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Short Layover in Tokyo

On my way home from my upcoming SE Asia trip I scored a layover in Tokyo. My flight arrives in HND at 9am and leaves again out of HND at 5:30pm. This will give me at least a couple hours to explore Tokyo and stretch my legs a bit before heading home. I know how short on time I will be but would like to get out of the airport and see a couple things while I have the chance (who knows when I'll be back in Japan!)

My question is - what would be my best plan of attack? I can take the train into the city but given the time of day I don't know how well I'd navigate busy transit and I'm not sure which sites or areas of the city to explore. Do you think it's worth paying for a guide to make sure I don't get lost and stay on track time wise? I'd like to visit Takeshita Dori, Shibuya, have a bowl of ramen, maybe visit an arcade and buy some manga - typical touristy stuff on the cheap. Any help is appreciated!  

5 Answers

top answer by
Christopher from Melbourne

You could make it happen but depending on the type of traveler you are it could be a bit overwhelming. Judging by your blog though, I'd say you'll be more than equipped to deal with the confusion.

Getting through customs and whatnot will take you an 30-60 mins (maybe 90 mins tops if you're unlucky and multiple large planes land at the same time). Depending on your budget, you can jump on a monorail/train which will take less than an hour to get to where you're going. 

I'm assuming you'll want to return to the airport about 2 hours before your flight. So you'll roughly have 3-4 hours to play with (I'm being conservative).

Regarding where to go, do research before hand on Shinjuku, Shibuya,Ginza. These places should cater to all your needs and you won't need to stray too far from the train station.

Out of the 3, I'd recommend Shibuya. Shopping, food, anime, arcades, everything kawaii etc are all there in plentiful supply. If you're fit and don't mind pounding the pavement, I'd go to Shibuya station, walk around the station and then meander north to Harajuku station. Its about a 2.5km walk in total depending on how much you get lost but you'll cross off all the items on your list.

Tips: Just because its such an advanced city, English can be a rarity. You're going to tourist areas so it won't be so bad but I do remember a time when I went to a 'tourist information booth' and found that nobody spoke english.

Japan is a cash society so make sure you have plenty of Yen on you (use an ATM at the airport - they will be more friendly to foreign cards and finding an ATM in Japan can be extremely hard at times).

If you have bags, dump them in a locker at the airport. They're safe and you don't want to burden yourself. Just bring a wallet/purse and smartphone with offline maps pre-loaded (you can get a SIM at the airport if you have money to burn - wifi will be available at places but the sign-up page are often Japanese only).

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Shinjuku (metro area)
  2. Shibuya (metro area)
  3. Ginza (region)
4 thankscomments (1)

answered by
douglas from Seoul

Hi Kim!  Having visited Tokyo twice, I recall that all of the areas you are interested in seeing are located on the JR Line.  This is the most convenient subway line in Tokyo as it basically goes in a big circle!  From HND, you will take a train about 30 minutes out to Tokyo Station where you can transfer to the JR line.  The Tokyo Station name is a bit tricky as you are particularly interested in going to Harajuku Station (Takeshita Dori), Shibuya Station, and Akihabara for the manga/anime/arcades!    I think you could do it on your own as long as you keep an eye on your watch!  

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Tokyo (city)
  2. Tokyo Station (attraction)
  3. Harajuku Station (attraction)
  4. Shibuya Station (attraction)
  5. Akihabara (attraction)
2 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Cihan from Ankara

you can check train router options, their travelling time and fares using

I think it can help you to get idea and make your mind up


whole city is connected with train lines and stations so if you get lost, just ask for directions to the train station


Regarding what you want to do, I suggest trying Shibuya && Harajuku(one station away) or Akihabara Station I think Shinjuku is big and complicated so it might be difficult to find things out there. 

Good luck and have fun  ;)

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Shibuya (metro area)
  2. Harajuku (attraction)
  3. Akihabara Station (attraction)
  4. Shinjuku (metro area)
2 thanks

answered first by
Alejandro from Singapore

Kim, I think you could definitely make it happen, it's tight but possible. Haneda Airport International Terminal Station is much closer to the city than Narita and the places you want to visit are very close. They key will be preparation:

From Haneda you can take the Tokyo Monorail to the Hamamatsucho station on the Yamanote line. on the Yamanote line, Shibuya Station and Harajuku Station (the station closest to Takeshita Dori) are one stop apart. You can easily play Pachinko, get a bowl of Ramen and visit a Manga store in Shibuya. I might suggest doing Takeshita Dori last to see if you can see more teens in cosplay (more likely during the weekend though). If you start getting tight on time just get a taxi back to the airport.

I use an app called Metro to navigate Tokyo (and other cities) public transport. Make sure you have plenty of Yen in coins to buy the tickets from the JR kiosks (Japan Rail). If you are keen to get a guide use they help you with guided experiences in Japan and can take you to most places.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Haneda Airport International Terminal Station (attraction)
  2. Shibuya Station (attraction)
  3. Harajuku (attraction)
2 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Trent from Perth

Hi Kim! I was recently in Tokyo in January and I absolutely love the place!

One of the best experiences I had was going to the Tokyo Skytree.

The view is unbelievable, and (at least for me) sparked an intense overwhelming feeling which sounds strange but is really really fantastic.

Also, nearby the Skytree is the Asakusa Shrine, which has a long lane of Japanese shops that sell a lot of touristy things as well as interesting food to try. The lane concludes with a traditional temple where you can participate in a few rituals of sorts, including having your fortune read. 

Hope this helps, and have a great stay over in Tokyo! 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Tokyo Skytree (attraction)
  2. Asakusa Shrine (attraction)
1 thanks

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