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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 3 Day Itinerary – Day 2
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.
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.
You 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.
Tokyo 3 Day Itinerary – Day 3
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.
There are also some fantastic restaurants in Ginza including Shunjukusei Ginza Grill which specializes in the highest quality Japanese Tajima beef.
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.
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 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.
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.
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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