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Ultimate Guide to Planning a Day Trip from Tokyo

The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Day trip from Tokyo

By Niina | October, 24, 2021

Are you living in Tokyo? Looking to planning a day trip from Tokyo?

Living in Japan comes with unlimited luxuries. One of which is living in the country where one of the world’s major cities, Tokyo, is located. Whether you are looking to travel to Tokyo, living in Tokyo, this guide will provide you with all the information you need for you, your friends and family to plan the perfect day trip from Tokyo!

This article is a part of our extensive series on our Japan Switch Blog about Japanese language and culture!

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    Planning a Day trip from Tokyo

    Why Tokyo?

    Tokyo is the Capital of Japan, located on the east side of Japan. As of 2021, Tokyo is home to 13.96 million residents, making Tokyo the world’s most populous city. Also known as Edo before 1868, Tokyo was renamed during the Meiji Restoration in 1868 by the Emperor, as he moved the capital of Japan from Kyoto to Edo, now known as Tokyo. The name Tokyo translates to “east capital”. Tokyo is now one of the world's most popular cities for tourists as there is a wide variety of places to visit, shop and eat!

    If you are looking for a little of that authentic Edo experience, there is a suburb called Kawagoe in Saitama (close to Tokyo) which is often referred to as Little Edo.

    What is there to do in Tokyo?

    Tokyo offers extensive amounts of entertainment, culture, dining and shopping choices for both visitors and residents! Planning a day trip in Tokyo will be different based on your own personal interests! Tokyo is often stereotyped as a futuristic, technological city in the media, despite that stereotype, Tokyo still offers traditional Japanese culture much like Kyoto. As mentioned earlier, Tokyo was previously named “Edo” during the Edo Period, with that being said, Tokyo still has districts which offer the atmosphere of old Tokyo within the city. 

    In addition to that, Tokyo also offers entertainment for Japanese pop culture such as anime, manga and idol culture. Harajuku, Shinjuku and Akihabara are the main districts for those who are interested in otaku culture as there are a range of merchandise shops and cafes dedicated to anime characters. 

    Aside from all of that, Tokyo offers a variety of dining, ranging from Japanese to American cuisine, trendy foods and drinks, a range of shopping options, whether you would like to shop for vintage items or high-end luxury brands.

    What do I need to know before planning a day trip from Tokyo?

    Before planning a day trip from Tokyo, let alone Japan as a whole. It is important to consider the lifestyle and societal norms that Japanese people live by. 

    Cash vs. Card 

    In Japan, the use of cash is still prevalent to this day. Although the acceptance of payments using credit cards have slowly increased, it is still important to bring cash with you wherever you go. Cash is the main method of payment in Japan whether it is to purchase food from a convenience store, buying a train ticket, paying for your meal at restaurants and even using a vending machine!

    Day Trip from Tokyo

    Tipping

    On the topic of payments, you should never tip workers in Japan. Tipping in western countries is seen to be a token of appreciation, this differs in Japan as tipping can be seen to be derogatory and rude.

    Smoking 

    Smoking is nothing out of the ordinary for Japanese people. Although, it comes with a rule. Smoking outside on the streets is prohibited. With that, there are designated rooms within trains, bars, restaurants and by train stations for smoking. These are called “smoking areas” or “smoking rooms” whereby smokers can freely smoke, segregated from the general public. Until very recently, smoking was permitted indoors until laws were passed banning smoking outside of designated areas in the lead up to the 2021 Olympics.

    Tattoos 

    Tattoos are not welcomed in Japan (but this is gradually changing insofar as non-Japanese people are concerned). Often those who have visible tattoos on their bodies are prohibited from entering onsens (hot springs), pools, saunas and even some restaurants! This is because tattoos are strongly associated with yakuzas, criminal gangs in Japan. 

    Etiquette and Customs 

    Aside from what has already been mentioned, etiquette in Japan is a major factor that will affect your experience while travelling. Proper etiquette is important in Japan, despite your status and relationship with one another. Proper manners and behaviour is highly valued in Japanese society. 

    To begin with, it is crucial to understand that bowing is the standard method of greeting in Japan. Bowing can be used to thank people, apologize, or ask for a favour. As for foreigners, bowing is not expected, a small nod of the head can suffice. 

    In restaurants, you will be greeted with the phrase “Irasshaimase” in response to this, no response or a small nod of the head and smile will suffice. No other response is expected. 

