As overwhelming and overcrowded as the city can get, Tokyo will always be energizing and efficient. The town has its charm and is much more interesting than some of the most populated cities in the world. The city terrifies you while it charms your pants off at the same time!
Our top travel guides spent 24 hours in Tokyo, doing some free things to experience what makes Tokyo one of the most dynamic cities in the world.
Tokyo is the world's most heavily populated metropolis. It is the powerhouse of finance, industry, art, and fashion. It is also the dining capital of the world. In the past few decades, Tokyo has become a must-visit destination.
At first, you will find Tokyo to be a bit congested, somewhat like New York City. Out top travel guides state the magnificence of its neon-wrapped etiquette, which is a bit expensive yet dazzling in its ways. So, if you are expecting to spend some quiet time, you might have a difficult journey.
What is breathtaking yet baffling about Tokyo is its pace. But at some point, you will realize how efficient it is. No other city of such a size works quite so efficiently as Tokyo can. At the same time, they can be pretty civil while doing so. Crime in the city is incredibly low, and trains and buses will always turn up in time. Even during the rush hours, you will reach your destinations through public transportation in time.
However, the bad news is that there are stringent rules, more than you hope you can get used to. But, that being said, nobody here expects you to learn them all in one day. The most significant rule of the city is taking off your shoes when entering Japanese-style restaurants, pubs, or anywhere else you will find a shoebox at the entrance. This is the most significant rule you should not forget; otherwise, you can be forgiven for all of your faux-pas.
The city is blessed with two major airports. The chances are that you will land in the city at the Narita airport, which is approximately 60km east of Tokyo in the Chiba Prefecture. Plan some extra time for yourself to be spent at immigration, and don't be surprised if you are asked for your fingerprints as well.
You can easily rent a mobile phone at some kiosks at the airport in the arrival halls.
Do not look forward to driving in Tokyo. There are plenty of taxis to help you reach your destinations in the city. The nation is immensely blessed with a great network of public transportation. Plus, it enables you to get quickly to wherever you intend to go. Also, not to mention the amount you will be saving!
You can take the new Skyliner to reach the town towards Ueno Station, which will end up costing you $20 roughly and will help you reach in less than 45 minutes.
If you are looking forward to spending your stay on the west side of the town, Narita Express will help you out. It will, however, take double the time of the Skyliner but still does a decent job. You can get down at Ikebukuro or Shinjuku stations.
If you want to spend just 24 hours in Tokyo, make sure you stay at a Ryokan. You will find the right shades of pampering and comfort, all under one roof - the authentic Japanese inns.
Tokyo does have its share of luxury hotel chains, more than it needs. However, Ryokan is just better somehow. You can also try Tokyo's love hotels for giggling, saucy fun. And if you are looking to spend as little as possible on your stay in Tokyo, you can give the capsule hotels a try.
Ryokan: Shigetsu is one of the oldest ryokans in Tokyo, established almost 70 years ago. This Ryokan is located in Asakusa, with an atmosphere that takes you back into the reminiscent of the past centuries of Japanese culture with its rickshaws, period clothing, and its antique decor. This inn also offers you impeccable traditional meal options.
Top End: Try the Peninsula hotel, amidst the luxury playgrounds of Ginza and Marunouchi, right by the Imperial Palace. The hotel boasts stunning architecture and interiors by the world-famous designer Yukio Hashimoto. Price - $609 (approximately)
Mid-Range - Try the Hotel Niwa for a mid-range accommodation option. Hotel Niwa was a Ryokan before turning into a revamped hotel in 2009. However, the location did keep its Japanese integrity in place. Price - $123 (approximately)
Budget: K's Tokyo Oasis is a great budget hotel option with its Japanese-accented hostel that offers all the comforts at such a low price. The location of this hotel is in the middle of the historic Asakusa. The hotel offers double occupancy, clean dorm rooms, a fully equipped kitchen, and free WiFi. Price - $28 (approximately)
While touring around the city for one day, ensure you have a PASMO magnetic travel card. These cards will allow you access to all means of public transportation, including buses, and will take the pain of figuring out exchange rates and fares away.
One of the top tourist attractions here is breakfast. Visit the Tsukiji fish market to witness the famous Tuna auction. Be sure to head there before 5 AM. After the Tuna auction, head to Asakusa, where you can visit the oldest Buddhist temple, Asakusa Kannon; while you are there, you will also find Tokyo's time-warp eating joints and shops, holding their integrity in place.
After spending some time in Asakusa, you should head three stops south to Ueno on the Ginza metro line. Here you can find the liveliest street market in the city and the National Museum boasting rich treasures.
If you are looking forward to some sensory assault in the middle of modern Tokyo, head to Shibuya, Harajuku, or Shinjuku. You will not be let down!
