TokyoTravel Guide

Tokyo is a heady mix of old-meets-new, with eclectic neighbourhoods and adventure as far as the eye can see. To experience traditional Japan, you have temples, sumo tournaments and the wonderful season of the cherry blossoms just for starters. Modern Japan is everywhere too, with some of the world’s best contemporary art and architecture to feast your eyes on. Speaking of feasts, the food scene in Tokyo is out of this world, with 5-star dining just as likely to be found at unassuming hole-in-the-wall restaurants as the fancier establishments in town. If you’re planning to visit, check out our Tokyo travel guide and find out how to make the most of your time in this always-on city. We’ve collected the best tips from our travel experts, and have top suggestions for things to do, when to travel, where to stay, getting around Tokyo and more.

Tokyo quick facts


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Explore Tokyo

Where to stay in Tokyo?

Not sure where to stay in Tokyo? Try to base yourself somewhere that is not only interesting but also well-served by trains. It can also be useful to have a convenience store nearby, as here you can withdraw money and also buy cheap yet delicious lunches. Tokyo is huge and best described as a collection of mini-cities. Some of these areas, while only minutes from each other, have completely different atmospheres. It’s important to establish which one will best suit your interests when comparing your hotel options.

Shinjuku is a great place to stay if you've never visited Tokyo before. It's well-connected to public transport, as well as Narita Airport (catch the Narita Express). Not only is Shinjuku a transport hub – it also boasts a collection of restaurant-packed alleyways, buzzing nightlife, and parks that are especially beautiful in spring.

Akihabara is a quirky neighbourhood with many great budget accommodation options. Though it's a relatively plain district, with little dining and nightlife, it's a world-renowned hot-spot for electronics. Akihabara also has fantastic connections to public transport, with JR Akihabara situated on the Yamanote Line.

Ueno, the cultural heart of Tokyo, is a great place to stay if you're interested in history and the arts. The area has the city's greatest concentration of museums and vintage wooden structures. There are more than 100 temples in Ueno, as well as traditional Ryokan and an impressive neighbourhood park – not to mention links to other parts of the city and great airport access.

Asakusa is an area isolated from other parts of Tokyo, with other wards fairly long train rides away. This district has experienced very little of the development seen in other parts of Tokyo, so it maintains a real old-city atmosphere. It's a great place to stay if you're interested in ancient temples and craft shops, with the area retaining a lot of history and old Edo spirit.

Luxury Ginza, though pricey, is a great place to stay. It's known as Japan's main luxury shopping district with an abundance of galleries, bars and upmarket department stores found here. Ginza was the first neighbourhood in Tokyo to modernise, so it maintains a distinct Japanese vibe without the crowds you experience in Shinjuku. Only one stop away from Tokyo Station, Ginza is a convenient place to base yourself for regional travel.

Roppongi is a hub for international nightlife, shopping, dining, and entertainment. It's an area with a real air of sophistication. Bars, restaurants, galleries, and picturesque parks are in abundance here. While Roppongi is a great place to stay, it can get very noisy at night. It's also not on the Yamanote Line, posing a problem for those seeking direct connections to Tokyo hot-spots.

Stay in Shibuya to experience modern Tokyo. It's full to the brim with upmarket shops and restaurants, is home to the buzzing Shibuya Crossing, and also has great transit links. The epitome of what you picture in your mind when you think about Tokyo, Shibuya is the perfect place for those who love the hustle and bustle of cities.

