Tokyo Itinerary: How to Spend 4 PERFECT Days in Tokyo (2023)
There is so much to do and see in Tokyo that it can be hard to plan a trip there. On top of that, because there’s so much to see in the rest of Japan, you’ve got to limit your time in Tokyo. In this post, I’m going to help you squeeze in everything you should see into a Tokyo itinerary of 4 days.
This Tokyo itinerary is great for those who are into exploring the history and culture of a place. I’ve got tons of recommendations for places to eat, neighborhoods to explore, and museums to discover.
Let’s get started and find out what to see, where to eat, and how to get around this amazing city.
BONUS: I've created a FREE PDF version of my Japan itinerary guide. It includes detailed day-to-day itineraries for Tokyo, Kyoto, and 9 other destinations in Japan. You'll also get step-by-step instructions for buying and using your Japan Rail Pass.
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Tokyo Itinerary 4 Days Overview
Click on the day to jump to that section of the itinerary. You can do this itinerary in any order.
Day 0 – Airport arrival, airport transfer, and hotel check-in
The above itinerary depends on where you’re staying. If your accommodation is in the Shinjuku area, I’d move (12) Shinjuku from Day 4 to Day 1.
You can add a fifth day onto your Tokyo itinerary by taking a day trip to Mt. Fuji, Hakone, Kamakura, or Nikko. All 4 of these cities are just 1 to 2 hours by bus or train from Tokyo. Read how to visit them in this 4 Best Day Trips from Tokyo.
Is a Japan Rail Pass Worth It?
Are you wondering whether a Japan Rail Pass is worth it?
In this guide to the Japan Rail Pass, I break down the transportation prices for each of the destinations in this Japan itinerary of 3 weeks. Then I compare them to the price of a Japan Rail Pass (current and new JR Pass prices as of October 2023).
After that, I show you where and how to purchase a Japan Rail Pass, how to activate the Pass when you get to Japan, and how to use the Pass. Check out the current Japan Rail Prices from my favorite travel agency in Japan or book your pass through Klook.
Tokyo Itinerary- Day 0 – Airport & hotel transfer
When you arrive at either the Narita Airport or the Haneda Airport, you’re going to need to take care of the following things before heading to your hotel/hostel:
1. Pick up your pocket wifi at the airport post office (order this before your trip) or purchase a SIM card for your phone. It’s essential to have internet service when navigating the streets of Japan because Google Maps doesn’t work offline in Japan. I bought my pocket wifi from Japan Experience.
2. Validate your Japan Rail Pass at the Japan Rail office. When you validate your pass, you can choose which day it will begin. You don’t have to begin the ticket on the day you validate it. I bought my Japan Rail pass from Japan Experience. You can also buy your pass through the very reliable Klook.
3. Make seat reservations for your future train travels at the Japan Rail office. Seat reservations are free for Japan Rail Pass holders. I highly recommend it. You can cancel or change them free of charge.
4. Get some Japanese currency from the many ATM machines around the airport. You can also get Japanese yen from ATMs at convenience stores like Family Mart and 7-11 when you get to your hotel.
5. Either get a Tokyo Subway 72-Hour Ticket (¥1,500) or a SUICA or PASMO card or both. Using any of these tickets or cards is very convenient. You don’t have to buy a new subway ticket every time you ride the subway. I used BOTH the 72-Hour Ticket and the SUICA card.
The 72-Hour Ticket gives you unlimited train travel on all Tokyo subway lines (excluding JR trains like the Yamanote Line). You can also choose other periods like 24 hours and 48 hours. It’s best to buy them before your trip from Klook or Get Your Guide.
Your second option is to get a Welcome SUICA or PASMO Passport card at the airport. SUICA and PASMO cards are used for taking public transportation like the subway, trains, and buses around Japanese cities. To use the card, load money onto it and tap it at the subway gate to get onto the subway. You can also use them for buying stuff at convenience stores or from vending machines. They are good for 28 days.
In the past, you could get the SUICA and PASMO cards at subway stations all over Tokyo. However, due to a chip shortage, these cards are ONLY available at Narita and Haneda Airports or from online travel agencies like Klook or Japan Experience before arriving in Japan.
6. At the Tourist Information desk at the airport ask how to get to your hotel. I originally got my info from someone on Trip Advisor. They were wrong! The information desk was correct!
7. Buy tickets for transportation from the airport to your hotel/hostel.
For Narita, you have a number of budget options: 1. Narita Express(¥4,070): buy tickets at the Japan Rail East Service Center office; a good option if staying in Shinjuku 2. a Keisei train (¥2,570) at the Keisei Skyliner office; 3. Airport Bus TYO-NRT (¥1,300 – 2,600) if traveling by bus. Purchase tickets at the ticket sales counter from 9:00 – 22:00 or at the bus stop outside of those hours.
