When choosing your hotel for your one-day visit to Tokyo, you’ll want to consider something as centrally located as possible to maximize your sightseeing time. Places to look include Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ginza, Roppongi or the Tokyo Station area. If possible, stay near the Yamanote line of the subway. If you don’t need modern and glamorous, consider the Shitamachi area of the city, which is older, but more budget-friendly.
To maximize your time, you’ll want to have an idea of how you’ll be getting around. Tokyo is a great walking city, and you’ll be doing some strolling through various neighborhoods, but to really take advantage of the day, you’ll want to rely on public transportation. In addition to clean, safe taxis, the city boasts one of the world’s best transit systems. Consider picking up a Suica or Pasmo card, both of which are pre-paid transport cards that you can quickly swipe at the train and subway stations. (Plus, you can use them for a snack at one of the many vending machines and conbini – convenience stores – in Tokyo!)
Must-See Sites in Tokyo on a One-Day Visit
Start your day with Asakusa, home to the most popular Buddhist temple in Tokyo, the Senso-Ji Temple. It’s a nice break from the hustle and bustle of central Tokyo, instead giving you a sense of Shitamachi (Old Tokyo). Don’t overlook the neighboring Asakusa-jinja Shrine, more modest than Senso-Ji, but honoring the three men who founded the latter. During the summer, there are frequent events at Asakusa-jinja, with open-air concerts, food and more. The temple is most famous for its mid-May Sanja Matsuri festival, one of the largest Shinto festivals in Tokyo.
From Asakusa, you can also visit Tokyo Sky Tree, which at more than 2,000 feet tall, gives you an amazing bird’s-eye view of the area. (There’s even shopping and an aquarium at its base, if you’re so inclined.) You’ll also find Ryogoku’s famous sumo stadium and world-class Edo-Tokyo Museum nearby.
Hop on the Ginza subway line at Asakusa and make your way to Shibuya. Make your way through the crowds at famous Shibuya Crossing on your way to some of the city’s best shopping destinations. The intersection of seven crossroads in front of the Hachiko exit of the subway is one of the most iconic Tokyo sites – and it’s certainly impressive as you watch, or join, the thousands crossing the road every few minutes. If crowds aren’t your thing, watch the practically choreographed movement of the masses from above or nearby – the views are great from Starbucks in Tsutaya, the L’Occitane cafe or through the windows at the Myth of Tomorrow mural in the JR Shibuya Station.
A few options for things to do in Shibuya:
- Shop and take in the view at the Shibuya Scramble Square entertainment complex. The tower reigns over the bustling district and offers countless shopping, dining and more. There’s a great panoramic vistra from the Shibuya Sky observation deck.
- Visit the Bunkamura Museum of Art, which focuses mainly on 19th- and 20th-century European art.
- Pick up Nintendo products, watch a drag-queen show and shop for haute couture fashions at Shibuya Parco.
- Marvel at the intricate ceramics at Toguri Museum of Art
Moving on, take the Yamanote subway line just one stop north to Harajuku, Tokyo’s famous youth fashion district. Check out the alternative fashions and vintage boutiques along the backstreets, then walk to the Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi Park, a serene spot for some peace and quiet after the mass of humanity at Shibuya Crossing. Walk the forested paths and spacious shrine grounds – a welcome green lung in the heart of the city.
Walk back to the station and on to the pleasant neighborhood of Omotesando, known for its luxury shopping, exclusive restaurants and modern architecture along a tree-lined avenue. In fact, this neighborhood is often likened to Paris’ Champs-Élysées.
Ride the subway – Yamanote Line to Hibiya Line – to Roppongi, a vibrant neighborhood popular with ex-pats. You’ll find plenty of foreigner-friendly dining and nightlife options, with English menus and/or English-speaking staff. While here, head up to the 52nd-floor Tokyo City View observation deck of the Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills – there’s both an indoor deck and an open-air sky deck. (The view after dark is particularly mesmerizing.)
Other options for things to do in Roppongi include:
- Shop and dine in Roppongi Hills and the massive Tokyo Midtown complexes.
- Visit Japan’s largest art museum, the National Art Center, where you’ll view Japanese and other Asian art as well as superbly curated Western art.
- Continue your art immersion with stops at Roppongi Hills’ Mori Art Museum, with its ever-changing exhibitions, and Tokyo Midtown’s Suntory Museum of Art, a private art gallery/museum featuring Japanese artistic traditions.
Finish up your day in Tokyo with a fun evening in Roppongi, depending on your nightlife preferences – there’s plenty to choose from in this district. For high-end cocktails, consider Gen Yamamoto, for craft beer, head to Brewdog or Two Dogs Taproom, or for tequila, there’s Agave. The Ritz-Carlton anchors the Tokyo Midtown complex and features an elegant hotel bar with great views. If jazz is your thing, head to Blue Note Tokyo, which regularly hosts some of the biggest names in touring jazz acts.