Help Me Plan My Trip to Tokyo!

by on May 27, 2011 · 53 comments

in Contests, Delta

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Next Friday I will be flying to Tokyo for the first time. I’ll have three days to spend there and I’d appreciate your help figuring out where to go and what to eat. I’m going solo and I don’t speak a lick of Japanese, so I’m in need of your best recommendations! I generally don’t like really touristy attractions and I despise waiting in line.

I arrive in Tokyo on Sunday at 5am (flying Delta JFK-LAX-Haneda), leaving on Wednesday afternoon and I’ll be staying at the Park Hyatt. That’s all I have planned as of right now, but I’d like to get things finalized this weekend. Please give me your best recommendations in the comments section and I’ll be giving back a special gift from Tokyo to a random commenter when I get home.

This trip is just the beginning of a lineup of more traveling for 2011 and I have some pretty exciting news that I’ll write about next week. Safe travels and enjoy the long holiday weekend!

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Jay

    The things I’d see/do are:
    - Tsukiji Fish Market, eat sushi here (not on sundays though)

    - Meiji Shrine/Yoyogi Park (if it’s a Sunday, YOU MUST check out the bridge near the entrance to the shrine because all sorts of Japanese youths decked out in some of the most amazing costumes spend the day hanging out there. They love having their pictures taken too!)

    - Takeshita-dori (street in Harajuku near Meiji Shrine with all sorts of random shops for costumes, music, has to be seen to be believed.)

    - Tokyo Metropolitan Government Center in Shinjuku for the free observatory (go during the day and after dark to see how the city gets lit up if you so choose).

    - Kabuki-cho (notorious entertainment district in Shinjuku, somehow every Western film set in Tokyo has a shot of the iconic entrance to Kabuki-cho in it.)

    - Edo-Tokyo museum

    - Akihabara (only if you are into electronics/manga/video games and/or plan on purchasing any of the above)

    - Shibuya (shopping district with the biggest intersection I’ve seen)

    - Ginza (Shibuya but for more luxurious brands)

    - Ueno Park (Huge, gorgeous park with lakes)

    - Odaiba (Rainbow Bridge, VenusFort shopping center, FujiTV building)

    - Sensōji Temple complex in Asakusa. Don’t miss!

    Avoid the Tokyo Tower if you don’t like waiting in lines. It’s a ripoff and always swarming with tourists.

    Have a great trip!

  • Jerimi

    All of the reccs above are great! One of the most fun and simple things I had fun doing was roaming around stores like Tokyu Hands and The Loft (Tokyo Hands is my fav) and Im not even a shopper. They just have such a variety of strange things available that it is just entertainment to see what is on the next floor. For example, an entire floor of Tokyo Hands is devoted to luggage while another floor is crafts including strange stickers and notebooks. The electronics floor had stuff like a talking penguin you put in your fridge that greets you when you open it.

    In the takashimaya times square building off the train station in Shinjuku, the lower level is a food level. One half is a grocery store and the other half is full of small food “stalls”. Not only are these a great deal for food but it is fun to walk around and try to figure out what everything is! One day I had some amazing sushi…well thats almost impossible not to do there… and then another day I managed to buy what I thought was a normal omelet but turned out to be an octopus omelet. LOL. I always bought more than one thing just in case!

  • Cliburn

    The above posts cover most of what I would do (altho I would skip Ginza). Hit the sumo area which is really close to the Tokyo-edo museum. Don’t miss the fish market, Akihabara and Tokyu Hands (you WILL leave with a bag of things you never imagined.
    I would buy a Suica card to make transport easier.
    I would go to a baseball game — pretty easy to buy a single ticket day of game. There are several local teams with the Tokyo Giants at the Tokyo Dome being the most convenient. Really fun experience… the game… the fans… the food…. totally different than the US.
    I would also take the train down to Kamakura for the day and explore the temples there.
    Be adventuous eating…hand language, plastic displays and pictures in menus go a long way. Stay away from places that seem to cater to foreigners (but some ‘western’ looking coffee shops are fun and different). Stay away from Roppongi.

