Monday, February 12, 2018

Tokyo, Japan: 5-9 Days Itineraries

       In Tokyo, I used a 3 days Subway card to move around. I do not need a card using the 4th day because as I've stated below, it is possible to walk everywhere. On the 5th day, you can either use a Suica or ICOCA card or metro-only card, or if you are here for 3 more days, buy another subway card. In my humble opinion, the Subway Visitor Card is more useful for first-time visitors than the other IC cards because we tend to get lost in a new city. This card granted me unlimited use of the Tokyo Subway for 72 hours, so it doesn't matter how many times I ended up exiting the wrong station!  
Tokyo 5 days itinerary
       Other than that, always stay connected! If your Airbnb doesn't provide you with a 4G pocket wifi, rent one and pick up at the Airport (HERE). Honestly, it is not even that expensive and it is definitely worth every penny.
       I highly recommend basing your visit in Shinjuku. I consider Shinjuku to be the best because:
1. It is the most convenient station to travel to and from the airport.
2. Shinjuku is the busiest station in Tokyo and it has the widest connection. You can literally go anywhere from here!
2. Convenient for day trips. All day trips to Hakone, Kawaguchiko start from Shinjuku bus terminal.
3. Having everything right on your doorstep: bustling nightlife, shopping, cafes, restaurants, you name it!
4. Go to the 4th day in the Itinerary to know more!

       Recommended places to stay:
Airbnb >> (**try to look for Japanese hosts, they are more responsible)
Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku >> 
JR Blossom Shinjuku >>
Keio Plaza Hotel Shinjuku >> 
Hotel Rose Garden Shinjuku >>
Citadines Central Shinjuku Tokyo >> 

Tokyo, Japan: 5 Days Itinerary

Day 1 – Pray, Shop, and Play!

9:00 am Meiji-Jingu Shrine and Yoyogi Park
Getting there: Meiji-jingumae “Harajuku” Station (C03, F15) is the easiest stop. Take exit 2. The south entrance is 1-minute walk away.
From Meiji Jingu, Yoyogi Park is just a stone throw away.
Admission: Free

       The Meiji-Jingo is Tokyo’s biggest Shinto shrine, dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his Empress Shoken. We took the metro to it’s Omotesando entrance and from there, we went through a broad lush path to get to the temple.

       Yoyogi Park, on the other hand, is the perfect place to walk your fur kids. We’ve seen so many people having a great time with their dogs here… don’t worry, the civic conscious in Japan is very high so people always clean up after their dogs. So do it! kick off your sandals and lay on the grass, have a picnic, play frisbee!


12.30pm Takeshita-Dori pop culture alley
Getting there: We took the JR Yamanote line to reach JR Harajuku station. If you want to maximize your Tokyo metro card, the metro station is further away: Meiji-jingumae “Harajuku” station (C03, F15). Take exit 5 and walk a few minutes.
Admission: Free

       Right in front of the JR train station is the one and only pop culture alley, the Takeshita-Dori Street. I recommend everyone to come breathe in your teenage dreams during weekends, when Japanese put on their colorful clothes, full makeup and roam the street. The best place to see cosplayers is under the Jingu Bashi Bridge.
       When you are in Harajuku, you cannot miss their crepe! Harajuku crepe is known to be very exciting, with experimental flavors and beautiful presentation. My favorites are Santa Monica Crepes and also Sweet Box. If you would like to know more about the Harajuku crepes, I’ve compiled a full list of it HERE!
       Love quirky cafes? Then Kawaii Monster is for you! Come here for the most bizarre and colorful cafe experience in Harajuku! Although there are also plenty of animal cafes around, I didn't have time to hunt them down, well maybe next time! Since Japan had become my latest addiction, I’m sure I’ll come back in no time.

