What To Do in 3 Days in Tokyo


Tokyo has gained a lot of popularity in recent years as a travel destination and needless to say, you need a week to explore it properly. With over 13 million people living there, the metropolis offers a great juxtaposition of modern with an Asian vibe.

I only had 3 days in Tokyo when I visited the city for the first time. While most of my friends said that this was crazy and not nearly enough time to see much, you can totally rock your short visit if you’re visiting for the first time.

What To Do in 3 Days in Tokyo – Sample Itinerary

Day 1

Tokyo is a huge city with so much to do, so it’s best to get yourself oriented and find out where to go beforehand. Addresses in Tokyo are pretty much non-existent and many people don’t know where things are located, so keep this in mind when visiting the city. I was lucky enough to arrive at Haneda Airport, which is located much closer to the city center than Narita Airport.

Public transportation had free maps available everywhere, so it wasn’t a problem to find my way to Shibuya Crossing – the busiest crossroad in the world.

Shibuya crossing


Shibuya crossing is one of those spots you just have to see in Tokyo since it’s one of the busiest crossings in the city. It’s impressive to see how hundreds of people cross the road when the light turns green. I recommend getting to the first floor of Starbucks to see the whole scene from above. Also, see the statue of Hachikō, the world’s most loyal dog, while you’re out there.

There are plenty of bars and small restaurants in Shibuya and Shinjuku to go for a drink and try some Japanese sake. Don’t be afraid to try some even if you’re not a big fan of sake like me. Sparkling strawberry sake was actually pretty tasty.

Ueno Market

Strolling around the market


If you want to do some shopping, go to either Ueno Market or/and Akihabara station. Ueno Market sells a lot of clothes and weird food, but without extensive knowledge of Japanese you might not know what they want to sell me there. Either way, it’s a great place to visit at least even if you don’t want to buy new gadgets.

Akihabara is famous for electronics and manga related shops (most of them are manga-gaming stations), but be prepared that unless you want to buy your new computer or camera in Japanese only you shouldn’t try to buy anything there. The lack of English electronics in Japan is due to a special export tax that must be put when they install non-Japanese languages on electronics.

It’s also a place where you can find weird cafes and restaurants. For instance, the Maid Restaurant has girls dressed in French Maid uniforms walk the streets trying to entice customers, where they serve you as if you are the master just returning to your home.


At the end of the day, pay a visit to one of the weird cafes, like the Ra.agf Rabbit Cafe. The concept of animal-themed cafes has become quite popular over the last few years, with some being more ethical than others. The rabbits appeared to be well cared for, not disturbed by humans all the time.

You pay an entrance fee, get a drink, and enjoy the presence of animals running around that you can pet and feed. There was no English speaking staff at the café when I went, but I was lucky to meet two Singaporean girls who spoke Japanese and explained me everything.

rabbit cafe

Feeding a happy bunny!


Day 2

On your second day consider a morning tour to breakfast at the hub of worldwide sushi fish commerce the Tsukiji Fish Market. You may either love or hate having to eat raw fish for breakfast, but you should at least go and see how the REAL sushi is being prepared and what locals eat.

Visit the Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa, as it’s a must-see spot in Tokyo. Visting early in the morning will let you beat the crowds. To reach the temple, you need to pass via an iconic gate called Kaminarimon, recognized as the symbol of the city. You also must pass by a series of shops in a street called Nakamise where you can find souvenirs and cute handicrafts.

When you’re at the temple, you can test your luck with a Japanese stick prophecy for 100 JPY. I got a bad luck card, but not everyone has a bad luck when traveling.Senso-ji Temple


You may also want to visit the modern zone of Tokyo, next to the Tokyo beach. It’s a nice stylish area, but I wish I went there at night to see the city lights. From the bridge, you can even spot a miniature Japanese version of the Statue of Liberty.bridge

End your day with a dinner at the Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku nightlife district. It features an array of dancers, special effects, and even robots dancing for you. It’s a unique and strange experience, but you’ll surely have a ton of photos from it.


Day 3

Start your day by exploring Tokyo National Museum. It has the largest collection of Japanese art, starting from pottery, through sculptures and samurai swords, to kimonos. If you only want to visit one museum in Tokyo, this is the one to pick as it’s the ultimate Japanese experience.

