Over on Yahoo Answers, someone asked the following question:
“If you had one free day in Tokyo what would you do hour by hour from 5am until midnight?!??”
Here’s my answer, which should be useful to anyone wandering in from Google:
At 5:00, go to Tsukiji fish market, it’s in full swing then. Afterwards, go just outside the market and have a breakfast of sushi and a beer. It’s kind of a tradition.
Next, walk over to Ginza and check that out. Stores might be starting to open, but it doesn’t matter because the clothes won’t fit and you can’t afford the watches. ;-)
Take a short walk to Yurakucho. It’s next to Ginza and sort of interesting.
I’d guess it will be about 9:30 or 10:00 AM at this point. You could head to Akihabara and check that out. It’s all electronics, manga, anime, cosplay maid café, geeks, otaku heaven. Good to go at least once, even if you’re not into that kind of stuff.
From Akihabara, head a couple stops to Ueno and check out Ameyayokocho. It was once the black market after the war, now a big bazaar style market. Ueno park and the zoo are nice if the weather is good, but basically they’re just a park and a zoo.
Hop on the train again and head to Harajuku. If it’s the weekend, wander around the bridge and take pictures of the cosplay freak girls for a little while and then head down to Omotesando. (Just walk down the hill towards the Gap store. Wander, stroll, soak it all in and then head to Fujimama’s for a burger. You’ll want to get a good comfy chair in the front where you can watch the people go by and rest a bit.
Order a second bloody mary and curse yourself for carrying a heavy backpack filled with a GPS, two Lonely Planet guides, an iPhone that doesn’t work here, the power brick for your laptop, all the lenses you own for your heavy DSLR, none of which you’ll use that day, and a bottle of warm water. Better yet, when you head out, carry nothing but a paper map and a pocket digital camera.
After Fujimama’s, cross the big street and wander the back streets of Harajuku until you find Takeshita dori, which means “Jailbait Street” and follow that up to the train station again and head to Shibuya. Have your picture taken in front of Hachiko, the bronze dog statue. Why? no one knows. It’s a good place to chat up cute girls, though, before their boyfriends show up and drag them away, scowling at you. Repeat as necessary. Walk over to the big crossing where they did that scene in the rain from Lost in Translation and walk up the street just to the left of the Starbucks. That’s Centergai. Lots of people.
wander around there.
At this point you’ll be seriously crashing with jet lag. Head back to your hotel and catch a shower, take a nap, marvel at how bad Japanese television is, or, hopefully get to know that girl you met at Hachiko a lot better.
When you’re rested, head out to Shinjuku. Find Kabukicho and wander around, looking for hookers and yakuza. Try not to get too close to either. Don’t go to any of the places that the West Africans will try to drag you in to, but if you must, hide your credit cards and only pay cash. Mostly they’re ripoff places with a few bored Filipina girls in cheap slinky dresses asking you to buy them $20 drinks.
Instead, find “Ramen Jiro” and have the hugest, most amazing bowl of ramen you could ever imagine, or find the little crazy Chinese place called “Shanghai” down the tiny, 1 meter wide alley. You can get dog there, if you ask. (You won’t get it if you don’t.)
Find Goldengai just east of Kabukicho and wander the alleys and little tiny 10-seat bars until you find one that will let you in. “Nana” is good, as is Araku, an Australian bar down the first alley, on the second floor above 10CC. It’s bigger than most, welcoming to foreigners. Don’t go to Champions, the place just at the entrance to Goldengai. Horrible place with drunk Germans singing that stupid Oasis song on Karaoke.
At this point, you should be running back to your hotel.
That about covers everything. You could swap Roppongi for Shinjuku, but not if you care where you wake up. I sort of hate Roppongi anyway—too many foreigners.
Enjoy the trip.