A Japan itinerary for travellers looking for new gems in Tokyo.
To me, Tokyo is Japan’s neon source of endless inspiration. People say it’s over-glorified, but I always stumble upon something that opens my eyes while I’m there.
Whether it be mouthwatering bites or scenic hideouts, I find reasons to return each time I try to say my final goodbye.
Photo credit: Go Tokyo
If it’s your first time in Japan, be sure to check out the 8-Day Japan Itinerary For First Timers Under S$700 — Tokyo to Osaka for all the quintessential things to do.
Once you’ve crossed off all the classic eat-see-and-dos in Tokyo, here’s a quick 4-day itinerary exploring Tokyo’s other gems!
Day 1 — Mount Fuji, Murakami and Madness
This first day is a reminder why everyone and their mother adores Japan — familiar favourites, but with a twist.
Bunkyo Observation Lounge for skyline views
Photo credit: Andrew Hartsell via PhotoHound
While most flood to the Shibuya Skydeck to take in Tokyo’s views, the Bunkyo Civic Center observation lounge is where you can slowly savour the spectacle without crowds. Not to mention, entry is free!
Photo credit: Travelling Japan
Take the elevator up to the 25th floor to experience a beautiful 330° view of Tokyo in all its dazzling glory. The strategically slanted glass panes also ensure that the sun glare doesn’t have you squinting to appreciate the view.
*Pro-tip: When planning out your day, try to position this at sunrise or sunset for coloured skies! It’s also prime time to catch Mount Fuji. 🗻
Entrance fee: Free
Opening hours: 9AM – 8:30PM
How to get there: 4min walk from Korakuen Station (Google Maps)
Murakami’s Library: The Waseda International House of Literature
Photo credit: Tokyo Cheapo
You don’t have to be a reader to have at least heard of the name Haruki Murakami — Japan’s greatest literary luminary. 🌟
Known as the “Haruki Murakami Library” for its extensive archive of Murakami’s works, The Waseda International House of Literature is a key destination for some culture and quiet on your next trip to Tokyo. It’s where Murakami used to study theatre! 🎭
Photo credit: Fuzzable.com
Opened in 2021, the library is located on the campus of Waseda University. It holds all his published works in Japanese and translated counterparts (in over 50 languages)! 📚👓 Besides his titles, there’s also a collection of Murakami-related materials, such as book reviews, interview articles and more.
Photo credit: Tokyo Cheapo
Most striking is the bevy of Murakami’s personal items that he had bestowed upon the library! He spoke about his donations in an interview, saying that passing on these rough drafts, hand-written manuscripts and some 20,000 vinyl records here felt like the most natural thing to do since he has no children to inherit his possessions. My nosey ass would have the time of my life here…
Photo credit: Tokyo Cheapo
Even if you’re not a fan of his works, this is a lovely place to be, apart from all that Murakami jazz. The stunning design of the place has Kengo Kuma to thank, a world-famous architect. I’m most entranced by its café, Orange Cat, and the accompanying listening lounge. I could spend forever in a space like this.
*Pro-tip: Secure your visit via Waseda University’s website — each slot lasts 1hr 30mins and accommodates 30 people.
Entrance fee: Free
Opening hours: 10AM – 5PM
How to get there: 4min walk from Waseda Station (Google Maps)
Karaoke on a Ferris Wheel at Tokyo Dome City
Tokyo Dome City is genius to feature a karaoke system on their ferris wheel! Each carriage is equipped with two microphones connected to a karaoke machine. 🎤🎡
(You are… My FIRE… The one… desiiire…❤️🔥)
Belting out classics with the vast twinkling cityscape beneath us had me feeling like I was on top of the world in more ways than one. I can’t emphasise enough how carefree and full of joy this experience was.
Unlike most theme parks, this one doesn’t need you to set aside an entire day. Other than the Big O Ferris Wheel, this chill amusement park has a roller coaster, the classic teacup, a self-controlled tower drop, game stalls and even a haunted house while we were there (during spooky season!)
We got the Ride 5 Ticket from Klook. It gives you passes to use at five selected attractions — I’d recommend spending at least 2 on the ferris wheel. You’ll find two queues there, one for the karaoke (only 8 gondolas have that function) which racks up a long waiting time, and one for a typical ride.
Day 2 — Day Trip from Tokyo to Kanagawa
To witness the most splendid sunset views, journey to Kanagawa, a neighbouring prefecture! Begin with somewhere that captures Tokyo’s lively spirit and stop by a character-themed attraction (aka Japan’s speciality) on your way out.