2.30pm Omotesando street
Getting there: Just walk down along Takeshita-Dori street, you’ll reach Omotesando street at the end of your walk.
Admission: Free

       Omotesando street for some high-end shopping. You can find all sort of international brands such as LV, Dior, and Prada. This is not my place for shopping, but it made a fun stop. You can also go to Cat Street as an alternative. It is considered an ultra modern street catering to younger generations.
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4:00 pm Icho Namiki Avenue
Getting there: From Omotesando street, take the Ginza (G) or Hanzomon (Z) line metro, stop at Aoyama Itchome station (G04/ Z03/ E24), walk 5 minutes down Aoyama  Dori.
Admission: Free

       The Icho Namiki Avenue is lovely to start during autumn! During this time, the gingko leaves would turn into a vibrant hue of bright yellow, making the place a gorgeous Instagram backdrop. I took the below Instagram photo during the peak of autumn (29 November 2017.) Also, we’ve seen a lot of tourists standing right in the middle of the road for a photo. Although the Japanese driving ethic is good, it is still a dangerous thing to do, and the traffic police have to stand there constantly to urge tourists off the road… and sometimes this can be a tough task. So, let us all help to make their life easier, ok?


5:00 pm Shibuya
Getting there: Arrive at Shibuya Station (G01, Z01, F16)
Admission: Free

       In Shibuya, things got a bit out of control. We searched high and low for the free observatories we read on the internet, but none of them exist anymore, except the Starbucks right above the crossing. This is not me telling you not to believe the internet, but Tokyo is ever-changing. Those free observatories once existed until the crowd pissed off the building’s management.
       Other than that, go to the Hachiko square to take a selfie with the legendary loyal dog. And then, join the craze yourself in the Shibuya Scramble. Since it was near to Christmas during my visit, I had the chance to visit some winter illuminated streets and squares in the area. The theme and venue changes annually, so be sure to do your homework before your Year-end trip!
Tokyo 5 days itinerary

Day 2 – The local way of life, The fading art of Ninjutsu and the tallest building in Japan. 


3.00am Tsukiji Fish Market
Getting there: Walk 3 minutes after taking the 1st Exit from the Tsukiji Station (H10).
Admission: Free
Popular Activity: Sushi Workshop (Book HERE)

       We overnighted at a manga cafe near to the Tsukiji Fish Market just so we’ll have a better chance grabbing a spot in the tuna auction. Too bad the tuna auction was closed to the public due to some unforeseen circumstances. So there we were, standing in the cold at 3 am outside of the Tsukiji Market… but its not for nothing! We took it as an opportunity to see Tsukiji outer market before the crowd poured in.
       Tsukiji is indeed a busy seafood market. You’ll need to be careful not to run into any trucks! It is very messy but it is part of the fun. Uogashiyokocho, the outer market opens from 5 a.m., we entered a sushi restaurant to have breakfast. Although we aren’t big fans of sashimi, the sushi we had here was easily one of the best. (However, this may sound odd, I still think the best sushi I had is in Russia.)
       Unfortunately, tourists can’t walk into the inner market freely anymore. I mean the place is still free to visit, but it isn’t easy to enter. The guards will ask you so many questions that you’ll eventually give up. However, we should all understand where this is coming from. This is a huge working space. Sushi chefs come here to get their fresh ingredient of the day, the fishmongers want to do serious business, definitely not a showroom or playground for tourists, especially not for obnoxious youtubers (I wouldn’t name him).
       I recommend you to take a break after the morning tour. At least take a 3 hours nap to recharge (or else, your day will be miserable… believe me, I know).
Tokyo 6 days itinerary

12.00pm Ginza
Getting there: You can stop at either of these 3 stations: Ginza (G09, M16, H08), Higashi Ginza Station (H09) or Ginza Itchome station (Y 19)
Admission: Free
       Ginza is naturally your next destination if you are already at the Tsukiji Market. It is comparable to the Oxford street in London and 5th Avenue in New York… again, not my place. I especially adore the 7 floor Uniqlo department store. If you are a fan, come watch the Ghibli clock in action at Shiodome. Have a sweet tooth? Try the exceptional corn soft serve from Dominique Ansel Kitchen! However, please note that this ice cream is seasonal (please correct me if I am wrong, at least this is what I was told! ).

3.00pm East Garden of Imperial Palace
Getting there: Its only a short walk from Otemachi Station (C 11/ T 09 /Z 08 / I 09/ M 18).
Admission: Free
If you would like to take some time off from shopping, the east garden is opened to the public for free!
Tokyo 6 days itinerary

5.00pm Ninja Akasaka
Getting there: Akasaka-Mitsuke Station (G05/ M13). Take Exit B and from there, Ninja Akasaka is just across the road on street level: You'll need to cross the pedestrian sky bridge,
Admission: the price of your dinner.
       I loved our Ninja experience in Akasaka. Nested in a busy business district is a secret ninja village, who would have thought! To gain admission, we had to undergo some ninja training and pass a series of obstacles (a.k.a tests). Only those who are worthy would get to meet the ninjas.

