Visit Tokyo: a guide for 5 days
Updated: Feb 20
Are you looking for information to visit Tokyo for 5 days? Which neighbourhood of Tokyo to visit? Where to go out in Tokyo? In this article, I tell you all about my trip to make your stay in Japan easier.
It seemed essential for us to stay there for at least 5 days because the city is so big and rich. A city with very different facets, both eccentric and energetic, urban and modern, calm and authentic, bohemian and vintage, elegant and design, nature and cultural.
Why visit Tokyo?
Information about Tokyo
A brief interlude on the history of Tokyo
Which Tokyo neighbourhoods to see?
How to reach downtown Tokyo from Haneda Airport and Narita?
Getting around Tokyo
My 5 days itinerary in Tokyo
Useful info for visiting Tokyo
1. Why visit Tokyo?
Tokyo combines modernity and tradition: on the one hand, bright buildings, cafes and crazy places, and on the other, temples and very authentic neighbourhoods.
Japanese cuisine is excellent! Many fish or meat dishes are accompanied by rice or noodles, delicious sweet snacks.
The city is very large, but also has beautiful green areas with parks and gardens like Ueno Park, Hibiya Park, Meiji-Jingu Gardens, etc.
The Japanese are very respectful and polite people, and that’s a real plus point that will make you feel good in this country.
Let us also add to this that the organization of life and public transport is precise, no train delays, lines to be patient and not to jostle others, so despite the size of this megalopolis, no stress.
Japan and therefore Tokyo is one of the safest places in the world! Here no aggressiveness and few crimes. Even with a cell phone in your pocket, almost no risk of it being stolen.
2. Discover Tokyo
Tokyo is an inspiring city, hypnotic and not easy to tame. You have to take the time, allow yourself to be surprised, get used to your codes. With its multiple and sometimes contradictory aspects, it is necessary to stay a while to discover Tokyo and fully enjoy the experiences of this city.
To visit this gigantic city, it is necessary to prepare well for your trips, to plan where you are going, to visits by neighbourhood, to accept that you will not be able to see everything and to do everything.
You also have to observe, settle down and enjoy.
3. Information about Tokyo
The capital of Japan, Tokyo, is the largest city in the world with nearly 40 million inhabitants. Located to the east of the Japanese archipelago, this enormous capital is also the main political centre of Japan. Tokyo was formerly called Edo which means "the estuary".
Most of the political institutions are found there, such as the residence of the Emperor of Japan and the Prime Minister, as well as the Japanese parliament and foreign embassies.
4. A brief interlude on the history of Tokyo
Formerly, Tokyo was just a simple small fishing village called Edo. It was during this period, the Edo Period, from 1603 to 1868 that Edo (Tokyo) developed. Tokyo will expand around a large central green space (Chiyoda). On the site of an old castle, you will find in this green space the imperial palace.
The place has only a symbolic role, although it still fascinates the Japanese. You should know that the emperor no longer intervenes in politics but symbolizes national unity.
During World War II, Tokyo was largely destroyed by the US and its aerial bombardments. From 1950 to 2000 due to strong industrial development, mainly in electronics, Tokyo saw its population multiplied by ten in the space of fifty years.
5. Which Tokyo neighbourhoods to see?
To keep it simple, I am going to list the visits I have made, area by area. First of all, know that Akihabara (located between Ueno and Chiyoda), Shibuya, Ueno and Shinkuju are four of the must-see areas when visiting Tokyo.
To explore Tokyo, you have to be organized and visit the neighbourhood by neighbourhood, avoiding unnecessary travel.
Shinjuku is one of Tokyo's most famous wards for several reasons. Firstly, because it is in the Shinjuku district that we find the “skyline” of the capital, a farandole of completely crazy skyscrapers, it's futuristic you will see! And then because the government of the metropolis is installed in this economy.
Shinjuku is one of the must-see neighbourhoods.
