3-day Itinerary in Tokyo
Explore the best things to do in Tokyo in 3 days based on recommendations from local experts.
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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 TokyoChurches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDChurches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
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 TokyoCastles/Palaces, Monuments and Memorials, Parks and Gardens, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDCastles/Palaces, Monuments and Memorials, Parks and Gardens, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
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
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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
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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
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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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Envision a mini Atlantis rising out of the water, conveniently right next to downtown Tokyo. That's Odaiba. This neighborhood/mini-island situated on the Tokyo Bay is a hub of entertainment, eateries and eye-catching architecture, including the futuristic-looking Fuji Television building. Some of the area's top attractions include the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation and the relaxing Odaiba Seaside Park, which comes equipped with its own beach and Tokyo's own Statue of Liberty. There's also a host of amusement parks the kids will no doubt enjoy. In Tokyo Leisure Land in Palette Town, you'll also find go-karts in Mega Web and one of the world's largest Ferris wheels.
There's also the Legoland Discovery Center. DiverCity Tokyo Plaza and Decks Tokyo Beach facility offers lots in the way of dining and shopping in addition to entertainment options. Meanwhile, adults will likely be drawn to the Ooedo-Onsen-Monogatari, a natural hot springs theme park where visitors can walk around in traditional yukata robes while dipping their toes in one of the 13 varieties of baths available. But, aside from the many distractions on Odaiba, the gorgeous views across the water have most eyes turned back toward downtown. And at night, the Rainbow Bridge electrifies the glittering skyline with glorious colors.15 minute walk
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The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, commonly referred to as the Miraikan, attests to Tokyo's entrepreneurial spirit and penchant for science and technological innovation. This high-tech museum features a plethora of exciting interactive displays spread across three themed permanent exhibits. In Explore The Frontiers, visitors can learn about space exploration by stepping into a model of the International Space Station, which has been autographed by astronauts who spent time there, including Buzz Aldrin. There's also Discover Your Earth, where you'll find a large LED paneled Earth sculpture, as well as the robotics-heavy Create Your Future exhibit. Make sure you get an eyeful of Honda's impressive ASIMO robot while here. ASIMO has opposable thumbs, can run, and even kick a soccer ball (as it did with President Obama in his 2014 visit to the museum). Kids will particularly enjoy the displays as they can touch, climb on and play with many of them. The museum also features science workshops for kids, talks from researchers and the GAIA 3-D Home Theater.
Despite its draw, many travelers offered mixed reviews of the museum. Some reported feeling like kids, amazed at the vast amount of things to learn and do, while other adults said the museum is best suited for children. Some visitors also found the exhibits to be lacking, saying the information provided was very basic (the jury is out on whether its language for kids to understand or a translation issue). Travelers did recommend hanging out for the ASIMO demonstration, though some others who attended said the show was boring and the robot not as up-to-date as they hoped. Those who did bring their kids in tow said they had a ball.15 minutes by car
- 3#12View all Photos#12 in TokyoZoos and AquariumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDZoos and AquariumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
Across the water from Tokyo Disneyland, the Tokyo Sea Life Park provides educational fun for the whole family. This well-designed aquarium features numerous habitats that mimic bodies of water from around the world, like the Caribbean Sea, Indian Ocean, Atlantic Ocean and Tokyo's very own Tokyo Bay. Here you can find a variety of fish from those regions, including Tokyo's famous bluefin tuna. Travelers will also run into penguins during their visit, puffins and turtles, to name a few. There's also a petting area where patrons can get up close and personal and touch sting rays and bamboo sharks.
Travelers found the aquarium to be informative and were impressed with the variety of sea life housed here. Travelers loved the penguin exhibit as well as the touching station and recommended a visit if you have kids in tow or are staying near Disneyland and looking to pass some time. The views of Tokyo Bay, which surround the aquarium, were a nice bonus for visiting travelers (the entrance to the Sea Life Park is a large glass dome situated on the edge of the water).20-25 minutes by car; 40 minutes by metro
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Akihabara is nirvana for techies. Tokyo's premier electronics district, which is also referred to as "Akiba," has gadgets of all kinds found in booths on side streets and main street mega department stores. You'll spot the latest technology on the shelves, which will probably put your equipment to shame. And if you're in the market for hard-to-find bibs or bobs, you're likely to find that here too. If you're unsure where to start, stop at the larger-than-life Yodobashi department store (often billed as the largest electronics store in the world) or stroll along the neighborhood's main street, Chuo Dori, which becomes car-free on Sundays. In addition to being an electronics hub, Akihabara also caters to serious gamers and anime lovers. Here, you'll find loads of gaming arcades as well as shops and street stalls selling comics and character figurines. You'll also probably spot a few cosplayers casually walking down the street.
