An Epic 4-Day Itinerary in Tokyo
Looking for a 4-day Tokyo Itinerary? Well, I have you covered with this detailed guide. Welcome to Tokyo, a city where tradition and innovation blend seamlessly to create a unique and vibrant urban landscape. Did you know that Tokyo is the biggest metropolis in the entire world? With over 24 million people living in it. In this bustling metropolis, ancient temples stand alongside futuristic skyscrapers, and tranquil gardens provide an oasis of calm amidst the bustling streets.
Tokyo offers a rich tapestry of experiences, from exploring historic neighborhoods like Asakusa and soaking up the neon-lit energy of Shibuya to indulging in world-class dining and shopping. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, a fashion enthusiast, or simply seeking adventure, Tokyo has something for everyone. Not to mention, the most kind locals we have ever witnessed on a trip. It made us want to move to this country because of how kind and respectful everyone is. So join us as we embark on a journey through this dynamic city, uncovering its hidden gems and iconic landmarks along the way.
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Things to Know Before Visiting Tokyo
- When arriving in Japan (Haneda Airport) take the limo bus to central Tokyo. It costs roughly $9 per person and you will be transported directly to Shinjuku (a great home base for a first-time visit). The ticket counter is right next to the baggage claim. If you prefer a private transfer, this private transfer is reasonably priced.
- Public Transit is the best way to get around. Not only is it the most cost-effective, but most likely it will be the quickest since the trains run on a VERY timely schedule.
- With the above being said, you must practice Japanese etiquette when traveling on trains and in public. Do not talk loudly, do not take calls, and put your backpack in front of you when it’s a packed train.
- Add a SUICA or PASMO card to your Apple wallet before reaching Japan for your convenience.
- Consider purchasing a Japan Rail Pass if you are going to be visiting other cities. It wasn’t worth the $$$ for us on our 10-day trip however there is a calculator in which you can check.
- Most of Japan is still cash-based so make sure to have some cash on hand at all times. We took money out at 7-11 when we arrived.
- It’s hard to find public trash cans (we found most of them next to vending machines) in public so make sure to carry a small bag with you to dispose of your trash or just eat at sit-down restaurants.
- It’s considered rude to eat on the go. Even drinking coffee while walking can be frowned upon so embrace the culture and enjoy your food and drinks where you purchase them.
- Tipping is not customary in Japan. Great service is provided ALWAYS and it can be considered rude to tip so don’t!
- Most cafes and restaurants open after 11 am. Along with that, you have to wait in line just to get a ticket/reservation to the popular restaurants. Then come back later in the day when your time is ready.
Day 1: Arrival and Asakusa
If you’re flying from the States typically your flight will arrive in Tokyo in the late morning and early afternoon. I recommend flying into Haneda Airport and taking the limo bus to Tokyo Central as it’s an easy comfortable ride into the city. Check into your accommodation and start exploring. My best advice is to get yourself acclimated to the time zone as soon as you can. So that means if you arrive in the morning you need to rally until bedtime.
Afternoon Exploring Asakusa
One of Tokyo’s oldest and most significant temples. This ancient Buddhist temple is a testament to Japan’s rich cultural heritage. The imposing red Kaminarimon Gate, with its giant paper lantern, marks the entrance to the temple grounds. The main hall, or Hondo, was a sight to behold. Its intricate architecture and colorful decorations spoke volumes about the craftsmanship of the artisans who built it centuries ago. Inside, I joined other visitors in making offerings and saying prayers, immersing myself in the spiritual atmosphere.
Furthermore, when you are done visiting the temple stroll along Nakamise Street. A bustling arcade lined with traditional shops selling snacks, souvenirs, and crafts. We tried daifuku, a traditional Japanese dessert consisting of mochi, strawberries, and filled with red bean paste. It wasn’t that sweet but it was pretty tasty. The best way to immerse yourself in Japanese culture is through the food. If you have the energy, the Tokyo National Museum is located close to this temple and is another great sight to see.
Finally, Tokyo has a vibrant coffee scene with a wide variety of coffee shops catering to different tastes and preferences. You can find everything from traditional Japanese kissaten (old-style coffee houses) to modern specialty coffee shops. About a 20-minute walk from the temple is this kitschy coffee shop that makes 3D lattes. Hat Coffee has become quite popular in recent years. We made a reservation and didn’t have to wait in line. You can show them pictures of animals or whatever you want them to create. The artistry is next level!
Early Evening Dinner at Omoide Yokocho
Omoide Yokocho, which translates to “Memory Lane” or “Memory Alley,” is a popular dining area located in Shinjuku. It is known for its narrow alleyways lined with small, traditional Japanese-style eateries called izakayas. These izakayas typically offer a cozy and intimate dining experience, with limited seating and a focus on grilled meats, seafood, and drinks like beer and sake.
