My Tokyo Guide
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Updated: September 30, 2020
With nearly 14 million people and hundreds of stations, Tokyo might be vast, but its core is easily explored in a few days. This Tokyo itinerary takes you through a whirlwind of neighborhoods, from youth fashion hubs to downtown drinking spots. What's more, many of the sights are best soaked up just through strolling the streets, which means you can easily travel on the cheap!
Asakusa is home to some of the most iconic sights of Tokyo. With the modern Tokyo Skytree rising in the background, rent a kimono, travel back in time, and immerse yourself in the city's past by wandering the impressive Sensoji Temple complex. The entrance is marked by the Kaminarimon or "Thunder Gate," flanked by the gods of wind and thunder. Pass through and stroll up Nakamise-dori Street, a colorful 250-meter shopping avenue that leads to the temple. The surrounding streets are also full of stores offering traditional crafts, snacks, and trinkets, in addition to kimono rental shops.
Next, head over to Hoppy Street lined with old-fashioned izakaya (Japanese-style pubs), many decorated with lanterns and offering outdoor seating. Hop between bars, enjoying cheap food and drinks.
A short walk away is Kappabashi, Tokyo's "kitchen town," where you can marvel at the range of equipment and gadgets employed in creating Japan's world-famous cuisine. Many visitors find the realistic plastic food samples fascinating.
Stroll west and you'll reach Ueno. Check out the shops and stalls along Ameyoko Shopping Street. Formerly a post-war black market, it now sells everything from tea and dried fish to cheap clothing and hats! At night, the district's lively bars are perfect for getting a taste of traditional downtown life.
Start your day with a walk in the vast Yoyogi Park, and stroll the tall tree-lined avenues to the impressive Meiji Shrine, dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and his wife. The woods around the shrine buildings offer peace and tranquility in the heart of the city. Next, it's a short walk to Harajuku, the center of all things "kawaii" (cute) and Tokyo's pop culture. Head down Takeshita-dori Street for wacky fashion, cheap trinkets, and Instagram-worthy snacks. Make sure to also explore the back streets, where colorful street art provides more photo opportunities.
Not far from here is Cat Street, which leads to Shibuya past an eclectic mix of shops from secondhand stores to outdoor gear. Shibuya is where big brands and youth fashion merge into one huge shopping paradise. With several large recent developments, Shibuya is a great place to see the modern face of Tokyo.
Check out Miyashita Park, a green shopping space, or head to the new Shibuya Parco, which boasts a funky food court in the basement and a chilled-out rooftop terrace. Then, dash across Shibuya Scramble Crossing and ride the elevator up to Shibuya Sky for a breathtaking 360° panoramic view of the city—and even Mt. Fuji on a clear day.
For your final day, venture a little out of downtown Tokyo to the trendy yet cozy neighborhood Shimokitazawa. Here you will find an array of vintage clothes shops, cute cafes, hip coffee joints, record stores, and affordable nighttime watering holes. Part of the charm is just wandering the streets, but Shimokita Senrogai Akichi is a great urban space for relaxing outdoors. There are food trucks that change daily, so you can also enjoy an impromptu picnic. Sometimes they have events going on, so be sure to stop by!
From here, it's a short ride on the Odakyu Line to Shinjuku, known for its neon lights and nightlife, but also home to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, a green oasis that is beautiful in any season. For a bit of education and a lot of hands-on fun, the Ninja Trick House in Tokyo will get you solving puzzles and even trying out some weapons (safely, of course)!
And a perfect way to complete your trip to Shinjuku is an evening spent exploring the local bars and eateries. The narrow, ramshackle alleyways of Omoide Yokocho and Golden Gai will transport you back decades, with each establishment offering its own distinct appeal.