3 Days in Tokyo: The Ultimate Weekend Itinerary
There's so much to see, eat and do in Tokyo (temples! cosplay culture! sushi!), it's hard to fit it all in a weekend. But we've come up with a damn good 3-day itinerary (IOHO), which gives you the best the city has to offer. Get packing.
There’s a reason they call Tokyo the ‘city of the future’ – at first glance, Japan’s capital looks like an endless ocean of skyscrapers, candy-colored neon and 10-story megamalls. But dive beneath its sci-fi surface and you’ll discover a city still rich in culture and tradition. Make your base the Mandarin Oriental, ideally located in the center of Tokyo with breathtaking views from all 179 rooms. From here, you can walk to Sensoji Temple, Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple, and the Imperial Palace, home of the Emperor of Japan for more than 400 years. The only way to explore the grounds is to book a tour in advance, or you can head to the southwest corner of the Imperial Palace Plaza to view the two bridges – the iron Nijū-bashi and the stone Megane-bashi, then explore the main Imperial Palace East Garden, which is open to the public without reservations.
Get an early start and head to the popular Tsukiji fish market to check out the seafood stalls, watch the famous tuna auction and eat a traditional sushi breakfast. Two buzz-worthy stands for fresh fish: Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi. Next, go for a morning stroll in Meiji-jingu, a Shinto shrine dedicated to a late 19th century emperor and his wife. You’ll pass through a 40-foot high traditional torii gate and into 200 acres of sun-dappled parklands and cypress wood temples. Walk from Meiji to the Harajuku district, Japan’s pop-culture center and a stomping ground for Tokyo’s cool kids. Check out the cosplay kids dressed as sugar plum fairies, purple-haired punk rockers and kick-ass anime characters while stuffing yourself with the popular rainbow-bright cream-filled crepes sold on the street corners. Get to Shibuya in time for sundown to watch the swarms of locals surge across the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing as vast walls of neon flicker in the background. For dinner, we love the Michelin-starred Daigo, which specializes in "shojin" food, Buddhist vegetarian cuisine. Among the plates to try: sweet potato and butternut squash tempura, fried bean curd with mushroom and mixed vegetables, and classic Soba noodles.
Most visitors whizz through Asakusa, the oldest part of Tokyo, in a couple of hours ticking off Senso-ji Temple and the kitsch-filled street market. But meander around the area’s atmospheric backstreets and you’ll be rewarded with glimpses of kimono-clad women, cycling grandpas and smoky shrines. You’ll also find some of the best soba (buckwheat noodles) in the city – try [Owariya]((http://www.asakusa-umai.ne.jp/umai/owariya.html%29) for bowls of velvety noodles topped with crisp prawn tempura. Walk across the Sumida River to the 2080-foot high [Tokyo Skytree]((http://lang.tokyo-skytree.jp/en/index.html%29) for an eye-popping 360 sweep of the city and – if the weather is clear – a glimpse of Mount Fuji. Spend the rest of your afternoon soaking up the sights and sounds of Shinjuku; Tokyo in microcosm, it’s packed with everything from themed sushi restaurants to gigantic karaoke bars and mind-blowing department stores like [Tokyu Hands ]((http://www.tokyu-hands.co.jp/foreign.html)(perfect for stocking up on distinctly Japanese souvenirs: dainty stationary, neon light sticks, Kabuki theatre face masks). For more on traditional Japanese culture, swing by the [Samurai Museum ]((http://samuraimuseum.jp/en/%29)to learn about the 800 year history of the country’s famous warrior clans. Dinner at Shima may cost a pretty penny, but it’s worth it for Chef Manabu Oshima’s Wagyu beef sourced from his native Kyoto. Once you’ve had your fill of steak, head to the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt hotel (made famous in the movie Lost in Translation) for a cocktail and gorgeous views of the twinkling city.