1. Meiji Shrine
    Photo: Niphon Subsri/DreamstimeMeiji Shrine
  2. Tokyo city skyline with Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Tower
    Photo: Torsakarin/Dreamstime
  3. Omoide Yokocho
    Photo: Kenn Reynon/UnsplashShinjuku's Omoide Yokocho

24 hours in Tokyo: how to enjoy Tokyo's biggest attractions in one day

This no-sleep literary includes breakfast at Toyosu Market, a shopping spree in Ginza and an all-nighter in Kabukicho

Emma Steen
Written by
Emma Steen
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We will always recommend maximising your time in Tokyo, but when you’re on a tight schedule, you’ve got to work with what you have. One of the great things about this city is that there’s always something to do at any hour of the day, so you can still get the full experience if you’re only here for 24 hours. Don’t bother booking that capsule hotel – there’s far too much to see with this jam-packed itinerary. From Japanese stationery shops to art museums and late-night karaoke to a crack-of-dawn shrine visit, here is the best way for you to spend a full day (and night) in Tokyo.

RECOMMENDED: Best free things to do in Tokyo 

No sleep club

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese

Get a bright and early start at Tokyo’s largest wholesale fish and seafood market in Toyosu. This mammoth complex doesn’t have the same scruffy charm as its predecessor in Tsukiji, but the hustle and bustle of the wholesalers and vendors auctioning their produce hasn’t changed. Getting your sushi here guarantees fresh-off-the-boat seafood, so once you’ve done a lap around the main wholesale building, make your way to any one of the market’s restaurants on the second floor. We recommend the omakase course at Sushi-dokoro Okame (from ¥3,600).

  • Art
  • Mixed media
  • Toyosu

After breakfast, take a short ten-minute walk from Toyosu Market to teamLab Planets – an immersive digital art exhibition with interactive installations. Most of the kaleidoscopic artworks here change with the seasons, with red and orange colour palettes in the autumn and bright pink hues to match the cherry blossoms in spring. Some sections of the museum involve wading around in ankle-deep water, while most of the dry installation spaces have mirrored floors. If you're wearing tight jeans or a skirt and want to comfortably tour the space, there are changing rooms and sets of loose-fitting trousers that you can borrow and change into for free.

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12noon: Window shopping in Ginza
Photo: Ginza Kabukiza

12noon: Window shopping in Ginza

Next, hop on the Yurakucho line from Toyosu Station to Ginza-Itchome. Take a quick peek at the queue for Ginza Hachigo – one of Tokyo’s most popular ramen joints that’s notorious for its competitive seating. If the line isn’t a mile long, jump in. Otherwise, make your way to Bongen for some onigiri (rice balls) and a cup of coffee to fuel a few hours of window shopping. 

G.Itoya is one of our favourite spots in the city for nifty Japanese stationery. With 12 floors to peruse, one could easily spend hours rifling through the racks of cute stickers and rolls of washi tape. Later, swing by Ginza Six to see the art installation in the main atrium and flip through the art books at Tsutaya Books Ginza on the sixth floor. Alternatively, you might go to the Kabukiza Theatre, which is just around the corner from Ginza Six, to see if you can grab a last-minute ticket to an afternoon performance of Japan’s traditional all-male theatre. 

If you’re hungry for a big lunch, make a pit spot at Ushigoro S Ginza and splurge on a yakiniku course to get your wagyu fix.

3pm: Art galleries and kakigori in Roppongi
Photo: Yelo

3pm: Art galleries and kakigori in Roppongi

In the afternoon, jump on the Hibiya line from Ginza Station to Roppongi Station, where you'll spot the iconic red Tokyo Tower from the main crossing. While this area has a reputation for being one of Tokyo’s rowdiest nightlife spots, during the day it serves as a high-brow art neighbourhood with some of the city’s biggest museums. 

