If you’re thinking of visiting Tokyo but are feeling a bit overwhelmed with the plethora of things to do, check out my Tokyo 5 day itinerary below that suits a mid-range budget and at a medium pace of exploration:

Tokyo 5 day itinerary

Day 1 – Shinjuku

If you’re a first time visitor to Tokyo, then I’d highly recommend staying in Shinjuku. the Shinjuku area is often regarded as a financial district, but it’s extremely well connected and there are a lot of things to do here!

1. Tokyo Metropolitan building for city views

Tokyo 5 day itinerary - Tokyo Metropolitan building views
Lovely views from the Tokyo Metropolitan building

You can start off your first day in Tokyo by heading to the Tokyo Metropolitan building, where you can access city views for free, along with a guide. Getting a first-hand understanding of the different areas and enjoying the views is one of the best ways to acclimatise to a new place. There’s also a cafe upstairs, so feel free to grab a cuppa.

2. Samurai museum

Dressing up as Samurai was fun!
Dressing up as Samurai was fun!

The Samurai museum is one of the highlights of this itinerary. The museum is located next to the Robot restaurant, and the area around you is chockfull of restaurants, cafes and bars. Choose whatever you like, from ramen to tacos. The Samurai museum offers you guided tours in English. The tickets cost you 1,500 yen (adults) and also includes the experience of dressing up as a Samurai. You will also get to witness a Samurai demo.

3. Robot Restaurant

Robot Restaurant
See everything psychedelic at Robot Restaurant

Next, head to the famous Robot Restaurant after lunch. This show is everything outrageous and more, with dancers, singers and robots. It’s a long way down deep into a basement and they offer you various drinks and snacks between the show. I would advise being careful about bringing children or people who have a sensitive vision, hearing or for those who have epilepsy as there are a lot of flashing lights. The show is quite long, almost 1.5 hours, but it provides a lot of entertainment. You can check out Voyagin for cheap tickets (this one is 40% off).

4. Devour delicious yakitori in Piss Alley/ Memory Lane

Delicious yakitori at Memory Lane
Delicious yakitori!

I know, thinking of eating in a place literally called “Piss Alley” might seem a bit unnerving, but it’s home to some of the best food that Tokyo can offer. Located quite close to Shinjuku station, Piss Alley/Memory Lane is a little lane full of restaurants with affordable yakitori on offer. You have a range of different grilled skewers to choose from (vegetarian too) as well as a few ramen shops. I’ve had some of the best shoyu ramen with veggie tempura here. The place was called “Piss Alley” because of the lack of toilet facilities. It’s a popular watering hole for locals and tourists alike.

Day 2 – Asakusa

Witness a sumo practice

While I missed this when I visited in February, you must check out a sumo practice if you are in Tokyo to witness the amazing discipline about it. Check out You Could Travel’s post and itinerary on Tokyo for more. Cory’s & her husband’s posts are extremely informative and useful and were crucial to my research on travelling to Japan.

Senso-Ji temple

The entrance to Senso-Ji Temple
Your Tokyo 5 day itinerary should include a visit to Senso-Ji Temple

Our very first Buddhist temple in Japan, Senso-Ji is located in an area called Asakusa, which is a short metro trip away from Shinjuku. Senso-Ji temple has a lovely temple complex. Spend your time walking around this shrine and enjoy the lovely traditional, old town feel of the Asakusa area, which is quite different than the rest of Tokyo. Also try to get an ‘Omikuji’ – a fortune at the temple. You shake the box and pull out a stick with a number. After you get the number, open a box to get a fortune. If it’s a good fortune, keep it. If not, you can tie it to a neighbouring tree and leave bad fortune behind you.

Street food & souvenirs at Nakamise Dori

Delicious melon bun with ice cream
Delicious melon bun with ice cream

On the way to the main Senso-Ji temple, you will find many shops full of souvenirs. This is a nice place to pick up ‘yukata’ or a summer kimono at a reasonable price. I would also recommend trying out the different food on offer, especially the fresh melon buns and matcha ice cream.

