How to spend a fabulous week in dazzling Tokyo

Tokyo is one of the largest cities in the world and with its ever-sprawling suburbs it feels like a city with no end. So, it can be hard to decide where to start and how to spend your limited time there.  We’ll try to help you on your way with our favourite places, great ideas for day trips, some tips and our Tokyo itinerary for a week.

Our favourite places in Tokyo

There are so many great places that it’s hard to come up with a top 5. But here are our favourite places in alphabetical order:  

Day trips from Tokyo

There are many greats sights within 1 or 2 hours of Tokyo. All places can be reached by taking a train from Tokyo station.

Daibatsu in Kamakura


It’s easy to come up with our favourite day trip from Tokyo, that has to be a visit to the stunning temples and shrines of Kamakura.


Not that far behind Kamakura comes Nikko. It lies in a beautiful pine forest and the shrine to Tokugawa Ieyasu is stunning. If you can’t make it to Nikko, visit the Tokugawa shrine in Ueno in Tokyo.


Traditionally listed as one of the top 3 gardens in Japan, we think it’s the least of the three but we visited the garden during the winter with no snow.


Go to Hakone for some better views of Mount Fuji and relax and take a bath in the many onsen there.


Where to stay in Tokyo

Since Tokyo is gigantic travelling from one place to another can take a lot of time. Therefor it’s best to stay close to a subway station and prefereably to a JR Circle line station. (circular Yamanote line) Especially if you have a JR railpass.

One-week Tokyo Itinerary

Tokyo by night

Day 1 Tokyo, parks, shopping, shrines and museums

We start our Tokyo itinerary with lots of parks, some shopping, a museum and a view. Read our Tokyo | Nature in the city park for more details.

  • Shinjuku Gyoen, a great place for a picknick and also for cherry blossom viewing.
  • Shopping
  • Meji Jingu shrine
  • Mori Art Museum
  • Tokyo city view

Day 2 Day trip to Kamakura

Escape the city for a day with the perfect day trip to beautiful Kamakura. In this ancient Japanese capital you’ll find plenty of temples, shrines and a gigantic Buddha in a tranquil environment.

  • Trip to Kamakura

Day 3 Tokyo, fish market, gardens, temples and museums

Once acclimatised and with your jet lag behind you, it’s time for an exciting full day in Tokyo.

  • Toyosu fish market
  • Hama-rikyu Gardens
  • Boat ride
  • Asakusa
  • Senso-ji
  • Ueno Kōen
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • Tōshō-gū
Tōshō-gū in Ueno Kōen

Day 4 Day trip to Nikko

Unwind again by making a day trip to peaceful Nikko. This place is most famous for the shrines of Ieyasu and Iemitsu Tokugawa. But there are many more beautiful religious shrines and temples here. Read our article about Nikko for more information.

  • Trip to Nikko

Day 5 Tokyo, shrines, museums and war

Another full day in Tokyo lies ahead. We will explore the darker side of Japanese history and look at some modern and contemporary art. Go on a shopping bonanza and visit the heart of Tokyo. Read the complete article here.

  • Imperial Shrine of Yasukuni
  • Yūshūkan
  • Imperial Palace
  • Akihabara
  • Mitsui Memorial Museum

Day  6 Kairaku-en in Mito and more Tokyo

For a change of scenery we’ll go to Mito and one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan, Kairaku-en. In the afternoon we’ll visit the interesting Edo Tokyo museum to get an understanding of the history and development of Tokyo. Read our full guide here.

  • Trip to Mito
  • Edo Tokyo museum
  • Sumida Hokusai museum
  • Tokyo Skytree
Sumida Hokusai museum

Day 7 Magical Tokyo

End your visit of Tokyo with two magical museums. But since both museums are only accessible with advance tickets reserve tickets well in advance and be flexible to adjust your schedule.

  • Visit Ghibli museum
  • Yayoi Kusuma museum
  • Tokyo Metropolitan building
Also read our post on Kyoto

Five days in Tokyo | Nature in the city

This day in Tokyo is one of nature, this may seem surprising in one of the biggest cities of the world, but there are a lot of green spaces in Tokyo when you look for it. We will also visit the Mori art Museum for some great contemporary Japanese art and the best panoramic view of Tokyo. The neighbourhoods were visiting this day are also excellent for shopping, so if this is something you like, make sure to bring enough excess baggage space.

