Heading to Tokyo, Japan soon? Trying to figure out what to do there? Tokyo has LOTS of things to see and do, so much so that it can often be hard trying to figure out how to see all the best parts of the city with a limited amount of time. If you’re trying to figure out how to spend your time there, check out this 7 day Tokyo itinerary as well as some possible day trips from Tokyo!
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- Before You Go
- Tokyo 7 Day Itinerary
- Other Things to Do in Tokyo
- Day Trips from Tokyo
- Getting Around Tokyo
- Where to Stay in Tokyo
- What to Budget for Tokyo
Before You Begin
If this is your first time traveling to Japan, I highly recommend doing some research into the country’s transportation system, customs, etc. I believe you’ll find it much easier to put together a Tokyo itinerary if you sort of know what you are getting yourself into.
For the most part, you could probably survive in Japan without actually knowing any Japanese. Most of the signs have English translations, and many of the train stations have announcements in English as well as Japanese. As for people who speak English… it can be a hit or miss. I had scenarios where I ran into store attendants who spoke perfect English, and others who spoke little to none.
Regardless, I always think it’s a good idea to learn at least a few words in the local language before traveling. Not only does it make the trip less stressful, but I’ve found that locals are much more appreciative and open when they can see you’ve made an effort to understand them and learn their language and customs. This list of survival Japanese phrases can help you get started.
Navigating the Train System
If you come from a metropolitan area that has a well-developed subway or train system, you will probably be able to pick up Japan’s train system pretty easily. However, if you’re from a more rural area where you typically drive or maybe take the bus, Japan’s train system may be more than just a little intimidating. Getting familiar with the train system before you go will definitely make navigating it once you arrive in Japan much easier.
You may also want to look into the Japan Rail Pass and the Tokyo Subway ticket. Depending on how much you plan on doing in Tokyo and the rest of Japan, one or both of these may save you some money on transportation. I also advise getting an IC Card (Pasmo , Suica, ICOCA, etc), a reloadable card used for public transportation. Having one will make riding the train much easier instead of trying to purchase individual tickets each time you want to ride the train.
Best Apps to Download Before You Go
You know what else would make your trip to Tokyo a lot less stressful? Some hand-dandy apps on your phone! Check out this list of Japan travel apps to find helpful apps for getting directions, finding places to eat, and more.
Tokyo 2020 Olympics
Lastly, if you didn’t know this already, Tokyo is hosting the Summer Olympics in 2020. It’s definitely a once in a lifetime experience that you shouldn’t miss out on. Check out my book Tokyo 2020 Olympics For Dummies for details on how to plan your trip to the Olympics!
Tokyo 7 Day Itinerary
Tokyo Itinerary: Day 1 – Harajuku and Ikebukuro
Harajuku is well known for its street fashion and art and an icon of Japanese pop culture. Nothing says “Welcome to Japan!” more than the creative shops and streets filled with people wearing unique clothing, which is why it marks the start of this 7 day Tokyo itinerary. Here, you’ll be able to see fashion trends from super girly and pink to punk goth.
In my opinion, I thought the shops along the main street, Takeshita-dori or Takeshita Street, were a little expensive, but you can find some good deals if you look hard enough. There are also some used clothing stores in the area too. My personal favorite was Closet Child, a used clothing store in the punk and grunge scene. Plus, since Harajuku is such a popular tourist destination, many of the shop keepers speak at least some English, which makes the whole experience a little bit smoother.
Unfortunately, most of the shops don’t allow you to take photos, but most of the people walking along the street are happy to pose for photos and show off.
If possible, I recommend stopping by Harajuku on the weekend in order to get the full experience. Many of the people who get all dressed up are teenagers and young adults who would likely be at school or work during the weekday.
While you are there, it’s also worth checking out the various sweets shops sort of intermingled with the boutiques. In particular, look out for Harajuku’s infamous crepes, one of the best desserts in Tokyo!
Shopping in Ikebukuro
Ikebukuro isn’t as popular of a tourist destination as some of the other districts in Tokyo, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth visiting. I studied abroad at Rikkyo University in Ikebukuro, so much of my spare time was usually spent hanging around in Sunshine City.
