3 Days in Tokyo
Tokyo is one of the busiest metropolises in the world and there are many great things to see and do here. It offers unlimited shopping choices, entertainment, culture and dining options. For some, it can be overwhelming and a little intimidating just to see the sheer maddening crowd that occupy the space and the speed at which each one goes about their business. However, I was not intimidated or frustrated as I was pretty excited to see the things I don’t usually see in the Western world. Moreover, Tokyo was my last destination after being in Japan for almost six-months, which meant that I was going to make each moment matter, meaningful and memorable.
Besides skyscrapers, busy streets and the dizzying chaos, Tokyo offers a number of green spaces and parks within the City Centre and also within the outskirts of the City. Whilst it will take over a week or two to cover the vast number of sights, I narrowed it down to experiencing the following as I only had 3 days to spend here. I regard my activities to be the best itinerary for Tokyo as I experienced the best of:
– The Western Tokyo (Shibuya and the Meiji Shrine),
– The Southern Tokyo (the man-made island, Odaiba, a ride across one of Japan’s landmark, the Rainbow Bridge, watch the sunset over Tokyo Bay)
– A day-trip to the outskirts of Tokyo which included a trip to Mount Fuji – realising my childhood dream 😊
It was indeed a splendid three days 😊
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If you are flying in, land in Narita Airport, Tokyo. Check-into hotel. If you are going to spend 3 days here, best to schedule your arrival to the morning of Day 1 so that you will have at least the whole of the afternoon and the evening.
I travelled from Hiroshima arriving in Tokyo, Shinjuku Station for about 11:00. Shinjuku Station is the world’s busiest railway station and a major stop for long-distance highway buses. It is convenient to get a local taxi here, which I did and made it to the hotel by midday. Luckily, my room was ready, and I had time to freshen up and quickly head out for lunch and to begin my adventures for the day 😊 which was Shibuya and Odaiba.
Shibuya is the heart of shopping and entertainment district in Tokyo and is the busiest metropolis in the world.
– Center Gai is the centre for youth fashion and is the birthplace to many of Japan’s fashion brands. It is a busy pedestrian zone lined with boutiques and game centres. In the evenings, it is busy and alive with young people heading to nightclubs and bars or just hanging-about in groups.
– Hachiko Station Exit is another popular spot in Shibuya which should not be missed for two reasons.
i) It is a large intersection! It has a large pedestrian crossing which is an attraction itself. This intersection is super busy and heavily illuminated with neon advertisements and giant video screens. When the light turns green, the crossing gets flooded with pedestrians and it is truly an experience to watch the flood of pedestrians this way. It can be overwhelming but just stand back and watch – personally, I had not seen anything like it.
ii) This is where the legend of Hachiko, began. Hachiko is the most loyal dog that faithfully came to the station each day to meet his owner. After about a year, the owner, Ueno, died suddenly because of cerebal haemorrhage. Hachiko did not know of Ueno’s death, so, for 9 years thereafter until his own passing, Hachiko would find his way to the station at the exact time to fetch his owner. To honour Hachiko, a statue is erected here. The statue is also a popular meeting point for both the young and old of Tokyo, and always a busy spot.
Having witnessed Shibuya, and despite the dizzying chaos, I can confidently say that it is one of the most colourful and busy districts that I have seen and I would highly recommend that you spend a few hours in an afternoon just to absorb the metropolis vibe. You can return in the evening for a meal and experience the night atmosphere.
However, I wanted to experience a different kind of evening atmosphere whilst here, so headed to Odaiba for a sunset across Tokyo Bay.
Odaiba is located in Southern Tokyo and it was easier to get to from Shibuya which was in Western Tokyo. Odaiba is a man-made island and is a popular tourist attraction that offers great quality accommodation, shopping, dining and leisure entertainment.
Odaiba is connected to the rest of Tokyo by the famous Rainbow Bridge. The Rainbow Bridge is a two-storey structure and supports an expressway, a regular road, the Yurikamome train line plus pedestrian walkways on both sides.
The Rainbow Bridge is an iconic symbol of Tokyo Bay and is an attraction in itself as it offers visitors spectacular views of Tokyo Harbour and the waterfront area from the Yurikamome elevated train as well as when you walk across the Bridge using the pedestrian walkways. Furthermore, it is especially beautiful when it is illuminated at night.
I arrived here from Shibuya at about 6:30 pm and found a bench to sit. I was pleasantly surprised that there were not a lot of people around, perhaps because everyone had been here earlier in the day and are now having their dinner. For the most part, I felt that I had the space to myself and it was quite pleasant to sit on a bench and just feel the breeze against my skin, lost in my thoughts. It had been a very busy couple of days, being in Hiroshima and the journey from Hiroshima to Tokyo. I guess, sitting down was what I needed.
