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Where to Go in Tokyo in Three Days
Picture | October 30th, 2019 | Dayna Hannah
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The most astonishing thing about Tokyo is that it has an eclectic mix of historical and modern sightseeing locations. You can sip sake under a cherry blossom then step into an arcade to play 4-D games on the same day. However, including its outlying areas, Tokyo is the biggest city in the world. It’s impossible to explore the entire metropolis in three days, let alone a week.

Tokyo’s 23 Wards have so many things to do you could spend an entire day in any neighborhood. If you only have three days, it’s best to plan your trip carefully but have some flexibility. To help you get started, we’ve prepared this suggested three-day itinerary. For each district that we mention here, we’ve also included alternative activities to help you design your perfect vacation.

DAY 1: FROM ASAKUSA TO AKIHABARA

Assuming you land in Narita Airport and are fighting jet lag, take it easy on your first day!

Asakusa Sensoji Temple

Asakusa Sensoji is the oldest and arguably the most beautiful Buddhist temple in Tokyo. Starting from the Kaminari Gate, you’ll proceed along Nakamise Dori. This centuries-old shopping street has numerous stands selling unique Japanese souvenirs. At the Main Hall, you can get a fortune, offer a prayer, or stop for a cup of matcha before moving on.

When to Go Here:
Asakusa Sensoji Temple gets extremely crowded with tourists and pilgrims. Try to go here on weekday mornings as Nakamise starts to open or at night when spotlights illuminate the Main Hall and pagoda. If possible, avoid going here the week after New Year’s Eve, public holidays, and during Golden Week.

What to Do Near Asakusa Sensoji Temple:
Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center - You can get a gorgeous view of the temple from the roof.

Take a Rickshaw Ride - Outside of the Kaminari Gate, you can take a tour of the area on a rickshaw without a reservation.

Sumida River Cruise - The Sumida River is a short walk away from the temple. You can discover the beauty of the Asakusa neighborhood as you comfortably sit on a boat.

Tokyo SkyTree - Across the river, you’ll easily be able to spot Tokyo SkyTree. The tower stands at 634 meters, from where you can see the entire city. The lower floors also house shops, restaurants, and an aquarium.

Ueno Park

Ueno Park opened as Japan’s first Western-style park in 1873. The park was originally part of the Kaneiji Temple, which fell to ruins during the Boshin Civil War. Though the temple no longer exists, you can still find remnants of its vast grounds in different areas of the park.

When to Go Here:
The best time to go to Ueno Park is when the cherry blossoms bloom in Tokyo in late March and early April. From Keisei Ueno Station to the large fountain, cherry trees grow on either side of a long road. Their branches reach out towards each other, and during the peak bloom, they create a tunnel-like effect.

What to Do in Ueno Park:
Shinobazu Pond - To the southwest of the park, Shinobazu Pond was part of the former temple. You can rent paddle boats for a nominal fee and get a closer look at Bentendo, a temple hall that sits on an island in the middle.

Ueno Zoo - Ueno Zoo is the oldest zoo in Japan. Its star is the “baby” panda Xiang Xiang, who was born in 2017.

Any of the Museums - Ueno Park is home to many museums, including the Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum of Western Art, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, and the Natural Science Museum.

Akihabara

Akihabara is the capital of Otaku Culture, and fans of manga and anime can’t miss exploring this neighborhood. The shops specialize in merchandise such as retro video games, figurines, and other collectibles. After browsing the stores, stop by a whimsical maid cafe, or watch a performance by the idol group AKB48.

When to Go Here:
On Sundays, the main street gets closed off to car traffic, making it easier to walk between the shops. During this time, maids stand outside of their cafes and try to attract customers inside. On special occasions, you might also see cosplayers posing for photos or street performers putting on a show.

What to Do in Akihabara:
Yodobashi Camera - The Yodobashi Camera franchise has many locations across Japan, but this one is nine stories tall! If you’re looking for wacky gadgets, this is the place to go.

Mandarake - If you want to buy manga and anime-related merchandise for a fair price, head to Mandarake, which deals in second-hand goods.

Radio Center - Radio Center represents the epitome of Akihabara’s culture. There are more than thirty tiny electronic shops along the narrow alley.

VR Ninja Dojo - If you’ve ever wanted to learn the art of Ninjutsu, VR Ninja Dojo is the place for you. While wearing a costume, you can learn sword fighting and other techniques, then test your skills in virtual reality.

DAY 2: FROM HARAJUKU TO SHINJUKU

Day two of jet lag makes most people wake up early. Take advantage of it, and go to these places before they get crowded!

Toyosu & Tsukiji Fish Market

Tsukiji Fish Market is one of the oldest running wholesale markets in Tokyo. Thanks to its feature in the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, it became a sought after destination for travelers. However, the Tsukiji location couldn’t keep up with the influx of shoppers, so the nearby Toyosu Market opened in 2018.

When to Go Here:
Both Toyosu and Tsukiji Fish Market get crowded by noon. Try to get here early in the morning and have sushi for breakfast!

