Since Tokyo is the largest city in the world, it offers the energy of New York City with the refinement of Paris. Though for first time visitors, it can be intimidating to plan a trip to Tokyo, Japan. With an extensive subway system and sights scattered across the metropolitan area, paired with an airport that’s over an hour away, it takes some research. So read through the National Parks TravelingMom’s 3 day itinerary for Tokyo to help plan your trip.
3 Day Itinerary for Tokyo
- Tsukiji Market
- Hama-rikyu Onshi-teien
- Imperial Palace
- Japanese Food Tour
- Shibuya Station
- Hachiko Statue
- Shibuya Crossing
- Robot Restaurant
- Tokyo National Museum
- Tokyo Sky Tree Observation Deck
Most flights from North America arrive in the afternoon or evening. Once you arrive, grab your checked luggage at Narita International Airport. Then board a Japan Rail Express Train from the airport to either the Tokyo Terminal or Shibuyu Station.
Once you arrive at your hotel, explore around its neighborhood and grab some dinner. Then rest up for the 3 day itinerary for Tokyo that starts early and explores all day long.
Day 1 Traditional Tokyo Day
First learn about Tokyo by sampling some Japanese food and walking through Tokyo’s best gardens. Then follow up by enjoying some contemporary Japanese art, located close-by.
For the first destination arrive hungry and have lots of Japanese yen on hand. Take Marunouchi Line (Red) to Kasumigaseki Station (M15). Then transfer Hibiya Line (Silver) to Tsukiji stop (H10).
Tsukiji Outer Market (Food Market)
5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ju
Open 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday to Saturday
Free to walk
Tokyo’s culinary tradition is driven by seafood, so head to the seafood auction marketplace. Walk the pedestrian alleys lined with food stalls on both sides surrounding the auction area. Find everything from Wagu Beef to mochi desserts to matcha ice cream and spices.
If you didn’t eat breakfast at your hotel, then grab a Japanese egg omelette at Tsukiji Outer Market.
Note: The actual fish market is closed until 11 a.m. to tours and tourists so explore the outer market instead. And a guard is posted so no sneaking into the auction.
Put the next destination into your maps app and walk .7 miles.
Hama-rikyu Onshi-teien (Garden)
and Naajima no Ochaya (teahouse)
1-1 Hama-rikyu teien, Chuo-ku
Open 9 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Admission 300 yen for Adults, free for kids
Tea service additional
Walk through one of the best gardens in all of Tokyo. It features lots of trees along with seasonal blooming gardens. Then see the tidal pond and the bridges that cross it. And don’t miss the 300-year pine tree.
The shogunate used this garden to hunt duck. The picturesque tea house is open for a cup of green tea, or matcha.
Then head out for the next destination and take Oedo (magenta) Line at Shiodome to Monsen-naacho Station (E15). Then transfer to the Tozai (Light blue) Line to Otemachi Station (T09).
1 Chiyoda, Chiyodao-ku
Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
First cross the impressive moat surrounding the Imperial Palace. Then tour the Imperial Palace East Garden with its lots of trees. And don’t miss a walk through the Kokyo Higashi Gyoen to find a small waterfall and pond for a perfect picture backdrop.
Then exit through the Hirakawamon Gate of the Imperial Palace East and walk to the next destination. If you need a drink or snack, duck into 1 Chrome-1 Hitosubashi, across from the north gate of the Imperial Palace East Garden for a convenience store and a sandwich shop.
National Museum of Modern Art—MOMAT
3-1 Kitanomaru-koen, Chiyodao-ku
Walking distance from Imperial Palace (on northern boundary)
Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday
Admission Adults 500 yen, 250 yen college students and free for kids under 18.
First head to the highlights gallery on fourth floor for the best of Japanese modern and contemporary art. During the early part of the 20th century Japanese artists studied and worked in Paris.
Then continue down through the galleries and if you have time walk to the Crafts Gallery for kimonos, lacquerware and glassware. Located close-by at 1 Kitanomaru-koen. Additional admission.
