1-day Itinerary in Tokyo
Explore the best things to do in Tokyo in 1 day based on recommendations from local experts.
- 1#1View all Photos#1 in Tokyo2.6 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND2.6 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
If you're looking to learn a little (or a lot) about Japan's history, the Tokyo National Museum is the place to go. This museum is one of the country's most expansive, housing about 116,000 pieces of art and artifacts that cover the longest recorded history of Japan. Strolling through the halls of its numerous buildings, you'll spot relics such as samurai armor and swords (a traveler favorite), delicate pottery, kimonos, calligraphy, paintings, and much more, some of which are designated as national treasures and Important Cultural Properties by the Japanese government. In addition to artifacts from Japan's history, you'll also find pieces from all across the Asian continent, including Buddhist scrolls that date all the way back to 607.
Travelers were impressed with all that the Tokyo National Museum has to offer. Even some who admitted they aren't museum people enjoyed the variety of unique artifacts on display. Travelers appreciated that the museum featured English translations, something that some visitors noticed other Tokyo top attractions lacked (think the Ghibli Museum). Museum goers also say that there so much to see in the Tokyo National Museum that you probably need an entire day if you want to get through everything. If you don't have enough time to do this (or just don't want to) the best thing to do is get a map of the museum beforehand and pick what you want to do before you venture in.10 minutes by car; 25 minutes by metro
- 2#3View all PhotosfreeSensoji Temple#3 in Tokyo2.9 miles to city centerFree, Churches/Religious Sites, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND2.9 miles to city centerFree, Churches/Religious Sites, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The oldest religious site in Tokyo is also its most visited. The Sensoji Temple sees about 30 million annual visitors and dates all the way back to year 628. Despite its claim to antiquity, however, the structures that currently stand are relatively new reconstructions of previous edifices (during World War II, nearly the entire temple was razed). The Sensoji Temple is dedicated to Asakusa Kannon, the Buddhist god of mercy and happiness. According to legend, two fishermen struck gold and found a statue of the god while fishing on the Sumida River. The Sensoji shrine is dedicated to this lucky catch as well as features a small homage to the fisherman who caught the statue. Unfortunately, while here, you won't be able to see the actual statue. It is there, but it isn't on public display. It has never been. Either way, Buddhists and interested tourists alike flock to this attraction with the hopes that being in the presence of Kannon's healing powers will rub off on them. After you've properly toured Sensoji, take some time to check out the shops that line Nakamise Dori, which you'll find on the way to the temple.
The majority of travelers enjoyed their experience at the Sensoji Temple. Visitors found the temple to be beautiful and enjoyed admiring its grand stature and intricate architectural details. The only complaint among travelers was with the attraction and all the activity surrounding it; Sensoji can get so crowded that it can be difficult to be able to simply admire the attraction. If you don't want to share space with throngs of tourists, visitors suggest coming early morning or late at night.20 minutes by car
- 3#5View all PhotosfreeImperial Palace#5 in Tokyo0.6 miles to city centerFree, Parks and Gardens, Castles/Palaces, Monuments and MemorialsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND0.6 miles to city centerFree, Parks and Gardens, Castles/Palaces, Monuments and MemorialsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
You'd think the Imperial Palace would be mobbed with tourists, but it's not. You can credit the lack of crowds to an application policy, which limits the number of visitors. That's because the Imperial Palace is home to the Emperor of Japan and the royal family. And before that, it was the residence for some of Japan's most important figures, including Emperor Meiji (credited for modernizing Japan) and rulers during the Edo Period (the time period before Japan was modernized by Meiji). Because of its significant importance in Japanese society, admittance to the site is hard to get (you have to put in your application several weeks in advance) and access inside the actual palace is even fewer and far between.
