How to Spend a 9-Hour Layover in Tokyo

This is the third post in a 4-part series on traveling in Southeast Asia.  Check out the links below for other posts on Vietnam, Thailand, and the most common reasons we heard to not travel to SE Asia. 

Backpacking Southeast Asia – Vietnam
Backpacking Southeast Asia – Thailand
6 Reasons Not to Go to Southeast Asia

How to Spend a 9-Hour Layover in Tokyo

After spending an amazing three weeks in Vietnam and Thailand, we had one last stop on our trip – Tokyo! Our flight home included a 9-hour layover in Japan, and we were determined to get out of the airport and explore the city. We came up with three different options:

  1. Narita – Less than 15 minutes away from the airport by train, Narita is a good option if you’re short on time. The biggest attraction here is the Naritasan Shinshoji Temple. There are a few restaurants and shops in the area as well, but not many other sights to see.
  2. Asakusa – Home to one of Tokyo’s most popular temples, Senso-ji, Asakusa is a great option for getting a taste of Tokyo. There is plenty of shopping and restaurants on Nakamise street, and also check out the Asakusa Shrine and Ueno Park. Asakusa is located about an hour from the airport.
  3. Shibuya – The last (and chosen) option, Shibuya, is also located about an hour from the airport. Here you’ll find the famous Shibuya Crossing, Meiji Shrine, and Yoyogi Park all within walking distance of the train. There’s also plenty of restaurants and shops around if you need to kill some additional time.


How to get to Shibuya

From Narita airport, hop on the Keisei Skyliner to the Nippori station. From there, you’ll transfer to the JR Yamanote Line to Shibuya. Alternatively, you can also take the Narita Express (N’EX) for a slightly higher fee.  Tickets should cost around $30-40 round trip and can be purchased at the airport. The whole journey should take around an hour. If you’re worried about carrying luggage with you, there is baggage storage outside of customs at the airport.

What to do in Shibuya

Shibuya Crossing

After walking off a red eye flight, our first order of business was coffee! When you exit the train station at Shibuya (use the Hachiko exit), there’s a corner Starbucks with second floor windows that provide the perfect Shibuya Crossing viewing point. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out this live stream:

Shibuya Crossing (also known as ‘the scramble’) is said to be one of the busiest intersections in the world. The lights turn red in each direction at the same time, and all traffic stops. The pedestrians then descend on the intersection from all directions to cross. It’s organized chaos at it’s finest.

Meiji Shrine

Meiji Shrine is a quick, 15-minute walk from the Shibuya train station. Admission is free, and it’s open from sunrise to sunset every day. The shrine was established in 1920 and is dedicated to the Emperor Meiji. It doesn’t feel like a tourist attraction at all – the grounds are a peaceful retreat in the middle of the city.

On your way in, stop at the cleansing station where you can purify your hands and mouth as a sign of respect. Write your wishes on a piece of paper and tie them to the prayer wall. Or simply take a walk around and enjoy the tranquility of this religious site.


Meiji Shrine

Meiji Shrine

Yoyogi Park

Adjacent to the shrine, you’ll find Yoyogi Park. Before becoming a park, this area served as a military parade ground, U.S. army barracks and the site of the Olympic Village during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.  Enjoy a walk through the gardens and the opportunity to stretch your legs before heading back to the airport.

Eat at Genki Sushi

Our final stop before heading back to the airport was for lunch at Genki Sushi, which serves kaitenzushi or conveyor belt sushi. Don’t worry, we have a video of this one too:

The food was tasty, affordable, quick and made for a fun stop before leaving Tokyo. You’ll find lots of other shops and restaurants in the area if you have additional time to kill before your flight.


How to catch your flight

You can take the same trains from Shibuya back to the Narita airport. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to make it back, and remember that you’ll have to go through customs!

Have you ever had a long layover? How did you spend it?

8 thoughts on “How to Spend a 9-Hour Layover in Tokyo

  1. Talk about making the most of a layover! 😀 I think we’ve had a few layovers that were fairly long in Japan, and we ended up napping at the airport instead. DOH! I will have venture out next time! 🙂

  2. My fiance has been dying to go to Japan. Hopefully, we can make a trip there soon! We always take advantage of layovers as well. Instead of sitting at the airport we try to go see something even if it’s just for a few hours. Love it!

    • Any memorable layovers? We had a very quick trip into Tokyo, but I’d love to go back and explore more of Japan someday! I’ve heard great things from people who have traveled there.

  3. Hi Bethany! I’m also doing a layover (8 hours) in Narita on February and I’m grateful that I found your blog! Really helpful for me because I’m now starting to plan what to do during my layover. At first I only want to visit the crossing and Hachiko but now I’m also eyeing to visit Meiji Shrine 🙂 thank you for this!

  4. Hi, Bethany! Around what time did you prepare to return to Narita Airport and what did you arrive? I’ll be having an 8 hour layover in Tokyo as well and would love to make the most of it! Thanks!

    • I don’t remember off the top of my head how much time we gave ourselves. I would start with your departure time and work backwards from there. Decide what time you need to arrive at the airport (give yourself plenty of time for customs and security). From there you can check the train schedules to see which train will get you back to the airport at that time. I would add a little buffer time just in case anything goes wrong. 🙂 Enjoy your trip!

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