Konnichiwa – are you ready for 24 hours in Tokyo? Tokyo is a city that is so unique and fascinating! I have yet to meet someone who went to Tokyo, or even Japan for that matter, and wasn’t mesmerised by it!
There is so much to see and experience here but often visitors to Tokyo find it overwhelming and they just don’t know where to begin!
Between the city being so large and spread out, the metro being one of the most confusing in the world, and not many people speaking English, it can all seem pretty overwhelming for even the most seasoned travellers!
Of course, it takes much much longer than 24 hours to explore this vibrant metropolis and I would strongly advise you to stay more than one day here (ideally 4 days is a good time).
But if one day is all you have, it’s better than nothing and you can still see a decent amount of things in Tokyo if you know where to go!
Having been to Tokyo several times, I have selected the best bits for you in this perfect, easy-to-follow one-day itinerary! Are you ready to experience 24 hours in Tokyo?!
24 HOURS IN TOKYO
Now Tokyo is a massive city and its tourist attractions are pretty spread out from each other. Instead of thinking of Tokyo as one city, it’s best to think of it as several unique neighbourhoods, each with its own particular sights and attractions.
Looking at the simplified map below (you can pick one of these up yourself from any Tokyo Metro station), this really helps you to orientate yourself around the city and plan your day efficiently to ensure you get to see as much as possible in 24 hours.
The main tourist spots we will cover in this 24-hour itinerary are:
– Skytree Tower,
– Asakusa and Senso-ji temple,
– Tokyo Tower,
– Shibuya and Shinjuku (Omoide Yokocho to Golden Gai).
It is a full-day action-packed itinerary with an early start, so if you have 2 days in Tokyo you can also follow the same itinerary but go at a slower rate, although everything is absolutely possible and doesn’t seem rushed if done in one day.
If you are lucky enough to have longer in Tokyo then check out this 5-day Tokyo itinerary!
24 HOURS IN TOKYO
Start your 24 hours in Tokyo early visiting Tokyo Skytree, Japan’s highest observation deck and the world’s tallest freestanding broadcasting tower at 634 metres high.
You can get reach the Skytree on the Hanzoman line of the metro, getting off at Oshiage (Skytree) station.
I recommend to go here early (it opens at 8am) to beat the queues as you can be queuing up for 2 hours if you visit at midday, and also so you get a better chance of seeing Mount Fuji.
Mount Fuji (106 miles away from the Skytree) is known for often being hidden in a blanket of clouds, but on a clear day it is visible from the Skytree.
Often as the day goes on the sky gets hazier, so you increase your chances of seeing Fuji if you visit the Skytree in the morning.
The view is really amazing, you really get an appreciation for how large the city is, and you can see many of Tokyo’s sights including the Tokyo Tower.
Entrance is 2060 yen (¥) (£14) to level 350 (350metres high) or you can pay an additional ¥1030 (£7) to go up to level 450 at 450metres high, it’s up to you which one you are happy with.
Many people just go to level 350 as the view there is spectacular enough. Get your Tokyo Skytree tickets here.
From the Skytree take the pleasant 20-minute walk over the Sumida river to Senso-ji temple – the oldest temple in Tokyo said to have been built in 628.
Getting there early means you’ll miss the crowds again, as this temple is probably Tokyo’s most visited spot and is also free to visit. It is definitely a must-visit in Tokyo even if you only have 24 hours here.
You will first come to the Kaminarimon gate – the main gate to Senso-ji temple, where an impressive giant lantern hangs.
Go through the gate (which is over 1000 years old!) and you will pass around 60 shopping stalls on Nakamise shopping street (the street between the main gate and the temple grounds).
You can’t help but have a little browse here: there are some really lovely gifts, souvenirs and street food here! After the stalls there is another large red gate to go through and then you’ll arrive at the main temple.
Take a moment to see how the Japanese act in the temple: they will first head to the ablution fountain to cleanse their hands and mouth. Then at the temple, they will throw a coin in the offering box, bow twice (deeply) and clap twice.
They will also light incense sticks, you can purchase some and do the same too!
Some women will also be walking around dressed in kimonos, if you want to do the same, just go to one of the stalls here that hire them out and you can dress in a kimono for the day!
Afterwards, have a stroll around the surrounding area of Asakusa – it is the old part of Tokyo. There is a very nice atmosphere in this area and it still retains the old downtown atmosphere from centuries ago.
The quaint little streets hidden behind and around the temple are nice and quiet, and seldom frequented by tourists.
I’m sure you’ll start to work up an appetite walking around, so stop for lunch on one of these side streets – you’ll find there are lots of cute and reasonably priced restaurants and street food stalls around.
Many locals eat in these restaurants, which is always a surefire sign that the food will be delicious! You just can’t beat the food in Japan: sushi, tempura, soba noodles, ramen – the list is endless!!
Be sure to try something new, you’ll never know what food you might fall in love with next!
