Finding what to do in Tokyo in 5 days is easier than you think. Being the world's largest megapolis, Tokyo has something for everyone. We first spent two weeks in Japan and loved every second of our time there. Even though we enjoy each and every Japanese city, our heart was stolen by Tokyo, the capital city. The reason? It's vibrant, colourful, unique and incredibly systematic.
Everything works in Tokyo, the customer service is incredible and with over 50 things to do in Tokyo, you are guaranteed to never be bored. A simple journey around the main subway station can transform into a whole day of exploring shops, boutiques and eateries. Japan knows how to keep you entertain whether is through food, museums or cultural activities.
Here is what to do in Tokyo in 5 days. We guarantee you won't be disappointed, but you will absolutely love your time in the world's coolest capital city.
What to do in Tokyo in 5 days - Contents
Day 1 - Senso-Ji - Nakamise Dori - Asakusa - Ueno Park
I really enjoyed our time in Asakusa because, unlike many other parts of Tokyo, this district managed to preserve a bit of old Tokyo which we really wanted to see. Imagine narrow lanes with wooden houses. This part of Tokyo is also relatively quiet and distinctive. Senso-Ji is one of the oldest and most visited temples in Tokyo. So expect it to be busy. However, if you don't want to shop around, we also recommend visiting Senso-Ji at night. The temple grounds are open 24/7 so you can have the place for yourself. Ready to kick-start? Here is what to do in Tokyo during day 1.
Start your day with a visit to Senso-Ji. We recommend visiting as early as possible. Even after 8 am the place gets pretty crowded. You can see and photograph omikuji here, the famed Japanese fortune telling paper strips. You should also draw an omikuji yourself and see what the Japanese Gods have planned for you. In general, the temple grounds look very good with Japanese landscape gardens and a little pond. Don't miss the huge wall made of sake barrels. It's a great place for photography as well.
If you skipped breakfast at your hotel to rush to Senso-Ji, don't worry, as the mile-long street approaching Senso-Ji is specialised in street food. Nothing better than starting the day with a handful of treats. Buy rice crisps, soy doughnuts and even freshly made udon. There is something for everyone so don't miss out on the street food. Note that prices are a little higher as this is a tourist attraction, but it's a great time to get into popular Japanese food.
Since you are already in Asakusa, take a few hours and explore the district. We recommend just walking around narrow lanes, stopping for pictures and shopping. In Asakusa, you can find a lot of shops which cater for restaurant owners. But this is great news, as prices are much lower than in many other places in Tokyo. So this is your chance to buy Japanese utensils you can use at home. We got some really beautiful authentic Japanese chopsticks and two wonderful ramen bowls. You can find norens as well to buy as souvenirs for a fifth of the normal price.
Lunch at Sometaro Okonomiyaki
It's lunchtime and trust me when it comes to food, you can't really go wrong with eating almost anywhere in Tokyo. You can have a look at some of the essential Tokyo restaurants we recommend, but you can, of course, go wild and eat wherever you fancy. Alright, so why Sometaro Okonomiyaki? Okonomiyaki has an English menu for your ease and you can make your own food on the spot. It's a bit of fun experimenting with Japanese food. Okonomiyaki is a savoury Japanese pancake with many layers of ingredients. It's delicious!
Walk to Ueno Park
From Asakusa, make your way to Ueno Park. We actually recommend that you walk and don't take the subway. This is one of my favourite places in Tokyo, because houses here don't look crazy. The place looks quiet and serene, unlike many other districts in Tokyo. Once you get to Ueno Park, spend some time exploring the park. If you visit during the cherry blossom, you will see many people, enjoying a picnic under the sakura trees.
There are several museums in Ueno Park, including the main Tokyo Museum where you can learn more about the history of Japan. We allocated a full afternoon exploring the museum district and we recommend you do the same.
Street Food in Ueno Park
Ueno has several networks of street food located right in front of the park, close to the subway station. Dive in and get lose in those colourful alleyways, filled with street vendors. You can find various clothing items, weird Japanese trinkets as well as some of the best street food we tried in Tokyo. Prices are reasonable as well. Try the octopus balls and all sweets that come your way. This is a great place for dinner as well.
Day 2 - Tsukiji - Chiyoda - Ginza
By now, you should feel more comfortable with Tokyo. Don't forget to make use of the Tokyo subway map which is very handy for when you want to travel around the city. On day 2 in Tokyo, you will kick start with a fishy breakfast (literally), a beautiful walk around the Imperial Palace, lunch in one of Tokyo's new and impressive department stores and finish off with a walk around one of the most expensive and exquisite districts: Ginza.
