The capital of Japan is a bustling and vibrant city that has plenty to offer tourists. Its extensive and sometimes intimidating network of railways and buses make it easy to get to anywhere in the busy metropolis. There are glitzy entertainment and shopping districts, and towering high rise buildings amid ancient temples, streets, and family-owned shops and restaurants. This concrete jungle is the epitome of old meets new.
Best Time to Visit
Tokyo is good to visit all year round, but for those who want to see the cherry blossoms, late March to early April is the best time to go.
Get In and Out
Tokyo has two airports, Haneda and Narita; both of which are easy to get to and out of. If you’re coming from another country, you will likely arrive at Narita Airport.
Most bullet trains or shinkansen lines come and go to the Japanese capital regularly and many other limited express or direct trains do the same.
From Narita Airport
- JR Narita Express. This is the fastest and easiest way to get to Tokyo Station. The ride takes about an hour. Fare: Approximately ¥3,000
To save money, you can buy the NEX Tokyo Round Trip Ticket for ¥4,000. This is only available to foreign visitors within a two-week timeframe upon purchase.
Some passes cover the fare of the trip; these are the JR Pass and the JR Tokyo Wide Area Pass.
- JR Sobu Line. This train ride option to Tokyo Station is slower than the JR Narita Express. The journey takes approximately an hour and a half. Fare: Approximately ¥1,320
Thinking of getting JR Pass? Check your itinerary first if you really need it and if it will help you save money. Is Japan Rail Pass worth it?
From Narita Airport
- Limousine Bus. Other than the trains, you can get to Tokyo Station on a limousine bus from Narita. Fare: Around ¥3,100 (one way)
Foreign tourists can purchase a roundtrip ticket for ¥4,500.
- Shuttle Bus. There is also a shuttle bus from Narita Airport to Tokyo Station. Fare: ¥1,000 for day trips; ¥2,000 for early morning and late night trips.
Going Around the City
Tokyo has extensive subways and buses that make it easy to get from point A to B; you won’t need to take a taxi to visit the city’s famous attractions. There are day passes and prepaid cards to make using the subways easy. You can buy either a Pasmo or Suica card for your trip. Day passes you can buy for subways and buses include:
- Tokyo Metro Ticket. This costs ¥600 and is valid for 24 hours; with this card, you can use Tokyo Metro lines for an unlimited number of times. However, you can’t use this for the JR line and four of Toei’s subway lines.
- Tokyo Subway Ticket. With this card, you can use Tokyo Metro and Toei lines for an unlimited number of times. Tickets: ¥800 (for 24 hours); ¥1,200 (for 48 hours); ¥1,500 (for 72 hours)
- Toei and Tokyo Metro One-Day Economy Pass. With this card, unlimited use of Toei and Tokyo Metro lines for a calendar day; the price is ¥900. You can’t use this for JR lines.
- Tokunai Pass. You can use the JR trains for an unlimited number of times for one calendar day as long as your rides are within the central Tokyo region. The price of the card is ¥750.
Places of Interest
Tokyo is a big, bustling, and vibrant metropolis where old meets new. Some of the attractions to add to your itinerary include:
- Asakusa. A nice district to explore where you’ll see past and present collide.
- Sensoji Temple. This is one of the most famous and oldest temples in Tokyo. Get a feel of Japanese culture and history as you explore the complex.
- Meiji Shrine. A popular shrine that commemorates Emperor Meiji. This attraction is also a good place to take a leisurely stroll away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
- Shibuya. A bustling and vibrant district where you get to see the famous Shibuya crossing.
- Shinjuku. The station of this district is not only one of the busiest in the country but also in the world. The surrounding area of the station is a famous commercial and entertainment neighborhood.
- Shinjuku Gyoen. A famous park and good place to take a leisurely stroll in; best times to visit are during sakura season and autumn.
- Harajuku. A famous district for teenagers and cosplayers.
- Tokyo Tower. A symbol of the city; it has an observation deck that provides visitors with overlooking views of the bustling metropolis.
- Akihabara. A unique place to visit with its many quaint cafes, anime-themed shops, and gaming centers. Manga lovers will enjoy exploring this district.
- Disneyland. A theme park for the young and young at heart.
Tokyo can be a hub for day trips or forward destinations just outside or near its region. Some places to consider adding to your itinerary include:
- Nikko. Ancient temples, waterfalls, and nature; an ideal full day trip from Tokyo.
- Fuji Five Lakes. Provides you with beautiful views of Japan’s most famous mountain.
Where to Stay
Tokyo is a big city that has all types of accommodations across budgets. You have a number of options when it comes to affordable places to stay. A bed in a dorm costs around US$25-US$30 a night; private rooms cost up to US$100 and up. Choose an accommodation near a subway station to make moving around the city easier. Popular places to stay are in Asakusa, Shinjuku, and Shibuya just to name a few.