Tokyo: highlights & insider tips in the crazy metropolis

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Big. Greater. Tokyo. Or also: How on earth are you supposed to plan a trip to Tokyo without throwing your nerves away? First of all, a tip for all those who travel to Tokyo and feel overwhelmed: This feeling will not go away. Tokyo is the most populous city in the world. And that can sometimes be overwhelming, right?

But we can reassure you: With every day in Tokyo you will understand this cosmopolitan city a little better and, above all, you will get better can orient. And never forget: we too were desperate at first and had absolutely no overview.

So that you can find your way around crazy Tokyo better, we have divided the sights in this blog article into two parts: First, we present In chapter 2 you can imagine the (in our opinion) top sights of the city. Then we will talk about other places worth seeing and our insider tips, because there are plenty of them – we can promise that much. Ready for a full dose of Tokyo vibes? Let’s go.

1. Tokyo at a glance: things worth knowing & what to expect 38 million inhabitants live in the Tokyo metropolitan area. This number is just as surreal as the city itself. But we’ll tell you something (that nobody who hasn’t been to Tokyo will believe): Tokyo is (apart from some areas) contrary to expectations quite quiet. And: Life is incredibly ordered. We personally find Bangkok, for example, worlds more exhausting than Tokyo.

But what completely overwhelmed us about Tokyo was the abundance of sights and places worth seeing. On the one hand, you get the feeling that there are only a few tourist highlights, but once you start researching, the top list hardly ends.

Hence our well-intentioned advice : Never go to Tokyo hoping to see it all. A lifetime would not be enough to fully explore Tokyo.

Tokyo: The neighborhoods themselves are the sights Let’s come to one of the most important points: Yes, Tokyo has classic tourist highlights. Most of them, however, are not stand-alone buildings or temples, but whole quarters. And that’s exactly what makes sightseeing (or researching it) quite confusing.

Tokyo is like a giant puzzle. There isn’t the one place you see and understand Tokyo. Tokyo can only be explored bit by bit and with every district you see, with every piece of the puzzle you can understand the dimensions of this gigantic city a little better.

How much time should I allow for Tokyo? We asked around for recommendations before our trip and rarely received such clear answers as for Tokyo: The basic tenor was mostly “You definitely need 1 week”. We can confirm that, but we would put it more concretely as follows:

Our tip: It’s best to stay…

3 nights if you hate big cities and really just want a quick glimpse of Tokyo. 6-7 nights if you want to see the main sights – and a bit more than that. 05 Nights or longer if you also have the one or want to go on a different excursion and want to take a little more time for everything. We ourselves stayed 6 nights in Tokyo, although we had almost an extra day in the city due to our flight times. (As an explanation, we arrived early in the morning and had been out all day and our return flight was well after midnight.)

We stayed 2 nights at the beginning and 4 nights at the end of our Japan Travel in Tokyo and would not change anything in retrospect. So we can highly recommend splitting the time.

Travel Guide for Tokyo Before our trip to Japan, we were faced with the decision of getting an overall travel guide or a separate and therefore more detailed travel guide for each place we visited. Our choice fell on the latter – especially since the overall travel guides cover far too many corners of Japan and we only visited a fraction of them (you can find out more about this in our itinerary). Not to mention that we didn’t want to lug around that much weight. We also felt that a little more depth would make sense, especially for Tokyo. Our conclusion: We would do it again at any time.

We were traveling with the Tokyo travel guide from Lonely Planet, which we can highly recommend. In our opinion, the guidebook is just the right length. The book is light enough to take with you every day, but is still quite detailed.

Some day trips (Fuji, Hakone, Nikkō and Kamakura) are also described. Unfortunately, the travel guide is only available in English. But that didn’t bother us personally.

You can buy the travel guide here: Lonely Planet Tokyo (English)

2. The most important sights & highlights: Our 6 top tips for Tokyo Where to start? For newcomers we have summarized our highlights in Tokyo. If you travel to Tokyo for the cherry blossom season, then you should definitely add another park or cherry blossom hotspot to this list.

Shibuya Crossing The most famous crossroads in Japan is located in the Shibuya district and is therefore also called Shibuya Crossing. The special feature of this crossing: All pedestrian traffic lights switch to green at the same time. Each traffic light phase is like a huge anthill.

