Tokyo Itinerary: How to Spend 4 Perfect Days in Tokyo

by Oct 6, 2018Itinerary, Japan

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.

If you want to add some day trips to this itinerary, just check out my post on the 4 best day trips from Tokyo and my detailed Hakone itinerary. 

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.

Click here to get lots of great tips for traveling around Asia as well as my FREE Japan itinerary guide. 

This 4-day Tokyo itinerary is also part of my 3 weeks in Japan itinerary. Check it out!

And if you’re looking for the perfect place to stay in Tokyo, you can find one in this article about how to find the best places to stay in Tokyo.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links.  As an Amazon Associate and a Bookshop.org Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.  Please see this website's Disclosure for more info.

Tokyo Itinerary 4 Days Overview

Click on the day to jump to that section of the itinerary.

Day 0 – Airport arrival, airport transfer, and hotel check-in

Day 1 – Modern Tokyo Itinerary – Harajuku (1), Shibuya (2)

Day 2 – Historical Tokyo Itinerary – Asakusa (3)  Ueno (4) and Yanaka (5)

Day 3 – Cultural Tokyo Itinerary – Tsukiji (6)- Ginza (7) – Samida (8 & 9) – Akihabara (10)

Day 4 – Food and Fun Tokyo Itinerary – teamLab Borderless (11) – Oedo Onsen (12) – Shinjuku (13)

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?

I have a post that will show you whether a Japan Rail Pass is worth it. I break down the transportation price (based on 2020 August prices) for each of the destinations in this Japan itinerary of 3 weeks. Then I compare that to the price of a Japan Rail Pass. After that, I show 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. Just check out my article on getting a Japan Rail Pass here.

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. 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.

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.

5. Even if you think you know, ask anyway at the Tokyo Tourist Information desk how to get to your hotel. I originally got my info from someone on Trip Advisor. They were wrong! The information desk was correct!

6. Buy tickets for transportation from the airport to your hotel/hostel.

For Narita, you have a number of budget options: 1.  Narita Express  (¥3190): buy tickets at the Japan Rail East Service Center office;  2.  a Keisei train (¥1290 – 2670) at the Keisei Skyliner office; 3.  Access Narita buses (¥1,000) if traveling by bus. Purchase tickets on the bus. Check here for information on departure location and times for the Access Narita bus.

For Haneda, you also have 3 budget options: 1. Keikyu Line – Buy tickets at the Keisei Skyliner ticket office. 2. Friendly Airport Limousine (¥930 – Asakusa; Shinjuku ¥1230) connects to different hotels throughout Tokyo. Please see their website for information. 3. Tokyo Monorail – 490 – Take the monorail to Hamamatsucho (¥490) where you then need to transfer to the JR Yamanote train line.

6. Purchase the Tokyo Subway 72-Hour Ticket (¥1500) – You can go to this website for details on how and where to purchase tickets. The price is a bargain!

For my trip, I flew into Narita and stayed in Asakusa. I took a Keisei train. Keisei trains have many lines. I took 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 the 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 yen. You can pay for transportation in a number of ways. You can buy individual tickets each time you take the train or subway. Another way is to get a Suica or Plasmo cards and just add money to the card and swipe it every time you take the train or subway. But I found them to be a hassle. I often found myself exiting the station without enough money on my card. You can buy Suica and Plasmo cards at any ticketing machine at any metro station.

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 Plasma 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 and have them sent to your hotel.

Tokyo Itinerary – Day 1 – Modern Tokyo

Harajuku – Shibuya

Spend your first 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 the fashionable area of Tokyo with designer stores and boutique shops. 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

