Having a stop in Tokyo is quite common when you’re heading to Japan for a ski holiday.
The Japanese capital, previously called Edo, with a population of 13 million, is located in the heart of the main island Honshu by the bay of the same name. It concentrates the economic, political and cultural powers of the country. The city is composed by 23 districts, which are cities in the city, agglutinated one to the other.
From 13 million of Tokyoites, the number rises to around 40 million in the metropolitan area, forming the largest megalopolis in the world, housed in an incomparable architectural structure. The capital is so sprawling that whole months would not be enough to go around it. So here are the must-see things you need to do if you are in Tokyo for 24h only!
First of all, if you’re staying for a short time, be sure to book a nice and well located hotel. The city is huge, so you should choose a hotel near all infrastructures you need, being near a tube station can be a life-saver.
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Lose yourself in one of the biggest markets in the world: Tsukiji Fish Market. If you’re an early riser, you can attend the tuna auction starting at 3am, where the freshest sashimi is all on offer and rubbing shoulders with the locals.
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Swing by Ryogoku to watch sumo practicing. Training usually starts at 6:30am until 10pm, but be sure to call a day before to confirm. If you want to visit the museum, which is opening at 10am, it’s a great chance to stop for a bento box breakfast. The Edo Tokyo Museum is also nearby.
It’s the perfect opportunity to avoid the crowds and go see the most-visited sport in Tokyo. Sensoji is the oldest temple of Tokyo and the most famous one. You might escape the tourists but you still won’t be completely alone.
If you haven’t stop before, it’s time for a well-deserved breakfast. You should try some traditional food: stand-up soba at Soba Monju, bento box from Delica PakuPaku or try Tomorrow, an old-style shop with a simple menu if you need to rest your legs.
A short walk from Sensoji, you can explore the shops of Nakamise-dori. You can find multiples souvenirs, snacks, sweets… If you want to buy any gifts this is the place for touristy knickknacks. Check out Kappabashi Street, where you’ll find unusual shops, like the plastic food models.
Visit the neighbourhoods of:
• Ueno, where you can find a Zoo and see pandas. There’s also the Tokyo National museum and Ameya-Yokocho, a disregarded market to explore.
• If you’re interested by the geek/Japanese culture, Akihabara is a must-see. It’s where you can find plenty of tech, anime & manga shops. There’s also many free things to do. If you feel the need to rest a bit, you can take the opportunity to stop in an arcade games and themed cafes! You’ll enjoy the Japanese culture at his fullest.
• You can’t visit the Imperial Palace, or you can walk in the gardens and admire it from outside if it’s busy from in tourist season.
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Stopping in Tokyo without going to Shinjuku is unthinkable! Experience the world’s busiest railway station and this illuminated district full of shopping, entertainment and dining. Go on an adventure in the narrow alleyways of Omoide Yokocho and grab something to eat from the small restaurants along the street, they offer a wide choice of traditional food, from ramen to freshly grilled yakitori. Keep walking until Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden where you can sit and enjoy a peaceful picnic.
If you fancy going there at night, you can keep that in mind for later. Having a short walk at the end of the day, admiring the game of light at the famous Shibuya crossing, taking selfies and trying to find the best spot to capture the ambiance of this unique place.
Try nabe (traditional hot pot) or okonomiyaki. If you’re more like a carnivorous and you need your amount of proteins for the day, go straight to Niku Yokocho, an indoor bazaar of various meat eateries.
Visit the incredible Samurai Museum. Retrace 700 years (1185-1868) of Japanese warfare history through costumes, gear, guns and swords. Attend a traditional sword battle, calligraphy lessons or taking a picture wearing full armour. What an original souvenir to bring home!
Reach Shibuya by underground, and visit the Meiji Jingu Shrine located in a magical park. The visit begins with a wander in the imperial garden, after walking under the first Torri, and then across the forest with its 100,000 trees.
Must visit to Harajuku’s famous Takeshita Dori Street, where you’ll experience a real cultural shock with the crazy Japanese fashion.
Multiples options for your evening:
• If you don’t have enough of the Japanese culture and you feel you can carry on, go to the Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku. This is a unique entertainment experience! Japanese culture meets robots and bring you into a complete new world! Anyone from adults to children can come and enjoy the show!Credit: Stuck in Customs
• If you need a bit of quietness and calm (and you’re a Tarantino fan!), go to the trendy district of Nishi-Azabu, where you can find the Gonpachi restaurant. This is the place which inspired the décor for the famous fighting scene in Kill Bill, volume 1.
Finish your Japanese experience in apotheosis: Sing your head off at karaoke!
It’s not a real typical day in Japan unless you’ve done the national number 1 pastime. Plenty karaoke can be found around the cities, they all offers various deals such as all-you-can-drink, but keep in mind that it will influence the price per hour.
If you prefer a more peaceful thing to do, you can still splash in an Onsen (hot spring). Your hotel might have one, otherwise you can visit as a guest too.
The Onsen is a millennia-old custom deeply embedded in Japanese culture, so there are few rules you need to follow: you can’t wear a swimsuit (except if you’re in a shared-gender bath – Konyoku bath) & tattoos are not allowed (they are uncommon in Japan & often indicate yakusa or gangster ties and are not at all seen as cool).