Since I was mostly in Ikebukuro for school, it’s not surprising that I frequently visited bookstores like Junkudo and Book-Off. Even if you’re not in Japan for school, these book stores are still worth a visit, especially if you’re interested in learning Japanese.
On one of the top floors of Junkudo, you can find several Japanese language learning text books for much cheaper than if you were to buy them outside of the country. If you are looking to buy some books to help you with reading Japanese (or if you just want Japanese versions of your favorite manga), I suggest heading over to Book-Off. It was probably one of my favorite stores in Japan because they sell used books that are in almost mint condition for super cheap.
If you’re looking to watch a Japanese movie, you can head over to Cinema Sunshine Ikebukuro. Just beware, that the Japanese movies won’t have English subtitles. The American movies (for example I saw Superman vs Batman here) will be in English with Japanese subtitles.
Tokyu Hands is a good general store that sells all sorts of different goods, from knicknacks, to household items, to pet supplies. Not only is it a great place to get some really unique office supplies such as cute erasers and erasable markers, but it’s also a great place to get small souvenirs for friends and family back home.
Across the street from Tokyu Hands is SEGA Ikebukuro Gigo, which has several floors worth of games ranging from crane games, to classic card games, to picture booths. It’s the ultimate arcade room!
If you are a fan of Pokemon, you’ll definitely want to stop by the Pokemon Center. There are several Pokemon Centers across Japan, but the largest is located in Ikebukuro. It’s even called Pokemon Center Mega Tokyo. When I went, they had large statues of Lucario and Mewtwo’s mega evolutions. Personally, I thought it was super cool (I’m a geek, I know). The only downside is that a lot of the merchandise is focused around the more popular Pokemon. If your favorite Pokemon isn’t very popular, chances are you’ll have a hard time finding anything.
Entertainment at Round One
If books, shopping, and movies aren’t your style, I recommend spending the afternoon at Round One Entertainment. Similar to SEGA Ikebukuro Giga, it has several floors dedicated to arcade games. However, the upper floors have bowling lanes and karaoke rooms. It’s easy to spend several hours here.
They have some of the popular arcade games such as air hockey (although it adds a little twist by randomly shooting little colored pucks onto the field throughout the game), but also has other arcade games unique to Japan like Taiko no Tatsujin (a drum rhythm game based off the Japanese Taiko drum). Even if you don’t play any of the arcade games, it can be fun just to people watch. Some of the people are scary good at the games like Taiko no Tatsujin, which makes for a pretty good show.
My friends versus frequent Taiko no Tatsujin players:
Bowling in Japan is just like bowling everywhere else. However, Round One occasionally has events like the Moonlight Strike Game that puts a slight twist on normal bowling. The only other thing that was slightly different for me was renting shoes. In America, the bowling shoes are often kept behind the main counter, but here they were kept in vending machines. There was a different vending machine for each of the shoe sizes and you just pressed a button to get the shoes. You’ll also probably have to convert your normal shoe size to Japanese shoe sizes (in centimeters).
I recommend getting your photo taken in a Japanese photo booth (purikura) at least once during your trip to Japan, whether you do it at Round One or another entertainment center. Unlike some traditional photo booths, you can add all sorts of text, stickers, backgrounds and filters. Plus, they make for great souvenirs.
Once you’ve had your fill of bowling and arcade games, you can end with some karaoke. It’s quite different from karaoke in the United States, and personally I think it’s much more enjoyable. In the United States, if you mention karaoke, people will likely think of getting on a small stage at a bar and singing in front of the other bar attendees. Due to the fact that you’d be singing in front of other people, many shy away from karaoke. However, in Japan, most modern karaoke venues (like Round One) have multiple private rooms for rent at affordable prices. This way, the only people you are singing in front of are the friends or family who go with you.
