Tokyo is one of those cities that’s a must-do before you die. Period. It’s full of colour, light, the modern, the traditional and all things anime and cute all in one place. It’s the only city in the world that will leave you feeling overwhelmed, amused, possibly a little confused and in awe all at the same time. There is so much to do in Tokyo but even with just 4 days you can still experience a great deal. In this Tokyo itinerary of 4 days we’ll cover everything you need to know, what to see and do, where to eat and sleep for a simply outstanding trip.
TOKYO ITINERARY 4 DAYS MAP
WHEN TO GO
Tokyo is a year-round destination with each season having different benefits and opportunities for a variety of different experiences. Generally, winters are cold and summers are hot and humid. Early spring brings the famous cherry blossom or sakura season and autumn adds colour to every Japanese garden in the city. Spring and Autumn are considered high season and are also the most expensive times to visit. You’ll need to book accommodation in advance during these times, especially the cherry blossom season and expect famous sites to be very crowded. We visited in June and it was perfect- the weather was great and it wasn’t too crowded.
Tokyo is a giant, sprawling city but one with excellent infrastructure and transport links. The subway and trains are the best way to get around Tokyo for short term visitors. The Tokyo underground train system is mainly comprised of The Tokyo Metro and Toei Lines as well as JR lines that serves the suburbs. All stations have multilingual machines where you can buy single fares for your journeys or you can also buy a rechargeable card (Suica or Pasmo) to top up as you go.
You can also use the subway pass that allows you to save time and money during your stay. I highly recommend buying the 72-hour subway pass, which allows for unlimited subway travel during that time frame. They are available at Tokyo Metro Pass Offices as well as some hotels.
If you’re not planning on moving around too much or prefer to do more walking you might be better off with a Suica or Pasmo rechargeable card which you can charge up and swipe in and out using the subway system as you need to.
If you have a JR Pass, you won’t be able to use it on the Tokyo subway and Toei lines as they aren’t owned by JR. If you don’t already have you JR Rail Pass, for discounted rail travel all over Japan (including bullet trains) get it online here ahead of time.
Tokyo also has great taxis, which feel almost luxurious but they are expensive. Buses are quite difficult to work out and I’d advise against them if you’re only staying for a few days.
WHERE TO STAY
Tokyo is huge so it’s important to stay in a centralised area with good transport links to allow you to get around the city quickly and effectively. Considering this, the most popular neighbourhoods to stay are Shinjuku, Ginza, Tokyo Station Area and Shibuya.
Splurge- the square hotel GINZA This lovely, modern hotel in the heart of Ginza offers clean and comfortable rooms, most of which have a great view of the city. Unlike others, this hotel also has a spa and wellness centre and gym, right in the heart of Tokyo so if you can’t wait to get to a countryside onsen, this is a good place to base yourself.
Mid- LANG Hotel This aparthotel is the perfect option for those looking for a little more space, privacy and all the benefits of a private kitchen. These apartments are modern and minimal but beautifully decorated and have everything you might need for your short stay in Tokyo. Highly recommended!
Budget- THE KNOT TOKYO Shinjuku One of the best value places to stay, this Shinjuku design hotel is perfect from the more budget traveller. Rooms are small but clean and comfortable with a private bathroom and there’s a large communal area downstairs for meeting other travellers or dining. They even have a delicious bakery on the premises for a quick and easy breakfast on the go.
WHERE TO EAT
There are many plant-based restaurants in Tokyo, both fully plant-based and vegetarian, where you can find delicious, healthy Japanese and more Western focused cuisine. Here are some of our favourites that we ate in regularly.
Loving Hut – If you’re a plant-based traveller, you’ll sure know about Loving Hut, a chain of 100% plant-based restaurants that provide delicious, local, vegan food. Tokyo’s Loving Hut is delicious and a great way to sample some traditional Japanese food without fish-based products. Try the lunch plates for a taste of everything or the soy milk ramen or rice bowls which provide a delicious vegan alternative.
