First-timer's guide to Tokyo

3 Days in Tokyo | First-Timers’ Guide

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Visiting Tokyo is a one-of-a-kind experience!

Japan’s capital feels like its own world with a one-of-a-kind culture, cutting-edge technologies and delicious food. 

No matter how much time you have in Tokyo, it seems like you never have enough  because there are tons of things to do in this city! You could spend up to a week in the Japanese capital exploring all of Tokyo wards and districts, but if you have limited time, I recommend no less than 3 days in Tokyo.

How to get to Tokyo from Narita Airport

A trip from Narita to Tokyo takes about 1 hour via Narita Express.

Trains departing the Narita International Airport have strictly assigned seating. You have to get your train tickets at the ticket office before you get on a train. Your train ticket will have an assigned seat and a platform and can be purchased at the ticket office inside the airport.

How to get to Tokyo from Haneda Airport

Since Haneda is closer to Tokyo than Narita, a trip to the city will take about 15 minutes via Tokyo Monorail. Your Suica Card will cover the monorail trip too! And you can purchase Suica Card online before you travel to Tokyo

How to get around Tokyo

Tokyo’s metro system is super efficient and will get you anywhere within the city. 

However, it can be a bit tricky to navigate, especially for a first-timer. 

Here’s a little secret: Tokyo Metro Line and Toei Line are two separate lines and are operated by two different companies! If you want to hop around between these two lines, you will have to purchase two separate tickets.

If you want to travel in Tokyo quickly, get on the JR Yamaonote Line that connects major districts of Tokyo. When you look for hotels in Tokyo, pick a place with close proximity to a train station – This will help you save you a ton of time!

How to spend 3 days in Tokyo

Tokyo Districts

Tokyo has 23 wards, with each ward boasting a unique identity.

The west side Tokyo wards are more modern with huge screens, glowing neon lights and night clubs. Meanwhile, the east side Tokyo wards used to be home of Samurai and today it is known for the city’s remaining historic sites. 3 days in Tokyo is enough to visit some of the most popular Tokyo districts.

If you are traveling to Tokyo for the first time, check out my guide to top Tokyo districts! 

PRO TIP: Many districts of Tokyo have walking tours offered by local guides. If you don’t want to explore on your own, check out walking tours around Tokyo!

Where to stay in Tokyo

If you are going to spend 3 days in Tokyo and not sure where to stay, here’s my advice: As long as you stay near a train station, you will be fine. 

Shinjuku and Shibuya tend to be more popular with tourists, however, they are on a pricy side. To save money, consider less expensive Tokyo districts such as Ueno and Asakusa.

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Tokyo is famous for its capsule hotels, and you can find many of them around major train stations such as Shibuya and Shinjuku! When I stayed in Tokyo, I used Agoda to find my accommodation, and can say that it had a pretty good selection of hostels and budget accommodations. 

How to spend 3 days in Tokyo

Shibuya

Shibuya is one of the most famous districts of Tokyo thanks to its glowing neon screens, bright lights and the chaotic Shibuya crossing that are often featured in movies and TV commercials about Japan. However, there’s a lot more to Shibuya than the “Scramble” – the nickname of the Shibuya Crossing. 

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the top things to do in Shibuya during your 3 days in Tokyo:

Hachiko Statue

The statue of the dog called Hachiko graces the front entrance of the busy Shibuya Train Station. 

Hachiko’s story is incredibly sad even became subject of a Hollywood Movie: Hachi: A Dog’s Tale. Hachiko used to wait for his owner every day in front of the Shibuya train station. When the owner was back, the two would walk home together. 

One day, Hachiko’s owner died while he was at work at a university. Hachiko kept waiting for his owner for the next seven years at the spot where the statue is located. 

Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo

Shibuya crossing

 During your 3 days in Tokyo, make sure to walk along the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing at least a couple of times. 

And if you want to get a bird’s eye view of Shibuya crossing, get on top of Magnet by Shibuya 109. 

The top floor of the building has an observation deck but you have to pay about $6 to get access to it. It’s worth the price because you get the view of Shibuya crossing from the top down! 

If you don’t feel like paying, you can go to Starbucks inside the building right in front of the crossing. 

Cat Street- Kyu-Shibuya-gawa Yuhodoro

Popularly called Cat Street connects Shibuya and Shinjuku and is an excellent place to shop for some second-hand clothes and check out trendy fashion stores.
Things to do in Shinjuku, Tokyo

Shinjuku

Shinjuku is a huge entertainment and business district in Tokyo within Shinjuku ward. In Shinjuku, you can shop till you drop, eat delicious food and get an incredible view of the city from Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. When you come here, you will understand why this district has a reputation of the place that never sleeps. 

