What to do with 3 days in Japan's capital city
Tokyo is the worlds biggest city and has some great sightseeing in store for you... or it is a time sink with a spaghetti mess of train lines and expensive taxi rides. Don't waste your time in Tokyo trying to work out which sites are worth seeing and how to get there, we've got you covered.
We're going to assume you have two full days of travel time and fly out on the evening of the third day. That gives us two full days in the city plus a day trip. Lets get started then!
Day One - Day Trip to Kamakura
There are two great options for a one-day trip out of the city, Nikko and Kamakura. We're going to Kamakura this time but if you've been there before then Nikko is just as good a trip.
Get onto the Yokosuka line heading towards Yokohama (departs from Tokyo, Shinbashi and Shinagawa stations) and go to Kamakura station, it takes about 45 minutes. Get off the JR station and go to the Enoden Kamakura station (it's right next door) and pick up a one day pass and a map.
There are a ton of great temples and shrines to stop at along this scenic train route. The most famous being the Daibutsu (giant buddha), Hachimangu and Hasedera. Take your time and explore. There are places to eat at most stops along the way and if you're there in the summer a dip in the ocean is always an option.
In the evening if you have time, take the Yamanote line to Shibuya station and go out through the Hachiko exit. We'll let the picture below do the talking about this great spot.
Day Two - Tokyo
We're going to spend the morning at the museum in Ueno park. Go to Ueno station on the JR Yamanote line and follow the signs to the park from there. The National Museum is at the back of the park away from the station. It will take most of the morning to get through the galleries on display. The room full of samurai sword blades is always popular and look out for the special national treasures which are displayed and altered regularly.
For lunch walk back through the park down to the street level and go to Ameyokocho, a busy market street packed with hawkers selling everything from watches to dried squid. There is a good choice of shops to stop in for a cheap lunch.
After lunch get on the Ginza Subway Line and go to Asakusa, it's the most visited tourist spot in Tokyo and you'll see why. There are dozens of souvineer shops and traditional snack stalls to stop at for a nibble. You won't have any choice but to walk slowly and soak it all in, the streets are normally packed any day of the week. If you have any energy at this point get back on the Ginza subway and go to Ginza station. Ginza is some of the most expensive shopping in the world and people watching can be half the fun. Thousands come every weekend to browse through the high priced department stores.
For dinner, if your budget allows it the department stores in Ginza all have excellent restaurants. A cheaper and much livelier option is to get back on the Ginza subway line one more time and go over to Shinbashi, where the "salarymen" gather after work for yakitori and a beer.
Day Three - More Tokyo and away!
At this point it pays to mention that your hotel will let you leave bags in the lobby after checking out. You don't need to drag them all over the city with you.
If you're an early riser (and it's not Sunday or Wednesday, when it's closed) the Tsukiji fish market is well worth a visit. Try and be there by 5 or 6 am, while the auctions are still going on. Be careful though, the locals can be short tempered towards tourists and whatever you do, do not touch the fish!
Because we're running short of time we're going to stick to one other area today.
Jump on the Yamanote line and head over to Harajuku station. Harajuku is one of the hippest areas in Tokyo and on weekends packs out with young people all trying to outdress each other. Paradoxically it's also where Japan's most famous shrine, Meiji Jingu, is located, which is where we'll go first. Exit the JR station, turn right, walk up the hill to a stone bridge, trun right accross the bridge and follow the wide path into the forest. The forest and shrine complex are huge and incredibly peaceful. You may see a wedding party and you will almost certainly see flower or bonsai trees on display.
If you have time at this point go back to the station and on the other side of the road are a maze of fashion shops and boutique stalls. This is Harajuku. The shops are not normally expensive but be warned, the fashions on display are not for everyone!
If you can fit more in at this point you can call yourself a warrior traveller. The Imperial Palace is right by JR Tokyo Station and can be visited with a spare 45 minutes before getting on the train back to Narita airport. Whew!