When I first decided to visit Tokyo for a week, I got a lot of questions. Was I sure I couldn’t fit in a quick bullet train trip to Kyoto? What about Osaka? The truth is, while I fully intend to visit those places at some point—and I definitely would have, had I had more time—trying to squeeze a city as massive as Tokyo into less than a week wouldn’t have allowed me to do it justice. By taking my time, I got to explore so many of the city’s spread-out neighborhoods, try a bunch of different restaurants in a world-class culinary destination, and adjust to the time zone without feeling like I was wasting my trip away. Trust me: While a week in Japan’s capital city may sound like a long time to spend, with this Tokyo itinerary, 7 days will barely feel like long enough!
TOKYO ITINERARY: 7 DAYS
Note: I’ve grouped activities within each day in a way that makes sense geographically, but keep in mind that you can totally do these days in different order (Day 1’s activities on Day 5, for example)! In fact, I recommend mixing these up to maximize your good-weather days. For the day trip to Hakone, you’ll definitely want a clear day for the Mt. Fuji views, for example, and Day 4’s activities would be great for a rainy day thanks to the time spent inside Mori Tower and the art museum.
Welcome to Tokyo! If you’re adjusting to a time difference, feel free to sleep in and then make your way to Harajuku. This lively, colorful neighborhood is a hub for youth fashion, cosplay culture and street art, which make for excellent people-watching. To really dive into it, head to Takeshita Street, where you’ll find vintage and cosplay shops galore.
If you’re looking for sweet food to start your day, there’s no shortage of it in Harajuku, where you’re likely to see carts selling donuts or bubble tea. But if you want something more substantial—or maybe just healthier—map to bills Omotesando. Okay, it’s not Japanese food, but the Australian-style menu, eye-catching design and beautifully plated dishes at bills make up for it. I guarantee you won’t regret giving it a try.
MEIJI SHRINE/YOYOGI PARK
From bills, make the short walk (7 minutes) to the entrance of the Meiji Shrine, or Meiji Jingu. You’ll pass under a giant gate and walk a forested path until you get to the Shinto shrine, which was dedicated to Emperor Meiji—the first emperor of modern Japan, who build up the country to a major world power—and the Empress Shoken back in 1920. Along the path, you’ll spot the famous collection of beautifully decorated wrapped sake barrels, which serve as a yearly offering to the shrine’s deities.
After walking for about 10 minutes, you’ll reach the shrine’s five buildings, which include inner and outer shrine halls and a prayer hall and date back to 1958. There, you can make offerings, buy charms our write out your wishes on a wooden plate to leave at the shrine.
Adjacent to the shrine is Yoyogi Park, one of the city’s largest. It’s got everything from ponds, to forested areas, to cherry-blossom viewing in the spring and gingko-tree viewing in the fall, and it makes a nice spot to hang out for a bit and slow things down.
Next, if you want to keep the park strolls going, make your way northwest to Shinjuku Gyoen, another spacious city park and favorite cherry-blossom spot that was once a botanical garden. Otherwise, for a complete change of pace, going through the park and continuing north will take you into Shinjuku City, the district that surrounds the world’s busiest rail station. Skyscrapers, department stores and electronic shops all abound in this area, and a major red light district—Kabukicho—is right there, too.
NEW YORK BAR
On the 57th floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo, you’ll find New York Bar, a sizable establishment with sweeping views of the Tokyo skyline. In addition to the views, this buzzy, cosmopolitan bar features a jazz band and a wide selection of whiskeys, cocktails and wines for you to enjoy in style. New York Bar stays open from 5:00 p.m. to midnight Sunday through Wednesday and from 5:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. Thursday to Saturday, though depending on when you go, you may run into a wait. Stick it out if you can; it’ll be the perfect ending to your first day in Tokyo!
(Of course, if you’re staying at the Park Hyatt, you’ll have easy access. If you have them, consider transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt’s World of Hyatt program to for a killer redemption; 30,000 points will net you a room that regularly goes for nearly $1,000 per night. For more on earning and using points and miles to travel for free, visit the 52 Cities free resource library or register for an upcoming points and miles masterclass!
Start the day with a stop at Fuglen Tokyo, a coffee and tea bar that’s been described as “Scandinavia meets Shibuya.” Fuglen roasts its beans lightly, in what it calls the “Nordic style,” to enhance all of coffee’s flavors, and it’s no coincidence that the company also has a coffee shop and roastery in Oslo. It also specializes in Norwegian mid-century vintage design (all the furniture and furnishings in the shop are for sale!).
If you wind up loving it there, there’s another location in Asakusa you can hit up (more about that neighborhood on Day 7!)
