Buy & Download | Tokyo itinerary
Hello everyone! I’m thrilled to share my first-time experience in Tokyo with you all. During my week-long trip, I discovered some amazing places and activities that I can’t wait to share with you in this comprehensive travel guide.
Consider this guide as your one-stop-shop to everything you need to know before embarking on your Tokyo adventure. It’s perfect for first-time visitors, like myself, who might find planning a trip to Japan daunting.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the planning process, don’t hesitate to reach out to me for assistance. I’d be happy to help you plan your dream trip and take the stress off your shoulders.
Table of Contents
Things to know about Japan before going
💰 Currency: The official currency in Japan is the Japanese Yen (JPY).
Japan is still a largely cash-based society. I’d highly recommend that you convert your US dollars to Yen here in the U.S. before heading over to Tokyo. Currency exchange rates in airports can be absurdly high.
Many large banks like Wells Fargo or Bank of America have foreign currency exchange systems, but only for their current members. If you have an account with any of these larger, national banks, contact your bank representative to inquire about their foreign currency offerings.
You can also purchase Yen online with Currency Exchange International (CXI). It’s totally safe and secure, and you can either pick up your Yen in person or have it mailed to you. This is a great option if you’re planning in advance and are looking to save money on exchange rates.
Lastly, if you need Yen last minute but still don’t want to pay the absurd exchange rates at airports, check out the Wise Money Card. It costs $9 to start this travel money card, and you can upload as much as you’d like to it. You would treat this like any credit card, but it’s taken like cash in Yen instead. You can also use it in foreign ATMs to withdraw paper Yen when you arrive in Japan.
🇯🇵 Language: The native tongue here is Japanese, however, as a tourist you will find that being conversational or even limited in Japanese won’t hinder you from having an amazing time! As many here are English speaking, especially in tourist areas.
When visiting, you’ll find that many locals are bilingual or can comprehend root words of the English language. In my experience everyone is super helpful and willing to try and understand what you’re saying even if a language barrier presents itself.
If all else fails, pull out your google translate app.
Depending on where you dine in Tokyo you will find that some menus are not available in English, or they are majority in Japanese with a little bit of English.
Again, I would refer to a translation app, google’s allows you take a photo of a menu and can translate on the spot.
PRO TIP: It’s also not polite to take phone calls, eat food, or talk loudly with your travel buddies on the Metro. You’ll notice the Metro is quiet, and Japanese locals would prefer it if it stayed that way!
Riding the #TokyoMetro solo 🇯🇵 it’s actually not as hard to navigate as you would think. Let’s explore! #travelbucketlist #traveltiktok #valentinesday #thingstodo #cherryblossomtokyo #explorejapan #tokyofood #tokyolocaltrain♬ original sound - Aubrey | Travel & Lifestyle
🌎 What are the entry requirements:
Pro Tip: Have a mask on you. Though it may seem that the Covid-19 virus is at bay, during my visit many still wore the mask in public and when dining.
As of October 2022, the CDC is no longer requiring American citizens traveling to Japan to show proof of a recent COVID test if they have been vaccinated and boosted.
Health screening procedures are still in place at TSA and Customs at many airports, and you may be asked to provide your vaccine card, so it’s better to play it safe and bring it with you.
If you have not been vaccinated and/or boosted, it might be safe to get a COVID test a few days before departing and if it’s negative, provide that documentation if you are asked.
For more specific information on COVID and entering Japan, read the CDC’s breakdown so you feel more prepared.
☀️ When is the best time to visit:
Springtime is a super popular time of year when many like to visit Japan. This is mostly because of the world-renowned Cherry Blossom season, which is usually late March to mid-April. It’s a very short timeframe, but many go to catch the beautiful pink flowers in full bloom that are seen all around Tokyo.
The “Sakura” festivals are a big deal to the Japanese, so if you decide to go in the springtime, expect hotel rates to be higher. You can also expect more crowds in the spring as the weather is really nice this time of year too.
However, if you’d rather not deal with crowds but would still like nicer weather, then the fall is an excellent time to visit Japan. The air is cool and crisp, the leaves change color, and you may get some slightly warmer days as well.
If you’re visiting in December or January bring a jacket as it is still often cold air.
🚑 Insurance: It is always a good idea to protect your investment in travel. Whether you get sick, lose your phone, anything could happen during your vacation and having travel insurance gives you the peace of mind you need to have a safe and successful trip.
Transportation Options for getting to Japan
✈️ How do I get there:
Depending on where you’re flying from in the US, expect your flight time to be anywhere from 10 to 15 hours. If you’re departing from an airport on the east coast, you can expect your flight to be in the 14 to 15 hour range, and if you’re coming from the west coast, it will be closer to 10 hours.
Most flights to Tokyo are “Red Eye” flights, meaning overnight. You’ll most likely depart in the evening and arrive in Tokyo in the morning.
🚗 Getting around:
Connectivity in Tokyo is superb with pocket wifi, you can double check with your cell phone provider about data plans. I purchased a “pocket wifi” device at the airport and had strong connection for my phone and laptop the entire trip.
