Last Updated on August 20, 2020 by queenie mak
Tokyo is a large metropolis city consists of 23 special wards and 26 other cities, towns and villages. Originally a fishing village during the Edo period, Tokyo became the capital city of Japan in 1868. And while Tokyo is the political and economical centres of Japan, tourism also became a leading industry as the city attractions millions of visitors each year.
There are many ways to experience Japanese culture in Tokyo. Through historical monuments, museums and cuisine, the options are endless. And if this is your first time in Tokyo, I recommend seeing all the touristy things and off the beaten path places as well.
And with a sophisticated network of trains and metro, you can easily spend 5 days in Tokyo and see the best attractions throughout the Greater Tokyo Area. Keep reading and I will show you how with my 5 day Tokyo itinerary.
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What you need to know before spending 5 days in Tokyo
Before you travel to Tokyo, take a look at my post on everything you need to know before going to Japan. I included a lot of travel information including how to get around Japan and other travel tips.
Here are few additional tips to help you during your first time in Tokyo:
- The best way to see Tokyo is by walking and taking either train or subway
- Get a Pasmo or Suica for taking public transportation in Tokyo. They are both rechargeable smartcards where you can take public transportation in Tokyo. It is useful to have especially if you only have five days in Tokyo and want to maximize your time in the city by taking the train or subway
- Tokyo is a safe city for solo female travellers
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How to get to Tokyo Japan
Tokyo has two international airports: Narita International Airport (NRT) and Haneda Airport (HND). Most international flights will arrive at Narita Airport, which is 60km east of Tokyo. If you are able to fly into Haneda Airport, it is faster to get into the city.
Narita International Airport To Tokyo
While there are many buses going into Tokyo, my favourite option for travelling from Narita Airport to Tokyo is by train. And depending on where you are staying in Tokyo or your budget, there are several options:
- 2 Japan Rail Trains: from Narita International Airport to Tokyo Station
- JR Narita Express (N’EX) Line: 60 minutes (2 per hour), ¥3,070 (all seats are reserved)
- JR Sobu Line: 90 minutes (via Chiba, 1 per hour), ¥1,170
- Check: Hyperdia for schedules and fares
- Keisei Skyliner Train: from Narita International Airport to Nippori Station
- Time: 36 minutes (2 per hour)
- Cost: ¥1,270
- Check: Keisei Electric Railway for schedules and fares
Haneda Airport To Tokyo
Haneda Airport is closer to Tokyo but the airport has fewer international flights. But if you are arriving in Haneda, it only takes 30 minutes to get into the city. First, take the Keikyu Airport train to Shinagawa Station then continue on your journey via regular Japan Railway trains.
- Japan Rail Train: from Haneda Airport Terminal to Shinagawa Station (on Keikyu Airport Line)
- Time: 13 minutes (every 10 minutes)
- Cost: ¥300
How to get around Tokyo
While walking is the best way to see all the sights close proximity in Tokyo, but there are many attractions that are best visited by either the taking the railway system or the metro system.
There are about eight railway systems and two subway systems running in and out of Tokyo. You don’t have to know all of them but you should get to know JR Yamanote Line on Japan Railway. The train on JR Yamanote Line runs in a loop and connects to several major city centres like Shinjuku, Shibuya, Shinagawa, Tokyo, Ueno and Ikebukuro.
Moreover, if you are visiting all the places in my Tokyo 5 days itinerary, it is best to get either a Pasmo or Suica card. You can use either card (or other IC cards issue in other regions of Japan) and take public transportation. You save a ton of time and headache by not having to figure out the cost of each ride.
And at any time you want to check either the rail or subway schedule and fares, use Googlemap to navigate around Tokyo as the app tells you exactly which route to take and the cost required.
Where to stay in Tokyo as a first-time visitor
Tokyo is the most visited city in Japan which means there is no shortage of accommodation. But many accommodations may be on the expensive side and may not suit a solo traveller’s budget.
But don’t worry, I have a few suggestions on where to stay in Tokyo as a first time traveller where you will enjoy the accommodation and it won’t break the bank.
- Kaisu ($) – Get a bunk bed at the small local hostel in Akasaka. Excellent restaurant/coffee shop and friendly hospitality included.
