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    Tokyo in one day - the ultimate 24-hour itinerary

    By Kenji Kitabayasho

    February 10, 2020

    Tokyo in one day - the ultimate 24-hour itinerary

    Hey, I'm Kenji! Have you only got 24 hours in Tokyo? Not a problem! Having lived here for twenty years, I'm excited to share a few highlights of this city with so much to offer, from the bustling Tokyo Station to the historic Tokyo Imperial Palace, the towering Tokyo Skytree, and the tranquil Yoyogi Park. And trust me, even a day in Tokyo can leave you with memories for a lifetime.

    Tokyo is more than just a city. It's an experience. You have bright lights and tall buildings, peaceful parks like Yoyogi, serene shrines near the Tokyo Imperial Palace, and a food scene that will make your tastebuds dance near Tokyo Station. Not to mention the mesmerizing views from Tokyo Skytree! But what truly adds soul to this city is the Japanese people. Their warmth, respect for tradition, and innovative spirit is reflected in every aspect of Tokyo. This blend of the new and the old, the fast and the slow, complemented by the city's residents, makes Tokyo truly special.

    So here's a one-day Tokyo itinerary for you, not just another run-of-the-mill plan ticking off the obvious hotspots, but a dive into the city's heart. From quiet, tucked-away corners in the verdant expanse of Yoyogi Park to bustling local markets near Tokyo Station, I've tried to pack in a bit of everything. Here's one of the many examples of the many Tokyo tours available.

    So put on some comfy shoes, make sure your phone's got enough charge for photos, and get ready to see Tokyo in a new light, whether from the ground in Yoyogi Park or high above the city in Tokyo Skytree. It's more than a trip; it's about experiencing a day in a city that never ceases to amaze me. Ready to take the plunge? Let's get started!

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    Early morning:

    Ready for a thrilling adventure navigating 24 hours in Tokyo? Let's kick off this vibrant journey! Your day begins bright and early at Café Kitsuné Aoyama for breakfast. Trust me, it's not just because they serve an unforgettable cup of coffee. It's the undeniable coolness of starting your day in a café that also moonlights as an innovative fashion label. Many of my early morning adventures in Tokyo have begun in this location, where I enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and indulge in their heavenly croissants.

    With your energy replenished, it's time to hop on the Tokyo Metro and make your way toward Shibuya Station. Here, you'll find the famous Hachiko exit, named after the loyal dog Hachiko, a symbol of loyalty and a beloved owner-dog tale that continues to touch hearts worldwide. From there, your gateway opens to the day's first cultural stop - Meiji Jingu Shrine.

    This Shinto shrine, nestled in the heart of Yoyogi Park, feels like stepping into another realm. And that's the magic of spending 24 hours in Tokyo - the fascinating transition from the bustling, neon-lit streets to the tranquil, verdant expanse of a centuries-old shrine within moments.

    The towering torii gates of Meiji Jingu Shrine are a sight to behold, their grandeur separating you from the buzzing city and plunging you into a serene oasis. Your one day in your Tokyo tour has just begun, and already, you're soaking up the contrasting allure of Japan's capital city.

    I recommend not to rush your visit. Explore the park, observe locals participating in time-honored rituals, and perhaps join in if you're feeling adventurous. The shrine also hosts historical displays that provide a deep insight into its significance, offering you a living history lesson right in the heart of Tokyo.

    And so, the stage is set for an early start to a thrilling day in Tokyo - where a delectable breakfast meets a healthy dose of culture before the city truly wakes up. Your 24 hours in Tokyo journey has only just begun - fasten your seatbelt and prepare for an incredible ride ahead!

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    Late morning:


    Once you've absorbed the serene beauty of Meiji Jingu Shrine, brace yourself to plunge back into Tokyo's vibrant pulse. Next on the 24 hours in Tokyo itinerary is the bustling Takeshita-dōri, a throbbing heartbeat of Harajuku's youth and fashion scene, located just a quick ride away on the JR Yamanote line from Tokyo Station or Shinjuku Station.

    Navigating Takeshita Street is no ordinary experience. It's like being swept into a vivid, ever-evolving fashion parade. As an integral part of Central Tokyo, this hub of style, culture, and innovative fashion is teeming with vibrant boutiques that defy convention and stores showcasing the unique kawaii (cute) culture that Harajuku is famous for.

    Amid the neon signs illuminating the path, the brightly dressed locals push the boundaries of fashion, creating an urban canvas of Tokyo's dynamic youth culture. I have often found myself captivated by Takeshita-dōri's magnetic energy, which has turned my plan of a 'short walk' into hours of delightful exploration, even on Google Maps!

