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    3 days in Tokyo: from famous hotspots to local secrets – an insider's itinerary

    By Martina Lucchini

    July 7, 2023

    3 days in Tokyo: from famous hotspots to local secrets

    Welcome to Tokyo, a city that's been my home for over half a decade. I am thrilled to guide you on a "3 days in Tokyo" adventure! We'll uncover hidden gems and iconic sights, including Tokyo Tower and the Meiji Shrine, using a meticulously curated Tokyo itinerary.

    Tokyo's charm lies in its ability to blend tradition with modernity. From the hustling Shibuya Station and Shibuya Crossing, to the calming ambience of the Imperial Palace East Gardens, it's an intriguing mix.

    Feast your eyes on the panorama from Tokyo Tower and the bustling Tokyo Bay, as you experience the rhythm of life in the vibrant metropolis. Navigating through the labyrinthine Tokyo metro subway lines and JR trains is a quintessential Tokyo experience, offering an authentic feel of the city.

    Whether it's your first time visiting Tokyo or you've visited Tokyo before, every corner promises a new surprise. With stops at the Tokyo National Museum and the Mori Art Museum on our Tokyo itinerary, you'll dive deep into Japanese culture.

    So, let's fasten our seatbelts for this "3 days in Tokyo" adventure. Whether it's exploring Yoyogi Park, tasting street food, or experiencing cherry blossom season in Ueno Park, your days in Tokyo will be unforgettable. Get ready to embrace traditional Tokyo in the most authentic way.

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    Is 3 days enough for Tokyo?

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    If you're wondering if 3 days in Tokyo is enough to get a feel for the city then I say, absolutely! While 3 days will just scratch the surface, it provides an enticing peek into Tokyo's soul, setting the stage for a deeper bond with this mesmerizing city.

    Embarking on a "3 days in Tokyo" trip, you'll experience a captivating blend of tradition and modernity, energy and tranquility. Essential stops like bustling Shibuya Station and the iconic Shibuya Crossing are just the beginning.

    Amidst Tokyo's pulsating energy, serene spaces like the Imperial Palace and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building offer a breath of tranquility. Museums such as the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and Mori Art Museum are a testament to Tokyo's fascinating fusion of old and new.

    Exploring Tokyo extends beyond mere tourism, it's about diving headfirst into the rich tapestry of local customs and traditions. From tasting fresh seafood at the Toyosu Fish Market to walking under cherry blossoms in Yoyogi Park, your "3 days in Tokyo" itinerary will be a tapestry of unforgettable moments.

    Remember, this "3 days in Tokyo" itinerary is just an appetizer, an introduction to Tokyo's richness. But rest assured, it'll ignite your curiosity, leaving you yearning for more Tokyo adventures. So, let's embark on this exciting journey through Tokyo together!

    Here's my recommended "3 days in Tokyo" itinerary

    Day 1: Historical exploration, local cuisine, and vibrant nightlife

    Morning: Explore historical Tokyo and local cuisine

    Yasukuni Jinja

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    Begin your 3 days in Tokyo adventure at Yasukuni Jinja. This peaceful Shinto shrine whispers tales of Japan's history, offering moments of reflection and calm. Just a short stroll away, you'll discover the Yūshūkan War Museum. Take your time here; the collection of wartime artifacts is both intriguing and thought-provoking.

    Imperial Palace

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    Once you've soaked up the history, make your way toward the Tokyo Imperial Palace east garden. Meandering through the vibrant Imperial Palace East Gardens, it's as if you're stepping into a painting. Beautifully manicured gardens, charming teahouses, and a serene pond set the stage for spectacular photos.

    Next up is Tokyo Station, a striking mix of classic and modern styles that never fails to impress. Want a top tip? Head to the rooftop of the nearby Kitte Shopping Mall for the best snapshot of this iconic building. With the massive city below spread out below and the station at center stage, it's a view you'll remember.

