things to do in Tokyo
mailtotobi (pixabay)

Tokyo is a metropolis of opportunity and endless wonder. While you can wander aimlessly and still be thoroughly entertained, going equipped with your itinerary and a rough road map of how to achieve all your desires will altogether be more fruitful. Try using this article as your Tokyo travel guide to get the most out of your trip. After all, the chances are you’re far from home and won’t be able to navigate the world’s biggest city too easily when you first arrive.

Things to Do in Tokyo

Discover Tokyo’s Rich History

In addition to the bright lights, there are mandatory historical sites to take in while visiting Tokyo. Any tour guide worth his salt will take you to these places; if however, you’re making your itinerary – be sure not to miss these must-see cultural assets.

Meiji Jingu

Meiji Jingu wish plaques
Meiji Jingu wish plaques – sujong chae (pixabay)

Potentially the most important or most-visited shrine in Japan, Meiji Jingu is a cultural pillar of Japanese history – dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. Given the proximity of the shrine to Yoyogi Park; it’s common for tourists to walk through the shrine complex and see the park after which. Be sure to check the shrine’s official website as the area is often used as a venue for multiple events and traditional festivals; which will only enrich your visit here.

Shinjuku Gyoen

Spring with Sakura blossom at Shinjuku Gyoen
Spring with Sakura blossom at Shinjuku Gyoen – sepavone (depositphotos)

If you’re craving some greenery amongst the polluted backdrops and concrete of the Tokyo streets; then Shinjuku Gyoen surprisingly offers you a reprieve. Shinjuku itself might be a mega inner-city within Tokyo but this national park will transport you to a world of tranquility.

This park spans many acres of land and is of cultural significance since the Edo period of Japan’s history. If you want to deep dive into such history then it’s recommended you head to the ceremonial tearoom found within the park grounds where you can drink traditional Japanese tea with authentic service. If you prefer coffee, there’s a Starbucks too! There’s usually a nominal fee to assist with the upkeep of the park which is around 500 yen.

Again if you’re visiting in spring you can take advantage of seeing some of the beautiful cherry blossoms which sprout at that time of year.

Tokyo Tower

Bright Tokyo Tower among Tokyo night skyline
Bright Tokyo Tower among Tokyo night skyline – Nick Kwan (pexels)

While not the most historical point in the city, seeing Tokyo from above is a necessity for any traveler; to truly appreciate the enormity of the city and try to take in this colossal metropolis within a single eyeline. If the weather is clear enough there’s the chance to see the iconic Mt. Fuji despite it being several hundred miles outside of Tokyo. Furthermore, the structure completed in 1958 offers a panoramic view of Tokyo’s history with so many points visible from the observation deck, accompanied by informational signs.

Tourists are forgiven for thinking: ‘Why is the Eiffel Tower here in Japan?’. That’s because Tokyo Tower is a homage to the original Parisian structure but scaled up and decked out in red-and-white. You can take the elevator to the 150 meters (492 feet) and 250 meters (820 feet) observation decks, or if you go on the weekend enjoy the challenge of climbing up all 600 steps to the top of the tower.

Shop Your Heart Out

Of course, during your stay in Tokyo not every activity or point of interest has to be overly bright or entrenched in history. There are impressive sights for their sheer enormity or locality vibe. This includes non-historical landmarks and even commerce areas.

Takeshita Street

Visitors both local and foreign tourist at Takeshita Street in Harajuku, Tokyo, Japan
Visitors both local and foreign tourist at Takeshita Street in Harajuku, Tokyo, Japan – imagesbykenny (depositphotos)

Possibly one of the most iconic streets in Japan, Takeshita Street is the totality of Japanese vacation souvenirs. Up and down this strip you will find a wealth of independent retailers selling colorful clothes (otherwise known as Harajuku style) and all manner of Pokemon, Dragonball Z, and even BTS goods. If you’re looking for a t-shirt that tells everyone you’ve been to Tokyo, you can go no wrong here.