    Takeshita-dōri is a hub of creativity and an emblem of Tokyo's youth culture, from trend-setting boutiques with outlandish yet unique fashion to quirky shops selling adorable knick-knacks. Further, the juxtaposition of Tokyo Tower and the modern Tokyo skyline in the background only enhances the enchanting atmosphere of the street.

    During your day in Tokyo, you might also glimpse the nearby Tokyo Skytree or the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi Hills from various vantage points, adding to the city's dynamic blend of traditional and modern attractions.

    So, whether it's your first 24 hours in Tokyo or your hundredth, immerse yourself in the whirlwind of colors, styles, and energy that Takeshita-dōri offers. It's not too far from the Tokyo Imperial Palace and the Sumida River, and its vibrant pulse truly captures the essence of a day in Tokyo. You'll soon understand why this street is a mecca for Tokyo's youth and the birthplace of many fashion trends that have rocked the world.



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    After soaking in the vibrant energy of Takeshita-dōri and the world of cutting-edge fashion, I'm sure you've worked up quite an appetite. No worries, as Tokyo's culinary scene won't disappoint you. From sushi breakfasts at at Tsukiji Outer Market (the original location of the famed Tsukiji Fish Market now relocated to Toyosu Market in central Tokyo) to late-night street food in Golden Gai, this city has it all. But, allow me to direct you to my personal favorite, hidden like a gem amidst Harajuku's labyrinth of narrow lanes.

    Welcome to Ootoya, a delightful spot I discovered during my explorations in Tokyo. Although it is part of a chain, each location exudes its own unique charm and ambiance. Far from the cacophony of Tokyo Station, the Harajuku branch, in particular, feels like a calming sanctuary amidst the busy city. It's nestled in the lively district of Harajuku, tucked away from the hubbub of the famous Takeshita Street, offering a serene retreat amidst the vibrant city. This charming eatery doesn't prioritize extravagant, over-the-top presentations. Instead, it serves heartwarming, homestyle Japanese dishes that soothe your soul, making your hours in Tokyo a culinary delight.

    Their menu is a symphony of traditional Japanese cuisine, from succulent yakitori to cloud-like tofu, each dish prepared with utmost care. This is a taste of Japan that you might crave after a day spent shopping in the trendy boutiques of Harajuku or exploring the beautiful Meiji Shrine. My personal favorite has always been their teishoku - a set meal typically including a main dish, rice, miso soup, and pickles. Each bite is a harmonious fusion of flavors and textures that feels like a comforting hug on a plate.

    Finding Ootoya is a mini-adventure, navigating through the labyrinth of Harajuku's narrow side streets just off Takeshita Street. It's as thrilling as maneuvering through the Harajuku crowds to find your way to the iconic Shibuya Crossing. But trust me; the journey is as rewarding as the destination. It's a slice of genuine Japanese heritage and cuisine tucked away in the heart of one of Tokyo's most bustling neighborhoods.

    So, when hunger strikes after your exploration, remember to drop by Ootoya. This charming Japanese eatery, just walking from Harajuku Station and a short ride from Central Tokyo's highlights like Roppongi Hills and Shinjuku Station is your ticket to a heartwarming culinary experience. Enjoy your meal, or as the locals say, "itadakimasu!" in this bustling city. And with that, you're well on your way to savoring the best of a day in Tokyo!

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    Early afternoon:


    Feeling satiated after a delightful lunch at Ootoya, let's jump back into the vibrant hum of Harajuku for our '24 hours in Tokyo' journey. Trust me; you'll want to bask a little longer in the area's eclectic fashion culture and perhaps take a walk down the narrow side streets. Harajuku, a hub of Japanese culture, is filled with surprises at every corner and you never know what eye-catching street style or fascinating store might pique your interest.

    Once you've had your fill of Harajuku's vibrant lanes, it's time to catch the JR Yamanote line from Harajuku and make a short hop to Shibuya station. We are heading to the world's busiest pedestrian crossing - the famous Shibuya Crossing. Witnessing the orchestrated chaos as the lights change is nothing short of mesmerizing, and a spectacle synonymous with modern Tokyo's luminous lights and bustling atmosphere.

    From Shibuya, it's time to wander towards Omotesando, often described as Tokyo's Champs-Élysées. Our destination: Omotesando Hills. This isn't just any shopping complex - a stunning architectural masterpiece crafted by the renowned Japanese architect Tadao Ando.

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    The first time I walked into Omotesando Hills during my many hours in Tokyo, I remember being struck by the sheer grandeur of the place. The wide, spiraling shopping floors, the mixture of high-end brands, and local boutiques, and the thoughtful design that allows natural light to flood the space - it's a shopping experience that captures the essence of Tokyo, where tradition and modernity coexist in a fascinating collaboration.

