When it comes to deciding how much time to spend in Tokyo, my number one tip is a minimum of 5 days. This ultimate Tokyo itinerary will help you plan your time throughout Japan’s incredible city, giving you the very best experiences.
Over the years I have had the pleasure of visiting Tokyo a handful of times. It’s a vibrant and expansive city — you could easily spend a few weeks here winding through the neighborhoods. From incredible dining and bustling coffee shops to amazing day trips, Tokyo offers a one-of-a-kind cosmopolitan experience.
Tokyo may feel overwhelming to plan for. I remember my first trip trying to narrow down just exactly what to do. There is a lot to choose from but the best part is that you don’t have to do it all. And I’ve narrowed down the very best highlights in a practical itinerary to follow.
If you’re traveling more in Japan, consider including this 5-days as part of a larger Two Week Itinerary in Japan. It’s a wonderful start to any trip here.
The fast-paced city is much more than city culture. You’ll find traditional arts, green spaces, unique dining experiences, and much more. I hope this itinerary guide to visiting Tokyo will help you plan your dream trip. I’m food-focused, inspired by design, and live for local experiences — so this itinerary is all of that and more.
Short on Time? Here Are My Top Picks for the Best Hotels in Tokyo:
- JR-East Hotel Mets Shibuya, for the best location
- Shibuya Granbell Hotel, for the best location
- Hotel Emit, for the best boutique hotel
- Mustard Hotel, for the best modern hotel
The Ultimate Tokyo 5-Day Itinerary
Tokyo Travel Tips Before You Arrive
After my last two recent trips, I’ve narrowed down some do’s and don’ts that you’ll want to consider before you arrive in Tokyo. Give this a read to get a sense of what will help plan your Tokyo itinerary.
Consider Booking Your Trip Over a Weekend
Many of the places included below are best visited on the weekends. This itinerary can be done in any order, just be sure to confirm opening times as they may change seasonally. I’ve pulled together day itineraries here in pockets of Tokyo to cut down on travel time.
Make Sure Your Google Maps Are Downloaded Offline
One of the most helpful things you can do is to have your Google Maps downloaded offline for the Tokyo region. In addition to having Google Maps on your phone, there is a feature for offline maps that allows you to have the map accessible without data.
Pre-Purchase Your JR Rail Pass
Odds are you will want a JR Rail Pass for your trip if you plan to do any hopping around, like Tokyo to Kyoto. You have to apply and purchase your JR Rail Pass prior to arrival in Japan. While in Tokyo you can use this JR pass for the JR Lines only across the city and it is even good for the Narita Express Line which takes you from Narita Airport into Shibuya/Shinjuku area.
To be eligible, you have to enter Japan as a temporary visitor (typical visa entry) and be sure to have the entry stamp on your passport. You purchase the JR Rail Pass prior to arriving in Japan, it is sent to your home, and then upon arrival, you go to a JR office (at most stations/airports) and exchange it for your pass.
Read Transportation Tips for Japan for a more in-depth guide on getting around Japan.
Get a Prepaid SIM Card
Wi-Fi is your best friend in Tokyo and I highly recommend getting a Prepaid SIM Card before arrival. The last time I went, we had to do a more complicated SIM Card purchase at a 7/11 store, but now you can pre-purchase this highly reviewed data card on Amazon (which is what I’d do now).
Where to Stay in Tokyo
I highly recommend basing yourself in a single location for your time in Tokyo. Switching accommodations can be a headache with the trains, so picking a home base is helpful. I recommend being based in either Shinjuku or Shibuya. When you pick your accommodations, make sure there is a train station within 10 minutes of walking distance — you’ll use it a lot.
Throughout my trips, I’ve stayed at:
Best Location ($): JR-East Hotel Mets Shibuya
There is absolutely nothing fancy about this hotel. Hotel Mets is purely a logistic choice for accommodations and the location is one of the best. You’re practically inside the Shibuya Train Station, making it very easy to explore Tokyo. The rooms are clean and simple, providing everything you need for a visit. Book the best rates here.
Address: 3 Chome-29-17 Shibuya, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0002, Japan
Best Location ($$): Shibuya Granbell Hotel
I have stayed twice at the Shibuya Granbell Hotel, one incredible location again inside the Shibuya Train Station. The rooms are a bit more elevated than the Hotel Mets but not by much. It’s a great second option pending on which style you prefer. Book the best rates here.
Address: 15-17 Sakuragaokacho, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0031, Japan
Best Apartment Rental ($$): Designer Flat in Shibuya
One of my favorite stays in Tokyo was this Designer Flat in Shibuya. Sleek, cement walls in a modern building, this was a great stay. It was a bit further from the train station however, we had a more “neighborhood” experience which I personally enjoyed. Book the best rates here.