Shibuya Crossing

Throng of pedestrian cross the iconic Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo, Japan
Throng of pedestrian cross the iconic Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo, Japan – sepavone (depositphotos)

The infamous ‘Shibuya Crossing ‘ is a sight in itself. Less a minute away from Shibuya station, the crossing is home to the Hachiko statue, thousands of tourists taking selfies, and a bustling retail scene. Typical Japanese stores like Uniqlo, BIC Camera, and LOFT tend to have English-speaking staff in Shibuya stores if you’re looking for Japanese fashion, tech, or stationary – all of which are great!

Naka-Meguro

Sakura blossom at Naka Meguro, Tokyo, Japan
Sakura blossom at Naka Meguro, Tokyo, Japan – Edward Ma (unsplash)

Naka-Meguro is crawling with culture even if not immediately obvious to visiting tourists. The strip adjacent to the main train street has a wealth of shopping opportunities to find all types of memorabilia, souvenirs, and even a decent nosh to eat; due to the mixture of big businesses, independent retailers, and artisan eateries.

Daikanyama

Tsutaya Books Daikanyama store, Daikanyama, Tokyo, Japan
Tsutaya Books Daikanyama store, Daikanyama, Tokyo, Japan – Morumotto1 (depositphotos)

When in Naka-Meguro it’d be wise to walk to Daikanyama as well due to the proximity of the two areas; as well as the pleasant walk between the two cultural suburbs across a rich tapestry of modern Japanese architecture which includes several viewpoints of Tokyo’s busy train system, which makes for an ample photograph opportunity.

Upon arrival in Daikanyama, T-Site is always a good place to start for a browse in the high-end retail outlets for fashion and even English-language books. The coffee shop produce is well earnt for any tourist too with many caffeine spots to choose from to keep powering through your whirlwind tour of Tokyo.

Enjoy the Local’s Favorite Pastime Activities

Karaoke

The popular Karaoke box "JoySound", Tokyo, Japan
The popular Karaoke box “JoySound”, Tokyo, Japan – Morumotto1 (depositphotos)

If you’re thinking that karaoke is something for drunk people during the summer holidays; then it’s important to note the differences between that and Japanese karaoke. Instead of getting on a stage in front of strangers, it’s a private affair here as participants head into booths with friends, co-workers, or even alone where nobody can hear them other than the people they are with. It’s that privacy that has made the pastime so popular here that people can lose their inhibitions as they belt out their favourite song or two.

So even if you’re not a seasoned singer – getting a microphone and having a few drinks (usually available via the telecom in your booth) is one of the most authentic ways to spend an evening in Tokyo. It can be the main event for many parties; although most of which are open 24 hours so are the perfect afterparty after finishing at the bars.

Drink with Colleague

A shop under Sakuragichō Station frequented by local office workers
A standing bar under Sakuragichō Station frequented by local office workers – Graham Johnson

Get a drink or three after work at your favorite standing bar in the local train station (which conveniently comes with underground shopping district) with your colleagues. It might be a bit cramped and you have to stand but it’ll be worth the experience. Don’t forget to check nearby shops for local snacks and souvenirs.

TeamLab

people enjoying the show at TeamLab Borderless
Source: TeamLab Borderless

The chances are that you’ve probably never experienced anything quite like TeamLab Borderless. This is an immersive digital art museum that stimulates all of the senses with vibrant lights, enchanting soundscapes, and much more. You can walk around this electronic art experience and gently slip into a subtle euphoria. The dimly lit ocean room will have you thinking you’re out at sea in an incredibly relaxing way. If you like the sound of this one be sure to check out their other exhibitions in Ginza and Toyosu.

Watch Live Sports Match Among Passionate Fans

Fans in red at Ajinomoto stadium during a football match, Tokyo, Japan
Fans in red at Ajinomoto stadium during a football match, Tokyo, Japan – image source: StadiumDB

If you’re the type who craves live sport and enjoys visiting different grounds then Tokyo offers everything you could possibly want. Two top-tier baseball teams in the form of the Tokyo Giants and the Yakult Swallows; while the Ajinomoto Stadium houses FC Tokyo and Tokyo Verdy both of which are cult Japanese soccer teams.

