Visiting Japan has been at the top of my travel list for a while now and going for our honeymoon was the perfect opportunity. One of the coolest parts of getting married at a Ritz-Carlton (other than the fact that I got married!) was the five free nights at almost any Ritz-Carlton worldwide. Tokyo was an easy choice for our five-night stay. As one of the biggest cities in the world, we knew we’d have no problem spending five days there. Here’s our five-day itinerary for Tokyo.
Day 1: Arrive and Adjust
We left New York on Japan Airlines on a Thursday morning and didn’t arrive in Tokyo until late Friday afternoon! Talk about a time zone adjustment. By the time you get to your hotel, you may be ready for bed but it’s best to stay up until your usual bedtime to help get your body on track.
We decided to grab a light dinner and drink at the Park Hyatt’s New York Bar in Shinjuku which was made famous by the movie Lost in Translation. This is definitely a super touristy thing to do. Even though we arrived before 8:00pm, we were charged a cover of 2,500 JPY (about $22 USD) and also had to wait in line for about 15 minutes. However, once inside, live jazz music makes for a fun atmosphere. If you are trying to save money, this was an expensive evening so you may choose to grab dinner and drinks at a local spot instead.
Day 2: Shibuya, Harajuku, and MariCar
Exploring Parks and a Shrine
We started our second morning bright and early with a walk through Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. We entered at the Okido Gate and spent about an hour and a half wandering through the park and eventually exiting on the opposite side at the Sendagaya Gate. Highlights include the greenhouse and the Japanese tea house. Note that admission is 500 JPY.
From the Sendagaya Gate, it’s about a 10-minute walk to the entrance of the Meiji Shrine in Shibuya. The forested area leading to the shrine complex is peaceful, but don’t be surprised if the shrine itself is swarming with people!
From the shrine, we continued walking south through Yoyogi Park. We spent the second part of our day walking around Harajuku and Shibuya.
Once in Harajuku, we started down the famed Takeshita-dori. If you aren’t familiar with Kawaii culture, you’ll get a sense of it pretty quickly once you’re in Harajuku! My middle school self would have been all over this.
There are so many things to do, see, eat, and try-on in Harajuku that you can spend a few hours just exploring. We wanted to try out an animal cafe so we put our name down at the Shiba Inu cafe around 11:00am with a return time of 3:00pm. The cafe part is a bit of a misnomer as your entrance ticket gets you a hot beverage from a vending machine (how Japanese!). The real draw is getting to play with the dogs, though they can be shy at times.
The food in Harajuku is just as kawaii as the fashion. While the crepes, rainbow cotton candy, and the Pompompurin Cafe all looked good, I settled on animal ice cream from Eiswelt Gelato. I have no clue what flavor it was, but it was actually as tasty as it was cute!
There’s more to Harajuku than Takeshita-dori. If you have time, take a stroll down Cat Street for a more hipster vibe.
Shibuya is known for Shibuya Crossing, possibly the most famous intersection in the world. Not only is it fun to join the crowds for the scramble across, but it’s a spectacle to stand back and watch.
We also walked around through Shibuya Center Gai, a pedestrian-only street filled with shops, restaurants, and lots of teenagers! For lunch, we waited in a long line at Ichiran for some ramen. You pay for your meal using a vending machine.
Once inside, each person sits at an individual booth and the ramen is served from behind the counter.
MariCar (also known as Street Kart)
After a full day in Shibuya and Harajuku, we took the metro down to Shinagawa for MariCar (recently renamed Street Kart), which is essentially a go-cart tour through the streets of Tokyo. I was initially nervous about driving on the street, but I was surprised by how few cars there are in Tokyo and how courteous the drivers were. MariCar was a highlight of our time in Japan so I recommend it even if it feels gimmicky or unsafe! Driving across the Rainbow Bridge at full speed was my favorite part. We also saw stopped at the Telecom Center Observatory in Odaiba and drove by Tokyo Tower and Shibuya Crossing. You’ll need an International Driving Permit to participate, but it’s easy to get through AAA. Check out my full review here.