Visit Kappabashi street for culinary souvenirs

Kappabashi shopping street
One of the charming coffee spots we passed by

After your visit to the temple, head to Kappabashi street nearby to grab some beautiful Japanese kitchenware. You will also find a variety of excellent quality Japanese knives. Besides this, you will also find chopsticks, a variety of bowls, matcha sets and more. There are also a lot of charming coffee shops with specialty coffee on offer if you’d like a break from all that walking.

Cheap souvenirs at Don Quijote

Don Quijote - an epic souvenir & department store
Don Quijote – an epic souvenir & department store

While this has nothing to do with the epic novel, Don Quijote is a haven for cheap souvenirs and pretty much everything under the sun. It’s a massive superstore that has clothing, food and more. It has to truly be seen to be believed. You can find everything under the sun here. Really. It’s also a great place to pick up some Japanese skin care products. If you are as clueless as I was about this, then please check out my friend Haiya’s guide to Japanese skincare to help you decide which products to buy. It also helps to download Google translate in order to read the packaging & instructions (also with restaurant menus!).

Golden Gai

Golden Gai is home to over 200 bars!
Golden Gai is home to over 200 bars!

Once you’re done thoroughly exploring Asakusa, head over to the Golden Gai area for a tipple or two. This area is home to over 200 bars, all of which are NOT tourist-friendly. You will know which these are on sight. Most bars will actually state they are tourist-friendly. Some of them will even offer cover charges, so choose accordingly. These bars are often quite tight on space and very crowded, but it’s all good fun! I would recommend you eat elsewhere, as it’s a place to have drinks and food might not be available.

Day 3 – Shibuya

Visit the Imperial Palace gardens

Caught the first cherry blossoms of the season!
Caught the first cherry blossoms of the season!

Another free activity to do on your Tokyo 5 day itinerary is to visit the Imperial Palace gardens. The gardens here are truly beautiful and rich in flora throughout the year, so even if you visit Tokyo in winter, you still will be able to appreciate its beauty. We visited in February, and though it looked sparse, we were lucky to be able to view the beginning of cherry blossom season.

See the Meiji shrine at Yoyogi Park

Beautiful Meiji Shrine

Head over to the Meiji shrine next, where you will be struck in awe at the beauty of this ancient Shinto shrine. Make sure you take pics near the cool sake barrels! Make sure the shrine is visited before 5pm, as they don’t allow in visitors after that. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to see a traditional Shinto wedding.

Harajuku Takeshita street

Harajuku Takeshita street

If you’re looking for everything kawaii (cute), then you must head over to the edgy Harajuku area, located within walking distance of Shibuya or a short one stop away by the train. This area is extremely instagrammable, so whip your camera out and make sure you have lots of pictures!

If you have an international driving licence, consider a ‘Mari-car’ tour, where you can don a costume of your favourite character and enjoy go-carting in the middle of the city.

Day 4 – Ginza & Akihabara

Watch a Kabuki show

Another place for luxury shoppers, Ginza is the upscale district in Tokyo. If shopping isn’t really your thing, consider heading to the Kabukiza theatre, a short walk away from Ginza station. Over here, you can choose to watch one to up to three acts, but please make sure that you arrive at least half an hour to secure your seats. Kabuki is an ancient Japanese-style theatre show with elaborate costumes. Please note you are not allowed to take pictures during the show. They also provide translations devices for 500 yen and an additional 1000 yen deposit that you can get back on returning of the device.

Tsukiji market

White strawberries at Tsukiji market in Tokyo, Japan
Try delicious white strawberries at Tsukiji market

After you are done shopping and watching Kabukiza, head on to the historic Tsukiji market. While it’s no longer an active fish market, it’s a great place to grab some street grub at affordable prices. The fish is sourced from the new Toyosu market.

Akihabara

Akihabara is viewed best by night
Akihabara is viewed best by night

Home to all things ‘otaku’, if you’re a gamer, then Akihabara is your place. Spend time ogling at various stores, where you can pick up both new and vintage games & manga at different price points. Akihabara is also home to famous ‘maid cafes’, where cute Japanese girls offer you the best service and equally cute menus.

