This post is your one week in Tokyo bucket list with travel tips. Tokyo is anything but short on fun. You can spend a lifetime here visiting a new place every day and still never see it all. Let that be a hint.
This past summer I got to check off Tokyo from my bucket list. A city I dreamt about visiting for as long as I can remember. It was also my first time in Asia, so you can imagine my excitement. I didn’t want to waste any time exploring the city. After one week I left with great memories, learning lessons and a strong desire to return asap.
I’ve made this guide to show you my daily itinerary for 7 days, as well as, tips I’ve picked up along the way. It’s a great read to get you started in the planning process. Enjoy!
Table of Contents
Psst. . . Looking for more guides around Japan? Check out my other posts.
How Much Spending Money for 2 Weeks in Japan? A Budget-Friendly Guide
Top Things to do in Kobe: Japan’s Most Underrated City
Tokyo Disneysea vs Disneyland
Know Before You Go: 7 Tips for Visiting Tokyo
These are tips I gathered from trial and error or trial and success I shall say.
1) Transportation doesn’t have to be expensive
There are two airports in Tokyo, Narita and Haneda. Both are far from the city center where many visitors stay. Taxis are incredibly expensive. For the same travel time but half the price, purchase a ticket after you land for the Limousine bus.
We booked our drop off location at the nearest metro station to our Airbnb and walked from there. The next morning we went back to the metro station and purchased our Suica Cards.
Suica Cards are the way to go for metro transportation around Tokyo. They work across all lines and can be purchased online for pickup on Klook or at a metro kiosk. You will be required to leave a 500 YEN deposit which is refundable when you return your Suica card.
From there you can upload however much you want. For the week that I was there, I spent around 6500 YEN ($60) on metro rides.
If you’re going out at night consider staying near clubs and bars because the metros close at 11 pm. If not, you risk a long walk home or a pricey taxi fare. Taxis are so expensive many locals will stay up all night until the subway lines reopen.
2) Sounds APPetizing
Download these apps to navigate the metros.
Unlike most other major cities, Tokyo’s metro lines are owned by three different companies, which makes getting around very confusing. Their tracks never cross so you have to pay attention to the detail.
Our first day was the worst. Luckily, a nice man who spoke English helped us. We also downloaded the apps which I mentioned above and it was (mostly) smooth sailing from there.
3) Forget about SIM cards
Pocket WiFi is cheaper and the way to go. Don’t know what pocket wifi is? It’s the greatest thing ever. A small device you carry around that grants you unlimited data on multiple devices.
We rented our pocket WIFI from Japan Wireless. It was $75 for 2 weeks ($5.35/day). Verizon Wireless was going to charge me $10/ day for one device. No thank you. As for SIM cards, they are for only one device which could be shared via hotspot but pocket WiFi will give you further range.
PRO TIP: Order it online before you leave so that it’s ready from pickup at the airport.
4) No cash = problems
Japan is a cash-heavy economy. With so many small businesses unwilling to pay the credit card fees, they operate solely on cash.
If you plan to get off the beaten path or shop markets you need cash. I brought $500 worth of YEN in cash for two weeks.
5) This is how you use the toilet
Apparently squatting on top of the toilet seat in an issue because you will see a “do not do this” sign in every stall. I have never thought to do this, but if you have, please don’t.
All the bathrooms sound like a rainforest – that is the noise option found conveniently in your stall. If you have a shy bladder just know you can always turn on the rain noise from your toilet seat touchpad.
Sometimes the touchpad is on the wall and sometimes it’s adjacent to the seat.
If all else fails
You can always do as the westerners do and use the flush knob.
Unlike many European cities, public toilets are everywhere in Tokyo and free. I never ran into a problem of needing to pay to use. The public restrooms are actually quite nice, even at the metro stations. I brought toilet seat covers just to be safe but never needed them.
6) Passport tax break
We came across a few stores that offer to remove taxes upon showing your passport. This could come in handy if you’re shopping for souvenirs. Many stores will have a sign out front indicating the tax break.
7) Get Your International Drivers Permit
There is one thing worth doing in Tokyo which I mention later that requires you to possess an international driver’s permit. You will need to get this before you leave for your trip. You can get it from a AAA office for $20.
