Complete Travel Guide for Tokyo, Japan

Shibuya, Tokyo Tokyo Travel Guide

Complete Travel Guide for Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo is a well known capital of Japan, but as a traveler, it’s too large to capture the image of the city in a short trip. Today, I’d like to explain about Tokyo as much as possible so that you can enjoy more in your next trip. 

You can also watch this contents on YouTube:

Why come to Tokyo? 

Located on the pacific side of Japan, Tokyo is one of the most populated city in the world, with large city range from city center to suburb. It’s center of Japanese politics and economy. Tokyo tends to be thought just as a capital of Japan and industrial city, but it also has a rich culture continues from hundreds years ago.  Tokyo became capital of Japan in early 1600’s and Japan closed boarder for nearly 300 years from abroad, so Tokyo (Edo) developed lots of citizens culture during that peaceful time without major wars. Tokyo was burned down several times due to fires and earthquake and war, but every time it was reborn as a new city keeping the old tradition and spirit of Tokyo. Tokyo is the mega city, but you might be surprised by how busy Tokyo is, but also is very organized and has lots of quiet places. 

Scenery of Megalopolis with mixture of New and Traditional Culture

One of my friend said Tokyo is very huge, but no hustle like big cities in other counties. It’s kind of like, even city center is laidback and quiet. You might take it differently, but seeing how people are and how this big city runs are one of the most interesting point of travel. Tokyo has several city center such as Ginza, Shibuya and Shinjuku. To feel modern culture, especially seeing people at Shibuya Crossing in front of Shibuya station is recommended. 

Neons of Tokyo

When it comes to the image of Tokyo, it might be more of the night view of Tokyo that is fulfilled with lights, from old alley of Asakusa to the busy crossing in front of Shibuya station. Wondering around the lights of Tokyo is something make you feel lost in another world.

Parks and nature of Tokyo 

If you see Tokyo from city center, you might  notice that there are so many greens in the city center. 

Where there is an ancient emperor, which is rare in the world, there is an imperial palace with abundant greenery right in front of Tokyo Station in the center of the city of Tokyo, which surprises people all over the world. Also, within walking distance from the chaotic Shibuya and Shinjuku, there is Meiji Jingu, which stands quietly in a vast forest of artificial forests. In spring, the city of Tokyo is full of beautiful cherry blossoms. Around Tokyo, if you take a train for an hour to a few hours, you will find Kamakura, which is rich in historical heritage, and you can go to Hakone’s hot springs surrounded by nature and Mt. Fuji, which is another attraction of Tokyo. ..

Major spots: Imperial Palace, Shinjuku Gyoen, Hamarikyu Garden, Meiji Jingu shrine, Ueno Park, 

Shrines and Temples of Tokyo

Although Tokyo is an advanced megalopolis, it is also a city where you can get a glimpse of history, such as old temples and shrines. Of course, if you can go to Kyoto and Nara, which were the centers of Japanese culture, you can experience more traditional architecture and history, but if you don’t have plan to go there, you can see a lot in Tokyo too.

Major spots: Meiji Jingu shrine, Sensoji, Zojoji, Gokokuji, Fukuagawa Fudo, Akasaka hikawa shrine, Kagurazaka, 

Traditional Venues in Tokyo

Tokyo is also a center of Japanese culture. Sumo and Kabuki is one of the unique tradition of Japan, and Tokyo is the perfect place to see them. Kabuki and sumo became a popular pastime among the citizens of Tokyo during the Edo period, and are still an important traditional culture for Japan. It is said that sumo, a traditional Japanese sport, originated 1500 years ago, but in the Edo period it became a form close to modern entertainment, and even now in Tokyo three times a year, January and May. , Held at Ryogoku Kokugikan in September. It is worth seeing how powerful big men fight according to traditional rituals.

Kabuki is also an entertainment that flourished during the Edo period, and is a stage where male actors play both men and women. It is held at Kabukiza Theater in Ginza, Tokyo and at Shinbashi Enbujo. As with sumo, even if you don’t understand the language, you can enjoy it with some prior knowledge. Both are traditional Japanese cultures that we citizens have enjoyed, and both sumo wrestlers and Kabuki actors are on a gorgeous stage with strict conventions and training. Fortunately, Tokyo is a place where you can see both shows, so if it’s being held during your trip, consider watching it.