Of course, the most tourist activity is to go and watch the national sport of sumo. However, it’s not always possible as there are only three major tournaments held in the city each year. They’re held in January, May, and September. Each lasts around two weeks so there’s a good chance to get tickets; especially for the earlier rounds taking place in the middle of the day in the week. Be sure to check out PIA’s site (which is a big ticketing company in Japan) for more detailed information in English.

The Sumo crowds tend to be from the older generations; while baseball is the most widely followed by a larger populace; meanwhile soccer is the most rapidly increasing sport in terms of popularity with the sport usually the choice for younger people in Japan.

Indulge in the Nerd Culture Paradise: Akihabara – Electric Town

Multicolor bright billboards at Akihabara, the electric town, Tokyo, Japan
Multicolor bright billboards at Akihabara, the electric town, Tokyo, Japan – Jezael Melgoza (unsplash)

One of the biggest draws for tourists to head to Japan is to experience the gaming and nerd culture. The country is famed for having created Sony PlayStation, Nintendo, and Pokemon. Throw in the maid cafes, bright lights, and over-the-top neon lights that seem to exist everywhere in Tokyo – and you’re on to a winner for nerd culture. However, here in Japan, it’s often referred to as ‘Otaku’ rather than ‘nerd’.

Your first port of call should be Electric Town in Akihabara in the Eastern part of Tokyo. If your impression of Japan is skyscrapers decked out in lights, covered in anime and manga drawings, and arcades galore then this part of town will only meet and exceed your expectations. Multiple arcades are free to enter and inexpensive to play some of your favourite video games as well as try out some Japanese exclusives. Of course, you can walk around and get your fill of manga merchandise with trading cards, plush toys, and t-shirts available from a wide array of popular Japanese animations.

After which the chances are you’ve probably worked up an appetite, so there’s no better place to eat than a maid café or one of the crazy animal-themed cafes. These eateries offer pretty unique experiences which aren’t commonplace outside Japan. After all who doesn’t want to be waited on by a comic-book character or have owls flying about while you eat?

How to Get Around in Tokyo

A packed JR Line train, Tokyo, Japan
A packed JR Line train, Tokyo, Japan – oneinchpunch (depositphotos)

Navigating around Tokyo can be a daunting concept on the face of it. Multiple train companies, differing lines with very similar color schemes, and of course the bulk of the information is in Japanese. We’re here to help you get around as easily as possible!

Trains and Subways

The easiest way to get around Tokyo is by using the vast train network. Tokyo is a stop on your journey around Japan then it’s likely you already have a JR pass. This will allow you to use any of the trains run by the same company within the city. This means that key lines like the Yamanote, Nambu, Tokaido, and Yokosuka (as well as many more) will all be at your disposal through this pass. If don’t have a JR pass you can skip the next paragraph and follow the same advice.

The JR pass however will not work on lines run by Odakyu, KEIO, Keikyu, and other private companies that do not recognize this pass. To visit all of your destinations there may well be a point when you need to use one of these services.

The best way to use these services is to obtain a SUICA card. You can get one from any ticket machine in a train station. You pre-load funds and then simply tap it as you get on and off trains at the station barriers. These IC cards are very useful as they can be used in almost every station which means you won’t have to worry about misplacing your ticket. They also serve as a nice souvenir for after your trip too.

The best resource to help plan your trips around Tokyo is HyperDia. This website is a comprehensive pool of information where you can set parameters on your starting point and destination, and it will offer several routes which you can choose from. If you’re traveling with a set budget, it’s always cheaper to stay on with fewer services instead of changing at various junctures.

Some common trips, routes and prices might be:

  • Shibuya to Ueno, Ginza Line, 37 min, 200 yen.
  • Shinjuku to Shibuya, Yamanote Line, 31 min, 210 yen.
  • Akihabara to Tokyo Tower (Kamiyacho) Hibiya Line, 39 min, 200 yen.
  • Narita Airport to Shibuya, Narita Express, 1 hr 30 min, 3,250 yen.
  • Ginza to Ajinomoto Stadium, Various Services, 1 hr 31 min, 530 yen.