From there, it’s a 15-minute walk to Shibuya Crossing, a true Tokyo landmark (and one you might remember if you’ve seen the movie Lost in Translation). This gigantic intersection holds the title (at least, unofficially) of the world’s busiest, and you’ll believe it when you see the street lights change and the masses of people streaming out into the street from every direction (during peak hours, the number can top 3,000!). Surrounding the chaos are big buildings, huge television screens, tons of lights, and advertisements. Definitely jump into the frenzy yourself by crossing at least once, but if afterward you want to observe from above, head to the second floor of the Starbucks inside Tsutaya on the north side of the crossing. It’ll be tough—but worth it—to wedge yourself into a spot at the window!
There’s much more in Shibuya than the famed intersection, though. Take some time to wander around the area and explore. I highly recommend a visit to the store Loft, which is the absolute best place to buy souvenirs. It’s not cheesy tourist stuff, although you can certainly find some cheesy stuff inside. But that’s because you can find virtually everything inside this seven-floor general store, which stocks everything from Japanese housewares to toys and games to clothes and accessories and beyond. You’ll find kitschy and minimal, pricey and cheap—seriously, there’s something there for everyone. (I escaped with just a couple of pairs of socks for Jake. One of them has little shrimp on them… couldn’t resist shrimp socks.)
Take the train to Nakameguro, which was easily my favorite neighborhood of Tokyo. I’ve heard it described as Tokyo’s answer to L.A.’s Silverlake, and the comparison feels appropriate. It’s a hub for stylish boutiques and eateries, and you can easily pass a couple hours here shop-hopping and checking out the local cafes.
But if you happen to be in town when the cherry blossoms are out, you’re in for a real treat. Trees line the Meguro river on either side, decked with hot-pink lanterns. The effect is a tunnel of pink blossoms that so much fun to stroll (and photograph!). Also along the promenade are all types of food and drink vendors selling street food and special treats especially for cherry blossom season (the pink bubbly will be flowing).
From Nakameguro, if you want, you can continue by foot to Daikanyama, also known as Tokyo’s “Little Brooklyn.” Don’t miss the so-called “T-Site,” a building complex that’s architecturally interesting in its own right and takes its name from the Tsutaya Books store it houses.
Without a doubt, catching a Yomiuri Giants game was one of the top highlights of my week in Tokyo. Whether or not you like sports, seeing a baseball game in the city is a fascinating cultural phenomenon. Forget what you know of baseball at home; here, it’s played indoors, and high-energy fans keep the stadium abuzz throughout the entire game with coordinated chanting and singing. It’s definitely a site to behold!
Strolling around the concourse and checking out the concessions is just as fun, especially if noodles and edamame is your idea of perfect ballgame food. And fans of baseball in the U.S. will enjoy seeing names they recognize from back home, as it’s not uncommon for players to come over and play in Japan after leaving Major League Baseball.
In terms of tickets, you’ll definitely want to check out schedules in advance to make sure you can fit a game into your trip. There are multiple teams in town, so your chances are good as long as you’re coming during the season. With tickets, the concierge at our hotel helped us buy them so we didn’t have to navigate the ticket types and payment ourselves. If you’re staying in a hotel, too, I highly recommend going that route!
KURIYA KASHI KUROGI
If your jet lag is anything like mine, you’ll probably want to start the day with coffee or tea whether or not it’s part of your usual morning routine. And if you’re going to caffeinate, might as well do it at a cafe owned by a Michelin-starred chef and set in a gorgeous building designed by a renowned architect, right?
Enter Kuriya Kashi Kurogi, which sits on the University of Tokyo’s Hongo Campus. It’s honestly worth it to come just to admire the building, which is covered with panels made from Japanese cedar trees. If you can snag a seat on the terrace beneath them, even better.
But you’ll also find an array of coffee, tea and Japanese confections to choose from to kick off the day. If you haven’t tried red bean paste yet, this would be a great place to do it!
Take the rest of your drink to go and walk the 20-ish minutes to Akihabara, an area characterized by its anime and wealth of electronics stores. Cosplay culture is really on display here, and you’ll dodge people dressed up—including many as maids—left and right. Unrelatedly, if you just so happen to be looking for computer parts, this place will be your heaven. Store after store sells bits and bobs for computers, cameras and other electronics, but fear not: If you just want to buy an electronic product that’s already intact, you’ll have your pick of those, too.
You’ll also have tons to do in Akihabara besides sifting through tech, especially if video games are your thing. I didn’t grow up with video games and was in Akihabara solo, so I didn’t explore as much as I might have otherwise, but I did receive a recommendation I want to pass on: Super Potato. This store sells the video games you might remember from the 80’s and 90’s, some of which you won’t find anywhere else. And there’s even an arcade inside the building where you can relive the classics.
DRINKS & DINNER
After that, hop on the train and head south to the Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills, whose rooftop bar affords incredible views of Tokyo Bay and the surrounding area. Since you’ve already seen Tokyo from above by night at New York Bar, trying going in the late afternoon to get a daytime view. This way, you’ll also be able to better appreciate the interior design in the semi-open-air space (and better photograph the cocktails, which are exquisitely presented).
