Travel Japan: Here’s what it’s like to travel for just one day in Tokyo

One day in Tokyo?

Is that even possible?!?

I have been in Tokyo about five years ago and based from that, it feels that exploring it needs more than just one day. However, what if you really just have one day to see the big city? Is it doable? Is it enough to scratch Tokyo beneath the surface?

Since I availed of the Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass), which provides unlimited access to certain JR trains including Shinkansen and even buses and ferries, I decided to give Tokyo a visit and see what I can with just one day. If you plan to visit Japan and will be moving around the country a lot for several days, getting a JR Pass is highly recommended. They have a JR Pass that is unlimited for 7 days so if you’re traveling in various parts of Japan for a week, getting this is quite helpful. Transportation fees in Japan are super high, which is why it is really convenient to travel around the country especially when via train, so getting a JR Pass helps cut down your expenses. You can know more about the JR Pass here. Sadly, it is still on trial basis and will be available until March 31, 2018, only. I really hope they make it a permanent perk for travelers. ­čÖé

However, if you’re just doing one day in Tokyo, one of our readers, Martin Lasquite, suggested to “secure the Suica card to access most of the trains within greater Tokyo area and top it up┬ájust like our MRT.”

6:01am jst: Lezdodiz! #onedayintokyo

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So, if ever you have a day layover in Tokyo or really just have one day to take peek at what the city is all about, you might want to consider how I did it.

One day in Tokyo tips

  • If you plan to do one day in Tokyo, be prepared to do a lot of brisk walking (and running, at times, to catch up on the train).
  • Get a JR Pass. I can’t emphasize enough how much you can cut down on transportation expenses instead of always getting a one-way ticket to your next destination.
  • This is a one day in Tokyo trip so everything happens fast and sometimes it can be difficult to consume all the amazing things about the city all at once. Personally, I think it is better to have more days to spend in Tokyo or just choose the spots that you really like and spend more time there if you just have a day to stay, rather than having to sprint from one train station to another to cover as many places as you can.

One day in Tokyo itinerary

This Tokyo itinerary is fast-paced. If you want a more relaxed trip in the city, cut some of the destinations and just focus on the places you like. For instance, if I were to do it again, I’d just stay on the more scenic route and spend more time in places like Asakusa and Odaiba. I might skip Harajuku, Shinjuku, and Akihabara. If you’re into shopping, you might want to go to Ginza instead and spend your day there. If you’re into tech stuff and anime, Akihabara is the place to go to. So, it really depends on what you want to see to best enjoy Tokyo in a day.

If you just want to cover as many spots as you can in a day then follow this. I warn you though, if you’re like me, you’d be very tired towards the end. You’d be sound asleep at night though. ­čÖé

8:30 AM – Arrive in Tokyo Station

In this one day in Tokyo trip, I came from Nagoya so I booked the earliest train and took that so I can arrive as early as I can in the big city. If you have a JR Pass, getting reserved seats is free. Anyway, based on experience, taking a chance on non-reserved seats is also okay. I have yet to stand on the Shinkansen so far.

Btw, Tokyo Station is very huge. It is easy to get lost in the sea of people and trains. The train routes can get confusing. Read the signboards or ask if you’re not sure where to go before boarding any train. Also, familiarize yourself how to read the train routes so you don’t waste time taking a train and having to go back because it wasn’t the right one.

9:04 AM – Akihabara

Akihabara is known as “The Electric Town.” If you want to shop for a new camera, phone, SD card, or whatever tech item, this is the place to go to. However, if you plan to go shopping, check that you are getting a version not limited to Japan. If it is localized then the language on said device is most likely limited to Japanese.

I was still too early when I went to Akihabara. I just wanted to include it in the itinerary since it was near Tokyo Station. Most stores are still closed when I arrived. If you plan to go shopping, it is safe to come at around noon.

9:04am jst: The Electric Town!! ? #onedayintokyo

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10:55 AM – Ueno

A trip to Ueno, especially to Ueno Park, gives a little calm amid the busy Tokyo.

12:16 PM – Asakusa

A bit touristy even on a weekday, Asakusa gives a dash of history and culture in the concrete jungle of Tokyo. In Asakusa, you will find the Sensoji Temple. Leading to the temple, you can enjoy local snacks and shop for some souvenirs along Nakamise St.

If you have some cash to spare, you can take a rickshaw ride around Asakusa. You’ll learn a lot from it because the rickshaw driver will tell you stories about the place, including those about geishas.

The Tokyo Skytree is also in this area. I didn’t have enough time (and money to go up the Skytree) so I just enjoyed the view from afar.

