Tokyo is one of our favorite cities! Exciting, vibrant and a unique blend of traditional Japanese culture and modern urban life, it really is like no place on earth! If you only have 48 hours to explore Tokyo, here are our recommendations on what to do, what to see, and where to stay, plus our Tokyo travel tips for first-time visitors.
Travel Tips for Tokyo
- Plan your itinerary ahead of time – Tokyo is a vast city with many things to see and do. Plan your itinerary in advance to make the most of your trip.
- Learn basic Japanese phrases – While many Japanese people speak English, learning some basic Japanese phrases can go a long way in making your trip more enjoyable.
- Get a Suica or Pasmo card – These smart cards can be used for public transportation, making it easier and more convenient to get around the city.
- Try the local cuisine – Tokyo is known for its delicious food, so be sure to try some of the local specialties like sushi, ramen, and tempura. Plus note that the Japanese don’t really eat ‘on the run’ or in public, so take the time to sit down any enjoy your meals in Japan.
- Respect local customs – Japan has a unique culture with many customs and traditions that should be respected. For example, removing your shoes when entering a home or temple is customary.
- Use public transportation – Tokyo’s public transportation system is efficient and ultra reliable, so use it to get around the city.
- Don’t litter – Japan is known for its cleanliness, so make sure to dispose trash properly and follow the country’s strict recycling guidelines.
- Bring cash – While credit cards are widely accepted in Tokyo, it’s always a good idea to carry cash for smaller purchases and to use at places that don’t accept credit cards.
- Visit during cherry blossom season – Tokyo is beautiful year-round, but the cherry blossom season in late March to early April is a particularly special time to visit. See our guide to seeing spring flowers in Japan here.
- Be mindful of etiquette – Japanese culture places a high value on manners and etiquette. Be mindful of behavior and how it may be perceived by others.
48 Hours in Tokyo – Day 1
Start your day by visiting the Meiji Shrine, located in the heart of Tokyo. This is one of the most important Shinto shrines in Japan, dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. The shrine is surrounded by a tranquil forest, providing a peaceful escape from the bustling city. Afterwards, head to Harajuku, a trendy neighborhood known for its wild fashion and street food – perfect for people watching! Take a walk down Takeshita Street, where you can find many unique shops and food stores.
After exploring Harajuku, make your way to Shibuya, one of the busiest districts in Tokyo. Stop by the famous Shibuya Crossing, where you can witness the iconic pedestrian scramble. From Shibuya, you can also visit the nearby Hachiko statue, a monument dedicated to a loyal dog that waited for his owner every day at the train station.
For dinner, try traditional Japanese ramen or sushi in Shinjuku, one of the best spots in Toyko to eat, play and shop at night. Afterward, head to the observation deck at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, where you can enjoy stunning views of the city skyline.
Start your day early and visit the Tokyo Imperial Palace and visit the home of generations of Japanese Emperors (the closest station is Toyko Station). After a wander through the palace grounds head to Ginza for world class shopping and food.
Head to Asakusa, a historic district in Tokyo. Visit the famous Sensoji Temple and Nakamise shopping street, where you can find traditional Japanese souvenirs and street food snacks. From Asakusa, take a river cruise on the Sumida River to enjoy the view of Tokyo from the water.
For your final evening in Tokyo, head to the trendy district of Roppongi, where you can find many international restaurants and bars. End your night by visiting the Tokyo Tower, one of Tokyo’s most iconic landmarks, and enjoy the city lights from the observation deck.
Where to stay
For a central location, consider staying in Shinjuku or Shibuya, both are busy districts with easy access to transportation and many restaurants and shops. If you prefer a quieter and more traditional atmosphere, try Asakusa or Ueno. For a more upscale experience, consider staying in Ginza (one of our favorite spots in Tokyo!).