Tokyo in 2 Days: everything you need to know

It may seem like a short 48 hours to get to know the Japanese capital, but with a proper itinerary and thanks to the city's efficient public transportation you will be able to see many places.

Matías Rodríguez

Matías Rodríguez

8 min read

Tokyo in 2 Days: everything you need to know

Tokyo | ©Nick Kwan

If you only have two days in Tokyo then you better hurry, because the Japanese capital is the city with the largest metropolitan area in the world. Maybe in 48 hours you will not get to know all the sites or you will have to do without some activities far from the city like the excursion to Mount Fuji, but it is certainly enough time to visit many places if you have the right organization.

Among the activities to see and do in Tokyo, you cannot miss an in-depth tour of the center of the Japanese capital, which is where most of the tourist sites are concentrated.

Day 1: Senso-ji, Ueno Park, the Ameyoko market and the Akihabara district

Senso-ji Buddhist Temple| ©mon_vitoria
Senso-ji Buddhist Temple| ©mon_vitoria

The itinerary during the first day will start in the northern part of central Tokyo, which includes the main sites such as the Senso-ji Temple, which will be the first stop, and Ueno Park, but also places to have lunch and get to know the alternative side of the city such as the Ameyoko flea market and the Akihabara electronic neighborhood.

Senso-ji Buddhist Temple

Senso-ji is the oldest temple in Japan and also the most important Buddhist temple, which is the majority religion in the country.

Founded in the year 645, it owes its fame to the fact that after World War II, in which it was completely destroyed, Japanese citizens collected donations to rebuild it, making it a symbol of national unity during peacetime.

Inside the temple you will find the main building and the five-story pagoda, which is the second largest in Tokyo, and also the Nakamise-dori shopping street where pilgrims arriving from different parts of Japan buy food, drinks and other local products.

Admission to the temple is free and it is open daily from 6:00 am to 5:00 pm. It is possible to get there from Tokyo Station by taking the JR Yamanote line train to Kanda and then the Ginza subway to Asakusa. It is also possible to visit the temple with one of the guided tours of Tokyo.

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Ueno Park

The park is the great oasis of Tokyo, a city distinguished by its permanent bustle. Ueno Park with its lush greenery offers a refuge that many of the Japanese take every day. If you visit Tokyo during the spring you can attend the cherry blossom, one of the most beautiful spectacles that Ueno Park has to offer.

However, it has many more attractions, because it also houses the Art Museum, the Science Museum and the National Museum, as well as temples and shrines.

The zoo inside Ueno Park is ideal if you are visiting Tokyo with children, or if you are interested in native species. Admission is free, the park is open daily from 5.00 am to 11.00 pm.

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Shopping and lunch at the Ameyoko Market

This flea market is located two blocks from Ueno Park's Shinobazu Pond, so you can get there in a five-minute walk. The Ameyoko Open Air Market is the ideal place to buy almost anything and to eat at one of the exquisite stalls at the entrance, so a midday visit is ideal for lunch.

The history of Ameyoko is peculiar, since after World War II it became one of the first refuges of Western culture. American products and sweets were found there, at a time when sugar was a scarce commodity in Japan.

Admission to the market is free and it is open every day from 10.00 am to 8.00 pm, with very affordable prices, especially in food.

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Tokyo National Museum

At the Tokyo National Museum| ©Nianci Pan
At the Tokyo National Museum| ©Nianci Pan

After lunch, the next point of the tour is inside Ueno Park, so you can get there with another five-minute walk. This is the oldest museum in Tokyo and also the largest in Japan: the National Museum.

It is best to study how to get tickets to the National Museum and discover its innumerable collection of Japanese objects and works of art. The museum also stands out for the architecture of its building and for the studies in archeology and anthropology that it carries out for the enhancement of its collection. Please note that the total tour of the museum can take about five hours. The Tokyo National Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9.30 to 17.00 hours

You also have the option of visiting another of the most important museums in the city as is the Fuji Art Museum, for which you can book your tickets online.

Akihabara electronic district tour

To get to Akihabara, known for being the electronic district of Tokyo and also the epicenter of the otaku culture, from the Tokyo National Museum you must take the Ginza subway line from Ueno station to Suehirocho, although I recommend the option of taking a short walk of 15 minutes.

This neighborhood has gained popularity in recent years because it has become one of the most eclectic in Tokyo. Here you will love getting lost among the neon signs, capsule hotels and video game stores.

If you like coffee, you can also have a maid cafe experience in one of the typical cosplay restaurants.Sunday is the best day to visit Akihabara, as this is when the Chuo-Dori trunk street becomes pedestrianized. And, in the surroundings of Akihabara there are many bars and restaurants of varied gastronomy where you can have dinner to close the first day of your tour of Tokyo.