Shibuya Crossing is said to be the busiest between 17 and 19 clock . (Our photos were also taken during this period.) Let’s be honest: we would have imagined the intersection to be a little bigger and more impressive, but of course it’s quite a spectacle.

We definitely recommend you not only to cross the intersection, but also to watch the hustle and bustle from above. The terribly crowded Starbucks is often recommended, but you clearly have the better view from the observation deck of the mall Magnet by Shibuya 600.

We will tell you more about the view in this article: Tokyo Viewpoints

Information on visiting Shibuya Crossing Getting there: The nearest station is Shibuya Station (several subways and JR trains). You can already see the crossing from the train station.

Entrance fee to Magnet by Shibuya Observation Deck 600: 600 Yen

Sensō-ji Temple The most famous Buddhist Temples throughout Tokyo is the Sensō-ji. It is located in the district of Asakusa, which is probably the most touristy and at the same time the most original district in the otherwise so modern Tokyo.

The Sensō-ji consists of several temple halls and buildings, whereby the Main Hall (Main Hall) is undoubtedly the most famous and most visited attraction. The first photo you see below was taken from the main hall looking towards Hozomon Gate. We also find the five-story pagoda worth seeing.

As you may already see from our photos, the Sensō-ji Temple is during the day extremely well attended (you could also say overcrowded). So please don’t expect a quiet, contemplative place. However, we received the tip to come in the evening (when it was dark). Then the main hall is closed, but the ambience should be a lot more relaxed.

What you can experience and see away from the Sensō-ji Temple in the Asakusa district, we will tell you below in this blog article.

Information on visiting the Sensō-ji Temple Getting there: The closest station is Asakusa (accessible on the Ginza, Asakusa and Tobu lines). From there it is only about a 5-minute walk.

Entrance: Free Opening hours: Grounds accessible 24 hours a day, main hall only between 6 (6: 30 between March and October) and 17 Clock

Promenade Takeshita-dōri in the Harajuku area The absolute contrast to historic Asakusa is the district of Harajuku. If we had to describe Harajuku in one word, it would be “colorful”. The young district of Harajuku is unusual, colorful and different.

The center of Harajuku is the promenade Takeshita-dōri. When conspicuously dressed young Japanese people come towards you and you can buy colorful crêpes and rainbow cotton candy on every street corner , then you know you’re right. It’s supposed to be particularly crowded here on Sundays, when the cosplay scene meets.

What on earth is Cosplay, you ask you probably now Don’t worry: we didn’t know either until recently. So we would like to explain this quickly: Cosplay (a combination of the English terms “costume” and “play”) is a Japanese costume trend. You represent a mostly fictional character with costume and plot. Sounds strange? Welcome to the world of Japanese curiosities. We promise: This is just the beginning.

Harajuku flows smoothly into the shopping and promenade district Omotesandō (which by the way is one of our favorite corners from Tokyo). We’ll tell you what else there is to see in the area around Harajuku and Omotesandō further down in this blog article.

Arrival: At the west end of Takeshita-dōri is JR Harajuku Station (accessible by the Yamanote Line). Alternatively, you can take the subway to Meiji-jingumae station (Chiyoda and Fukutoshin Line ) to go.

Electronic District Akihabara Similarly crazy to Harajuku is the Electronics and gaming district of Akihabara. Akihabara could be called a “nerd district” – as they say in Japan plus Otaku. An otaku is a fan, i.e. someone who is particularly enthusiastic about something (usually anime or manga).

Therefore, in Akihabara you will not only find countless arcades, but also a lot of stores where you can buy comics, figures and other merchandise items. Akihabara is the absolute paradise for anime and manga fans. A particularly well-known shop is Radio Kaikan, where you can click on 10 floors you can immerse yourself in Japanese fan culture.

And Another bizarre thing Akihabara is known for: Maid Cafes. Yes, that’s right: Maid. Because in such cafes wear the waitress nen (mostly very young women) a maid outfit. The Maids pay a lot of attention to the visitors. However, the rules are clearly defined: Physical contact is taboo.

If you are like us and you have never come into contact with the fan culture in Japan, then line up many mental question marks as you walk the streets of Akihabara. Seriously: We were just as fascinated as we were stumped.

