Tokyo is an enormous city with countless things to do, sights to visit, and foods to eat. Part of the charm of this city is never knowing what’s around the next corner, and at the same time knowing it’ll excite you. If you only have one day in this amazing city, have no fear! You’ll still be able to explore plenty. We’ve prepared a one day Tokyo trip itinerary that covers some of the main tourist attractions of Japan. Even if your Tokyo trip is longer than a day, this guide is a good starter.
From traditional temples and shrines to new and modern city centres, here’s how you enjoy some of the must-see attractions of Tokyo within 24 hours!
Start your Japan trip by doing one of the most Japanese things: eating sushi! Many say the best and freshest sushi in Tokyo is in Tsukiji as the restaurants there have their fish delivered to them directly from the Toyosu Fish Market.
Up till October 2018, Tokyo’s main fish market was located in Tsukiji itself and it was also the site of Tokyo’s famous tuna auctions where restaurant owners would show up around 4 or 5am to bid on the best catch of the day. While the fish market and tuna auctions are no longer in Tsukiji (they are now in the aforementioned Toyosu Fish Market), the Tsukiji Outer Market is still there. There are sushi restaurants, stalls selling Japanese seafood and processed food, and cafes. The sushi restaurants here open as early as 5am, so get up bright and early and head to Tsukiji for a refreshing sushi breakfast.
09:15 Travel to Tokyo Skytree
Now that you’ve had some food, you’re ready to head to your second stop: Tokyo Skytree. From Tsukiji station, ride three stops on the Hibiya line to Ningyo-cho station where you’ll switch to the Asakusa line. Ride it six stops to Oshiage station.
09:45 Tokyo Skytree
Tokyo Skytree is a broadcasting and observation tower, and it’s the tallest structure in Japan. There are two observatories in Skytree from which you can get a panoramic view of the city. If the weather’s good and the skies are clear, you may even get to see Mt Fuji in the distance!
Below Skytree is Tokyo Solamachi, a mall full of shops and restaurants. Take some time to wander around and shop for souvenirs, clothes and more!
11:00 Walk to Asakusa
It’s hard to bend your body backwards enough to capture a photo of Skytree when you’re so close to it. So, after visiting Skytree, head away from it and towards the main Asakusa area. On the way there, you’ll have many opportunities to capture photos of Skytree from various angles.
Just a convenient and scenic 20-25 minutes’ walk from Skytree, you’ll arrive at the center of the Asakusa area. Along the way, you will come across the Sumida River, the Asahi building and infamous Golden Turd (meant to be a flame) on top of it. If you’re not a fan of walking or taking photos, you can also get to the city center by train. It’ll save you 10-15 minutes.
11:30 Kimono Experience- Optional
If you’ve ever wanted to wear the traditional Japanese kimono, Asakusa is the place to do it. There are many places you can visit that will dress you up in a kimono of your choice. They’ll even style your hair and provide hair accessories. This entire process will take a mere 30-45 minutes and then you’ll be ready to explore Asakusa in style!
Sensoji Temple is one of the most famous, if not the most famous temple, in all of Tokyo. This temple was completed in year 645, making it the oldest temple in Tokyo. There is the temple’s main hall, a beautiful pagoda and a shrine. Take part in traditional Japanese customs such as cleansing your hands in temple waters, or removing bad luck from your body with temple smoke. If you want, you can go ahead and say a prayer or make a wish in the main temple hall.
To get to the main temple, you’ll have to go down Nakamise Shopping Street. It’s a long street of about 200 meters, with stores on both sides, as well as in some of the intersecting alleys. Here, you can buy all sorts of things, from Japanese yukatas to local arts and crafts and, of course, souvenirs. You might be getting a little hungry around this time, and there are some stores that sell local snacks, so give that a go. Street food isn’t a big thing in Tokyo and this is one of the few places you can have it.
14:15 Travel to Harajuku
After enjoying and experiencing the traditional and spiritual side of Japan, you’ll now head towards a younger, more modern side of Tokyo. By the way, you can choose to continue your journey in the beautiful kimono you’ve rented, but you’ll need to return it by 5pm, which means you’ll have to come back to Asakusa. We suggest returning it before proceeding so you won’t have to spend too much time travelling back and forth.