But Shinjuku itself is divided into several colourful neighbourhoods (including Kabukicho, Okubo or Takadanobaba) and is home to one of Tokyo's largest parks, Shinjuku Gyoen.
It is very nice to get lost in this park for 1 hour, you will see that after a while it feels good to find a little nature.
Day or night, there is always something to do in Shinjuku. Note that Shinjuku Station is the busiest station in the world, it handles several million passengers/day. Shinjuku also lives at night, you won't have trouble finding a bar, a club of all kinds of shops and nightlife.
You cannot go to visit Tokyo without taking a tour of Shibuya. At first glance, it looks a bit like Shinjuku, especially when you arrive in front of the famous crossroads where thousands of people are crossing at the same time. You've certainly seen this crossroads in the movies.
Anyway, in this neighbourhood, you take neon lights in the face. Do not hesitate to get lost in the alleys and above all do not forget to look up.
Harajuku in Shibuya
Close by, you have the Harajuku area which is part of the Shibuya, it is located right next to the Meji-Jingu park. I advise you to go there because one, this little district is very nice (ideal to do after visiting the Meji-Jingu park), two there are many shops, as well as a shop where everything is ¥100 ($1)!
This street is called: Takeshita Dori
You will probably meet many Japanese dressed in a little freestyle. One of the charms of Harajuku.
Meiji jingu park in Shibuya
Take a good hour to visit this magnificent park, it is truly splendid.
You also have Omotesando Street which can be nice to see. But above all, you will find luxury boutiques there. However, you can still take a little tour, just to see what it looks like! Up to you.
One of my favourites during my trip to Tokyo was Ueno. It is the popular district of Tokyo. The atmosphere is warm so get lost in the alleys and enjoy.
A very nice park to do, I recommend it. You also have a Zoo with pandas. I have not been there but it may interest you!
Akihabara is a small neighbourhood located south of the Ueno neighbourhood. You will also find arcade rooms on 10/20 floors and crazy shops.
In this neighbourhood you can find everything I-Tech, it's still pretty crazy, so take a look, it's a must-see! You also have shops that sell vintage games. In short, a neighbourhood to do (arcades, maid café, pachinko, mangas and animes stores).
Ameyoko market or Ameya Yokocho
Located south of Ueno Station, near Okachimachi Station, you will find Ameyoko Market. A very nice market to do, because it is very popular. You can find everything there, that's what is interesting.
Click here if you want more info on this market.
Next, head to the famous Buddhist temple of Sensoji, in the Asakusa. It is the oldest temple in Tokyo, dedicated to the goddess Bodhisattva Kannon. To get there, you cross the shopping street (souvenir shops these days, but one of the oldest in Tokyo) of Nakamise-Dori.
At night, the atmosphere is magical. The district is older than the very centre of Tokyo and the atmosphere is spellbinding and pleasant. Access to the temple is free, and the shopping street opposite is always full of life during the day.
The shopping streets that are in front of the Sensoji temple:
Odaiba is a huge human-made island. You will get there by taking the Yurikamome Line (again do not hesitate to ask for directions at the metro information points). You cannot use your metro/subway pass, but the ticket price is not too high. Once in the shuttle, try to climb up to the front of the monorail.
Indeed there is no driver and you will therefore have a magnificent view of the artificial island of Odaiba.
Giant Gundam Robot
Ginza – Chiyoda
I was not able to visit the Imperial Palace (Edo Castle), but it seems worth a look. On the other hand, there is a procedure to be done on the Internet and schedules to be respected. Also, the visit is free. If you don't do the procedure, the only thing you will see is this view.
It is the business area and luxury shops.
One thing that you absolutely must do is take a tour of Tsukiji, you have the big Tsukiji fish market and the big Tsukiji halls, where tons of fish are cut up (which you can also visit, I advise you to do it).
In the halls, as well as around the halls, you will find small restaurants where you can eat excellent sushi. I must admit that I have never eaten sushi so good.