What to Do in the Toyosu & Tsukiji Fish Markets:
Tuna Auctions at Toyosu Fish Market - Enthralling tuna auctions take place nearly every morning from 5:30 - 6:30 am, but only a limited number of visitors can enter. To make sure you can get in, plan to arrive two to three hours before the auctions start.

Tsukiji Outer Market - The “Jogai” is a maze of stalls and shops selling groceries and ready-to-serve dishes. Among the many specialties, you can eat sushi and sashimi, ramen, eel skewers, Japanese omelets, fresh fruit, and more!

Harajuku Takeshita Street

Harajuku is the center of Japan’s “Kawaii Culture,” and in the 1990s represented the height of Japanese streetwear. Although most people don’t wear Harajuku fashion anymore, you can still spot a few young women in doll-like dresses walking down Takeshita Street. Along this narrow road, you’ll also find shops selling clothes, toys, accessories, and more.

When to Go Here:
Most of the stores open around 10:00 and 11:00 am. Head here on weekday mornings to avoid crowds.

What to Do in Harajuku:
Daiso - If you need to bring a lot of souvenirs back home, stop by Harajuku’s three-storied Daiso. This 100 yen shop offers fun, and surprisingly high quality, Japanese knick-knacks at affordable prices.

Purikura Land Noa - Experiencing a purikura photo booth is more than making a few funny faces with friends. The cameras “beautify” your features, and before printing your pictures, you can customize them with stickers, the date, or write short phrases.

Eat Crazy, Cute, Kawaii Food - There are a few small shops that sell treats on Takeshita Street. Among them, you’ll see giant cotton candy and rainbow-colored sandwiches.

Yoyogi Park

If you get caught up in the crowds on Takeshita Street, you’ll be happy to take a break in Yoyogi Park. The expansive city park features green lawns, forested areas, ponds, and hiking trails. There is also an outdoor theater, which often holds events and festivals throughout the year.

When to Go Here:
Yoyogi Park has thousands of gingko trees that turn brilliant shades of gold in autumn, and blooming cherry blossoms in spring. On Sundays, when the weather is warm, hobbyists of all kinds head to the park to practice their crafts. Among them, you might see dancers, musicians, models, photographers, and more.

What to Do in Yoyogi Park:
Flower Garden - Near the bridge that takes you to the outdoor theater is a white trellis surrounded by small beds that grow seasonal blooms.

Food Stalls - You can usually find street food stands at the entrance of the park.

Meiji Shrine

On the edge of Yoyogi Park, you’ll find Meiji Shrine’s massive torii gate. Dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, the tranquil grounds are an excellent place to escape from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. At the Main Hall, you can experience typical shrine activities like offering prayers, purchasing amulets, and making a wish on an ema.

When to Go Here:
Like Yoyogi Park, many gingko trees grow near Meiji Shrine. Around mid-November, you can attend the Meiji Jingu Gaien Festival. Meiji Shrine is also one of the most popular places for weddings in Tokyo. If you go in June, you have a very high chance of seeing a traditional Shinto wedding.

What to Do at Meiji Shrine:
Inner Garden - For a nominal fee, you can see the garden, which is particularly beautiful when the irises bloom in June.

Kiyomasa Well - Within the Inner Garden, you can see Kiyomasa Well, which Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken would often visit. The well draws those who seek to gain spiritual strength.

Treasure Hall - The Treasure Hall houses beloved possessions of the emperor and empress, including the carriage Emperor Meiji rode when he introduced the current constitution.

Shinjuku

The Shinjuku Ward is the heart of Tokyo. During the day, you’ll see thousands of company employees as they dash through the streets to work. At night, swarms of young people come out to enjoy the nightlife. You can find everything from Michelin-starred restaurants to grimy dives as you explore the streets.

When to Go to Here:
Anytime! There’s something to do in Shinjuku all day and night.

What to Do in Shinjuku:
Tokyo Metropolitan Office - This government facility stretches skyward by 243 meters. On the north and south towers, you can enter the observatory floors for free to see one of the best views of Tokyo.

Shinjuku Samurai Museum - If you want a fully immersive experience into the lives of samurai, this is the best museum to see. After a guided tour through authentic swords and armor, you can watch swordmasters put on choreographed fights.

Robot Restaurant - On the notorious Kabuki-cho Street, you can find the Robot Restaurant featured on several travel documentaries and shows. Note that despite its name, the Robot Restaurant doesn’t have many choices on its menu. The real draw is the over-the-top stage performance.

Golden Gai - Shinjuku has held its reputation as being the center of nightlife in Tokyo for a long time. Golden Gai is a collection of small taverns that date back to the 1960s. Some require cover charges to enter, so be sure to check the menu or ask the bartender before you sit down.

DAY 3: SHIBUYA CROSSING, GINZA, & EVERYWHERE IN BETWEEN

Now that you’re getting used to Tokyo’s public transportation system, you’ll have no trouble getting around these places!

Tokyo Imperial Palace

After defeating the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1867, the imperial family moved from Kyoto and built the Tokyo Imperial Palace on the ruins of Edo Castle. A park makes up most of the grounds with protective walls and a moat surrounding it. For security reasons, visitors can’t access the palace most days of the year, but there is still plenty to see and do here.

