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Apr 30, 2010 01:32 AM

8 hour layover in Tokyo, where to go?

The boy and me have an 8 hour layover in Tokyo en route to Europe, and are hoping to use that time to find something delicious outside Narita. Flight lands at 6am on a Saturday in December and leaves at 230pm, so hopefully with a decent bullet train we could be in the city by 7am.

By my reckoning that gives us at least 4 hours which could be two meals (esp as we will be on KLM after ;)

So -- given the constraints where would you recommend? I would love to try Sushi Dai but am worried about 3 hour waits ...

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  1. depending on how crazy you are this is doable. however, it will be really, really, really jack bauerish. at tsukiji there are LOTS of good sushi shops, sushi dai, daiwa, bun -- just to name a few. they are all three really good, and i would suspect that without deep knowledge of sushi, you could not possibly tell the difference.

    the thing to do would be: take the fastest train to tokyo station, then go by taxi to the market. ballpark 80 minutes oneway.

    in fact you could get to the market quick, then have sushi there, then get a cab back to tokyo station, buy return tickets and figure out where the tracks are and the schedule, then walk around the really nice marunouchi/yurakucho/ginza area close to tokyo station

    1. I am not an expert on Tokyo by any means but have been there 6 or 7 times and will be heading there again in May. 8 hours is not much time, but you should be able to pull-off a trip into the city and back. However, you should expect the time from when you land to when you arrive at Tsukiji to take more than 2 hours. The first thing you would need to do is take the Narita Express (train) from NRT to Tokyo Station. Based on your post I assume this will be your first trip to Tokyo so I would recommend that you take a taxi from Tokyo Station to Tsukiji. Tokyo Station is huge and a transfer from N'Ex to the Metro is not that easy for the uninitiated.
      As for the various restaurants around Tsukiji, there are some famous ones but the no-so-famous ones are all very good so I (personally) would not wait in line.
      Following your market visit and meal, you should (as Scharn suggested) head back to the station, get your tickets purchased and get yourself oriented and udnerstand which track/ level your train will be on...don't under estimate this advice. You can then head-out to walk area around the station. If I were in your shoes I would plan to grab som ramen for lunch (it will likely be chilly in December and the noodles will warm you up). You should be back on the train by noon for a 2:30pm flight.
      Hope this helps......

      3 Replies
      1. re: canfoodguy

        ...and make sure you have Yen on hand...many small shops and restaurants don't necessarily take credit cards.

        1. re: canfoodguy

          "8 hours is not much time" is right. Even if you fly through customs you can't leave the airport as quickly as you might imagine. The first Narita Express leaves at 7:30 and doesn't arrive at Tokyo Station until 9. I agree that a taxi will save you time and confusion if you're going to Tsukiji. The main problem with all of this is that there's not many trains on the way back at that are convenient. One Narita Express gets to the airport at 1:30 (probably too late), and the one before that leaves Tokyo at 10:00 and arrives at 11:00. That only gives you an hour in the city. You could take the Skyliner back at 12:00 and arrive at 1:00, but you have to take a taxi all the way to Ueno to catch that train. The skyliner is a little more confusing than the Narita Express IMHO, so if you do that allow yourself more time to get tickets and find the train. Look at the timetables I linked to below. Note that if you miss either return train you are in big trouble - you will arrive back at the airport with less than an hour before your flight takes off. Assuming ten minutes to get to a locker and get your luggage out, then wait in will miss your flight unless someone from the airline pushes you through all the lines to get you on the plane. I think the trip would be a fun way to see the city and kill time, but you won't have time to have a leisurely meal or wait in line anywhere without stressing yourself out. Depending on your personality it would either be a blast or give you heart attack.

          Here are the links to the timetables:

          1. re: la2tokyo

            I have to agree that this schedule is going to be really tough to carry out. Even catching the first N'Ex at 7:30, that puts you in to Tokyo at 9:00. But in order to be back at Narita by 12:30 - 1:00 PM (depending on how uptight the OP might be about getting through airport security), you'd have to get on a 11AM or 12PM train back. That's a whole 2 hours, or 3 hours at most, in Tokyo to eat two meals. Looking at the schedules, it looks like the Keisei line might be slightly better for time, but either way, you'd have to know exactly what you're doing in order to pull this off, I think. No room for errors. Since this is so far in advance, I wonder if there's any way for the OP to spend a night in Tokyo. That would be a better option to experience a quick few meals in Japan at a more leisurely pace. I just don't see how a first timer to Japan will do this. Maybe a short train ride to Narita city might be a better option.