You will find the busiest train station in the world encapsulated within the neon-edged skyscrapers in Shinjuku. And in Shibuya, you will find yourself walking down the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world. While in Harajuku, you will find some of the most outrageous street fashions and insta-worthy architecture, like Kenzo Tange Masterpiece, the Yoyogi National Gymnasium, and the largest city shrine, the Meiji-Jingu.
While in the evening, you should save time for some indulgent eating and drinking. If you have a decent budget, you should try out Ryugin to experience a creative modern way of eating. If you are short on your budget, you should try the Kamiya Bar, which offers some of the best greasiest Japanese pub grub in the city.
Yes, a thousand times yes!
You should stay in Tokyo for more than a day. The city gets better with time. Tokyo might astound you at first with its baffling hustle and bustle, but once you plan on staying for a few more days, you would not want to go back home. You will fall in love with the neon lights, famous sights, rich culture and history, and impeccable cuisines. Leisure's very own top travel guides found it challenging to cut themselves off from this magnanimous metropolis.
Tokyo might sound like an expensive city, but our top travel guides did find a way to get through the metropolis with plenty of free things to do. These options are great for budget travelers and people who want to explore the city outside of its blinding lights and its energy. Here are some ways you can explore the city without spending a yen!
Oldest Tokyo temple
Pay a visit to the city's oldest temple, Sensoji. The temple dates back to the seventh century. Upon reaching the temple, you will find a significant amount of smoke coming out of the enormous incense urn in front of the temple. The urn is said to offer healing powers to people visiting the temple. So don't be surprised if you see people rubbing that smoke all over their bodies. There are plenty of traditional Japanese eating joints and street vendors selling delicacies like sweet bean cakes, green tea ice cream, and rice crackers outside the temple.
Festivals are an integral part of Japanese culture. When you are in Japan, you will always find some form of celebration happening around you. These festivals focus on flowers, longevity, the moon, fertility, the dead, stars, children, and other things. You will find yourselves amid various celebratory processions, live entertainment options, and again food stalls!
Our top travel guides visited Japan towards the end of March when the Hanami festival was happening. Hanami, also known as the flower festival, is the celebration of cherry blossoms sprouting. The sight was beautiful, almost surreal. If you want to visit Japan and experience one festival, it should be Hanami!
Visit the Sony showroom
If you are looking for some fun playtime and entertainment, visit the Sony showroom. In this 11-story Sony building, you can play around for endless hours with high-tech gadgets that you might not see on sale back home for at least a year. You should try out the latest PlayStation software while you are there on the giant monitors installed in the store.
Other showrooms that can be explored for free are the Toyota Mega Web store, Nissan Gallery, and Honda's Welcome Plaza. You will not be disappointed when you see robotic demonstrations there!
Take free local tours
Our top travel guides recommend doing this. Tokyo has many sights that can be better visited with a local guiding you around. It is a better way of seeing the city. Take a free guided tour and let these locals show you the right way to enjoy Tokyo. Various free Tokyo tour groups consist of students, retirees, and homemakers, taking you to the best places in the city that no one might ever tell you about! These tours are always happening at some point of time during the day at various locations. They cover multiple attractions like the Imperial Palace, Ueno Park, and others.
Visit some free museums
Tokyo boasts an extraordinarily high number of free museums for people to check out. If you are on a budget vacation to the city, this is one of the best ways to explore Tokyo's rich history and culture. These free museums are excellent when it comes to an educational point of view. These museums are the Japan Stationary Museum, Fire Museum, Parasite Museum, Advertising Museum, Sumo Museum, Eyeglass Museum, Yebisu Beer Museum, Band and Postage Stamp Museum, etc.
View Tokyo in a new light
Explore Tokyo's grandeur at the Tokyo City Hall or the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. The building takes you approximately 243 meters above the ground, where you can easily capture some of the city's most stunning views. The twin towers of Tokyo were designed by the very famous architect Kenzo Tange, ranging over 48 floors. On the 45th floor of this building, you will find a public observatory, which can be reached in merely 55 seconds through the elevators here. Once you find yourself on the 45th floor at the observation deck, you will be right in front of the beauty of Tokyo. And if you are lucky enough to be blessed with a clear sky, this beauty tends to grow manifold. From the observation deck, you can find Yokohama to the southwest and Mount Fuji towards the west. The observatory is open daily from 9:30 AM to 11 PM.
The city of surprises, Tokyo is all shades of unique in its ways. You will find grand, modern architecture nestling some of the most ancient temples right in the middle of the city. You might see someone dressed in traditional kimonos while the next person would be wearing a cosplay costume. While being one of the most populated cities globally, you will find the streets eerily silent at some hours. Tokyo is truly a breath of fresh air and swept our Leisure's top travel guides off their feet.
Whenever you get a chance, visit this city that has not forgotten its roots, unlike the myriad of popular tourist destinations that have lost themselves in the middle of catering to the outside world.