The ideal Tokyo itinerary for 2-5 days - Wapiti Travel

Tokyo, the capital of Japan, counts 39 million inhabitants.  That makes it the world’s most populous metropolis.

Exploring Tokyo you will find yourself wandering from wide boulevards lined by skyscrapers and screaming billboards to narrow and cozy pedestrian streets. 

Tokyo has so many faces and its many districts are so surprisingly different that you may ask yourself what to do in Tokyo in 5 days?

That’s why we compiled this Tokyo itinerary for 5 days that will show you all the highlights and main attractions of this fantastic city. So definitely keep reading this Tokyo blog.

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Tokyo travel tips 

What is the best time to visit Tokyo

March to May and September to November are the best months to visit Tokyo.  

In April everything starts to bloom.  Japan is very famous for its cherry blossoms. As it’s peak season, hotel prices are high.

Still, we would advise visiting Tokyo during this time of the year.

The Sakura (Japanese for cherry blossoms) creates a special vibe in Tokyo that’s not only enjoyed by the tourists but also by the locals.  

The parks are full of Japanese that come to picnic under the cherry trees and local fairs and festivals are held to celebrate this annual event.

Summer season is from late June to the end of August.

We would advise when possible to avoid summer as temperatures are hotter and it’s very humid.  In late summer you also risk seeing your travel plans (partly) ruined by a typhoon.

In September and October, the autumn colors make the landscapes very photogenic. Autumn ushers in colorful foliage and comfortable temperatures. 

This is, with the exception of Spring, the most suitable time to visit Japan.

Winter (December to February) is cold but not too cold to travel.  Major tourist locations like Tokio, Kyoto en Osaka hardly get any snow but Japan’s mountainous region turns into a perfect ski destination for several months.

How to find cheap tickets to Tokyo

f you want to find cheap flights to Tokyo we advise you to have a look at Momondo and Skyscanner and to read our full review about 10 booking sites here. 

Those who are always on the lookout for the best deals should join the Dollar Flight Club. 

Joining is free and once you’ve joined you will get alerts in your mailbox whenever cheap flights out of your home airport have been found. 

Read also: The best things to do in Kyoto at night.

Cherry blossoms South Korea

How many days in Tokyo?  

This wouldn’t be a 5-day itinerary if we wouldn’t think that 5 days was the ideal number of days to get a good impression of this fascinating city. 

But we do understand that not everybody is able to reserve 5 days just for Tokyo.

If 5 days is too much for you we recommend you to stay a minimum of 2 days in Tokyo. This will allow you to see the most important attractions.

3 or 4 days in Tokyo gives you some more freedom to see the major sites and experience the city atmosphere.  You will be able to discover the different Tokyo neighborhoods at ease.

What to do in Tokyo in 5 days?

5 days in Tokyo will give you the opportunity to discover the city and do one side trip to either Nikko, Mt. Fuji, Hakone or Tokyo Disney Sea.

We have arranged the days around different neighborhoods so you shouldn’t spend too much time getting from one sight to the next. 

This means that the sights we have included in the first days are not necessarily better than those of the consecutive days. 

You’re off course free to mix and match the days according to your personal preference and make use of Tokyo’s extensive train and subway network to get around the city.

Japan visa requirements

We didn’t need a visa and you probably won’t either except if you have an African, South American or Asian passport.  

You can check here if you need a Visa.

How to get from Haneda or Narita airport to Tokyo? 

There are 2 international airports in Tokyo, Haneda and Narita airport.

Haneda International Airport

Haneda International Airport is located 14 kilometers south of Tokyo Station.

There are two options to reach central Tokyo from Haneda Airport by train.  These are the Keikyu Line and the Tokyo Monorail. Both require a transfer to the JR Yamanote Line to reach major stations in central Tokyo.

Since chances are that you will need to switch trains to reach your hotel you might prefer the comfort of a private or shared transfer to your hotel.

You can book your shared transfer here: Shared Transfer
or you can opt for a private transfer here: Private Transfer

Narita Airport

Narita is the smallest of the 2 airports but does serve as the international hub of both major Japanese airlines, Japan Airlines, and ANA. 

It lies 60 km east of central Tokyo. Although it is located further from central Tokyo than Haneda it is actually better connected. 

The JR Narita Express and the Keisei Skyliner are 2 excellent options but you could also opt for a bus or taxi.

The JR Narita Express, abbreviated as N’EX, is covered by the Japan Rail Pass.  This makes N’EX your best option if you have a JR Pass.

To use this train with your Japan Rail Pass you need to exchange your voucher for the actual pass at the airport.

Once exchanged you will also need to reserve seats as N’EX is one of the few trains that only has reserved cars.

Read also: Japan Rail Pass is it worth it?

The Keisei Skyliner is a good alternative to N’EX if you have no Japan Rail Pass.  The prices, the comfort and the train schedule of both trains are comparable.