    When commuting using the trains, it is important to have the proper manners and etiquette. Japanese people avoid talking on the phone while on the train, let alone talking to others, when speaking on the train, it is expected that you speak in a quiet voice. As for tourists, it would be considered rude to be carrying large luggage during rush hour. When carrying backpacks on the train, it would be expected that the individual should place their belongings on the luggage racks or placed in front of you. This is done to prevent taking up any excess space. 

    Other than that, while on the streets of Japan, you are expected to not block the passageways. It is often found that foreigners can unintentionally block passageways with the number of people and/or with their luggage as they are unaware of the lifestyle of their surroundings. Additionally, garbage bins are hard to find in Japan. Aside from the train stations and convenience stores, it is expected that you hold on to your trash until you are able to find one. In relation to that, eating while walking is considered rude and bad mannered in Japan. When enjoying street food, be sure to stay away from pedestrians and find a place to eat while standing still or sitting down, away from pedestrians.

    As there is a large amount of customs that need to be kept in mind, check out our articles on: 

    Ultimate Guide to Japanese Customs

    Ultimate Guide to Japanese Culture 

    Day trip within Tokyo Recommendation Guide

    Day trips within Tokyo can be done in one day or even five, depending on your personal interests and time. Below are daily itineraries created based on convenience of location, interests and popularity. As these are just sample daily itineraries, modifications can be made by you based on your own personal interests! 

    Experiencing the real Japan may be a challenge as places of recommendations are targeted to tourists but don’t worry! We have compiled places of recommendations from foreigners living in Japan and the locals living in Japan. 

    What are some activities for university students to do in Tokyo?


    With the rising popularity of Japan over the past decade, it is no surprise that Tokyo is a popular destination for university students to study in. Whether you’re a university student in Tokyo or abroad, the following are popular activities university students in Japan do.

    One thing that is common amongst university students all over the globe is drinking (but note that the legal drinking age is 20). The drinking culture in Japan is prominent amongst both university students and working professionals. As drinking culture is popular, drinking is not limited only to bars and clubs. People in Japan will drink anywhere as long as alcohol is available and it is not against the law to consume alcohol in public. 

    Based on the information given by university students in Tokyo, a popular spot for hangouts is the newly built Miyashita park in Shibuya, Tokyo. Miyashita Park is popular for skating, eating and drinking. Another option for experiencing Tokyo University student life is to drink and eat snacks at Izakaya restaurants. Izakaya restaurants are restaurants that serve alcohol and foods such as meat, ramen and other foods. One of the most popular chains is Torizoku, which serves yakitori, grilled chicken on skewers. 

    izakaya restaurant planning a day trip from tokyo
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    Daily itinerary for activities for university students to  enjoy on a budget  

    Other than the regular day to day routines of university students, the desired plans for university aged students are as followed: 

    Brunch in Daikanyama

    Daikanyama or Daikanyamacho is a popular neighbourhood within Shibuya,Tokyo, also known as “Little Brooklyn” amongst the locals. You can travel to Daikanyama by train as Daikanyama has its own station or by foot from Shibuya. Daikanyama offers a different feeling of Tokyo which isn’t just shrines, neon lights and busy city life. Daikanyama offers plenty of cafes for you and your friends to enjoy, before or after visiting the Kyu Asakura House located nearby the Daikanyama Station. This house was built by Torajiro Asakura, this home is important to the Japanese Government as it is one of the only wooden houses that survived bombings during WW2 and the Great Kanto Earthquake. The house is open for visitors to walk around both the interior and garden of the house. 

    Other than that, another famous place within Daikanyama is the Daikanyama T-site, this place is considered one of the main attractions of Daikanyama. Daikanyama T-site is a bookstore with books, music, cafe and lounge. 

    Aside from that, Daikanyama is popular for shopping for vintage clothes and antiques that are rare to come across!

    Spend your afternoon in Shibuya and Harajuku 

    As mentioned earlier, Daikanyama and the busy Shibuya are walking distance from each other. Both walking and taking the train to Shibuya from Daikanyama can take up to 22 minutes. As Shibuya is one of the main tourist destinations of Tokyo, there are a plethora of activities, foods and places to see. With that, below are some popular activities that can be done in Shibuya, catering to people with all different types of interest. 

    Karaoke

    If you are interested in Japanese pop culture, karaoke may be the choice for you. Karaoke is a popular activity that is done with friend groups in Japan. Karaoke places often have packages whereby food and drinks are served during your time singing with your friends! 

    Cafe Hopping

    If you are a coffee fanatic, cafe hopping may be the ideal activity for you to do in Shibuya. There are plenty of cafes within the Omotesando area in Shibuya for you and your friends to experience. The special part about cafes in this area is that it’s not only just limited to coffee and pastries but often pancakes and other desserts!

