We didn’t stay many days in Tokyo because we wanted to visit a greater variety of cities than most people who visit Japan. Our priorities were seeing “Koyo” autumn leaves and experience travelling a lot on Japan’s amazing train system including Shinkansen bullet trains.
We decided upon this itinerary (fly in to Narita (NRT) Airport > Tokyo > Nikko > Matsumoto > Koyasan > Hiroshima > Miyajima Island > Kyoto > fly out from Kansai Airport (KIX)) because we thought we could return to Japan again in the future and use Tokyo as a base to do day trips to places like Kamakura and visit attractions like the Ghibli Museum and the Meiji shrine.
Tokyo Japan Travel & Vegetarian Food Guide
After landing at Toyko’s Narita Airport we exchanged our prepaid voucher for a JR Pass at the JR East Office and bought an NTT DoCoMo mobile data SIM from a vending machine.
From Narita airport we caught the fast NEX train to Tokyo Central Station. It was mid-evening so we were really glad that we had booked a room at the Tokyo Station Hotel which is located within the actual station! As a luxury hotel it wasn’t cheap but it was really convenient for catching trains and the hotel service was really good.
After checking in to the hotel we were very hungry. Thankfully we found a great dinner option only a few minutes away at T’s Tantan (Happy Cow review), a vegan ramen noodle shop located in Tokyo Station.
Highlights of our short stay in Tokyo included:
Tokyo National Museum at Ueno Park:
“The oldest and largest of Japan’s top-level national museums … features one of the largest and best collections of art and archeological artifacts in Japan, made up of over 110,000 individual items including nearly a hundred national treasures. At any one time, about 4000 different items from the permanent museum collection are on display. In addition, visiting temporary exhibitions are also held regularly. Good English information and audio guides are available.”
– more info at Japan Guide – Tokyo National Museum
After spending all morning walking around the museum we got hungry so walked to the nearby Nezu No Ya vegan restaurant (Happy Cow review) which was located down a little side street.
In the evening we walked to Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Observation Decks in Shinjuku
“often visited by tourists for its free observation decks which provide good panoramic views of Tokyo and beyond. The 243 meter tall building has two towers, and each houses an observatory at a height of 202 meters. It had been the tallest building in Tokyo until it was overtaken by the Midtown Tower in 2007.
With favorable weather conditions, famous landmarks such as Mount Fuji, the Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower, Meiji Shrine and the Tokyo Dome can be seen from the observatories. Each observatory has a cafe and a souvenir shop. The North Observatory remains open later at night, making it a popular spot to catch night views of the city”
– more info at Japan Guide – Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
Key Japan Tips
We knew that vegetarians are rare in Japan and we can’t read Japanese so we bought the mobile app for Happy Cow Vegan/Vegetarian places to eat so it wouldn’t be as hard to find food for our meals.
If you are going to catch a lot of JR trains during your holiday in Japan we recommend considering purchasing a JR pass, which has to be bought before you leave your home country.
We strongly suggest using the super useful Japan Hyperdia website to look at train schedules and the cost of different tickets. It will save you a lot of time and tell you exactly which trains you can catch between 2 stations, with different options balancing speed/number of train changes/journey time.
We highly recommend having mobile data on your phone so you can use it for map directions and finding places to eat.
View my Japan Photo Gallery
Japan Travel FAQ
There is a great Japan travel tips FAQ page on Whirlpool forums, well worth visiting for advice.