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- Bunka Hostel Tokyo ($) – A popular hostel with international travellers in Asakusa that is convenient and affordable
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- Lyuro Tokyo Kiyosumi ($) – A stylish hostel and hotel that has the best view of Sumida River
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- First Cabin TKP Ichigaya ($) – Book a business class cabin at the modern Japanese capsule hotel and enjoy an upgraded capsule hotel experience
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- ibis Tokyo Shinjuku ($$) – Get a standard double room at the 3-star hotel located in the heart of Shinjuku
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- Cost: between ¥1,200 to ¥30,000 for a private room to an entire apartment
- There are over 500+ Airbnb listings in the Greater Tokyo Area.
- Choose Airbnb if you want to stay in accommodation with a kitchen or in local neighbourhoods.
- And Airbnb accommodation is an excellent option if you are considering staying long term in Tokyo.
- Before you book your Airbnb accommodation, always read reviews, check photos and fine print before booking.
- And if you are not part of Airbnb yet, please use this code to claim your $35 Airbnb discount
Related Post – Everything you need to know before booking Airbnb
What to eat in Tokyo
Dining solo is very common in Japan. Just because you are travelling by yourself, it doesn’t mean you should miss out on eating some of the best ramen and sushi in Tokyo!
If this is your first time in Tokyo, try some of typical Japanese food while you are in Tokyo.
- Sushi – fresh raw fish or seafood on top of vinegared rice; eaten with soy sauce and wasabi (Japanese horseradish)
- Tonkatsu – deep-fried breaded pork cutlet; eaten with rice and cabbage slaw
- Ramen – noodle soup consists of thin wheat noodles, toppings like sliced pork in a savoury broth
- Udon – thick wheat noodles in a clear broth with different toppings
- Yakitori – skewered different parts of the chicken and barbecued over a charcoal stove
- Gyoza – pan-fried dumplings filled with ground meat and vegetables
- Oden – a one-pot dish where different ingredients like fish balls and fish cakes are boiled in a light flavoured broth
My efficient 5 day Tokyo itinerary
For my 5-day Tokyo itinerary, I included some of the typical tourist attractions because if you are a first time visitor to Tokyo, you have to see what everyone is raving about. Plus, I included some off the beaten path places because they are another side of Tokyo that most people don’t see and should be highlighted.
The way I came up with my Tokyo Itinerary is by planning each day around different neighbourhoods in Tokyo. And I included highlights of each area in each section. The neighbourhoods are grouped in such a way that you will not waste a lot of time commuting from one place to another.
I like efficiency and saving time. After all, spending 5 days in Tokyo is not a lot of time so you’ll have to plan ahead and maximize your time there. But you can save even more time by following my 5 days itinerary in Tokyo instead of planning it yourself!
Here is a quick summary of the 5 day itinerary in Tokyo:
- Day 1: Shinjuku, Harajuku, Omotesando & Shibuya
- Day 2: Tsukiji Outer Market, teamLab Borderless, Roppongi & Ginza
- Day 3: Asakusa, Akihabara & Ueno
- Day 4: Day trip to Kamakura
- Day 5: Shimokitazawa, Gōtokuji Temple & Kichijoji
Day 1: Shinjuku, Harajuku, Omotesando & Shibuya (blue pins)
You first day in Tokyo is all about visiting the top tourist spots in Tokyo. They are all in close proximity to each other so you can maximize your time in the capital city.
Your introduction to Tokyo starts in Shinjuku, a major commercial and entertainment district in Tokyo. As Tokyo’s secondary center (the other one is at Tokyo Station), Shinjuku has the world’s busiest train station, nostalgic restaurants and bars, unique museums, exciting nightlife and thousands of shops!
You can buy almost anything in Shinjuku. From boutique stores to all the major department stores like Isetan, Takashimaya, Tokyu Hands, and Odakyu Department Store. And if you want to see something different, make your way to the Samurai Museum and Yayoi Kusama Museum.
Don’t miss these sights in Shinjuku
- Shinjuku Station – over 3.5 million passengers go through Shinjuku Station each day!