7.30pm Tokyo Skytree
Getting there: Oshiage Station (Skytreez) Z14.
Admission: ¥ 2060
Link to buy tickets: SkyTree
       We did not go up to the tower since it was foggy that day, so we figured that there is no point paying for a ticket up to see fog. Instead, we explored the Tokyo Solamachi Mall located at the base of the tower.


Day 3 – Temples and Parks

9.00 am: Senso-Ji Temple
Getting there: From Asakusa station (G19), take exit 1 and then walk 5 minutes.
Admission: Free
Popular Activity: Rickshaw Ride (book HERE)
Enjoy your day wearing a Kimono: Kimono Rental near Sensoji Temple

       Arrive early in the morning because the place will be packed. The Kaminarimon Gate is where I took the following Instagram pic. Stepping through the gate, you’ll get to explore the Nakamisedori shopping street, where you can find souvenirs, snacks, and clothes.
       At the end of the street is Senso-Ji Temple itself, where legend says a golden Kannon is kept. If you are looking for the best view of the whole area, I recommend going up to the Asakusa tourist culture Info Center just across the street, opposite the Kamonarimon Gate. From the 8th floor, you’ll get a cool bird's eye view as well as some insight about Asakusa. If you are interested in the human-powered rickshaw ride, I highly recommend you to experience it here.
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11.00 am: Ootori  Temple
Getting there: Walk 15 minutes from Sensoji Temple
Admission: Free
       We were right on time for the annual Torri No Ichi Festival (Winter is coming) happening in the nearby Shinto Shrine, Ootori. After passing by all the food trucks, we started noticing locals with beautifully decorated traditional kumade (an essential bamboo rake during the fair). When a rake is sold, dealers gather around the buyer and perform a ritual clap.

1.00 pm: Ueno 
Getting there: Go to Ueno Station (G16, H17). Take exit 5B and walk 1 minute to reach Ameyoko first.
Admission: Free

       Ueno Park is huge, it is impossible to explore it all within a day! The park established in 1873 is very popular among locals. We went to the part of the park where a pond is located, watch people paddling in swan boats, ate some snacks, visited a quirky temple ground with plagues dedicated to old things and so on.
       Ueno Park also houses Japan´s oldest zoo and they are really proud of their Panda, Ri Ri, and Shin Shin. You can see all the bakeries in Ueno selling panda-printed buns and cakes! When you are there, you should check out Ameyoko too! Look for a wide variety of cheap stuff on sale, street food on a stick, old shops under the railway line and endless instagrammable Neon signs on this discount shopping street!


4.30pm Rikugien
Getting there: Stop at Komagome (N14), take exit 2 and then follow the signs. You will reach the gardens in 7 minutes.
Admissions: ¥300
       Crowned the favorite autumnal spot in Tokyo, Rikugien is high on our list for its flaming color of fall foliage and their famous illumination at night! It is indeed a brilliant place for Koyo viewing, and if you are thirsty during your visit, there are quite a few Japanese teahouses within the garden serving traditional matcha green tea and desserts.

6.00pm Tokyo Dome City
Getting there: It is a short walk from Korakuen station (M22/ N11)
Admission: Free if you don’t fancy a ride.
       We were here for the illumination after night falls. However, if you would love to try one ride, I suggest you try the BigO Ferris wheel, where you can sing karaoke in your compartment high in the sky! The ride will cost you ¥800.
Tokyo 7 days itinerary

Day 4: The center center. 

10.00am Shinjuku
Getting there: Walked from my accommodation.
Admission: Free
       Now it is time to explore the electrifying city center of Tokyo, Shinjuku! We went shopping and food hunting… believe me, if you don’t time your visit, the next thing you know, the sun is setting! You can easily spend a whole day! But in my opinion, the best time to explore Shinjuku is during night time, when all the neon signs take over the district.
       Since I am staying in Shinjuku itself, there is no rush for me to experience the bustling nightlife. However, if you are staying away from Shinjuku and do not have a whole day to spend in this side of town, I highly recommend you to come during late afternoon so you can experience the transition from day to night time!
Tokyo 7 days itinerary

3.00pm Shinjuku Gyoen Park
Getting there: 5 minutes walk from Shinjuku-gyoemmae station (M10), exit 1.
Admission: ¥200
       To get away from the hustle and bustle, step off the busy streets and take a stroll in the green lung of Shinjuku – Shinjuku Gyoen Park. It is a popular spot to have a picnic lunch under the cherry blossom/ maple trees.

