What to do in Tokyo in 4 days?
Tokyo is top of the list for many travelers to Japan.
Everyone wants to see the huge neon city, littered with locations that have become synonymous with Japan as a whole.
From the serenity of Shinjuku Gyoen to the bright lights and crowds of Harajuku, Tokyo is a must-visit for any world traveler.
However, with the city being so vast, it can be overwhelming. There’s so much to see, where does one start? Well, this 4-day Tokyo itinerary will set you up for the ideal Tokyo trip.
- We have always found the best flights to Tokyo or Osaka on Momondo. You also have Skyscanner and recently WayAway, a new and promising travel aggregator, has popped up. It may be worthwhile to compare these three sites.
- Don’t lose time upon arrival at the airport and order your Japan travel SIM or portable WiFi device in advance so that it’s ready and waiting for you at the airport when you arrive.
- We’ve got you covered if you’re wondering how to use public transport in Tokyo.
- If you are traveling around Japan, having a Japan Rail Pass is often the cheapest way to travel around.
- Discover the best area to stay in Tokyo. Or have a look at these cool hotels in Tokyo if you are looking for a special place to stay while you are in Tokyo.
- We created an overview of the best Airbnbs in Tokyo for those who prefer staying in a rental property. Are you traveling with your family or a bigger group? Here is an overview of the best family Airbnbs in Tokyo.
- Check out our ultimate Japan travel guide where you can find all our Japan articles.
- Be sure to become a member of our Japan Travel Planning and Tips Facebook group. The purpose of this group is to help you plan an amazing vacation to Japan. You can ask questions and exchange tips with fellow travelers.
The perfect Tokyo 4-day itinerary
Let’s start this Tokyo 4-day itinerary with some interesting facts about Tokyo.
Tokyo, the capital of Japan, is located on the east coast of Japan and is known as the most populated city in the world.
It became the capital of Japan in the early 1600s when the government of the time moved the capital from Kyoto.
Tokyo’s long history makes it possible to experience aspects of different parts of history right through to the modern age.
Throughout this time, design has shifted, culture has evolved, Japan has modernized and a trip to Tokyo is a true cultural journey.
Day 1: Meiji-Jingu shrine, Harajuku (and the Robot Restaurant)
The first day in any new place should start with a bang, and the best way to do that in Tokyo is with a visit to Meiji-Jingu shrine. It is not to be missed on a Tokyo 4-day itinerary.
Meiji-Jingu is the largest and arguably most famous shrine in Tokyo.
It is actually one of Japan’s newer shrines, dating from the early 20th Century.
It was designed to celebrate the deified Emperor Meiji and his wife after their deaths. Emperor Meiji is thought of as the emperor to bring Japan into the modern age and is highly revered.
The shrine is surrounded by a forest of over 100,000 trees, providing an air of tranquillity despite being in the middle of a busy city.
The shrine is preceded by one of the largest torii gates in Japan and a display of sake barrels donated by various sake brewers from around the country. Inside the shrine, it is busy with popular shrine activities.
There is also a ‘marriage tree’, two trees connected by rope and paper to symbolize marriage and the closeness it entails.
Nearby is the inner shrine garden.
This is filled with hundreds of irises, a favorite flower of the Emperor and Empress.
While they bloom in June, the garden is beautiful year-round.
How to get there
Meiji-Jingu shrine is a short 10-15 minute walk from Harajuku station.
Harajuku: Takeshita Dori and Omotesando
After walking back to Harajuku station, you can cross the street and explore the street opposite the station. This street is called Takeshita Dori. It is the center of young fashion and pop culture.
Takeshita Dori is a narrow, crowded street filled with fashion shops, cafes, crepe stands, and other trendy foods (think rainbow cotton candy, rolled ice cream, milk bubble tea). This is where those food trends start.
The street is about 400m, which may seem short but the sheer amount of businesses filled in this space is astounding. There are also a number of side streets, which can be even more interesting as the side streets are more likely to house the shops of young designers and new artists.
Cheap fashion, interesting foods, and quirky pop culture references are the draw of this place.
