3 Days Exploring Tokyo

Travel Itinerary

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Lily Crossley-Baxter
Itinerary by: Lily Crossley-Baxter
8 days ago
Travel Writer
Duration: 3 days

Explore the neon metropolis of Tokyo in three days, seeing quiet neighbourhoods, crowded temples and bustling markets. While there's enough in the capital to keep you busy for months, this three-day tour picks up the best of the city's neighbourhoods, with the freedom to choose which highlights you prefer, from museums to gardens to robot restaurants. Transport in the city is easy - the impeccably reliable train and metro networks connect each destination and many are within walking distance too. When you arrive in Tokyo pick up a Suica or Pasmo travel card (they're very similar so either will do) and use it to hop through ticket gates without the hassle of buying a ticket each time. They can also be used on buses - just remember to keep it topped up!

Day 1

Parks, Temples and City Views

A quiet introduction to Tokyo, we start with a stroll through the relaxed Yanaka Neighbourhood before heading into the vast Ueno Park. Filled with museums, art galleries and a zoo, it has plenty to offer even on rainy days. Head to Tokyo's oldest temple in the afternoon before finishing off with a stunning panoramic view of the city from the famous Tokyo Skytree.
10:00 - 12:00
Yanaka Ginza
3-chōme-13-1 Yanaka, Taito City, Tōkyō-to 110-0001, Japan
Known for a winding cemetery, old-town shopping district and a relaxing atmosphere, Yanaka is the perfect district to stroll through. Filled with independent, family-run shops and cafes, it holds a nostalgic charm unique to the shitamachi areas of Tokyo. Referring to the lower part of the city which runs along the Sumida river, shitamachi captures the old-town style of the capital, an Edo-era world that never quite caught up with the modern changes that followed. Yanaka Ginza is a shopping district with 60 stores, all governed by a local community group aimed at ensuring specialty products and independent businesses. Alongside sweet steamed buns you’ll find cute cat-shaped taiyaki - a nod to the felines residents of the area. The renewal of the area has led to a combination of sake bars, coffee shops and craftsmen mixing to form a unique and fascinating community. The nearby cemetery was once part of Tennoji Temple and is home to the resting place of the Edo era’s final shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu among many notable names. Lined with corkscrewed cherry trees the paths are dotted with cats and offer a quiet place for reflection. There are numerous temples and shrines in the area and exploring on foot is the best way to go - lookout for the 100-year old Himalayan Cedar tree that towers over a small street junction. Planted by a shopkeeper’s grandfather, the tree has appeared on a variety of tv shows and films and was saved from removal by a dedicated community group.

Getting there

Yanka's closest major station is Nippori, which can be accessed on a variety of train lines including Yamanote, Ueno-Tokyo, Keisei and Joban. Alternatively, you can head to Sendagi Station on the Chiyoda Metro line.

12:00 - 14:00
Ueno Park
Japan, 〒110-0007 Tōkyō-to, Taito City, Uenokōen, 8−・ 池之端三丁目 Ueno Park
Not quite your everyday park, Ueno is home to some of Tokyo’s best museums, making it an ideal destination whatever the weather. In Spring, the park is one of the biggest cherry-blossom destinations in Tokyo, with over 1000 trees turning pink each year. A large festival is held with street food and performances to celebrate, the grounds covered in picnicking groups for as far as the eye can see. If you’re not here in Spring there is still plenty to enjoy, however, including the rowing boats on the lotus-filled Shinoazabu Pond. Divided into three, the large pond is thought to represent lake Biwako and has a temple hall called Bentendo perched on a central island. To the west of the park is a popular zoo, home to popular giant pandas among other creatures. Dotted throughout the park are impressive temples like Kiyomizu Kannondo (reminiscent of Kyoto’s Kiyomuzudera), the golden Ueno Toshogu and the towering Pagoda of Kanei-ji. For museum-lovers or those visiting on rainy days, you can choose from a variety of the city’s top collections. The National Museum of Nature and Science houses dinosaurs and robots side by side while the Shitamachi Museum offers a taste of old-school Tokyo. The Tokyo National Museum is the capital’s largest and oldest museum focusing on national treasures and historical artifacts that fill multiple buildings. For art lovers, there are two options - the National Museum of Western Art and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art, with the former housed in Japan’s only example of Le Corbusier’s architecture. Entry fees While the park is free to enter, the inner-shrines, museums and zoos have separate entry costs ranging from 300 yen to 700 yen, with some dependent on exhibition prices. Opening hours The park is open from 5 am to 11 pm but opening hours for the shrines, temples, museums and zoo differ, operating generally between 9 am and 5 pm.

