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I will have a ~5-hour transit Sunday evening at Haneda, 6pm-1am minus the custom and transport from Haneda. I know I can only have one shot at visiting Tokyo. Which neighborhood would you suggest visiting that has the following: vibrant life such as Shibuya crossing, traditional small alleys with good street foods, amazing traditional sushi (would be my only meal in Tokyo, I want to make it worthy), shrines and temples (which can be visited partly at night)

Also, any recommendation on good sushi place with reservation or without line? I can't afford waiting during my short trip.

Center-east Tokyo does not seem so amazing. I am not interested in Tokyo tower or similar modern buildings. I heard recommendations for Shibuya.

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  • ~~Interested to know as well as this seems tight.~~ Oops, didn't notice that the five hours is already net of customs and travel from and to the airport.
    – jcm
    Jan 1, 2020 at 1:40
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    Keep in mind that trains do not run 24/7 in most of Japan, cutting your feasible amount of time in Tokyo even shorter. Given that you'd get to the city at 7 PM or later, I would highly recommend avoiding going too far east or north or you may end up struggling to get back to the airport in time.
    – Andrew Fan
    Jan 1, 2020 at 4:03
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    Don’t have the time to write a full answer, but I would probably head to Harajuku, then walk or train the train (one stop) to Shibuya. Questions: which terminal(s) are you arriving at/departing from, and when can you be there at the latest? You’ll probably have more than 2 hours taken off your total transit time.
    – jcaron
    Jan 1, 2020 at 11:29
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    For sushi one of the best places used to be the outer market at Tsukiji, but I have no idea if that is still the case now that the market itself has moved, nor if that would be very lively (or even open) on a Sunday evening.
    – jcaron
    Jan 1, 2020 at 12:49
  • @jcaron what to see in Harajuku? I am arriving from Canada and leave again, so likely will be intl terminal 3. In any case, will that affect much ? I saw some sushi place at Tsukiji, but that seems out of the way and will they open Sunday night ? My plan is to limit transit, likely Monorail+JR Yamanote that pass through Shibuya and Shinjuku, about 40min travel time. Perhaps go out, walk to something nearby or even next station. Return similar way. Interesting point about train time. Is it that infrequent on Sunday night ? Also, any idea on restos and reservation ? They seem to close at 8pm.
    – Kenny
    Jan 2, 2020 at 18:01

3 Answers 3

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Consider that if this is your first time in Tokyo, there's a good chance you'll get hopelessly lost initially. So either stick to a very simple plan, or make sure you have data on your smartphone, or both. You can pick up a SIM card valid for 7 days (or even less) from a vending machine or desk at the airport for a small coin. It'll take you about 10 minutes to locate and buy. Alternatively, check if your current phone provider offers data roaming in Japan for a reasonable price. Especially if you need to be back at the airport in time, you do not want to be stressed out by guessing which way you need to go, or by missing the last train. Both Google Maps and Apple Maps have excellent public transit directions in Japan.

If you're saying your plane lands at 6pm and your connection leaves at 1am, that effectively leaves about 3 hours for you to enjoy. You'll be out of the airport by ~7pm, it'll take at least 30m to go anywhere, you'll need to return the same way, and you'll have to be back by ~11pm. So that leaves 7:30pm ~ 10:30pm under ideal circumstances. Probably less.
If you're saying you need to be back at the airport by 1am, that leaves a bit more time; but consider that the last train will leave before midnight, so realistically that'd only give you about one additional hour.

So what can you do with your 3-4 hours? Certainly not more than get a small whiff of Tokyo life. Do not try to pack too much into your visit. Pick one area, wander around a bit, get something to eat, and combine that with either drinking, some quick karaoke, or just more wandering around. That's pretty much all you'll be able to do realistically.

You'll mostly be confined to the southern-ish parts of the city. Going to anywhere like Ueno or Ikebukuro, you'll just be wasting too much time on the train.

Even Shinjuku will take you almost an hour to get to, and since Shinjuku station is notoriously confusing, it'll definitely be a full hour before you're out. You can consider the Airport Limousine Bus, which can get there in 30-40 minutes. But it's not as frequent as trains, and it may get stuck in traffic, and don't forget you'll also need to get back, which is too uncertain when you need to ensure you've reserved a ticket and you need to find the bus stop in time. If loud and busy and confusing and way too big is what you're going for, Shinjuku is it; but personally I try to avoid the area as much as possible.


Shibuya is certainly a cool area to visit. It's almost as far from the airport as Shinjuku, just about 10 minutes closer. It'll take you 40-50 minutes to get there. But it's a lot more navigable than Shinjuku. You can cross the famous crossing and then immediately lose yourself among the big and small eateries and bars in the area. And after a few drinks you'll have just about enough time to head back the same way, if you can find your way back to the station.

