Day 1 – parks and views
Arriving to Tokyo Narita – Going to the hotel
Use the Keisei Electric Access Express:
Narita Airport -> Nihonbashi station (approx. 58 min, 1320 yen)
Use Tokyo Metro Ginza line (orange circle)
Nihonbashi -> Akasaka Mitsuke (approx. 11 min, 170 yen)
All the recommended hotels are in 5-10 min walking distance of Akasaka-Mitsuke Station. You cannot generally have your rooms before 4 pm, but you can leave safely most of your bags at the hotel front. After you leave your bags you are free to start your tour!
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (新宿御苑)
If you visit Japan during the cherry blossom, this is your place to be. Access: walking distance from Shinjuku-gyoemmae Station (use Metro Marunoichi Line from Akasaka-Mitsuke). A 60 hectares beautiful park with various garden styles, ponds and streams. One of the best spot cherry blossom, and also various flowers from January to May. It worse to pick up a map which guides you through the Japanese traditional garden with the tea house, the English landscape or to the Taiwan pavilion. If you would like to have a short rest: Die Katze – a café / tea house with cats (see map) just next to the entrance of the park.
Our next stop
Shijuku station (neighborhood)
Access: close proximity of the Shinjuku Park, either by Metro or by walking. It is everything and nothing. It is the de-facto modern center of Tokyo. There are few really unique things to visit in Shinjuku, however it is the busiest train station of the word, and accordingly it is a very vibrant neighborhood for shopping, dining or just walking around.
If you want to settle for a dinner:
(in Shinjuku, see map). An artsy, causy face of Japanese nightlife, Tokyo’s coolest bar neighborhood, a district with (very) small shops. How about tasting a real Japanese ramen?
If you want to try Karaoke in an exclusive place:
Karaoke 47, a karaoke bar at the 47F of Keio Plaza Hotel
If it is too early to go back and you still want to see more of Tokyo:
A large entertaining complex, with museums, shopping, dining and the Mori Museum with the Tokyo City View. Access: From Shinjuku to Roppongi Station with Tokyo Metro Skytree Line, then short walk from the station (see map)
Mori Art Museum
Access: 53F of Roppongi Hills, open 10:00 am to 10:00 pm. It is both a great modern art museum, and a convenient high point to see Tokyo at night with almost 360 deg panoramic view (Tokyo City View).
Tokyo City View
Access: 52F of Roppongi Hills, open 10:00 am to 11:00 pm
Day 2 – fish and sumo
Tsukiji – Tokyo fish market
Access: Thukiji Shijo from Oedo line (you can change to Oedo line from Ginza line at Aoyama-Itchome). The world’s largest fish market! Due to the heavy tourist invasion some areas got restricted, especially in the morning during the auctions. If you want to see the auction at 5:00 am or 5:50 am, you have to go early to the Fish Information Center at the gate, and register (first-come, first-served basis) before the daily max is reached. If you are less fanatic about fishes, you can join the crowd after 9:00 am. Please, mind it is a busy business place, and observe some basic rules:
Tsukushima –area (月島)
A nice old town/small town experience and home of monja-yaki
Access: Tsukushima station at Yurakucho / Oedo line or walking distance from Tsukiji
What to eat: Monja-yaki. The Japanese famous for foods that almost looks better than it tastes. Monja-yaki is exactly the opposite: but give it a chance. It is typical Japanese junk food which can described best as a cabage and seafood based omelet or pancake. You can find about 70 shops at the Monja Street – pick up your local map and guide from Tsukishima Monja Association.
Ryogoku District – the home of sumo
Access: Ryogoku station by Toei Oedo Line
Kokugikan Stadium and Sumo
Sumo has a professional tournament, and depending your schedule, you may able to catch them in Tokyo. The tournaments go all day, and if you don’t not pick the final days, and the biggest finals, you should be able to buy tickets easily.
If you skip the tournament, you still can visit a sumo stable and watch their training. Stables are like private houses of these guys, so don’t expect anything fancy. In Tokyo, most stables are in Ryogoku, the same area. If you want to visit them I strongly recommend that you ask someone in your hotel to call the given stable the day before just to be sure they are there and open for visitor. In most hotels the front will be glad to help you and make some arrangements.
Please note, these are small, private homes of these people, they are pros who train there, so in general the rule is that you should be “invisible”, and out of the way. If you go to that area, you may also want to check the Edo Museum or go to a chanko nabe restaurant.
