A Week in Tokyo Express Guide


Asia, Japan, Tokyo / dimanche, février 11th, 2018

Last winter, we had the time of our life when we were in Tokyo. I have now been there 3 times: once 10 years ago, and two of these times were last winter with Simone. We first went for three days to Tokyo on our way to Hong Kong. When our plans in Hong Kong fell through, we were happy to go back to Tokyo and spend a week in a Airbnb in Kanagawa, from where we could also explore a bit around the capital.

We both really loved our time in Japan and would recommend anyone to go for at least a week in Tokyo, even more if you can!

Post written by: Alice
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Best places to visit when you have a week in Tokyo

Of course, the neighborhoods of Harajuku, Shibuya and Shinjuku were the absolute must-go-to places to get a real feeling of the busy and modern Tokyo! It helped immensely that we were hosted by a friend in the middle of Harajuku for the first three days of our trip. We also wanted to get a more traditional view of the place so we went to Asakusa and visited some temples and shrines. If you’re looking for some down times, there are great parks, and some beautiful places a bit outside of Tokyo to reload your battery and breath some fresh air!
Tokyo is a huge city, it extends very far and even though the metro is amazing, we still had a short time-span in the capital. So here are the best places to visit during your week in Tokyo to have an amazing trip!

Modern and busy Tokyo: Harajuka, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Akihabara

There were two sides of the city I wanted to show Simone: the hyper-urban neon-lights part, and the more traditional part. Harajuku, Shinjuku, Shibuya and Akihabara are three very famous neighborhoods that represent this side of the city. But it doesn’t mean they don’t have some hidden traditional parts too, with Meiji Jingū (a shrine in Harajuku), for example.

HARAJUKU

Harajuku is another great place for fashion and is flooded with young Japanese going from one store to another, eating cute snacks and going to karaoke! The epicentre of that crowded side of Harajuku is Takeshita Street.
It can also be more of a luxury place when you go along Omotesando.
On the more traditional side, that’s where you’ll find the Meiji Jingū shrine (more about that later).
The crowd at Takeshita Street (Takeshita Dori) in Harajuku, Tokyo A fashion shop in Harajuku, Tokyo

SHINJUKU

Shinjuku is the heart of Tokyo’s nightlife. It’s the home of the infamous Kabukichō where you’ll find nightclubs, host bars and love hotels – and also where I’ve had too much to drink for the first time of my life, ten years ago! It’s also where you can find Golden Gai, a maze of little streets with tiny cool bars everywhere.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building – where you can get in for free and gaze at the amazing view of the city – is also in Shinjuku.
Neon buildings at night in Shinjuku, Tokyo Golden Gai or Piss Alley at night in Shinjuku, Tokyo

SHIBUYA

Shibuya is definitely where you want to go if you’re curious about fashion. It’s a neighborhood frequented by young people where you’ll be able to shop to your heart’s content. On that aspect, don’t miss the famous department store 109 (ichi-maru-kyū). It’s also a great place if you’d like to have a drink as lots of little bars are scattered around the streets of Shibuya.
You might have heard of the Shibuya crossing: it’s one of the busiest intersections in the world!

Shibuya Crossing at night in Tokyo Shibuya Buildings at night in Tokyo

 Akihabara

You want to try your hands at some crazy game in an Arcade Center? Akihabara is your spot! It’s also the place to be if you want to get some anime and manga merch, so don’t forget your wallet!
Street in Akihabara at night with neon buildings in Tokyo Night view of Akihabara Street with neon buildings where you can buy anime merch and play video games

Traditional places to visit in Tokyo: Asakusa, Meiji Jingu, Ueno

Your week in Tokyo should include a visit to places in the city that are more traditional, with some temples and shrines, and have kept some of the past’s atmosphere. A few places in the center of Tokyo are absolute musts in that regard.

ASAKUSA

Asakusa is the traditional part of the busy city and you’ve probably seen pictures from there a few times already. It holds the very famous and beautiful Sensō-ji Buddhist temple. Don’t hesitate to check out all the little stalls on your way to the temple and get lost in this place out of time.
The very famous Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa in Tokyo A Buddhist statue in Asakusa, Tokyo

MEIJI JINGŪ 

Meiji Jingū is a shrine located in Harajuku. It’s the first Shinto shrine I’ve ever been to. Located in a forest, it’s a somewhat magical and peaceful place. A long walk will take you to the heart of the shrine, and then you’ll most certainly observe with curiosity this beautiful place!
Meiji Jingu Shrine door in Harajuku in Tokyo Prayers on wooden boards in Meiji Jingu Shrine in Harajuku in Tokyo

UENO park

Ueno Park, in the neighboorhood of Ueno, also holds a few temples and shrines that are really beautiful. The autumn foliage was particularly pretty over there….
Take a walk in Ueno Park to check out all the temples and shrines, Ueno, Tokyo Wooden cardboards with prayers on them in the temple area of Ueno Park in Tokyo

Related post: If you’re into temples, you should check out our Hong Kong post!


