Last June marked my second visit to Japan after 11 years. Eleven y e a r s ! So, of course, I was itching to see and experience more of the Land of the Rising Sun! Though our time in Tokyo was very limited (literally a day & a half), we were determined to make the most of it!
Just a note before you go on reading: This itinerary focuses on mainly sightseeing around Tokyo. If you plan on taking time to shop or do other activities, you’ll definitely need a longer stay. I’d also like to proudly share that this schedule was planned out to the last complicated detail — AKA every Tokyo subway transfer. With that, I am happy to report that we were able to mark off almost everything in the itinerary and only spent around 3000 yen / P1500 (excluding meals)! Check out details on the costs & tips at the end of the post!
Day One, 10:00 AM
Known to be the largest wholesale fish & seafood market in the world, the Tsukiji Market was definitely a must-visit for all sashimi and sushi lovers. Sitting in Central Tokyo, it is lined with small wet shops where you can get the freshest and tastiest catch.
We hit the ground running and headed for the Tsukiji Market right after arriving in Tokyo at 9am. When we got there, we could immediately see various kinds of seafood and several glorious cuts of fish. We thoroughly enjoyed a couple of amazing bowls of kaisen don for brunch, which are rice bowls with assorted sashimi beautifully laid on top. Some recommended restaurants in the Tsukiji Market area are Sushi Dai and Dawai Zushi (or basically any shop that requires a long wait!).
How to get there: Get to the Hibiya Line on Tokyo Subway and get off on the Tsukiji Station. Then its only a 5-min walk to the Tsukiji outer market. Our hostel was actually just 15-mins away so we walked instead.
Day One, 12:00 PM
After our fresh brunch, we headed north to the Asakusa area! This district is known to be the “old Tokyo” where its main attraction is an ancient Buddhist temple called the Sensoji Temple. Busy streets filled with shops and restaurants surround the Sensoji with Nakamise Shopping Street being the main road approaching the temple. Various traditional Japanese experiences are available for visitors in this area ranging from renting kimonos, riding on rickshaws, to discovering all types of local snacks and souvenirs.
Just across the Sumida River from Asakusa sits the Tokyo Skytree. This tower proudly stands tall at 634 meters high, earning it the title of tallest structure in Japan. We just walked to the Skytree and enjoyed the views of the river along the way, then spent some time to rest our feet inside the Skytree’s huge shopping center at its base.
How to get there: From Tsukiji Station, we rode the Hibiya line to Ginza Station, switched lines to the Ginza line and got off at the Asakusa Station. From the Sensoji Temple, it was only a 20-min walk to the Tokyo Skytree.
Day One, 2:30 PM
After a little recharge, we headed on the next leg of our expedition: western Tokyo! We arrived in the Shibuya district and could immediately feel that the atmosphere completely changed! Gone was the soft and traditional feel from Asakusa, we were in fast-paced, modern Tokyo now. The ever-so-popular Shibuya Crossing is the epitome of exactly that. Its surroundings also highlight Shibuya’s main attractions: the shopping! Then, you can also opt to check out the nearby Harajuku area, which is known for being the haven for edgy and quirky Japanese culture.
Next, we moved on to one of my favorite spots in Tokyo: Yoyogi Park! We grabbed some snacks and took a rest at this beautiful park. It was a Saturday in the summertime, so a lot of people were out enjoying the sun. It was such a nice place to just enjoy nature and do some people-watching. Right beside Yoyogi Park is the the famous Meiji Shrine, known for its enormous torii gates and thick forest that separates the shrine from the hustle and bustle of the city.
How to get there: From the Tokyo Skytree, ride the Hanzomon Line at the Oshiage (Skytree) Station and get off at the Shibuya Station. This is a lengthy ride (around 35 mins), so grab a seat if you can. From the Shibuya Station, we explored everything highlighted above all on foot! And remember, Google Maps is your best friend.
Day One, 5:00 PM
By this time, the end of the daylight was drawing near. We had originally planned to go to the Shinjuku Gyoen National Park, but I mistakenly forgot that it closes at 4pm. So our backup plan was to head up to the observation deck of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (entrance is free!). It was a great decision since we were able to catch the sunset over the vast skyline of Tokyo. On clear days, it’s said that Mt. Fuji can be seen from here, too!