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  • Tokyo skyline, Tokyo tower is lite up and mount Fuji in the background
    • Group of females walking through a street with lite up signs in Tokyo
    • Cherry blossoms in front of skytree in Tokyo
  • Tokyo skyline, Tokyo tower is lite up and mount Fuji in the background
    Tokyo skyline, Tokyo tower is lite up and mount Fuji in the background
    Tokyo skyline, Tokyo tower is lite up and mount Fuji in the background
  • Group of females walking through a street with lite up signs in Tokyo
    Group of females walking through a street with lite up signs in Tokyo
    Group of females walking through a street with lite up signs in Tokyo
  • Cherry blossoms in front of skytree in Tokyo
    Cherry blossoms in front of skytree in Tokyo
    Cherry blossoms in front of skytree in Tokyo

Things to do in Tokyo

From witnessing the tuna auctions of the Tsukiji Fish Market and shopping in Harajuku, to visiting the temple of Senso-ji and slurping down ramen in Shinjuku’s Golden Gai, you won’t run out of things to do in Tokyo. Enjoy everything the city itself has to offer. Then make a day of seeing iconic Mt Fuji at Hakone and bathe in the onsen on the island of Odaiba.

At 634 metres, Tokyo Skytree is the world's tallest free-standing tower. You can see 100 kilometres away from the observation deck and all the way to Mt Fuji on clear days. The panorama from the lower observatory is truly breathtaking, with glass floor panels in one part allowing you to peer down at the ground below. At the base of Tokyo Skytree is Solamachi, where you can shop at a variety of stores and dine at Western restaurant chains.

Catch a train to Tokyo Station and walk to the Imperial Palace grounds, once the residence of Japan's Imperial family. Here you can take a guided tour. The impressive site, a large park surrounded by moats and towering stone walls, is a beautiful area to stroll around – particularly on a clear, spring day. Be sure to see the Nijubashi double bridge at the entrance to the inner palace grounds.

For a peaceful day out, visit Meiji Shrine, Tokyo's grand Shinto shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. Meiji Shrine is a great place to experience Japan's rich history, as it was destroyed in World War II air raids and rebuilt in 1958. Relax in the ground's strolling garden, breathe in the scent of the flowers, and admire the 12m torii gate made from 1,500-year-old Taiwanese Cyprus.

Admire the architectural genius and visiting shows of the National Art Center Tokyo (NACT). In its first year, NACT held over 70 exhibitions, and in 2016, it hosted the 19th Japan Media Arts Festival. Take some time to check out the large exhibition space before retiring to one of the many fantastic cafes in the surrounding area for lunch and a cup of coffee.

Tokyo National Museum houses an impressive collection of Japanese art. From ancient pottery and samurai swords to Buddhist sculptures, kimonos and colourful woodblock prints, the museum's temporary exhibits are a must-see. In true Tokyo spirit, the museum also has a gorgeous garden with several vintage teahouses.

In Roppongi Hills is Mori Art Museum, where the best of contemporary architecture and art is on show. Participate in one of the museum's many thought-provoking learning programs. These programs are designed to be entertaining, stimulating, and interactive. Patrons are encouraged to join dialogue and debate about what is important in culture and society.

Stand at Shibuya Crossing to get a true feel for the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. It's arguably the world's busiest intersection. With every light change, hundreds of people dodge each other effortlessly. The neon lights and giant video screens flashing behind the mass of people is a true spectacle – Shibuya Crossing is a sight that can't be missed. For the best vantage point, slip into the Starbucks on one corner and try to get a seat at the upstairs window.

Have your camera at the ready for picturesque Senso-ji, Tokyo's most visited temple. Enter the complex by passing through the red Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate) and soon you'll be overshadowed by a five-storey pagoda and giant incense cauldron – many believe the smoke bestows health. While you're in the area, pick up some souvenirs for loved ones back home in the temple precinct's shopping street, Nakamise-dori.

Marking the centre of Japan's capital is majestic Tokyo Tower. The tower stands at 333m high and offers great views of the city from its observatory at 150m. To reach the observatory, take a cruisy elevator ride up the tower or challenge yourself with a 600-step climb. Tokyo Tower, now a popular tourist spot, serves as a broadcast antenna and is an important symbol of Tokyo's post-war recovery.