Here’s how to apply:
1. Fill out the paperwork found on AAA
2. Get two passport photos (I got mine from Costco)
3. Bring a valid driver’s license
4. Go to a local AAA branch with all required documents and pay the $20
Should I stay in Shibuya or Shinjuku?
Given all the amazing neighborhoods, travelers are still very likely to book accommodation in Shibuya or Shinjuku. Both have tons of shopping, nightlife, and attractions, so my answer to you is book whatever hotel is within your budget and near a metro line. If that happens to be in Shibuya great. If that’s Shinjuku, also great.
Might I suggest a few hotels?
Hotel Tsubaki Kinshicho (love hotel) offers couples a relaxing space in the Sumida Ward District. If you’re interested in temples you will be near plenty. You’re also only a 4-minute walk to Kinshicho Station.
Hotel D-Wave Shinjuku (love hotel) is located in the heart of Shinjuku. Only a quarter-mile walk to Golden Gai and steps away from shopping and more.
Imperial Hotel (art nouveau) is a luxury hotel in Chiyoda City next to the Imperial Palace and several metro lines.
The Nine Hours Hotel (capsule hotel) for the budget-conscious traveler who is looking for a unique stay for less. The hotel itself is nicely decorated and a short walk to Asakusa station.
Keio Plaza Hotel (art nouveau)
JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom Shinjuku (luxury hotel) offers guests luxury in the heart of Shinjuku. You’re only a 3-minute walk from JR Shinjuku Station.
One Week in Tokyo Itinerary
I now present my Tokyo bucket list – a mishmash of non-touristy and popular things you absolutely cannot miss despite the risk of being in a heavy tourist area.
To be honest, there are so many people living in Tokyo. It’s the most densely populated city in-the-world so the chances of you finding a spot that isn’t crowded are slim to none. I wouldn’t be worried about finding yourself in touristy areas for the sake of crowds because everywhere is crowded.
Tokyo is massive (no surprise there) so I found it helpful to explore 1-2 neighborhoods per day – leaving an extra day or two to revisit places if needed.
Knowing where is where will greatly help you navigate the city, so I’ve broken down this itinerary by neighborhoods along with points of interest in each.
The Exhausting Arrival Day
I recommend arriving at night and going straight to bed to help reset you to the new time zone. This is one way to combat jet lag. After a long flight you will inevitably be exhausted, so might as well arrive at a bedtime hour. This will help you be ready for the next day.
Another way to overcome jet lag is to wake up and fast until lunch. That said, you can start your morning with a nice workout, followed by a trip to the metro station to get your Suica card.
Tokyo Government Building has a free observation deck for you to come and enjoy your first views of Tokyo.
Visit the Takashimaya department store at Takashimaya Times Square. My favorite part is located in the food court. A massive floor with all kinds of goodies from artisanal bread, ice cream, chocolates, and more!
Drinks at Old Blind Cat. An old school dive bar with delicious cocktails. One of my girlfriends who is from Tokyo told me about this place so of course, I had to trust her recommendation. It’s exactly what you imagine a dive bar to be only way better drinks. If you love Old Fashions as much as I do, then it’s worth a quick visit.
ADDRESS: Japan, 〒160-0022 Tokyo, Shinjuku City, Shinjuku, 3
Dinner at Alice’s Fantasy Restaurant. I have been wanting to visit this restaurant since the early days of Pinterest. I kid you not, I saved a pin from this place years ago. Like when you could scroll to the end of your Pinterest feed. Early adopter heyyy.
This restaurant takes you on a larger than life adventure to the Queen of Hearts domain. Giant card troops and red heart-shaped tables transport you to a magical world. The servers are all dressed adorably like Alice.
ADDRESS: Japan, 〒160-0021 Tokyo, Shinjuku City, Kabukicho, 1 Chome−6−2 T-wing ビル B2
Golden Gai for a night out with the locals. There are over 270 of these tiny bars across a few rows known as Golden Gai. Most places will require a minimum drink spend so chose wisely.
Go to late-night Karaoke and sing with a live band at Pub Karaoke Studio Himawari.
