In this comprehensive Tokyo travel guide for first-timers, I want to share with you travel tips and information you need to know about this bustling city in Japan. I also included a sample Tokyo itinerary you can use as a base, especially if you’re only staying for a few days. Hopefully, this post would be helpful for those planning to travel to Tokyo for the first time once the crazy outbreak is over.
⚠️ IMPORTANT REMINDER: Postpone, don’t cancel! Let’s save the tourism industry. Some information in this post may have changed due to the pandemic and it might affect your travel plans. Always be a responsible traveler and keep yourself updated by reading COVID-19 advice from your local authorities and in your point of destination/s before traveling. You can go ahead and take inspiration from this post, bookmark it, or save it on your Pinterest travel board for future reference.
Writing this post brings back so many good memories of my first time in Japan! I went there with my boyfriend last September 2018. It was fun remembering our Tokyo travel adventures.
So are you ready? Let’s dive in!
Ultimate Tokyo Travel Guide For First-Timers
What You Need To Know About Tokyo
Tokyo is the capital of Japan and it is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. One can enjoy the eclectic mix of modern and traditional cultures in Tokyo. Shrines, temples, and monuments on one end, and anime, kawaii or geeky stuff on the other. No wonder you will never run out of interesting things to discover in Tokyo.
There’s an activity for all sorts of people. So whether you have an interest in food, art, culture, beautiful scenery, anime, tech, fashion – you can get a taste of them all in Tokyo!
Tokyo Travel Tips For First-Timers
- Tourist visa – Filipinos must apply for a tourist visa when visiting Japan for leisure. You can be granted single or multiple entries. They do not accept walk-in applicants in the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines. So you have to file your Japan tourist visa application through accredited travel agencies. More details about how to apply for a Japan visa here.
- Currency – Yen is the official currency of Japan. The symbol is ¥ and it’s also referred to as JPY or JP¥.
- Money exchange – It’s advisable to have your PHP exchanged to JPY before you leave for Japan. You can potentially save on bad exchange rates overseas. Normally I call my bank to ask for their exchange rates and then compare it with popular money exchange centers in the metro like Czarina or Sanry’s.
- Credit card and ATMs – Most establishments accept credit cards and there are many convenience stores across Tokyo that have ATMs. But you probably would want to have some spare change in your pocket in case you want something to drink from the vending machine.
- Language – Japanese is the official language in Japan. You may have a hard time conversing with them as most locals (especially the old ones) can only understand and speak little English. I noticed young professionals or young students are easier to talk to in English. So if you’re lost or you need to ask something important, look for them. They’re also very helpful too! I also suggest that you download a translator app.
- Season – There are four seasons in Japan: spring (March to May), summer (June to August), autumn (September to November), and winter (December to February). Choose which season your trip falls into and pack accordingly.
- Travel App – Taking the train is confusing in Tokyo. Download Hyperdia so you know which station and train you have to take.
Essentials For Your Tokyo Trip
When planning your Tokyo travel escapade, take into consideration the cost of transportation, entrance tickets to tourist attractions, and other things. These may blow up your expenses but the good thing is that you can get most of them at a discount! I personally like using Klook and I was able to save a lot of money with these:
- Tokyo Skyliner Express Ticket to/from Narita Airport – save yourself the hassle and long travel time. In just 41 minutes you can arrive in Tokyo from Narita Airport with this express ticket.
- Buy a Tokyo Subway Ticket – travel conveniently around Tokyo through Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway lines for 1, 2, or 3 days. This pass grants you unlimited access to 13 different routes with over 250 metro stops covering most of the city.
- Rent a pocket Wi-Fi – connect online everywhere you go with the pay per day pocket WiFi rental in Japan.
- Tokyo Disneyland or DisneySea Ticket 1 Day Pass – avoid the long lines and book ahead, plus you get cheaper deals when you book online!
Flights To Tokyo
The main international airport in Tokyo is Narita International Airport (NRT).
From Manila, you can take direct flights to Tokyo. There are many airlines with routes from Manila to Tokyo like Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, Japan Airlines, and All Nippon Airways.
I was able to score super cheap flights to Manila-Tokyo-Manila with Cebu Pacific’s Piso Fare sales. When I visited Tokyo last September 2018, I only paid Php 2,204.98 all-in (Php 1.00 base fare) for the roundtrip fare. Round trip ticket prices can go as high as Php 19,000++ for regular non-seat sale ones. So I consider myself very lucky that I got to snag such a good deal! I booked my Tokyo travel airfare tickets almost a year in advance – it’s worth the long wait!
You can also take a flight to Nagoya or Osaka from Manila and then take the bullet train to Tokyo (can be an expensive option). But personally, I prefer taking one Japan city/area at a time. I went back to Japan the year after (2019) to visit Osaka. I’ll blog about that next time. 😊
Where To Stay In Tokyo
Your accommodation in Tokyo can take a huge chunk of your budget, but good thing there are many affordable options if you know where to find them. I highly suggest trying a cheap capsule or hostel accommodation.
💡 PRO TIP: Choose accommodation that is near public transportations! This will save you valuable travel time.
