If you’ve decided to visit Japan, there’s no better place to start than in the capital city of Tokyo! ? The busy metropolis is where you can find centuries-old history right next to the latest trends, with plenty of new spots to explore around every corner. Whether you're travelling there solo or with loved ones you'll find an endless list of activities waiting for you that will keep you captivated.
With so much to do, where do you start your planning? Look no further as our brand-new ultimate Tokyo travel guide contains everything the Muslim traveller needs to explore Akihabara, Shibuya, and everywhere else in-between without any fear or fuss! ?
How to get to Tokyo
First things first, you've got to book your flights to Tokyo! ✈️ Whether you're taking a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Tokyo or from Singapore to Tokyo, you might be wondering which Tokyo airport is best to fly to and even which airlines offer direct services. Here's a quick run-down of the pro's and con's of travelling to both international airports, and how to get to central Tokyo once you've cleared customs!
Narita International Airport
Credit: @narita.airport_official on Instagram
If you're taking an international flight into Tokyo, chances are you'll end up flying into Narita. Narita has a bigger selection of international airlines which means more flight times and airlines to choose from! Though it is located further away from central Tokyo compared to Haneda, there are many more public transport options available that make getting to and from the airport a breeze.
Airlines offering direct services (Changi-Narita): SIA (Singapore Airlines), ANA (All Nippon Airways), JAL (Japan Airlines), DAL (Delta Airlines)
Airlines offering direct services (KLIA-Narita): ANA (All Nippon Airways), MAB (Malaysia Airlines Berhad), JAL (Japan Airlines)
Getting from Narita to central Tokyo:
- The Narita Express (N'EX) train operated by JR is the most popular option as it stops at major stations including Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Shinagawa, and Tokyo Stations. The N'EX trains run on a regular schedule of 1 train every 30 minutes and take between 60-95 minutes to reach central Tokyo (you can check out the N'EX schedules to and from Narita here).
- For a cheaper alternative to the N'EX, opt for the Narita Line Rapid Train/Sobu Line Rapid Train which runs on a schedule of 1 train every hour and takes ~90 minutes to reach central Tokyo. (Relevant JR passes applicable)
- If you aren't interested in purchasing a JR pass at all, the Keisei Skyliner will be one of the fastest ways to get to central Tokyo as it takes just 40 minutes! However the Skyliner only goes to Ueno, and you will need a transfer to reach other popular stations.
- The Keisei Narita Sky Access/Main Line are 2 other train options for this route, however, they are the slowest options on the list and the only major stops are Asakusa, Shimbashi, and Shinagawa.
- Other methods: buses (one-way from 1,000 yen onwards), taxis
Tokyo International Airport
Credit: @haneda.airport_international on Instagram
Also known as Haneda International Airport, this airport is much closer to central Tokyo than Narita at just 14km from Tokyo Station. While Haneda is also an international airport, it handles predominantly domestic flights which means this is where you're likely to land if you're travelling to Tokyo from another city in Japan! As it's much closer to central Tokyo, public transportation options to and from the airport are much cheaper compared to Narita although your choice of transport methods is very limited.
Airlines offering direct services (Changi-Haneda): SIA (Singapore Airlines), ANA (All Nippon Airways), JAL (Japan Airlines)
Airlines offering direct services (KLIA-Haneda): AAX (AirAsia X), ANA (All Nippon Airways)
Getting from Haneda to central Tokyo:
- Take the Keikyu Line towards Sengakuji Station, getting off at Shinagawa Station (~15 minutes duration). From Shinagawa Station, you can take the JR Yamanote line which covers most major stops in Tokyo, or change to a different line depending on your final destination.
- Alternatively, take the Tokyo Monorail to Hamamatsucho Station before changing to the JR Yamanote line.
- Passengers in large groups or carrying heavy or bulky luggage might want to opt for the Keikyu Limousine Bus instead which will offer direct rides to several major drop-off points in Tokyo including Shibuya, Odaiba, and Tokyo Sky Tree Town.