As you can see in the photo, this is a restaurant located in the covered market. And what you see in the lineup. It was a famous sushi restaurant. But next door there was another little restaurant with no lineup, so I went there and it was very good.
The contrast is pretty crazy since the Hamarikyu garden is surrounded by buildings.
Count ¥500 or $5 to enter the park. At the park, you have a station to take the boat. In short, a very beautiful garden to do.
6. How to reach downtown Tokyo from Haneda and Narita Airport?
Allow 60 to 90 minutes for the journey from Narita Airport to central Tokyo.
The journey time between Haneda Airport and central Tokyo is 30 to 40 minutes.
There are two ways to reach downtown Tokyo from Narita Airport:
The bus to reach Tokyo from Narita airport is the cheapest solution. To buy the ticket, go to the ‘Limousine Bus' stand which is located on the 1st floor of the arrivals hall. The ticket costs around ¥ 3 000 ($30). You have a bus every 20 minutes so no stress. On the other hand, it is not uncommon for there to be traffic jams, this is the big drawback of this solution. If there is no plug, count 1h30, but otherwise count 3h, and there it stings!
Use of the Narita Express to reach Tokyo (allow 2 hours). My accommodation is located in Shinjuku. Price ¥3 190, or $32. It's not cheap but it's the best value for money.
To buy a Narita Express ticket, go to one of the JR East. Do not hesitate to ask for directions at the airport. Many Japanese are there to help tourists find their way.
Here is a map between Narita and Haneda airport.
7. Getting around Tokyo
Travelling in Japan in general requires some adaptation. Our benchmarks are no longer the same, we are rushed. It's a bit the same in Tokyo. The metro and train network is very developed and very efficient. However, the network is so extensive with so many companies that we can get lost! With a few tools, on the contrary, it is very easy to navigate and then over the days, you gain confidence and even have your little habits.
Beware of connections that may not work depending on the lines.
The Suica card
As I told you above, it is not the same logic because when you take a ticket everything is calculated according to the distance travelled.
Metro journeys, therefore, represent a certain budget. The base price for a metro ticket is ￥ 170 per trip and this increases with the distance travelled. It is therefore advisable if you have several trips to make during the day to take a SUICA prepaid card. All you need to do is badge at the entrance and exit and it works on quite a few subway lines. The card is automatically debited from the amount!
You also have the option of using the PASMO card or the 1, 2 or 3 days passes.
The Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass)
The JAPAN RAIL PASS, a joint collaboration with six companies comprising the Japan Railways Group (JR Group), is an economical and convenient way of travelling throughout Japan by rail. And then what a pleasure to take the train in Japan. It’s reliable and comfortable.
There are two types of PASSes: PASS for Green Cars and PASS for Standard Cars. Each type can be purchased for 7 days, 14 days or 21 days.
You are a foreign tourist visiting Japan from abroad for sightseeing, under the entry status of "temporary visitor."
Temporary Visitor entry status, according to Japanese Immigration Law, allows a stay in Japan of 15 days or 90 days for "sight-seeing, etc. "If you apply for a "stay for sight-seeing" when you enter Japan, entry personnel will stamp your passport as "Temporary Visitor," as shown below.
In order to receive or use JAPAN RAIL PASS, your passport must bear this stamp or sticker.
When you use an automated gate at the airport, no stamp/sticker will be stamped or put on your passport. Therefore, you need to either use a manned automated gate or ask a clerk to apply a stamp/sticker in your passport.
However, a customer who has a "registered user card" under the Trusted Traveler Program will be required to show the card to confirm the "Temporary Visitor" status.
For more information about the JR pass: https://japanrailpass.net/en/
The metro and train networks are complementary to get around Tokyo, you can go long distances with the train faster than with the metro. You just need to know the timetables well.