5.00pm The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
Getting there: Arrive at Nishi-Shinjuku (M07) and walk 10 minutes via the underground passageway.
Admission: Free
       When night falls, head to the landmark of Shinjuku, the Government Building. You probably won’t believe it, but visitors could enjoy free access to the observation deck on the 45th floor! Yes, you do not have to pay a cent, but the best part of the deck is actually a restaurant (enclosed), so to get to this part, you’ll have to be a paying customer. Anyway, believe me, you are not missing too much even if you decide to just visit the free ground. The night view from up here is extraordinary, but views during the day are not less amazing. On a clear day, you can even see Mount Fuji!
Tokyo 8 days itinerary

6.30pm Robot Restaurant 
Getting there: it is 15 minutes walk away from Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.
Admission: ¥ 5223
Link to book: Reserve your seat at the Robot Restaurant Show
       A lot of people would visit the Robot restaurant before or after a visit to the free observatory. It is definitely a cool place to witness Shinjuku Nightlife. However, I suggest you lower your expectation on food and focus on the experience. You will see an array of dancers, robots and dazzling special effects. If you aren’t comfortable with loud music and crazy lighting, I advise you to skip it… if not, people say that watching a show in the Robot restaurant is one of the must-do in Tokyo.  

8.00pm Golden Gai
Getting there: Golden Gai is only 3 minutes walk away from the Robot Restaurant.
Admission: Free/ the price of your drink
Alternatively, If you need a Japanese Guide for an authentic “Pub Crawl session”: Bar Hopping Tokyo
       I am staying just steps away from the Golden Gai so although I don’t drink or do nightlife, I have to check this area out. Walking down the narrow alleys, you can see tiny bars lining both sides… when I say tiny, I really mean it. You can fit less than ten guests even in “bigger shop lots”. Interesting to note, is that some of these bars only cater to locals. How do you know if the bar is foreigner-friendly? Look for signs in English! Don’t feel intimidated to ask if unsure, the Japanese will still be friendly to you even when you’re not their potential customer.
Tokyo 8 days itinerary

Day 5 – the Bizarre and futuristic side

10.00am Akihabara
Getting there: Get to the Akihabara station (H15) or Suehirocho Station (G14). The electric town is only a few minutes walk away.
Admission: Free
Popular experience: Akihabara go-cart (book here)

       If you are a fan of the Manga culture, then you won’t want to miss Akihabara. It is called the “Electric town” since after the World War 2 it had become the go-to place for low priced machines, but I personally feel that instead of electric appliances like advertised, Otaku and Anime culture are the real stars of the town.
       Here is the place to come looking for a certain comic book to complete your collection. With eight-story warehouses (Mandarake is the place to go! Opening hour is from 12pm-8pm) dedicated to manga products, I doubt you will not find something you want.
       If you do wanna look for electrical appliances and gadgets here, Yodobashi is a good place to start. To make Yodobashi your first stop in Akihabara, take the Central Exit of Akihabara station. Also, don’t miss the Gachapon Kaikan! I know Gachapon is no stranger to 80s-90s kids, so let’s visit the motherland of this vending machine!… The 00s, you can play somewhere else. lol.
       To experience something different, walk into a maid cafe. However, I skipped this experience as I thought it would be too awkward. If you are giving it a go, visit Cure Maid Cafe, said to be the first Maid cafe ever in Akihabara!
       Other than that, do you know Hedgehog cafe is like the most in-trend experience in Tokyo? Cheese hedgehog cafe is only 3 minutes walk away from JR Akihabara (JR Electric Street exit). Here, you can cuddle and play with the hedgehogs while dining in a cafe style environment.
Tokyo 9 days itinerary

2.30pm Tokyo Tower
Getting there: Kamiyacho station (H05), exit from exit 1. From there, it is 7 minutes away on foot.
Admission: ¥ 418
Buy tickets: Tokyo Tower Main Observatory 