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Day 2: Imperial Palace, Meiji Jingu Shrine, lunch at Golden Gai, Radio Tower and dinner in Roppongi

Tokyo Imperial Palace| ©Jeff Amador
Tokyo Imperial Palace| ©Jeff Amador

If the first day seemed intense because of the walking, the second day will be oriented to enjoy the historic buildings, panoramic views and nightlife of Tokyo in one of the most lively and modern neighborhoods of the city, for which you can hire a night photo tour that will surprise you.

Tokyo Imperial Palace

The first stop on the tour will be the official residence of the Emperor, which occupies the grounds of the old Edo Castle. Strategically located in the urban center of Tokyo, it is one of the great fortresses of the country, surrounded by walls and moats for imperial protection.

Although it is one of the most famous buildings in the country, the palace is not open to the general public, so it is only possible to access the Oriental Gardens that border the perimeter.

It is for this reason that the best known image of the residence is that of the arches of the Nijubashi bridges, which connect the entrance to the inner gardens. Admission to the Oriental Gardens of the Palace is free and it is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 9:00 am to 2:45 pm. The Residence is located four blocks from Tokyo Station, which can be reached by most subway and train lines in Tokyo, including the bullet train.

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Meiji Jingu Shrine

Meiji Jingu is the most visited shrine in Japan and can be reached from the Imperial Palace on the Chiyoda subway line from Otemachi Station to Harajuku.

This space pays homage to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, who were revered by the Japanese. When they died, as a tribute, the shrine was built in the Shibuya district and surrounded by a lush forest planted with more than 300 species of trees from all prefectures of the country.

Despite the Japanese government's special request that the Meiji Shrine and other sacred sites in Tokyo not be bombed during World War II, the forest was damaged and almost completely destroyed.

The reconstruction, which was done with donations from Japanese citizens, symbolizes unity in adversity and the recovery of what was lost. Today it is an oasis of peace in the midst of noisy Tokyo.

The best time to visit is during spring or autumn. Keep in mind that if you visit Tokyo in winter the paths of the Meiji Shrine can be snowy and the temperature drops drastically. Admission is free and it is open daily from 5:00 am to 6:00 pm.

Make an intermediate stop at Golden Gai

A few blocks from Meiji Shrine, in the Shinjuku district, you can eat at Golden Gai, a maze of six pedestrian alleys where you'll find more than 200 tiny bars and small stores selling exquisite local food. Although some of the stalls are only open at night, it is worth losing yourself in Golden Gai during the day because it is like traveling back in time in an area that is preserved as it was forty or fifty years ago.

In Golden Gai, besides excellent food, you will find great music, ninja themed restaurants, the best samurai experiences in Tokyo and some hidden attractions such as the Hanazono shrine.

The proximity of the Golden Gai to the Kabukicho district , Tokyo's red light district, has earned its alleys a particular fame, but it is a safe area worth visiting.

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Climb the observation deck of the Radio Tower

Radio Tower| ©Lawrence L
Radio Tower| ©Lawrence L

The Radio Tower can be reached from Golden Gai by combining the Marunouchi and Hibiya subway lines to Kamiyacho station. At 332 meters high, this tower is the second tallest structure in Japan, behind only Tokyo Skytree, which you can see firsthand by booking your tickets in advance.

On a clear day, from either of the two observation decks, it is possible to see Mount Fuji on the horizon and a full panorama of the vastness of the Tokyo metropolitan area.

The structure of the Radio Tower is inspired by the Eiffel Tower and its white and international orange colors were carefully chosen to comply with air safety regulations. From the observation deck you will also be amazed by the transparent glass floor that will give you the feeling that you are floating. Entrance to the tower's observation decks costs approximately 10 euros and they are open daily from 9.00 am to 10.00 pm. You can book your tickets here.

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Say goodbye to Tokyo by going out for drinks in Roppongi

You accomplished your mission of touring Tokyo in two days and you are looking for some nightlife fun? All you have to do is celebrate in Roppongi, the best area for bars and nightclubs in the Japanese capital, which you can reach from Tokyo Tower by bus line 88, from Toranomon to the Roppongi stop or by taking a quarter-hour walk.

The neighborhood is home to the best restaurants in the city and there you will find the most varied cocktails and a wide range of nightclubs.

Roppongi, also, has some of the best views of Tokyo, because it is where the tallest towers of the city are located and at the same time it is absolutely cosmopolitan thanks to the influence of the artists who adopted the neighborhood and the global events that year after year are held in the district, such as the International Film Festival that takes place every October in Tokyo or the celebrations for the cherry blossom in March.

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