You have to know that there are different companies too, you have the Tokyo Metro, Toei Subway, the JR, in short, it's not easy to understand their system, so for my part, I took one day ticket which brings together the lines of the Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway companies. The price is ¥1000 or $10. At least you are calm, you don't have to worry anymore.
Select on the screen in English mode
click on One Day Economy Pass
select Toei & Tokyo Metro
For your information, if you take the pass at 10 a.m. it will only be valid for the day, until midnight. So if it's 5-8 p.m. and you're only going to do a round trip, no need to take this day pass, take a simple ticket at ¥130, you will pay the difference on arrival.
Otherwise, you have three choices:
Tokyo One Day Open Ticket: ¥ 710 ($7.10). All trip on Tokyo Metro lines only. Valid all day.
Common One-day Ticket for Tokyo Metro & Toei Subway: ¥ 1 000. All trips on the Tokyo Metro and Toei lines. Valid for one day. This is the one I used to take all the time.
Tokyo Combination Ticket: ¥ 1 590. All trips on the Tokyo Metro, Toei and JR lines in Tokyo as well as buses. The JR frankly you can do without it.
Tokyo metro map
JR East Railway Major Route: Metropolitan Area. To realize how big this city.
Click here for the JR East Group map in large format:
You will find this map in all the information points located in each station. Ask the Japanese and take the opportunity to ask for directions at the start.
Tokyo Subway Route Map
Click here for the Tokyo Subway map in large format:
Tokyo metro tip
It is normal for you to be a bit dumped the first time you use the Tokyo metro. The language is different, the city is huge, but here are some tips that can help you.
Each line has a colour code, you can find this colour code on the metro.
Each station has a number, for example on the Shinjuku Line (S) (the green one, which you will use almost every day), you can see that the Higashi station is number 16 and that the station is right after Ojima has the number 15. A way that will allow you to know the direction of the line.
One last thing to find out if you are on the right track. Once on the platform, there will be written names of the station through which the metro will pass. You just need to look on your map to see if you are the right way.
To give you even more info on the Tokyo Metro network, click here. https://www.kotsu.metro.tokyo.jp/eng/tips/sub_ride.html
8. My 5 days itinerary in Tokyo
1st Day in Tokyo
What to see/do in Asakusa?
Discover Asakusa Shrine: Day or night, Senso-Ji Temple is superb. Senso-Ji is the oldest Buddhist temple in the city of Tokyo with a beautiful entrance gate.
Don't forget to shoot your future at Asakusa Temple by picking up a wand and finding your wishes in one of the drawers. We had a promise of great happiness for 2021, hoping it will come true.
Go shopping on Nakamise-Dori Street and other charming alleys of the Asakusa, including many shops where the atmosphere comes alive even more at the end of the day.
Try some sweet (like cakes filled with red bean paste) or savoury (crackers and others) specialities on the stalls of Asakusa traders.
How do I get to Asakusa?
Asakusa is very well served by public transport with the Ginza line (dark orange) and the Asakusa line (red). Senso-Ji temple is located 5 minutes to walk from the metro.
2nd Day In Tokyo
Shibuya, Harajuku And Shinjuku Tour
We started our second day in Tokyo with a busy schedule to visit 3 neighbourhoods on the same day. A day from 9 AM to 10 PM that we did not regret it because it allowed us to see a lot of things and to focus on neighbourhoods close to each other: Shibuya, Harajuku and Shinjuku.
What to see/do in Shibuya?
Walk in the street of Omotesando which is a large shopping area with many very modern shops often with impressive storefronts.
Visiting the Meiji-Jingu Shinto Temple: after visiting the Senso-Ji temple in Asakusa the day before (see above), I enjoyed my visit to this temple just as much.
Stop at Meiji-Jingu Gardens: When you think of Japan, you often think of cherry blossoms. It is indeed a great time, but the summer colours are also very beautiful.
Right next to the Meiji-Jingu temple in Harajuku which I talk about below and which we quickly visited.
