Traveling to Tokyo for the first time? I am so happy and jealous of you. The feeling of visiting Tokyo for the first time is one of my fondest memories of all of my travels, by far. As a repeat visitor to this wonderful city, I will impart some of my knowledge of Tokyo in this post.
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- Travel Tips for First-time Visitors
- Getting Wi-fi or Data SIM card in Tokyo
- Public Transport in Tokyo
- Where to stay in Tokyo
- What to buy / book before going to Tokyo
- Tokyo Itinerary
- Day 1: Yoyogi Park, Harajuku, Omotesando and Roppongi
- Day 2: Shibuya and its surrounding areas
- Day 3: Akihabara, Ueno Park, and Asakusa
- Day 4: Shinjuku
- Day 5: Toyosu Market, Tsukiji Market, Ginza
- Day 6 Onward: Take day trips (or short trips) away from Tokyo
- Want more? Here are other Activities you can do in Tokyo
Tokyo Travel Tips for First-time Visitors
- Fly to Haneda Airport (HND) – Unless the flight is considerably cheaper, don’t even think about flying through Narita. It will save you both money and time because Haneda is so much closer to the city than Narita. In fact, Haneda is pretty much already in the city – it would take you about 30 minutes to Shibuya using the local train. Narita, on the other hand, takes about 40-90 minutes and you need to buy express train ticket.
- Airport Transfer from Haneda (HND) to Tokyo – If you are arriving in Haneda (HND), you’ll want to take the local train as it is cost-effective. But if you’re arriving in off hours (trains only operate from 6 AM to midnight) or traveling with a group, you will want to book a Private Transfer from and to HND to save the hassle.
- However, if you have to fly to Narita (NRT), you can still get into the city easily. Aside from the Narita Express, there is Tokyo Keisei Skyliner which takes you to Ueno station in 40 minutes. From Ueno, you can then use the local lines to get to the station nearest to your hotel.
- Don’t worry about traveling solo to Tokyo. Tokyo is one of the safest cities in the world. Two of my trips to Tokyo were done on my own and it couldn’t have been more perfect. Okay, I know there are incidents involving perverted peeping toms on the train, and I’m sure crimes do still happen, but I personally have never felt scared or threatened even when I was walking alone at night.
- Download the Google Translate Japanese Pack to your phone. It will make communication a lot easier! Google Translate can also somewhat translate writing to English, so it has been useful when I go to a restaurant where the entire menu is in Japanese and the staff does not speak English.
Staying connected with wi-fi while in Tokyo
Having an internet connection at all times makes traveling in Tokyo MUCH easier.
- If you are traveling alone, you can look into getting a prepaid SIM card. You can pick up the SIM Card once you have reached Japan at the airport (check if your airport is listed). Another option is the B-mobile visitor sim, but you have to order this at least 7 days before your arrival in Japan, where you can arrange for it to be shipped to the airport or your hotel. I used a prepaid SIM card for my first visit to Japan in 2014 and it worked well.
- If you are traveling in a group, another option is to rent a pocket wi-fi, which you can get here and pick up at the airport. This provides unlimited data and you can connect multiple devices to it, up to 10 devices. It’s ideal for group travel. You’ll have to remember to charge the router every day and also remember to return the router at the end of your trip.
How many days should I spend in Tokyo?
I recommend setting aside a minimum of 5 days for Tokyo. Tokyo is MUCH bigger than you might have expected. On my first trip to Japan, I went for 7 days with aspirations of doing a few day trips outside of Tokyo. That plan was quickly trumped when I realized how big this city is.
In the end, I allocated 5 days in Tokyo and barely managed to squeeze in two days in Hakone, and it was still not enough to cover the city. I ended up coming back a few more times and on subsequent return visits, I’m still discovering new sides of the city.
This is why I’ve written this post as a 5-day itinerary in Tokyo!
Tips on How to get around Tokyo using Public Transport
Using Local Trains with SUICA card
Before getting to Tokyo, buy a SUICA card online and pick it up as soon as you land. This SUICA card will be your lifeline during your stay. The card allows you to tap in and out of each station without having to buy a ticket every single time you take a train. You can then easily refill the card credit at any train station when you start to run low.
In terms of train schedules and routes, I’m happy to report that Google Maps work really well in Japan! You can use it as normal but set it to public transport mode, and it will give you the best way to get from point A to point B by train.