The main difference is that N’EX will take you to Tokyo station, Shinagawa, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro & Yokohama. 

The Keisei Skyliner heads to Nippori station and Keisei Ueno (close to Ueno station).

Both trains offer easy transfer to the JR Yamanote line, the main loop line in Tokyo.

 

As with Haneda, you can also book private or shared transfers from Narita to Central Tokyo. After a long flight, a direct transfer from the airport to your hotel will be a lot more comfortable.

You can book your shared transfer here: Shared Transfer
or you can opt for a private transfer here: Private Transfer

How to get around in Tokyo? 

The easiest way to travel around Tokyo is by public transport.

Tokyo has a very extensive public transportation network. The fact that it is operated by 11 different train companies that each sell their own tickets can make it a bit overwhelming at first.  

Two different companies operate the metro network and here too you cannot use tickets from one company to transfer to trains of the other company. 

Read also: In our full guide to Tokyo’s public transport we share a lot of information about the different transportation options in Tokyo.  With this information, you will be able to choose the best ticket or pass for your visit.

If you don’t feel at ease using the subway, you can always jump on one of the hop-on-hop-off buses to see the highlights of Tokyo.

Money tips

Credit cards

Expenses abroad can be seriously inflated by fees from your bank or credit card.  That’s why I’m a huge fan of my N26 account.  The account is available to most EU residents. 

The checking account is free as well as the associated Mastercard and there’s no exchange rate provision when you use to card for payments abroad. 

There’s a 1,7% exchange rate provision when you withdraw money abroad but even that is free with the premium Black Mastercard. 

The app is another great feature of the card, you can follow your expenses in real-time and instantly block your card if you see any signs of fraud.

Travel around with some cash

Most restaurants accepted credit cards, but the smaller establishments still swear by cash and sometimes credit cards are not accepted for train or subway tickets.

We learned the latter at a very inconvenient moment when we were rushing to the airport for our return flight home and we had spent all of our money.  The only ATM that accepted foreign cards in the station had a minimum withdrawal amount of 10,000 yen. 

Luckily we found a money exchange office in the station that was willing to exchange the 7 euros we needed to buy our tickets.

Except for this we never encountered any problems withdrawing money or paying with credit cards but after this very stressful moment, we swore to never spend all our cash again.

That is why we advise you to always have some cash on you when you travel around Tokyo for the first time.  But even if you have been to Tokyo several times it seems like a good idea. 

You never know, an ATM that you rely on might be out of service or there might be an unexpected problem with your credit card.

This stressful moment learned us that having cash is a good backup plan.

We just made it in time for our flight but we don’t want you to experience the same stress we had.

Internet in Japan

Some hotels in Tokyo provide a free “Handy” mobile phone in your hotel room. With this phone comes a local number where you can be reached and you can use it to make free local and international phone calls.

Handy mobile phone

But even more convenient is that it comes with a data plan.

The phone has quite a few apps with local information and you can install additional apps. You could also use it as a hotspot.

At the end of your stay, all data will be erased or you can reset the phone and erase all data anytime you want.

We used Google Maps on the mobile phone to find our way around the city. We also installed the Tokyo Metro app which helped us to navigate the extensive metro network like a pro.

We used Google Maps a lot in Tokyo and a mobile WiFi device certainly comes in handy here.

Don’t panic if your hotel room doesn’t come with the useful “Handy” mobile phone. It’s very easy to buy a local SIM in Japan. 

You can install this SIM in your phone but if you rather keep your own number you can use it with a mobile WiFi device.

You can buy both the SIM and the mobile WiFi device in local electronics stores like Yodobashi & BIC Camera. 

You can also order a SIM in advance and it will be waiting for you in your hotel upon arrival.  

Ordering online is possible on Klook and Bmobile.

The Handy-phone or a local SIM will make traveling to Tokyo for the first time so much easier.

We bought a local SIM card and whenever we didn’t have the Handy-phone we used our own Pocket WIFI device to share the 4G connection but if you don’t have a device of your own you can also rent one online and pick it up at the airport.

Click here to purchase your local sim card: BOOKING

Here you can read more tips when you are traveling to Japan for the first time.

 

The best place to stay in Tokyo 

Here we share the best place to stay in Tokyo based on our own experience. When we decided where we wanted to stay in Tokyo during our 3 weeks in Japan, we looked at nightlife and restaurant options, the main tourist attractions and the proximity to main public transportation hubs. 

Most notably the JR Yamanote line, the circular line that takes you to most tourist attractions.

This led us to the Shinjuku district in our personal opinion the best district to stay in Tokyo for first-timers as it offers many of Tokyo’s highlights,  has many shops and restaurants and offers access to Shinjuku station and the JR Yamanote line. 

Staying in Shinjuku is also a great choice for side-trips as well as you’ve many direct connections from Shinjuku station

But other districts have their advantages as well.