Omoide Yokocho has a nostalgic atmosphere, reminiscent of old Tokyo, and is a great spot to experience traditional Japanese food and culture. The alley is particularly atmospheric in the evenings when the lanterns and lights illuminate the narrow passages, creating a lively and vibrant atmosphere. It opens at 5 pm and I would recommend getting there early as it can get quite busy later in the evening.
Day 2: TeamLab Planets + Shibuya
Morning Visit to TeamLab
TeamLab Planets Tokyo is an immersive digital art museum. It is part of the TeamLab borderless collective, known for its innovative and interactive digital art installations. The museum features various interactive artworks that use digital technology to create immersive experiences for visitors. The exhibits often incorporate elements of nature and the environment, blurring the lines between the virtual and physical worlds.
It has gained popularity over recent years thanks to social media, however, do not let that deter you from visiting. It was easily one of the coolest experiences I have ever visited. Here are some tips for visiting below:
- When booking your ticket, choose the first available time slot and line up 30 minutes before then
- You are not able to wear shoes inside the museum exhibits
- There are some rooms with water exhibits that you need to walk through (the water is warm) so wear clothes that you can easily pull above your knees
- After each room in which you walk through water, they have towels to dry off your feet
- Be patient with photo opportunities as it is very busy however there is no time limit on visiting so you can spend as much time as you like
Finally, the Imperial Palace is situated close to this art museum and is a great alternative if you prefer historical and cultural significance over an immersive art museum.
Afternoon Shibuya Crossing + Shibuya Sky
Next, head to Shibuya Crossing, which is one of the busiest intersections in the world. With over 2.4 million crossing this crosswalk daily. It is known for its iconic “scramble crossing,” where pedestrians from all directions cross the intersection simultaneously in a coordinated yet chaotic flow. The sight of hundreds of people crossing the street at once has become a symbol of the energy and liveliness of Tokyo. We crossed roughly 10 times because it was just so fun and exciting for us.
Only a few minutes away is Shibuya Sky which is an observation deck that has beautiful panoramic views of the city (755 feet above). On a clear day, you can even see Mt. Fuji (we were lucky enough to). The observation deck features both indoor and outdoor viewing areas, allowing visitors to experience the city from different perspectives. Finally, it’s especially beautiful at sunset. To witness a sunset here plan to book your tickets at least a month in advance.
Experience the Vibrant Nightlife in Shinjuku
We chose Shinjuku as our home base for our 4-day itinerary in Tokyo. We found it was the best place to hit up all the major spots easily since Shinjuku station is huge (3 million people pass through every day). In the evening walk around the bustling area and make sure to not miss the Shinjuku Cat.
Next, enjoy dinner in Shinjuku at Udon Shin. It was easily the best meal we experienced on the entire trip. Being that it’s so popular and a very small restaurant (doesn’t seat more than 12 people) you’ll have to visit earlier in the afternoon to receive a number. You visit the restaurant a few hours before you want to dine and get a ticket (automated machine outside). Then you will have a countdown on when to come back.
Finally, one of the “50 Best Bars in the World” is located in Shinjuku. Bar Bennefidich combines the motifs of a classic Tokyo bar (silky movements, sedate pace, no menu) with the feel of a makeshift moonshine operation (homemade spirits, plenty of wormwood, ancient herbal elixirs). Many of the drinks are built from ingredients grown by owner-bartender Hiroyasu Kayama on his farm just outside Tokyo. It only seats 17 so there may be a wait.
Day 3: Meiji Jingu Temple, Yoyogi Park, + Harajuku
Morning Visit the Meiji Shrine + Yoyogi Park
Meiji Jingu Shrine was established in 1920 and is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji. The shrine is known for its serene atmosphere, beautiful forested grounds, and traditional architecture. It’s truly a peaceful oasis in the heart of Tokyo.
When visiting Meiji Jingu you can participate in various rituals and ceremonies, such as making offerings at the main hall, writing wishes on wooden plaques called ema, and purchasing omamori (amulets) for good luck or protection. The shrine is also a popular spot for traditional Japanese weddings and New Year’s celebrations. Don’t miss the wall of Sake barrels just outside the shrine as it makes for a wonderful photo opportunity.
The shrine is surrounded by a beautiful park called Yoyogi Park. It’s Tokyo’s largest and most popular park. One of its most known features is its beautiful cherry blossom trees during the Sakura season. Which attracts many visitors who come to enjoy hanami (cherry blossom viewing) parties. Finally, just outside of the park, we stumbled upon the cutest coffee shop called Kitasando Garage Coffee. The reason we stopped in was because while we were admiring it from the outside the workers were waving and smiling at us. One of the many examples of how kind the people here are. We miss the culture every single day!
