This ultramodern city of Tokyo is unlike any place you will have ever visited before. It’s probably one of the most visually stimulating places I have ever been. Tokyo’s fast-placed, organized chaos will certainly keep you on your toes.
I have so many tips on where to go that I had to split this travel guide into 2 parts. Click here for Part II! Make sure to read my post of my top 10 tips for your first time to Japan before your trip! You can also check out this post if you’re interested in hitting up some beautiful parks!
Where To Stay in Tokyo
Tokyo is a massive city, so picking the right area to stay can be tough. The amazing transportation system here allows easy access to main sights from just about any area. I’d strongly suggest staying inside Tokyo if possible due to long travel times. You can spend less money on a hotel outside of the city, but you’ll be using extra time and money travelling. I’ll outline the most popular districts below and you can plan accordingly.
This is probably the most popular district. It’s home to one of the city’s biggest transportation hubs, making it a central spot to start your day. The entertainment district is located here, where you’ll find several department stores, restaurants, electronic shops, and etc.
Similarly, Shibuya is also home to a large transportation and shopping hub. We stayed only a 10 – minute train ride west of here. Shibuya has many amazing attractions, shopping and restaurants to explore.
We stayed at this Airbnb apartment, just located minutes walk from the train station. It’s a small, but clean tradition-style apartment that provides all the basics that you need for your trip to Tokyo! Use my discount code for $38 CAD off your first booking on Airbnb!
Roppongi is probably the most cosmopolitan part of the city. There are many luxury hotels, restaurants, and famous nightlife here. Additionally, you can find a beautiful view of Tokyo Tower from here!
Tokyo Station (Marunouchi Area)
Tokyo Station is the city’s main transportation hub, including the Tokaido Shinkansen Line terminal station. If you’re planning to make a lot of day trips out of Tokyo, then this is the place to stay. Like in the rest of the districts, this area is not shy of attractions, department stores, and restaurants.
Ebisu, Meguro and Daikanyama
These 3 areas are undoubtedly home to the wealthy elite. This district is known to be hip and trendy. There are many cafes, boutique shops and beautiful streets.
How To Get Around Tokyo
Public transportation is the #1 most efficient way of getting around the city. Use Google Maps for directions, since the train departure and arrival times are extremely accurate.
Make sure to pay particular attention to the train icons, because there are several different trains per platform. Usually when transferring, you will actually have to exit that line in order to enter another line. (i.e. Railway to subway, subway to JR Line, JR line to railway, and etc). It’s extremely easy to use once you get the hang of it!
Japan Rail Pass
We didn’t purchase a Japan Rail Pass since we weren’t planning on taking many day trips. The JR Pass allows unlimited travel on all Japan Rail National trains, JR bus services, ferry services and airport transfers. Meanwhile, it also opens the door to being able to travel the whole country cost-effectively. You can buy a pass online or at any of designated JR Line stations if you don’t buy one in advance. Use Hyperedia to map out your trips to see if the JR Pass is worth it during your visit.
Although we didn’t purchase the JR Pass, I’d highly recommend purchasing the 72-hour UNLIMITED metro pass if the JR doesn’t apply for you. This only valid on the metro lines and Toei subway lines. This isn’t applicable to the JR or railway lines.
- 24-hour Ticket – Adult: 800 yen, Child: 400 yen
- 48-hour Ticket – Adult: 1,200 yen, Child: 600 yen
- 72-hour Ticket – Adult: 1,500 yen, Child: 750 yen
Click on the Tokyo Metro site for more information and for the locations where you can purchase the Metro Pass. We bought ours at the BIC camera store in Shibuya. You can only pay with cash on the first floor. Be expected to show your passport, so don’t leave it in your hotel!
If you plan ahead, you can purchase them online and pick them up at either Haneda or Narita Airport!
Metro Pass Pickup
- Haneda Airport (International Terminal Visitor Information Center)
- Narita Airport (Keisei Bus Ticket Counter)
What To Do in Tokyo
Shibuya Crossing is undoubtedly the most famous intersection in the world. Witness the sea of people walk in all different directions once the walking light turns green! You’ll see hundreds to thousands of people crossing at once. Make sure to visit at night too!
Aerial View of Shibuya Crossing
Address: 1 Chome-23-10 Jinnan, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0041, Japan
Hours: 11am – 11pm
Entrance Fee: 300 Yen
Go to the top of Mag’s Park for the BEST view of this famous scramble crossing. It’s located on the the Shibuya 109-2 department store’s rooftop. The best view is before sunset and after dark when the city is illuminated!