For Haneda, you also have 3 budget options: 1. Keikyu Line – Buy tickets at the Keisei Skyliner ticket office. 2. Friendly Airport Limousine (¥950 – Asakusa; Shinjuku ¥1,250) connects to different hotels throughout Tokyo. Please see their website for information. 3. Tokyo Monorail – Take the monorail to Hamamatsucho (¥500) where you then need to transfer to the JR Yamanote train line.
My Experience Getting from Narita to my Hotel
For my trip, I flew into Narita and stayed in Asakusa. To get to Asakusa, I took a Keisei train. Keisei trains have many lines, so it can be confusing. The wonderful people at the airport information desk told me to take the Toei Asakusa Line from Narita to Asakusa station (¥1290; over 1 hour). Then I realized I had to walk 15 minutes to my hotel, the Wired Hotel. I was too tired to walk, so I got a taxi for ¥960.
When I left Tokyo, I was staying in Tsukiji. I took the Narita Express bus from Ginza station (2 subway stops from Tsukiji; take exit C4 at Ginza) to Narita airport (¥1,000, 1 hour and 20 minutes). The bus ride was so much preferable to the train because I didn’t need to go up and down subway stairs, figure out the ticket machines, and navigate the subway’s maze-like and crowded subway stations.
Just make sure to get to the bus stop early as these airport buses can fill up, and if you can’t get on one, you need to wait 30-60 minutes for the next one.
Pro Tip – Getting Around Tokyo
Tokyo has an amazing subway/train system. It’ll take you anywhere you want to go. But it can get expensive. One ride will cost you from ¥150 to ¥500.
You can pay for transportation in a number of ways.
1. You can buy individual tickets each time you take the train or subway.
2. Another way is to get a Suica or Pasmo card and just add money to the card and swipe it every time you take the train or subway. However, I thought they were a hassle. I often found myself exiting the station without enough money on my card. Due to a chip shortage, you can ONLY buy Suica and Pasmo cards at Narita and Haneda Airports or from an online travel agency like Klook before your trip.
3. A better option is to get the 24-, 48-, or 72-hour metro passes. With these passes, you can travel as much as you want on any Tokyo Metro or Toei Metro subway line for one total price (except for the JR lines). It’s super convenient. It’ll save you from always scrounging for money and it often ends up being cheaper than using a Suica or Pasmo card or buying individual tickets. You can buy the pass at the airport and tourist information centers (Asakusa). Some hotels also sell them. You can also buy them online from Get Your Guide or Klook and have them sent to your hotel or your home.
Tokyo Itinerary – Day 1 – Historic Tokyo
Asakusa – Ueno – Yanaka
On day 1 of your 4 days in Tokyo, explore the traditional east side of Tokyo. Start off in Asakusa where Sensoji Temple, one of the most important Buddhist temples, is located, then head over to Ueno to visit the Tokyo National Museum before finishing your tour in Yanaka, a very traditional area of Tokyo.
1. Asakusa Area
Start off the day in Asakusa, an area that is famous for being the main temple, merchant, and entertainment area of old Tokyo.
How to Get to Asakusa:
There are two subway lines that get you to Asakusa Station: the Ginza and the Asakusa lines. When you’re inside Asakusa station, follow the signs for exit 1 to get to the temple district. You can also take exit 2 to get to the Asakusa Culture Tourist Center on Kaminarimon Street to pick up a map of the area.
Asakusa is where you’ll find the most important Buddhist temple in Tokyo, Sensoji Temple.
In old times, the outside area of the temple gate was where merchants and craftsmen would set up their businesses. The area near temples was safer than others because warlords would leave temples alone when attacking a community. These areas became known as the mon-zen machi (town in front of the temple gate). The merchant area in front of Sensojii Temple became particularly famous.
Asakusa was also well-known for being the entertainment district of old Tokyo. You could find lots of theaters in this area. Behind Sensoji temple was a famous prostitution area.
In the early morning, Asakusa is a wonderfully quiet and peaceful place. It’s so quiet that it’s hard to believe you’re in a city of 9 million people.
At night, there are just a few locals and tourists out and about. You can find locals drinking and eating outside on tables set up in quiet alleyways. However, it’s nowhere near as crazy as Shibuya or Shinjuku.
Is it Safe to Walk Around Late at Night?
I felt completely safe walking back to my hotel from the subway station at around 10:00 pm.
Where to Eat in Asakusa:
- Ippudo – ramen chain restaurant
- Sometaro – Okonomiyaki; really hot inside and often long waits; not ideal for solo travelers as it’s more of a group experience.