Vegetarian Beast – Located close to Mejiro train Station, just north of Shinjuku, this is a great option for a healthy, colourful dinner. They have a deli-style concept, especially at lunchtime where you can order the dish of the day.
SOJO Esperanto– one of my favourites in Tokyo, this restaurant serves a delicious menu of the day normally featuring brown rice, soups and curry. The food is simple but delicious. The nearest station is Waseda.
Shinbu Sakiya- Hokkaido Sapporo Noodle– If you’re a ramen lover, don’t miss this place in Shibuya. While it does serve meat options, it does have one of the best vegan ramens in Tokyo. Each ramen bowl is based on brown rice noodles and is topped with cabbage, corn and bamboo. The broth is rich, creamy and full of flavour. Probably the best ramen we ate in Japan.
TOKYO ITINERARY 4 DAYS OVERVIEW
Day One– Tokyo SkyTree, Sensō-ji and Kaminarimon Gate, Ameya Yokocho Market, Ueno Park, Akihabara
Day Two – Shibuya Crossing, Takeshita Street, Yoyogi Park and Meiji Jingu, Shibuya Nonbei Yokocho
Day Three – Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, Samurai Museum, Shinjuku Gyoen, Shinjuku Golden Gai
Day Four – Imperial Palace, Tokyo Tower, TeamLab Borderless Tokyo, Robot Restaurant
So you’ve finally landed in the sprawling city of Tokyo, a city of lights, beauty and above all contrasts. Due to its size, Tokyo is best seen by the district rather than running across the city all day to take in different attractions.
This morning, make your way to the Asakusa area and start your day with getting your bearings from above at the Tokyo SkyTree. Inside, lighting fast elevators will bring you up to the two different floors where you’ll get to see all 360 degrees of Tokyo from 450metres above ground. You can opt for a ticket for just the lower platform or the higher one or a combo ticket for both. Tickets are best purchased online before visiting. From the top the view is just spectacular- the whole of Tokyo stretched out before you in grids and at times interrupted by a sprawling glass skyscraper.
Next it’s a short walk westwards and over the Sumida River to one of the most famous temples in Tokyo, Sensō-ji. On your way, stop for a quick stroll in Sumida Park, a pretty little park flanking the river, especially during cherry blossom season or in autumn for those amazing ochre colours. Enter Sensō-ji temple through the southern entrance, Kaminarimon Gate to be exact. This large entrance gate is decorated by statues and a huge, iconic lantern which leaves a lasting impression on the visitor. Walking through, explore this ancient Buddhist temple and the many different buildings inside including the adjacent pagoda and the traditional stores around it selling souvenirs and Buddhist knick-knacks. In each building, you’ll find a fantastic array of statues from past eras, fine wood carving and painting as well as a fine example of Classical Japanese temple architecture.
Ameya Yokocho Market
After lunch, explore the surrounding streets making your way to nearby Ueno. In this area, there are so many small streets, each one filled with something new to feast your eyes on. Tokyo is really a city that leaves you constantly curious. Just south of Ueno train station you’ll find Ameya Yokocho Market, a large, bustling indoor and outdoor market which sells anything you could possibly imagine. I find that markets give such an inside into the culture of a country and they are a great way for getting to know the street food, local stores as well as being a brilliant opportunity to people watch. Ameya Yokocho is no different. Grab some street food snacks and walk around, exploring the tiny little shops and stalls in this area. It also makes a great place for a spot of souvenir shopping for friends and family back home.
End the afternoon with a stroll around Ueno Park, one of Tokyo’s biggest and most important green spots. During cherry blossom season this park is particularly gorgeous not to mention busy as the cherry blossom turn the entire park into a sea of pink. Even outside of sakura season it’s still a pretty place to escape the hustle and bustle of the day and relax for a bit on a bench by the lake before moving on.
