The Perfect Itinerary for 7 Days in Tokyo
Every single minute you spend in Tokyo is simply EXCITING. From walking past one stunning temple after another to the neon flashy lights you see in every direction to the people dressed up as Mario Kart characters in go-karts driving on the streets... there is never a boring moment in Japan's capital city. If you're planning a trip or just daydreaming about it, here's a perfect 7 day Tokyo itinerary, plus all the necessary practical information you should know before visiting.
If you're visiting Tokyo for shorter than a week, you can easily cherry-pick the following info for things that look most interesting to you to fit your 4 or 5 day Tokyo itinerary!
How to get to Tokyo
You can arrive to Tokyo by air or by train from other cities in Japan. Tokyo is such an important international city that it has not one but two international airports to arrive here from virtually any place in the world. Getting from the airports to central Tokyo is really easy, too - there's a direct train service called the Narita Express that costs 3000 yen (roughly $28 USD) and takes about an hour to get to the city.
If you're within the island country already, there's also the option of Japan's high-tech and uber-efficient train system that connects Tokyo with any other city in Japan. If you're moving around the country a lot via train, you can purchase the economic JR pass (click here for their website), which functions a lot like Eurail passes in Europe. But just FYI, we found it was cheaper to fly domestically within Japan than purchase the rail tickets. It all depends on how many destinations are on your Japan itinerary though.
Where to stay in Tokyo
Tokyo is a sprawling city made up of 23 different sections that are called 'special wards.' Given its massive size, it can be a bit complicated to figure out where to base yourself for first time visitors! I recommend Shinjuku because it's a very centrally located part of Tokyo with restaurants & nightlife galore, and also close to a metro line which is imperative since you'll be taking that a LOT during your stay. Shibuya ward is also a popular place to base yourself as it's nearby to a lot of tourist attractions.
Budget travel in Tokyo was hard, especially for accommodation. My mom and I stayed at Hotel MyStays Nishi-Shinjuku, a 'business hotel' which means the rooms are on the small side with just a bed and not much else. In the low season, it cost around $200 It was super close to a major metro line, though, which was more important: I knew we'd be spending most of our time out and about in the city and not so much in the hotel room. There are some decent hostels available too, like Bunka Hostel and Book and Bed Tokyo Asakusa. Just keep in mind that Tokyo isn't exactly a budget destination, so prices are going to run you a bit higher than nearby Southeast Asia, for example.
How to get around Tokyo
The Tokyo subway system is the best way to get around the city, but it's one of the largest and most complex in the world so navigating it can be tricky! After one day of struggling to figure it out, I was a pro. First of all, be prepared that the subway stations are crazy busy but work like a well-oiled machine. There are thousands of people in the busy/central stations at any given moment, but everybody walks and weaves through foot traffic in the most efficient manner! You're not going to see groups stopped in the middle of the hallways, or chatting leisurely while they walk to their trains - nope, everybody is one-track minded to get to where they're going. Going with the flow of traffic and dodging people throughout the stations became kind of fun after we got used to it!
If you need help finding out how to navigate the subway system, there are information booths with employees who are there to help, though they don't always speak English. We always had a translator app ready just in case, which helped a ton. We just showed both the Japanese and the English name of the station we wanted to go, and they sold us the correct ticket to get there.
Keep in mind that it's considered slightly rude to have full-on conversations inside the subway trains. This isn't your New York City subway where you could be sitting there while a striptease show goes on in the pole next to you or someone playing the recorder for tips! People are so endearingly considerate that the trains are practically silent so as not to disturb others.
7 Day Tokyo Itinerary
Without further adieu, here are my recommendations with 7 days in Tokyo. It has a nice mix of everything Tokyo has to offer, from cultural activities to enjoying the modern aspects of Tokyo to tasting the delicious food, and more!
Day 1: Asakusa, Sensoji Temple, & Tokyo Tower
Visiting a temple in Japan is one major gateway to understanding the special culture. One of the most beautiful and most iconic (and actually the oldest, too!) in Tokyo is Sensoji Temple in Asakusa area. It's a large complex with several bright red Buddhist temples. It was like photography heaven - the different layers, textures, and angles that the structures create make for such a fun shooting experience.