  • Cliburn

    As for food, many of the better restaurants (not the more expensive, but the better) specialize in one type of food. So decide what you want and find one that has only that. Make sure you try Ramen, Sushi, Tonkatsu, tempura, and Kaiseki (if you can find an affordable option). I have found it alot easier to wander around to find them than to plan/research on the web….. too hard to find specific addresses.
    One thing you SHOULD do is to buy a Bento box lunch in a department store or train station.

  • Shuji

    This is the same advice I give to anyone going to Japan. Since the one thing you’re going to miss the most after you leave is the food, eat 5 meals a day. (I usually eat one bowl of ramen a day there.) You won’t be able to eat Japanese food in the states for several months after coming back because it just won’t be the same. Second the rec from above on Tsukiji…don’t get run over by a forklift. Second the rec on seeing the food (usually lower level) level at Takashimaya or any major department store. Second the rec on getting as high as you can and looking out over the Tokyo skyline. It’s amazing how it just goes on and on. You can’t see the end of the city. Have a great time.

  • David

    best ramen places, in order of awesomeness —

    nagi (several locations, but we went to the one in shibuya)
    menya musashi (in shinjuku — the park hyatt should be able to direct you)
    chuka soba inoue (near the fish market)

  • Gregory Tran

    I’d say Tsukiji Fish Market, ramen, yakitori, and tempura would be my priorities there…

    I’m planning a trip myself from the $588 fares and came across this blog post (not mine) that has a pretty good overview of tokyo food…

    Have fun!

  • Kevin

    Jay gives some very good recommendations. My favorite spots were Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Harajuku.

    When every I just let the wind take me to a place I always ended up in Shibuya. Especially at night it’s an awesome site all lit up.

    I didn’t get to Tsukiji Fish Market during my visit and I’m really disappointed that I didn’t see it. Your first morning there you’ll wake up at 3-5am anyway due to the jetlag so might as well get up and check out the Fish Market.

  • Stefan

    A decade after spending several months in Tokyo, these places stick most in my memory:
    -Riding the loop of Tokyo on the Yamanote Line
    -Kappabashi Market’s plastic food models and kitchenware, near Asakusa Shrine
    -Yasakuni Shrine and its museum (haunting WWII experience)
    -Zozo-Ji Temple and its Jizo statues (melancholy, deeply moving)
    -Love Hotel Hill near Shibuya (quite the fun selection!)

  • Supon

    Absolutely Avoid the Tokyo Tower!!!!

    What’s kind of night life would you like to do?

  • Joseph Linaschke


    I just learned about a guy known as the “Tokyo Fixer” — Apparently he’s the man to contact for a trip to Tokyo if you’re willing to pay to have your trip done right!


  • A. S.

    All about Tokyo is great — I’m sure you’ll have a blast! I wish I were going, too! Tokyo is a pricey city, but there are always cheaper (and sometimes even better) alternatives, so don’t be afraid to wander on your own. However, English is a problem there, so make use of the hotel staff to give you maps and specific directions and remember to take with you a hotel card with the address written in Japanese in case you need it. Other than that, the two things that stand out most in my mind are 1) how fashion-forward and elegant the Japanese are, and 2) the food, of course. :) Enjoy!

  • Kanoelani

    Since I love to walk, I found the subway extremely handy. Almost every subway station has something unique to explore. Get a day pass, but be careful of which subway company it is valid for.

    What sticks most in my memory (using Stefan’s expression) is the displays of Toto bathroom & kitchen products at Toto Super Space in Shinjuku.

  • Jason

    Don’t worry about not speaking much Japanese; Tokyo is quite foreigner-friendly, as almost all the public signs have english translations.