Ueno Park is Tokyo’s first public park established in 1873 with the park structures date all the way back to the 17th century. So if there is anything like an ancient park, this is it. The park is huge and filled with many cafes, but there are many English maps all over it. The park is ideal for cherry blossom viewings if you are there in spring time

You can’t leave Tokyo without trying an awesome Shabu Shabu dinner. For less than 4000 JPY you can get stuffed with absolutely anything as it’s all you can eat pot. You’ll get raw meat, tofu, and vegetables to cook yourself in a boiling pot on your table. Even though it’s all you can eat, remember not to order a lot in the beginning because it’s a Japanese custom to finish everything that’s on your plate and it’s impolite if you don’t. When you order a shot of sake remember that a Japanese shot is actually a glass full of sake! 😉

dinner


Information for visiting Tokyo:

  • Most metro stations in Tokyo have English signs, but the system can get confusing. Get a free map beforehand in order not to get lost. Also, remember that public transportation isn’t working 24/7 in Tokyo, so catch the last train before 11 pm.
  • As many streets have no name and not everyone speaks English consider renting a wireless router. It will allow you to use Google Maps.
  • It can be surprisingly difficult to find an ATM that accepts foreign cards, even in Tokyo. The easiest place to get money is an ATM at 7-Eleven.
  • How to behave in Japan? Find out here!
  • Trick for saving on water:  If you want to save money on water get a LifeStraw Water Bottle. It’s a water bottle with a special filter that will allow you to drink tap water (or even some from the pond, puddle or waterfall) everywhere!

Finding Accommodation:

There are plenty of amazing hotels, hostels and even capsule hotels in the city! While you may need to book in advance, as when I went all the capsule hotels were fully booked, you can easily find a nice affordable place. Here are my suggestions:


Other Practical Information about Tokyo

Tokyo is actually affordable

After hearing a lot of opinions on how expensive is Japan, I was a bit afraid of destroying my budget. To my surprise, it turned out that Tokyo is not expensive at all. Well, if you compare it to other places in Asia like Vietnam, Thailand or India, it will be expensive for you.

However, Tokyo is less expensive than London and much cheaper than the Netherlands. For example, you can eat in a small restaurant for $4 euros and you’ll get a big portion. If you want to try an all-you-can-eat type of restaurant, with a hot pot, you’re going to spend $23.

Toilets are smart!

Talking about bathrooms… I loved Japanese toilet seats. You get to press some buttons and you’ll get a quick wash, bidet, massage and dryer for the end. This toilet knows what it’s doing. You can also adjust the temperature of the seat. Amazing! The women’s toilet also plays cicada sounds, so you can’t hear any noise coming from the toilet.

Tokyo Surprises

Tokyo is very safe

Tokyo is one of the safest places I’ve been and Japan has maintained its reputation as being the safest country in the world. You can put your phone next to you on the train and fall asleep, or leave your opened bag behind when shopping, and nothing will happen. It’s quite amazing actually!

Tokyo is missing trash bins

There’s one important thing that Tokyo is missing – trash bins. You can’t find any free-standing bins ANYWHERE in Tokyo, because the city wants you to carry your trash with you. The only place where you can find bins is next to 7-Eleven.

It isn’t easy to withdraw money from the bank and pay by card

It amazed me that in a place like Tokyo you can’t withdraw money from a regular bank ATM. Banks never accept foreign cards, and the only places where you can take money are 7-Eleven stores.

The idea of withdrawing money from an ATM located in a corner store seemed super sketchy to me, but in Japan that was my only choice.

Moreover, it’s quite hard to pay by card anywhere, unless you visit some 5-star hotels or exclusive restaurants. Most places accept cash only or Japanese cards. In various local restaurants, you have to place and pay for your order at a machine and bring your ticket to the waiter.

It’s not so easy to see the Mount Fuji

The first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Japan is the traditional cherry blossom trees. While Mount Fuji is a popular day trip offered from Tokyo, it’s rarely visible due to the mist and clouds. I guess you should just Google those beautiful photos because the chance of capturing those two together is no higher than 5%.

Let yourself be helped

Despite their lack of English skills and sense of direction, Japanese people are very willing to help you. However, they very often won’t actually be helpful. For example, I spent 20 minutes waiting for a policeman to point me in the right direction.

I also experienced a woman arguing with her husband about the best way for me to reach my stop. In any case, one should be polite even in situations like this because it’s nicer when people are trying to assist you instead of simply ignoring you.mapPatiently wait in line

Japanese people form queues all the time. It might seem funny or senseless sometimes because why would you queue to enter the metro or a restaurant when you can just stand around, but I taught myself to stand in line with them.


Suggested Guides for Tokyo:


ARRANGE YOUR TRAVEL INSURANCE

Don’t forget to arrange a health insurance before heading to Japan. The easiest and the most reliable travel insurance is World Nomads Travel Insurance. Get it before your trip to avoid unnecessary troubles that might ruin your holidays!

19 Comments

  1. 1997 ford explorer www.youtube.com
    Jun 22, 2014 / 4:20 am

    These are really impressive ideas in concerning blogging.
    You have touched some nice factors here. Any way keep up wrinting.

