Tokyo skyline during the day with Mount Fuji in the background

24 Hours in Tokyo: Must-See Attractions in Japan’s Capital City

Tokyo skyline during the day with Mount Fuji in the background

24 Hours in Tokyo: Must-See Attractions in Japan’s Capital City

Tokyo, Japan is a bustling city of more than 13 million people with plenty to see and do. Here are some tourist stops to consider on your travels.

A vibrant, bustling city teeming with more than 13 million people, Tokyo is a mega metropolis full of life. The city’s sights and sounds can initially feel overwhelming, but quiet shrines and solemn temples mix with the pulsing action to combine tradition with contemporary culture in a way you won’t find anywhere else in the world. When you’re short on time, it can be hard to narrow your itinerary to just a handful of options. Consider some of these top stops on your whirlwind tour of Japan’s capital city.

Tsukiji Fish Market

Start the day bright and early at Tsukiji Fish Market’s tuna auction, a favorite Tokyo tourist attraction where you’ll find it already bustling at 5 a.m. You might not plan to spend any time cooking fresh fish on a short trip to Tokyo, but the experience is a sight to behold and gets your day off to an energizing start. After you get an insider’s look, try a breakfast of fresh sushi at one of the nearby market stands. The best options are in the restaurant area close to the wholesale fruit and vegetable market.

Japanese workers in a food market
Source: Shutterstock

Sensō-Ji

After the fish market, take a waterbus cruise to Asakusa, a relatively quiet part of the city where you’ll find Sensō-Ji, one of the area’s most popular Buddhist temples. Kaminarimon Gate is located at the entrance to the temple grounds and leads to Nakamise Street, where you can find boutiques and souvenir shops selling traditional Japanese gifts.

Shibuya Crossing

From Asakusa, take the metro to Shibuya Crossing, where you trade the tranquility of Sensō-Ji with the organized chaos that is common in Tokyo. Similar to New York’s Times Square, this busy shopping district offers superb people watching and gives you a glimpse of the various cultures and classes that combine in Japan’s capital city.

Known as “the scramble,” Shibuya Crossing is said to be the world’s busiest junction. When all the street lights turn red at the same time, throngs of people pass through the intersection in all directions. The mob moves in near synchronization despite the crush of bodies.

Throngs of people walking in the street in busy Shibuya Crossing
Source: Shutterstock

Meiji Jingu Shrine

The city’s Meiji Jingu Shrine offers a reminder of the respect and reverence held for the emperor. It is said that the deified spirit of Emperor Meiji, a 19th century ruler, resides here. Enjoy a peaceful walk along the paths that wind through the forest’s 170 acres. The shrine is open sunrise to sunset and offers free admission. Spend an hour or so communing with nature before heading to the nearby Harajuku district. Walk along the pedestrian-only Takeshita Street to find a variety of eateries, shops, and boutiques. It’s a great spot to grab a quick lunch.

Imperial Palace

Explore the transition of emperors past to present with a stop at the Imperial Palace. Although the palace itself is surrounded by a high wall and is usually closed to the public, you can stroll the outside grounds and see the moat and watchtower surrounding the area. The East Gardens are next to the palace and open to the public free of charge. Situated on the site of the former Edo Castle, the impressive gardens feature various interesting plants and flowers along its paths.

Tokyo National Museum

Carve at least two hours out of your day to visit Tokyo National Museum, the oldest and largest art museum in Japan. The Museum boasts six buildings filled with Japanese art and artifacts, other Asian works, and a rotation of visiting exhibits. Open every day except Mondays, the Museum offers so much to see that your only problem may be losing track of time.

Odaiba

After the museum, head to the bustling tourist area of Odaiba, a manmade island situated in Tokyo Bay. The island originated as a set of forts built to protect the city from enemy invasion, but it’s now a hub of shopping, dining, and entertainment. The numerous attractions on the island include the National Museum of Emerging Science, the hot springs of Oedo Onsen Monogatari, and the Toyota Mega Web showroom, which features the auto maker’s latest creations.

If you had just 24 hours to spend in Japan’s capital city, where would you go? Head to our Twitter to share your experience.

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