Here it is! My Tokyo Ultimate Travel Guide, to help you plan your first time in Tokyo
If you’re familiar with the blog or have read my travel list, then you already know that I have been to Japan and more especially Tokyo several times now.
However, I noticed that I never been into further details on what to do in Tokyo, what to see in Tokyo or what to eat in Tokyo or any kind of Tokyo Guide basically. During my last trip to Japan, I had spent two days to “plan” my best friend and I trip so we could have some sort of guideline as it was her first time there!
Since then I send it to a few friends of mine who enjoyed it so I thought why not share with you the top things to do in Tokyo by writing a Tokyo travel guide for the first time!
TOKYO ULTIMATE GUIDE
Table Of Contents
- 1 TOKYO ULTIMATE GUIDE
- 1.1 How To Get To Tokyo From The Airport ->
- 1.2 How To Get Around Tokyo: Subway: Pasmo or Suica ->
- 1.3 BUCKET LIST: What To Do in Tokyo ->
- 1.3.1 Activities to do in Tokyo ->
- 1.3.2 What to do in Tokyo by district ->
- 126.96.36.199 SHIBUYA-KU
- 188.8.131.52 SHINJUKU-KU
- 184.108.40.206 KÔTO-KU
- 220.127.116.11 MINATO-KU
- 18.104.22.168 TOSHIMA-KU
- 22.214.171.124 SUMIDA-KU
- 126.96.36.199 TAITO- KU
- 188.8.131.52 CHIYODA-KU
- 184.108.40.206 MT TAKAO
- 220.127.116.11 DISNEYLAND TOKYO / DISNEY SEA
- 1.4 What and where to eat ->
- 1.5 How To Travel Outside Tokyo ->
- 1.6 Where To Stay in Tokyo for the first time ->
How To Get To Tokyo From The Airport ->
There are two main airports in Tokyo, Narita and Haneda. Most flights land and take off from Narita, however, if you can have a flight who land in Haneda then go for it! It’s much cheaper and easier to go to Tokyo from Haneda!
For flight research, I definitely recommend you SkyScanner.
Narita Airport :
To reach Narita Airport/the city centre you have several options :
NE’X Train or Keisei Skyliner :
Narita Express (NE’X) and Keisei Skyliner are both trains that can transport you from the airport to the city, they seem both pretty similar in term of prices and services as both offer discounts fare for foreigners.
Both give you assigned seats. You can purchase tickets for both N’EX and Skyliner at the airport (either Terminal 1 or 2) on the day of your ride.
Nonetheless, there are two main differences :
NE’X Stations -> Tokyo, Shinagawa, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Omiya, Yokohama, and Ofuna.
Keisei Skyliner Stations -> Nippori and Ueno
The JR pass can be used with the NE’X but not with the Keisei Skyliner.
Limousine Bus :
Another option to go to Narita Airport is the Limousine Bus. While it takes more time than the NE’X or Keisei Skyliner, it’s a little cheaper and also you don’t have to bother carrying your luggage around. Believe me, when you have nearly 30kg of luggage it’s a-w-e-s-o-m-e.
The Limousine Bus departs from a lot of station. See more about it here.
Haneda Airport :
Unlike Narita Airport you can access Haneda Airport simply by taking the Yamanote Line and Keikyu Line to Haneda airport station.
Limousine Bus -> It works the same way as for Narita.
How To Get Around Tokyo: Subway: Pasmo or Suica ->
Tokyo’s metro charge by fare, which means depending on where you go the price will change.
The best way to get around Tokyo is the subway and either get a Pasmo or a Suica to ride it. I have both, honestly, none have greater perks than the other. It’s really just the logo which changes as they both works on the Tokyo Metro and Toei Line and buses. Pasmo has a sort of pink-ish wagon while Suica mascot is a cute penguin. Which maybe makes it more popular? I don’t know really but both are fine to get from a point A to B. It’s best to get it as soon as you land in Tokyo.
