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Discovering Tokyo: 5 Must-Do Activities for First-Time Visitors in 2024

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Tokyo, Japan’s bustling capital, is a city that seamlessly blends tradition with the cutting edge of modernity. For first-time visitors, navigating through this vibrant metropolis can be both exhilarating and overwhelming. From the world-famous Tsukiji Fish Market to the serene beauty of the cherry blossom season, Tokyo offers an array of experiences that cater to every traveller’s taste. After you have ticked off the must-do activities, why not try the hidden gems or day trips outside of Tokyo? 

Unearthing Tokyo and it’s Hidden Gems: 5 Unique Experiences Off the Beaten Path

Things to know before you go to Tokyo

Visa for Japan

Check that you do not require a visa for Japan. The visa website is a quick and easy way to check whether your passport requires a permit.

Travel Insurance for Japan

SafetyWing is the World’s first International Travel Medical Insurance developed to meet the needs of entrepreneurs and remote workers travelling or living abroad. However, if you do not fall under this category, do not worry; SafetyWing also suits all vacation types.

The best time to travel to Tokyo

The best time to visit Tokyo is spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November). During spring, Tokyo experiences pleasant weather, with cherry blossoms in full bloom, turning the city into a picturesque landscape. Visiting Tokyo this time of year is always popular for everyone to enjoy hanami (cherry blossom viewing) in parks and along the riverside.

The Other option is In autumn, Tokyo showcases vibrant colours as the leaves turn into shades of red, orange, and gold. The mild weather makes exploring the city comfortable and visiting various outdoor attractions, like gardens and parks.

Mount Fuji

Tipping in Japan

In Japan, tipping is not a common practice and can be considered rude or inappropriate in certain situations. Generally, excellent service is expected and included in the price of goods or services. Japanese hospitality is deeply rooted in the culture, and the service is already high quality. Attempting to tip may cause confusion or embarrassment for the recipient. However, if you want to show appreciation for exceptional service, a polite thank you or a compliment to the staff is more than enough.

Currency in Japan

The Japanese Yen (¥) is the official currency in Japan. While credit cards are accepted in many places, having cash on hand is wise, especially when visiting smaller shops, street vendors or participating in cultural experiences. Remember to check the current exchange rates before your trip, and consider using a currency exchange service for the best rates.

Additionally, notify your bank or credit card provider about travel plans to avoid transaction issues in Japan. With the correct currency prepared, you’ll be ready to enjoy your visit to this enchanting city.

How to get to Tokyo

Various airlines operating this route make flying from Singapore to Tokyo convenient. One of the major airlines that serves this journey is Singapore Airlines. Known for its excellent service and luxurious travel experience, Singapore Airlines offers flights from Singapore Changi Airport to Tokyo’s two main airports, Narita International Airport and Haneda Airport.

The travel time between Singapore and Tokyo depends on the flight route and the chosen airport. The non-stop flights between the two cities usually take 6 to 7 hours.

Narita International Airport, located about 60 kilometres east of Tokyo, is the primary airport for international flights. It offers excellent connectivity to various parts of the city through efficient transportation systems.

On the other hand, Haneda Airport is closer to central Tokyo, making it a more convenient choice for travellers. This airport offers a wide range of domestic and international flights, ensuring easy connectivity to various destinations in Japan and beyond.

Shinjuku Station Tokyo

Transport: You can order a private transfer here. The drive time from Narita International Airport to downtown Tokyo is 1.5 hours, and from Haneda is approximately 40 minutes.

Train: The journey from Haneda Airport to Tokyo typically takes around 30-40 minutes, depending on the specific station you are travelling to within Tokyo. Haneda Airport is conveniently connected to Tokyo’s city centre through various transportation options, including the Tokyo Monorail and Keikyu Line. These train services offer frequent departures, making it easy for you to reach your destination.

On the other hand, the train journey from Narita Airport to Tokyo generally takes longer, lasting approximately 55-70 minutes. Narita Airport is significantly farther from Tokyo’s city centre than Haneda Airport. However, several train options are available to passengers to facilitate their travel. The fastest and most popular train service for this route is the Narita Express (N’EX), which directly provides quick and comfortable transportation to major Tokyo stations like Tokyo Station and Shinjuku Station.

Bus: Catching a bus from Haneda International Airport to Tokyo is convenient. The airport operates multiple bus services connecting passengers to various Tokyo destinations. These buses have comfortable seating and ample luggage space, ensuring a pleasant journey. The bus routes are well-marked, and staff members at the airport are available to assist passengers with any queries or concerns.

Similarly, catching a bus to Tokyo is popular for those arriving at Narita International Airport. The airport offers a wide range of bus services catering to different areas within Tokyo. With regular departure times, affordable fares, and dedicated bus stops, you can easily reach your desired location in Tokyo from both Haneda and Narita Airports.

Hiring a car is also an option if you plan to spend a few days here and want to do it at your own pace.

Tip – Purchase a Japan rail pass for 7, 14, or 21 Days, which makes getting around Japan more convenient as you have Unlimited Travel Access to JR Lines airport railways, including Narita, Kansai, New Chitose, JR buses, and more

Here are five must-do activities that will make your first trip to Tokyo an unforgettable adventure.

