Skip to Content

36 Hours in Tokyo: Everything To Do and What Not to Miss

36 Hours in Tokyo

So you want to spend 36 hours in Tokyo and need to know everything you shouldn’t miss when visiting this part of the world. This guide is a perfect complement to your trip.

Tokyo is a city where modernity’s pulsating energy meets tradition’s serene wisdom. Whether you’re squeezing in a quick visit between business meetings or making the most of a brief layover, this guide is designed to highlight the best of Tokyo — its iconic landmarks, culinary delights, and hidden gems.

From Asakusa’s historical streets to the Tokyo Skytree’s dizzying heights, you’ll experience a thrilling snapshot of a city that never sleeps yet respects its past at every turn.

Quick Links: Essential Info for Your 36 Hours in Tokyo Visit

How to Use This Guide

This Tokyo guide is comprehensive and standalone, perfect for planning your entire stay or enhancing other itineraries. It includes details on transportation, connectivity, must-try food, and unique experiences in Tokyo.

✦ Transportation from Narita Airport and Haneda Airport

Suica Card: This card provides easy access to public transit across Tokyo.

From Narita Airport: Tokyo Subway 24-Hour Ticket – Ideal for unlimited travel on all Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway lines. Perfect for extensive metro travel during your stay.

From Haneda Airport: Tokyo Monorail – The fastest route to central Tokyo, offering scenic views and efficient access to the city center.

Best Local SIM Card

Mobal SIM Card: Reliable connectivity with flexible plans suitable for short visits. You can pick up your local SIM Card at Tokyo Airports. If you have an eSIM compatible phone, get ByteSIM for Japan

Flexible Travel Insurance for Japan

Get this short-stay insurance for Japan, which is perfect for this trip. You can also get a long travel insurance plan if you know that you’ll be going on several trips in the whole year.

Navigating Tokyo

Tokyo Metro Map: Plan your routes across the city.
Suica Card Top-Up: Easily add funds to your Suica Card at any station

Tokyo 36 Hours Itinerary: What to Explore and Where to Eat

Delicious seafood you can get in Tsukiji Outer Market is a must when in Tokyo | 36 Hours in Tokyo
Delicious seafood you can get in Tsukiji Outer Market is a must when in Tokyo | 36 Hours in Tokyo

Day 1: Sunrise to Sunset in Tokyo’s Vibrant Heart

Morning: Dive into Culture and Culinary Delights

  • Scenic Breakfast: Begin your Tokyo adventure with a visit to a local café near Tsukiji, where you can savor a traditional Japanese breakfast. Try classics like miso soup, grilled fish, and natto (fermented soybeans) for an authentic start to the day.
  • Tsukiji Outer Market: After breakfast, explore the bustling Tsukiji Outer Market. Delight in fresh seafood and snack on street food like tamagoyaki (sweet omelette) and takoyaki (octopus balls).

Midday: Heritage and Gardens

  • Explore Asakusa: Visit the historic Senso-ji Temple. Wander through Nakamise Shopping Street, sampling traditional snacks like senbei (rice crackers) and Manju (sweet bean-filled buns).
  • Lunch in Asakusa: Enjoy a hearty bowl of soba or udon at a local noodle shop for lunch. These affordable eateries offer a peek into the everyday dining habits of Tokyo residents.

Afternoon: Modern Marvels

  • Akihabara Exploration: Discover Akihabara’s unique culture by stopping at a maid café for coffee and dessert. Experience Japan’s modern pop culture in a casual setting.

Evening: Iconic Shibuya and Dinner with a View

  • Shibuya Crossing: Experience the famed Shibuya Crossing, a symbol of Tokyo’s bustling energy. Take some time to explore the area and its vibrant atmosphere.
  • Dinner in Shibuya: Dine at an izakaya (Japanese pub) in Shibuya. These casual spots offer an array of dishes, such as yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), sashimi, and regional sake, allowing you to sample a variety of Japanese flavors in a laid-back setting.
36 Hours in Tokyo Views from the Tokyo Skytree Observation Deck
36 Hours in Tokyo | Views from the Tokyo Skytree Observation Deck, another not to miss when in Tokyo

Day 2: Full Day of Iconic Tokyo Experiences

Early Morning: Panoramic Views

  • Sunrise at Tokyo Skytree: Visit Tokyo Skytree early in the morning to catch a sunrise over the city, then enjoy a light breakfast at one of the cafes inside the tower.

Morning: Historical Insights

  • Imperial Palace Visit: Tour the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, soaking in the serene landscapes and historical sites.

