One of the safest destinations for women, Tokyo is Japan’s ultra-cool capital where the trendy and techy meet ancient history, sacred sites and a few pockets of natural beauty. 4 days in Tokyo is just enough time to enjoy sightseeing among the city’s most popular attractions, though you could easily fill a week or more in this buzzing metropolis. Experience the incredible food, fashions and fun in Tokyo with this detailed itinerary for solo female travelers.
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Table of Contents
Best Time to Visit Tokyo
Tokyo is a large active city with year-round activity, but in my book the best time to visit Tokyo is spring. The highlight of springtime in Japan is hanami – the world-famous tradition of cherry blossom viewing. It’s not the only place in the world with gorgeous cherry blossoms, but it is perhaps the best known and there are many places in Tokyo with prime cherry blossom viewing spots. The cherry blossom season in Tokyo typically peaks in late March and early April, but the exact dates vary some from year to year and can be difficult to predict. If you can spend more than 4 days in Tokyo, all the better, because it will allow you to wait for the peak bloom.
For a late March or early April trip to Tokyo, you should book your flights in January, but be prepared for high prices. Japan is a year-round destination with pristine winter snows, beautiful fall colors and fun summer break activities, but cherry blossom season in perhaps the most popular time for tourism and costs will reflect that.
How to Get to Tokyo
There are two international airports in Tokyo, Narita Airport and Haneda Airport, both of which are served by a variety of major and regional airlines. Narita Airport has a terminal for low-cost carriers, and also serves more international routes than Haneda, so is your most likely port of entry to Japan.
To get from Narita Airport to Tokyo city center, it’s best to take the Narita Express which is clearly marked with signs around the airport. There are a few other train routes in Tokyo that serve Narita Airport, but the city has such a robust and complex transportation system, that it is truly worth the 3000 yen ($27.40 USD as of January 2020) for a simple, direct hour-long ride when you are first arriving in the country. The Narita Express is also included in some Japan Rail (JR) passes, or you can purchase a round-trip ticket for a discounted rate.
To get from Haneda Airport to Tokyo city center, you will need to take either the Tokyo Monorail to Hamamatsucho Station where you can transfer to a subway or JR line, or take Keikyu Railways to Shinagawa Station and get on a JR line from there. Both of these routes should take about 30 minutes. I highly recommend seeking out a customer service desk and having someone give you exact directions to your accommodation. If you’re not familiar with Tokyo’s transportation system, jet lagged and carrying baggage aren’t the best conditions to try and learn it — let people help you!
If you are already in Japan, Tokyo Station is huge and pretty centrally located.
How to Get Around Tokyo
Tokyo has one of the most thorough and thoroughly complicated transportation systems I’ve ever seen. It’s very efficient and you’re unlikely to be left waiting a long time for a train, but it can be overwhelming and it’s easy to get turned around or make mistakes.
Tokyo’s public transportation is a web of trains, subways and monorail. The JR Yamanote Line forms a loop around most of Tokyo’s central sites and if you are able to book accommodations near one of these stops, you’ll have a much easier time navigating the city.
You can order a prepaid Suica or Pasmo card online for $24 to make getting around Tokyo as simple as possible. These are also available for purchase at the airport and in any JR train station. Note that Suica and Pasmo cards are not the same as a JR Pass — remember JR stands for Japan Rail, the national train service. Tokyo’s subway is run by two other operators, and there are also private train companies in Tokyo. A JR Pass will only work on JR lines, while a Suica or Pasmo card will work on most local transit. If you are visiting several places in Japan, it may be worth purchasing both a JR Pass (for travel between cities) and a Suica or Pasmo card (for travel within cities).
You can buy single-fare tickets if you’re up for the challenge — just be sure you always have cash on you as some train stations (and indeed many businesses in Tokyo) do not accept credit cards, and be extra cautious about transfers between JR trains, private rail companies, and the different subway operators as they all have their own ticketing systems.
You should also pay extra close attention to the platforms in larger stations as sometimes different lines share the same platform — I once missed a flight because I wasn’t paying enough attention and got on the completely wrong line!