We got back down to ground level right when night was falling, perfect timing to experience Shinjuku‘s bright and colorful streets. This district is known for having one of the largest entertainment, nightlife, and shopping scene. You could opt to finish off your day with dinner and drinks in this area!
How to get there: Ride the Fukutoshin Line at the Meiji-jingumae (Harajuku) Station near the southeast exit of the Meiji Shrine. Switch to the Marunouchi Line at the Shinjuku-sanchome Station and get off at the Shinjuku Station. From there, take a 10-min walk to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. If all that is too complicated for ya, you can do what we did which was exit the Meiji Shrine at its northeast gate and walked about 20 mins straight to the Government Building. (Did I fail to mention that this itinerary is heavy on walking? My bad)
Day One, 8:00 PM
Ginza was actually not on the original itinerary, but we were on a mission to have dinner at Ichiran Ramen (one of Japan’s most popular ramen chains, if you didn’t already know). For some reason, we assumed that the Shinsaibashi branch near the Ginza area would be less crowded, but of course, it was not. We ended up wandering a bit more in the Ginza area, also filled with long stretches of shopping streets but with a lot more high-end and luxury brands. We hit up the UNIQLO Flagship Store as well which had an impressive 12 floors of retail goodness.
How to get there: From Shinjuku, ride the Marunouchi Line at the Shinjuku Station. Switch to the Ginza Lines at the Akasaka-mitsuke Station and get off at Shimbashi Station (nearer to Ichiran Ramen Shinsaibashi branch) or Ginza Station (nearer to the luxury shopping street).
Day Two, 8:00 AM
The new day brought us to southern Tokyo: the Roppongi Hills area, which is known as the business district housing the headquarters of various popular Japanese IT companies. This district also features a vast luxury shopping area as well as a nice view of the iconic Tokyo Tower in the near distance.
How to get there: For Roppongi Hills, get on the Hibiya Line and get off at the Roppongi Station. For the Tokyo Tower, either take the Mita Line and get off at the Onarimon Station, or take the Oedo Line and get off at the Akabanebashi Station, or take the Hibiya Line and get off at the Kamiyacho Station. Whichever station you arrive in, it’ll take around another 10-min walk to the Tokyo Tower.
Day Two, 10:00 AM
As a last stretch of our 30-hr stay in Tokyo, we headed to the Imperial Palace in Central Tokyo. This is the current residence of Japan’s imperial family. Inner grounds of the palace are not open to the public but the East Gardens is open all-year round. It features guardhouses, defense walls and a large moat. The gardens cover a vast area, so it may take some more time if you wish to explore its entirety. We ended our Tokyo escapades here, as we needed to catch our 12nn bullet train to Osaka.
How to get there: Choose between the Chiyoda, Tozai, Marunouchi, Hanzomon and Mita Lines and get off at the Otemachi Station. An underground exit of this station should lead you straight to the East Gardens.
Costs & Tips
- If you were able to read through the entire itinerary, you’d understand why this trip didn’t cost us much — our preferred mode of transport were our feet! I would honestly always prefer to walk since it makes me feel more immersed in the city. With that said, comfy walking shoes are a must for this itinerary.
- Our other preferred mode of transport is obviously the Tokyo Metro Subway. It may be intimidating at first, but you’ll get the hang of it after a while! Pro tip: Download the Tokyo Subway Navigation App to check how to get from one station to the other. It clearly defines which lines to take and where to switch!
- For the cost of transportation, we got a public transport package which included a one-way bus ticket from the Tokyo Narita Airport and a 24-hr Tokyo Subway ticket which allowed us to just keep riding the subway all we wanted. And it only cost us 1700 yen / P850 per person!
- Where you choose to stay for the night will greatly affect your itinerary, so be mindful of that. Since you can basically go anywhere via subway in Tokyo, best to stay near a subway station. We choose this hostel near Hatchobori Station.
- As with any destination, pick up either a pocket wifi or sim card to keep you connected. Not only will it keep your social media updated, but it is necessary for navigating. Alternatively, downloading offline Google maps are a good option as well. We rented ours off Klook and paid around P370 per day.
I visited the Tokyo in June 2018 as part of a five-day Japan trip.
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Giselle is the owner and author of Giselle Wanders Off, a travel blog and creative outlet where she captures her adventures at home and abroad in hopes of inspiring others to go see the world as well!