As I was planning my trip to Tokyo, I was told numerous times that it was a ridiculously expensive city. I ended up bringing about ¥35,000 in cash for food, drink, and whatever else I wanted to throw some dollar bills at (not including my hotel), and only had about ¥2,000 left after five days. I’m a fairly money-conscious individual, but do like to indulge every once in awhile. While there were certainly things I didn’t do while in Tokyo given my time constraints (the Robot Restaurant, for example), I left feeling like I did everything I had originally wanted to and was able to really enjoy my time here. So, if you’re wondering “how much money should I bring to Tokyo?”, keep reading for the breakdown of all my expenses over five days.
One of the great things about Tokyo is that you’re guaranteed a good meal at just about any restaurant or little shop you walk into. Heck, even the Family Mart and 7-Eleven offer great options if you’re on the go. While you could certainly eat up a storm in Tokyo without doing any research ahead of time, I’m pretty damn glad I did because I managed to have an incredible meal each of my five days in the city (as well as some great ones that just didn’t make my ‘top 5 places to eat in Tokyo’ list).
The Tsukiji Fish Market is on just about everyone’s must-do when traveling to Tokyo, and for good reason! Earlier in the year, it was rumored that the fish market would be shutting down and relocating to another area of Tokyo. Thankfully, for those that have yet to visit the market, that plan has been put on hold for the foreseeable future. Until it does close, head on over to the Tsukiji Fish Market to try an array of street snacks, eat some ridiculously fresh sushi, and explore the wholesale market.
Figuring out which area of Tokyo to stay in and then finding a hotel that doesn’t cost a fortune can be a logistical nightmare (especially when traveling over the popular sakura/cherry blossom season). After plenty of research on where to stay, I opted to pay a bit more for accommodation in a central area, as opposed to staying a bit out of the way to save some money. Shinjuku was on just about every travel guide and blog I read, so once I settled on that location it was time to choose a hotel. I narrowed it down based on price, distance from the metro, and facilities. The only hotel I found at the time to be within reason was the Shinjuku Washington Hotel Annex.
If you want to visit temples in Japan, most people will direct you to Kyoto where you’ll find plenty. However, if you’re only staying in Tokyo, you’d be missing out if you didn’t make the trip to Sensoji Temple in Asakusa. Although a very popular tourist spot, I loved walking around the Sensoji Temple and the surrounding Asakusa area. You’ll see plenty of locals partaking in various Buddhist practices, try a range of snacks at one of the numerous shops, and grab a souvenir or two before you leave.
I was told to get to the Tsukiji Fish Market early (like, 5:00 am early), so that we could queue up for one of the sushi bars for breakfast. The two restaurants that were recommended to me were Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi. After doing a bit more research and reading nightmare reviews of people queuing for up to four hours for an overly priced, mediocre omakase sushi breakfast, there was no way I was going to get caught in that tourist trap. Instead, I stumbled upon a fantastic alternative, Sushi Katsura (すしかつら), just a few blocks away from the Tsukiji Fish Market. You can expect an incredibly good-valued omakase lunch at Sushi Katsura with zero queues and no 4:00 am wake-up call.
If you ask for suggestions on where to go for a fun night out in Tokyo, it’s likely that many people will tell you to head to Golden Gai in Shinjuku. This well-known area of Tokyo is famous for its nightlife. You’ll find 6 parallel alleyways with tiny bars crammed everywhere (there’s said to be over 200 bars). Many tourists come here for a bit of bar hopping (if you manage to find a seat), though there are a handful of bars that cater to a “Japanese-speaking only” crowd. While I can’t say I loved Golden Gai, I thought it was a unique experience that is worth checking out.
The Shinjuku district of Tokyo is a bustling, hectic, and very modern part of the city, however, there are a few spots only steps away from the busy main streets that offer visitors a glimpse into the old Tokyo. One such place is Memory Lane (translated from Omoide Yokocho, but also known as “Piss Alley”). Here you’ll find an assortment of tiny shops that serve up yakitori, soba noodles, and (of course) plenty of drinks. Aside from just being really cool to walk through thanks to its narrow alleyways, cramped bars with people laughing, eating, and drinking, and Japanese decor strung throughout, this is where I found the best bowl of soba noodles.
Fuunji Tokyo was said to serve up some of the best tsukemen in the city, and since I had never tried that type of ramen before (I know, I know) I was looking forward to trying it. The shop is a popular spot for both locals and tourists, so be sure to arrive early or go late, otherwise you should expect a queue (we went just after it opened and we still didn’t get a seat right away). There are only two things on the menu: ramen or dipping noodles (tsukemen), but the vast majority come for the latter. And trust me, it doesn’t disappoint.
There are so many fantastic restaurants in Tokyo that planning where to eat during your stay can be a bit overwhelming. Many well-established restaurants begin taking reservations upwards of a month in advance, so if you’re not in the know, you’ll likely miss out on an opportunity to have a fantastic meal. While many of these restaurants tend to be quite fancy, I discovered a hidden gem that I want to share with you: Narukiyo Tokyo. This restaurant only serves an omakase menu (meaning there is no menu), has insanely fun vibes (sit around the kitchen counter for added entertainment while enjoying the chef’s playlist and the awkward yet hilarious phallic objects scattered about the restaurant), and is basically guaranteed to be one of the best nights you’ll have in Tokyo.