Other Shibuya Hotels to Consider
- TRUNK HOTEL, for an eco-chic stay
- Hotel Emit, for the best boutique hotel
- Mustard Hotel, for the best modern hotel
Day 1: Yoyogi Park, Harajuku, & Omotesando/Aoyama
Yoyogi Park & Area
There is no better place to start your trip than Yoyogi Park. It is Tokyo’s large green space and home to zen gardens and Shinto shrines. I find it really relaxing to stretch my legs out after a long travel day. Before entering the park, I’d stop into CAMELBACK Sandwich & Espresso for one of their creative sandwiches and grab a coffee to go. If they’re not open yet, go to Coffee Supreme Tokyo around the corner.
Stroll up into the park, and make your way to Meiji Jingu, the stunning Shinto Shrine. You can partake in the water purification ritual, where you ladle water from the fountain into your hands to wash your mouth. As you walk out of the Meiji Torii gates towards Harajuku, don’t forget to stop by the picturesque Meiji Jingue Consecrated Sake Barrels.
Harajuku is a whirlwind of a neighborhood. It really doesn’t come to life until after 10 am, but when it does, it gets jammed packed. The famous Takeshita Dori street runs right through it and you’ll start to see the crowds line up for various food shops. Pop into one of the famous Japanese crepe stores while here for a Tokyo classic.
For lunch, continue through the neighborhood to Sakura-tei Restaurant where you can make your own okonomiyaki. These savory Japanese pancakes are my absolute favorite, made of cabbage and your protein of choice, and it’s so fun to make it yourself. (make reservations.)
Omotesando + Aoyama
Ometesando is arguably the most upscale neighborhood in Tokyo. This is where you’ll find all of your high-end shopping, boutiques, cafe, and restaurants. You can continue into Omotesando right from Harajuku. Stop at Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku for the famous escalator that is built with geometric mirrors (such a trip).
There are many stores in the neighborhood, like the famous AMORE Vintage for vintage luxury handbags. I love going into B-Side Label for all of the fun stickers you can collect. This whole neighborhood warrants 2-3 hours of just perusing. For caffeine needs, stop into the beautiful Blue bottle in Aoyama or Cafe Kitsune.
To end the day, make your way to Nezu Museum in Aoyama (open Tues-Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm). This is my favorite museum in all of Tokyo — the collection of pre-modern art and the gardens are wonderful. For dinner this night, pre-reserve the best tonkatsu meal in Tokyo at Butagumi. It’s a life-changing meal, and well worth the price.
Day 2: Nakameguro, Shimokitazawa, & Shibuya
Nakameguro to Meguro
In the morning, hop on the train to Naka-Meguro Station. You’ll pop out and walk over to Onibus Coffee for one of the best cups of coffee in town, it’s a peaceful start to the day. From there, make your way to the Meguro River which cuts through the scenic Meguro Neighborhood.
If you time it right, you’ll be treated to the best cherry blossom trees around. (Direction: Sakura Bridge.) This neighborhood is scenic and makes for just a good stroll and look around during the mid-morning to afternoon, I like to grab something quick at a 7/11 like Onigiri.
I’ve included Shimokitazawa on this day as I find you’ll go through Nakameguro and Meguro quite quickly and Shimokitazawa is almost always a bit out of the way to get to anyways. From Nakameguro, it is most convenient to go by car or consider the train which is 1 switch.
Once in Shimokitazawa, I love how quaint and local this neighborhood feels. A few favorites from our past trips have been Bear Pond Espresso for coffee to start our time. Afterward, I love to stroll through the main shopping area called Shimokitazawa Ichibangai Shopping Street which is pedestrian-only (right out of the train station). And do make sure to stop into Fog Linen Work for the best home goods store around!
Late afternoon into evening, head to Shibuya for the bustle of Tokyo city life. It’s so much fun to be here for sunset and into the evening as the lights come on and the city bursts with life. You’ll want to see the famous Shibuya Scramble Crossing, where hundreds of people cross at the same time.
If you’re looking for a view, the newest observation deck to open in Tokyo is the Shibuya SKY Observation Deck, which could be worth adding to the itinerary if you have time. Shibuya is also known for shopping. My must-see store is always Shibuya Loft.
For dinner, there are a few choices. The first is to stay right in the area and get soba noodles at Sagatani Shibuya Dogenzaka. You use a vending machine to purchase your meal choice (ask for help) and they make your noodles right there. It’s in Dogenzaka which is a bustling neighborhood for ramen, gyoza, bars, and nightlife.
