24 Hours in Tokyo
Balancing tradition with tomorrow.
Long boasting the largest metropolitan area in the world, Tokyo is a city in constant motion. The bustling capital of Japan connects the past with the future, as centuries-old shrines stand only steps away from smartphone stores with robots for employees. It’s always in flux, and the 2020 Olympics promise to reshape the city even more drastically. But for all the change, Tokyo makes sure to not lose tradition as it speeds toward tomorrow.
Despite its size, getting around Tokyo is a relatively easy process. Head to any train or subway station in the capital and buy a PASMO card, which you can put money on (and thus not have to worry about calculating fare every trip). PASMOs can also be acquired at Narita Airport.
Timing it just right to avoid morning rush hour, hop on the Tokyo Metro Oedo Line to Tsukijishijo Station to check out the mammoth ① Tsukiji Fish Market. The largest seafood market in the world will move to a new location next year, due to the Olympics, so the best time to visit and take in its colorful offerings is now. Plus, the surrounding area features dozens of sushi restaurants open for breakfast, serving food right from the market. Head to block 10 to find ② Sushi Maru, offering mouthwatering sushi plates and tekka donburi (top-notch tuna on rice) with little wait time.
Get back on the Oedo Line and head to Kuramae Station. Exit out A3 and enjoy a calm walk down Kokusai Dori until you hit ③ Kakimori — a stationery store selling some of the nicest pens and paper in the city; you can even order your own customized notebook, ready in five minutes. Afterward, enjoy a creamy latte at ④ Sol’s Coffee, conveniently located right next to ⑤ Kuramae Shrine — a small, tree-lined shrine in the neighborhood that offers a nice place to relax.
Continue along Kokusai Dori for 20 minutes, enjoying the laid-back vibes of this part of Tokyo before reaching Asakusa Station. The highlight is ⑥ Senso-ji, the city’s biggest temple and one of the most spiritually significant in the country. It’s easy to reach from the station — just look for the towering orange entry gate. Walk down the temple’s shopping street, checking out all the traditional Japanese goods for sale, and make sure to throw an extra five-yen coin into the saisen-bako at the end of the road — it shows your appreciation for divine favors.
Return to Asakusa Station and board the Ginza Line for a 30-minute jaunt to Shibuya, one of the liveliest neighborhoods in the capital. Enjoy delicious yakitori (grilled chicken on skewers) at ⑦ Toritake, a perfect — and affordable — lunch spot.
Belly now full, either catch the Ginza Line up one stop to Meiji-jingumae Station or walk down Aoyama Dori to get to the ⑧ Meiji Jingu Shrine. Despite being a skip from Tokyo’s trendiest district, this tree-sheltered area feels thousands of miles away from the capital’s usual hustle. For 500 yen, you can access the gyoen, a peaceful garden with an array of lush plants and streams around which to recharge.
Harajuku, the nation’s fashion capital, lies a couple minutes away from the shrine. Start at ⑨ 6% Dokidoki, ground zero for the colorful kawaii school of fashion — emphasizing color and mismatched combinations. Then, for more variety, head to the multistory Laforet, a fashion mall featuring both technicolor kawaii duds and less bright offerings from some of the world’s leading brands.
Also not to be missed is ⑩ Kiddyland, a toy store specializing in merchandise related to every cuddly Japanese character ever created. Perfect for kids, or adults, eager to collect all Hello Kitty goods under the sun.
Backtrack to JR Harajuku Station, board a Yamanote Line train and head toward Shinjuku. Exit out the west gate and venture into the maze-like stretch of arcades, electronic stores and restaurants. Not far from the turnstiles you’ll find ⑪ Shinkoyo, one of the neighborhood’s best ramen joints. Each bowl of noodles comes topped with your choice of fried chicken or tonkatsu (fried pork), making for a hearty meal. Top it all off with a high-quality Japanese beer, such as the hard-to-find Asahi Premium Beer Jukusen.
A long day out in the city calls for a relaxing bath. Jump on the JR Chuo-Sobu Line at Shinjuku Station to get to Iidabashi. Head out exit B3, walk down Waseda Dori and you’ll end up at ⑫ Atami-yu, one of the capital’s finest sento, or public baths. These venues have been around for centuries and can be just as crowded today as they were in the 1600s; few, however, feature a giant painting of Mt. Fuji — the perfect backdrop against which to unwind.
As night settles in, return to Iidabashi Station, get on the familiar Oedo line and ride to Shiodome Station. Leave through exit 7 and you’ll reach ⑬ Park Hotel Tokyo. The hotel’s Art Colours series features 18 rooms, each designed by a different Japanese artist. Before you retire, head on up to the 25th floor to enjoy a nightcap at The Society bar, bringing your day in the busy capital to a quiet close.