Tokyo is a huge city with so much to do, so I’m just gonna tell you now – you won’t be able to do it all. We spent about 3.5 days in Tokyo and managed to see A LOT, and I’m sharing all of it here. My advice: when/if you plan a trip to Tokyo – do your research, and pick out what interests you the most. And hopefully my little city guide helps in your planning!
This iconic pedestrian crossing is a must see. With almost 2,500 people crossing at a time, it’s the busiest crosswalk in the world. Watching it is almost like watching an intricately choreographed dance – people are coming from ever direction yet no one collides. You can get a great view from the second floor of the Starbucks at the intersection, but you also must experience it for yourself. Around Shibuya are tons of streets and alleyways with restaurants and shops to explore as well.
A neighborhood known for crazy Japanese fashion and colorful streets. Takeshita-dōri, the most famous street of Harajuku (pictured in cover image) has a seemingly endless amount of shops, crazy foods/snacks, and people. Sensory overload.
Also within Harajuku is the Tokyu Plaza, a shopping mall, BUT the thing to note is the mirrored entrance. It’s a pretty cool place to stop for a unique photo opp.
Shinjuku is a business, shopping, and entertainment district within Tokyo. It’s a popular spot for young people, thriving nightlife, and lots of restaurant options, but one of the coolest areas to check out is Golden Gai. An area about the size of a soccer field with over 250 small bars. And when I say small, I mean most can only fit about 5 people at a time!
While it may seem a bit run down – think small alleys and eclectic decor – many of the bars are rather upscale and most charge some sort of cover. It’s definitely an experience you won’t find anywhere else!
TSUKIJI FISH MARKET
If food is a priority when you travel visiting the Tsukiji Fish Market is a must. The market used to be made up of two sections: the inner market (wholesale only) and the outer market (a mixture of wholesale, groceries, seafood, and more). As of 2010, the inner market moved to a nearby manmade island (now Toyosu Market), but the outer market still remains and is a great place to taste an assortment of Japanese cuisine.
Speaking of the Toyosu Market – that’s where you will find Sushi Dai (previously located at Tsukiji Market). I’m sharing several restaurant recommendations below but this one deserves its own spot on the list.
If you love sushi, you’ve got to try sushi breakfast. It’s the same thing as regular sushi just in the morning, and while there are many places around Japan to find sushi breakfast, the experience at Sushi Dai is like no other.
For JPY 4,500 (~$40) you get some of the best quality sushi at such a low price – anywhere else in Japan you’d end up paying about $150. I recommend getting the omakase menu aka chefs choice (you get 10 pieces of nigiri, a sushi roll, tamago, and miso soup.) This way you ensure you’re getting the BEST fish of the day.
But the trick is getting a seat.
Sushi Dai only seats about 15 people at a time and each seating is 1 hour. They are open from 5:30am-2pm (but typically sell out before 2pm), so in order to get in the first seating or guarantee a seat at all that day, you need to arrive no later than 4:00am. Helful tip: take an uber or taxi to get there since the trains don’t start until 5:00am.
Yes, we woke up at 3am to get there and ended up being 4th and 5th in line. We got in the first seating and it was THE BEST sushi ever. One million percent worth it. Sharing a few other tips below.
• Hours: 5:30am – 2pm (or until sold out)
• Address: 6 Chome-5-1 Toyosu, Koto City, Tokyo 135-0061, Japan
• Located on 3F – 3rd floor of Block 6.
• Cash only
• Food hall entrance opens at 4:45 so may have to wait outside.
AKA Zack’s heaven on earth. Akihabara is essentially the center of Japanese pop culture and a major hub for video games, anime, and other electronics. With arcades, UFO machines, and gachapon machines on every corner – it’s truly an experience like nowhere else.
The highlight of this area is definitely Sensoji Temple, a beautiful Buddhist temple. There you will also find the Kaminari-mon (the outer gates) and a magnificent Five-Story Pagoda. Nearby is Nakamise-dōri, the temple precinct’s shopping district.
ROPPONGI HILLS MORI TOWER
While there are plenty of places to get a bird’s eye view of Tokyo (and I highly recommend going to one of them), we visited the observation deck at Roppongi Hills Mori Tower. We had a great night time view of Tokyo and the Tokyo Tower – but during the day you can sometimes see Mount Fuji in the distance.
This isn’t just specific to Tokyo, but I wanted to make sure to mention vending machines because they are everywhere. In fact, there is approximately 1 vending machine per every 23 people in the country! It’s fun to try different drinks that we don’t have here PLUS you can buy cold AND hot drinks from them.
One of the most famous ramen chains in Japan, you place your order at a vending machine then take a seat in your own individual booth where you are served from behind a curtain. Check out the video below.
Akihabara is one of the most competitive districts of Ramen restaurants, but I’m not sure who can compete with the giant ramen at Yarou Ramen. We each ordered a small and it felt like we hardly put a dent in it before we were full! The pictures really don’t show HOW big the bowls were.
GORYONSAN FOR IZAKAYA
Located in Shibuya, we dined here on our first night and it was the perfect way to kick off our trip. Izakayas are essentially Japenese taverns that serve up small dises for snacking and sharing while, of course, drinking.
Of course I’m mentioning this one again – it’s hands down the best sushi experience you will ever have. (Scroll up for details.)
Order your sushi on a screen and it will be sent to you on a conveyer belt. It’s very good, very affordable, and very fun. Located near Shibuya Crossing.
A cute little coffee shop in Harajuku where you can enjoy your drink with some pretty cool 3D latte art. Cat-puccino anyone?
BURNSIDE STREET CAFE
Also located in Harajuku, Burnside Street Cafe serves up fluffy pancakes in a variety of flavors.
Alfred’s was actually founded in Los Angeles, and Zack and I walk to the one near us almost every weekend. They expanded to Tokyo in 2017, so when we ended up having some extra time one morning we decided to check it out. The menu is slightly different so we tried the Earl Grey Cocoa (mine hot, his cold), and I’m gonna need the LA locations to start serving that immediately, please and thank you.
Obviously there’s SO much to do, and while we managed to see a lot during the 3.5 days we spent in Tokyo, the city offers so much. Hopefully this gives you a taste of Tokyo – more Japan travel guides to come in the New Year.
XO – Courtney
PS – If you’ve ever been to Tokyo I’d love to hear what your favorite things were. Comment below.