Best Of Tokyo: The Perfect 5 Days In Tokyo, Japan

From Tokyo’s neon lights, arcades, and futuristic atmosphere, to the majestic temples and lush outdoor spaces, there’s simply too much to see and fall in love with.

There’s even too much to eat! From fine wagyu beef and exquisite omakase to always-fresh sushi and even vending machine ramen, Tokyo is a true foodie paradise.

The sheer amount of fun, culture, and activity Japan holds is truly endless. Many travelers simply don’t know where to start when it comes to planning their trips.

I get it. Tokyo is an incredible city and there’s so much to see and do, it can be hard to know where to start. In this post, I’ll share with you my 5-day Tokyo travel itinerary.

This itinerary includes some of the best places to visit in Tokyo, as well as tips on how to make the most of your time in the city. So, if you’re planning a trip to Tokyo soon, read on for inspiration!

This trip covers the highlights of Tokyo (with a few off-the-beaten-path attractions sprinkled in) and is ideal for first-time visitors to Japan.

This itinerary also works well for return visitors who want to revisit their favorite cities and discover some new activities. So let’s get right into how to spend the perfect 5 days in Tokyo!

This post may contain affiliate links. You won’t be paying a cent more, but in the event of a sale, the small affiliate commission I receive will help keep this blog running/pumping out useful content. Thanks!


5 DAYS IN TOKYO: ITINERARY OVERVIEW

This itinerary is a great intro to Tokyo, Japan and is jam-packed with fun things to do, so follow along if you’re looking for some Japan trip planning guidance!

Among all the great attractions within Tokyo, I’ve also included one overnight stay (or day trip) to the Hakone / Mount Fuji area.

In total, this post will give you enough ideas of things to do to fill 5 days (even 8 days!) in the Tokyo area alone, depending on how fast or slow you like to travel.

You’ll be able to experience all of the following during your 5 days in Tokyo:

  • Meiji Shrine
  • Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
  • teamLab digital art museums
  • Senso-ji
  • Harajuku district
  • Shibuya Crossing
  • Tsukiji Market
  • Asakusa
  • Ueno Park
  • Robot Restaurant
  • Golden Gai
  • Akihabara district
  • Cat cafes
  • and so much more!

HOW TO GET TO TOKYO

Flying Into Tokyo

Tokyo is served by two main airports: Narita International Airport (NRT) and Haneda Airport (HND).

Narita Airport is located about 40 miles (65 kilometers) east of Tokyo, while Haneda Airport is located about 11 miles (18 kilometers) south of Tokyo.

Based on flight prices from each of the airports, as well as your final travel itinerary and hotel reservations, you’ll need to decide which airport is best for you.

To get to Tokyo from either airport, you can take a bus, train, or taxi. While there are many, many ways to get into the city center, I’ve provided the best and most efficient way here.

From Haneda Airport: The fastest and most convenient option is to take the Tokyo Monorail from Haneda Airport to Hamamatsucho Station, which takes just under 20 minutes. From there, you can take the JR Yamanote Line to your final destination.

Another option would be to take the Keikyu Railway train Haneda Airport that takes just 20 minutes to reach Shinagawa Station in downtown Tokyo. From there, you can take the JR Yamanote Line to your final destination. This option works out to be slightly cheaper than the monorail.

From Narita Airport: The most comfortable and convenient way of getting from Narita Airport to Tokyo Station is the JR Narita Express (NEX). The one-way journey takes roughly one hour and costs around 3,000 yen, with departures every 30 to 60 minutes. This ride is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass, JR Tokyo Wide Area Pass and some other JR passes.

Pro Tip: To get real-time train/bus times, routes, and prices, use Hyperdia. This site might look simple and outdated, but it is the most helpful thing in the world when planning out transportation in Japan.

Coming From Kyoto

Kyoto is located 456 kilometers (284 miles) from Tokyo, which means that the journey to get to Tokyo can take some time. The best and most efficient way to get to Tokyo from Kyoto is by shinkansen bullet train, which can make the trip in as little as 2.5 hours.

If you’ve got the national Japan Rail Pass, good news! Some of the bullet train options will be covered with the pass!

Learning about Japan’s train systems took me hours and hours, so I’ve tried to drill down the info for you as easily as possible. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know.

  • Tokyo and Kyoto are connected by the JR Tokaido Shinkansen (the bullet train).
  • There are different train classes, Nozomi, Hikari, and Kodama.
  • To reach Tokyo from Kyoto: Nozomi trains = 140 minutes (fastest), Hikari trains = 160 minutes, Kodama trains = 4 hours (slowest).
  • The Japan Rail Pass is valid on Hikari and Kodama trains, but not on Nozomi trains. Last time I visited, I took the Hikari train with my JR Pass.
  • The regular one-way fare from Kyoto to Tokyo is 13,320 yen (non-reserved seat) or 14,000 yen (reserved seat). A 7-day Japan Rail Pass costs about the same as a regular roundtrip ticket.

