Asia | Destinations | Japan

Japan: three days in Tokyo (what to do and what to see)

29 April 2020

Tokyo was our last stop in Japan and the end of the first phase of our honeymoon journey. We really tried to make the most of those three days in Tokyo, especially because it was our first time visiting this exciting city.

Discovering Tokyo and all its contrasts in three days is definitely possible. If, like us when we planned this trip, you’re wondering what to do and what to see in Tokyo, look no further.

In this article, we share our favorite things about Tokyo, suggestions of places to visit and restaurants to try out. This itinerary may appeal to you especially if this is your first time visiting Tokyo.

 

Three days in Tokyo

 

In a nutshell and on the map!

 

Day 1

 

  • Settling in and walking around the Shinjuku district
  • Aperitivo with a view at New York Bar (Park Hyatt Tokyo) and dinner at New York Grill
  • Shinjuku by night (walking)

 

 

 

Day 2

 

  • Meiji-Jingu Sanctuary
  • Shibuya Crossing
  • Lunch at Food Show inside Shibuya Station
  • Walking around from Shibuya to Harajuku (including Takeshita-dori)

 

 

  • Tokyo Station by night and walking around Ginza
  • Drinks at an underground hidden bar in Ginza
  • Gastronomic sushi dinner at Seamon Ginza

 

 

Day 3

 

  • Tokyo Station and walk around Chiyoda
  • East gardens of the Imperial Palace
  • Tsukiji Fish Market
  • Immersive experience at Teamlab Borderless
  • Dinner at Genkai (Shinjuku)

 

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In details and in pictures

 

Day 1

We arrived in the middle of the afternoon the first day. From Hakone, we took the Shinkansen which in 35 minutes literally propelled us to Tokyo Station. Tokyo Station was our first shock. It was so packed that I almost got dizzy. We still managed to find the JR line that took us to Shinjuku Station, the Chuo Line (Orange), with our JR Pass. With the crowd, the unclear explanations and the heavy suitcases, believe me when I tell you that getting there was not a walk in the park! Upon exiting Shinjuku Station, we found ourselves at the heart of the Tokyo we had imagined. Colorful, lively, incomparable.

There really is no other place like this one!

 

 

After getting lost (oh yes) thanks to our cab driver who did not understand a word of English and refused to look at the map we showed him on our phone, we finally made it to our hotel. This is when we realized that our hotel, which claims to be located just five minutes away from Shinjuku Station, was actually a good twenty minutes walk away. Suffice to say that we were not delighted.

Between our hectic arrival, the rudeness of our cab driver and the disappointment of finding out that our hotel was rather far from everything, our first impression was not a great one.

Because we didn’t want to stay on this negative first impression, we decided to go explore the city right away.

We headed to Tokyo Park Hyatt for happy hour (15 minute walk from Shinjuku Station – west). The New York Bar is located on the top floor of a skyscraper overlooking the city. Everyone recommends this place and, frankly, we immediately understood why. From up there, the city actually does look like New York. The atmosphere is elegant and chic. We watched the sun  go down over the city, sipping a cocktail. And all was good again.

 

 

Cut off from the crowd and noise, we enjoyed this moment of tranquility and enjoyed the moment. Go early enough (as soon as it opens) to get the best table by the bay windows.

 

 

Since we were enjoying ourselves so much, we decided to have dinner at the counter of the New York Grill, in the next room. Very good but expensive.

 

New York Grill

 

 

It was still early so we decided to walk back and to go around the streets of Shinjuku by night. You have to go to the Kabukicho district (northeast of the station). Here is a glimpse of it.

 

 

Some of you may go straight to see Godzilla’s head. But if you are more like us, you’ll prefer the charming old streets of the Golden Gai. We loved its tiny pubs, very cute. We were there during the rugby world cup and there was a great atmosphere.  

 

Hanazono-Jinja

 

Day 2

 

Morning

 

First stop: the Meiji-Jingu sanctuary.

 

Enjoying the calm and the cooler temperatures in the shade

 

Fun fact: in the park, we found an alley of barrels from Burgundy! On the other side, barrels of saké.