That’s why we wrote a complete post about the best place to stay in Tokyo for tourists and first-timers. You will find our detailed where to stay in Tokyo guide here. 

 

Luxury Hotel

Hotel icon

Park Hyatt Tokyo

Hotel Park Hyatt TokyoThe Park Hyatt was featured in the famous movie ‘Lost in Translation’.  If you fancy yourself sipping cocktails in the elegant rooftop bar you might as well treat yourself to a luxury stay in their posh rooms.  The hotel is located almost right next to the Tokyo Government building.  You might skip a visit to their observation platforms after you’ve enjoyed that cocktail at the bar.  The rooftop bar of the hotel is located higher than the observation platforms in the government building… So you will have a fantastic view of the city.

A perfect choice if you are looking for a 5-star luxury hotel in the heart of Shinjuku.

 

Click here for reviews and the latest prices: AGODA

Premium Comfortabel Hotel

Hotel iconHilton Tokyo

 

Hotel Hilton TokyoThe Tokyo Hilton is situated about a 15-minutes walk to Shinjuku train station but the hotel offers a free shuttle service that runs every 20 minutes to the train station. The airport limousine bus has a stop at this hotel.  There’re multiple restaurants and supermarkets in this area. Last but not least, after a busy day exploring this vibrant city you can relax in the indoor pool or sauna.  

Highly recommended hotel if you are looking for a good hotel in the vicinity of public transport.

 

Click here for reviews and the latest prices:BOOKING AGODA HILTON

Comfortable Hotel

Hotel icon

Hotel Gracery Shinjuku

Hotel Gracery ShinjukuHotel Gracery Shinjuku is right in the heart of the bustling Kabukicho district with plenty of restaurants and bars.  The rooms are rather small, as most hotel rooms in Tokyo are, but they’re very well-equipped.  The hotel offers an excellent breakfast.  The Shinjuku station is only about a 5-minute walk but still, the hotel offers a paying shuttle as an alternative.

This is the perfect place for you if you are looking for a centrally located hotel for good price value.

 

Click here for reviews and the latest prices:BOOKING AGODA
Maybe this is not what you were looking for?  Check out other hotels in Shinjuku with Booking.com and Agoda : BOOKING AGODA

Organized tours in Tokyo 

Here is an overview of the best-organized tours in Tokyo  An organized tour saves you time and, moreover, the tour guide will enlighten you about the different sights you visit.

We partnered up with GetYourGuide, MagicalTrip, and Klook for most of these activities. 

GetYourGuide is a reliable platform where you can book thousands of tours anywhere in the world. 

MagicalTrip is a Japanese company that specializes in small group experiences led by locals.

Both companies are very flexible and they offer free cancellation for most of the activities when your plans change. 

Klook is a trustworthy travel company headquartered in Hong Kong that teams up with local operators to offer all kinds of travel experiences.

We selected 4 excellent tours in Tokyo just for you.

Watch the Robot show at the Robot Restaurant 

Robot RestaurantThe Robot Show is touristy, expensive and the food isn’t so great so you might wonder why you need to visit it.  Well, it’s something you can only experience in Japan.  The show is grotesque and completely over the top like one can only experience in Japan.

 

For this activity, we decided to partner up with Klook because they often have the cheapest tickets for the Robot Restaurant. 

Skip the lines at the Tokyo Skytree

Tokyo SkytreeThe Tokyo Skytree is, with a height of 634 meters, the highest building in Japan. It’s also the highest free-standing tower in the world. The tower houses 2 observation platforms that offer a fantastic view of Tokyo. They are respectively at a height of 350 and 450 meters and are amongst the highest in Japan. Here you can enjoy a breathtaking view of Tokyo. An absolute Tokyo must visit when you want to see Tokyo from above.

The lines are often very long so we recommend you to book skip the line tickets. 

Read reviews and book: Tokyo Skytree Tickets

If you are looking for a free alternative, you should head to the  Metropolitan Government Building. This building has 2 towers that each offer a viewing platform at a height of 202 meters. The northern tower stays open until 11 p.m. and ‘Tokyo By Night’ is really spectacular.

Make a day trip to Mount Fuji

Mount FujiIf you want to escape the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, a day tour to Mount Fuji might be a good idea. 

Since there are so many day tours it isn’t easy to choose. 

That’s why we made this handy overview for you so you can choose the best mt. fuji day tour for you based on your interests.

 

Join a Bar Hopping Night Tour in Shinjuku

Tokyo Shibuya

Shibuya crossing

With this Shibuya Bar Hopping Night Tour, you will discover hidden food alleys and bars in Shinjuku. Explore Shibuya at night while tasting local street food in izakaya bars and learn more about the Japanese culture. 

Read reviews and book: Shinjuku Bar Hopping Tour 

 


5 days in Tokyo

Here you will find a complete Tokyo itinerary for 2-5 days.

Tokyo is such a big city that you best discover it one district at a time. 