    All the above suggestions are great, so I’ll just list what I did from the above suggestions. A Suica card is a must, and you will get lost and squished on the subway system (part of the fun); I always got lost just walking around Shinjuku station. Definitely check out Yoyogi Park on Sunday for the wacky visitors; you’ll see cosplayers, dancing rockabillies, and more; Meiji shrine is close by as well. Walk around Harajuku to see the wild fashion; there’s also a pretty good crepes stand in Takeshita-dori. Sensoji temple at Asakusa is worth seeing for the huge lantern at the entrance and the shops that line the entrance to the shrine; try the confections being sold at the stands. Nearby in Asakusa, Kappabashi-dori might be worth a quick visit to see all the intricate and realistic restaurant plastic displays, such as plastic sushi. Sushi at Tsukiji is a must, but I agree about watching out for forklifts, because the drivers are in a rush and dislike the tourists. The cross-walk outside of Shibuya station is a sight worth seeing just for the massive amounts of people that cross it. Speaking of Shibuya, if you want interesting experience with ramen, try eating at Ichiran Ramen in Shibuya; you choose your ramen from a vending machine (dispenses a ticket, not the ramen!) and can customize your order. If you know a local, go experience karaoke; it’s not always the drunken bar experience most people associate with it. A Yomiuri Giants game is definitely worth a look if you’re into baseball; the fanaticism of the fans, both visiting and home teams, is amazing. Tokyu Hands is worth looking at for the sheer randomness.

    You already have a hotel booked, but if you want more off-beat things to do, try spending one night in a capsule hotel; I stayed at one in Shinjuku (though I had a hotel already) and it actually wasn’t too bad an experience, though the public bath experience can be somewhat unnerving (learn proper bath etiquette before attempting). While I’m always for fine dining, I also recommend trying out the the local fast food (Yoshinoya, etc) and food from konbini, aka convenience stores, for the experience; if you can, try to find as many flavors of Kit-Kats as you can (makes a great souvenir). Heck, even Starbucks and McDonalds are worth a look to see the unique local offerings and experience. You really can’t go wrong with any of the suggestions everyone offered; every subway stop is a real adventure.

  • Michael

    After you go to the fish market/auction, walk outside the market for the best bowl of ramen in your life – little outdoor stands. Amazing.

    If y r into seeing the huge Japanese fettish of sexualizing 14 year old innocent girls, then just open your eyes as you walk through the rapungi. I found it extremely offputing, but old Japanese men are there lurking in abundance

    Check out Tony bourdains blog on best sushi places but I would avoid the pricier places as sushi is just as good in NYC. Instead, a day trip to mt Fuji and subsequent hike will blow your mind

  • Seattle

    avoid roppongi for nightlife. if you’re feeling adventurous instead of riding on the Yamanote line walk parts of it(Shibuya to Shinjuku is recommended)… might get lost, but you will see some local things along the way.

    must see yoyogi park and meiji shrine.

  • Jenny

    I stayed in 2 Hyatts in Tokyo and would strongly recommend the Grand Hyatt in Roponggi over the Park Hyatt. While the Park is cool (and I would stay for 1 night just to stay at the “Lost in Translation” hotel), the Roponggi Hills Hyatt was in a better location. Park’s area was dead after business hours and Roponggi was much more posh. (There is a difference between this and the seedier Roponggi folks are advising you to avoid). The Park concierge has a great list of sushi spots in Tsukiji but be prepared to be up at 4 AM.

    If you love high end goods, i.e. Panerai, Patek, Louis, Hermes, check out the “recycled shops” in Shinjuku. These are excellent quality goods (sometimes even brand new) for resale at a fraction of the cost. Japanese love luxury goods so much, they go through them quickly, hence a large market for these items. You can find rare items as well and no need to worry about fakes — I asked around and everyone aghast/amused I would even insinuate fake. ;)

    P.S. TPG, I looooove your blog!

  • Iolaire McFadden

    Get a TOKYO FREE GUIDE for some portion of your trip and let someone show you around their town.

    When my wife and I did it a PD program engineering student showed us around the Imperial Place area, went with us to the beer museum and then had lunch with us. It’s a great no cost – no tip program (we paid for museum entry and lunch).

  • Spicy B

    I would definitely hit up an onsen (hot springs, bath house). If you have a tattoo, you might get denied access. But they’re similar to day spas here, with many different types of large warm & cold pools, saunas, steam rooms. They usually have massage services, and food available too, for a fee. Entrance is relatively cheap, around $10 or less. If you have time, perhaps at least half a day, I would head over to Mt. Fuji; what a gorgeous sight. AND one of my most favorite burgers, MOS Burger, is from Japan. I would rank it #2 burger in the world, behind In N Out.

