tokyo itinerary 5 days
by Aleksandar Pasaric (pexels)

So, how can you make the most out of your time in Tokyo? Whether you’ve already landed in Japan or simply planning your big trip; you’ll need to map out your time efficiently. This Tokyo 5 Days Itinerary has been carefully put together based on real experience to help you get the best out of your time in the Japanese capital.

These daily plans can be used to the letter or as a rough outline for your days, we’ve tried to group major suburban areas with popular attractions together, as one key mistake foreign tourists can make when visiting Tokyo is to not consider the logistics – and end up spending more time on public transport than actually seeing the sights.

Day 1 – Tokyo DisneySea, Night Time Tokyo

Stop 1: DisneySea

More info: Disney Sea

Tokyo Disney Sea
Tokyo Disney Sea – Sarah Castañeda (unsplash)

While Disney might not be uniquely Japanese, Tokyo DisneySea certainly is. This park has been designed more for adults who enjoy Disney as it lacks a lot of the overtly children-based attractions commonly found in other parks, you can even get a beer. The admission fee varies by day of the week but typically is around $70 for an adult and less for children.

The park might be a little far out from central Tokyo (Maihama station is the best to get off at) but has daily parades, a wealth of great food options (the Turkey leg is truly delicious), and more than enough rides to keep you entertained. It’s worth downloading one of the apps available to track the queue attraction times so you can head to the ones without excessive waiting times.

You could easily spend the whole day here due to the sheer size of the park and things to do. However, if you’re incredibly efficient, the option to visit both Tokyo DisneySea and Tokyo Disneyland is viable as such tickets are available.

Stop 2: Central Tokyo at Night

Senso-ji at night
Senso-ji at night – Graham Johnson

If however, you’re leaving after the character parade and firework display, then it’ll already be dark and presents a great time to see Tokyo by the night. Places like Sensoji are very different without the overpouring amount of tourists and sun. Great if you’re looking to take photographs!

By this point after a full day out you might be ready for bed; but if not there are plenty of bars and restaurants nearby to extend the night.

Day 2 – Shinjuku, Harajuku

Stop 1: Shinjuku Gyoen

More info: Shinjuku Gyoen

Sakura flower at Shinju Gyoen
Sakura flower at Shinju Gyoen – sepavone (depositphotos)

Shinjuku is truly a beast of a city within a mega city. In theory, you could land and spend your time exclusively in Shinjuku, should you want to. On this day we’ve tried to make it less reliant on transport, so all you need to do is get to Shinjuku main station.

This area is one of the most popular places to stay for tourists as its right in the center of the action and served by a multitude of different lines, making it easy to get to wherever you want to on your trip. If you’re still looking for your Tokyo accommodation, then be sure to check at the best hotel booking sites.

The first activity is to seize the rising sun and go to the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (easily walkable from Shinjuku station), which is a large park with a wealth of beautiful flowers, trees, lakes, and other appealing natural elements. The entry fee is a nominal 500 yen, so about $4.

It’s best to bring a small breakfast from the convenience store with you so you can soak in the wonder of this place. Also, it’ll help as you’ve got to get going to the next place!

Stop 2: The Tokyo Metropolitan Government building

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government building is next up and is a great way to see an aerial view of the city for free – unlike the more commonly known Tokyo Skytree and Tokyo Tower – which cost quite a lot of money for a heightened view of the city. In January 2022, the building took the temporary measure to close during the spread of COVID-19. When it does re-open it is certainly worth visiting.

Stop 3: Subnade

More info: Subnade

While in Shinjuku it is inevitable that you’ll end up shopping. Now, you don’t have to do too much but there are distinctly Japanese shops and malls that worth your time visiting. Shinjuku Subnade is one of them as it is an underground promenade with over 100 stores varying in levels of chic. It’s also loaded with coffee stores so you can get your caffeine fix for sure.

From Subnade, two of the most iconic Shinjuku destinations are at your feet. Albeit in opposite directions. Kabukicho and Cat Street are both worth visiting, the logical way would be to see Cat Street and then return to Kabukicho when it is darker with the neon lights.

Stop 4: Cat Street

Cat Street is a haven for souvenirs for anyone who has admired Japanese culture. There are t-shirts with Pokemon and Dragonball Z designs along with Samurai-laden gifts, along with enough sushi-shaped fridge magnets for everyone. Each stall seems to play J-Pop louder than the last making for a full sensory overload. Even if you don’t end up buying anything this half mile of vibrant colours is simply unmissable if purely to see the locals in exuberant clothing.