Getting there

Ueno Park is an easy 15-minute walk from Yanaka, taking you to the entrance closest to the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. Alternatively, you can return to Nippori Station and catch the JR Joban, Keihin-Tohoku or Yamanote Lines to Ueno (one stop, ¥140). From Sendagi Station you will need to catch the Chiyoda Metro Line to Nishi Nippori and then change to the JR Yamanote Line for Ueno (one change, ¥310) so we don't recommend this option.

Travel time
0 hours 15 minutes
14:00 - 16:00
2-chōme-3-1 Asakusa, Taito City, Tōkyō-to 111-0032, Japan
Tokyo’s oldest and best-known temple, Sensoji is a breathtaking complex close to the Sumida River. Known for the giant red chochin lantern which hangs from the Kaminarimon Gate, the temple greets millions of visitors each year. Legend has it that two brothers fishing in the river caught a small golden statue of the Buddhist deity Kannon in their nets and returned to the shore with it. Upon recognising its significance, a devout senior declared a temple was required to house it, and so Senso-ji was built. Drawing visitors from across the country, the temple soon became popular and was developed over centuries into the impressive collection of halls and pagodas that it forms today. Behind the impressive wooden gate runs Nakamise-dori, a shopping street with stores dating back over a hundred years. Along with souvenirs and crafts, there are street-foods and snacks to try as you make your way towards the temple itself. Towards the Hozomon - the main gate of the temple, with the impressive Pagoda appearing to the left. Stepping through, visitors are greeted with a view of the main hall, known as the Hondo, which is said to house the original statue. There are fortunes to be read, shrine book calligraphy to collect and various small paths to follow as you explore the temple grounds. Spot the shrine dedicated to the fisherman and their elder, a small garden with Tokyo’s oldest bridge and the Bentendo - housing a large Edo-era bell. The temple is close to Asakusa Station and the surrounding area is great to explore, with small stores, cafes and restaurants galore. Entry Fees: The temple is free to explore. Opening Hours: The grounds are always open, but the main hall is open from 6am - 5pm (6.30 am from Oct - Mar)

Getting there

Sensoji is a 20-minute walk from Ueno Station or you can catch the Ginza Metro Line to Asakusa Station (one stop, ¥170)

Travel time
0 hours 10 minutes
16:00 - 18:00
Tokyo Skytree
1-chōme-1-2 Oshiage, Sumida City, Tōkyō-to 131-8634, Japan
Towering 634m above the metropolis, Tokyo Skytree is a much-loved symbol of the capital city. It is the tallest structure in Japan and offers incredible panoramic views of the skyline, even offering a glimpse of Fuji on a clear day. While its main function is a television broadcasting tower, the Skytree has a host of attractions that are ideal for a rainy day in Tokyo. Within the base, visitors will find an aquarium, a planetarium and even a small postal museum. There is also a huge complex of shops and restaurants, including popular Japanese brands and character-stores. The main attraction, however, is the view, and there are two different observation decks available. The lower Tembo deck is 350m high and has huge panoramic windows as well as a souvenir store and restaurant. Higher up at 450m, the Tembo Gallery is reached by following a spiraling pathway wrapped around the tower. The views are extensive and will depend on the weather, so aim for clear skies and consider having a back-up plan if you need to reschedule. A sunset slot is a great option as you can see the city as night falls, offering the best of both worlds. Entry Fees: Tickets are offered on a sliding scale depending on age, day and which observation deck you wish to visit. There is a choice between single tickets for the Tembo Deck or Gallery or a combined ticket for both. Weekdays are a little cheaper than weekends, and certain holidays are also more expensive. Children aged between 6-11 years have the lowest ticket prices but there are also discounts for those aged between 12-17 years old. There is a special fast-pass option for international visitors which does not require a reservation but does need photo ID. This ticket is divided into two age-ranges: 6-11 and 12 and over. For all tickets, children under the age of five enter free and visitors with a disability can receive half-price tickets for all but fast-pass options. Opening Hours 9 am - 9 pm (some changes for specific holidays, events)
Standard 1100.00 - 4200.00 JPY
Kids 500.00 JPY Under 18