It may be tempting to rush to the different highlights on your first days but even with the fantastic train and metro connections, you will still lose a lot of valuable time.

For this reason, we have arranged the days around different neighborhoods so you shouldn’t spend too much time getting from one sight to the next.  Shinjuku and Shibuya were our absolute favorites and that’s why we include those two in our first two days.

You don’t need to stick to our itinerary.  Feel free to rearrange the days as you prefer.  If you cannot spend the full 5 days in Tokyo you can also mix and match sights from different days. Just try to arrange sights from the same region.

Read on to discover which places you absolutely need to visit in Tokyo.

2 days in Tokyo 

If you have just 2 days in Tokyo you absolutely don’t want to miss the true Tokyo vibe.  That’s why we start this itinerary in Shinjuku, the epic center of Tokyo. Shinjuku does justice to Tokyo with skyscrapers, bright neon-lit streets and massive crowds day and night.

The next day we start at Shibuya crossing, the world’s busiest intersection. 

From there we make our way, along Omotesando, to the Harajuku district. A shopping district that attracts both the young and trendy as well as the rich. 

We end at the Meiji Shrine in Yoyogi park.

Event icon Day 1: Shinjuku

If you already had an image in your mind about Tokyo, chances are that Shinjuku looks exactly like it. 

Shinjuku is in a certain way a mini version of Tokyo where you can get a glimpse of the crazy nightlife, the lush gardens, the extensive and punctual public transport and the huge crowds that seem to be on their way day and night.

Shinjuku Gyoen

Shinjuku Gyoen is a superb zen garden of 58 hectares in the middle of Tokyo.  The garden is worth a visit year round but the presence of more than one thousand cherry trees of over a dozen varieties make this park a must visit in the Sakura season. 

This is one of the few parks in Tokyo that charges an entrance fee.

Many people prefer other parks over Shinjuku Gyoen for this reason making this one of the more peaceful parks.  That’s also why we found this garden the best place to enjoy the cherry blossoms.

 

Info icon
Location:
Shinjuku Gyoen (Shinjuku Entrance)
Naitomachi, Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-0014, Japan.
Event icon
Opening hours: Daily 9 am – 4.30 pm (last entry 4 pm)
Closed on Monday (except cherry blossom season)

 

200 yen
Cherry Blossoms Shinjuku Gyoen

How to get there

Bus iconShinjuku-gyoenmae subway station is about 5 minutes away from the Shinjuku entrance.  Shinjuku Gyoen garden is also within walking distance of the large central Shinjuku station where both JR lines, as well as the metro (Tokyo Metro and Toei lines), stop.

Cherry Blossoms Shinjuku Gyoen - Tokyo - Japan

Shinjuku Gyoen, Tokyo

Piss Alley (Omoide Yokocho) 

Our 2 days Tokyo itinerary brings you also to Piss Alley. Piss Alley consists of 2 narrow alleys next to the Shinjuku train station. 

In other countries, these narrow and dark alleys would be a place to avoid and the smell of urine would be wafting from the alleys as you pass them. 

The hair in your neck would stand on end just thinking you had to walk through them.

Not so in Tokyo. Locals frequent the small eateries in piss alley for a quick bite and over the years they have become popular with tourists as well.  

As you stroll through these alleyways, you can taste the charm of this city.

Stroll through piss alley and imagine yourself in a Japanese Mafia movie

These narrow and charming passageways are in stark contrast with the skyscrapers and the neon lights that are just around the corner and are so typical of this city.

On your way to Kabukicho make sure to take a detour through Piss Alley and if you are hungry you can indulge in Yakatori in one of the many tiny restaurants that are here.

How to get there

Bus iconPiss Alley is really close to the West Exit of Shinjuku train station.  The two alleys run parallel to the tracks.  You will see the entrance on your right if you face the Shinjuku Dai-Guard train bridge.   Shinjuku station is served by several JR lines and both Tokyo Metro and Toei lines.

Kabukicho

Kabukicho is Tokyo’s most popular nightlife district. 

According to statistics, this is the most unsafe neighborhood in Tokyo, but we never felt unsafe.

This might be the most unsafe district in Tokyo but compared to similar nightlife districts in other countries around the world Kabukicho is much more entertaining than it is dangerous.

I would advise being alert but don’t let this dodgy reputation, that mainly lives with the locals, stop you from discovering this crazy side of Japan’s capital.

We were regularly approached by touts (remarkably all blacks) who proposed to arrange a fantastic night for us.

Fortunately, they didn’t insist and with a polite “no, thanks” we quickly got rid of them.

Besides pubs and restaurants, Kabukicho also houses the red light district. For us, Europeans, this was not like we were used to seeing in, for example, Amsterdam, where the girls try to lure you in from their windows.

Here, everything is neatly hidden away, but the pictures outside clearly show what you can expect inside.