Immerse yourself in the hands-on displays and demonstrations in Miraikan (hall of fame). This National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation showcases science and technology that will shape the world in years to come. It makes for a fascinating day out and you may even get to meet ASIMO, the world-famous humanoid robot.

For a surreal, fairytale-like experience, visit Ghibli Museum in Mitaka. Animator Hayao Miyazaki designed the space, which is adorned with original sketches, activities, and animated shorts – a dream collection if you're a fan of Howl's Moving Castle, My Neighbour Totoro, or Spirited Away. Tickets must be purchased in advance through your travel agent, Tokyo convenience store or the Lawson website, with entry times staggered.

For a museum experience focused on the natural world, pay a visit to the National Museum of Nature and Science. Be amazed by the fascinating wildlife of Japan, including the giant beetles of Okinawa and bears of Hokkaido. Other highlights include an Edo-era mummy, a giant squid, a rocket launcher, and a seismograph that records earthquakes in real time.

Looking for an immersive experience? Then a tour is the way to go.

Tokyo travel tips

The following Tokyo travel tips will help you feel prepared for your holiday in Japan. Tokyo is a destination with differences that are equally as exciting as they are daunting. Using a unique currency and speaking a different language, as well as having a particular set of implicit customs, Japan is a country very different to those in the Western world. Get a flu vaccination before you leave and keep the following Tokyo travel advice in mind – you’ll step off the plane feeling at ease and ready for all the city has to offer.

As an Australian, you're not required to obtain a visa to enter Japan, provided you hold an Australian passport valid for your stay. Note that to enter Tokyo sans visa, you must only stay for up to 90 days. You also can't undertake any work. Once you're in the country, you can't change your visa. You must obtain a working visa from a Japanese diplomatic mission in Australia or a third country if you wish to get a job.

Popular dishes in Japan include rice, sushi, tempura, tofu, udon, soba, ramen, yakitori, sashimi, tonkatsu, and okonomiyaki. There are eateries to suit every taste and budget, with everything from international dining and kaiseki (high-level cuisine) to casual department store eateries, izakaya and themed dining available across all wards of Tokyo. Many restaurants provide illustrated menus or have plastic replicas of dishes in the store front, which makes ordering easier if you don't speak Japanese.

Japan uses American-style plugs, electrical plugs with two, non-polarised pins. Voltage in Japan is 100V, which is different to most other regions of the world. This means when travelling to Tokyo, you'll need to bring not only the right electrical plug but also a voltage converter.

The main airports in the area are Narita Airport (65km from Tokyo) and Haneda Airport (15km from Tokyo). From Narita Airport, it's a one-to-two-hour train or highway bus ride to central Tokyo. This will cost around 3,000 yen. Taxis to central Tokyo run around the clock, but the trip will cost around 30,000 yen. A train or bus from Haneda to central Tokyo (operating from 5:30am to midnight) will cost between 400 and 1,200 yen and a taxi will cost 4,000 to 10,000 yen.

The currency in Japan is the yen. Bills come in 1,000, 2,000 (rare), 5,000 and 10,000 yen denominations. You should always carry ample cash on you in Tokyo, as many places will not accept cards. Many hotels, department stores and some restaurants are exceptions. You'll find many convenience stores and post offices in Tokyo have international ATMs, so you shouldn't have to worry about running out of cash.

Tipping is not at all common in Japan. If you try to leave a tip, it's likely the waiter will return it to you, thinking you've left it behind. Instead, it's polite to say gochisosama deshita (thank you for the meal) as you leave. If you insist on leaving a tip while you're in Tokyo, put the money in an envelope and hand it to the person, using both hands.

In Japan, just under 99 percent of the population speak Japanese as their first language. Other languages spoken in Japan include Korean, Portuguese and Chinese, but these are not common. Around 12 percent of the Japanese population can speak English.

