Planning a trip to Tokyo? Get ready for a thrilling adventure in one of the most dynamic and vibrant cities in the world. From its futuristic skyscrapers to historic temples, bustling streets to serene gardens, Tokyo offers a perfect blend of modernity and traditional charm.
As a first-time visitor, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the countless attractions and activities available in Tokyo. That’s why we’ve created this comprehensive DIY travel guide to help you make the most of your trip. With our suggested itinerary, you’ll have a chance to explore the city’s major highlights while also delving into the hidden gems that only locals know.
Whether you’re a culture enthusiast, a food lover, or an adventure seeker, Tokyo has something to offer for everyone. Get ready to immerse yourself in the vibrant energy of Shibuya’s bustling streets, experience awe-inspiring views from atop Tokyo Skytree, and indulge in authentic Japanese cuisine at the local izakayas.
During your stay in Tokyo, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the city’s diverse neighborhoods, each with its own unique charm. From the traditional streets of Asakusa to the trendy shops of Harajuku, there’s always something new and exciting to discover.
And if you’re looking to venture beyond the city’s borders, you can take a day trip to the iconic Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest peak, and enjoy the breathtaking natural beauty of the surrounding area.
Before we dive into the day-by-day itinerary, we highly recommend getting a Suica or Pasmo card, which will allow you to effortlessly navigate Tokyo’s extensive public transportation system. These cards can be used on trains, buses, and even for shopping at convenience stores.
So, pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable journey. Let’s begin your Tokyo adventure!
Day 1: Exploring Central Tokyo
Welcome to Tokyo! On your first day, we’ll dive right into the heart of the city and explore its central neighborhoods. Get ready for a day filled with iconic landmarks, exciting shopping districts, and delicious food.
Start your day by visiting the famous Meiji Shrine in the Shibuya district. This peaceful Shinto shrine is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. As you walk through the tranquil forest and approach the main shrine, you’ll feel a sense of calm and serenity.
Next, head to Harajuku, the fashion and pop culture capital of Tokyo. Takeshita Street, a narrow pedestrian street, is a must-visit here. Get lost among the colorful shops selling trendy fashion, quirky accessories, and mouthwatering crepes. Don’t forget to check out the unique cosplay stores and indulge in some people-watching as you witness the unique street fashion of Harajuku.
After exploring Harajuku, make your way to Omotesando, often referred to as Tokyo’s Champs-Élysées. This wide tree-lined avenue is home to high-end boutiques, stylish cafes, and impressive architecture. Take a leisurely stroll and admire the stunning designs of the buildings, including the iconic Omotesando Hills shopping complex.
For lunch, head to the nearby district of Akihabara, also known as Electric Town. This bustling neighborhood is a haven for anime and manga lovers, as well as tech enthusiasts. Explore the multi-story electronics stores, visit the themed cafes, and shop for unique souvenirs. Be sure to grab a meal at one of the local izakayas for a taste of authentic Japanese cuisine.
In the afternoon, make your way to the historic Asakusa district. Start at Senso-ji, Tokyo’s oldest and most famous Buddhist temple. Walk through the vibrant Nakamise Shopping Street leading up to the temple, where you can shop for traditional crafts, snacks, and souvenirs. Immerse yourself in the rich history and take in the stunning architecture of the temple and its surroundings.
Wrap up your day by experiencing the liveliness of Tokyo’s busiest intersection at Shibuya Crossing. It’s a sight to behold as hundreds of people cross the street in all directions when the signal turns green. Be sure to grab a spot at Starbucks for a bird’s-eye view of the action. Afterward, explore the vibrant streets of Shibuya and indulge in some shopping or enjoy a delicious dinner at one of the local restaurants.
That concludes your first day of exploring central Tokyo. Get a good night’s rest because there’s still so much more to see and experience!
Day 2: Cultural Sightseeing in Tokyo
On day two, immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of Tokyo with visits to historic temples, traditional gardens, and art museums.
Start your day by visiting the iconic Tokyo Tower. This towering landmark offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city from its observation decks. On a clear day, you can even catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji in the distance. Take your time exploring the different levels of the tower and learn about its history and significance.