Our personal tip: Don’t be afraid to go into an amusement arcade. We did and played Mario Kart on one of the machines. A bit of being a child is simply part of being in Tokyo. And another culinary tip: Pablo’s (right next to the train station) has delicious mini cheesecakes.

Get there: Akihabara Station (several JR trains and subways)

Shinjuku Entertainment District Shinjuku by night is the idea we had before our Japan trip from Tokyo had, next. Everywhere bright neon signs, flashing neon signs, black taxis and lots of people.

From From Shinjuku Station (which is so huge you’ll get lost ten times) your way will take you via the Yasukuni-dōri (neon lights as far as the eye can see) to the Kabukichō Red Light District. Find here you also, for example, the infamous Robot Restaurant.

Just a stone’s throw away from there you get to Golden Gai – where the word “Golden” is in our opinion out of place here. Golden Gai is a bar and pub district. Nowhere else in Tokyo will you find as many bars and eateries in one place as in this block. Low houses, clouds of smoke from the bars and dark, sometimes very run-down alleys – the charm of Golden Gai is very special, we have to admit that.

Our favorite alley in Shinjuku is on the other side of the train tracks, by the way, and calls herself Omoide Yokocho. She’s also known as “Piss Alley” (for whatever reason). Omoide Yokocho is a bit reminiscent of Golden Gai, but looks neater and is, in our opinion, one of the most photogenic spots in Tokyo during the day. In case you’re wondering: The cherry blossoms are unfortunately made of plastic.

Arrival: Shinjuku Station (several JR trains and subways)

Enjoy the view of Tokyo: Skytree, Tokyo Tower & Co Of course, one thing must not be missing when we talk about the highlights in Tokyo: Tokyo from above. You simply have to see the view of the Tokyo skyline.

The selection of viewpoints in Tokyo is large. And above all very varied. The best known is the gigantic Skytree – the tallest building in Japan and currently the second tallest building in the world.

Our personal favorite is the viewing platform on the roof of the Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills. The reason: Up here on the Sky Deck there are no annoying window panes and you can enjoy the open-air view even better. The view is definitely most memorable at sunset.

Looking for more tips? You can find out more in our detailed blog articles: The most beautiful viewpoints in Tokyo

3. More time? Other places worth seeing, cool neighborhoods and insider tips for Tokyo That wasn’t all for a long, long time. You may have already noticed that Tokyo is very diverse and the focus is more on the different districts and the big city vibes than on the classic sights.

In this chapter we will show you which districts and places we visited other places in Tokyo and where we particularly liked it.

Daikanyama & Nakameguro: Trendy districts with concept stores & boutiques If you’re looking for a relaxed, young trendy district, then you’ve come to the right place in Daikanyama and in the adjacent Nakameguro. Here you will find great concept stores, boutiques and cafés.

fashion and Style have pretty high priority. People in Japan are generally always perfectly dressed, but here we noticed it even more. Daikanyama & Nakameguro are within walking distance of each other and are also quite similar, which is why we summarize them in this blog article.

Daikanyama Let’s start in Daikanyama: One of the most famous shops is the huge bookstore called Tsutaya Books Daikanyama, which is worth a visit for its unusual, modern architecture alone. It consists of a total of three buildings. Directly adjacent you will find a building complex with other shops – for example, a dog salon can be found here. (As an explanation: There are an unusually large number of – mainly small – four-legged friends in this district.)

The so-called Hillside Terrace is also in Daikanyama, which looks like a mini city made of concrete. Shops and galleries are also housed in this building complex.

If you are not traveling to Kyoto and want to immerse yourself in traditional Japan, you can visit the Kyu Asakura House drop by. This Japanese wooden house and garden gives a nice insight into tradition and history.

A little insider tip for your coffee break: In the concept store Saturdays NYC has great coffee that you can enjoy on the patio at the back of the store.

Get there: Daikan-yama Station (Tokyu Toyoko Line) or the busier Ebisu Station (several JR trains and Hibiya Line)

Nakameguro Just a five minute walk separates you from the nearest neighbourhood: Nakameguro, which is located on a river. Stores line the left and right of the river: cafés, boutiques, interior stores – one store is prettier than the next. By the way, Nakameguro is in great demand during the cherry blossom season, as the trees form a photogenic tunnel over the river.

