I love long layovers. They are an amazing way to get a little taste of a new country and culture. As part of the layover guide series, I will be writing up some recent long layovers. If you haven’t already, check out my long layover guide for Taipei!
When I visited Tokyo, I was flying back to the USA from Vietnam on Air Nippon (ANA), one of Japan’s major airlines. I was flying in from Asia so arrived at their shorter haul airport, Haneda and flew out to the USA from their larger international hub, Narita. Since I had to switch airports anyway, getting out into the city (which was conveniently in the middle of both airports!) was a no brainer.
I arrived in the evening from Vietnam and headed to a hotel I had booked downtown - somewhere close to everything, but most importantly subway stations. Tokyo’s train network is one of the most complicated I have ever seen, but thankfully some locals were able to help me navigate my way to where I needed to be! Something I was also incredibly impressed with in Tokyo was the orderliness by which people enter and exit the trains, getting into lines painted on the floor to help control traffic.
How to spend 24 hours
Grab some late night sushi near your hotel, then enjoy the experience of staying in tight but tidy Japanese sleeping arrangements!
Wake up early to seize the day before your evening flight back home. Start at the Tsukiji Fish Market, which is an enormous warehouse complex where fisherman come to sell their loots. It's one of the largest fish markets in the world. They are most famous for the auctioning of blue fin tuna, which requires advanced booking. Otherwise, you can wander around the market after 11am (they want tourists out of the way of the early morning local traders). Japanese food and culture is heavily focused on seafood so this is a great way to see an important part of the cultural food chain.
After grabbing some breakfast nearby, take the subway over to Tokyo Skytree, the tallest tower in the world (and second tallest structure in the world after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai), with a sky deck at the top. From the sky deck you can gather your bearings of the 360 degree landscape. There are even views of Mt. Fuji looming in the distance on a clear day!
Not far from Skytree, you can head over to Asakusa, which has a beautiful large temple complex (called Senso-ji), delicate Japanese gardens, and a lot of local vendors. Here, you can duck into shops selling unique chopsticks and other trinkets, or sit down at a revolving nagiri joint.
Depending on time, you can check out Shibuya Crossing, famous for insane crowds and great shopping!
Finally, ride one of Tokyo’s famous trains to the airport and watch some of their bullet trains race by your window onto other parts of the country. These bullet trains can travel as fast as 200 mph!
Hopefully this guide can help you get your bearings and start exploring Tokyo on a short layover. I definitely wouldn’t recommend venturing out into the city unless you had at least 12 hours so that you can budget for public transport, getting lost, and wandering around seeing the place!