If this is your first time in Tokyo and you have only a few days, this “Tokyo in 2 Days for First-Timers” itinerary will take you to its most iconic sights and includes cultural experiences that will enrich your stay. Although Tokyo can be bewildering for newcomers, the city’s super subway system and the friendliness of its inhabitants help make the metropolis manageable. It’s also useful to think of Tokyo as nothing more than dozens of neighborhoods crunched together, each with its own distinct personality.
Start your first day leisurely, with a stroll through Hama Rikyu Garden, laid out more than 300 years ago, from which you can board a boat for a cruise up the Sumida River, providing unique vistas of the capital along the way. You’ll disembark just as in the days of yore in Asakusa, where just a couple blocks inland is famous Sensoji Temple, Tokyo’s oldest temple. The short pathway leading to Sensoji is called Nakamise Dori and is lined with souvenir shops selling both crafts and kitsch.
From Asakusa, it’s a short bus or taxi ride to Ueno, where you’ll find Japan’s number-one must-see museum, the Tokyo National Museum with its national treasures ranging from samurai helmets to Buddhist statues. In the afternoon, head to Ginza, where you can attend short plays in Kabuki-za Theatre and shop in department stores like Matsuya.
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Find out how Tokyo looked when the shogun reigned at the Edo-Tokyo Museum, which covers the city’s colorful history from about 1600 to 1964, then take the JR train to Akihabara, Japan’s largest electronics district but also home to shops selling anime and manga and to maid cafes. From there, head to Harajuku, teenybopper heaven but also home to Meiji Jingu Shrine and Oriental Bazaar, Tokyo’s best one-stop store for Japanese crafts and souvenirs. Then, for a bird’s-eye view of the never-ending metropolis, head to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office Observatory, followed by a relaxing soak at Ooedo-Onsen Monogatari, designed to look like a bathhouse during the Edo Period.