Ryogoku Kokugikan (sumo – Ryogoku), Kabukiza (kabuki – Ginza)

Sub Culture Center- Tokyo

Today’s Japan cannot be talked about without Japanese pop culture. Manga, anime, games, figures, and Tokyo are a gathering of fans of such pop culture. Even fans who are not so deeply familiar with anime can see the giant statue of Gundam in Odaiba, or buy a small figure in Akihabara. It may be fun to go to the stage with exactly the same scenery as the anime “Your Name.”

Japanese Food and dining culture

The last is the Japanese foods. Even though Japan has 47 different regions and every part of them has unique local foods, you can get most of them in Tokyo. Sushi , Tempura, Unagi, Udon, Shabushabu, Yakitori … if you drink, Japanse Sake is also something you cannot miss. I don’t say every store is great, so please check reputation on Google before you go. 

Many prefecture (regions) office has a store in Tokyo so that people in Tokyo can learn and enjoy their regions. You can find many especially in Ginza. While Japan may seem small at first glance, you will be able to experience the fact that each region is full of different cultures and specialties.

To enjoy the most of Tokyo, please also see What to  know before you travel to Tokyo

How to get to Tokyo from your country

Tokyo’s major airports are Tokyo Haneda(HND) and  Tokyo Narita(NRT). Unless you enter Japan from other parts of the country, probably these will be the major entrance for your entry to Tokyo. 

What is the difference Narita and Haneda Airport?

While Narita is build to serve international flights and has larger facilities, larger number of flights, it has distance from Tokyo city center.  Haneda Airport is much closer to Tokyo city center, but the number of flights are limited, and also sometimes slightly more expensive. If you are staying Ueno or Asakusa, Narita is also convenient.  Japanese career and some other foreign career flys to both airports from their origin, but Delta is the one only flys to Tokyo Haneda. 


Japan’s two major carrier JAPAN AIRLINE and  ANA flies to major international destinations in the United States, Europe, and other Asian countries. Also major airline company across the globe has a flight to Tokyo either to Narita or Haneda. 

JAPAN: Japan Airlines, ANA

USA: United, Delta (Haneda), American, Hawaiian

  • Delta Airline only uses Haneda.

Australia: Qantas  Canada:Air Canada UK: British Airways France: Air France Germany: Lufthansa 

Some locations have international LCC careers. 

Zip Air Tokyo is a new international career started by Japan Airlines. It currently serves Honolulu, Los Angeles, Singapore and Bangkok. ANA is also starting a new international lCC called “Air Japan” . It’s planning to fly to mid-long distance destinations such as Australia, Bangkok and Singapore by B787.

Access to Tokyo

From Narita to Tokyo City Center

  • Narita Express – direct to Tokyo, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Shinagawa, Yokohama (reserved seat only)
  • Keisei Skyliner – direct to Ueno  (reserved seat only)
  • Access Express – direct to Asakusa, Shinbashi, Shinagawa, Haneda Airport
  • For more details, please read How to Get from Narita Airport (NRT) to Tokyo City Center.

* Japan Rail pass holder can use reserved seat on Narita Express for free of charge with the valid pass.

From Haneda to Tokyo City Center

  • Tokyo Monorail – direct to Hamamtsucho station (change to JR yamanote line)
  • Keikyu line – direct to Shinagawa, Asakusa, Yokohama

* Japan Rail pass holder can use Tokyo Monorail after activation at service counter. 

The cost of travel to Japan and How to Save 

Is Japan expensive?

The answer is, I would say No. You can think the cost of everything is almost same as the United States, but recently Japan is getting cheaper comparing with other countries. Hotels, Foods are cheaper comparing with United States and Europe, Australia. On the other hands, transportation such as Shinkansen might be a little expensive. 

Sample Cost 

7 days travel (In case you just stay in Tokyo and surrounding area)

  • LAX – HND $1200
  • Hotels $1000
  • Transportation $200
  • Foods $500
  • Souvenir $100

This is totally a random sample, but preparing $3,000 per person would be a realistic amount. In case you come with larger group, it can get cheaper on hotels. 