Getting to and from Narita Airport is likely to be your most expensive trip. The Narita Express is by far the fastest option but it is the most expensive. The Yokosuka line serves the airport so if your accommodation is on that line it might be worth staying on that one in terms of value if you have the time to wait on the train.

When you’re on the train and at the station, there is usually a wealth of information available in English, Chinese and Korean as well as the native Japanese. This is more common at the bigger stations and most tourist-populated services. This makes it harder to miss your stop as it will say ‘next stop Shibuya’ a few times in English.

Other means of transport pale in comparison to the train services as they are readily available. In addition, Google Maps is almost as good as HyperDia with a good low down on how to get around Tokyo.

Buses

While the trains are very frequent you are seldom never far away from a stop, there are certain neighbourhoods of Tokyo where the buses are more convenient and frequent, these include areas of Shibuya, Hiro-O, and Azabujuban. In most cases, you can simply hop on buses with your IC card that you used previously on the trains.

There is a government directive to convert buses into a green transport method. In conjunction with Toei (the primary bus operator in most of Tokyo), Hydrogen-powered buses are now rolling out across the city. Just be more aware of your surroundings as secondary language information is less common on the bus service when compared to the multi-lingual train service.

Taxis and Uber

Taxis are an interesting experience in Japan. Those more accustomed to the black cabs of London or the yellow stains in New York City, taxis in Japan are much different. Firstly, the doors open and close by themselves and the interior is usually very clean. The driver will seldom speak any English but will do their best; it is however recommended to have your address written down in Japanese just to show them.

They can tend to be expensive (especially when compared to public transport) but as they are easily found all across the city they come in very handy if you’re unable to make it to the train station or lose your way.

Uber is available in Japan, but it is not very popular. This has led to a decline in drivers and the prices going up. Of course, it does serve a purpose if you’re lost and there’s no aforementioned taxi in sight. It might be better to just take it to a train station as Uber can make taxis look cheap here!

Renting a Car

If you’re exploring the deep Japanese countryside on your trip as well as seeing Tokyo; you might have already considered renting a car. While it’s not widely recommended for trips solely in and around Tokyo, you might simply prefer driving to using other means of transport. Typically a smaller car will cost 5000 yen per day to use and gets more expensive for bigger vehicles.

To rent a car, you’ll need to obtain an International Driving Permit for your stay. You’ll need to present it to the company you choose upon arrival. The biggest domestic companies are Nippon Rentacar, Ekiren, and Toyota Rentacar. These tend to be cheaper than their international counterparts like Hertz, Avis, and Budget. It’s a common policy for all companies to expect the car to be returned with a full tank of gas when you return it.

Be sure to check your route before setting out as you could end up on a toll road. While they are inexpensive (usually less than 200 yen) you’ll need to have change ready, or have set up the electronic system to pay automatically to your credit card (ETC). These tolls are common on express-ways as they are often used to deviate away from congestion.

Where to Stay in Tokyo

A capsule hotel interior in Tokyo, Japan
A capsule hotel interior in Tokyo, Japan – pxhidalgo (depositphotos)

Your accommodation during your trip to Tokyo can really define your whole trip. Of course, that depends on your approach to staying over. There’s the type who just requires a bed for the night who cares not for fancy amenities. Then at the other end, there’s the person who needs to be woken up by the scent of freshly prepared breakfast from the high-end on-site restaurant – ideally served by someone wearing white gloves. All of these are available in Japanese capital city, so here’s our lowdown on how to get the best accommodation for your trip to Tokyo.

Important: Be wary that the prices listed are to be used as a sample only and are in USD. Also, remember if you’re traveling during the Golden Week national holiday period – the hospitality industry hikes up the price for EVERYTHING so if your trip overlaps with that duration be prepared to pay over the standard rate.