1:43 PM – Shibuya

Of course, when in Tokyo, I wouldn’t miss a photo op with Hachiko for the world. Also, it’s fun to do some people watching on the busy crosswalk of Shibuya.

Going to Shibuya from Asakusa is an end-to-end trip along the Ginza Line. It is about a 30-minute train ride so, find a seat and take a power nap if you have to.

3:16 PM – Harajuku

A quick stop from Shibuya is the fashionable area of Harajuku. This area is popular for the Takeshita St. that has lots of┬áfashion stores, used clothes shops, and fast food stalls. I had my late lunch here at McDonald’s, which is just by the entrance of Takeshita St.

Late in the afternoon, this area becomes a hangout place for teenagers who love to cosplay.

3:16pm jst: Harajuku. Tara na besh, wala tayong pang-shopping.. ??? #onedayintokyo

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4:03 PM – Shinjuku

A couple of train stops away from Harajuku is Shinjuku, a large entertainment and shopping neighborhood in Tokyo. Apparently, Shinjuku Station is one of the busiest train stations in the world. No wonder it was super busy when I dropped by.

At this point, I was already feeling super tired and was questioning myself why I did #OneDayInTokyo. But yeah, I had to power through because the next stop is Odaiba and that is the last one.

4:51 PM – Odaiba

From Shinjuku, Odaiba is one train ride away. However, from a local JR train, you will need to take the Rinkai Line (it just continues on the same train so you can remain onboard) to go to the Tokyo Teleport Station (another train you can take is through the Yurikamome Line but that one doesn’t pass in Shinjuku so I had to take the other train).

The Rinkai Line isn’t served by the JR Pass so if you’re using one, you just need to pay at the exit. The fee is 320 yen.

4:51pm jst: Oy! Bakit ang liit lang ng Gundam?!?!?! #onedayintokyo

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I was just kidding. You just have to walk outside to see the life-size Gundam.

6:35pm jst: Joke lang. Malaki siya. Matangkad lang siya sa akin ng mga 1 foot. #onedayintokyo

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A friend said to wait for 7 PM to see the Gundam transform from Unicorn Mode to Destroy Mode. I wasn’t able to wait for it already because I decided to catch a glimpse of the Rainbow Bridge before it totally gets dark outside.

A few minutes of walk from the giant Gundam, you’ll have a view of the Rainbow Bridge.

7:16pm jst: Uwian na! Gabi na. Ang liit-liit mo pa gala ka ng gala. Paano pag kinuha ka, nilagay ka sa ka sako?! Cheret. Nga pala, Pasko na pakitanggal po ‘yang love love na yan. Nakakaano sa mga mag-isa dito. Ang lamig pa naman. Haha. . . . 10 Thoughts on #onedayintokyo 1. Kaya naman just to get a glimpse of what Tokyo is 2. Kuha ng JR Rail Pass, masyadong mahal kapag laging one-way ticket, masakit sa bulsa. Parang pag-ibig, masakit pag one-way lang 3. Galingan sa pagbabasa ng train maps. Sobrang complicated ng train system dito parang yun ex mo lalalala 4. Bilisan ang lakad para di maiwan ng train or maabutan ng red light 5. Wag mahihiyang magtanong, kahit di prevalent ang English, they try their best to help out 6. Huwag kalimutan kumain, kung nagtitipid may onigiri sa konbini 100yen lang usually 7. Kapalan ang jacket, malamig pag fall. Wag ma-fall, lalong malamig pag di ka sinalo, masasaktan ka pa 8. Magbaon ng water. Hydrate. 9. Madaming lakad! Buti na lang maraming practice sa gym 10. Gagawin ko ba ulit? Baka.. Baka hindi. Depende sa need. Pero if I had a choice I’d like to spend more time sa areas that interest me rather than see a little of everything all at once. Also, mas okay kung may kasama. Mabilis ang lakaran kung solo pero ang hard magpicture. Hahaha. . . . Mina arigato for making me feel less alone. Hope you enjoyed the real-time updates. Gomenasai for flooding your feeds. Ima wa sayonara. ???

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There it is, one day travel in Tokyo is possible although it may be very tiring and it will just give you glimpses of different spots in the city. You will be sprinting a lot of time from one spot to another, I did. If you want to experience Tokyo more, spend more days traveling around it. If you want a more relaxed one day trip, skip two or three spots from this list and spend more time in areas that you feel you’ll enjoy more.

Pack your bags and see you around Tokyo! ­čÖé