How to save cost

In case you want to go for cheaper or you want to spare more budget for souvenir, there are some rooms to save on hotels and transportations. 

Hotel: There are many choices of hotels. Consider business hotel too. The room tends to be smaller, so pay attention to the size of the room when you make reservation. 

Transportation: Try to avoid reserved train from airport, and take 1300 yen bus or non-reserved train. In case you move city to city, use bus instead of Shinkansen.

For more details on the cost for your Japan Trip, this article might help: How much does it cost to travel Japan and How to save


Seasons and Climate of Tokyo

Tokyo’s weather is similar to the east coast. Just it’s rare that Tokyo get snow, and there is a rainy season in June to July. Also several typhoon hit Tokyo during summer season. Then when is the best season?

You can visit Tokyo any season, but to enjoy more, I say the best season is probably cherry-blossom season in end of March to May (except Golden Week of Japan), and October to November. Because weather tends to be nicer and you don’t have to worry about the heat. 

Season to pay attention

Winter : Winter can be cold but not as cold as New York. Since winter has more sunny days, it’s not bad season. Plus, the airfare and hotel price tends to get cheaper. If you like to see heavy snow of Japan, you might want to plan to make some excursion trip from Tokyo to Niigata, Nagano or Hokkaido.  Indeed, it’s the best season for outside hot-springs. 

Summer Heat :  Comparing with fairly mild winter of Tokyo, summer heat can be severe. Make sure you have plenty of water (ideally sports drink with mineral) and avoid the direct sun, or always carry hat and umbrella for sun (recently getting common among men too. You can find in convenience store too.).  The humidity of Tokyo is notable and I recommend you to refrain from walking outside for a long time in sunny day time. 

Golden Week : Golden Week is a long holiday of Japanese people staring April 29 to May 5. During the season, it will be busy wherever you go in Japan. Hotel price can go up too, so I recommend you to avoid this period. Before and After the Golden Week is one of the best season to travel Tokyo. 

Cherry blossom :

It might be a surprise for you, but the Japanese symbolic event “ohanami” (see cherry blossom) season is very short, like a week. The trouble is, we don’t know when that would be. In the mid March, the weather forecast start the prediction of blooming date. It can be late March around 23rd, it can be April 4th. So unless you stay long in Japan, it might be difficult to target the best cherry blossom season. I would say… aim for end of March like 28th. But please note that it really depends on the year. In case you came a week or 2 early or late to the cherry blossom season, try to go to Shinjuku Gyoen park, you can see different kind of cherry blossom. 

Tips: avoid Golden Week. Cherry-blossom is not easy. Be careful in mid-summer. 

I made a little more detailed information about the season of Tokyo. Please also read The Best and Worst Seasons to Travel to Tokyo, JAPAN 

All explained Areas in Tokyo 

The 10 Best Areas of Tokyo for Sight Seeing

Tokyo is separated to several different area. Let’s know the basic area first and get around Tokyo efficiently. 


Asakusa is a town located in the north east side of Tokyo, along the Sumida river, which was the important river for Old Tokyo. Probably Asakusa is the most important destination for tourists to Japan, and it is a fun place even for me with festive atmosphere. Tokyo Sky Tree is on the right bank of Sumida river, which you can access by train or walk. 

Attractions in Asakusa area: Sensoji temple, Tokyo Sky Tree, Tokyo Mizumachi

See our Asakusa TOKYO Neighborhood Guide


Ueno is a town in the north west of Tokyo, 3 stations from Asakusa by Tokyo Metro. Ueno station is facing a large park called Ueno Park, and the park consists of dozens of museums including Tokyo National Museum. The park also has several temples and shrines and Ueno Zoo. You can spend a good half day in Ueno area. The busy market street “Ameyoko” is extending from Ueno station to Okatchimachi station of Yamanote line.

I recommend Japanese lunch at Yoshiike Shokudo in front of Okachimachi station. English menu is available, and there are various different Japanese meals even if your group has different favor.:) Ueno area is a good place to feel old and quiet side of Tokyo. 

Attractions in Ueno area: Tokyo National Museum, Ueno Park, Ameyoko Street, Yanaka.

