If this is your first trip to Japan, you most likely will be landing in Tokyo and want to spend some time in the city.
I’ll never forget my first time in Tokyo. It’s one of the biggest metropolitan cities on the planet, and you will surely want to visit many attractions around the city, which can be overwhelming.
Japan can feel like exploring a whole other planet, but Tokyo is super fun and a great first introduction to Japan.
After many visits to Tokyo over the years, I thought it would be fun to put together a list of recommended spots that I would visit if it was my first time in Tokyo.
On your first day in Tokyo you may be feeling slightly jet-lagged after a long flight from Europe.
I like to fly to Haneda airport as it’s easier and quicker to reach Tokyo city from there.
The airport is also close to Kanagawa Prefecture and Yokohama city, which is another fun visitor destination once you’ve visited Tokyo.
I usually spend my first evening in Tokyo sleeping to ensure that I can wake up bright and early, refreshed for a new day ahead.
You can visit all the places mentioned in this guide within 24 hours. Alternatively, you can also spread out the schedule over a two to three-day weekend and explore places at a more leisurely pace. Feel free to choose your own schedule.
And remember to purchase your JR Japan Rail Pass before you travel to Tokyo if you wish to explore more of Japan outside of the city.
Here is a list of what you can do within 24 hours exploring Tokyo and what I would recommend for first-time visitors:
Flying with All Nippon Airways (ANA) from London Heathrow to Tokyo Haneda airport
I flew with All Nippon Airways on an international flight for the first time from London Heathrow to Tokyo Haneda airport and enjoyed the service very much.
They have comfortable seats with lots of legroom, top-class entertainment on a full screen and a beautiful selection of Japanese food dishes and drinks as well as an excellent service.
It was an enjoyable economy experience, and I would fly again on this route – it was top class.
Sanco Inn Grande Tokyo Hamamatsucho hotel
Sanco Inn Grande Tokyo Hamamatsucho hotel is what you would call a typical Japanese business style hotel offering modern and stylish private rooms with all the facilities you need for your stay in Tokyo.
Rooms are private with ensuite, and you will find the space compact. The rooms have cosy beds and loads of facilities on offer for guests making sure that your stay in Tokyo is comfortable.
The commute from Haneda airport to the hotel was rather easy using the Monorail and local metro.
Get a Suica Tokyo transportation card to make public transport easy
I would recommend getting a Suica transport card during your stay in Tokyo to cover your public transportation costs.
You can easily top up your card at either the train station or in many convenience shops such as Seven-Eleven.
You can also use your Suica card to buy drinks from vending machines as well as a whole host of shops which makes it rather handy.
The Suica card also works in some other cities such as Osaka, meaning you can stick to one transportation card and visit multiple cities across Japan.
An iconic landmark amongst the Japanese landscape, the Tokyo Tower is an easy walk from your hotel, and you can go snap a picture of the tower bright and early in the morning after you’ve enjoyed breakfast and then head onwards to Shibuya.
Shibuya is an iconic district within Tokyo and an excellent starting point for exploring the city. Start your tour with a visit to the popular Shibuya Crossing and pass by the statue of Japan’s most loyal dog, Hachi.
For me, the area comes to life at night with popular Japanese manga shops, fun video game arcades, internet cafes and alternative eating venues. Shibuya has a lot to offer, be it day or night. It’s a place you have to visit. From here you can also go onwards to Akihabara or Shinjuku. Visit during the day or come back at night, the choice is yours, and the best way to explore the area is to get lost and see where your journey takes you.
Tsukiji Outer Market is charming to explore
What I like most about Tsukiji Fish Market is the fact that it hasn’t lost its old charm and it’s still a fantastic area to visit in Tokyo if you wish to discover the city’s fish market culture.
The fish market has indeed moved to a different area of Tokyo, but many of the traditional vendors that own shop fronts that used to supply the fish market have stayed to keep the area vibrant.