Getting there

Tokyo Skytree is a 20-minute walk from Sensoji or you can head to Asakusa Station and catch the Tobu Skytree Line to Tokyo Skytree Station (one stop, ¥150)

Travel time
0 hours 10 minutes

Day 2

Gardens, Shrines and Neon Crossings

Starting off with a stroll through the beautiful gardens of Shinjuku Gyoen, day two takes you on to the peaceful Meiji Jingu Shrine. Things get a little busier after lunch as you tackle Takeshita street and round it off with the famous Shibuya Crossing caught at its evening best.
10:00 - 12:00
Shinjuku Gyoen
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, 11 Naitōmachi, Shinjuku City, Tōkyō-to 160-0014, Japan
A green haven in the heart of the city, Shinjuku Gyoen is a blend of Japanese, French and English design. Originally the home of Feudal Lord Naito and his family, the land has undergone a series of changes in the centuries since. Serving as an experimental agriculture center, a botanical garden and the garden of the Imperial Family, it was eventually opened to the public in 1949. Today, the park is one of the city’s most popular cherry blossom spots with over 1000 trees in twelve different varieties dotted along paths and around lawns. In Summer, the French rose garden takes its turn to shine followed by the chrysanthemum displays in Autumn. During Winter, the yukizuri structures protect trees from snowfall while camellias offer bursts of colour. The traditional Japanese garden is one of the most popular areas, complete with linked ponds, a tea house, the Taiwan Pavilion and beautiful manicured plants. The English Garden is a pastoral lawned area with cherry trees while the French Garden has a symmetrical design with a popular rose garden. Aside from these three areas, there are small forests, greenhouses and Maple Hill which is great in Autumn.
Standard 500.00 JPY
Group 400.00 JPY
Students 250.00 JPY
Kids 0.00 JPY Under 15
Seniors 250.00 JPY

Getting there

Shinjuku Gyoen can be reached from Shinjuku Gyoenmae station on the Marunouchi Metro Line, from Sendagaya Station on the Chuo or Chuo-Sobu Lines or from Yoyogi Station on the Chuo, Chuo-Sobu, Oedo or Yamanote Line. It is also a 10-minute walk from Shinjuku Station.

12:00 - 14:00
Meiji Jingu
1-1 Yoyogikamizonochō, Shibuya City, Tōkyō-to 151-8557, Japan
Dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, Meiji Shrine is a tranquil space only a stone's throw from the hectic streets of Harajuku. The central complex features an impressive courtyard headed by the honden (the main hall) along with the hall of Shinto music and dance and the juyosho for amulets and seals. There are frequent weddings held in this area and visitors are able to watch the elegant processions from a respectful distance. Couples can pray for their relationship at the sacred rope linking two ancient trees and prayers can be made at the main hall. One of the highlights of the Shrine complex is its surrounding forests and gardens, however. Hand-planted as a resting place for the Emperor and his consort's souls, the cypress forest is a shady haven in summer. The 100,000 trees were donated from across Japan and internationally, now towering above the pathways that wind through them. Upon entering the sacred grounds, visitors will step through an impressive 12m tall cypress torii gate, stopping to bow beforehand if they prefer. The inner garden is known for its iris collection and was designed by the emperor for his wife's enjoyment. During the 19th century, Emperor Meiji oversaw the opening of Japan's borders and a move towards modernisation known as the Meiji Restoration. A fan of wine and western fashion, the Emperor was popular both in Japan and abroad and small hints can be found throughout the Shrine complex. A prime example is a display of French wine barrels that sit across from the traditional kazaridaru - straw-bound sake barrels used to store donations from brewers across Japan. More about the emperor's legacy and the shrine's history can be found in the Meiji Jingu Museum, designed by renowned architect Kengo Kuma. Entry Shrine Complex: Free Museum: 1000 yen Inner Garden: 500 yen Opening Hours Shrine Complex: Sunrise - Sunset Museum: 10am - 4.30pm (closed Thursdays) Inner Garden: 10am - 4.30pm (4pm Nov - Feb)
Standard Free

