The neon Japanese capital is amazing! But there’s so much to see and do in the city that, for a first time trip, figuring out a Tokyo itinerary can seem overwhelming.
So whether you’re a Tokyo first-timer, in the city for cherry blossom season (check out my Best Places to View Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo post), gearing up to climb Mount Fuji, or if you just want to see the Fuji Five Lakes, here are the things you need to put at the top of your Tokyo itinerary.
Pssst, heading to Tokyo? Don’t miss these travel guides to help you plan your trip!
Get some great views from the Metropolitan Government Building
On day one of your Tokyo itinerary, you will probably be feeling overwhelmed and excited. But a good way to get a feel for the city is by seeing it from above!
Yes, the Tokyo Skytree does offer some pretty mind-blowing views, but I think the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building wins.
The municipal building is very close to the Keio Plaza Hotel and is an easy walk from Shinjuku Station. The 201-meter-high viewing platform is completely free and offers stupendous views of the city.
(Pro tip: Go for sunset and then enjoy the views after dark too!)
Criss-cross the Scramble Crossing
The ubiquitous sight of neo-Tokyo, Shibuya’s famous Scramble Crossing, literally has to be seen to be believed.
The top of any Tokyo Itinerary, the crossing is best accessed from the Hachiko Exit of Shibuya Station. Yes…this may seem like a pretty touristy thing to do, but it’s hard to stop yourself snapping a selfie as you navigate the crossing.
This is THE ultimate “I’m in Tokyo!” experience.
Make sure to turn up in the early evening for maximum effect: think rush-hour crowds, excited people out for an evening in the city, and neon lights galore.
If you want to view the Shibuya Crossing scramble from above, there’s a Starbucks on the second floor of a record store and it has perfect views!
See the sights and sounds of Shinjuku at night
Shinjuku is busy during the day time, but as night falls, the neighborhood really comes alive.
Crowds of friends meet up around Shinjuku station and head out in the neighborhood for a night of eating and drinking…which usually ends up with karaoke.
Booking a hotel in Shinjuku will mean you get front row seats to the exciting extravaganza. There’s the Robot Cafe, Golden Gai, Kabukicho (and tons more!) to soak up here.
Breakfast at Toyosu Fish Market
You might have heard that the iconic Tsukiji Fish Market changed its location (boo)…But it is still alive in spirit and is now known as the Toyosu Fish Market.
It’s true, things aren’t the same as they used to be, but one thing hasn’t changed: it’s still the place to get the tastiest, freshest fish in Tokyo!
The new market is located near Shijomae—about 2km away from the former Tsukiji Market—and has a free-to-enter viewing platform for the public.
Get there hungry and tuck into breakfast at one of the market’s restaurants. You will be treated to an array of oishii (tasty) dishes that will leave you wanting to come back for more!
Enjoy a walk in the Imperial Palace East Gardens
Part of the Tokyo Imperial Palace, the Imperial Palace East Gardens are open for the public to explore for free.
A top addition to any Tokyo itinerary, the gardens are a quick 15-minute walk from Tokyo Station. Easy.
Inside the old walls, the rush of the city soon disappears, and you can easily spend hours exploring winding pathways, being amazed by the beautiful Koi Pond, and taking in seasonal displays.
Get geeky in Electric City
If anime is your thing (rather than Japanese gardens), and it’s your first time in Tokyo, then pick up some pocket wifi as soon as you land and put Akihabara into Google Maps.
Dubbed “Electric City,” this colorful area is a hub for all things geeky…and electronic, obviously!
Bring change so you can try your luck in the numerous arcades, shop for anime ornaments, and be entertained in a maid cafe.
Spend Sunday afternoon in Yoyogi Park
Tokyo’s busy streets can sometimes feel like a little too much (seriously). If that’s the case, then you should take yourself over to Yoyogi Park.
A sprawling city park, the grassy fields, and forested areas are a space of solace for Tokyoites to meet up and picnic.
Look out for drum circles, musical performances, and even the odd dance-off happening at the gates of the park.
After your stroll through the park, pay a visit to the Meiji Shrine. You’ll likely see a wedding procession happening there if it’s the weekend.
Go Shopping in Ginza
Before you make good use of your JR Rail Pass (which you need to buy before your trip so it can be shipped to you) and hop on the shinkansen (bullet train), make sure you stock up on new garments in Ginza.
The busy shopping district is as chic as it is long. Even if you are traveling on a budget, affordable purchases can be found in Ginza’s enormous UNIQLO—apparently the biggest in the world!!
Be amazed at the teamLab Borderless Art Museum
Grab your Suica card, hop on the metro, and head over to the futuristic fun land that is Odaiba.
Home to shopping malls and outlandishly designed TV stations, this artificial island is also where you will find the extremely popular teamLab Borderless Art Museum.
Now a Tokyo itinerary staple, the very Instagramable exhibitions inside the museum make for an interactive dream of colorful lights and unforgettable experiences.
Amble around Asakusa
Asakusa is an area of Tokyo that is integrated into most visitors’ Tokyo itinerary. Connected directly by train to both Haneda Airport and Narita Airport, it’s a very easy first stop in the Japanese capital.
This is where you will find the stunning Sensoji temple—surrounded by stalls selling souvenirs and people offering a prayer at the altar.
Don’t miss out on a free tour of the temple complex, which can be arranged at the nearby tourist office! (They’re volunteers—and they speak English!)
Take a day trip to Yokohama
If you want to do a spot of sightseeing outside of Tokyo, but don’t have the days to spare to make it all the way to Kyoto, Hakone, or Fuji, then a day trip to Yokohama is ideal.
Leave Tokyo behind on the train, travel a mere 40 minutes, and you will be in the coastal city of Yokohama.
The perfect addition to any Tokyo itinerary, there’s a whole selection of museums, sights and delicious dining here. Start off in the city’s Chinatown and end up in its awesome 1980s development, Minato Mirai, for amazing malls.
From the moment you touch down at a Tokyo airport, the Japanese capital city—a rush of colors, people and sounds—awaits you.
I hope my Tokyo itinerary will help you make the most of your time in this most amazing of global cities. Got Insta? If so, tag me in your story (@wtfab) and let me know what you’re up to!
Planning a trip to Tokyo? Don’t miss all my Tokyo guides, here!
What to Do in Tokyo: Tokyo Travel Guide
Best Places to View Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo
Best Time to Visit Tokyo
11 Things You Need to Put on Your Tokyo Itinerary
7 Places to Visit Near Tokyo
Things to do in Tokyo with Kids
Where to Stay in Tokyo
Park Hyatt, Tokyo
A few top things in Tokyo that you should not miss are the Meiji Shrine, the Shibuya Crossing, Tsukiji Fish Market, Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, and Harajuku.
Plan to spend at least four days in Tokyo, but know that you could spend a week there and still have plenty to do each day.
Visit the many beautiful parks in Tokyo, the fish markets, and check out Shibuya Crossing.
Tokyo’s subway makes it very easy to get around the city. Taxi cabs are also pretty plentiful.
Elise Armitage is an entrepreneur and founder of What The Fab, a travel + lifestyle blog based in California. At the beginning of 2019, Elise left her corporate job at Google to chase her dreams: being an entrepreneur and helping women find fabulous in the everyday. Since then, she’s launched her SEO course Six-Figure SEO, where she teaches bloggers how to create a passive revenue stream from their website using SEO. Featured in publications like Forbes, Elle, HerMoney, and Real Simple, Elise is a firm believer that you can be of both substance and style.