It’s no secret – Tokyo is a very big city. Not only is it Japan’s capital, it’s also the most populated city in the world. So if you only have a few days to explore Tokyo, it can seem overwhelming. It would literally take a lifetime to explore every inch of Japan’s capital city, so don’t give yourself any unrealistic expectations. Unfortunately, you won’t see it all.
If you’re planning a trip to Tokyo, do some research and write a list of the things you would like to see and do. From that list, narrow it down. Put a star next to the things on your list that you really want to see. The things that you don’t want to leave Japan without experiencing. Doing this will make it a lot easier to plan your time in such a large city, and you won’t leave with any regrets!
Russell and I had quite a long list of things we wanted to do and see. We knew that even though we had 12 days to explore the city, we still wouldn’t see it all. That’s okay, though. It just gives us an excuse to go back again one day!
Today I’m sharing with you the itinerary from our 12 days in Tokyo. We crammed a lot into a such a small amount of time, so our itinerary may not suit your style of travel. That being said, we did have a couple of rest days, where we didn’t catch any trains or travel too far. S0 hopefully our itinerary can bring some inspiration to anyone planning a trip to Tokyo!
12 Days in Tokyo – A Suggested Tokyo Itinerary
Day 1: Arriving in Tokyo from Nagano
Like our previous commutes between cities around Japan, we arrived in Tokyo on the Shinkansen Bullet Train. It took roughly 2 and a half hours to arrive at Shinjuku New City Hotel. This would be our home for the next 12 days!
We arrived at our hotel in Shinjuku too early to be able to check in (Japan has a fairly strict check-in policy). But the cool thing about all of Japan’s hotels, is they will hold your luggage for free for as long as you need! So we dropped off our suitcases and headed down the street for some food.
After indulging in yet another McDonalds meal, it was almost 3pm – time to check in! I’ve written a review on Shinjuku New City Hotel.
We didn’t do a whole lot the day we arrived in Tokyo. It had been over a week since we were last able to do our washing, so that was priority for the afternoon. We loaded up a machine and walked to the Family Mart convenience store down the road to stock up on alcohol and snacks. #partyhard
Day 2: Harajuku + Shibuya Crossing
For our first full day in Tokyo, we decided to check out Harajuku and Shibuya! Harajuku is Tokyo’s teenage and tourist hub. The main attraction is Takeshita Street. If you’ve been to Osaka before, or have read my suggested itinerary, you would know about Dotonbori. Well Harajuku is Tokyo’s version of Dotonbori, but aimed more towards the younger generation. There’s a ton of cute shops, souvenir stores and fast food places to keep you entertained for hours.
Harajuku is busy at the best of times. But I wouldn’t suggest visiting on a Saturday. Definitely a lot busier that during the week! Despite having to dodge selfie sticks and wind your way through the crowds, it’s still an awesome experience! I bought a hoodie and t-shirt with cats on them. Yeah, I’m that person. There’s a few second hand clothing stores too, where you’re bound to find some bargains. I found an 80’s style denim jacket, which turned out to be an amazing deal!
If you haven’t heard of Shibuya Crossing, it’s a super busy and well known scramble crossing in the Shibuya District. It’s the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world, with hundreds if not thousands of people crossing to the other side, each time the lights turn green. If you want a better view of the scramble, head up to the Starbucks right next to the crossing. It’s the busiest Starbucks in the world, so you may have to push your way through for a good spot. But if you’re patient, you can get great pictures and footage of the scramble!
Another cool spot to visit while you’re in the area, is the Meiji Shrine. It was under construction the day we visited, so we didn’t get a great sighting of it. But the scenic walk up to the shrine itself is worth it.
Day 3: Akihabara + Shinjuku Batting Centre
Akihabara is the anime, video games and electronics hub of Tokyo. If you’re a fan of old school video consoles, or the endless amount of anime that Japan is known for, you’ll have a blast exploring Akihabara. Even if video games and anime aren’t your thing, there’s still plenty to see in the bright and colourful district. There’s also a ton of food options (even a Carl’s Jr!) so you won’t be limited for choice.