- Omoide Yokocho – a narrow alley full of nostalgic yakitori restaurants, also known as Memory Lane and Piss Alley
- Golden Gai – another nostalgic little alley full of small bars
- Godzilla head – spot the gorilla head peeking out from all the neon buildings
- Samurai Museum – dress up like a samurai and watch a sword performance, both included in your entrance fee
- Yayoi Kusama Museum – the museum is a bit out of the way but it is worth it if you are into Yayoi Kusama’s modern artwork
- Shinjuku Subnade – Shinjuku’s largest underground shopping mall
When I think of Harajuku, I think of Harajuku girls who dress in a funky and one-of-a-kind fashion that expresses individualism, and the song by Gwen Stefani. Ha!
But the area is precisely about the Japanese youth culture: Harajuku style. You can find many independent boutique stores selling colourful, edgy and quirky clothing and accessories on Takeshita Street and Cat Street.
Don’t miss these sights in Harajuku
- Takeshita Street – the main pedestrian street with quirky boutique stores selling edgy clothing, shoes and accessories. Also, look for thin crepe dessert shops while you are there
- Cat Street – many trendy clothing stores feature Japanese designers and the street has nothing to do with cats
- Meiji Shrine – tucked away in the middle of forest are tranquil shrines, giant torii gates, and Meiji Jingu Museum
If Harajuku is edgy, then Omotesando is high-end. Many exclusive retailers line the main avenue while boutique shops are scattered around the area.
Besides browsing at all the beautiful boutiques, there is a strong cafe culture in Omotesando. You can find many independent coffee shops, cafes that serve fluffy soufflé pancakes and layered cake that looks like a piece of artwork.
Don’t miss these sights in Omotesando
- Cat Street – the fashion street hovers between Harajuku and Omotesando
- Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku – the shopping mall famous for its urban rooftop garden and the kaleidoscope mirrored entrance
- Nezu Museum – see over 7,400 pieces of Japanese and East Asian art in the minimalistic design museum
Shibuya is famous for the Shibuya Crossing or Shibuya Scramble. As the world’s busiest intersection, crossing the wide intersection is an experience in itself. When the pedestrian light turns green, hundreds of people (thousands during peak hour) from every corner of the intersection cross the road at the same time. It all seems very chaotic but exhilarating!
Besides the crazy pedestrian crossing, Shibuya is also known for the neon-colour high-rises and shops selling the latest fashion.
Don’t miss these sights in Shibuya
- Shibuya Crossing – experience the chaotic crossing yourself
- Shibuya 109 – a shopping mall that sells Japanese clothing, accessories, shoes, beauty products, etc.
- Hachiko Memorial Statue – Hachiko (the dog) waited for its owner each day at the same spot at Shibuya Station. When its owner died, the dog contiued to wait for its owner. And it continued for 10 years!
Day 2: Tsukiji Outer Market, teamLab Borderless, Roppongi & Ginza (red pins)
Day two is about fresh sushi, interactive light installations, art museums and glitzy shops! Need I say more?
Tsukiji Outer Market
Tsukiji market is popular for its wholesale and retail shops for seafood. The “inner” market was known for its tuna auctions but it has been closed since 2018.
However, the “outer” market remains. This means you can still go to Tsukiji market and have sushi for breakfast (which many visitors do and many restaurants have long queues by 6 am!) But even if you don’t queue up at the break of dawn, there are still many other excellent options for food.
Other vendors sell meat, vegetables, dried foods, seaweed, and Japanese snacks. And you can find cooking utensils and kitchenware in the market too.
Tsukiji Outer Market opens from 6:00 am to 2:00 pm, so it is best to go first thing in the morning to beat the rush. Plus, you can have sushi for breakfast! How great is that?
teamLab Borderless has to be the best art and light installations I’ve ever seen. The talented people at teamLab created several rooms full of interactive artwork and light installations that move to the music and body movement. The three-dimensional artwork comes to life when you interact with the artwork. Check out the full details of each room on their website.
There are only a few teamLab exhibitions throughout the world and the one in Tokyo is the biggest and most elaborate. But make sure to book tickets before you go as it is one of the most visited exhibits in Tokyo.
Roppongi is known for its exciting nightlife as the area has many bars and nightclubs. But as a solo female traveller, I am much more interested in seeing other attractions in Tokyo during the day.
But the good news is that Roppongi is also a developing neighbourhood that is known for several art museums. If you are into modern art, design and architecture then you must visit 21_21 Design Sight and Mori Art Museum.