The Robot Restaurant

Strolling through Kabukicho you will also pass the famous Robot Restaurant. You cannot miss it. Even in the abundance of neon-commercials that you find in this neighborhood the Robot restaurant still manages to stand out.

This already gives you an idea of what to expect inside.  No expense has been spared to overwhelm you with large robots and impressive lasers in a dazzling show.

We heard from visitors that already have seen the show several times that it is regularly updated.

It is touristy because inside you barely find Japanese. The food is not good (it would be better to take restaurant out of the name) and it’s expensive but so completely over the top that you will remember it for a long time.

You better buy your tickets online in advance because they are much cheaper online.  Tickets are sold at the venue for (converted to USD) $100.

More information and tickets: Robot Restaurant or read our full guide about the Robot Restaurant.

How to get there

Continuing your journey from Piss alley you cross the Shinjuku Dai-Guard train bridge and go straight along the Yasukuni Dori street.   The Kabukicho district consists of the first streets on the left side of the street.

Golden Gai

Just a little passed Kabukicho is Golden Gai, a nightlife district with narrow streets where it seems like time has stood still. 

This is the only place in Japan where you can witness a nightlife district that has been preserved exactly like it was post-war. 

The streets are lined with small charming pubs, most can hardly fit 10 customers and most only accept the regular customers.

A few are open to foreigners and those can be recognized by the English menus outside.

How to get there

As you walk towards the East (keeping Yasukuni Dori on your right) you will automatically arrive in Golden Gai.  This district is bordered by Kabukicho on the West and the Hanazono Shrine on the East.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building 

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is a landmark building in Shinjuku.  Both towers of this building house an observation platform on the 45th floor, at a height of 202 meters.  

There are several observation platforms in Tokyo and one can argue about which one has the best views on Tokyo’s impressive skyline but one thing is for sure, the Metropolitan Government Building are the cheapest because they can be visited for free.

On a clear day, you will be able to spot famous landmarks such as Mt. Fuji, the Tokyo Tower, and the Tokyo Skytree.  At night the views over the city are just as spectacular.

Info icon
Location:
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
2 Chome-8-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo 163-8001.
Event icon
Opening hours: Daily 9.30 am – 11 pm  
Closed: December 29 to December 31 and January 2-3

 

Free
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Japan

 

How to get there

It’s easy to reach the Metropolitan Government Building with the metro or the train.

Bus iconThe Tochomae stop of the Oedo Subway Line (Toei) is located directly underneath the building.

Bus iconFrom Tokyo’s central Shinjuku station, it is a 10-minute walk to the Metropolitan Government Building. Shinjuku station is served by several JR lines and both Tokyo Metro and Toei lines. To get to the building take the West exit of the station.

Event icon

Day 2: Shibuya

Shibuya crossing

We start the day at Shibuya crossing.  This is the world’s busiest intersection.  Take the metro to Shibuya station and follow the arrows for the Hachiko exit.  This exit leads directly to the intersection.

Everywhere around are neon advertisements and giant talking video screens.  The mass of pedestrians that cross the intersection each time the light turns green has made this intersection famous and it is often featured in movies.

The best views on the crossing are from above.  To get a bird’s eye view you could consider getting a coffee at the Starbucks located above the Tsutaya bookshop. Thanks to its location it’s now the world’s busiest Starbucks and pretty crowded at all times.

For this reason, they don’t allow people in just to take pictures,  you have to buy drinks if you want to get a bird’s eye view.

The crazy vibe of the intersection draws the attention away of Tokyo’s most famous dog, Hachiko.

The statue of Hachiko stands at the exit of the train station where, each day, he loyally waited for his master to return home. 

Every day the dog came to the station to meet his master and he continued to do so for 9 years after his master had died, until his own death.

A bit of a sad story that was filmed in Hachiko, a dog’s tale.

How to get there

Bus icon Shibuya station is right underneath this crossing.  Take the Hachiko exit.

Omotesando

From Shibuya, we make our way to Omotesando. Omotesando is a shopping street where you will find stores from Dior, Prada and Louis Vuitton. 

Not surprisingly it mainly attracts a high-heeled clientele. 

Walking down Omotesando street towards Yoyogi park you can do some (window) shopping.

The designer pieces in the shop windows may draw your attention but don’t forget to look up once in a while.  The unique architectural designs of some of the buildings ensure that just walking alone this tree-lined avenue is a treat. Some of the eye-catching buildings include the ones of Dior, Boss, Tod’s Prada and Dior.

Further down the street is Tokyu Plaza, a small shopping plaza with a unique mirrored entrance.

You can take a break at the rooftop garden on the 6th floor.

 

How to get there

Bus iconYou can either take the Ginza or Hanzomon line for one stop to Omote-Sando station.

By foot, it would take you 15 minutes along Aoyama Dori.

Yoyogi Park

Omotesando street leads right to the Meiji Shrine in Yoyogi park. The park is a 170-acre oasis of green and consists of approximately 100,000 evergreen trees. 