Keep an eye out for yellow signs in train stations that will show you which exit to take for certain attractions.
Where to Stay in Tokyo
For a glimpse at Japanese living and a great experience with a new local friend, I highly recommend Couchsurfing in Tokyo.
Capsule hotels are a uniquely Japanese style of accommodation and a great choice for budget travelers. Beds are enclosed and often have their own TV and WiFi inside. Many capsule hotels cater to men only, so do your research and book in advance to find a female-friendly option. Some Tokyo capsule hotels for women include Akihabara Bay Hotel (women only) and Booth Net Cafe and Capsule (has a female-only floor). You should budget about $200 USD for accommodations for 4 days in Tokyo if you would like to stay in a capsule hotel.
Best Hostels in Tokyo
When not Couchsurfing, I stayed at Emblem Hostel in the neighborhood Nishiarai, about 40 minutes north of Tokyo’s city center. The beds were comfortable with privacy curtains and power outlets, the facilities were very clean and the staff were wonderful. There is a shared lounge for guests with a kitchen, a laundry room with coin-operated machines, a 24-hour gym, and a restaurant off the lobby. Most of their dorms are mixed, but they do have 4-bed female-only dorms.
If you want to be closer to the city center, Wired Hotel and Bunka are highly rated hostels in Asakusa, the neighborhood where you’ll find Senso-ji and Tokyo Skytree.
Most hostel dorms in Tokyo charge the equivalent of $40 to $50 USD per night. For 4 days in Tokyo, you should budget about $180 USD to stay in a hostel dorm.
New to hostels? Read my top hostel booking tips.
Tips for Solo Female Travelers in Tokyo
Tokyo is one of the safest places in the world for solo female travelers. Japanese culture puts so much emphasis on respect for others, and I always felt comfortable walking alone, even at night. You should always follow basic common sense safety guidelines, but these should be sufficient to stay safe in Japan.
Your biggest risk as a solo female traveler in Tokyo is getting lost. As detailed above, Tokyo has a very complex system of transportation with a major language barrier for English speakers. Give yourself ample time to navigate, study up on directions to your destination before leaving and print them out or write them down if you are nervous about losing a signal.
The busy nature of Tokyo as a city also means there is plenty to do for solo travelers and no one will bat an eye at you dining alone. You could even fill 4 days in Tokyo just with great foodie experiences.
Tokyo is also a great place to try Couchsurfing as a solo female traveler. An arranged hosting situation like this is the best way to meet locals in Japan, and I find Japanese living spaces inspiring. I spent three days with a sushi chef and had such a great time, I booked a hostel to extend my stay in Tokyo — the first and only place I’ve changed my plans to enjoy it longer.
What to Pack for 4 Days in Tokyo
You can view my complete RTW trip packing list for solo female travelers to see everything I travel with, but I consider these 5 items to be particular must-haves for 4 days in Tokyo.
Comfortable walking shoes
Many days of this itinerary are heavy on the walking. I usually wear Tieks flats in large cities like Tokyo.
Tokyo has many shrines and temples that belong on any itinerary. It’s best to dress modestly at religious sites as a sign of respect, so no matter what time of year you are visiting, have something to throw over your shoulders.
If you are visiting in spring, be prepared for the occasional rain. I love my Columbia rain jacket – it’s a great weight, fits nicely over a fleece when I need more warmth, and has super roomy pockets.
I was surprised to find lots of cash-only businesses in Tokyo, a city with a very tech-heavy reputation. Make sure you carry plenty of yen. I’m not a fan of money belts. Instead, I rely on a TravelOn anti-theft cross-body purse or this anti-theft laptop tote from the same brand.
Japan has a significant language barrier for English speakers, but most people are very friendly and want to help if they can. When all else fails, this pocket-sized dictionary allows you to point to an image of what you are looking for.
Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo
My first rule of slow travel: take a day to get settled in. Even if you only have 4 days in Tokyo, don’t try to squeeze in lots of activity on your first day. Give yourself time to get lost, have a delayed flight or be hit by jet lag and want nothing more than a long nap upon touchdown. Getting lost or delayed can be an even bigger concern for solo female travelers in Tokyo, because it can push your arrival time after dark. Even though Tokyo is a very safe destination for solo female travelers, late arrivals and being unfamiliar with your surroundings can put you in a vulnerable position. Instead of planning sightseeing or activities, let the first day of your Tokyo itinerary focus on your arrival.
