Hello and welcome to this detailed 5 day Tokyo itinerary that will take in many of Tokyo’s top things to see and do, designed as a guide for first time visitors. This itinerary is tried and tested by me personally, I actually put it together for my very first trip to Japan back in 2014.
I remember spending weeks researching everything I wanted to do in order to maximize every minute that I was in Tokyo. Now that I want to share it with you too, I’ve gone back, checked and updated all details where relevant. I have included website links and Google maps, so anyone heading out in 2017 can also be assured of it’s accuracy. If you find it useful, let me know in the comments!
5 Day Tokyo Itinerary Overview:
Day One: Shibuya and Shinjuku
Day Two: Ghibli Museum, Asakusa and Roppongi
Day Three: Sumo practice, Harajuku, Yoyogi Park, Akihabara
Day Four: Tsukiji Fish Market and Tokyo Skytree
Day Five: Odaiba
Day One – Shibuya and Shinjuku
Arrive in Tokyo and check into hotel. If you haven’t booked your accommodation yet, here’s a few recommendations of places I have previously stayed at:
Shinjuku Granbell Hotel – Around 15 minutes’ walk from Shinjuku station. Modern hotel with good rates. Downsides are that it’s a tad tricky to find the first time you go there and the cheapest rooms are a little on the cosy side! On the plus side it’s a great location to discover lively Shinjuku by night!
Best for: Hipsters and Couples who want to be close to all the nightlife of Shinjuku
Hotel Niwa – Situated in a quieter area than the above property but still very close to walk to the Tokyo Dome Complex which has heaps of attractions and restaurants. It’s a little more expensive but the service is great and it’s one of the highest rated Tokyo hotels on Tripadvisor.
Best for: Couples, Travelers who prefer quieter surroundings, but still with easy access to great restaurants
Keio Plaza Hotel – I stayed here for a 3 day conference and the location is pretty great, very close to Shinjuku station. I was in a standard room which was fairly basic but I think with this property you are paying more for the location than the room itself. The hotel is huge, they have a convenience store on site, a lovely outdoor pool area and a cool sky bar.
Best for: Families, travellers who don’t want to venture too far from the station
Kimi Ryokan – A budget friendly option in traditional Japanese accommodations. If for you the hotel is just somewhere to lay your head at night, the low rates at the Kimi Ryokan may appeal. Sleeping arrangements are Japanese style, with futons on tatami flooring.
Best for: Backpackers, budget travellers
Hilton Odaiba – If you have an early flight out of Haneda airport, Odaiba is only a short taxi ride away but still gives you plenty to see and do on this man made island. This hotel is really lovely, there’s a great teppanyaki restaurant onsite and gorgeous spa area with both indoor and outdoor pools.
Best for: Early transfers out of Haneda Airport, romance, couples
3 PM – Visit Shibuya
Begin your orientation of Tokyo by experiencing the madness of the world famous Shibuya crossing. Whilst in Shibuya be sure to take a picture of the famous Hachiko statue before doing some shopping. If you have time I recommend that you pay a visit to the giant Tower Records store for some old school CD browsing. It’s not just music fans that will feel at home, there’s also a great cafe and bookstore that stocks a selection of English books and magazines.
I also recommend visiting the Tokyu Hands store, where you can find almost anything! For tourists, probably the most useful items will be the kinds of things that can be purchased as souvenirs, from cute stationery to towels, beauty products and handmade gifts.
6 PM – Stop by the Park Hyatt for pre-dinner cocktails
Anyone who has seen Lost in Translation needs to visit the Park Hyatt Hotel in Shinjuku. It’s one of my favourite spots in Tokyo, and the famous New York Bar is one of the best hotel bars I’ve visited. It’s pricey, but will really kick your trip off with a wow factor. If you are on a budget, it’s better to get there earlier, as a cover charge operates after 8pm when the live music begins. You can still enjoy the views and a cocktail before the bar gets really busy.
However if you do want to splurge, you could spend the whole evening here soaking up the music and views, and dining off their bar menu. I can highly recommend their Bellini cocktails, although I find they go down a little too easily!