Your next stop is Harajuku. Get there by riding the Ginza line from Asakusa station for 17 stops till Shibuya station where you’ll switch to the Yamanote line for just one stop. The entire ride will take around 38 minutes. Don’t worry; this will be the only long commute you’ll make today. You’ll have plenty of time on the ground. Take advantage of this time to rest your feet! You’ll be walking quite a bit today.
Welcome to Harajuku! It’s most famous for Takeshita Street, a long shopping street that caters to Harajuku fashion, a mix of kawaii, Lolita and punk/grunge fashion. Take a look around to see what fashion Tokyo’s youths are into and what Tokyo subculture looks like. Takeshita Street is the first thing you’ll see upon exiting Harajuku station so you can’t miss it.
Be sure to grab a classic Harajuku dessert crepe or one of Harajuku’s famous rainbow-themed desserts/pastries!
15:45 Meiji Shrine
After you’ve passed through Takeshita Street, take a short walk over to Meiji Shrine. Meiji Shrine honours the spirits of Emperor Meiji, whom it is named after, and his wife Empress Shouken. This large shrine is located within a forest so you’ll be surrounded by greenery the entire time you’re there, making it a serene, tranquil place to visit.
Meiji Shrine is the shrine to visit for hatsumode, the first visit to a shrine on New Year’s day, to pray for good fortune, health and love in the coming year. If you’re visiting during this period, Meiji Shrine will be absolutely packed. If large crowds aren’t your thing, avoid Meiji Shrine for the first week of the new year.
17:15 Walk to Shibuya
Get ready to head on to another famous area of Tokyo: Shibuya. You have several options of getting there. You can walk straight down to Shibuya from Meiji Shrine, which will take around 15 minutes. Or, you can take a small detour and stroll through the wide and peaceful Yoyogi Park, right next to Meiji Shrine, to get to Shibuya. This option will take you an extra 5 to 10 minutes. If you’re tired of walking, head back to Harajuku station and ride the Yamanote line for one stop.
Welcome to Shibuya! It’s one of the most famous and popular areas of Japan; millions of people pass through everyday.
Your first stop here has got to be the Hachiko statue right outside of the station. It’s a statue commemorating the life of Hachiko, an Akita dog. In the early 1920s, Hachiko would come to Shibuya station to fetch its master home every evening. One day, Hachiko’s master died suddenly at work and never made the commute home. Hachiko, unaware of this, continued to show up at the station every single evening, rain or shine, to wait for his master. He did this for the next ten years until his passing. He has since become a symbol of unwavering loyalty and fidelity, and his story has even been adapted into various films, books and comics. Take a photo with this loyal and adorable dog!
Right next to Hachiko is the iconic Shibuya Scramble, aka Shibuya Crossing. It’s a cluster of pedestrian crossings in five different directions, and hordes of people will cross it together when the green man comes on. To get a photo of the crossing from above, you can head to the second floor of the Starbucks across from the station. This will be the most convenient way. Your other option is to head to either Magnet or Shibuya Scramble, two tall buildings with observatories on the top floor. Keep in mind that there are admission fees to both these places.
After capturing a photo of Shibuya Crossing, wander around Shibuya! There’s loads to do in Shibuya. There are large-scale shopping malls to satisfy your shopping needs, there’s the department store Parco for anime- and game-lovers, and, of course, there are plenty of restaurants.
If you’re overwhelmed and not sure where to start, we suggest starting with Shibuya Centre-gai (“Shibuya center street”). It has clothing stores (a large Forever 21 and H&M), arcades, karaoke joints and restaurants. You must be getting hungry for a proper meal by now, so find a nice restaurant and recharge yourselves before wandering around!
20:00 Travel to Shimokitazawa- Optional
The sun has set, but Tokyo nightlife hasn’t quite gotten up and running yet. For this reason, we suggest heading to Shimokitazawa first. It’s one-stop away from Shibuya station on the Inokashira line’s express train and is the perfect place to get in a couple of casual, chill drinks before the night really begins.
Shimokitazawa isn’t a major attraction but rather a small, quieter neighbourhood. If you’re looking to get away from the crowds, you might want to check this place out. Otherwise, feel free to give it a miss and head on straight to the next location, Shinjuku!
Shimokitazawa is Tokyo’s hipster central, full of hipster cafes, thrift stores and music bars. Once you’ve arrived, head to Tokyo Vanguard, a novelty store selling odd and creative products. You can get plushies, photobooks, clothes, innovative household items, anime and manga merchandise, and even sex toys. Have fun wandering around this confusing store!
