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Planning a trip to a city as enormous and culturally robust as Tokyo is an involved process. If you're only in the city for a day, it's important to accept early on that you're only going to be able to experience a small fraction of what Tokyo has to offer. However, that shouldn't discourage you. Tokyo has something for every mood, time of year, and individual traveler. And because of the city's reliable mass transit, you're able to experience a surprising amount in just 24 hours.
If you're as moved by Japanese history and tradition as we are, you might opt for a day leisurely experiencing local shrines, temples, and kyorakutei (hand-cut soba) restaurants. If the hustle-and-bustle is more your speed, check out Akihibara or Shibuya for bright lights, lively music, and throngs of people (with or without tourists). If you're looking for a night out, take a car to Roppongi, a legendary nightlife neighborhood if there ever was one. Unlike many other places around the world, some of the more toured places in Tokyo are still totally worth checking out––the aforementioned neighborhoods definitely included.
This time around, though, we're going to give you a more intimate exploration of Tokyo's slim, meandering side streets, incredible eateries, and extraordinary sights. Here, the best things to do in Tokyo, if you only have one day to explore.
9:00 a.m.: An absolutely necessary part of your trip is to wake up in the Park Hyatt Tokyo hotel. Synonymous with new-world Japan and its proclivity for luxury and clean, quality design, the Park Hyatt offers unparalleled service, views, and amenities. As the home base for the lead characters in Sofia Coppola's iconic film Lost in Translation, this is a stay you cannot miss. Order coffee to your room and take in the sprawling views first thing in the morning.
10:00 a.m.: Grab a taxi and go for a short ride around Yoyogi Park to Harajuku for a beautiful breakfast at bills Omotesando. A love note to clean food and crisp interior design that marries Australian and Japanese culinary cultures to create one of the most popular spots in the neighborhood for brunch.
12:30 p.m.: Step outside into Harajuku and take in the world-renowned street style as people stroll by. Masters of kawaii, the fashionistas of Harajuku make getting dressed and being seen an event, one worth appreciating while wandering this eccentric neighborhood.
2:00 p.m.: A short metro or taxi ride away is your next stop: Shimokitazawa. This extremely hip neighborhood boasts all you need from a Tokyo neighborhood. Shopping the quaint and floral streets here will set you up with on-trend outfits, cozy home decor, and anything else you may need to trim your space back home. Before making a stop at Flamingo for the ultimate modern Japanese wardrobe makeover, grab a coffee (and the energy you'll need) at renown coffee shop Bear Pond.
4:00 p.m.: Take a break from people-watching the stylish locals and the neighborhood's myriad of design-forward bookshops and pop into Ramen Nagi for a bowl of soul-warming ramen.
6:00 p.m.: For dinner, head to luxurious Ginza for a meal at Tsurutokame, the acclaimed all women-run sushi restaurant. If you're feeling something a bit more wild (but authentically Tokyo), opt for one of the hundreds of themed restaurants around the city. Ninja Asakasa in the "electric town" has ninja servers, Yurei Izakaya has a horror/underworld ambiance, and Alice's Fantasy Restaurant is an Alice in Wonderland-themed spot with whimsical and ornate dishes. But for an unforgettable sunset view of Tokyo (a must-see when in Japan), Azure 45 in lively Roppongi's The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo, an American Express Fine Hotel & Resort property, should be your stop.
8:00 p.m.: It's time to hit Golden Gai. This tiny section of Shinjuku is made up of extremely slim streets, all lined with even slimmer bars designed in every theme imaginable, from rock-and-roll to "hospital" and even traditional Japanese with only two-or-so types of specialty house-made sake. Getting a cocktail, beer, wine, or other traditional Japanese libation is an experience in these streets––one you cannot miss.
10:00 p.m.: Finish off your evening right back at the Park Hyatt's New York Grill. Enjoy the kogyoku apple pie with salted caramel ice cream and an exceptional nightcap while you take in views of Tokyo's skyline to the tune of live jazz.