8 PM – Dinner, drinks and karaoke in Shinjuku
Spend your first night in Tokyo in the entertainment capital that is Shinjuku. You can wander the alleys and literally find hundreds of restaurants and bars here. After dinner there’s a whole heap of entertainment options to choose from to include watching movies, gaming arcades, pachinko halls, themed bars, karaoke and bowling. Time Out Tokyo has a really cool list of 101 things to do in Shinjuku which I highly recommend checking out!
Day Two – Ghibli Museum, Asakusa and Roppongi
10 AM – Visit the Studio Ghibli Museum
If you are a fan of any of the Studio Ghibli movies, you may want to visit the museum in Mitaka. The main thing that you need to be aware of is that you can’t just rock up at the door, you have to pre-book tickets in advance so you will need to plan this out properly before you go. I would highly recommend booking these as soon as they go on sale three months in advance to avoid being disappointed. For details of purchasing tickets outside of Japan, you can find a list of vendors here.
The museum can be reached from Mitaka Station on the JR Chuo Line and takes 15 minutes from Shinjuku station. . There are shuttle buses from the station to the museum or you can walk it.
The museum gets really busy so I would recommend getting there for around 10 am when it opens, although the tickets are not restricted to a certain time, so you can visit anytime during the day you have booked for up until it closes at 6 pm.
3 PM – Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa
Senso-ji is one of Tokyo’s most famous temples and the oldest. It’s visited by millions of tourists each year and is always busy. Enter through the famous thunder gate and in addition to seeing the temple, there are also many souvenir and food stalls to discover. Just outside the temple, rickshaw rides are also popular. If you are planning to visit in 2017, please be aware that some construction work is scheduled between June and the end of September on the five storied pagoda. For further details check out the Go Tokyo website.
Senso-ji Temple is five minutes’ walk from Asakusa station.
6 pm – Explore Roppongi Hills
I really love the panoramic views from the observation gallery at Roppongi Hills. The whole area feels so elegant and cosmopolitan. There are often interesting art exhibitions taking place here, for example last summer there was a huge Studio Ghibli exhibition that featured a giant replica airship from Castle in the Sky. If you have some time there’s a cinema, shops, bars and restaurants in the complex too.
8 PM – Dinner in Roppongi at Gonpachi
If this restaurant looks familiar then allow me to explain why. It is said to be Quentin Tarantino’s inspiration for the scene in the movie Kill Bill, where Uma Thurman takes on the entire yakuza Crazy 88 gang. Luckily, it’s not just worth going to for the unique decor, because the food is also delicious and affordable. In fact the former Prime Minister of Japan took former US President George W Bush here for dinner once. In terms of cuisine, think upmarket Izakaya fare with a combination of charcoal grilled skewers, noodles and tempura dishes to choose from. For further details, you can check out the menu.
Day Three – Sumo, Harajuku and Akihabara
8 AM – Watch a morning sumo practice
Tokyo holds its grand sumo tournaments in May and September of each year, so if you are visiting during this time I highly recommend going for the day to watch some live sumo! For those people travelling outside of these months another way to catch a little sumo action is by visiting one of the training stables to watch the wrestlers during their morning training session.
You can book the morning sumo practice online through Viator or Voyagin. After the practice has finished, there is the opportunity to have your picture taken with one of the wrestlers. The location and time depends on the schedule of the wrestlers, but will usually be between 7 and 9 am.
2 PM – Harajuku and Yoyogi Park
It’s quite likely that you will recognise Harajuku as the centre of Tokyo’s youth culture and emerging street fashion. I think these days it’s much more commercial than it used to be. However you should definitely still pay a visit to buzzing Takeshita-dori street, lined with small boutiques, dessert and crepe shops.
After you have sampled some of the sweet treats on offer around Harajuku, take a stroll in nearby Yoyogi Park to burn off some calories. There’s a lovely Meiji shrine there with peaceful gardens and ponds. Unlike the Buddhist Sensoji temple, this is a well known Shinto shrine. Shinto is Japan’s ancient religion, so I think it’s interesting to visit both. The Meiji Jingu website has some really useful etiquette tips for tourists in English which I would recommend reading before you go.