  1. Harajuku Gyoza-ro – This is where I ate. It’s a famous gyoza restaurant; 6 gyoza – ¥290 (US$2.64/£2/€2.35) – What a deal!
  2. Marion CrepesYou can find these crepes all over Tokyo; looking at the fake replicas of the crepes is almost as fun as actually eating one
  3. A Happy Pancake – I had breakfast here; make sure to try Japan’s fluffy pancakes
  4. Kawaii Monster Café – It’s too bizarre to explain; just watch this video. It’s expensive (I spent around US$40), but a fun experience.
  5. Afuri – I love the ramen here; they charcoal grill the pork and add yuzu to the broth.
  6. Gonpachi Nori-Temaki – known as the Kill Bill restaurant; reasonably priced sushi; read this review
  7. Tonkatsu Maisen
fluffy pancakes on my Japan itinerary

1.1 Meiji Shrine

COST: Free | OPEN: sunrise to sunset

Start your 4-day Tokyo itinerary at Tokyo’s most popular shrine, the Meiji Shrine, in Harajuku.

Getting there: Take the subway to Meiji-jingumae Station or the JR line to Harajuku Station.

torii gate in front of Meiji Shrine on Tokyo itinerary

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.

votive tablets at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo on my Tokyo itinerary

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.

1.2 Omotesando Street

Take a stroll down Omotesando and window shop. You can see tons of designer brand stores.

Make sure to stop at Kiddy Land—a 5-story toy store.

store front of Kiddy Land in Tokyo on my Tokyo itinerary

1.3 Cat Street

Make sure to explore some of the side streets off of Omotesando. It’s very easy to get lost (I did!), though, but getting lost here can be a good thing. The tiny winding streets are filled with beautiful boutiques, cafes, and restaurants.

What you’ll also notice is how incredibly quiet it is as if you aren’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 it’s so quiet.

Cat Street in Tokyo on my Tokyo itinerary

1.4 Ukiyo-e Ota Memorial Museum of Art

COST: ¥500 (US$4.55/£3.50/€4.05) | OPEN: 10:30 – 17:30 | WEBSITE: http://www.ukiyoe-ota-muse.jp/eng

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.

1.5 Takeshita-dori

crowds of people on Takeshita Dori Street in Tokyo

Your final stop on your Harajuku itinerary is a street called Takeshita-dori, 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. It’s got the latest teen fashion. 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.

 

Where to eat in Shibuya

  1. Starbucks – great place to watch Shibuya crossing
  2. Kamakuraramen – I ended up eating here both times I was in Shibuya. Decent. Lots of foreign tourists end up here.
  3. Ichiran – a chain ramen restaurant–for me, they have the best ramen
  4. 35 Steps Bistro – Izakaya with English menu – Tripadvisor reviews
  5. Food Show – supermarket where the bento boxes are discounted after 5:00
  6. Sushi no midori – I tried finding this place, but no luck. The sushi is supposed to be really good.
  7. 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.

people crossing Shibuya Crossing at night in Tokyo
people walking down street lined with neon lights in Tokyo

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 2 – Historic Tokyo

Asakusa – Ueno – Yanaka

On day 2 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.

Getting 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.

empty street in Asakusa in Tokyo

This district is where you’ll find the most important Buddhist temple in Tokyo, Sensoji Temple. In old times, the outside area of a temple gate was where merchants and craftsmen would set up their businesses. That area was safer than other areas because usually, 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. The area behind Sensoji temple was a famous prostitution area.

a nearly empty street with lights from restaurants at night in Asakusa in Tokyo

During the early morning, it’s 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 although there are a few people out and about, but nowhere near as crazy as Shibuya or Shinjuku. I felt safe walking down the streets at night here.

 

Where to eat in Asakusa

  1. Ippudo – ramen chain restaurant
  2. SometaroOkonomiyaki; really hot inside and often long waits; not ideal for solo travelers as they prefer groups
  3. 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
  4. Ichiran – near Ginza station; their ramen is better than Ippudo’s

1.1 Kaminarimon Gate

Start your day off at the Kaminarimon Gate, the outer gate of Sensoji Temple. The gate 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.

Kaminarimon Gate on Tokyo itinerary

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.

people walking down Nakamise-dori Street in Tokyo at night

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 stopping at the tea shops along the way, thus making 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, these tea shop 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.

You can find out more info on the history of Tokyo from this wonderful website on the history of Tokyo and the history of Japan podcast.