Flights to Tokyo

Tokyo food and drink

Integral to Tokyo food and drink is depth of flavour, impeccable presentation, and attention to detail. Whether it’s shabu-shabu (hotpot dish) or sukiyaki (slices of beef cooked in broth), the finest of ingredients will be selected for you. Eat noodles at a stand-and-eat restaurant, buy bento from a convenience store, or peruse the city’s depachika (department store food floors) for a variety of cheap, delicious food. In Tokyo, you’re never far away from a great place to eat.

A unique way to experience Japanese cuisine is to sample Tokyo street food. Takoyaki (grilled octopus dumplings) and a variety of seafood dishes are available at food markets. Be sure to find time to visit Tsukiji Fish Market, the biggest fish market in the world. At the start of every day, tonnes of seafood is traded here. In the outer market area, sample fresh food and admire the hundreds of stalls selling fruit, vegetables, meat, and flowers.

The people of Tokyo are renowned for working hard and playing even harder. Make your way to Shinjuku to get among Tokyo bars and nightlife and experience the locals letting loose. Here, every night of the week, you'll find people drinking and singing karaoke. For something a little different and uniquely Japanese, sip sake at a traditional izakaya (a gastropub with wooden counters) or sample snacks and various types of beer at the Museum of Yebisu Beer.

Fantastic Tokyo restaurants can be found in all wards of the city. Some precincts have Michelin-starred restaurants and others have tight alleyways filled with generous, cheap eats. Try Japan's take on French and Italian food in Roppongi, pick and choose sushi from a conveyor belt in Shinjuku, indulge at Ginza's upscale sushi restaurants, or try traditional cuisine at one of Ueno or Asakusa's century-old restaurants. Remember too, that many of Tokyo's best restaurants, specifically ramen restaurants, are found in the city's train stations.

Get a real taste for the local cuisine by booking a tour.

Tokyo through your eyes

Where to shop in Tokyo?

Experience Tokyo shopping by exploring the city’s abundance of high-end boutiques, electronics shops, and chain stores. The best place to see outlandish Tokyo fashion is in Harajuku, where you’ll also find toyshops, kawaii boutiques, coffee shops, and rare designer clothes. Buy crafts in traditional Asakusa and Ueno, or shop ‘til you drop in the department stores of Ginza, Tokyo’s original shopping district. In the city, you’ll also find hyaku-en shops where everything costs 100 yen and flea markets where you can purchase a second-hand kimono.

A holiday in Tokyo isn't complete without a trip to Shibuya's high-street fashion shops. There's the world-renowned Harajuku, lined with cafes, restaurants and fashion boutiques, Takeshita-dori, a trendy fashion market, and Spain-zaka, a Mediterranean-style alleyway filled with Japanese architecture, clothing stores, and restaurants.

Make your way to Ginza with a wallet full of yen. You'll spend big at the area's trendy stores and high-end boutiques. It's in Ginza, the heart of Tokyo, where you'll experience true luxury. The retail establishments are the finest in the city and there's everything from majestic malls to tiny nooks and crannies with crafts, books, and souvenirs.

Head to Akihabara for geek culture and the latest electronics. In Akihabara's Electric Town, you'll find huge collections of comics, cosplay merchandise, and models of prominent pop culture characters. Among the gadgets and gachapon (capsule vending machines), you'll also find a treasure trove of retro video games and consoles.

Spend an evening in Shinjuku to experience the neon insanity of Tokyo. Shinjuku is a bustling, skyscraper-laden district packed with department stores, bars, video screens, and people. You won't only find a wide range of shopping options in Shinjuku – you'll also discover the world-famous robot cabaret show and many sacred shrines and temples. Photography enthusiasts will also find a handful of underground camera markets here, selling mostly film cameras and lenses.

If you don't get your fix of sophistication in Ginza, walk to the tree-lined Ometesando. Spend hours here enjoying the shopping and admiring artistic fashion buildings. Enjoy galleries and sit down to a gourmet meal in one of the area's many restaurants. There are trendy Japanese hangouts, as well as a variety of international cuisines to enjoy between shopping.

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When is the best time to travel to Tokyo?