Food is a great window into culture. Hit the streets near your accommodations to get your first bite of Japan – soba noodles, teriyaki, or tempura are all great options for a first dinner in Tokyo. You might even find a decent offering in the airport, like the noodles and tempura above.
If you get in early enough and have the energy, consider booking a food tour or cooking class. If nightlife is more your speed, head for the neighborhood Roppongi which boasts many of Tokyo’s hottest bars.
Day 2: Shinjuku Gyoen
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is one of many beautiful natural spaces within central Tokyo’s urban landscape. Originally the residence of a lord in Japan’s Edo period (which roughly spanned the 17th through 19th centuries), it later became a garden and then a national park.
Avoid the crowds with a relaxing morning stroll through various sections of the garden in French, English and traditional Japanese styles. If you’re visiting in the spring, you’re in for a treat — there are 1,500 cherry trees that bloom from late March through April. Magnolias, pictured above, and chrysanthemums also flower in the spring.
There are three entrances: Shinjuku Gate, a ten-minute walk from JR Shinjuku Station; Okido Gate, a five-minute walk from Shinjukugyoenmae Station on the Marunouchi subway station; and Sendagaya Gate, a five-minute walk from JR Sendagaya Station. Admission costs 500 yen (approx. $4.50 USD).
Day 2: Meiji Shrine
Meiji Shrine, or Meiji Jingu, is one of Tokyo’s most important spiritual sites. Emperor Meiji took the Japanese throne in 1868 and his reign is generally considered as a marker of Japan’s shift from quiet feudal society to major world power. He and his consort, the Empress Shoken, were deified after their deaths and the Meiji Shrine was built in 1920.
The adjacent Yoyogi Park is a large forest and the massive torii gates at the shrine’s entrances perfectly mark the shift from urban to natural, from modern noise and activity to a place of reflection.
This is a Shinto shrine – sacred to the ancient, traditional religion of Japan. Show your respect by bowing at the torii gate when entering and rinsing your hands and mouth at the temizuya or font. The correct order is to rinse your left hand, then your right, pour a bit of water in your left hand to rinse your mouth, rinse your left hand again and finally rinse the dipper. Never touch the dipper with your lips and do not throw coins in the water. To pay respect at the main shrine buildings, you can put a few coins in the offering box, bow twice, clap your hands twice, make a wish if you like, and then bow once more. You should only eat or drink in designated areas, and refrain from taking photos indoors.
In addition to the shrine buildings, you’ll notice a large camphor tree surrounded by wooden tablets. These are ema for visitors to the shrine to write their wishes. You can get a tablet at the amulet offices onsite and there should be tables and pens near the tree to write your wish for hanging up. The amulet offices also offer lucky charms called omamori.
Meiji Shrine is open from sunrise to sunset and admission to the grounds is free, though some special attractions like the Treasure Museum, which displays imperial belongings, and an iris garden do charge a fee. Plan one to two hours to see everything.
The Kita-Sando entrance to the shrine is about a ten minute walk from Shinjuku Gyoen, and it will be another ten minutes walk from the entry gate to the main shrine buildings.
Day 2: Takeshita Dori
After a morning in the tranquil parts of Shinjuku, the afternoon will give you sensory overload along the backbone of Tokyo’s famed Harajuku district.
Takeshita Dori is marked on either end by large metallic gates and colorful, larger-than-life, cartoon-like figures — a far cry from the wooden gates of Meiji tucked amid Yoyogi Forest.
Navigate your way through the floods of crowds to trendy boutiques and cutesy cafes. The center of Tokyo’s kawaii culture, Harajuku is well known for its creative fashions. Indulge in a little window shopping, stop by an underground purikura booth for a uniquely Japanese souvenir photo, and treat yourself to a sweet, uber-Instagrammable snack at Santa Monica Crepes or Angel’s Heart.