How to spend 3 days in Tokyo

Shopping in Shinjuku

If you want to shop in Tokyo, Shinjuku is the place to do it. Among some of the biggest shopping malls in Shinjuku is the huge Takashimaya Times Square with several stores of boutiques and restaurants; 

MyLord is geared toward a younger crowd.

Don Quijote offers great deals on accessories, electronics, and some fashion brands. 

Lumine is connected directly to the south end of the Shinjuku Train Station.

NEWoMan, a relatively new mall also located near Shinjuku Train Station. 

Omoide Yakocho Tokyo

Omoide Yakocho

One of the coolest things about Shinjuku are its charming little neighborhoods with small restaurants and bars where patrons sit side to side at the narrow tables. When you travel to Tokyo for the first time, make sure to stop at Omoide Yakocho or Golden Gai, to get the taste of authentic Japan.
How to spend 3 days in Tokyo

Omoide Yakocho (translated as Memory Lane) is one of top Tokyo attractions. It’s a small alleyway lined up with restaurants and bars on both sides where you can eat an inexpensive meal and drink sake and beer. 

Omoide Yakocho is located at 1 Chrome-2 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku City.

Gyoen Park Sinjuku
Gyoen Par, Shinjuku
Gyoen Park, Shonjuku, Tokyo

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

One of the most beautiful gardens in Tokyo that has sprawling lawns, cherry trees and bonsai garden. The entrance costs about $5 USD. 

How to spend 3 days in Tokyo

Harajuku

If you travel to Tokyo for the first time, a visit to the corky Harajuku district is a must!  The mecca of the various street subcultures and Japanese youth fashion, Harajuku is located between Shibuya and Shinjuku along the Yamanote Lane. 

Takeshita-Dori Street in Harajuku, Tokyo

Takeshita-Dori Street

 The heart of the district is the colorful Takeshita-Dori Street lined with stores peddling kitsch teen fashion from socks to Halloween-like costumes. 

Here you can also get sweet treats such as sugar-loaded pancakes and colorful cotton candy. Even if you are not into the Japanese pop culture, I recommend visiting this street for the cultural experience during your 3 days in Tokyo.

At Takeshita-Dori you will find out the true meaning of Kawaii – the Japanese word for everything that is cute and adorable. 

Omotesando Street

If you have left Takeshita-Dori empty-handed, consider checking out nearby Omotesando Street, a popular shopping destination in the Harajuku area.

How to spend 3 days in Tokyo

Meiji-Jingu Shrine

 Tokyo’s biggest shrine, Meiji Jingu is adjacent to Yoyogi Park which offers a lot of green space for a relaxing stroll. The shrine is dedicated to Emperor Meiji who lead the country through the modernization period in the late 1800s through the early 1900s. The shrine was destroyed during World War II and restored in the late 1950s.

Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo
Meiji Jingu Shrine
Before you enter the shrine, you will pass through the beautiful torii gate that marks the beginning of the pathway toward the shrine. 
When you walk inside, you can write your wish on an ema, wooden plates that are left hanging in the shrine. On your way to Meiji Jingu, you might notice a stand with colorful sake barrels that represent years of donation to the Buddhist gods. 
Akihabara Tokyo

Akihabara

Located in the Chiyoda ward of Tokyo, Akihabara is a geek mecca famous its big game and arcade scene. In Akihabara, you will manga and anime-themed cafes and shops and stores selling all sorts of electronics. Even if you don’t have a knack for technology, a visit to Akihabara during 3 days in Tokyo!  Walking through Akihabara makes you feel like you are walking a bizarre cyber-city full of pop-up ads and funky cartoon characters peering at you from huge screens, but it’s still totally worth it!
Akihabara, Tokyo

Themed Cafes in Akihabara

Perhaps you have heard about the Maid Cafe where waitresses are dressed in the French Maid uniform. However, it’s far from the only highlight of this area. In Akihabara, you can find all sorts of themed-cafes such as cat, owl, manga cafe, and many others!  PRO TIP: One of the best things about Akihabara is its wide assortment of electronics. A good place to score a bargain on electronics is the Akihabara Radio Center that has two floors of all sorts of electronic goods.
How to spend 3 days in Tokyo

Asakusa

Asakusa is where you can get a glimpse into the “Old Tokyo.” 

Home to the Buddhist Senso-Ji Temple, this district also has a lot of features of the old city and lacks the action of Shinjuku and Shibuya. Unfortunately, many parts of Asakusa were destroyed during World War II and while the district has been rebuilt, certain aspects of the city such as movie theaters and old-style bars have never made a come-back.
Senso Ji Temple is one of the things you should visit when you traveling to Tokyo for the first time
SensoJi Temple in Asakusa
Visiting Senso-Ji temple on your first time Tokyo trip

Senso-Ji Temple

One of the best-known landmarks of Asakusa is Senso Ji temple, the largest Buddhist temple in Tokyo. The street that leads toward the temple is lined with traditional Japanese stores and food stands. It’s a perfect spot to pick up a cool Japanese souvenir for your friends back home and try a local snack.