Asakusa also has a charming shopping street to check out while you're there. Nakamise Street is full of little stalls selling everything from cheap souvenirs to authentic Japanese swords for collecting.
Within walking distance from the temple area is Tokyo Skytree. It's the tallest structure in all of Japan and has two observation decks you can visit - click here for tickets.
Day 2: Explore Shibuya, Themed Cafes, and Meiji Jingu Shrine
Special ward Shibuya is the beating heart of Tokyo. It's a stimulation overload in the very best way possible - in any given place you look, you'll see a combination of flashy lights, massive crowds of people, and Mario Kart drivers zooming through the streets. It's delightfully chaotic. Navigate yourself to Shibuya station, get out, and just wander around this mesmerizing area.
While you're here, don't miss famous Shibuya crossing, known as the busiest street crossing in the world. The best view of it? Go to the Starbucks in the plaza nearby and head to the second level. Sit down with your coffee and watch the hoards of people cross every couple of minutes. It's quite a spectacle! Also don't miss the Hachiko Statue, a cute statue of a dog that has been the symbol of Shibuya for almost a century.
Next, you should definitely check out a themed cafe. Whether you like cats, robots, owls, or Alice in Wonderland, there is a themed cafe for YOU in Tokyo! Seriously, they have owl cafes where you get to chill with real owls while you like, casually enjoy a cup of coffee. My mom and I have a cat obsession so we chose Cafe Mocha, a cat cafe in Shibuya. We were a bit disappointed that the cats were not all that cuddly and couldn't be bothered to give us any attention, but what did we really expect from those sassy felines anyway? There's also a monster, jail, and vampire themed restaurants - the list is endless!
And finally, nearby Shibuya ward is another must-see shrine called Meiji-Jingu. You'll likely see monks, prayer routines, and sometimes even geishes walking around here. We were lucky enough to visit around the time of the New Year, so there were neat traditions going on where we wrote down a wish and they are kept in the temple grounds for the whole year!
Day 3 and 4: Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea
If you're a Disney lover like me, then both Tokyo Disneyland and especially Tokyo DisneySea are totally worth spending two days. Tokyo Disney had all the classics like the Cinderella Castle, It's a Small World, Space Mountain, you name it. Be prepared for long lines though, each ride was over an hour wait!
The real gem, though, is Tokyo DisneySea, one of the most unique Disney parks ever in my opinion. It is separated into sections based on a common water theme, so there's the Mediterranean Harbor, Arabian Coast, American Waterfront, and more (those were my favorite). Walking around the Mediterranean section made us seriously feel like we were in Italy, it looked spitting image to it! The park also has tons of fun rides for thrill-seekers like Tower of Terror, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Temple of the Crystal Skull, which are must-dos while there.
How to get there: From Tokyo Station, you can take the JR Musashino Line or the JR Keiyo Line to Maihama Station. This is Tokyo Disney's station, and it's a very straightforward walk to the park entrances from here.
Day 5: Eat fresh Japanese eats at Toyosu Fish Market + Explore Tokyo Station + the Imperial Palace
Toyosu Fish Market is the place to go to relish in fresh Japanese cuisine. Toyosu is the replacement to Tsukiji Fish Market (once the world's largest and busiest fish market). The mayor sanctioned to have the market moved to Toyosu in 2018, apparently because Tsukiji's central location was too prime of real estate, so they moved to Toyosu which is located just a bit outside of the city center. It's free to walk around and observe fish in all shapes and sizes sold out on the streets, but also make sure to spend some yen to try the delicacies.
There's also a live tuna auction every morning at 5 a.m. which is apparently an epic experience but requires a very early morning wake up - guide books say you should arrive at 3:00 a.m. to guarantee one of the limited spots. We opted to just walk around the market later in the day and observe the madness, tasting different bites of sushi along the way.