A rather entertaining museum about the life in Tokyo the Edo period
Restaurants offering chanko nabe:
Yoshiba Chanko Nabe
Chanko Nabe Tomoji
If it is too early to go back and you still want to see more of Tokyo:
Akihabara(downtown Tokyo, Akihabara Station)
Estimated time: from a short walk to couple of hours
Access: from Ryogoku, with JR line (2 stops)
From Akasaka Mitsuke: through Tokyo Station, with JR line to Akihabara
The inspiration for the city images of the Blade Runner, the commercial center of electronics and otaku culture. It is just everywhere around Akihabara Station, you just have to go out the exit.
Depending on taste and interest, it can be spooky or it can be the heaven. Beyond the maid cafes, beyond the 4-story adult novelty stores, it is a good place for shopping for souvenirs, electronics, anime / manga related thingies or just hang around and observe the curious life of Japanese otaku.
Day 3 – fashionista heaven
Omotesando – the posh
A hip, elegant neighborhood with word class architecture. This is the place where Luis Vuitton or BVLGARI wants to show off and prove. This place is only second to Ginza, but much more youth oriented.
Or you can just lean back and enjoy a coffee at Omotesando Hills:
Harajuku – the young and crazy
Access: it is the end of the Omotesando, if you are walking to West
Just at the end of Omotesando stree you can found one of the most enthusiastic and eccentric fashionistas of the country: the Harajuku Girls. If you just want to take some photos, they are generally very friendly and happy to pose for you. Note that they are generally students (often high school age), so you have better chance to see them around the station on the weekends. If you take a short walk from the station, you can find a huge, always crowded shopping area: Takeshita Street. Whatever your fashion taste, it is a fascinating area to shop around for memories and small presents.
If you have plenty of time and want some rest from the crowd:
Yoyogi Park and Meiji Shrine
One is a legendary park, unfortunately loosing its charm and energy, but still it is a nice place, especially during cherry blossom. The other is a powerful shrine celebrating the divine emperor and a popular wedding spot.
Shibuya – the colorful
Access: walk down from Yoyogi or Harajuku
Shibuya Crossing is one of the most iconic spot of Tokyo, as well as the Hachiko statue next to the station. Department stores (Seibu and Tokyu) are dominating the area, but you can find anything from love hotels to bars.
Shibuya 109 or the Starbucks
If you are hungry, you pick up some take away food at Tokyu Food Show (underground at Shibuya Station)
Or if you would like to have a proper dinner:
32 Steps Bistro (三十五段屋, see map, it is downstairs!)
Izakayas are the Japanese equivalents of pubs: laud, smoky venues where social interaction and drinks are as important as food. 32 Steps is considered a popular, foreign friendly place with great food and atmosphere.
Day 4 – 5
Travel to Hakone
From Shinjuku Station 小田急新宿to Odawara （小田原）/ Hakone-Yumoto (箱根湯本) on the Odakyu line.
Time: about 75 min with (limited express surcharge) or 2-3 hours regular
Seats on most trains are reserved, so it worth to purchase the ticket before the trip.
Tips: use the Hakone Free Pass at Shinjuku, price: 5,140 yen (2days)
It is not a real free ticket, but a travel pass between Shijuku and Hakone, and unlimited use of all local transportation at Hakone, cablecars, ropeways, busses etc. It gives some discount to some tourist attractions, but not a free ticket.
It is a fun circle around the region, which takes a little bit more than a day and includes rides with Hakone Ropeway and sight-seeing boat trip.
On the last day afternoon you can return to Shinjuku (Tokyo) and going to Tokyo station or Ueno station, you can leave to Narita airport
Areas of interest in Hakone
Hiryu Falls (飛竜の滝)
Most famous waterfalls of the area, in the middle of the forest.
Access: From Hakone Yumoto to Hatajuku, by bus, then about 45 min walk to North from the bus stop.
Hakone Open Air Museum
An open air modern art museum. Admission: 1600 yen (adult) or special internet discounts.
Access: from Chokokunomori station
Hakone Ropeway (free ride with the Pass)
The world second longest ropeway car split to two sections with beautiful panoramic view on the local volcanic landscape and the view on Fuji.
Hakone Shrine / Kuzuryu Shrine
A beautiful old shrine just on the Lake Ashi. The old cedars and the tori (gate) on the lake makes it especially memorable.
Pola Museum of Art
Another excellent modern art museum.
A unique museum dedicated to glass arts.
Have a great trip!