Anyway. All you have to do is charge your Pasmo or Suica and then you can ride the metro!
Both the Suica and the Pasmo can be used as electronic wallets where you see their logo, i.e on vending machines, convenience stores and even some restaurants I heard. Pretty handy!
How to get it ->
There’s machine with Suica/Pasmo sign in each station and you can get the cards from there.
The card has a deposit of 500¥, which you can get back after if you give it back.
Getting the cards are quite simple as you can switch the language of the machine in English, so all you have to do is to follow the instructions.
And if by any mean you have any trouble the stations’ staff will be pleased to help you!
You can keep both of them for 10 years, which is something I only learnt recently.
BUCKET LIST: What To Do in Tokyo ->
Alright, so this is the biggest chunk of this guide.
Tokyo is a restless city, there’s always something to do. This area covers things I have done and recommend. And also things I would like to do on my future trips! (Yes trips okay)
Activities to do in Tokyo ->
- Arcade Center
- 100Y Shop
What to do in Tokyo by district ->
Access: Yamanote Line Stop -> Shibuya
❍ Center Gai
The shopping street of Shibuya.
❍ Shibuya 109
Impossible to miss when you go out of Shibuya’s station. This big shopping centre is levelled on floors, you can find a lot of “gyaru” brands in there or cutesy clothing. It’s quite expensive and basically, if you have some meat on your bone you might struggle to find pieces your size.
❍ Crossing / Hachiko Statue
One of the landmarks of Shibuya, you probably already saw it in movies, advertisement and so on. I have to say that the crossing looks much smaller in real life!
Hachiko statue is located on the left side of the street right before the zebra crossing. It is a statue based on the famous Hachiko Dog story.
Tip: If you want a great shot of the zebra crossing/Shibuya you can go to the Starbucks bay windows if you’re willing to wait as it’s always busy.
❍ Disney Store
You can buy the ticket to both DisneyLand and DisneySea there. Obviously, there are also tons of Disney Goodies.
One stop away from Shibuya Station, Harajuku is also at a small walkable distance from Shibuya. So if you’re visiting Shibuya and want to go to Harajuku next instead of using the Yamanote Line again save some yens and enjoy a nice walk!
❍ Takeshita Dori
Takeshita Dori is a massive shopping street, you can find a lot of alternative fashion there. Pet clothing and also the famous rainbow cotton candy and the crêpes.
❍ Kiddy Land
Kiddy Land is one of the biggest toy shops in Tokyo, levelled on 5 floors you can find a lot of goodies, stationery about Japan’s cute characters/mascots and also about some anime or even Star Wars.
❍ Yoyogi Park
A huge park, perfect for a picnic or a stroll if you fancy it.
❍ Meiji-Jingu Sanctuary
Very close to Takeshita Dori and Yoyogi Park, Meiji-Jingu sanctuary is therefore quite a touristy landmark. You can find inside it a garden, a shrine, it’s quite impressive and worth the visit!
Shopping Centre: La Foret
You can also find the Rainbow Cotton Candy there, as well as their crêpes filled with a lot more than your usual crêpes (cheesecake and so on)
Access: Yamanote Line Shinjuku
Shinjuku is located right next to Shibuya. It’s a vibrant district where you can find a lot of night activities.
❍ Shinjuku Gyoen
A vast imperial Garden mixing Japanese, French and English style. Also, a great spot during the cherry blossoms seasons as it counts nearly 1,500 Sakura Trees.
❍ Golden Gai
A lively area where about bars meets, to put it simply where you should go if you want to experiment the nightlife!
If you spot Toho Cinema you can also see Godzilla! And the famous Robots Restaurants is in Shinjuku too.
Access: There’s actually a lot of access depending on which part of Odaiba you want to see.
Odaiba is an artificial island which has been built around in 1853 for defensive purposes (Daiba meaning fortress) and then expanded in during the 20th century to the artificial island we know today. It’s a really modern place full of entertaining complexes and malls.