While Japan for the most part is a very safe country, it is not without issues. Kabukicho does have its fair share of people trying to take advantage/exploit/steal from visiting tourists who are not fully aware of their surroundings. Therefore it might be better if you’re conscious of such threats to visit during the day or be sure to pack only the essentials when visiting. Again, the likelihood of any issue is small – but just be wary.

Stop 5: Kabukicho

That’s not to take away from the pleasures of Kabukicho. Here you’ll see the famous Godzilla head atop the Toho Cinemas, the Samurai Museum, and the streets are interesting prospects themselves as the narrow lanes lit by neon lights are literally unmissable.

This area of Tokyo has plenty of chain restaurants that are exclusive to Japan, which present a variety of meals. CoCo Curry House specialises in Japanese curry, MOS Burger sells burgers to rival any American corporation and if you head back toward Shinjuku station the rate of independent sushi restaurants only gets more and more apparent, you certainly won’t go hungry here.

Stop 6: Golden Gai

Shinjuku Golden Gai at night, Tokyo
Shinjuku Golden Gai at night, Tokyo – richie0703 (depositphotos)

If you’re the type who wants an alcoholic drink, then it’s time to party at Golden Gai. This is the well-known concentration of small bars in Tokyo which is popular with a wealth of visitors. Ex-pats can often be seen meeting up with their friends as well as other foreigners as the place has become very popular. Be sure to try some sake or another local drink!

Now if one drink becomes, two, three, or four – it could be that you and your party are ready to make bad decisions at karaoke. Singing your heart out down a microphone in a private booth is a very popular pastime in Japan with a multitude of chains operating throughout the country. The most visible is Big Echo and easily found from the towering buildings they advertise on. Of course, if this isn’t your thing it’s not compulsory to sing.

Day 3 – Nakameguro, Shibuya, and Baseball

Stop 1: Nakameguro

Nakameguro's cherry blossom at night
Nakameguro’s cherry blossom at night – Graham Johnson

We recommend seeing one of the cooler neighbourhoods in Tokyo to start your day. Nakamerguro station is easily accessible via a few different Tokyo metro lines, from which you’ll pick up that hip aura immediately. Places like Blue Bottle Coffee and TRANSPARENTE will no doubt set you up for a packed day with a hearty breakfast and delicious coffee.

From which you’ll want to head to the Meguro river which is evident from the station exit as it dominates the streets, dividing the major pedestrian areas. In the spring this walk is exceptional for its beauty from the Cherry Blossom but is still appealing outside this season. This main strip is decked out with independent businesses selling high-fashion clothes, and artisan coffees and even has a Nike Running outlet.

Optional: if you’re in the mood for more shopping and more stylish chic, then take a detour toward the Daikanyama area (easily walked to and back from) where you can find the T-Site among other shopping areas with the famous Tetsuya Books store (with plenty of English language literature) among other independent businesses.

Stop 2: Meguro Sky Garden

More info: Meguro Sky Garden

At the end of this street, you’ll find that the roads get bigger and busier with less and less green space. That’s why the local government installed the Meguro Sky Garden several feet up from the ground level, as this Aero-Park celebrates a wealth of different flowers, community spaces, and several points to relax. To one side you can observe the busy passing junctions and on the other the more relaxed bohemia from Nakameguro. On clear days it is possible to Mt. Fuji too, making it one of the most unique views in the whole country.

Stop 3: Shibuya

Now it’s time to visit Shibuya, which you can easily get to on foot or take the Den-en-Toshi line (amongst others) to Shibuya station for a nominal fee as it’s a very short ride. Be sure to head in the directions of the ‘Hachiko Exit’ as this leads to the world-famous Shibuya Crossing. You may be amazed by the very sight of the enormity of the buildings here as photographs seldom do them justice.

The first call to action is to see Hachiko. That’s the dog statue which is just outside Shibuya station which celebrates the true story of a dog who continually waited for his owner to return, despite the human having passed away, Hachiko returned to Shibuya station every day for several years before passing away himself. Now floods of tourists head here every day to celebrate dogs and their loyalty to humans. After a quick selfie, you can cross the crossing and indulge in this must-see global point.

By this time in the day you might be ready for some food, so why not try some sushi? Genki Sushi translates as Happy Sushi and is a great gateway to try this food which might not be to all western tastes. You can order in English via the tablet and get many dishes including salmon, tuna, and even fried chicken and chips.

Stop 4: Meiji Jingu / Yoyogi Park

More info: Meiji Jingu

Meiji Jingu is your next port of call, which has its park area which connects to Yoyogi Park. On the way here you’ll pass a myriad of malls and highly-concentrated areas of shopping opportunities, with malls like Shibuya PRIME, HULIC & New Shibuya, and MODA. If so inclined to window-shop, you can do no wrong here.

