Tokyo, Japan in 7 Days
It’s been a little over a month since I was in Japan and thought it was about time that I finally uploaded a few posts on Japan and how we did it! We were in Japan for 10 days, spending 7 days in Tokyo and 3 days in Kyoto. The Kyoto post will be up in a week or so - keep your eyes peeled for this! Quite honestly, I’ve never been anywhere like Japan and it’s somewhere I’d love to go back to because we only saw Tokyo and Kyoto! I’ve broken this post down by accommodation, food, what we did and transport - so hopefully this helps you plan your trip!
We split our trip to Tokyo with a trip to Kyoto, but as I wanted everything about Tokyo to be in one post, I’ve compiled it here! But because we took the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto, we initially stayed really near Tokyo station which is one of the stations the Shinkansen went from! We stayed in Marunouchi at the Marunouchi Hotel which is genuinely a 1 minute walk from Tokyo station. As we knew we’d be a bit jetlagged, we wanted somewhere near to Tokyo station as we got the Narita Express from the airport into the city. The area was definitely very businessy so it was quite pricey and was surrounded by office buildings and not many food places, but for location for transport, it was ideal! The hotel was really lovely albeit expensive, but like I said, for ease of access to the station - it was perfect.
For our second stay, we stayed in Ginza at the Daiwa Roynet Ginza. This was definitely the perfect location and was about 10-15 minutes walk from Tokyo station and about 7 minutes walk from the closest JR Line station. The area here was thriving and there were loads of restaurants, cafes and shops all within walking distance from the hotel.
Transport in Tokyo is quite different to any city I’ve been in. They do have Uber but taxis are really pricey and not worth it for what they are! However, there is a really comprehensive Metro/Subway system - but it’s slightly complicated. We bought a Japan Rail Pass which needs to be bought in advance of the trip as they send you a voucher to your non-Japan address. You then exchange the voucher for the Japan Rail Pass at the airport. We flew into Narita Airport and exchanged it in the offices by the train station. Sidenote: many companies sell the Japan Rail Pass - they are mostly legit but you have to remember which company you bought it with as you can only exchange it at their specific office! The Japan Rail Pass was 100% worth it as it meant you could travel on any Japan Rail trains including the Shinkansen (on the Hikari, Sakura or Kodama lines) and the JR Tokyo Lines (like a subway). Unlike most cities, the rail is privatised in Japan and there are 3 or 4 different train companies, all that require different tickets & passes. This was really confusing but worth noting! We used the Japan NaviTime app which is a travel app that allows you to optimise search results for the Japan Rail pass. If you are getting the Shinkansen, you’ll need to book seats in advance - this is free with your JR Pass and we’d recommend doing this when you collect your pass at the airport! The JR Pass also covers the Narita Express which links Narita Airport to central Tokyo! The JR Pass is so cost efficient and much cheaper than paying for the Shinkansen individually.
What we did!
Because Tokyo is huge, we planned out our trip by areas.
Our first full day, we ventured out to Harajuku which we ended up going back to because we loved it so much! Harajuku is everything pink, disney, cute and kawaii and was also the location for the famous Cafe Gram, home of the jiggly pancakes! The pancakes are only served 3 times a day for 20 orders max at 11am, 1pm and 3pm but they give out reservation coupons and hour in advance. We genuinely got there at 10am for the vouchers and when we returned at 11am, there was a queue! Delicious pancakes and like nothing I’ve seen before! Harajuku is pretty famous for food so we also indulged in rainbow cotton candy, crepes filled with cheesecake and cute latte art! The 3D latte art was from Reissue Cafe which is about 2 minutes walk from Takeshita Street (the main shopping street in Harajuku) and it takes them about 20 minutes for them to do, but again is so cute and unique! We also took shelter from the rain in Purikura which I’ve been to in Bangkok but is a Japanese photobooth shot which makes you look all things pink and pretty! SO worth doing! Sidenote: Takeshita street opens up at around 11am but gets so busy, so get there for 10am!
