Tokyo is the most populated metropolitan area in the world, almost 37 million people live in the greater Tokyo area. When arriving in Tokyo for the first time, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed: confusing Kanji signs everywhere, delicious smells drifting through the doors of tiny restaurants and happy jingles playing in the metro.
This Tokyo 5 day itinerary and complete guide for first-time visitors will show you the best things to do in Tokyo, while also leaving enough time to wander around Tokyo’s hidden streets and alleys.
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Tokyo 5 day itinerary
Tokyo in 5 days
I’ve visited Tokyo three times up until now, and always discover new things to see in this vibrant city. You will find ancient temples, modern buildings, thousands of excellent places to eat, green parks, interesting museums and a myriad of other things to do.
Planning a trip to Tokyo can feel daunting, which is why I wrote this post. I hope this Tokyo trip itinerary and guide will help you make the most of your Tokyo trip!
Things to know before traveling to Tokyo
In general, the best time to visit Tokyo is March until May and between October and mid-December.
If you travel in late March, you can usually see the beautiful cherry blossoms, called sakura in Japanese. This is a busy time to visit Tokyo, popular places to view the blossoms are Chidorigafuchi, Ueno Park and Shinjuku Gyoen. At the end of April, you’re likely to have nice weather, comfortable temperatures, and no crowds.
In late fall, usually November, you can admire the colorful foliage in Tokyo, popular places to watch the vibrant leaves are Yoyogi Park, Rikugien and Meiji Jingu Gaien.
While you can visit Toyko year-round, I personally would avoid visiting Tokyo in summer. The city is very hot and humid, plus, it’s the rainiest time of the year as well.
Winter in Tokyo isn’t extremely cold, so this can be a nice time to visit if your goal is to avoid any crowds. However, I’d avoid Christmas as the holidays are very busy, and an expensive time to visit as well.
The official currency in Japan is the Japanese Yen (¥). Here you can find the current exchange rates, at the time of writing €1 is approximately 120¥ and $1 is around 110¥.
From Narita Airport there are various ways to get to the city center of Tokyo, the cheapest one is by bus. Keisei bus charges ¥1000 per adult for a single trip into the city.
The journey takes around an hour, depending on traffic. You can find all the information (timetable and where to find the bus stops at Narita airport and in Tokyo city center) on the Keisei website.
Alternatively, you can take the Narita Express from Narita airport to Tokyo Station. This is more expensive (¥3000 per ticket), however, it’s included in the Japan Rail Pass. If you have one of these (or want to buy a JR Rail Pass) this would definitely be the easiest way to Tokyo city center!
The Tokyo metro system is one of the largest in the world, however, it’s not difficult to use. First of all, you can find the metro map here. Stops are numbered and once you figure out the system it’s very easy to determine where you are and when you need to get out.
Stops are announced in Japanese and English, so don’t worry: you won’t have any issue navigating the Tokyo subway!
How to spend 5 days in Tokyo: map with Tokyo highlights
Tokyo itinerary 5 days
- Tokyo day 1: Tokyo Skytree, Asakusa, Senso-Ji temple, Ueno Park and Tokyo National Museum.
- Tokyo day 2: TeamLab Borderless, the Imperial Palace and Akihabara.
- Tokyo day 3: Shinjuku, Harajuku, Shibuya, and the Tokyo Tower.
- Tokyo day 4: day trip to Nikko.
- Tokyo day 5: day trip to Kamakura.
Tokyo itinerary day 1
The Tokyo Sky Tree
One of the best places to visit in Tokyo is the Tokyo Sky Tree. This impressive tower stands a whopping 634 meters tall (only the Burj Khalifa in Dubai is higher at the time of writing). There are two observation decks: the Tokyo Skytree Tembo Deck at 350 meters and the Tokyo Skytree Tembo Galleria at 450 meters.
In the early morning on a sunny day, it’s possible to see Mount Fuji from the Tokyo Sky Tree. You have to be lucky though, as the distance between the two is approximately 100 kilometers and conditions have to be perfect. Easier to spot is the Yokohama Landmark Tower which is ‘only’ 33 kilometers away.
From both observation decks, the views of Tokyo are truly impressive. The birdseye view clearly shows how vast and extensive the city is. You can spot many landmarks from the Tower and will get a feeling of which area is where.
I recommend going up the Tokyo Sky Tree on your first day in Tokyo (if weather permits) as it will help you orientate yourself better in the days to come.
Insider tip: buy your ticket online to save money and skip the queue!
