Tokyo, the bustling metropolis capital city of Japan is rich in tradition and culture and an eclectic mix of the modern and classic. Before the announcement of the upcoming 2020 Olympics set to be held in Tokyo, the city was already a major travel destination - one of my personal favorites, but now more than ever, Tokyo is a place that travelers want to see. While you could spend months in Tokyo and still find see and learn new things every day, if you only have a weekend or a quick layover in this impressive city, here is a guide to spending 48 hours in Tokyo.
Read on: Full travel guide for Hong Kong
Upon Arrival - Practical info
Tokyo has two international airports, Narita International and Haneda Airport. Depending on where you are arriving both airports have trains which will take you right into the city. If you arrive at Narita International, your best bet is to take the JR Narita Express Train. The train comes every half hour give or take and will take you right to Tokyo station and the whole journey itself is about an hour. This will cost you about 3000 yen.
Haneda Airport is located much closer to Tokyo and you can take the Tokyo Monorail to the center Tokyo Station. This train comes every 30 minutes and will cost you about 650 yen.
Visit one of my favorites, Bills Omotesando in Shibuya. The space is bright and airy and the pancakes are fluffy and delicious! Try the ricotta pancakes and you will not regret it. This place serves a Western-style breakfast with touches of Japanese influences.
Even if you don’t have a lot of time in Tokyo, no trip can be complete without seeing the famous peak of Mount Fuji – so you should definitely plan that in for your 48 hours in Toyko. While you can catch glimpses of the volcanic peak from many places in the city, it is definitely worth getting closer to this exciting and must-see site. You can join a tour to Mount Fuji and travel from Tokyo to Lake Ashi and Hakone one of the most famous 5 lakes and Hakone hot springs. This is a perfect way to escape the hustle and bustle of the crowded city and enjoy some time taking the natural surroundings.
Read on: How to get to Mt. Fuji from Tokyo
The Asakusa district holds some major sites like the Sensoji Temple and the Asakusa Shrine. This is a nice area to explore by foot or you can take a rickshaw ride.
Dinner and drinks with a view
In the Asakusa area, you will find the Gate Hotel Kaminarimon where the restaurant on the 13th floor overlooks the eastern side of the city. Enjoy French-inspired dishes and handcrafted cocktails. Try to sit out on the terrace for the best view.
Onto Day Two....
On your second day, head towards Shibuya, and stop at one of the many coffee shops in the area. There are many to choose from and coffee in Tokyo is exciting and modern. Many places use traditional techniques in a stylish way. From beautiful pour-overs to espresso it is an experience just to watch the skilled baristas. Some of my favorites include Fuglen which is popular amongst locals and tourists, it is based on an Oslo coffee shop and space has a Norwegian vibe with the cool decor. If you want to grab a quick cup, check out 365 Jours one of the most popular places in Tokyo, near Yoyogi-Hachiman station this is the place to get a fresh pastry or bread with your cup of joe.
After you are properly caffeinated, make your way to Shibuya - a shopping haven and the site of one of the most famous and busiest intersections in the world. Don’t get overwhelmed at the scramble crossing which is right outside Shibuya station. It is a lot to take in all at once, as there are large crowds, flashing lights and bright signs. Explore the shopping district by exploring some of Japan’s famous department stores or get lost exploring down Center Gai a pedestrian area in Shibuya filled with shops and a great place to catch some Japanese trends as seen on the young people wearing them.
Lunch in the area - Ramen
Time to relax for lunch while still in Shibuya or Shinjuku, it is not easy to choose given the multitude of options. Try Ichiran, Shibuya for some delicious ramen noodles. Here you order from a vending machine and then go find a seat while you wait for your meal. Another great ramen option is Afuri Harajuku which also offers some vegetarian and vegan options. Their broth is citrusy and savory and certainly worth tasting.
With a full belly, make your way to Harajuku where you can explore the well-known Takeshita street and catch the street style of the trendy teenagers hanging around the area. While in the area you can also go to the Meiji Shrine or if you are looking to take a break in nature - a vastly different vibe than the morning spent amongst the crowds, take a stroll through Yoyogi park. Here you can rent bikes or just take a casual meander through the green park.
For a truly unique experience unlike anything else, visit the Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku. Although the food is not the main attraction here, so don’t expect much, the spectacle and the entertainment is the main appeal. The show is a mix of bright neon lights, music, cabaret-style dancers and of course - robots. You will not be disappointed.
View from the top
The tallest structure in Japan, the Tokyo Skytree is something special at night. In the evening hours, the tower is lit up and impressive to see. If you want an unforgettable view, you can go to the observation deck to see the panoramic views of Tokyo at night.
Late night Karaoke
Channeling the movie Lost in Translation it is definitely worth visiting one of the many karaoke bars in Tokyo to get a real insight into the culture. Big Echo Karaoke
in Ginza is a really popular choice and make sure you check out the Hello Kitty room. Get ready to sing your heart out, they have every song you could ever dream of and plenty of drinks to help you find your voice.
One last thing... even though researching ahead of time is great, I definitely recommend bringing a guidebook along with you.
Lonely Planet Pocket Guides are my absolute favorite because, as the name suggests, they are tiny enough to fit in a pocket or a small bag while still giving you a ton of information. But, here are some other books I recommend as well...
And of course, if you have any questions DO NOT hesitate to reach out to me via Instagram, Twitter, or just shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).