See our UENO TOKYO Neighborhood Guide


Shibuya is a center for young culture of Japanese and full of people from daytime to night. You can see the snapshot of modern Japanese life. In the walking distance or one station ride from Shibuya, is Harajuku and Omotesando area. While Omotesando is an area with many brands shops, 

Harajuku is fulfilled with young visitors from Japan and other countries. In contrast, the west side of Harajuku is fulfilled with a large forest of Meiji Shrine. In case you are tired of busy city of Shibuya and Harajuku, you can walk in the shrine walk way in the deep forest. 

Shibuya Sky, Shibuya Crossing, Miyashita Park, Meiji Shrine


Shinjuku Station is one of the busiest station in the world, and the town of Shinjuku is the most diversified depends on where you go. In the west of Shinjuku, there is the Tokyo metropolitan government building, and major hotels such as Hilton Tokyo and Park Hyatt. 

The north-side of the station is Kabukicho, one of the busy night town in Tokyo. Even though it was an area that is not so clean and not appropriate for families with kids, they are changing with some new facilities such as Toho Cinemas with big Gozila figure. 

The major part of east side of Shinjuku is a shopping district with Isetan department store, which is known as a store that makes the biggest sales in Japan every year. If you walk further to the east, there is a ni-chome which is known as a LGBT town. The town is right next to the best garden of Tokyo, Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden with full of plants in different types of gardens. 

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Tokyo Metropolitan Government building, Isetan Department Store, Kabuki-cho

Tokyo Station Area

Tokyo Station- Marunouchi Entrance

Tokyo Station Marunouchi Entrance is facing the Palace. Major international hotel brands gathers near Tokyo Station.


Tokyo Station is a hub for Shinkansen bullet train going to different parts of Japan. The station has a large mall including Gransta, Yaesu Chikagai, and Tokyo character street,  that various kind of Japanese character shops gathers. The station has mainly two entrance, symbolic Marunouchi Entrance on the westside, and Yaesu Entrance on the east side. Marunouchi side is facing a major office district of Tokyo, and you’ll soon see a large green space of Imperial Palace. 

The east side is connected to Nihonbashi area, where it used to be the center of Tokyo’s commerce in Edo Period, and one of the store became the first department store “Mitsukoshi” in 1904 which is still the major department store of Tokyo. 

Attractions: Imperial Palace East Garden, Tokyo Station, Underground Malls, Tokyo Character Street, Nihonbashi Area.

Please also read Travelers’ Guide to Tokyo Station – How to navigate yourself in Tokyo Station


Ginza is one of the major shopping district in Tokyo. Many international brands open its symbolic store in Ginza, and also two major Japanese Department stores are located along the Main Street. I know many people are not into shopping for brands in Japan, but you’ll see the long lasting center of Japanese commerce here. Ginza also has Many premier business hotel that is which I can recommend.

What I like about Ginza is they have many official shops by Japan’s different regions. There are 47 different regions called prefectures in Japan, and some of them opened stores that sells their local products. Major shops are from Nara, Kochi, and Hiroshima… and so many more in the Ginza area. You’ll see snap shots of different areas of Japan as being in Tokyo, and what they produce and what they are proud of. Usually these official shops offer their products with reasonable price. 

Attractions: Prefecture shops, Matsuya Ginza Department Store, Mitsukoshi Department Store, Kabuki-za theater  


Akihabara once used to known for electrics shops are now more famous for sub-culture shops such as anime shops, figure shops, and cosplay cafe. If you are interested in this topic, Akihabara can be a heaven for you. 

Other Areas

These are the major destination for travelers, but there are many other areas that is not included in the list above. The other ares tourist might visit are Odaiba, Daimon, Kagurazaka and more. 

How to get around in Tokyo

For the detailed explanation of Tokyo’s transportation system, please also look at How to get around Tokyo by trains.

To understand the Tokyo’s map quickly, you might want to remember the name of train “JR Yamanote Line”. This circle line goes around Tokyo and go through major areas above, such as Tokyo Station, Ueno, Shinjuku and Shibuya. Inside the circle of this Yamanote Line is mainly served by subways. The subway is separated to two companies and ask for different fare, which is inconvenient even for Japanese people. Toei which means Operated by Tokyo Metropolitan Government, has 4 subways. And Tokyo Metro operates 9 subway lines. 