Budget

Capsule Hotel

If you’d rather be amongst the action and not waste a second or single penny on needless thrills in Tokyo then it’s worth considering the capsule hotel. This type of accommodation stemmed from Japan – with the first opening in 1979. You literally have a space to sleep and that’s about it. Your quarters are a single space for laying horizontal in. It’s usually a surface resembling a mattress, but don’t expect the highest ducktail duvet. Of course, you have access to showers and toilets but these are shared facilities. These serve a great purpose if you’ve not budgeted for lavish accommodation or simply want more funds to spend at the arcades!

Some popular options include Nine Hours in Chiyoda City which is very amicably priced at around $40 per night. There are however endless opportunities to find these hotels either on the web or by walking around the metropolis which is downtown Tokyo. There are particularly evident in Shibuya and Shinjuku.

Budget Hotel

The capsule hotel isn’t quite for everyone. Some people might want the room to walk around and indeed their own bathing apparatus. If you want these minor luxuries but still don’t want to break the bank consider a budget hotel; given the tall nature of the buildings in Tokyo – there are quite a few of them. A typical room in a 2 or 3-star hotel, like AGORA Place in Asakusa, will cost around $40 per night.

Hostel

Another option in Japan is to stay in a hostel. While not incredibly popular with the locals, hostels provide a great place to stay if you want some space to spread out – and don’t mind sharing it with others. These tend to be very inexpensive, with prices usually around $35 for a night for an average shared dorm. One of the most popular choices is Nui Hostel in Taito City – which lends itself to travelers who want to socialize with others while exploring the area with its communal spaces.

Mid-Range Accommodation

Hotel

The mid-range options are a good haven for most travelers. Its affordability, comfort, and value are all presented at once within the same offering. The Tokyo Marriott in Shinagawa represents the chain brand but definitely offers all the key attributes for less than $200 per night.

Given Shinagawa is a thriving business district of Tokyo, it’s not surprising it’s home to many mid-level hotels; as business people can often end up needing a hotel if they miss their last train back home after a long day at the office. Shinagawa Prince Hotel is a very good option for you as well as those business people! It’s often available for around $100 per night.

Shinagawa itself might be one of the business areas of the city, but it’s definitely one of the best places to serve as your base while you stay there. Its large train and subway station has a multitude of different lines to take you almost anywhere you want to go. As well, it has an authentic pulse of Japanese peopling dining and drinking out.

Ryokan

The other avenue is the more traditional Japanese Ryokan-style hotel which will transport you to feudal Japan where it’s more of an experienced-led stay. These typically feature Onsen baths in which you can bathe to get a real feel of Japanese hospitality. It’s worth noting however that these places tend only to serve traditional Japanese food which isn’t to all foreign tastes. Extensive amounts of raw fish, raw vegetables, and even ice-cold noodles can be unusual to some! It’s worth looking around the Taito area of Tokyo as there are a lot of Ryokans there, Asakusa Ryokan Toukaisou is a popular choice and is moderately priced at around $40.

Airbnb in Tokyo

While the vast array of properties available in Tokyo on Airbnb is impossible to define, the majority sit within the budget and mid-range tier. There is a distinct concentration of properties within the Shibuya, reaching out to Shinjuku and Minato City. All of which are ideal places to stay as they are well connected by various lines as well as being in the middle of Tokyo. While the prices fluctuate from property to property, prices usually range from $60-$100 per night.

Luxury Accommodation

This is of course your holiday and you might want to splash the cash; and why not. If you have the disposable income or spare stuffed away in the bank – Tokyo can more than accommodate those who want to live with lavish tastes while visiting. Names like the Hilton, the Shangri-La, and the Ritz obviously carry international appeal but the New Otani in Chiyoda is quickly becoming a favorite. This is a Japanese take on the service model perfected by the aforementioned brands but with its unique authentic stamp. The rooms can be as expensive as $450 per night, but won’t be an experience you’ll forget in a hurry!

There is one hotel however which tries which combines the best of Western and Japanese hospitality. The Aman Hotel in Otemachi Tower (Chiyoda) is a 5-star hotel, that celebrates global customs with Japanese traditions. It is expensive but it is a complete accommodation experience.