Ryokan & Hostel Wasabi Nippori
Ultimately, we chose Ryokan & Hostel Wasabi Nippori. It’s near public transportation, it’s cheap, and the reviews were good. It’s my first time trying a capsule-type dormitory. We chose the mixed dormitory-type – meaning mixed genders can occupy the 18-bed capsules.
Location: 6-24-16 Higashi-nippori, Arakawa-ku, Nippori, Tokyo, Japan, 116-0014
Accommodation type: Dormitory, Japanese-style Rooms, and Western-style Rooms
Cost: 2 Single Bed Mixed Dormitory Room for 4 nights only cost us JPY 16,113 or PHP 7,368.69! Super cheap, right? That’s already the total! Haha I really have a knack for scoring cheap rooms and airfares. 😉
Will I recommend Ryokan & Hostel Wasabi Nippori? YES! Definitely!
💸 BUDGET TRAVEL TIP: Book via Agoda for cheap accommodations. Always look for accommodations that have the “Book Now, Pay Later” scheme.
Tight on a budget? CHECK THIS OUT FOR OTHER CHEAP ACCOMMODATIONS IN TOKYO
Getting Around Tokyo
The best way to get around Tokyo is by subway and trains. Avoid hailing taxi cabs as they are crazy expensive. You can also try riding a bus but it’s not recommended for first-time visitors.
Do get a Tokyo Subway Ticket from Klook for a discounted price. It grants unlimited access to 13 different routes with over 250 metro stops covering most of the city.
And download these apps before your Tokyo travel adventures: Hyperdia, Google Maps, and Tokyo Subway App.
Top 15 Things To Do In Tokyo If It’s Your First Time
Here are some of the things you can do when you’re traveling to Tokyo for the first time. Tokyo is such a huge, bustling city that it’s impossible to do everything all in one go. But hey, don’t feel bad if you won’t be able to accomplish everything in the list below. That’s one good reason to keep coming back, right?
- Check out the Shibuya Crossing – you can go to Starbucks around the block to get a nice aerial view of the Shibuya Crossing. Get mesmerized seeing the organized chaos of this super famous intersection.
- Take a picture with the statue of Hachiko. You might have seen the movie and cried over it. In case you don’t know who Hachiko is, he’s the loyal dog that waited for the return of his owner long after he’s gone. He waited day in and day out at the same spot at Shibuya Station.
- Shop around Shibuya! Don’t miss out Don Quijote, it’s a massive shop wherein you can find all sorts of stuff!
- Visit Meiji Shrine (or Meiji Jingu) in Shibuya, one of the most important shrines in Japan. It is a Shinto shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife.
- Walk around Yoyogi Park. This popular tourist destination is just adjacent to Harajuku Station and Meiji Shrine. Enjoy the lush sceneries that this park has to offer.
- Explore Ginza, one of Tokyo’s top shopping districts. You’ll enjoy here if you’re into high-end shopping or just want to see Tokyo’s upscale boutiques.
- Roam around Akihabara, a district in central Tokyo famous for its many electronics shops, maid cafes, cat cafes, arcade games, to name a few.
- Visit the Senso-ji, a famous Buddhist temple in Asakusa. You can also try a lot of street food and buy souvenirs from the nearby street called Nakamise Shopping Street.
- Explore the Shinjuku district known for its large entertainment, business, and shopping area.
- Try Japanese food like sushi, sashimi, ramen, tempura, yakitori, onigiri, okonomiyaki, taiyaki, and many more!
- Try the different food in 7-11! You will not regret grabbing some quick bite at this convenience store, I promise. Unique 7-11 food finds include onigiri, bento, fresh noodles, Japanese potato chips, and more!
- Feel like a child again at Tokyo DisneySea! Enjoy the different magical themed areas, thrilling rides, and attractions. Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea are two different theme parks that are next to each other and have separate entrance fees. Choose Tokyo DisneySea as it’s the ONLY DisneySea park in the world. Most rides are also targeted for adults!
- Check out Tokyo SkyTree, the tallest tower in the world! It’s also the world’s second-tallest structure after Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.
- Visit the National Museum to learn more about the history of Japan.
- Day tour to Mt. Fuji if time permits.
This list never ends as there a lot more Tokyo travel attractions! But if you’re a first-timer in Tokyo the above-mentioned list would do.
Sample Tokyo Travel Itinerary For 5 Days 4 Nights
Planning a trip to Tokyo can be overwhelming because of the seemingly never-ending list of things to see and do! Here’s a sample Tokyo travel itinerary you can use as a base. These are arranged in such a way that places that are close to each other are put together on the same day so you can travel around Tokyo efficiently. Feel free to tweak whichever way that’s more suitable for you.