Weather in Tokyo is varied, with the city lying in a humid, subtropical climate zone. Annual rainfall averages nearly 1,530mm with the region experiencing humid, wet summers and dry winters. Japan’s capital has four seasons: mild springs, mild autumns, hot summers, and cold winters. The average temperature in Tokyo is 16°C. The best time to visit Tokyo is spring. It’s the most popular of all Tokyo seasons, with weather mild and trees blossoming. Spring is the season in which you’ll get to see the cherry blossoms and experience many great celebrations with locals.

Summer in Tokyo runs from June to August. It's hot, with temperatures sometimes reaching 40°C and the humidity high. While June to July is Tokyo's rainy season, it doesn't rain every day, so you'll have ample time to enjoy the city's sights. The lively summer festivals of Tokyo make travelling to the city in summer worth the heat and humidity. Appropriate clothing: Light, breathable clothing that dries quickly. Don't forget: An umbrella and slip-on shoes (you'll take off your shoes when stepping onto tatami mats, into temples, and into private homes).

Tokyo's winter (December to February) is clear and crisp. The city gets very little to no snow and the average temperature sits at around 5°C to 8°C. It's the perfect season to eat hotpot, see the illuminations in Roppongi, Ginza and Shinjuku, or head north for skiing. Appropriate clothing: Warm clothing and a winter coat. Don't forget: Slip-on shoes and a scarf.

Autumn in Tokyo (September to November) sees crisp, cool and clear days. October in particular is a great time for travelling, as the humidity is milder than in summer but it's still pleasantly warm. Bear in mind, September is a time of year that experiences the highest threat of typhoons – a risk worth considering when it comes to making travel plans. Appropriate clothing: Clothing that layers easily to suit the changing weather. Don't forget: Slip-on shoes, a waterproof jacket, and a camera (the autumn foliage is beautiful).

Spring in Tokyo (March to May) sees warmer days with temperatures sitting between 9°C and 18°C. In spring, you can enjoy cherry blossom festivities and picnics, before the impending showers set in. At the end of April, there are national holidays (Golden Week) – this is a busy travel season so you may wish to avoid it. Appropriate clothing: Warm clothing and a light cardigan or sweater for cold evenings. Don't forget: Slip-on shoes and a picnic mat.

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How to get around Tokyo

While Japan’s capital is huge, it’s easy to get around, with Tokyo transport one of the best public transport systems in the world. The trains in Japan run right on time. You’ll find Tokyo’s main suburbs on the JR Yamanote Line (Loop Line), with Roppongi and Asakusa the only exceptions. This is no issue, however, as Roppongi and Asakusa are only a few subway stops from Ebisu and Ueno respectively. Catching buses is another viable option for you in Tokyo, though trains are still preferable. If you need to get somewhere specific very quickly, or late at night and early in the morning, catching a taxi is the most convenient option.

In Tokyo, you can hail a cab on the street or catch taxis from the stands located in front of train stations. Taxis have GPS systems installed, but many drivers don't speak English. Catching taxis in general in the city is not cost-effective, unless you're travelling in a group. Because traffic can be heavy, fares can increase quickly too.

While there aren't many bike lanes in the city, it's still a great way to get around and gain an understanding of Tokyo's layout. Some Japanese retail companies and many guesthouses provide bike hire services.

It's well worth making trains your primary mode of transport in the city, as they are reliable and economical. For unlimited use of the train system, purchase a Japan Rail Pass. Train lines include kakueki-teisha or futsu-densha (local), kaisoku (rapid), kyuko (express) and shinkansen (super express). If a train isn't available where you are in Tokyo, the area will more than likely be served by a bus or ferry.

Tokyo is a safe city, so it's a great place to explore on foot. Put on a pair of good shoes and take a stroll along the capital's streets and through its many beautiful parks. Some trails have even been specially mapped out for visitors. These are worth looking into, as they'll allow you to discover poignant moments in the city's history.