Tsukiji Fish Market
Previously I had included the famous Tsukiji fish market in my itinerary, but it closed in October 2018 sadly! It was one of the world’s largest fish markets (and the largest wholesale market in the world) and Tokyo’s most famous market.
It had such a busy and exciting atmosphere with lots of delicious fresh seafood and the famous tuna auctions, it’s such a shame it’s gone: it was an icon.
So instead we will head straight from Asakusa to the Tokyo Tower. Take the Asakusa line straight down to Daimon (9 stops – 15-minute ride) and then it’s a 10-minute walk to the Tokyo Tower.
24 HOURS IN TOKYO
Head up Tokyo Tower: the landmark of Tokyo! Completed in 1958 Tokyo Tower is a communications and observations tower at 333 metres high, making it Japan’s second tallest structure.
It’s design was inspired by the Eiffel Tower, but it is painted white and orange to comply with air safety regulations.
Like the Skytree, there are two different viewing platforms you can go up to admire the view: the main deck (150m high) or the top deck (250m high), which also includes entrance to the main deck. You can purchase Tokyo Tower tickets here.
Even around lunchtime/early afternoon, the viewing platforms don’t get too busy, and the main deck actually has 2 levels: the one you arrive from and the one on the floor below that you depart from (which is a lot less busier) so take your pictures from here as there are less people.
The lower floor also features a glass skywalk window that you can walk on.
I actually just paid to go to the main deck and I was more than happy with the view there.
Personally, I didn’t want to pay 3 times the amount just to go up another 100 metres to the top deck, but of course, if you choose to go I’m sure it will be incredible!
From both viewing platforms you get a 360-degree view of Tokyo from the tower and the panoramic views are incredible.
If you’re in Tokyo in the winter when it gets dark early at around 4.30 pm, you’ll maybe even be up here for sunset and you’ll be able to see Tokyo lit up at night, as well as seeing Tokyo Tower lit up beautifully.
If you fancy something a little more luxurious or have already visited the Tokyo Tower and want to see Tokyo from above from a different viewpoint, why not head over to The Ritz-Carlton Tokyo in Roppongi Hills.
The hotel has a lovely bar at the top (you don’t have to be a hotel guest to visit the bar) where you can have a great view of the Roppingi hills. The water cost me 1000 yen but it was worth the view!
From Tokyo Tower, make your way to Hamamatsucho station (15-minute walk from Tokyo Tower). From here you will take the JR Yamanote line to Shibuya (7 stops).
24 HOURS IN TOKYO
This place is what you imagine when you think of Tokyo! Hundreds of people and brightly coloured signs everywhere, as well as of course, the famous Shibuya crossing! Think London’s Picadilly Circus x100!
There are large screens and neon signs everywhere, and somehow this crossing is both absolutely chaotic but super organised at the same time.
It is an absolute must when in Tokyo – you can feel the pulse of the city here, just be prepared for the crowds and everyone stopping to take a photo!
You’ll probably end up going across the crossing a couple of times just for the sheer excitement of it! Seeing Shibuya crossing in the evening lit up is the most impressive and exciting time to see it.
If coming from Shibuya Station, take the Hachiko exit (Hachiko is the dog who walked his beloved owner to Shibuya train station every morning for work and waited for him every evening when he finished work.
But one day his owner never showed up as he had died suddenly whilst at work.
Hachiko continued to go to Shibuya train station every morning and evening for the next 10 years, waiting for the same train and the return of his owner, who sadly never came back. You can see his statue just outside the station).
If you’re after sushi for dinner, stay in Shibuya – it is well-known for good sushi restaurants. There are many restaurants in Centre Gai, the main pedestrianised street next to the crossing.
However, if you want to try something a bit different from sushi, I highly recommend saving your dinner for Shinjuku!
Tall buildings, bright neon lights and bustling streets full of energy – this is Shinjuku! It is the vibrant heart of Tokyo and a fun and unique area to explore, as well as being one of the best places in Tokyo for eating and drinking!
First make sure to head to Omoide Yokocho for dinner, a small lane filled with many restaurants. It has a nostalgic feel to it, like you are stepping back in time, and it is an excellent place to experience authentic Japanese cuisine.
Omoide Yokocho actually means ‘memory lane’ – pretty cute right?!
Omoide Yokocho is at the north end of Shinjuku station, very close to the underpass by the train tracks (Shinjuku is also the world’s busiest station so it is important to know which exit to take, as taking the wrong one can sometimes cost you upto 20 minutes to get back! So just look for the “East Exit” sign).
It is best to type Omoide Yokocho into your Google maps or maps.me offline map so you can follow the directions (it will take less than 5 minutes to walk) as you could easily walk past the small entrance and not realise.
I have been to a few of the restaurants here and they all have great food and are very popular but as most of the restaurants only have space for about 8 people, you will often just go in any restaurant that has space!
The earlier in the evening you go, the less busy it is.
In most of the restaurants you will sit facing the bar and the chef. Often there are several small dishes (mostly meat dishes) to choose from (usually you’ll select maybe 4 dishes each) and there is a very friendly atmosphere everywhere.