There’s always something exciting happening at The National Art Centre, where past exhibitions have included retrospectives from the likes of Yayoi Kusama and Gustav Klimt. The same goes for the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi Hills, which boasts an impressive view of the Tokyo skyline and regularly hosts unmissable contemporary art exhibitions featuring artists like Chiharu Shiota and Takeshi Murakami. 

If you fancy a snack, pop into the kakigori shop Yelo for a humongous, impossibly fluffy bowl of shaved ice. The flavours come in classic varieties like matcha and tiramisu, as well as more unusual offerings like carrot and mascarpone ice for adventurous eaters.

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  • Attractions
  • Shibuya

At 5pm, take the Oedo line from Roppongi Station to Aoyama-Itchome and transfer onto the Hanzomon line bound for Shibuya. This is the home of the famous Hachiko statue – dedicated to the loyal dog who showed up to the site every day to greet his beloved owner– and the chaotic Shibuya Scramble crossing. There are a few places in the vicinity where you can get a bird’s eye view of the action here, but it’s hard to beat the outdoor observation deck of Shibuya Sky if you can spare ¥2,000 for a ticket.

  • Restaurants
  • Shinjuku

For dinner, head over to the nostalgic alleyways of Omoide Yokocho, which is packed with cheery yatai-style food stalls – some of which have been in business for several decades. We’ve got a guide highlighting some of the best bites on offer, but if you only eat one thing, make sure it’s the piping hot tsukune meatballs at Tachan.

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  • Bars and pubs

The most sensible way to follow-up dinner in Omoide Yokocho is an adventure down the alleyways of Golden Gai. These narrow streets are packed with roughly 200 tiny bars that stay open until the wee hours. Some of these places are only open to patrons on a by-introduction basis, while others actively welcome newcomers visiting from faraway places. Every little bar has its own personality and it’s good fun bouncing from place to place as you exchange jokes with locals and travel anecdotes with other globetrotters. If there’s anywhere in Shinjuku to make new friends, Golden Gai is the place.

12midnight: Belt out some karaoke classics
Photo: Live Band Karaoke Stage

12midnight: Belt out some karaoke classics

If you feel you’ve had enough drinks for one night, gather a group of companions and get yourselves a karaoke booth. Shinjuku is chock full of 24-hour karaoke establishments like Live Band Karaoke Stage in Kabukicho, so your only challenge will be in mustering the energy to belt through ‘Living on a Prayer’.

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  • Restaurants
  • Ramen
  • Shinjuku
  • price 1 of 4

Located on the second floor of an old wooden house in Golden Gai, Nagi comes steeped in the atmosphere of the neighbourhood, with a smell that hits you as soon as you walk in the door. And no wonder – the speciality here is pungent niboshi ramen, made by boiling vast amounts of dried sardines for 12 hours to create a distinctive, boldly flavoured soup.

We recommend the Tokusei Sugoi Niboshi Ramen, which comes generously laden with slices of chashu pork, menma (seasoned bamboo shoots), scallions, nori seaweed and a soft-boiled egg, and with a mix of curly and wide, flat noodles. 

  • Health and beauty
  • Spas
  • Shinjuku

In hectic – and at times grubby – Shinjuku, urban spa Thermae-Yu is an oasis of calm and cleanliness featuring eateries, lounge chairs and several hot spring baths. There are both indoor and open-air baths with different minerals, all at varying temperatures. Thermae-Yu has water delivered daily from Izu, an area famous for its natural volcanic springs, to fill the rotenburo (open-air baths).

If you don’t fancy getting your hair wet, try a unique Japanese sauna experience in one of the stone rooms. The ganbanyoku stone saunas are set between 40 degrees Celsius and 50 degrees Celsius. Depending on what type of stone you’re lying on, benefits are said to range from improved metabolism to better blood circulation.

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  • Attractions
  • Religious buildings and sites
  • Harajuku

Once you’ve rejuvenated in the hot springs, take one of the first trains from Shinjuku Station to Harajuku Station on the Yamanote line. With so few people around, this is the best time to stroll the grounds of Meiji Shrine – a century-old landmark revered for its stunning Shinto architecture. 

More to explore in Japan

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