In Nakameguro you will also find another building that doesn’t quite fit in with the rest: the world’s largest and perfectly styled Starbucks Reserve Rostery, which extends over four levels. What is actually “just” a coffee house is more reminiscent of a world of adventure.

Arrival: Naka-Meguro Station (Tokyu Toyoko and Hibiya Line)

Harajuku & Omotesandō: Shopping & Cool Spots The main street in the Harajuku district, the colorful and crazy Takeshita-dōri we told you earlier in this blog article (as part of our Top -tips) already presented. Now let’s talk about what else there is to discover in Harajuku and neighboring Omotesandō. Since the quarters flow into each other, we summarize them in one chapter.

Arrival: Omotesandō Station (several subways), JR Harajuku Station (Yamanote Line) or Station Meiji-jingumae (Chiyoda and Fukutoshin Line)

Our favorite area: The back streets of Omotesandō Omotesandō is quite stylish compared to Harajuku. Our favorite area in Omotesandō is in the back streets north of the posh shopping boulevard Omotesando-dōri (we’ll tell you what awaits you there in a moment). If you would like to stroll for hours, discover cool shops and visit hip cafés, this is the place for you.

For good coffee you can go to the hipster Visit the coffee shop Koffee Mameya. You could almost miss the entrance to it (unless a queue has formed again). Quite an experience.

In Omotesandō we also ate our first sesame ice cream in Japan at Gomaya Kuki. There is both light and dark sesame ice cream and although the taste takes a little getting used to at first, we found it extremely good in the end.

In general, the selection of cafes and shops is great huge in this area – very popular for lunch, for example, is Mr. Farmer. It’s best to just let yourself drift. As a little orientation: The closer you get to the Takeshita-dōri come, the crazier and trashier the shops get.

Fine shopping boulevard: Omotesandō Avenue South of this cozy neighborhood you get to the most famous shopping mile of Omotesandō, to the Omotesandō-dōri, also called Omotesandō Avenue. Along this wide, tree-lined boulevard all the luxury brands such as Gucci and Prada have their locations.

Nothing would normally get us in here, but we made an exception for Louis Vuitton. The reason: There is a permanent (free) art exhibition (Espace Louis Vuitton) on the top floor. Although it is limited to one room, it is really worth a short stopover, not least because of the view.

At the northern end of the Omotesandō-dōri you get to a well-known photo spot, namely the mirrored one Entrance area of ​​Tokyo Plaza, reminiscent of a kaleidoscope.

Cozy Cat Street To the south of Omotesandō Avenue you will find yourself in a very relaxed area, the center of which is the Cat Street forms. You will also find a lot of shops here, including branches of well-known outdoor and sports brands such as Patagonia. For a coffee break, a stopover at The Roastery by Nozy Coffee is a good idea.

Tomigaya: Pleasantly calm neighborhood with hip cafes Quiet Tomigaya may be part of the Shibuya district, but it is the complete opposite of the hustle and bustle of the world-famous crossroads . Tomigaya is a pleasantly calm residential area. So if you want to immerse yourself in authentic life in Tokyo and visit one or the other cool café, then you’ve come to the right place.

One of our favorite spots is the hip Path Cafe, which we can highly recommend for breakfast. While the menu is limited and the portions are small, our granola (pictured) was absolutely delicious. Also worth a visit is the Fuglen, which is a café during the day and a cocktail bar in the evening.

Get there: Yoyogi-Hachiman Station (Odakyu Odawara Line)

Shimokitazawa: Tokyo’s Brooklyn Tokyo’s Brooklyn wanted? It’s called Shimokitazawa and is located away from the tourist hustle and bustle. Shimokitazwawa is what Williamsburg is to New York. Here you will find lots of record stores, second-hand and vintage stores.

We drank very good coffee in the small hipster café called Frankie. Shimokitazawa Cage – an outdoor bar next to the train tracks – is a popular meeting point for locals and expats in the evenings.

Get there: Shimo-kitazawa Station (Odakyu Odawara and Inokashira Line)

Asakusa: Tokyo’s Historical Area Haved from the main attraction in Asakusa area, Sensō-ji Temple we already told you earlier in this blogar told. Now it should be about what else you can experience away from the temple.