Old Tokyo in Yanaka Ginza

You will love browsing the small shops of this very traditional shopping street. Situated in a quiet and residential area, it’s perfect to have a calming walk when the hugeness of Tokyo starts to make you a little claustrophobic. Going at night was a great idea and we got a bento box for diner and bought cute postcards!
Little street and gate of Yanaka Ginza, a traditional area that has to be on your Tokyo itinerary! A little café in Yanaya Ginza in Tokyo, showing the traditional side of the shops

Your week in Tokyo is wearing you down? Recharge your batteries by visiting the parks!

Inokashira Park

Ok, are you ready for this? Because I’m not sure you are. Close your eyes, take a slow breath, open your eyes, and scroll down to see the pictures of this amazing place. If you want a feel of the typical Japanese garden, you can get it here. The architecture, the pond, the trees… We didn’t want to leave that place and it should definitely be in your Tokyo itinerary!! There’s also an interesting piano, if you can find it 😉
Beautiful calm view across the pond in Inokashira Park in Trokyo Inokashira Park in Autumn in Tokyo

Showa Memorial Park 

That park looked amazing, and huge. We had tried to cram a bit too many things in one day though, and it was about to close when we arrived. We would have loved to go back to see more of it, but we didn’t have the time… We recommend you give it a couple hours and tell us how you liked it! To get there, we took the Monorail Tama Toshi – an aerial metro that made us feel like we were in a dystopian world, riding over the city… It was also really great that the seats were heated because it was freezing outside!
Showa Memorial Park in Tokyo Autumn sunset view from Showa Memorial Park in Tokyo

Day trips out of Tokyo

I know, I’m totally in love with the city too, but if you have a week in Tokyo, you should at least take one day trip out of town. We took two and did not regret putting them on our Tokyo itinerary at all!

Takao-San (Mount Takao)

We were happy to get on our feet after the metro ride that took us to Takao-San, or Mount Takao. After spending almost a week in Tokyo, we were eager to breath some fresh air and be surrounded by nature. There are different hike trails to get to the top of Mount Takao, as well as cable cars. We took two different trails to go up and down, crossed a Buddhist temple on our way and really enjoyed the views! You’ll have the opportunity to have a good look at the immensity of Tokyo, and a magical sight of the Mount Fuji. Don’t forget to eat a dango (these little snacks are usually vegan) and to allow enough time to go down before sundown, especially if you didn’t take the easiest hike back down (like we did).
Amazing view of Tokyo from Mount Takao, the reason why it should be on your Tokyo itinerary View of the Mount Fuji from Mount Takao (Takao-san), an amazing day trip from Tokyo

Kamakura

I don’t know if that’s a common fact, but we kind of got lost when we were in Kamakura. So you might want to: get a map, use a GPS, or just maybe be a little bit more focused than we were! There’s little chance you’ll miss the Sitting Buddha as it’s the must-see in Kamakura. But also take the little trail that will get you to unexpected places with great views, and to a beautiful place hosting a couple of temples in caves. When you get back to the commercial (but very cute) long street, pick a restaurant to eat at to get some strength to check out all the little shops on the way and lose all of your money! After that, you’ll find your way to a huge Temple with a beautiful traditional garden, the frontier between traditional and modern Tokyo.
The famous sitting Buddha in Kamakura, an great day trip from Tokyo Shrine in Kamakura, a day trip from Tokyo

Where to stay during your week in Tokyo

Harajuku

For the first part of our trip to Tokyo, we were hosted in the little hidden residential streets in Harajuku and it was amazing, so do consider this area!
Harajuku metro station in Tokyo

Close to Narita Airport: Hedistar Hotel Narita

We slept at the Hedistar Hotel Narita on the last night of the first part of our trip, just before flying out to Hong Kong. It was honestly very basic, but it did the job.

Capsule beds: Oak Cabin Hostel

We had a hard time finding a capsule hotel that would be in our budget, allowed women, and would allow us to stay together in the same part of the hotel. We found Oak Cabin Hostel in Nihonbashi and thought it might be our best bet. However you have to know that the capsule beds are only closed by a small sheet, reason why it can get very noisy at night, which I did not expect. We didn’t try much of the amenities since we slept there on our last night before leaving, but I really enjoyed renting a yukata to lounge around and sleep in!
Alice wearing a Yukata rent from Oak Cabin Hostel in Tokyo

Airbnb: a great way to make your week in Tokyo cheaper and have an insight on how Japanese apartments are made!