Getting there

Meiji Jingu is a 15 to 20-minute walk from Shinjuku Gyoen. Alternatively, you can return to Shinjuku or Yoyogi Station and catch the JR Yamanote Line to Harajuku Station (one or two stops, ¥140).

Travel time
0 hours 20 minutes
14:00 - 16:00
Takeshita Street
1 Chome-17 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan
Snack, shop and squeeze through the crowds for a uniquely Tokyo afternoon out. The heart of fashion in Tokyo, Takeshita street is 400m of colour, food and style. Packed with crowds seeking out the latest trends, the street was originally the home of counterfeit American brands but is now a testing ground for new designs. Entirely pedestrianised, the street has independent stores and boutiques lining each side, containing every niche trend and major style you can imagine. There are a handful of larger brands and some small department stalls, but these are also home to unique creators seeking to catch the attention of stylish shoppers. From souvenir-sized items like socks to full costume-pieces, the street has something for everyone, as well as the first glimpse of next season's high-street trends. Once you've made your purchases be sure to pose for some puri-kura photos in the basement hall towards to top of the street (opposite McDonalds). The hall is filled with the Japanese photo-booths perfect for some stylised 'kawaii' photo shoots. Along with fashion one of the highlights is the unique food culture of Harajuku. Along with the famous crepes (filled with everything from salad to cheesecake), there are fresh potato sticks from Calbee, Hokkaido pastries and rainbow candyfloss available to try. The area is close to Meiji-jingu, a popular shrine and the trendy area of Omote-Sando which is a broad tree-lined street filled with high-end brands.

Getting there

Takeshita Street is a minute's walk from the entrance to Meiji Jingu (just across from Harajuku Station's main entrance).

Travel time
0 hours 1 minute
16:00 - 18:00
Shibuya Crossing
2 Chome-2 Dogenzaka, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0043, Japan
One of the classic Tokyo spots, Shibuya crossing is a neon-lit symbol of the metropolis and the crowds that inhabit it. Believed to be one of the busiest intersections in the world, the suit-clad crowds that make use of it in the evening are photogenic to say the least. While many pose on the crossing itself, you can also get great viewpoints from surrounding buildings. The crossing bridge of Shibuya station (towards the Inokashira line) and the very visible Tsutaya Starbucks cafe offer free (or coffee-priced) spots. For a more elevated shot you can try the viewing deck of the Magnet Building or the new Shibuya Sky deck which has 360 degree views. There are hammocks, a cafe and an unusual 'edge' photo point. Close to the crossing is Udagawacho, a restaurant and bar district with plenty of tempting offers. Beside the station you'll also find the statue of Hachiko - a loyal dog beloved by Japanese residents. The crossing looks best in early-evening as the work crowds head home and the neon comes into its own. Rainy weekdays are a bonus as you have guaranteed crowds and umbrellas, not to mention the atmospheric effect of rain which offers a dystopian feel to your shots!