Chiyoda is a bountiful area of Tokyo with seemingly more green areas than the rest of Tokyo. It’s a great base even if it’s a little off the Shibuya-Shinjuku epicenter. If you’re partial to photography or flowers, it’s especially appealing due to the dense population of cherry blossom trees that bloom every springtime.

Places to Eat in Tokyo

Rows of small eateries at  Omoide Yokocho, Shinjuku
Rows of small eateries at Omoide Yokocho, Shinjuku – aon168 (depositphotos)

Eating three square meals while on holiday can be a daunting affair. The expense, the thought of having to read several menus in a foreign language – it’s quite the task! Lucky for you, we’ve got the lowdown on just how to eat to suit your budget and taste buds.

Cheap Eats

Nobody wants to break the bank on food, especially if you’re uncertain about foods you’ve never had before.

Conveyor Belt Sushi

Genki Sushi in Shibuya (Dogenzaka) is the perfect place to enjoy sushi for the first time while not spending a lot of money on said cuisine. It’s a typical sushi belt restaurant where you can take items as they pass and even order items that get delivered by a little plate on a separate track for a la carte items. The electronic menu is fully functional in English and given the number of tourists that pass through every day the staff will be able to assist in multiple languages to some degree. The sushi here is inexpensive and vibrant in choice.

Cheap Ramen

Ramen is another must-try food in Japan; and is available from many outlets for relatively cheap prices. One of the best experiences comes from Ichiran Ramen. This chain restaurant has branches dotted about Japan with several in Shibuya, Shinjuku, and everywhere else. You order at the ticket machine, then fill in a form (it’s in multiple languages) that specifies your preferences and hand them over to the pair of hands on the other side of the table. You only see the workers’ hands because there’s a big screen between them and you. It’s an intimate dining experience and most importantly, delicious!

Convenience Store Meals

If you really want to save some money (potentially you’ve spent it all on souvenirs!) then you can head to one of many convenience stores (i.e. 7-Eleven, FamilyMart, etc.) and try some of their instant food which the staff can heat for you. In bigger branches, you can even eat them in the store! While it’s not haute cuisine, it’s an authentic experience done by many Japanese workers who want a quick meal for less than 500 yen (about $4).

Mid Range

Shabu-Shabu

Japanese meat is readily available and celebrated in a variety of dishes. One of the most popular ways to indulge is shabu-shabu. This is a customary cooking method where meat is thinly sliced and then placed and swirled within boiling water; and then you simply add the condiments and side salads you like, i.e. soy sauce, etc. Restaurants typically provide you with the apparatus to cook the meat on your table (often it is built into a unit). A popular place with bilingual staff is Zakuro in Ginza. Typical lunch and dinner menus can start from as little as $20 and go up to $60. However, if you order larger amounts of quality meat you can pay a lot more.

Okonomiyaki

Another mid-range option with a large amount of interactivity is Matsuri Bayashi in Asakusa. Here you order all the ingredients for Japanese savory pancakes, known locally as Okonomiyaki. You get a little instruction leaflet on how to mix and make them, and you should end up with some delicious food for around $30. The dish is originally from Osaka (on the other side of Japan) but is eaten widely across Japan now and it’s a must-do activity when visiting!

Fine Dining

High End Sushi

Possibly one of the most well-known fine dining establishments is Sukiyabashi Jiro, which is the topic of the famous sushi restaurant documentary: ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi. This hideaway transports diners back into the past with an authentic Edo period Omakase menu which starts at $410 per person. Such lavish prices are commonplace in the Ginza district as it is typically where the Japanese high society indulges in rich culture.

Kobe Beef

You could be walking around Tokyo, looking for Kobe beef. Unfortunately, the biggest concentration of Kobe beef is on the other side of Japan – several hours away in Kobe. However, can still sample meat excellence at Han no Daidokoro. This is technically a Japanese-Korean fusion restaurant as it borrows culinary wisdom while blending it with fine meat from across Japan – which includes the infamous Kobe product. The prices fluctuate with the seasonal meat selection and cuts, just know that you’ll be paying a premium for premium cuts.

