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How to Spend Your Time in Tokyo: A Suggested Itinerary for 2019

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a peaceful garden in Tokyo, Japan
Posted: 25.04.2013 | April 15, 2019

Tokyo is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It's fast-paced, futuristic and full of unusual and wonderful activities to keep you busy, including beautiful shrines, palaces and temples. Hip clubs and bars; and fashionable people and shopping, not to mention cherry blossoms.

Tokyo has grown to the hype you've heard about it.

You never know what you will find here. In a second, you'll meet a group of women dressed in pig masks and the '80s, and in the next, you'll be in a robotic cafe.

Or a centuries-old temple.

It is also one of the largest cities in the world with over 13 million inhabitants – nearly 40 million, if one counts the area around Tokyo. It is huge!

It is not surprising that it will take some time to see everything. And there are so many nooks and crannies to explore that you can easily get lost.

Here is my recommended itinerary on how to visit the best restaurants, attractions and activities in Tokyo:

Tokyo Itinerary: Day 1 – Ueno Park, Museums and Asakusa

the Meguro River in Tokyo, surrounded by cherry blossoms
Visit the fish market Tsukiji and Toyosu

From 2018, the main fish market moved to Toyosu. The new market is twice as big as Tsukiji, making it the largest fish market in the world. Make sure you receive a visitor badge upon entering.

Eat freshly caught sushi for breakfast and marvel at the chaotic atmosphere of the largest tuna market in the world. The auction here supplies a large portion of the world's sushi range and is truly breathtaking. Around you are fish with colors and shapes that you did not know exist. I have never seen more seafood that I could not identify.

The old outdoor market, where you can find groceries and shops, is still in the same location in Tsukiji. You can still eat there and look around, but the main market is now in Toyosu.

Tsukiji Fish Market: 5 Chome-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo, +81 3-3542-1111. Free entry.

Toyosu Fish Market: 6 Chome-6-2 Toyosu, Koto, +81 3-3520-8205. Open from Monday to Saturday from 5am to 5pm, although most shops are not open until 7am. Free entry.

Relax in Ueno Park

Ueno Park is a nice place to spend the day. It is a perfect place to photograph the many cherry trees and have a picnic. Do not miss these pages in the park:

  • Tokyo National Museum – This museum is located at the northern end of the park. Founded in 1872, this massive building houses one of the world's largest art collections of art and artifacts from Asia Japan, 13-9 Uenokoen, Taito, +81 3-3822-1111, tnm.jp. Open daily from 9:30 to 17:00 (usually Fridays at 20:00). Admission is 620 JPY.
  • Tosho-gu Shrine – This 17th century Shinto shrine can also be found in the park. It is beautiful with carved golden doors and ornate carvings. 9-88 Uenokoen, Taito, +81 3-3822-3455, uenotoshogu.com. Open daily from 9am to 5.30pm. Admission is free, but to get further into the shrine you have to pay 500 JPY.

National Museum of Western Art

This art gallery, opened in 1959, is one of the few that focuses on western art. The collection of almost 5,000 exhibits ranges from the Renaissance to the 20th century.

7-7 Uenokoen, +81 3-3828-5131, nmwa.go.jp. Open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30 to 17:30 (Fridays at 20:00). Admission is 500 JPY for adults, 250 for college students and for seniors and those under 18 years free.

Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum

This small museum was built in 1933 and used to be the official residence of the Prince and Princess Asaka. The prince had studied in Paris and wanted to bring the Art Deco style to Japan, which explains the style and decorations of the building. In 1983, the residence became a museum and today houses a changing series of modern art exhibitions.

5-21-9 Shirokanedai, +81 3-3443-0201, teien-art-museum.ne.jp/en. Open daily from 10am to 6pm. Admission is JPY 200, with discounts for students, children and seniors.

Stroll along the Meguro River

The Meguro River stretches for almost five miles through the city and is a great walk. There is a path with some green space that follows the water, so many locals go around there or train there. In spring you can see many cherry blossoms.