For the next destination take the Tokyo Metro’s Tozai Line (light blue) at the Takebashi Station (T08) to Otemachi Station (T09). Then transfer to the Chiyoda Line (green) to Hibiya Station (C09) and walk the JR Yurakucho Station, connected to the Hibiya Station for the next adventure.
After 5 Food Tour by Urban Adventures
Meet outside JR Yurakucho Station
Tour from 5 p.m. to at least 8 p.m.
Admission based on age, not for kids under 12.
It’s your first full day in Tokyo, so learn about its rich culinary heritage from a local. I recommend a guided food tour, like After 5 offered by Urban Adventures.
My English-speaking guide offered insights into Japanese dining customs. Our tour started with a favorite for locals after work, yakitori.
After ducking down Yakitori Alley, part of it under railway lines, we sampled several bamboo-skewered meat and vegetable appetizers. Then we munched on mochi in Ginza before hopping a Tokyo Metro for the next stop, Tsukishima, an island close to Tokyo.
With quieter streets we walked to our next culinary treat, Monja-yaki. It’s a traditional pancake made with cabbage, mochi and pork on a griddle in the middle of the table.
Day 2—Tokyo Pop Culture Day
After spending the first day getting acquainted to Tokyo’s traditional culture, head to the heartbeat of pop culture. Board the Ginza Line (orange line) to Shibuyu Station.
At the intersection of the Hanzomon, Fukutoshin and Ginza Lines
2-24-1 in the basement of Shibuya Station
If you’re hungry head downstairs for a grocery store with a food hall attached. Find bento boxes, sushi, Japanese gyoza and lots of French pastries and breads.
Then head upstairs and outside for the next destinations.
Shibuya Station at Hachiko Exit
A national symbol of loyalty is Akita, the dog walked to Shibuya Station everyday to meet its master, even years after his master’s death.
Myth of Tomorrow Mural
Shibuya Station at Hachiko Exit
Mural depicting the Hiroshima bombing that went missing in the 1960s then found in the early 2000s.
Outside Shibuya Station
As the busiest intersection in Japan, just take a few moments and people watch. Then take a time-lapse video at the corner of the intersection while the pedestrians cross in all directions.
Shibuya Center-gai (Shopping District)
Udagawacho, near Shibuya Station
Walk down the main pedestrian-only drag in Shibuya for a lesson in Japan’s pop culture. Find a mix of Japanese and North American shopping along with fast food dining. Pop into a Purikura Photo booths for a strip of pics as a souvenir, a must for teens and young adults.
After exploring Shibuya and doing a bit of souvenir shopping, head back to Shibuya Station for the next destination. Then take the Ginza Line (Orange) from Shibuyu Station to Omate-Sando Station (G2).
Omote-Sando (Shopping District)
Exit Omote-Sando Station and walk in either direction.
Where the Ginza area is for traditional luxury shopping, Omote-Sando offers edgier desingers. With designers like Commes des Garcons, Stella McCarthey and Prada, find contemporary architecture in Omote-Sando as well.
Then walk west along Omote-Sando, ducking down Cat Street for more window shopping.
Meiji-Jingu (Shinto Shrine)
Yoygi Kamizono-cho, Shibuya-ku
Open dawn to dusk
As Toyko’s grandest Shinto Shrine, it’s a must. Along with a picturesque shrine it offers a wooded escape from the buzz of Harajuku that wedding parties use for portraits.
Emperor Meiji (1868-1912) designed the garden for his empress. Built in 1920, the original Shrine burned down during WWII and later rebuilt.
First rinse your hands and mouth at font, then walk through the Shrine and pay respects. Amulets and wooden plaques available for purchase.
Then walk through the Meiji-Jingu Inner Garden for a teahouse, the iris garden, Kiyomasa’s Well and the azalea garden. Additional 500 yen admission.