JR, which is the former Japan National Railway offers Japan Rail Pass for foreign travelers which you can travel across Japan using JR lines. 

You might not use it anyway if you are staying only in Tokyo, but if you use it, just keep in mind that you cannot use JR pass on private railways. Yes, Japan has private railways that owns their own rail lines and operates trains. Even though most of them serves from Tokyo city center to suburbs, there are some private railways that foreign travelers might use. 

  • Keisei connects Narita Airport and Ueno area in Tokyo, which is competing with JR’s Narita Express (N’EX) 
  • Odakyu connects Shinjuku and the major sight seeing spot Hakone. Romance Car is their iconic train car. 
  • Tobu connects Asakusa and Nikko, another major tourist area in the north of Tokyo. It also owns another line to Kawagoe. 
  • Keio connects Shinjuku and Mt.Takao, which is a popular mountain that you can access in 40 minutes from Tokyo. 

Major attractions in Tokyo 

Please also see What to see in Tokyo for the first time

It’s easy to make a long list of places to visit in Tokyo, but this is the major spots that I recommend you and also known as the tourist spots in Tokyo. You can get a snap shot of Tokyo by trying these activities. 

Sensoji temple

Sensoji Temple is a temple in Asakusa. The reason it attracts many visitors are the temple itself’s beautiful scenery, and also the busy streets with souvenir

Shops called “Nakamise” and also the surrounding various streets with bars and stores. This is the rare area that you can feel the old Tokyo’s vivid atmosphere, so I recommend Sensoji as the most important place to visit. 

See Sensoji Temple 

Tokyo Sky Tree

Tokyo Sky Tree is a 634 meters (2084 foot) TV tower that is build in the east bank of Sumida river. There are two observation decks at 350 meters and 450 meters, and you’ll see the east side of Tokyo to the Tokyo city center over the Sumida river. You’ll find how vast Tokyo metropolitan area is. The recommended time is the late afternoon to sunset.

The view of Tokyo City Center from 350 meters deck of Tokyo Sky Tree.

The view of Tokyo City Center from 350 meters deck of Tokyo

Tokyo River Cruise 

Putting one attraction like a boat ride will add a variety in your trip experience. Tokyo river cruise connects Asakusa and Tokyo’s Bay Area such as
Takeshiba near Hamamatsucho and Odaiba area. You can see the skyline of Tokyo from the river as you feel the ocean breeze, so it’s especially recommended on warm season. 

Rediscover Tokyo from the water | TOKYO CRUISE SHIP
Welcome to TOKYO CRUISE! Please enjoy Tokyo from a different perspective from our flagships HIMIKO & HOTALUNA.

Tokyo National Museum

Tokyo National Museum is the large scaled museum next to Ueno Park that has 150 year of history. Many of Japanese and Oriental arts and buddhism statues are national treasure of Japan. 

This is the Official Website for Tokyo National Museum. As well as providing information related to Exhibitions, Events ...

Shinjuku Gyoen Garden

Shinjuku Gyoen is one of the major garden in Tokyo. It has Japanese garden, and also other themed gardens and a small sized tropical house. Shinjuku Gyoen is also famous for cherry blossom. Not only it has many Somei Yoshino, which is a symbolic cherry-blossom tree of Japan, but also has many other kinds of cherry-blossom. So when you miss the season of the cherry-blossom, 

Shibuya Crossing

Shibuya Scramble Crossing is probably the most famous crossing in Japan because of it’s iconic Tokyo like scenes that people cross from 4 different directions

under the tens of billboard and public screens. It’s a nice place to capture the scene of modern Tokyo. You might be able to take a better picture or videos if you visit in the evening before it gets too dark. 

Tokyo Tower

The symbol of Tokyo is not competitive in the height anymore, but it is still iconic tower for Japanese people.

More about Tokyo Tower

Yurikamome Ride

Yurikamome is an automatic transportation system that connects Shinbashi Station and Odaiba, which is on the other side of the Rainbow bridge. You’ll see the fantastic modern city view of Tokyo from the window. 