I’d say that’s good enough for tourists. Locals use a more comprehensive transit app called NaviTime which will tell you even more details such as which train car you should board to get to your transfer faster. But for me, Google Maps has always been enough.
What is a JR Pass and do I need it?
JR Pass is a form of rail pass that gives you unlimited access to all JR trains in Japan for 7, 14, or 21 days. I bolded the JR train part for emphasis since this gets confusing for some people – in Japan, there are many train companies and Japan Rail (JR) is only one of them, and this pass is only valid for JR trains. Getting a JR Pass makes sense ONLY if you are planning to visit multiple cities in Japan. For example, if you are planning on going from Tokyo to Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima, etc. The trains between cities aren’t cheap and you’ll be saving a lot more by getting a JR Pass. If you are planning to stay in Tokyo, a SUICA card will be enough.
If you have decided that you need a JR Pass, you must buy the JR Pass from outside of Japan before your trip. The JR pass is solely for tourists and it used to not be available for purchase within Japan, though there are now limited quantities for sale in Japan for a higher price. So, you should still buy it ahead of time – you can buy Unlimited JR Pass here (cheaper than buying from the official website) and have it sent to your home before your trip, so make sure you get it way ahead of time so that it arrives before your trip. There are 7-day, 14-day, and 21-day options depending on the length of your stay in Japan and your planned train usage.
If you do get a JR Pass and it has been activated for use, then you can use the JR pass on certain local trains within Tokyo too. JR is one of the train companies in Japan and they do have some local JR lines running in Tokyo. So if you are taking a train somewhere and it is a JR line, use your JR Pass instead of your SUICA balance!
Tokyo local trains will stop running at midnight
Trains in Tokyo are convenient and affordable, but it stops at midnight. Cabs are very expensive in Tokyo, so if you’re out late, you want to make sure you still catch the last train. Most stations have trains running until midnight but as a general rule of thumb, you should be at the station by 11:30 PM. Especially if your travel involves changing lines.
On one of our nights out, we missed our last connecting train in Shibuya and had to take a cab back to our accommodation. The short 20-minute ride cost us $50 😐
Be mindful of train peak hour
I try to stay away from using the train in the morning during rush hour, any time from 8-10 AM on a weekday. I’m sure you’ve heard about how people get pushed by sticks to encourage them to move more inside the train so that more people can get on, and you end up packed into the train like sardines.
Where to stay in Tokyo
With Tokyo’s extensive train system, anywhere close to a train station is a great place to stay. For a first-timer, I’d try to stay close to Shibuya, Shinjuku, or Asakusa. Look for a place within 15-minute walking distance or 1-2 stations away from these places.
Here are places I’ve personally stayed in Tokyo. You don’t really need to stay exactly at these places, but somewhere around these areas would be good.
- Retrometro Backpackers Hostel ($) in Asakusa. I stayed at the 6-bed female dorm for roughly 1,500 yen (US$14) per night. It’s a very basic hostel and on the smaller side compared to say, European backpacker hostels, but I imagine it’s an average size for Japan. The location is very convenient as it’s quite close to the train Asakusa station. The hostel is small and quiet so you’ll get a good rest.
- A private Airbnb room in Sendagaya ($), 15 minutes walk to Harajuku for about US$31 a night. If you are new to Airbnb, you can sign up using my link to get some discounts. The room is small and only has a single bed so it can only fit one person, but the location is amazing and you get to stay in a Japanese-style apartment. You do have to share the apartment and bathroom with two other roommates, but I barely saw them. When I did see them though, they were very friendly. One of them even drove me all the way to Umegaoka to have dinner at Midori Sushi.
- The Strings by Intercontinental ($$$$) in Shinagawa. This one is a more expensive option as I stayed here during a business trip, but this hotel was really nice and convenient. It’s right on top of Shinagawa station, which is close to both Shibuya and Haneda Airport. There are several convenience stores and a shopping mall in the same complex as the hotel. Also, it’s one of the taller buildings in this area. On a clear day, you can see Mount Fuji.
What to pre-book before heading to Tokyo
To make things easier for you, I’ve compiled a list of items you’ll want to pre-book before your trip to Tokyo. This is because things tend to be cheaper when you book ahead of time. Also, you can pick up everything in one go when you arrive at the airport, and you don’t have to think about it again later!
