After spending a little over a month in Kyoto, we headed to Tokyo…or rather Kawasaki. We opted for an AirBnB outside of the Tokyo due to lower prices. It was 20 minutes or more (usually at least 40 minutes) to get any major areas in Tokyo, but we were able to get more of a glimpse of local life. Anyway, here is our Tokyo itinerary for the month we were there.
One of the first places we went in Tokyo was Shibuya. This part of the city is known for its famous Shibuya Scramble Crossing. This is area people see when a mass amount of people cross the street every which way. Near the crossing is also the Hachikō Memorial Statue, honoring Japan’s famously loyal Akita dog.
If you’re interested in Nintendo or Pokemon, check out the Nintendo Store and Pokemon Center in Shibuya Parco. There is also a Disney Store nearby that could be worth checking out if you’re interested in Disney. For a huge anime and pop culture fans, you should check out the gigantic store, Mandarake Shibuya.
For a great view of Tokyo, we went up to Shibuya Sky. Online the tickets cost about 2200 yen (~$15.50 USD) for adults and at the counter are 2500 yen (~$18 USD) for adults. But if you don’t want to spend the money, you can also get a great view of Shibuya Crossing above if you go up to the top floor of the mall.
Japanese souffle pancakes are a must try while in Japan. Sean and I ended up going to A Happy Pancake. The pancakes were delicious and the place gets crowded. We recommend making reservations. We were seated as soon as we arrived for our reservation. However, they do not do reservations on Saturdays, Sundays, or holidays.
Another popular area is Shinjuku. At night you can enjoy the neon lights, the 3D sign, and the Godzilla statue peaking out from behind the buildings. You can also explore Golden Gai which is a popular district famed for its narrow, winding alleys and numerous taverns. We did not go into any of the taverns but many of them appeared to have an entrance fee and were very small.
Another area we explored in Shinjuku was Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. This was pretty spectacular as we arrived during the peak of cherry blossom season. The entrance fee is 500 yen (~$3.50 USD) per person. The grounds are large and beautiful.
This area is known for colorful art and fashion. Takeshita Street is a popular location and can get crowded. Nearby is Yoyogi Park, great for picnicking and viewing cherry blossoms. In 2023 when we were there, Japan had just allowed picnicking back in the park and it was extremely crowded. If you want to do that, I’d suggest stake out your spot early.
Within Yoyogi Park is also Meiji Shrine, which is dedicated to Emperor Meiji. The admission is free. Unfortunately, Sean and I did not end up going.
Akihabara is known as the electronics and anime center of Tokyo. You can walk through the streets of Akihabara Electric Town and visit the variety of anime and electronic shops. If you’re into retro video games, check out Super Potato Akihabara.
Not far from Akihabara is Ueno Park. An easy walk or quick JR train ride can get you there. It’s both beautiful and busy during cherry blossom season (as which most places in Japan) but definitely worth seeing.
Our Tokyo itinerary wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Asakusa. This area of the city seems to contain the vibe of a more traditional Japan, with its craft shops and street food stalls. Asakusa is probably best known for Sensō-ji temple, which is a popular Buddhist temple built in the 7th century. You can approach Sensō-ji via the shopping street, which does get packed with tourists. While walking toward the temple, you’ll pass through the Kaminarimon Gate and get a glimpse of the giant lantern.
If you’re there during cherry blossom season, check out the nearby Sumida Park, which overlooks Sumida river. If you’re looking for an affordable and comfortable hotel where you have the opportunity to be checked in by a velociraptor, check out Henn na Hotel Tokyo Asakusa Tawaramachi
This happened to be one of our favorite areas in Tokyo. It is a modern area of the city that offers an escape from the crowds of the main city centers. The area is across Tokyo Bay and an easy ride on the Yurikamome elevated train. We liked it so much we visited twice on our Tokyo itinerary.
We started out at The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, which was frankly a bit disappointing. It costs about 630 yen (~$5 USD). The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation is an interactive museum. The exhibits are made to be engaging. The museum aims to connect science to everyday life as well as to promote sustainability.
To Sean and I, the exhibits were not as fun and engaging as we had hoped. At the time, they had some exhibit on the music of Akira, which was enjoyable. But everything else was disappointing.
