3 Days in Tokyo
How I Spent My 3 Days in Tokyo
Is 60 hours, just short of three days, enough time to visit Tokyo? Well… no. But it’s all I had so I found a way to make it work!
I would already be gone 21 days, but when I learned that I could make a second stopover on my flight to South Korea for just the cost of taxes I had to jump on it. I would only have 60 hours to explore the largest metropolis in the world, but I knew it would be worth it. Tokyo, here I come!
I stayed in an AirBnB apartment near Shinjuku Station and travelled around on a combination of Tokyo Metro, Toei and JR trains. If you’re thinking of visiting, check out my handy-dandy guide to Tokyo transit first.
So what are the best things to do with 3 days in Tokyo?
Table of Contents
- Day 1: Shibuya
- Day 2: Asakusa, Sumida, Minato, Shinjuku
- Day 3: Chuo
- Where to Stay in Tokyo
- How Many Days Should You Spend in Tokyo?
- Is Tokyo Worth Visiting?
Day 1: Shibuya
The first thing I did was head to Shibuya and the Meiji Shrine. Dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken, the Shinto shrine is a very peaceful place to start off your Tokyo tour. While I was there I had a delightful conversion with an older Japanese gentleman who gave me some history lessons and I got to witness a wedding. The torii, large wooden gates, leading to the complex were especially grand and photographic. I made a ¥100 offering and received an o-mikuji – a random fortune on a piece of paper. It was a particularly good fortune so I took it with me rather than tying it to a piece of wire and leaving it behind.
Harajuku / Takeshita Dori
Harajuku is a district in the Shibuya ward known for eccentric fashion and the young people who hang out around Harajuku Station on Sundays, engaging in cosplay (“costume play”). I was there on a Thursday but I still managed to see a couple girls in some amazing outfits. Even though I’m no longer the target market I love a good deal so of course I had to do some shopping on Takeshita Dori. My biggest lament was that my feet are too big for Japanese shoes. *sob* If you wear larger than a US 8/8.5 be prepared to have your heart broken.
Between here and the shops of Takeshita Dori I dropped more yen then I want to think about. Shibuya 109 is an awesome circular “fashion community” that contains 10 floors of boutique shops. It opened for business on the day I was born. If that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is.
This crazy intersection in Tokyo is always an ebbing, flowing sea of humanity. The best place to view it is from the 2nd floor Starbucks near Shibuya Station, but I couldn’t resist getting down into myself and crossing back and forth a few times. Check out the statue of Hachikō, the world’s most loyal dog, while you’re there.
Day 2: Asakusa, Sumida, Minato, Shinjuku
Sensō-ji is Tokyo’s oldest and most significant Buddhist temple so it was high on my must-see list. The entrance to the temple grounds is dominated by the Kaminarimon or “Thunder Gate”. Beyond the gate is Nakamise-dori which is lined with almost 90 small shops. I loved looking into them all and especially watching one shop making ningyo-yaki (little molded cakes filled with red bean paste). Unlike Meiji Shrine which I found to be quite calm and peaceful, Sensō-ji was bustling and a little chaotic. If you visit be sure to check out old-world vibe of the nearby streets of Asakusa.
The Tokyo Skytree, located in Sumida Ward, is the tallest building in Japan at 634m. Considering the CN Tower EdgeWalk is 356m and that was enough to make my ears pop I can only imagine what the view is like from the top. Since lines form early my imagination is all I have from my visit to the Skytree. It would’ve been a two hour wait before I could go up so I decided to give it a pass and chose a different tower instead. Maybe next time Skytree…maybe next time.
In comparison, there was no line at all when I showed up at Tokyo Tower (333m) in Minato Ward. I got there at dusk and love watching the city light up at night. You should really visit one tower or the other to really get a sense of just how massive the city and surrounding areas are. The lights just never end.
Aka, Electric Town – if it has batteries or plugs in, you can buy it here. Not surprisingly, the amount of neon signs here is astounding. Akihabara is also home to many maid cafes (catering mostly to male otaku) where you can have a cup of coffee and be treated as the master of the house rather than a regular old customer.
Kabukichō is the entertainment and red-light district in Shinjuku. I had a wander one night, not to visit any businesses but just to have a look around at the three thousand bars, nightclubs, love hotels, massage parlours, hostess clubs and the like. I was there solo at night but felt safe and no one ever approached me. If you’re a man, be prepared to have bouncers get a bit aggressive trying to get you into their club. It was interesting to see, but now that I’ve seen it once I’m done.
Day 3: Chuo
Tsukiji Fish Market
No visit to Tokyo is complete without a visit to the Tsukiji Fish Market in Chuo Ward for a look around and some sushi. Even though I had to miss the tuna auctions because of timing and logistics I still loved checking out all the stalls and the tuna plate I had for breakfast was delicious. Plans to move the market have been in the works on and off since 2014 but the time has come. You only have until September 14, 2018 to visit Tsukiji Fish Market before it closes.
So even though I only had 60 hours in town I managed to pack it full. It was just a taste of Tokyo and I know that the city and I are not done with each other. In the famous words of the Terminator, “I’ll be back.”
What sites would you visit if you only had 3 days in Tokyo?
Where to Stay in Tokyo
How Many Days Should You Spend in Tokyo?