Tokyo Itinerary: Day 2 – Shinjuku
Shinjuku Garden, also called Shinjuku Gyoen, costs ¥200 (about $2 USD) to enter, but considering how awesome the place is, ¥200 is pretty cheap. It easily topped my list of best parks and gardens in Tokyo. I happened to be there during cherry blossom season, so the trees were a pretty pink color and the pathways were lined with fallen cherry blossom petals. However, even if you don’t go during cherry blossom season, the garden is still incredible.
Hanazono Jinja stands out from some of the shrines and temples on this 7 day Tokyo itinerary due to its bright orange color. It’s a relatively small temple complex, but unique due to the way it seems to be hidden within the city. You round a building corner and then BAM! You’re standing in front of a sacred shrine.
If you are interested in Japanese music like J-Pop, J-Rock, and more, Tower Records is the place to go. You’ve probably heard of Tower Records since they’re actually a retail chain found around the world, but at their Japanese locations you can find all sorts of Japanese CDs, records, promotional materials, and more.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Offices are a good place to visit if you’re interested in getting pictures of the city skyline for FREE. It’s not nearly as tall as Tokyo Skytree (which is on day 4 of this itinerary), but it’s good if you’re looking to get some pictures of the skyline without paying an arm and a leg. Unfortunately it was pretty cloudy when I went, but even if you don’t have the best weather when you go, it’s easy to swing by here again because it’s free. You can come as often as you want until you get that perfect picture. Plus, the architecture of the government buildings and the other buildings nearby are quite impressive.
Tokyo Itinerary: Day 3 – Shibuya
Not only is Meiji Jingu considered one of the top attractions in the Shibuya district, it’s also a nice way to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a while. The shrine, which is dedicated to the spirits of Emporer Meiji and his wife, is located within an expansive park. Getting to the shrines involves walking along stone pathways through several trees, which makes it easy to forget that the city is just on the other side. Once you reach the shrine, you can get English versions of omikuji (Japanese fortune telling strips) and ema, a votive tablet where you write down your prayers and gratitude.
Right next door to Meiji Jingu is Yoyogi Park. Thanks to its many pathways and open fields, it’s a great place to take a stroll or have a picnic with friends and family. It’s also a popular viewing spot during cherry blossom season and is easily one of the most instagrammable places is Tokyo.
Don Quijote, or “donki,” is a popular chain discount store with locations all over Japan. Here you can find everything from sweets, to souvenirs, to cosmetics, to everyday goods such as luggage. If you’re looking for souvenirs from Japan, this is a great place to start.
If you are looking for a “mall” like shopping area, Shibuya 109, also caled ichi-maru-kyu or just maru-kyu, is a great place to start. It consists of several floors full of various women’s clothing retail stores that sell all sorts of clothing, shoes, accessories, and more. Personally, I’m not crazy into fashion, so I felt like a lot of the clothing was pretty expensive, but to somebody who is more into fashion, price may not be as much of a concern.
This statue may not seem like much, but it represents a well-known story in Japan. According to the story, Hachiko was a dog that accompanied his master on his way to work and would patiently wait at the station for his return. Even after his master’s death, he would continue to wait for his master at the station every day until he too passed away ten years later.
Considered one of the busiest intersections in the world, Shibuya Crossing (also called the Shibuya Scramble), is a must see for any Tokyo itinerary. You can be one of the several people walking through the intersection, or you can get a top down view of the scramble from some of the nearby stores. To see it at its busiest, I suggest going on a weekday evening when workers and students are heading home for the day.
Tokyo Itinerary: Day 4 – Chuo and Asakusa
The Imperial Palace is the home of the Imperial Family and was previously the home of the shogunate (feudal military commanders and officials that governed Japan). Unfortunately the palace itself and most of the grounds are not open to visitors. However, the Imperial Palace East Gardens are open to the public year-round, and the inner grounds are open to the public on December 23rd and January 2nd. Guided tours of the grounds are also available in Japanese and English through the Imperial Household Agency.
Hama Rikyu Gardens
Originally serving as the home of a feudal lord, Hama Rikyu Gardens was turned into a strolling garden as part of the imperial palace before it was eventually opened up to the public. Here you can stroll along its many paths or enjoy the view from the teahouse on the edge of the water.
