In Kayak’s 2023 Travel Trends Report, Asian destinations featured heavily in the Top 10, with Tokyo, Japan coming in at number 8. According to the report, searches for Tokyo were up 150 per cent year over year.
Tokyo is also a very popular destination at the moment for those combining a ski trip to resorts on Honshu (the main island) or Hokkaido (the northernmost and second largest main island), with tourists spending time in Tokyo on either side of their ski holiday.
Tokyo has so much to offer but if you only have a few days, here are our top Tokyo tips and picks to help make the most of your visit.
teamLab Planets is a museum like no other. Located in Toyosu, about a 20-minute train ride from Tokyo Station, teamLab Planets was due to close in 2022 but has been extended until the end of 2023. Expect a multi-sensory experience during your visit, with four large exhibition spaces and two gardens featuring digital and physical art installations.
Before entering the museum, guests are asked to remove shoes and socks which are stored in individual lockers. There are spaces where you’ll walk through water up to your knees, so be prepared to roll up your pants.
It’s advisable to book tickets online in advance. The English booking page can be found here.
Tsukiji Outer Market
If experiencing traditional Japanese food and the freshest seafood in Tokyo is high on your list of things to do, then make sure you put aside a morning at the Tsukiji Outer Market. Don’t confuse the Tsukiji Outer Market with the new wholesale fish markets at Toyosu. While the original wholesale fish markets have relocated to Toyosu, the outer market remains at Tsukiji and is still a major tourist attraction offering a charming and authentic Japanese market experience.
Here you will find the freshest seafood in Japan, which is delivered straight from the Toyosu wholesale markets and can be enjoyed from one of the many stores selling seafood bowls, sushi, fresh scallops served in their shell, barbequed squid on skewers and much more. There are also stores selling fresh fruit and vegetable produce as well as traditional Japanese sweets and desserts such as manju and matcha soft serve.
The market is a short 10-minute walk from Ginza Station so it can be combined with a shopping trip to one of Tokyo’s most iconic shopping precincts. The Tsukiji Outer Market is closed on Sunday and some stores close on Wednesday.
Shopping in Tokyo
When shopping in Tokyo, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by choice, particularly in Shinjuku, Shibuya and Harajuku – three of Tokyo’s hippest and trendiest shopping districts. For designer labels and upmarket stores, Ginza is your go-to district but if Japanese homewares and ceramics are more your jam, head to Kappabashi Street.
Let’s break things down to help plan your day of shopping. Don’t forget to throw your passport in your bag so you can take advantage of the tax-free benefits. To be eligible for tax-free purchases, you need to spend 5000 yen or more (before tax).
Stationery lovers should head straight to mega-stationery supplier LOFT (main Tokyo stores include Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ikebukuro, Ueno and Ginza), while Tokyu Hands (main Tokyo stores are located in Shibuya, Ginza, Tokyo and Shinjuku) is also a favourite for homewares and stationery. See the full list of LOFT stores in Japan here and Tokyo Hands stores here.
Make a beeline for ‘Sneaker Alley’ in Harajuku if your mission is sneaker shopping. Shop for the latest and greatest sneakers at the end of Takeshita Street in Jingumae. Here, you’ll find stores such as Atmos, Kicks Lab, Limited.edt and many more.
Also worth a visit while you’re in this part of Harajuku is the B-Side Label store which is home to the most incredible range of stickers created by Japanese artists and manufactured by hand in Japan. To date, B-Side has created over 5,000 sticker designs and each month they produce around 50 brand-new designs.
Another option when shoe shopping is ABC Mart, a large Japanese footwear chain that stocks all the major sneaker brands with stores located across the country.
If you’re looking for Japanese ceramic kitchenware, pottery and knives, Kappabashi Street in the Taito district is guaranteed to satisfy. Also known as Kitchen Town, Kappabashi Street is located between Ueno and Asakusa and is almost 800 metres long featuring over 170 stores selling kitchenware.