Attend A Cultural/Seasonal Festival – like this Setagaya Bread Festival
A good example is Nihonbashi-Kyōbashi Festival, which celebrates… the Nihonbashi Highway. Yes, a highway. Photo credit: Tokyo Cheapo
Japan holds such elaborately quirky celebrations every other day, and they’re always so vibrant and full of energy. It only makes sense when you consider Japan’s perfectionist, detail-oriented edge and their unmatched ability to make something over-the-top fun 🎏
There are calendars available to check out which festivities coincide with your trip dates!
If I were a Superhero, I’d be a Bread Hero. Saving the world from bread. Saving the world with bread. Saving bread. Something like that.
I love bread — when I was a child, I stuffed my face with bread so much that my mom would threaten that if I didn’t slow down, I’d literally transform into bread. (“你不要吃太多面包啦，变成面包才知道!”) (It didn’t work. I kept eating.) Coming from me, this festival’s the best invention since sliced bread. 🍞🕺
Surprisingly, we conquered this gigantic queue (that stretched the entire street and folded thrice) in under half an hour!
It’s a whole sea of jolly bread-loving beings, so don’t be surprised if you get swept up while navigating through the labyrinth of tents. We just ambled along until we saw a booth that caught our appetite’s attention!
How fascinating is it that all these people want to celebrate bread? It was silly and wholesome, and made my heart happy.
There was even a Best Bread Contest, with a giant scoreboard (and fanatics crowding around to take pictures of the ranking), as well as little signs proudly set up on the tables of respective winning stalls. I remember enjoying how extra everything was!
It goes without saying that the bread was heavenly. Shai treated herself to pizza bread while I tried an earl grey-chocolate bun — it was miraculously dense and fluffy at the same time, and I swear I saw colours in the flavours (like in Ratatouille).
There was a grassy hill surrounding a water fountain where many others lounged with their own baked goods. We found a spot by a tree and made it our haven for a while, savouring each bite while soaking in the sun 🌞
*Pro-tip: Make it as early as possible as stalls have limited stock. We arrived at 3PM and by then two-thirds of the bread supply had run out.
How to get there: 12min walk from Ikejiri-ōhashi station (Google Maps)
Teatime with Snoopy at the Snoopy Museum Tokyo
Reconnect with an old childhood friend at the Snoopy Museum Tokyo.
Located within Minami-machida Grandberry Park, the museum’s exhibitions were as adorable as they were informative. Each level was so drastically different that walking through a new doorway felt like magic all over again 🪄
The most wonderful surprise came with the first step into the museum, where a playful animation of the Peanuts gang was projected onto the walls. It promptly reminded me of the personalities of each character and amped up my excitement to explore the rest of the place ⭐
*Note: Use the toilet and have a meal beforehand as re-entry is prohibited!
I adored Snoopy as kid. I’d race home after a morning visit to the library and sink into my couch with a towering stack of comics by my side. These were some of my fondest memories as a kid so, coming here was like a warm hug 🫂
*Pro-tip: Clear most of your souvenir-hunting early here (I did)! Besides BROWN’S STORE in the museum, which offers unique Snoopy merchandise galore, there’s also a nearby Sanrio store, too.
Entrance fee:¥1,800 (~S$17)
Opening hours: 10AM – 6PM
How to get there: 4min walk from Minamimachida Granbury Park Station (Google Maps)
See Mount Fuji from a Slide at Ninomiya Azumayama Park
Ninomiya Azumayama Park is exactly the kind of place that people in movies say “Follow me, I know a spot,”. There was a seemingly endless field of greenery, and there was not another person in sight when we were there.
It felt almost like we were the only people left in the world, but in a peaceful way instead of eerie. Like we could do anything we wanted simply for the fullness of our hearts, not a care for expectations to meet or responsibilities to handle.
This hidden vantage point of Mount Fuji offers the most dreamlike scenery I’ve ever witnessed. It’s admittedly quite far out (and up — a hill), but I promise it was worth every step. There was a glittery seascape and Ghibli-esque paddy fields awaiting at the summit! 🌊✨
What the view could look like on a clear day! Photo credit: @tokyo.daytrip_kanagawa via Instagram
Notably, there’s an old-school slide to play on, and it’s said that you can see Mount Fuji riding down! ⛰️ But the rainy weather sadly stood between us and that fun (how inconsiderate…) So beware to check the weather forecast twice before making your trip over.
Still, I thought it was a tranquil place to be and the hike wasn’t too exhausting. There was even a cultural monument to admire on our way up — this gorgeous traditional Ninomiya Shrine.
It’s now on my bucket list to come up here with my girlfriends to catch the sunset with a picnic and watch the clouds float by 🍃☁️🧺🌄
*Pro-tip: Time your visits wisely to see Mount Fuji. Dawn or dusk is a good gauge for a panoramic lookout, but check for weather and visibility too! Otherwise, there are always other opportunities around besides the two listed here.