    As Shibuya is one of the more crowded areas of Tokyo, it is also recommended to just take a walk around the area to take in the lifestyle of Tokyo people while shopping and people watching. For those who want to see the Harajuku culture, taking the train or walking from either Daikanyama or Shibuya will only take 15 minutes at most. Takeshita Street is one of the main tourist destinations, it is a pedestrian shopping street in Harajuku with boutiques, cosmetics, street foods and other bits and pieces that can’t be found elsewhere. 

    The majority of the people who walk down Takeshita street intend to go for the fashion boutiques as takeshita street has an abundance of cheap and trendy clothing for both men and women with different styles. Although, as the concept of insta-buy, the sole purpose of buying aesthetically pleasing food to post on social media, has become more prominent in Japanese pop culture, takeshita street has now recently become famous for their rainbow cotton candy from Totti Candy Factory, prior to that trend, Harajuku and Takeshita street was popular for their crepes, every corner is still filled with crepe shops even to this day! 

    Want to know more about the popular activities in Tokyo? Read on: 

    Ultimate Guide to Karaoke in Tokyo 

    Ultimate Guide to Cafes in Tokyo

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    Make your Otaku Dreams come true!

    Aside from Shibuya and Harajuku, another option, especially for those who enjoy anime, manga or Japanese idol culture, Akihabara is the place for you to visit! Akihabara is another one of the most popular destinations for tourists as there is a never ending amount of shops, restaurants and other establishments dedicated to anime and manga culture. You may take the train from Sendagaya station to Akihabara, travel time is around 10 minutes. 

    Akihabara is filled with electronic stores ranging from small businesses to large corporations such as the famous Yodobashi Camera, Laox and Sofmap. These stores are mainly focused on selling electronics such as computers, games, watches, cameras, hair tools and other electronics. It can be noted that Yodobashi Camera and Laox are both tax free! 

    Aside from the electronics, Akihabara caters to otaku people, the Japanese word to describe people who are passionate fans for anime, manga or computer related things. To begin with, Akihabara has a ton of cosplay cafes, more specifically maid cafes. These cafes are predominantly only found in Japan. Customers are served by cosplay maids, these are often seen in anime, hence the popularity of maid cafes amongst anime watchers. Some of the most popular maid cafes include Maidreamin, @home cafe , Akiba Zettai Ryoiki, these cafes are often decorated with pink and white interiors and have J-pop music blasting through the sound system. For those who are more interested in a more relaxed environment, Cure Maid Cafe is recommended. If you are not interested in maid cafes, don’t worry, there is still a lot more Akihabara has to offer!

    Planning a Day Trip from Tokyo

    For anime and manga fans who are wanting to simply purchase merchandise and goods, there is an unlimited amount of anime and manga related stores in Akihabara. To begin with, one of the most iconic otaku stores, Mandarake, has labelled themselves to be the “largest manga and anime shop in the world”. With that, Mandarake was the first 8-story tall store to open in Akihabara in 1987. Mandarake sells manga, anime figurines, video games and cosplay items for you to fulfill your otaku dreams. Another popular store in Akihabara is the Gamers store. Gamers is a 7-story, bishōjo, Japanese word for “beautiful girl” anime and voice actor merchandise shop. Gamers offer magazines, CDs, mangas and just about anything with a bishōjo plastered all over the item. 

    Experience Tokyo Nightlife 

        It may come with no surprise that Tokyo has quite the nightlife. As previously mentioned, Japan has a prominent drinking culture and can be done in bars, clubs, at home or even alleys. With or without alcohol, there are plenty of things to do during the nights in Tokyo. 

    Bars 

    Tokyo has a variety of different styles of bars. To experience a more Japanese drinking culture, Izakaya would be the way to go! Izakayas are places where you can sit, drink and eat snacks, the equivalent to British pubs. Snacks served are usually yakitori, meat on skewers and other foods served in small servings. 

    Clubs 

    As there are quite a large number of foreigners living in Japan, it comes with no surprise that some of the clubs are popular amongst foreigners. The majority of the clubs are located in Shibuya and Roppongi. It can be noted that clubs in Shibuya attract a younger crowd of people between 20 to 25 years old, whereas Roppongi clubs tend to attract people that are over 25 years old. 

    Other Night Activities 

    If you aren’t interested in the drinking culture, there are still other things you can do in Tokyo! As mentioned earlier, karaoke can be an option for you! As the business hours in Tokyo are longer than in other places, you can also simply enjoy shopping, dining and exploring the city under the city lights! 