  2. bill Clinton
    Jul 12, 2014 / 10:14 pm

    Wow great article, I’ll try and visit the owls on my trip

    • Anna
      Aug 4, 2014 / 10:11 pm

      I’m sure you won’t regret this!

  3. Veera Bianca / Wanderlust Expert
    Jul 20, 2014 / 5:22 pm

    Hey, thanks for sharing the link to your blog on Facebook! 🙂 I’ve actually been reading your Japan tips before! The owl cafe sounds really interesting, but I am a little bit concerned about how they are treated and where are they originally from? Do you have any idea on this topic?

    • Anna
      Jul 20, 2014 / 7:28 pm

      No worries Veera 🙂
      From what I saw the owls are being treated very well. Some owls were quite scared, so you couldn’t touch them – same with injured ones. Actually some of them were customers’ pets who were ‘renting’ them to a cafe for a few days.

  4. Nov 16, 2014 / 5:49 pm

    The owl cafe sounds all kinds of awesome! I think I will find away to fit that into my Tokyo experience. Does that include food as well?

    • Nov 17, 2014 / 8:54 pm

      You get a free drink, but trust me – owls are so cute that you don’t even care about your drink 😉

  5. Blinky Bill of Australia
    Nov 21, 2014 / 1:59 am

    Sounds like you didn’t enjoy Tokyo nearly enough. I’ve visited Japan on many occasions and unless you do your homework before hand, you will more than likely get caught-up in a whirlpool of people and get swept along with the crowd, and that can be exhausting. It was for me anyway. My rule is ‘Tokyo for business & the lovely Japanese countryside for R&R’. We all have to start somewhere, so of course ‘why not Tokyo’. However once you venture into the rurals of Japan, you will want to return over & over again. My tip: Visit the island of Kyushu. Lovely countryside, wonderful people, delicious food & take the bullet train to have a fantastic view of the towns, cities, paddies, mountains & lakes as you whiz along. It’s amazing & cheap on a JR Rail Pass.

    By the way that picture ‘The Sydney Japanese Gardens’, I think may be the Chinese Gardens in China Town Sydney. In Japan there are some fantastic gardens that the tourism people will happily point you to.

    • Nov 21, 2014 / 5:07 pm

      I definitely want to return one day, this time to enjoy the southern part of the country 😉
      The gardens in Sydney weren’t in Chinatown. They’re located right next to the harbor.

  6. Richal
    Jan 13, 2015 / 1:36 am

    Hi. Nice blog:) I just wanna ask where the owl resto is located.. Ill go to tokyo nxt week:) thanks and your blogs are really helpful.

  7. Amber Dixon
    May 20, 2015 / 4:58 am

    I think you have missed out on a lot of places in Tokyo. If you love shopping Harajuku is a must visit place, I spent a good time at Ghibli Museum with my 2 kids, they loved it. You also missed the Tsukiji Fish Market, I love seafood so this was a must visit place for me. I had gone to Tokyo for 3 days as well and had taken help from an itinerary planner and followed a plan so I got to see a lot of places and also did a bit of shopping. The one thing that you enjoyed and I missed is the themed cafes, have added it to my next trip to tokyo with kids 🙂

    • May 20, 2015 / 2:45 pm

      I went to the Fish Market actually 🙂

      • Amber Dixon
        May 21, 2015 / 4:17 am

        Hope you were not disappointed with the experience. 🙂

  8. Stewart
    Nov 26, 2015 / 12:19 am

    Hi Anna some great reading and advice on your blog i look forward to travelling to Japan in the near future 🙂

  9. Hika
    Oct 24, 2016 / 1:34 pm

    Hello! I am a Japanese;) Thank you for visiting my country!
    If you want to go more places in Tokyo, I will show you around!!

    • Oct 24, 2016 / 10:24 pm

      I’m dying to see more of Japan! Such a great country 🙂

  10. CY
    May 8, 2017 / 8:09 am

    Japan is a very diversified country with 47 prefectures. Everyday I keep having something new added onto my bucket list, even after living here for over 10 years. You’d want to spend more than just 3 days. If you know the animation of Ghibli studio call Laputa – Castle in the Sky, there is actually a Laputa in Hyogo. The whole castle looks like is above the cloud.

    There’s a colorful canyon in Nagano which is absolutely calendar worthy. It will take you 9 hours one way to hike to the place but it would be a life time experience spending a night camping there.

    There are a lot lot more other places to visit in Japan. These are just two of those on my bucket list.

  11. Jul 16, 2017 / 9:01 am

    nice write up! that rabbit cafe sounds awesome, such a fun city to visit sad we missed that cafe

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