How would you like to visit the world's largest seafood market? Well since you are in Tokyo, you can! And the best news? It's absolutely free. Just arrive relatively early and start shopping for your fishy breakfast. There have been some unfortunate incidents with tourists in Tsukiji Market and there are talks that some vendors want the market to be closed to foreigners. To avoid this, we kindly remind you to familiarise yourself with Japanese manners and etiquette.
After around 8 am or so, several street vendors and restaurants open for business where you can sample local delicacies, caught on that very day. The food is literally as fresh as it gets.
The Imperial Palace is the residence of Japan's imperial family. You can access the East Gardens which are open to the public. The inner gardens are not open to the public, except on December 23rd, on the Emperor's birthday.
Lunch at Marunouchi
You can have lunch at Marunouchi Building, Shin-Marunouchi Building or Tokyo Station. All three options have several shops and boutiques around so you can find yourself spending hours just marvelling around. Both Marunouchi and Shin-Marunouchi buildings have over 14 stories of shops with 2 or 3 stories dedicated to food alone. Prices are a bit on the higher side due to the location, but the food is well presented and pretty spectacular. We recommend a sushi session here. If, however, you are on a budget, head to the Tokyo Station and find bakeries as well as Tonkatsu Wako. We had lunch at Tonkatsu Wako for several days in a row, we liked it so much. The prices are friendly and a lot of Japanese queues there on a daily basis.
What's best than having a rest after food? Japan has so many parks which is pretty great considering how densely populated the city is. Just a short distance walk from the Tokyo station you can find yourself in Hibiya Park, a small park, but very lovely when you just want to sit under a sakura tree and relax for half an hour. It's also great for people watching and even more interesting during Spring / Summer when there are various activities held in this park.
Ginza in the evening
Shopping or not, there are so many things to do in Ginza. Ginza is an expensive and exquisite district which, in my opinion, looks best at night. That's when all shops light up and the avenue becomes full of neon colours. Ginza is also great during daytime but on the weekends, when for a few hours the traffic gets diverted and the main avenue becomes a pedestrian dream.
Dinner in Ginza
Even if you visit Tokyo on a budget, I'd say you can't miss the opportunity of a fancy dinner in Tokyo. Ginza is the place where you can find myriad expensive and exquisite eateries including Michelin Star restaurants. I don't suggest eating in places like this for the whole duration of your stay, but if you ever wanted to try a Michelin Star restaurant, I'd say Tokyo is the perfect place for it. The service, quality and aesthetics will leave you super impressed.
Day 3 - Meiji Shrine - Yoyogi - Harajuku - Omotesando - Shibuya
Now that we've eased you into Tokyo, it's time to visit one of the main vibrant places in Japan's capital city: Shibuya. But first, we'll start off with a spiritual journey around the park of 100,000 trees, we'll eat crazy pancakes and marvel at Japanese kawaii, before walking down my favourite avenue in Tokyo. We'll finish off with Shibuya, the famed pedestrian scramble which showcases how incredibly organised Japan truly is.
Meiji Shrine is a Shinto shrine dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken. If you are lucky, this is a great place to experience a traditional Japanese wedding. Of course, it goes without saying that you should admire it from afar and don't interrupt or try to run in for a picture. You can pay your respects at the Meiji Shrine and purchase an ema, which is a Japanese wooden plaque where you can write a wish and leave it behind at the temple grounds.
Yoyogi park, also known as the 100,000 trees park, is a large green space where people go for a relaxing walk when they need some peace and quiet. Yoyogi can also transform into a spot for entertainment when, during the weekend, various youngsters use the park to play music, juggle, and practice all sorts of interesting cultural activities.
From Yoyogi Park, make your way to Harajuku and walk down the famed Takeshita street. Into pop culture and weird fashion, this is the place for you. There are many weird things you can only find in Japan, and some of them will be in Harajuku. Find rainbow coloured cotton candy, delicious crazy pancakes and shop kawaii. You'll find many shops which sell unusual costumes and trendy clothing which the younger generations are into.
Lunch in Harajuku
If you leave it up to me, I suggest eating as many crazy pancakes as you can. However, if you are after something savoury, Harajuku has various restaurants which sell colourful plates with interesting dishes. To play it safe, you can always order a burger from The Tokyo Burger (cash only). If not, head over to Maisen and order a nice portion of Tonkatsu.