    Now, let's switch gears to food. If you're feeling a bit peckish, it's the perfect time to delve into Tokyo's gastronomic scene. Head over to the lively Tsukiji Outer Market, located at the former site of the renowned Tsukiji Fish Market, which has since relocated to Toyosu (Toyosu Fish Market). It's a paradise for food lovers, brimming with the buzz of vendors and the irresistible aroma of fresh seafood. Here's your chance to try fresh sushi or sashimi bowls. They're not just as good as they sound - they're delicious, fresh, and a wonderful introduction to the rich tapestry of Tokyo's culinary scene, a vital part of Japanese culture.

    Afternoon: Dive into history, greenery, and authentic Japanese food

    Asakusa and Senso-ji Temple

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    As the afternoon sun shines down on Tokyo, it's time to continue your journey and explore the historic Asakusa district. Here, the air is steeped with tradition, and the streets brim with the vibrancy of old Tokyo. The heart of Asakusa is Senso-ji Temple, Tokyo's oldest temple and an iconic place where ancient and modern Tokyo intersect and a must-see when you visit Tokyo.

    As you wander around Senso-ji, take your time to appreciate its stunning architecture and tranquil surroundings. Nearby, Nakamise shopping street waits to enchant you with its colorful stalls. It's a perfect spot to look for souvenirs or simply enjoy the hustle and bustle. And, of course, Asakusa isn't complete without a visit to the Asahi Beer Hall. Its unique architecture, resembling a glass of beer, is a sight to behold!

    Now, let's talk about the tasty part. Asakusa has a treat that's a must-try - the melon-pan ice cream sandwich. Sweet, creamy, and oh-so-refreshing, it's the perfect afternoon pick-me-up.

    Edo Tokyo Museum

    Next on the "3 days in Tokyo" itinerary is the Edo-Tokyo Museum. It's an excellent place to dive deeper into Tokyo's history. With exhibits showcasing the transformation of Edo into modern-day Tokyo, it's a journey through time that will leave you inspired.

    Kiyosumi Garden

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    Ready for a breather? Kiyosumi Garden is calling. A serene retreat tucked in Tokyo's busy streets, it's an oasis of peace where you can unwind, enjoy the lush greenery, and soak in the beauty of traditional Japanese landscaping.

    Tsukishima Monja Street

    Feeling hungry after the day's adventure? It's time for a unique lunch experience at Tsukishima Monja Street, a hidden gem that locals adore. Here you'll find Monjayaki, a scrumptious pan-fried batter dish unlike anything you've tasted before. It's a great way to end your afternoon exploration, leaving you energized for the exciting evening ahead.

    Evening: Experience local nightlife and taste delicious street food

    Yebisu Beer Museum

    As you venture into the night, I encourage you to truly embrace this vibrant chapter of your 3 days in Tokyo. Taste the diverse street food, become attuned to the city's sounds, and absorb the memorable views.

    Tokyo's nightlife isn't just about letting loose; it's a sensory experience that connects you to the city's dynamic pulse, its charismatic people, and the core of its Japanese culture. Every corner turned reveals a new side of Tokyo, from quiet lantern-lit alleyways to vibrant streets pulsing with energy.

    Kickstart the evening festivities with a trip to the Yebisu Beer Museum. This place is not just about beer; it's a journey through the fascinating history of one of Japan's beloved breweries. Learn about the brewing process, appreciate the craftsmanship, and of course, savor a chilled glass of Yebisu - a perfect way to toast the Tokyo evening.

    Ebisu Yokocho

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    Once you've sipped some history, it's time to immerse yourself in Tokyo's vibrant nightlife at Ebisu Yokocho. Imagine a cozy, indoor alley, glowing under lantern lights, lined with a mix of eclectic tiny restaurants and bars. It's like stepping into the pulsating heart of Tokyo, full of life and infectious energy. Each little eatery has its own charm, offering everything from sizzling yakitori to comforting bowls of ramen.

    At Ebisu Yokocho, you don't just eat; you experience the food. The sizzle of the grill, the aroma of fresh ingredients, and the chatter of locals make for a sensory feast. Grab a seat, order a plate of what catches your eye, and soak in the ambiance.

    Visiting Tokyo is much more than ticking off a checklist of sights; it's about immersing yourself in our way of life. So, as you navigate the city under the glow of neon lights, remember that every sound, every taste, every interaction is adding a unique brush stroke to your Tokyo canvas. Embrace it all, and let the city's nocturnal charm captivate you.