I would recommend arriving here early in the morning to enjoy a donburi breakfast bowl or a selection of flame-grilled fish on the spot such as king crab legs or scallops.
Tsukiji is a great place to try the freshest selection of seafood and possibly the best sushi in town, so be sure not to miss out on this on your next trip to Tokyo.
Explore the peaceful Hama-rikyu Gardens
Hama-rikyu Gardens is a charming garden within walking distance from Tsukiji Outer Market.
Here you will be transported to a more tranquil and greener side of the city with picturesque pathway walks and a traditional Japanese garden landscape.
You can enjoy the views of the surrounding city skyline while being nestled in a garden surrounded by lakes and trees.
It’s a peaceful location and a unique part of Tokyo that displays both the contrast between old and new parts of the city.
You should also try the tea ceremony experience to take a moment to reflect and take in the beauty of the gardens.
If you want to explore more, you can get a boat from Hama-rikyu Gardens to the Asakusa area.
Enjoy a traditional lunch at Misuji
Enjoy lunch at Misuji, a sushi restaurant located high up in one of the tall city skyscrapers.
From here you can get a good observation overview of Tokyo city as well as see the Hama-rikyu Gardens below.
I would recommend getting the set lunch menu which will give you a large selection of different sushi to try.
The sushi chefs will prepare your sushi in front of you if you wish to sit at the sushi bar, and you can enjoy the almost ceremony like skills of the sushi chefs as they prepare your dish.
The combination of top-quality ingredients such as the fresh fish, special soy sauce, rice and miso soup with the skills of the chef will make this an incredible lunchtime sushi experience.
Asakusa feels like an older district of Tokyo and is popular amongst visitors to Tokyo.
You can find the ancient Sensō-ji temple at the end of a shopping street which is full of traditional Japanese street-food and craft stalls.
Be sure to try Matcha ice cream and Taiyaki cakes if you have a sweet tooth.
You can also find a selection of izakaya bars here as well as by the waterfront where you can go on a ferry ride with Tokyo Cruise.
Relax on a Tokyo Cruise
Why not enjoy a scenic Tokyo ferry ride from the garden over to Asakusa district and then onwards to Odaiba?
The Tokyo Cruise experience is a great way to connect different parts of Tokyo city as well as see the city from the waterway.
Transportation can be an experience in itself and a fun way to travel. That’s one of the great things about Tokyo, all the different transportation options you can enjoy on your visit – you have endless possibilities.
You can also have great views of the Tokyo Skytree as well as many bridges that you will pass under along the way.
The cruise network can help you to connect Asakusa to Hama-rikyu Gardens or the area of Odaiba, so be sure to consider the Tokyo Cruise as an option to connect different parts of Tokyo city.
Odaiba can easily be reached by using the Tokyo Cruise ferry, and then you can take a metro back to your hotel to end your day.
Before you head back, enjoy the area of Odaiba which offers stunning views of the skyline as the sun starts to set.
It’s also a popular late-night eating and shopping area and be sure not to miss the iconic Gundam light show which starts around 17:00.
Dinner at Gonpachi Odaiba
For a top dinner spot, I would recommend visiting restaurant Gonpachi located in the Odaiba area.
One of the Gonpachi restaurant’s branches was used in the Kill Bill Vol.1 movie, and many famous people have dined there.
I was excited to have dinner the Gonpachi Odaiba location.
I loved the ambience of this location with its stunning night-time city views that you can enjoy from your seat.
The food was also most enjoyable with a selection of grilled fish and Japanese izakaya style BBQ meats that went rather well with a cold beer.
This location is a perfect place to end your tour in Tokyo.
Thank you for reading my first-time guide to Tokyo
Thank you for coming along and checking out my blog post about travelling to Tokyo for the first time.
If you want to discover more to the City, I’ve also put together a different side of Tokyo guide you can also check out.
I hope you have a wonderful time in Japan and enjoy the city.
this trip was supported by the Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau and Tokyo Metropolitan Government.