From Tokyo Tower, make your way to the beautiful neighborhood of Ueno. Here, you’ll find Ueno Park, a sprawling green space that is home to several top-notch museums and cultural institutions. Start by visiting the Tokyo National Museum, which houses an extensive collection of Japanese art, including ancient artifacts, samurai armor, and delicate ceramics.
After the museum, take a leisurely stroll through Ueno Park and enjoy the serene atmosphere. Don’t miss the chance to visit Ueno Zoo if you’re interested in seeing a variety of animals, including pandas.
Next, head to Yanaka, a charming neighborhood known for its traditional atmosphere. Take a walk along Yanaka Ginza, a shopping street lined with quaint shops selling traditional crafts, snacks, and souvenirs. Explore the narrow alleyways and discover hidden temples and shrines tucked away in the residential area.
In the afternoon, make your way to the picturesque neighborhood of Shinjuku. Start by visiting the tranquil Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, a peaceful oasis in the midst of the bustling city. Take a leisurely stroll through the beautifully landscaped gardens, admire the vibrant cherry blossoms in spring, or relax by the serene pond.
After the garden, venture into the Golden Gai area of Shinjuku. This narrow alleyway is filled with small, cozy bars and restaurants. Experience the unique atmosphere and grab a drink at one of the establishments, where you can mingle with locals and fellow travelers.
End your day with a visit to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku. Take the elevator to the observatory deck on the 45th floor and enjoy stunning panoramic views of the city skyline, including the iconic Mount Fuji on a clear day.
That wraps up day two of your cultural sightseeing in Tokyo. Be sure to soak in the rich history and immerse yourself in the beauty of the city as you explore its temples, gardens, and museums.
Day 3: Shopping and Entertainment
Get ready for a day filled with shopping, entertainment, and culinary delights as we explore Tokyo’s vibrant shopping districts and entertainment hubs.
Start your day by visiting the upscale district of Ginza. Known for its luxurious boutiques and department stores, Ginza is a shopaholic’s paradise. Explore the famous Wako department store, stroll along the main shopping street, and window-shop at the high-end designer stores. Be sure to check out the exquisite food halls in the department stores, where you can indulge in mouthwatering treats and sample delicious Japanese delicacies.
From Ginza, make your way to the trendy district of Shibuya. Take a walk along Center Street and explore the various shopping malls and department stores, offering a mix of local and international brands. Don’t forget to visit the famous Shibuya 109, a multi-story shopping haven popular among fashion-forward individuals.
After shopping, make your way to the vibrant neighborhood of Roppongi. This area is known for its bustling nightlife and entertainment options. Visit the Roppongi Hills complex, where you’ll find a variety of shops, restaurants, and art galleries. Take an elevator ride to the observation deck for breathtaking views of the city and enjoy a cocktail at one of the rooftop bars.
In the evening, experience the unique atmosphere of Tokyo’s electronic and gaming district, Akihabara. Explore the countless shops filled with the latest gadgets, manga and anime merchandise, and retro video games. If you’re interested in gaming, visit one of the gaming arcades and try your hand at some of the popular Japanese arcade games.
For dinner, head to Omoide Yokocho, also known as “Piss Alley,” in Shinjuku. This narrow alley is lined with small eateries serving delicious street food and local delicacies. Try yakitori (grilled skewered chicken), oden (a hotpot dish), or the famous beef bowls. It’s a great place to experience the lively atmosphere and sample authentic Japanese cuisine.
End your day with a visit to one of Tokyo’s iconic entertainment districts, such as Kabukicho in Shinjuku or Roppongi. Explore the vibrant nightlife scene, with its countless bars, nightclubs, and karaoke establishments. Enjoy live music performances, watch traditional Japanese theater shows, or simply immerse yourself in the electric atmosphere of the city after dark.
That concludes day three of your Tokyo adventure. Enjoy the thrill of shopping, immerse yourself in the entertainment options, and indulge in the culinary delights that the city has to offer.
Day 4: Day Trip to Mount Fuji
On day four, take a break from the bustling cityscape of Tokyo and embark on a breathtaking day trip to the iconic Mount Fuji. As Japan’s highest peak and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mount Fuji offers stunning natural beauty and a glimpse into Japan’s rich cultural history.
