Tokyo in a Day

Tokyo in a Day 一日の東京

How do you handle Tokyo in one day? Tokyo is one of the world's biggest metropolis's with over 13 million people, and a huge number of scenes and things to see and do. So, if you're in Tokyo just for a day or two, the following is a recommended "Iconic Tokyo" whirlwind tour. Featuring the typical "must-sees" of Tokyo, it will provide a stimulating and memorable sample of the huge scope and variegated atmospheres and landscapes that Tokyo's vast urban conglomeration has to offer.

The following article provides directions. For full information, click each destination's link.

However, the first thing to do is buy a Tokyo 1-Day Ticket (called the "Tokyo Free Kippu" in Japanese): 1,590 yen for adults, 800 yen for children, which allows unlimited use of all JR lines and subway lines in Tokyo's 23 wards, as well as the Nippori-Toneri Liner, Tokyo Toei streetcars, and Toei buses. The Tokyo 1-Day Ticket can be purchased from the JR ticket office (Midori-no-Madoguchi) at most major JR East stations, and at View Plaza travel service centers.

Alternatively, if you will be travelling elsewhere in Japan, you could buy an IC prepaid smartcard, which is not only good for nearly all means of public transport throughout Japan, but swipeable in convenience stores in lieu of cash.

Fish head on display at Tsukiji Market, Tokyo.
Fish head displayed at stall in Tsujiki Market, Tokyo

1. Tsukiji Market

Tsukji Fish Market is best viewed in the morning. If you are extra keen, and if you are staying near Tsukiji, you may want to get up at 3am and line up for tickets for the famous tuna auction (on one of the days that it is happening), otherwise you can get up at a reasonable hour and make do perfectly well with the Outer Market, with its numerous seafood restaurants: the perfect breakfast opportunity.

GETTING TO TSUKIJI FISH MARKET Tsujiki Station (Hibiya Subway line) is the closest station to Tsujiki Market - take Exit 1 and walk along Shin-Ohashi-dori past Tsukiji Honganji Temple on your left for one block (2 minutes' walk). From Higashi-Ginza Station (Asakusa Subway line), take Exit 5 and walk along Route 304 for about 4 minutes. From Shintomicho Station (Yurakucho Subway line) take Exit 4 and walk about 6 minutes along Shin-Ohashi-dori.

Tokyo Tower, Minato ward, Tokyo.
Tokyo Tower with its white, double-decked Main Observatory

2. Tokyo Tower

Tokyo Tower is a recently renovated old-time Tokyo attraction immortalized at least in the Godzilla movies. Tokyo Tower still stands out in Tokyo, is impressive up close, has observation decks and entertainment opportunities throughout, and is flanked by beautiful park grounds and temples.

TO GO TO TOKYO TOWER FROM TSUKIJI FISH MARKET From Platform 1 of Tsukiji Station, take the Hibiya Subway line train one stop to Higashi-Ginza Station, go to Platform 3, and take the Asakusa Subway line train two stops to Daimon Station. Take Exit A6 and walk straight to the end of the road. You will see the looming silhouette of Tokyo Tower across the grounds of Zozoji Temple, which you walk through to get to the Tower. You you can either go up to the observation deck, or just wander the pleasant environs and save the Tokyo view until you get to Shinjuku.

Imperial Palace moat in the Marunouchi district of Tokyo.
"Meganebashi" ("Spectacles Bridge"), Imperial Palace, Tokyo.

3. Imperial Palace Tokyo

The Imperial Palace forms the physical center of Tokyo and is the seat of the Japanese imperial family that has presided over Japan for millenia. Its moats, with the odd swan, are photogenic. Nearby is the chic Marunouchi district.

However, the weather may be unsuitable for the 45 minutes or so, spent all outside on quite bare terrain, that a trip to the Imperial Palace entails. Or you may just not be into the wide-open placidity of it all. You may want to skip the Imperial Palace and go to Omotesando Boulevard instead.