6 PM – Go electric in Akihabara
Tokyo’s electronic district is the holy grail for fans of Japanese anime and manga and is also home to most of Tokyo’s maid cafes. Visiting a maid cafe is a bit of a weird experience, but definitely one of those things that you should try once. When I visited the At Home Maid Cafe, I was relieved to find out that the customers were not just creepy men, but also popular with other tourists, groups of friends and couples too.
If you’re into giant robots Akihabara is also home to the Gundam cafe. You can also visit one of the many gaming arcades. Try Super Potato for retro games, or Tokyo Leisure Land for music ones.
Day Four – Tsukiji Market and Tokyo Skytree
9 AM Tour the Tsukiji Fish market
If you want to see the famous tuna auction at the Tsukiji fish market, you’ll have to queue up in the cold and dark from the middle of the night to guarantee tickets. It’s a pretty miserable experience, so unless you’re a real fishmonger or tuna enthusiast, I think it’s better to go for a mooch around later on and have a sushi breakfast instead.
There’s some useful information for visitors on the website. The market is due to move to another area of Tokyo at some point before the 2020 Olympics. However, the move has currently been put on hold so anyone heading out in the next few months will still get to experience the market at the original site.
1 PM – Explore the Tokyo Skytree area
If you’re looking for more great views of Tokyo, then you won’t go wrong at the Tokyo Skytree. You can purchase advance tickets if you don’t want to wait in line through their website. If you are visiting at the weekend it’s probably a good idea to do this as it gets really crowded.
After you have been up to the observation deck, there’s plenty of shops to visit in the Solamachi complex and you can stop in one of the many restaurants for lunch. There’s often seasonal events going on around the Skytree too. For example when I visited one Christmas there were seasonal illuminations and a German style Christmas market.
From March to April 2017, there will be a number of spring events happening to include special cherry blossom photo spots and a kids amusement park. The tower will also be lit up at night time in beautiful pink sakura colours.
Access is via Tokyo Skytree station on the Tobu Skytree line, or Oshiage station on the Tokyo Metro Hanzomon and Toei Asakusa lines.
Day Five – Odaiba
10 AM – Discover Odaiba
For your last day in Tokyo, I recommend spending time in the Odaiba area. It’s a man made island situated in Tokyo Bay, accessed by driver-less trains (similar to London’s DLR line). Odaiba is sort of out of the way, but there are a lot of things to do there which can easily fill up an entire day.
One of my favourite places in Odaiba is the Miraikan, known in English as the (much longer named) National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. They have a lot of really interesting exhibits, but for me the highlight has to be their collection of androids and robots. The star attraction is a live demonstration by Honda creation Asimo, who comes out four times a day to perform a kind of dance routine for visitors. Performance times are currently at 11:00, 13:00, 14:00 and 16:00, but be sure to check out the website in advance of your visit to avoid disappointment.
Fuji Television Building
Another interesting spot in the Odaiba area that is open to the public is the Fuji Television building. You’ll be able to recognise the distinctive building from the giant sphere shaped observation room at the top. Inside you can visit television sets and the rooftop garden. Special events often take place at the weekends to include Japanese idol performances.
Next, visit Tokyo Joypolis, a gaming arcade that features some of the world’s most advanced virtual reality games. After terrifying yourself in their Room of Living Dolls, there’s a live stage with performances by digital artists, and 3D movies to enjoy. Entry costs 800 yen per person, but you will need to pay separate admission fees for each attraction on top.
Finish off your long day and stay in Tokyo with a visit to one of the largest onsen theme parks in Japan. At the Ooedo Onsen, as well as the baths, they have a foot spa, massage treatments, a rock salt sauna, shops and eateries. The theme is old Tokyo so you can also enjoy Edo era style fortune tellers and carnival games.
Entry costs 2,612 yen per adult, and the park is open from 11:00 am until 9:00 am the next day. Please be aware that they do not allow entry to visitors with tattoos.
As the world’s biggest city, obviously the above only covers a fraction of what there is to do in Tokyo. However as most visitors will only have a limited amount of time there, this itinerary will cover many of the city’s most popular tourist sites. If you have been to Tokyo and think there is something not on the list that everyone must do their first time in the city, do let me know in the comments.
Thanks for reading!