❍ Palette Town / Ferris wheel
Palette Town is an entertainment complex composed of a shopping mall, an amusement park, a Ferris Wheel and even a Toyota Showroom
❍ Giant Gundam
Title says it all really, Gundam is a pretty popular anime in Japan.
A big indoor amusement park, including roller coasters and a haunted house. Also, a shooting game based on the anime Psycho-Pass.
❍ Rainbow Bridge / Artificial Beach
At night you can see the Rainbow Bridge from the Decks. And if you want to walk on the beach you can do that in Odaiba, however, swimming is forbidden.
You can find a lot more of Shopping malls around such as DiverCity Tokyo Plaza (even has a concert venue inside) Aquacity, Tokyo Decks Beach…
Access: Yamanote Line, Hamamatsuchô
❍ Tokyo Tower
One of the best view of the city! However, the Tokyo Tower is slightly losing its popularity to the Tokyo SkyTree. Despite this, I still decided to visit it as my friend and I wanted to do the One Piece amusement Park and Café.
❍ Zozo-Ji Shrine
Zozô-Ji is a different kind of shrine as a lot of it was built to pay tribute to the deaths. You can find a mausoleum and an unborn children garden there.
Access: Yamanote Line, Roppongi
Roppongi is the business neighbour you can find a lot of foreigners, bars and luxury shops such as Louis Vuitton.
Access: Yamanote Line, Ikebukuro
Ikebukuro is an animated and entertainment related neighbour also associated with owls. A lot of department store and anime related shops can be found there.
Owl statues located near the centre of Ikebukuro.
❍ Sunshine City
One of the biggest shopping/restaurants/aquarium/Pokemon Center complex, for this reason, it is also referred as “a city within a city”. To visit it end to an end could take you the whole day. It’s a perfect shopping location!
❍ Tokyo SkyTree
Higher than the Tokyo Tower with 495m the Tokyo SkyTree is also a great way to get a bird view over the city.
Access : Asakusa Line, Oshiage
Access: Asakusa Line, Asakusa
Asakusa is the traditional neighbour of Tokyo and one of the most beautiful with a lot of shrines/temples. And the perfect area to find some traditional Japanese souvenirs. I think the best way to explore Asakusa is to really take your time and wander around.
The most famous temples there are :
Access: Yamanote Line, Ueno
❍ Ueno Zoo
Alright, so I am a bit conflicted about zoos in general…However I went to Ueno’s Zoo, it was a nice visit they got boards raising awareness towards animals and endangered species (mostly in Japanese though).
But I couldn’t help to feel sorry for the polar bears, summer in Japan is extremely hot and humid so despite the fact they had this huge swimming pool it was clearly obvious that they weren’t enjoying themselves…
It was great for farms and smaller animals, however.
❍ Tokyo Imperial Palace “Kôkyo”
A landmark of Japan, the Imperial Palace is the primary residence of the Emperor of Japan. You can only visit the two gardens. Which I didn’t get the chance to do as it was closed when I went. Oops.
Access: Yamanote Line Akihabara
Akihabara also known as “Akiba” is the tech neighbour of Tokyo, if you’re looking for some new technologies or second-hand shops then this is the place to go.
Akiba is as well famous for its anime and video game culture. You can find the biggest Sega Game Centre in Tokyo there!
I don’t have any recommendation per se for Akihabara as I think that it is worth it to explore the whole neighbour as the atmosphere is different from the other neighbour in Tokyo.
Besides, if you’d like to try a Maid Café then it is definitely there.
Mt Takao is the perfect day trip for a hike only 45 min away from Tokyo. I have a whole post about it if you want to know more about it, read it here!
I did it on my last trip and enjoyed every single minute of this day.
DISNEYLAND TOKYO / DISNEY SEA
As for Mount Takao, I have a full post about DisneyLand Tokyo!
