‘Goraiten itadakimashite makoto ni arigatou gozaimasu’ (thank you for coming to our store), when you keep hearing this announcement as you enter and exit any department store, you know that you are in one of the most exiting cities in the world, Tokyo.
If you have arrived at your hotel in downtown Tokyo from Narita or Haneda with out any mix-ups, that’s brilliant, you are on the right track. For most first time visitors to Tokyo it can be challenging and often daunting experience, especially if your time is limited, what to do and where to go if you haven’t pre-planned your trip.
For 72 hours in Tokyo, the pass that I recommend is the unlimited rides of Toei and Tokyo Metro Lines that cost 1500Yen which is good for 72 hours (JR Trains not included), it’s good value and if you need to travel by JR line to a specific station, just purchase a single ticket and connect again to the Metro Lines, it’s that easy.
Here are my top Tokyo attractions that you can visit in 72 hours.
Asakusa – this place is on top of my list, a visit to Sensoji, a very popular Buddhist temple. Here you’ll find the Kaminari Gate, the large entrance gate leading to Sensoji Temple and the Nakamise, a shopping street full of goodies. Try the ‘Osuisha’, purify yourself by washing your hands with water pouring from the dragons or the ‘Jokoro’ and bathe yourself from the smoke, it is believe that smoke from the incense burners have healing power.
Shinjuku – Dubbed as the busiest train station in the world, and without a doubt you will get lost here. The best thing to do is finding the right places you want to visit and identify the correct exits or make note of the closest major landmark, believe me this will save a lot of your time above and underground. Shinjuku is a hub of massive entertainment areas, red light district, love hotels, shopping centres, gay areas and a foodie haven. It is also home to skyscrapers including the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Must see are; the Kabukicho, Shinjuku Gyoen (Park) and try Ramen noodles or Japanese curry at the Golden Gai’s, a tiny village with lots of eateries.
Shibuya / Harajuku – Shop till you drop, literally at one of the fashion districts of Tokyo. Experience the Shibuya’s busiest pedestrian crossing in the world, the intersection is a sea of humanity. Must see, the Shibuya’s 109 shopping complex for all the high end designer labels, look for ‘Hachiko’s statue’ an extremely loyal dog who kept up his loyalty waiting for his Master even after his death (just look for Hachiko exit from the station). Check out the fashion statements, some extremely over the top at Takeshita Dori (Street), and you can even have a photo taken with the Harajuku girls in their Gothic Lolita or Cyber fashion style. Here you’ll find lots of shops, sweet outlets, and restaurants. You can also relax and recharge in the serene ambiance of the Meiji Jingu Shrine.
Tokyo Tower – Japan’s symbol of post-war rebirth as a major economic power. The observation deck offers panoramic views over Tokyo and beyond, on the rare days of clear weather, you can see Mt Fuji in the distance. Admission fee 900Yen (main observation deck only) and 1600Yen both observation decks.
Tsukiji Fish Market – Lovers of sashimi or sushi, this place is not to be missed. Tsukiji is the world’s largest fish market. In the morning, the sight and sounds of this place are heart pumping, with delivery scooters and trucks roaming the area, for safety, caution is advised. Most restaurants here have an English menu otherwise just point out the picture of the dish you want to order and they will happily prepare it for you.
Ameyoko Shopping Street (Ueno) – a gem and my favourite shopping district of Tokyo. ‘Ameya Yokocho’ translates into candy alley and also ‘Ame’ for America, a lot of black market American products were sold here following World War Two. These days, it’s a home of bargain hunters, from designer labels, shoes, traditional Japanese costumes and home decorations and restaurants. You’ll find here a little fish market selling fresh produce, and cured seafood. Try the strawberry, pineapple or the famous watermelon on sticks, guaranteed beyond sweetness.
Roppongi – Fancy a night out?, head down to Roppongi, a popular nightlife district among visitors. A lot of trendy bars with English speaking staff. This area is frequented by foreign nationals, a good place to interact and exchange notes and tips with fellow travelers.
Akihabara – feel the electric vibes and unleash your geekiness, a place for anime and manga fanatics and home to big department stores specialising in the latest electronic gadgets. Thinking of upgrading your camera? or if you want to score a latest computer games to take back home, you are in the right place. Walking along the main strip and back streets is mind blowing, the noisy repeated audio announcements and neon lights at night add that Blade Runner feel. There are plenty of restaurants and snack bars, very convenient if you get peckish.
If time permits, a visit to Hakone is highly recommended. This a day trip though. Check out my previous post here.
Other interesting places to visit are the Tokyo Imperial Palace, Ginza, Akasaka and Ikibukuro.
The English Tokyo Map is user friendly and it highlights all the major attractions that I recommended around Tokyo. Train stations have joint English signage, also helping navigate the maze, and probably easier in a crowd, is to follow the colour coding of the individual lines, like London’s Tube, the bands of colour taking you on a journey of their own through the station, the train services as expected in Tokyo, are very reliable. Note that during peak hours, the stations are very crowded and trains are packed, if you enjoy being part of a rugby scrum, then travel in the peak hour, if not, avoid! Late night trains can also be extremely busy as salary staff head home after post-work food and drinks. Buses and taxis are another form of transport in Tokyo.
Lastly, don’t forget to try a traditional Japanese breakfast, it’s packed with nutrition that will keep you going during your visit in Tokyo.
I hope you’ll find my 72 hours in Tokyo helpful in your next visit to The Land of the Rising Sun. Drop me a line if you have any questions.