If I were to pick, I would head up to FUKU Yakitori for the best meal (in my opinion) in Tokyo. It’s a traditional yakitori-style meal that you’ll need your accommodations to call in to reserve (trust me). I’ve eaten here about a half dozen times. I start and end every Japan trip with a meal here.
Day 3: Tsukiji Fish Market, teamLab Planets, & Ramen
Tsukiji Outer Market
The early bird gets the worm here or in this case the best tuna. If you’re looking to watch the tuna auctions, you need to go to the new Toyosu Market (I haven’t been, really for only watching the auctions at 5 am). But if you’re not doing that, the Tsukiji market is where it’s at (train to Tsukiji Station).
You’ll stroll through the markets, shopping for various items from food to cookware. The thing to do here is to eat sushi for breakfast — there are several famous stalls, but my favorite is Sushizanmai Main Branch. It’s a bit hard to find but use Google Maps to find this dozen-seat sushi bar tucked inside for a set menu.
If it’s too busy, really most sushi stalls will be just fine. I’d allot 2 hours or so to peruse around here.
One of my favorite things was visiting teamLab’s exhibit and it’s not terribly hard to get to from Tsukiji. The current exhibit open is teamLab Planets, and you’ll need tickets to get in. As of now, the exhibit is set to be open through 2023, and try to avoid peak hours for a visit. Get tickets here.
Late Ramen Lunch
One of our favorite meals in Tokyo is to go for ramen. There are so many spots to choose from and we typically do this the same day as our morning at Tsukiji. You could head into Ginza which is close by to Tsukiji, and our favorite there is Hashigo Ginza Hon-Ten. It will put you in the Ginza neighborhood which is great for a stroll.
If you’re open to going further, Ramen Jiro Mita Honten has been a regular pilgrimage for us. Their hopping bowls of ramen topped with garlic in fatty pork broth are a favorite. The lines are always long, so make sure to get there at least an hour before closing. We’ve never found much to do afterward, but you could go up to Tokyo Tower afterward.
Day 4: Shinjuku & Beyond
There is so much to do in Shinjuku, one of the major hubs in Tokyo for business and dining. When you go is up to you, some like to start in the afternoon and stay through the night. One of my first stops is always Omoide Yokocho, a small alley with several izakaya stalls for food.
Another thing to see in Shinjuku is to see the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, great for Sakura season as well. It has 144 acres of botanical gardens, so you could block out an hour or two here.
Come nighttime, the action is all in Shinjuku’s Golden Gai. Four blocks of narrow alleys are filled with bars, pubs, and taverns. It’s a bit wild come night, so be mindful when you visit.
Day 5: Take a Day Trip
There are several wonderful day trips to consider from Tokyo which is quite easy as the trains are so well connected. On the final day, you could consider taking one or add a few things from the bottom list. I always leave the final day to be open pending what we want to do.
Some popular day trips:
- Hakone, for the lake, museums, and nature (1.5-2 hours)
- Odawara Castle (40 minutes)
- Nikko National Park, for time in nature (2 hours)
- Kawagoe, for traditional Edo-period town (1 hour)
Other Things to Consider Adding to Your Itinerary
- Akihabara, for all the famous arcade game stores, cat cafes, and more.
- Asakusa, for cheap eats
- Sensō-ji, for Tokyo’s oldest temple
- Ueno Park, for a beautiful green park
- Imperial Palace, for scenic gardens and residence of the emperor of Japan
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PS — Are You Booking a Trip Soon? Use My Booking Checklist!
These are the sites I use most to book my own trips. Using the links below is a great way to support Bon Traveler’s travel journalism at no extra cost to you. If you need help organizing your itinerary, get my free travel itinerary template here.
1. Book Your Flights
Use Skyscanner to find the best flights. It searches 100s of airlines and websites across the globe to ensure you’re not missing out on any route options or deals.
2. Book Your Accommodations
Use Booking.com for hotels and guest houses. They have the biggest inventory and consistently offer the best rates.
3. Book Your Tours & Experiences
4. Book Your Car
Use Discover Cars or Rentalcars.com to find the best car rental deals. I recommend comparing rental agency reviews on Google to ensure you are booking with the best company in that destination, as the reviews are often more accurate than the car rental search engines.
5. Don’t Forget Airport Lounge Access
Get a Priority Pass membership to gain access to 1,400+ VIP lounges and airport experiences worldwide. The Priority Pass app is the first thing I check when I have a layover. I’ve been a member for over a decade, and having a comfortable place to relax before and between flights makes air travel so much more enjoyable.
6. Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
I never leave the country without travel insurance. It provides comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong (ie. illness, injury, theft, and cancelations, etc.). I use it frequently for my travels to stay protected.
My favorite companies that offer the best coverage and rates are: