Tokyo 3 Day Itinerary for First Time Visitors


Tokyo is one place where you won’t see the time pass, there is so much to do. From world class restaurants to beautiful gardens and temples, there’s something for everyone. Our Tokyo 3 day itinerary will give you a taste of Electric Town, as the capital of Japan is nicknamed. Just don’t be surprised if you keep coming back for more!

Tokyo 3 Day Itinerary – Day 1

Chuo

Spelt Chūō, this central district of Tokyo is a thriving business area yet there’s plenty to entice visitors. Our first stop, Hama-Rikyu Gardens at 1-1 Hamarikyu-teien, are a real oasis of calm in the heart of Tokyo. Originally a hunting ground and nobleman’s residence in the Edo period from 1603, it was opened to the public in 1946. Surrounded by the skyscrapers of the Shiodome district, the gardens are beautifully landscaped. There’s a tea house in the middle of the lake where you can watch the birds landing. The garden has an unusual late blossoming cherry tree and some stunning camelia trees. Opening hours are from 9.00 to 17:00 and there’s a small entrance fee of :¥300.

Tokyo 3 Day Itinerary for First Timers - Hama-Rikyu Gardens in Tokyo, Japan
The Tsukiji Market at 5-2-1 Tsukiji is an interesting place if you’re keen on sashimi and fresh fish. Whilst the inner wholesale section has restricted opening hours for visitors, the outer market and restaurants are popular with locals and tourists alike. You can eat tasty fresh crab sticks and other delicacies at one of the many food stalls. Get there early to beat the crowds – it’s open from 5 am to 2 pm and closed on Sundays.

The fish market in Tokyo, Japan
Minato

For lunch, we recommend a true Tokyo hidden gem. Tokyo Shiba Tofuya Ukai is a traditional merchant’s residence from the Samurai era. Located in the Shibakoen area of Minato district next to Tokyo Tower, it is set in picturesque gardens. The restaurant has a series of private dining rooms with traditional but comfortable seating, overlooking an inner courtyard garden. The restaurant is famous for its tofu dishes cooked in a variety of ways as well as blowfish, a rare delicacy.

Tofuya Ukai is an amazing tofu restaurant near the Tokyo Tower in Tokyo, Japan
There are quite a few interesting things to do in Minato including Tokyo Tower. Open every day from 9 am to 11 pm, it’s an imposing sight at 333 metres tall, with its bright orange steel framework. From the top you can see as far as Mount Fuji on a sunny day. Through the glass windows, you can spot a shrine and some colourful Autumn foliage. One floor down, there’s a fun sight – the Lookdown. You can see through a metal grid to the bottom of the tower. The highlight of our Tokyo Tower visit was the performers dressed in colourful costumes, singing Christmas songs in Japanese.

A visit to the Tokyo Tower with panoramic views over Tokyo, Japan
For dinner in Minato, try Tarafukuuokin at 1-9-1 Shinbashi Minato is known as Codfish Fish Gold in English. It’s a traditional izakaya, a tavern popular with locals that serves some amazing sashimi dishes.


Another option is Sarashina-Nunoya restaurant in Shibadaimon at 1 Chome−15−8. This family owned restaurant have been making soba noodles for hundreds of years. It’s a casual place where the noodles are the star of the show.

Shinjuku

Why not take a photography tour by night in the Shinjuku commercial and entertainment area. It’s home to the busiest railway station in the world and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings.

Tokyo Street Photography tour at night
Tokyo 3 Day Itinerary – Day 2

Asakusa

Asakusa is one of the most popular places for visitors to Tokyo. Senso-Ji Temple in particular is a fascinating insight into Japanese culture and Buddhism. It’s Tokyo’s oldest temple and with over 30 million visitors each year it’s the most popular spiritual site in the world. Head first to the viewing platform of the Asakusa Tourist Information Centre at 2 Chome-18-9 Kaminarimon. The view of the Kaminarimon or Thunder Gate is worth checking out and there’s a cafe too. Walk along Nakamise Dori, which is lined with many souvenir shops. It’s a good place to come for kimonos, obi belts, stationery and other gifts. Along the way we noticed quite a few Japanese women dressed in traditional kimonos, socks and sandals. You can rent them from the shops nearby and pose for photographs. Closer to the main shrine, many people were consulting little strips of paper to find out their fortunes. The giant flipflop on the side of one shrine was intended to scare any potential demons who would think that a giant lives there.

Best things to do in Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan
There are a few other interesting things to do in Asakusa, including a visit to a typical izakaya Japanese pub or to Hanayashiki, the oldest amusement park in Japan. Close to Asakusa, there’s the Tokyo Skytree observation tower and shopping centre in the Sumida district.

Tokyo Skytree observation towerYou can also take a river cruise from Hinode to Asakusa as there are regular day and night time tours. Ours took us past 12 bridges, including the Rainbow Bridge which looked stunning at night. The best spot for taking photos is at the back of the boat on the outside deck. On a chilly night you might prefer to sit on the inside deck but was quite mild.

A Tokyo river cruise from Hinode Pier, Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo 3 Day Itinerary – Day 3

Ginza

For your final day in Tokyo, head to Ginza in the Chuo district. Shopping in Ginza is second to none, with many luxurious department stores and malls such as Ginza Six and Ginza Plaza. Ito-ya is an amazing stationery store spread over 9 floors.

Ginza 6 shopping mall in Tokyo, Japan
There are also some fantastic restaurants in Ginza including Shunjukusei Ginza Grill which specializes in the highest quality Japanese Tajima beef.

Ginza Grill in Tokyo, Japan
Ristorante Hiro Ginza is another great choice for its delicious Italian-Japanese fusion food. What else is there to do in Ginza? Kabukiza Theater is the perfect place to see a kabuki performance. This traditional Japanese art form is known for its elaborate costumes.

Ristorante HIro Ginza in Tokyo, Japan - delicious Japanese-Italian fusion foodChiyoda

The Imperial Palace is an impressive sight, being surrounded by a moat. The official residence of the Emperor and Empress of Japan, it was previously the site of Edo Castle. The public can visit Kita-no-maru-koen Park, Kokyo Higashi Gyoen (Imperial Palace East Gardens) and Kokyo Gaien free of charge. The latter is the plaza directly in front of the palace, which is a good vantage point for the Nijubashi bridges by which you enter the inner palace. Talking of which, it’s not generally possible to visit the inner grounds apart from on 2 January and 23 December.

The Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan
The business district of Marunouchi is also worth a visit. For shopping in Tokyo, Kitte is an excellent choice. This upmarket shopping mall has many international boutiques as well as Japanese household goods and trendy eateries spread over 7 floors. There’s a great view of Tokyo Station from the top floor observation deck.

Kitte shopping mall in Tokyo, Japan
Shibuya

Any itinerary for Tokyo should include Shibuya Crossing, the world’s busiest traffic intersection, Shibuya Crossing.  Known as “The Scramble” it’s been estimated that up to 1000 pedestrians on average are crossing at any given time. The area of Shibuya is popular with young people and covers 15.11 km2.  With giant screens displaying advertisements, it’s particularly buzzing at night.

Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, Japan - the busiest intersection in the world!
Getting to Tokyo

Tokyo has two international airports, Haneda and Narita. Haneda is closer to the city centre and the majority of domestic flights land there. Our ANA flight from London Heathrow to Haneda airport was peaceful and waiting staff were friendly and attentive. There are quite a few companies flying to Tokyo including Emirates, Japan Airlines and British Airways.

Getting Around Tokyo

If you prefer to get around by taxi, you can hail them on the street quite easily or order a Uber cab. The subway is extremely clean, safe and reliable. We took it a few times during our stay and it wasn’t too crowded though we didn’t take it in rush hour. You can buy individual tickets or a 1 or 3 day pass. The subway is fairly easy to navigate as there are direction signs in both Japanese and English.

Where to Stay in Tokyo

There’s no shortage of luxury hotels in Tokyo and a surprising amount of reasonably priced options too. We particularly like the Celestine Tokyo Shiba for its excellent value and contemporary decor whilst The Mandarin Oriental and The Peninsula are two of the best luxury hotels in Tokyo.

A Taste of Tokyo

We hope you’ve enjoyed this Tokyo itinerary and that it inspires you to revisit or head there for the first time. Why not combine your visit with a trip to the beautiful region of Oita in Kyushu, only an hour and a half away by plane. It has the most hot springs of any area of Japan and some stunning scenery.

Do you have any tips for first time visitors to Tokyo?

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  • Thanks for this post. I’m thinking on stopping in Japan next year for just about 3 days before heading to Guam so this is perfect !

    • Suze

      I’m very glad that you found it useful, you’ll have a great time!

  • Kavita

    A great itinerary for first time visitors that showcases some of the many different faces of Tokyo. I can’t wait to go back myself!

    • Suze

      Me too, there’s so much to do there and we loved the atmosphere

  • This is the second blog post I’ve read abput Tokyo in as many days. It’s making me really want to visit! I’ve read alot about the fish market too and would definitely head there early doors if I went to Tokyo!

    • Suze

      The fish market is a great way to see an untouristy side to Tokyo, so I’d definitely recommend it

  • I’m dying to visit Tokyo! Will have to bookmark this page for when I’m finally planning the trip.

    Hadas | The Fashion Matters- Luxury travel and fashion blog

  • Not bad, Suze. You make Tokyo sound like a lot of fun. For some reason I was never attracted to Asia, but I guess my doubts will fade the moment I set foot on that continent. Wishing you an amazing New Year. Happy travels!

    • Suze

      I think that Japan is a great country to travel to for a first visit to Asia. The culture is fascinating and it’s a gourmet’s paradise

  • So would love to go to Tokyo one day. Amazing pics, really great! Huge modern city but I like the old stuff..like temples. And I would so go to the Tsukiji Market before a big sushi meal.

    • Suze

      The fish market is fascinating, and you’re right that Tokyo is a great mix of old and new

  • Mel B

    I have never been to Tokyo Japan but is one of those places that is high up on my bucket list. You have a great selection of things to do. I am definitely pinning this for when I go. Btw I love the sushi place

    • Suze

      The sushi place was fantastic, and it was nice to eat somewhere with only locals and no tourists. Not that there are lots of touristy places in Tokyo because it’s actually quite easy to find places with just locals

  • This is such a great guide, Suze! Particularly as it’s well thought out, considering Tokyo can defo be overwhelming to begin with! And that sashimi platter is so impressive!

  • Tokyo is such an amazing city – we have been a few years ago during cherry blossom and completely fell in love with Japan. Great itinerary for first time visitors!

  • A great guide, Suze! I’ll definitely be checking out some of the restaurants you recommended. So sorry I missed you during your visit to Tokyo. xx

  • Lucy

    So much to see I prefer culture and seeing history so this would be a driver for any visit. Not a great sushi 🍣 lover so not sure how I would get on food wise. In I’ll store this for when I get to visit Lucy x