When I visited this spot 2 months ago, it was free. However, my friend who visited Tokyo last week informed me that now there is a 300 Yen entrance fee. You can also get a view from Shibuya Starbucks, but it’s known to get quite crowded.
Walk Around Shibuya District
After checking out Shibuya Crossing, make sure to explore this popular district. You’ll find a variety of entertainment, karaoke centres, shopping and music stores. There’s plenty of drinks and snacks to buy from any of the small shops!
Visit Kabuchiko in the Shinjuku District
Visit Kabuchiko. This is Tokyo’s largest entertainment and red-light district. Its endless neon signs are illuminated at night, which makes it one of the most vibrant areas after dusk. You’ll find plenty of host(ess) clubs, shops, restaurants, bars and nightclubs here.
Visit “Piss Alley” – Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho
Omoide Yokocho literally translates to “Memory Lane.” Moreover, it’s also commonly known as “Piss Alley.” You’ll find over 80 tiny restaurants that only serve less than 10 seats at a time. Beautiful red-lit lanterns line this maze of smokey alleyway. It makes taking photos really fun! You’ll find everything from soba and yakitori joints to cafes and bars.
Many stalls will have English menus. However, you may have to use your handy Google Translate app to chat with the restaurant owners. Have dinner and drinks here for the quintessential Tokyo night out. It can get a little rowdy in the evenings!
See All of Tokyo City From Mori Tower
Hours: 10am – 11pm (Until Midnight on Fridays & Saturdays)
Sky Deck: 11am – 8pm
Admission Fee: 1800 Yen, additional 500 Yen for Sky Deck Access
Admission ends 30-60 minutes prior to closing time
For an amazing 360 – view of Tokyo, visit Mori Tower’s observation deck. You’ll be able to see all the famous city districts, the Tokyo Tower and Mount Fuji! Additionally, the Sky Deck provides an open-air city view. The best time to visit is before sunset. This way, you’ll be able to see Tokyo during the day and night.
Furthermore, Mori Art Museum is located here. It includes both contemporary and international art and you can buy a combined ticket to visit.
Hours: 8:30am – 11pm
Tokyo Plaza is a multi-story shopping centre located in the Omotesando/Harajuku area. The main draw to this building is the kaleidoscope-like, mirrored entrance. The architecture here by Hiroshi Najamura will blow you away.
The famous Harajuku District is called “the centre of Japan’s most extreme teenage cultures and fashion styles.” You can explore this area after visiting Tokyo Plaza. This fashion district is home to a high number of boutiques and sneaker stores. This area is often called the “kawaii” (adorable) hub. Finally, visit the prominent Takeshita Street to find Japan’s Harajuku style shops.
Where to Eat
Hours: 24 Hours (Setagaya, Nakano, Minato Locations not open 24 hours)
Locations in Tokyo: Shinjuku, Shibuya, Taito City, Minato City, Toshima City, Setagaya, Musashino, Tachikawa, Machida, Nakano
I was never that huge on ramen prior to my Japan visit. There was always something about my ramen dish I didn’t like, whether it was too salty or not flavourful enough. However, Ichiran Ramen changed my mind. It’s probably Japan’s most famous ramen restaurant. The pork-based broth is perfectly sweet and savoury. It’s balanced against thin noodles and sliced pork toppings. We always ordered extra pork slices, a soft-boiled egg and nori (seaweed).
Furthermore, you can customize your entire bowl from the broth richness to the noodle texture. I would strongly suggest the recommended preferences! There are several locations in Tokyo which are open 24 hours. Be prepared to queue for this popular spot!
Sushi No Midori
Hours: 11am – 10pm
Locations in Tokyo: Shibuya, Ginza, Tamagawa, Takaido, Akasaka, Ikeburo (Standing sushi), Umegaoka
Sushi No Midori was my favourite sushi spot in Tokyo! The sushi served is very high-quality and absolutely delicious! The prices are quite reasonable for the fresh ingredients served! It’s extremely popular with both tourists and locals, so be prepared to wait! We waited for two hours, but it was certainly worth it! Try to visit a less central location for a shorter wait time. They offer online reservations if you’re a little more prepared than me!
Read my Tokyo guide Part 2 here!