TO GO TO THE IMPERIAL PALACE FROM TOKYO TOWER Walk along the Tokyo Tower-dori Street that goes right in front of Tokyo Tower, towards Iigura intersection, turn right, and walk along Route 1 as far as Kamiyacho Station on the Hibiya Subway line (about an 8 minute walk). From Platform 2, get on the last car and take the Hibiya Subway line two stops to Hibiya Station. Take Exit A8 and cross the road. The moat of the Imperial Palace stretches out in two directions from the corner. Go right and take the first left at Babasakimon Gate and go ahead about 600 m where you will see the picturesque Nijubashi (Twin Bridges), also known as "Megane-bashi" ("Glasses Bridge") crossing the moat.

Just east of the Imperial Palace is the handsome brick Tokyo Station and the surrounding Marunouchi district, where you might want to stop a little for lunch.

Omotesando, Tokyo, Japan.
Omotesando Boulevard, Tokyo

4. Omotesando Boulevard

Omotesando is one of Tokyo's most pleasant shopping streets, and you can get a taste of both Omotesando's elegance and the more hardcore youth fashion vibe of Harajuku with its Takeshita Street running parallel to Omotesando, just 200 meters north.

TO GO TO OMOTESANDO BOULEVARD FROM THE IMPERIAL PALACE Go back to Hibiya Station and take the Chiyoda Subway line train from Platform 5 five stops to Omotesando.

TO GO TO OMOTESANDO BOULEVARD FROM TOKYO TOWER From Platform 2 of Kamiyacho Station, take the Hibiya Subway line to Kasumigaseki, then go to Platform 5 and get a Chiyoda Subway line train to Omotesando Station.

If you want to see the fabled all-glass Prada building in Omotesando - take Exit A5 when you arrive and go right out of the exit for a minute or two, then back the way you came and cross the main road. Or, to skip the Prada building, take Exit A3 or B4, and walk up the tree-lined Omotesando avenue.

Tocho, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings

4. Shinjuku

Shinjuku is the closest thing Tokyo has to a center, especially since the Tokyo Metropolitan Government moved here in 1990. Shinjuku is a true cross-section of life in Tokyo, teeming with stores, restaurants and other businesses offering almost every kind of product and service imaginable, catering to every possible taste, and with a multitude of atmospheres to sample, from glitz to grot.

TO GO TO SHINJUKU FROM OMOTESANDO Cute, antique-looking Harajuku Station is at the top of, and just a little north from, Omotesando Boulevard. From Platform 2 take the JR Yamanote line (an above-ground line) to Shinjuku Station. Take the West Exit of Shinjuku Station and head towards Tocho.

Tocho is the abbreviation for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office, and its mammoth twin towers are Shinjuku's most distinctive structure. Here you can get as good a panoramic view of Tokyo as at Tokyo Tower, but for free. Maybe now is a good time for lunch. Shinjuku is the ultimate urban beehive, chockablock with dining and Shinjuku shopping opportunities.

Pagoda and Main Hall of Sensoji Temple, Asakusa, Tokyo.
Pagoda, Sensoji Temple, Asakusa, Tokyo

5. Asakusa

Asakusa in the east end of Tokyo offers a taste of the freer and easier old time atmosphere of Tokyo, and has the ancient Sensoji Temple that buzzes with visitors. There are also numerous stores selling great mementos and souvenirs of Tokyo. From here you can also see the Tokyo Skytree on the other side of the Sumida River.

TO GO TO ASAKUSA FROM SHINJUKU From Japan Rail (JR) Shinjuku Station, go to Platform 8, and take an orange Chuo-Sobu Line train as far as Ochanomizu. If possible, get on the second to front car. Get off, cross to the other side of the platform, and take the very front car of the next yellow Chuo-Sobu Line line train two stops to Asakusabashi. (Be prepared for some crowding on the train between the first stop, Akihabara Station, and the second, Asakusabashi!).
NOTE: Asakusabashi and Asakusa are completely different stations, over 2km from each other. Your final destination is Asakusa.
At Asakusabashi Station, go out the JR station, down the stairs to street level, then immediately take the stairs to your left going down to the underground Asakusabashi subway station. Take the Asakusa Subway line train departing from Platform 2 and go two stops to Asakusa. Take Exit 2A, take in the view of the Sumida River from the adjacent Komagatabashi Bridge, then walk the two blocks north to the middle of Asakusa. Your first stop should be the excellent Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center where you can pick up information in English and get an elevated view of Sensoji Temple across the road before going in there. Rickshaw rides are available around the area.

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