Don’t miss these sights in Roppongi
- 21_21 Design Sight – a design museum created by Tadao Ando and Issey Miyake
- Mori Art Museum – modern art museum showcasing art, fashion, design, architecture and photography
- The National Art Centre – Japan’s largest museum has innovative spaces featuring temporary art collections
- Tokyo City View and Sky Deck – see a panoramic view of the city from the 52nd-floor observation deck or the rooftop sky deck
- Tokyo Midtown – the glitzy shopping centre has a variety of restaurants including traditional Japanese food and international cuisine
Ginza is an upscale shopping district in Tokyo. Many high-end international retailers line the main street in Ginza. Besides looking at all the pretty merchandise, pay attention to the buildings especially at night. Many stores and buildings have elaborate store displays and lights including Mikimoto, Fendi and Celine.
And you can find all the major Japanese department stores are in Ginza as well as flagship stores, such as Muji, my all-time-favourite brand for home goods, clothing and toiletry.
And if you are interested in watching a traditional kabuki performance, a classical Japanese dance-drama, you can do that at Kabuki-za Theatre. Tickets can be ordered online.
Don’t miss these sights in Ginza
- Ginza Six – a luxury shopping centre with many high-end brands and occasionally has art installation featuring Japanese artists
- Muji Ginza – as the biggest Muji store in the world, you can shop for typical Muji items, fresh produce and even have a meal at Muji
- Uniqlo – a Japanese fashion brand that has retail stores worldwide. But the one in Ginza has some special pieces that other stores don’t.
- Kabuki-za Theatre – watch a kabuki performance, a classical Japanese dance-drama
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Day 3: Asakusa, Akihabara & Ueno (purple pins)
Spend day three exploring the neighbourhoods in north Tokyo. Make sure to wear your comfort shoes because day three consists of a bit of walking. But walking is the best way to see Tokyo!
Asakusa is one of the most popular areas in Tokyo for tourists. Most notably, visitors go to Asakusa to see Sensoji Temple, a Buddhist temple that was built for the goddess of Kannon.
And if you are visiting Tokyo during May, then you must see the Sanja Matsui, one of the major Shinto festivals where tattooed men parade the streets of Asakausa with portable shrines.
Don’t miss these sights in Asakusa
- Hozomon Gate – the iconic entrance with the giant red paper lantern is the symbol of Asakusa
- Nakamise Dori – many vendors sell Japanese snacks and souvenir items on the oldest shopping street in Japan
- Sensoji Temple – Tokyo’s oldest temple consists of the main temple and a five-story pagoda
- Nishi-sando Shopping Street – buy souvenirs from this covered shopping street
- Hoppy Street – the street has many al-fresco restaurants serving cheap Japanese food and well into the night
Akihabara is known for electronics, manga and anime and maid cafes. That’s quite an eclectic range of interests.
And even if you are not interested in seeing the latest electronic gadgets, read anime or have the desire to go to a maid cafe, it is still worth seeing the neighbourhood. Akihabara has many colourful neon signs and billboards every street and every corner. I am amazed by the number of advertising billboards that cover each square inch of every vertical surface. Incredible!
Ueno is best known for the numerous museums in Ueno Park. The cultural neighbourhood also has a popular shopping street, Instagram-worthy shrine and a retro shopping street that can take you back in time.
Don’t miss these sights in Ueno
- Ameya Yokocho Market – also known as Ameyoko, is an open-air shopping market where you can buy cheap souvenirs, clothing, beauty products and eat delicious street food
- Ueno Park – a large park in Tokyo that has a zoo and many historical and cultural museums
- Tokyo National Museum – opened in 1872, the museum houses many important cultural treasures and art pieces and is great for anyone who is interested in Japanese history
- Nezu Shrine – the Shinto shrine has a tunnel of vermillion-coloured torii gates that is great for Instagram photos
- Yanaka Ginza – visit the nostalgic shopping street for retro-style stores and street food
Day 4: day trip to Kamakura (green pins)
After three full days of city life in Tokyo, it is time to get away from the hustle and bustle. The perfect solution is taking a day trip to Kamakura.
Kamakura is a quaint coastal town 60km south of Tokyo. The town is known for its many temples and shrines and the Great Buddha. Moreover, Tokyoites visit the small town for its beautiful beaches.