I usually use the site/app called Visit A City when creating an itinerary and the sample Tokyo travel itinerary below is based on that. However, we weren’t able to go to all these places since we decided we wanted to stay a little longer in some areas and forgo the others. I’m sharing this in case you want to make the most out of your 5 Days 4 Nights in Tokyo. 😊
|Sample Tokyo Travel Itinerary For 5 Days 4 Nights|
|Sensoji Temple||Tokyo’s oldest temple and a famous Buddhist temple in Asakusa. |
|Asakusa Shrine||One of the most popular Shinto shrines in Tokyo. It honors the three men who founded the Senso-ji Temple.|
|Tokyo National Museum||Established in 1871, it is Japan’s oldest and largest art museum.|
|Ueno Park||Opened in 1873, it was one of the first public parks in Tokyo.|
|Akihabara||Dubbed as the “Electric Town,” this district is best known for its high-tech shops, anime, and manga stores.|
|Tsukiji Fish Market||Located in Central Tokyo, this market is considered the world’s largest wholesale seafood market.|
|Tokyo Tower||This Eiffel Tower-inspired is the second tallest structure in Japan.|
|Tokyo Skytree||The tallest structure in Japan at 634.0 meters (2,080 ft) and the tallest tower in the world. There’s an observatory featuring a spiral, glass-covered skywalk.|
|Tokyo Solamachi||At the base of the Tokyo Skytree, you can find a large shopping, dining, and entertainment complex where you can hang out.|
|Shibuya||This area is commonly referred to as one of the fashion districts of Japan. Don’t miss out on this major commercial and business center, especially at night where it can get really busy with nightlife!|
|Tokyo DisneySea||You have to allot one whole day if you plan to visit Tokyo DisneySea. |
Must-try rides at Tokyo DisneySea for adults:
– Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull
– Raging Spirits
– Tower of Terror
– Journey to the Centre of the Earth
|Meiji Shrine||A traditional Shinto shrine dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shōken.|
|Yoyogi Park||This large central park in Shibuya is adjacent to Harajuku Station and Meiji Shrine. Great for photo-ops especially during cherry blossom season!|
|Harajuku||A popular district known for its youth culture and unique fashion. It’s common to see Japanese strutting their Harajuku style in this area.|
|Ota Memorial Museum of Art||A museum in Shibuya which showcases Japanese art known as ukiyo-e, which means “pictures of the floating world.”|
|National Art Centre||A museum for temporary exhibitions in Roppongi and is housed in a unique building.|
|Tokyo Government Office||Get a spectacular view of Tokyo from the tallest city hall in the world. It offers a FREE observation deck for visitors.|
|Shinjuku||Explore this large entertainment, business, and shopping area.|
|Narita Airport||Departure time! If you have a Tokyo Skyliner Express Ticket, you can take the train to Narita Airport from Ueno Station.|
OPTIONAL: Add a day tour to Mt. Fuji in your Tokyo travel itinerary if you can. But make sure to check the weather forecast first before booking your tour. We didn’t take it when we were there because unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate with us. Maybe next time for us, yeah?
Frequently Asked Questions About Tokyo
I gathered some of the most frequently asked questions when planning a Tokyo travel itinerary and tried my best to give my answers. Read on to make the most out of your Tokyo travel adventures!
How much should I budget for a trip to Tokyo?
Believe it or not, you can survive with around Php 15,000 (~ JPY 33,000) pocket money for 5 days, 4 nights in Tokyo! That’s roughly Php 3,000 (~ JPY 6,500) per day. As mentioned above, you can cut down on your expense if you stay in hostels or capsule-type accommodation. Another way to save on money is by splurging only one meal a day (this could be either lunch or dinner) and eat somewhere cheap for your other meals. This is where 7-11 and streetfoods can save you!
Is Tokyo expensive?
Surprisingly, it’s not that expensive. Again, if you know where to find the cheap places to stay and dine in, then you’re good to go! Of course, if shopping is on top of your list, then that might blow up your budget. But generally, the cost of goods in Tokyo are affordable.
How long do you need in Tokyo?
We stayed for 5 days and it seems not long enough! But we covered many places during our 5-day Tokyo travel adventure. It already includes one full day at Tokyo DisneySea (don’t miss this!). So if you only have 5 days to spare, it’s fine.
What is the cheapest month to travel to Tokyo?
The cheapest season to visit Tokyo is during winter from mid-January through March. Most shops offer discounts to attract tourists and popular destinations are not as crowded during this time.
Where should a first-time tourist stay in Tokyo?
If you’re not too picky, I highly recommend staying in hostels or capsule-type accommodations. I had a great experience at Ryokan & Hostel Wasabi Nippori and would definitely book them again when I visit Tokyo in the future. Make sure to find accommodations that are walking distance to train stations!
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TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK!
Do you plan to visit Tokyo in the future? Why or why not? And for those who have been there before, how was your experience? What activities did you do in Tokyo? What’s your favorite part of your Tokyo trip? Did you enjoy trying different Japanese food? Did you also get lost and didn’t know how to figure out their complex train system on your first few tries? LOL!
So that’s it for this very long Tokyo travel itinerary post! I hope you find all the information in this Tokyo travel guide useful! Enjoy your Tokyo travel adventure and make sure to tag me @hazywanders so I can see your travel photos! Let me know in the comment section if you have any questions or more Tokyo travel tips to share.
💡 PRO TIP: Learn more travel tips in this Ultimate Guide To Planning Your Trip In 8 Easy Steps! I covered the basics of planning a trip and also included the tried and tested websites and apps I normally use to score cheap deals.