With its skyscrapers, incredible landscape, fascinating history and fusion cuisine, Tokyo will electrify all of your senses. Having only 5 days will force you to make some hard choices on where to go. Short on time but want to make the most of your Holiday in Tokyo? Read on for suggestions on how to plan your dream trip. This itinerary is designed for travelers who will spend 5 days in Tokyo and surrounding Kanto Region, arriving and departing from Narita International Airport or Haneda Airport.
Things to know before travelling in Japan’s Kanto Region:
Language – Japanese (Nihongo) is the official language of Japan. For foreign visitors, the language barrier can be intense but this should not be a cause for concern. Every railway stations, bus stations and other transportation options have English signages. Even if you had any difficulty navigating, the Japanese people are very helpful to foreigners. There are also plenty of tourist information center, usually located in JR offices. It is, however, recommended to learn a few words and phrases because this can go a very long way in Japan, just like in any other countries.
Etiquette – The Japanese people are warm and very welcoming to foreign visitors but it’s important to remember some do’s and dont’s to enjoy a faux pas free journey. When entering temples or castles, it is almost always a must to take off your shoes. If there are rows of footwear by the door, it’s a clear sign to remove your shoes. If you are going to visit temples and shrines, remember to dress modestly. On trains and buses, it is considered rude to speak loudly or to speak on your phone.
Currency Exchange – Japanese Yen is the official currency of Japan. Cash remains king in the country. Even though Japan first popularized the use of “e-wallets”, majority of transactions are still through cash. But fret not, because exchanging money is easy and follows the same standard to elsewhere in the Asia. You may transact with banks, foreign exchange bureaus and international airports. There are also plentiful of ATMs available throughout Tokyo so you will surely have easy access to cash.
Getting there – Tokyo has two large airports: Narita for international flights, and Haneda for (mostly) domestic flights. You can fly from New York to Tokyo for 749 round-trip (with Cathay Pacific through Hong Kong); from Amsterdam, round-trip airfares start at high 500s USD; From Rio de Janeiro you can snap a round-trip for 833 USD and up; from Jeju – 383 USD; from Seoul – 153 USD if you opt to fly with Peach Aviation. Send us a message if you have trouble finding affordable tickets or just to say “Hi”.
Transportation – If you plan to cover most of the famous attractions in Japan’s Kanto Region, then you can purchase the JR Tokyo Wide Pass (formerly known as JR Kanto Area Pass). Valid for 3 consecutive days, it provides unlimited rides on JR trains (including shinkansen and limited express trains) as well as selected non-JR trains in the Kanto Region. The pass can be purchased for 10,000 JPY (92 USD) for adult and 5,000 JPY (46 USD) for children. Some of the destinations you can easily visit using this pass are Gala Yukawa, Karuizawa, Mt. Fuji and Kinugawa Onsen.
Accommodation – Tokyo and the surrounding Kanto area boast a wide range of accommodation options, with something for every level of comfort and budget. If you’re into cultural immersion, it is recommended to stay in a Ryokan, a traditional Japanese style hotel or inn. Ryokans serve Japanese breakfast and dinner, which are often included in the rate that would normally range between 10,000 – 15,000 JPY (92 – 138 USD) per night per person. For budget travelers, capsule hotels (from JPY 2,000 per night) and hostels (from JPY 2,500 per night) are your best bet.
Hotels to consider in Tokyo:
Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo (2-1-1 Nihonbashi Muromachi, Chuo 103-8328, Tokyo Prefecture)
Park Hyatt Tokyo (3-7-1-2 Nishi Shinjuku, Shinjuku 163-1055, Tokyo Prefecture)
The Tokyo Station Hotel (1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda 100-0005, Tokyo Prefecture)
Shangri-La Hotel, Tokyo (1-8-3 Marunouchi | Marunouchi Trust Tower Main, Chiyoda 100-8283, Tokyo Prefecture)
The Edo Sakura (3-2-13 Shitaya, Taito 110-0004, Tokyo Prefecture)
THE GATE HOTEL Asakusa Kaminarimon by HULIC (2-16-11 Kaminarimon, Taito 111-0034, Tokyo Prefecture)
Detailed Itinerary 5 Days in Japan’s Kanto Region – Tokyo, Kamakura and Fuji Five Lakes
Day 1: Tokyo
Depending on your time of arrival, you can either take it easy and soak up the atmosphere in Tokyo, or you can begin your tour of its famous attractions. After your arrival at Narita International Airport or Haneda Airport, check into your preferred hotel/guest house. Rest and settle in before you start the tour. Assuming you arrived in the morning, you will probably arrive at your accommodation just before lunch time.
Lunch at Ichiran Ramen (3 Chome-34-11 Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-0022; open 24 hours) in Shinjuku is a great way to start your Tokyo trip. This Ramen house is one of the top rated restaurants in Tokyo. Like most Ramen houses, you will have to select your order and pay at a vending machine. Grab your ticket and go to your designated seat. Once seated, the attendant will give you a piece of paper where you can decide on how you want your ramen to be done (thickness, oiliness etc.). Expect to queue during mealtimes as the place is pretty popular among the Japanese.