Honorable mentions:

There are few other restaurants of note which may interest you,

  • Go-Go Curry, a typical Japanese curry restaurant which is inexpensive and offers an inoffensive but very filling meal at several outlets across the city.
  • Freshness Burger, this is a gourmet burger chain in Japan which revels in pretty succulent beef for the mid-range price point.
  • Ootoya, if you want to eat traditional Japanese food without the stress of reading a foreign language or spending a fortune – then this chain restaurant is the place to go to

Best Time to Visit Tokyo

Bon Odori festival celebration in Shimokitazawa neighborhood, usually in August
Bon Odori festival celebration in Shimokitazawa neighborhood, usually in August – akulamatiau (depositphotos)

Choosing exactly when to set off and fly out to Narita Airport can be just as important as your itinerary when there, after all picking the wrong time could see you in sweltering heat or lining up excessively.

December – (Early) April

This time is one of the quieter periods in the whole of Japan, with no public holidays in sight for a while – it means you won’t be subject to excessive queuing with the locals. While the timeframe might like it’ll be too cold, it’s only really January so you might need to bring your thick jacket.

The closer to March you go however you’ll be in time for the annual Cherry Blossom festivals, which celebrate the coming of spring with temperatures usually around 50°F ( 10°C). This event typically brings people together to walk down pink flower-laden streets and eat Japanese street food. The best places are typically found in Ueno, Nakameguro, and Chiyoda.

(Late) April – May

Dependent on your view this timeframe can be the best and worst time to visit. This small period encapsulates the best parts of springtime and a wealth of public holidays known as Golden Week. During that, it’s typical for the locals to be off work and travel the country or just simply enjoy themselves with their families or friends.

This means that every train, restaurant, and attraction will have a considerably higher amount of people trying to book in during this time. By the same merit walking through urban areas and public parks will have a bustling vibe which is only apparent during this time. If you prefer efficiency then I would recommend not to travel during this time.

June – September (best time!)

This five-month period represents some of the best times to visit Tokyo and even the wider stretch of Japan. June is typically well into the 70°F (20°C) range and not too hot to enjoy the beaming sunshine. With the majority of the public holidays already passed, the streets tend to be much quieter as the locals typically despise the heat as it gets warmer later on.

While it is not scripture, the izakayas (Japanese traditional bars) typically get very busy during these months as people drink beer as a way to keep cool.

It’s also worth noting that during this time Obon typically happens. Obon is the second-biggest collection of national holidays but is not an out-and-out celebration period as it commemorates relatives who have passed away, so there’s no need to avoid it because of fears of excessive queues. There are however Bon Odori festivals throughout Tokyo which take a more light-hearted approach where you can indulge in street food and listen to Japanese traditional music.

Obon takes place in August; which is also the hottest month of the year. Only go if you’re content with scorching heat. In recent years have temperatures reached (and even soared past) 85. F (30°C). If you are going during this time be sure to pack plenty of sunscreens!

October – November

The autumn months are incredibly relaxing in Japan. With cooler temperatures and almost no fanfare or celebration like that of the spring, it’s much more comfortable and convenient, especially in Tokyo. The temperatures tend to be around 62°F (17°C) which is a lot more comfortable than in the summer.

One of the best pastimes during this period is to observe the autumnal foliage in the parks and even just around the green parts of the city as they tend to weather amicably with distinction.

Cost for a Trip To Tokyo

Prepare your Yen before leaving for Tokyo
Prepare your Yen before leaving for Tokyo

Now it’s time for the hard part, just how are you going to finance this great trip to Tokyo? It’s certainly not the cheapest destination. However, we can help to illuminate how much you’re likely to spend while out there. Let’s imagine you’re going during June and September, our recommended best period to visit.

One thing to remember, you don’t have to use these suggestions exclusively. It’s sometimes better to mix and match. You can offset an expensive day around Shinjuku’s shopping district with a cheaper day with less glamorous food and by taking the bus.