While I only spent 3 days in Tokyo, I would recommend you spend at least 5-7 days in Japan’s capital. It’s a huge metropolis and I guarantee you won’t run out of things to do if you spend a week in the city. Between temples, shopping, onsens, a day trip to Mount Fuji, and all the sushi you can eat, you’ll still only scratch the surface of the city.
Is Tokyo Worth Visiting?
Tokyo is absolutely worth visiting! One of the biggest cities in the world will have something to do for everyone. With so many direct international flights it makes the perfect jumping off point for a visit to Japan. Even just a few days here will give you a glimpse into a new, rich culture. Go out for karaoke, spend some time in quiet contemplation at temples and shrines, have dinner at a robot restaurant, get lost in a new neighbourhood… there’s so much to do in Tokyo, it should be on your Japan bucket list!
September 13th, 2013 at 11:30 pm (#)
[…] What can you do in Tokyo for 3 days? […]
October 1st, 2013 at 3:12 am (#)
Wow you did manage to do quite a bit in 60hrs in Tokyo! I love tokyo one of my favorite cities. I’ve been blessed in that I had a lot of time in the city over many different trips. It’s hard to pick a favorite activity, but getting lost in the city is one of my favs. You are never very far from a metro station so but there are so many little nooks to explore
March 14th, 2014 at 8:04 pm (#)
If I only had 60 hours, my top Tokyo sights would be: Roppongi Hills Mori Tower Observation Deck at sunset, See Senso-ji Temple and then take the boat from Asakusa to Odaiba, Shibuya Crossing, and probably Tsukiji Fish Market. It’s tough to choose, there’s so much!
May 20th, 2014 at 10:36 am (#)
60 hours is definitely too short!! there are so many cool things to do in Tokyo.
If I had to choose and if it was my first time, I’d probably start with the main area/stations on the Yamanote line. If I still had some time, probably go to other areas around Tokyo (odaiba, yokohama).
Thanks for the great article!
November 26th, 2014 at 10:13 pm (#)
I’m seriously considering going to Tokyo for a few holidays I have in May next year. We’d only have about 3 days and I did wonder if that would be enough (my friend and I spent a week in Kyoto this summer and felt like it was still too short) but you’ve definitely given me some terrific ideas now and I definitely want to start planning. :D
November 27th, 2014 at 10:38 am (#)
3 days is only an appetizer but it’s still worth doing if you have the chance. You just need to figure out what are the top few things you really *must* see and then anything else after that is gravy. I need to get myself back there to explore more no doubt.
April 10th, 2015 at 4:07 am (#)
I have been to Tokyo once for just 2 days. Now I am planning to go on Japan tour and will be spending 5 days only in Tokyo. After a lot of search I found the list of all places I must see this time, the only problem was managing the time to see all those attractions. Also heard about Shimokitazawa, haven’t yet included it in my itinerary but is it worth a visit?
June 6th, 2015 at 5:00 pm (#)
Would also recommend seeing a baseball game and if you have the time – a day at the sumo matches!!!
October 16th, 2015 at 8:06 am (#)
Great piece! Just came across your blog and will definitely be staying tuned for updates.
I’m hoping to go to Japan in March next year – cannot wait.
June 9th, 2016 at 3:28 am (#)
Hello. I’d like to know about anyone’s opinion. I plan to stay in Tokyo for 3-4 days. Would 40k yen be enough for by budget for all expenses?
April 12th, 2017 at 5:14 pm (#)
Woah, you packed a lot in! I have to confess my ignorance here. When I was in Seattle a while ago I saw a girl dressed up like the ones you saw near Harajuku Station and I had no idea what was going on. She looked so cute and I loved the outfit, but I had no idea that it was a Japanese fashion statement!
December 3rd, 2017 at 3:35 am (#)
Wow 3 days seems like so little in Tokyo but I loved all of the suggestions for the trip. I will definitely use it someday when I get to visit. Thank you!
December 3rd, 2017 at 6:10 am (#)
I love looking at Japanese temples, they’re so symmetrical & beautiful! I’ve pinned that picture to my travel bloggers board on Pinterest!
December 3rd, 2017 at 7:26 am (#)
I’m not sure If 3 months are enough for Tokyo, let anole 3 days!! The city is crazy (I MUST go there!). This guide is really useful. Is Japan more expensive than S. Korea?
December 3rd, 2017 at 10:56 pm (#)
3 days is definitely only a tease but I’m happy I managed to see as much as I did when I was there. Would love to go back and spend more time.
December 3rd, 2017 at 3:54 pm (#)
This is an exellent post. Well-organized and informative. I am going to refer back to this when I go to Japan!
December 4th, 2017 at 1:06 pm (#)
I would love to visit Tokyo. You managed to do quite alot in 3 days and see quite a few sights. Was 3 days enough? I’ve heard you have to get to the fish market quite early. Thanks for the tip for the best view of the Shibuya Crossing.
December 4th, 2017 at 1:15 pm (#)
Three days is really only enough to tease but it’s all I had to work with on that particular trip. A week would be so much better. Because of logistics of where I was staying I couldn’t get to the fish market for the tuna auctions but arrived around 9am instead. Definitely get there before lunch if you want to see anything.
July 10th, 2018 at 6:59 pm (#)
I love the variety of architecture in Tokyo! It looks like there’s a lot to see!
July 16th, 2018 at 6:16 am (#)
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