Midday: Cultural Depth and Lunch

  • Ueno Park Exploration: Explore Ueno Park and choose between visiting its museums or the Ueno Zoo for a morning filled with cultural or natural wonders.
  • Lunch in Ueno: Grab lunch at a local curry shop in Ueno. There, you can enjoy Japanese curry, a beloved comfort food that’s gflavorful and affordable.

Afternoon: Tranquility and Tradition

  • Meiji Shrine: Spend your afternoon at Meiji Shrine, immersing yourself in a peaceful atmosphere and traditional Shinto practices.

Evening: Dazzling Nightlife and Farewell Dinner

  • Roppongi Nightlife: Dive into the nightlife of Roppongi, a district known for its dynamic scene.
  • Farewell Dinner: Conclude your visit with dinner at a tachinomi (standing bar) in Roppongi, where you can mingle with locals and enjoy small plates like yakitori and fresh vegetable sticks paired with local beers or shochu.

Iconic Spots and Hidden Gems in Tokyo

In just 36 hours, you can immerse yourself in Tokyo’s rich history and vibrant culture by visiting its iconic landmarks and discovering the city’s many hidden treasures.

Historical Landmarks

Asakusa is home to Senso-ji, Tokyo’s oldest temple, where you can soak up centuries-old traditions. A short stroll brings you to the Sumida River, perfect for a riverside walk with views of the city’s skyline. Not far away, the Imperial Palace stands as the epitome of regal elegance in the heart of Tokyo, though entrance to the inner grounds is limited.

  • Senso-ji: An ancient Buddhist temple that embodies Tokyo’s historical spirit.
  • Imperial Palace: A symbol of Japan’s rich history and the residence of the Imperial Family.

Neighborhood Explorations

Explore Shibuya and Harajuku, neighborhoods that showcase Tokyo’s eclectic mix of modern fashion and youthful culture. Wander through Takeshita Street in Harajuku for a unique shopping experience. In contrast, Shibuya Crossing is the epitome of Tokyo’s bustling metropolitan vibe, famous as one of the busiest intersections in the world.

  • Shibuya Crossing: Experience the organized chaos of this world-famous pedestrian scramble.
  • Harajuku: Discover the heart of Tokyo’s trendy pop culture and fashion scene.

Nature Escapes within the City

For a tranquil retreat, visit Yoyogi Park, an expansive green oasis adjacent to the Meiji Shrine, where you can partake in serene walks amidst the urban backdrop. The Meiji Shrine, dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his consort, offers peaceful respite.

  • Yoyogi Park is spacious for picnics, jogging, and leisurely strolls.
  • Meiji Shrine: Step into a spiritual realm and pay respects at this Shinto sanctuary.

Culinary Delights

Tokyo is a treasure trove of gastronomic experiences. From the freshest sushi to hearty ramen and inventive themed dining, each meal is a new discovery.

Sushi and Seafood Spots

Tokyo’s sushi scene is world-renowned, and a pilgrimage to Tsukiji Market, the bustling wholesale fish market, offers an unbeatable sushi breakfast. At the market’s heart, you’ll find Sushi Dai, famous for its tuna being a sushi lover’s dream. For an exclusive dining experience, seek out omakase sushi bars where the chef presents a series of dishes that represent the day’s best offerings.

  • Sushi Bar Yachiyo: An approachable spot for mastering sushi etiquette.
  • Ginza District: Home to many high-end sushi restaurants offering omakase menus.

Local Favorite Eateries

Dive into the local food scene with a visit to an izakaya, Japan’s version of a pub. The casual atmosphere invites you to enjoy small plates of food like gyoza with a glass of sake. Ramen joints, often found through vending machines that take your order, serve up steaming bowls of rich broth and noodles.

  • Izakayas in Shinjuku: Cozy, traditional, and perfect for a night out.
  • Ramen Spots: Join the queue at popular venues for your slurping pleasure.

Themed Cafes and Unique Dining

For something uniquely Tokyo, explore the themed cafes that range from whimsical to outright bizarre. Whether it’s a brunch at a maid cafe or a peaceful afternoon in a cat cafe, these establishments offer more than food; they provide an immersive experience.

  • Animal Cafes: Enjoy your coffee surrounded by furry friends.
  • Robot Restaurant: A sensory overload of technicolor and mechanical wonder.

Bold flavors, fresh ingredients, and eclectic atmospheres await you in Tokyo’s dining scene. Every meal is more than sustenance; it’s a chapter in your travel story.

Shopping and Fashion While in Tokyo

Tokyo offers a unique blend of cutting-edge fashion and traditional craftsmanship, making it a paradise for shoppers. Whether hunting for the latest from high-end designer boutiques or seeking artisanal treasures, you’ll find both in this vibrant city.