        2. Sticking to the food part, it's important to remember that the boy may get grumpy if he has to wait too long for food. That could lead to unfortunate food choices. ;-)

          I'm with Scharn. Go to Tsukiji if you really want early morning sushi, but don't limit yourself to Daiwa. Just go to whatever place has the shortest line, otherwise you may only end up with one meal, and that would be very unfortunate. This is especially true if you're going after the 20th or so in December, when many domestic tourists might be holidaying in Tokyo (i.e. lines and waits might be even longer).

          And like canfoodguy suggests, ramen would be a great choice for your second meal. Quickly in, quickly out.

          I'm hoping to be in Japan in December, too, but I can't plan as far ahead.

          7 Replies
          1. re: prasantrin

            one of THE BEST ramen shops in tokyo recently opened a branch inside tokyo station. It's called "Rokurinsha Tokyo". It's location in the basement of the station is a bit unfortunate and the shop appears rather fast-food-ish at first sight, but the ramen is awesome, and definitely better than any other ramen shop in the area.

            1. re: Scharn

              Why oh why didn't they open it last March before I left Tokyo? Or did they, and I just missed it?

              Is the ramen as good as that at the original location?

              Top ramen shops also have long lines, but I think most ramen shops don't open till 11:30 or 12, so there's ample time to get from Tsukiji to Tokyo Station. Plus people eat ramen fairly quickly, so turnover is quick (which is what I meant by "quickly in, quickly out" even though line-ups are often long).

              1. re: prasantrin

                It opened in June IIRC.

                Yes it is pretty much the same taste, both the in-store and the takeout.


                1. re: kamiosaki

                  the soup seems slightly different at both locations. the toppings are also different, e.g. the honten has a sort of chopped pork but not the tokyo eki location. takeout is good, but you have to cook it yourself, something i found quite hard to do. as the line moves really quick, i would eat in. never waited longer than 30-40 mins, even when it looked like a 2 hrs wait.

                  1. re: Scharn

                    How does the soup seem different to you?

                    1. re: kamiosaki

                      It's extremely hard to describe, but a few months back I have been at the Osaki shop and then maybe a week later at the Tokyo Station shop, and it *appeared* to me that at Osaki the taste was a bit stronger, and the soup somewhat thicker.

                      To be honest I am not really sure if this is a systematic difference, or if that's just how the soup changes from day to day. Might be that they even produce the soup for both shops at the same facility.

                      BTW: Can I ask you something? I find that Tetsu, Rokurinsha and Tomita have a somewhat similar, fishy, tonkotsugyokai, while Tsujita, Honda, Sansanto, Warito and Hazuki have a more meaty taste.

                      I like the fishy style more, do you know if there are other shops around that do this type of soup?

                      1. re: Scharn

                        Yes that is my preference also, try these:

                        Mita Sei Men

                        for addresses etc.

          2. The new (or rather soon-to-open) Keisei Sky Access line might offer a better and faster option for getting into the city. It's due to go into service on July 17 this year.
            I haven't seen any timetables for it, but it's supposed to link the airport with Nippori in just 36 minutes.
            So it might be worth coming back to this thread in the summer, when the options will clearer.

            More info here:

            2 Replies
            1. re: zaijin

              Thanks to everyone for the amazing responses :) I hadn't realised quite how tricky it might be to get to / from Narita, but hold high hopes for the Keisei Sky Access!

              In the meantime, I'm faithfully collecting tips for both Tsukiji and those closer to the airport trains :)

              1. re: worktoliveandlivetoeat

                I would not worry about the Keisei Sky Access line...stick to the Narita Express. Look at the full timetable of trains (not just the list on the N'Ex homepage) and you will see Train 23 leaves Tokyo Station @ 12:03 and arrives @ Narita a few minutes before 1pm. Note that there are 2 stops @ Narita (T1 and T2). This will give you 1.5hrs @ Narita before your flight. That is a little tight but you seem to be adventurous so I think you will be able to handle a dash through the airport if necessary.
       someone else mentioned, why not try to turn your 8 hrs into 32hrs? That would give you enough time to tackle quite a few more spots.