When to Go Here:
The palace’s grounds open to the public on January 2nd to celebrate the New Year and on February 23rd for Emperor Naruhito’s birthday. On both of these days, the imperial family makes several appearances and gives a formal address.

What to Do at the Tokyo Imperial Palace:
Nijubashi Bridge - Two bridges over the moat serve as the entrance to the palace grounds. Although they’re closed for most of the year, they make for a lovely picture and are the best examples of the palace’s architecture.

East Garden - The East Garden is a beautiful Japanese landscape garden. Among its flowers and bridges, you can spot a few remnants of Edo Castle.

Outer Garden - From the Outer Gardens, you can take in the view of the surrounding Marunouchi district. The modern steel and glass buildings greatly contrast from the traditional architecture on the palace grounds.

Kitanomaru Park - Kitanomaru Park houses Budokan Hall, which is a large theater that hosts events from pop concerts to sports tournaments. You can also find the Science Museum and the National Museum of Modern Art here.

Ginza

Ginza is Tokyo’s premier upscale shopping, dining, and entertainment district. If you want to see how the upper crust lives in Tokyo, this is the place. Estimates say that one square meter of land in the center of this district is worth over ten million yen (about US $10,000). Along its busy sidewalks, you’ll find glamorous department stores, modern art galleries, and exclusive restaurants and nightclubs.

When to Go Here:
The main street gets blocked off to car traffic on Sundays, and some galleries only open on weekends.

What to Do in Ginza:
Shop for Luxury Goods - Ginza Wako, Ginza Six, and Matsuya are just a few of the department stores any shopaholic should visit. Virtually every leading brand name in cosmetics and fashion has a shop in these places.

Kabuki-za Theatre - You can enjoy traditional Japanese theater any day of the week at Kabuki-za. Kabuki combines exaggerated make-up and costumes with otherworldly music and dance. One performance can take up to four hours, but you can purchase single-act tickets if you’re short on time.

Yurakucho Gado-shita Dining - Beneath the elevated tracks of the Yurakucho line is one of Tokyo’s most diverse dining districts. The 700-meter-long street provides a wide range of options from rowdy izakayas to white-table-cloth French restaurants.

Roppongi Hills

After World War II, the Roppongi neighborhood saw an increase in foreign residents, and businesses began to pop up to cater to them. The district had an infamous reputation for its nightlife scene until the addition of the Roppongi Hills complex. The buildings that make up Roppongi Hills function together as a city within a city with apartments, offices, shops, restaurants, and more. Now, Roppongi Hills is the center of the Japanese IT industry and has a booming art culture.

When to Go Here:
Most stores and sightseeing destinations open around 10:00 am and stay open past 10:00 pm. Check the hours of the places you want to see before going.

What to Do in Roppongi Hills:
Mori Arts Museum - Many modern art museums try to collect the most esoteric pieces they can find. The Mori Arts Museum, however, features works by international and Japanese artists that they believe are accessible for everyone.

Tokyo City View - The top of Mori Tower has an observation deck with a 360° view of the city. Weather permitting, you can also step outside onto the open-air Sky Deck.

Mori Garden - The rooftop landscape garden is one of the few green spaces in Roppongi Hills. It has several cherry blossom trees that usually bloom in late March and early April.

Tokyo Tower

Built in 1958, Tokyo Tower is a symbol of Japan’s post World War II economic boom. It stands 13 meters higher than its model, the Eiffel Tower, and was the tallest structure in the country until the completion of SkyTree in 2012. Tokyo Tower is a functional broadcast antenna and one of the best places to get a view of the city.

When to Go Here:
The ticket counter opens at 9:00 am and closes at 10:30 pm.

What to Do in Tokyo Tower:
Main Deck - A set of elevators takes you 150-meters up from the ground floor. Alternatively, you can challenge yourself to climb the 600-step staircase. On the Main Deck, you can take in the view, look straight down to the bottom through windows on the floor, or enjoy a treat at the cafe.

Top Deck - The second set of elevators takes you up an additional 100 meters. On a sunny and cloudless day, you can see Mount Fuji from here.

One Piece Tower - On the 15th anniversary of the popular series One Piece, the “Foot Town” building below Tokyo Tower opened this indoor amusement park. It offers a variety of games, shows, and other attractions featuring characters from the manga.

Shibuya Crossing

Shibuya is one of Tokyo’s most colorful districts. It’s numerous shopping, dining, and entertainment options attract young Tokyoites and travelers alike. The intersection outside of the station, Shibuya Crossing, is made up of several pedestrian walkways that get the green light at the same time. Floods of people cross the street at every signal change, making it one of the most captivating places to take pictures and videos.

When to Go Here:
Shibuya has shops and restaurants that are open all day and night.

What to Do Near Shibuya Crossing:
Hachiko - The loyal pup Hachiko waited for his owner every day at Shibuya Station. Take the Hachiko Exit to see the statue dedicated to him.

Get a View - You can watch the action from above at the Starbucks across from the Hachiko Exit, or check it out from the Shibuya Scramble Square observatory!


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