Ready for the coolest spot in Tokyo? Head over to the Omotesando Plaza and make your way to the very top. There, you will find a Starbucks as well as a cool beer garden where locals like to hang out. It's a really chilled place, with chairs, tables and wooden stairs. There are trees and bushes around as well as fairy lights which make the place look really dreamy. To top it all up, you can enjoy amazing views of Tokyo from above. Oh, and if you get lucky, on a clear day, you can even spot the famed Mount Fuji.
It should be getting darker by now, which is why I'm sending you on a cool walking journey from Omotesando Plaza, towards Shibuya. Take the road which links Omotesando Plaza with Omotesando Station. It's a large avenue with shops and boutiques on both sides. You are going to pass a shop called Oriental Bazaar. Go in and find an array of Japanese souvenirs. Make sure you check the label and purchase items which are actually made in Japan. You'll find various cards as well which look really spectacular. Once you reach Omotesando Station, either walk to Shibuya (15 minutes) or take the subway (Hanzomon Line 5 min or Ginza Line for 6 min).
Alas, Shibuya time! Are you excited? I know I was the first time I got to cross this amazing pedestrian scramble. It's so busy but also so incredibly vibrant and well organised. The beauty of it that you can find many things to do in Shibuya, beyond crossing the road over and over (like I did). I first visited in December, but the second time I visited Japan during the cherry blossom, we caught a glimpse of Shibuya on a rainy night. It looked incredible. So no matter the weather, you'll absolutely love it.
Dinner at Ichiran Shibuya
I'm going to start by saying that Ichiran is not a Japanese restaurant. From what I heard from several people, this is actually a Chinese place which sells Japanese ramen. So how come that I'm sending you to a Chinese restaurant during your Japan stay? Because the ramen at Ichiran is actually pretty unique. I don't know how they do it, but if you order the slight spicer version of your ramen, it's pretty incredible. When I think of ramen, several years later, I immediately think of Ichiran. Just bear in mind that the place is quite hyped at the moment, so expect a long queue.
Day 4 - Shinjuku Goyen - Tokyo Metropolitan Building - Memory Lane - Kabukicho - Golden Gai
How are you feeling gang? Ready for day 4 in Tokyo? Today it's going to be all about Shinjuku, one of my favourite places in Tokyo. When people say Tokyo is a world of contrasts, that's probably because they visited Shinjuku. Unlike other districts, Shinjuku is home to Asia's largest red district so things can get pretty interesting around here. Shinjuku is also home to the world's busiest train station, but also to a sea of incredible skyscrapers, which is where you are going to admire Tokyo from above. Today, you are going to fall in love with a wilder side of Tokyo. Ready? Let's go!
I'm sure you gathered by now that I love to ease into a day and start with a morning walk in the park. Shinjuku Goyen is huge so allocate a few hours for exploring it. The park itself is beautiful with Japanese landscape gardens and trimmed trees. There are so many picture opportunities in Shinjuku Goyen, you won't get bored exploring it.
Opening Hours: 9:00 to 16:30 (entry until 16:00)
Closed: Mondays, December 29 to January 3. There are no closing days during the cherry blossom season (late March to late April) and the Chrysanthemum Exhibition (first half of November).
Admission: 200 yen
Tokyo Metropolitan Building
How about seeing Tokyo from above for free? I mean it, entirely free! Skip the tourist traps like the Tokyo Skytree and head over to the Tokyo Metropolitan Building. It is located in Shinjuku's Skyscraper district which looks incredibly cosmopolitan and lush. Once you arrive at the Tokyo Metropolitan Building, follow the instructions on how to get to the observatory deck. A fast lift will take you to the top, from where you can admire the beauty of Tokyo. It sure looks fantastic during night time as well, so feel free to come back as many times as you fancy.
Lunch at the Standing Sushi Bar
It's sushi time! Well, in reality, it's always sushi time in Japan. For a nice and delicious lunch, head over to the Standing Sushi Bar (Uogashi Nihon-Ichi) and east as many rolls as possible.
Memory Lane, also known as the Piss Alley is an interesting place with quite a bit of history. This has nothing to do with dirt or people urinating around, but it got its name during the prohibition time where locals were visiting this place to purchase commodities, otherwise forbidden. Nowadays, it's a lively place with many small stalls selling yakitori and drinks. Even if you don't wish to sit down and enjoy a meal, you should still take your camera and walk up and down the lane. It's really quite atmospheric.