I saw the sun set across Tokyo Bay – it was beautiful! I did not take pictures of the sunset…I just wanted to be lost in the moment, reflect, just briefly, on all the beautiful experiences I have had in Japan. I was very fortunate and grateful to have had the opportunity.
Afterwards, I took many pictures of the Rainbow Bridge, and the twinkling lights of the skyscrapers across Tokyo Bay which I share with you here. You need to be there to experience it – you will come away with many personal memories.
From the Waterfront, I went to Palette Town, which is within walking distance. You cannot miss it as you can see the Ferries Wheel from a distance.
Palette Town is a huge complex of shopping and entertainment choices. My highlights here were:
– The Venus Fort Shopping Mall which is designed after a 18th century South European town. It has more than 100 shops of fashion boutiques, cafes and restaurants located over three-floors.
– The Ferris Wheel which is one of the world’s largest and stands at 115 metres high. It changes colours and it is truly a spectacular sight. Each of the cabin seats 6 people and it takes 15-minutes to do a full circle. This is another opportunity to enjoy spectacular views of Tokyo Bay and Odaiba.
There are other attractions here which may be of interest to you that you may want to visit, time permitting, of course.
– The Toyota Mega Web
– Tokyo Leisureland
Useful information: Getting here:
– The Yurikamome is an elevated train that is fully automated. It connects Shimbashi Station (Yamanote Line) with Odaiba and the Yurakucho Subway Line.
– Trains depart every few minutes. A ride between Shimbashi and Daiba Station takes 15 minutes.
– It costs 320 yen. If you ride the Yurikamome more than twice, a 1-day pass for 820 yen will be better value.
– The Yurikamome is not covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
– Yurikamome crosses the Rainbow Bridge to get to Odaiba. Sit or stand at the front of the train for impressive views of the harbour and Tokyo Bay.
**The Rinkai Line
– The Rinkai Line connects Osaki Station which is on the JR Yamanote Line with Shin-Kiba Station on the JR Keiyo Line. It stops at Tokyo Teleport and Kokusai Tenjijo underground stations at Odaiba.
– There are some trains on the JR Saikyo Line which will continue on the Rinkai Line, providing direct connections between Shinjuku, Shibuya and Odaiba.
– The journey from Shinjuku to Tokyo Teleport Station in Odaiba takes 25 minutes. It costs 500 yen.
– Japan Rail Pass is not valid on the Rinkai Line.
– Boat rides are operated between Odaiba Seaside Park and Hinode Pier by Tokyo Water Bus where there are connections to Asakusa
– Journey time is 20 minutes.
– Costs 480 Yen.
– There are about 1to 2 boats per hour.
– There are direct boats connecting Asakusa and Odaiba less frequently – journey time for this is 50 minutes, and costs 1560 Yen.
– There are boats from Hinode Pier to Palette Town and Tokyo Big Sight – one boat per hour daily except on Mondays and Tuesdays. The journey time is 25 to 35 minutes, and costs 410 Yen.
Day Trip to Mount Fuji
As my intention was to make the best of my 3-days in Tokyo, I decided to experience the outskirts of the City and to visit Japan’s tallest mountain and the most iconic landmark, Mount Fuji. Cannot come to Tokyo and not visit Mount Fuji, even if you don’t get to climb it! Correct? So, my itinerary for a day-trip included the following:
- Lake Kawaguchi;
- Ride the KachiKachi Ropeway for the best views of Mount Fuji;
- Mount Fuji 5th Station
For Lake Kawaguchi, your destination point is the Kawaguchi Station. Whilst there are many places to enjoy the incredible views of Mount Fuji, the views from Lake Kawaguchi, the gateway to Mount Fuji, is said to be one of the best. Lake Kawaguchi itself is remarkably beautiful and picturesque and offers many activities such as fishing, hiking or cycling. The journey from Tokyo to Kawaguchi Station takes about 2 hours by road and this journey time is shortened when you ride the Shinkansen.
At Kawaguchi Station, ensure that you:
- Pick-up a bus pass which you can buy for 1600 Yen which is a two-day pass, but it will still be worth your money even if you are here for a day. This bus pass gives you unlimited rides and is valid across all lines – red, green and blue;
- Pick-up a tourist booklet from the Tourist Information Centre. It gives information to the surrounding sights and places to eat.