- Sushi Zanmai – chain sushi restaurant; I think they have pretty good sushi; get the tuna set for ¥3200; always filled with locals whenever I ate there
- Ichiran – near Ginza station; their ramen is better than Ippudo’s
1.1 Kaminarimon Gate
Start your day off at the Kaminarimon Gate. This is the outer gate of Sensoji Temple.
The Kaminarimon is named after the two statues located on both sides of the gate. The left statue is the god of thunder and the right one is the god of wind. They protect the Sensoji temple from storms, floods, and fire.
1.2 Nakamise-Dori Street
After passing through Kaminarimon Gate, walk up Nakamise-Dori Street to Sensoji Temple.
You’ll see lots of souvenir shops along the way especially ones selling rice cakes and green tea-flavored snacks. Supposedly, this street along with Shin-Nakamise Dori are the best places to buy souvenirs in Tokyo.
Nakamise-Dori Street helped Asakusa become one of the main entertainment areas of old Tokyo.
The story goes that tea shops opened up along the road that led to Sensoji. After the shogun made Edo his capital, more and more people visited Sensoji. They would visit the tea shops on their way to the temple. This increase in business made the tea shop owners quite wealthy.
Naturally, tea shop competition increased as more and more people saw the money-making potential of having a tea shop outside Sensoji. To stay competitive, the owners needed to think of other ways to attract customers, so they started offering other forms of entertainment, hiring young women to serve tea. Sometimes they would offer other services as well and that is how prostitution became part of Asakusa.
1.3 Senso-ji Temple
Finally, you’ll make it to Sensoji Shrine. The temple was first built in 628. Like many structures in Tokyo, it burned down many times over the centuries, including during World War II.
Go through the bright red gate called Hozomon Gate, the inner gate of Sensoji Temple.
After you pass through the gate, look back at it and notice the two large straw sandals. The sandals are called o-waraji. People offer waraji to temples to pray for safe travels and healthy legs. Without healthy legs, one can’t work, and if one can’t work, one can’t eat.
Before going into the main hall, get an omikuji, which is a paper fortune.
To get your fortune told, put a 100 yen coin in a slot. Then shake a canister until a wooden stick falls out. The stick contains a number on it that's written in Kanji. Find the drawer that corresponds to the number on your stick. Pull out a paper fortune from the drawer. The fortunes can be both good and bad. Mine was good, but the person I was with got a bad fortune. If you get a bad one, you’re supposed to tie the paper fortune to a nearby rack.
When you enter the huge temple, you’ll notice that there are no Buddha statues even though this is a Buddhist temple.
You’re not allowed to take any pictures of the altar when inside the temple.
1.4 Shin-Nakimise Dori and/or Dembouin Dori Street
After visiting Senso Ji Temple, walk around Asakusa for a while walking under the covered pedestrian-only arcades. These are Shin-Nakimise Dori and Dembouin Doir Streets. They’re full of souvenir shops and restaurants.
If you walk east along one of these streets, you’ll eventually make it back to the subway station.
You might be interested in these hidden gems of Japan:
2. Ueno Area
The next stops on your Tokyo itinerary is the Ueno and Yanaka districts. Hop on the subway and travel 3 stops on the Ginza line to Ueno station.
Ueno’s subway station was famous after the war for being the place where all the homeless (veterans, widows, and orphans) camped out. A famous post-WW II black market was also located outside the subway station called Ameyokocho.
Today it’s known more for being home to a terrific park and several of Tokyo’s best museums.
Where to Eat in Ueno and Yanaka:
- Kamachiku – I ate here. They have delicious soba noodles in a beautiful old building
- Izuei Honten – it’s supposed to have good unagi
- Starbucks – convenient location in Ueno Park
- Hantei – I’ve eaten here. The restaurant is in a beautiful traditional wooden building. Very delicious. It’s a set multi-course meal. A bit pricey. I felt comfortable eating here solo.
- Nagomi – They serve skewers
2.1 Tokyo National Museum
- COST: ¥1,000 (US$7.78 | €7.5 | £6.38); ¥500 for college students
- OPEN: 9:30 am – 5:00 pm (last entry is 30 minutes before closing)
- WEBSITE: https://www.tnm.jp/
- SUBWAY STATION: Ueno Station
- LOCATION: Google Maps
When you get to Ueno, head to the Ueno-Koen park. There’s a lot to see in the park: a zoo, a lotus pond, and several museums. The park is huge and with such limited time, I suggest going straight to the museum.
