Many of my friends have asked help with their Japan itineraries. They think I know a lot of stuff having been around for almost ten years now, 7 to be exact. I guess that number somehow gives me credibility? So, in response to those asking for my first-hand knowledge, I came up with a full 3-day itinerary that will offer enough opportunities to experience Japan’s uniquely interesting culture.
Some practical information follow each place mentioned. Click on the links for further details about it.
1. Imperial Palace and East Garden (closed on Mondays)
Enter through the Otemon Gate. Use this same gate when you exit the garden.
From Otemachi station: Exit 6 (Chiyoda Line) and walk 10mins
Exit C13a (Each Line) and walk 5mins
From Tokyo station: Exit at Marunouchi North gate and walk 15mins
Walk back to Tokyo Station passing by Marunouchi Brick Square and Nakadori Avenue to enjoy great art and architecture, and do some shopping.
3. Meiji Shrine
Take JR Yamanote line and get off at Harajuku station (200yen). Exit at Omotesando Gate. There’s a chance you will meet costume players on the nearby bridge. Then walk towards the big Torii. Follow the path toward the shrine.
4. Harajuku Takeshita Dori
Walk back towards Harajuku station Takeshita gate and cross the street.
5. Omotesando Street
At the end of Takeshita Dori, turn right and walk toward the intersection. Then cross and walk along Omotesando Street. Drop by Oriental Bazaar (right side of the street) if you’re interested in purchasing traditional items. There’s also a sushi bar close by.
Go down the subway and take Ginza or Hanzomon Line for Shibuya station (170yen, 2-3mins). Exit at Hachiko gate. Look for Hachiko’s statue and climb up Starbucks for a view of Shibuya’s famous crossing. And if you’re not going to Disney Resort, check out the Disney store along Shibuya Koen Dori.
Go back to Shibuya station and take JR Yamanote line for Shinjuku station (160yen, 7mins). Take the West Exit and walk 10mins toward Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building for a free view of Tokyo Skyline (South Observatory closes at 5:30pm; North Observatory closes at 11pm).
8. Roppongi Hills
If you still have energy and the night is young, take Toei Subway-Oedo Line and get off at Roppongi station (220yen, 9mins). Another option for Tokyo City View is at Mori Tower viewing deck which is open until 11PM, but you have to enter by 10pm the latest. Usually, if you have a ticket to the Art Museum, you can go up the viewing deck for free. Also, there’s a traditional Japanese garden that’s worth checking out behind the building.
*Note: most trains run until midnight. If you miss the last trip, you’ll have to take a cab.
1. Tsukiji Fish Market (closed on Sundays)
Take the train for Tsukiji station, walk towards the market and have the best sushi/sashimi breakfast. If you want to see the bidding, you have to be there at 5am. But if you just want to explore and eat, shops open at 6am.
2. Hama Rikyu Garden
Walk south to Hama Rikyu Garden. It opens at 9am and charges 300yen entrance fee.
Walk (10mins) to Shimbashi station and take the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line to Ginza station (170yen). Exit at Chuo Dori.
Walk back to the station and take the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line to Asakusa station (200yen). Exit at Kaminarimon Gate. It is the entrance to Sensoji Temple. Walk through Nakamise Dori shopping street for souvenirs and everything traditional. Explore the temple and the old-fashioned neighborhood. You can ride a rikishaw if you’re tired.
6. Tokyo Water Bus (Tokyo Bay Cruise)
Go to Asakusa pier: walk back across the bridge and go down the stairs on the right. Purchase ticket for Odaiba Kaihin Koen on the Himiko direct trip. It costs 1560yen and takes 50mins. Try to catch the 3:20pm trip or the last trip at 5:20pm if you are running late. Be there 20minutes before departure. If you miss Himiko, the other boats will stop at a different pier, and you will have to make an overland transfer – hassle!
Disembark at Odaiba Seaside Park. Explore Aquacity and Decks shopping malls. Legoland, Madame Tussauds, and Trick Art Museum are inside. Or walk towards the bay to see Tokyo’s imitation of the Statue of Liberty and view Tokyo Bay and Rainbow Bridge.
More from Odaiba:
Palette Town: Venus Fort shopping mall, Toyota Mega Web
Diver City to see gigantic Gundam statue
National Science Museum (Miraikan)
8. Oedo Onsen
Walk toward the Telecom Center and cross the street to Oedo Onsen. It is an Edo Period themed hot spring. There are also restaurants here.
If you still have time, take Yurikamome line from Telecom Center station to Shimbashi and change to Yamanote Line for Akihabara station (540yen). This is Manga town and Electric city of Tokyo. Visit if you plan to buy some electronic gadgets.
DAY 3: Day tour outside but nearby Tokyo
Choose one of the recommended options:
1. Yokohama (30mins south)
Visit the largest Chinatown in Japan or the Ramen Museum and sample different kinds of ramen.
2. Kamakura (1 hour south)
Traditional Japanese culture. Visit historic temples and shrines, and see the Gigantic Buddha statue. Purchase Enoshima-Kamakura 1 Day pass from Odakyu for a self-guided tour.
3. Hakone (2 hours west)
Beautiful scenery of mountain and lake, and offers a good view of Mt. Fuji. Ride the pirate ship, ropeway to Owakudani and eat black eggs.
4. Nikko (2 hours north)
Visit the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu (Toshogu Shrine), one of Japan’s influentail personalities. Nikko is also famous for its Autumn colors.
5. Fuji Five Lakes
Famous for its Autumn colors and a great view of Mt. Fuji.
As I have mentioned above, this itinerary is packed and appears hectic. You don’t have to follow them in the exact same order. Space them out in several days if you’d rather take a leisurely tour. However you do it, I’m certain you’ll have a memorable time. And I would surely love to hear about your experiences. Leave a comment below when you find the time.