Top things to see in Tokyo Japan: A long weekend guide
Updated: Jul 18, 2020
In search of culture, quirky cafes, street racing like our favourite childhood Nintendo characters and some seriously good Japanese food, we opted to spend a long weekend in Tokyo. Here is our itinerary and top tips for a three day visit.
Our three day travel guide to Tokyo Japan:
Day one: Arrive in Tokyo, Lunch in Shinjuku (Katsu Curry), Visit Senso-ji temple, enjoy the afternoon and evening in Akihabara visiting a hedgehog cafe, MariCar racing and a gyoza dinner
Day two: Breakfast in Ginza, TeamLab Boarderless exhibit, Dinner and drinks at New York Bar and Grill on the rooftop of the Park Hyatt Hotel
Day three: Witness a sumo wrestling practise, Cross the worlds busiest intersection in Shibuya, enjoy the cafes, shops and people watching in Harajuku
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Where to stay in Tokyo:
As Tokyo is HUGE, there are so many place to stay, here are a few neighbourhoods we recommend:
Shinjuku: The perfect spot for first timers, it's exactly what you imagine Tokyo to be with the hustle and bustle plus neon Japanese lights. It's also conveniently located near the Narita Express as well as all main train and bus lines, avoiding the need to transfer stations for getting around
Shibuya: Slightly less busy than Shinjuku, but central for shopping, the Shibuya cross and hear Harajuku. Also conveniently located near train and bus hubs.
Best Hotel deals in Tokyo:
Getting to and around Tokyo, Japan:
We flew Scoot from Singapore via Bangkok to get to Tokyo. We got a cheap deal and were able to bid for an upgrade before our flight which we were lucky enough to get making the journey much more comfortable for a fraction of the price.
As we would be spending 3 days in Tokyo followed by a few more travelling around Japan, we pre-purchased a JR East Pass, which we collected from the airport upon landing, valid for 5 days of trips (not necessarily consecutive). This covered our rail ticket into Tokyo itself and back to the airport at the end of the trip. It also covers some busses in the city. The rest of the trip we took the subway everywhere, it was easy to use and well connected, however many places do take time to get to given the city is spread over a large area.
Tokyo Day One: Senso-ji temple & Akihabara (Hedgehog cafe and MariCar racing)
After an early morning landing, we headed straight out for some sight seeing with our first stop being Senso-ji temple in Asakusa. This is the oldest temple in Tokyo and certainly one of the most spectacular. Walking up to the temple itself there are market stalls packed with local snacks and souvenirs which make for an enjoyable stop. The temple is also surrounded by some beautiful gardens and shines to explore too.
From Asakusa we headed next to Akihabara where we would spend the rest of the afternoon and evening. This is one crazy must see suburb of Tokyo, filled with the bright lights of large and buzzing electronic gaming stores, Anime stores and an array of maid and animal cafes.
Our first stop was a visit to the Hedgehog Cheese Cafe, where we enjoyed a coffee and a cuddle with the cutest little Hedgehogs. There are loads of hedgehog cafes in Tokyo and we would definitely recommend visiting at least one of them.
After our cafe stop we headed for our evening MariCar Akihabara street racing tour. This was seriously one of the best things we did in Japan and we would HIGHLY RECOMMEND it. You need to pre book via their facebook messenger, and before heading to Japan ensure you have an international drivers licence as foreign licences won't be accepted.
Upon arrival we selected our costumes (unfortunately it's not possible to be actual Nintendo characters anymore, as Nintendo is not affiliated with any of the racing companies). Once dressed to race, we commenced our 2.5 hour ride around the streets of Tokyo in a small group of six with an instructor. We were driving with the cars in the same lanes as traffic, heading up to around 40km/hr. It was a surreal experience zipping through the bright light streets full of neon Japanese signs. At every traffic light stop, we were the tourist attraction, with plenty of people stopping to wave at us and take pictures of us in our costumes and little cars, we felt like celebrities.
After our MariCar tour we walked down the street to find Warashibe Gyoza, where we enjoyed a cheap and casual dinner with a few beers. We made friends with a few others on our tour who joined us for the night.
Tokyo Day Two: Brunch in Ginza, EPSON TeamLab Boarderless Digital Art Museum, New York Bar and Grill Park Hyatt Tokyo
Our second day started on the hunt for breakfast, we'd heard many good things about the Australian style brunch at Bills Cafe in Ginza and decided to give it a go. Personally, we wouldn't recommend it. While the food was nice, we felt it was overpriced and pretentious. We waited 45 minutes to get a table, only to find once seated there was an entire room full of empty tables in the back. We were also seated in a back room, which felt like it was because we showed up in jeans and matching Mickey Mouse tourist t-shirts, unlike the majority of guests dripping head to toe in designer outfits. We then paid almost $30 for eggs on toast. Save your time and skip this place. That said, we mention Ginza as we did enjoy the area itself and believe it's worth a walk around.
Our next stop was a visit to EPSON teamLab Boarderless exhibit at the Digital Art museum, a MUST SEE. It took us an hour to get to via subway from Ginza.
Word has certainly gotten around about this place, as we arrived to over an hour long queue to get in. It opens at 10am, and our tip is to be there waiting before then with your tickets purchased in advance. You can buy them here.
Our next tip is to make sure you save plenty of time for your visit, as we spent 4 hours visiting all of the exhibits and I'm not even sure we covered it all. It's a bit of a maze once you get in, and so you don't miss anything, research in advance the top exhibits. The most popular and nicest is the forest of resonating lamps. We had to queue for about 20 minutes to get into this and one had a few minutes once in. We'd recommend to find this one first. Our other favourite exhibits were the crystal world, flower forest, light and shell vortex and the athletic forest.
After a full day here, we freshened up for evening dinner and drinks at the New York Bar and Grill, located on the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt Hotel in Shinjuku. Again we had pre booked as it was a special dinner to celebrate Andrew's birthday. We didn't mind spending a little extra for this, however for cheaper options just grab a cocktail at the bar and enjoy the bar food menu rather than full restaurant experience. As we are massive steak lovers, we indulged in some of the best Japanese beef we have ever tasted while taking in some amazing city views.
Tokyo Day Three: Watch a Sumo wrestling training session in a Dojo, explore Harajuku, Cross the worlds busiest intersection in Shibuya.
Our final morning started early with a trip to a Dojo to watch sumo wrestling practising. We'd missed the season for actual matches but it was still possible to watch a training session. We booked this online via Viator. We watched a 1.5 hour long session, including warm up and technique practise. During that time we sat silently on the floor so as to respect the wrestlers and trainers. It was a pretty cool cultural experience to see.
From there we headed back into town to explore Shibuya where we crossed the worlds busiest intersection. We'd recommend here a visit to the Starbucks located right by the crossing, where you can watch through the second floor large glass windows the view of the crowds below making the crossing. From there we made our final stop to Harajuku, where we enjoyed shopping through the little streets, tasting snacks and cafe hopping.
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