Shinjuku Gyoen

Shinjuku Gyoen

We start the day in Shinjuku Gyoen. The great size of Shinjuku Gyoen makes it a great place to escape the bustling city scape. It interestingly combines three forms of gardens. One part is dedicated to the traditional Japanese Garden. Another to the French formal garden. Elements of this style are a geometric plan, constrained and trimmed vegetation to demonstrate the mastery of man over nature. Another element is a terrace overlooking the garden, so you can get an overview of the design. The third part is dedicated to the English landscape garden, this style is known for its rolling grounds and big patches of grass against a woodland background with some big centrepiece trees. When you’re done exploring the garden, you can either head over to nearby Shinjuku for some shopping or continue straight to the Meiji shrine.

Shinjuku shopping

Shinjuku ward is huge and you can shop for days if you would like. The area around Shinjuku station has a cluster of many brands and shops and is a good option for a short, focused shopping trip. If you want your shopping to be more of an experience head over to Harajuku station and go down Takeshita-dori. It’s as much a shopping as a people watching experience. Just around the corner lies Jingumae where all the top brands have their flagship stores. Go there for more a more exclusive shopping experience or to watch the beautiful modern architecture of the exclusive shops.

Meiji Jingu

Meiji Jingu
Meiji Jingu

Harujaku station is also the starting point for a trip to Meji Jingu, the great imperial shrine in Tokyo. The shrine was completed in 1920 to commemorate emperor Meiji and his wife empress Shōken, whose return to power is marked as the Meiji Restoration. Under his leadership Japan opened towards the outer world and started on a path of rapid industrialisation and modernisation.

You enter the shrine through a huge torii. The shrine is a favourite spot for traditional Japanese weddings. So, head over there in the weekend to catch a glimpse of a Japanese bride and groom. The shrine lies in a big forest with trees donated by the Japanese people. If you’re still up for more parks, head over to the next-door Yoyogi Park. On Sunday, it’s the always busy with groups of people engaging in their different hobbies like martial arts, cosplay and Japanese rock.

Mori Art Museum

Tokyo by night

For the perfect panoramic view of Tokyo and some great contemporary art, head over to the Mori Art Museum. This art museum has a collection of contemporary art from Japan and Asia. It also hosts many exhibitions of other contemporary art. The museum has long opening hours, it’s open until 22h every day except Tuesdays, so it’s also ideal as an evening activity. When you arrive at the building where the museum is housed, you’re greeted by a huge spider created by Louise Bourgeois.

Tokyo City View

Via the top floor of the building you can gain access to the outdoor panorama deck of Tokyo City View. Here you have the best unhindered views of Tokyo since you’re not behind glass.

More articles about Tokyo

5 days in Tokyo

Nikko | 5 days in Tokyo part 4

Nikko is a bit further afield from Tokyo than Kamakura, so it’s best to get an early start to make the most of your time there and beat the crowds. It takes between two and two and a half hours by train depending on which rail company you use. Those of you travelling with a JR rail pass can take the longer journey for free, so a decision has to be made between saving time or money.

Shinkyo bridge

From the stations, it’s a twenty-minute walk to the first interesting sights. When you want to skip the walking through Nikko’s modern part, take the bus but be sure to get off at the Shinkyo bridge. The beautiful bridge dates back to 1636 and provides an excellent photo opportunity, especially in autumn when the surrounding hills take on the wide range of autumn colours. A legend tells us that the bridge was made by the prayers of a priest named Shōdō. When he wanted to pray, but could not cross the river, a god appeared with two snakes that transformed into a bridge. That is why this bridge is also called Yamasugeno-jabashi, which means the “Snake Bridge of Sedge”.


Shinkyo bridge is opposite the entrance to Nikko’s shrines and temple complexes. When you go up the hill, the first temple you come upon is Rinnoji. This Buddhist temple complex is huge. Rinnoji dates back to the 8th century and is the most important temple in Nikko. The main hall was recently renovated and is in once again in perfect condition.