    Day 2: Shopping, art, food, and architecture

    Morning: Savor a park-side breakfast

    Are you ready to embrace another glorious day in your 3 days in Tokyo adventure? I hope you've got comfortable shoes on because today is all about leisurely strolls, unexpected discoveries, and of course, a delightful park-side breakfast.

    As we navigate our way through this 3 days in Tokyo itinerary, remember that the beauty of Tokyo is not just in the well-trodden tourist trails but also in its unexpected nooks and corners. We'll wind our way through narrow streets that open onto sweeping vistas, stumble upon quaint little shops full of treasures, and dine at hidden local eateries where every dish tells a story.

    Yanaka Ginza

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    First up is Yanaka Ginza, a charming local market where the city's past and present beautifully collide. This is where you can sample the famous Yanaka donuts. Trust me, the light, fluffy, and not-too-sweet goodness of these donuts is something your taste buds will thank you for.

    Nezu Shrine

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    From there, wander over to Nezu Shrine. Amid the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, this shrine is a serene oasis. The torii gate pathway said to be reminiscent of Kyoto's famous Fushimi Inari Shrine, is a sight to behold. Take a moment to admire the shrine's intricate details, maybe even light an incense stick, and send a little prayer to the universe.

    Ueno Park

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    After a peaceful morning of contemplation, I'm sure you're starting to feel those hunger pangs. Let's delve into a traditional Tokyo breakfast that's as delightful as it is convenient.

    How about a picnic breakfast in the much-loved Ueno Park? Trust me, there's nothing quite like the simple pleasure of enjoying onigiri amidst the gentle hum of the city. For those not familiar, onigiri are triangular rice balls wrapped in seaweed, filled with a variety of scrumptious ingredients. Pick up a few from a local konbini (that's our version of a convenience store), find a cozy spot under the canopy of trees in Ueno Park, and voila! Breakfast is served.

    Once you've enjoyed your meal, it's time to immerse yourself in Japanese history and art at the Tokyo National Museum. It's within walking distance away from Ueno Park and happens to be the country's oldest and largest museum. Every piece, from the ancient pottery and samurai armor to delicate scrolls and vibrant kimono, offers a slice of our artistic evolution.

    Afternoon: Food crawl and shopping spree

    Ameya-Yokocho Market

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    Feeling the vibrant energy of Tokyo yet? Keep it going because this afternoon, we're going on a delightful journey through Tokyo's bustling food scene and indulging in a bit of retail therapy.

    First stop is the Ameya-Yokocho Market in Ueno. It's street food heaven! Every nook and cranny of this bustling market is bursting with tantalizing food stalls. From piping hot takoyaki to crispy tempura, there's a treat for every palate.

    Sunshine City

    Next, swing by Sunshine City in Ikebukuro, an entertainment hub that will leave you in awe. And guess what? The Pokemon Center is here too! Whether you're a fan or simply curious, it's a fun experience exploring the world of Pikachu and pals.

    Harajuku and Takeshita Street

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    Time to head towards the whimsical Harajuku's Takeshita Street, a colorful wonderland that's always buzzing. If there's one thing you can't miss here, it's the famous Harajuku crepes. Whether you like yours sweet or savory, they're a delight!


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    Finally, let's add a touch of retail therapy to our "3 days in Tokyo" itinerary. How about we make our way to the bustling shopping street leading to the Oriental Bazaar in Omotesando? Get those shopping bags ready, because you're in for a treat!

    This place is a delightful treasure trove of unique and traditional Japanese souvenirs. Think of it as your one-stop-shop for everything quintessentially Japanese. Dreaming of draping yourself in a beautiful kimono? You'll find them here in an array of vibrant colors and intricate designs. Are delicate ceramics calling your name? The shelves are lined with a variety of exquisite pieces, each one more enchanting than the last. And let's not forget the quirky knick-knacks! From cute Maneki-neko (lucky cats) to intricate origami sets, there's something here to pique everyone's interest.

    So, dive into this shopping adventure and take a piece of Tokyo back home with you. Remember, each item you find at the Oriental Bazaar isn't just a souvenir, it's a memento of your Tokyo journey. Enjoy, and happy shopping!