Asakusa is a beautiful and historic neighborhood in Tokyo. It’s a very charming area where you will feel the atmosphere of old Tokyo. During the Edo Period, Asakusa was the place to go for entertainment, such as kabuki performances.
Much of Asakusa was destroyed during World War II, luckily its most popular attraction, the impressive Sensō-Ji temple, has been restored to its former glory after being damaged by air raids.
Take your time to wander around this area and explore the quaint little streets, shops, and shrines. Or, rent a kimono and hop into a rickshaw for the ultimate Asakusa experience.
Over 30 million people visit Sensō-Ji every year and with good reason, it’s a magnificent temple complex! Also called Asakusa Kannon Temple, the original building dates from the year 645.
Throughout the years, it has been damaged by earthquakes, fires, and air raids during the war but always has been restored.
Enter the complex through the beautiful Kaminarimon (meaning Thunder Gate). Stroll through Nakamise-dōri, a 250 meter long street within the complex, housing dozens of little shops and you will find yourself at the actual temple.
Standing in the main hall you can’t help but feel impressed. Allow plenty of time to wander around the grounds, admire Hozomon (the inner gate), the Five Storey Pagoda (55 meters tall) next to the temple and Asakusa-jinja shrine.
Visiting Sensō-Ji is free, the temple is easy to reach as it’s very close to Asakusa Station.
Ueno Park and Tokyo National Museum
Ueno Park is an expansive green area and a great place to get away from busy Tokyo. Within Ueno Park, you can often enjoy live performances, and there are several shrines. There are also multiple museums located in and around the park, one of these is the Tokyo National Museum.
A visit to the Tokyo National Museum is a must-do activity on any Tokyo travel plan. This extensive museum own a tremendous amount of artifacts, which are rotated often (as it’s nowhere near possible to display everything at once).
You will learn about Japanese art history and can admire samurai swords, colorful kimonos, ancient pottery and much more. There are also many Buddhist sculptures and scrolls as well as artifacts from Japan’s historical minorities (such as the Ainu from Hokkaido and the Ryūkyū Empire on Okinawa).
If you are an art lover, it’s easy to spend an entire day within this terrific museum. However, you see quite a lot within a couple of hours.
A ticket for the museum costs ¥620 (for adults), kids under 18 years can enter for free. The museum is opened between 9.30 am and 5 pm (the last admission is 4.30 pm).
Tokyo travel itinerary: day 2
TeamLab Borderless Digital Art Museum
Sydney from A World in Reach: Tokyo’s teamLab Borderless Digital Art Museum is an experience that must be added to your Tokyo bucket list. This interactive museum, located in futuristic Odaiba, uses computers and projectors to create a world of color and light without borders.
When you arrive at teamLab Borderless, you can move freely through the many rooms and exhibits. There’s no set pathway in the museum, so you can move around as you please.
The exhibits are an Instagrammer’s paradise, so make sure to bring your camera! Some of the most popular exhibits are Crystal World and the Forest of Resonating Lamps. There may be a line to enter some of the more popular exhibits, but the lines move rather quickly and the exhibits are well worth the wait.
On weekdays, teamLab Borderless is open from 10 am to 7 pm. On Saturdays and Sundays, it stays open until 9 pm. A ticket costs ¥3200 (for an adult) or ¥1000 (for kids).
I highly recommend buying tickets online before your visit, as they often sell out!
During your visit, make sure to wear flat, closed-toed shoes in order to be able to fully experience all of the rooms at the museum.
To get to teamLab Borderless, take the Yurikamome line to Aomi Station in Odaiba. The museum is located on the second floor of Palette Town. Once you’re there, go through the Mega Web building toward the Ferris Wheel and you’ll arrive at the museum.
The Imperial Palace
While the actual Palace isn’t open to the public, you can stroll around the grounds and admire the stone bridges, watchtowers, and gardens. Howver, the best way to explore the Imperial Palace is by joining a tour.
Tours take 75 minutes and reservations must be made at least four days in advance. Though it’s recommended to book as early as possible, bookings can be made up until a month before your visit. You can make a reservation on this website.
Stella from Around The World In 24 Hours: Tokyo is huge but exploring the city becomes much more manageable when you concentrate on one of its many neighborhoods at a time.
One of the most interesting neighborhoods in Tokyo is Akihabara. It is easy to reach from anywhere else in Tokyo, just get off at the Akihabara railway station.
Akihabara, or Akiba for short, is sometimes advertised as Akihabara Electric Town. That’s because it’s famous for an enormous number of electronics stores. You can find any type of electronics in Akihabara, from microwaves and computers to video games and anime.