Start your day early to make the most of your trip. Take a direct bus from Tokyo to the fifth station of Mount Fuji, which is located about halfway up the mountain. The journey takes around two hours, allowing you to enjoy the scenic views along the way.
Once you arrive at the fifth station, take some time to explore the area and soak in the majestic surroundings. Enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes, purchase souvenirs, or savor a warm bowl of noodles at one of the mountain huts.
If you’re up for a challenge and in good physical condition, consider climbing to the summit of Mount Fuji. The climbing season typically runs from July to early September. It’s an unforgettable experience, but be prepared for a demanding hike and check the weather conditions beforehand.
If hiking to the summit isn’t your preference or if you’re visiting outside the climbing season, there are still plenty of other activities to enjoy. Take a leisurely walk along the Yoshida Trail, which offers stunning views of the mountain and surrounding landscapes. Alternatively, you can opt for a scenic boat ride on Lake Kawaguchi, one of the Fuji Five Lakes, and capture beautiful views of Mount Fuji from the water.
For lunch, indulge in local specialties such as Hoto noodles or Fujiyama Yakisoba. These dishes are known for their hearty flavors and are perfect for refueling after your adventures.
If you have enough time, consider visiting some of the nearby attractions, such as the Fuji-Q Highland amusement park or the Fujiyama Onsen hot springs. These attractions offer a fun and relaxing way to end your day trip to Mount Fuji.
As the day draws to a close, make your way back to Tokyo, allowing yourself to reflect on the awe-inspiring beauty of Mount Fuji. Whether you choose to hike, explore the surrounding area, or simply admire the majestic peak from a distance, a day trip to Mount Fuji is sure to leave you with memories that will last a lifetime.
Day 5: Off the Beaten Path in Tokyo
On day five, step off the well-trodden tourist path and explore the hidden gems and lesser-known attractions of Tokyo. Unlock the secrets of the city as you venture into neighborhoods that offer a unique perspective on Tokyo’s culture, history, and local life.
Start your day in Yanaka, a charming neighborhood known for its traditional atmosphere and preserved Edo-era architecture. Take a relaxing stroll through the Yanaka Cemetery, a serene and picturesque final resting place for many famous Japanese figures. Explore the narrow streets lined with small shops and cafes, and discover hidden temples and shrines along the way.
From Yanaka, make your way to Koenji, a bohemian neighborhood known for its alternative and artsy vibe. Explore the vintage clothing stores, independent boutiques, and record shops that line the narrow streets of this hipster haven. Don’t miss a visit to the Koenji Temple, a peaceful oasis amidst the bustling neighborhood.
Next, head to Shimokitazawa, a lively and vibrant neighborhood with a youthful energy. This district is known for its thrift stores, trendy boutiques, and live music venues. Take your time browsing through the unique shops and indulge in a delicious meal at one of the local cafes or restaurants.
Afterwards, make your way to Kagurazaka, a charming neighborhood steeped in history and culture. Wander through the narrow alleyways adorned with traditional Japanese-style houses and discover hidden gems such as the tranquil Zenkoku-ji Temple and the enchanting Akagi Shrine. Kagurazaka is also famous for its culinary scene, so be sure to treat yourself to some delicious traditional Japanese cuisine.
In the afternoon, visit Odaiba, a futuristic entertainment and shopping district located on a man-made island in Tokyo Bay. Admire the stunning skyline views, visit the teamLab Borderless digital art museum, and enjoy shopping at the various malls and outlets. Take a leisurely walk along the beach, or rent a bike and explore the area’s waterfront parks and gardens.
As the day comes to an end, head to Rikugien Garden in the Bunkyo ward. This beautiful traditional Japanese garden is known for its breathtaking landscapes and meticulously manicured flora. Take a relaxing stroll through the garden, and be sure to visit the Teahouse Fukiage Chaya, where you can enjoy a cup of matcha tea while taking in the serene surroundings.
That wraps up day five of your Tokyo adventure. By exploring the offbeat neighborhoods and hidden gems, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the city’s rich tapestry of culture and traditions.