The Tokyo National Museum consists of five buildings with exhibits:
1. Honkan Gallery – Must-see: the “Highlights of Japanese Art” on the second floor. The second floor gives you an excellent overview of Japanese Art from the Jomon period (11,000 BCE – 5th Century BCE) to the Edo period (1603-1868). The first floor is organized by genre, which is also good but not as good as the 2nd floor. One painting not to miss is the Hakusai’s “Great Wave of Kanagawa” painting at the end of the tour on the 1st floor.
2. Heiseikan Gallery: This gallery focuses on Japanese archaeology. I’m into archaeology, so I enjoyed touring it. It’s connected to the Honkan by a passageway.
3. Hyokeikan Gallery: This gallery is closed unless there is a special exhibition.
4. Toyokan Gallery: This gallery shows art and artifacts from Asia including China, Central Asia, and India. I didn’t get to visit this gallery.
5. The Gallery of Horyuji Treasures: This gallery exhibits 8th and 9th century objects from Horyuji Temple. Lonely Planet highly recommends visiting this gallery. I did not have time. There is a restaurant on the 1st floor.
The one building that you must start with and go to if you’re limited on time is to see the Honkan Gallery. It’s the above picture.
You can pay one price (¥620) for all regular exhibits in all galleries at the ticket booth on the right side of the main gate to the museum.
When you get inside the Honkan, you’ll see lockers where you can store your stuff. Take the grand staircase in the lobby of the museum to the second floor. The second floor gives you an excellent overview of the art from different time periods in Japan’s history.
Make sure to get the excellent written guide to the museum on the second floor before you enter the first room.
3. Yanaka Area
After visiting the Tokyo National Museum, explore the lovely and tranquil Yanaka neighborhood. It’s actually quite a long walk from the museum to this area. Here you’ll get to a see a more traditional side of Tokyo. Historically, this area was where the artists of Tokyo lived. It is still home to many artisans making things like pottery, textiles, and traditional cuisine.
There are lots of temples and a cool cemetery in Yanaka. I ate some really great udon noodles at a beautiful restaurant called Kamachiko and on another visit I ate at the famous Hantai restaurant.
End your walk at Sendagi Station.
If you didn’t get a chance to see Shinjuku on the first night, you can then take a subway to Shinjuku station and explore the area.
You might be interested in these Japan travel posts:
4. Tokyo Sky Tree
- COST: Floor 350 – ¥2060; Floor 450 – additional ¥1,030. You first need to go to the 350th floor and then buy another ticket for the 450th floor
- OPEN: 8:00-22:00
Finish your first day in Tokyo at the tallest building in the city, the Tokyo Sky Tree. You’ll get some memorable views of the city.
.You can buy tickets online for the Sky Tree to avoid the long lines, or you can buy tickets on the fourth floor at the Sky Tree. They might be sold out by the time you get there, though.
The photo above is from the 350th floor.
PRO TIP: If you are lucky to be in Tokyo in January, March, May, July, September, or November, you can watch a sumo tournament at Ryogoku Kokugikan Sumo Stadium. Check here for how to buy tickets. If you can’t make it to a sumo match, you can always watch the professional sumo wrestlers do their morning training exercises.
Tokyo Itinerary – Day 2 – Modern Tokyo
Harajuku – Shibuya
Spend your second day of your 4 days in Tokyo exploring the modern side of the city with its neon lights, skyscrapers, and hoards of fashion crazy young people. Even though I’m into history and not really into shopping and partying, the modern side of Tokyo was my favorite because it was nothing like anything I’d ever experienced before. I lived in Asia for many years, but I’d never experienced any place as dynamic and as vibrant as Harajuku, Shibuya, and Shinjuku.
1. Harajuku Area
Harajuku is one of the most fashionable areas of Tokyo with its designer stores and boutiques. However, there’s also a famous shrine, some charming museums, and a fun energetic street full of fashion, food, and young people.
Where to Eat in Harajuku
- Harajuku Gyoza-ro – (Google Maps) – This is where I ate. It’s a famous gyoza restaurant; they’re used to having foreign customers – 6 gyoza – ¥319 – ¥374 (US$2.45/£1.99/€2.32) – What a deal!
- Marion Crepes – (Google Maps) – You can find these crepes all over Tokyo; looking at the fake replicas of the crepes is almost as fun as actually eating one
- A Happy Pancake – (Google Maps) – I had breakfast here; make sure to try Japan’s fluffy pancakes
- Kawaii Monster Café – They permanently closed as of January 31, 2021. It’s too bad as this was a fun restaurant.
- Afuri – (Google Maps) – I love the ramen here; they charcoal grill the pork and add yuzu to the broth.
1.1 Meiji Shrine
- COST: Free
- OPEN: sunrise to sunset
- SUBWAY STOP: Meiji-jingumae Station or the JR line to Harajuku Station.