Akihabara is also the favorite hangout for otaku, the Japanese word for a superfan of anime, manga, and video games. In Akihabara, there are several maid cafes, where waitresses dressed as maids or anime characters cater to their otaku guests. Some of the most famous maid cafes are Cure Maid Cafe, which was the first one, and @home.
Manga fans will head straight for Comic Toranoana, while video-game fans will prefer Media Land, which carries rare games that aren’t available outside of Japan. Many Japanese games aren’t playable on foreign systems, but the main exceptions are games for a Game Boy or Game Boy Advance.
Fortunately, it’s easy to find these rare Game Boy games in the video game stores of Akihabara, which makes them the greatest possible Tokyo souvenir for any Japanese pop culture fan.
Tokyo tour itinerary: day 3
Alyse from The Invisible Tourist: Japan is a wonderful land of contrasts, yet they seem to blend together so beautifully. One of Tokyo neighborhoods that is a great example of this is popular Shinjuku.
Not only is it home to the world’s largest (and busiest) train station and a dinosaur, it also has an array of little alleyways to explore and one of the city’s most tranquil gardens to escape the crowds.
The station itself is an amazing drawcard here, with over 200 exits you’ll want to make sure you take note of the one you need! A few moments’ walk from the station will take you to Godzilla Street, its vibrant flashing lights and signage is a great photo spot. And as the name suggests, here you’ll find the giant Godzilla perched atop Hotel Gracery baring his teeth.
East of the station is a popular set of narrow laneways lined with eateries, karaoke bars and small pubs, dubbed the Golden Gai. If you’ve always wanted to see robots dancing amongst laser beams, the famous Robot Restaurant here is not to be missed!
Finally, once you’ve had your fix of busy Shinjuku, take the time to relax on the lawns in gorgeous Shinjuku Gyoen. Despite a few skyscrapers visible over the treetops on the park’s edges, it really feels as though you’re miles away from the bustling city outside.
The entry into Shinjuku Gyoen is JPY 500. Bring a picnic blanket and snacks to enjoy under one of the park’s 20.000 trees and be sure to add this lovely park to your Shinjuku itinerary!
Mar from Once in a Lifetime Journey: Harajuku is the shopping center of Tokyo and even the entire Japan. Starting in the 1980s, Harajuku became the place to be if you were into fashion. Teens gathered around Harajuku Bridge as it became a sort of urban catwalk where the various “style tribes” were founded.
Today, possibly the best thing to do in Harajuku is to just people watch. You can spot all the modern fashion styles from Lolita to Decora, cyber-Goth to cutesy Kawaii-Kei. All things weird and wonderful that fall under the J-pop umbrella can be found here.
While you can hit the major stores like Forever 21, it’s best to try and spot the independent boutiques selling youth-oriented fashion geared toward the youth subcultures.
Start your meandering at Takeshita Dori, Harajuku’s main shopping street which is located right out of Harajuku Station (原宿駅) on JR’s Yamanote line, and Tokyo Metro’s Chiyoda and Fukutoshin lines.
You’ll be able to spot alternative fashions here from J-rock and heavy metal to fairy princess. You can also spot girls in the Lolita-inspired layered frilly “jumper skirts” here. Pop into Laforet to find cosplay clothes and J-rock “meet and greets”.
While Harajuku is always pumping with people, weekends are carnage. So while it’s the most chaotic time to visit, it’s probably the best time for spotting all sorts of Kawaii outfits. Bring your camera and an extra battery as there are plenty of photo opportunities!
Alexander from Destinavo: Shibuya is one of the most popular areas in Tokyo and it’s filled with entertainment and shopping. It’s a vibrant neighborhood that is characterized by the famous Shibuya Crossing where hundred of thousands of people walk every single day.
This is where you will find all the trendy stores in Tokyo, as well as second-hand clothing. The area is known as a fashion center and it’s especially popular among younger people. At night, you can also explore the lively nightlife.
One of the best things to do in Shibuya is to just stroll around along the streets and explore the big malls and cool designer stores. There are lots of interesting alleys as well where you can find hidden gems away from the hustle and bustle. Furthermore, you can find the high-end shopping boulevard known as Omotesandō.
Also, don’t miss to enter the giant Don Quijote store that is located about 5-10 minutes walk from Shibuya Station. If you are looking for a nice spot for dinner, I recommend the Uobei Genki Sushi, which is a well-known sushi-chain in Tokyo.