1.3 Senso-ji Temple

COST: free ♦ OPEN: 6:00/6:30 – 17:00

Finally, you’ll make it to Sensoji Shrine. The temple was first built in 628. Like many structures in Tokyo, the temple burned down many times and was destroyed in World War II.

Go through the bright red gate called Hozomon Gate, the inner gate of Sensoji Temple.

front gate of Senso-ji Temple on my Tokyo itinerary

Make sure to take a picture of the iconic red lantern swinging from the center of the gate.

After you pass through the gate, make sure to 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.

Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa on my Tokyo itinerary

Before going into the main hall, make sure to get an omikuji, which is a paper fortune. You need to put a 100 yen coin in a slot, shake a canister until a wooden stick falls out. The stick contains a number 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 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 also 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.

a sparsely crowded covered arcade of Shin-Nakimise Dori in Tokyo

If you walk east along one of these streets, you’ll eventually make it back to the subway station.

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

  1. Kamachiku I ate here. They have delicious soba noodles in a beautiful old building
  2. Izuei Honten it’s supposed to have good unagi
  3. Starbucks – convenient location in Ueno Park
  4. 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.
  5. Nagomi They serve skewers

2.1 Tokyo National Museum

COST: ¥620 for all regular exhibits | OPEN: 9:30-17:30; Fri and Sa: 9:30-21:00; Su: 9:30 – 18:00; it is closed on Mondays | WEBSITE: https://www.tnm.jp/?lang=en

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.

Tokyo National museum building on Tokyo itinerary 4 days

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.

a crowded street at night in Yanaka on Tokyo itinerary 4 days

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.

Tokyo Itinerary – Day 3 – Cultural Tokyo

Tsukiji – Ginza – Samida – 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.

a building lit up at night on a street corner in Ginza

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.

a street at Tsukiji market during Tokyo itinerary 4 days

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

  1. Mitsukoshi Department Store – buy some food in the basement and go to the 9th floor to eat it; this is where I ate
  2. Ippudo – ramen chain restaurant
  3. Kyubey – sushi – very expensive but cheaper at lunch
  4. Sushizanmaigreat 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: ¥600-¥2400 | SHOWTIMES: 11:00 am – evening | TICKET SALES: 10:30 am | WEBSITE: https://www.kabukiweb.net/

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, acting.

Getting 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.

the exterior of Kabuki-za Theater in Tokyo

Kabuki performances are usually quite long and expensive to attend. However, you can purchase affordable single-act tickets that last between 20 minutes (¥600) to an hour and a half (¥2400). The person who was managing the line for the tickets told me to avoid the 20-minute shows as they were only dancing

a schedule of the performances at the Kabuki-za Theater in Tokyo

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.

people standing in line to buy tickets at the Kabuki-za Theater in Tokyo

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. Sumida-ga Area

The next activity on your Tokyo itinerary is to head across the Sumida River. First, check out the Ryogoku area on the eastern side of the river.

In Edo times, people would visit Ryogoku to relax and have fun. They would stroll along the river bank stopping at many of the food stalls or sitting down to have a picnic on the shore.

Wealthy people would go out on the Sumida River in elegant pleasure boats called yakatabune eating, drinking and sometimes listening to music performed by geishas.

Perhaps the most popular form of entertainment in Ryogoku was the sumo wrestling matches. Even today the sumo wrestling stadium is located here.

 

Where to eat in Sumida

  1. Rokurinsha – ramen noodles served on the side
  2. Ippudo – ramen
  3. Chanko Tomoegata  – a special stew that sumo wrestlers eat
  4. Ramen Express – in the basement food court of Tokyo Sky Tree

3.1 Edo-Tokyo Museum

COST:¥ 600 | OPEN: 9:30-17:30: Saturdays: 9:30-19:30; closed on Mondays | WEBSITE: http://www.edo-tokyo-museum.or.jp/en/

The next stop on this Tokyo itinerary is a visit to the Edo-Tokyo Museum. Here you’ll find out about the history of Tokyo.