Getting there

Shibuya Crossing is a 17-minute walk from Takeshita Street or you can head back to Harajuku Station and catch the JR Yamanote Line to Shibuya (one stop, ¥140)

Travel time
0 hours 5 minutes

Day 3

Fish markets, Palaces and Sumo

A classic Tokyo spot, Tsukiji Fish Market is perfect for a sushi breakfast (or omelette for veggies) to start your day. Head over to the Imperial Palace and explore the grounds before exploring the Sumo stables and museums of Ryogoku (especially great if there's a tournament on!). The bright gamer world of Akihabara is the perfect place to finish - grab dinner at an izakaya, try out some retro games at an arcade and enjoy the quintessentially Tokyo-esque neon lights.
10:00 - 12:00
Tsukiji (Outer Market)
4-chōme-16-2 Tsukiji, Chuo City, Tōkyō-to 104-0045, Japan
Possibly the most famous fish market in the world, Tsukiji may no longer host the tuna auction but there’s still plenty to try and taste. In 2018 the wholesale area, known as the inner-market, was relocated 2km away to Toyosu, but the surrounding outer-market still remains. Filled with longstanding restaurants and shops, the area is a haven for foodies who can find the freshest fish and unusual ingredients. With close connections to their original sellers maintained, the restaurants receive the highest-quality fish from Toyosu each morning. Alongside fish, there are plenty of local high-quality coffee vendors as well as vegetarian options such as tamagoyaki - an unexpected specialty of the district. A surprising addition to a fish-market, top spots include Yamacho where you can try it on a stick, savouring the unusually sweet flavour. Considered a test of a true sushi chef, the crafting of the perfect tamagoyaki is as important as the slicing of salmon. Keep in mind that due to the use of dashi (fish stock) not all options are entirely vegetarian. As well as exploring Tsukiji on your own, there are a variety of food tours available where you can learn about different elements of the food on offer as well as the area’s history. Given the early start to market life, breakfast at Tsukiji is a right of passage and the main challenge is deciding where to eat. Restaurants are abundant and it’s hard to go wrong - but keep in mind that busy is usually a good sign. For those looking to see the Tuna Auction, Toyosu requires reservations although this can also be arranged through a guided tour that combines both the new inner and original outer markets.

Getting there

Tsukiji Market is easily reached from Tsukiji Station on the Hibiya Line or from Tsukiji-Shijo Station on the Oedo Line.

12:00 - 14:00
Tokyo Imperial Palace
Imperial Palace, 1-1 Chiyoda, Chiyoda City, Tōkyō-to 100-8111, Japan
Located on the original site of Edo Castle, the Imperial Palace is home to the Emperor and visitors explore the gardens, ruins and galleries located here. A short stroll from Tokyo Station, the 1.3 square miles are thought to be the most expensive land in Japan. Originally the residence of Edo Shigetsugu, a renowned warrior, it later became the site of the Edo Castle. Strengthened with moats and close to a beach (now Hibiya) the castle was the scene of many battles and was claimed by various rulers over the centuries. While little remains of the original castle structure due to fires, earthquakes and battles, the foundations can still be seen in the East Gardens. To protect the privacy and safety of the Emperor and his family, the majority of the grounds are off-limits to the public, but some sections are available to explore freely or through official tours. The East Gardens, Kitanomaru Koen Park and Kokyo Gaien National Garden are all open and free to explore with jogging routes looped around them. The East Gardens are the most interesting of the three and are found in the innermost circle of the Edo Castle site. Created from one of the last Edo-gardens in existence, you can see manicured gardens and relax on the large lawn area. A highlight of the Kokyo Gardens is the Ninomaru Bridge, famed for its reflection in the moat below and nicknamed the double bridge. In Spring, the grounds are filled with cherry blossom, especially around Kitanomaru Park. Once a medicinal garden, the area has a blossom-lined moat with row boats which are exceptionally popular during hanami season. Renting a bike is a great way to explore the grounds and there is a free audio-tour app you can download for extra information about the palace. Within the grounds you can find the National Museum of Modern Art, the Nippon Budokan and the Science Museum. Tours are available for free but require registration - although this can be done on the day. They take place twice each day and take one hour and fifteen minutes.