Done with shopping and ready to start drinking? Shimokitazawa is home to many unique and relaxing bars. There is A-Sign bar that serves Okinawan liquor and dishes; Good Vibes Comic bar that is drenched in Marvel and DC merchandise and that serves superhero-themed cocktails; and, one of our favourites, 808 Lounge that serves its own unique alcohols such as earl grey gin, coffee whiskey, and chilli pepper vodka, all in a wondrous, magical interior that literally lights up. Their speciality is mojitos and the bartender serves various fruit-flavoured ones. These are just some of the bars we like personally but there are a plethora more in Shimokitazawa. Find one and have a nice, relaxing drink.
Including these bars we mentioned, we offer discounts and free shots in a few unique and amazing bars and restaurants in Shimokitazawa area. Make sure to check it out here to make sure you get the most out of your time.
21:30 Travel to Shinjuku
Head over to your final stop, Shinjuku. It’s just two stops away from Shimokitazawa on the Odakyu line. This is the place for Japanese nightlife where, unlike in Shimokitazawa, bars are open till the early hours of the morning.
You’re now in Shinjuku which houses the busiest station in the world. It’s a hub for businesses, nightlife, food and various activities. It is also home to Tokyo’s red-light district, Kabukicho, and the gay district, Nichome.
You’ll begin with the former! Get out of the station via the East Exit (aka Kabukicho exit) and head on down to Kabukicho. While prostitution is illegal in Japan, many establishments have found loopholes to keep their businesses running. You may be surprised at the lack of provocativity—there are only a handful of places that have skimpily-clad women in their advertising. But, don’t be fooled. Some of these establishments advertise themselves as innocent “free information centers” or “conversation cafes”, but the only-18-and-above signs outside their stores give away what business they’re really in.
Take a stroll through this area and take beautiful photos of Tokyo lit up at night!
At the end of Kabukicho is a movie theatre, Toho Cinemas. What’s significant about it is the life-size Godzilla above it. If you get too close to the cinema, you might miss it, so we suggest taking a look and a photo of it from farther away, like from the entrance to Kabukicho.
Just a two or three minute walk from Kabukicho is Golden Gai, a cluster of over 300 bars in just six or eight narrow alleys. The bars in Golden Gai are tiny, so much so that some can only fit just four or five patrons. Though Golden Gai gathers many tourists, there are still many bars here that are authentically Japanese, with the look and feel of the Showa era. There are, of course, more modern bars, so feel free to give those a go as well!
Bear in mind that some of these places have admission charges; they’ll have a sign on their door (“500 yen entry charge”, “1000 yen entry charge”), so just keep an eye out for that. Also, a disclaimer: there are a handful of bars in Golden Gai that don’t allow foreigners in but they only make up a small percentage of the hundreds of bars here. If you happen to stumble across a “no foreigner” sign, don’t let that get you down. There’s probably 15-20 foreigner-friendly bars to every one that isn’t.
As mentioned earlier, the gay district, Nichome, is also in Shinjuku, and is a 5-10 minute walk from Golden Gai. If you want to see LGBTQ culture in Tokyo, head on over. There are more bars and some clubs in that area as well. A popular club is Arty Farty; it’s a small club with no admission fee and is on the chiller end of clubbing in Japan. Another popular club is Dragon Men but there’ll be an admission fee (1000 yen for men, 2000 yen for women) with a free drink ticket.
We believe there’s no better way to end a long day of walking and touring than with a drink, which is why we’ve saved Shinjuku for last. Whether you choose to have a more relaxed night out in Golden Gai or to dance the night away in Nichome, we’re certain you’ll have fun experiencing Tokyo nightlife in Shinjuku.
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We hope that this guide proves useful to you. There are many more things to see, do and experience in Tokyo, but if you have only 24 hours here, we think these are the things you should give your precious 24 hours to.
And, of course, this is just a casual guide so there’s no need to keep to the timetable. Feel free to get through this day as quickly or as slowly as you like, giving more time to the activities you enjoy more.
Want to find out more about Japan? check out How to travel to Japan from home: 12 ways to travel virtually and Japanese books, movies, TV shows!
If you need help with planning your trip, feel free to message us on Facebook messenger or through Instagram. We would be excited to help you! Have fun in Tokyo!