You can also fly from Kyoto to Tokyo, but this is generally more expensive than taking the train.

Taking the bus is a cheaper option (ranges from 3,500 to 10,000 yen), but the one way trip to Tokyo by highway bus takes about 7-8 hours.

What is the JR Pass? Is it right for you?

For those unfamiliar with the JR Pass, this is a powerful multi-day transportation pass that covers unlimited travel on most high-speed, limited express, express, rapid, and local JR train services.

Now I know what you’re thinking because I thought it too when I was planning my trip to Japan. The JR pass is not cheap. Well, I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you, but train fares in Japan are particularly expensive in comparison to other countries in the world. There’s no way around it!

Despite the high cost that travelers will have to pay for transportation, the JR Pass can actually save you money, especially if you plan on doing a lot of traveling throughout Japan.

For perspective, the cost of a 7-day Japan Rail Pass is roughly the same as a round-trip ticket between Tokyo and Kyoto. And yet, by paying just a little more for the JR Pass, you’ll unlock seven full days of unlimited train travel all over Japan, versus just that one round-trip ride.

You can buy the JR Pass here.

Pro Tip: The best way to buy your pass is from an authorized vendor before leaving for Japan. While it’s possible to buy the pass when you get to Japan, it’s actually cheaper when bought from outside the country. Passes can only be purchased up to 6 months in advance of the date you plan to use them.

Not sure if the JR Pass is right for you and your travel needs? Check out the free fare calculator on the JR Pass website to map how much your trip would cost and determine if you’re actually going to save any money with it.


HOW TO GET AROUND TOKYO

Once you’re in Tokyo, there are a number of ways to get around. Tokyo is a great city to explore on foot, but there are going to be times where you want to get from one district to another. In these cases, you can take the subway, the train, the bus, or taxi.

If you have the JR Pass (either the one that allows for unlimited nationwide travel or even the Kansai Area pass), I recommend taking the train when you can.

Even if you don’t have the JR Pass, I still recommend using the train if you can. It’s the easiest and most straightforward way of getting around town!

Most of Tokyo’s major urban hubs are located on the JR Yamanote Line, also referred to as the “Loop Line.” The only major exceptions to this are the Roppongi and Asakusa districts. However, these two are just a few subway stops from the Yamamote Line.

You should use a rechargeable IC card, Suica card, or Pasmo card to pay for your rides. These are super-convenient rechargeable cards that can be used on all major trains, subways, and buses throughout Japan. You can even use them to pay for stuff at the konbini (convenience stores)!

The city also has an extensive bus network–you can get almost anywhere by bus if you know where to board and which bus to board. However, most travelers find the train and subway systems to be faster and easier to use. (I once had to take the bus to get to an onsen in the middle of nowhere, but for some reason, the bus stop was so hard to locate! Trains are way easier.)

Taxis are easy to find but pretty expensive in Tokyo. While taxi-ing around usually is the most expensive option, this option could be a good deal when you have three or four people in your group. Taxis also allow you to reach areas that aren’t well served by public transportation rather quickly.


DAY 0 IN TOKYO: GET YOUR BEARINGS

Grab a late lunch

Since you’ll likely be arriving at Tokyo Station, make your first stop Rokurinsha, even before you head to your lodging.

It’s the epitome of what a quality tsukemen should be, not to mention it’s so conveniently located, right in the Tokyo Station! This is our go-to tsukemen spot every time we’re in Tokyo. Rokurinsha is located in the ramen alley and easy to find because of the long line.

Be prepared for a wait–it’s almost certain you’ll have to wait at least thirty minutes in line but is completely worth it.

Rokurinsha Tsukemen - Best Of Japan: The Ultimate Two Week Itinerary

Check in to your hotel / accommodation

After filling up on a quick late afternoon meal, it’s time to check into your hotel! Drop off your bags, freshen up, and take a quick rest if you need to.

Chances are at this point, you will be jetlagged, meaning you will either be tired or might not be able to sleep. Do your best to adjust to the time shift and don’t plan any paid attractions on your first day.

You’ll want to start your trip off with a light stroll around Tokyo! Below are some highlights that I visited on my first stroll through the city.

Visit a cat cafe

After checking in, you can spend some time strolling around your hotel. Need an afternoon pick-me-up? Why not head to a cat cafe to get a caffeine fix while petting some kitties!

We visited Cat Cafe MOCHA in Shinjuku, but there are plenty more dotted throughout Tokyo.

Monta in the Taito neighborhood exceeds the typical cat cafe expectations, and Temari no Ouchi is a super-unique option as it’s set up as a pint-sized cat village.

