Tokyo is a city of intrigue, tradition, deep culture and centuries of stories – meaning you’ll always be peeling back layers of what makes this Japanese metropolis one of the most famous cities in Asia. With 48 hours to spend in the country’s capital, you can certainly scratch the surface and plan for many future returns.
After checking into your Tokyo hotel, get ready to deep-dive into the beating heart of Tokyo, personified a million times over at Shibuya Crossing. As the busiest intersection in Japan, if not the entire world, this pulsing, hypnotic intersection flashes with neon and splashes with fashion.
Just a few minutes from the crossing, you’ll be in shopper’s nirvana at the Bohemian-style village of Shimokitazawa, one of Tokyo’s trendiest districts. Narrow lanes and twisting alleys overflow with boutiques and vintage shops such as Ocean BLVD and Haight & Ashbury.
After your busy afternoon in Shibuya, duck into one of Tokyo’s many espresso shops for a recharge, and then head over to Shinjuku for some of the best nightlife in the city. When the sun goes down, the action heats up in places like Golden Gai, a hidden gem of Tokyo with more than 200 buzzing bars, small eateries, cosy clubs and quirky taverns. This is where the locals drink and dine, so make a friend or two, and remember to raise a glass of shochu with a hearty kanpai!
If you weren’t up all night partying in Shinjuku, rise and shine with an early sushi or seafood-bowl breakfast at the lively Tsukiji fish market. With more than 2,000 tons of marine products moving through the market every day, this is a seafood lover’s dream-come-true. Totally devoted fish-aficionados arrive super early for a chance to watch the famous tuna auction in the inner market area.
After breakfast, make your way to Tokyo station to admire the red-brick architecture and massive modern buildings such as Marunouchi before walking to the Imperial Palace. Explore the 5-kilometre pathway around the ancient moat, and step back in time with remnants of Edo Castle, built in the 1400s during Tokyo’s past life as the city of Edo. Stroll the Imperial Palace Outer Gardens to see black-pine groves, gingko trees, spider lilies and fragrant spring cherry blossoms.
Make your way to Akihabara for lunch at a small udon, ramen or soba noodle shop, all with various incarnations in the district, including seafood-flavoured ramen at Menya Noroshi. Now that you’re rejuvenated, it’s time to buzz and blaze through Tokyo’s “Electric City.” We’re talking electronics and gadget shops galore on Chuo Dori Street, as well as jam-packed gaming arcades and a major collection of venues catering to the otaku culture of anime and manga.
After Akihabara, diffuse your brainwaves with a stroll through the old market street of Ameyoko in Ueno. This former candy-store district now hosts more than 400 shops overflowing with everything from handicrafts to clothing, trinkets, antiques, precious metals and jewellery. It’s also a great place to sample Tokyo street food and visit the renowned fresh-fruit stands.
For a special nighttime treat, view the 7th-century Asakusa Temple after the sun sets. Also known as Sensoji, this cherished colourful Buddhist temple honours Kannon, the goddess of mercy. Illuminated at night, it glows like simmering embers while you dine at the yatai stalls surrounding the temple. You’ll also enjoy spectacular views of the Tokyo Skytree from Asakusa.
Get some fresh air and exercise with a relaxing stroll through Odaiba Island before turning in for the night. In the relative quietness of Tokyo after hours, you can bask in serene views of Rainbow Bridge or ride the Palette Town Ferris wheel gliding in a blaze of colour through the night sky.
After packing in the plentiful pleasures of Tokyo on Saturday, enjoy a leisurely Sunday in the city. After awakening, head over to Harajuku, Jingu Bashi for fabulous people-watching and fashion-gaping. This is also where to find Tokyo’s eclectic and extravagant cosplay characters strutting their stuff.
For a tamer outdoor adventure, wander amongst the still ponds, verdant forests and expansive lawns of Yoyogi Park. If you have the time or inclination, pay your respects to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shōken at Meiji Jingo Temple.
With any leftover cash to splash, take it over to Harajuku’s hidden shopping gem, Urahara. The back-alley shops harbour a cultural phenomenon of throwback and artisan clothing, as well as Bohemian fashion with deep ties to earlier decades. Don’t miss treasure-hunting on Cat Street.
Lunch at Kawaii Monster Café is a great excuse to spend some time in the wacky and wonderful Harajuku district. Soak up the vibrant street art, and wander Takeshita Street to pick up some authentic cosplay accessories. Pop into Watari Museum of Contemporary Art for a dose of modern Japanese art and culture.
Finish off your Tokyo Adventure by relaxing at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden or indulging in last-minute souvenir shopping. For one final sweeping view of Tokyo’s finest features, ride up to the 45th-floor observatory of Tokyo Metropolitan Building. Say your fond adieus to Mount Fuji, Tokyo Tower, Meiji Shrine, Tokyo Dome and the Tokyo Skytree.
Leave with a warmth in your heart and stomach by indulging in a nabemono hotpot Shabu-Shabu dinner. It’s the perfect way to wrap up your 48 hours in Tokyo before moving on to the next destination.