First of all, there would be the shopping street Nakamise-dōri, located just outside the gates of Sensō-ji Temple. Here you will find plenty of snacks, but also numerous souvenirs. Around the corner from Nakamise-dōri we also have a local tip for you: In the tiny and very We had an excellent lunch at the friendly restaurant Misojyu . There was even a vegetarian alternative.

After lunch it’s time for something sweet, so we made our way to Suzukien Asakusa. There you can try the most intense matcha ice cream in the world. You can choose from seven different Matcha intensity levels.

Arrival: Asakusa (Ginza, Asakusa and Tobu Line)

teamLab Borderless: Tokyo’s digital Art exhibition There is quite a hype about the Digital Art Museum, which only 2018 opened. The exhibition called “teamLab Borderless” is a three-dimensional world of experience that integrates sound, light and sensors. Walking through the museum feels a bit like being in a dream – also because you often can’t believe how many people are here at the same time, but more on that in a moment.

The museum is divided into five zones. However, there is no fixed tour – in principle, you can enter each room as often as you like. The most famous room is called “Forest of Resonating Lamps” – a sea of ​​lights made up of what feels like thousands of lamps. As you get closer to one of the lamps, it changes color.

However (and now we come to the big but): As impressive and spectacular as the exhibition is (and it really is ) – the rush is really beyond good and evil. In order to get into the exhibition in the first place, we had to queue outside for an hour (in pouring rain) – despite having bought tickets in advance.

The waiting unfortunately doesn’t stop once you’ve made it into the exhibition. Some rooms are very popular, so you often minutes or even longer to see them with your own eyes. There is even a time limit in the Forest of Resonating Lamps: You have to leave the room after 2 minutes.

Conclusion: Insanely impressive, but unfortunately also insanely overcrowded. We would really recommend you to come as early as possible.

You can pre-buy tickets here: teamLab Borderless

Arrival: Aomi Station (Yurikamome Line)

Meiji Shrine in Yoyogi Park: Tokyo’s most famous shrine Let’s come nor a classic tourist highlight called the Meiji Shrine or Meiji-Jingu. It is the most famous Shinto shrine in Tokyo and is located in the extensive Yoyogi Park.

To get to the shrine, you first walk through a couple of large, wooden torii – that’s what the entrance gates of a Shintō shrine are called. A forest path leads you to the shrine. On the way you will also pass a long wall of sake barrels donated by people and companies. Unfortunately, the shrine itself is quite crowded during the day – we strongly recommend that you come as early as possible.

Afterwards, it’s a good idea to walk through the Yoyogi Park to go for a walk. (Small hint: You have to leave the shrine grounds first – there is no direct access from the shrine itself.) Yoyogi Park is a spacious green oasis that is used by the locals for jogging, exercising and picnicking.

Info on visiting Meiji Shrine Getting there: JR Harajuku Station (Yamanote Line) Admission: Free

Opening times: Sunrise to Sunset

4. Transport within Tokyo In Tokyo, nothing works without (public) transport. While you can walk a lot within each neighborhood, you can’t avoid the subway (or JR trains) for further distances.

Tokyo Subway and JR Trains Tokyo’s subway network is extremely extensive and branched . So don’t worry if you’re confused at first – everyone feels the same way. It is important to know that in addition to the classic subway, there are also numerous other lines running through Tokyo, including trains operated by the state-owned Japan Railways (= JR).

This means that as a passenger you partly travel by subway and partly by other trains (e.g. JR trains ) drive. Think of it a bit like U-Bahn and S-Bahn in German-speaking cities. You can hardly tell the difference if you don’t pay attention to it. And in practice, it’s also pretty easy to use the subway or train network, because there’s a universal ticket for it, and that’s the Suica card. (FYI: The Pasmo-Card is exactly the same – only the provider is different.)

The Suica-Card is a rechargeable chip -Card that allows you to use all subways, JR trains and private lines in Tokyo. You simply place it (when entering and leaving the train station) on the electronic card reader and the respective amount for the route will be deducted automatically.

You can find more information about the Suica card you in this blog article: Japan Travel Tips

If you are visiting Japan Owns Rail Pass There is a little something special if you own the Japan Rail Pass – that train ticket , which takes you all over the country. (More information and tips for traveling by train in this blog article: Japan Itinerary). If you have the pass, you can also use the JR trains within Tokyo for free. Interesting is , for example, the Yamanote Line, which drives once in a circle and passes the most important tourist highlights.

