Japan, is one of the world’s most interesting countries you can visit, embodying both its national tradition and the modernization of the world at large. Home to skyscrapers and temples, Tokyo, Japan’s busiest capital is the New York of Asia in my opinion. Tokyo is always bustling with energy and rigor, anytime anywhere. I have the opportunity to explore Japan recently, going on a 6-day trip, to just Tokyo, only to realize, 6DAYS IS WAY TO LITTLE to truly explore Tokyo and its hidden beauty. So here’s my 6-day guide to Tokyo –
Day 1 – Shibuya
Shibuya is the one attraction not be missed, not for any tourist, not for any local Japanese themselves. Packed with human traffic, don’t be surprised to be overwhelmed by the crowd upon getting out of the main exit of Shibuya sta. Follow the signs within the station and you will get out at the right exit, if you got out at an exit with too little people, DO NOT, tap back into the station to cross through to get to the main Shibuya exit as they will charge you 270 YEN just for crossing through (Try not to waste that money, save it for the cheap eats). Just Googlemaps your way, and walk along the roads. Beware of the constant construction works around, and watch out for cars of course.
Upon getting out of the main exit of Shibuya Station (sta.), the first sight that you will catch is the sardine-packed Shibuya Scramble. The well-known Shibuya sight is one not to be missed, where people cross that particular junction from all angles and all areas. Most times, you would see tourists, or even locals themselves video themselves as they cross the street. Better yet, head to up book store, Tsutaya’s Starbucks on the second level of the building (it is so obvious you won’t miss it), to have a cup of joe and people watch. Being one of the densely populated areas of Tokyo, Shibuya offers shopping and nightlife all in one district.
Shibuya has several areas that is walkable but that is only if you are willing to walk miles and miles, leading to other popular tourist attractions such as Meiji-Shrine at the Harajuku area.
Day 2 – Shimokitzawa & Roppongi Hills
Shimokitazawa, deemed as one of Tokyo’s hipster area, is hidden in the West of Tokyo, popular amongst the younger crowd. The district’s organic and raw nature makes Shimokitazawa one that embodies the Harajuku essence but a little lower key. Filled with second-hand vintage stores, Shimokitazawa creates just the right atmosphere for a leisurely walk around the district, grab a cup of coffee or tea in one of the many quirky cafes in the alleys. If you are one who is into some serious vintage cultures, you could potentially spend up to a day in this nearby neighborhood off Shinjuku or Shibuya. Else, I would say half a day would do the trick.
Roppongi Hills, is known to be a city within a city, where one skyscraper tops another, creating a relatively futuristic vibe. Surrounded by office buildings and large outdoor atriums that cater for events. Mori Tower, one of the many skyscrapers that offer some of the best views of Tokyo, together with an art museum to explore. The 54-floor tower charges about 1800YEN for entrance up to the sky observatory for an opportunity to view Tokyo from one of the highest peaks. Close to Roppongi Hills is Tokyo Midtown, a considerably higher-end shopping area where foreign brands dominate the mall. It would be nice a place to visit, but it was not a must for me, personally.
Day 3 – Yokohama (Chinatown) & Shinjuku
Yokohama, in the Kanagawa Prefecture, is approximately a half an hour train ride away from the main Tokyo city. Yokohama will give you a completely different atmosphere as compared to the busy and fast-moving city, where things are tad bit slower. I made my way to the famous Ramen Museum to check out the best range of ramen stalls available in one space. The Ramen Museum was in a small double-storey, enclosed area, with a single route that brings you through a short history of ramen and its evolution. Themed in an olden-day set, the museum makes you feel like you’re in another world on its own. Don’t forget to eat some of the best ramen available in the museum!
Shinjuku, another crowded district of Tokyo, filled with flashing neon lights and home to the famous red-light district of Tokyo, Kabuki-cho. Shinjuku is the perfect place for departmental stores shopping, with Takashimaya, Odakyu and Isetan. Surrounding these are the smaller shopping malls that cater to the younger crowd, with boutique shops and cafes instead of the large departmental store style. Explore the alleys of Shinjuku, you will definitely find something interesting and to your liking. Head on to Kabuki-cho, a 10minute walk away from Shinjuku sta. Don’t be alarmed with guys coming up to you with a card from their sleeves, asking you to go somewhere. They are probably just trying to promote their motel to you, so just politely say no thanks and walk away. It is easy to spot several adult shops with super explicit visuals to attract visitors into stores. Word of Advice: Females might want to visit Kabuki-cho with a friend.
Day 4 – Harajuku & Omotesando
Harajuku and Omotesando is 20minutes walk away from each other, so be sure to catch them all within a day if you are pressed for time. Harajuku’s main attraction can be easily found upon reaching Harajuku station, and is often sight to capture. The one alley is always packed with tourists and locals dressed up in cosplay dressing or costumes. If you are not one who is too into cosplay or anime, that lane is still one to walk through to get some amazing crepes and soft serve ice cream amongst the crowd.
Omotesando, is another hipster area in Tokyo, catering to the “higher-end” hipsters. The main street of Omotesando has large foreign brands such as Boss and Ralph Lauren. In the alleys of Omomtesando, you will find smaller boutiques for both men and women, together some quirky cafes. If the weather clears up, you might even be able to catch a beautiful sunset while strolling in the alleyway.
Day 5 – Tsukiji Fish Market, Asakusa (Senso-ji Shrine)
If you are worried of getting off at the wrong stop to head to Tsukiji Fish Market, fret not, your nose will lead you to the market. Tsukiji Fish Market is Tokyo’s wholesale fish market, offering the freshest sashimi and seafood. There are small restaurants that selling sashimi and chirashi bowls, and it is not uncommon to find long queues spiraling outside these extremely small shops. Despite getting there at 11am, the queues were too long for me to stay on to have a meal there.
Asakusa, a popular tourist district, is filled with people visiting the famous Senso-ji Shrine. The Buddhist temple one of Tokyo’s most colourful temples, where various events and festivals occur through the year. Surrounding the temple are little stalls that sell traditional Japanese sweets and snack, Yukatas and definitely not forget matcha soft serve.
Day 6 – UNU Farmer’s Market, Daikanyama & Tokyo Metropolitan Tower
United Nations University (UNU) Farmers Market in the Shibuya area is only available on weekends. The market offers a wide range of fresh produce from vegetables to flowers to honey (free tasting!). Food and coffee trucks are also available onsite in case you get hungry! On top of that, the market sells several handmade items and household furnitures and vintage items. It is easy to spend up to two hours just roaming the small market if you are interested in the old school life.
Daikanyama, Tokyo’s higher-class residential area with foreign embassies and is home to many expats. The “foreign” vibe translates to its modern architecture, for both its residential buildings, as well as Tsutaya’s three-storey book store. Dining options are also available in this district, together with some shopping.
Remember Mori Tower mentioned above that required visitors to pay 1800YEN to visit the observatory? Well, save that cash and head to Tokyo Metropolitan Tower to catch the view for free instead! Just be aware that you will have to queue to get up to the tower as there are only two lifts that are in service. The night view will make that 20minute walk from Shinjuku all worth it, to nicely end your trip in Tokyo.
Be sure to plan more than a week to explore Tokyo at your own pace, a week, 2 weeks, or even 3, might not be sufficient to experience the Asia city that never sleeps. I’ll be back to share my first experience of solo travel and AirBnb stay in Tokyo in my next post, so stay tuned!