- Other methods: taxis
When to visit Tokyo: year-round weather and seasonal attractions
Tokyo is a destination that’s perfect to visit year-round, with plenty of seasonal sights to keep you occupied. Each season brings its own unique character to the city and will definitely leave with you a dazzling set of memories to last a lifetime! That being said, you might be wondering when to visit Tokyo and what to do in Tokyo while you're there. ? Here's what you can expect for each season as well as some iconic sights you should make sure to catch:
Tokyo's spring weather is usually quite mild, averaging between 13-23 degrees Celsius in the day, and 5-15 degrees Celsius at night. There might still be snow in March or early April, but the city is generally quite cool and breezy rather than freezing. You may want to pack a thicker coat if you're visiting in March but otherwise, you can just prepare warm sweaters and cardigans to layer. Remember to bring along an umbrella or windbreaker as the weather can change very suddenly!
If you're visiting Tokyo during the springtime, you definitely can't miss the cherry blossoms! Tokyo's cherry blossom season is famous worldwide, with websites and even an official forecast dedicated to predicting when and where the best blooms will be. The season usually lasts 2 weeks between late March to mid-April, with the blossoms reaching full bloom at the end of the 1st week. Do make sure to book your arrangements in advance and be prepared to face the crowds when you're there!
Japan's Golden Week (late April-early May) falls during this period too, which is when local residents have an extended holiday period due to several national holidays. Golden Week is the busiest week for domestic travel as almost everyone in the country will be on the move, so you can expect public transport and major attractions to be packed! Many accommodations are also booked for it months in advance so if you're planning to travel during this period, make sure to check what the official dates will be as you don't want to be left stranded!
Credit: @giulimoon_ on Instagram
Japan's sub-tropical climate means that its summers can get extremely hot and humid, averaging between 25-32 degrees Celsius in the day and 19-25 degrees Celsius at night. In recent years, the temperature has even gone as high as 35-37 degrees Celsius leading to many reports of heatstroke. ? Although such temperatures are not uncommon in Southeast Asia, you may feel uncomfortable experiencing them in Japan due to changes in humidity as well as getting used to the buildings and new environments there. Keep yourself hydrated while there, use sunscreen, and pack lighter fabrics to keep yourself cool while you're out in the day. Indoor air-conditioning also gets turned up during this time, so it's good to have a light cardigan on you if you're going to be indoors as the temperature changes can be a bit shocking.
Credit: @jct1_photo on Instagram
Summer is also matsuri (festival) season, with festivals held throughout the city to celebrate the arrival of summer. The biggest matsuris are typically held throughout July and August, and popular activities include fireworks, street parades and performances, and carnival games that are fun for the whole family! Some of the most popular festivals include the Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival, Ueno Summer Festival, and Tsukiji Hongwanji Temple’s Noryo Bon Odori Taikai.
Credit: @fr00tcrunch on Instagram
Spring isn't the only season with stunning foliage - there's autumn too! As the weather gets cooler, the koyo (foliage) begins to change to a beautiful sea of red, orange, and yellow leaves that will leave you speechless. Temperatures average between 19-28 degrees Celsius in the day, and 14-21 degrees Celsius at night - perfect sweater weather without having to worry about snow or frost!
Credit: @jingugaien_icho on Instagram
To get the best of the cool weather and beautiful scenery, make sure to attend the Meiji Jingu (Meiji Shrine) Gaien Ginkgo Festival which lasts for 2 weeks between mid-November to December underneath the cover of the bright yellow ginkgo leaves. Autumn is also one of the best seasons for hiking and outdoor activities, including viewing the foliage at some of Tokyo's most scenic spots. If you're visiting Tokyo in November, try to catch the Tori-no-ichi festival if you can which is one of Asakusa's largest and oldest festivals!
Credit: @kensetyo on Instagram
The winters in Tokyo are quite sunny and dry, averaging around 10-12 degrees Celsius in the day and 3-5 degrees Celsius at night. Thankfully unlike cities in the north the temperature hardly ever drops below 0 degrees Celsius! Thick coats and thermal wear will definitely help with the bracing cold winds - you can even find face masks in convenience stores that will help keep your lips and face from getting too dry. Heating pads are also a lifesaver during this time, as the temperature can change suddenly in the middle of the day.
#HHWT Tip: If you get cold easily, slip a heating pad into each of your boots as well as coat pockets so that your toes and fingers stay toasty warm throughout the day.
Credit: @devio_meow on Instagram
Tokyo is usually a little emptier in winter compared to the other seasons meaning you'll have more space to really soak in the atmosphere! If you're visiting in December you'll also get to see the streets decorated with thousands of lights in preparation for the Christmas to New Year's Day festive period. Do note that if you're hoping to make some snowmen or snow angels you might be disappointed as Tokyo only gets 9-10 days of snow per year. ? However, visitors in February will get to see the plum blossoms bloom at the start of the month signalling the start of early spring!