Day 6: Neighborhood Hopping
On day six, it’s time to explore Tokyo’s diverse neighborhoods and experience the unique vibe of each district. From historic streets to modern shopping districts, immerse yourself in the different atmospheres and uncover the hidden gems of Tokyo.
Begin your day in the historic district of Asakusa. Start your exploration at Senso-ji, Tokyo’s oldest temple. Take in the grandeur of the main hall and wander through the bustling Nakamise Shopping Street, where you can find traditional snacks, crafts, and souvenirs. Don’t miss the opportunity to climb to the top of the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center for a panoramic view of the surrounding area.
From Asakusa, make your way to the trendy neighborhood of Shimokita. Known for its artistic and bohemian vibe, this area is filled with independent boutiques, vintage clothing stores, and unique cafes. Explore the vibrant streets, discover hidden art galleries, and soak in the creative atmosphere. Stop by Toguri Museum of Art to admire the exquisite porcelain art collection.
Next, head to the upscale district of Omotesando for a taste of Tokyo’s luxury. Stroll down the tree-lined avenue and marvel at the stunning architecture of the high-end boutiques and flagship stores. Take a break at one of the trendy cafes or enjoy a shopping spree at the Omotesando Hills shopping complex.
For lunch, venture to Nakameguro, a hip riverside neighborhood known for its charming canals and trendy cafes. Explore the quiet streets lined with shops and cafes, and enjoy a meal along the picturesque Meguro River. During cherry blossom season, this area is particularly stunning, as the cherry trees create a canopy of pink flowers.
In the afternoon, head to the fashion-forward district of Harajuku. Walk down Takeshita Street and immerse yourself in the vibrant youth culture and street fashion scene. From quirky boutiques to colorful crepe stands, this area is a delightful sensory experience. Don’t forget to visit the peaceful Meiji Shrine nearby for a moment of tranquility amidst the bustling streets.
End your day in the energetic district of Shinjuku. Visit Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, a tranquil oasis in the heart of the city, where you can relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery. As the evening approaches, make your way to Omoide Yokocho, also known as “Piss Alley,” for a unique dining experience amidst the tiny alleyways and cozy izakayas.
That concludes day six of your Tokyo adventure. Neighborhood hopping allows you to witness the diverse personalities of Tokyo’s districts and uncover their hidden treasures. Enjoy exploring the different atmospheres and immersing yourself in the lively spirit of each neighborhood.
Day 7: Relaxation and Farewell to Tokyo
On your final day in Tokyo, take the opportunity to relax and bid farewell to this incredible city. This day is all about unwinding and reflecting on your memorable experiences before saying goodbye.
Start your day with a visit to one of Tokyo’s serene traditional gardens. Meander through the peaceful pathways of the Rikugien Garden or Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. Take a moment to sit by a tranquil pond or under a blooming cherry tree and embrace the calmness that these beautiful green spaces offer.
After enjoying some quiet time in the garden, treat yourself to a rejuvenating experience at an onsen, a traditional Japanese hot spring. Tokyo boasts several high-quality onsen facilities, such as Ooedo-Onsen Monogatari in Odaiba or LaQua Spa in the Tokyo Dome City. Soak in the natural hot spring waters, indulge in a soothing massage, or simply relax in the therapeutic atmosphere.
For lunch, venture to a local restaurant and savor the delicious flavors of Tokyo’s renowned cuisine. Whether it’s sushi, ramen, tempura, or kaiseki, take your time to appreciate the exquisite taste and attention to detail found in Japanese dishes.
After lunch, indulge in some last-minute shopping or souvenir hunting. Head to popular shopping districts like Shibuya or Shinjuku, where you’ll find a wide array of shops, boutiques, and department stores. Pick up memorable gifts for yourself or loved ones to cherish the memories of your time in Tokyo.
In the evening, consider booking a traditional tea ceremony experience to immerse yourself in the traditions of Japan. Participate in the meticulous preparation and serving of matcha tea, and enjoy the serene atmosphere that accompanies this revered cultural practice.