The entrance of the Shrine is marked with a huge 12 meter high wooden Torii gate.  The Shrine buildings themselves are located well inside the forest and have an air of tranquility. 

Both the shrine and the park are a very peaceful location and ideal to relax and do some people watching.

You might be lucky enough to spot a traditional Shinto wedding as this Shrine is a popular wedding venue.

How to get there

Omotesando leads straight to Yoyogi park.

Bus iconTo get here by train you would take the Yamanote line to Harajuku station.

 

Bus iconThe nearest metro stop is Meiji-jingumae served by the Chiyoda and Fukutoshin lines.

Harajuku

Harajuku is the center of Japanese youth culture.  Teens flock to this district for their shopping needs but clearly, they avoid Omotesando street. 

Instead, they frequent the smaller side streets like Cat street, Meiji street & Takeshita-Dori.  Takeshita-Dori is the most popular street among tourists.

This has attracted tourist-oriented shops and cool and hipster brands have moved out to cat street. 

Nevertheless, these 3 streets, and in general the entire neighborhoods left and right of Omotesando is well worth a visit.

Over the weekends the streets can get crowded with shoppers but other times of the week it doesn’t feel at all like you’re walking in a metropolis, rather like a small hip city.

Harajuku is also the place to be to try sweet crepes. It’s one of the Tokyo desserts you absolutely must try while you there. 

How to get there

Omotesando street more or less splits the Harajuku district in half.

Bus icon To get here by train you would take the Yamanote line to Harajuku station.

 

Bus iconThe nearest metro stop is Meiji-jingumae served by the Chiyoda and Fukutoshin lines.

 

3 days in Tokyo

Event icon

Day 3: Akihabara

Akihabara

Akihabara, nicknamed “Electric City“, is Tokyo’s go-to place for all your electronics.  Hundreds of electronics stores are dotted across the district. 

You can buy everything from computers, mobile phones and home appliances to heated toilet seats and cheap second-hand goods that come with no guarantee at all.

Don’t just buy everything. Because of the voltage difference, not all electronics will work in your home country.  Luckily several shops offer a selection of international models and even better, offer tax-free shopping to foreign tourists.

Even if you’re not looking for the newest smartphone or computer it is still fun to browse around the shops. 

You will be amazed by the wide selection of gadgets that is for sale.  I’m pretty sure some of these will be new to you.  Yodobashi is the nearest store to Akihabara station. 

It is their biggest store and a good start of your discovery of Japan’s electric city.

Over the years many anime and manga stores have popped up in this region to the extent that Akihabara is now recognized as the center of Japan’s anime culture. 

The arrival of the shops caused an influx of maid cafés as well. 

It’s fun, although expensive, place to have a drink.  In exchange for the hefty price, you will be served by waitresses that dress up as French maids or anime characters. 

For the best, or should I say least awkward, maid café experience you should pick one where the waitresses speak English like the @home café.

But you don’t even need to visit such a café to see the maids as many of them are standing at the street corners to attract customers.

The manga stores are, just like the electronics stores, fun to snoop around.  The stores are stuffed with comic books, video games, posters, DVD and action figures. Even to such an extent that you can hardly move around. 

That was at least our experience in the Mandarake store which specializes in second-hand and rare manga related goods.

How to get there

Bus icon Take the JR train to Akihabara station.

 

Bus iconThis station is also served by the Hibiya metro line.

Imperial Palace

Depending on how much time you have spent snooping around the anime and electronics stores you may want to hop on the JR Yamanote train and head 2 stops south to Tokyo Station. 

Upon exiting the station you can’t but notice the Manhattan-like modern skyscrapers that are just north-west of the station.   

Just behind these office buildings is the Imperial Palace

The Palace is located in a lovely green area.

The hike around the park grants you nice views on the moats, bridges and massive stone walls that used to protect the Edo castle that was located here until1888 when the current palace was completed.

The East Gardens of the palace are open to the public all year round.  There are some cherry trees, a wide open lawn and some remains of the former fortifications that needed to protect the castle.

A small section of the park has been transformed into a nice Japanese style garden.

The inner grounds are only open to the public during the Sakura season, on December 23rd and select other occasions. 

Those dates can be found on the website of the Imperial Household agency.  

The rest of the year they can be visited with a guided tour. 

Daily two tours are conducted in both Japanese and English.  You can subscribe to these tours online.

How to get there

Bus icon Take the JR train to Tokyo station.

 

Bus icon This station is also served by the Marunouchi metro line.

 

4 days in Tokyo

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Day 4: Asakusa

Asakusa is located north-east of central Tokyo.  For centuries up until world war 2, it used to be the prime entertainment district of Tokyo.

 It was severely bombed and completely rebuilt afterward but it has never regained the same popularity it used to have. 

The Sensoji temple is very famous with tourists, the nearby entertainment district is again gaining in popularity after the completion of the Tokyo Skytree in 2012.