Toshogu shrine


The whole area is covered with enormous ancient pine trees. Some of them may already have been there when Iemitsu Tokugawa decided to enlarge and embellish the shrine in honour of his grandfather, Tokugawa Ieyasu. Who was the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, which ruled Japan from 1600 until the Meiji restoration in 1868. This period is known as the Edo period since the seat of power moved from Kyoto to Edo (Tokyo), where it remains until this day.

The shrine was used to solidify the shogunate and project its power and wealth. It clearly succeeded in this task as it is one of the most beautiful shrines in Japan. The attention to detail and the lavish decoration is of a level rarely seen in Japan. Pay extra attention to the wood carvings and the famous “see no evil, speak no evil and hear no evil” monkeys.

Futarasan shrine


As you exit Toshogu shrine and go right a lane lined with trees and stone lanterns lead the way towards Futarasan Jinja. This shrine is dedicated to the deities of Nikko’s mountains and was founded in 782 by Shodo Shonin who also founded Rinnoji and the Shinkyo bridge.


At the far end of the shrine and temple complex lies Taiyuinbyo, the mausoleum to Iemitsu Tokugawa. Officially this shrine is part of the Rinnoji temple complex and therefor technically a temple instead of a shrine.

Taiyuinbyo is a bit more restrained than Toshogu. Mainly because Iemitsu embellished Ieyasu’s shrine to make a political point, so it wouldn’t make sense to outdo himself with his own shrine. But it still is a beautiful shrine which is definitely worth the effort to visit. Some would even argue that this is the more beautiful and more Japanese shrine because it’s more restrained.

This concludes our day in Nikko. If you have the time, pay a visit to the beautiful Kegon waterfall which is nearby. Otherwise return to Tokyo by train. Read our other articles about Tokyo for more inspiration!

Day trip to Nikko
Imperial Shrine of Yasukuni

Five days in Tokyo | War, art, tech and anime

This day in Tokyo brings us to Yasukuni shrine, Yūshūkan war museum, the National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo, Mitsui Memorial Museum and Akihabara neighbourhood. As many of the sites for this day are indoors, this itinerary is ideal for rainy or particular hot days. The second world war and its aftermath in Japan is main theme of the day. From the controversial Yasukuni shrine and its adjecent war museum to Akihabara which started out as an illegal market in post-war Japan.

Imperial Shrine of Yasukuni

We start the day at the most controversial shrine of Japan, the Imperial Shrine of Yasukuni. This shrine commemorates those who died in the service of the Empire of Japan during wars from 1867–1951. Among the enshrined are various convicted war criminals. It gives an interesting insight into the way Japan copes with its history as an aggressor during the 20th century.


Kamikaze plane

The war museum Yūshūkan is located next to the Imperial Shrine of Yasukuni. This museum adds to the controversy of the place because it is seen by many to give an apologetic and revisionist vision of the events leading up to the second world war and the war itself. It’s good to get your own preconceptions challenged and travelling is an ideal way to do this. As an historian with a particular interest in the time period it provided me with views I had not encountered before.



From the war museum, it’s a short and pleasant walk through the Kitanomaru park to our next stop. In the park are several museums and the impressive Budokan, home of the Japanese martial arts. When there are no concerts or events you can freely watch some trainings or tournaments there. At the end of the park lies the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (MOMAT). This is a great museum for discovering Japanese modern art. Especially interesting are the artistic responses to the second world war from several Japanese artists.

Imperial Palace

From the museum, you can partly overlook the Imperial Gardens and the Imperial Palace. The Palace is off limits but the East Gardens can be visited, there are limited places available, you can book ahead online or call the imperial household to see if they have places available that day.



Akihabara is the main area to go to for shopping electronics and experience ‘otaku’ culture. Whether it’s maid cafes, anime shops or video game parlours. Lights are flashing, billboards are shining bright and trucks with huge displays are driving around promoting shows or new music albums. If you’re hypersensitive to noise or light, then this isn’t a place for you.

If you are looking for any manga, anime, sci-fi or fantasy related materials, head over to Radio Kaikan for seven floors of separate shops. Here you can buy figurines, cards, dvd’s, posters and everything else.

For one of the biggest electronics shop in the world go to Yodobashi Akiba. Here you’ll find the widest selection of electronica available spread out over nine floors. Head over to the massage chair section to get a free full body massage and be reenergized for some more shopping.