Day 3: Asakusa, Central Tokyo, and Odaiba
We started our morning with a free walking tour of Asakusa. The tour covered the highlights of old-Tokyo including the Sensō-ji Temple and the historic shopping streets including Nakamise-dori and Denpoin-dori. We felt a tour of Asakusa was necessary as we learned a lot more than when we visited Meiji Shrine by ourselves. The tour ended near the Tokyo Sky Tree though we decided not to go up.
After the morning walking tour, it was time for another walking tour! This time it was a Classic Tokyo tour starting in Akihabara. I’m certainly not otaku, but I’ll admit I read a little bit of manga in middle school. Ok fine, I read some in high school, too. Regardless, Akihabara is the cultural center for all things anime and manga, and I had a lot of fun walking around this area. If you want to visit a maid cafe, this is the place to do it!
The tour also visited the Yushima Seidō, Kanda Shrine, Ameyoko Shopping Arcade, and Ueno Park.
After the tour, we headed over to Odaiba, an artificial island in Tokyo Bay, to check out the oh-so-popular Instagram spot teamLab Borderless Digital Art Museum. Once you start exploring the exhibits, you’ll find this museum is just as cool as it looks online. I was surprised by how much time we spent here. This museum sells out so buy tickets in advance online. Check out my full review here.
Day 4: Day Trip to Nikko
There are lots of great day trip opportunities from Tokyo, but we picked Nikko for its scenery, temples, and shrines. We were too late to see the fall foliage, but we found Nikko to be one of our favorite parts of the trip. Nikko is easy to access with a Japan Rail Pass (click here to purchase). Highlights include the Shinkyo Bridge, Toshogu Shrine, and Kegon Falls. Check out all of the details of a day trip to Nikko from Tokyo here.
Day 5: Gardens, Sushi, and Shinjuku at Night
Our last day in Tokyo started with another leisurely stroll through the Imperial Palace East Gardens. The gardens are free to enter. You can also make a reservation to tour the Palace grounds but we decided to skip this.
A Day in Ginza
After the gardens, we headed over to Ginza for a multicourse sushi lunch at Sushi Ya. I don’t usually eat fish so I have to pat myself on the back for how adventurous I was during this meal. This eight-seat restaurant is run by Takao Ishiyama who previously trained at Sushi Kanesaka and Sushi Saito.
After lunch, we walked around the main shopping streets of Ginza, Chuo-dori and Harumi-dori. We also popped into Kimuraya, a bakery known for its sweet rolls, or anpan. I tried their bestselling Sakadane Sakura, a roll filled with red bean paste with a salted pickled cherry blossom. We then walked to Hamarikyu Gardens (admission 300 JPY) for yet another leisurely stroll!
Shinjuku at Night
That evening, we headed over to Shinjuku. We strolled down Memory Lane, or Omoide Yokocho, a small street lined with tiny bars and yakitori restaurants. Each place could fit maybe three to eight people at a small counter.
We picked a place and had one of our favorite meals of the whole trip!
After dinner, we did a free walking tour of Shinjuku. I loved this tour because it gave us more insight into the social lives and culture of Japanese people. We saw and learned about their red-light district called Kabukicho, love hotels, and host/hostess clubs.
This tour also walked through Omoide Yokocho and ended at Golden Gai, a network of alleys with over 200 tiny bars, many of which have themes. We picked an 80’s themed bar and had a few drinks to celebrate our last night in Tokyo.
Looking back at our five days in Tokyo, we certainly saw a lot! Tokyo is the type of place that has a few must-see sights but is mainly for strolling around and absorbing the vibe of its different neighborhoods. I have a feeling we could go back for another five days and have a completely different itinerary!
How would you spend five days in Tokyo?