Himiko and Hotaluna Boats
Want to take a ride on a futuristic boat? You can do just that! The Himiko and Hotaruna boats were designed by famous anime and manga creator Leiji Matsumoto. During the ride, you can enjoy scenic views of the area as well as anime-like commentary (unfortunately it’s in Japanese and they don’t have an English translation). If you head to the Hanode Pier (right by Hama Rikyu Gardens) and catch the Hotaluna boat up to Asaka. It’s definitely a way more unique experience than catching the train up to Asaka.
When you first arrive at Senso-ji, you will find yourself at Kaminarimon, a massive gate that serves as the entrance to the shrine, and beyond that you’ll find Hozomon, the “Treasure House Gate.” At the main hall, you can try omikuji (similar to Meiji Shrine earlier in this Tokyo itinerary), “purify yourself” by washing your hands in the nearby fountain with the ladle, as well as cover yourself in the smoke of the incense, which is believed to have a healing effect.
Asakusa Shrine is located right next door and honors the three men who built Senso-ji. Along with praying, you can also pick up some omamori, or lucky charms. They have ones designed for general blessings or specific ones such as passing exams in school, succeeding in business, or protection of health. Personally, I picked up the kotsu-anzen omamori, which is supposed to provide protection for travelers.
Just in front of Senso-ji is Nakamise-dori, a popular shopping street. Here you can try all sorts of traditional Japanese food as well as lots of cool souvenirs based off of Japanese culture and history. For example, you can find fans, wall scrolls, clothing, chopsticks, and more. Personally, I thought the souvenirs were a little expensive (I could probably find them cheaper elsewhere), but nowhere else will you find such a great selection of souvenirs in one location, so the convenience might be worth it. Plus, many of the shopkeepers speak at least some English.
At 2,080 feet (634 meters), Tokyo Skytree is the tallest tower in the world. It has two different observatories, one on the 445th floor and one on the 450th floor. If you’re looking for a place to get a fantastic view of the city, this would be it. I recommend going just before sunset and then hanging around to evening. This way you can see the city during the day, but also when it is all lit up at night.
Tokyo Itinerary: Day 5 – Bunkyo
Chinzan-so garden is actually the backyard of Hotel Chinzanso, which they opened up for the public. Unlike some other parks and gardens in Japan, there weren’t too many wide open spaces or fields, save for the pond in the center. Within the grounds you can also find a sacred tree which is 500 years old!
Higo Hosokawa Garden (Shin-Edogawa Garden)
Right across the street from Chinzan-so is Higo Hosokawa Garden (previously called Shin-Edogawa Garden). Like many other Japanese gardens, a pond serves as the focal point, and other dirt paths lead you around the rest of the garden. Up some stone steps, you can even get a good vantage point of the entire garden.
This park is a great place for heron viewing, so it’s not uncommon to see photographers camped out along the sides of the path. In the pond, you can also find some large koi fish and a turtle or two bathing in the sun. It also has a pond frequently filled with beautiful water lilies.
Rikugien is quite large in comparison to some of the other parks and gardens in Tokyo, and is often considered one of Tokyo’s most beautiful landscape gardens. It’s a great place to take a stroll, and with enough wandering, you’ll eventually come upon a high point where you can get a good view of the park below as well as the city in the background. It makes for a fantastic view, especially in the fall.
Origami, the art of paper folding, is a popular part of Japanese culture. At Origami Kaikan, you can see several displays of various origami creations such as dinosaurs, animals, and even dragons. Some were so complex, it was hard to believe they were made from just paper. On the third floor they have a shop where you can buy different types of origami paper as well as instructional books. You can even take lessons, some of which are offered in multiple languages.