Budget Trip

If you’re looking to visit Tokyo on a shoestring, your base cost of accommodation will be around $60 for two people. There are cheaper options but you have to be committed to the capsule hotel idea and subsequently not care too much about the lack of space.

Ultimately if you’re on a real budget and you’re visiting from a few countries over, you could in theory be entertained by exclusively free or nominal fee attractions. This means seeing a lot of temples, shrines, fish markets, and visiting video game arcades, of course, being frugal when there.

Traveling around Tokyo might be more difficult on a specific budget as the train prices tend to wildly vary from company to company. Avoiding rail companies other than JR would lend itself to the price conscious, as will the bus. As not all destinations will be readily close by via these means, it means you’ll need to do a spot of walking.

Limiting your glamorous meals is an easier way to save money, as you can easily eat 1-2 meals at the convenience store or budget cafes like Doutor and Beck’s Coffee (both are commonly found in train stations).

Budget Trip Projected Daily Cost: $95 (for 2 people)

  • $60 – accommodation
  • $15 – travel
  • $5 – attractions
  • $15 – food

Mid-Range Trip

If you’re not worried about spending a little more but don’t want excessive costs, then it sounds like you want a mid-range trip. This typically combines the best of the value offerings while also offering a taste of Japanese luxury.

Given the wide range of hotels available within this bracket in Tokyo, it is difficult to determine an average price; but if you book ahead, you can certainly get a better deal. The median price can typically look like $150 for a room that sleeps two people per night. However, again it differs in time, area of Tokyo, etc. These accommodation options will all typically offer a good level of comfort and usually great links to transportation services.

For this budget, you’ll probably be eager to have a primary activity every day whether it’s visiting Golden Gai for drinks, shopping downtown, or drinking coffee in Shimokitazawa. You’ll have enough money to enjoy several activities and get there with ease. If your activities are spread around Tokyo it is probably worth purchasing a SUICA card from a ticket machine at a station and topping it up with the money to use throughout your trip.

There’s a wealth of mid-level restaurants to suit all tastes, typically found within Tokyo shopping centers. Traditional Japanese restaurants tend to charge around $30 for a meal with a drink. Of course, it changes if you have a few or an a la carte offering. Be sure to check out the lunchtime offerings as they are often much cheaper than dinner service. This is the case, especially in areas with highly concentrated amounts of office buildings like the Tokyo station area, Shinagawa and Nihonbashi.

Mid-Level Trip Projected Daily Cost: $225 (for 2 people)

  • $150 – accommodation
  • $25 – travel
  • $20 – attractions
  • $60 – food

Luxury Trip

If money is no object, then you’ll be able to enjoy all of the delights that Tokyo has to offer with no real restriction. That said, you still might not want to visit the Michelin Star sushi restaurant more than once as prices can start at $270 per person. Although if you have the income, why not?! You’ll eat well for sure. Other luxury places to dine can be found in Ginza which is commonly seen as a place for high culture and matching price tags for the well-off of Japan.

Again, if you’re financially blessed then you’ll do no wrong by obtaining an IC card and putting a lot of money on it to use throughout your trip. Don’t worry about using it all on travel as many shops and restaurants accept it as a payment method so you can simply use it there so you won’t lose money. If you happen to be taking a longer trip from one end of Tokyo to another, you can heighten your experience by taking the Green Car if you’re using a JR service. This is a premium part of the train with very comfy seating and even a trolley service for refreshments.

On a luxury trip, your accommodation can be upwards of $250 per night for a room with a view of downtown Tokyo. This will creep up and up if you’re moving closer toward Shibuya and Shinjuku. Look at what suits you and if you’d prefer Japanese style or Western. There are some hotels which combine both – but are commonly very expensive.

Given your wealth, your activities will be culturally enriching and potentially boundless. If you have a week in Tokyo it may be worth taking an excursion to the popular tourist destination, Hakone. It is a relatively close village with great views of Mount Fuji.

Luxury Trip Projected Daily Cost: $420 (for 2 people)

  • $250 – accommodation
  • $30 – travel
  • $40 – attractions
  • $100 – food

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