All the buses stop at Kawaguchi Station and is conveniently located in front of the Tourist Information Centre. With the bus pass which gives you unlimited rides, you can follow the guide and make your own itinerary that suits you, so you can get to places around Lake Kawaguchi. As for me, I wanted to just ride the Kachi Kachi Ropeway up to Tenjoyama Park to get the unobstructed view of Mount Fuji.
Kachi Kachi Ropeway – also known as Kawaguchiko Mt Tenjo Ropeway; also known as Mt Fuji Panoramic Ropeway.
The KachiKachi Ropeway Station is about 15 minutes from Kawaguchiko Station, either by a bus ride or by walking. If you are taking the bus, you will need to get off at Stop 11. I walked because I wanted to see a little of this quiet town. As this is a popular touristic place, be sure to find a queue at the station. You can purchase your tickets for the Ropeway at the machines and it is 800 Yen for a return journey. The ride up to Mount Tenjo is brief, just 3 minutes and runs every 10 minutes.
Kachi Kachi Ropeway is an aerial lift located at 400 meters on the eastern edge of Lake Kawaguchiko and it climbs to Tenjo-Yama Park on Mount Kachi Kachi. There is an observation deck here which sits more than 1000 meters above sea level. It is from here that you have unobstructed panoramic view of Mount Fuji and of Lake Kawaguchiko below. Needless to say, that this is a great photo opportunity which should not be missed. Try and get here for about 11:00 and 13:00 so you can get the best of the peak of Mount Fuji. I was here in early June and the clouds were overhanging on the peak but I was not disappointed. It was still a perfect view for me.
While here, you will also note that the environment is kid-friendly and decorated with cartoon characters of animals. This is because this particular Mountain is popular for an ancient folklore called “Kachi Kachi Yama” – it is a story about a rabbit who seeks revenge on a Japanese racoon by setting him on fire and then later drowning him in a river. Hard to understand the link to the relative kid-friendly environment to the gruesome nature of the folklore, but there you go, one cannot always understand “folklore”!
Heading back down – you can either take the cable car back down or you may want to take the hiking trail down. If you choose to hike down, it will take about 40 minutes. Whichever way you choose to descend, it is time to think about lunch or a break for coffee and cookies. I took a quick break, visited the popular pastry shop, Fujiyama Cookies and did a quick walk along the Lake shore and spent some time enjoying the waters and the fabulous views, before catching the bus to Mount Fuji 5th Station.
3. Mount Fuji 5th Station
To get the bus to the 5th Station, I needed to return to Kawaguchiko Station, Bus Stop 7. If you are planning on doing this as well, ensure you return to Kawaguchiko Station from the 5th Station by 5:30 p.m. so that you will not miss the last buses or trains to Tokyo.
Board the bus from bus stop 7, and this will take you straight to 5th Station. The journey time is 50 minutes and costs 2100 Yen. The 5th Station is situated half-way up Mount Fuji, a mid-point of the Yoshida Trail to Mount Fuji’s summit. For most climbers, this is their starting point. It was interesting to note the differing forests as you plod along uphill. One of my favourite is the one you see below, trees nicely lined up against the clouds, and there were moments when I felt that we were driving into the clouds.
The 5th Station sits at 2300 meters (7546 feet) and offers stunning views, on a clear day, of Fuji 5 Lakes and Hakone National Park. However, you don’t really get a picture-perfect view of the peak of Mount Fuji because it is obstructed with low-hanging clouds or poor visibility. Mount Fuji certainly looks better from afar than close-up.
What can you do here, at the 5th Station?
- Komitake Shrine
In Japan, culture and tradition dictates that mountains are a spiritual spot. Legend has it that Mount Komitake was a mountain which existed before Mount Fuji, therefore a Shrine was erected here and has existed for over a 1000-years.
- Observation Deck
Round the back of the Shrine, there is an observation deck, which on a clear day, offers spectacular views of Lake Yamanaka and Fujiyoshida City.
- Shopping, souvenirs and restaurants
There is plenty of opportunity to shop for souvenirs. You can buy a postcard, write it out, buy stamps and post it immediately in a dedicated post-box. This was a popular activity amongst tourists here. There are some restaurants available if you feel like warming up, otherwise, there is a good selection of food-to-go.
There are several spots for perfect photo shoots which should not be missed, around the observation deck, the Shrine and front of the heritage centre for example the infamous post box.
I was blessed to have met a group of Chinese tourists who quite simply made my day 😊. Friendly, fun and spirited. They did not know much English and I did not know much Chinese, but we conversed with plenty of hugs and laughter. Totally uplifting.
Places to eat.
Whether it was lunch you wanted to have or early dinner before returning to Tokyo,
- Hoto Fudo
This was my first choice because I wanted to try the highly recommended Hoto noodles which is a local Yamanashi speciality – thick, chewy wheat noodles, simmered in rich miso broth with vegetables. You can opt to dine either on tatami mats or table seating.
