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Ultimate 3-Day Tokyo Itinerary for First-Time Travelers to Japan’s Capital

By Lucy Baker
October 26, 2021
Updated: December 6, 2021

Tokyo is undeniably one of the most exciting cities in the world, where the most futuristic technologies come together in a fusion with traditional Japanese culture, with something for every foodie, fashionista, or pop culture nerd. You could spend a week discovering Tokyo’s many and diverse neighborhoods, but if you’re just visiting for just a few days, we’ve got you covered for activities and sightseeing!

For the perfect Tokyo itinerary including the city’s most iconic activities and essential things to see and do, check out this Tokyo 3-day itinerary! It’s jam-packed with exposure to the traditional side of the city as well as the best things to do in Tokyo in 3 days.

Where to Stay in Tokyo

Tokyo is reasonably spread out, so it’s best to base yourself depending on convenience, what you like to do, and your interests. If you like nightlife and partying, we recommend that you stay in Shinjuku, Shibuya, or Roppongi. If you prefer an area that is more quiet, stay in Asakusa which is the traditional area of Tokyo. The Tokyo Station area is good for access as well, especially if you plan to take the Shinkansen bullet train. 

For those who want to stay more out-of-the-way of the busier districts, make sure that your hotel is close to a station so you can still make the most of your Tokyo 3-day itinerary. Tokyo offers a range of budget options like hostels, guesthouses, capsule hotels, mid-range hotels, and home stays, plus luxury hotel stays or traditional ryokan (Japanese inn) experiences.  

Where to stay in Shinjuku:

  • Budget: Anshin Oyado Capsule Hotel
  • Mid-range: Citadines Central Shinjuku Tokyo
  • Luxury: Park Hyatt Tokyo

Where to stay in Shibuya:

  • Budget: The Millennials Shibuya
  • Mid-range: APA Hotel Shibuya Dogenzaka
  • Luxury: Cerulean Tower Tokyo​​

Where to stay in Roppongi:

  • Budget: The Wardrobe Hostel Shibuya Roppongi
  • Mid-range: Mitsui Garden Hotel Roppongi Tokyo Premier
  • Luxury: Grand Hyatt Tokyo

Where to stay in Asakusa:

  • Budget: Khaosan Tokyo Origami
  • Mid-range: Hotel Gracery Asakusa
  • Luxury: The Gate Hotel Asakusa Kaminarimon by Hulic

Where to stay in Tokyo Station:

  • Budget: Wise Owls Hostel Tokyo
  • Mid-range: Daiwa Roynet Hotel Tokyo Kyobashi
  • Luxury: Mandarin Oriental Tokyo

How to Get Around Tokyo

Tokyo cityscape with train lines crossing

Public transportation: The best way to get around Tokyo to different districts is to use their extremely well-connected and world-famous train and subway system. This consists of the JR above-ground trains, and Tokyo’s 2 privately owned subway companies: Toei Subway (4 lines) and Tokyo Metro (9 lines). With trains running at regular intervals and always on time, you can pack in a lot of exploring in one day.

Prepaid Travel Cards: Upon touchdown in Japan, you should purchase a Suica card or Pasmo card, which is a prepaid public transportation card that you can load yen onto at any station. You can easily tap on and off of public transport, and the card will automatically deduct the fare amount for the trip. This transport card is very handy and you can use it throughout Japan if you are traveling further beyond. You can also use it on Tokyo’s extensive routes for buses (but this is not recommended for a first timer in Tokyo as it can be a bit confusing). Some stores offer the option of using the Suica/Pasmo to pay for items. If you are only staying in Tokyo, we do not recommend that you buy a JR Pass. 

72-Hour Tokyo Subway Pass: Another option for getting around Tokyo is to purchase a multi-day Tokyo Subway Pass, which is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to get around Tokyo. For a Tokyo 3-day itinerary, you can purchase a 72-hour ticket pass that allows you to use all Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway lines unlimitedly for up to 72 hours after your first use through the automatic ticket gate.

NOTE: The JR Lines fares are generally cheaper individually but are not included in this pass, and you can see more of the city out the windows when traveling above ground! 

Taxis & Rideshares: Taxis are notoriously expensive in Tokyo so it's best not to use them unless in an emergency. The good thing is that it's unlikely that you'll need to, considering that the trains and subways are so well interconnected. Rideshare apps are available in Tokyo but they are more expensive than traditional taxis, so we recommend sticking to public transport when getting around Tokyo. Some neighborhoods are next to each other, so walking between them allows you to see more of the city (but chews up sightseeing time). 