A short subway ride south of Ueno Park you’ll find the area of Akihabara, Japan’s bustling centre of all things neon, anime and gadgets. Dubbed Tokyo’s ‘electric town’ this otherworldly maze of streets of nothing but colourful neon anime is a sight you simply have to see, even if you’re not a big fan. The best time to go is in the evening or after dark when the neon lights have their full effect.
If you’re staying in Shibuya or nearby, I highly recommend a hot bowl of delicious ramen at Shinbu Sakiya- Hokkaido Sapporo Noodle, one of our must-eat ramen places in Tokyo. See ‘where to eat’ for more details.
Heading to Kyoto after Tokyo? Check out Your Definitive Kyoto 2 Day Itinerary.
Start your second day of this Tokyo itinerary of 4 days early and head to the business and commercial centre of Shibuya, one of Tokyo’s most important districts and popular with the young and hip. Today is all about exploring the busy districts of Shibuya and Harajuku and getting more acquainted with modern Japanese lifestyle culture and current youth trends.
Make your way to Shibuya station, one of Tokyo’s largest and busiest stations, yup 2.4 million people pass through this station every day. Taking the south exit, you’ll find the Hachikō Memorial Statue, the iconic statue to the beloved dog who would always wait for its owner outside the train station.
A stone’s throw away from the memorial is the famous Shibuya Crossing, a multi-way pedestrian crossing, truly unique to this city. Looking at this crossing from street level can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not a crowds person. Instead, head to the Starbucks located on the corner for a better, birds-eye view of the crossing and a chance to really absorb how many people use this strip as soon as the lights change.
Top tip: For an even better photo opportunity head to Mag’s Park in the MAGNET shopping building- a white cylindrical building next to Shibuya 109. Head to the top floor for the best views of the crossing.
From here head north to Harajuku, the centre of Japan’s ‘gyaru’ culture. Right by the station, you’ll find Takeshita Street, a fashion street that oozes youth culture and cuteness. Here, you’ll be able to find absolutely every kind of accessory, even ones for your pet. Even if this isn’t your kind of style it’s still a great glimpse into Japanese youth culture and fashion not to mention it’s really entertaining. This trendy shopping street is also a great place to grab yourself a coffee, relax and people watch.
Yoyogi Park and Meiji Jingu
After you’ve had your fill of Japanese teen culture and explored the streets of Harajuku, head over the railway line to Yoyogi Park, a gorgeous little space green where you can relax, have a snack or even do some yoga or meditation. It’s such a contrast from the hustle and bustle of Shibuya and its frantic streets. Make sure not to miss the shrine in the north of the park, Meiji Jingu, a gorgeous Shinto shrine that adds to the peace and quiet of the area. The atmosphere here is especially spiritual and has a calming effect on the body and mind.
In the afternoon continue to explore the area directly north-east of Shibuya station. It’s filled with a vast variety of streets to explore and you’ll find anything here from cat cafes to candy floss stalls. It really does feel like you’ve stepped into another world.
Shibuya Nonbei Yokocho
Heading back to Shibuya Station is time to explore one of Tokyo’s famous bar or ‘drunkard’s’ alleys. Right by Shibuya station, you’ll find Shibuya Nonbei Yokocho, a famous alley with bars and restaurants that have been here since the 50s. The restaurants are all tiny and a great way to end the day, having a drink in one of these bars that couldn’t be any more ’Shibuya’.
Today it’s time to explore Shinjuku, another ever-popular and eye-catching district in Tokyo and probably my favourite. There is so much to do in this area and honestly, the best way to see it is just by losing yourself in all the avenues and smaller streets. Make sure to experience it during the day but also at night when the neon comes alive and lights up the entire neighbourhood turning it into an adult theme park of shopping, bars and restaurants. There is so much competing for your attention here.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
Start the morning at your own pace and then head to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. This complex of government buildings has one of the best observation decks in the city and it’s totally free. It is all indoors so you have to take pictures through the glass but you get to see the city from this side of town and potentially spot some filming locations for Lost in Translation.