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What are the best parks in Tokyo?

Escape the crowds and noise of the city by spending some time in one of the many beautiful Tokyo parks and gardens. Do a spot of yoga, explore one of the quiet Buddhist temples, and stroll around immaculately raked Japanese gardens and mysterious Shinto shrines. Visit Inokashira-koen in western Tokyo for beautiful trees, row boats, and swan-shaped pedal boats. Then head to the nearby shops for grilled chicken skewers, or pack a picnic and travel to Kasai Rinkai Park for birdlife, an aquarium, and some relaxation.

Make your way to beautiful Ueno Park for a traditional Japanese experience. Here, you'll find wooded pathways leading to century-old shrines, and an impressive temple dedicated to a water goddess in Shinobazu Pond. Admire the birdlife of Ueno and visit its zoo. Then rent a row boat, or sit by the water and munch on convenience store onigiri (rice-ball snacks).

Go for a jog in Yoyogi Park, only a five-minute walk from Harajuku Station. On warm autumn and spring afternoons, you'll see many locals lazing around this grassy park. You can picnic here year-round and it's a great place to view cherry blossoms in spring. In autumn, Yoyogi Park is truly picturesque, with the gold of the ginko tree forest a striking element of the landscape.

For views of Tokyo Tower, make your way to Shiba Park, built around Zojoji Temple in the Roppongi area. The temple is home to a 5th century tomb. In spring, cherry blossom trees flower around the tomb and the pond, giving the park a dreamlike feel – particularly at night with the lights of Tokyo Tower nearby.

Shinjuku Goyen, originally an imperial retreat, is the perfect place to relax. The wide expanse of lawns, and cherry blossoms in spring, make it the ideal spot for a picnic with travel companions. Check out the greenhouse (it has giant lily-pads), the flower displays in November, the park's pavilions, and also its restaurant.

At Hamarikyu Gardens, skyscrapers stand tall in contrast to the meticulously styled gardens below. These scenic gardens are situated alongside Tokyo Bay and uniquely feature seawater ponds that follow the ebb and flow of the tides. Enjoy the greenery and serenity of Hamarikyu Gardens with a green tea and dumplings from the park's teahouse.

Rikugien Garden, about a 10-minute walk south from Komagome Station on the JR Yamanote Line, is a gorgeous space with walkways running over hills, streams, and stone bridges. Overlook the garden's central pond with a warm cup of matcha tea (powdered green tea) at the park's teahouse. Stroll past maple trees and through miniature reproductions of 88 scenes from famous poems.

Getting from park to park is so much better with your own wheels. Hitch your ride now!

Tokyo Frequently asked questions

Ooh, this is a tough one because each city offers its own unique quirks and drawcards. The hubs of Shinjuku and Ginza, however, are popular for many visitors to Tokyo.

Increasingly so! Although most of the signs are in Japanese, there are enough in English to get by. While the locals aren’t necessarily fluent, you will find that most are friendly and helpful, plus there are always translation apps – hooray for technology!

If you want to see the city awash with pretty pink from the cherry blossoms, you’ll want to come between late March and early April.

Tokyo is a smorgasbord for all of your senses with plenty to see, do and devour. Fill your days with sightseeing, shopping and exploring before setting out in search of a cosy spot to fill your belly.

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You could spend weeks in Tokyo and not even scratch the surface! Like an onion, there are many layers to Tokyo – it just depends on how many layers you want to experience. Give yourself at least five days to a week to fully appreciate this incredible city.

It depends on what time of year you are travelling, but as a general guide you’ll want your travel money, a SIM card or portable Wi-Fi, electrical adapter, comfortable shoes and a sense of adventure.

Wherever your heart desires! Every city boasts its own attractions and quirks, but the suburbs of Shinjuku and Ginza are popular for many first-timers thanks to the wide variety of accommodation options, restaurants and shops.

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The current requirements for travelling to Tokyo

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