What to do in Tokyo: 5 iconic attractions and activities you can't miss
1. Tokyo Disneyland & Tokyo DisneySea
We're cheating a little by putting both parks together, but how can you visit Tokyo without making a trip to both Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea! If you're visiting Tokyo Disneyland make sure to ride the iconic Splash Mountain and Space Mountain rollercoasters to get your adrenaline racing. If DisneySea is where you're spending the day, make sure to try out Toy Story Mania! where you'll be 'shrunken' down to the size of a toy, and catch a nautical-themed concert at the Mermaid Lagoon Theatre. No matter whether you're going for a more classic Disneyland experience or trying something new at DisneySea, we promise that you'll have the time of your life in the happiest place(s) on earth! ?
2. Tokyo Skytree
Credit: @tokyoskytree_official on Instagram
Did you know that the Tokyo Skytree is such an iconic attraction for visitors to the city that it has its own Tokyo metro line? ? Here's where you can get one of the best views of the Tokyo skyline across 2 different floors: the Tembo Deck, and Tembo Galleria. Admission fees to both platforms vary according to the day of the week and age of the visitor, and international visitors have a Fast Skytree Ticket option that will allow you to skip the queues going up to the main observation deck! Just remember to bring your passport along to get the discount. ?
P.S. On a clear day you might even be able to spot Mount Fuji in the distance!
3. Tsukiji Outer Market/Toyosu Fish Market
Credit: @itsjustyu on Instagram
Try to make time during your trip to catch the tuna auction at the new Toyosu site as well as visit the Outer Market that remains at the old Tsukiji location. The shift of the auction and inner wholesale market from Tsukiji to Toyosu was to accommodate growing tourist demand to watch the auction, and the brand-new Toyosu site is equipped with a dedicated observation deck and 70% more space so you can catch the auction without getting lost in the crowd. If you're the sentimental type of traveller who wants to visit the original site, you'll be glad to know that the outer market consisting of sushi restaurants, street food and more still remains there! (Note: We cannot confirm the halal status of individual eateries at the Outer Market and advise that you purchase food there at your own discretion.)
P.S. To get the best view at Toyosu, make sure to register for a free space at the Observation Deck!
4. Kimono Rental
No matter what city you visit in Japan, you'll definitely people decked out in gorgeous and elaborate kimonos and yukatas walking down the street. Now you can also experience one of the most recognizable icons of Japanese culture through renting a kimono for the day and taking a photo at some iconic destinations! Rental shops can be found throughout the city but we recommend heading to the more traditional neighbourhood of Asakusa for a greater variety of choices. ? Once the staff have helped you into the gowns, sashes, and even headdresses or hairpins, snap a photo at Asakusa's Senso-ji temple so you can admire your beautiful outfit even after your trip is over!
5. Shibuya Crossing
Credit: @itahalele on Instagram
After experiencing some traditional Japanese culture, it's time to dive right into the hectic hustle and bustle of Shibuya at none other than the famous Shibuya crossing! One of the popular spots to watch the crossing from is at the Shibuya Tsutuya Starbucks, however, it's always busy in the daytime so you may not be able to find a seat if you're intending to stay for a while. Alternatively, if you're willing to pay a small fee of 1,000 yen you can try out the brand-new vantage point at the top of Mag's Park building. The dedicated viewing spot closes irregularly, but it's worth it to check if it's open so you can get a shot of the entire crossing without any fuss.
Finding halal food in Tokyo: our top recommendations you have to try
When you're in Japan, the best dishes to eat are obviously authentic Japanese food! ? Nowadays you can find halal restaurants in Tokyo selling all types of local dishes - here are our top 5 recommendations! If this list has got your appetite going, make sure to check out what other halal Japanese dishes you can get in Tokyo!
1. Ramen (Shinjuku Gyoen Ramen Ouka)
This is one of the more unique ramen eateries in Tokyo as their ramen is served with a bowl of rice, which you have to eat with the remaining broth from your bowl of ramen! Also, the serving is pretty huge (you can even upsize your ramen to large) AND it comes with grilled chicken and yakitori as part of the set. We definitely recommend visiting this place on an empty tummy or you can opt for a smaller portion if you’re not feeling exceptionally hungry!
