The Google search reveals that Shinjuku train station holds the Guinness World Record as being the busiest in the world.
I mean, what could go wrong? … as the 18 of us, jet-lagged and standing smack bang in the middle of the controlled chaos try to work out which way is the exit needed.
But we did find that exit and in 48 hours in Tokyo we did master the maze that is Shinjuku station – and the Tokyo metro system.
Our stop in this buzzing city was brief but we were determined to see and absorb as much as possible before heading to the ski slopes of Hakuba and Nozawa Onsen.
Below you’ll find 10 things to do in Tokyo based on our itinerary. All up, by the time we’d checked into our hotel, we had one afternoon and evening, followed by one full day and evening to absorb our first taste of Japan.
We didn’t feel overwhelmed by trying to jam in too much but it definitely left us wanting for more on a future visit.
10 things to do when you have 48 hours in Tokyo
1. Meiji Shrine
After the crazy of Shinjuku station, walking through the wooded Yoyogi Park to the Meiji Shrine was surreal. The calm after the crazy. The shrine is dedicated to the deified spirits of the first emperor of modern Japan – Emperor Meiji – and his consort, Empress Shoken. It was originally built in 1920 but was rebuilt after being destroyed during WWII.
How to get there: catch the JR Yamanote Line train from Shinjuku to Harajuku (about four minutes). When you come out of the station turn right, head up the street. The entrance is about 200m away through a torii gate
2. Takeshita Street, Harajuku
Walking down Takeshita Street could not be more of a contrast to the calm of the woodlands. From colourfully costumed Harajuku girls through to teen clothing stores and colourful treats (rainbow cheese toasties, fairy floss bigger than your head, drinks served up in colourful baby bottles and animal-shaped ice-cream), the kids were in heaven.
How to get there: walk from the Meiji Shrine entrance back to the top of Takeshita Street. Walk all the way to the end.
3. Shibuya crossing
Shibuya crossing is the iconic visual that most of us have when we think of Tokyo. Whether you’re on the kerb, walking it or looking down on it, it’s impossible not to be in of awe of the controlled chaos. For the highest view over the crossing, head to the rooftop observation deck at Magnet by Shibuya109 building. Admission is free and it’s open until 11pm. We also ate dinner in the restaurant.
How to get there: Walk from the end of Takeshita Street to Shibuya (20 minutes).
4. Tsukiji Outer Markets
The Tsukiji Inner Markets were where the competitive wholesale fish auctions happened before moving to Toyosu in October, 2018. Don’t let that put you off a visit as the Outer Markets are where it’s at if you’re after the freshest of fresh sashimi and sushi fix. We wandered through the crowds of locals and tourists, down the main and side streets, ending up down an alley and into one of the most incredible sushi experiences we’ve ever had. We also picked up some gorgeous chopsticks and ceramic dishes from stores in this area.
How to get there: from Shinjuku, take the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line to Ginza Station (16 minutes), then change for the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line to Tsukiji Station (3 minutes).
5. Shopping in Ginza
I had several moments soaking up this very fancy shopping precinct, home to Tokyo’s flagship department stores and global and Japanese luxury brands. My girlfriend introduced me to Tory Burch and I walked away with a “souvenir” pair of earrings. I couldn’t resist stepping into the Mikimoto store either. In the 1960s my grandfather had shopped at Mikimoto in Tokyo, buying a string of pearls for my late mum and my late aunty – for their 21sts. I now own my mum’s set. Talk about having a moment and clutching my pearls.
How to get there: walk (about 20 minutes) or take the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line (3 minutes)
6. Pokemon Centre DX
While the girls shopped/browsed Ginza, the boys headed to the largest Pokemon Centre in Japan. Winning! There is a Pokemon café next store but it’s wise to book ahead for a stop. My youngest was in heaven.
How to get there: walk from Ginza to Nihombashi (20 minutes)
Akihabara – the electronics district – is home to many stores devoted to anime and manga – another highlight for my youngest.
How to get there – take the Tokyo Metro Tozai Line from Nihombashi to Kayabacho (1 minute); take the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line from Kayabacho to Akihabara (5 minutes).
8. Tokyo Tower
Taller than the Eiffel Tower, the Tokyo Tower offers a fantastic perspective of the city at any time of the day. Perhaps the best time to time your visit is before sunset to get the best of both worlds. We visited at night and loved the light show playing out on the windows of the observation deck. The youngest was again in his element, visiting One Piece Tower – an indoor amusement park under Tokyo Tower featuring games and attractions from the popular manga series of the same name.
How to get there – take the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line from Akihbara to Naka-okachimachi; then the Oedo line to Akabanebashi Station (about 20 minutes), then walk (about 8 minutes).
9. Japanese dinner in Shinjuku
Explore and wander the streets and laneways leading off the main roads around Shinjuku stations. We did this as a group of 18 and managed to find an authentic Japanese restaurant that would take our group (with the kids in one room; adults at a table in a larger room). Get those hip flexor muscles working for sitting on the floor and be prepared for other diners to be smoking. Those things aside, the yakatori, edamame and karage chicken will be worth it.
