- 1:00pm: Arrive in Narita and head to the JR rail station to begin your adventure
Quick Tip: Get your JR rail pass in advance for 250 USD from the Japan experience website. Upon arrival, head through immigration. From there, follow signs to ground transit and then railways where you should go to the JR east ticket window to redeem your rail pass. For trains to and from the airport, a seat reservation is required, which can be done at the ticket window.
Accommodation: The Strings by InterContinental Tokyo, an IHG Group hotel is located two minutes from the Shinagawa train station, a major hub that provides direct access to JR rail trains and the subway. The trip from the airport on the Narita Airport Express is just an hour.
- 6:00pm: After getting settled, we decided to get food. Have skewers under the train tracks in Yakitori Alley near Yurakucho. This area itself is full of casual bar-style restaurants that serve up appetizers such as yakitori, etc.
- 8:00pm: Head to Tsukishima to visit Monja Street for monjayaki, a pan-fried treat that’s similar to an Osaka-style okonomiyaki pancake
- 8:00am: Head for breakfast at Tsukiji Fish Market. We started touring the outer market and stumbled upon Yazawa coffee roasters, one of the best cups of coffee. They source from Kenya to Panama and specialize in drip coffee.
- 8:30am: Lined up for breakfast at Daiwa Sushi. Omakase will cost $35 per person for some of the best sushi you’ve tasted. The wait was only about 20 minutes on a Tuesday.
- 9:15am: After Daiwa Sushi head next door to Aiyo Coffee. A local coffee shop run by an old Japanese gentlemen that has been there for decades and caters to fisherman workers.
Quick Tip: There are two sections in the market, the outer market and the wholesale market. The wholesale market opens to tourists at 10am and is home to the oldest and biggest fish market and auction in the world. You can wake up early, 3am to participate in one of the two 60-person tours they shuffle through the market or go ahead and tour on your own after 10am.
- 11:00am: Nissan Crossing Café in the Ginza district. Head to the second level, have your picture taken, and watch as the barista uses a state-of-the-art coffee machine to make a latte with the image of you in the foam!
- 12:00pm: Head to Sensō-ji Temple located in Asakusa. It’s Tokyo’s oldest temple, and be sure to check out the adjacent gardens. There are several pedestrian walking streets lined with many types of souvenirs, cafes, candy shops and toy stores.
- 2:00pm: With some down time, check out Ms Bunny Cafe. There are dozens of hedgehogs and baby rabbits sitting in folks’ laps and for a few dollars, you can feed them.
- 4:00pm: Cocktail Omakase at Bar Gen Yamamoto for $65 USD per person. Yamamoto will construct six delicious cocktails made from local Japanese spirits and refreshing juices, mixers, and all from local and seasonal produce.
- 5:00pm: If you are in the mood for some Japanese soba noodles, you must have dinner at Itasoba Kaoriya. Order the soba noodles with tempura and a bed of noodles will be delivered to you in an organized wooden box with delectable sauces.
- 6:00pm: Pay a visit to the famous Shibuya Crossing. The best place to watch the crazy pedestrian foot traffic is from the Starbucks located on the second level of the mall nearby.
- 7:00pm: Head to Hirajuku, a famous area in Japan known for its colorful street art, fashion and more. Specifically, head to Takeshita Street where you’ll find many small shops, odd fashion, and a microcosm of Japanese youth culture. If you’ve ever wanted to see an owl, head to Bengal Cat’s Cafe where you will walk through an owl “forest” and can pet them, and head upstairs to play with the bengal cats.
- 9:00pm: Head to Golden Gai District. Here you will find about a 100 miniature Japanese bars closely packed together as you make your way through the tiny alleyways. Each bar has its own little nook, design, décor and signature beverage. Where to go? Check out Bar Albatross, a cozy favorite that has three levels, with low hanging chandeliers. Note that most bars will have a small cover charge.
9:00am: For some of the best Udon in Japan, head to Shin. Located near Shinjuku train station, we waited in line, mostly with locals, for about 30 minutes on a weekend to enter the small restaurant that has ~10 seats. The waiter passes out a menu to the queue and wrote orders down on paper. The black pepper Udon with tempura and a draft beer is life changing.
10:30am: If you like breathtaking views, Tokyo Skytree is a must. Entry is $20USD to take the elevator to the first viewing area. For another $10USD (tickets to be purchased on the middle level), you can go up to the very top. The towers’ lower levels feature tons of shops and restaurants, including a real Pokémon store. Everything has been recently constructed and looks brand new.
11:30am: From here, visit the Asahi Beer Headquarters. You’ll know which building it is because it is shaped like a giant draft beer. The interior of the building feels old, but the café at the top level has some excellent Asahi beers on top with a great view of the city below.
2:00pm: Lunch at Sometaro, an excellent traditional Okonomiyaki restaurant. Take your shoes off, grab seat on a floor cushion, and watch as the food is conveniently prepared for you by the staff on the iron skillet.
3:30pm: From there, take the train towards Meiji Shrine. Wander through the beautiful gardens here which are some of the nicest in Tokyo, and cover some 70 hectares. The landscape is covered with a tree-lined gravel path that is surrounded by torri gates on each side of entry.
6:00pm: Dinner in Shimokitazawa district at Kokera with our friends. This Brooklyn-like, hipster neighborhood’s alleyways are too small to allow cars to pass through, making it a pedestrians paradise, home to many unpretentious boutiques, restaurants, and cafes.