Tokyo 3-Day Itinerary for First Timers to Japan's Capital

Here is an overview of the highlights of this 3-day itinerary:

  • Day 1: Adventure through the western side of Tokyo and check out the modern pop culture and fashion of Harajuku, brave the Shibuya Crossing, and try a range of award-winning ramen dishes! Eat dinner in Shinjuku and drink with locals in the Golden Gai or Memory Lane after taking in the brilliant views from the top of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.
  • Day 2: Transport yourself to the traditional side of Eastern Tokyo, and visit Sensoji Temple and Nakamise Dori in Asakusa. Enjoy a lunch of street food in Ameya Yokocho in Ueno, relax in the grounds of Ueno Park, then learn about Japanese history at Tokyo National Museum. Jump back into modern Tokyo and explore the anime and manga crazed district of Akihabara before returning for an early night. 
  • Day 3: Get up early to eat sushi for breakfast at Tsukiji Outer Market or Toyosu Wholesale Fish Market, the largest in the world. Immerse yourself in teamLab’s Borderless digital art installation exhibition, and then enjoy shopping in Ginza. Wrap up the day with dinner in Roppongi, a visit to the Mori Art Museum, and a drink or two at one of the bars and pubs in the area. 

Tokyo Itinerary Day 1: Explore the Eastern Side of Modern Tokyo

Morning: Harajuku, Omotesando, Meiji Jingu Shrine, Yoyogi Park

Hit the ground running and dive straight into the infamously colorful youth hub known as Harajuku, located on the western side of Tokyo. Spend the morning strolling through the weird and wacky shops along bustling Takeshita Dori Street, Harajuku’s long shopping street. Check out the latest fashion trends, kawaii culture and Harajuku’s famous crepe shops as you wind your way down. 

If you want to learn more about Japanese pop culture and the ins and outs of this wondrous centerpiece, consider kicking off your Tokyo 3-day itinerary with an Instalicious Food Adventure Tour. Joining this food tour is a great way to learn about Harajuku in a nutshell, and to discover the some of most Instagrammable food in Tokyo! Your local guide can also give you tips about Tokyo and Japanese food in general to help with the rest of your trip. 

Once you’ve seen enough glitter and pink and people packed into Takeshita Street, take a walk through the designer shops of the glamorous Omotesando area, Harajuku’s classy next door neighborhood. 

Next, head towards Yoyogi Park, and visit Meiji Jingu (Meiji Shrine). The paths past the iconic sake barrels wind through to one of Tokyo’s most popular Shinto shrines, where you can learn more about traditional Japanese culture and rituals. (If you’re lucky, you could see a Japanese wedding!) 

After visiting Meiji Shrine, take a break in the grassy lawns of Yoyogi Park. It’s a massive park that sprawls just beyond Meiji’s grounds where you can find groups of friends relaxing on the lawns, playing games and practicing dance routines. It’s a welcome break from the bustle of Harajuku! 

Afternoon: Shibuya

Make your way towards Shibuya, accessible on foot from Harajuku or by train. Experience the madness of Shibuya Crossing and say “hi” to the resident Hachiko statue, a local muster point for Tokyoites meeting up with friends.

Wander through the spunky shops and busy restaurants of Shibuya, mixed amongst karaoke joints, game centers, and retail stores on every corner, marked with dazzling neon. Check out the multi-storied Tokyu Hands department store (or Isetan in Shinjuku when you head there - especially the basement food hall!)

Learn about some of the best ramen in Tokyo with a local expert, and join a Ramen Tour with Frank. Frank can teach you more about dining etiquette in Japan, as well as offer a wealth of knowledge on one of Japan’s most iconic dishes and different variants of the Japanese noodle soup. 

Evening: Shinjuku

Head to Shinjuku in the evening. Get a view of the sprawling city from the 45th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building’s observation decks (free of charge and open 9:30AM-11:00PM).

Enjoy dinner and drinks in Omoide Yokocho, AKA “Memory Lane.” It’s a small street reminiscent of the pre-war days, filled with traditional bars offering drinking snack foods such as yakitori. 

For those who want to party on, make your way to Shinjuku Golden Gai and settle in for a drink or two. This small drinking area features over 250 small bars in Shinjuku seating up about 5-10 people, each with a different theme and local bartender. There are also plenty of other restaurants and bars in the Kabukicho area of Shinjuku if you want to explore further beyond, or consider going bar hopping in Shinjuku with a local guide. 

Tokyo Itinerary Day 2: Explore the Western Side of Traditional Tokyo

Morning: Asakusa

Head to Asakusa, Tokyo’s main cultural district. Explore Asakusa Sensoji Temple, the largest Buddhist Temple in Tokyo. With its iconic lantern marking the entrance, you can’t miss it as a key cultural experience to tick off your Tokyo bucket list.