Take a free walking tour of Tokyo

Walking tours are a great and affordable option for travelers looking to learn more about Japanese history and culture. There’s really no better way to get your bearings in Tokyo than with a free walking tour!

Tokyo Localized has a wide variety of tours that take place throughout the day.

If you’re in Tokyo later in the day, there are nighttime walking tours too! One of our favorite walking tours to date is the Shinjuku Night Walking Tour which takes place nightly at 7pm. Another night tour to consider is the Shibuya Night Walking Tour.

If you’d rather do a walking tour in the daytime to get a better overview of Tokyo, they also have the following tours: Flagship Walking Tour of Tokyo, Meiji Jingu & Harajuku Tour, and Asakusa Walking Tour.

These walking tours typically last approximately 3 hours. Tours are tip-based, so tipping at the end is common ($10-15/person is good).

Pro Tip: I try to do a walking tour each time I visit Tokyo–I even do multiple tours per trip! There is so much history to learn about in Japan, and each tour focuses on something different so the content is not repetitive.

Shibuya Crossing

Shibuya Crossing is one of the busiest intersections in the world. Located in the heart of Tokyo, Japan, the crossing is used by thousands of people every day.

On an average day, Shibuya Crossing sees over 2,500 people crossing at the same time! The intersection is so busy that it is often referred to as the “scramble crossing”, due to the fact that pedestrians are allowed to cross in all directions, regardless of whether or not there is a traffic light.

Make sure to walk across Shibuya Crossing on your first or second day, then head to the nearby Starbucks for an awesome view from above!


DAY 1 IN TOKYO: HARAJUKU / SHIBUYA / SHINJUKU

Morning jog in Yoyogi Park and Meiji Shrine

Right next to the bustling streets of Harajuku is a beautiful place of tranquillity and peace–Yoyogi Park. Start your morning off right with a light jog around Yoyogi Park.

This park is one of the largest city parks in Tokyo, and right in the middle of it sits Meiji Shrine. We were staying in an Airbnb near this area, which made Yoyogi Park and the Meiji Shrine quite easy to get to on foot.

The entrances to the shrine grounds are marked by massive torii gates. They are breathtaking to see, especially given that they’re backdropped by tall trees and the beautiful greenery of the surrounding forest.

On the way to the main shrine up the hill, there is a teahouse, a cultural hall, and large stacks of sake and wine barrel offerings to the royal deities. Meiji Shrine is open from sunrise to sunset each day with no closing days. Admission is free.

If you’re not staying in this area, run to the nearest park around you–there are tons of parks and gardens in Tokyo!

Visit The Harajuku District

After freshening up and getting a quick bite of food to eat for breakfast, spend a few hours in the colorful, quirky, fashion-forward district of Harajuku.

There are tons to do in Harajuku, and you can spend literally hours here strolling, taking photos, and people-watching.

Head to Kawaii Monster Cafe for a crazy colorful cafe experience, grab a crepe from one of the many crepe stands along Takeshita Dori, shop for very unique clothing/costumes, go vintage/thrift shopping, or take kawaii (cute) pictures at Purikura along with the rest of the Japanese teenager girls!

Takeshita Dori (Takeshita Street) is a narrow, roughly 400-meter long street lined by shops, boutiques, cafes and fast food joints targeting Tokyo’s teenagers. This is where you can endlessly spot people in cosplay/costumes. It’s the quintessential Harajuku experience and birthplace of many of Japan’s fashion trends.

Aside from the many vintage stores in the area, a few of our favorite shops to browse include La Foret (13-floor store containing numerous small clothing and culture boutiques) and Kiddy Land (huge toy store featuring tons of Japanese brands including Studio Ghibli, Hello Kitty, Gudetama and Rilakkuma).

Visit Shinjuku District

Shinjuku is a major business and entertainment district. Imagine towering skyscrapers, neon signs, and bustling, vibrant streets filled with local shoppers, tourists, and commuters. Shinjuku is most known for its nightlife and shopping and is definitely worth a visit.

Take the train over to Shinjuku Station, but don’t leave the station quite yet. What you’ll notice is that this train station is huge. There are close to 1,000 shops and restaurants in the station’s two underground malls and 4 department stores. Spend some time getting lost among the shops and restaurants!

Once above ground (and once you’ve gotten your fill of shopping), start your Shinjuku exploration with a skyline view of the city from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, for free!

The 243-meter tall building has two twin towers, and each houses an observatory deck at a height of 202 meters. Each observatory has a cafe and a souvenir shop.

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Head over to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden for an afternoon picnic lunch on one of the massive lawns. You can buy a variety of take-away items at the gourmet food hall in the basement level of Takashimaya department store, just south of the Shinjuku Station.

