My first 24 hours in Tokyo began with a flight that landed at Haneda Airport a little past 10:30 pm. The in-flight experience had been wonderful; we experienced very little turbulence throughout the journey and even landed a few minutes earlier than scheduled.
In addition, the flight crew were particularly attentive to me – I am still not sure why. They welcomed me personally onboard, gave me a menu before other passengers and even had my name on my meals. At some point, I thought they would upgrade me to Business Class, haha! A girl can dream, am I right?
Anyway, as soon as we arrived, I made a B-line to the foreigner section of the immigration line. Several airport staff were at hand to usher us through quickly and it wasn’t long before I got my passport stamped and was heading to the baggage carousel to wait for my bag.
It took about half an hour before my backpack whipped around the carousel. Earlier, I had watched in fascination how an airport employee handled the passenger’s bags, stopping them gently before they hit the walls of the trolley.
Carrying my bag, I passed through customs and was officially in Tokyo! My first point of call was to get the “Welcome Suica” card, a transportation card that doubled as a payment card for short-term tourists visiting Japan. Due to a shortage, the cards were only available to be picked up at the airport terminals, so I waited.
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24 Hours in Tokyo – Getting the Welcome Suica Card
I joined a long queue to get it, worried that by the time I got to the front, the public transportation systems would have stopped running. Luckily, they were still running even after midnight, contrary to what I had read online.
I rode the airport train for a while and then transferred to another line to get to my friend’s apartment. Dee graciously hosted me for my first four days in Tokyo and one more day after I got back from Osaka. It was about 1 am when I began the 10-minute walk from the last station to her house.
There are only a handful of places that I would ever consider walking alone at this time of the day and Japan is one of them. I felt very safe as I made my way down a fairly empty street to get to her apartment.
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24 Hours in Tokyo – Day 1 of 4
The next day, after barely five hours of sleep, we were up bright and early to begin a bustling day in Tokyo. While planning this trip, I read about how crowded popular attractions tend to get in Japan’s biggest cities and my goal was to avoid the crowd if I could help it.
Although I’m not usually an early riser, I found that starting my days early in Japan gave me a better and more peaceful experience throughout the country.
24 Hours in Tokyo – Meiji Jingu
Our first stop was Meiji Jingu: a Shinto shrine in Shibuya, Tokyo, that is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken, who led Japan to become a modernized nation.
Every time I travel somewhere new, there are distinctive moments when I become hyperaware that I am visiting a place I’ve always dreamed about. Seeing the first Torii gate as we entered the shrine’s premises was that first moment in Japan for me.
The shrine is surrounded by lush forest and it was just so beautiful to walk the surrounding paths and admire the Torii gates and buildings.
24 Hours in Tokyo – Harajuku: Takeshita Street
We spent some time leisurely around here before walking down to the nearby Harajuku’s iconic main street, Takeshita Street.
When we arrived, it was sparsely populated. We walked the entire length of the street towards our next stop quite freely.
Dee mentioned that it had a different energy with more people on the street, so we walked by later that morning to have that experience too.
Our next stop was a latte art cafe just across the street. It wasn’t open by the time we arrived, so we just walked around for a bit before heading back and were one of the sets of people inside once it opened.
24 Hours in Tokyo – Harajuku: Cafe Reissue
So when I found Cafe Reissue in Tokyo, I knew I had to include it in my 24 hours in Tokyo itinerary. This cafe serves coffee drinks with elaborate 2D and 3D artworks. It was a fun stop for sure and I enjoyed our time here.
After our snack and drinks, we walked back into Takeshita Street and made a brief stop in one of the stores there to shop for some accessories before heading back to the apartment to wind down.
24 Hours in Tokyo – Shibuya & Shinjuku
Later in the afternoon, we took the metro to Shibuya, where we visited Shibuya Sky for a bird’s eye view of Tokyo and the famous Shibuya Crossing.
By the way, Shibuya Sky is just one of several places to catch a stunning view of the city’s skyline. It is a popular place to visit in Tokyo and reservations are required to access the rooftop. If you’re looking for a similar (and free) experience, then check out the view from the Gachapon Store or visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.
24 Hours in Tokyo – TeamLab Planets
After spending some time in Shibuya, we made a quick stop for shopping before taking the metro to teamLab Planets. I wondered long and hard whether to include this place in my Tokyo itinerary but in the end, I am glad we visited.
TeamLab Planets is an interactive art exhibition combining digital art and the beauty of nature. Some parts of the exhibition were similar to the ArtScience Museum I visited in Singapore, but overall, this was a unique and fun experience.
24 Hours in Tokyo – Omoide Yokocho
As dusk drew closer, we made one last stop at Golden Gai and Omoide Yokocho in Shinjuku. We made our way through the narrow alleyways lined with small restaurants and bars until we found one that was still open and had extra seating.
Dee and I shared something off the menu – which we ordered by pointing to and later, we walked over to another restaurant where we ordered some dumplings from a machine.
Finally, it was time to call it a day! By the end of which, we had walked almost 30k steps! If I had left Tokyo at this point, I would have been quite satisfied. However, there was more to see and do, so I spent the next day exploring more places in the city.
In any case, I say this was a day well spent in Tokyo and as you can see from the photo above, Dee agrees too! 😀