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Extreme Guide to Tokyo in Three Days

Tokyo is a frenetic, eccentric, wild city that everyone needs to visit at least once. Like Amsterdam, Tokyo is a land of opposites, but way more extreme. In fact, everything in Tokyo is extreme. It’s a city that conjures up unique, conflicting feelings; I somehow simultaneously never felt more at peace, and hyper with over-stimulation. In the true spirit of Tokyo, the stark opposites somehow blend effortlessly. I have no idea how, and I’ve stopped questioning it.

Anyone who knows me in real life can tell you that Japan has long been my dream destination. I mean, how could it not be? Japan is the land of Pokemon, Tekken, sushi, and everything I loved as a child!

At the ripe-old age of seven, I started teaching myself origami, how to make sushi, and even started teaching myself Japanese. I had longed to go to this Mecca of my childhood, but it was a distant dream restricted by the green demon: money. When I saved nearly 50% on my flight to visit family in Macau, I decided to use the money saved to visit the seemingly mythical land of Tokyo.

This city is too large to do in a short period of time, but here’s how to squeeze the highlights of Tokyo in three days.


Where to Stay

I stayed at the Oak Hotel Edo, right off the Morishita stop on the Oedo/Shinjuku lines of the JR train. This hostel is 15 minutes outside the centre, but for a last-minute booking at ¥3000 ($26) a night, it wasn’t bad at all.

Tokyo accommodation is notoriously expensive. For something young and trendy, stay in Roppongi Hills or Harajuku. To be blinded by lights and bankrupt by shopping, stay in Shinjuku or Ginza. For something out of the way but more traditional, stay in Asakusa. If you want the true (and cheap) Japanese experience, test your claustrophobia by sleeping in a capsule hotel! (Not my photo)

What to Eat

Japanese convenience stores are a lifesaver; they serve high-quality food at super low prices.

I ate three large salmon omusubi (seaweed-wrapped rice balls filled with meat) for breakfast, for ¥300 ($2.50) in total. Lunch can run you ¥700-¥1200, and dinner ¥1000-¥1600. If you want to eat on a budget, get fresh meals from convenience stores for lunch or dinner. It’ll save you a lot of money, and the meals are healthy and delicious. Also, vending machines are everywhere in Tokyo, so hot/cold drinks will never be more than 500 feet away.

Transportation

Despite Tokyo being a behemoth of a city, it has one of the easiest and most efficient metro systems in the world: the JR line. Fares can go from ¥80-¥400+ depending on how close or far you need to go. The metro in Tokyo is the best for people-watching; every day you’ll see someone bizarre or unforgettable on it. You can also take the metro from the airport to your hotel, even if you fly into the Narita airport, 90 minutes outside Tokyo.


Modern Tokyo:

Start your day off by taking the JR train and stopping at the Shibuya station. Walk south to see the famous Shibuya Crossing, the world’s largest and busiest intersection. For a younger vibe, go further south to Roppongi Hills, where you can go karaoke-ing with the locals! I went to a karaoke bar here expecting everyone to be drunkenly butchering their favourite songs; never one to sing seriously I was going to do the same. I then learned that the Japanese take karaoke very seriously and my dreams of making a fool of myself in this country were ruined.

If you get intimidated from karaoke, you can’t miss the Tokyo Tower, a massive 1092 foot (taller than the Eiffel Tower!) structure. For more shopping, take out a bank loan and shop at the expensive yet iconic Ginza strip. Finally, blind yourself with the lights of the epicentre of Tokyo, the Shinjuku district and head out to one of its many of its famous arcades, clubs, bars, etc.


Old Tokyo

Relieve the insanity of modern Tokyo with a morning at the famous Senso-ji Temple. Established in 645 AD, it’s the oldest temple in Tokyo and one of the oldest in Japan. The temple and its surrounding traditional shops were a deep red; a shade of red with a history of bloodshed and passion. After, explore the traditional bathhouse culture at the Jyakotsuyu Onsen and soak in the hot, volcanic ash-infused, black spring water. You can then head to the Chiyoda district to take a free tour of the Imperial Palace, the residence of the current Emperor. It was initially built in the 7th century, but was reconstructed in the late 1800’s.

However, the peaceful benevolence traditional Japan is so well-known for can be found at the Meiji Jingju, a forest in the middle of Harajuku. Legends say that this forest holds the spirit of Emperor Meiji, the one who brought Japan to the modern age. Observe the shrine, write a prayer to him for ¥444, and the priests will ceremonially send your prayer to the spirits. Let the spirit of Meiji and his wife fill your soul with an otherworldly tranquility.

Imperial Palace


Crazy Kawaii Tokyo

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Tokyo is weird, but  that’s what makes it so unique and memorable.  Dive straight into Harajuku, the fashion haven of Tokyo with eccentric, fearless style at every corner. As soon as you get off the JR Line, indulge in Japan’s animal-cafe culture at the Mocha Cat Cafe. For the most surreal lunch of your life, walk to Kawaii Monster to eat surrounded by trippy machine animals, swirly floors, and towering costumed waitresses. After lunch, check out Harajuku’s famous thrift shops such as BerBerJin for streetwear and Dog for avant-garde fashion. At night, take the subway to Shinjuku and go to Robot Restaurant, a blindingly extra light show filled with dancers, 10-foot robots, and an flurry of disorienting noises.

The waitresses at Kawaii Monster (not my photo)

A small preview of Robot “Restaurant”


Tokyo is one of the most unique places on this planet. It has something for everyone whether they’re seeking tradition, the infamous craziness of the city, or if they just want a normal cosmopolitan experience. It’s a city that must be experienced in all it’s organised messiness to be understood. It’s a place that fulfilled all my childhood dreams, and it exceeded every expectation I had. I’m so happy to have finally been able to experience this country, and I’m already planning my next trip there!