After exploring Akihabara, we headed back to Shinjuku towards our hotel. The previous night, while making our list of things we still wanted to see and do in Tokyo, we came across Shinjuku Batting Centre. I have absolutely no coordination when it comes to sports. This is always an entertaining experience, so we decided to swing by (see what I did there?) the batting centre on our way back from Akihabara! It costs 300 yen for 28 balls, and you can stay for as many turns as you like. Just make sure you rotate, and let the people waiting behind you have their shot before you line up again!
Day 4: Rest, Relaxation and Epic Free Views!
Russell and I stayed in Shinjuku for our 12 day visit to Tokyo, which put us fairly centrally located to a lot of the cool things to do in the city. Right across the road from our hotel, on the other side of Shinjuku Chuo Park, is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Both the Northern and Southern towers have FREE observatories at 202 metres (the towers reach a total of 243 metres!)
If you visit on a clear day, you’ll be able to see well known Tokyo attractions like Mt Fuji, Tokyo Dome and Tokyo Skytree. Each observatory has a cafe and souvenir shop, plus restrooms and seats if the amazing panoramic views are tiring you out (#strongsarcasm). Avoid waiting in line just before sunset, especially on the weekends, as the line for the elevator can be pretty long. Instead, head up earlier to guarantee an amazing view. Otherwise, head up once it’s dark – the lines will be a lot shorter!
The best part about this awesome building? You won’t have to pay a cent to visit the observatories.
Take the rest of the day to rest, relax and recharge. We didn’t do too much for the rest of the day, and it was a nice change from the hectic-ness of Tokyo!
Day 5: Tokyo Mega Pokemon Centre + Shopping
Like most of the world, I hopped on the Pokemon Go bandwagon when it was a huge craze. Also, like most of the world, I stopped playing after a month or so. Russell has been a lifelong Pokemon fan, so obviously the biggest Pokemon Centre in Japan had to be on our itinerary.
The Pokemon Centre is located in Sunshine City shopping mall, where you’ll find a ton of cool things to do even if you’re not a Pokemon fan. No matter which Pokemon is your favourite, or what type of souvenir you hope to return home with, you won’t be disappointed. I don’t know much about the Pokemon world. All I know is Squirtle is my favourite, and Pikachu is yellow. But even I was impressed by the sheer size and awesomeness of the place.
You’ll find an endless amount of cool stuff to buy. From badges, Pokemon cards, backpacks, notebooks, stationery, clothes, socks, books, plastic and cuddly Pokeballs, stuffed Pokemon toys, to food and much more. I recommend setting aside at least a couple of hours to explore the Centre, especially if you’re a die hard fan. You’ll need as much time (and money) as possible!
Day 6 and 7: Tokyo DisneySea + Tokyo Disneyland
While in Shibuya, Russell and I bought 2 day Tokyo Disney Park tickets at the Disney Store. I’ve written a whole post about both of the Disney parks in Tokyo. So click here to read all about our magical Disneyland experience! I’ve included a ton of super helpful tips on everything from food, ticket prices, fast passes, wait times and much more.
Day 8: Odaiba
Odaiba is a popular entertainment and shopping district in Tokyo. It’s located on the man made island in Tokyo Bay, which is pretty cool if you ask me. There’s a suprrising amount of stuff to see and do in Odaiba, it just depends on what you’re into!
We originally planned our visit to see the giant Gundam robot outside of the DiverPlaza Tokyo Plaza shopping mall. But because we have such wonderful luck, it was taken down just before we arrived in Tokyo, to be replaced later this year. This was truly devastating, because I was excited to take a selfie with the giant robot I didn’t know anything about. Oh well. Next time.
There’s also a miniature version of the Statue of Liberty, plus a ton of shopping malls with various stores and restaurants. The 5th floor of the AquaCity mall, has a ramen food court. Yeah, that’s a thing. Our broke asses couldn’t afford to eat there. But still, that’s pretty damn cool.
Top Tip: Hit up the Saizeriya Italian restaurant chain. Super, duper cheap food. 200 yen wine. Unlimited drink refills and a double mozzarella pizza for under 5 bucks. Yes please. This was definitely our go-to place for a cheap feed.