But perhaps Takeshita Dori feels a bit young, too teenage.
In this case, Omotesando is the place for you.
Omotesando is the more haute couture cousin of Takeshita Dori. Where Takeshita Dori is pop culture, Omotesando is luxury.
It is often referred to as Japan’s Champs-Elysees. A number of famous architects, both domestic and international, have contributed to the buildings of Omotesando and many luxury brands have their key flagship stores in this area.
It is also a trendy café area. A lot of street photography and street fashion photography takes place in this area, as it is known for being at the front of fashion.
Robot Restaurant Tokyo
Unfortunately, the Robot restaurant is still closed and it is uncertain if it will ever reopen. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
For the evening, Shinjuku Robot Restaurant is a great way to finish off your first day.
The Robot Restaurant has become notorious over recent years as the epitome of Japanese pop culture.
It is an overload of neon lights, colors, music, and performance.
A number of different dance styles are used throughout the performances, along with constantly changing music and of course, robots.
The performances are an extravaganza of entertainment, a short escape from the real world to a neon light planet, and a sensory overload.
How to get there
Shinjuku station is approximately 5 minutes train ride from Harajuku, and the Robot Restaurant is a short walk from Shinjuku station.
Day 2: Shibuya and Shinjuku
The morning of day 2 will tick off a key bucket list item for most visitors to Tokyo.
It’s time to go to Shibuya.
Shibuya Crossing and Hachiko statue
This area is one of Tokyo’s main business districts and home to the famous Shibuya Scramble Crossing.
We see a first popular touristic sight immediately upon exiting the subway station. The Hachiko Statue is at square near the entrance/exit to Shibuya station.
The square is a popular meeting spot for friends to catch up.
Hachiko is a statue of an Akita dog with a story that captured the nation.
The original Hachiko was owned by a university professor in the 1920s. Hachiko would meet the university professor at Shibuya Station at the end of each day to accompany him home from there.
Unfortunately, the professor died while at work, and from then on, Hachiko kept returning to Shibuya station daily, waiting for his owner.
It is a story of loyalty and friendship and has become an important feature of Shibuya.
The square sits along the Shibuya Scramble Crossing and the statuee of the dog is almost lost due to the crowds on the square and the intersection. If you don’t know that it is there you will likely not see it.
At Shibuya Crossing, sometimes up to 1000 people cross at once and it is famous all over the world.
One of the most popular places to watch the crossing and take photos is the Starbucks above the crossing.
However, due to being the most popular, it is often hard to get a seat, especially a window seat and there are often long queues for mediocre coffee.
A much better option is the L’occitane café.
The brand L’occitane has a multi-story building over the Shibuya Scramble Crossing, with the first floor as a shop and the second and third floors as a café.
Go Shopping in Shibuya
Shibuya is also known for its shopping.
There are a number of shopping buildings and shopping streets in the surrounding area.
The most recently opened building, Shibuya Scramble Square, is the tallest building in the Shibuya area at 230m.
The first sixteen floors are filled with shops and restaurants.
The uppermost level, floor 46, is Shibuya Sky and provides a 360-degree view of Tokyo. One corner of the building overlooks the Shibuya Scramble Crossing, offering yet another perspective on the iconic landmark.
Taking part in hanami with friends, family or co-workers is a yearly tradition that many Japanese people enjoy, and the cherry trees of Shinjuku Gyoen are perfect for this as the different varieties allow the season to last longer than in parks with only one variety and therefore, a short peak bloom.
For our next location, Shinjuku Gyoen, there will be a 5-minute train ride to Shinjuku Station and a 10-minute walk to the Shinjuku Gate of Shinjuku Gyoen.
Shinjuku Gyoen is one of the most popular parks in Tokyo and one of the best spots for hanami in Spring.
The park is made up of three different garden styles.
The first, and oldest, is a traditional Japanese garden with many of the identifying features of Japanese garden design.
These include a large pond with small islands, curved bridges, and carefully arranged trees and shrubs.
In November, there is also a chrysanthemum display, one of the most important flowers in Japan as it is representative of the Imperial Family.