Disney Resort

Tokyo (to be detailed, it’s not Tokyo, but that is a trivial thing) has two Disney Park, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. If you haven’t been to any Disney theme parks, Tokyo Disneyland offers more classic Disney atmosphere. The Disneyland just opened a ride  “the Beauty and the Beast”.  If you have been to Disneyland in your country, probably Tokyo DisneySea that focus on the theme of Sea might be interesting. There are many official Disney hotels and other hotels in the area too. 

Something to note is that everything is in Japanese, even Disney songs. Also no matter which parks you go, crowd can be insane. Just like Ginza with many brands shops, it greatly depends on where you are from and your favor. If you are from LA or Paris, probably not much reasons to spend your time there unless you are a big fan of Disney. Honesty it’s not something I recommend to go in your shot trip. 🙂

Shibuya Sky

Shibuya Sky is the observation deck 229 meters above the Shibuya’s scramble crossing. You can see the scramble crossing and Shibuya’s city from the sky. The observation deck is open aired, and you can feel the sky air of Tokyo. Of course view is also spectacular. You can see the Tokyo’s city center from west, and also the Mt.Fuji on sunny day. 

Let’s compare the height of observation decks in Tokyo.

Tokyo Sky Tree Tokyo Tower Shibuya Sky Tokyo City View
Height of Observation deck 350m / 450 m 150m / 250 m 229m (outside) 270m (outside)
Price 1800 yen / 2100 yen for 350 m. 2700 yen / 3100 yen for 450m and 350m. (Online Reservation / Counter) 150m (Main Deck) 1200 Yen. 250m(Top Deck and Main Deck) 3000 Yen. 1800 Yen with online booking.2000 Yen at the counter (Ticket at the counter is only available when online booking for the time hasn’t sold out) 2500 / 2700 Yen on Weekdays / Weekend(200 yen off with online booking)
Nearby Station Oshiage / Tokyo Sky Tree Daimon Shibuya Roppoingi


While these observatory are amazing spots to see the view, there are some choice that you can drop by for free.

Please also read 7 Free View Spots of Tokyo

Tokyo is a shopping heaven

After seeing some sights in Tokyo, it’s time to dive into shopping. You may find lots of different options for shopping.

For details about shopping, please also read What and Where to Shop in Tokyo


A Day trip from Tokyo

Even though Tokyo has a modern and traditional place to see for travelers, adding a day trip to suburb might add some taste in the trip.Here is the list of major day trip destination. If it’s your first time visit, I recommend Kamakura or Kawaguchiko near Mt.Fuji.To understand the distance and direction of the day or one night trip destinations, please take a look at this map.


Kamakura is a town by the beach in the west of Tokyo. Kamakura once became the center of Japanese politics during Kamakura period, and it has the main shrine of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, and also beautiful temples such as Kenchoji, Meigetsuin, and Hase dera temple. A great buddha of Kamakura is also a good spot to visit. From the beach of Kamakura, you can see the beautiful shape of Enoshima island that is connected by the bridge to the mainland.

Attractions: Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, Kenchoji, Meigetsu-in, Kamakura Great Buddha, Hasedera Temple, Enoshima, Shichirigahama Beach, Enoshima, Hiking Trails.


The view of Mt.Fuji.


Kawagoe is a town in the north of Tokyo with old commercial streets.


Mt.Takao is a mountain which is easy to access from Shinjuku.





Access 1 hour by Shonan Shinjuku Line(Shinjuku) or Yokosuka Line(Tokyo, Shinagawa) 2 hours by bus (2000 Yen) or train from Shinjuku Station (2500 Yen) 30-45 minutes by train from Ikebukuro Station.(500 Yen) 30 minutes by Keio LIne train from Shinjuku Station. (400Yen)
Attractions Temples, Shrines, Beach, Hiking View of Mt.Fuji, Fujikyu Highland (Many roller coasters) Temples, old commercial street Mountain trails


Key Readings:

For general information for your trip to Japan, please also see Ultimate Japan Travel Guide

Know more about Tokyo from major to minor attractions: 100 Things to do in Tokyo

First Timer’s Travel Guide to Tokyo : Tokyo Travel Guide



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