48 Hours in Tokyo: An Alternative Weekend Guide

Weekend Guide to Tokyo Sensoji Temple Fish Market

Tokyo is a great city with lots to see and do; it can be overwhelming and hard to know where to start. The great advantage to this is that you almost can't go wrong... Tokyo is essentially one big playground.



We arrived in Tokyo after almost two weeks of travelling up and down the country, having been to spiritual mountains, deer parks, castles & temples, islands and ancient towns. So hitting the city was a big shock and not one I was ready to face.

So I had a change of tack. Instead of seeing the traditional Tokyo - the Tokyo most tourists are there to see, I would seek out some alternative experiences to try and connect on some authentic level with what locals might do at a weekend there. Save for a shrine here and there here's my definitive list to spending an alternative 48 hours in Tokyo.

Have Sushi at Tsukiji Fish Market

The biggest fish market in the world, Tsukiji fish market has 2 main areas: the inner market and the outer market. Traders set up in the wee hours, and restauranteurs and wholesale food buyers arrive early to examine and find the best fish to buy. The live tuna auctions start at 5:20AM and are free - if you can turn up early enough. Some people start arriving as early (or late?) as 1AM during peak season. Others prefer to do a guided tour.

Weekend Guide to Tokyo Sensoji Temple Fish Market
Weekend Guide to Tokyo Sensoji Temple Fish Market
Weekend Guide to Tokyo Sensoji Temple Fish Market
Weekend Guide to Tokyo Sensoji Temple Fish Market
Weekend Guide to Tokyo Sensoji Temple Fish Market
Weekend Guide to Tokyo Sensoji Temple Fish Market

If you don't want to wake up that early, however, my recommendation is to skip the auctions altogether and head to the market mid-morning to have a nice walk and check out the different market stalls selling food, fish and even table wares. When you've worked up an appetite, hit one of the many restaurants nearby selling fresh sushi. I recommend Ginzamaguroya, which is here, (pictures below) but anywhere in the market will be good as the fish is fresh and delicious.

Weekend Guide to Tokyo Sensoji Temple Fish Market
Line for fresh sashimi... you can get fresh fish anywhere - no need to line up in special places! 

Weekend Guide to Tokyo Sensoji Temple Fish Market
Weekend Guide to Tokyo Sensoji Temple Fish Market
Weekend Guide to Tokyo Sensoji Temple Fish Market

The best guide I've found for Tsujiki Fish Market is by TOKYOCHEAPO and it lists helpful tips for visiting and making the most out of your time there.

Market opening hours are from 3:30AM to 6AM. The market is closed on Sundays and most Wednesdays.

Re-Energise at Shinjuku Gyoen

Right in the heart of Tokyo's busiest streets, between Shinjuku and Shibuya lie 56 acres of beautiful gardens. Entrance is 200 Yen and you can take a picnic to enjoy after having visited the French, English and traditional Japanese gardens with its pond and bridges.

Walk around the gorgeous gardens and take in the nature or even better - bring a book and lay down under a tree to read and rest.

Weekend Guide to Tokyo Sensoji Temple Fish Market

Feast on the Best Gyoza in Tokyo

The absolute best dumpling house in Tokyo is Harajuku Gyoza-ro and it's around the corner from a main street in Jingumae. On a good day you'll see the line up to go in to be several dozens of people long, curving around the corner of the street. The reason is simple, these guys make only gyozas. And they're cheap!! Definitely worth the wait.

Weekend Guide to Tokyo Sensoji Temple Fish Market
Weekend Guide to Tokyo Sensoji Temple Fish Market
Weekend Guide to Tokyo Sensoji Temple Fish Market
Weekend Guide to Tokyo Sensoji Temple Fish Market

Take a seat by the bar and order to your heart's content. Just go for it, be adventurous. Try new things. Just a warning: you'll be very full!

Explore Jingumae

Jingumae is easily one of my favourite areas in Tokyo. It's full of quirky shops, independent designer shops and high-end fashion. At weekends there are entertainers on the street and it's easy to spot Harajuku girls in their colourful Lolita fashion. The streets around Omotesando are also filled with yummy crepe shops or ice cream shops.

Weekend Guide to Tokyo Sensoji Temple Fish Market

Gawk at the Lights at Shibuya Crossing

The famous Shibuya crossing is best observed at ground level. Try not to annoy the locals by standing right in the middle of it (which is hard!), and once you've picked up your jaw, head to the Starbucks from where you can sit and people-watch from above.

Weekend Guide to Tokyo Sensoji Temple Fish Market Shibuya
Weekend Guide to Tokyo Sensoji Temple Fish Market Shibuya

Asakusa

"Asakusa was once Tokyo's largest pleasure district filled with gangsters, geisha, courtesans, writers, artists, actors and beggars. The entire area was completely destroyed in WWII. With the revitalisation that followed the war the pleasure districts faded into history, or at least they became much smaller." Says www.japan-talk.com

Weekend Guide to Tokyo Sensoji Temple Fish Market

Asakusa has since become increasingly trendy despite being a relatively old and weathered area of Tokyo. It's great place to have a stroll and enjoy great food at some of the izakayas (pubs).

But the main attraction here is Sensoji Temple - also supposed to be the best sightseeing spot in Tokyo.

Start at Kaminarimon Gate and head towards Nakamise-Dori, one of the oldest shopping districts with great souvenir and food shops.

Weekend Guide to Tokyo Sensoji Temple Fish Market
Weekend Guide to Tokyo Sensoji Temple Fish Market
Weekend Guide to Tokyo Sensoji Temple Fish Market
Weekend Guide to Tokyo Sensoji Temple Fish Market
Weekend Guide to Tokyo Sensoji Temple Fish Market
Weekend Guide to Tokyo Sensoji Temple Fish Market

Then walk towards the main hall and don't forget to purify yourself before you go in.

There's a great list of tips to making the best of your trip to Sensoji Temple right here on Matcha-jp.com

Get Souvenirs at Don Quixote

Since you'll be in Asakusa, head to Don Quijote, a huge wholesale shop that sells everything under the sun. It's an interesting experience and you can pick up tons of different Japanese curiosities (or anything you might need) for next to nothing.

We got some face-masks with the shapes of little animals!

Hope this guide has helped you uncover some of the unmissable yet alternative sights for a weekend pit stop in Tokyo. If you've enjoyed this article, you will love reading about our day adventures atop Mount Misen in Miyajima.

Weekend Guide to Tokyo Sensoji Temple Fish Market

No comments