Yodobashi Camera and BIC Camera are two of the largest electronic retail chains in Japan with stores located across the country. From camera gear to all things digital, both retailers are generally multi-level and offer a large range of electronic products. BIC Camera’s flagship store is located in Yurakucho, near Tokyo Station while Yodabashi’s flagship store is in Akihabara, also known as Electric Town.
Getting around Tokyo
If you don’t have a Japan Rail (JR) Pass to get around Tokyo on the JR network, the next best thing is a Tokyo Subway Ticket. The tickets come with 24, 48 and 72-hour validity and are activated the moment you first use the ticket. For example, if you use a 24-hour ticket for the first time at 11.00 am on Tuesday, it will be valid for use until 11.00 am on Wednesday. The ticket gives you access to all Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway lines. If you plan to move around the city, this subway ticket is incredible value for money.
These passes are only available for sale to tourists and you need to produce your passport to purchase one. Also note, passes are only available at certain outlets such as tourist information centres at the airport and in the city, as well as some hotels and retail stores such as BIC Camera. View the full list of suppliers here.
Eating in Tokyo
The food scene in Tokyo is heavenly and you’re guaranteed to find yourself snacking your way around Tokyo during your visit.
From fancy bento boxes found in food halls (called depachika) located underneath enormous Tokyo department stores to egg sandwiches from the local convenience store, eating in Japan is surprisingly affordable and it really is hard to come across a bad meal. If you’re on the go and looking for something quick and easy, onigiris (rice balls) from the corner store are a great option and at 115 yen a pop, it’s a steal!
Sandwiches from convenience stores such as Lawson, Family Mart and 7-Eleven should not be overlooked, particularly the famous deliciousness of the humble egg sandwich. Even way back in 2013, the late Anthony Bourdain tweeted about “The Unnatural, Inexplicable Deliciousness of the Lawson’s egg salad sandwich” during his visit to Tokyo.
Japan boasts some of the best food halls in the world and these can be experienced at large department stores such as Daimaru, Takashimaya, Keio, Isetan and Mitsukoshi. The food halls are generally located on the basement levels and you’ll find a wide selection of beautifully presented food such as cakes, cookies, desserts, sushi, sashimi, rice bowls, onigiri, bakeries, pickles and so much more.
Takeshita Street in Harajuku is still the place to go for crepes and our recommendation is Marion crepes, which tends to have a larger range of crepes compared to other creperies along the street.
In the cooler months, ramen, okonomiyaki or Japanese curry is always a welcome dish and there are plenty of quaint and welcoming ramen and curry shops in many of the main shopping precinct backstreets. Some stores don’t handle cash and require you to purchase a ticket before entering the store. A decent bowl of ramen costs around 1000 yen and curry dishes (depending on the size) can range between 500 to 1000 yen. Okonomiyaki can also range between 800 and 1500 yen on average.
If snacking on the go, just remember it’s not socially acceptable to eat as you walk in Japan, so you’ll need to find somewhere to eat your food such as a park bench or just move to the side of the walkway and finish your food before moving on.
Accommodation: The Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi
When staying in Tokyo, location is key and The Four Seasons does not disappoint. Conveniently located within walking distance of Tokyo Station, The Four Seasons Marunouchi is a 57-room boutique hotel that offers luxurious, spacious and quiet rooms literally around the corner from one of the busiest train stations in the world. Guests have the convenience of the iconic Shinkansen (bullet train) line, local JR (Japan Railway) lines, and Tokyo subway lines right at their doorstep.
The Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo is also home to a two-Michelin-starred French restaurant called Sezanne which was ranked number 17 in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants List in 2022.
Also located in the area are convenience stores such as Lawson, 7-Eleven and Family Mart, restaurants to suit all tastes and ages, as well as larger department stores such as Daimaru. Just one stop away on the subway is Ginza, one of Tokyo’s most vibrant shopping districts. If historical sightseeing is on your list of things to do, the Imperial Palace is a short walk from the hotel with the outer palace gardens open to the public.
For more information about The Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi and rates, click here.