The south gate of Meiji Shrine is right next to Harajuku Station and it’s only a three-minute walk to Takeshita Dori from here.
Day 2: Shibuya Crossing
Shibuya Crossing is famed as the busiest intersection in the world and watching its activity from above is genuinely mesmerizing. The best view is from the second floor of the Starbucks in the large QFRONT shopping center building. Grab something regional like a matcha tea latte or in the springtime a sakura (cherry blossom) flavored drink, and stake out a prime viewing spot.
It’s about a 15-minute walk from Takeshita Dori to Shibuya, or you can take the Yamanote Line local train from Harajuku Station to Shibuya Station.
Day 3: Tsukiji Fish Market
This popular must-see attraction in Tokyo looks a little different these days and finding what you came for is a little trickier than it used to be. Is Tsukiji Fish Market closed? Did Tsukiji Fish Market relocate? Both are kind of true, and kind of not.
There is still a market at the original Tsukiji Fish Market location near Ginza’s upscale shopping district, and you can find tours of the various shops and restaurants that have stayed there. Breakfast sushi, anyone?
But if you are looking for the famous live tuna auction and the wholesale fish market, that has moved farther east to Tosoyu Fish Market and watching the tuna auction takes quite a bit of planning. TokyoCheapo has a very detailed guide on how to make a DIY visit to the early morning fish auction, and there are also special tours available.
Day 3: Ishikawa Sake Brewery
One of the best free things to do in Tokyo is tour the Ishikawa sake brewery just outside the city center. Sake is the quintessential Japanese drink and while it is often called rice wine, it is actually brewed similarly to beer. Ishikawa Brewery offers free one-hour tours and tastings every day except for Tuesdays – all you have to do is email email@example.com to reserve a spot in advance.
The brewery was built in 1881 and some of the original 19th century kura buildings are still standing today. The grounds are beautiful and show how the process of sake brewing is a sacred practice in Shinto.
Give yourself plenty of time to arrive for your tour, and make sure your Suica or Pasmo card is loaded up as a one-way train ticket will take roughly an hour from JR Shinjuku Station and cost the equivalent of about $10 USD. (This is the catch to it being a free tour – getting there is costly.)
On train, you will take the Chuo Line Rapid from JR Shinjuku Station to JR Tachikawa Station, then change to the Ome Line Rapid and get off at JR Hajima Station. From here, you can hail a taxi or lace up your walking shoes for a 20 minute walk to the brewery. Their website provides detailed walking directions with pictures and it’s absolutely worth the trouble of getting there! The beauty of the grounds and the fun of tasting make this DIY sake tour a great way to get off the beaten path in your 4 days in Tokyo.
Day 3: Ramen Street
Ramen is a quintessential Japanese street food and so much more than the cheap packets that got you through college. Within Tokyo Station is a stretch of eateries specializing in Japan’s beloved noodle bowls — Ramen Street is the perfect lunch stop after a long train ride back into the city from your sake tour.
There are eight restaurants that make up Ramen Street, all good quality. There are posters and even some videos around the station that will help you place your order from the vending machines outside each dining room. If you’d rather prepare in advance, Live Japan has a detailed guide with photos explaining how to order ramen in Tokyo.
To get to Tokyo Station from Ishikawa sake brewery, take the JR Ome Line from Haijima Station. It will be about a one-hour ride.
Day 3: Kabukiza Theater
A great, affordable way to experience kabuki, Japan’s classical dance-drama well known for its unique style of makeup and costuming, is to take advantage of the one-act tickets at Kabukiza Theater in Ginza. For daytime shows, one-act tickets cost about 1000 yen ($9.14 USD). There is a special box office for single act tickets, so read the signs carefully.
Kabukiza Theater is right next to the Higashi-Ginza subway station. From Tokyo Station, take the Marunochi Line Local toward Ogukibo, get off at Ginza Station and transfer to the Hibiya Line Local toward Kita-Senju. Get off at Higashi-Ginza Station and take exit #3 to the street level. You should see a red bench with the line for one-act tickets.