    Evening: Dine in style and soak in the architecture

    Cat Street

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    As the day starts to wind down, Tokyo's energy doesn't falter. The whole city skyline takes on a new persona, lit by thousands of neon lights, and each turn reveals another spectacle. So let's not lose a beat and continue our journey!

    As the day winds down, it's time to embrace Tokyo's lively evening scene. Start with a leisurely stroll down Cat Street, a delightful gem tucked away from the city's hustle. This charming alley, with its cute boutiques and quirky shops, offers an enchanting exploration that perfectly blends the old with the new, the trendy with the traditional.

    Your path through Cat Street will gradually lead you into the beating heart of Shibuya, a neighborhood bursting with youthful energy and a stylish vibe that's palpable.

    Nabezo Shibuya Koen Dori restaurant

    Once there, treat yourself to a fabulous dinner at Nabezo Shibuya Koen Dori restaurant. Here, you get to experience the warm, brothy goodness of Shabu-shabu, a traditional Japanese hotpot dish. As you cook thinly sliced meats and fresh veggies right at your table, you'll realize there's a unique pleasure in the process. It's as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the taste buds!

    Shibuya crossing

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    Post dinner, it's time to witness the magic of the famous Shibuya Crossing, the world's busiest pedestrian crossing. It's a sight to behold as hundreds of people from all walks of life cross paths, creating a human tapestry that's mesmerizing. Walking through this scramble is a quintessential Tokyo experience that you just can't miss.

    But the evening isn't over yet. To cap off the night, ascend the Shibuya Sky observation deck. Rising above the city's skyline, it offers panoramic views of Tokyo. As you stand there, with the twinkling cityscape spread out beneath you, it's a moment of awe and wonder.

    So there you have it, a perfect end to a day of exploration and gastronomic delights. Tokyo after dark is a different beast entirely - vibrant, enchanting, and endlessly captivating.

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    Day 3: Modern Tokyo, digital art, and delicious fare

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    Morning: Chill at local hangouts

    Doutor Coffee Shop

    Let's tour Tokyo like a true local today. We'll switch gears and dive into the everyday rhythm of Tokyo life. The first stop? A grab-and-go breakfast from the ever-popular Doutor Coffee Shop. This spot is loved by locals for its laid-back vibe and delicious fare. Whether you're a hardcore coffee enthusiast or have a soft spot for freshly baked pastries, Doutor will definitely hit the spot.

    Shinjuku Gyoen Garden

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    Now that you've got breakfast in hand, it's time for a short but enjoyable train ride to the city's beloved Shinjuku Gyoen Garden. Here's a little insider tip: taking the train is a quintessential Tokyo experience. As you hop off at Shinjuku Station, one of the world's busiest transport hubs, you'll get a real sense of the city's pulsing heartbeat.

    Once you've navigated the bustling station, a peaceful oasis awaits. Shinjuku Gyoen Garden is a perfect urban retreat, a place to unwind, and savor your breakfast amidst the tranquility of nature. The garden is a splendid mix of well-tended green spaces, tranquil ponds, and meandering paths – the ideal backdrop to soak in Tokyo’s soothing morning energy.

    While you're there, don't skip the traditional tea house. This is your chance to experience an authentic matcha tea ritual. Sitting in the quaint teahouse, sipping on matcha, you'll feel a sense of tranquility wash over you. It’s a soothing experience that gives a glimpse into Japan's rich tea culture.

    Afternoon: Step into digital Tokyo

    Omoide Yokocho and Digital Art Museum

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    Having dived into Tokyo's historical treasures, it's time to switch gears and fast forward to the pulse of present-day Tokyo. This is where the modern chapter of your Tokyo trip truly begins!

    But, as any Tokyoite will tell you, a day of exploration is best started with a hearty meal. So, let's refuel with some lunch at Omoide Yokocho, affectionately known as 'Memory Lane', tucked away in Shinjuku's skyscraper forest and a bucket list destination when you visit Tokyo. This nostalgic alleyway, brimming with tiny eateries, harks back to a different era, offering a beautiful contrast to the surrounding modernity. Dive into the local cuisine with a bowl of soba noodles or a serving of yakitori - these popular grilled skewers are an authentic taste of Tokyo.