Watch the Shibuya Crossing Road from the coffee shop which allows you to see these hundreds of pedestrians through the zebra crossings.
See the statue of Hachiko, just near the entrance to the JR, which shows a small dog. Apparently, he had lost his master, this dog still went to Shibuya every day to wait for him.
Go to shopping in one of the nearby malls like the one above Shibuya station which is huge.
How to get to Shibuya?
After a subway change, we stopped at the Omotesandō stop, which allowed us to walk up the entire shopping street to get to the Meiji-Jingu temple. For the rest of the day, we did a walk and metro.
What to see / what to do in Harajuku?
Visit the main street, Takeshita Dori, with all of its craziest kawaii shops. You will see that Harajuku is not a very large area but very lively.
What to see / what to do in Shinjuku?
This is the only place where locals approached me on the street and I admit that I was completely surprised because they had seemed so reserved to me until now. I wandered around the Golden Gai and Kabukicho what caught my eye the most is the colourful buildings and neon lights that are everywhere. All along my walk, I walked around with my nose in the air, there was so much to see.
3rd Day In Tokyo
Tokyo Tower, City Walk And Akihabara
Even if this 3rd day in Tokyo seems lighter than the previous one, we have to keep pace in Tokyo. And the walking distances are often long and, of course, you also have to take your time. So we started with Tokyo Tower, then the Imperial Gardens and ended with Akihabara.
See the Japanese Eiffel Tower
In Minato, the Tokyo Tower is similar to the Eiffel Tower but in a red version. It is 7.6 metres taller than the Eiffel Tower. I found it very pretty, with very beautiful views of the city. The entrance fee is around ¥1 200 which is not overpriced but clearly if you don't have time, go only to the free city hall.
The Gardens of the Imperial Palace and the surrounding area
We continue our day by quickly reaching the Gardens of the Imperial Palace. If you have a little time, I think it is worth going for a few hours to visit them.
What to see / what to do in Akihabara?
Akihabara is the area of Pop Culture: manga, café cosplays, game arcades, tech stores, etc.
Play video games in an arcade: we tried several duo games like Mario Bros or drums or cath UFO.
Have a drink in a cosplay cafe or a cat cafe.
Shop in one of the big electronics stores, here you will find really everything.
Buy manga and other figurines: if you are fans of Japanese culture and these comics this will be your paradise.
4th Day in Tokyo
Ginza, Tsukiji market and Ueno Park
What to see / what to do in Ginza?
Ginza is known for its upscale shopping and is one of the best shopping spots in sight.
In this area, you will find plenty of places to eat, including many foreign chains.
Stroll through the Tsukiji fish market
Visit Ueno Park and its surroundings
Stroll in this park which has no less than 4 museums including the Tokyo National Museum, but also small temples, a zoo, and even a thousand cherry blossoms.
Walk to shopping street "Yanaka Ginza" which is not at all in Ginza but above Ueno Park. The walk is a bit long and we passed through Yanaka cemetery which is very different from the cemeteries we sometimes see.
5th Day in Tokyo
One hour by train leads to Kamakura.
There is an absolutely charming neighbourhood to walk around. There are several temples to visit in the vicinity as well as several small shops selling, among other things, all kinds of Japanese pastries that I had a lot of fun tasting.
9. Useful info for visiting Tokyo
Here is a little video that can give you some answers to your questions:
The Japanese, for the most part, speak little English, which sometimes complicates communication. In some restaurants, there are pictures to help you order, but in general, you will have to do without. Some people in restaurants used Google translate to speak or were trying to explain to me as best they could. In my case, I was lucky because my wife is Japanese.
Japanese toilets are quite surprising. You will have a variety of buttons to press to try out the very diverse features of the toilet such as a scent to hide odours, music or little bird songs to hide your noises that are a little less charming, seat heating and so on. They are generally impressively clean even in public areas. In short, in Japan even going to the bathroom is a rewarding experience and I must admit that I once tried all the buttons.