The third and last observatory on this 7 day Tokyo itinerary is Tokyo Tower. The views aren’t as spectacular as Tokyo Skytree, and it’s not free like the metropolitan government building. However, it’s still a very iconic structure, most known for its own orange color (which is lit up at night). If you don’t want to take the elevator, you can climb 600 steps to the first observatory floor and get some fun facts along the way. When I went, the first floor observatory had a live show and was covered in blue lights. I had to go up to the second floor observatory to get good pictures since the blue lights on the first floor kept giving a reflection on the glass. However, if you are looking for just a place to hang out in the evening, the first floor observatory is a great place to have an evening of fun surrounded by beautiful scenery!
Tokyo Itinerary: Day 6 – Disney
Tokyo DisneySea is a must for any Tokyo itinerary, and will definitely take a full day to enjoy in its entirety. The park is divided into seven different “ports” and was inspired by the various myths and legends of the sea. Here you can check out attractions such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, meet Disney characters, and watch their spectacular night show. You can find out more what it’s like to spend a day at Tokyo DisneySea.
Tokyo Itinerary: Day 7 – Akihabara and Ueno
2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan
This is a great place to check out all sorts of handmade crafts and items. Because it’s all handmade, it’s a little expensive, but is all fantastic quality. Here, you can find all sorts of leather items, woodcraft, ceramics and more. In this area is also Aki-Oki Caravane, which is a good place to grab a bite to eat.
This place is for all the anime fans. You can find all sorts of keychains, clothing, décor, figurines and more from some of the most popular anime.
Akihabara Radio Kaikan
If Animate wasn’t enough, head to Akihabara Radio Kaikan, which has ten floors full of anime and pop culture related products.
Ueno Park is a large and spacious park located in central Tokyo. Like Yoyogi Park, it has a lot of spacious fields that make for a good place to have a picnic or throw a baseball around. It’s home to various museums and is also a popular spot for cherry blossom viewing.
Ameya Yokocho (Ameyoko)
Ameya Yokocho, often shortened to just Ameyoko, is a street lined with all sorts of shops, from general goods to souvenirs, to food. It’s probably most well-known for its candy sweets. Since most of the stalls are open, you can even watch them make much of the food. One of the shop keepers gave me a demonstration on how they made their special honey and peanut cookies. I’ll admit that the texture was a little strange because the outside is really stringy, but it was actually pretty good!
Other Things to Do in Tokyo
There are so many other things to do in Tokyo. If you have more time in Tokyo, or want to may substitute out something from my above mentioned 7 day Tokyo itinerary, check out these other things to do in Tokyo!
- Character-Themed Cafe
- Afternoon Tea at Luxury Hotel Shangri-La Tokyo
- Maid or Butler Cafe
- Ghibli Museum and Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum
- Tsukiji Fish Market
- MANGEKYO Revolutionary New Drumming Entertainment
- Street Go Karting
- Traditional Towel Dyeing
- Japanese Tea Ceremony
- Robot Restaurant
Day Trips from Tokyo
There are A LOT of great places just outside of Tokyo that are also worth visiting. It just depends on how you want to spend your time in Japan. If you’re looking to get out of the city for a day or two, check out these day trips from Tokyo!
Personally, I consider Nikko a “little Kyoto.” Similar to Kyoto, it’s full of history and culture, and is probably most well known for its many shrines and temples. Plus, it has a beautiful red bridge that I would often see pictured in train station advertisements. Check out the full Nikko guide to see all it has to offer.
Hakone is most well known for its natural onsen, or hot springs. Onsen are a very big part of Japanese culture, so hakone is definitely a great place to visit if you’re looking to get the onsen experience. You could also considering checking out Hakone Kowakien Yunessun, which is famous for its wine and green tea filled onsen.
As the previous seat of the shogunate (feudal military commanders and officials that governed Japan), Kamakura is a city rich in history. Among its many culturally important sights, probably one of the most famous is the Great Buddha (Daibutsu), the second tallest buddha statue in Japan (the first being in Nara).
Yokohama is the second largest city in Japan and is also home to Japan’s largest Chinatown. Other worthwhile attractions include a ramen and cup noodles museum as well as Cosmo Clock 21, a large ferris wheel location within Cosmo World Amusement Park. If you go at the right time, you might event catch the Pikachu Outbreak Festival!