  • latenitecam

    Seems like nobody likes to go out at night– late at night– from what I’ve read in these comments.

    I like to go out late at night and I found a great article in the Times online about what to look for.

  • Dean

    Try the sushi in Tokyo. It’s AMAZING!

  • AAP

    Great advice on things to do in Tokyo here. I’ve been to Japan many times and spent a summer there as a foreign exchange student.

    Although many of the signs are translated in English, you MUST learn some basic Japanese phrases (i.e. Where’s the bathroom? How much does this cost? Which way is the subway station? etc). English is not spoken by most, so I’d recommend keeping a Japanese-English Dictionary with you or at least print a page or two of common Japanese phrases.

    I also second the recommendation on staying in the “nice” part of Roppongi. It’s beautiful with many modern buildings, restaurants, and hotels. However, there are seedy parts of Roppongi night life with Nigerian dudes trying to pull you into clubs – stay away from them. Good luck and enjoy!

  • Mark

    LOVED Tokyo, its great for all of the reasons listed above…but I would be sure to check out some of the more quiet cities outside of Tokyo. I know you are going in and out of Haneda, but we had a night in the city of Narita before leaving from that airport and it was probably the best night of the trip. Getting away from the big city lights for a night was worth it. Spending a night with GREAT food, beer, shochu and really friendly locals was a blast.

  • David

    Thanks for posting this question TPG! I, too, will be visiting Tokyo for the first time next week! I get in on Friday afternoon and leave late Monday evening.

    We’ve already set up Saturday and Sunday with Tokyo Free Guide, as mentioned above. Since we’re spending a boatload at the Westin, I figured we’d do an more economical method of touring. I’ve read good things about it.

  • Panam

    Not much to add to all the great recs above…took my family to Japan last month and loved every minute of it – would go back in a heartbeat.

    The language wont’ be a problem at all. Most all key signs you need to get around have English as someone noted. Some Japanese, especially younger folks though sometimes an older person, get a kick out of trying out their English with you – we had a number of people approach us just for that purpose, in fact. And if you’re lost, or even look lost, it’s not difficult to find help – even if the person can’t speak any English they will invariably do their best to help you by gesturing or pointing on the map.

    Even ordering in most restaurants or food stands isn’t hard, so many have pictures or plastic food models – your index finger will work if your language fails you! In addition to the traditional Japanese fare, we enjoyed trying their fast food chains such as MOSBUrger, Freshness Burger

    For 3 days it’s probably not worth getting a phrasebook but at least pick up a few key phrases from an online source so you can say please, excuse me, etc. you’ll be fine. We did try and speak Japanese when we could which is always appreciated.

    Depending on how much you want to wander about, I”d recommend the Tokyo Atlas We found it worth its weight in gold navigating the city and planning your way around.

  • Scott

    Something that wasn’t mentioned, but really enjoy was the mori art museum atop the roppongi hills tower in roppongi. Very interesting art to be found there. It’s atop a 52 story building and they also have an indoor 360 degree observation deck that has stunning views of the entire city. For me, it’s a must visit every time i return to Tokyo

  • Carrie

    I took a lot of JTB Sunrise Tours. I like tours for packing in the most information in the least time
    – Favorite was Full Day Edo Tokyo where we travelled by foot / public transportation (Toei Subway pass) – included Hamarikyu Onshi Teien (Garden), Tsukiji Outer Fish Market, Inari Shrine, Shinto shrine, Edo-Tokyo Museum. Then I used my pass to shop at Tokyu Hands, etc.
    - Enjoyed Nikko Heritage but it was a long day
    - Two day tour 1) Mt Fuji by bus and to Kyoto by shinkansen 2) full-day Kyoto tour; late arrival by shinkansen in Tokyo. Everytime we had to make a train change, there would be a student waiting for us who would get us on the right train and give us directions as to where to get off next.