ADDRESS: Miyata Bldg. 5F-B, 1-4-12 Kabuki-cho, Shinjuku, Tokyo (Next to Shinjuku ward office, located on the fifth floor of Miyata building)
You might also like the famous Robot Cafe. I never got a solid review from people so decided to skip it. It’s expensive, the food menu looks awful, and I still don’t know what it’s about. I’m still mentioning it because I can’t truly knock something I haven’t tried.
The next two days will be spent at the happiest place on earth or at least one of them, Tokyo Disneyland and Disneysea. You want to purchase your tickets in advance online. The ticket lines get crazy and will waste so much time. We got 2 two day pass for $244.
Below are some purchase options from Get Your Guide. I use them for everything! I also wrote a separate post showing the differences between Tokyo Disneysea and Disneyland with a video!
Get an early start to your day at Teamlab Borderless. They open at 10 am. I recommend getting there about 15 minutes before they open so you can be the first person in. It will get super busy, so if you want to enjoy the rooms without waiting in lines, go early.
Teamlab Borderless will take you a couple of hours to experience it all after which you can get lunch nearby for head to Shibuya station.
Shibuya is known for cutting edge clothing stores, a wide array of dining options, and vibrant nightlife.
Shibuya is also home to the busiest crosswalk in the world. People from around the world come to both view the madness and join in with fellow pedestrians as they scramble from one side to the other.
One of the best places to view Shibuya crossing is the nearby Starbucks. Once you exit Shibuya station you will see the Starbucks sign. You can’t miss it.
This Starbucks also happens to be one of the busiest ones in the world. Coincidence? I think not. We got lucky and found a couple leaving as we were coming in, but if you find yourself without a view, head to one of these nearby and equally great viewpoints:
Mag’s Park at the Magnet by Shibuya 109. You do have to pay an entrance fee to enter this open-air observation deck. Hours of operation are daily between 11 am – 11 pm.
L’Occitane Cafe on the 2nd or 3rd floor will offer great views of the crosswalk. If you’re hungry it might be worth it to have your lunch here while enjoying the views.
Shibuya Station has decent views. It would be so much better if the glass didn’t have a design on them.
Find peace at Meiji Shrine – a dedication to the deity of Emperor Meiji. He was the first Emporer to modernize and westernize Japan to join with major world powers.
Once you pass the main gate (shown above), you will have a decent walk to the Meiji Shrine with stop-offs along the way. There are a lot of things to see here which require admissions. The Meiji Shrine, however, is free to enter.
P.S. You are not permitted to bring food in.
Grab a drink at Tight. Tight is a tiny bar in the Shibuya drinking alley that fits maybe 5 people comfortably. It’s hard to find if you’re not paying attention. They have a tiny sign outside.
Its small size is not the only thing that makes Tight unique. They also infuse their own liquor in-house such as peach brandy and lemon gin to use in their delicious cocktails. Overall, it was a great atmosphere with great concoctions.
ADDRESS: 1 Chome-25-10, Shibuya, Tokyo Prefecture
Harajuku is located between Shibuya and Shinjuku. Takeshita Dori is the famous shopping street here and center to all things Kawaii meaning “cute”.
You cannot walk down this street and not feel joy with the amount of adorable pink things inside every store. One of the best stores is To Alice; A Lolita fashion store. That’s where I bought the dress you see in the picture above. Worth every cent.
The Hedgehog Cafe is less of a cafe and more so an animal store where potential buyers can pay to play with the hedgehogs for an hour. They do encourage you to adopt one at the end of your visit.
Get dessert before dinner at Dobutsuen The Zoo Ice Cream Shop. Not only is the ice cream adorable, but it was also one of the best we had during our whole trip to Japan. So good!
Conveyer belt Sushi for dinner is a must. Price is determined by color and design of the plate so if you’re not paying attention you might be picking up a plate costing 500 Yen. A full meal for one person plus beer and tip cost $25.
If you don’t see what you’re looking for on the conveyor belt, just ask the cook to make it for you. The menus list a few order phrases for non-Japanese speaking guests.
Start your morning with a little thrill at Street Kart Tokyo Bay BBQ. Dress up as your favorite Disney, Superhero or Anime character and hit the road in, you guessed it, a go-kart. It was awesome!
This is the time for you to whip our your international driving permit and passport. After, you will watch a short safety video then hit the road.
