I think it's fair to assume that 1 day in Tokyo might just about give you an idea of how incredible Japan's capital is. A city of many personalities, Tokyo is the perfect place for good food, extraordinary experiences and bizarre pop culture. Tokyo is not just about the overwhelming chaos of neon lights and seven stories tall department stores but it is also a place of quiet contemplation & harmony within the walls of the many shrines & temples. Although it is impossible to see everything, 24 hours in Tokyo might just be enough for you to fall in love with the city and want to come back for more.
Below, we will try to give you an idea on how to spend 1 day in Tokyo.
1 day in Tokyo (the essential must see) - Contents
1 day in Tokyo
Get ready, because this is going to be a super quick day in Tokyo. By the end of it, I'm sure you will be planning your next trip and will want to spend at least 7 days in Tokyo. But for now, let's focus on the task at hand and go on a quick tour. I'm starting with breakfast, taking you to the must-see places, then ending the day with a really cool shopping opportunity in one of the coolest districts in the world. So let's get going!
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Breakfast at Tokyo Station
The first thing to do in Tokyo is to have breakfast. It's early morning and you need to fuel up.
Head over to Bubby's Yaesu, located in the Tokyo main train station. Grab some fruity pancakes and a large mug of coffee. Although this place is an American style place with large portions, you will be happy that you had the extra energy. We had breakfast here on a couple of occasions. I loved the food and the coffee tasted fantastic. We also loved the decor and how friendly the staff were. And hey, don't shy away from a brownie with ice cream, I mean you are on holiday after all.
Take the subway from Tokyo Station to Kita-Sando. This journey will take approximately 25 minutes. Board the subway at the Tokyo Station, change to Fukutoshin line at Shinjukusanchrome Station and get off at Kita-Sando Station.
Once you are overground, find the entrance to Yoyogi Park via the huge Meiji Jingu wooden Torii gate. Enjoy the peaceful Yoyogi Park and slowly make your way towards Meiji Jingu, the famous Shinto Shrine.
Surrounded by 100.000 trees planted by just as many worldwide volunteers, Meiji Jingu is a Shinto shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his Empress, Shoken. Established in 1920 but burned during the 1945 air raids of the war, the main shrine building was rebuilt and reopened in 1958. Today it is home to many ceremonies and festivities happening throughout the whole year round.
Meiji Jingu Etiquette
When entering and leaving the shrine archway (the wooden Torii gate) you must bow once. At the Temizuya (this is a purification font to allow shrine visitors to rinse hands and mouth in a symbolic purification) rinse your left land, then your right hand. Pour water into your left hand, rinse your mouth then rinse your left hand again. Now rinse the dipper and leave the font tidy for the next person.
If you would like to make a wish at the shrine you can buy an ema or you can throw coins in the dedicated box.
This is what you need to do:
Throw the coins into the box in front of you, bow twice, clap your hands twice, make a wish and bow again. Your wish is now in the hands of the friendly spirits.
These actions are your way of showing respect and asking the spirits to help you fulfil your wish.
Make your way out of Yoyogi Park and into Harajuku. You can spend hours and hours going around Harajuku, exploring this colourful and vibrant district. Not only the epicentre of Tokyo for crazy teen fashion but the kawaii (Japanese word for cute) bonanza too.
Walk around the streets of Harajuku and find Lolita style clothing and accessories, dressed up locals in shockingly vivid colours and REALLY cute shops. Find the Harajuku Crazy pancakes and try some cone-shaped crepe filled with cream, fruit and matcha cheesecake. This is also the best place to stop and eat some amazing food at Jingu Ramen. Although it looks a bit like a hole in the wall, the place has the Harajuku vibe to it.
Secret Tokyo Spot
Escape Tokyo's organised chaos by visiting the Tokyo Plaza Omotesando. Although busy with youngsters roaming in search of their perfect outfit, worry not, as I'm sending you to a very chilled and peaceful spot, right in the heart of Harajuku.
Make your way to the top floor by following the signs for Starbucks. Grab a hot green tea and find a spot on the terrace, a laid-back place, tastefully decorated and full of hip people. Here, you can get some really nice views of the Tokyo skyline. Listen to some nice music and take a few minutes break.
Tip: Take a look over the glass walls on the left (your back to the exit), on clear days you can see the Fuji mountain. If you happen to arrive here at dusk, you might see an awesome sunset.
Exit the Tokyo Plaza and start walking down the main boulevard towards Shibuya. This is the time to marvel at superbly decorated high street stores, stop for sushi or have some matcha tea desert at some of the coolest cafes in the neighbourhood.
After about 20 minutes walk, you will arrive at the famous Shibuya Crossing, world's busiest pedestrian crossing. If you want to photograph the crossing from above, you can do so from the Starbucks located right in front of Shibuya. Since it's a popular tourist destination with limited seats upstairs, there might be quite a long waiting time.
The Story of Hachikō
This is a rather neglected story and many ask what is the relevance of the dog statue in front of the Shibuya station. Hachikō was professor Hidesaburō Ueno's brown Akita pet.
Every single day for more than a year, Hachikō greeted the professor in front of the Shibuya station, until May 1925, when professor Ueno suffered from a cerebral haemorrhage and died, never returning to their meeting spot where Hachikō was patiently waiting. For the next nine years, nine months and fifteen days, Hachikō returned to the Shibuya Station waiting for professor Ueno's return, precisely at the exact time when his train was due at the station.
Dinner in Shibuya
Learn more about Tokyo by walking around Shibuya's streets and enjoying its electric beat. If you are hungry, have dinner at an authentic udon noodle restaurant.
Have a look at the menu located right next to the vending machine. Insert money into the machine and press the buttons correspondent to your desired dishes and drinks. The machine will register your order and will return a ticket and your change. Give your ticket to the staff and take a seat, your food will arrive shortly. When you finish eating, simply stand up and go. How about that for efficient?
From Shibuya, hop on a subway and head over to Roppongi Hills. This is where you will find a 54 story skyscraper with a sky deck open to visitors.
Yes, that's right, you can have the best views of Tokyo! It costs 2300 yen per adult (including the Sky Deck). You can buy your tickets in advance at pretty much any convenience store and save up to 300 yen per adult. You can check out the sunrise and sunset time on the Official Roppongi Hills website.
Finish your day in Ginza
Take the subway from Roppongi Hills and reach your final Tokyo destination for the day: Ginza.
Ginza is Tokyo's shopping district, the place where you will find internationally renowned brands, impressive (and expensive) boutiques, inviting coffeehouses and crazy large department stores. The reason why I would want to visit Ginza last, is because this district looks at its best when it gets dark. That's when all the stores come to life and truly lit up.
Ginza is majestic, fantastic and luring. You can spend so much time (and money) here.
Since you have reached the end of your day in Tokyo, feel free to wander around the shopping streets and pick up your well-deserved souvenirs. Have a late-night dessert in one of Ginza's many cafes, then make your way to the subway, and back to Tokyo Main Station.
I hope you enjoyed your 1 day in Tokyo. Please don't forget to check how to plan a trip to Japan including tips and tricks on how to better use the transportation system so you can get around quickly and effectively.