  • Anita

    I went last yr and loved it. People don’t speak much English there, but I learned that if you write it down they can read it. They don’t get much speaking and listening practice so that definitely helps.

    Definitely go to Shibuya Crossing and see the crowds of people crossing the street. You get a nice view of that from the upstairs of the Starbucks. I also liked the Harajuku area to look at the different styles people dressed in. Akihabara (AKA Electric Town) for the many electronics stores, and Tsukiji Fish Market. If you can get up early enough and they’re open you can see the tuna auctions. Also, try to get some Yakitori (Japanese skewers) – the first time I had them was in Tokyo and since I returned home to the Bay Area and Tokyo definitely has the best (flavor, variety, service). They have places that basically only serve skewers.

    I love Tokyo!

    Before I left for my tript my friend had typed up a list of recommendations that i will just paste here:

    Tokyo Area:
    1. Shibuya – fashion center. You can do lots of shopping here. “109″
    building has about 9 floors worth of women’s clothing. This is also
    the place that you see in movies and such with the big and busy
    2. Shinjuku – malls. Right next to tokyo’s red light district, Kabuki-cho.
    3. Ginza – very touristy and high end shops. There’s a shiseido museum
    here, I think it’s closed on Mondays, so keep that in mind.
    4. Roppongi – popular area for clubbing. Lots of foreigners
    5. Tsukiji – Fish market. Definitely get there early, probably when
    the first train starts running so that you can see the market in
    action. Try some fresh fish!

    Day trips around Tokyo:
    1. Nikko – Shrines and great scenery. Famous for their waterfall,
    Kegon Falls. Can be reached by taking the Tobu-Nikko train and then
    you can take the bus up to the waterfall. You can buy a bus pass that
    will allow you on and off privileges and you can take the bus around
    the entire day. I would recommend taking the bus up to the falls and
    then back down. Afterwards, you can just walk around as the buses tend
    to get full as it gets later. Toshogu shrine also houses the “Three
    Wise Monkeys”, better known as “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no
    evil”. The actual carving is quite small, so you’ll have to look for
    2. Kamakura – Very historical, lots of shrines. Famous for the
    Daibutsu (Giant Buddha). You can get there by taking the train
    (Yokosuka line). Lots of different other temples. You can choose a
    couple to walk around in and spend your day there.

    I would definitely try to get sushi on a conveyor belt, udon/ramen,
    takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and shabu shabu. I still like Chinese hot pot
    better than shabu shabu, but still worth trying. Also, check out all
    the different flavored kit kats that they have to offer (orange,
    cookies and cream, etc.). They have different flavors at diff times
    and some are limited edition.

  • Anita

    One more note: Before I left I got the Frommers book on Tokyo that I read while I was there and it was super useful! You can go to and it has the same content as well.

  • Rahul Francis

    I love Tokyo so much, there’s so much to see!

    -Ueno Park!!! Such a beautiful place to relax
    -Kabuki-cho, amazing entertainment and such.

    Have fun on the trip!

    BTW: How do you find the time to do all of this? And the money as well… even though you pay for most of this in points. No offense, but do you have a job? Because I’d like to live like you… :D

  • Reiko

    You’ve already got great suggestions, so I’ll just add some tips.

    Language won’t be a big problem. Most Japanese can read and write English. Or if you speak clearly and slowly, they will be able to understand and respond to you. But please remember they are extremely shy and they may not speak to you “May I help you?” even if you looked lost your way. But try to speak to someone around you, they will surely help you.

    When you need something, go to convenience stores like Seven Eleven, Lawson, and Family Mart chains. You can find such stores everywhere. Almost all things you need/want can be found there. Also, you can find fancy sweets and snacks (various flavors of Kit Kat, Kinokonoyama, etc) for souvenirs there :)

    Park Hyatt Tokyo is one of the best hotels in Tokyo. I love Kozue, a Japanese restaurant located on the 40th floor, which is a bit expensive but I believe it worth visiting to enjoy good Japanese food and sake at the tables with a nice view. I think the food quality is very high for a hotel restaurant (Unlike other Asian cities, good restaurants are generally not in the hotels in Japan). Gold Passport Diamond members may enjoy complimentary breakfast there (ask at the reception if it’s available still now).
    The Club on the Park is one you shouldn’t miss at this hotel. It opens early in the morning so don’t forget to take your swimming suit with you to refresh yourself and relieve from jet lag.
    One thing that is inconvenient is that you need a taxi to go to the nearby station or shuttle bus (complimentary service is available for Shinjuku station).
    But to and from airports, direct limousine bus service is available. So you won’t lose the way. For your information, a limousine bus leaves Haneda at 5:45 am.