Sakura Season

5 Must do Activities in Tokyo

1. Explore Tsukiji Fish Market and Its Outer Market

A trip to Tokyo would only be complete with a visit to the renowned Tsukiji Fish Market, with a stunning array of seafood from crabs to fresh mackerel and full-sized tuna. This bustling hub of seafood activity is a paradise for food enthusiasts. Wander through the inner market, where wholesalers and retailers showcase an astonishing array of fish and seafood. For an authentic culinary experience, sample the freshest sushi at one of the many market-side eateries. Remember to explore the Tsukiji Outer Market, where you can savour various delectable street foods and shop for souvenirs.

*Practical Tip:* It’s highly recommended to arrive early in the morning to catch the lively fish auctions. Keep in mind that the market’s inner area has moved to Toyosu. The outer market, however, remains at Tsukiji and is still a must-visit. 

Tsukiji Fish Marke
Photo by HONG FENG

2. Wander through Asakusa and Senso-ji Temple

Explore the Asakusa district by immersing yourself in Tokyo’s rich history and culture. At its heart lies the magnificent Senso-ji Temple, Tokyo’s oldest and most significant Buddhist temple. Stroll through Nakamise-dori, a lively shopping street leading to the temple, where you can find traditional crafts and local street food. Take a moment to admire the striking Thunder Gate (Kaminarimon) and the five-story pagoda. This area offers a glimpse into Tokyo’s storied past amidst the bustling cityscape.

*Practical Tip:* Visit Asakusa in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid crowds, and take your time exploring the temple grounds.

Asakusa
Photo by Crystal Kay

3. Immerse Yourself in Cherry Blossom Season

If timing allows, plan your visit during the enchanting cherry blossom season from the end of March to the beginning of April. Tokyo’s parks and gardens burst into a sea of pink and white, creating a magical atmosphere. Stroll through Ueno Park or the gardens surrounding the Tokyo Imperial Palace to witness nature’s breathtaking display. For panoramic views of cherry blossoms in full bloom, ascend the Tokyo Skytree or visit the iconic Meiji Shrine, nestled in the heart of bustling Harajuku.

*Practical Tip:* Keep an eye on cherry blossom forecasts, as the timing of peak bloom varies each year. Consider joining a guided cherry blossom tour for expert insights and the best viewing spots.

Tokyo

4. Take in the Sights at Shibuya Crossing

Experience the energetic pulse of Tokyo at the world-famous Shibuya Crossing. Comparable to the hustle and bustle of New York City’s Times Square, this bustling intersection is a sight to behold. Join the throngs of pedestrians as they crisscross in a synchronized dance. For a prime vantage point, head to the second-floor Starbucks in the Qfront building and watch the spectacle unfold below.

*Practical Tip:* Visit Shibuya Crossing in the evening for a truly electrifying experience when the neon lights and energy peak. Remember to bring your camera to capture this iconic moment!

Shibuya
Photo by Jezael Melgoza

5. Marvel at the Majestic Mount Fuji

Embark on a day trip to witness the awe-inspiring beauty of Mount Fuji. Just a few hours from Tokyo, Japan’s highest peak offers breathtaking views and a glimpse into the country’s natural splendour. Capture postcard-perfect moments from spots like Lake Kawaguchi or the Chureito Pagoda. For an alternative perspective, head to the observation decks of Tokyo Tower, where, on clear days, you can catch a distant glimpse of this iconic volcano.

*Practical Tip:* Consider joining an organized tour for a hassle-free Mount Fuji experience, complete with transportation and guided insights. Additionally, dress in layers as the weather around Mount Fuji can be unpredictable, even during the warmer months.

Pagoda mount fuji lookout

Tokyo, a city of contrasts and cultural richness, offers an array of experiences for first-time visitors. From the bustling markets to the serenity of cherry blossoms and the modernity of Shibuya Crossing, each adventure promises a unique and unforgettable memory. So, embark on your Tokyo journey with these tips in mind, and let the city’s vibrant spirit captivate you.

Another fun thing (only in Japan) activities

  1. Becoming a Mario Bros for a day on the ultimate tour of Tokyo via go-kart
  2. Learn how to use a sword just like the Samarui do by joining the Tokyo Samurai experience
  3. Watch Sumo wrestlers with their morning routine by joining one of their morning training sessions.
  4. Dress up in a kimono and ride the rickshaw to the famous Asakusa area.
  5. Learn how the Japanese conduct a tea ceremony by joining one of the workshops.

sumo Wrestler Tokyo

Shibuya Excel Hotel Tokyu

Shibuya Excel Hotel Tokyu is a modern hotel situated in the heart of Tokyo’s vibrant Shibuya district. With its convenient location just a few steps from Shibuya Station, guests can easily access the city’s major attractions, shopping districts, and entertainment venues. You can indulge in various dining options at the hotel’s restaurants, serving a range of cuisines from traditional Japanese to international dishes. The rooftop bar offers spectacular views of Shibuya’s bustling streets and is the perfect spot to unwind with a drink.

Koko Hotle Ginza-1chome

Koko Hotel Ginza-1chome is 90 metres from Antique Mall Ginza and 200 metres from Pola Museum Annex. This boutique hotel offers a shared lounge, a 24-hour front desk and free WiFi. The hotel location is perfect for exploring Tokyo’s significant sites. With a minimalistic design, the rooms have everything you need to make your stay a comfortable one; although the rooms are small, they have all the essential comforts you expect from a boutique hotel in Japan, 

Thanks for taking the time to read this article. I hope this post has given you the information you need. If you have any recommendations, tips or advice, I would love for you to share them in the comment section below!

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