Afternoon to Explore Harajuku
Harajuku is a trendy area in Tokyo known for its fashion boutiques and quirky cafes. Harajuku is particularly famous for Takeshita Street, a narrow pedestrian street lined with shops selling a wide variety of fashion items, accessories, and snacks. It’s a great place to visit if you’re looking to do some shopping. I loved the store Cosme which is the Sephora of Japan.
Furthermore, we enjoyed candied strawberries at Strawberry Fetish. However, if I’m being completely honest, I found this area to be a little underwhelming. Nevertheless, I still think it’s important to add it to your itinerary but perhaps only spend an hour here.
4 Day Tokyo Itinerary: Day 4: Tokyo DisneySea
Tokyo DisneySea is a must-visit for Disney lovers as it is unlike any other Disney park. It is unique for its nautical and exploration theme, featuring seven themed ports of call: Mediterranean Harbor, Mysterious Island, Mermaid Lagoon, Arabian Coast, Lost River Delta, Port Discovery, and American Waterfront. As a frequent Disneyland visitor I was blown away by the details and delicious food offerings at this park. Along with that, DisneySea is very reasonably priced. My husband and I paid a total of $120 for both of us to visit.
Some of the rides you cannot miss would be Journey to the Center of the Earth, Soarin, Tower of Terror, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Aquatopia. Along with that, you can come here for the food alone. The popcorn especially is very unique we saw Milk Chocolate Popcorn, Matcha Popcorn, Curry Popcorn, and even soy sauce popcorn. Here are some of the top food items to try and if you want more details – head to my Instagram Video explaining these in further.
- Gyoza Dog (my favorite)
- Mike Wazowski Melon Bread
- Little Green Men Mochi
- Tiramisu Donut (50th anniversary special)
- Seaside Snacks Shrimp Ukiwa Bun
Finally, getting to DisneySea is easy from Shinjuku you can either take a direct bus (50 minutes) or take the train to the Disney monorail station in which you’ll be able to ride the famous monorail into the park.
Optional Day 4 if you want to skip DisneySea
- Morning: Visit the Tsukiji Fish Market, known for its fresh seafood and food stalls. Try some sushi or other local delicacies for breakfast.
- Late Morning: Visit the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.
- Afternoon Visit the Tokyo National Museum
- Evening departure
Where to Stay in Tokyo for the First Time?
Tokyo is a vast and diverse city with many different neighborhoods. Each offers its unique atmosphere and attractions. The best area to stay in Tokyo depends on your interests, budget, and the type of experience you’re looking for. Along with that, consider factors such as convenience of transportation, proximity to the attractions you want to visit, and the type of atmosphere you prefer. Here are some popular areas to consider:Booking.com
Top Pick: Shinjuku
Known for its bustling streets, neon lights, and tall skyscrapers, Shinjuku is a major commercial and entertainment district. It’s a great choice for nightlife, shopping, and dining, with attractions like the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, Kabukicho entertainment district, and Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.
We stayed at JR Shinjuku Blossom Hotel for 4 nights and would highly recommend booking a stay here. The rooms are small but it was only a short walk to the train station.
- Shibuya: Famous for its busy pedestrian crossing, Shibuya is a vibrant and trendy neighborhood known for its fashion boutiques, department stores, and nightlife. It’s also home to the iconic Shibuya 109 building, Hachiko Statue, and a wide range of restaurants and cafes.
- For the best hotel in the area – book your stay here
- Asakusa: Asakusa is one of Tokyo’s oldest neighborhoods and is famous for its historic Senso-ji Temple, traditional shopping street Nakamise-dori, and the Asakusa Culture and Tourist Information Center with its observation deck offering panoramic views of the city.
- For the best hotel in the area – book your stay here
- Ginza: Known as Tokyo’s upscale shopping district, Ginza is home to luxury boutiques, department stores, art galleries, and fine dining restaurants. It’s a great area for those interested in high-end shopping and gourmet experiences.
- For the best hotel in the area – book your stay here
- Roppongi: Roppongi is a popular nightlife district with a wide range of bars, clubs, and entertainment venues. It’s also known for its international atmosphere, and art museums like the Mori Art Museum, and the Roppongi Hills complex.
- For an iconic hotel with stunning Tokyo Tower views – book your stay here
4 Day Itinerary in Tokyo Conclusion
Thank you for reading my in-depth “4 Day Itinerary in Tokyo”. This itinerary covers a mix of traditional and modern Tokyo, allowing you to experience the city’s diverse attractions and neighborhoods. Keep in mind that Tokyo is a vast city with many more attractions to explore, so feel free to customize this itinerary based on your interests and preferences. Finally, don’t miss my Ultimate Kyoto Guide if you plan on visiting Kyoto during your trip.