       When you are in Tokyo, how can you miss the classic? Standing at 333-meter height, Tokyo Tower was the highest tower in all of Japan before the Skytree was completed in 2010… yes, 2010! Sky tree is a very new landmark! Discover the sweeping vista of Tokyo metropolitan, you might also see nearby prefectures such as Yokohama and even Mount Fuji!  
Tokyo 9 days itinerary

4.00pm Rainbow Bridge
Getting there: Get off at Shibaura-foto on the Yurikamome Line (Private train, you can’t use the Tokyo Metro Card here). OR, take the Toei bus to Shibaura-futo-iriguchi station.
Admission: Free

       From Shibaura to Odaiba, the bridge spread across Tokyo Bay with thousands of LED lights turning it into a rainbow, thus, living up to its name. It takes about 30 minutes to walk across the bridge, with 2 pathway to choose from: Southside or Northside.
       There are a lot of observation decks along the walkway. By taking the north walk (which I highly recommended), you can see the 2 most important landmarks in Tokyo: the Tokyo Skytree and the Tokyo Tower. Ps: You’ll definitely need a lot of photo stops, so put aside at least 30 minutes more for the walk!

5.00pm Odaiba
       Now that you’ve walked across the bridge, you arrive in Odaiba, an impressive man-made island featuring shopping avenues and endless entertainment. We did not have time to explore the area but I wish that you do.
       From the Tokyo beach, you’ll be able to take amazing pictures of the bridge. On the beach itself, you’ll find The Deck, where families can enjoy Madam Tussaud and Legoland Discovery center with their young kids. Children and adults alike will surely be excited to see the Giant Gundam in its full glory. In a clear day, you can also see Mount Fuji from the elevated platform! Fancy New York as your next travel destination? Take a photo of the statue of Liberty as a start! Hungry visitors should go to Ramen theme park to taste Ramen soup from all over the country.

Add on: 

If you have 6 days in Tokyo (Tokyo, Japan: 6 days Itinerary), please do a day trip to see Mount Fuji up close!
If you have 7 days in Tokyo (Tokyo, Japan: 7 days Itinerary), visit Kawagoe, an Edo- period small town nearby!
If you have 8 days in Tokyo (Tokyo, Japan: 8 days Itinerary), visit the Tokyo DisneySEA (book your tickets HERE)! (in my opinion, DisneySEA in Tokyo is more unique than Disneyland)
If you have 9 days in Tokyo (Tokyo, Japan: 9 days Itinerary), visit the Snow Monkeys at Nagano!
I know a lot of visitors to #Japan are asking where is the best place to see #snow ❄️ from #Tokyo πŸ—Ό? • While you may get many different answers, here is mine: the most well known place may be Gala Yuzawa (75 min by Shinkansen). But if you are looking for a more in-depth snow #experience, choose #Nagano, yes the place where the snow monkeys πŸ’ are. • Here's the math: not only there are plenty of snow to play with (#ski ⛷ , #snowboarding πŸ‚ , snowtubing etc), at #Ryuo you may go up to the 1,770m high mountain top/ #soraterrace on one of world’s largest ropeways. But before that, say Hi to the #SnowMonkey taking Onsen, or better yet, join them! (Not literally) spend a night at a #Ryokan at #ShibuOnsen (the bathhouses that said inspired the blockbuster animation "#SpiritedAway"πŸ‰) and wake up to the most #magical snow and sunshine 🌨☀️kinda view. Then hop on a #panoramic trainπŸš† to the city of Nagano, where you can spend another afternoon visiting an incredibly unique #temple named "#Zenkoji" (believe me, this one is different), and then go discover the Japanese #craft and their obsession towards #Kaleidoscope. When night falls, hop on a direct #Shinkansen πŸš…back to Tokyo (about 2 hours), chewing away on Nagano's specialty Shinano Gold (a type of Gold #Apple), but of course you can always choose #Fuji! 🍎 • Sounds good to you? At least this is how I spent my two days! • Can you believe after talking so much this is just a #preview? Check out the blog for more info, coming soon! #goNagano
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Thank You for Reading! This post is based solely on my honest opinion or personal experience. If you have a different opinion, feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below!

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