Sensoji temple

The Sensoji temple is Tokyo’s most colorful and probably also most crowded temple. It was completed in 645 and that makes it also the oldest temple of the capital. 

Most visitors approach the temple through the Nakamise shopping street.  The street is lined with shops that sell traditional souvenirs and snacks. 

To the left of the temple is an impressive five-storied pagoda and to the right is a much more recent shrine.

You can climb the stairs to the roof in the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center for a good view on the Nakamise street with the temple and the pagoda majestically in the background. 

The center is almost exactly opposite the impressive Kaminarimon or Thunder gate that marks the entrance of the shopping street. 

This gate is decorated with a huge paper lantern weighing 670 kilograms and 4 colorful statues of Buddhist gods.

How to get there

Bus iconTake the Ginza or Asakusa metro line to Asakusa station.  It’s a short 2-minute walk from the station to the entrance gate of the Nakamise shopping street.

If you want to learn more about Asakusa’s history and important traditions this cultural walking tour around Asakusa might be something for you. Not only will you learn more about the history and culture of Asakusa, but you will also have the chance to taste Japanese sweets and learn how to make Monjyayaki, a must-try Tokyo dish. 

More information and bookings: Asakusa Cultural and street food Tour
Denboin garden

The Denboin garden is the private garden of the temple’s abbot.  For 2 months every year, usually March and April, everybody gets to enjoy this magnificent and serene place.

Be sure to pay this garden a visit if you’re here during this period.  

It is a place where you can take a rest and escape from the crowds in the temple.  

A visit to a small art exhibition of sculptures and ema paintings is included in the entrance fee for the garden.

Info icon
Location:
Denboin Garden
2-3-1 Asakusa Asakusa, Taito.
Event icon
Opening hours: March to April (exact dates vary every year) Daily 10 am – 4 pm

 

300 yen
Denboin Garden - senso-ji denbointeien

How to get there

Halfway Nakamise Shopping street you will cross a pedestrian street that borders the temple’s grounds on the South. Following this street Eastwards (take a left turn facing the temple) will lead you to the entrance of the Denboin garden.  The entrance is the gate on your right just before the side street on your right.

Tokyo Skytree

It’s easy to get to Tokyo Skytree from Asakusa.  It’s only a 20-minute walk but you could also opt for the Tobu Isesaki Line that directly connects the Skytree with Asakusa station. 

The line is operated by Tobu so your Japan Railways pass is not accepted.

The complete rebuilt area is called Tokyo Skytree Town and the tower is situated more or less in the middle of the town.  At the bottom of the tower is a large shopping and entertainment complex.

The complex features several terraces that offer a good view of the tower or you can have lunch or dinner in the restaurant on the top floor in the Sky Tree East Building.

The entrance of the tower is situated on the 4th floor of the shopping mall.  

The tower has two observation platforms, the first is situated at a height of 350 meters and contains a café and restaurant.

The second platform is an additional 100 meters higher. You can buy a ticket to visit only the first observation platform or both.

The lines are often very long so we recommend you to book skip the line tickets. These are currently cheaper when bought in advance than on-site.

Here you can find more info about the Tokyo sky tree skip the long queues ticket:  Tokyo Skytree
Info icon
Location:
Tokyo Skytree
1 Chome-1-2 Oshiage, Sumida, Tokyo 131-0045.
Event icon
Opening hours: Daily 8 am – 10 pm (last entry 9 pm)

 

Regular on-site: First observatory only; 2060 yen, both:  3090 yen
Skip the line on-site: First observatory only: 3000 yen, both: 4000 yen
Tokyo Skytree Japan

How to get there

Bus iconThe Tobu Isesaki Line directly connects the Skytree with Asakusa station.

 


Bus iconJust as easy is the Asakusa Metro line that connects Asakusa station with Oshiage station (this station is right outside the shopping mall).

Ueno Park

To the west of the temple is Ueno Park, a large park surrounded by several museums and the Tokyo zoo.

The garden is a hotspot to see the cherry blossoms. Although we preferred the placid experience in Gyoen this park shows the true vibe that awakens the city as soon as the blossoms start to open in the trees.

Everywhere you saw people picnic with their friends and the fairly wide paths in the park were jam-packed.

The best spot to see the cherry blossoms is along the path that divides the Shinobazu lake.

 

How to get there

Bus icon Ueno station is a major hub of JR and is also served by the Ginza and Hibiya metro lines.

Bus iconDeparting from Tokyo Skytree you take the Asakusa line to Asakusa station where you change for the Ginza line.

5 days in Tokyo

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Day 5: Day trips from Tokyo

Now that you have seen the major highlights of the capital city it is time to explore some of the other sights of Japan. 

Those looking for cultural highlights will love Nikko, one of the best Shrines in Japan. 

The almost perfectly shaped Fuji Volcano is on nearly everybody’s list who comes to Japan for the first time.

Note though that a clear sight is very rare in high season, your best chances are November to February.