- Airport Transfers – This highly depends on which airport you will be landing in. For more information on this, see my tips for first-time visitors below.
- SUICA Card – You’ll need this to get around Tokyo with public transportation! For more information, head to the “Exploring Tokyo by Local Train” section.
- JR Pass – JR Pass MUST be bought outside of Japan. Get this pass ONLY if you are planning to visit multiple cities in Japan aside from Tokyo. You can find out more in the “JR Pass” section.
- Pre-paid SIM Card (one device) / Pocket Wi-fi (multiple devices) – Having an internet connection at all times makes traveling in Tokyo MUCH easier. For more information, head to the “Staying connected while in Tokyo“
- Any activities you want to do, such as:
Tokyo 5-Day Itinerary
Tokyo is a massive metropolitan city. It’s worth planning your trip and grouping the days by areas so that you don’t waste time. This is the basis of how I’ve structured the itineraries below – I’ve put together some must-visits in sections based on their proximity to each other so that you can optimize your trip by choosing which sights you want to visit on the same day.
Please note that these itineraries are not meant to be done chronologically so you can mix and match your days. Also, don’t feel bad if you did not get to do everything! It’s just an excuse to come back 🙂
Here are quick shortcuts to the itinerary for each day:
- Day 1: Yoyogi Park, Harajuku, Omotesando, and Roppongi
- Day 2: Shibuya and its surrounding areas
- Day 3: Akihabara, Ueno Park, and Asakusa
- Day 4: Shinjuku
- Day 5: Toyosu Market, Tsukiji Market, Ginza
- Day 6 Onward: Take day trips (or short trips) away from Tokyo
- Want more? Here are other Activities you can do in Tokyo
And here is a detailed list of what to do in Tokyo on your first visit:
Day 1: Yoyogi Park, Harajuku, Omotesando, and Roppongi
Tip: Choose one of the days on a weekend for this itinerary. The places I’m going to mention today are more happening on weekends!
1. Yoyogi Park and Meiji Jingu
You can start your day by exploring Yoyogi Park. It’s a huge park with a pleasant shaded walk and all of the walking routes will go through Meiji Jingu, a beautiful Shinto shrine, where you can buy an amulet and other traditional souvenirs.
Don’t forget to do the water purification ritual at the temple entrance! Read more on the etiquette of visiting a temple in Japan. If it’s on a weekend, you might even see a Shinto wedding there as well. I was lucky enough to see one when I visited.
Next, you can check out Harajuku, a walkable distance from Yoyogi Park (it’s actually right across), and walk along Takeshita Dori. Harajuku embodies everything you’ve heard about modern Japan – It’s a crazy area filled with people, trendy shops, and street food. Harajuku became well-known as the hangout spot for the trendy youngsters who would wear their most outrageous, fashion-forward outfits. Sadly, this is a dying culture and they’re not seen as often as they used to, so to increase your chance you might want to visit on a weekend.
But aside from that, you can easily spend 2-3 hours in Harajuku just walking and looking at the various shops. Oh, and you’ve gotta try Japanese Crepes while you’re here! That’s what this area is known for. There are also a bunch of other cute eats on the street, such as the animal-shaped gelato from Eiswelt Gelato.
3. Omotesando & Roppongi
If you keep walking along Takeshita Dori towards the east, you’ll end up in Omotesando and then Roppongi. In total, this is about ~3km walk from Harajuku station and totally walkable as the entire route is lined up with shops and food. Don’t miss visiting Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku for a quick photo op too! This building has these geometric-shaped mirrors on the ceiling and it makes for an
4. Roppongi Hills
I recommend visiting the Tokyo City View And Sky Deck in Roppongi where you can take the lift up to the rooftop and get an amazing view of the city, including the iconic red Tokyo tower, for just 1,800 yen. If you’re lucky and the day is clear, you might even see Mount Fuji! I recommend going close to sunset to get the best lighting for photos. Make sure you stay a little bit after sunset too for nighttime photography.
You can book the Tokyo City View Observation Deck Admission Ticket here, which I recommend since it’s cheaper than buying on the spot.
If you are a museum person, Mori Art Museum is also in the same building and access to the permanent exhibition is included with the observation deck ticket. They might have an interesting exhibit to check out too, but you need to buy the ticket separately.
