Guides

48 hours in Tokyo - the mega-city made manageable

Hotel search

Tokyo is part of the largest urban area on Earth, so a solid plan is essential if you want to avoid getting lost in the seemingly endless urban expanse. Here’s an itinerary for a short stay in the city that will allow you to see the best parts of Japan’s colossal capital.

Friday

5 p.m. – Tokyo’s main international airport is situated in the town of Narita, 70km outside the city. This distance makes taxis an expensive option – they can cost more than ¥30,000 ($240). Luckily there are plenty of public transport options available. The Skyliner and Narita express train services will get you to Tokyo Central Station in 45 minutes for less than ¥3,000. The cheapest option is the “Super Shuttle” bus service, which runs to several stops in central Tokyo for ¥1,000.

7 p.m. – Your first stop should be the impressive Imperial Palace, right by Tokyo Central Station. There’s plenty to see just exploring the palace grounds and gardens, but if you want a look inside make sure to book a tour in advance. When you start to feel hungry, head south out of the grounds to Shin-Hinomoto. This tiny place is a typical example of an izakaya – half bar, half restaurant. Crammed under the railway lines at Yurakucho, this noisy, smoke-filled spot is authentic as it gets and serves fabulous food, particularly its delicate spiced tempura.

 

9 p.m. – After dinner, catch the metro up to Shinjuku and check out the “Golden Gai”, a warren of streets filled with bars and restaurants. Many of them have strange and unique themes and décor. Explore the area and pick one that appeals to you for a few drinks, then wander over to Karaoke Kan - the very place visited by Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson in “Lost in Translation” - to enjoy a bout of Japan’s favorite late-night pastime.

 

Saturday

9 a.m. – Start the day by taking the metro south to the immense mega-complex Roppongi Hills, dominated by a 54-storey Mori Tower. Go and browse the brightly-lit, immaculately clean malls and then ascend to the observation deck to check out the Tokyo skyline.

 

11 a.m. – Having seen the wonders of modern Japan, take the short walk to the National Art Center to see some rather older works. The museum has no permanent collection in its stunning exterior, but rather hosts a varied and ever-changing series of displays and exhibitions.

 

1 p.m. – For lunch, check out Shonzui around the corner, a fantastic hole-in-the-wall in an alley hidden between the shadows of neighboring towers. It serves unusually hearty and rich food for Japan - locals love the tender teriyaki rump steak, and the restaurant is known for its fantastic wine.

 

4 p.m. – Once you’re fortified, it’s time to head to one of the city’s biggest attractions: the Meiji Shrine. The shrine itself is buried deep within beautiful gardens, so prepare for a walk. When you reach the ancient structure make sure to be respectful, as it’s still used for weddings and other services today.

 

7 p.m. – Having enjoyed some tranquility, it’s time to visit one of the most famously busy places in the world: take the metro a couple of stops south to Shibuya station, where you can experience the sensory overload of the Shibuya Crossing.

 

9 p.m. – Trendy Shibuya is also home to Tokyo’s best clubs. Don’t be put off by the expensive cover charges, as drinks are comparatively cheap. There’s something for everyone too: Womb is the place to go for dark, underground techno vibes; while LeBaron caters for the table service and the VIP crowd.

 

Sunday

9 a.m. – The really dedicated can get up at 4-5am to visit Tsukiji Market when the early morning fish auction takes place, but a wander round the enormous market when the main area opens at 9 is equally enjoyable. Prepare to see all manner of curious sea-creatures, and some of the freshest, tastiest looking fish you’ve ever seen.

 

10 a.m. – Head south out of the market to the Hamarikyu Gardens for some fresh air, then take the water bus – which leaves from the gardens – up the river to the Asakusa district.

 

2 p.m. – Asakusa is the most traditional part of Tokyo, and an interesting place to explore. It’s also home to the famous Senso-Ji Buddhist shrine. When you’ve seen enough of the gorgeous architecture, head out of the shrine complex to Asakusa Imahan, one of Tokyo’s finest restaurants. Try the lunch deal with beef: the waitress will demonstrate how to cook it using a couple of slices, the rest of the plate is up to you!