As night falls, take a leisurely stroll through one of Tokyo’s vibrant neighborhoods like Ginza or Shinjuku. Marvel at the dazzling city lights and allow yourself to be captivated by the lively energy that Tokyo exudes after dark. Enjoy a final dinner at a local restaurant, savoring the delicious flavors and reflecting on your incredible journey.
As your time in Tokyo comes to an end, take a moment to appreciate the experiences and memories you’ve gathered during your stay. Say farewell to this vibrant city, knowing that its unique charm and enchantment will always remain with you.
That concludes day seven and your Tokyo itinerary. Take one last breath of Tokyo’s invigorating air and carry the spirit of this extraordinary city with you as you embark on your next adventure.
Practical Tips for First-Time Visitors
Visiting Tokyo for the first time can be an exciting and slightly overwhelming experience. To make your trip more enjoyable and stress-free, here are some practical tips to keep in mind:
- Get a Suica or Pasmo card: These rechargeable smart cards can be used for public transportation, making it convenient to travel on trains, buses, and subways without the hassle of purchasing individual tickets.
- Learn a few basic Japanese phrases: While many locals in Tokyo can speak English, it is always appreciated when visitors make an effort to learn a few simple phrases like “hello” (konnichiwa) and “thank you” (arigatou gozaimasu). It can go a long way in your interactions.
- Plan your itinerary in advance: Tokyo is vast, and there are countless attractions to see. Research and plan your itinerary ahead of time to make the most out of your visit and to ensure you don’t miss any must-see sites.
- Be mindful of Japanese customs and etiquette: Respect local customs by learning how to properly bow, taking off your shoes when entering temples and some restaurants, and refraining from loud or disruptive behavior in public spaces.
- Try local cuisine: Tokyo is a food lover’s paradise, so don’t be afraid to explore and try new dishes. Be bold and venture beyond sushi and ramen to discover the diverse and delicious world of Japanese cuisine.
- Carry cash: While credit cards are widely accepted in hotels and major establishments, it’s a good idea to have cash on hand for smaller shops, food stalls, and transportation. ATMs can be found at convenience stores or banks.
- Respect personal space: Tokyo can be crowded, especially during rush hours. Be mindful of personal space and avoid pushing or shoving while using public transportation or in crowded areas.
- Stay connected: Purchase a pocket Wi-Fi device or a SIM card to ensure you have access to the internet throughout your trip. This will make navigating the city and staying in touch with loved ones much easier.
- Carry a portable umbrella: Tokyo’s weather can be unpredictable, so it’s always a good idea to carry a compact and portable umbrella to protect yourself from sudden rain showers.
- Take advantage of technology: Download useful apps like Google Maps, Tokyo Metro, and Japan Official Travel App to navigate the city, check train schedules, and find helpful information about attractions and events.
By keeping these practical tips in mind, you’ll be well-prepared to navigate Tokyo and make the most of your first-time visit. Embrace the city’s unique blend of tradition and modernity, and let Tokyo’s vibrant energy and rich culture leave a lasting impression on your travel memories.
As your Tokyo adventure comes to an end, it’s time to reflect on the incredible experiences, vibrant culture, and rich history you’ve encountered throughout your journey. Tokyo truly captivates visitors with its unique blend of old and new, where ancient temples stand alongside skyscrapers, and traditional customs live harmoniously with modern innovations.
From exploring iconic neighborhoods like Shibuya and Harajuku to immersing yourself in the serenity of traditional gardens and shrines, Tokyo offers a diverse range of attractions and activities to suit every traveler’s interests.
With this comprehensive DIY travel guide, you’ve had the opportunity to delve into the heart of the city, uncover hidden gems, and embark on day trips to experience the natural beauty of Mount Fuji. Along the way, you’ve indulged in delicious cuisine, shopped till you dropped, and explored the vibrant culture that Tokyo has to offer.
As you bid farewell to Tokyo, take the memories and insights you’ve gained during your visit and cherish them as souvenirs of your time in this remarkable city. The bustling streets, breathtaking gardens, and warm hospitality of the locals will leave a lasting impression on your heart.
As you head home or continue on your journey, remember that Tokyo will always welcome you with open arms, ready to reveal new wonders each time you return. Until then, sayonara and mata ashita, Tokyo! Until we meet again.