Look at Asakusa

If you want to see some of the historical religious sites of Tokyo, you should definitely spend some time in Asakusa. Two places that I would suggest to you are:

  • Senso-ji – This is the most popular and famous temple in Tokyo. It is beautifully painted and located on a picturesque spot near a pagoda and the beautiful Kaminari Gate. In the main hall is a huge statue of Kannon, goddess of mercy. Take a look at the "wooden greeting cards" hanging on the page: you can write your own and join the artistic exhibition. It is very crowded during the day so maybe check out the grounds in the evening. 2 Chome-3-1 Asakusa, Taito, +81 3-3842-0181, senso-ji.jp. The grounds are open around the clock, but the temple itself is open daily from 6am to 5pm. Free entry.
  • Asakusa Shrine – Not far from Senso-ji is this Shinto Shrine. This is much more peaceful than Senso-ji because there are fewer people and you can see people who pray, meditate or perform traditional rituals. It was built during the Edo period and survived the air raids of World War II. 2 Chome-3-1 Asakusa, Taito, +81 3-3844-1575, asakusajinja.jp. Open daily from 9am to 4.30pm. Free entry.

Having dinner with ninja

Another unique culinary experience is the Ninja Akasaka, a Ninja-themed restaurant designed like an Edo-era building. The waiters are dressed in stereotypical black robes and trained in all sorts of tricks and illusions. You will be ordering old scrolls while being entertained by the skillful tricks of your server! It's great fun

Tokyu Plaza Akasaka, +81 3-5157-3936, ninjaakasaka.com. Daily from 5 to 10.30 pm (Sundays 9.45 pm)

Drink in Golden Gai

If you are looking for something interesting to do at night, this alley with sidewalk cafes is a cool place to start. There is not much going on during the day, but at sunset these zigzag-shaped corridors and walk-in brasseries are filled with interesting people and cheap drinks.

Tokyo Itinerary: Day 2 – Imperial Palace, under the porters and quirky cafes

a peaceful garden in Tokyo, Japan
Stop at the Imperial Palace

The Imperial Palace, home to the Emperor of Japan, is a great place to learn about Japan's history and culture. The former Edo Castle was built in the 15th century and some of the walls and moats of that period are still in use today. When the emperor moved from Kyoto After Tokyo in 1869, he took Edo for his new palace and renamed it Imperial Palace.

Although you can not go in (or are very close to it), the building is amazing. It is surrounded by a beautiful plot and a park and around the stone walls is a moat. You can also see the change in the Guardian ceremony, though it is relatively modest and inconspicuous. The entrance to the area is free.

Visit the National Art Center

The museum and gallery, opened in 2007, do not have a permanent collection, but host an endless series of temporary exhibitions, from Impressionism to modern art. Check what's currently displayed on your website.

7 Chome-22-2 Roppongi, +81 3-5777-8600, nact.jp. Open from Wednesday to Monday from 10 to 17:30. The admission varies depending on the exhibition.

Eat under the carriers

Not far from Ginza is the Yurakucho district. Among the elevated railway tracks at Yurakucho Station are 700 meters of restaurants and bars. There are wine bars, beer houses and informal restaurants with business people. If you want to get a feel for life in the city, this is a good neighborhood that you can explore after work.

Superhero go-karting

Do you want to race through the streets of Tokyo in a go-cart with a costume? Of course you do! MariCar is a real Mario Bros. go-kart company that lets you dress up and run around in the city. As long as you have an international driver's license (which you will receive if you have a valid driver's license), you can participate.

4-12-9 Sotokanda, +81 80-8899-8899, maricar.com/en/akihabara.html. Open daily from 10am to 10pm. The course lasts 1-2 hours and costs 9,000 JPY per person. There are several locations in the city.

Look at a Sento

A Sento is a traditional Japanese public bathhouse. The Japanese are not shy in sentos, so you have to feel comfortable with nudity! They are typically separated by gender. A cheap Sento costs you just under 1,000 JPY.