 

 

We left the sanctuary from the south exit and walked to Shibuya. Shibuya, famous for its skyscrapers, its modernity and of course its Shibuya Crossing. Even if you have never set foot in Tokyo, I’m sure that you’ve already seen images of those huge pedestrian crossings and the hundreds of people that cross the streets simultaneously. A rather strange and chaotic spectacle, almost hypnotic if you observe it from above and for a while.

 

 

The best place to look over the Shibuya Crossing is the first floor of Starbucks. It’s always crowded because many people know about this spot. So you’ll have to be patient to find a seat! But once you’ve found one, enjoy, it’s pretty impressive.

 

Shibuya Crossing

 

At that point it was time for lunch. We crossed the street and headed to the food court located in the Shibuya subway station. It’s called the Tokyu Food Show. It is a kind of large underground hall with a multitude of stalls offering almost everything you could want to eat. We ate there standing up at a counter and it was very good. Good and fast and full of locals (which always says a lot).  

 

Tokyu Food Show

 

Afternoon

 

In the afternoon, we strolled in the neighboring district of Harajuku. A must to get the full Tokyo experience that is, an experience that includes the super crazy, super tacky side of the city. Flashy outfits, costumes, crazy hair colors…  The tackier the better. It felt like taking a trip to a parallel world where good taste is come to die. But it is rather fun to see. Let’s say it’s part of the local folklore. Takeshita Dori is a must-see. 

 

 

Nous sommes rentrés à l’hôtel nous changer puis nous sommes dirigés vers Tokyo Station en métro. En marchant vers le sud de la gare, nous avons découvert le quartier de Ginza. Si j’osais la comparaison avec New York (qui vient assez naturellement), je dirais que Shibuya, c’est Times Square et que Ginza est un mix entre la 5e et Madison Avenue. C’est frappant au point que nous nous sommes tous les deux fait la même réflexion au même moment. Enlevez les panneaux écrits en japonais et vous pouvez vous croire en plein coeur de Manhattan. Ah la mondialisation …

 

 

Then we got back to the hotel to change for dinner. Once ready, we hopped on the subway and reached Tokyo Station. Once there, we walked South and arrived at the heart of Ginza. If I dared a comparison with New York (which comes quite naturally), I would say that Shibuya is Times Square and that Ginza is a mix between 5th avenue and Madison Avenue. It is striking to the point that we both thought about the same thing at the same time. Remove the signs written in Japanese and you can imagine yourself in the heart of Manhattan. Crazy globalization!

Since it was still too early for our dinner reservation, we looked for a place to have a drink. Upon a recommandation found on the Lonely Planet app, we chose Bar Evans. A little gem so well hidden that we were only three customers. A little creepy at first. The bar is in some sort of basement (not very reassuring). But as soon as you push the door, you find yourself in a beautiful tiny bar with a super cozy atmosphere. Expensive but very nice.

 

Bar Evans

 

Finally, for dinner, we went to a high-end sushi restaurant: Seamon Ginza. We really enjoyed this restaurant.  

 

Seamon Ginza

 

Day 3

 

We were so afraid of not having enough time to see all we wanted to see in Tokyo that we practically did everything on Day 2. At least all the “must-see”.  If we had to do it again, we would save some for Day 3. Indeed, came Day 3 we were anxious to find something to do. Of course there are things to do but on Sunday it was a bit trickier.

We took the train to Tokyo Station with the idea to go see the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace nearby. Tokyo Station itself is quite beautiful and its architecture something to see.

 

 

After a stroll in Chiyoda, we reached the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace. I’ll go straight to the point: this was by far our biggest disappointment in Tokyo. There is nothing to see. Total waste of time.

 

 

Our second stop was also a disappointment. The historical Tsukiji fish market is no longer what it used to be since the main fish market was moved elsewhere. Not much to see these days.

 

 

In the afternoon, we decided to go to TeamLab Borderless. It’s super far on the island of Odaiba but, my friends, it is absolutely worth it. It was magical and we had a blast.

 

Teamlab Borderless

Odaiba

 

For our last dinner, we weren’t sure where to go. We randomly stopped in front of Genkai, not far from our hotel in Shinjuku. We loved our dinner there. The restaurant looks like a traditional house and the service is  as traditional as the house. The food was simply excellent. It was the perfect experience to end our stay on a very positive note! Make sure to try the matcha ice cream whose recipe is almost a century old!

 

Genkai

 

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