While Akihabara is no doubt unique, recent travelers had mixed reviews about the district. Those who expressed interest in anime loved their visit, saying you can't leave Tokyo without experiencing the world Akihabara has to offer for fans. Those without a greater interest in the subject matter enjoyed the buzzing activity and plethora of neon signage that permeates the area but ended up growing bored after a period of time. Some were downright offended by the inappropriate nature of some of the anime culture (think maid cafes), so this area may not be suitable for young children. Visitors solely interested in shopping for electronics felt overwhelmed by the options and recommended researching in advance to maximize your time in the neighborhood.15-20 minutes by car; 35 minutes by metro
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The Japanese remake of the Eiffel Tower serves a predominately practical purpose. The orange and white tower, which rises 1,092 feet into the air, serves as a radio and television broadcasting structure supporting 62 miles of frequencies. The tower also caters to tourists, offering two observation decks, one at 490 feet (the main observatory) and one at 819 feet (the special observatory). The observation decks offer 360-degree views of Tokyo's sprawling cityscape and come equipped with guides pointing out notable buildings in the skyline. And if you visit on a really clear day, you'll be able to spot Mount Fuji in the distance. The Tokyo Tower also has its own cafe, where patrons can sip tea while admiring the views, as well as Club 333, a music venue that hosts performances daily. And if you're on the hunt for souvenirs, travelers say this is a surprisingly great place to peruse thanks to all the on-site shops.
Unlike its French counterpart, the best time to visit the Tokyo Tower is at night, according to reviewers. That's because the tower lights up beautifully, and often in multiple colors depending on when you visit. You'll also encounter stunning vistas from atop Tokyo SkyTree, a much taller tower located about 8 miles northwest, but you'll have to combat hordes of fellow tourists. Recent visitors said of the two towers, this one is less crowded.
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For a greater understanding of Tokyo's evolution, head to the gigantic Edo-Tokyo Museum. This expertly designed museum showcases the city's history with large- and small-scale models chronicling Tokyo's architectural transformation as well as recreating Japanese life through the centuries (exhibits with statues recreate cultural practices and norms of the time). Here, travelers can walk through Tokyo's humble origins (via the life-sized Nihonbashi Bridge) in the early Edo Period to the Meiji Restoration (the period where Japan transitioned from traditional to a more modern society, influenced by western principles), through the subsequent industrial revolution, past the devastation of the World Wars and into today's modern metropolis. In addition to models of all shapes and sizes, the museum also features historical and cultural relics visitors can observe up close, including traditional kimono gowns and woodblock prints.
Overall, travelers were delighted with all that the Edo-Tokyo Museum had to offer, with many saying they spent nearly half a day here. Visitors described the museum as incredibly informative and interesting and appreciated the vast amount of history on display. Travelers recommended taking advantage of the complimentary museum tour guides on-site (available in multiple languages). Tours span an hour and a half to two hours and reservations are accepted from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the 6th-floor Voluntary Guide counter.20-30 minutes by car; 40 minutes by metro
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Just to the west of downtown Tokyo lies a gorgeous urban oasis. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden comprises 144 acres of green space and is unique in that it incorporates three landscaping styles – Japanese Traditional, French Formal and English Garden. During the spring, the park gets an extra boost in visitors for its vibrant display of cherry blossoms. If you plan on visiting during this beautiful time, make like a local and come to the park equipped with picnic supplies.
Travelers say the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. Even if you don't have a couple hours to spare for a picnic, visitors say a short stroll is enough to take up the park's peaceful atmosphere. Travelers also report that there are plenty of amenities within the park, including restrooms, places to eat as well as a greenhouse and teahouse.5-10 minutes by car; 20 minutes by metro
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There are plenty of skyscrapers that provide bird's-eye lookouts in Tokyo. So what makes the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Tower special? It's free! At 202 meters high (662 feet), its two observatories (North and South observatory) are the highest vantage points you can reach in the city without having to shred some yen (at least that we know of).
Travelers loved their experience at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building because it was so fuss-free. Free admission, few lines, speedy elevator, helpful customer service and no time restrictions at the top was ideal for travelers who were looking to take their time with the incredible views in front of them. The observatories offer 360-degree views of the city and visitors say on a clear day, Mount Fuji is visible in the distance. If you can, travelers suggest visiting at sunset. The transition from day to night, when some say truly Tokyo comes to life, is magical.25-30 minutes by car; 40-50 minutes by metro
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Both avid and amateur anime fans love the Ghibli Museum. The museum showcases the work of Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli – the famous Japanese animation company that produced films like "Spirited Away" and "Ponyo." Don't expect formal, indoor exhibits. The facility's quirky interior design mimics the animation studio. There's also a play area for kids (which comes equipped with a life-size, fuzzy Cat Bus), a reading room full of books recommended by the museum and a rooftop garden that features character sculptures, including the silent robots from "Castle In The Sky." You can even watch a short film that plays exclusively at the museum and rotates each month.
Considering how difficult it is to secure tickets and the museum's removed location, travelers say visiting this attraction is only worth the extra effort if you're a Miyazaki fan. Devotees loved having the opportunity to get lost in the director's magical world, which many say the museum executed just about perfectly. The only complaint? The expensive gift shop. Even avid fans were disappointed with some of the shop's high prices. English travelers also warned that English signs and placards are few and far between here.
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