    Whether you're an architecture buff, a shopping enthusiast, or simply a curious observer, Omotesando Hills is a place that deserves a spot on your one-day Tokyo itinerary. Even if you're not in the mood for shopping, take a stroll, soak in the ambiance, and maybe grab a coffee at one of the many cafes. It's time to savor Tokyo's eclectic mix, one hour at a time.

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    Now, with a belly full of good food and a mind buzzing from the energy of Harajuku, it's time to continue your '24 hours in Tokyo' by taking on the legendary Shibuya Crossing. Known as the busiest intersection in the world, it's an experience that embodies modern Tokyo's ceaseless energy. Catching a train from Harajuku station on the JR Yamanote line to Shibuya station will quickly transport you to this iconic location.

    When I stood at the Hachiko exit of Shibuya station for the first time amidst the sea of people all crossing in unison under the gleaming lights, I felt an infectious sense of awe. No matter how many hours you spend in Tokyo, this sight never gets old, and it stands as a testament to the unending rhythm of Japanese people's daily life.

    Before you dash off to explore more of Shibuya, take a moment to visit the "Myth of Tomorrow" mural inside Shibuya Station. This striking piece of art, depicting the horrors of World War II and nuclear destruction, always gives me pause. It's a stark reminder of history amidst the whirl of daily life and worth taking a few moments to appreciate.

    Next, dive into Centre Gai, known as Shibuya Center Street. This bustling stretch is a shopper's paradise, lined with a mix of international brands, local shops, and many restaurants offering great food. But it's not just about the shopping - the energy, the neon lights, the street performances, and the pedestrian traffic that rivals the famous Shibuya Crossing. Everything adds up to the buzz that is so uniquely Shibuya.

    As the afternoon starts winding down in your day in Tokyo, make your way to Nonbei Yokocho, also known as Drunkard's Alley. Despite its colorful name, it's a charming alleyway filled with tiny bars and eateries, each brimming with character. Nestled beside the train tracks, it is a hidden gem that captures the spirit of old Tokyo. While you're exploring these small alleyways, it may remind you of Piss Alley, another place with its unique charm. Both places demonstrate the city's knack for tucking away delightful surprises in the most unexpected corners.

    So, get ready to embrace the buzz of Shibuya, from its packed crossings to its hidden alleyways. It's an experience that's hard to put into words - you've got to be there to feel it! This will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of your one-day Tokyo itinerary.

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    Late afternoon:



    Having enjoyed the hustle and bustle of Shibuya, it's time to hop on the Tokyo Metro Tozai line from Shibuya station to Yurakucho station as you continue your "24 hours in Tokyo". This will whisk you away to Ginza's polished and sophisticated district, a stark contrast to Shibuya's youthful energy but no less intriguing.

    One of my personal favorite spots in this upscale neighborhood is Nissan Crossing. Even if you're not a car enthusiast, the futuristic design and cutting-edge technology displays are cool to check out. I remember being genuinely impressed by the concept cars and interactive exhibits when I first visited.

    After exploring Nissan Crossing, it's a short distance to the Tsukiji Outer Market. Although the former adjacent Tsukiji Fish Market, once the largest wholesale market for seafood in Japan, has relocated to Toyosu, the Outer Market remains vibrant. This place is a paradise for food lovers like me. Think narrow lanes crammed with stalls selling everything from the freshest seafood to handcrafted kitchen knives and many restaurants that serve up some of the freshest sushi you can find in Tokyo. The sushi breakfast here is legendary.

    Even though the famous inner Tsukiji fish market has moved to the new Toyosu Market, the outer market retains its charm and is worth a visit. I've spent many early mornings here, sampling street food, people-watching, and soaking in the lively atmosphere that defines hours in Tokyo. And let's not forget the food - did I mention the food? From sizzling yakitori skewers to succulent sashimi, it's all a treat for the senses.

    So, there you have it. Late afternoon in your "24 hours in Tokyo" is all about the contrast between Ginza's sleek, modern side and the bustling tradition of Tsukiji Outer Market. These layers of Japan make Tokyo such a joy to explore, always revealing more hidden gems just when you think you've seen it all. So, prepare to indulge in this section of your Tokyo adventure - enjoy your hours in Tokyo as you create cherished memories!

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    Early evening:


    As the afternoon sun wanes, it's time to delve into another distinct facet of Tokyo in your "24 hours in Tokyo" journey - the iconic otaku culture. For this, there's no better place than Akihabara. Hop back onto the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda line at Ginza station, and let's head there next.