Just like the United States, Japan has taxis, Ubers, and public transit, however there are some guidelines you should be aware of before hopping on the subway.
If you’d like to hire a private driver who can take you from the airport to your hotel, you can check rates here.
When getting around town locally, Ubers were, on average, around $40USD a trip. You can also take cabs, just be sure to have paper Yen or coins ready to go in case their card readers aren’t working.
The Tokyo Metro is the city’s main subway system, transporting over 6 million passengers every single day! If you’ve never ridden a subway or underground metro system before, the map of their rail system might intimidate you a bit but don’t worry – You can also download the Tokyo Metro app and use it like a normal maps app. Just plug in your current subway station and where you want to go, and it will tell you which stops to get off at! Using Tokyo Metro app + Google maps app is how I got around on public transit without any hiccups.
If you only be in Tokyo for a long weekend, I recommend getting a multi-day pass for either 24, 48, or 72 hours. With this type of pass you pay a flat fee (usually anywhere from ¥2000 to ¥4000 which is the equivalent of $20 or $40 USD), and be able to use it in the designated time period that you choose.
Places to stay in Tokyo
I can’t recommend the Okura Tokyo enough! It is hands down an excellent choice for those looking for luxury and convenience during your time in Japan.
I stayed at Minato City location and it is the definition of top-tier Tokyo luxury. When booking, you’ll have several different suites to choose from, and at an added cost, you can have in-room breakfast service!
The Okura’s lobby is a work of art, and they often have classical concerts there to emphasize their appreciation for the arts. They also feature a five-star restaurant serving wagyu beef and gourmet sushi along with craft cocktails like their world-famous martini.
A 7-11 is within walking distance. Japanese 7-11’s serve gourmet, delicious food to-go along with quality drinks and snacks.
For your reference, the nearest subway station to The Okura Hotel is the Toranoman Hills stop, right around the corner from the hotel’s entrance. Many of downtown Tokyo’s hot spots are either a short subway ride or a moderate walk from the Okura Hotel.
Park Hyatt Hotel
The Park Hyatt Hotel is another luxury hotel known for its spectacular views. Some of their suites have skyline views of the city with Mount Fuji far off in the background (hello, Instagram!).
Just like most luxury hotels, you’ll have access to sophisticated suites, room service, and a five-star restaurant and bar. The suites at Park Hyatt are truly something else; from marble baths with rain showers to grand pianos and in-suite saunas to full-size kitchens.
This hotel is located near the Shinjuku district of Tokyo, which is known worldwide for its nightlife. Staying in Shinjuku is a great way to get a full experience of Tokyo without leaving this part of the city. You’ll get Tokyo high fashion, karaoke rooms, nightclubs, and some of the best restaurants and bars the city has to offer!
The nearest Metro Station to Park Hyatt is the Shinjuku Station.
The Tokyo Edition is near The Okura Hotel, the closest metro station being the Toranoman Hills and the Kamiyachō stops.
The Tokyo Edition’s suites offer panoramic views of the city. Sights like the Tokyo Tower are a short walk away, as well as Tokyo’s best art galleries, museums, and theaters.
The Aman Tokyo hotel is located in Chiyoda City, the neighborhood of Tokyo that hosts the Imperial Palace, beautiful Buddhist shrines that have been preserved over the centuries, and museums featuring the dynamic art and history of Tokyo.
The suites offered in the Aman Tokyo hotel are very spacious with tall ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows that allow for a lot of natural light. The 84 suites in The Aman all purposely reflect the beauty of Japan’s natural landscape and resources. With this inspiration in mind, you’ll notice elements like stone, camphor wood, and washi paper utilized. You’ll also get stunning panoramic views of the city and the Imperial Palace.
The Aman has five world-class dining experiences available to their guests, including private dining rooms and a 1,200-bottle wine cellar, featuring some of Japan’s best wines. ARVA serves stunning Italian dishes while guests can overlook the entire city and Musashi offers authentic Japanese food and sushi. Also check out The Lounge for craft cocktails with more stunning views.
The nearest Metro station is right across the street from the hotel’s entrance, the Otemachi Station. You’ll be able to easily walk to the Imperial Palace, but if you want to enjoy some nightlife, you’re only one or two Metro stops away from some great bars!
Ritz-Carlton Hotels are world-renowned for their luxury; while you can find one in nearly every major city in the world, there’s only one in Tokyo.
The Ritz-Carlton Tokyo occupies the top nine floors of Tokyo’s tallest building, Midtown Tower – the suites here also feature floor-to-ceiling windows and views of Mt. Fuji, National Stadium, and the stunning Tokyo skyline.
The Ritz-Carlton offers a dreamy experience through their health and wellness floor, The Club Lounge with exclusive offerings for guests who opt for this perk, seven restaurants and bars, and a full spa.
This hotel is a great option if you’re staying for longer than a weekend. There’s so much to enjoy inside the hotel that you may want some extra time to explore the city.
The nearest Metro stops for the Ritz-Carlton are the Roppongi Station (this is a huge station with tons of connections, so if you plan on exploring other Tokyo neighborhoods, you’ll likely be frequenting Roppongi) and Nogizaka Station.