Visit a quirky cafe

Tokyo has all sorts of amazing, crazy and wonderful cafes. Monster cafes, owls cafes, cats cafes, vampire cafes, dog cafes, religious cafes and much more! If you're looking for something out of the ordinary, check out those weird and quirky cafes in your area (they're all over the city so you never have to go far to find one!). Here are a few suggestions:

  • Kawaii Monster Café
  • Vampire Café
  • Christon Café (Christian Café)
  • Dog Heart (Dog Café)
  • Cat Café Calico

Tokyo Itinerary: Day 3 – Shinjuku, Shibuya and Robots

the busy streets of Tokyo at night
Stroll through Shimokitazawa

This bohemian district is full of vintage shops and is often shown compared to the East Village in New York with the quieter side of Tokyo. Whether you're shopping or simply immersing yourself in the scene, it's a cool environment to explore

Stroll through the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

This park is over 144 acres with about 20,000 trees. The original park was largely destroyed during the air raid during World War II, but was rebuilt and reopened in 1949.

In spring, this beautiful park is one of the best places to see cherry blossoms. My favorite part is the Japanese landscape garden with several ponds with bridges and islands. It is a peaceful little oasis amid the hustle and bustle of the city.

11 Naitomachi, Shinjuku, +81 3-3350-0151, env.go.jp/garden/shinjukugyoen/index.html. Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 4pm. Admission is 200 JPY.

Visit Shibuya Crossing

This is probably the busiest and most famous intersection in the world. The area is buzzing at night with bright lights and raging activities like Times Square on steroids. Be sure to visit the statue between Shibuya Station and the intersection. It is a homage to Hachiko, the faithful dog who became famous in the movie Hachi: A Dog's Tale.

Eat at the Robot Restaurant

This restaurant is an absolute sensory overload. Lasers, robots, monsters … it has everything! It's a tourist trap (not cheap), but it's epic, unlike anything you've ever seen, and worth the price if you want to do something outrageous!

1 Chome-7-1 Kabukicho, +81 3-3200-5500, shinjuku-robot.com/pc. On weekdays, there will be three performances a day from 4.45 pm and afternoon matinees on weekends.

Hang with the Harajuku girls

Harajuku is an electrical and quirky neighborhood. You'll often see teenaged Harajuku girls walking in the city wearing unique clothes and colorful hairstyles – imagine a Gwen Stefani video from the 1990s that comes to life. There is also a monthly Harajuku Fashion Walk where costumed cosplayers drop by – for dates visit the group's Twitter account (@harajuku_fw).

Experience a tea ceremony

No visit to Japan is complete without a traditional tea ceremony. While these are usually lengthy and costly experiences, there are definitely some affordable options for anyone who wants to experience the ceremony without breaking the bank. Here are a few examples

  • Kyoto-kan (500 JPY per person, Yanmar Tokyo Building 1F 2-1-1)
  • Nadeshiko (2,700-4,400 JPY per person, 2-7-24-2F Asakusa)
  • The Way of Tea (5,500 JPY per person, Coredo Muromachi 3 3F)

Take a look at the traditional Japanese theater

The Kabuki Theater is a traditional form of Japanese performance with dance and drama. The costumes and make-up are highly stylized, which provides a very visual performance. The Kabukizaka Theater in Ginza is the best venue to see one of these incredible performances. You can buy tickets for an entire show or for one act only if you are not ready to commit to a longer performance (they are in Japanese and take a few hours).

4 Chome-12-15 Ginza, +81 3-3545-6800, kabuki-za.co.jp. The performances take place almost every day. Check the website for the latest schedule. Expect to pay at least 1,000 JPY for a one-time ticket.

Tokyo Itinerary: Day 4 – Take a day trip

The giant Buddha statue near Tokyo is called Daibutsu

Time for a break from the city and a day trip. Here are a few suggestions:

Visit Daibutsu (the Great Buddha)

Take a day trip to Kamakura, where you can see a 13m long bronze Buddha statue. Built in 1252, the statue was originally built in a temple, but the temple was repeatedly washed away by storms. The statue is now sitting outdoors.

4 Chome-2-28 Rabbit, Kamakura, +81 467-22-0703, kotoku-in.jp. Open daily from 8am to 5.30pm. Admission is 200 JPY.

Get Touristy in Tokyo Disneyland

I'm a jerk for Disney attractions! This is a fun choice for anyone traveling with children, but also for adults who love amusement parks. Opened in 1983, the hotel has seven themed areas and is the third most visited park in the world!

