So you’re looking for a 3 or 4 day itinerary for Tokyo, Japan and don’t know the best route around the city? Hopefully this post can help!
Each day takes on a specific route around Tokyo designed to maximize time. I did much of this itinerary on foot to save money! Though all the below attractions are also near subway stations.
Since I travelled to Tokyo on a budget, much of the below itinerary contains free activities, though prices are listed when this is not the case.
Please note: This post most likely contains affiliate links to things such as products or services. I may receive a small commission if you use the links which costs you no extra but will help me keep this blog going.
This is a park like you’ve never seen one before. Complete with temples, a sprawling museum complex and – in the 25 degree heat – gorgeous summertime vibes, this was the perfect spot for a morning stroll.
I continued down the path to the National Museum, where I visited the Japanese Art exhibitions. The samurai armour, painted screens and elaborate ceramic paintings were a great introduction to Japanese art and culture.
Cost of National Museum: 460 yen (3.39 GBP / 4.27 USD)
All other activities on this day are free.
Asakusa is famous for it’s traditional architecture and does not disappoint. The hustle and bustle of winding roads packed with vendors and lanterns hanging overhead is Japan just as Westerners imagine it to be. After a quick lunch stop at Kaemon Asakusa, a small Japanese vegan buffet, I moved on to Asakusa’s biggest attraction.
I’d been warned about visiting during Golden Week, a National holiday in Japan, and whilst the rest of my trip hadn’t seemed overly crowded considering the population of Tokyo, Senso-ji Temple was a little too packed to truly enjoy it. Once I walked away from the main temple and around the surrounding garden area, I was able to appreciate it a little more.
The major culprit to the lack of pure excitement upon walking around Senso-ji was, as aforementioned, my over-eager, years-long wish of visiting Tokyo. When I arrived, was it everything I thought it would be?
Well, yes. It was just as beautiful, just as good-natured, just as fascinating. But I was waiting to be surprised.
The spiritual home for ‘geeks’ everywhere; full of comics, anime, arcades and all kinds of merchandise. The streets are adorned with flashing animated billboards and a different Japanese vocalist serenades you from every shop window. Perhaps it’s because the ‘nerd’ culture was more appealing to me than the shopping districts of, say, Shibuya, but Akihibara was fast becoming a firm favourite of mine… But first, I had to find dinner.
I’d heard of eateries where just a few customers sit around a wooden bar, appearing as if the tiny dining area had been carved straight out of the backstreets. Whilst searching for vegetarian food, a man noticed me looking inquisitively at a curtain through which I could smell sweet Japanese cooking and ushered me inside. There was one seat left, just a metre from the curtain where I was glad of the cooling evening breeze. Over the other side of the bar I could see the chef working hard behind rising smoke and food sizzling. The man passed me an English menu, as if reading my mind, and turned the page. ‘Vegan Ramen!’ it beckoned in block letters. He spoke to me again: ‘You will have the vegetarian, yes?’
‘Yes! Hai!’ I was so happy to tuck into my comforting bowl of ramen whilst sitting with locals, although admittedly I hoped they wouldn’t notice my slurping technique is not up to scratch. Thankfully chopsticks are proving a little easier to manage.
AN ACCIDENTAL SUNSET MADE ME FALL FOR JAPAN
Full and satisfied, I left to find myself back on the streets of Akihabara. If an hour earlier it was becoming a firm favourite, this time? Well, this is when I had my ‘I fell in love with Japan’ moment. The sunset was setting behind the electric wonderland and where the neon lights met the sky was a feast of colours both brash and calming all at once. Who said beaches were the best place to view a sunset? Let’s give a sprawling metropolis a chance of giving us that pure, enchanting beauty we get from watching the sun fall behind the horizon, yeah?
I have always been a nature-over-cities sort of person. I have lamented that stars can never be beautiful when attached to wires and argued that the only jagged shapes which have mastered the art of creating gorgeous skylines are mountain top. Yet at this moment, there was nothing I could have wished to set eyes on more than the sunset over Akihabara.
By day 2 of my solo adventure, I’d already learned that the pleasure of visiting even our dream countries comes from the simplest of moments and not the ‘big attractions’. With this in mind, I decided to take it is easy on the Touristing for the second day in Tokyo.
FREE not including the monorail
Odaiba, complete with a sandy bay over-looking Tokyo, seemed like a great place to chill and take in what would turn out to be my favourite view of Japan’s capital.
The district is best accessed by monorail which is a treat in itself, winding through skyscrapers and eventually taking you over the waterfront of Tokyo bay. I avoided the amusement parks and headed straight to the ‘beach.’ Despite being a little, one could say, commercial, this artificial island is quite sweet once you get down to the waterfront. I enjoyed looking over the Rainbow Bridge and all that lies beyond it.
There’s also a famous robot in Odaiba, if you’re interested. It is Tokyo after all. Less expected? The fact the Statue of Liberty is hanging out here too. (Erm, seriously.) Nice one Odaiba.
Imperial Palace Gardens!
Part historical, part pure relaxation, strolling around these gardens made for a very peaceful afternoon. You could whizz around it in under an hour quite easily. Alternatively, take time to stretch out on the grass and truly admire the Japanese gardens, complete with a backdrop of modern skyscrapers. I chose to do the latter.
Harajuku, Shibuya and Shinjuku!
This is itinerary takes you on foot through some of THE most iconic spots in Tokyo. Since this was the HIGHLIGHT of my stay, I’ve written the itinerary separately below.
This itinerary includes a FREE observation deck in Tokyo, an incredible temple, the infamous Shibuya crossing and a fabulous dose of culture shock too.
If you have three days in Tokyo, this is where my suggested itinerary ends. However, if you have four days to spare, continue below!
Kamakura is one of THE easiest and cheapest day trips from Tokyo. It feels on the outskirts of the city, rather than a big effort.
However, if you are on a higher budget, you may prefer to take this iconic day tour to Mount Fuji instead.
Kamakura is about an hour from Tokyo Station, not far from my hostel. This small town is famous for its many temples but also has a beach, the cutest cafes I’ve seen so far in Japan and hilly, leafy backstreets that rival any I’ve seen in Tokyo on the wow scale. Admittedly… I got lost, several times, but happily so.
My favourite temple was Hokoku-Ji, also known as the Bamboo Temple.
200 YEN / 1.47 GBP / 1.85 USD at time of visit
But the most famous has to be Daibatsu; this bronze statue of Amida Buddha is 11.4m high, making it literally the biggest attraction in Kamakura.
200 YEN / 1.47 GBP / 1.85 USD at time of visit
Due to the prominence of Buddhism in Kamakura, it’s easy for vegetarians to find food here. Since I’d only JUST packed up my entire life in London by the time I arrived in Tokyo as a solo traveller… well, let’s just say these zen vibes were so appreciated at this point.
Whilst I love being busy and seeing as much as I can, there’s nothing better than taking the time to unwind and taking things in. Kamakura Vegetable Cafe provides both Western and Japanese seating but since I always sit cross-legged anyway (even in the years I worked in an office, sorry boss) I opted for latter. It felt good to just… sit. You know what I mean?
FIRST-TIME IN JAPAN?
Get your 7 day JR Rail Pass in advance with a 4G Sim card included.
Or simply save time by purchasing your 4G Sim card in advance – you can pick it up from the airport when you arrive!
If you prefer, you can take a Pocket Wifi.
Book top-rated travel insurance with World Nomads. They have flexible insurance options which you can even book when you’re already on the road.