PRO TIP: Senso-Ji Temple is one of the major highlights of the Japanese Capital. Make sure to visit it early morning during your 3 days in Tokyo.

 Senso-Ji Temple Address: Senso-Ji, 2 Chrome 3-1 Asakusa, Taito City
How to visit Tokyo Sky Tree

Tokyo Skytree

Tokyo Skytree, is a broadcasting and observation tower that holds the title of the tallest building in Japan. This huge tower almost looks a bit out of place here since the area doesn’t have any high-rises. PRO TIP: One of the most popular days trips from Tokyo, Nikko can be taken from the Tobu Nikko Line that starts at the Asakusa Station.
How to spend 3 days in Tokyo

Odaiba

One of the city’s newest districts, Obidaba is a man-made island located in the middle of Tokyo Bay. A trip to Obidaba might not be the shortest one, but it’s still worth it because TeamLab Borderless has some of the most amazing digital graphics.  One of the most prominent features of Odaiba is the waterfront with an awesome view of the Rainbow Bridge that lights up in colors at night.
How to spend 3 days in Tokyo

TeamLab Borderless

 Home to stunning digital graphics, this venue features borderless designs and endless creativity. To understand the true meaning of the artworks displayed at this place, you should see it for yourself. Since TeamLab Borderless is very popular, tickets are sometimes sold out. Check TeamLab Borderless website for information ahead of your visit.

Ginza Tokyo

Ginza

An upscale Ginza district is a mecca for shopping, dining, and entertainment. Here you can find a lot of high-end restaurants with English-speaking staff and luxury boutiques such as Luis Vuitton, Channel, and other world-famous brands.  During weekends traffic is closed and Ginza’s main street, Chuo Dori, becomes a pedestrian zone. Overall, Ginza is quieter and more mature than Shinjuku and Shibuya, and hotels in Ginza tend to be more expensive. 

Imperial Palace

 One of the main attractions in Ginza is the Imperial Palace not far from Tokyo Station.

The palace is home to the Japanese emperor and is closed to the public except for several occasions throughout a year. But you can still take a tour of the palace’s grounds if you want to learn the history of Japan, you just have to book your tour in advance.  If you don’t have time, you can check out the Imperial Palace East Side Garden which doesn’t require reservations. Other things that are worth your attention are the photogenic Nijubashi Bridge in front of the main entrance of the palace.
How to visit Tokyo Tower

Roppongi

Roppongi is known for its high concentration of night clubs and entertainment. Here you will find a few museums, galleries and like anywhere in Tokyo, shopping malls. 

Tokyo Tower

The famous Tokyo Tower which is located in the Minato district is about 10-15 minutes away from Roppongi. The second tallest building in Japan, Tokyo Tower is one of the must-visit places if you are traveling to Tokyo for the first time. To skip the line, arrive by the opening at 9 a.m. 

You can read all of the information about Tokyo Tower fees and get the most recent updates on the tower’s website. 

How to spend 3 days in Tokyo
Tokyo Tower

Roppongi Hills

A huge development complex is considered to be the center of Roppongi and the area is famous for a huge complex that includes stores, hotels, movie theaters, museums, and even a hotel. 

Mori Art Museum

Located on the 53d floor of the Roppongi Hills complex, Mori Art Museum boasts the highest location of all museums in Tokyo. It offers collections of contemporary art such as photography, design and fashion. 

Ueno

Although Ueno might not be a center of action compared to places like Shibuya or Shinjuku, it offers a quiet atmosphere and more affordable accommodations. It might not be on the top of your list of things to do when you are traveling to Tokyo for the first time, but it’s still worth your attention. 

Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum

One of the main places for art in the Japanese capital, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum showcases artworks of the prominent Japanese and foreign artists.  Address: 8-36 Ueno-Koen Taito-ku, Tokyo 

The National Museum of Nature and Science

One of the biggest science museums in Japan, the National Museum of Nature and Science boasts tens of thousands of exhibits on everything from technology to Japan’s animals and plants.  Address:  7-20 Ueno Park, Taito-ku, Tokyo 

Kanei-Ji Temple

This beautiful temple is located to the left of the Tokyo National Museum. Unfortunately, much of the temple was destroyed during Word War II and what remains today is just a very little part of it. 

Ueno Park

Tokyo’s first public park located on the grounds of the former Kanei-ji Park. It’s home to Tokyo Zoo and Tokyo National Museum.

 Although this city is huge, it’s totally possible to see major highlights in just 3 days in Tokyo. If you have any questions, I will be happy to assist you with advice and recommendations. 

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I might earn a small commission if you make a purchase through the links in this article. 

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