Learn about the history and religion firsthand before checking out the street food stalls and traditional souvenir shops running along Nakamise Dori Street, Asakusa’s traditional outdoor shopping street. You’ll find a range of street foods and traditional Japanese wagashi sweets, as well as shops selling cultural wares and handmade crafts. 

After some shopping, try your hand at sculpting candy the Japanese way by joining a Traditional Amezaiku Candy Sculpting Class! Learn Japanese candy art and make a sugar rabbit with the help of your instructors. 

If it happens to be cherry blossom viewing season in Tokyo, walk over to Sumida Park by the Sumida River for a stunning view of Tokyo Skytree and pink Japanese sakura flowers in bloom. 

Afternoon: Ueno

Head to Ueno, and visit Ameya Yokocho for lunch. This is an outdoor market area running below the train lines, with plenty of street food stalls and restaurants. This area was known for selling sweets back in the day, so you can wander through the stalls and see if you can grab a bargain, or consider an Ueno Food Tour with a guide to make sure that you don’t miss out on any morsels of the best local food.

After lunch, walk to Ueno Park, home to a number of museums and Ueno Zoo. Learn about Tokyo and Japanese culture at Tokyo National Museum and wander through its exhibits. 

Evening:

Visit the vibrant pop culture hub of Akihabara. This is where manga and anime fans come together with electronics and game centers overflowing with merchandise. You can even visit a maid cafe, or another specialty cafe. Head home to get some rest for an early start tomorrow.

Tokyo Itinerary Day 3: Sushi, Art and Shopping from the Future

Morning: Tsukiji & Toyosu Fish Markets, teamLab Borderless

Rise and shine! Get up early to visit Toyosu Fish Market on the Tsukiji and Toyosu Fish Market Tour and have sushi for breakfast, the freshest you’ll ever taste. Wander through the market and see the hustle and bustle of the world’s largest fish market. Then, you'll stroll through Tsukiji Fish Market, where the market itself is closed but the restaurants still operate, to have breakfast and sample the local products.

Alternatively, if you want to learn more about Japanese ingredients and sushi preparation, you could spend the morning on a Tsukiji Fish Market and Sushi Making Tour where you can explore the markets with a guide and learn to make sushi for yourself. 

Next, make your way to the teamLab Borderless Art Museum. This interactive digital art exhibition is one of Tokyo’s most iconic attractions. You can get lost in there, with lots of light exhibitions that are unimaginably Instagram-worthy! (Be sure to book your tickets early.)

Afternoon: Ginza

Back to reality (or maybe it’s not for all the glitz and glamor) and head off to Ginza for lunch in the afternoon. If you’ve got the budget behind you, consider booking a Tokyo dining experience for a Michelin-starred meal! 

Take it easy and stroll through this high-fashion shopping area at a leisurely pace, taking in the glamor of Ginza. For more moderately-priced yet high-quality fashion trends, be sure to visit the multi-floor UNIQLO and the Muji flagship store in Ginza! 

Watch a kabuki show at Ginza’s Kabukiza Theatre, or at least pass by to check out the traditional style building. Alternatively, you can take the train to visit the gardens of the Imperial Palace near Tokyo Station, for a peaceful afternoon. 

If you want to relax with a drink or two in the late afternoon to early evening, book a Tokyo Mixology Tour in Ginza, which includes drink pairings with foods and concludes at a hidden bar that specializes in tea cocktails.

Evening: Roppongi

Go to the ritzy Roppongi district for dinner. This is another upscale area in Tokyo, featuring the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower building and the modern Mori Art Museum, which stays open late and also features a great observation deck. For those who like to party, there are plenty of bars, clubs, and izakayas in Roppongi that are foreigner-friendly. 

Tokyo Skyline with Tokyo Skytree against a blue sky

If you’re wondering what to do in Tokyo, look back over this guide for a 3 day Tokyo trip. While this is certainly a jam-packed Tokyo 3-day itinerary, it aims to give you a first timer's overview of this diverse and exciting city in terms of culture, nature, food experiences, and activities.

If you’ve got more time in Tokyo, consider checking out these day trip from Tokyo ideas. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveller, these are some more of the best things to do in Tokyo if you have just a few days in Japan's capital!

Browse food experiences in Japan and check out our YouTube channel for more travel inspiration!

We strive to be as accurate as possible and keep up with the changing landscape of Japan’s food and travel industries. If you spot any inaccuracies, please send a report.
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Lucy Baker
Never not hungry, Lucy is an artist and foodie from Australia. You can find her hunting for the next delicious deal, documenting her food, or brunching. She lives firmly by the philosophy that food friends are the best of friends.
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