Getting there

The Imperial Palace is a 25-minute walk from Tsukiji Market through the glitzy Ginza area. Alternatively, you can head to Tsukiji Station and catch the Hibiya Line to Ginza, changing to the Marunouchi Line (one change, ¥170) - although it may be easier to walk from Ginza.

Travel time
0 hours 10 minutes
14:00 - 16:00
1-chōme-3-28 Yokoami, Sumida City, Tōkyō-to 130-0015, Japan
Sumo wrestling is synonymous with Japan, and Ryogoku is the hometown of the unique and enchanting sport. Along with the official stadium, called the Kokugikan, there are countless sumo stables, specialist restaurants, and even dedicated statues along the streets. Originally held outdoors at temples and shrines, it was only in 1909 that Tokyo’s first permanent sumo stadium was built. Host to three of Japan’s annual competitions, the Kokugikan seats 10,000 and attending is a fantastic experience. If you visit during a competition (January, May and September) you can get cheap tickets on the day (if you’re willing to queue early in the morning) or book in advance online. Watching a day of matches is a fantastic experience, but even if you miss the season, sumo stables offer a chance to see the wrestlers in action. Dotted along quiet streets, the stables are where wrestlers train and live, with early morning training sessions sometimes open to visitors. While you’re in town, trying out the sumo special of chanko-nabe is a given, with many restaurants run by former wrestlers. The dish is a protein-filled hotpot, with different varieties to choose from but core staples of meat, seafood and vegetables. As well as being the heart of sumo, the area is home to a fantastic group of museums and galleries which are ideal for a rainy day. The beautiful Sumida Hokusai Museum houses an incredible selection of ukiyo-e prints while the Edo-Tokyo museum offers extensive insights into the development of the capital. The Japanese sword museum is ideal for samurai fans and the Ryogoku Edo Noren is an Edo-themed complex ideal for rainy days.

Getting there

Ryogoku can be reached by catching the Tozai Line from Takebashi Station to Monzen-Nakacho Station (four stops) and switching to the Oedo Line for Ryogoku (three stops) (¥280).

Travel time
0 hours 25 minutes
16:00 - 18:00
1 Chome Sotokanda, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 101-0021, Japan
Bright lights, retro arcades and anime stores fill the streets of the electronic hub that is the Akihabara district. A long-found favourite of gaming, anime and manga lovers, Akiba has the OTT style Tokyo is famous for and it has it in buckets. Although it caters to a niche group, in theory, there is so much to see and try, it’s got something to tempt even the most skeptical people in for an afternoon of fun. Starting with retro arcades, there are plenty to try, including the Sega, Hirose Entertainment Yard (HEY) and Taito - all of which have a huge range of games. Along with the well-known dancing and drumming kind you can try some familiar Mario-Kart racers and more physical options too. If Mario Kart caught your attention, you can try a real-life version (assuming you have a valid Japanese or International driving license) on the streets of Tokyo, starting in Akiba. Food-wise, you can combine lunch with a Gundam experience or try out one of the Maid Cafes if you like service with a smile (and then some). There are traditional ‘cute Maid Cafes like Maidreamin, as well as Victorian themed alternatives like Cure, while Home Cafe has English-speaking service. For shopping hit up Animate for all your official needs and Tora no Ana for magazines and comics. Lashinbang is a large second-hand option for more affordable comics while Mandrake has a great selection of up to date ones. Nearby, the Tokyo Anime Center hosts events and displays of new releases as well as being home to the Akiba3d Theater. Looking its best at night, the area will fulfill your neon dreams of Tokyo, so grab dinner at an izakaya or themed cafe and wait for the sun to set.

Getting there

Akihabara is a half-hour walk from Ryogoku, or it can be reached on the Chuo-Sobu Line (two stops, ¥140).

Travel time
0 hours 10 minutes
Privacy: public
About the author

I've been in Japan for five years and am lucky enough to be able to explore the islands, neighborhoods and mountains of the country for work. I particularly enjoy focusing on rural regeneration projects and still have plenty of places I want to visit.

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