    Want to know more about Tokyo Nightlife? Take a read through our: 

    Top 15 Best Bars in Tokyo 

    The Best Things to do in Tokyo at Night

    Ultimate Guide to Tokyo at Night

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    What are some popular activities for couples to do in Tokyo?

    As Tokyo is one of the main tourist destinations, there are plenty of activities for couples to do during their time in Tokyo. Couples can do a bunch of different activities, ranging from cafe dates, shopping, karaoke, visiting museums, or even going on a boat trip! The dating culture in Japan is 

    For those who are looking to follow a daily itinerary for touring Tokyo with your loved one, below is a sample itinerary that can be followed, made with consideration of transportation and convenience while maintaining the intention of experiencing the real Japan. 

    Daily Itinerary for Couples in Tokyo 

    Breakfast at bills

    If you and your loved one are wanting to experience the life of young Tokyo locals, bills is one of the most popular breakfast restaurants in Tokyo. Serving Australian style breakfast in Sydney, Seoul, Tokyo, Honolulu and London! There are currently four locations of bills in Tokyo, Omotesando, Odaiba, Ginza and Futakotamagawa. As these areas are in the heart of metropolitan Tokyo, there are plenty of other choices for you and your loved one to check out. 

    Want to know popular spots for couples in Japan? Interested in the dating scene in Japan? Read our articles on: 

    The Ultimate Guide to celebrating Valentine’s Day in Japan

    The Ultimate Guide to White Day in Japan

    The Ultimate Guide to Japanese Men

    Enjoy a day to night trip in Odaiba 
    Planning a day trip from Tokyo

    An artificial, man-made land created in Tokyo Bay, Odaiba offers views and entertainment like no other. You can commute to Odaiba via the rainbow bridge which illuminates with rainbow lights at night, by foot or car. Once arriving in Odaiba, there are museums, Ferris wheels and restaurants within various malls for you to enjoy. If you want to experience nightlife, Odaiba is the option for you! Odaiba offers a beautiful view of the illuminated Rainbow Bridge during the night which can also be seen from their Daikanransha, Giant Ferris Wheel that is open until 10pm! 

    Take a trip down Inokashira Park River 

    Another popular destination for couples, more specifically new couples is Inokashira Park. Inokashira Park is located in Mitaka, Tokyo. Inokashira Park is popular amongst locals, offering greenery, cherry blossoms during the spring, shrines and recreational activities. One of the most popular activities for couples is the swan boats, which can be rented for only ¥600. Within Inokashira Park, there are also guinea pig petting zoos and the Ghibli Museum nearby. This is an option for you to consider if you would like a change of environment from the Tokyo city life! 

    sumida river tokyo day trip
    Take a trip down Inokashira Park River 

    Another popular destination for couples, more specifically new couples is Inokashira Park. Inokashira Park is located in Mitaka, Tokyo. Inokashira Park is popular amongst locals, offering greenery, cherry blossoms during the spring, shrines and recreational activities. One of the most popular activities for couples is the swan boats, which can be rented for only ¥600. Within Inokashira Park, there are also guinea pig petting zoos and the Ghibli Museum nearby. This is an option for you to consider if you would like a change of environment from the Tokyo citylife! 

    Dine and Ride on a Yakatabune 

    If you and your loved one want to experience true traditional Japan, consider dining on a Yakatabune. Yakatabune, historically known as pleasure boats, are boats that were previously only enjoyed by wealthy people. Yakatabune serves Japanese cuisine such as sushi, sashimi, tempura and on a cruise boat. Guests for the Yakatabune dinner cruises are boarded in Asakusa and flow through Sumida River, the river that flows through central Tokyo. Some of the Yakatabune dinner cruises are: 

    Where can I experience the real Japan?

    Quite frankly, when it comes to experiencing the real Japan within Tokyo, it will be recommended to explore alleyways within Shibuya, Harajuku, Ginza and other popular areas of popular shopping districts to discover where the locals are at! 

    What do Tokyo locals do during their holidays/days off?

    If you would like to know what Tokyo locals do during their days off to escape the busy city life, it can be seen that Tokyo locals often travel to places such as Nikko, Kamakura and Enoshima as they are of close distance to Tokyo, only around an hour travel time by train. 

    Final Remarks

    It is important to consider while planning a day trip from Tokyo, that Tokyo is one of the largest cities in the world, therefore there are an unlimited amount of activities and places to see! These are just some recommendations and information given by Tokyo locals for you to experience the real Japan with a hint of tourism for you to enjoy the best of both worlds!

    You are not limited to what is given in this article, there is still a lot more to explore. The information given is a general guide to what is popular amongst locals. Enjoy your time in Tokyo! 

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