What should I do in Tokyo?

United Airlines is finally getting their 787 Dreamliners on to longhaul routes, starting with a flight on Monday from Denver to Tokyo. I booked my seat on the flight way back when it first went on sale and I’ve put up with the delays and schedule changes over the past few months. I’m very excited to be going on the route inaugural and I’m pretty excited to spend another day in Tokyo, a city which I very much enjoy exploring. But I’m also not entirely sure what I should do in town.

Because of the schedule changes and such I only have from 3:30pm on the 11th until 5:30pm on the 12th for my visit. Taking in to account transit times and such – and I do plan on going in to Tokyo rather than staying in Narita town – I figure I should have about 20 hours to explore. I’m also going to sleep a bit at some point, almost certainly in the Asakusa neighborhood. Still, I’ve got some time to schedule various adventures in to and I’m interested in what y’all would do if you were me.

Sushi at Tsukiji in the morning is almost a certainty, though I won’t be waiting in any long lines to make that happen. Plus, in my previous experiences, the places with long lines aren’t all that much different than the others. Assuming things go well with the inbound flight times I should be able to explore for a few hours on Tuesday night, though I’m probably arriving too late for happy hour in Yakitori Alley. And then I’ll have a few hours during the day on Wednesday to explore the city before heading back out to the airport for the flights home.

Any suggestions?

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. “the places with long lines aren’t all that much different than the others” correct at most sushi places it’s just the cheaper alternative.

  2. Skip the actual auction at the fish market. Having breakfast at one of the shops is worth a lot more.

  3. if you love kit kats (or know someone who does), definitely look for exotic flavors in Japan! Grocery stores and even the airport duty free has ’em.

  4. Heiroku Sushi by Oriental Bazaar in Harajuku area and Tonki tonkatsu by Meguro station

  5. Jiro? Yeah, great idea… If you booked a reservation three months ago.

  6. Go to Roppongi hills. Try ascending into The hills from the subway Hibiya Line, via escalators through the cylindrical building Metro Hat.
    You can visit the Mori Art Museum and Tokyo City View observatory. At the base of the tower is the Grand Hyatt and lots of shopping, drinking and dining establishments.
    You can also try the Sky Bar of lost in translation fame for some top both jazz @ the Park Hyatt.

  7. Tsukiji for sushi, definitely. Especially since you pointed out a couple months ago that they’re blowing up the existing Tsukiji at some point. Might as well get as many opportunities before they demolish it.

  8. japanguide.com

    there is a huge Buddha in Kamakura also
    Shinjuku if you want times square of Tokyo

  9. Akihabara – tons of really cool gadget

    Ikebukuro – good for shopping + food, and maid/butler cafes! Namja (cat) town with a floor on different ice cream and another floor for dumplings.

    Harajuku – eye opener of japan fashion and there is a store call kiddyland (right by the JR station) with a lot of fascinating toys

    If you ever have more time, definitely try the Odaiba – there is a hot spring there even for daytime travel. There is also a life-size Gundam (anime) and a lot of good mall.

  10. Given your lack of time I wouldn’t bother waiting in any line for longer than 15 minutes. There are plenty of other places of equal or higher quality without lines. If you’re dying to go to Sushi Dai, then skip the outlet inside the market and go to the honkan outside at 6-21-2 Tsukuji (opens at 10:30 am) or the bekkan at 6-13-3 Tsukiji (opens at 11:30 am).

    As it will nearly be summer, I’d suggest trying some tsukemen (hot soup served with room temperature noodles on the side). Taishouken is pretty representative, but Rokurinsha and Honda (in Ramen Street at Tokyo Station) were popular with FTers during the Japan Do.

  11. I would go to asakusa as you suggested and take teh boat ride which showcases the bridges its an great experience and goes to shinagawa or odaiba. From Shinagawa you can take NEX back to airport if you like.

  12. Book a half day with one of Tokyo’s free guide services. Locals will take you around to see what you are interested in. We used them for 4 days in Kyoto & Tokyo last year. Cost? Lunch only. Great service.

  13. Shinjuku and Harajuku are convienent to using the Narita Express to quickly get back to the airport.

    If you go to the Tokyo Metropolitan Govt building (west side of the shinjuku station) you can go up to the observation floor for free. Unlike Tokyo Skytree, Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Tower all of which charge.

    You can also easily visit meiji shrine and Harajuku on the yamanote line from Shinjuku.

    If you have at least 4 days notice, and are interested in touring the Imperial Palace (free tours) you can get off at Tokyo Station (also a stop for quick access to Narita Express)

    You have to apply for the tour from this website (needs 4 days advance and needs to be a week day)

    Have a good time visiting, and dress comfortably, it’s starting to get hot here. For example Monday it’s supposed to be 30c (86f).

  14. This is all great stuff. We are going this Fall for one day stopover so I’m taking notes. Thanks.

  15. I’m taking the very same flight the next day, but connecting to Seoul out of Tokyo. Can’t wait! (It’s totally coincidence for me that it’s the Dreamliner.)

  16. Have fun! (jealous as I was suppose to be on the flight in March)
    The Roppongi Hills art museum at the top of Mori Tower is pretty cool… In the area (Nishi-Azabu) is Gonpachi for dinner… pretty reasonable, also referred to as the “Kill Bill” restaurant.

  17. Akihabara is always fun for exploring “otaku” (geek) culture like anime, comic books, etc.

    If you’re into vintage, old-school video games, a must-visit is Super Potato. It’s a blast from the past, stepping into a 1980’s video game store.

  18. The Edo-Tokyo Museum (fabulous artifacts and dioramas of pre-industrial Edo, top-floor cafe with period foods). Any Ginza department store. Asakusa Temple, of course. Roaming random residential streets with their scores of unlocked bicycles and wide variety of small businesses.

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