Tokyo is a popular destination right now with its art galleries and exhibits, internationally-acclaimed restaurants, high-end shopping… the list goes on. In some cities, there’s not much you can get done in 24 hours. Tokyo, however, is a city with a surprise around every corner, and we’ve compiled a guide of our favourite things to do and ways to dine in this vibrant Japanese city.
Your Morning: Culture and Nature
Before you start your activity-packed day, grab a quick pastry and a tea at Rose Bakery, with its convenient location in Chiyoda. This is the area of Tokyo that boasts the National Museum of Modern Art. Distinguishable Japanese art and architecture can be found all over the world, but it’s best to see it right in Tokyo. The National Museum of Modern Art has a collection of Japanese modern and contemporary art from centuries ago to the present. This is Japan’s first national art museum, and it is located in the centre of the city near the Imperial Palace, the residence of Japan’s imperial family.
This is another place worth visiting. Rich in history, the Imperial Palace has different options for guests to enjoy their visit. You can take a guided tour through the inner grounds of the palace, visit the Museum of the Imperial Collection which has a 9500-piece collection of exceptionally rare treasures and art, or take a walk through the Imperial Palace East Gardens, which provide a beautiful escape from the bustling city to give you a different perspective on the local culture.
Cherry blossoms are part of Japan’s natural essence, and Tokyo has many beautiful places full of these trees, perfect for viewing during your quick stay. (Note: The best time to see these trees is in early April!) Tokyo has spacious parks and gardens that are accessible all over the city for any visitor. Since you’re in the same area as the Imperial Palace, Chidorigafuchi is a popular cherry blossom viewing spot, located on the northwest side of the Edo Castle. You can even snap a photo of the trees with the Imperial Palace in the background.
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For Lunch: Michelin-starred Dining
After you’ve gotten your cherry blossom fix, you will definitely be hungry. We recommend lunch at Seizan, a two-Michelin-starred restaurant with counter, table, and sofa seating for a comfortable and cosy dining experience, unlike many other high-end sushi restaurants in Tokyo. Delicate flavors will cover your palate throughout the entire meal, as Chef Haruhiko Yamamoto strives to offer food that will make every customer want to return. Yamamoto aims to bring the freshest flavors of the seasonal produces and prepares each dish with the finest ingredients. Seizan is one of the best-known options for Keiseki if you are looking to embrace the Japanese tradition of the multi-course meal. The restaurant also offers the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. (Find our article here for the best tea ceremony in Tokyo!)
Your Afternoon: Art Galleries
Head to Ginza after lunch for an afternoon full of culture, as this area is Tokyo’s most popular high-end shopping, dining, and entertainment district, containing numerous art galleries where you can view Japanese art and purchase pieces for your own collection. Gallery Shukado has a wide variety of traditional Japanese-style paintings and ukiyo-e, the woodblock prints with history dating back to the 17th through 19th centuries.
Gallery Echo-Ann is another notable gallery offering a more unique experience. The gallery is located on the rooftop of a building in Ginza, and it rotates its exhibitions very frequently, ranging from various Japanese artists, both traditional and contemporary. This gallery also has its own terrace that turns into a cafe during exhibitions.
For an experience that integrates the museum experience with a gallery feel, the POLA Museum of Art Annex is an admission-free art gallery located on the third floor of the POLA Museum of Art, operated by a Japanese cosmetics company. The goal of the annex is to nurture the inner beauty of the woman through art. Conveniently located along the Ginza Chuo-dori Street, the museum holds various themed exhibitions throughout the year, hoping for many people to easily enjoy art in Ginza.
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Before Dinner: Shopping in Ginza or Nihonbashi
As mentioned earlier, Ginza is Tokyo’s premier high-end shopping district. With leading name brand fashion as well as small, intriguing boutiques, you’ll get your fair share of shopping in this area. The shopping extends into the nearby Yurakucho area with department stores and electronic retailers.
If you’re searching for a more traditional shopping experience, the Nihonbashi district features traditional goods and local foods, perfect for travelers who want a taste of the local culture during their short trip. The district served as the capital as one of the leading centres of trade and commerce during the Edo period, and it remains full of culture and history. Have a drink in either of these shopping areas right before you dine at one of the best restaurants Tokyo has to offer.
Related article: Five Stops to Make on a Shopping Tour of Tokyo
For Dinner: Sushi or Noodles
An internationally-acclaimed choice that makes our list for dinner is Takazawa, a French-Japanese restaurant with creative dishes full of worldly flavors. Chef Yoshiaki Takazawa went to cooking school from the young age of 18 years-old and has been excelling in the world of food ever since. His modern, original dishes are well thought-out and creatively prepared to bring the best flavors together with the element of French-Japanese excellence. It’s no wonder this restaurant made the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants for 2018.
If you’re thinking noodles instead of sushi, Rokurinsha is the go-to stop, known for its delicious ramen and tsukemen (dipping ramen noodles). It now has four locations in Tokyo, a convenient way to end your day no matter where you end up in the city.
For more ideas on how to Do, Dine and Spend in Tokyo and beyond, visit our Destinations pages.