On pleasantly warm days this is a hotspot for dogwalkers and students taking in the sunshine. Once you get into the official shrine gardens, you’ll find serene lakes accompanied by Japanese street vendors, if you’re still hungry be sure to try the Yakitori – which is grilled meat skewers.

One of the highlights within the grounds is the tearoom in which you can get a traditional tea service for a relatively inexpensive cost. If the queue is too big or you prefer coffee, however, never fear because there’s a Starbucks too. The shrine itself is incredible in its stature as well as the décor around it with old sake jars lining the walls leading up to the main structure. Upon arrival, you can do all the normal shrine activities like cleansing your body and soul with the special water, thank and praise the universe for your life, as well as submit a wish to the gods. While here you can even hire a kimono to wear and take photographs of the Japanese scenery in traditional dress.

Stop 5: Watch a Baseball Match

It’s worth checking the schedule for the Yakult Swallows and the Tokyo Giants and seeing if either baseball team has a game on. Japanese baseball might not be as prolific as the MLB in America but it is a real experience as the supporters are incredibly loud throughout the games. The Swallows’ ground, Meiji Jingu Stadium is much closer to Shibuya, so is very convenient for this plan. However, if you’re eager to see a game but they’re not playing at home, try the Tokyo Dome in Bunko if the Giants are in town. The likelihood however if you’re visiting between March and November, they’ll be a game on as the NPB schedule has a lot of games with very few off days.

If you’re out of luck and there’s no baseball on, you can always make use of the attractions just outside Tokyo Dome. There’s a theme park, a space museum even an enormous green space adjacent to the venue, with the Koishikawa Korakuen gardens.

Day 4 – TeamLab, Toyusu Market, Ginza and Tokyo Tower

Stop 1: TeamLab

More info: TeamLab

Just one of the many lightshows within TeamLAB
Just one of the many lightshows within TeamLAB – Graham Johnson

On this day you’ll get to see a few different sights all within the eastern coastline of the city, in what is roughly covered within the limits of the Koto area. Firstly, you’ve got to head to Tokyo Teleport station, which is remarkable for being one of the only stations in Japan to be named solely on the English language.

From there you can walk to TeamLab Borderless and experience a distorted reality that plays with light, sound, and numerous visions to create one of the most unique attractions in the world. Be sure to book ahead if you intend to go on the weekend or a national holiday as it gets popular with tourists and locals alike. What’s better is that the admission is very inexpensive, adult tickets are commonly available for less than $30.

Stop 2: Toyosu Fish Market

More info: Toyosu fish market

After this, it’s time to try some of the freshest sushi in the country at Toyusu Market. It’s more likely you’ve heard of Tsukiji, which was replaced by the new site in Toyusu ahead of the 2020 Olympics as the government anticipated a wave of tourism. Toyusu serves the same purpose, to sell fresh fish to the masses including restaurant owners and the public. Knowing that tourists want a look at the vibrant raw fish, their lunch-sized sushi boxes are ready to be devoured. While the prices are a little higher than other grab-and-go situations, you’ll find nothing fresher in the whole city.

Stop 3: Ginza

After a delicious lunch, it’s time for a spot of retail therapy and to see how the well-to-do of Tokyo live. This will take you to the Ginza distruct, an affluent area of the Japanese capital. The best way to get here is to take the 05-2 bus, however, it is only a 30-minute walk if you want to walk off the sushi.

The main street in Ginza is called Chuo-Dori, this is where you can find a variety of clothes outlets, technology stores and illustrious restaurants, and jewellers. In addition, there are also a few western brands, so everyone feels comfortable spending their money. GINZA SIX is a must-visit just for its outrageous grandeur (don’t feel the need to buy anything) while the six-floor UNIQLO will surely provide you with a wearable souvenir for you to take home.

Optional: If you have time or want to curtail your shopping in Ginza for fear of an unaffordable credit card bill, then you can head to Hibiya Park which is an altogether wholesome experience. You can walk through the Elm Tree field and take note of the several water features in the park, as there are several fountains and ponds dotted around the park. It’s easy to see why this green space has become a popular place for Japanese couples to hold their wedding with multiple wedding venues even located within the park.

On the way, you’ll most likely pass the secondary tribute to Japan’s favourite dinosaur, the Shin Godzilla statue. Just to pre-warn you, it’s much smaller than the one in Kabukicho.

Stop 4: Tokyo Tower

More info: Tokyo Tower

When dusk comes, it’s time for Tokyo Tower and the exceptional view it offers in the evening sky. While the aforementioned government building has a free observation deck, Tokyo Tower holds more grandeur, and recognized appeal and is a lot more tourist-friendly. The view is arguably better too, as it is custom built for this very reason. The panoramic views from over 300 feet give a holistic view of the city. If you look in a southwest direction on a clear day it is possible to see Mount Fuji too which is why a lot of people visit, purely for that perfect photo.

