We recently returned from a weeklong trip to Japan! It was my first time in Asia, and Jonathan’s first time in Japan, so we were eager to explore the country together. Although we were originally supposed to visit Tokyo, Kyoto, and Niigata, a flight delay left us only able to visit Niigata and Tokyo – here’s an IGTV video with highlights from our trip! If you’re traveling to Japan for business or pleasure, it’s likely you’ll spend at least a few days in the capital city, so here’s how you can see the best of Tokyo in 3 days.
Tokyo in 3 Days: Day 1
Unless you are flying from somewhere in Asia, getting to Japan takes a really long time. Taxis in Japan are expensive, and there isn’t Uber, so you’ll definitely want to buy and load some money on a Suica card (reloadable metro card) to help you get around. Navigate from Narita Airport to Oshiage station and check in at the One@Tokyo hotel, which is gorgeously decorated, and has moderate sized rooms at much more affordable prices than hotels in downtown Tokyo. Although slightly removed from the hustle and bustle of the city, One@Tokyo is very conveniently located on a train line that connects to almost anywhere else in Tokyo.
Once you’ve dropped your bags, and maybe taken a power nap, and head to the nearby Tokyo Skytree. It’s the the tallest building in Japan and the second tallest in the world after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai! The Tokyo Skytree encompasses both an observation tower and a huge mall with floors of shopping and eateries. Once you’ve snacked on some sushi, matcha, or mochi, head over to the Skytree, where for less than $20, you can go up to the 350th floor and get a panoramic view of the city of Tokyo. On a clear day you can see all the way to Mt Fuji, but I also loved the view of the city at night!
After eating, shopping, and sightseeing in Tokyo Skytree, head back to One@Tokyo for drinks on the roof. The hotel offers a complimentary welcome drink for guests and it’s Instagram-perfect rooftop has a direct beautiful view of Tokyo Skytree. Snap some pics and rest up for tomorrow.
Tokyo in 3 Days: Day 2*
Now that you’re well rested, skip breakfast and head over to Takeshita Dori, a wide pedestrian street in the Harajuku neighborhood. Grab a crepe from a street stall for morning nourishment, then peruse the vintage shops with cosplay costumes that the Japanese are famous for. Make sure you pass by Daiso – a Japanese “dollar” store – and stock up on souvenirs like fans, chopsticks, and Japanese snacks. You’ll probably end up walking up and down Takeshita street a few times, so stop by the Totti Candy Factory for rainbow colored cotton candy to make the trip sweeter.
For lunch, head to Tendon Tenya, a tempura restaurant a short walk away from Takeshita street. Don’t worry if there’s a line outside, it moves quickly and it’s worth the brief wait! After eating lunch, walk to Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku and take the escalator up into the mall to view your reflection in the the mirrored structure that makes up the entrance. There might be other people waiting to take pictures, but the cool shot is worth the wait! If you want to do more exploring, venture over to Cat Street for boutique and designer shopping.
If your hands aren’t too full with shopping, walk over to the Meiji Shrine, which is located inside a quiet, tranquil forest. It’s actually very cool that such a protected building exists a stone’s throw away from the hustle and bustle of the city, which represents Japan’s perfect balance of the modern and traditional.
At this point, you can either go back to your hotel to rest, or visit a Japanese beauty store for duty free Japanese skincare buys. For dinner, dress up in something cute and head to L’AS, a French inspired restaurant with a custom curated 9 course meal and select wine pairings. The menu is always changing so there’s no knowing what you might have! Dinner for two with one drink each came out to about $140, but trust me, the food is VERY worth it!
Tokyo in 3 Days: Day 3
Start the morning off with a quick pastry at Tokyo Skytree or the buffet breakfast at One@Tokyo. Then take the train to Tuskiji Market, an indoor/outdoor fish market with super fresh raw fish, fried fish cakes, sushi, and seafood. Sample all the seafood your heart desires, then walk it all off by strolling to the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace. Depending on how warm it is, make sure you pack some sun protective because the gardens are HOT!
From the Imperial Gardens, rest your feet by hopping on the subway to the Shinjuku area, the second major city centre of Tokyo. There you’ll find a ton of commercial buildings, entertainment, and retail. If you’ve ever been to New York, Shinjuku reminds me of Times Square! If you’re daring, go to the Robot Restaurant – I thought it was a robot strip club ?but it’s robot theatre and has great reviews. For history buffs, check out the Samurai Museum real samurai armor and English tours explaining the samurai history of Japan. Or just shop to your heart’s content in one of Shinjuku’s many malls and stores!
For dinner, try Japanese barbecue – there are several options to choose from right around the Samurai Museum! Don’t drink too much though, you’ll be headed to Golden Gai after dinner for a nightcap. Golden Gai is a neighborhood with tiny bars – seating 5-10 people – and super cheap drinks. Look for one without a cover charge, get to know your fellow barmates, and drink responsibly! If you need more of a party, head over to Roppongi, which is famous for it’s nightclubs. Just keep an eye on your watch, most trains stop running between midnight and 1am, so even though the bar might be open late, you should probably take your behind home!
There you go friends, my suggested itinerary for frolicking around Tokyo in 3 days. There’s a little bit of everything for everyone: cultural attractions, shopping, history, entertainment, and tons of food and drink! Tokyo is a lively city so there is no shortage of activity to partake in, so if you have suggestions from your own travels, please leave them in the comments!
*Most guides to Tokyo will suggest visiting Shibuya Crossing, which should be done on this day since you’re already in the area. Shibuya Crossing is famous for being a busy intersection where all the pedestrian lights change at the same time, making for a mass horde like migration across the intersections. Don’t waste your time on this overhyped activity, just watch videos of the crossing on Instagram!