- LOCATION OF ENTRANCE: Google Maps
Start day 2 of your 4-day Tokyo itinerary at Tokyo’s most popular shrine, the Meiji Shrine, in Harajuku.
Over 3 million people visit the shrine during the first few days of the New Year. To make the most of your visit, make sure to perform all the Shinto rituals. You can read about how to perform the rituals in my Meiji Shrine guide.
Don’t forget to write your wishes on the votive tablets under the big camphor tree. You can get detailed information about the Meiji Shrine here.
1.3 Explore the narrow side streets
Next, explore some of the side streets off of Omotesando. It’s very easy to get lost (I did!), though.
The tiny winding streets are filled with beautiful boutiques, cafes, and restaurants.
Make sure to walk down Cat Street (Google Maps).
What stood out for me was how incredibly quiet it was as if I wasn’t even in a big city. That’s Tokyo. One moment you’re on a street teeming with an ocean of people and cars and the next you are on a quiet street without a car or human being around you. It’s so quiet that you could be in a small village.
1.4 Ukiyo-e Ota Memorial Museum of Art
- COST: ¥800 – 1,200 depending on the exhibition (US$6-$9/£5-8/€6-9)
- OPEN: 10:30 am – 5:30 pm
- WEBSITE: http://www.ukiyoe-ota-muse.jp/eng
- LOCATION: Google Maps
Visit the small Ukiyo-e Ota Museum, a museum devoted to beautiful ukiyo-e woodblock prints. Ukiyo-e means the floating world in Japanese. This was the pleasure world of kabuki actors, geishas, and prostitutes (the outcasts of Edo society) during the Edo and Meiji periods in Japan. The museum rotates its collection every month.
I loved this small, intimate museum!
Also, it’s a great way to escape the heat if you’re traveling in the summer.
You could spend about 1 hour here.
Your final stop on your Harajuku itinerary is a street called Takeshita-dori (Google Maps), which is not far from the museum.
This is Tokyo’s teenage fashion street where teens from all over Japan go in order to shop.
Be forewarned that the street is jam-packed with people. I loved it. This is what Tokyo is all about: mass consumerism and youth.
2. Shibuya Area
The next stop on your Tokyo itinerary is a trip to Shibuya. You can take the subway or walk to get there from Harajuku. Make sure to stay around the area until it gets dark, so you can see all the neon lights.
One hour here is enough time; two hours if you’re going to stop and eat and/or get a drink or some coffee at the Starbucks overlooking Shibuya Crossing.
I was so tired after my day in Harajuka that I went all the way back to my hotel in Asakusa to rest and then went back to Shibuya later in the evening.
Where to Eat in Shibuya
- Starbucks – great place to watch Shibuya crossing
- Kamakura – ramen – I ended up eating here both times I was in Shibuya. Decent. Lots of foreign tourists end up here.
- Ichiran – a chain ramen restaurant–for me, they have the best ramen
- 35 Steps Bistro – Izakaya with English menu – Tripadvisor reviews
- Food Show – supermarket where the bento boxes are discounted after 5:00
- Sushi no midori – I tried finding this place, but no luck. The sushi is supposed to be really good.
- Kaikaya by the Sea – seafood
2.1 Hachiko Statue
The story goes that back in the 1920s, a professor had a dog named Hachiko who would meet him every day after work at Shibuya Station. The professor died, but the dog kept on showing up for the next 8 years to meet his owner at the station. Hachiko is a sign of loyalty in Japanese culture. It’s popular to take a photo of yourself with the statue.
2.2 Shibuya Crossing
Shibuya Crossing is famous for the scramble where cars are stopped at all intersections to let all of the pedestrians cross at the same time. Surrounding the crossing are buildings adorned with neon lights and large video screens. For me, it was one of my biggest OMG I can’t believe I’m in Japan! moments in Tokyo. You can take a rest at the Starbucks that is overlooking the crossing and watch people walk back and forth.
After you’ve done Shibuya Crossing a number of times and gotten your photo taken with Hachiko, walk around the back streets of Shibuya taking in the energy of all the people, food, bars, and neon lights.
Tokyo Itinerary – Day 3 – Cultural Tokyo
Tsukiji – Ginza – Akihabara
Your 3rd day on your 4-day Tokyo itinerary is spent sampling Tokyo street food and experiencing Japanese traditional culture at the Kabuki-za Theater and modern culture at Akihabara. It also includes a visit to one of the best museums in Tokyo, the Edo-Tokyo Museum, and a visit to Tokyo Sky Tree tower for a bird’s eye view of the city.