Once inside the garden, grab a map and check out all the major gardens, such as the French and English gardens as well as the Japanese Traditional gardens featuring ponds, pagodas, and a teahouse. There’s also a charming Taiwan Pavilion that you can go inside and look out the second-story windows.

This was by far one of my favorite gardens in all of Tokyo, so I’d highly recommend you visit!

Omoide Yokocho (Piss Alley) / Golden Gai

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Round off your evening with some yakitori and ice-cold beer on Omoide Yokocho (Memory Alley), also known as Piss Alley. Yep, that’s quite an unappealing name!

Omoide Yokocho is a small, intimate alleyway in the heart of Tokyo’s Shinjuku district. It’s the perfect place to take a trip back in time and experience a bit of old-world Japan.

The alley is lined with tiny bars and eateries, each one crammed with patrons enjoying their meals, drinks, and conversation.

While the area may not be as seedy as it once was, it still has a charmingly rough-around-the-edges vibe that makes it worth a visit.

Food stalls are usually open from 5pm to midnight. Follow up with some bar-hopping around the charismatic Golden Gai bar district.

Optional Night Activity: Robot Restaurant

First, I must say, the Robot Restaurant show is so kitschy and undeniably made for tourists. But because it is so wild, energetic, and random, it is also somehow great.

Despite this nightly event being a tourist trap, I do recommend it if you like weird entertainment! I personally had so much fun when I went!

Get your Robot Restaurant tickets here–but skip the dinner option and eat elsewhere.

Robot Restaurant - Best Of Japan: The Ultimate Two Week Itinerary

DAY 2 IN TOKYO: TSUKIJI / GINZA

Tsukiji Fish Market

Tsukiji Fish Market - Things To Do In Tokyo Japan

Welcome to the world’s largest, busiest fish market! If you happen to be jetlagged and find yourself wide awake at 4-5am, it’s not too early to head to Tsukiji Fish Market for the live tuna auctions!

The Tsukiji Outer Market is a great place to discover all of Japan’s traditional foods. Here you’ll find a mixture of wholesale and retail shops along with numerous restaurants lining the streets.

No visit to Tsukiji is complete without a sushi breakfast. There are plenty of sushi counters and any stand will be good here. No need to hunt or stand in line for hours unless you’re a diehard foodie (in which case you can wait in line for Sushi Dai or Daiwa-Zushi).

Want to experience this place on a deeper level? Opt for the highly-recommended and best-selling Tsukiji Fish Market Food and Culture Walking Tour.

Kabuki-za Theater

If you want to catch a real kabuki show, head to Kabuki-za Theater. The traditional art of kabuki is something unique and, of course, best appreciated by watching a play.

Since these plays are done in Japanese, it might not make sense for you to book tickets for the whole show (usually three hours).

No worries, they sell single-act tickets. They are reasonably priced available only on the day of the show and limit the time of your experience so it does not get too exhausting.

Don’t fancy a show? You can still go through the Kabuki-za Gallery with a voice guide to learn all about the art on display. There is a rooftop garden on the 5th floor and on sunny days, it’s a very wonderful place to spend some time.

teamLab Borderless

TeamLab Borderless Museum - Things To Do In Tokyo

teamLab Borderless has got to be one of the coolest and most interactive museums I’ve been to in my entire life. It’s an immersive digital art museum that features multiple 3D art exhibitions that seamlessly flow from one exhibition room to the next.

Everywhere you turn, you’ll find that the museum is covered with vibrant, colorful, and vivid designs—truly transporting you into a world of its own! With over 10,000 square meters of art to enjoy, you’ll need to allow about 3-5 hours to wander and see it all.

Tickets are not sold at the museum, so you’ll need to buy them online ahead of time. If teamLab Borderless is closing, you can also opt for teamLab Planets.

Explore Ginza for some shopping

If you like upscale, then you’ll like Ginza. There’s hardly a corner in Ginza that doesn’t have an upscale fashion boutique or Michelin-starred restaurant sitting on it!

In fact, there are more Michelin-starred restaurants in Ginza than anywhere else in Tokyo. Ever heard of the popular 2011 documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi? One of the most famous restaurants in Tokyo, Sukiyabashi Jiro, holds 3 Michelin stars and is located right in Ginza.

For those of you more interested in shopping, you’re in luck! Walk down Chuo-dori in Ginza and you’ll get a taste of Tokyo’s most prestigious shopping, including Japanese department stores like Mitsukoshi and Matsuya to international brands like Dior and Prada.

Aside from all the high-end boutiques you’ll effortlessly stumble upon, there are a few stores that are just fun to check out. One of those is the 9 stories tall Itōya Stationery Store (Japanese people love stationery).

Don’t miss the flagship Uniqlo in Ginza, standing 12 stories tall. There are also huge duty-free stores such as Laox, located in the Ginza Yamato Building.