Entrance fee: Free
Opening hours: 8:30AM – 5PM
How to get there: 10min walk from Ninomiya Station (Google Maps)
Day 3 — Shopping at Shimokitazawa and Suspicious (but Scrumptious) Sushi
These boots are made for walkin’ 🎶 and that’s just what they’ll do 🎵
Bask in Japan’s countryside charm at Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum
Speaking about architecture — here, art meets history and culture! Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum showcases Tokyo’s centuries-old townscapes.
It features traditional buildings, from bathhouses and teahouses to prominent people’s private residential homes, such as that of Korekiyo Takahashi (Prime Minister of Japan from 1921 to 1922). They were moved and/or reconstructed here to be preserved, so that we can now freely enter these buildings!
One of the structures has an in-built café for refreshments!
I sincerely enjoyed taking in the rustic beauty of all the authentic structures, and it was so surreal to think about their historical significance. It was like all the Japanese films came to life!
From more traditional houses (like the one in Totoro) to the quaint street of shops (including a florist boutique and cigarette storefronts), each complex was a delicate marvel in its own way.
*Pro-tip: You can leave bulky belongings in a locker at the entrance for ¥10 (full refund given). And we recommend wearing shoes that are easily slipped on/off — you’ll have to take them off to enter each building. For photographers, take note that tripods are not allowed indoors.
Entrance fee: ¥400
Opening hours: 9:30AM – 4:30PM, closed on Mon
How to get there: 12-15 min bus ride from Musashi Koganei Station (Google Maps)
Thrifting at Shimokitazawa
Photo credit: DIGJAPAN!
To still indulge in Japan’s fashion scene while side-stepping the human-jam, set your maps to Shimokitazawa!
Known to be a hipster scene, Shimokitazawa is home to vintage boutiques, bookshops, vinyl stores and dinky cafés. It’s much quieter here, despite being a stone’s throw away from hotspots like Harajuku and Shinjuku. There are still crowds for that palpable sense of zest, but not to the extent of feeling smothering.
Meandering through shopping districts is one of the most exciting things to do in Japan. It may sound simple, but here, the streets are runways — you’ll never spot the same outfit twice.
Styles ranging from punk to lolita to ulzzang fashion are flaunted left and right. It’s like being ‘overdressed’ is a concept that has never stepped foot in Japan’s shopping neighbourhoods.
Opening hours: 11AM – 8PM
How to get there: 6min walk from Shimo-Kitazawa Station (Google Maps)
7-Cents Sushi for Dinner at Namae-no-Nai-Sushi-ya
This dingy little alley restaurant, Namae-no-nai-sushiya (which translates to no-name-sushi-place), actually has sushi for S$0.07 (¥100) on their menu.
The alley leading to the shop felt a little shady so I kept my guard up. But the restaurant itself made us feel right at home.
The appetiser was a soothing bowl of hot soup with pork innards. We also ordered two plates of the Chef-recommended sashimi, along with tuna, salmon and unagi sushi (all raw), as well as two mandatory drinks (non-alcohol options are fine, we had tea).
When the sushi found its way into my mouth, I was rebirthed. It was so fresh. Shai can vouch that we almost tasted the ocean in the unagi! And it was a generous portion, which gave it a satisfying bite. The feast amounted to a guiltless ~$35 bill, which only made it taste better.
I’m a sucker for budget sashimi (I indulge in it every other day even in Singapore), so having it this exquisite and for so much cheaper was a spiritual experience for me. If I’m ever back in Tokyo solo, I’d be back every day for all three meals.
From left to right: Master Taira (with over a decade worth of experience in sushi-crafting), Mitzki (rocking blunt bangs and a blinged grill), Ryohei (a friendly giant with the most endearing haircut)
An unexpected merit was how warm and constructive the service was. Our waiter, Ryohei Torumi, patiently communicated with us in English as he took our order.
If you’re wondering how the place stays afloat and why it chooses to charge so selflessly when the quality of food was sky-high, you can find out why in this article — this conversation ended up being one of my most cherished travel experiences.
Opening hours: 5PM – 11:30PM, closed on Mon
How to get there: 3min walk from Shibuya station (Google Maps)
Day 4 — Last Hurrah of Fun at Sanrio Puroland
My dad swears by finishing any trip with a theme park for a fairytale ending! 🧚
As an outright roller coaster coward, I often feel sheepish at theme parks, knowing the hefty price I pay despite sitting out of prime attractions. I still go though, because I just adore the charm of theme parks. This makes Sanrio Puroland a paradise for me — it doesn’t focus on big rides, and it’s comparatively inexpensive (~S$26 on Klook).