Kabukicho. or the Red District is where you will find adult-only entertainment. Just remember that a lot of these places are run by the Japanese mafia so everyone suggests that unless you speak good Japanese, better watch but not touch. There have been a lot of incidents where foreigners were robbed or had to deal with credit card fraud. So it's best to just walk around, admire the place and be intrigued. Also, a quick note, that many restaurants in the area don't sell amazing quality and tend to be overpriced.
Golden Gai is home to over 200 bars and eateries. Most places here are incredibly small. We're talking about 3-5 chairs around a very small bar. So as you can imagine, things can get a bit cosy. People often get chatty so it's good to start interacting with locals. Some bars only allow regulars in so don't be offended if you are denied entry to the establishment. When bars have English menus outside, it's usually a cue that you can go in.
Dinner at Golden Gai
Since you are already in a nightlife neighbourhood, what better place to enjoy local specialities than in Golden Gai. As previously mentioned, you can get food and drinks as well. You can do some bar hopping in order to experience as many interesting culinary delights as possible. Just note that portions will be quite small so you might want to order several items.
Day 5 - Shibamata - Akihabara
We are soon getting to the end of your 5 days in Tokyo. Don't be sad, I know you will start planning your return the moment you get back home. At least that's what we did. And we even lived in Tokyo for half a year. We wish we could have stayed longer. The last day in Tokyo is about exploring an old neighbourhood called Shibamata. It will feel a little retro, especially after spending a wild night in Shinjuku. You'll have a delicious bento box for lunch and indulge in dango, a super yum Japanese speciality, before heading to the last stop: Akihabara. Now, I have a love and hate relationship with Akihabara, but more on that a little later in the article. So, grab the camera and let's go explore some more.
Shibamata is not a touristy place in Tokyo. In fact, it's as off the beaten path as it gets. You'll find that many of the older generations live here, so this district looks like it's trapped in time. You'll find retro shops, childhood sweets, arcades and various collectables. There is also a temple here called the Shibamata Taishakuten temple. The reason I think you should visit this place is because everyone sees a vibrant Tokyo but few actually experience a more calm and serene part of the city. Besides, there is more to Tokyo than its main touristy districts. Shibamata is just nice in its unique way.
Lunch at Kameya Honpo
You will have the best lunch at Kameya Honpo. It doesn't look much and the interior is a bit dated. But the service is nice and the food is delicious. The presentation of the food is also good. Take your time, enjoy every bit of the food. We sure did. In Kameya Honpo time slowed time but in a good way. We were surrounded by old people who came to enjoy lunch and there was this really good feeling throughout the establishment. Call it zen if you wish. Outside the Kameya Honpo you can also buy dangos with various sauces on them. Please try the sakura and yuzu. They are outstanding.
Time to take the train back and stop at Akihabara station. As soon as the sun goes down, Akihabara becomes explosive. It's nicknamed Electric Town for a reason. But Akihabara is not for everyone. It's a great place if you love manga and anime, but it's also a darker place where you might yourself wondering why so many young looking girls wear provocative clothing. There are large posters and signs which advertise maid cafes and indecently dressed characters. Either way, Akihabara is unique and you should not skip it during your trip to Japan.
Shop in Akihabara
As already mentioned, if you love anime and manga, then you are in the right place. You'll find an array of miniatures, posters and all things Japanese. You can also find many electronics here for much cheaper than in other places around Tokyo. Spend some time in Don Quijote, a bargain shop which sells everything from cosmetics, through sex toys, to cosplay items. Also, if you are after something a bit naughtier, just visit M's, Tokyo's most popular sex shop.
Dinner at Nemurian
Nemurian is a small shop which sells really good soba noodles. If you prefer Tonkatsu, head to Marugo or visit Go Go Curry Akihabara Chūōdōri for a yum portion of Japanese curry.
Accommodation In Tokyo
There are plenty of great accommodation options in the heart of Tokyo. If you want to enjoy proximity to most of the city's main attraction, finding a hotel in Shibuya or Shinjuku might be a great choice. Alternatively, you can enjoy the quiet quarters of Chiyoda or immerse yourself in a more luxury option in Ginza. Whether you are a budget, midrange or luxury traveller, we curated our favourite accommodation in Tokyo to make sure you are comfortable and enjoy your stay. Please check where to stay in Tokyo for more options in other, quieter neighbourhoods.