So my wish to visit Tokyo came through this year! We spent a very cold March going to all the touristy places but alas – a week is not enough to cover all of Tokyo!
It’s such a split of modern and traditional, we had to plan our itinerary wisely between everything so that we don’t get too sick of temples and shrines, or get too bored of the city scene. Also, train fares can get very expensive so it is crucial to plan your sightseeing by location, day-by-day.
I would like to share my 5-day itinerary with you (I left the other days for free and easy shopping)
- DAY 1
– Tsukiji Fish Market
- DAY 2
– Shinanomachi (Soka Gakkai International township)
- DAY 3
– Asakusa (Nakamise shopping street)
- DAY 4
– Imperial Palace Tokyo tour
- DAY 5
– Meiji Jingū Shrine
Granted, I do not have a lot of other places listed but I think this list is great for the first timers to Tokyo. Now I’m going to take you one-by-one to each place, with a brief account of what I think of it.
1. TSUKIJI FISH MARKET
The place is filled with honest, natural ingredients being sold and fresh food. Traditionally people come here to see the fish bidding war, but the biggest pull for me are the fresh street food you can immediately taste. I love the oysters especially, they are so fresh & briny, as well as the grilled seafood served on sticks. If you have the time, queue up to get a bowl of hot, steaming ramen or perhaps a bowl of fresh sashimi on rice. Fresh tuna and salmon sushi, onigiri and sashimi can be bought here to be eaten immediately as well. Other than that, you can buy snacks and souvenirs from some of the other vendors, but it’s mainly food stuff that you can get here.
2.GINZA & HARAJUKU
I personally did not enjoy Ginza very much as the place is very much on the high end fashion brands which are already available in my country. I did find the interesting De Beers building though, but that was about the highlight of my day. Harajuku was definitely more fun & vibrant, we went along the famous Takeshita Dori which is chock full of street fashion shops and teenagers. Every few metres you can spot a brightly decorated crepe shop as it seemed to be the staple food for teenagers there. We tried it, but to my disappointment, it wasn’t very good as compared to the delicious crepe we had in Osaka.
This place is a quiet town, and it would not hold much appeal to you unless you are part of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) community. I’m part of the Soka Gakkai Malaysia (SGM) so in a way it was like a sort of pilgrimage to finally visit the origins of this religion. In a nutshell, SGI is a form of buddhist practice which we call Nichiren Buddhism, but it is very different from the practice of taoists. Our practice believes in the power of chanting ‘NAM MYOHO RENGE KYO’ which refers to the law of cause & effect. The town of Shinanomachi consists of various SGI buildings that members can visit and learn, even join in some of the prayer meetings. I had fun teaching my mom about what we do, and shopping for little gifts for fellow members.
A busy and bustling mini city in Tokyo where there’s loads of shopping to do since there are so many malls and shops in the district. However, if bustling city rush and lights are too much for you, visit the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. While I was there, it was only the very beginning of spring so there were not many flowers in bloom. In fact, the entire garden was rather dull. However, I was lucky to catch a cluster of sakura flowers just freshly in bloom. That was where most of the other tourists were clustered around. That said, the vast garden is worth a visit as they have beautiful settings for photos, and a little pond area.
5. ASAKUSA & UENO
We visited the Sensō-ji Temple in Asakusa which has one of the largest lanterns I’ve ever seen. The ceiling mural was also pretty impressive. As these two areas are pretty close to one another, there are a few other temples you can walk to and visit, or if it’s spring, you can drop by the Ueno Park as it would be flowering beautifully. Just outside of Senso-ji Temple is Nakamise – the best shopping street for souvenirs! You can buy everything from household items to wallets, keychains, bags and artisanal cutlery here, at good bargainable prices!
6. IMPERIAL PALACE TOKYO
The tour for this is FREE – but you need to book ahead of time online at a specific time slot, and print out your ticket for the day of the tour. Once inside, you will be grouped with a bunch of tourists and given headsets for a tour guide system (English) since it would be conducted entirely in Japanese. The group will then be taken around the palace grounds and you will be required to walk for about 30 minutes. Some parts of the tour were beautiful and interesting, but for the most part I felt a little bored (and it was very cold out!) I couldn’t wait to get back into the main room.
I can’t tell you much about the city, since we only went down there for one reason – the Ramen Museum. Yes, there’s an actual museum that showcases all the best ramen from around Japan; and you get to taste them! The train ride from Tokyo to Yokohama took nearly an hour (with 1 platform change). Once there, you buy an admission ticket to go into the museum. The entire place is decorated to look like olden day Japan with vintage movie posters, old postboxes, old camera shops and other vintage decor. There are about 9 different types of ramen, and you would need to queue up at each shop (and buy a meal ticket! Yes it’s not free) to have a taste of a unique ramen. To be honest, I was already full after visiting 2 shops as they were pretty expensive and the serving was quite huge. It’s worth visiting at least once though.
The one place I don’t need to tell you to visit. The Hachiko statue was pretty easy to spot, and you are surrounded by shopping districts all around, and food too – so take your pick. The famous Shibuya crossing is exactly where the statue stands, so you will not miss it for sure. Nearby, you can find the famous Meiji Jingū Shrine – you need to walk through a vast forest path before reaching the shrine. In there, you can write your wishes on a piece of envelope and “post” it after giving a donation. You can even purchase wooden plaques to write wishes upon and hang it against a dedicated wall.
This little town is laid back and very quaint. Nothing flashy and not as crowded as the main city is, but it has a nice ‘hipster’ feeling to it. I was here mainly to visit the Traveler’s Factory original store. As you know, I am a big fan of the Midori Traveler’s Notebooks and have dedicated quite a few posts to them too. I was super excited to be inside and I think I spent quite a lot of money buying limited edition items there (available only in Japan). If journaling is not your thing, you can partake in their bike map guide and visit the best cafes in Nakameguro.
That’s the gist of my trip to Japan. I hope you enjoyed it and that your trip may be a fun one! Drop me any questions you may have in the comments and I’ll try my best to answer them. 🙂