As such, most travelers suggest skipping the application entirely (those who went on the tour were disappointed with how little of the palace is open to visitors) and admiring the compound from afar. Visitors also say the East Gardens, which are part of the Imperial Palace complex, are much more of a sight to see. This flourishing green space has plenty of shady spots and open fields, perfect for relaxing. And during cherry blossom season, these gardens are a choice spot for locals looking to enjoy the seasonal foliage.15 minutes by car
- 4#2View all PhotosfreeMeiji Shrine#2 in Tokyo3.7 miles to city center3.7 miles to city centerFree, Churches/Religious Sites, Monuments and Memorials, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The Meiji Shrine is a Shinto (Japan's original religion) shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. Japanese history credits Meiji for modernizing Japan by incorporating Western principles into Japanese society, including adopting a cabinet system into government. After the emperor's death in 1912 and that of his consort in 1914, the Japanese commemorated their contributions with the Meiji Shrine. While the buildings are certainly worth visiting, the surrounding forest (considered part of the vast Yoyogi Park) is a sight to see as well. That's because 100,000 of the trees standing were all donated by Japanese people from around the country as a thank you to emperor.
While at such a holy site, take time to divulge in traditional rituals. When entering the shrine, you'll first meet the Torii, or the shrine's large archway. It's traditional to bow once entering then again when you leave. To foreigners, the temizuya may appear to be a drinking fountain, but it's actually a cleansing station where visitors have the opportunity to purify themselves with holy water. It's common to wash your hands and rinse your mouth out, but don't drink the water or allow the wooden dippers provided to touch your lips. When approaching the main shrine, it's customary to pay your respects by bowing twice, then clapping your hands twice, make a wish and bow once again. Carrying out such respects are optional, the rules of the shrine are not. Don't photograph the interior of the buildings; don't eat, drink or smoke unless you're in designated areas.20 minutes by car; 40 minutes by metro
Even if you're not a sushi connoisseur, the Tsukiji Market offers an unforgettable experience. It is the largest and oldest fish market in the world, handling upward of 1,800 tons of seafood per day. Ships arrive in the wee hours of the morning, and by 5 a.m., the famous tuna auctions have already commenced with wholesalers bidding for good-looking specimens. Unfortunately, due to the increased number of tourists, these exciting auctions are closed to the public, except for a small viewing area open from 5 to 6:15 a.m. While we encourage early risers to queue for this small space, the rest of the market, which always welcomes visitors, is sufficient to whet your appetite.
Nearly 500 different types of seafood are sold here, ranging from basics (like tuna) to the exotic, as well as the high priced (a box of uni, or the edible part of a sea urchin, is $250 per box). If all the excitement and bartering starts to make you a little hungry, don't hesitate to grab a bite here. There are numerous sushi stalls and tiny restaurants in the market (Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi are popular spots) that serve fish at their freshest. But if you aren't a much of a seafood fan, no matter. There's still something for you here. The market also sells loads of produce (about 270 different types) and features a few ready-made meal stalls that aren't all seafood-based, including Mosuke Dango, where you'll find sweet dumplings. There's also Indo Curry Nakaei, which serves curry. Plus, the nearby outer market offers a series of streets filled to the brim with restaurants and cafes that feature a vast array of delectable cuisines.15 minute walk
- 6#8View all Photos
New York has Fifth Avenue, London has Oxford Street, Paris has the Champs-Élysées and Tokyo has Ginza. The neighborhood is a shopper's paradise, housing all types of storefronts from affordable, big-name retailers such as H&M and Zara to upscale design houses such as Dior, Armani and Cartier. You can also find loads of specialty stores selling traditional items, such as kimonos, incense and chopsticks, as well as more unconventional finds, such as stores dedicated to buttons, model trains and even charcoal-infused beauty products. You can also find a plethora of Hello Kitty products at the Sanrio flagship store located here, as well as all the toys your kid's (or your) heart desires at the massive Hakuhinkan Toy Park.
If you're not much of a shopper, Ginza still offers loads in the way of things to do. The neighborhood is also an arts hub, housing more than 200 galleries to its name. There are also plenty of theaters as well. If you're looking to catch a traditional kabuki performance while in Tokyo, Kabuki-za is considered one of the city's best. And if you're a foodie, you'll probably end up in Ginza anyway. That's because the neighborhood houses lots of Michelin-rated restaurants, including the three-star Ginza Kojyu, which is also considered one of the 50 best restaurants in the world.
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