But if you are a fan of Japanese wood interior design, then head to Tokyo Midtown in Roppongi, the most aesthetic mall I’ve been to. It also has great stores to get souvenirs from.
Where to eat in Harajuku and Roppongi
- Japanese Crepes at Harajuku. This can be found all throughout the famous Takeshita Dori in Harajuku, so just snap them up whenever you see a stall. It wouldn’t be a very big stall, usually just enough for one person to serve you the crepes through the stall window. You can customize your crepe with different fruit toppings and sweet syrup.
- Zaku Zaku Ice cream. “Zaku-zaku” is Japanese onomatopoeia for something crispy/crunchy (I swear, Japanese people have sounds for everything). As soon as you enter the shop, you can smell a delicious buttery sweet and savory aroma wafting in the air – similar to caramel popcorn but BETTER. This place is actually famous for its creampuff, filled with Hokkaido cream which is made fresh on the spot and coated with their crispy ‘croquant’ made from baked almonds. But the Harajuku store also has an ice cream version that is exclusive to this branch.
- Eiswelt Gelato on Harajuku – This shop has the cutest animal-shaped gelato!
- Maisen Tonkatsu at Omotesando (maps). While walking around Omotesando, be sure to stop by here for one of the best tonkatsu in town. Their specialty is Kurobuta aka the Japanese black pork. Their tonkatsu set can get pretty pricey, but there are cheaper alternatives such as the cutlet rice bowl.
- Gyukatsu Motomura in Roppongi (maps) – I talked about this on the Shibuya itinerary below too, but there is a branch in Roppongi! They are famous for Gyukatsu, which is deep-fried and breaded beef. If you have time, you can have them while you are in Roppongi instead.
- Sincere Garden for a vegetarian option (maps). My friends are going to be surprised I’m recommending a vegetarian restaurant, yet here we are. Long story short, I made a friend at the hostel I was staying at in Asakusa and ended up tagging along for lunch with him and his Tokyo friends. We ended up at this vegetarian place that serves all organic food in Omotesando. For someone who loves meat as much as I do, this was actually a very decent meal! I feel that it fits perfectly with the trendy vibe of Omotesando. The entire cafe has this light wooden theme and made me feel good about eating healthy food.
Day 2: Shibuya and its surrounding areas (Ebisu, Nakameguro, Daikanyama, and Shimokitazawa)
For this day, we will be exploring Shibuya, one of the major areas of Tokyo. This itinerary can be done any day, on weekdays, or on weekends!
1. The Famous Shibuya Scramble
Check out Shibuya for the famous Shibuya Scramble Crossing road, where every few minutes the pedestrian light would turn green and the entire crossing will be filled with a ton of people coming from all directions. Located just outside the Shibuya station, this crossing has been featured in many movies, video games, and music videos. It’s a crazy scene and the true definition of organized chaos – everybody is going everywhere in all directions but amazingly, nobody is bumping into each other!
I recommend doing this during the day so you can see the craziness in all its glory. There is a famous Starbucks where people love to sit and watch the scramble crossing from, but I find it to be quite crowded so I preferred to just watch from ground zero (plus it’s free!). You can also go to Hikarie building nearby and go up to the 11th floor for a free view of the scramble from above.
2. Statue of Hachiko, the loyal dog
At one corner of the scramble crossing, you can check out the famous Hachiko Statue. Hachiko is a legendary Japanese dog who is famous for being extremely loyal. He kept waiting for his owner’s return at the train station, years after he had passed away. His loyalty touched the heart of many Japanese and he has become immortalized in front of Shibuya station, waiting forever for his owner.
Shibuya is a major train station and it can get pretty confusing when you are trying to meet up with friends, so the Hachiko statue has become a famous meeting point.
You can take your time exploring more of Shibuya. It’s a huge shopping district and you can even say it’s the center of Tokyo, along with Shinjuku. Check out Shibuya Loft for floors of random home goodies, each floor with its own theme. You can also check out Don Quijote (aka Donki) for even more random stuff.
If you are tired or shopping is not your thing, I recommend going to Dogenzaka area. Formerly a yakuza hangout, Dogenzaka is now filled with ramen shops, pubs, izakaya (small stalls selling skewered meats), and even… love hotels. It’s a good place to be if you are there for the nightlife.
4. Outskirts of Shibuya
If you still have some energy after the madness that is Shibuya, you can take the train to Shimokitazawa, Daikanyama, Naka-Meguro, or Ebisu for some cafes and check out the nightlife. These are more laid-back residential areas.
Where to eat in Shibuya
- Ichiran Ramen in Shibuya (maps) for the famous Tonkotsu Ramen from a vending machine. Basically, you go up to a vending machine outside the restaurant, punch in your order, receive a ticket based on your order and pay, then wait to get seated in your own personal cubicle to slurp on your ramen. They have many other branches around the city, so you don’t have to eat this in Shibuya.
- Katsukichi Bodaijyu in Shibuya (maps) – Tonkatsu is one of the most popular meals in Japan, so you have to try at least once while you are here, and if you eat pork. As a bonus, I love the decor of this place!
- Gyukatsu Motomura in Shibuya (maps) – This place seats only 8 people at a time and you eat at the counter. Even though I came here at 2 PM, the line was still very long so definitely come at off-peak hours! They are famous for Gyukatsu, which is deep-fried and breaded beef. You’ll also get a personal stone stove which you can use to further grill your beef slices to the desired doneness!
- Shiro-Hige Cream Puff Factory in Shimokitazawa (maps) – Located a short walk away from Shimokitazawa station and tucked inside a very quiet residential area, this cafe is known for its Totoro-shaped Creampuff. The creampuff costs 420 yen each. I recommend having the creampuffs to go bc there is an extra fee for having it at the cafe (it becomes 465 yen). They come in four flavors (custard, chocolate, strawberry and green tea) but I personally think the regular custard one is the best.
- Hiroki in Shimokitazawa (maps) for Okonomiyaki in Shimokitazawa. There are only 8 seats in this hole-in-the-wall restaurant. For each Okonomiyaki, you get to pick soba or udon as the noodle base, then add-on toppings as you want!
There was no English menu(UPDATE: I have been told there is now an English menu!). Try to sit on the counter if you can, this is where you can watch the action as it happens! The chef will cook and mix your Okonomiyaki for you according to order and once done, he would push it to the hot plate area in front of you so the Okonomiyaki stays warm as you eat it off the counter’s hot plate.
- I also highly suggest visiting Daikanyama for one of your meals. Daikanyama has been dubbed the Brooklyn of Tokyo and they have tons of cool restaurants and cafes – you can check out my Daikanyama guide here!
- Ebisu Yokocho in Ebisu (maps) – This was a random surprise find for me. I was just aimlessly walking around Ebisu when I decided to go into a random building that seemed very unassuming on the outside. Once inside, I was greeted with a lively atmosphere of people eating and drinking in rows upon rows of small restaurants. Sure enough, none of them had an English menu, but just put on your brave face and try something new. I randomly chose a modern sushi joint and was able to order with my very limited Japanese. I ended up with a plate of beef and mushroom sushi… which is interesting as that’s not what you’d normally expect.
Day 3: Akihabara, Ueno Park, and Asakusa
Try to do this itinerary on a Sunday, since Akihabara streets are car-free on Sundays!
As a first-time Tokyo visitor, you HAVE to check out Akihabara for all the outrageous things you’ve heard about Japan – the infamous Maid cafe, cat cafes, electronics, comic books, and floors and floors of arcade games, just to name a few. If you go on a Sunday, they close up the street from cars and open it up for pedestrians so you can roam around freely.
Then once you’re done with Akihabara, you can walk to Ueno Park for an afternoon stroll. If that’s not your thing, then you can head straight to Asakusa. Asakusa is a backpacker district so there are lots of cheap food and shopping you can do here.
Check out Senso-ji, a famous Buddhist temple. There is a cool street in front of this temple, called Nakamise Shopping Street, which has lots of street food you can try and souvenir stalls. This was where one of my earliest Girl Eat World was taken! If history is your thing, the Edo-Tokyo Museum is also nearby this area.
3. Tokyo Station
If you are STILL short of things to do, you can also head to Tokyo Station, which is very close to Ueno station, for food and shopping. I’ve actually included Tokyo Station in Day 5 itinerary, but if you find yourself there and have time, then feel free to scroll down to Day 5 on what you can do at Tokyo Station.
Where to eat
- Rokurinsha (maps) – Tsukemen is a type of ramen that’s served cold and with a separate broth for the noodles to be dipped into. Rokurinsha is a Tsukemen shop located in the basement of Tokyo station, and it’s a classic beloved by tourists and locals. Expect a long queue unless you’re going at an off-hour and on weekdays. I went here on a Wednesday at 8 pm and waited 30 minutes in line. But really though, it was worth every minute! If you find the queue is too long, you can come back here again on Day 5 itinerary (scroll down below) OR you can have it on your way out of Japan if you are flying through Haneda airport.
- Beerbal ビアバル NAGAOKAYA (maps) – I actually came across their stall while I was at Fuji Rock Festival through an acquaintance’s recommendation. Their lamb chops were seriously the best I’ve had. I still dream about it, so I stalked them down and found out that they have a restaurant/beer garden in Ueno! Please give them a visit and let me know how you like it!
Day 4: Explore Shinjuku
Shinjuku is a major area in Tokyo. It has offices, pubs, restaurants, and izakayas. If you’ve seen that iconic photo of a street in Japan filled with neon lights (like the one below) it was probably taken in Shinjuku. Shinjuku deserves its own itinerary because this area is massive.
Here is what you can do in Shinjuku:
1. Visit Omoide Yokocho
First, visit Omoide Yokocho. “Omoide” means memory and “Yokocho” is a lane / small alley, so loosely translated as you are walking down memory lane… everything here feels nostalgic traditional Japan. There are tons of little stalls (izakaya) and while most don’t have any English menu, some have pictures.
I suggest going with google translate if you plan to know everything you are eating. Otherwise, just point your fingers and be surprised. They mostly serve small skewered meats but be warned that they aren’t exactly cheap. You can drink beer or whiskey highball here too!
2. [Temporarily Closed] Robot Restaurant
The restaurant was closed in 2020 due to COVID. But keep an eye on the website to see if they have reopened!
At night, go to the famous Robot Restaurant for dinner, drinks, and an incredible Japanese show. It’s this crazy 90-minute show with lasers, dances, and… well, robots. Basically, it’s the most modern Japanese experience you can get. You have to purchase the admission ticket ahead of time, and I suggest booking it here through Klook since they provide the cheapest price: Book Robot Restaurant. If you go for the first showing (4 PM), the ticket is slightly cheaper.
Even though it’s a “restaurant”, I wouldn’t bother getting the bento (boxed set meal) there since there are better options for a meal around Shinjuku!
3. Golden Gai
After the show, you can head over to Golden Gai for some nightlife. This area was super cool! It was filled with tiny bars with different themes, so you can easily bar hop to your heart’s content – provided you are fine that each bar will have a cover charge of $5-10. While going out, keep in mind the last train in Tokyo is just before midnight so you have to make sure you are on the train platform by then. Or else you will have to fork out some cash for the taxi ride back home.
4. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
However, if nightlife is not your thing and you’re visiting Shinjuku during the day, then you can stop by Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden for a peaceful stroll. It’s just a short walk from Shinjuku station. This garden is very popular in springtime, especially during the Sakura season.
Where to eat/go in Shinjuku
- Tatsukichi (maps). We went for dinner based on a local Tokyo friend’s recommendation. They were quite packed during dinner so be prepared to wait. It’s an omakase-style restaurant, meaning they will just keep serving you whatever they are cooking until you ask for the bill. Their specialty is Kushiage – deep-fried vegetable/meat skewers – and although it might seem daunting and unhealthy to eat fried food for a meal, I swear all of them were good, super crispy, and not overly oily. With each skewer, the chef will tell you which sauce to use. If I remember correctly, we each spent S$50 after 10-12 skewers and 2 whiskey highballs.
Day 5: Toyosu Market, Tsukiji Market, Ginza and Tokyo Station
1. Tsukiji and Toyosu Market
If you are a foodie like me, visiting the fish markets in Tokyo is a must. It’s not that they have the best sushi in Tokyo, but you can’t beat the atmosphere at the fish market. Fishermen arrive at the crack of dawn with their daily catch, and most importantly – the Tuna auction, where sushi tycoons have been known to bid crazy amounts of money for the best fish.
The center of this fishermen’s activity used to be Tsukiji Market, but as of October 2018, the tuna viewing and the wholesale market have been moved to Toyosu Market. I have not been to Toyosu yet (I heard it’s massive, sterile-looking, and modern compared to the old Tsukiji), but I reckon it’s still worth visiting both since they are not far apart. Take note that the market is closed on Sundays and on Japanese public holidays, so check before you go. I tried to go during one of their public holidays and had to come back the next day.
It can be an intimidating experience to visit these markets on your own. It’s a massive and very fast-paced market and the fishermen don’t like it when tourists come into the market in the morning when they’re busy with their job. If you want to see the Tuna auction, you’ll have to come very early in the morning at 5 AM. You can then watch the auction from a corridor above.
I recommend checking out the sushi stalls at the market in Toyosu or Tsukiji Outer Market. In terms of where to get your sushi, I know some blogs would recommend one sushi stall over another (Sushi Dai is a huge crowd’s favorite), but if you’re like me and didn’t want to queue then just pick a random stall with the shortest queue. I did exactly this and it turned out just fine. You can either order a sushi set or do an omakase set, where the chef will serve you whatever sushi they can make with the day’s ingredients.
After your sushi breakfast, you can then go inside the market to see what’s on offer and perhaps eat even more!
Once done with the market, you can walk back in the direction of the train station and walk around Ginza for high-end shopping. For MUJI lovers, the MUJI global flagship store is located in Ginza, along with its famous MUJI hotel. But if you want something a bit more historical, visit the Imperial Castle which is also nearby.
3. Tokyo Station
You can also visit Tokyo Station. It’s weird to be visiting a station, I know, but the BASEMENT of Tokyo station is seriously a gem. There is Tokyo Ramen Street, Tokyo Character Street, and Tokyo Food Street. What might be of interest to most people is probably Tokyo Character Street, where you can find beloved characters like Hello Kitty, Pokemon, Studio Ghibli characters, etc. Take note most of the character shops close by 8:30 PM.
Also, Tokyo Station is an excellent place for omiyage (gift) shopping for stuff you can bring back home, so it’s great to hit up on your last day.
Where to eat
- Rokurinsha (maps) – This is located in the ramen street of Tokyo station. If you missed my description of Rokurinsha on Day 3, scroll up! I included it here again since it’s really a must-go for all foodies and it’s in the vicinity of this itinerary. You can also have this at Haneda Airport if you are flying out from there.
Day 6 Onward: Take day trips (or short trips) away from Tokyo
If you find yourself still longing for more, you can also do short day trips outside of Tokyo! There are plenty of options you can choose from – here are some great day trips from Tokyo to check out:
1. Hakone – Onsen and a chance to see Mount Fuji
Hakone is a small town about two hours away from Tokyo. It’s famous for the hot springs (onsen), Lake Ashi, and probably the best chance for you to see Mount Fuji up close.
I have written a post about traveling to Hakone. Please read!
2. Nikko – More onsen, nature, UNESCO heritage temples, and shrines
Nikko is one of my favorite day / short trips to do from Tokyo. Nikko is well-known for its natural beauty (waterfalls, hikes, and onsen) as well as its UNESCO heritage sites. I wrote an entire post on Nikko with detailed info, so you can check it out here!
3. Kamakura & Enoshima
If you like visiting temples and shrines, this is the city for you. Kamakura is a seaside city just south of Tokyo. Once the political center of medieval Japan, nowadays Kamakura is a resort town with dozens of Buddhist Zen temples and Shinto shrines. Enoshima is a small island just off Kamakura, so you definitely need to visit if you’re already coming to Kamakura.
Like Hakone, Kamakura and Enoshima can also be reached via the Odakyu local train (cheapest option), or if you have the JR Pass, you can take the JR lines there. But if you are planning to visit Kamakura and Hakone, I highly recommend getting the Hakone Kamakura Pass.
4. Tokyo Disneyland
I actually only made it to Tokyo Disneyland in 2019, despite having been to Tokyo many times. I am kicking myself for not going earlier! Disneyland is fun, but Disneyland in Tokyo? 1000x better. They have super cute food and merchandise that you can only find in Tokyo Disneyland.
The downside is that most of the rides will be in Japanese, so if you haven’t been to the original Disneyland (or watched Disney movies) you might be a little lost. However, I still recommend visiting even if you’re a first-timer in Tokyo, especially if you love Disney! If you want to know more about Tokyo Disneyland, please read my Tokyo Disneyland Guide.