We ate at: Cafe Gram (jiggly pancakes), Totti Candy Factory (Rainbow cotton candy), Santa Monica Crepes, Reissue Cafe (latte art).
After Harajuku, we walked to Shibuya Crossing which is about 20-30 minutes walk. I wouldn’t say there is masses to do in Shibuya aside from watch the crossing and briefly visit the statue of Hachiko, but it’s honestly unlike anything I’ve ever seen! We went back to this at night, and it’s far more vibrant and unique! The crossing is insane and definitely worth the watch! I’d suggest going up to the Starbucks on the 2nd floor just to watch the crossing for 5 minutes or so as it’s insane! There’s loads of restaurants and shopping in Shibuya so perfect for the evening!
Shibuya is also where the Chiku Chiku Hedgehog cafe is located! We went for about 30 minutes because pet cafes are just something you have to see but I’m still slightly ethically dubious about them all! But the hedgehogs were so cute.
We went to: Chiku Chiku Hedgehog Cafe, Starbucks on the 2nd floor of the Tatsuya building.
We then ventured into Akihabara one evening to take in the sights and ended up coming on a day when the main street was entirely pedestrianised! This is kind of what I expected Japan to be like and it was honestly surreal! The whole area was tech shops, 7 story arcades, maid cafes and food shops. We ended up spending about £10 in an arcade but it’s definitely something that needs to be done! If you’re wanting to order a meal from a vending machine, this is also the place to do it! We decided not to visit a Maid cafe as they seemed slightly dubious, but again, this is the area for that!
We went to: the SEGA arcade.
The Tsukiji Fish Market was something we really wanted to do, especially as it’s moving to a new site soon! We didn’t make it for the 4am Tuna auction but we did wander round the wholesale section once it was open to the public and watched a tuna being filleted! This is definitely the place to go to grab some sushi and was one of the few places that we even saw sushi advertised! So crowded and expect to queue for a table to eat at, but the best sushi I’ve ever had. It’s also worth noting that most food places here only serve sushi till 3pm so it’s definitely more of a breakfast option as they sell out! We walked here from the Daiwa Roynet Ginza hotel as it was only 10 minutes away.
We ate at: Tsukiji Sushiko - which I believe is a chain but it was so hot that we couldn’t face not having aircon!
For our first days in Tokyo, we researched where to get cheap food nearby and stumbled across Yamabe Tonkatsu near Okachimachi JR station. We went here on our first day, and went here again on our last and it was incredible. Tonkatsu is breaded pork fillet served with a tangy sauce, cabbage and sticky rice - and it’s amazing! The meat here was incredible and not at all fatty or gristly and we definitely could understand why there was a queue! They also had English menus which can be very helpful! Delicious. Okachimachi as an area has a famous market and is full of plenty of eateries so definitely worth exploring in an evening!
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
Because we were in Tokyo in the summer, it was boiling - so each day we tried to spend a bit of time in a museum or cold building, hence our visit to the Tokyo Metropolitan Building! This is free to access and provides a 360 view of Tokyo and if you have good visibility, you can see Mount Fuji! Unfortunately, our visibility wasn’t too good but the view of the city was insane! The building is about 10 minutes walk from the west exit of JR Shinjuku Station and is very clearly signposted - but the observatory is genuinely in a government building so it can be slightly off putting! Great view and totally worth doing!
We did this one morning on our last day in Tokyo and it was almost surreal! We did book through a company so it wasn’t peering through a window but instead we were inside Sumo stables, watching them practice! I’m not going to lie, it was a bit weird as there were grown men in essentially underwear, but once you got past that, it was fascinating! I didn’t take any pictures aside from this one, but you don’t realise how huge Sumos are until you stand next to them… Definitely worth doing!
So that’s essentially what we did in Tokyo! Keep your eyes peeled for the Kyoto blog post and let me know what you think! Have you been to Tokyo? What did you do? Is Tokyo somewhere you’d want to visit?
If you’re looking for more things to do in Tokyo, have a look at this intensive post on 55 Things to do in Tokyo!