On your way to Toyosu Fish Market, you will most likely transit through Tokyo Station. It's not just a normal subway station, it's a tourist attraction in its own right. They call this a "city-station" because it really does feel like a mini-city inside of it - inside the labyrinth, you'll find tons of dining and shopping options, hotels, art galleries, and more. Inside the station is a famous spot called Ramen Street, which, as it sounds, is an indoor street full of many top-rated Ramen spots.
If you're keen, a 5-minute walk outside of Tokyo Station is the Imperial Palace, the official residence for Japan's emperors since 1868. If you want to go inside, you have to register in advance (and only 500 are accepted each day), but it is free to do so.
Day 6: Take a day trip (to either Mt. Fuji or Hakone)
By now, you've seen a lot of the major sights in Tokyo and you may be keen to take a day trip and see more of what Japan has to offer. There are two really great options: Mt. Fuji or Hakone. A popular spot for viewing Mt. Fuji in all her glory is Lake Kawaguchi. I wrote an entire post about how to do a day trip from Tokyo to Kawaguchi here, including how to get the best photos of beautiful Fuji-san! Take a look at the photos below if you're not convinced to put this on your itinerary yet...
Hakone is another great option for a day trip, famous for its hot springs ('onsens') and The Hakone Shrine. If you want to visit hot springs while in Japan, this is the place to go! The most popular ones in Hakone are Yunessun and Tenzan. Keep in mind that onsens generally don't allow people with tattoos to use them (that's why my tattooed mom and I decided to take the day trip to Lake Kawaguchi instead of Hakone). Even if you are tatted and can't enter the hot springs, the Hakone Shrine, a striking red structure next to the sea, is well worth the visit to Hakone in and of itself.
Day 7: Explore Shinjuku & Harajuku areas
On your last day in Tokyo, I recommend leisurely exploring both Harajuku and Shinjuku special wards. Kick off in the day in Harajuku, Takeshita Street is a great place to start. On this street, you'll find everything that makes Harajuku so iconic - the colorful street art, the people dressed up in cosplay, the quirky street food stalls and clothing shops. Don't miss the rainbow grilled cheese sandwiches at Le Shiner, character-shaped cotton candy at Momi & Toys, and crepes at Marion Crepes.
Shinjuku is particularly fascinating at night time because of the array of neon lights flashing in your eyes from every direction. Once the headache sets in from all of that though, there's networks of charming old streets behind the flashiness. Navigate yourself to Omoide Yokocho (Memory Lane in English) and Golden Gai, the latter of which is popular for its so-called 'tiny bars' that fit 3 or so people inside. How quaint!
The train between the two special wards is only 4 minutes long, or you can walk about 35 minutes between them.
Final Thoughts on Why I Love Tokyo SO MUCH
Above everything else, my favorite part of Tokyo and overall Japan in general is the extremely respectful and considerate culture. If I bumped into someone, they would say sorry to me in their kindest voice even though it was my fault! Everybody naturally and instinctually walks and/or stands on the left side of things so that others who are in a hurry can pass on their right. The metro cars are SILENT, even when filled with tons of people packed together, because the Japanese are considerate of the personal happiness of others and don't want to disturb riders on the train due to their loud conversations.
Also, you know how you might see Japanese people wearing masks? I originally thought it was because of pollution, or because they didn't want to get sick from germs outside. BUT NO, it's because they themselves are sick and don't want to spread their germs to other people/strangers! Can you imagine that?! There simply isn't the same kind/respectful/considerate culture in the United States and it was beyond surprising and refreshing. I'd never experienced anything like it in the world.
Note: Please, please return this favor and act in an extra respectful manner while in Japan. I was in Tokyo during that horrid Logan Paul incident where he embarrassed all Americans/westerners with his completely inappropriate actions. Let's give the super respectful and nice Japanese people a good impression of tourists and treat them with the same amount of respect that they treat us!
There you have it, my recommendations for the perfect 7 day Tokyo itinerary. Did I miss anything major on my list? What did you think of Tokyo?