Dinner at Roppongi Hills

Roppongi Hills is a swanky, luxurious district with some great restaurants. I recommend ‘Meat Man‘ for some lovely izakaya style food and shochu cocktails. Head over for a delightful rum tasting (if you’re not into sake/shochu) to Tafia.

Day 5- Take a day trip!

If you’re looking for a day-trip from Tokyo, there are various options. I highly recommend a trip to Kamakura, a short 1.5 hour train ride away. Hakone is also located close to Tokyo and provides a lovely, different and quaint scenery. Alternatively, you can also head out to DisneySea and Disneyland.

Where to stay in Tokyo

If you are a first-time visitor to Tokyo, then I highly recommend staying at the Hotel Sunroute Plaza in Shinjuku. It’s very close to the station and extremely accessible. They also provide you with nightwear, which is an interesting plus! Other great places to stay include Ginza for those that love luxury shopping and Shibuya (we also stayed in this hotel), where there’s lots of city life!

How to move around Tokyo

While it may seem quite intimidating, the best way to see Tokyo is by walking around and taking the train. You do not need a Japan Rail Pass unless you are travelling to more cities in Japan. Instead, there are several 24, 48 and 72 hour passes available for tourists that cover almost all metro and subway lines. You can get them at major stations such as Shinjuku station. Make sure you carry your passport with you though, as it will be verified.

Here are the latest prices as per the Tokyo Metro website:

  • Tokyo Subway 24-hour Ticket – Adult: 800 yen (US$7), Child: 400 yen (US$3.5)
  • Tokyo Subway 48-hour Ticket – Adult: 1,200 yen (US$10), Child: 600 yen (US$5)
  • Tokyo Subway 72-hour Ticket – Adult: 1,500 yen (US$13), Child: 750 yen (US$6)

I would also consider investing in a pocket wifi device to help you navigate throughout the city. If you use Tokyo Cheapo’s affiliate link for Ninja Wifi, it enables you for a really good discount. Check it out here. The pocket wifi device can be picked up and dropped off at the airport or to your hotel.

Tax-free shopping

Most major stores in Japan offer tax-free shopping for purchases above 5,000 yen, so shop away! Make sure you have your passport with you though.

Hands-free travel

This is the most interesting & unique part about Japan as far as I’m concerned. If you are worried about lugging your bags everywhere you go and if you have onward travel from Tokyo, then you must check out the delivery service of bags to your hotel. Alternatively, you can also use your coin lockers or the same facilities to store oversized baggage. If you want to transfer bags from hotel to hotel, then you can do that too! We were taking a 16 day trip, so we had a lot of luggage & shopping as well, so this was a total life-saver! Here is an extensive list of hands-free travel service centres across Japan.

What to eat in Tokyo

Tokyo (and pretty much the rest of Japan!) has amazing options for dining. I’ve decided to highlight this all in my next post, so stay tuned for this!

Where to next?

Depending on how much time you have, I would also highly recommend a trip to a neighbouring hill-station called Hakone to view Mt Fuji, or even a shinkansen ride to Kyoto, where you can spend two to three days.

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3 Comments

  1. Could have done 2 to 3 places in 1 day. This intenerary wasted so much time specially Ginza for a whole day?
    Day 1 Shinjuku Park, Metropolitan bldng, Samurai Museum, VR park

    Day 2 Shibuya crossing, 109, Harajuku, meiji shrine, yoyogi park, omotesando hills.

    Day 3 Palace, Ginza, Akihabara

    Day 4 Asakusa Shrine, rent kimono, Street shopping, Skytree or Tokyo Tower, sunset view

    Day 5 mt fuji day trip or Kamakura or if less cultural and have kids they will enjoy either Dosneyland or Disneysea

    1. Hi there Nomad! Thanks for your feedback, we did do the TeamLab exhibition after Ginza, but I didn’t want to feature it as it’s now over. I agree with you that Ginza for some can be boring to spend the whole day in, unless they’re watching all 3 acts of Kabuki. Thanks to you, I will now revise this element of the itinerary and will add some more things to do! Cheers.

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