    With your hunger satisfied and energy levels replenished, it's time to immerse yourself in Tokyo's cutting-edge creativity. Welcome to teamLab Borderless, the Digital Art Museum (due to reopen in Fall 2023). Let me assure you, this is not your regular museum. It's a mesmerizing universe where art, technology, and imagination intertwine, painting a surreal landscape of lights, colors, and digital magic. It's experiences like these that truly bring your Tokyo trip to life, showing you a side of the city that perfectly encapsulates its futuristic spirit.

    Top tip: Book your tickets in advance as this spot tends to be a crowd favorite.

    TeamLab Borderless promises to transport you to an entirely different world, where art forms bloom, change, and interact with you. Get ready to be thrilled, amazed, and perhaps a little dizzy as you lose yourself in this kaleidoscope of digital artwork.

    Evening: Wrap up your journey with amazing food and city views

    Himawari Sushi in Shinjuku and Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

    As the day slowly gives way to the twilight, Tokyo's nighttime allure begins to sparkle. Ready to dive into an evening filled with tantalizing cuisine and breathtaking views? Let's go!

    First on your evening agenda, indulge in one of Tokyo's most cherished culinary experiences - sushi. And where better than Himawari Sushi in Shinjuku? This beloved sushi spot offers a mind-boggling array of fresh seafood, served the traditional way. As you watch skilled chefs slice, roll, and serve up bite-sized pieces of art, it's more than just a meal, it's an unforgettable experience.

    Once you've had your fill of sushi goodness, Shall we take to the skies? Well, figuratively! It's time to head to the observation deck of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.

    Stepping onto this viewing platform is like stepping into a scene from a movie. The panoramic view of Tokyo is just mesmerizing. From up here, Tokyo isn't just a city; it becomes a sprawling canvas of architectural art, natural beauty, and human energy all combined.

    As daylight gradually gives way to the enchanting Tokyo night, you'll see one particular silhouette standing out - the Tokyo Tower. Resembling a giant candle lighting up the city, it's a stunning sight that never fails to impress. It's a symbol of Tokyo's resilience and innovative spirit, a beacon that's deeply ingrained in the city's skyline.

    As the city below transforms into a mesmerizing sea of shimmering lights, it's a spectacle that you'll want to capture not just with your camera, but with your heart. So, make sure you take a moment just to soak it all in. This breathtaking vista, with the Tokyo Tower twinkling against the night sky, is a postcard-perfect end to your day, and a memory you'll cherish long after your Tokyo journey ends.

    Golden Gai

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    And there's no better way to cap off a memorable day in your '3 days in Tokyo' journey than with a visit to the vibrant Golden Gai. Nestled within the city's heart, this bustling network of narrow alleys is a sparkling gem in Tokyo's nightlife scene.

    A maze of tiny bars, boutique shops, and unique eateries, Golden Gai pulses with an energy that's uniquely Tokyo. As a local, I've spent countless nights here, each one different from the last. I urge you to find a cozy bar that beckons you, order your favorite drink, and immerse yourself in this distinctive nightlife experience.

    And there you have it, a whirlwind 3-day adventure through Tokyo, each day as enchanting as the last. I hope this '3 days in Tokyo' itinerary has given you a sneak peek into the city I call home, allowing you to dip your toes into Tokyo's fascinating blend of tradition and modernity, peace and liveliness, local flavors and world-class cuisine.

    In this city of contrasts and harmonies, every day can feel like a new discovery. Remember, these three days are just an appetizer, a tantalizing taste of what Tokyo has to offer. I am confident that, just like me, you'll find yourself drawn into Tokyo's captivating rhythm, eager to return and uncover more of its layers.

    So, as we conclude our '3 days in Tokyo' journey, take a moment to look back at the memories you've made, the sights you've seen, and the flavors you've savored. Tokyo is more than just a city; it's a lifelong experience that continues to unfold, and I'm thrilled to have shared a '3 days in Tokyo' itinerary with you. Until your next visit, sayonara and safe travels!

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