Albeit a little far for a day trip from Tokyo, the Sendai and Matsushima area was probably one of my favorite Tokyo getaways. It’s not as popular of a tourist destination, so I felt like I got to experience true Japan life. Plus, most of the destinations I visited had little to no crowds. You can check out a full list of things to do in and around Sendai. You might also consider stopping at the Miyagi Zao Fox Village on your way there or on your way back.
Kawaguchiko and Mt. Fuji
Kawaguchiko is the second largest of the Fuji Five lakes, and is a great place to get some good views of Mount Fuji. Probably one of the most famous locations is Chureito-pagoda. Chances are, many of the famous pictures of Japan that you’ve seen were taken from this spot. There are also some other worthwhile sightseeing spots in the area such as Music Forest and Fuji Q Highland.
Getting Around Tokyo
The easiest way to get around Tokyo is by train and subway. Some of these are owned and operated by the Japan Railway Company (JR) while others are privately owned. Probably the most useful for tourists is the JR Yamanote, which runs in a circle between many of the major Tokyo districts, including Akihabara, Ikebukuro, Harajuku, Shinjuku, and Shibuya.
Where to Stay in Tokyo
I lived in a city called Asakadai in the Saitama prefecture when I studied abroad in Japan. While I think it’s a great area, it doesn’t really offer to many places for short-term visitors to stay.
For this Tokyo itinerary, I recommend staying in the Shinjuku area, as that will likely put you close to most of the destinations you’ll be visiting. Plus, Shinjuku station is also a hub for the Shinkansen (or bullet train), if you plan on heading to places like Osaka or Kyoto. Alternatively, you could also stay near Tokyo station, since that is also a major Shinkansen hub.
If you’re looking for a unique experience, you could always try staying in a cube or capsule hotel. However, make sure to do some research in advance, as many capsule hotels are men only (I learned this the hard way when I showed up!). Tokyo also has some great hostels, if that is more your style.
What to Budget for Tokyo
Tokyo and Japan as a whole has a bit of a reputation for being expensive, but honestly, I’m not entirely sure why. In comparison to some of the cities I’ve visited in the United States, I thought it was relatively cheap.
If you are traveling by yourself, you could try staying a capsule hotel. They’re definitely one of the cheapest options for accommodation and are great if you just need a place to sleep at night, but they don’t provide much in terms of amenities. Hostels are also great budget options with a little more comfort and flexibility.
Prices for hotels can vary significantly depending on what type of hotel you stay in and what time of the year you visit. However, I typically found 3-star hotels to be approximately $70 USD to $130 USD.
This is one of those things that can quickly add up. A ride on the JR Yamanote Line, one of the most popular train lines in the Tokyo area, cost ¥250 or approximately $2.50 USD. It may not seem like much, but you’ll likely be riding the train a handful of times a day.
As mentioned a few times in this 7 day Tokyo itinerary, there are a couple of different things you can use to help save costs on transportation. The first is the Japan Rail Pass, which allows you to ride any train operated by the Japan Railway (JR) company an unlimited number of times for a set price. However, due to the steep upfront cost of the Japan Rail Pass, most times its only worth it if you plan on doing extensive travel outside the city. The other main option is the Tokyo Subway ticket. Similar to the JR Pass, it will let you ride the Tokyo Subway system as much as your want for the duration of the pass.
Food in Tokyo can be as expensive or cheap as you want. I typically found most ramen shops to offer bowls of ramen from ¥700 to ¥1000, which is approximately $7 USD to $10 USD. However, if you want to go to some of the fancy sushi restaurants, you’ll be looking at closer to $30 USD to $50 USD for a meal.
Like other items in your Tokyo budget, how much you spend on activities is entirely up to you. There are lots of things to do in Tokyo that are completely free. However, there are also activities such as Tokyo SkyTree that can cost ¥3,400 (approximately $34 USD).
What do you think of this 7 day Tokyo itinerary? Did you find it useful? Is there anything else you think should be added to this itinerary? Let me know in the comments below!
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