Getting there: The museum is on the other side of the river in Samida. Take the Asakusa line to Kuramae, where you will need to leave the station and walk a few blocks to the Oeda Line to Ryogoku station. When you get to Ryogoku, take the A3 and A4 exits. The museum is about a 1-minute walk from the exit. It’s easy to find.

You can use audio guides for free with a deposit of  ¥1,000. It’s useful to have the audio guide because there are not always English translations.

miniature reproduction of a street in Edo Japan from the Edo-Tokyo Museum

After you get your tickets and guide, take the elevator to the 6th floor to begin the tour of the museum. The museum takes up two floors: the fifth and sixth. It’s huge, and I think it would take 3-4 hours to see everything if you’re using the audio guide.

The highlights of the museum were the life-size replica of the Nihonbashi bridge, the miniature replicas of old neighborhoods and samurai homes, the history of theater and pleasure quarters of Edo, a replica of a typical housing for townspeople, the replica of a Tokyo apartment in 1960s Japan.

3.2 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

After visiting the museum, head to the Tokyo Sky Tree, the tallest tower in the world.

Getting there: You’ll need to do a little bit of backtracking and transferring. Take the Oeda Line back to Kuramae where you’ll transfer to the Asakusa line and go to two stops to Oshiage/Sky Tree station.

There’s another way to get there from the museum, but you’ll need to walk to the JR station and take the JR Sobu line one stop and transfer at Kinshicho, where you’ll transfer to the Hanzomon Line.

a view of Tokyo at night from Tokyo Sky Try during my Tokyo itinerary

.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 about how to buy tickets. Unfortunately, I was in Tokyo in August so I missed out on it.

4. Akihabara Area

Day 3 of this 4-day Tokyo itinerary ends with a visit to Akihabara.  

buildings lit up in neon in Akihabara on Tokyo itinerary

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, then to a Japanese onsen, 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.

bridge over Tokyo with Tokyo skyline at night on Tokyo itinerary

1.1 teamLab Borderless 

COST: ¥3,200 for adults; ¥1,000 for children | OPEN: 10:00-19:00 (M-F) and 10:00 – 21:00 (Sa-Su and holidays) It’s closed the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month | ADDRESS: MORI Building | DIGITAL ART MUSEUM: teamLab Borderless Odaiba Palette Town 2F, 1-3-8 Aomi, Koto-ku, Tokyo, Japan

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.

teamLab Borderless
teamLab Borderless

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.

1.2 Oedo Onsen Monogatari – Odaiba

COST: ¥2,720 on weekdays and ¥2,920 on Saturdays and Sundays | OPEN: 11:00 am – 9:00 am

After visiting the museum, head to a hot springs park called Oedo Onsen.

Getting there: Take the Yurikamome line from Aoimi and get off at Telecom Center station. Then walk for 2 minutes to Oedo Onsen

What to do:

1. Remove your shoes

2. Pay the admission fee – you’ll get a wrist band that you can use to purchase things in the park.

3. Get a yukata (Japanese robe)– you’ll wear this as you wander around the park – it’s part of the admission price.

4. Put your clothes in a locker and change into the yukata. You can put your wallet in the locker too because you’ll be using your wrist band to purchase things.

You can do a variety of things at Oedo Onsen: there’s an outdoor foot bath, a fish bath where the fish bite your feet, games, restaurants, and of course, hot springs. The hot springs or onsen are divided by gender and you are completely unclothed. Before you enter an onsen, you need to wash thoroughly. Then enter naked.

If you have any tattoos, you won’t be allowed to enter.

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.

Click here to get lots of great tips for traveling around Asia as well as my FREE Japan itinerary guide. 

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

  1. Sushi Zanmai
  2. Fuunji – ramen
  3. Tsunahachi Shinjuku – tempura

2.1 Kabukicho

a busy neon-lit street at night in Shinjuku on Tokyo itinerary 4 days

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

a woman in a kimono walking down Omoide Yokocho in Tokyo

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

an empty street at night in Golden Gai on my Tokyo itinerary

Golden Gai is a seedy but atmospheric area of around 200 small bars. Just walk around and find one that seems open to tourists. 

red narrow staircase leading up to bar in Golden Gai
aruka sign for a bar in Golden Gai in Tokyo

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.

