From ancient temples to high-rise buildings, Tokyo offers fascinating insights into both modern and traditional Japan. But how to structure your limited time in the capital? Check out this sample 48-hour itinerary – which mixes the buzz of big city life with more serene areas.
If you’re just starting to plan your visit to the Japanese capital, a first glance at Tokyo can be overwhelming. At least I felt that way when planning my trip to Japan. Sure, we’ve all seen those glittering shots of Japan’s modern metropolis. But there’s more.
| Shinjuku, Shibuya & Beyond
Before roaming the streets of a new city, it’s always helpful to familiarize yourself with the new surroundings. Is there a better way than taking a look from above?
On your first morning in Tokyo, head to the Metropolitan Government Building for stunning 360-degree views from its observatory on the 45th floor. Access is free of charge and the view from 200 m above the streets of Tokyo will get you in the mood to further explore the capital.
Safe & sound back on street level, set out to roam the busy Shinjuku district, one of the city’s liveliest neighborhoods. Shinjuku is what you will have most likely associated with Tokyo — high-rise buildings, flashy billboards, busy streets, and something new to see wherever you look.
Also check out Shinjuku Station, the world’s busiest train station. About 2 million passengers pass through this station daily. Yes, you read that right.
Bordering Yoyogi Park is home to the impressive Meiji Shrine, which is named after the country’s first modern Emperor. If this sounds too old-fashioned, roaming the trendy Harajuku district will satisfy your inner fashionista.
At times, the city devoid of a clear geographical center will pose certain challenges for the traveler on a limited time budget. When it comes to nightlife, Shibuya is a safe bet.
Located south of Shinjuku, this busy neighborhood enjoys a good reputation amongst Tokyo’s younger crowd. No matter if you feel like browsing the many shops, (fine) dining, or bar-hopping, you’ll find it here.
Oh – and do make sure to mix and mingle with the local crowd at the famous Shibuya Crossing. Nothing says Tokyo more like crossing an intersection alongside a few thousand commuters.
| Exploring Tokyo’s Past and Future
A tour of Tokyo’s National Museum will provide some context to your exploration of the Japanese capital. The museum holds an expansive collection of cultural artifacts – ranging from traditional garments to samurai swords.
Yes, canceling your agenda for the day in favor of the museum is tempting. But limiting yourselves to a few exhibitions will give you at least a feeling for the nation’s rich history.
No visit to the Japanese capital is complete without a stroll through Ginza, one of Tokyo’s oldest and most prestigious shopping districts. Take advantage of the car-ban that is enforced on the main boulevard during the weekend and browse some of the renowned upscale department stores – in an even more relaxed atmosphere.
Once you’ve stilled your shopping appetite, head south to famous Tsukiji Fish Market. The market is widely known for its spectacular tuna auctions that take place every morning. You’re not in the mood for the 5:00 am wake-up-call? Then skip the auctions and jump right ahead to a fresh plate of delicious sushi.
Start your evening with a visit to spectacular teamLab Borderless, an immersive exhibition of digital art. Within the large exhibition halls, the projected artworks are freely floating across the walls to melodic sounds – this will be an experience for all your senses. The museum opens late on Saturdays and Sundays.
The exhibition is located on Odaiba, a large artificial island in Tokyo Bay. Odaiba further boasts a sandy beach plus several entertainment venues and restaurants.
Enjoying scenic views of Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo’s skyline from one of the rooftop-restaurants will be an adequate end to your time in the Japanese capital.