Most people dream of visiting Japan. The food, the culture, the people – you can’t help but be drawn to the island nation. Add onto that the upcoming 2019 World Rugby Cup and the 2020 Olympics, and the wanderlust is real. Visiting Japan is a trip of a lifetime, and Tokyo is the place to get a feel for it all. As the capital city of Japan and hottest destination for inbound travelers, Tokyo has everything. But what if you don’t have much time? Take a look at this 2 days in Tokyo itinerary that showcases the highlights of the city. Here’s your guide to seeing Tokyo in a weekend.
Note: This itinerary is optimized to be as efficient as possible. You don’t need to visit everything in order, however, it is most convenient if you do.
2-Day Tokyo Itinerary
Day 1: Meiji Shrine, Yoyogi Koen, Takeshita Dori, Shibuya Crossing
Day 1 in Tokyo explores the west side of the city, specifically the super popular areas of Harajuku and Shibuya. The closest stations to Harajuku are the JR Harajuku Station on the JR Yamanote Line and Meiji-Jingu-Mae Station on the Chiyoda and Fukutoshin Subway Lines. Meanwhile, the closest station to Shibuya is Shibuya Station on the JR Yamanote Line, the Keio Inokashira Line, the Saikyo Line, the Shonan Shinjuku Line, and the Narita Express as well as the Ginza, Hanzomon, and Fukutoshin Subway Lines.
Start your trip off with a visit to one of Tokyo’s biggest and most highly regarded Shinto shrines. Meiji Shrine, or Meiji Jingu (明治神宮), was constructed in the early 1900s and is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. It’s one of Japan’s most popular shrines with over 3 million people visiting around New Years each year, and it’s not uncommon to see a traditional Shinto wedding while here.
Just next door is a park called Yoyogi Koen (代々木公園). Before becoming a city park, the grounds were home to the 1964 Olympic Village. Today, Yoyogi Park is one of Tokyo’s largest parks and features plenty of space to relax and enjoy your surroundings. The park has ponds and trees, making it a popular spot for cherry blossom viewing in late March and fall leaf-viewing in late November. Know that during these times, the park is extremely crowded. While during the summer, Yoyogi Koen hosts weekend festivals.
Across the road from both Meiji Jingu and Yoyogi Park is the infamous Takeshita Street (Takeshita Dori 竹下通り). This small pedestrian alleyway is the center of youth fashion and subcultures. Here, you’ll find shops, boutiques, and cafes with the latest Japanese trends. The street is extremely busy after 3:30 p.m. during the week and all day on weekends.
Afterwards, make your way to Shibuya by train or on foot. Just outside of Shibuya Station is Shibuya Crossing (渋谷スクランブル交差点), where you can experience the Japanese crowds and see for yourself the world’s busiest street crossing. Featured in various films including Academy Award-winning movie “Lost in Translation“, about a million people cross this intersection every day.
Day 2: Tsukiji Fish Market, Sensoji, Akihabara
Day 2 covers the west side of Tokyo and starts early. Sensoji is closest to Asakusa Station on the Tobu Skytree Line and the Asakusa and Ginza Subway Lines, while the closest station to Akihabara is Akihabara Station on the JR Yamanote Line, the Keihin-Tohoku Line, the Chuo-Sobu Line, the Hibiya Subway Line and the Tsukuba Express.
Tsukiji Fish Market
Wake up before the sun rises and make your way to the Tsukiji Fish Market (築地市 ). If you want to see as much of Tokyo as possible, you could even pull an all-nighter to check out Tokyo’s club and bar scene before making your way over to Tsukiji for breakfast. This wholesale market is one of the largest fish markets in the world and handles over 2,000 products each day. You can see the auction before grabbing some fresh fish for breakfast at one of the nearby restaurants. Tickets to see the live auction are first-come, first-serve and go on sale at 5:00 a.m. every morning so make sure to get there early.
Then, get a taste of Buddhist culture at Sensoji (浅草寺). The flashy red structure was completed in 645 and is Tokyo’s oldest temple. Enter through the main gate called Kaminarimon Gate and check out the traditional-style shop stalls on Nakamise Dori. Here, you can find plenty of great souvenir items like fans, chopsticks, local snacks, and more! Finally you arrive at the main hall and a five-story pagoda. Sensoji is one of the city’s most popular temples and is the location of the lively Sanja Matsuri in May.
Check out Japanese tech and otaku culture in Tokyo’s electric town, Akihabara (秋葉原). Akihabara is the central hub for anime, manga, games, and electronics. In this neighborhood are an endless number of buildings selling everything from plug adapters and iPhone chargers to the rarest anime collectibles. Those who are visiting the area will be able to purchase all manner of goods, from books to movies, all in the manga and anime styles, as is the craze in Japan. The West is also deeply in love with Japanese culture and media, even the more niche side of it, with anime poster prints gracing many walls in the houses of those who are big fans of all things anime. Those not lucky enough to be able to visit Akihabara for themselves may have to do their shopping for memorabilia over the internet. For example, there are sites out there where you can get hold of an Anime Dakimakura Pillow, should you so wish. This is not an uncommon item for male fans of the genre to purchase as it connects them with their favorite characters on a more physical level. Some even enjoy the companionship that they offer.
What to Know Before You Go
sake barrels at Meiji Shrine
Planning your first trip to Japan can be quite daunting. Find out what to expect and check out these 11 things to know about life in Tokyo, Japan. To navigate the city, pick up a Suica or Pasmo charge card to use on trains and buses or, if traveling to other cities in Japan, consider purchasing a JR Rail Pass before you leave your home country.
Where to Stay in Tokyo
Tokyo side street
Tokyo has a variety of accommodations to suit all budgets. Below are some examples. Thinking about staying in an Airbnb? Here’s what you need to know about Airbnb in Japan before you book.
If you’re on a budget, try a business hotel like APA Hotel or Tokyu Rei Hotels or even capsule hotels like the Bay Hotel. Staying in one of the hostels in Tokyo is another option. The new Book and Bed hostel in Ikebukuro is a heaven for story lovers.
For a bit more money, get more space and privacy in one of the mid-range hotels. Some popular options include the Hotel Monterey, the Mitsui Garden Hotel, and Hotel New Otani.
Those who enjoy indulging in grand accommodations will love Tokyo. The city has plenty of high-end options to choose from – the Park Hyatt, the Palace Hotel, the Conrad, The Andaz, and more!
Delilah is a Tokyo-based expat and freelance content creator. When she’s not working, Delilah loves spending time with her partner and sharing their food, travel, luxury, and expat life adventures on her blog fleurdelilah. Make sure to follow her for more on social media @fleurdelilah.
Want to explore the more of Japan from Tokyo? Check out 5 Amazing Day Trips from Tokyo You Shouldn’t Miss.
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Dang, I would love to visit Tokyo and this gives me some ideas what to do.
With the Tsujiki Fish Market moved now, what would you do in place of this?