1-1 Maihama, Urayasu, +81 45-330-5211, tokyodisneyresort.jp/tdl. Open daily from 8am to 10pm. Admission is JPY7,400 for adults and US $ 4,800-6,400 for children, depending on age.

Walk with Mitake

The Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park is just over an hour from Tokyo. The park covers 1,250 square kilometers of rolling hills, mountains and forests. There are many hiking trails, but you can also take the cable car up to the top of the shrine at about 930 meters above sea level.

View of Mt. Fuji from Hakone

Just over an hour from Tokyo, Hakone is one of the best places to escape the city, relax for a few days, and enjoy the views of Mount Fuji. There are numerous guesthouses in the area, many with their own private sources (hot springs).

Visit the Ghibli Museum

If you are a fan of the work of the famous director Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke), then you should take a look at this amazing exhibition. It was designed by Miyazaki himself and is an impressive experience that every movie fan will appreciate. Every month there is also a new short film, which is only available to visitors. Although the museum does not last the whole day, it is not in a very central location so you need to plan accordingly.

1 Chome-1-83 Shimorenjaku, +81 570-055-777, ghibli-museum.jp. Open from Wednesday to Monday from 10am to 6pm. Admission is 1,900 JPY for adults, with discounts for teenagers and children. There are limited tickets every day, so book in advance.

Tokyo Itinerary: Day 5 – Tokyo Tower, Sumo Match and Samurai

The Tokyo Tower at sunset in Tokyo, Japan
Visit the Tokyo Tower

The Tokyo Tower was built in 1957 and resembles the Eiffel Tower. He is 333 m higher than its European version and made entirely of steel. You can pay to go all the way to the top floor to enjoy the view, but to be honest, the viewing deck offers a view that is just as good.

4 Chome-2-8 Shibakoen, Minato, +81 3-3433-5111, tokyotower.co.jp. Open daily from 9am to 11pm. Admission is 900 JPY for the main deck or 1,600 JPY for the roof.

Visit the Samurai Museum

No trip to Japan would be complete without learning from samurai. While they were known for their martial arts, the culture was much more than just mastering the katana (traditional swords). The museum offers some incredible depictions of traditional weapons and armor, some of which you can even try on.

Kabukicho 2-25-6, +81 3-6457-6411, samuraimuseum.jp. Open daily from 10:30 to 21:00. Admission is 1,900 JPY per person. You can explore the museum on your own or in a group tour that takes place every 30 minutes.

Go over the rainbow bridge

This is the city's most popular bridge and offers some beautiful views of both sides of Tokyo Bay. Built in 1993, the light shines in rainbow colors at night – hence the name. It makes a pleasant walk during the day or at night.

Watch a sumo match

Kokugikan, Japan's most famous sumo wrestling arena, hosts tournaments three times a year. The sumo wrestling that we see today dates back to the 17th century, though its origins date back even further, and it is still one of the country's most beloved traditions. If you're in town at the right time, this is a must! Tickets are sold out fast, so act fast. A visit to one of the nearby Sumo huts can be interesting, but must be arranged in good time.

1 Chome-3-2-8 Yokoami, Sumida, +81 3-3623-5111, sumo.or.jp/kokugikan. The ticket prices vary, but expect around 2,200 JPY.

Drinks in the Park Hyatt

New York Bar is the iconic bar from 2003's Lost in Translation movie by Sofia Coppola. It's located on the 52nd floor and matches the hype of the movie. The atmosphere is stylish, the drinks are great and the view is absolutely breathtaking. There is live jazz every night, and although there is a nominal fee (around JPY 2,500), it's definitely worth it!

3-7-1-2 Nishishinjuku, +81 3-5322-1234, hyatt.com. Open from Sunday to Wednesday from 5pm to 12pm and from Thursday to Saturday from 5pm to 1pm.

Where should we eat?