Lastly, we included Tokyo Disney, an ideal day trip with children or for those who just want to enjoy a day of ultimate entertainment.

Nikko

Most tourists are drawn to Nikko by the popular Toshogu Shrine. 

This Shrine started as a relatively plain mausoleum for Tokugawa Leyasu until its grandson enlarged it and transformed it into the richly decorated complex that it still is today.  

The Shrine gained its popularity because it is the only Shrine in Japan that is so extravagantly decorated.

Another reason to visit Nikko is the Nikko National Park, a huge forested mountainous park. 

The parks idyllic lakes, gorges, and waterfalls attract many hikers all year round but are particularly visited in late October to early November when it is a prime location to see the colorful autumn leaves.

How to get there

Bus icon  The JR Tohoku Shinkansen is the fastest option to reach Nikko.  The train departs in Tokyo station or Ueno station and takes you to Utsunomiya where you change to the JR Nikko line.  The journey takes about one hour and a half and is fully covered by the JR Pass.

A cheaper option are the limited express trains that leave from Shinjuku station. 

These trains take two hours to reach Nikko, they are NOT fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass but are free to those who own a JR Tokyo Wide Pass or one of the JR East Passes.

Mt. Fuji

Day trips from Tokyo to Mt. Fuji will probably take you to Lake Kawaguchiko, the largest of the five lakes of the Fuji Five lakes resort area. 

A hike along the Northern shore of the lake will grant you several splendid views on the lake with the volcano in the background. 

Several cherry trees that grow by the lakeside provide that extra bit of magic during the Sakura season.

After a day of hiking, you can relax in the many onsens located throughout the five lakes resort area or you can do a boat tour on one of the lakes.

How to get there

Bus iconYou could take a direct bus that leaves from Shinjuku station or Tokyo station.  The bus will take you in just under 2 hours to Lake Kawaguchiko.

Bus iconIf you want to get by train you need to take the JR Chuo line to Otsuki first where you need to change to the Fujikyu Line to Kawaguchiko. 

Holders of a JR Tokyo Wide Pass can use this pass for the entire journey but the segment from Otsuki to Kawaguchiko is NOT covered by the Japan Rail Pass.  The train journey will take approximately 2,5 hours.

If you are looking for an easy hassle-free way to visit Mount Fuji then an organized day trip might be something for you. 

Hakone

Hakone, famous for its hot springs, is another popular day trip to see Mount Fuji.  Hakone is situated in a green environment and nearby Lake Ashi offers dramatic views on Mt. Fuji. 

Unlike lake Kawaguchiko the shores of Lake Ashi are largely undeveloped.

How to get there

You can find all info about Hakone in our Hakone day trip guide. 
Tokyo Disney

Tokyo Disney consists of two parks, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea.  Disneyland is similar to other Disneyland parks around the world. 

DisneySea is the bigger of the two and has more attractions aimed at an adult audience.

DisneySea is built around a unique concept unseen in other Disney parks around the world.  The park was awarded the Thea award for the great decor of this park.

We loved our visit to Tokyo DisneySea.  The park has some really good attractions and the design is one of the best we have ever experienced in a theme park.   It was also fun to see how some Japanese completely dress-up in the Disney-magic. 

More information and tickets:Tokyo DisneySea

How to get there

Bus icon Take the JR Keiyo or JR Musashino lines to Maihama Station.
This is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass.  In Maihama station you can change to the Monorail that will take you to the entrance of Disneyland or DisneySea.

Note that the Monorail is not included in the price of your entrance ticket and is only free for overnight guests to the park. You can also walk from the JR station to the entrance of the parks.  For Disneyland, this would be the best option as the entrance is really close by and only a 5-minute hike.  DisneySea would approximately be a 15-minute hike.

Conclusion

There’s a lot to see and experience in Tokyo. You will need at least 2 days just to cover the major highlights.  3 days in Tokyo give you a good amount of time to see the major sites and experience the city atmosphere. When you have 4 days in Tokyo you have more time to discover the different Tokyo neighborhoods at ease.

Ideally, you have 5 days in Tokyo.  This will allow you to explore the most fascinating districts of the capital and do a side trip to see some more of Japan like Nikko, Mt. Fuji, Hakone or Tokyo Disney Sea.

Other Japan travel tips

If you are traveling through Japan, our Japan travel guide will help you plan your trip.

 

Wondering what to wear in Tokyo? Take a look at our complete Japan packing list. 

 

If you are planning a 3 week Japan itinerary, you will find a lot of information here. if you have 2 weeks to spend in Japan, take a look here.

 

If you are traveling to Kyoto and Osaka take a look at our detailed Kyoto and Osaka itineraries. Here you will find what to do in Kyoto at night and the best things to do in Osaka night. 

Here you will find our detailed Hiroshima itinerary. 

 

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Tokyo 5 days itinerary

Categories: Japan

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