From Ichiran Ramen in Shinjuku, head to Meiji Jingu (1-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya, Tokyo 151-8557, Japan), a shrine dedicated to the Meiji Emperor and his Empress. Despite being situated in the busy area of Harajuku, all the hustle and bustle were cut off the moment you turn right and cross over the 40-foot giant torii gate. The walk through the forest to get to the shrine is very relaxing. Travel from Shinjuku Station on JR Yamanote Line to Harajuku Station approximately takes 5 minutes and thicket costs 140 JPY or about 1.40 USD . Meiji Shrine is open sunrise to sunset and is free admission.
End your day at Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (2 Chome-8-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo 163-8001, Japan) back in Shinjuku where you can get a glimpse of Mount Fuji under favorable weather conditions. This is also a perfect place for sunset viewing where you can get a panoramic view of Tokyo and beyond.
Day 2: Tokyo
On day 2, start an early tour of Tsukiji Market (5 Chome-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0045, Japan), the largest wholesale seafood market in the world. You can also get a fresh sushi breakfast at one of the local restaurants. From the market, make your way over to the Imperial Palace complex for a little serenity. The Imperial Palace itself, still home to Japan’s emperor, is off limits to tourists, but the surrounding gardens and grounds are incredibly well kept, tranquil, and open to visitors.
Just before lunch time, head to Akihabara – the center of Japan’s otaku (diehard fan) culture. There are so many shops and establishments devoted to anime and manga in this area. Truly an anime fan’s paradise!
From the famous attractions of Central Tokyo, you can now proceed to Western Tokyo focusing on Harajuku and Shibuya. Harajuku is the center of Japan’s extreme teenage culture. On a Sunday, many young people gather around Harajuku Station and engage in cosplay. Just a short walk from Harajuku, Omotesando is a shopping district catering to older and wealthier customers.
You can spend the rest of the day at Shibuya. Familiar with the loyal and loving dog Hachiko? Hachiko belonged to Professor Ueno of the University of Tokyo. Hachi always went to see his master off and wait for his return at the Shibuya station everyday even in terrible weather. After the Professor’s death, Hachi continued to wait at the station for his master’s return. A statue was dedicated to Hachiko, which until this day a famous attraction in Shibuya. From Shibuya Station’s Hachiko Exit, another prominent landmark is the large intersection. Each time the crossing light turns green, the intersection gets flooded by pedestrian thus this is known as “The Scramble”.
Day 3: Kamakura
On day 3, embark on one of the most interesting day trips out of Tokyo by heading to Kamakura, a small coastal city in Kanazawa Prefecture. Situated in south of Tokyo, Kamakura is a famous destination among locals and foreign travelers. Daibutsu, a huge statue of the Great Buddha, is the most popular attraction in the area. Other attractions you can visit are Engakuji and Kenchoji (Kamakura’s leading Zen temples), Kamakura Bungakukan, Enoshima and Tsurugaoia Hachimangu.
To get to Kamakura from Tokyo Station or Shinjuku Station, take the JR Yokosuka Line or the JR Shonan Shinjuku Line to Kamakura Station. These JR lines provide direct connection between Tokyo and Kamakura in just an hour.
In the afternoon, make your way back to Tokyo. Back in the city, go on a mouth-watering culinary experience without the awkward ‘Lost in Translation’ moments by joining a food tour. There are plenty of gourmet tours offered in Tokyo, which will make you feel like a local. Tours will introduce you to iconic Tokyo dishes and the lesser known neighborhood. After food tour and if you still have energy, be ready for a big city nightlife hit in Roppongi Hills.
Day 4: Fuji Five Lakes (Fujigoko)
On day 4, after having a filling breakfast, set out for the day to visit the impressive Fuji Five Lakes (Fujigoko). If your travel falls into the first three weeks of May, then you can enjoy the Fuji Shibazakura Matsuri (Fuji Shibazakura Festival) located about south of Lake Motosuko. It is one of the most popular festivals in Japan to see shibazakura (phlox moss). If you are around the cherry blossom season (April) or autumn (November), hen you can enjoy the views of Mount Fuji at Lake Kawaguchiko, the most easily accessible of the Fuji Five Lakes from Tokyo.
To get to Fuji Five Lakes, take the JR Chuo Line from Shinjuku Station to Otsuki Station. Then, transfer to Fujikyu Railway Line in Otsuki Station to Kawaguchiko Station. Travel time is approximately 2 hours.
Day 5: Tokyo or Day trip to Takaosan
Taking into consideration that you most likely stayed out rather late the other night, you can start day 9 at around 10 to 11 in the morning. Get a one last whirl through Tokyo to take in a other attractions that you might have missed. You can also spend a few hours shopping before your scheduled time of departure.
Or you can start out early and make the most out of this day by heading to Takaosan (Mount Takao) located west of Tokyo. One of the most popular hiking trails in Tokyo, Takaosan has been a center of Buddhist worship of over a thousand years. Aside from its temple (Yakuoin), other attractions include the monkey forest, Keio Takaosan Onsen Gokurakuyu (hot spring) and Takao 599 Museum. To get to Takaosanguchi Station, the train station in Takaosan, take the Keio Railway from the underground Keio Shinjuku station. Travel time is approximately 50 minutes.
This is the end of our 5-day suggested itinerary. Remember, this is just a guide for planning and is in no way, shape or form, the only way to travel Japan’s Kanto Region. There are several alternative routes of travel within the area and it will depend on your intended length of stay. For more information, visit the Japan National Tourism Organization website or check our other guides for Japan.
Have you been to Tokyo or anywhere else in Japan? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.