    Try avoid take trains between 8:00-9:00 am and 6:00-7:00 pm on weekdays. It’s commuting time. Stations are full of crowd and trains are packed like a sardine tin.

    As you may know, there are three Hyatt hotels in Tokyo. Japanese Gold Passport members (including me) do mattress run between the Hyatt Regency and the Grand Hyatt (if the rate is reasonable) and spend a free night at the Park Hyatt. The Grand Hyatt is very generous to offer an upgrade to the Diamond members and its Club Lounge is comfortable to stay. So if I were you

    Lastly, about tipping. You need NO tips in Japan. No tips for porters, concierge, housekeepers, taxi drivers, waiters/waitresses, etc. Most bills include a 10%-15% service charge at the hotels and restaurants. But even no service charge is included, you don’t need to pay tips. Some people will receive them, but many would feel uncomfortable to receive; tips tend not to be deemed as gratitude, but people may think you are trying to impress you are rich. Money is not always a proof of gratitude in Japan. Rather, they will feel happier if you say “thank you” and add something extra like “It’s delicious” “I’ve never enjoyed such a nice food” or praise their skills or what they do for you.

    If you want to go to very local areas, get in contact @uraume on Twitter or to my email address.

    We have already in a rainy season but hope you enjoy your stay.

  • Anita

    Reiko’s comment also reminded me. if u r able to get to the shinjuku (one of the very packed stations), go and watch how packed the trains get. i never got there in time, but u should be able to see ppl who work for the trains push ppl on.

  • Reiko

    Oops, I uploaded halfway…

    Let me add:

    So if I were you, I would stay at the Grand Hyatt for one of the nights.

  • Ted

    Bring a dictionary. Try those (ramen) places where you order by buying “food ticket” from a machine.

  • Ashley

    If you like sushi, you should go to a place called gonpachi -the one near ginza area. The sushi chef will make you the most fabulous outrageous sushi of your life. Sit at the sushi bar and make sure to sit in front if the head sushi chef named Ouzeumi. Make sure to try the trigger fish liver nigiri. You won’t be disappointed. Present him your business card at the end of the meal with both hands and a bow as a sign of a respect (assuming u liked the meal). Read up on Japanese culture, bowing and signs of respect before you go. This will be very helpful. The site globesmart is very handy if you’ve never used it. I also recommend getting up early and touring the fish market and eating sushi for “breakfast” if you can handle sushi at 6am. It’s an amazing experience. I’d recommend learning a few phrases to help get you around as I found cab drivers really prefer it when you can speak a little Japanese. . Have fun!!

  • Jeffrey

    To soak up traditional Japanese culture, stroll around established neighborhoods in eastern Tokyo, like Asakusa, Ueno and Tsukishima.
    For shopping: Aoyama and Omotesando areas.
    Look around Ginza’s major department stores’ basement floors with all kinds of gastronomic delights presented and packaged in a way that only the Japanese are able to. Have some samplings while you’re at it. provides all kinds of cultural info, written by people who appreciate Japanese culture
    Shinjuku is the gay area. For a 45th floor view of the city, go to the (free) observatories of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Center.
    For nightlife, walk through Shibuya, very popular with the young crowd.
    Should you consider getting out of the city, Kamakura with its temples and shrines on the Pacific coast makes for a wonderful trip.
    Have a great time!

  • Chad

    Had same itinerary as you in terms of flights and hotel, but I moved to the Grand Hyatt after 3 nights and liked it so much more. The club was amazing, location is far superior unless you’re on business or extremely lame, and they put us in an insane suite that isn’t even rivaled by the townhouse at the Highlands Inn. I would consider changing to the Grand and saving the point differntial.

