjuku, and had one of the most amazing meals at Imahan.
Day 4 – Tsukiji Fish Market, Hamarikyu Gardens, Ginza, Chiyoda & Ebisu
I talked about Tsukiji Fish Market into details in a previous post, and, because you can only visit the market the morning, it is a great place to start your day.
After a couple of hours among the fish and their fishmongers, we headed for a bit of fresher air and decided to visit Hamarikyu Gardens. This park is an oasis of tranquillity in the middle of Tokyo.
We grabbed lunch on our way to Ginza, an upmarket shopping district.
Not far from Ginza is Chiyoda where you will find the Imperial Palace. It is also supposed to be a fantastic spot to see the cherry blossom during the season.
We ended the day in the very lively district of Ebisu where we had dinner and a cheeky beer at the Ebisu Beer Hall.
Day 5 – Akihabara & Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
On your last day, immerse yourself in the gamer and technology culture in Akihabara.
Get lost in the game centres or in a cat cafe (we did both!).
Take some cheesy photo-booth pictures and embrace the weirdness of the place.
A highlight of our Tokyo visit was the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. The place is breathtakingly beautiful and on a rainy day, like we had, it had strong Lost in Translation vibes.
Talking about Lost in Translation, make sure to end your trip with a drink at the New York bar, at the top of the Park Hyatt, made famous by Sophia Coppola’s movie. It offers the most incredible views of the city at dusk.
I hope you will enjoy Tokyo as much as we did! I just cannot wait to come back!