Only one day in Tokyo? Don't worry, one day's all you need to experience everything the largest metropolis on the planet has to offer! ... Yeah, that's not true at all. Tokyo would take a lifetime to properly explore. Anyway, if you're looking for a 1-day itinerary suggestion, here it is!
There's nothing like a delicious, healthy Japanese breakfast to start your day. Shinpachi Shokudo is a small restaurant of long standing in Shinjuku. It specializes in charcoal-grilled fish, the most quintessential food of the traditional Japanese breakfast along with miso soup. They have about 20 different variations of set meals under ¥1,000. The cheapest one, which also is one of the most popular, is the grilled sardine set at ¥540, which comes with three fish.
After breakfast, take a walk around bustling Shinjuku. There are lots of things to do, so choose what interests you!
Kabukicho is Tokyo's most famous red light district. Walking around in the morning, you'll see the remnants of the previous night's revelry on the street. Tokyo is one cleanest cities you'll visit, but here you can see it in a different light. Also in the neighborhood, there's a new VR center where you can check out various VR experiences that are super cool.
Golden Gai and Hanazono Shrine
Golden Gai is a small block of narrow alleyways filled with tiny bars, each with its own theme. Although quiet in the morning, it is still interesting to walk through. Once you pass Golden Gai, you'll arrive at the Hanazono Shrine, Shinjuku's hidden gem. This is a cool place to see a traditional shrine tucked away amid the buildings of Shinjuku.
Thousands of trees await inside Shinjuku Gyoen!
Shinjuku Gyoen is a sprawling green space, often compared to New York's central park. Pay a small fee to enter, and take a nice walk through old sakura trees and other flowering plants.
Free view of the city
Looking east, towards the Tokyo Sky Tree
If you want to get a spectacular view of Tokyo from the top of a skyscraper--for free--head to Tokyo's Metropolitan Government Towers in West Shinjuku. The obervation floor is 202 meters high, and on a clear weather day, you can see all the way to Mt. Fuji!
Hop on the train and head to Lunch: Soba at Narutomi
After exploring Shinjuku for a while, head to the nearest metro station and take the Oedo line to Tsukijishijo Station. This is about a 45 minute ride that will take you to the bay. Get off, and walk 3 minutes to Narutomi for a delicious lunch. (手打ち蕎麦 成冨)
Soba has to be one of the most quintessentially Japanese foods. You are basically guaranteed to find soba restaurants anywhere you go in Japan, no matter how big or small the town. The best soba is made by hand, in-house, using high-quality Japanese buckwheat.
Narutomi is a famous restaurant near the now-closed Tsukiji fish market. You can enjoy the nice atmosphere while watching the chefs preparing dishes. Customers here love the handmade juwari soba and tempura (which goes great with soba). They offer many kinds of tempura which are perfectly light and crispy on the outside. One popular menu is the "gobo tem seiro" (1100 yen), which means burdock (gobo) tempura (tem) cold soba (seiro).
Take a stroll through the Hamarikyu Gardens!
The teahouse in the middle of the pond
After Lunch, take a short walk to the nearby Hamarikyu Gardens. These gardens are a historical site that used to be the private property of the famous Tokugawa family. There are beautiful flowers all year round, and a 300 year old pine tree that is an amazing sight to see. After strolling for a little bit, head to the tea-house in the middle of the pond to have a rest while drinking traditional matcha.
From inside the gardens, you can access a water bus station. Board the water bus here, and ride it along the scenic route to the famous Asakusa neighborhood.
The water bus runs from 10:30 to 16:15 at intervals of 20 to 45 minutes. The fare is ¥800 for adults, ¥400 for under 12's.
Sensoji Temple and Nakamise shopping street
The famous Sensoji
Sensoji is probably Tokyo's most Iconic temple. Leading up to the huge red gate is a series of old-fasioned shopping streets that are really fun to browse. The best things to buy here are the street foods! Daigaku imo (candied sweet potato), kibi dango (mochi-like sweet), and ningyo-yaki (sweet paste-filled cakes shaped like various objects) are just some of the treats on offer here. Look around and try something that catches your eye!
Dinner: a journey to the past at Sakurada
After exploring Asakusa for a while, head to Sakurada for dinner (hopefully you've saved some room!)
Sakurada is an Edo (old Tokyo) style restaurant, offering traditional Edo dishes and an old-fashioned atmosphere that makes you feel as if you travelled back to the past.
Following the Edo style, you cook your food on small charcoal grills at your table. Enjoy various seafood, meat, and vegetable items at a reasonable price. The restaurant tries to source ingredients locally, so the quality and flavor are very delicious. If you're feeling feisty, you can add an all-you-can-drink option for another ¥2,000 to get the party started.
Night view of Tokyo from Tokyo Skytree
Tokyo Sky tree is one of the tallest free-standing buildings in the world, and the view from the top is incredible. It's very close by to Asakusa, so head up and check out the view! It's a bit pricey (around ¥3,000), but is worth it. When you're finished taking in the view, do some shopping at the sky tree village shopping mall below the tower on your way back. This is the perfect time to grab a souvenir for your friends and family.
This concludes my one day Tokyo itinerary. It's a lot of things to pack into one day, but it should be doable without feeling too hectic. If you really only have one day to spend in Tokyo, I hope you'll have a chance to come back and explore all that this city has to offer!