Thinking of traveling to Asia? Want to hit up Tokyo? Have no idea what to do? Here goes my ultimate 3 day guide to Tokyo! (Ok, ultimate may be a bit of a stretch, but I must say my friend and I felt like we really got a good grasp of the city particularly with our limited time so hopefully this will be of some inspiration).
**Warning, this post is going to be long but I’ll bold the important things, so here it goes!
Day 1 – landed at Narita around 2pm (minor delay coming in, my fault for choosing Pakistan Airways hah) and headed to our hotel in Shibuya neighborhood via the Narita Express. This is definitely the fastest and easiest way into city center as the airport is a bit remote. I would recommend staying in either Shibuya or Shinjuku neighborhoods as these are most convenient for touristy sites and as a general hub for activities.
Proceeded to our hotel after a minor pit stop at a japanese deli in the train station (still delicious…not surprised), checked in, showered, and headed straight back out for more food. We decided to try Afuri in Harajuku, a popular ramen joint known for adding citrus in it’s broth. These cute japanese ramen joints offer options in a vending machine style menu where you pay up front then provide your ticket to the ‘ramen chefs.’ Remember to bring some cash as I’m pretty sure this machine didn’t accept my card. We got the original and spicy and they were both deliiiiiiiishhhh (see pics below).
We then checked out the famous shopping street of Harajuku (Takeshita Dori) just a few min away walking. This street is paaacked and full of hilarious menga/costume-esque stores. Not sure there’s anything to buy per se, but definitely worth a look. We headed back early because a) we were still a bit jet lagged and b) we made the ambitious plan of waking up at 1am to watch a tuna fish auction…
Day 2 – Yup, I wasn’t kidding. We woke up 1am and headed to the famous Tsukiji fish market where Jiro (dreams of sushi) buys his fish apparently. We then proceeded to wait, no exaggeration, 4 hours in a room with 120 other idiots for the infamous tuna auction that lasted roughly 20 min of which 19 minutes I was confused. Main takeaway: Tuna are f-ing huge.
Needless to say, I’m not 100% sure I would recommend this particular activity for those on a tight schedule, but it was nevertheless an experience.
I would, however, insist you wake up at 3 or 4am instead (so much better, I know) and head over to the market to try out the fresh omakase at one of the tiny <10 seater joints. These sushi bars are only open from 5am – 9am and the fish they serve is ON POINT. My friend and I left our fate to the chef and 3 bottles of sake, but were more than thrilled with everything we tried. I know it seems weird to eat sushi for breakfast but really, at this hour, it’s a whole other meal I think. Top choice: Sushi Dai but be prepared for a loooong wait if you don’t arrive early (and by long, I mean 4-5 hours).
The day continued with a casual boat tour along the Sumida River (where I think you would normally see cherry blossoms, but we were a bit early for that) and ended in Asakusa. If you’re really eager to catch these in full bloom I think peak season is early April!
Asakusa is a super cute neighborhood home to Senso-ji, the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo. Honestly, at this point we were super drunk so I’m not sure I learned any more facts about the temple, but it was beauuutiful! The area also contained a street of little shops in outdoor market style where you can be sure to find all sorts of trinkets and gifts.
We then stumbled upon a tempura house (Daikokuya – which retrospectively I found out is the best tempura in Tokyo) and had the most delicious cold & hot soba with shrimp tempura.
Before completely crashing we pushed ourselves to check out one more temple (Meiji Jingu). While this place was gorgeous (not to mention a huge park that takes forever to walk through) I would say either dedicate some more time to it or skip altogether. We only spent <45 min there and probably didn’t get the most out of it.
Day 3 – Our only plan today was to hit up Rikugien gardens via subway (to feel local) so we started off the day wandering a bit in the train station and looking for breakfast. We tried some traditional triangle sushi (AMAZING) and proceeded to eat more sushi at a standing sushi bar. Not sure if it was bc we were still drunk but even train station sushi was better than most restaurants abroad…
The garden was absolutely stunning (though weather wasn’t perfect) but the scene was a nice change from the more touristy sites we had seen. Here, the majority were local japanese elderly folk setting up tent for a little picnic and long chats with friends. Absolutely adorable.
The day proceeded to a maid cafe (please google if you’ve never heard of this) where we felt hilariously uncomfortable and then onto dinner and drinks with friends in Ginza! Personally, I wouldn’t recommend the maid cafes either as they don’t serve any particular purpose and felt more like a hyped up concept. Ginza, however, is a hip neighborhood definitely worth a dinner or two.
Overall, I would recommend if you’re going to Japan to stay longer than 3 days and hit up a few more spots! Friends have recommended Osaka, Kyoto and Kanazawa as options.
Hope you enjoyed the post and let me know if you have any tips for Japan for my next trip!