Guest blogger Anita Dykstra is a travel writer from New Zealand. You can read her great blog on her website.
Tokyo is an unbelievable city just waiting to be explored. It’s a place that never seems to sleep and trust me, there’s never a dull moment. The people are incredibly friendly and helpful so if you are ever lost in this bustling city that holds just over 13.6 million people, don’t be afraid to ask as they are very willing to help.
You can see a lot in 24 hours in Tokyo thanks to its fantastic transport, although you may want to avoid the trains during rush hour! Here’s what to do in Tokyo in just 24 hours.
One of Tokyo’s main attractions is the Tsukiji fish market. It starts at 5am so make sure you get there before then to grab a ticket because only 120 visitors per day are allowed. This is a wholesale fish market where you will find restaurant owners and sushi chefs buying their fresh fish for the day. It’s one of the world’s largest fish markets as it handles over 2,000 tonnes of marine products per day!
To stay with the trend of fish you should opt for a fresh sushi breakfast at one of the local restaurants surrounding the fish market. They are open as early as 5am to cater for early morning risers. Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi are the most popular, but beware—if you do want sushi from here, expect long lines. Some people have been known to wait for three hours!
Now that you have had your day’s worth of fish, it’s time to head to the trendy area of Harajuku, which you can access on the Yamanote train line. The main street called Takeshita is lined with shops and fashion boutiques. It’s a Japanese teens’ paradise! You will find weird and wonderful things in this area of Tokyo. It has got to be one of the hippest parts of the city. If you need a quick top-up on caffeine after your early morning start, then head to the local Starbucks and go to the top floor. Here you’ll find the coolest rooftop in Harajuku and you also get an amazing view of the area!
If you walk back towards to train station, just beyond that is the iconic Meiji Shrine which is well worth a visit. The shrine is dedicated to Emperor Meiji who reigned from 1867 to 1912. The surroundings are really beautiful to walk around and if you are exploring on a Sunday, then you may get the chance to spot a wedding or two.
Whilst you’re in Harajuku, grab a bite to eat at Harajuku Gyōza-rō. It may only serve dumplings, but are they so scrumptious! You can opt to have them boiled or pan fried with garlic or chives. This is a popular spot and for a good reason; they’re not only tasty but very affordable so only expect to pay ¥290 for six dumplings.
Now it’s time to head to one of my favourite areas in Tokyo, Asakusa. Here you will find a very popular Buddhist temple called Sensō-ji which was built in the 7th century. Asakusa used to be the main entertainment area, but in World War II it was mostly destroyed. It’s now becoming a popular region with tourists and students. Near the temple, you’ll also find a shopping street called Nakamise where there are plenty of local snacks to taste and souvenirs to buy. Not far from here is also the Kaminari Gate and the Asakusa Shrine.
If you’re in Tokyo for cherry blossom season then go to Sumida Park right on the riverbank. This is one of the most popular sites at which to see the blossoms.
One thing you will notice when walking past restaurants in Tokyo is the display food, which sometimes even moves! Most, if not all the restaurants in Tokyo, display exact models of their dishes outside for customers to see so they know what to expect on their menu. Asakusa is where they buy the fake food so make your way to Kappabashi Street, also known as ‘kitchen street’. If you are looking to buy some kitchen souvenirs then this is the place to buy them. You’ll know you’re in the kitchen district because you will be greeted with a giant chef’s head if you enter on the south end of the street.
Hop back on that train and go to the area of Shibuya to experience the busiest crossing in the world before you get a bite to eat. At the peak of the day, there might be over 1,000 people crossing at once; it’s absolute madness. If you want a view from above, then go to the Starbucks on the second floor and watch the locals crossing through the windows.
It’s time for Shabu-shabu! This is a Japanese broth dish which sits on an element boiling away while you cook thinly sliced meat and vegetables at your table. There’s also an array of different sauces you can add once your dish is cooked. It’s absolutely delicious and an experience in itself. You order as much as you would like for a set price and you also get a time frame. Top places to try Shabu-shabu in Shibuya are Shabuzen Shibuya or Shabu Shabu Onyasai Ebisu.
If you have ever watched ‘Lost in Translation’ then get excited because you’re heading to the same karaoke bar where Bill Murray sang in the movie. The crowd at Karaoke-kan Shibuya is young and usually had a few too many drinks, but this is a top spot for a Japanese night out. The larger rooms for 10 or more people are kitted out with luminous paint and disco lights. There are also standard rooms available for people with a smaller crowd. It’s time to dance and (badly) sing the night away in Shibuya before heading back to your hostel for a well-deserved sleep, although this bar is open until 6am!
Where to stay?
In Asakusa near Sensō-ji Temple, you’ll find Sakura Hostel Asakusa, a very comfortable hostel with dorms, private rooms and regular cultural events. Further south is the highly rated Wise Owl Hostels Tokyo, located a short walk from the Tsukiji fish market—handy for getting in line in the wee hours! We love their innovative and super-private bunk bed designs. Also popular is IRORI Nihonbashi Hostel and Kitchen, a boutique hostel in the business district serving delicious local food.
Thanks to Evan Blaser, Cristina Bejarano, Marco Togni, Danny Choo, Moyan Brenn, Robert Young, Dominiek ter Heide, Daniel Ramirez and Kimon Berlin for use of their great images under the Creative Commons license.