Day 4: Senso-ji
Your last day in Tokyo begins with a visit to the oldest temple in the city. Senso-ji, a Buddhist temple, was completed in the 7th century and its entrance, the Kaminarimon or Thunder Gate, is one of Tokyo’s most iconic sites.
From here you can admire Hozomon Gate, a five-story pagoda that acts as the temple’s graveyard, or the main hall. Stop in the courtyard to waft incense smoke over yourself to cure your ailments. Beyond the main temple, you can explore Asakusa Jinja, a Shinto shrine honoring the men who founded Senso-ji.
Admission is free. To reach Senso-ji, take the Ginza Line to Asakusa Station and leave through Exit 1. Walk straight ahead until you find Kaminarimon – it’s hard to miss!
Day 4: Nakamise Street
The pedestrian thoroughfare leading to Senso-ji temple, Nakamise Street, is home to a marketplace full of street food and souvenir shopping. You can probably find better deals elsewhere, but a little window shopping never hurt anyone and its proximity to the temple makes it part of the experience of visiting Asakusa. I love the chopsticks I picked up here and still use them regularly.
There are also lots of street food stalls with bites that will cost you just a dollar a pop. Join a food tour or take your tastebuds on a DIY adventure. For something savory, fill up on dumplings and senbai rice crackers. For something sweet, try taiyaki, Japan’s signature fish-shaped cake, or dorayaki, a sweet pancake wrapped around red bean paste. My personal favorite stop is for a deep fried mochi with sakura (cherry blossom) filling.
Day 4: Tokyo SkyTree
It’s pricey, it’s touristy, but the view from the Tokyo SkyTree, particularly at sunset and after dark, is worth it. This is one of the world’s tallest structures with a 360 degree observation deck and on a clear day, you might even see as far as Mount Fuji. SkyTree also very convenient to other attractions in Asakusa. Be prepared for a long wait. Even though there is a Fast Ticket line available for international travelers, this is significantly more expensive.
Regular admission to the lower observation deck is 2100 on weekdays and 2300 yen on weekends – approximately $20 USD.
If you are on a shoestring, a budget friendly alternative to Tokyo SkyTree is Tokyo Tower which only charges 1200 yen ($10.96 USD) for access to its main observation deck.
What to Do with More Than 4 Days in Tokyo
If you can spend more time in Japan’s capital, there are a number of attractions and neighborhoods I didn’t cover.
Akihabara is popular with anime and video game fans. The neighborhood is home to many electronics stores, colorful arcades, and Japan’s infamous maid cafes. For solo female travelers in Tokyo, however, I recommend taking a pass on Akihabara’s male-heavy otaku culture and the cringe-worthy practice of paying teenage girls to sit on their knees and call you master. Instead, head for Ikebukuro whose anime shops cater specifically to female consumers.
The Studio Ghibli museum in Inokashira Park is also a very popular attraction for anime fans. You can fill the rest of your day exploring the park itself.
If you are visiting in the spring for cherry blossom season, Meguro River is a must see.
To get a little off the beaten path, head to Shinokitazawa full of alternative shopping and cafes, plus a cat temple and a folk crafts museum.
Best Day Trips from Tokyo
With even more time in Tokyo, you can get out of the city and explore more of Japan.
Mount Fuji is perhaps Japan’s most iconic attraction. From July 1 to September 14 you can climb Mount Fuji. The rest of the year, head to Lake Kawaguchiko for views of the mountain.
You can also get views of Mount Fuji on a clear day from the Hakone Ropeway, a cable car that runs from the hot springs town of Hakone, Japan to Lake Ashinoko (pictured above). Hakone is my favorite weekend trip from Tokyo – book a stay in a ryokan and soak in an onsen.
Kamakura is a very easy day trip from Tokyo, just 30 minutes outside the city. This is home to the giant Buddha of Kotokuin statue.
Chiba Castle is home to a folk museum and a beautiful cherry blossom festival if you are visiting in April.
The mountain town of Nikko is one of the most popular day trips from Tokyo with beautiful landscapes, incredible shrines and UNESCO World Heritage status.
More Questions About Your 4 Days in Tokyo?
I offer one-on-one Skype sessions for solo female travelers to help you plan day trips, RTW trips and everything in between.