We didn’t rent any Airbnb in the center of Tokyo because they were a bit expensive, and we also felt like we could use the calm, and the proximity to places that are on the outskirts of town. Even if it took us around 45min to get to the center with the metro – and around 15min to get to the metro – we loved it! It felt a little like we were expats and really living in Japan! We had to take out the right trash (there are several) on the right day, we went to buy food at the grocery store and cooked home, used the laundry machine, used the bicycles to go to the metro station… it felt really cosy!

General Tips for the Tokyo First-Timers

Metro Pass

If you’re going to spend a whole week in Tokyo, you should definitely invest in a metro pass. We took the Suica. What’s great is that you can charge it and also pay at convenient stores (and some other places, like some restaurants for example) with it. That’s a huge plus when you don’t want to feel the panic of not understanding or seeing how much money you’re supposed to give when paying for something. Also you can travel worry-free as it can get a bit annoying to have to think about all the different metro prices depending on the destination.
Simone in the metro in Tokyo with his backpack

Airport coin locker

As we were traveling with our big backpacks and only passing by on the first leg of our trip to Tokyo, we put our big bags in coin lockers at the airport and only kept what we needed with us in smaller bags.  That really helped us move around so we highly recommend you use that if you’re only passing by!

Portable Wifi

We had one for the first leg of our trip since our friend let us use hers while we were staying at her place. That was very very very helpful because there are no street signs in Tokyo! You have no idea how many times we got lost trying to go back to the apartment, and how desperate we were when we got lost and had forgotten the portable wifi at home.

Bonus tip: Eat Onigiri!!

I absolutely love these little triangular « balls » of rice, and there was hardly a day when I didn’t eat an onigiri (or ten……) bought at a convenient store. They’re cute and practical, it’s the perfect snack!


28 réponses à « A Week in Tokyo Express Guide »

  1. Tokyo (and Japan in general) looks like a fascinating destination, I hope one day to make it over there. Asakusa looks like a great place to get immersed in the culture and history there, and then the park looks like a great place to get away from it all for a bit.

  2. Glad you enjoyed your most recent trip to Tokyo. Tokyo is not one of those places I’ve ever wanted to travel to… Maybe the rural areas but I don’t enjoy big cities with tons of people… I do love your pictures though, they seem to really capture the essence of the city.

  3. Asia is deffo on my radar. Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, China and Indonesia – must see countries! Japan is so beautiful and I hear going to toilet is quite an experience too! Such lovely photos.

  4. I would love to visit Tokyo, but I’m not good around crowds, so it’s great to see there are so many beautiful parks! It looks like they have a great balance. Thanks for sharing!

  5. WOW this looks amazing! I’ve been umming and aahhing over Tokyo because of the crowds but I love the look of the traditional street market and the parks!

  6. That crowd in Harajaku! Looks pretty busy indeed.. I think I’d love to explore less crowded places. 🙂 The views from Takao-San looks amazing! I love your tips too including the airport coin locker (which sounds very convenient) and the metro pass..

  7. Japan and especially Tokyo have been on my list since forever. I simply love how well you explained the different neighborhoods it felt like I am walking through them myself. And the Japanese food sounds delicious. I already love to eat Onigiri here from time to time but it probably tastes million times better in Japan.

  8. Tokyo is a place that has always intrigued me. I’ve always wanted to try to cross at the Shibuya crossing, if not just watch everyone else do so. Good thinking about storing extra luggage at the coin lockers. Such a great way to travel light around the city!

  9. Tokyo is an amazing city! I was there for 3 days and I manage see a lot although I wish I had more time for those day trips! I would love to see Mt Fuji from close distance! I loved all those crazy lights, games, outfits! Harajuku was lots of fun to walk on! I hope ill get to go back to Japan one day and explore more!

  10. This is such a timely post, because I’m actually planning on visiting Tokyo in July. You’ve included some great tips and ideas about the city in this guide. So, I’m bookmarking this right now!

    Btw, you couldn’t be more right…the onigiri is totally addictive! I loved snacking on them when I visited Kyoto, last year!

  11. This is great guide to Tokyo. I actually wrote something similar in my blog, just because I felt that going there for the first time it was hard to know what area we should stay at. They are all so different. I wish I had had a guide like this back then.

  12. Some really great insight into Tokyo in this post! I love the mix of business of the city lights with the tranquil of the parks and heritage sites. I really should bump this place up my list for this year 🙂

  13. This is the best time to have stumbled upon your article. Since I am planning a trip to Tokyo sometimes this or the next year. Yours is really comprehensive guide that I can use for a lot of things including the details of each day planning.

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