I haven’t been to Disney Sea yet as no matter how I love Disney Parks I didn’t want to take a second day only to spend it at Disney when I was in Japan and there’s so much more to do.
Day trip from Tokyo on my Bucket List :
What and where to eat ->
Foods to try in Tokyo/Japan :
Ramen are kind of like my favourite food. If you check out my what I ate in Tokyo post you can see that I ate a lot of them.
Ramen is a bowl of noodle soaking in ramen soup and some various topping.They’re often also offered with gyoza (dumplings).
And guess what? Ramen came in different style in each part of Japan, so if you travel around Japan you can have different ramen.
Sushi is probably the first thing people think about when they think about Japanese food in western countries.
A little side note: if you want to dip your sushi in soy sauce you need to do dip the fish and not the rice! But usually, it isn’t needed as it ruins the taste of the fresh fish.
Gyudon is a very simple dish composed of rice with on top beef meat with melted cheese. Very simple as I said but delicious and filling!
Takoyaki are octopus balls! They’re originally from Osaka but you can find them all around Japan!
Japanese Curry :
Right, so curry isn’t Japanese so to speak however the Japanese have developed their own version of curry which is softer than the Indian curry (you can get really spicy one too if you wish though).
There are different versions.
Japanese Desert :
Mochi is a sweet rice cake, the texture is quite sticky but it’s quite yummy. You can also find frozen mochi, they taste slightly better in my opinion.
They can be eaten all year round but are traditionally eaten for the New Year.
Taiyaki are fish-shaped cake, a classic street snack in Japan, warm soft with red beans filling. Or ice cream filling.
Matcha is green powder. Pretty popular in Japan, there’s a lot of desserts made out matcha.
I think matcha is a hit or miss, you either love it or hate it. Personally…it’s a miss for me. However, if you never tried you have to!
About Restaurants :
❍ First, you need to know that tipping is not a thing in Japan, so no need to tip!
❍ Also, a lot of restaurants instead of having water on display has cold tea; it can be surprising at first if you don’t expect it!
❍ Most of them display plastic dishes to show you what they serve outside in the front window.
❍ It’s quite common to order from a machine (outside or inside the restaurant) and hand over your ticket.
❍ Lastly, size in Japan is very different in a lot of restaurants. For example, this pizza is a medium size. While in Europe this would have been a kid pizza ahah.
Cheap Chain Restaurants :
Looking back at it, I spend most of my travel eating at the cheapest cost possible aside from maybe 3-5 times. So I mainly have cheap restaurants recommendation! Cheap but nonetheless with good food! very easy to find.
Genki Sushi is a cheap sushi restaurant with a little twist. You order on a tablet and the foods arrive on little trays that roll to you! It’s quite fun, to be honest, cheap and good. Also perfect for solo traveller.
Probably my favourite one, you can find Sukiya nearly anywhere. They make delicious gyudon and curry.
It’s all in the title! A nice little burger shop. If you ever go there I recommend your their fish burger, it’s delicious.
If you fancy curry then CoCo Ichiban is the place you need. They do a very good and cheap curry. You can find Katsu Curry (fried chicken)
Saizeria is essentially an Italian chain restaurant, there’s a few of them in Tokyo. The food is decent and within reasonable prices.
Also if you’re on a budget then you should know that every night convenience stores (konbini) have discount on bento box and sushi so you can get a meal for pretty cheap around 200y-400y ( 1,50- 3€ | £1,30-2,60 | $1,80-3,60 )
I absolutely adore konbini they got a lot of nice cheap food, plus if you never tried Japanese egg sandwich then you definitely have too, I swear by those and I never found an egg sandwich as good in Europe!
Other types of restaurants in Tokyo :
If you want to try something a little out the ordinary then you’ll surely enjoy themed restaurants. Some very famous ones are the PompomPurin Cafe in Harajuku and the Baratie, inspired from One Piece in Odaiba or anything Pokemon related.
Check this post for more information on themed restaurants!