You can buy a Tokyo Disneyland ticket here at Klook and pick it up from the airport so you won’t have to queue to get tickets later.
More things to do in Tokyo and places worth visiting
1. Eat Onigiri from any Japanese Konbini (Convenience Stores)
Convenience stores (called “Konbini” in Japanese) are an integral part of Japanese cities. The Konbini’s that can be commonly found in Japan are Family Mart (Famima for short), Lawsons, 7/11, and Daily Yamazaki.
My fondest memory of Japan has always been going into a Konbini first thing in the morning to see what Onigiri they have that day. Onigiri is this triangle-shaped rice wrapped in seaweed and stuffed with various fillings, perfect to eat as a snack on the go. My personal favorite is the salmon onigiri! There is something magical about the combination of salmon, rice and seaweed.
2. The original Midori Sushi at Umegaoka
Eating sushi while you are in Japan is undeniably a must-do. While staying at an Airbnb apartment in Tokyo, I got to know one of my roommates, a Japanese guy who kindly offered to drive me to his favorite local sushi joint. It’s called Midori Sushi – they are famous for being affordable yet offering high-quality food.
They have a few branches in Tokyo, but the original one is at Umegaoka and is located in a very local residential area. They are famous for shaping their nigiri such that the meat topping forms this very long “tail”, much longer than normal.
3. Visit Studio Ghibli Museum
Any Japanese anime fan must make a visit to Studio Ghibli Museum. I went here on my very first visit to Tokyo as I am a huge fan. The museum is located in Mitaka – not too far away from Shibuya. At the studio, you can see their early sketches, watch a short animation and buy some Ghibli merchandise. It’s a bit small though so I would say you only need to set aside 2 hours for this museum.
Visiting Studio Ghibli Museum as an English-speaking tourist has gotten easier over the years. A few years ago, you could only get tickets at Lawson’s and the instructions were all in Japanese. Lucky for you, these days the Studio Ghibli tickets can be booked online (and in English!). You can read here for instructions on how to obtain a ticket, but you still have to book this in advance and book for a specific day and time slot.
Tickets are also very limited so they may have sold out a month in advance. If it has sold out online, you can try getting them here albeit for a more expensive price, and you cannot choose the time of day to visit the museum – just whatever time is assigned to you. Take note if you book successfully through Klook, the ticket must be picked up at the airport so do that as soon as you land.
4. Spend a day at teamLab Planets
In recent years, teamLab has established itself to be at the forefront of the digital interactive art scene. Their installations are always a delight to see and interact with. I’m lucky there is a permanent teamLab exhibition in Singapore, but I still made the time to check out their Tokyo exhibition!
I suggest picking a time when it’s off hours if you plan to visit – try going early when they first open. Weekends or public holiday is definitely a no-go. I happened to be there during peak time and spent 40 minutes lining up outside just to get in!
To save time, you can purchase the ticket for teamLab Planets here. It’s a direct QR code entry so you don’t need to buy tickets when you get there.
5. Shop Japanese Brands and a variety of stores
I love shopping for random goods while in Japan, especially for home goods. On my recent trip, I discovered LOFT at Shibuya and I was just blown away by the sheer amount of shopping you can do there! They sell everything and anything, from home goods, kitchen wares, stationeries, and clothing. Another similar shop is Tokyu Hands.
I also love checking out eclectic discount stores like Don Quijote and Daiso, guaranteed to be fun and easy on your wallet. They carry everything from snacks to home goods and skin care. Living in Singapore, we have a lot of Daiso and Donki stores, but the experience in Japan is still different.
And of course, you should check out the famous Japanese brands like Uniqlo and MUJI, even if you have them in your home country. Sometimes prices can be cheaper here! I’m a fan of MUJI’s organic cotton panties and found out they are about 20% cheaper here than in Singapore.
And even more places to visit!
STILL looking for more places? Let these articles guide you!
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Alright, that was super long. If you end up doing any of my itineraries, please comment below and let me know how it went! Also, if there is any information you want to know about Tokyo, let me know in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them. I want your first visit to Tokyo to be as magical as possible 😀 I love Tokyo.
Are you planning a trip to Japan? I’ve written loads about the beautiful country. Check out the ‘Japan’ category of this blog for some travel inspiration!