The easiest way to get here is to take the metro or JR line to Shibuya Station, which is accessible from all major stations in Tokyo. The area is lively from mornings to nighttime and a visit to Tokyo is certainly not complete without exploring Shibuya.
Sara from Picturesque World: the Tokyo Tower is one of the most popular attractions in Tokyo. Located in the ShibaKoen district of Minato it is the second tallest structure in Japan, standing 333 meters tall. Only the Tokyo Sky Tree is higher!
The Tokyo Tower is easily accessed by public transport, from Akabanebashi Station it’s about a 5-minute walk to the tower.
The Tokyo Tower has two observation decks for visitors, one at 150 meters and another at 250 meters. From the observation deck, you can admire the view over Tokyo once again, and it never ceases to amaze.
Going up to the 150-meter observation deck costs ¥1200 (per adult). The top deck tour is a bit more expensive, one ticket costs ¥3000 (per adult) and gives you access to the main deck as well.
At the base of Tokyo Tower, there is a 4-story building called Foot Town with restaurants, souvenir shops, museums, galleries, and even an amusement park.
It’s highly recommended to visit the Tokyo Tower around sunset as you can slowly see the nightfall and see the city light up. The Tower itself will be lit as well, in bright red and white colors.
The Tokyo Tower is open every day from 9 am until 11 pm. You can buy a ticket online here.
Tokyo itinerary day 4: day trip to Nikko
Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan: Nikko is a beautiful mountain town that lies a couple of hours north of Tokyo. To fully explore the whole area, including Nikko National Park, the famous Kegon waterfall and the nearby onsens, you would need at least a couple of days.
However, the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the center of town are all within easy walking distance of each other and make a very doable and worthwhile day trip.
Of the several temples and shrines here, the one you absolutely must-see is the Tosho-gu Shrine. It’s the final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the powerful shogun who unified all of Japan and is one of the most lavishly decorated buildings in the whole country. Entry to the shrine by itself is ¥1300 or ¥2100 in combination with the attached museum.
Another famous spot in Nikko is the Shinkyo Bridge, which is considered to be one of the three finest bridges in Japan. It costs ¥300 to cross the bridge, but you can view it for free from the road nearby.
To get away from the tourist crowds, take the peaceful five-kilometer trail to the Takino-o shrine. It’s an ancient pilgrimage route and is kind of a miniature version of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage near Kyoto.
The lovely Yasai Café Meguri is a great place to stop for lunch and is one of the best restaurants for vegan food in all of Japan.
How to get to Nikko from Tokyo
Nikko can be reached from Tokyo by train in about two hours, with trains departing at least once every hour. Here you can find more information about how to travel from Tokyo to Nikko.
Tokyo itinerary day 5: day trip to Kamakura
Christine from Christine Abroad: Kamakura is located one hour south of Tokyo and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Japan. In this coastal town, you will find dozens of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines.
One of the most famous temples in the city is the Kotoku-in Temple where you can see the 13m-high bronze statue of Buddha. It’s famous for surviving several storms and tsunamis throughout history and also for being of the biggest Buddha statues in Japan.
All around the town you can find several beautiful temples and natural places to visit, as well as nice cafes and restaurants where you can enjoy some delicious Japanese food and drinks. Kamakura also features a lovely beach that is very popular among the locals during summertime.
Kamakura was actually the political center of Japan during the 12th century when Minamoto Yoritomo chose it as his new base of government. It ruled the country for more than one century and still today, visitors can experience this ancient legacy.
Some of the most popular temples and shrines, in addition to the Great Buddha, are Hokokuji Temple, Hasedera Temple, Engakuji Temple, Kenchoji Temple, and the beautiful Hachimangu Shrine.
How to get to Kamakura from Tokyo
Traveling from Tokyo to Kamakura is very straightforward as the JR Yokosuka Line connects Tokyo Station directly with Kamakura Station. The trip takes just under an hour and, if you have a JR Rail Pass, won’t cost you anything. If you don’t have a rail pass, a one-way ticket costs ¥940.
Where to stay in Tokyo
I highly recommend the Candeo Hotel Tokyo Shimbashi. Their welcoming staff will go out of their way to make sure you have a great time at the hotel and in Tokyo.
Opened in January 2018, Candeo Hotels Tokyo Shimbashi is a new and modern hotel with beautifully decorated rooms and an unbeatable location.
Rooms are between 15-22m2 and offer lots of amenities, including air conditioning, a private bathroom with a Japanese toilet, a flat-screen TV, high-speed WiFi, refrigerator, a kettle, toiletries and more.