After exploring Shibuya and Harajuku neighborhoods, head north for the evening. So walk north out of Meiji-Jingu to the Kita-Sando Station (F14) and take the Fukutoshin Line (brown) to Shinjuku-Sanchome (F13). Then transfer to the Marunouchi Line (red) to the Shinjuku Station (M8).
Since this entertainment district is more family-friendly in the early evening, walk around now to get a taste of Tokyo nightlife. Then head to an early show that embodies Tokyo’s pop culture.
Shows at 4:00 5:55, 7:50 and 9:45 p.m.
Admission based on age
Take in Tokyo’s pop culture in a temple of light, sound and action. Start with lady-eating monsters, pyrotechnics and lasers, a show at Robot Restaurant is an experience you see and feel with a pounding soundtrack. Then find samurai-sword wielding characters, Pokemon-like players even an homage to Hello Kitty in a fast-paced show.
Arrive early, the lounge looks like a Japanese version of Liberace’s mansion. Drinks and snacks available with live entertainment before the real show downstairs.
Since the earlier shows offer a family-friendly vibe, tweens and teens will enjoy the show that feels like walking into a video game. It may be too much stimulation for younger kids, and ear protection is advised.
Tokyo Day 3 Culture Day
After enjoying a traditional Tokyo Day and the pop culture of Tokyo, learn more about the arts and culture of Tokyo. Since it’s a popular destination head out early. First take the Ginza Line (orange) to the Asakusa Station (A18).
2-3-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku
Open 24 hours
Tokyo’s most visited temple for Kannon—the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. First walk through red Kaminari-mon (thunder gate) to appreciate the scale of the structure.
Then take a moment to light some incense and pay your respects at the temple. And don’t miss the Five-Story Pagoda that stands next to Senso-ji. Finally walk around the grounds for smaller structures and gardens with koi ponds.
The arcade to the temple offers souvenirs and food stalls. Arrive early in the morning for fewer crowds.
After visiting Senso-ji head the next destination for several museums. So head back to the Asakusa Station (A18) for the Ginza Line (orange) to the Ueno Station (G16).
Ueno-koen (City park with museums)
Open dawn to dusk
A large city park that offers lots of space to explore along with the Ueno Zoo, several museums and a large pond with lotus.
National Museum of Western Art
Admission 500 yen adult, 250 yen college students, free for kids and seniors
Open 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Closed Monday
Since it’s designed by famed architect Le Corbusier, the modern building is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So walk by or for art lovers, the National Museum of Western Art offers a study in western art from the renaissance through the modern periods.
See an extensive collection of Roudin, Delacroix and Monet. Along with masters Renoir, Van Gogh and Gaugin, this museum offers all the thrills of New York City museums.
For those pining for Western food, the café offers a French-inspired menu with views of the garden.
Tokyo National Museum
Admission 620 yen adults, 410 yen college students, free for kids and seniors
Open 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Monday
With the world’s largest collection of Japanese Art, find wood prints and silk screens, samurai swords and kimonos. First focus on Honkan Galley and Galley of Horyu-ji Treasures for labeled Japanese national treasures.
After spending three full days exploring Tokyo head up for a nighttime view over the largest city in the world. So take the Ginza line (orange) from the Ueno Station (G16) to the Asakusa Station (G19) and transfer to the Asakusa line (rose) to Osiage Station.
Tokyo Sky Tree Observation Deck
1-1-2 Oshiage, Sumida-ku
Admission: 350-meter deck 2060 yen, 450-meter deck 1030 yen adults. 350-meter deck 1540 yen, 450-meter deck 820 yen kids 12 to 17.
Open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Want to see the view from tallest tower in the world? Head to Tokyo Sky Tree with its two different observation decks. Along with observation decks, find restaurants and a glass tube connecting the different levels. On a clear day see Mt. Fuji.
Tips on Traveling to Japan
If it’s your first trip to Japan use this prep-and-pack guide. Get information about the Shinkansen trains (hi-speed), the Tokyo Metro and where to stay and more.