Make sure you say hi to Aydan. He was our awesome tour guide who comforted me when I got nervous about driving on the busy streets of Tokyo in a go-kart.
Akihabara is known as the anime district. It’s home to tons of arcades and shops with all kinds of anime goods; SEGA being the most popular one.
While you’re walking in awe, stop in a few retail shops to discover what’s inside. We ended up in a retro card exchange shop with expensive AF Pokemon trading cards.
Of course, we had to experience the SEGA arcades. This is not what you imagine an arcade to be. Some floors are only claw machines while others are sit down games; I can’t even begin to explain it.
Hitachino Brewing Lab is a local craft beer bar worth stopping by.
ADDRESS: Japan, 〒101-0041 Tokyo, Chiyoda City, Kanda Sudacho, 1 Chome−25-4
Asakusa is home to Senso-Ji Shrine – Tokyo’s oldest temple. It’s a large ground with lots of activities for cost. We paid to shake out our fortune from a box and bought burners to toss into some spiritual bowl. Honestly, it was all a smokey blur but fun to say the least.
You do need to remember that this is a sacred place so be respectful of the people who come to worship. If the signs say no photography then respect their wishes.
We got lucky and caught a wedding ceremony. That was really cool to witness for a brief moment. Maybe the same will happen to you.
You will break for lunch at Nakamise Shopping Street. This is a wonderful market with a mix of food and goods.
The final day. By this time, you will be a little worried you didn’t see everything and that’s because you didn’t. Tokyo is just too big to see it all. I felt the same way but had to check myself and realize I still saw a lot and for that I was grateful.
To end your journey with some adventure and cheer, head to Tokyo Dome City for thrills and meals.
Tokyo Dome City is an entertainment complex; home to amusement rides, dining, shopping, arcades, and a concert hall where you might catch a K-Pop concert. It was a great ending to a perfect week.
How much does it cost to visit Tokyo for a week?
Tokyo is known to be very expensive. It’s not a lie. Because of this, we watched our pennies when it came to food and drinks. We didn’t drink much alcohol and shopped at local grocery stores where we bought water, snacks and the occasional lunch or late-night snack.
Here is how much I spent over one week in Tokyo:
Airport transfer $8
Suica card $120
Food & Drink $230
Attractions & Shopping $345
Senso-Ji activities: $2
Arcade Games: $8
Rides at Tokyo Dome: $5
Street Kart tip: $5
Shopping in Harajuku $162
Teamlab Borderless $60
Total cost for 1-week in Tokyo for two people: $1,579. This does not include international flights or pocket wifi which is included in my total cost for 2-weeks in Japan.
Tokyo Packing List
For once, I am going to suggest you do all your shopping in Tokyo. There are way too many places to not take advantage of. Closet makeover? Everything you need will be there. Even Q-tips are cheaper than in the USA.
If you have specific brands you cannot live without, then bring them. That or risk it in the off chance you will find it there for less. I found my favorite face wash in the world in Tokyo for half the price in the USA.
RECAP: One Week in Tokyo Bucket List
Walk around Shinjuku admiring the views
Free observation deck at Tokyo Government Building
Drinks at Old Blind Cat
Dinner at Alice’s Fantasy Restaurant
Night out in Golden Gai
Karaoke at Studio Himawari
Disneyland & Disneysea
Experience the art at Teamlab Borderless
Drinks at Tight in Shibuya
Witness Shibuya Crossing
Play with adorable Hedgehogs at Hedgehog Cafe
Go shopping on Takeshita-Dori in Harajuku
Dobutsuen The Zoo Ice Cream Shop
Conveyor Belt Sushi
Street Kart Tokyo
Walk the street of Akihabara
Grab a local craft beer at Hitachino Brewing Lab
Play inside the SEGA arcades
Nakamise Shopping Street
Tokyo Dome City
Tokyo transported me into another world. As a westerner, it was the most incredible city I’ve ever been to. If you ever get the chance to go, which I hope is soon, you will love it.
Psst. . . Looking for more guides around Japan? Check out my other posts.
Cost of 2-weeks in Japan
Top Things to do in Kobe: Japan’s Most Underrated City
Tokyo Disneysea vs Disneyland
Are you ready for your week in Tokyo or what? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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