Next, head to the Samurai Museum for a little culture and lesson on Japanese history. This museum houses some of the most impressive samurai swords from all over Japan as well as costumes and armour from a variety of different periods. Signage is in both Japanese and English, giving you the opportunity to really learn more about Japanese history and samurai history respectively.
For lunch head to a convenience store, Family Mart, Lawson or 7 Eleven, grab a bento box or some onigiri, seaweed salad and tofu and head to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. This impressive park is one of the most beautiful in Tokyo and during cherry blossom season or in autumn it’s nothing short of stunning. Walk around, have a picnic and explore the gardens and greenhouse before continuing.
Shinjuku Golden Gai
Exiting the park head north to Shinjuku Golden Gai, other historic alleyway packed with tiny bars and restaurants. They do carry a pretty hefty cover-charge so you might want to not eat or drink here if you’re on a budget, but these alleys are beautiful nonetheless and the handing red lanterns, foliage and traditional signage make for great photos.
If you’re up for it, from here head to SOJO in Waseda for dinner- one of the best plant-based, healthy restaurants in Tokyo.
Start your day with a visit to the beautiful Imperial Palace, which is located on the site of a former Edo Castle and is surrounded by beautiful gardens and waterways. Book your admission online in advance as well as the newly introduced English speaking tour for which you can apply for here. The East Gardens are free all year long and the whole park is extremely pretty especially during sakura season where the trees turn the riversides pink. Even if you’re not interested in visiting the palace itself, the free garden and the tranquil oasis it provides is a great way to pass the last morning of this 4 days in Tokyo itinerary.
Just a few stations south of the Imperial Palace you’ll find the Tokyo Tower, Tokyo’s answer to Paris’ Eiffel Tower. It’s a communications tower with an observation deck which you can ride up to in order to take in yet another breathless view of Tokyo. At the foot of the Tower, you’ve got a vast array of attractions such as the Guinness World Records Museum Tokyo and the Tokyo Tower Wax Museum.
MORI Digital Art Museum: TeamLab Borderless Tokyo
From the Tokyo Tower, grab the subway to the MORI Digital Art Museum: TeamLab Borderless Tokyo. Make sure you’ve already booked your tickets in advance for one of Tokyo’s most unique museum experiences yet. TeamLab is incredibly popular and the queues can be rather long. During this Tokyo 4 days itinerary this digital art museum is an absolute must. Expect digital, colourful art displays that are tastefully planned and executed and instantly transport you to another world. Prepare to experience the best of what virtual reality has to offer.
Finish your day at your 4 days in Tokyo itinerary in true Tokyo fashion with a visit to the Robot Restaurant. Make sure to book your tickets in advance for this spectacular, mind-blowing robot show of dancers, robots, lights and lasers. It will leave you feeling mesmerised and probably slightly confused and in awe of such a unique production.
TOP TIPS FOR VISITING TOKYO
↠ Don’t expect everyone to speak English. Japanese culture is extremely strong, meaning that not very many people speak English. Japanese people are very kind and polite though, so even though there might be a language barrier, locals will still try to help out.
↠ Japanese culture is very different from Western culture and the same goes for local etiquette. Make sure you do a little research about the dos and don’t of Japanese culture so you don’t offend anyone during your trip. Generally, don’t make noise on public transport, don’t leave tips and take your shoes off indoors especially when entering someone’s home.
↠ Japan is a very densely populated country and space is a luxury. Due to this, spaces tend to be quite small and that includes hotel rooms and guesthouses too.
↠ Hotels, especially more budget options and traditional ryokans have shared bathrooms.
↠ At times you might need to communicate with someone who knows no English. Make sure to have Google Translate or another translation app handy to translate any questions you might have for the locals.
Do you have any comments of questions you’d like to ask about this Tokyo Itinerary for 4 days? Leave it below, I’d love to hear from you.
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