Sushi in Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo is so big and has so many restaurants that it's impossible to choose only two or three favorites. Here are just a few my favorite restaurants in Tokyo:

  • Bifteck Kawamura Ginza – The steak basically melted in my mouth and exploded with taste. I found it a little too high and overpriced for me. 6 Chome-5-1 Ginza, Ginza MST Bldg. 8F, Chuo, 104-0061, +81 3-6252-5011, bifteck.co.jp.
  • Ichiran Shibuya – This ramen spot offered one of the best meals I had during my entire trip. The thick, spicy broth is a dream. I also like how you eat in your own little private booth. Funky Expect a wait during lunch and dinner times. 1 Chome-22-7 Jinnan, Shibuya, 150-0041, +81 3-3463-3667, www.ichiran.com/index.php.
  • Isakaya Juban – A small hole-in-the-wall Izakaya (Japanese tapas) restaurant where locals drink drunk sake and eat delicious plates. I was a big fan of salmon and grilled octopus. 2 Chome-1-2 Azabujuban, Minato, 106-0045, +81 3-3451-6873, izakayajuban.com.
  • Kakimaru – A fantastic place for seafood and tapas. Be sure to get the oysters. Note: While Google Maps lists the restaurant as Kakimaru, the restaurant is called Uohama if you go there. 6 Chome-1-6 Roppongi, Minato, 106-0032, + 81-3-5413-3689.
  • Standing sushi bar – This sushi location is one of many in the city. It's great for a quick bite: they stand, eat sushi and get out. It has a sturdy menu and it is cheap! 1 Chome-12-12 Nishishinjuku, Kasai Bldg. 1F, Shinjuku, 160-0023, +81 3-3349-1739, uogashi-nihonichi.com.
  • Tenmatsu tempura -Tempura is known for its lightness. It is a small hotel with fixed tempura menus. 1 Chome-8-2 Nihonbashimuromachi, Chuo, 103-0022, +81 3-3241-5840, tenmatsu.com/english.html.

For more places to eat, In this post you will find the best restaurants in Tokyo,

Additional resources

the bright signs and busy streets of Tokyo at night

To find out what other fun and interesting things to do in the city during your visit, here are some magazines and websites that you want to visit:

***
Tokyo is a huge city. You could spend a lifetime here and still not discover everything there is to see. However, following the itineraries and suggestions described above, you can make a fun and insightful visit and leave this sprawling capital city with a differentiated perspective on life in Tokyo. Best of all, you can do it without breaking the bank!

Book your trip to Japan: Logistic tips and tricks

Book your flight

Find a cheap flight with Skyscanner or Momondo, They are my two favorite search engines as they search websites and airlines around the world, so you always know that there is no stone on the other.

Book your accommodation

You can book your hostel with Hostelworld Since they have the most extensive inventory, they are best suited for booking a hostel. If you want to stay in a hotel or guest house in Japan, use Booking.com as they always return the lowest prices for guesthouses and cheap hotels. They are the best booking site. My favorite places in Japan are:

  • Khaosan Tokyo Kabuki (Tokyo) – This is one of the best hostels in the country. The staff do everything, and each room has its own bathroom. The location is ideal for exploring the city.
  • Sheena and Ippei – This hostel is very cozy and the owners are both helpful and knowledgeable. The lounge is open to all and you can enjoy appetizers and sake on the weekends.
  • Hostel Chapter Two Tokyo – This is a small, family run hostel in Asakusa. There are great views of the river and the dorms are new and spotlessly clean.

Do not forget the travel insurance

Travel insurance protects you from illness, injury, theft and cancellations. It's a complete protection in case something goes wrong. I never travel without it, as I've used it many times. I have used world nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Are you looking for the best companies that can help you save money?

Look at mine resource page for the best companies you can use while traveling! I list all those I use when traveling to save money – and I think that will help you, too!

Look for more travel tips for Japan

Look at my detailed information Japan travel guide Other ways to save money, costs, tips on attractions and activities, suggestions for itineraries, reading, packing lists and much more!

The post How do I spend your time in Tokyo? A journey for 2019 first appeared on Nomadic Matt's travel website,



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