1. Tsukiji Area
1.1 Tsukiji Outer Market
Start day 3 of your 4 days in Japan by visiting the Tsukiji Outer Market for some amazing street food. Make sure you get here before 9:00 am so that you can get to the next stop of your Japan itinerary on time.
Tsukiji Market used to consist of both the Inner Market and the Outer Market. The Inner Market was the wholesale market and it was where the tuna auction took place. That market moved to new facilities at Toyosu Market.
The Outer Market is all that is left. You can still sample street food at the many street vendors or have a sushi breakfast at the remaining sushi restaurants. Many of the famous restaurants moved to Toyosu, but still have a branch in Tsukiji. However, the sushi restaurants in Tsukiji aren’t any different or more special than the ones in other parts of Tokyo. So, you’re not missing out on much if you skip them here. Instead, it’s fun to focus on the street food like tamagoyaki, raw oysters, Kobe beef, sea urchin, and grilled seafood. Spend about an hour here unless you sit down at a restaurant for breakfast. Then it will be longer.
After the market, walk over to Ginza to see a Kabuki show.
2. Ginza Area
Ginza is home to many upscale shops, restaurants, and cafes. It’s considered one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in the world. Historically during the Edo period, a silver-coin mint was located there, hence the name Ginza, which means “silver mint.”
When Japan was opening up to the outside world, the buildings in Ginza became the first ones to be modernized. European-style brick buildings were constructed. The area also became the media center of Tokyo where lots of newspaper and magazine publishers were located. Unfortunately, during the war, many of these buildings were destroyed by American bombs.
Where to Eat in Ginza:
- Mitsukoshi Department Store – buy some food in the basement and go to the 9th floor to eat it; this is where I ate
- Ippudo – ramen chain restaurant
- Kyubey – sushi – very expensive but cheaper at lunch
- Sushizanmai – great sushi (¥3,000 for a set meal of tuna); picture menus; I ate at their restaurant in Tsukiji, Asakusa, and Shinjuku
2.1 Kabuki-za Theater
- COST FOR SINGLE ACT SEATS: ¥600-¥2,400 (US$4.67 – $18.67 | €4.50 – €18 | £3.83 – £15.30)
- SHOWTIMES: 11:00 am – evening
- TICKET SALES: 10:30 am
- WEBSITE: https://www.kabukiweb.net/
- SUBWAY STATION: Higashi-Ginza station
- LOCATION: Google Maps
The next stop after Tsukiji is the Kabuki-za Theater in Ginza. Kabuki is Japan’s traditional dance-drama performance. The stories are historical dramas and comedies set in old Japan. They center around samurai, geisha, and the common people of Japan and involve tales of ambition, betrayal, revenge, and broken hearts.
Watching a kabuki performance was the highlight of my trip. I loved the story, costumes, and acting.
How to Get to the Kabuki-za Theater:
If you’re coming from Tsukiji, you can walk there in 10 minutes.
If you’re coming from outside the area, take the subway to the Higashi-Ginza station. The theater is right next to the subway station. Just follow the signs for Kabuki-za.
Kabuki performances are usually quite long and expensive to attend.
However, before COVID, you used to be able to purchase affordable single-act tickets that lasted between 20 minutes (¥600 – US$4.67 | €4.50 | £3.83) to an hour and a half (¥2,400 – US$18.67 | €18 | £15.30).
I’ll update this site to indicate when those tickets are available again.
The person who was managing the line for the tickets told me to avoid the 20-minute shows as they were only dancing
Shows change each month, so the number of shows per day varies. When I was there, there were 7 shows/acts that day. The single-act ticket allows you to purchase a ticket for one show. You can attend any performance and not worry that you missed something in a previous act because the performances are unrelated to each other.
The matinee shows begin at 11:00 am and the evening ones at 16:30. Check the Kabukiza’s website to see what time the shows start and when they start selling tickets. For the first show, they start selling tickets at 10:30 am. Make sure to get there at least 30 to 60 minutes before they start selling tickets for your show. You can see in the above photo the start times, ticket selling times, and prices for each show.
When I attended there were 65 sitting tickets and 40 standing tickets. I arrived at 10:15 and was the 66th person in line, so I had to stand. If you end up standing, make sure to stand next to the aisle. so that you can rest by sitting on a step in the aisle between scenes. As of October 5, 2019, their website says that there are 90 sitting and 60 standing tickets.
To buy tickets, you need to stand in line (the picture above) on the left side of the theater. You’ll see a door saying “single act tickets”.
Although the performances are in Japanese, you can rent a portable translator that translates the whole show. It costs ¥500 with a ¥1000 deposit that you get back after the show. The translation machine didn’t distract you from the show.
3. Akihabara Area
Day 3 of this 4-day Tokyo itinerary ends with a visit to Akihabara.