  • Chad

    Wrong about the point differential but I did think the Grand was more fun.

  • Evan

    There have been a lot of great suggestions here… If you are interested in taking a private Japanese cooking class and with a wonderful Japanese chef and family in their home, just outside of Shibuya, let me know.

    There are some great restaurants in Tokyo, but a home cooked meal by a professional chef would be an experience you would never forget!

    Let me know if you are interested.

  • timeforsomecheese

    I wish you had asked this question before I visited Tokyo about six months ago!

    The one thing I found extremely useful was a service called Tokyo Free Guide.

    Before our trip started, we visited the website, put in the dates we would be in Tokyo, and when we would need a guide. They then put us in touch with a different guide for each day, and communicated via email as to what we hoped to see each particular day. The guide would then make suggestions as to what looked good on paper, and what was more realistic because of the distance and travel times.

    Each morning of our trip, the guide would meet us at the hotel, and start off on our adventure (we had two children with us under the age of 10). They stayed with you for a long or as little as you would like, provided help in translating, dining, transportation, etc. All for FREE! Of course, if there were expenses along the way, such as a train ticket, meal, museum ticket, it was expected that you cover their cost. The guides provided these services as a way to foster good will and tourism in Japan. It was remarkable!

    We made some wonderful friends through this service, and hope to see them again the next time we travel to Tokyo!

    Also, there is a Kyoto Free Guide, and Hiroshima Free Guide, in case you feel like visiting any other cities. If you get the chance, and do head to Kyoto, be sure to visit the city of Nara, where the deer roam free in the streets with the humans. I have never seen anything like it in the world. Do a Google image search, and you’ll see!

  • Robb

    The above reccommendations are great. Avoiding lines is especially hard in Japan, no way around that other than going outside of the city but with only 3 days there, not much you can do on that front.

    For food, definitely the off the tourist areas will be hard if you don’t speak any Japanese. For food, sushi is expensive for the best type, I’d stick to the other foods like soba noodles, local rice dishes, etc…

    Travel during peak times on the subway can be confusing and frustrating esp if you don’t like lines.

    You may be better to just do a guided tour of the city. They often have advance of line perks.

    Some tourist attraction suggestions include:
    - Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden about .6miles from city center
    - Zenkoji Temple about 2.1 miles from city center
    - many places have tea ceremonies you can do

    Honestly you will find enough to do by simply walking around. Have fun!

  • warabimochi

    I’d also add
    - Jinbocho/Ochanomizu – This is the bookstore and publishing district and has a tremendous number of small used bookstores, and it’s interesting to check out even if you don’t read Japanese!
    - Yanaka – This is one of the few areas to emerge from the WWII bombing of Tokyo relatively unscathed as a whole. There are many old shrines and cemeteries and it’s a great place to wander.
    - Nezu Museum – The tea garden is beautiful – even if you’re not interested in the exhibit in the museum it’s worth a visit. Get directions to walk here from Omotesando, or even better (if you don’t mind a few more minutes of walking) from Harajuku – this can be combined with a visit to Meiji Jingu and Takeshita dori (mentioned above) and the architecture on this walk is spectacular. If you do walk from Harajuku you can stop for decent kaiten (conveyor belt) sushi at a place called Heiroku on the south side of Omotesando between Meiji dori and Aoyama dori.
    - In Tsukiji market, I recommend a sushi bar called Daiwa Sushi. The set menu is around 3800yen and is delicious. It’s a great place to get your 7am sushi fix.
    - If you’re willing to spend a bit on food (how often do you get to Tokyo anyway?) I love Ten Ichi for tempura. Go to the main branch in Ginza. And for sushi, Kyubei, also in Ginza, is insane. Get a reservation to sit at the bar in the tatami room on the 3rd floor. It holds 8 people or so and, for me, was a once-in-a-lifetime experience (until I developed a problematic habit).

    The concierge at the Park Hyatt will be able to tell you the best way to get to these places and make reservations.