The Sky Spa on the top floor of the hotel is definitely one of the highlights of this hotel, it’s the perfect way to relax after a day of sightseeing in Tokyo.
There are separated baths for men and women. In each of the Spa’s, you can find both indoor and outdoor baths, a sauna and shower facilities.
Breakfast at Candeo is excellent, with over 60 different foods to choose from. There are lots of typical Japanese dishes, salad, fresh fruits, several types of bread rolls, coffee, juice and more.
Tokyo is a very big city, therefore choosing the right location is key when planning your Tokyo trip. The Candeo Hotel Shimbashi is all about location, it’s only a 5-minute stroll to Shimbashi station.
From Narita Airport you can take the Keisei Narita Sky Access to Shimbashi station which takes about an hour. When landing on Haneda Airport you can take the Keikyu Line to Shimbashi Station which takes approximately 20 minutes.
Click here to book the Candeo Hotels Tokyo Shimbashi.
Where to eat in Tokyo
Japanese food is the best! Whether it’s Tokyo street food, freshly made sushi or a bowl of steaming soup, there are so many options in Tokyo and they are all equally delicious. Nevertheless, here are some of my Tokyo favorites, enjoy!
Where to eat this: 10 meters from Keisei bus stop nr. 3 on Sotobori Dori Street, across Tokyo station (Yeasu side).
Where to eat this: in Tokyo’s famous ramen street, located in the basement of Tokyo station. There are 8 ramen shops to choose from, good luck picking one, all the dishes look amazing…
But basically it doesn’t really matter where you decide to have a bowl of ramen in Tokyo, there are so many delicious options!
Prawn tempura with rice
Where to eat this:
3 Chome-41-5 Yushima, Bunkyō-ku, Tōkyō-to 113-0034, +81 3-3837-3373
Tokyo on a budget: how to save money in Tokyo
Tokyo can be an expensive city to visit. However, with these tips, you will be able to visit Tokyo without breaking the bank.
Buy a Tokyo Subway 72-hour ticket (¥1500 per adult)
The advice I am going to give you now will save you lots of money. I didn’t know this, but there is a 72-hour pass which entitles you to unlimited rides on Tokyo’s subway. This pass costs only ¥1500 per person!
We didn’t buy this and paid a lot more for metro rides. On our first day in Tokyo, we paid separately for each fare. This is the most expensive option, don’t do this! It costs lots of money and you need to buy a ticket each time you travel on the subway so it takes a lot of time as well.
On our second and third day in we bought a ¥ 600-day ticket, which also gives you unlimited rides but only for a 24h period.
However, if you buy the 72-hour pass you don’t have to spend ¥6200 (€50) on subway rides as we did, but only ¥3000 (€24) as a couple, saving you ¥3200 (€26)! Check the Tokyo metro site for more info. You can buy this pass after arriving at Narita airport or order one online.
Order from vending machines
There is so much delicious food to be found in Tokyo and while you definitely have to try out as many different dishes as possible, buying your food from a vending machine instead of eating in a fancy restaurant will save you lots of money. And the quality will still be great!
Just follow the locals to sniff out the best places to eat on a budget, who knows where you will end up and what you will end up eating;-). You can find some suggestions about where to eat in Tokyo on a budget above.
Buy food at a supermarket
Head to one of the bigger supermarkets (usually found in the basement of Tokyo’s shopping malls) just before closing time. You’ll find lots of discounted dishes for very low prices!
If you are on an extremely tight budget, 7/11 has acceptable food as well. However, I’d only choose this option if you cannot find a cheap local place to eat.
One of my favorite things about travel is to try out the local cuisine, so better to spend a bit more on food and save on accommodation than vice versa (in my opinion;-).
Where to go in Tokyo: in conclusion
That’s about it, everything you need to know about a 5 day trip to Tokyo. Again, you could spend much more time in this wonderful city. However, I hope this itinerary will help you to have a wonderful time in Tokyo. So wonderful that you’ll want to return for more…
Do you want to read more about traveling in Japan? Check out my other posts as well:
- Japan itinerary
- Japan on a budget
- Japan off the beaten track
- Tips for driving on Hokkaido
- Kyoto itinerary
- Hiroshima itinerary
- Miyajima itinerary
- Osaka itinerary
- Japanese Alps itinerary
- Kanazawa to Shirakawago and Takayama to Shirakawago
- 3 days in Kamikochi
- Hiking to Koyasan
- Japan packing list
This post was updated in December 2019.