Things to do and see in Tokyo
The amount of things to do in Tokyo is truly overwhelming. You could be there for two weeks and still not get to everything, however there are still plenty of ways to have a memorable experience in Tokyo, even if it’s just for a week or a long weekend.
Mario Kart In The Streets of Tokyo
Street Kart Tokyo makes Mario Kart come to life with their go kart adventures! You become a Mario Kart character by choosing your costume (don’t worry it’s just a onesie), getting strapped into your go-kart, and taking the streets of Tokyo with a guide!
Cost is 10,000 YEN which is a little over $70USD.
While this is a super exciting and fun adventure, it’s also completely safe. You do need an international driver’s license that is accepted in Japan in order to participate. Luckily, it’s super easy to obtain an international driving permit from AAA office in your area. I advise getting this handled before you leave America.
Go To The Owl Cafe In Harajuku
When visiting Harajuku you have to experience the Owl Village Cafe. There’s tons of “themed” cafe’s in Tokyo. I found this one to be so unique and cool to support.
During your visit, you get up close with the owls and can partake in traditional milk tea and snacks. So fun!
Pro Tip: Its a small space… I highly encourage you to reserve your spot in advance.
Visit a Temple
You can’t come to Tokyo without visiting a shrine or temple when you’re there.
The temples in Japan are sacred to locals. The architecture is one-of-a-kind, some dating back thousands of years! They also carry deep historical and cultural significance for the Japanese people. Without a doubt, Sensoji is arguably the most popular and most photographed Buddhist temple in Tokyo.
Nearby the Sensoji temple is an amazing local kimono dress shop! Before you visit the temple (walking distance away) you can visit the dress shop and have them help you pick your kimono, style your hair and even help dress you, as there are a lot of layers underneath the kimono… to say the least.
Go To The Louis Vuitton Cafe
There are only 2 Louis Vuitton Cafes in the whole world and one of them is right near Chiyoda City in Tokyo. No reservations are allowed, the cafe opens at 11AM so be prepared to arrive early and walk in to claim your spot. I ordered a burger, cappuccino, and a salad and my total was around $57USD, prices are pretty reasonable for how luxurious the experience is! This is a great stop for some coffee, pastries, and great views of the city. A true bucket list experience.
Visit Shibuya Sky
You have to witness Shibuya from above. The Shibuya Sky experience allows you to see the city with 360 degree views from thousands of feet above.
This is a super popular attraction amongst locals and tourists, I used the KLOOK app to reserve my ticket in advance, I would highly recommend you do the same. During my tour date and time, which was around 7pm, the tickets available to be sold in person for the day were sold out and the staff had to turn people away.
Basically, Shibuya Sky is an over the top observation deck that gives you stunning aerial views of the city.
I paid around $11USD for my ticket.
Go Shopping! Take advantage of tax free!
While in Ginza I stopped by Zara and found the cutest trousers and tops. The best part of it all, the store supports tax free shopping for tourists.
Tax-free shopping is only available to non-residents, such as tourists from abroad.
‘Non-resident’ refers to foreigners who have been in Japan for less than six months
The consumption tax in Japan has been 10% since 2019.
Certain products are taxed at a reduced rate of 8%, including takeout meals and drinks, drinks from a hotel and fruit picked and taken home.
Generally, drinks and meals consumed at a restaurant or food court, are subject to the 10% consumption tax.
Products eligible for tax exemption are those for personal use and not for business or resale. It is also a requirement to bring items out of the country before use.
In the case of general goods, such as home appliances, clothes, bags, and watches, the sum total of goods purchased at one store on the same day must be at least 5,000 yen ($37.52USD)
For consumables, such as food, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals, total purchase amount must fall within the range of 5,000-500,000 yen in one day. ($37-3,000USD)
Places to Dine around Tokyo
The food in Japan is unbelievable. I jokingly shared that if a tourist, especially from the US, stayed in Tokyo long enough they would “get healthy on accident”. The diet is comprised of soups, tea, fresh fruit and veggies. A lot of seafood as well.
When visiting, there are certain staples you need to try like tempura, sushi, and if you’re adventurous, squid ink pasta.
I had some amazing tempura soup when visit Memory Lane near Shinjuku station. It was super affordable less than $10USD and is super filling.
Got a sweet tooth?
Check out Kyle’s Good Finds, an American bakery, for a little taste of home. Kyle has owned and operated his bake shop in Tokyo since 1992! Support this Black-owned business in Tokyo!
Try street food in Harajuku
Harajuku is filled with shops and dining destinations. One being Takeshita Street where you can get your hands on the delicious Japanese crepes, influenced by the original French crepes many know and love.
Would I visit Tokyo again?
Absolutely! Tokyo is the fifth safest city in the world to visit. As a woman of color, visiting Japan for the first time, I felt welcomed! Never did anyone make me feel out of place, unaccepted or anything like that.
In total, the trip cost was nearly $3,000USD when you factor the hotel stays, transport, and excursions. Not too bad. Especially if you plan ahead!