Akihabara is famous for its electronics, video games, and anime and manga shops. If you want to see the famous maid cafes, then Akihabara is the perfect stop on your Tokyo itinerary.
To get the best experience of this area, take a stroll along Chuo Dori street.
If you need to buy camera equipment, stop at Bic Camera or Yodobashi Camera.
If you spend at least ¥5000 in one store in one day, your purchase is tax-free. You will need your passport with you to not pay any taxes.
Tokyo Itinerary – Day 4 – Food and Fun in Tokyo
Tokyo Bay – Shinjuku
This is my favorite day of the itinerary because today you’re going to one of my favorite museums in the world and finally to my favorite area of Tokyo, Shinjuku.
1. Tokyo Bay
You’ll be crossing Tokyo Bay to Odaiba, a collection of islands of reclaimed land.
1.1 teamLab Borderless
- COST: ¥3,200 (US$25 | €23.67 | £20) for adults; ¥1,000 for children | ¥1,600 disabled person discount
- OPEN: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm (M-F); 9:00 – 8:00 pm (Sa); 9:00 am – 7:00 pm (Su); Entry is 1 hour before closing time
- BUYING TICKETS: teamLab Borderless
- LOCATION: Google Maps
Day 4 of your 4-day Japan itinerary starts off in Tokyo Bay at teamLab Borderless, a digital art museum. Teamlab Borderless wasn’t in my guidebook when I first visited Japan. But I’d seen so many Instagram photos of it that I had to check it out on my next trip to Japan. Instagram didn’t do it justice.
The official name of the museum is the Mori Building Digital Art Museum Epson teamLab Borderless. This is the permanent exhibition run by teamLab Borderless, a collective of artists, technologists, designers, mathematicians, architects who design interactive digital art. The concept is that there is no border between art, design, and technology and between humans and nature. They have a temporary exhibition space (July 2018 – Fall 2020) at teamLab Planets. They also have permanent and temporary exhibits all over Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America, but except for Shanghai, which has its own teamLab Borderless permanent digital art museum, there is nothing like the one in Tokyo.
You’ll want to buy tickets online beforehand because tickets sell out fast. As of October 2019, it’s ¥3,200 for adults, ¥1,000 for children.
Getting to teamLab Borderless:
You’ll need to take the subway to Shinagawa station and then transfer to the Yurikamome line. This line is not covered under the 24-hour, 48-hour, or 72-hour transportation passes. Get off at Aomi Station. You’ll be at Palette Town Complex, an entertainment complex with a Ferris wheel, a Toyota Showcase hall, lots of shops and restaurants, and teamLab Borderless.
Google Maps currently displays an incorrect route for the building. Enter MEGA WEB TOYOTA City Showcase into Google Maps to get the correct directions. The Toyota Showcase is next to teamLab Borderless and actually you’re going to walk through it to get to the museum.
teamLab Borderless opens at 10:00, but when I was there (on a Japanese holiday), they were letting people in before that. Your ticket will be on your phone, and they’ll scan your ticket on your phone. I arrived before 10:00 am and didn’t have to wait in line long at all. That’s why I suggest arriving when it first opens. Later the line can get incredibly long.
You’ll probably stay 2 or 3 hours here. Exhibits change constantly, so feel free to backtrack because you might see something new that you didn’t see when you were in the room before.
BONUS: I've created a FREE PDF version of my Japan itinerary guide. It includes detailed day-to-day itineraries for Tokyo, Kyoto, and 9 other destinations in Japan. You'll also get step-by-step instructions for buying and using your Japan Rail Pass.
2. Shinjuku Area
End day 4 of this Tokyo itinerary by touring Shinjuku. This is my favorite area in Tokyo.
The best way to tour Shinjuku is with a food tour. It’ll allow you to learn the history of the area and some cultural information about Japanese food that you wouldn’t get otherwise. You’ll also get the inside scoop on where to go and not go to Shinjuku. It’s terrific if you’re traveling solo because you’ll get to go to places that you might have felt odd going to alone. I went with Arigato Food Tours and highly recommend them. My guide was super knowledgeable. And the tour was small–only 3 people in total.
Where to Eat in Shinjuku
- Sushi Zanmai
- Fuunji – ramen
- Tsunahachi Shinjuku – tempura
Take a stroll around Kabukicho, the Red Light District. Don’t worry about walking around this area by yourself. The streets are packed with tourists. It may be seedier than most other parts of Tokyo, but I felt safe when I was there.
Take a look inside Don Quixote store. It’s a multi-storied store selling everything from food to maid costumes. The aisles are so narrow and jam-packed with goods that it’s difficult to walk down them. It’s not a great store if you’re claustrophobic.