Have you been to Tokyo? If so, what were your favourite things there? Let me know in the comments below!

Cheers,

Elijah

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Comments (24)

  • AMBER TATTON 4 months ago Reply

    This is so interesting. I would love to spend that amount of time in Toyoko

  • Summer 4 months ago Reply

    This was really great to see. Your pictures gave me total wanderlust. Like you I grew up loving Japanese culture. For me it was Sailor Moon, the language, and Samurai that grabbed my attention. As an adult now I dream to go to Japan to participate in a tea ceremony, see matcha being made in person and the beautiful forests. Loved your comparison of the old vs. new.

    Salut!

    Elijah Rodriguez 4 months ago Reply

    Aw man I wish I saw Sailor Moon! It looks so cool but I just never got the chance to watch it. I’d love to do a tea ceremony too but turns out they’re super expensive! Guess that means I just HAVE to go back!

  • Addie 4 months ago Reply

    I love that you have a section for crazy Tokyo, lol. It looks like a fun trip. Did you find that it was hard to relax or sleep when there? I imagine it to be so busy that I wouldn’t be able to think straight.

    Elijah Rodriguez 4 months ago Reply

    Despite the insanity of Tokyo, I had surprisingly never been calmer! Even though it’s so frenetic, it’s an organised chaos and places like the Meiji Jingju in Shibuya/Harajuku and the bathhouses really help calm you down when you feel overwhelmed.

  • Aditi 4 months ago Reply

    Tokyo has been on my travel bucket list for a while too. I have heard so much about it from friends and other travellers. Your tips are really going to save me a lot of work when I plan my travel. Thank you for sharing this.

    Elijah Rodriguez 4 months ago Reply

    I’m so glad to hear that, Aditi! I hope you can get there soon!

  • Purvi Kamaliya 4 months ago Reply

    Japan has always fascinated me since childhood as I read many JApanese stories. YOur pictures are indeed awesome. Keep traveling.

    Elijah Rodriguez 4 months ago Reply

    Thanks Purvi! You gotta let that inner child out and get there ASAP, you’re going to love it!

  • Tokyo has been on my must-visit list for many years. It is still high on the list, but I have always been deterred by hearing it is very expensive.

    Everything I have seen in this post and my expectations from research tells me that it would be worth every penny. So perhaps I should shut up and put up the cash to make the trip.

    Thanks for sharing. Keep travel blogging. Adventure is better shared with friends!

    Elijah Rodriguez 4 months ago Reply

    Oh absolutely it’s worth every single penny. And yeah it’s more expensive than say, Thailand or Vietnam but it costs roughly the same, if not cheaper than any western country. The only thing that’s expensive is accommodation, but you can find cheap stuff. Thanks for the love Anthony!

  • anshul 4 months ago Reply

    The Kwai part sold me for a visit. I am going to have a lot of fun in Godzilla’s city. Hell yeah.

  • Alexander Popkov 4 months ago Reply

    I would love to go to Tokyo to do and see all crazy fun weird things. Life is for fun, isn’t it? 🙂

  • Carol Colborn 4 months ago Reply

    I was in Tokyo maybe 25 years ago. I should go back but have always been afraid of the expense. This is a great 3-day guide for a budget trip to the dazzling city.

    Elijah Rodriguez 4 months ago Reply

    Thank you Carol! You should definitely go back when you can. I’m not sure what exactly has changed (as I wasn’t born yet!) but I’m sure it’ll capture your heart now as well!

  • R K Nair 4 months ago Reply

    Capsule hotels and Cat cafes!! How can one not love Tokyo! Loved your style of presenting – creative, vibrant and simple. Thank you for sharing

    Elijah Rodriguez 4 months ago Reply

    Thank you so much for the kind words! 🙂

  • Jing 4 months ago Reply

    I live in nearby Philippines but I’ve never been to Tokyo. Been to other parts of Japan though but that was for work and for a very short stay only. Hence, I felt I never really experienced Japan that fully. Your post made me want to experience Japan’s culture and eccentricity even more. 🙂

  • Shelby Kirk 4 months ago Reply

    Never been to Tokyo but I LOVE the uniqueness this city has to offer. The nightlife, the people, the accommodations, etc all have some amazing unique quirk to it. I cannot wait to visit. Those hostel pods do seem interesting! I would probably spend a night there just for the experience. Looking forward to all the amazing food too!

  • Alice ford 4 months ago Reply

    Tokyo has some hilarious looking stores and restaurants. Those outfits at Monster really make me laugh. I hope to go one day but the craziness might just be too much for me.

  • Food and Footprints 4 months ago Reply

    We can’t wait to visit Tokyo! It has been high on our list for a while and you provided some nice options for a 3 day visit.

  • Punita Malhotra 4 months ago Reply

    Tokyo has so many colors and so many bright lights! It is the food and the culture that would attract me the most. That capsule hotel doesn’t look too bad, but I’m sure all of them are not as cute.

  • Samantha Sparrow 4 months ago Reply

    I’ve never been to Japan and your post is making me think I should prioritise it! I thought you’d need way more time here, but it seems like 3 days might do the trick – super interested in what you said in a comment above – that price wise it’s comparable to European cities. That makes it really attractive to me (but such a long flight from the UK!)

    Elijah Rodriguez 4 months ago Reply

    You should definitely prioritise it! You can really see a majority of Tokyo in 3 days if you’re willing to pretty much exhaust your entire body while doing it, but if that’s all the time you gave like I did, it’s completely worth it! Yeah honestly I found myself (unintentionally) spending MUCH more money in places like Barcelona than Tokyo.

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