Have you been to Tokyo? Have I missed something? Have you been to any of the restaurants listed? Or are you planning for a trip to Tokyo? What are you most excited or worried about?

Please leave a comment or a question below. I’d be happy to hear from you. If you find this article useful, please share on social media! Thank you! 

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Tokyo Tower lit up at night
3 photos of places in Tokyo - Senso-ji temple, building in neon, and narrow alley with flowers hanging down

20 Comments

  1. I absolutely love that I sound this post! I have been planning to go in January but then I thought I might as well brave the tourists and go in March. I have been planning to spend exactly 4 days in Tokyo so I am saving this article. thanks for this.

    Reply
    • I’m glad this will be helpful! Tokyo is such a great place!

      Reply
  2. What a great post, so extensive. I absolutely loved Tokyo and I definitely want to go back one day. Didn’t know the Tsukiji market changed location! Reason to go to Toyosu Market during my next visit.

    Reply
    • I’m so sad that it has moved. Now it’s kind of out of the way and the new place I hear doesn’t have the character that Tsukiji had.

      Reply
  3. Thanks for writing such a super detailed post! I can’t wait to visit Tokyo one day and you’ve given me serious wanderlust!

    Reply
    • You should definitely visit! For me, it was one of the most exciting cities that I’ve been to.

      Reply
  4. Tokyo is number one on my bucket list right now! I really appreciate the time you put into this itinerary– it’s super helpful as a starting point for my trip! I’m especially interested in Harajuku and all the fun cafes!!

    Reply
    • Thanks! I hope you get a chance to go soon! It’s a great city!

      Reply
  5. Great blog. This has been on mutt bucket list for so long.

    Reply
    • Thanks! I hope you get a chance to go to Tokyo soon! It’s a great city!

      Reply
  6. WOW! this is such an incredibly comprehensive and complete itinerary… I’m definitely saving it for when I go to Tokyo! You’ve got me craving ramen too! 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks! Ever since I went to Tokyo, I’ve been craving ramen like crazy! I hope you get a chance to go soon!

      Reply
  7. You made me miss Japan! I wish I had more time in Tokyo but with only 2 days, I just ate and relaxed. Ha! Saving your post for when I go back for some sightseeing 🙂

    Reply
    • I also wish I had spent more time in Tokyo!

      Reply
  8. Thank you for the wonderful itinerary ideas…gives me a great idea how to plan for my upcoming 4 days in Tokyo! It looks like a great place to visit.

    Reply
    • Thanks! I hope you have a fabulous trip to Tokyo! It’s an amazing, unforgettable city.

      Reply
  9. Tokyo is on our bucket list and your post want me to go and see it even more. Im pinning it for later

    Reply
    • Hi Ania,

      I hope you get a chance to travel there soon! It’s definitely worth it. I was surprised by how much I loved Japan.

      Reply
  10. I am staying in Shinjuku now and wondering how to spend a couple of days that are currently unplanned. This is extremely helpful and love that you included restaurants in each area. This is the best article I have found and am planning Kyoto solely from your recommendations also. One thing to include in Tokyo is information on attending baseball games. Can’t thank you enough!

    Reply
    • Hi Jill, Thank you so much! I’m glad you found this useful. I’ll be back in Tokyo soon and will hopefully have time to research more places, especially restaurants. I’ll definitely look into including more information on attending a baseball game in Tokyo.

      Reply

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About the Bamboo Traveler

Welcome to The Bamboo Traveler, a travel & digital nomad blog, dedicated to helping women over 40 travel the world safely, cheaply, and comfortably. Whether you’re going for a one, two- or three-week vacation, exploring the world as a digital nomad, or staying home and discovering the world from the comfort and safety of your home, you’ll find loads of information to help inspire and inform you in your wanderings.

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