Day 5 – Senso-ji, Ueno, Yanaka Ginza, Akihabara

Stop 1: Yanaka Ginza

One of the many older looking buildings on display in Yanaka Ginza
One of the many older looking buildings on display in Yanaka Ginza – Graham Johnson

There’s still lots more to see in Tokyo and that includes some of the more traditional parts of Tokyo which retain historical features especially Yanaka Ginza which is an apparent nod to the Showa Era in Japanese history. Head to Nippori or Nishi-Nippori station on the train, and then walk down the main strip you’ll be transported to an age far from the towering skyscrapers, instead greeted by many businesses with sliding doors. Traditional Japanese breakfasts are a must here which include baked fish, and raw egg sitting on steamed rice among many more. Oh, and the coffee is very strong here but quite bitter. If none of that appeals, then don’t worry you can always a sandwich from 7-Eleven.

Optional: If you’re a train fanatic or just want to get a good photograph from your trip then stand on the bridge just overlooking either one of the two stations and you’ll see a multitude of trains differing in color, shape, and size all making their way in and out of the station. Japanese trainspotters are known to flock here as the station is consistently servicing new and exciting train routes.

Stop 2: Nezu Shrine

Nezu Shrine is on the outskirts of Yanaka Ginza and is one of the more appealing shrines in Tokyo with its vibrantly red coloured gates and impressive buildings. Following the route will put you on the right path toward Ueno Park. The Chiyoda line is best, however, walking is almost as fast when you factor in getting to the station and train wait times.

Stop 3: Ueno Park

More info: Ueno Park

Ueno Park is a bountiful space with a seemingly endless roster of activities. It could be possible to do them all but you may find yourself exhausted by the end of the day! The highlights include Ueno Zoo (usually less than $10 for admission) which is famous for its Panda inhabitants, the two colossal museums (both usually free or inexpensive, closed on Mondays) which takes several hours to see half the exhibits, and the large pond in which you can rent a Swan boat and take in the rich nature.

On a weekend this park is filled with food vendors lining up to sell classic sweet and savory treats like Mochi, Manju, and yakitori skewers. One of the must-try dishes here is Taiyaki. This is a fish-shaped dessert pancake classically filled with either red or white Anko (sweet bean paste). However, with western influence, it’s now possible to obtain chocolate and vanilla fillings – and even special Magikarp (from pokemon) shaped ones!

Stop 4: Akihabara

New Gigo arcardes at the electric town Akihabara
New Gigo arcardes at the electric town Akihabara – DLKR (pexels)

Now it’s time for some classic Japanese nerd culture, or as they call it Otaku. Luckily Ueno is only a short distance from Akihabara. Here you will find a highly concentrated amount of maid cafes, video game arcades, and plenty of shops where you can purchase anime/manga memorabilia. It’s a very brightly lit area where you can easily lose yourself in the sensory overload. It’s in places like these where you might accumulate lots of souvenirs, gifts for others and general goods you can only get in Japan. You’ll need to consider how you’ll store them along with your luggage! Be sure to review your current backpack for traveling and if you need an upgrade look at our list reviewing the best ones currently available.

If you’ve not tried ramen noodles yet, then you’re in luck as Akihabara has one of the best and most unique restaurants for the cuisine, Kikanbo. Here you can taste spicy ramen, which as a flavor has become a lot more common in Japan in recent years. What’s better yet is the atmosphere as it’s incredibly dimly lit, yet you can peer into the kitchen to see the pork being slowly roasted for the broth, the accompaniment of the sounds of banging drums (albeit probably being a CD), makes for a truly special experience.

Now if you’re in the mood for something to drink after this, then there’s a great bar which is owned by the Kiuchi brewery, which is famous for making the Hitachino beers. The Brewing Lab as it is called is one of the best places to drink Japanese craft beer.

Optional: If you enjoy the delights of Akihabara, then there’s much more of the same to enjoy in Asakusa. These areas are very similar, with the latter featuring the famous Electric Town. So if you’re going to Tokyo, especially for this type of culture, you can do no wrong by seeing more bright lights.

Conclusion

By now you should have a decent understanding of how best to plan your day. Of course, you don’t have to stick to our suggestions to the letter but try to group activities and destinations together by proximity so that you don’t end up going back on yourself. See our Tokyo travel guide for more things to do and tips on making your Tokyo trip better.

While Tokyo is the biggest city in the world you should know however that businesses can have midweek days off, typically Mondays or Tuesdays. So if you’re planning to visit a museums/restaurants or similar attraction be sure to double check the opening times.

Please do enjoy Tokyo!

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