My absolute favorite store to visit and spend a few hours hunting for souvenirs and snacks? Don Quijote! Don Quijote, Donki for short, is a massive discount store chain instantly recognizable by its mascot – the adorably kooky blue penguin above its doors.

They sell just about everything you can think of. Do yourself a favor and step inside if only for a few moments. It’s such an experience!

Yurakucho Restaurant District

Need a break from the glamour of Ginza? Head over to the restaurant district of Yurakucho for some old-school Tokyo vibes and some yakitori and beer!

Though this is only a 5-minute walk from the Ginza station, you will feel worlds away. Since it’s located between a luxurious shopping district and a business district, Yurakucho has a very unique atmosphere that blends both neighborhoods together.

From high-end sushi restaurants to casual Izakayas, there is something for appetite in Yurakucho. Don’t miss Yakitori Alley!

The district is also home to a number of popular bars and clubs, making it a great place to enjoy a night out on the town.

Want to take your Yurakucho eating experience further? Join in on one of these handpicked tours featuring Yurakucho:

Tokyo by Night: Japanese Food Tour – Discover Tokyo’s nighttime food scene and sample local specialties like succulent grilled meat skewers, sweet cakes and refreshing sake on this 3-hour food tour.

Walking Food Tour in Yurakucho, Shimbashi and Ginza – Sample yakitori accompanied by drinks and enjoy food tastings plus dessert at popular and traditional venues. Start amid Yurakucho’s rustic charm, continue on to modern Ginza, and finish your tour among a maze of local eateries in Shimbashi.

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DAY 3 IN TOKYO: UENO, ASAKUSA, AKIHABARA

Ueno Park / Tokyo National Museum

Ueno Park is a large public park next to Ueno Station in central Tokyo. This is one of Tokyo’s most popular and lively cherry blossom spots with more than 1,000 cherry trees lining its central pathway (usually in bloom during late March and early April).

Ueno Park is also home to many important museums, including the Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum for Western Art, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, and the National Science Museum. It is also home to Ueno Zoo, Japan’s first zoological garden.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Ueno area, why not take a walking tour? A 90-minute guided walking tour of the Ueno Park area takes place every Sunday, Wednesday and Friday at 10:30am and 1:30pm.

Tours depart from Ueno Green Salon, located between JR Ueno Station and the National Museum of Western Art.

Visit the shopping street of Ameyoko

After exploring the park grounds, head over to the bustling shopping street of Ameyoko.

This bustling market street is located in the U district of Tokyo and is home to a variety of shops and stalls selling everything from clothes and souvenirs to fresh produce and seafood.

Ameyoko is especially famous for its bargain prices, so it’s the perfect place to pick up some souvenirs or unique items that you can’t find anywhere else.

Historically, Ameyoko began as a black market during World War II but has since transformed into a popular shopping area, known for its discount prices and a wide array of products for sale (clothing, accessories, groceries, dessert shops, and food stalls).

If you’ve been missing matcha ice cream, head over to the popular tea shop, Cha no Kiminoen, for a green tea soft-serve fix!

Sensoji Temple

Sensoji Temple Tokyo Japan

By now, it’s obvious that temples are literally all over Tokyo. However, Sensoji is the oldest and most famous, boasting almost one and a half millennia of history!

This area also features Tokyo’s biggest souvenir market as well as the Kaminarimon Gate, instantly recognizable by the massive red chochin lantern. There are many ways to visit the Sensoji Temple and its surroundings, but the simplest path is to start from the Kaminarimon Gate and move upwards.

After snapping a million photos of the lantern from the Kaminarimon Gate, head on up to Nakamise Dori. Nakamise Dori is a lively traditional shopping street that runs from the Kaminarimon gate right up to Sensoji Temple.

Being one of Japan’s oldest shopping arcades, you will definitely feel that traditional Tokyo charm as you stroll through the strip. There are about 90 stores lining the 250-meter long strip, making it an ideal place to hunt for Japanese gifts and souvenirs.

There are also many food stalls along Nakamise Dori, including stalls selling freshly made hot drinks, rice crackers, dango (sweet dumplings made of sticky soft rice flour), and age-manju (fried buns with a sweet bean paste filling).

From there, head over to the temple itself. It’s worth going up the stairs and wandering around. The main temple closes at 5pm; stalls close around 6pm.

Want to learn more about the deep history of Asakusa and Sensoji Temple? Check out this handpicked tour:

Tokyo Asakusa Rickshaw Tour – Climb aboard a traditional Japanese rickshaw for unforgettable views and stories of the Asakusa district in Tokyo. Your guide will steer you to some of Tokyo’s many iconic sites while illuminating the history behind them all.

Explore the Akihabara district

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Akihabara is the perfect place to spend an afternoon people-watching and taking in the anime culture. Akihabara used to be Tokyo’s electronics district, but in more recent years, this district has become wildly famous for being the center of Japan’s anime and manga culture.