The easiest way to travel to Kamakura is by taking Japan Railway. There is a direct train from Tokyo Station to Kamakura Station and it only takes 54 minutes and cost ¥940 (or free if you have a JR Pass).
Aim to be in Kamakura by 9 am and you will have enough time to explore the quaint little town.
Don’t miss these sights in Kamakura
- Komachi Dori – find many boutique shops, snack vendors and cafes on Kamakura’s main shopping street
- Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine – Kamakura’s most important shrine has a beautiful temple, two ponds, many torii gates and a shrine museum
- Kenchoji Temple – visit the zen temple complex and see a panoramic view of the area from the observation deck
- Kōtoku-in – see giant bronze Daibutsu, the Great Buddha of Kamakura at the Buddhist temple
- Hasedera Temple – see the “Eleven-headed Kannon” statue and small Jizō stone statues around the premise of the Buddhist temple
- Yuigahama Beach – the popular sandy beach has good changing and shower facilities
Day 5: Shimokitazawa, Gōtokuji Temple, Kichijoji (orange pins)
The last day of your 5 day itinerary in Tokyo is about getting off the beaten path and visit laidback neighbourhoods like Shimokitazawa and Kichijoji. Plus, you have a chance to get a glimpse of hundreds of lucky cats at Gōtokuji Temple.
Star your last day in Tokyo in the cool and retro neighbourhood of Shimokitazawa.
The area around Shimokitazawa Station is a pedestrian-friendly zone. As soon as you arrive at the station, you can see many cafes, restaurants, secondhand clothing stores and antique stores.
Many young locals frequent Shimokitazawa because it is the best area to find vintage clothing and accessories. Plus, if you like looking for antiques and other memorabilia, you are at the right place!
Besides all the different retail stores, the hipster neighbourhood has many colourful murals on walls and storefronts. The colours of the graffiti really brighten the neighbourhood!
Shimokitazawa is not touristy like Shinjuku, Shibuya or other spots filled with visitors, but the neighbourhood has so much character and vibe that you shouldn’t miss.
From Shimokitazawa, Gōtokuji Temple is a subway ride away. It is worth visiting if you love the “lucky cat“. Also known as maneiki-neko, many people are familiar with the small statue of a Japanese Bobtail cat with an upright paw.
It is said that the lucky cat brings good fortune especially for those with small shops and businesses. You’ll often see a lucky cat in the window by the entrance of a store. And if you want some luck too, you can buy your own lucky cat figurine at the temple.
The Buddhist temple is off the beaten path which is why it is so zen and quiet. It is worth the trek to Gōtokuji Temple as you will be rewarded with a tranquil experience and not to mention a photo op wit hundreds of lucky cats!
And finally, visit Kichijoji, a lowkey neighbourhood located in the west end of the city.
Kichijoji is a residential neighbourhood with shopping arcades, unique museums, a popular park for viewing cherry blossom and reasonably-priced small restaurants. Many people visit Kichijoji because of the laidback vibe. It is absolutely my favourite neighbourhood in Tokyo.
And Kichijoji is not typically in any Tokyo itinerary as it would be considered off the beaten path. But if you enjoy a slower pace for your last day in Tokyo, then you must visit Kichijoji!
Don’t miss these sights in Kichijoji
- Inoshira Onshi Park – one of the best park in the city to relax, have a picnic and view cherry blossoms in spring
- Harmonica Yokocho Alley – try one of many Izakaya restaurants in the narrow alley
- Iseya – a cheap yakitori restaurant that is popular with Kichijoji locals
- Daiya Shopping Arcade – get your last-minute souvenirs at the shopping arcade just outside of Kichijoji Station
- Sunroad Shopping Arcade – more shops in this covered shopping arcade
- Kichijoji Petit Mura – take Instagram photos with the whimsical houses
- Ghibli Museum – the only Studio Ghibli museum in the world that showcases drawings of Studio Ghibli movies and other related exhibits. Purchase your tickets in advance.
Are you ready to visit Tokyo for the first time?
I hope you will take the leap and travel to Tokyo! And I hope you enjoyed reading my post. And if you have any further questions about Tokyo or my 5 day itinerary, leave your comment below!