 

4 p.m. – When you’ve eaten, take a taxi the short trip to UENO Park, the prettiest of Tokyo’s many famous green spaces. Within its grounds is the Tokyo National Museum, which has an enormous collection of art and archaeological artefacts.

 

5 p.m. – On your way back to Tokyo Central, jump off the metro and explore Akihabara, home of Tokyo’s famous electronics districts. Marvel at the amazing robots and gleaming tech-shops, and get rid of your change in one of the brightly-lit arcades.

 

If you have more time…

Visitors who want to squeeze more culture into their trip shouldn’t miss the Edo-Tokyo Museum, which chronicles the history of the city from tiny fishing village to today’s megacity of more than thirty million people.

 

Fans of Japanese cinema will enjoy the Ghibli Museum, which is full of exhibits and memorabilia relating to the world famous Studio Ghibli. Sports fans shouldn’t miss out on a visit to the Tokyo Dome, home of the Yomiuiri Giants baseball team. The stadium also hosts all manner of events year-round, from pop concerts to monster truck races.

 

Further to the gardens and parks mentioned in the itinerary, the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is a particularly gorgeous space in central Tokyo, complete with peaceful ponds and elegant tea houses.

 

If the weather is clear, head to the Tokyo Skytree for a fabulous view of the sacred mountain, Mount Fuji, from the heart of the city. Better yet, if you’re looking to get out of town, the famous dormant volcano is easily accessible by train. Fujino, a small town an hour and a half away by train, is another popular rural retreat for those who want to do some hiking or just enjoy some peace and quiet.

 

Location/contact details:

Day one

Imperial Palace

sankan.kunaicho.go.jp

03-3213-1111

 

Shin-Hinomoto

2-4-4 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-006

03-3214-8021

 

Karaoke Kan

1 Chome−23 Shinjuku, Kabukichō, Tokyo 160-0021

karaokekan.jp

03-5155-8631

 

Day two

Roppongi Hills

6 Chome-11-1 Roppongi, Minato, Tokyo 106-6108

www.roppongihills.com

03-6406-6000

 

The National Art Center

7 Chome-22-2 Roppongi, Minato, Tokyo 106-8558

www.nact.jp

03-5777-8600

 

Sushi Bar Yasuda

4 Chome-2-6 Minamiaoyama, Minato, Tokyo 107-0062

www.sushibaryasuda.com

03-6447-0232

 

Meiji Shrine Gyoen

www.meijijingu.or.jp

03-3379-5511

 

Womb

150-0044, Shibuya, Tokyo

www.womb.co.jp

03-5459-0039

 

Le Baron

Aoyama Center Bldg B1F 3.8 Minami-Aoyama

www.lebaron.jp

03-3408-3665

 

Day three

Tsukiji Market

5 Chome-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0045, Japan

www.tsukiji-market.or.jp

03-3542-1111

 

Hamarikyu Gardens

1-1 Hamarikyuteien, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0046, Japan

teien.tokyo-park.or.jp

03-3541-0200

 

Sensō-ji

2 Chome-3-1 Asakusa, Taito, Tokyo 111-0032, Japan

www.senso-ji.jp

03-3842-0181

 

Asakusa Imahan

3-1-12 Nishiasakusa, Taito, Tokyo 111-0035, Japan

03-3841-1114

 

Tokyo National Museum

13-9 Uenokoen, Taito, Tokyo 110-8712, Japan

www.tnm.jp

03-3822-1111

 

Other tips

Edo-Tokyo Museum

1 Chome-4-1 Yokoami, Sumida, Tokyo 130-0015, Japan

www.edo-tokyo-museum.or.jp

03-3626-9974

 

Ghibli Museum

1 Chome-1-83 Shimorenjaku, Mitaka, Tokyo 181-0013, Japan

www.ghibli-museum.jp

0570-055-777

 

Tokyo Dome

1 Chome-3-61 Koraku, Bunkyo, Tokyo 112-0004, Japan

www.tokyo-dome.co.jp

03-5800-9999

 

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

11 Naitōmachi, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0014, Japan

www.env.go.jp

03-3350-0151

 

Tokyo Skytree

1 Chome-1-2 Oshiage, Sumida, Tokyo 131-0045, Japan

www.tokyo-skytree.jp

0570-550-634