This neighborhood is bustling, loud, and full of comic book stores, video game stores, and anime gift shops. In addition to the otaku shops, you can find manga cafes as well as the cosplay-themed maid cafes, where waitresses dress up and act like maids or anime characters.

Maid cafes are popular with both men and women but aren’t cheap to visit! Some cafes, like the @Home Cafe, offer English speaking maids.

If you’re actually in the area to do some electronics shopping, check out Akiba Yodobashi, the most colossal discount electronic store ever.

Don’t leave before visiting GiGO Akihabara 4, the most iconic and nostalgic Sega arcade in Japan! TAITO Station Akihabara is another arcade game venue you can check out in the area.


DAY 4 IN TOKYO: OVERNIGHT TRIP TO HAKONE

Hakone, 75 minutes away from central Tokyo, is well-known as a relaxing and scenic sightseeing destination. It’s one of the most convenient day trips from Tokyo!

So what is it known for exactly? Hakone is an area encompassing Lake Ashi and the mountains around Gora. It’s famed for its views of Mount Fuji, the Hakone Shrine, and hot springs and onsens galore.

Sure, this area is touristy, but this is a spot that definitely can’t be missed. Especially if you’re looking for a quick bout of rest and relaxation.

If your main goal is getting a clear view of Mt. Fuji, then your best strategy would be to do a day trip and pick your day of arrival based on the weather forecast.

Enjoy a ryokan experience

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People who want a bit of relaxation in their trip will often stay overnight in Hakone at a ryokan. If you want to stay at an onsen ryokan, you’ll have to opt for an overnight stay.

So what is a ryokan exactly? A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn, typically featuring tatami floors, futon bedding, and communal baths. A stay at a ryokan can be a truly unique experience, offering visitors a chance to disconnect from the outside world and immerse themselves in Japanese culture.

Guests are free to relax and enjoy the amenities of the ryokan, which may include gardens, hot springs, or tea ceremonies. In the evening, a multi-course meal is served in the guest’s room or in a shared dining area. The dining experience is usually quite amazing.

Let me tell you, I love the ryokan experience. It’s a bit more expensive than a normal hotel stay, but that’s because it’s an entire experience.

One night is typically all you need to fully enjoy relaxing in yukatas, soaking in public or private baths, eating a relaxing in-room dinner, and ending your stay with a traditional Japanese breakfast. Two awesome ryokans in Hakone to consider booking are:

If ryokans are not your thing, a day trip to Hakone is fine.

Read More: 10 Of The Most Unique Tattoo Friendly Onsens Near Tokyo, Japan

Explore the natural sights

In terms of exploring Hakone, start at Hakone Gora Park and walk the Old Tokaido Road along Lake Ashi, where you can view and strike a pose by the famous Hakone Shrine. On a clear day, look up for beautiful views of Mt. Fuji by the shores of Lake Ashi.

Then, hop aboard a pirate ship (yes a real pirate ship!) and cruise on Lake Ashi for more views of Mount Fuji and the surrounding mountains.

Ride the Owakudani Ropeway

Hakone is a region of mountains, forests, and hot springs. The Owakudani Ropeway is one of the best ways to see this scenic area. At Togendai, hop onto the Owakudani Ropeway (a cable car).

The ropeway takes passengers up Mt. Kamiyama to Owakudani, where you’ll be able to see the sulfurous Owakudani valley, a sweeping geothermal area created by the eruption of the Hakone volcano 3,000 years ago.

At Owakudani, you will find even more Mount Fuji views as well as the region’s specialty food–black eggs, hard-boiled in natural sulfurous hot springs!

This is one of the most popular things to do in Hakone, and it’s easy to see why. The views from the ropeway are simply stunning, and they offer a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of Tokyo for a day.

After a day of exploring, head back to your ryokan for a nice, long hot spring soak before dinner and bed.

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Rather do a day trip than an overnight stay? Consider visiting Hakone with a guide:

Hakone Day Trip Private Tour – This tour will show you around all the highlights of the hot spring town and also take care of all the transportation!

Other Hakone activities worth mentioning:

Pro Tip: Hakone is not fully covered by the Tokyo Wide JR Pass. It’ll take you to Odawara, the gateway to Hakone. If you’re going to do the whole loop, you can purchase the Hakone Free Pass at Odawara (5,000 yen per adult).

The Hakone Free Pass by Odakyu Railway is a discount pass for exploring Hakone. It provides unlimited use of Odakyu-affiliated buses, trains, boats, cablecars, and ropeways in the Hakone area and discounted admission to selected tourist attractions on two or three consecutive days.

This pass can be purchased at Odakyu Line station offices where station staff are available and Odakyu Sightseeing Service Centers. They can also be purchased from the ticket vending machines at Odawara Station.