    Wander the twisty small side streets and let yourself get lost. It’s totally safe, you can always ask directions to the nearest station or a place where you can find a cab, and you’ll see amazing things. Tokyo is an incredible, organic city.

    I enjoy your site and have benefited from your advice. Thanks and have a great trip!

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  • chubbuni13

    Hey Bryan. I noticed along with one other poster, that although there were tons of recommendations to do stuff during the day, there wasn’t very many night-time recs. I was hoping I could add some flavor to the mix.

    1. Nonbei Yokocho: Roughly “Drunkards Alley” this is a small alley in Shibuya with dozens of tiny, tiny bars. We’re talking about 6-10 patrons maximum capacity per bar. Something that you will never see in the states, but it’s a great way to get a feel for the locals. Japanese are notoriously bad at English, so it wouldn’t hurt to learn a few phrases to order. This woman on youtube has a pretty good series.

    2. Izakaya: The equivalent of a Japanese tapas bar, they are everywhere. These are the places that many corporate workers go after long hours to blow off steam, usually by drowning their sorrows in reasonably priced beer, traditional drinking munchies and grilled meats. Yui-An in Shinjuku is the name of a really good izakaya, and I think it’s not too far from where you’re staying at the Park Hyatt.

    3. ageHa (pronounced Ah-geh-Ha): One of the interesting megaclubs on the outskirts of Tokyo. The easiest way to get there is to actually take their sponsored “party” bus from Shibuya station to the club. I’ve never seen people drink so much on public transportation in my life. Lots of big name DJ’s and varied crowd. I think they do a gay night every month or so too. Cover’s 4000 yen or so.

    Hope that this helps you fill out the nights a little bit more. The area around PH Tokyo is kind of dead at night time, but I’m sure you’ll have fun exploring the city!

  • thrashsoundly

    The hustle and bustle of Tokyo is amazing to behold, but if you are looking for a quiet afternoon, you should take a trip out of downtown to see the Hossawa waterfalls near Hinohara (about a 40 min bus ride from the Musashi-Itsukaichi station). The falls aren’t as huge as Kegon, but the area is very pretty and not as crowded. The falls are locally iconic especially when it freezes over in the winter and are home to festivals a couple times a year.

  • hobo13

    We stayed at the PH Tokyo a year and half ago courtesy of FFN. Real nice, but if you are a budget traveler and want to take the subway, it’s a pain to get too! (I know, how many people who stay at the PH actually take public transit or WALK to get there!)

  • Global Explat

    Brian.. I know you’re giving up a job on Wall Street, but its also clear you’re not completely just frugal travelling ways.

    Here’s something that should gel with you. I also went to Tokyo for the first time two weeks ago, for one night only. I cannot claim the extensive experience of the other posters, but I had an incredible time. As well as spending some time at an awesome Yakitori place, I went to Sushiko. Simply awesome. To a New Yorker- its the place where Masa learnt his craft. His mentor prepared food for me and my companion alone, the whole meal. Simply amazing. Here’s the wiki link for Masa (I think you know already)..but highlights where he came from also.

    If you’ve eaten at Masa’s restaurant, you’ll be able to discuss that with all the chefs here also…..

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  • ErthCrclr

    Tsukiji really is a must and easy to do since you are on the right time schedule for it anyway.
    ANY temple or shrine is good….whatever you are close to is worth a stop.
    Any local noodle shop filled with locals would be worthwhile.
    Take the time to notice the small poetic and sentimental aspects of Japan. Even the way saplings are creatively supported is incredible and heart-warming. It is this particular beauty that I appreciate most about the country.

    And congrats on snagging these sponsorships!

  • late4breakfast

    If you liked the movie Kill Bill, I have to mention the “Kill Bill Restaurant”.
    Gonpachi in Roppongi, Tokyo

    (I’m a huge fan of your blog, will follow your trip on twitter)

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  • Anita [email protected]

    1. Vending machine food. You push a button with your order off a vending machine and your order is placed and someone serves it to you.
    2. Conveyor belt sushi
    3. Tsukiji market at night is when the locals go to te restaurants near

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