Tokyo can be a little overwhelming if you only have a short layover. The city is huge but, with some careful planning, you can see the highlights in a short space of time. Put on some comfortable shoes and explore the highlights of Tokyo — all in one day!
Shibuya's scramble crossing is a must-experience
9:30 am - Shibuya
Shake off the jet lag and head to Shibuya. The famous scramble crossing, where thousands of people cross the intersection at the same time, is usually top of the Tokyo sightseeing bucket list. It tends to get overwhelmingly busy later in the day, so get there early, take those selfies and move on — but not before grabbing a caffeine fix at one of Shibuya’s many, many cafes.
Chic shopping and interesting architecture in Omotesando
11:00 am - Omotesando
A short one-stop train ride on the Hanzomon subway line brings you to chic Omotesando. Even if designer buys aren’t on your agenda, it’s a beautiful area to stroll around. Omotesando's quiet, leafy streets, cool boutiques, and stylish cafes make it feel like a more refined version of Shibuya. Omotesando also has some of the city’s coolest and most understated architecture, so remember to look up.
Find a moment of peace in the heart of Tokyo
13:00 - Kudanshita
Take the Hanzomon line to Kudanshita for some relaxation time after a busy morning. Kudanshita is close to some of central Tokyo’s prettiest chillout spots, including Kitanomaru Park. It’s a great spot to have a picnic or toss a frisbee, especially during Japan’s cherry blossom season in early spring. A short walk away is Chidorigafuchi Moat, lined on one side by a pedestrianized avenue of trees—another favorite spot during cherry blossom season. When the weather is good, you can even hire a rowing boat on the moat. On a clear day, you can see both Tokyo Skytree and Tokyo Tower from central Kudanshita.
Kitanomaru Park is a beautiful spot in any season
16:30 – Kagurazaka slope
Two stops on the Tozai line will take you to Kagurazaka, one of Tokyo’s better-kept secrets.
Exit the station and start your descent down the slope, where you can pick up high-quality Japanese handicrafts, visit one of the small shrines or relax in one of Kagurazaka’s many cafes and bars.
It’s a hub for pretty much any kind of international food, from Japanese izakaya or kaiten sushi spots to French or Vietnamese cuisine. The French population in the area has influenced the atmosphere so, if you’re looking for the perfect glass of wine in Tokyo, Kagurazaka is a good bet.
The bright lights of Shinjuku
22:00 - Shinjuku
Night owls can get their fix of full-on Tokyo neon in Shinjuku. Get there by taking the Chuo/Sobu line from JR Iidabashi station, located at the bottom of Kagurazaka slope. In Shinjuku, you’ll find the Tokyo of the movies — bars, clubs, game centers, and karaoke parlors. It’s also where you can catch a glimpse of the statue of Godzilla, glaring over the streets of Kabukicho district. Whether you choose to catch the last train to your hotel or party in Shinjuku until it’s time to head back to the airport is up to you.
About the author
Rebecca (Becki) came to Japan expecting to only stay for a year. After stints living in Kagoshima, Osaka and now Tokyo, she's still here. She enjoys spending her weekends finding cool new things to see, eat, drink and do.