Designer Boutiques and Local Markets

You’re stepping into Tokyo’s haute couture hub when you explore the Aoyama district. Here, you’ll discover boutiques showcasing Japan’s iconic fashion designers like Issey Miyake, who are celebrated for their innovative garments. Stroll through the area to find his flagship store – an architectural marvel designed by none other than Kengo Kuma.

Not far from Aoyama, Harajuku awaits with its youthful spirit and diverse street styles. Take a walk down Takeshita Street, a hotspot bursting with trendy shops where new fashion trends often emerge. Expect a kaleidoscope of colors, unconventional designs, and an irresistible energy, perfect for fashion-forward wardrobe updates.

Traditional Arts and Crafts

Your shopping journey won’t be complete without delving into Japan’s rich heritage at Nakamise shopping street. Lined with stalls and small shops, this bustling lane near the Senso-ji Temple offers a variety of traditional crafts and souvenirs. Whether it’s beautifully crafted chopsticks, delicate fans, or colorful yukata, the craftsmanship is truly unmatched.

For a unique keepsake, look for fine kitchenware in Tokyo’s kitchen town, known as Kappabashi. Here, you can find expertly forged knives that embody the marriage of art and utility – a perfect embodiment of Japanese artistry.

Nightlife Entertainment in Tokyo

The city transforms into a vibrant hub of nightlife and cultural festivities when the sun sets in Tokyo. From the bustling streets of Roppongi to an array of musical shows, your evenings are set to be electrifying.

Nightlife and Karaoke

Tokyo’s nightlife is an iconic part of the city’s culture. Roppongi is a must-visit if you’re looking to dive into the heart of Tokyo’s entertainment scene. It’s known for its many bars, clubs, and, most famously, karaoke venues where you can belt out your favorite songs. For a unique twist on the karaoke experience, head to Shelter, which is popular among locals and recommended by the late Anthony Bourdain. Sing your heart out while enjoying a selection of classic cocktails. Here’s a quick list of karaoke spots you might want to explore:

  • Karaoke Kan: A well-known chain featured in films.
  • Big Echo: Offers a wide variety of song selections.
  • Shidax: A more upscale karaoke experience with great food.

Cultural Performances and Events

If you’re in search of something that showcases Japan’s rich traditions, Kagurazaka is the place to be. This area is teeming with traditional cultural performances and events. Whether it’s a kabuki play, a live geisha performance, or a seasonal festival, Kagurazaka provides a peek into Japan’s artistic heritage. Keep an eye out for small theaters and event spaces that host performances you can only witness here:

  • Akagi Shrine: A modern cultural center with various events.
  • Kagurazaka Session House: Known for contemporary and traditional dance.

Remember to check local listings for the latest shows and events during your stay.

Frequently Asked Questions – 36 Hours in Tokyo

In planning your short stay, you’re sure to have questions on how to maximize your time in Tokyo. This section provides quick answers and practical advice to help you enjoy a memorable 36-hour trip.

What are the top attractions to visit in Tokyo during a short stay?

Your visit wouldn’t be complete without exploring the vibrant Shibuya Crossing and the historic Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa. For breathtaking views of the Tokyo skyline, visit the Tokyo Tower or Skytree.

Can you suggest an itinerary for a 36-hour trip to Tokyo?

Start your day with a visit to the bustling Tsukiji Market for fresh seafood. Admire the serenity of the Imperial Palace Gardens, and spend your evening soaking in the neon-lit streets of Akihabara or sipping cocktails in Roppongi.

What unique dining experiences are recommended in Tokyo for a weekend trip?

Don’t miss trying sushi from a world-renowned chef or enjoy a traditional kaiseki meal. For a sweet treat, the local specialty of mochi with sweet azuki bean paste is a must-try experience.

How should one navigate public transportation when visiting Tokyo for just a day or two?

The JR Yamanote Line is your friend, looping around Tokyo’s key districts. Handy PASMO or Suica cards make transactions smooth and quick. Remember to note the last train times to avoid being stranded!

Where can you find budget-friendly accommodation for a quick visit to Tokyo?

Look into business hotels or capsule hotels for affordable yet comfortable options. Areas like Asakusa and Ueno offer a range of budget lodgings that don’t compromise on convenience.

What are some essential travel tips for someone experiencing Tokyo for the first time?

Learn basic phrases such as “arigatou gozaimasu” (thank you) and “konnichiwa” (hello). Carry cash as not all places accept credit cards. Stay prepared for a clean city that values recycling and etiquette.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on these links and make a purchase, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Please note that we only recommend products and services that we have personally used or believe will add value to our readers. Your support through these links helps us to continue creating informative and engaging content. Thank you for your support!