There is also a more symmetrical, formal French garden with a number of flowering plants.
Close by is the large English landscape garden, based on traditional English gardens. This area is home to hundreds of cherry blossom trees of a number of different varieties, making it ideal for hanami, or cherry blossom picnics.
Shinjuku Gyoen also has a large greenhouse with a number of tropical and sub-tropical flowers that aren’t traditionally suited to the Japanese climate.
There is an artificial waterfall inside which helps to maintain the humidity levels necessary for more tropical plants and flowers.
The greenhouse is an often-missed feature but is truly impressive in its own right. So we definitely recommend visiting it.
Closed on Monday (except cherry blossom season)
We end our second day in Tokyo in one of the most interesting parts of Shinjuku namely Golden Gai.
Once the night habitat of middle-aged salarymen, the area has broadened its demographic in recent years.
It’s one of the few parts of central Tokyo that hasn’t been changed and modernized since the post-war years. The architecture is ramshackle and haphazard in narrow and crooked streets.
This gives the area a quaint, olde-worldy feel as if viewing a part of history.
However, Golden Gai doesn’t stop with history. It is home to a number of small bars, each with its own interesting and unique ‘appeal point’.
They are often themed, with themes ranging from hospitals to 80s and 90s pop culture, to 50s Americana.
Some bars are as small as five seats, and it is good to be careful of the rules.
Some bars may have rules regarding no foreigners or no English, while others only serve a small number of well-known clientele and are not open to new customers.
Day 3: TeamLab Borderless and Odaiba
Mori Building Digital Art Museum
The Mori Building Digital Art Museum is the first of its kind and the perfect start to day 3 in Tokyo.
The Museum has been put together by teamLab Borderless, a digital art collective made up of some of the best digital artists working in collaboration with CG animators, engineers, and programmers.
They have created a number of extremely popular pop-up art exhibitions across the world, from London and Paris to Singapore and Shanghai.
Their use of light, perspective, and interactivity made them an instant success and the Digital Art Museum is their first permanent exhibition.
It is comprised of five different areas and there are 50 – 60 different artworks throughout these areas.
Some of their most popular works include the Forest of Resonating Lamps, an infinity room filled with hanging lamps that change color when approached, and Crystal World, another infinity room full of mirrors and LED lights where the user is able to choose the color of the lights.
There are also a number of other artworks that play with light and projections.
The En Teahouse, for example, provides tea to the viewer with projected flowers that bloom and later scatter, based on your drinking. One of the largest rooms of the museum, the Flower Forest, has projected flowers and butterflies covering the walls and floor.
Touching the flowers makes them wilt while standing in an empty spot makes new flowers bloom.
One of the key features of the art is the interactivity.
In all the artworks, the viewer is part of the art, touching the art, controlling the art, and creating their own unique experience of the art.
How to get there
The Mori Building Digital Art Museum is located in Odaiba, about a 25 – 30 minutes train ride from Tokyo Station.
Odaiba is a small man-made island in Tokyo Bay.
In the boom of 1980s Japan, the island began development to become a futuristic business area. This was slowed by the early 90s and was finally completed in the late 1990s as the economy picked up.
The island has a variety of shopping areas, business buildings, and interesting architecture.
Palette Town, an area close to the Digital Art Museum, also includes Venus Fort, a shopping mall designed to look like an 18th Century European town, complete with statues and a fountain.
Within Palette Town there is also one of the largest Ferris Wheels in Japan, at 115m. The top of the Ferris Wheel provides an amazing view over Tokyo, even as far as the Tokyo Tower.
Another great view of Tokyo is from the Rainbow Bridge, connecting Odaiba to the rest of Tokyo.
It is a suspension bridge, often lit up in rainbow colors.
When crossing the bridge, the north side offers views of Tokyo Harbour and Tokyo Tower, while the south provides views of Tokyo Bay and even Mt Fuji, at times.
While the Rainbow Bridge is a traffic and pedestrian bridge, the Bridge of Dreams is purely for pedestrians.
Aptly named for its nighttime illuminations, the Bridge of Dreams offers beautiful views during the day and whimsical, dream-like qualities at night.