From the Andaz, you’ll be a 20-minute walk (or a 3-minute drive, should you not heed this taxi warning!) from Pizza Studio Tamaki. While I didn’t try this place myself, my friend went with a local and reviewed it as some of the best pizza he’s ever had (and yes, worth sacrificing a night of Japanese food for). Need more convincing? Google it yourself and you’ll find claims that the Neapolitan-style pizza at PST tops even that from Naples, Italy (maybe it’s the blend of Japanese and U.S. flours that goes into the dough?). Definitely get a reservation if you’re planning to try it.
Sushi lovers, this one’s for you. If you’ve done any Tokyo research already, you’ve probably heard of Tsukiji Fish Market, where until last year you could watch the famous tuna auctions at the inner market and then dine on an early-morning sushi breakfast in the outer market. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case, as the tuna auction has moved to a new come. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still see it all.
Last October, the inner market moved to a new home: the Toyosu Market, a modern wholesale market consisting of three main buildings. In one of them, you can catch the tuna auction between 5:30 and 6:30 from special “Tuna Auction Observation Windows,” or, if you make a reservation, the “Tuna Auction Observation Deck.”
After you’ve caught the action, you can head to a restaurant to eat some of the freshest fish you’ll ever try. Either stick around Toyosu—after all, some of the most popular restaurants at Tsukiji made the move along with the inner market—or head to Tsukiji’s outer market to get a different experience. Most of the restaurants open at around 5:00 a.m.
Later on, make your way to Roppongi, a neighborhood with a good mix of locals, expats and tourists. If you’re not still full from the fish market experience, stop by the Roppongi location of Afuri, a must-try ramen chain while you’re in Japan (before or after the lunch rush is ideal if you want to avoid a line!). At this tiny counter spot, you punch in your order on a machine, take a ticket, and hand it to the person working behind the counter as you take a seat. A few minutes later, they’ll put a bowl magic in front of you (and I say this from experience, as Afuri is one of the few places in the city that serves vegan ramen!).
If Afuri sounds familiar, it’s because it’s expanding. It’s first North American location was Portland, OR, which just so happens to be where I live. Take it from me, though: Even if you’ve tried it, you need to hit the original. It’s just better in Japan.
MORI ART MUSEUM & OBSERVATORY
Next, head to the Mori Art Museum, a contemporary art and architecture museum that opened in 2003 at the top of Mori Tower, a building you can see from around the city. While the museum says it considers it one of its missions to become a platform for artists from the region, it also organizes its original exhibitions around universal themes. The result is really enjoyable collection of exhibits that doesn’t take long to go through. I highly recommend a visit!
Before you leave Mori Tower, check out Tokyo City View if you haven’t yet gotten your fill of good observation spots. It stays open late and represents a completely different experience after sunset versus during the day. As you’re leaving, you can also stroll through shops, gardens and more around the premises.
If you’re into the movie Kill Bill: Vol. 1, you might want to visit nearby Gonpachi, an izakaya where one of its most famous scenes was filmed. From what I’ve read, stepping into the restaurant feels like stepping into the movie itself, with does sound cool if you’re a fan. If you’re not a fan? Skip it. The food is geared toward tourists, and it isn’t very good. (For what it’s worth, it’s not terrible—it’s just not something I’d go out of my way for).
Whatever you do, though, don’t leave the area. Because just three minutes away by foot is These, which is one of my favorite bars of all time. These (pronounced teh-zeh) calls itself a “library lounge,” and you’ll see why when you enter: Books are a major part of the decor at this dimly lit spot. But the real highlight for me was the menu, or rather, the lack thereof. When we entered, the bartender asked us our favorite spirits and then gestured to a giant basket of fruit and asked us to pick a couple. The result was one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had. These has food, too: Think elevated versions of bar food (I had a blue cheese quesadilla).
If you want to keep the night going after These, you’re in luck: Roppongi is notorious for its nightlife.
IMPERIAL PALACE AND GARDENS
Start your day off with some history at the Imperial Palace, the residence of Japan’s imperial family. Sitting on the former site of Edo Castle, the palace is in the center of the city, surrounded by moats and large park. While you can’t enter the buildings, you can tour the grounds, with 75-minute guided excursions happening twice per day in both English and Japanese Tuesday through Saturday. Even if you’re not interested in imperial history, the beautiful Japanese gardens here are worth a look.
After the palace, walk to the ritzy neighborhood of Ginza (the jaunt should take around 20 minutes, depending on where in the gardens you are when you head off). The area is famous for shopping, dining and entertainment, and it’s home to plenty of shopping centers.