    Akihabara, or "Akiba" as the locals call it, is a technicolor dreamland for anime, manga, video games, and pop culture fans. It's a district that pulses with an energy that's vibrant and a bit quirky - just like the city itself.

    One place that encapsulates this vibe is the Mandarake Complex. This isn't just a shopping center - it's an adventure. From floors dedicated to manga and anime to others teeming with gaming paraphernalia, cosplay costumes, and vintage collectibles, it's a veritable treasure trove for pop culture enthusiasts. Even if you're not an otaku, it's a fascinating place to explore.

    On one of my visits, I remember the thrill of discovering a vintage manga I'd been searching for ages at Mandarake. And the joy of stumbling upon a retro video game from my childhood. It's experiences like these that make Akihabara such a captivating place.

    But that's not all for the day in Tokyo! As night falls, you might want to get a glimpse of Tokyo's flashing lights and neon signs. Hop on the Tokyo Metro line once more and head to Tokyo Skytree. Soaring above the city like a sentinel, its imposing height makes it a different spectacle than the iconic Tokyo Tower. The observation deck here provides a breathtaking view of the Tokyo skyline, truly a sight.

    So, experience the fascinating world of otaku culture in Akihabara and witness the enchanting Tokyo skyline. It's a part of what makes Tokyo unique and a must-see on any Tokyo itinerary.

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    As evening descends and your stomach starts to rumble, it's time to venture from Tokyo Skytree towards Ueno and head to one of my all-time favorite dinner spots along the Yamanote line: Tachigui Yakiniku Jiromaru Okachimachi. Trust me; this is not your typical restaurant in your '24 hours in Tokyo' adventure.

    Tachigui, which translates to "standing," is a unique dining concept in Japan, and this place is one of the best spots to experience it. It's all about quick, delicious food served in a casual, stand-and-eat setting. A big draw here, and the star of the show, is the Wagyu beef.

    The first time I bit into a piece of their beautifully marinated, perfectly grilled Wagyu, it was a melt-in-the-mouth experience. With each visit, I'm reminded of why I fell in love with it in the first place. The meat is tender and flavorful; grilling it yourself is just half the fun.

    As you stand there, sizzling meat on the grill, with the mouthwatering aroma wafting through the air under the bright neon lights, it's hard not to get excited about the meal. This restaurant is as much about the experience as the great food.

    From here, it's a stone's throw away to Ameya-Yokochō market, an open-air market in Tokyo, where you can buy everything from clothes and accessories to fresh food and spices. At night, the market comes alive with stalls selling street food.

    So, prepare yourself for a deliciously different kind of dinner at Tachigui Yakiniku Jiromaru Okachimachi Ten. It's the perfect place to round off a day of exploring Tokyo's diverse offerings. As they say before meals in Japan, "itadakimasu!" Enjoy every bite!

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    With your taste buds still savoring the memory of the delectable Wagyu, it's time to head over to Roppongi, one of Tokyo's liveliest entertainment districts, a modern Tokyo landmark that never fails to impress, even in the wee hours. Karaoke Pasela, a personal favorite of mine, which you can easily reach using the Tokyo Metro Hibiya line, disembarking at Roppongi station.

    A short walk from the station, nestled amidst the cityscape of Roppongi Hills, beneath the looming Mori Tower, you'll find this karaoke haven. This is an integral part of '24 hours in Tokyo', an authentic Japanese experience.

    I still remember my first karaoke session here. Nervous and slightly awkward, I picked up the microphone, looked at my friends, and let the music carry me away. It didn't matter if I was off-tune, it was pure, unfiltered fun. It's become something of a tradition for me to end a great day out in Tokyo with a round of karaoke, and Karaoke Pasela is one of my favorite spots for this.

    Karaoke Pasela stands out from other karaoke spots because of its warm, welcoming atmosphere, high-quality sound system, and extensive selection of songs. They also offer a unique feature where you can order various food and drinks, even complete meals, right from your karaoke room. Whether you're there to serenade your friends with the latest J-Pop hits, croon classic love songs, or just let loose and have fun, Karaoke Pasela in Roppongi provides a fantastic setting

    As the music fills the room and you sing along to your favorite tunes under the bright neon lights, you'll create memories that last a lifetime. So, grab the mic, step into the spotlight, and finish your day in Tokyo on a high note. Because when in Japan, you karaoke!

    With that, I'll say "oyasumi nasai" or goodnight. After all, after a day packed with so much excitement, a good night's rest is well deserved! Yet remember, this was just a snapshot of what Tokyo has to offer, there are many more hidden gems, shopping malls, and beautiful views to explore in the city.

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