DAY 5 IN TOKYO: RETURN TO TOKYO

If you’ve opted for an overnight stay in Hakone, train back in the morning or after a delicious lunch. Once back in Tokyo, make sure to take it slow today.

We usually reserve our last day for souvenir shopping, taking it slow, and getting our final meals-of-choice in. What you do today is completely your choice!

Maybe there wasn’t enough time to hit up some of the spots in this itinerary, or perhaps there were other activities that piqued your interest! Spend your last day doing these activities!

To get an idea of what else there is to do in Tokyo, check out the next section of this post.

You’ll also need to reserve some time for packing and maybe even last minute souvenir shopping. It’s your last chance to eat good food, so you should prioritize eating too!


OTHER THINGS TO DO IN TOKYO

Other Tokyo activities worth mentioning:

  • Fall Evening Illumination at Rikugien Garden (seasonal)
  • Yayoi Kusama Museum
  • Samurai Museum
  • Edo-Tokyo Museum
  • Spend a day at the DisneySea or Tokyo Disneyland parks (Hint hint: DisneySea is the first of its kind across the world!)
  • Visiting the Ghibli Museum if you are a Studio Ghibli fan (book far in advance)
  • Sanrio Puroland – Visit all your favorite Sanrio characters at this indoor theme park.
  • Visit the artsy neighborhood of Nakameguro
  • Day trip to Nikko from Tokyo (Edo Wonderland in Nikko is a ton of fun)
  • Shop for homewares at Kappabashi Street – expect restaurant supply stores galore!
  • Attend a Sumo tournament at Ryoguku Kokugikan
  • Shop at the Oedo Antique Market – held near Tokyo Station twice a month, with stalls selling wonderful antique and vintage wares.
  • Shop for vintage clothes at the Shimokitazawa neighborhood
  • Take a dip at Koganeyu’s communal baths – This hip public bath has 3 pools, a sauna & an outdoor plunge pool, plus a bar serving artisan beer!
  • Eat your way through various depachika (underground food halls) across the city.
  • Buy a ton of sliced sandwiches and ramen from the convenience stores and eat them in your hotel room. They are absolutely delicious, especially compared to what we have in the USA.

WHERE TO STAY IN TOKYO

Choosing where to stay in Tokyo can be confusing because it’s just such a massive city. We can help with that.

In terms of neighborhoods to choose from, Shinjuku is our favorite area to stay in Tokyo because it’s so central and has many attractions within walking distance. Shibuya is another convenient base but can be too crowded for some people.

No matter where you choose to stay, just make sure it is within walking distance from the JR Yamanote Line (loop train line that hits all the major attractions and parts of town).

Staying around this train line will save you so much time and money, trust me. You won’t have to transfer to buses or taxis after hopping off the train or walk for days to get you back to your lodging.

SHINJUKU HOTELS

Tokyu Stay - Where To Stay In Tokyo
Tokyu Stay Shinjuku | Booking.com

JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom Shinjuku ($$) – has an awesome breakfast buffet, and in the most perfect location (just a 3-minute walk from JR Shinjuku Station); twin and full-sized bed options.

Mimaru Tokyo Shinjuku West ($$) – offers apartment-style hotels that are perfect for people traveling with family members; 6-minute walk from JR Shinjuku Station.

Tokyu Stay Shinjuku East ($) – super affordable and modern hotel with delicious breakfast options; 11-minute walk from JR Shinjuku Station; twin and queen-sized bed options.

Kimpton Shinjuku Tokyo, an IHG Hotel ($$$) – features facilities inspired by New York-themed designs, such as a restaurant, a fitness center, terrace and an onsite bar. 7-minute walk from Shinjuku Station; king beds are available here!

SHIBUYA HOTELS

Hyatt Regency Tokyo - Where To Stay In Tokyo
Hyatt Regency Tokyo | Booking.com

The Millennials Shibuya ($) – For the adventurous travelers who want to try sleeping in a capsule bed, this hostel is hard to beat! While not the most varied breakfast, it is free. 4 min walk from Shibuya station.

Shibuya Stream Excel Hotel Tokyu ($$) – Great location surrounded by restaurants and close to Shibuya Station (train station is just under the building). Hotel is modern and very clean, and the room had a spacious; king-sized beds are available here!

Hyatt Regency Tokyo ($$) – Awesome location (Shinjuku station is right in the hotel basement), awesome city views, and even more awesome breakfast. King-size beds are available here!