2.2 Omoide Yokocho
The highlight of a tour of Shinjuku is a walk down Omoide Yokocho or Memories Lane. Another name for it is Piss Alley. It’s a very narrow alley lined with red lanterns and tiny bars and yakitori restaurants.
2.3 Shinjuku Golden Gai
Golden Gai is a seedy but atmospheric area of around 200 small bars. Just walk around and find one that seems open to tourists.
I went to Araku Golden Gai bar. Look for the red sign and the red staircase.
The staff speak English and there’s an English menu. When I was in Golden Gai, everyone was all excited by the fact that Quentin Terrantino had just been there.
2.4 Robot Restaurant
You might want to end your night with the fantastically bizarre, Robot Restaurant show. It’s a bit of a misnomer since there is actually no restaurant. It’s just a show featuring robots, scantily-clad women, and lasers and neon-lights.
Tickets can be pricey, though. The entrance fee is ¥8,500 plus between ¥1,000 and ¥1,500 for food. However, you can get discounted tickets for the Robot Restaurant here. I suggest eating outside at one of the many amazing restaurants (yakitori joint) in Shinjuku before or after the show. You can also get discounted tickets for No refunds if you cancel.
Where to stay in Tokyo
One of the hardest decisions to make about Tokyo is where to stay. So, I wrote this post on how to find the best places to stay in Tokyo (even on a budget).
I’ve stayed in three different areas of Tokyo: Asakusa, Tsukiji, and Shinjuku. All of them have their pros and cons. However, I preferred Asakusa for its prices and the laid back vibe of the neighborhood and Shinjuku for its excitement and energy.
My favorite hotel was the Hotel Gracery Shinjuku. It’s the one with the Godzilla head sticking out of it. A bit gimmicky, I know, but you can’t blame the hotel for trying. It’s in the perfect location: right in the heart of Kabukicho and just a five-minute walk from Shinjuku Station. Prices vary from low $100s to over $400 depending on the season and day of the week. What I love is that they have reserved rooms at discounted rates for solo female travelers.
Other hotels that I love:
Super Budget: Bunka Hostel in Asakusa (AGODA | BOOKING.COM) – I stayed here during one trip to Japan; it’s super clean; there’s a decent amount of privacy and enough toilets, showers, and sinks for guests; it’s only 8 minutes by foot from Toei Asakusa line station (exit A4) and Ginza line station.
Budget: Ryokan Asakusa Shigetsu (AGODA | BOOKING.COM) is an affordable and comfortable ryokan (Japanese traditional inn) in Asakusa. At times, you can find rooms for under $100. There’s a hot spring bath on site with views of Tokyo Skytree. In an excellent location near several subway stations. THIS is where I’m going to stay the next time I’m in Tokyo.
Mid-range: Tokyu Stay hotels (AGODA | BOOKING.COM) This hotel chain can be found all over Tokyo: Ginza, Tsukiji, Shinjuku, etc. I stayed at the one in Tsukiji. I love their comfortable beds and the fact that there’s a washer and dryer in your hotel room.
Luxury: If money were no object, I’d stay at either the Park Hyatt in Shinjuku (AGODA | BOOKING.COM)–made famous by the movie, Lost in Translation–or the Hoshinoya (AGODA | BOOKING.COM)–a ryokan with modern décor.
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After you’ve explored Tokyo for 4 days, where should you go next?
I highly recommend taking a trip to Hakone for 1 or 2 days, where you can soak in a traditional onsen, see some fabulous art, delve into Tokyo’s history, take one of Japan’s most Instagram-worthy shots, and perhaps get a glimpse of Mt. Fuji.
Other amazing day trips or overnight trips close to Tokyo include Kamakura, Nikko, and Mt. Fuji.
Looking for more info on Japan? Check out these posts:
- Japan Itinerary: The Perfect 3 Weeks in Japan
- Tokyo Itinerary: How to Spend 4 Perfect Days in Tokyo
- Hakone Itinerary: How to Spend 2 Days in Hakone
- Kyoto Itinerary 4 Weeks: A City of a Million Temples
- Nara Itinerary: The Perfect Day Trip from Kyoto
- Matsumoto Itinerary: Exploring Japan’s Coolest Castle
- Shirakawago Itinerary: Enter a Japanese Fairytale
- The Ultimate Day Trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima
- Kamikochi Hiking: The Perfect Day Trip from Takayama
- Takayama Itinerary: Travel Back in Time to Old Japan
- The Best Ever Guide to Japan’s Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
- Top 10 Must-See Places to Visit in Kyoto
- 13 Things You Need to Know Before Going to Japan
- The 20 Best Novels to Read Before Visiting Japan
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