Unfortunately, it was too busy on the evening of my visit and opted to my 2nd choice.
3631-2 Funatsu, Fujikawaguchiko-machi,
- Fuji Tempura Idaten
It was Tempura at its best!
- Great choice and great value for money.
- Vegan options available.
Located less than 10 minutes away.
3486-4 Funatsu, Fujikawaguchiko-machi,
Opening hours: 11:00 to 22:00
There are several day-trips available which you can book prior, either an organised bus tour, highway bus or you can take the Shinkansen.
- Viator is the #1 largest and trusted source which offers thousands of sightseeing tours, attractions and transfers in 75+ countries and over 450 destinations worldwide. You can also find theatre and show tickets and city passes to suit.
- I have carefully selected some tours offered by Viator to ensure you have the maximum experience from your visit to Tokyo. You may want to have a look and plan your trip ahead of time. Click here for your handpicked tours
Returning to Tokyo – If you are on a bus tour or on the highway bus option, ensure that you are back at Kawaguchiko Station at least half an hour before your departure time. Japan’s transportation is punctual, and they do not wait for late comers. Also. returning to Tokyo in the evening may coincide with rush hour and the journey can be longer depending on traffic conditions on the highway – a typical 2 hour journey can take up to 3 hours.
Meiji Shrine (明治神宮, Meiji Jingū)
Why did I choose the Meiji Shrine for a visit?
I chose to visit the Meiji Shrine because:
- it is one of Tokyo’s most famous Shinto shrines and it has a ‘power spot’ associated with it;
- I wanted to witness a Shinto wedding, which typically takes place on a Sunday;
- My visit was on a Sunday and in early June to coincide with the Japanese Suiseki Masterpieces Exhibition which is Free;
- The Meiji Shrine is located within the densely built-up area of Shibuya and the idea of walking from a busy part of the City into a large park of 200 acres was indeed welcoming as it was different to all of the other shrines that I had visited prior in Kyoto and Hiroshima which were located on hills – basically, I did not want to climb another hill!
- I wanted a different experience altogether as the grounds offered walking paths which were great for a relaxing stroll and I was not tired afterwards 😊
This famous Shrine is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. The Shrine was completed in 1920, about 8 years after the Emperor passed and 6 years after the passing of the Empress. However, the original Shrine was destroyed during WWII, but it was rebuilt shortly afterwards. Emperor Meiji was the first emperor of modern Japan, who opened Japan to the West to join the world’s major powers.
The Meiji Shrine:
I did not have a busy itinerary today, so arriving here for 10:00 was a good start to the day. After about a 10-minute walk from the station (see below on useful information), the entry to the Meiji Shrine’s ground is marked by a 12-metres high (40 feet) torii gate. The Torii gate is a symbol to keep the outside world from the holy ground of the gods. When you are at the torii gate, you must first bow before entering the grounds. Then, proceed to walk on the dedicated paths either on the left or on the right. One should not walk in the middle as this is where the gods walk. Many tourists or visitors (me included!) who are unfamiliar with this etiquette do not observe this. You can read more about the Etiquette at a Shinto Shrine on my previous blog by clicking here.
The Meiji Shrine is located amidst a tranquil forest of 120,000 trees of 365 different species planted here from different parts of Japan. I became immersed in the serenity of my surroundings.
The sounds of the hustle and bustle of the City was behind me and the sight of the cleansing station got my attention. The cleansing station is basically a communal water tank where you cleanse your hands and mouth before making offerings of prayer at the main hall.
You can also buy charms and write out your wishes and hang it on a tree or Ema.
You can read all about the Etiquette at a Shinto Shrine here.
Walking through the beautiful grounds was a rewarding experience. It was a little busy already, but the grounds are so vast that often I felt that I was the only one here. Everyone was friendly, greeting each other with a smile or a nod and busy with cameras and posing – a pretty much relaxed atmosphere.
What did I find captivating during my visit?
- The Torii gate ~ the entry to the Meiji Shrine’s ground is marked by a 12-metres high (40 feet) torii gate. This torii gate is one of the two entrances to the Shrine, the other is situated closer to the shrine itself. It is made of 1500-year-old Japanese cypress wood.
- The Barrels of Sake ~ so neatly and beautifully displayed was definitely an attraction and made a good picture opportunity. These were donated to the Meiji Shrine.
- The Barrels of Burgundy ~ also neatly and beautifully displayed made another photo opportunity. These were donated by France to the Meiji Shrine.