The next stop after Shibuya would already be Harajuku, which is smaller, less busy, and more trendy. I would probably not recommend you try to walk from Shibuya to Harajuku, as it's not the most interesting walk, and you'll just waste time.

Somewhat off the beaten path would be Shimbashi. It's mostly a business area during the day, but has many small eateries. Walk out of Shimbashi station westwards towards Nishi-Shimbashi, and you'll have plenty of opportunities to eat and drink. Again, you'll mostly encounter salary men coming from work, so it's not exactly party central. But the more you get towards Nishi-Shimbashi, you'll find good beer places (e.g. Craft Beer Market) spilling out onto the street. What it definitely has going for it is that it's only 30 minutes from Haneda airport, directly on the Keikyū-Keisei Express (pay attention that you get a train with through service to the Asakusa line; the Keikyū line goes in many different directions in many different ways).

Be warned that the areas around Shimbashi like Ginza, Tokyo station or Shiodome are mostly dead at night.

You could get off one stop earlier at Daimon. It's not a particularly interesting area in itself, but you can walk down straight to Zojo-ji temple and Tokyo Tower behind it, and there are still plenty of decent eateries near the station. Consider that the Zojo-ji temple itself is closed at night; I believe the park around it would be open though. If you're going here, this would be the only time to consider the monorail and go to Hamamatsuchō, which is right next to Daimon. Other than this, the monorail doesn't go anywhere interesting and will just waste your time.

Consider going for a shabu-shabu restaurant, which is typically roughly a 2 hour affair. Nabe-zo is a very good chain (there are of course others as well). They have a restaurant in Kawasaki, just 13 minutes on the train from Haneda. It's not quite Tokyo, but won't make too much of a difference, if you're going for the fairly unique experience of a shabu-shabu instead. You'll still find enough Japanese charm and karaoke places around Kawasaki station to fill another hour if you need to. Of course, you can also go for Nabe-zo Shibuya, to combine both experiences, if you have the time. You should reserve in advance.

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Shinjuku is probably one of the busiest areas, good for shopping and dining, and is usually where I stay since it's very central.

Here's a link to Japan Guide's page on Shinjuku. Shinjuku station is the busiest station in Tokyo, so it meets the bustling life criteria, Golden Gai and Omoide Yokocho have tons of small eateries if you want the street food experience. Sushi Miyako is in the Hyatt Regency Tokyo, or Sushi Iwase which has the highest tabelog rank in Shinjuku for sushi. I'd recommend using a concierge service, since it looks like the only way to reserve is by phone.

Unfortunately, most temples and shrines will be closed by 6pm, but you can still look from afar. Shinjuku Gyoen and Meiji Jingu are nearby, but Yoyogi park, which is close to Harajuku might be an alternative if you have enough time.

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Old question but still worth an answer I suppose. I would go for Ginza, for a couple of reasons:

  1. Proximity Haneda to Ginza takes about 40 minutes with a direct Keikyu train. This is probably the closest area with a night life of some sort. Should you miss the last train (the subway closes quite early, you should leave around 11:30 pm to be on the safe side), a taxi to Haneda will be expensive, but not fatally so.

  2. Things to see and eat I can't eat fish so my knowledge of sushi places is quasi nil, but considering there are lots of other good restaurants there, I suppose sushi can't be that bad either.

Ginza has a mix of older and newer buildings, including sushi places. It has a night life (although a lot of it is very local, and foreigners won't be aware of it, and in many cases welcomed), which means a lot of places are indeed open.

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Temples close between 4 and 5 pm, forget about visiting any. There are a bunch of them around Ginza, so you could take photos from outside but that's about it.

A visit to Ginza means you have to see the Kabukiza. At night it can be quite stunning.

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    I've walked from Shimbashi to Tokyo station at night through Ginza several times, and most of it feels fairly dead. There are probably pockets of nightlife here and there, but Ginza is more of an upscale daytime shopping area really. It's pretty easy to take the wrong turn and waste your time wandering around empty streets if you're new.
    – deceze
    Dec 1, 2023 at 1:30
  • Until 2019 I always stayed in Ginza (been to Japan 50+ times) and I know the place well. There are pockets of quiet for sure, especially with Tsukiji gone, but it was lively enough. It's not Shinjuku for sure, although I'm not sure I'd recommend Shinjuku for a beginner either...
    – dda
    Dec 1, 2023 at 1:43
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    Yes, Shinjuku is definitely to be avoided; just the risk of not finding your way back to your train in time is too great. If you'd narrow down the nightlife areas in Ginza a bit more so a newbie and go there very directly, I'd be more onboard with this suggestion.
    – deceze
    Dec 1, 2023 at 1:45

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