Unlike most theme parks, Sanrio Puroland is fully indoors and is much smaller in size. Its queues also have unbelievably short waiting times, ranging from 5 minutes to 40 minutes in our experience (we were there on a Saturday from 9AM – 1PM).
The best part was that it felt never-ending. Every time I was bummed out anticipating the finish, another door opened and the boat kept going :0 (It lasted ~25min)
While we were on the ride, a show was coincidentally being put on. The timing was a miracle — at the part where the boat left the tunnels, we caught an overview of the park being lit up!
I also brought home the sweetest souvenirs. At Sanrio Puroland, there’s an assortment of customisable merchandise, including name stickers with dozens of character designs to choose from and photocards from the boat ride with custom digital decoration.
If you’re willing to trade thrill for delight, you’ll love Sanrio Puroland as I did.
Dinner served on a boat at Hinadoriyama
Saving my most memorable dining experience for last, this is Hinadoriyama— where dinner is served on a mini boat that floats down a stream to your dining room.
Located in a traditional yet in a whimsical dining space, we were greeted by a watermill at the entrance, and charming little statues along the path to to our own private dining room.
The first step was to place our order with a kind obasan (grandma). The staff doesn’t speak English but they go the extra mile to make sure you’re attended to.
*Pro-tip: Browse their site with Chrome’s translation function beforehand to know what to expect — especially with their menu items!
The minimal requirement is to order two main courses. After that, she passed us a key with a bell that indicated our room. It also serves as a receipt to bring to the counter for payment.
The restaurant specialises in robatayaki (“fireside-cooking”), so we took our time grilling skewers of seafood, chicken and vegetables. Among the different platters, we chose the Hinatayaki course and Ajijimanyaki course, which feature a satisfying variety of dishes.
The Fukufuku tofu hotpot that came with both courses was like nothing I’ve ever had. It tasted like comfort in the form of soup — soothing, warm and light.
The most important thing to know is that once you hear chirping birds, it means your food is arriving. The orders won’t miss their respective rooms because a stopper in the water will erect at the correct door! You simply have to wait to collect your adorable boat tray of noms 😸
Then, it’ll be time to indulge in some fresh, smokey goodness.
Cost: ~S$50 per pax
Opening hours: 9AM – 8:30PM
How to get there: 14min walk from Kurimoto-bashi bus stop (Google Maps)
Keeping the travel magic alive when revisiting Tokyo
Despite having visited thrice, I still feel Tokyo’s heartbeat crisp and alive each time I’m there 🎇 You just gotta know where to look!
For me, part of the appeal is in observing how different cultures interpret city life. Tokyo and Singapore are both busy first-world metropoles in Asia, yet little differences are scattered everywhere — from our ways of life and society’s values to what’s on the shelves in our convenience stores. There’s just something delightful in seeing how we’re the same, but different. The world is small and humanity is inexplicably beautiful.
If you ever find yourself travelling back to somewhere you’ve been before, here are some ways to keep things fresh, with Tokyo as an example!
1) Consider visiting close-by areas
Someone teach her how to wear a beanie please…
Take day trips out of Tokyo to discover lesser-known prefectures! We recently visited Karuizawa in Nagano, and it made for a perfect escape from the city. Check out another Tokyo itinerary that covers this: 5D4N Solo Tokyo Itinerary — Ghibli-esque Attractions and an Escape to Karuizawa
Karuizawa had a gentle, toasty countryside allure, especially during Autumn with its mesmerising golden foliage. Unexpectedly, we even tried a new sport there (curling!) for a few hours, which was a lot of slippery fun!
2) Try to recall places you wanted to explore further on your last trips
One reason for the whole “I’ve seen everything!” illusion is that we touch and go places, and then tick it off our checklist. In reality, we often barely scratch the surface.
Whether it be for your Tokyo itinerary or other travel plans, try remembering your favourite attractions on your last visit — was there anywhere you wished you had more time? It’s likely there are untouched areas of previous destinations you haven’t covered!
3) Carve out time for aimless wandering
Instead of sticking to a strict itinerary, take some time to explore. This way, you won’t know exactly what to expect, and may stumble across hidden gems on your own accord!
When we depend on research to travel, we tend to end up comparing our experiences to the “source material”. For some magic, make your own discoveries! ✨
4) Come back during a different season
If you’ve been here in Autumn, try coming in Summer! Some sights and activities in Tokyo almost completely change with the seasons, so you’ll get to experience a whole new world.
Is there any place in Tokyo you can’t get enough of? Let us know in the comments below!