DiverCity Odaiba Tokyo
After the museum, we walked to DiverCity to see the giant unicorn Gundam statue and check out the Gundam Base store. Both were very cool, though neither of us is a huge Gundam fan. The central square around the mall area was beautiful, with the bloomed cherry blossoms and tulips.
From there we walked towards the water to see the Statue of Liberty. As Americans, this was interesting to see in Japan. Apparently, this Statue of Liberty was erected in 1998 as a tribute to Japan’s relationship with France. It was only supposed to be temporary but was so popular is became permanent.
If you get hungry while in the area, go into Aqua City Odaiba and find the floor of different ramen. There are maybe 6 or 7 small restaurants serving various ramen. You can even eat outside with a view of the bay.
For something fun to do, with cool interactive games, check out Tokyo Joypolis. Unfortunately, when we went, Sean was not feeling well so we didn’t really do anything but look around.
Our Tokyo itinerary also included a trip to Roppongi Hills. This is a high end in Tokyo that has a lot of a shopping and art exhibits. We tried to go to Mori Art Museum a few times but they were closed each time. At the art museum you can also pay to go up to Tokyo City View for a great view of the city. At the time we went there was also an architecture exhibit that was interesting to see.
For a bit of a touristy but cool dining experience, you can check out Gompachi Nishi-Azabu. This is the restaurant that inspired the set (crazy 88 fight scene) in the movie Kill Bill. The food was delicious but a bit pricey. I recommend making reservations.
Another restaurant not far from Roppongi is Savoy Tomato & Cheese. A pizzeria that we were told had the best pizza in Tokyo. Make reservations or go before they open because they only have about 10 seats in the whole place and it is very popular. The first time we tried for dinner we arrived 30 minutes before opening and were told we would have to wait 1.5 hours. We left. Next time we tried, we arrived about 25 minutes before lunch and were seated. Unfortunately the lunch menu was limited and did not have the blue fin tuna pizza we were interested in trying. The pizza was good, but worth the wait? I’m not convinced.
teamLab’s Planets Tokyo
teamLab’s Planets Tokyo is a similar art installation to the one in Osaka so our Tokyo itinerary had to include it. It’s a very cool interactive art exhibition. This one is very popular and for good reasons. It’s fun and definitely an Instagrammers dream. If you’re interested in going, book tickets in advance. It costs about 3800 yen per adult (~$27 USD) so a bit on the expensive side.
Mount Fuji is an obvious attraction if you’re anywhere around Tokyo or in Japan at all. So this destination HAD to be on our Tokyo itinerary. My advice: book in advance! I don’t know what we were thinking, but we thought we could just show up to the bus station and grab a bus to Mount Fuji. That was not the case. Thankfully we had plenty of time in our trip, so we booked tickets for another day.
From Shinjuku Station we took the bus to the Kawaguchiko station. Our plan was to see the cherry blossoms around Lake Kawaguchi with Mount Fuji in the background. It was an amazing site and I would highly recommend. We managed to have a clear, sunny day and got perfect views of Mount Fuji. We walked from the east side of the lake to the north side. From the station, the walk to the north end of the lake is about 50 minutes.
The cherry blossoms were amazing and after a long walk we stopped for lunch at Momijitei-Hoto. This restaurant serves local Hoto, which was probably one of the best meals we had during our trip. Hoto is a regional dish of flat udon noodles and vegetables in miso soup. Absolutely delicious!
After lunch we walked back and headed to the Mt. Fuji Panoramic Ropeway which was about 900 yen (~$6.40 USD) per person round trip. We happened to get there right before they were closing but were allowed up. The view is amazing but be aware that the line to get back down will be incredibly long. It was so long that Sean and I decided to hike back down which took about 20 minutes. You can also hike up for free if you desire.
Our reason for visiting Yokohama on our Tokyo itinerary was mainly to see the giant moving Gundam statute at the Gundam Factory. The Gundam Factory itself was not anything special, but once you pay to see the show, you can stay for however long you want. We watched the show around sunset and then again at night. The nighttime show was much more involved and very cool. I would definitely commend it. While in Yokohama we also walked to Chinatown and ate at a local restaurant. We tried to go up to the Yokohama Marine Tower at night but it was really windy and they had the observation deck closed.