Head straight for the biggest: Ginza Six. And before you do, ditch your expectations, because this is not your typical shopping center. Inside, in addition to 241 shops and restaurants, you’ll find a rooftop garden, contemporary art installations and more. Don’t miss the “Grand Premium Food Hall” and its artisanal eateries on the bottom floor. It’s nothing like the mall food courts you’re used to! And if you didn’t check out Tsutaya at Books at the T-Site in Daikanyama—or anywhere else, for that matter—take an opportunity to browse the huge collection of art-focused books and magazines. I loved it.
Elsewhere in Ginza, art and paper lovers will find their bliss at Itoya. The group at this stationery and art supply store believes that “an optimal environment and aesthetically beautiful tools will help to enrich your time of creativity,” if that gives you an idea of what you’ll find inside. The flagship store in Ginza consists of two buildings with 18 (!!) floors between them, and I’ll tell you right now that I spent hours inside. Budget accordingly.
Also in Ginza is the one sushi place that was recommended to me over and over again before my trip: Kyubey. This tiny, high-end sushi bar only has a handful of seats, all at a counter so that you can watch the master chefs go to work. That experience is almost as amazing as the food: The chefs’ dexterity and precision will be on full display as they go through the process of making your food (some of which is… still alive when that process begins). The chefs were funny and engaging, and they told us that the night before we were there, Barack Obama and Shinzo Abe had been in for a private event and sat in our very same seats. If that’s not a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is.
As a vegetarian, I can’t comment on most of what you’ll eat at Kyubey. But I can say that the restaurant was incredibly accommodating, considering that showing up to a fancy sushi restaurant and taking up a counter spot without intending to order the works is pretty ballsy, as I learned. They made me a special vegetarian roll as well as a range of little vegetable dishes, and everything I tried was fantastic. Make your reservations far in advance.
Day trip time! I wasn’t able to squeeze an outside-the-city excursion into my own trip since I was working while traveling. But if I’d had an extra uninterrupted day, without a doubt I would have spent it making the trek out to Hakone. Once a stop-off point on the Old Tokaido Highway connecting Tokyo and Kyoto for on-foot travelers, today, Hakone is easily reachable by train. Once there, you’ll find tons to do: soak in the onsen hot spring pools, take a boat ride on Lake Ashinoko, walk through the cedar forest, check out the geothermal activity in the “Great Boiling Valley,” see the lakeside shrine and iconic torii gate, visit a traditional teahouse, and so much more—all in the shadow of Mt. Fuji, which you’ll be able to see on clear days. It’s a must for my next trip!
You can’t leave Tokyo without seeing Asakusa, the neighborhood that houses Tokyo’s largest—and most famous—temple. Called Senso-ji, the Buddhist temple was originally built in the 7th century, though the buildings you’ll see were rebuilt after damage from World War II air raids. Next to the temple sits a pagoda, and a lengthy shopping street, called Nakamise, will lead you right to the pair of buildings.
Matcha lovers, rejoice: Not far away is Suzuki-en, a teahouse-turned-gelato-shop that claims to have the richest matcha gelato in the world. There are 7 different matcha gelatos, each at a different degree of intensity, so if you love it, you can go all in—but if you’re not totally onboard the matcha train, you can play it a bit safer. Be warned, though: The lines at this place can get pretty serious!
If you haven’t totally burned out on observation towers by this point, you can take your gelato on a walk to Tokyo Skytree, the world’s tallest tower.
From Asakusa, head west to Ueno Park, a public park whose grounds were originally part of a temple. This is a beautiful place to see the cherry blossoms in the spring; they line its central pathway along with Shinobazu Pond, where you can rent colorful rowboats or peddle boats. If you’d prefer to seeing real animals to the flamingo- and swan-shaped peddle boats, the Ueno Zoo would make a good choice. And if you need an indoor activity, consider one of the myriad museums on the park’s grounds, including the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, the Tokyo National Museum and the National Museum of Nature and Science.
UDON & SHAVED ICE
Take advantage of your location after you wrap up at Ueno Park to hit a couple last food spots in what’s surely been an epic 7-days’ trip. The first: Kamachiku, which serves hand-kneaded and -cut udon noodles in beautiful setting (think converted old red-brick storehouse overlooking a garden). The second: Himitsudo, a shaved ice shop that specializes in unique, seasonal flavors and prepares the ice with a hand-cranked machine. (Note that Himitsudo in particular gets busy; don’t be surprised if you see a stream of people holding numbers to denote their place in line.)
And there you have it: a 7 days itinerary that’ll take you through all of Tokyo’s highlights. For more help with Tokyo travel planning, check out this post on things you should know before you visit Japan and click here to see how you can join ANA Mileage Club to start working toward free flights.
Hope that with this Tokyo itinerary, 7 days will be easy to plan! Have you made any trips to Tokyo? How long did you stay in Tokyo? Let me know in the comments! >>
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