So you drive free of charge wherever it is the Japan Rail Pass only allows and uses your Suica card for the classic subways. Attention: With the Japan Rail Pass you do not go through the electronic barrier, but your way always leads you to the counter and thus to an employee.

But it is by no means worth the Japan Rail Pass to get extra for Tokyo. This variant is only intended if you already have the Japan Rail Pass.

On some practical tips for taking the subway in Tokyo The markings on the floor of the platforms show you where the train will stop and therefore also where the doors are to be found . You’ll quickly notice that the Japanese have perfected queuing. Queuing is taboo. The individual subways have a name (e.g. Asakusa Line) and are marked in colour. So if you forgot the name or can’t remember it, you can just remember the color too. There are sometimes wagons that are reserved for women. You can recognize them by the inscription (“Women only”). Taxi in Tokyo Taxi will take you very comfortable from A to B, but quite expensive. We therefore generally only recommend taxis for short distances. We will tell you more about driving a taxi in Japan in this blog article: Japan travel tips.

From Tokyo Airport to the city There are two international airports: Narita and Haneda. Narita is where most international flights land, but Haneda is closer and more convenient. You can find out how to get to the city from both airports in this blog article: Japan Travel Tips.

5. Our hotel tips for Tokyo Hotel rooms in Tokyo have a reputation for being tiny and very expensive. This is certainly not without reason – the space available in Tokyo is simply limited. But we have two tips for you for hotels that we have stayed in ourselves.

Option 1: OMO5 Tokyo Otsuka In the OMO5 Tokyo Otsuka We spent the first nights in Tokyo and were very satisfied. The rooms are maisonette-like: On a kind of loft bed are the ( very comfortable and cozy) mattresses placed. Underneath you will find a sofa. Larger people cannot stand underneath it, but all in all the space is really well used.

We felt very comfortable in this hotel, which is not least due to the great The view from our room was due to the fact that we slept very well despite the time difference.

There is a small point deduction for breakfast. That didn’t convince us, but we have to say that western breakfasts in Japan are rarely good. The breakfast in Japan in most hotels is made for the Asian palate.

The location of the hotel may seem a bit out of the way at first glance of the most important sights, but actually we thought they were great: You are a 2-minute walk from a JR station on the Yamanote Line and can therefore reach many places in Tokyo very quickly.

You can book the hotel here: OMO5 Tokyo Otsuka

Option 2: Hotel 1899 Tokyo For the last few days During our trip to Tokyo we decided on a different part of the city and therefore also on a different hotel and stayed at the hotel 1200 Tokyo landed. We can also recommend that – although in a direct comparison we would rather choose the already mentioned OMO5. However, both hotels have their pros and cons.

The hotel 1899 Tokyo just got to end 1200 opened. The rooms are very small – but well, as I said, that’s nothing unusual in Tokyo. Nevertheless, we felt comfortable and slept well. We loved the free tea ceremony in the lobby: You can get perfectly freshly prepared Matcha here at any time of the day.

The Breakfast has a major disadvantage: tons of plastic! We were pretty shocked how much garbage is produced here (disposable dishes, plastic cutlery). That’s not possible, but at least a more sustainable solution is apparently being sought.

The hotel is located in a very quiet, unexciting area, you can reach for it you almost 06 Minutes walk to the lively Simbashi district, where there are many restaurants and bars. That’s about how long it takes you to get to the next subway station – there are several to choose from.

Here you can book the hotel: Hotel 1899 Tokyo

Transparency: Invitation & Affiliate Links We were invited to Japan by All Nippon Airways (ANA) – thank you very much for this great opportunity! So that you know your way around: outward and return flights and the program for the first 5 days (Toki o, Hakone, Osaka) were financially taken over by ANA. We were free to organize the program – we were on our own the whole time. We decided to extend our stay in Japan at our own expense.

This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of so-called affiliate links. If you book or buy something through the links, we will receive a small commission. For you, this does not change the price at all. A thousand thanks from both of us!

Have you ever been to Tokyo? In your opinion, which sights or highlights are a must-see? Do you have any other tips? We look forward to your comment!