How to get there – walk from Tokyo Tower to Akabanebashi Station (about 10 minutes); take the Oedo Line to Shinjuku (about 10 minutes).
10. See Mt Fuji
If you don’t have time to get closer to Japan’s iconic Mt Fuji, then head to Bunkyo Civic Centre observation deck – or pop your head to the side of your window at your hotel in Shinjuku like we did on our last morning, a sunny and clear day offering up the goods to us.
How to get there: travel via the Oedo Metro line from Shinjuku to Kasuga (10 minutes); walk (4 minutes).
We love walking as much as possible in any new city but mastering the metro or underground system will help you cover more kilometres in a shorter period of time. The key with the Tokyo Subway is to arm yourself with a map and a metro pass (24, 48 or 72 hour pass starting from about $10 for a days’ worth of travel – more info here).
What you’re looking for when travelling is a line colour, name and station number. Some stations will also be JR line railway stations. If your destination is better reached via a JR line, you’ll need to buy a separate ticket for that. For example, we caught the train from Narita Airport to Shinjuku (about an hour) and that was a JR Line.
Where to stay
With just two nights in Tokyo before heading to the slopes, we chose to stay centrally in Shinjuku at Hyatt Regency Tokyo, one of the many hotel options in this district. Hyatt Regency runs a free shuttle bus between it and Shinjuku Station, which was so handy for our arrival with luggage. Our room was typical of a global hotel chain and probably large by Japanese standards but was small by Australian standards.
For a more boutique hotel experience, try the Granbell Hotel, Shinjuku. My daughter and her girlfriend stayed there after skiing with us. And my photographer, Sarah from The Photo Pitch, had also recommended this hotel.
When in Tokyo … eat Japanese wherever possible and seek out Starbucks for your coffee fix (go down a size cup than you usually have and ask for an extra shot and it might come some way close to what you get at home) and a cheap breakfast. What you might struggle with is any dietary specifics. In my case, gluten free options were tricky to come by. I’m not coeliac but my auto-immune condition means that avoidance is key to my energy levels. Let’s just say, I’ve got a lot of work to get my system back on track! This post might help coeliacs travelling to Japan.
Why travel insurance is as important as your passport
For me, I don’t book a holiday without first taking out travel insurance. Often the time of booking flights and accommodation can be long before the time of travel and you can never be certain of what might happen between then and showing your passport at customs.
I then want to take off knowing that if someone in my family needs it, I’m backed up with help from my travel insurance company. For my last four international trips – to Europe, Hawaii, Bali and now Japan – I’ve chosen and paid for Allianz travel insurance. I also take out Allianz travel insurance for any domestic travel like a girls’ weekend away or road trips we do.
Obtaining Allianz travel insurance is a simple and easy process. I select and purchase my cover online. I’ve found that the insurance cover is competitive in price for the inclusions I select.
For me, it’s about having peace of mind when we travel. I want to know that if anything goes wrong that my family is backed up through medical help or simply help with extra accommodation or replacement belongings should something be stolen.
When our son was sick six years ago while in New York, we weren’t concerned by the potential expense should we need hospital treatment. And when I book holidays in advance, I do so with the knowledge that if unexpected cancellations occur, I’m covered.^
In short, I don’t leave home – or book a holiday – without it.
Book with Allianz Travel Insurance online HERE. Enter STYLINGYOU to receive up to 10% off Comprehensive Travel Insurance*
*Discount based on standard premium rates and applies to International Comprehensive policies only. Please note some discounts may have already been applied to premiums when a product is purchased through a certain channel (for example, online) (Original Discount). In such a case, the greater of the discount offered under this voucher and the Original Discount will be applied. Discount applies to standard premiums only. No discount will be applied to other premium components such as pre-existing medical condition cover.
Allianz Travel Insurance is issued and managed by AWP Australia Pty Ltd ABN 52 097 227 177 AFS Licence No. 245631, trading as Allianz Global Assistance, on behalf of the insurer Allianz Australia Insurance Limited ABN 15 000 122 850 AFS Licence No. 234708. Any information or advice here does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider the Product Disclosure Statement available at allianz.com.au before buying this product.
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My 10-step packing guide for any destination
For me, the holiday planning is all part of the excitement and anticipation of being on that escape. I love nothing more than going down the rabbit hole that is the internet looking for inspiration and ideas for what to do at the chosen destination but also for the types of clothes and accessories that will best suit that destination at the time that I’m travelling.
The formula I use for packing is one that can be adapted and applied to every destination and type of holiday. It’s not complicated. If you follow all the steps it’s quite liberating. I can’t ever imagine returning to my bad old days of throwing everything into a suitcase, sitting on said suitcase to get it closed, and hoping that I’d packed what I needed.
Want to get that formula? It’s all in my e-book.