Maybe you’re passing through Japan on your way to somewhere else. Maybe you’ve just finished a skiing holiday in Hokkaido and you’ve got some time before a connecting flight. Maybe you’re in town for work but want to see more than the airport and the office. If you’ve only got a limited amount of time in Tokyo, make sure you make the most of it! Here are our local tips (courtesy of our local Tokyo tour guides, of course!) for what to do in Tokyo in just 24 hours.
Firstly, plan to stay in a really nice hotel. You need to be in a good location with all the facilities at your fingertips. Nowadays, even though you can connect to wifi in the Tokyo subway stations as well as Starbucks, knowing you have immediate access to wifi at your hotel can be a bit of a life-saver. We love the Park Hyatt, which is a short walk from the well-connected Shinjuku station, but if that’s a little out of budget we’re also loving Hotel Niwa, which blends traditional design with a modern sensibility.
Before you come to Tokyo, think about getting some local help. At first impression, Tokyo can be a bit overwhelming — either hire a private guide or join a quick walking tour to help you get your bearings and get familiar with how things work. It would also help to draw up a quick plan on the things you want to see and do, and how to get o those places. The fast and efficient public transport system is going to be your best friend — it’s by far the best way to get around town.
Kick of your 24 hours in Tokyo with the Tsukiji Fish Market. As the largest wholesale seafood market in the world, this is a fascinating place to catch Tokyo in action before normal working hours. Plus, you can feast on a super fresh sushi breakfast and snack on some different savory and sweet treats that you may never have come across before.
We think Tokyo is best enjoyed by walking the streets, and you should know that it’s a surprisingly safe city. You really can walk anywhere and not have to worry about your personal safety — apart from the bikes that whizz by on the pavement!
Walking through Ueno Park is a must, especially in spring when it’s lined with cherry blossom trees. The park is a historic monument in itself, as the zoo here is made from remnants of the famous Battle of Ueno. Yoyogi Park also has to be done — there is so much life and entertainment here, your eyes will never get bored, whether you’re taking in the natural beauty of cherry blossom and flowers around you, or the tons of people training or practicing all kinds of things like yoga and badminton. It’s free and you could spend all day taking it in! Also, Meiji Shrine is next door to this park, a place that makes you feel like you’ve travelled far out of the city into a beautiful forest.
If you want more of an urban walk, there’s a loop around the Marunouchi district that takes you back in time through old residential areas, and to shops, cafés, gardens, finishing up back around through the Imperial Palace and to Tokyo station.
You have to go out to eat! No matter how good the in-house restaurant looks in your hotel, get out and experience the food of this city. For some of the more high-end or well known places you’ll need a reservation (your hotel can help with this) but with over 100,000 restaurants to choose from, part of the adventure is simply walking into any restaurant to see what you can find. The staff will welcome you with open arms and make space for you at the counter. The menu may be only in Japanese, but there will usually be some pictures (or plastic models of the dishes!) that you can point to.
Head to the neighbourhood of Tsukishima to discover the birthplace of tsukudani, little treats (seafood, meat, or seaweed) preserved in soy sauce and sake. Also try monjayaki while you’re here — Japan’s delicious spin on savoury pancakes.
If you want to feel like you’re in the movies, make sure you go to Gonpachi, the restaurant that inspired a famous scene from Kill Bill!
Another neighbourhood you should definitely check out later in the evening is Shinjuku, which is all lit up with neon lights at night. Head down the hilariously named ‘Piss Alley’ to find a strew of tiny eateries that you can tuck yourself away into and enjoy a local meal. Afterwards, head over to Golden Gai, a compact neighborhood of 200 tiny bars that usually only seat 10-12 people at a time to cheers over drinks with the locals. If clubbing is your thing, the district of Roppongi is where all the action is!