Even Animals Cafés (Be it cat, rabbit, owl etc…). Although I guess their main appeal isn’t the food but seeing the pets. I only did Cat Cafés, one I could recommend is “Calico Neko Cafe” in Shinjuku !
How To Travel Outside Tokyo ->
Japan is a country which has a lot to offer, so if you ever decide to travel outside of Tokyo the easiest and cheapest way to do so is to get a JR Pass (Japan Rail Pass)
The JR Pass has several durations for you to choose; 7 days, 14 days, or 30 days.
You can start whenever you want simply by going to a train station where they exchange your coupon and give you the JR Pass stamped with a start and end date.
How to get the JR Pass ->
You cannot get a JR Pass in Tokyo/Japan, you need to get it in your country before leaving.
You can order it online on their website or in a specialised shop in some cities.
With this pass, you can travel on the Shinkansen (bullet train) however be careful because it’s not on every type of bullet train.
I discovered this the hard way while I and a friend were in Nagoya and tried to head back to Tokyo after attending a gig. Oops, although you can actually use it on night buses so it wasn’t too troublesome.
Plus, I have to say compared to night bus journey in Europe (FlixBus, OuiBus, Euroline) a night bus in Japan is an actual dream.
Other use ->
Another perk of the JR Pass; you can travel on the Yamanote Line in Tokyo with it. For those you don’t know, the Yamanote Line is a line that circle all the mains area in Tokyo (Shibuya, Harajuku, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Ueno…) so it’s quite handy considering how pricey public transport are in Tokyo.
All you have to do is to show it to the control guide on the side of the entrance so he can let you in and out of the Yamanote Line.
Where to go ->
I have been to Osaka & Nagoya during my first trip but solely to attend some gigs, so I don’t have any insight on those cities. Sadly.I would love to go back and visit Osaka properly on my next trip!
I also went to Nara, near Kyoto, the city where deer roam around freely since a 1000 years! You can read all about it here.
JR Pass does work on some inter-city line bus and night bus. However now if you don’t want to get a JR Pass. Instead of paying a Shinkansen ticket you can take the numerous highway buses for your journey.
With Willer bus, you can get also get a Japan Bus Pass cheaper and valid longer than a JR Pass.
Where To Stay in Tokyo for the first time ->
I’ve been three times in Tokyo; 1st) Setagaya 2nd) Ikebukuro and the 3rd) Meguro.
Those three areas are great, they’re friendly and really convenient to get around Tokyo, especially for Ikebukuro and Meguro as they are on the Yamanote Line.
Transportations in Tokyo are AWESOME, however, they can get expensive really fast and add to your budget a crazy amount. That’s why I think if you’re in Tokyo solely to explore Tokyo the closer to the Yamanote Line the better if you solely plan on visiting Tokyo and its main spot.
Other pieces of information:
Currency: Yen ¥
You can either change your money before your trip or withdraw there. I feel that sometimes it’s a little bit better to directly withdraw. Just check beforehand how much your bank charges you when you withdraw money abroad or if you can subscribe a travel option to avoid fees!
Adaptor: Japan power sockets are of type A and B so unless you’re from the U.S.A you will need an adaptor.
Do you I need to know how to speak Japanese? You don’t need to know how to speak Japanese per se, as long as you stay in the capital/touristy spot you’ll always find someone that will be able to help you. And signs aren’t only written in Japanese (Kanji) so it’s fine. Besides with the Olympic Game of 2020 more and more of the complexes and shops in Tokyo are trying to be more English friendly.
However now, while it might not be needed I believe it’s always nice to know a few basics of the country you’re visiting, such as Thank you…
And this concludes my Tokyo Ultimate Guide!
Hopefully, this guide will help you to organise your first time in Tokyo and fully enjoy it! If you have any more question, let me know in the comment below 🙂
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Little disclaimer: I am by no means an expert, this is all based on my own experience and research during my trips to Tokyo 🙂