WHAT TO EAT IN TOKYO

While you’re in Tokyo, you need to try the following foods, if you haven’t already:

  • Ramen, abura soba, udon, and tsukemen (dipping noodles)
  • Fukagawa-meshi: rice cooked with clams
  • Conveyor belt sushi: sushi is as fresh as it gets in Tokyo!
  • Anago (saltwater conger eel): the less-fatty version more well-known unagi, which is freshwater eel.
  • Omurice: fried rice wrapped in an omelette and drizzled with ketchup
  • Ichigo Daifuku: cute and delicious strawberry mochi; you can find these all around the train stations throughout Tokyo
  • Dessert crepes: best place to grab one is in the Harajuku district!

Okay, but where should you eat specifically? While this list is not meant to be extensive, I did want to share a few notable spots with you!

  • Sushiro – a top conveyor belt sushi option in Tokyo
  • Hamazushi – another great conveyor belt sushi option
  • Kaiten Sushi Toriton – more conveyor belt sushi!!
  • Rokurinshu – one of the best tsukemen (dipping noodle) joints in all of Tokyo
  • Fūunji – also a great tsukemen option
  • Kyushu Jangara – yummy and affordable tonkatsu ramen; small space, but always packed!
  • A Happy Pancake Omotesando – the only spot you need to visit to try the fluffiest ricotta pancakes ever.
  • Azuki to Kouri – elevated kakigori ice desserts; the signature parfait showcases sweet azuki red beans!
  • Nanaya Aoyama – amazing ice cream, I highly recommend the toasted rice tea and the matcha flavors.
  • … and pretty much restaurant at Tsukiji Market and Omoide Yokocho!

JAPAN: ESSENTIAL PACKING LIST

  • Japan Rail Pass | If you’re staying within the Kanto region, the JR Tokyo Wide Pass makes sense. If you’re traveling across Japan (like to/from Tokyo), the national JR Pass can be worth the money.
  • Suica / Pasmo / Icoca Card | Super-convenient rechargeable cards that can be used on all major trains, subways, and buses throughout Japan. You can even use them to pay for stuff at the konbini (convenience stores)! Cards can be purchased from train station ticket vending machines or ticket offices.
  • Pocket WiFi | If your phone carrier does not provide free international data, you’ll probably want to avoid those exorbitant roaming fees. Get around that by renting a pocket WiFi. Many hotels offer this as part of your stay, but in the case that they don’t, you can rent your own.
  • SIM Card | Alternative to the pocket WiFi. You can buy a Japan SIM card online for collection on arrival at Tokyo Narita or Haneda airports.
  • Portable Power Bank | You’re probably going to be out all day, snapping away taking pictures, GPSing to all the great landmarks of Japan. The last thing you want is to be stranded with no phone battery! A portable power bank is a must-have, and Anker’s ultra-light, ultra-portable power bank is tried and true by so many travelers! I never embark on a day of exploration without it.
  • Travel Adapter | If you’re traveling internationally, you’re going to need one. This one here is tried and trusted. It allows for a normal plug and has two additional USB ports.
  • Jet Lag Prevention | Chances are you will be jetlagged during your first few days in Japan. Don’t let the long flight and time change weigh you down! Here are a few preventative options that’ll help:
  • Comfortable Walking Shoes | You will be doing a lot of walking in Japan.
  • Cash and credit cards
  • Important travel documents | Passports, visas, flight tickets, medical cards
  • Lastly, be sure to save space in your luggage for souvenirs and snacks to bring home!

JAPAN TRAVEL INSURANCE

This is a no-brainer. When traveling internationally, be sure to get yourself some travel insurance.

I’ve heard of too many unfortunate experiences where friends and family have had baggage lost/stolen, hotels canceled, or have had unexpected medical emergencies while traveling where they’ve had to cut their trips short. My partner even had his shoulder dislocated while surfing in Mexico, resulting in a huuuge emergency room bill!

Without travel insurance, you would have to pay out of pocket for these mishaps. This is why I get travel insurance for all my international trips now!

One of the best budget-friendly travel insurances for those traveling outside their home country is SafetyWing.

SafetyWing Insurance provides coverage for unexpected illness or injury, including eligible expenses for hospital, doctor or prescription drugs. This means that if you get ill or injured, they will cover the medical expenses.

In addition, it provides emergency travel-related benefits such as emergency medical evacuation (much needed if you like to go hiking / trekking in the wild), travel delay, and lost checked luggage.

Click here to price out how much travel insurance would be for your trip.


I hope this 5-day Tokyo itinerary has helped make your trip planning a million times easier. If you have any questions at all or have recommendations of your own, feel free to drop a comment!

Safe travels abroad!

Looking for more Japan travel tips? Read More:

Japan On A Budget: The Ultimate How-To Guide

10 Of The Most Unique Tattoo Friendly Onsens Near Tokyo, Japan

The Perfect Kyoto Itinerary: 5 Days In Kyoto, Japan (+ Nara and Osaka)

Osaka Day Trip From Kyoto: Best Things To Do In Osaka, Japan

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