On top of these, Odaiba also has a number of other museums, interesting architecture, and even an Edo period-themed onsen amusement park.
Oedo Onsen Monogatari has 13 different types of baths, using hot spring water pumped from beneath the ground.
Day 4: Tsujiki Fish Market, Asakusa, and Tokyo Skytree
Tsujiki Fish Market
One of the common bucket list items when visiting Japan is eating fresh sushi and it doesn’t get any fresher than straight from the fish market.
Tsukiji Fish Market is Japan’s largest fish market and provides some of the freshest seafood in the world.
The Tsujiki Outer Market is a hodgepodge of narrow alleyways with tiny shops and restaurants thrown together. Within this myriad, you can find some of the best sushi, sashimi, and general seafood available.
Each restaurant will have its own specialty, from seafood and rice bowls to freshly-cut sashimi, or it is possible to drop by a number of places and bring all those tasty snacks to a general eating area in the market.
There are also a number of shops selling food-related items in this area. This can include handcrafted Japanese chef’s knives and traditional cooking utensils.
How to get there
The Tsukiji Fish Market is a 20-minute train ride from Shinjuku station and a short walk from Tsujiki Shijo station.
For the afternoon, Asakusa is a great way to enjoy the contrasts of Japan.
Asakusa is a traditional entertainment district, with everything from traditional shopping to temples.
One of the main draws of the area is Sensoji Temple.
The temple was built in 645, making it Tokyo’s oldest temple and one of its most popular.
The first gate to the temple, Kaminarimon, is a huge version of traditional temple gates, in vermillion red.
It has a large lantern in the center of the gate and is seen as a symbol of Asakusa, and in some cases, of Tokyo.
Following this is a traditional shopping street, Nakamise.
It is made up of many small stalls, selling everything from tourist souvenirs to snacks and food.
Past this is the second gate and the main hall of the temple.
There is also a 5-storied pagoda accompanying the temple’s main hall. Asakusa Shrine is right next to this and is home to one of Tokyo’s most popular festivals, the Sanja Matsuri.
Surrounding the area are a number of shopping streets with various restaurants and shops. You should definitely try Tempura and Taiyaki, a Japanese baked sweet.
How to get there
Asakusa is two 10-minute train rides from Shinjuku, as a train change is required at Kanda Station.
A 20-minute walk across the Sumida River next to Asakusa will take you to the Tokyo Skytree.
At 634m this is the tallest structure in Japan, and when it was built, also the tallest in the world. It is used as a broadcasting tower and the lower base of the tower includes a shopping area and aquarium.
However, the real attraction of the Skytree is its observation decks.
There are two main observation decks, one at 350m and one at 450m. The first of the observation decks actually spans 3 levels, with broad windows offering panoramic views of Tokyo and the surrounding region.
On clear days, it is even possible to see Mt. Fuji.
One of these levels also has a restaurant serving French-Japanese fusion food while another level has a smaller café.
An elevator to the next observation deck will take you to a spiral ramp encircling the building.
Visitors follow the ramp, getting a 360-degree view of Tokyo as they go. This continues until visitors reach the final observation deck, with a stunning view of Tokyo from 450m.
This scene is amazing at any time of day, but sunset and the consequent city lights are considered particularly beautiful.
Tokyo is often the first stop for any visitor to Japan.
Whether it’s for the intriguing history, loud pop culture, or amazing food, Tokyo manages to attract millions of tourists yearly.
There is so much to do and so much to see that Tokyo can often be overwhelming. The fear of missing out on the best places to visit in Tokyo, or of wasting time getting lost can be difficult to overcome.
And that is where our 4-day Tokyo itinerary comes into place.
This itinerary covers a bit of everything, from perfect hanami spots to the neon dreams of the Robot Restaurant to the history of Asakusa.
We have gone over the best way to spend 4 days in Tokyo, seeing the sights and enjoying everything the culture has to offer.
Using this Tokyo itinerary as a guide to your stay in Tokyo will help create the ideal Japan trip.
Now, there’s nothing left to wait for, it’s time to enjoy Tokyo!