I really enjoy coming back here time and time again and the prices are pretty reasonable.
Japanese cuisine is unique and the Japanese etiquette around food can be a little different to what you are accustomed to.
Therefore it is a good idea to familiarise yourself beforehand on the top tips about food and eating out in Japan!
Just a stones throw from Omoide Yokocho and you will find yourself in Kabukicho, the nightlife and seedy red light district – the area that never sleeps, filled with bars and restaurants, “massage” shops and sex shops.
It is a fascinating place to visit, and I think people love it or hate it so you just have to go and see for yourself.
Even though Japan is very safe, just stay alert here as there can sometimes be some undesirable people here, and a sprinkling of drunk Japanese businessmen rolling about too.
Carry on walking a few minutes and you are in Golden Gai: a really cute corner of Shinjuku with 6 narrow alleys filled with over 200 tiny independent bars each with their own unique style and theme.
This is great for exploring during the evening (the bars open from 9pm).
The bars are super cute and all unique, only having space for a few people inside, similar to Omoide Yokocho, and it still retains the post-war scruffy charm, which a lot of other parts of Tokyo have now lost in favour of a modern city.
Bar hopping through unique bars in Tokyo is definitely an experience you should do when you are here!
Tokyo metro system:
Just a few words about the Tokyo metro system.
– First things first you NEED cash to buy metro tickets; you cannot pay on card! So make sure you have change, if not there are ATM machines in the main stations only, for you to withdraw money.
– There is an English menu available when you buy your tickets at the ticket machines, yay!
– To save yourself a big headache, buy a day pass for ¥600 if you plan to make 3 or more journeys in any 24 hour period; it saves time, hassle and money rather than buying single tickets each time.
– Signs are usually in English but it can get pretty confusing sometimes, so the best advice I can give is to download an offline maps, such as Google maps or maps.me, so it will tell you which line to take and even how much to pay.
– Avoid rush hour where possible as it is super busy at this time!
– Just check which exit you need to leave from the station as the majority of the stations have many exits – you will save a lot of time this way!
ACCOMMODATION IN TOKYO
And now for you to get some kip after your long day! If you haven’t booked a hotel already and are keen to do something a bit different and only found in Japan, stay at a capsule hotel!
There are so many capsule hotels throughout Tokyo, check out the capsule hotels available here for your stay.
One of the most popular ones is MyCUBE in Asakusa.
So there you go, that is how to do 24 hours in Tokyo! Tokyo is on so many people’s wishlists, but often sadly people are put off by the price.
Whilst it is a lot more expensive than the rest of Asia (I found it comparable to London prices), it definitely shouldn’t put you off from experiencing this incredible city!
If it is your first time to Japan and you’ll also be travelling around the country I recommend you to check out these travel tips for Japan.
Also if you plan to fly into Tokyo, note there are two main airports here so be sure to read here for the best airport to fly into Tokyo.
LONGER THAN 24 HOURS IN TOKYO?
If you have more than 24 hours in Tokyo, amazing! Check out these places!
- Head to Harajuku’s Takeshita Street – full of cute boutique shops and literally THE best place to people watch in Tokyo (especially on Sundays!).
- Visit the Hedgehog cafe just around the corner from Takeshita Street.
- Visit nearby Meiji Shrine
- Visit one of the maid cafes in Akihabara for one of the weirdest experiences of your life. Women dressed in maid outfits singing to you and serving you food made to look like cute little animals.
- Check out the anime and manga shops – Akihabara is full of them! Also there are lots of arcades, games, and gadget shops here.
- Visit an owl cafe in Akihabara! The area is full of themed cafes!
- Underneath Tokyo Station is Tokyo Ramen Street! Full of amazing and inexpensive restaurants!
- Also near the station is The Imperial Palace.
Watch a sumo wrestling tournament in Ryoguku!
Sumo wrestling only takes place in Tokyo in January, May and September, with each month hosting 15 days of sumo wrestling matches. Therefore there are 45 days of the year when you can watch sumo wrestling in Tokyo!
Visit Odaiba where you’ll find Tokyo’s only beach
There is so much to do in Odaiba and it is a great place to take the kids! You can go paddle boarding, wake boarding, relax on the beach, visit the museums here or go on the Ferris wheel!
Day Trips From Tokyo:
If you have more time you can even do some day trips from Tokyo. There are some really amazing places within easy reach of Tokyo you can visit for the day such as Fuji Five Lakes, Hakone, Kamakura or Yokohama!
If you are lucky enough to spend longer in Japan and will be traveling round, check out this Japan 2 week itinerary!
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Catrina is a Travel Writer, SEO Specialist and ex-Flight Attendant based in Sydney, Australia. She has visited 85 countries and lived in several – including Italy, Australia, United Arab Emirates and England. Her work has been featured in a variety of popular travel publications including Fodors, Escape, Australian Traveller and Bear Grylls, as well as several international aviation and travel companies. The majority of her work however features on her own website – 24hourslayover.com where she has written over 500 travel articles!