- The Gaein ~ holds a picture gallery depicting the events in the lives of the Emperor Meiji and the Empress Shoken;
- The architecture of the building was captivating and the large courtyard, however today it was crowded with people trying to get a glimpse of the wedding ceremony that was taking place.
- Exhibition of Japanese Suiseki Masterpieces ~ Suiseki is the art of appreciating natural landscapes which takes the form of uniquely shaped stones. They are displayed on a wooden base called a daiza. The stones are chosen because they resemble mountains or waterfalls and is then placed on a tray or a ceramic bowl (either a suiban or a doban).
- Collection of Bonsai plants ~ were also on display alongside the Suiseki. Bonsai basically refers to “planting in a tray” and the tradition of planting in a tray dates back thousands of years. A good bonsai reflects a full version of a tree, small leaves, tapered trunk and balanced branches.
- Both Suiseki and Bonsai is a hobby that ultimately reflects the expression of Japanese aesthetic.
- Japanese Old Style Tea ~ Natural Tea of the Mountains that comes from the bark of a tree that is hundreds of years old. It was recommended for slimming and of course, I jumped at the idea of slimming simply by drinking tea! 😊
- Roasted soya bean ~ is used to cook rice with. One of ways of cooking rice eaten by nobles and the high status during the Meiji period.
- There were souvenirs to purchase, but surprisingly it was not all that a tourist trap.
- A Shinto Wedding ~ see below, a Shinto Wedding in a nutshell.
- The Inner Garden ~ see below, The Inner Garden & The Power Spot
I visited the Meiji Shrine on a Sunday morning before my journey to Narita Airport later that day. I chose a Sunday visit because typically, on Sundays, Shinto weddings are known to take place. I was fortunate to witness one during my visit.
A Shinto Wedding in a nutshell:
The tradition of holding a Shinto wedding at the Meiji Shrine became a common practice soon after Emperor Taisho’s wedding was held here. In breaking with previous tradition of having a wedding in a room, Emperor Meiji instructed his son to have his wedding in front of the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu Oomikami, enshrined here. Following this, wedding ceremonies that takes place here are performed in the same way.
A traditional Shinto wedding involves couples pledging their love for each other at shrines in front of gods, wearing formal outfits and following the steps to pledge their love for each other, typically involving a wedding procession through the courtyard. The ceremony is usually a small-scale affair involving the bride and groom, the Shinto priests and important family members.
The bride is dressed in a white kimono and a hood, symbolising purity and the groom in his formal black robe and they walk together under a big red parasol across the courtyard. The ceremony itself begins with a ritual of purification, followed by prayers for the couple to have good luck, happiness and the protection of the kami. The couple then will partake in the drinking of sake – taking three sips each from three cups poured by the miko (shrine maiden). Then the groom reads words of commitment.
The ceremony was very calm and gentle. The bride looking beautiful and in a constant smile. The groom seemed knowledgeable of the steps in the ceremony. It was good to have witnessed this.
The Inner Garden & The Power Spot
The Inner Garden covers a large section, approximately 83,000 square metres of the Shrine’s grounds and is situated in the southern section, between the main shrine buildings and Yoyogi Park. There is an entrance fee of 500 Yen.
It is worth paying the fee as it is a beautiful, scenic forest that is paved with stone pathways. There is a traditional tea house to take a break from your walk and the South Pond, where it is filled with turtles and colourful koi. If your trip takes you here in June, you will be amazed with the beautiful irises which are in full bloom here.
The main feature of the Inner Garden is the Kiyomasa’s Well. Named after a feudal warlord, Kato Kiyomasa, who dug it over 400 years ago, it is a small well which sits at the mouth of the stream that runs to the South Pond. Legend has it that this part of the Garden was a popular spot for both the Emperor Meiji and the Empress – a place they visited frequently to spend their time together. The water temperature is said to be constant throughout the four seasons and pure water bubbles out in a steady flow all year round. At one point it was a wellness feature but now you are not allowed to drink the water. The Well is regarded as one of Tokyo’s premier power spots. It has attracted lots of visitors who want to experience this positive energy.
My visit to the Meiji Shrine was one which I thoroughly enjoyed and a destination which I would highly recommend to visitors to Japan. If you do visit the Meiji Shrine, please return here and share your experiences.
- Main Shrine & Grounds:
Opening hours: From sunrise to sunset – No closing days.
- Inner Garden
Opening hours: From 09:00 to 16:30 – Last admission is 16:00
Admission: 500 Yen
– 5-minute walk from the Meiji-jingu-mae Station on the Chiyoda and Fukutoshin Subway Line;
– 5-minute walk from the Harajuku Station on the JR Yamanote Line.