Day 9: Tokyo Giants Baseball Game, Golden Gai + Kabuchiko
As soon as we discovered there was a Tokyo Giants home game scheduled during our stay in Tokyo, purchasing tickets was a priority. You can get tickets to sporting games online or at some convenience stores, but we decided to take the train to Tokyo Dome itself! Right next to the Dome is Tokyo Dome City, which is an epic theme park. So if you’re keen on hitting up a baseball game while in Tokyo, I recommend buying the tickets from Tokyo Dome a few days beforehand. Then you can spend the rest of the day riding rollercoasters and eating lots of delicious food that’s really bad for you! #eatyourveggiestookids
In true Rhiannon fashion, I decided I wanted to get drunk before heading to the game. So after I smashed out half a bottle of wine in under 10 minutes (drinking straight from the bottle after my second glass, to save time), we headed to the train station! Let me tell ya, drunkenly catching a super packed train in the busiest city in Japan is quite an experience.
The Giants game was a lot of fun. The atmosphere at a Japanese baseball game is something I’ve never experienced before. The fans of the away team get super into it, and almost every single one of them stand up and sing, dance and even jump up and down in support of their team. Literally.
The food is average, nothing super crazy or different – except the bento boxes! You won’t find those at any baseball games around the world! Food prices aren’t great, but that’s to be expected. I suggest bringing in your own food and water. Especially water. We didn’t think to do this, and ended up spending 400 yen on two of those little tiny bottles of water you get on planes. Ripped. Off.
If you’ve got a spare day in Tokyo, and want to experience Japan’s sporting scene, definitely buy tickets to a baseball game. For info on how to get to Tokyo Dome (and Tokyo Dome City), click here!
After the baseball we headed back to the hotel, drank some more alcohol and ate some food. Then we headed out to experience Tokyo’s night life.
The Robot Restaurant in Kabuchiko was on our list of things to do. However, due to the flashing colourful robot experience costing a devastating $80, we settled for a photo of the sign outside instead. But if you aren’t broke and want to be apart of something that will literally blow your mind, definitely hit up the Robot Restaurant.
Golden Gai is Shinjuku’s well known street of super small bars. To be honest though, they look more like household kitchens. Most of the bars cost 1,000 yen to even walk through the door. Not to mention the 500 yen or higher drink prices. So naturally, we didn’t actually go into any of the bars.The street itself was fairly disappointing, especially after all the rave reviews we heard about the place. But I guess if you’ve got some money to blow, the experience itself would be pretty cool. Instead, we bought cheap booze from convenience stores and wandered the streets of Shinjuku’s Red Light District.
Day 10 and 11: Explore Shinjuku
It was bound to happen – crappy weather. Almost 48 hours of non stop rain. Super inconvenient, but since we didn’t want to waste our last few days in Japan, we headed out and explored Shinjuku. There’s a ton of shopping complexes in Shinjuku, so you definitely won’t run out of options when it comes to shopping up a storm in Tokyo.
If you’re at the end of your time in Tokyo, I suggest simply exploring. Whether that’s shopping, wandering the streets or visiting some shrines, take a day to relax and appreciate the wonder that Tokyo has to offer. There’s no denying that Tokyo is the busiest city in the world, but it doesn’t have to feel like that the whole time!
Day 12: Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden + Packing
This was our last day in Japan. It was a nice sunny day, so we took advantage of that and walked to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. For 200 yen, you get entry and access to the beautiful and relaxing park. There’s a ton of places to have a picnic with family, or simply walk the paths and enjoy the serenity.
We visited at the beginning of spring, so Cherry Blossoms were blooming and petals were starting to fall. Every man and his dog was snapping away on their cameras. It’s a cool sight, seeing so many people standing less than a centimetre from a single blossom petal, taking photos from dozens of different angles. But a couple photos while walking through the crowd was good enough for me! (I did take the opportunity for a close up when I came across an unpopular blossom tree, though).
So there you have it. A suggested itinerary for the biggest, busiest and craziest city in the world – Tokyo, Japan! Like I said, you’ll need a lot more than 12 days. 12 years isn’t enough to explore the entire city. But this is a good start! Whatever you do, definitely don’t skip the Disney Parks!
Have you been to Tokyo before? What was your favourite part? Tell me in the comments below!
I’m also happy to answer as many questions that you have, so if I’ve missed anything, ask me below!