Japan itinerary: 2 days exploring Tokyo

You can’t come to Japan and not visit the crazy city & neon lights of Tokyo! I’ve been intrigued by this place for as long as I can remember and was looking forward to spending 2 days exploring Tokyo!

There’s even more to do here than in Kyoto, so we needed to spend our time wisely. I determined that the West & South of the main city centre. Therefore I included activities to the west on day 1 and to the south on day 2.  It actually worked out quite well, but we were exhausted by the end of it! 

There’s things we didn’t do, like lots of ‘non budget’ quirky cafes with animal. I also don’t think it’s very humane for the animals.  There are other cafes like hello kitty or robots, but budget wouldn’t stretch this far for us.  

Instead we wanted city lights, views, hustle and bustle and some of the touristy sites… yes touristy!! Ha ha. I know I hate them usually, but when in Tokyo 🤷🏻‍♀️


Travelling to Tokyo

As I mentioned previously, the most popular purchase is a JR pass. This pass covers some of the high speed trains from Kyoto to Tokyo. 

However, we decided against a pass as it was cheaper to purchase the tickets individually. The cost of tickets on Shinkansen trains from Kyoto to Tokyo were Yen 39,000 for 2 adults and 2 children. 

We went to Kyoto main station and purchased a ticket for the following day. I’m not sure you need to do this the day before at there are lots of trains, but travel information on the internet is a bit confusing. 

The ticket does not reserve you a seat though, these are much more expensive. Instead, we took a chance and found a row with 3 seats with Keith seated a few rows away.  As it happens the lady next to me got off at the first stop and so Keith moved next to us.

After we arrived in Tokyo we immediately went to the JR offices and purchased a suica card (yen 2,000) for use in the subway system. Again the kids had to have separate cards with their names on. 

Cost spent on in Tokyo:

  • Suica card Tokyo Yen 2,000 initial cost, then added
  • Yen 1,036 to Tokyo airport each
  • Yen 1,000 Tokyo top up each
  • Yen 300 top up boys each

As I mentioned before, we could have used our icoca cards, but you can’t return them & get your Yen 500 back in Tokyo. You have to do that in JR West (or Osaka or Kyoto!)

Things to do in Tokyo

Day 1 in Tokyo

Shibuya Crossing – it’s a 5 minute stop depending on how many times you want to walk across it. Or if you want a view from up above, there are a few coffee shops you can visit. We just took a couple of photos and basically got in everyone’s way. It was a quirky thing to do, but if you don’t have time then I think it’s one you can miss. 

While there we did see some mario bros. Karts go past! This city has it all. If you want crazy, then you’ll find it here! 

Takeshita Street – we then walked North towards the shopping area. We found lots of the more ‘refined’ shops like Gucci, Tiffany’s, Prada etc… definitely not out thing.  And queuing appears to be a favourite pastime in Japan!

Thankfully the boys did find a kiddie land and had great fun playing a Pokémon game there. They had no idea what they were going, but hitting a button helped 😂 FREE

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building – ultimately we were heading to the see the city views (for free) from the government building.  By now night was starting to fall, but there was much to see. 

We arrived at the building and eventually found the right entrance. There was a bit of a queue, but it moved fairly quickly. You had a bag inspection and then before long we were zooming up in the lift to the 45th floor.

Once we entered the observatory we saw the most spectacular views and city lights. It really was amazing. We stayed for at least an hour taking photos and taking in the sights. There was a small coffee & souvenir shop if you wanted anything. FREE

Shinjuku – the boys were starting to really tire now, but they were spurred on as they wanted to see the godzilla head!  So we headed to Shinjuku city lights. 

It was a lovely walk through the city at night. You knew when you’d arrived as there was just neon lights everywhere. FREE

Godzilla head – based on the 8th floor of the grace hotel there is a Godzilla head. Every hour until 8pm it lets out a roar, with fire and lights up! I didn’t think it was that impressive, but the boys were ecstatic! the ‘show’ only lasts about 5 minutes! So, was it worth it?? Absolutely – just to see the delight on the boys faces. FREE

Day 2 in Tokyo

We had a lazy morning and wanted to miss the big squeeze of Tokyo subways and arrived at the late morning rush – so not too squished.

Sumo wrestling stables – We were aiming for the Arashio-beya Sumo Stable, but alas we either missed the training session or they were on a break following a big tournament. The training is on at 7:30am – around 10:00am ONLY. Almost every day, except for March, July, November, and one week after the grand tournaments.

Either way, we were in the right place but there was no action. But we did see a sumo wrestler in McDonald’s!! Check out here for the latest information http://arashio.net/tour_e.html 

Asakusa cruises – we were planning to see Hamarikyu Gardens and read that there were cruises. We thought it would be a nice way to rest our weary legs and to see the city. The boat journey cost 980 yen for adults and 370 yen for children

The admission fee for the gardens is included in the fare for the cruise.


Hamarikyu Gardens – The gardens are lovely, with nice walkways but not overly big. The city provides a beautiful backdrop and the lake was a nice feature.

Railway over rainbow bridge to Obaiba – this turned out to be the boys favourite activity! After leaving the gardens we walked over to the light rail station.

We boarded and the train travelled towards Obaiba. When it arrived towards rainbow bridge it looped upwards and it was like a mini roller coaster. 

Note: make sure you get in the front carriage as it gives the best view.

Obaiba – Depending on your finances there is so much to do in this area. Many people travel here to see the Teamlab borderless. We had probably planned to go here to see the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, but it’s closed on a Tuesday.

Instead we visited:

Odaiba Statue of Liberty Replica – after crossing the bridge we wandered around the area. There were several big malls and a great place to cool off in the heat. Then we walked further towards the waterfront to see the replica statue of liberty. FREE

Megaweb Toyota City Showcase – It was an ok stopover, but we were keen to give the kids a chance to have some fun as we’d read about go kart driving and simulators. 

Well, as it turns out there was also a press launch happening so half the area was closed 🙄. Still it was free so we wandered around and the boys got to try the driving simulator and enjoyed their first driving lesson.

We were all a bit too tired to go anywhere else and after another full on day and we were more than ready for home!! 

That’s a wrap for Japan! It’s been hectic but amazing and a country I’d definitely come back to!

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