If you’re looking for cheap souvenirs or something random go to Don Quijote. Here you can buy almost everything from food to X-rated costumes.

Mitsui Memorial Museum


When you’re done shopping head over to the Mitsui Memorial Museum. This private museum of the Mitsui group houses great Japanese and Asian art. One of the highlights of the museum is a detailed reconstruction of the interior of the Joan tea ceremony room. The museum has continuously changing exhibitions on national treasures from different shrines, temples and other Japanese cultural heritage sites, highlighting different Japanese cultural and historical periods.

Next to the museum is Tokyo’s oldest and most prestigious department store, Mitsukoshi. Go there for some high fashion shopping and the excellent food delicacies available in the basement.

Heading down the road towards the water you reach Nihombashi, this is the centre of Tokyo and the place from where all distances in Japan are calculated. Sadly the iconic red-lacquered bridge was already replaced by a stone one at the beginning of the 20th Century. Nowadays this bridge is overlapped by several sections of highways making it far less photogenic than in the past.

More articles about Tokyo

5 days in Tokyo

5 days in Tokyo: fish market, gardens, temples and museums

Exploring one of the biggest metropolis of the world is no easy feat. If you come here for the food, then stay, because no lifetime is long enough to sample everything this city has to offer. If you don’t have a lifetime to spend here, five to six days will be enough to get a decent impression. Two of these days will be spend on trips outside the city. One day trip to Kamakura and one to Nikko. Read our one-week Tokyo itinerary for more information.

Toyosu Fish Market

Tsukiji fish market has moved to the Toyosu Market some 2 kilometers away. The whole tourist experience a much more regulated and you can only view everything from viewing decks. There are still some shops and restaurants for tourists at the upper level. So if you’re really into it, go there and have the freshest sushi breakfast ever. For the best options available, follow the queues. Wherever you go in Japan, you can spot the popular and best restaurants by the length of the queues. But almost all food is of high quality, so decide for yourself if it is worth the extra wait. At least experience it once to enjoy the anticipation which comes with the waiting.

Toyosu fish Market
Sushi breakfast

Hama-rikyu Gardens

When you’re done with the fish, head over to the Hama-rikyu Gardens next to the old market. After the bustling market, the gardens feel like a peaceful oasis. At least when you’re lucky enough to avoid running into an amplified guided tour. You can enjoy some Japanese green tea in the tea house that seems to float above the pond. The peony garden, the plum tree grove and the cosmos fields provide a colourful palette to photograph.

Hama-rikyu Gardens
Hama-rikyu Gardens

End your tour of the park in the bottom right corner next to the water. Here you can buy a ticket for the waterbus, which will bring you all the way up town to Asakusa. The boat ride is a good opportunity to rest your legs and enjoy Tokyo from a different point of view.

Asakusa and Sensō-ji

At the Asakusa water bus stop you’ll have a great view of the Tokyo Skytree and Asahi beer’s headquarters. Although the Skytree has the highest viewing platform in Tokyo, other views are better and cheaper. Walk through Kaminarimon to enter Sensō-ji, one of the oldest and most magnificent temple complexes of Tokyo. As you walk along Nakamise-dōri you are treated to a host of shops selling local delicacies and a lot of souvenirs.

Tokyo Asakusa
View from Asakusa

Ueno Kōen

Take the metro from Asakusa to Ueno, the park is home to a couple of museums, shrines, temples and a zoo. It’s also one of the prime locations to watch the cherry-blossom during the spring. The Tokyo National museum has the biggest collection of Japanese art in the world and is definitively worth the visit. The museum consists of five different buildings which all have a different focus. If you have limited time, at least visit the ‘Honkan’ building. It contains a chronological exhibition of the highlights of Japanese art. Another worthwhile place is the ‘National museum of Western art’. It has an impressive collection of Impressionist paintings. Tōshō-gū is the shrine in memory of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate. It is a great place to visit during the golden hour!


Take the circular Yamanote line to Shibuya where you can watch the famous crossing. The area is also filled with an enormous range of restaurants, so it’s a good idea to get something to eat here. If you still have some energy left, you can browse the area for some shopping or visiting an art gallery.

More Tokyo and its surroundings