Halal Status: Muslim-Owned
Monday to Thursday – 2pm to 10pm
Friday – 6pm to 10pm
Saturday, Sunday and Public Holiday – 1pm to 10pm
Address: 1 Chome-11-7 Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-0022, Japan
2. Yakiniku (Gyumon)
Located in the bustling streets of Shibuya, Gyumon is a hole-in-the-wall restaurant with authentic halal yakiniku. It’s the perfect place for a hearty dinner after a shopping session in Shibuya! Ordering is pretty simple as you just have to choose the cut you want and they’ll serve it to you raw. The raw beef is lightly marinated with salt and pepper allowing you to savour the taste of the tender beef slices. Have fun grilling the meat on the charcoal stove!
Halal Status: Halal meat available, alcohol served in the establishment. Since this is not a halal-certified restaurant, we advise our readers to dine at your own discretion.
Monday to Saturday – 12pm to 4am
Sunday – 12pm to 12am
Address: 3 Chome-14-5 Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0002, Japan
3. Japanese Curry Rice (CoCo Ichibanya - selected outlets)
Now you can enjoy halal Japanese curry at the first ever halal-certified CoCo Ichibanya Curry House in both Akihabara and Shinjuku! The Akihabara outlet opened in September 2017 while the Shinjuku outlet just opened in 2018! Both received certifications from Nippon Asia Halal Association (NAHA). Let’s just refresh our memory now on how amazing their Japanese curry is. ? You can choose your level of spiciness, as well what toppings you want!
Halal Status: Halal Certified (by Nippon Asia Halal Association)
Address: 1 Chome-6, 1F Kanda Matsunagachō, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 101-0023
Opening hours: 11am to 10pm daily
Halal Status: Halal Certified (by Nippon Asia Halal Association)
Address: Kabukicho Shotengai Shinkou Kumiai Building B1, 1 Chome-19-3 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0021
Opening hours: 11am to 10.30pm daily
4. Shabu Shabu (Origami Asakusa)
Credit: Origami Asakusa on Facebook
This restaurant just a 2-minute walk from Asakusa Station is going above and beyond to give Muslims a safe food haven, amplifying their unique and authentic experience in Japan. Some of the mouthwatering dishes you can look forward to are Chicken Sukiyaki Nabe, Beef Shabu Shabu, Japanese Black Beef Steak and more. ? They also serve sushi and kids meals! ? Origami also has prayer rooms and wudu’ facilities so you can drop by for a meal, relax and pray in comfort after a long day sightseeing in Asakusa ?
Halal Status: Halal Certified (by Japan Islamic Trust)
11.30am to 3pm daily, 5.30pm to 9pm daily
Address: Hanakawado 1 Chome-2-8, Taito-Ku, Tokyo 110033 Japan
5. Sushi (Sushiken)
Credit: Faizzuddeen Anu on Facebook
This sushi restaurant in Asakusa has very recently started serving dishes for Muslims! Sushi Ken creates every dish with only the finest ingredients and the freshest seafood ? Just like most eateries in Japan, dining here during lunch is also much cheaper with lunch sets ranging from ¥1,300 to ¥1,800 - so make sure to drop by before you explore Senso-ji!
Halal Status: Halal Certified (by Japan Halal Foundation)
Monday to Saturday – 11.30am to 4pm, 4pm to 11.30pm (last order at 11pm)
Sunday, Public Holidays – 11.30am to 3pm, 3pm to 10pm (last order at 9.30pm)
*Closes on 31st December yearly
Address: 2 Chome-11-4, Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo 111-0032, Japan
Where to stay in Tokyo: the best neighbourhoods for every traveller
After you book your flight you'll definitely be wondering where to stay to make the most out of your trip. Thanks to Tokyo's extensive public transport system, most neighbourhoods can be easily accessed via a subway or railway stop. Coincidentally, some of the most vibrant neighbourhoods such as Shinjuku and Ikebukuro are also where some of the most well-connected stations are! Here are just some neighbourhoods where you can start looking for hotels in Tokyo:
Shinjuku is truly the heart and soul of the city that has something in store for everyone. Nature lovers will enjoy spending an hour or two at the sprawling Shinjuku Gyoen National Gardens, and families will definitely enjoy hidden gems such as the Tokyo Toy Museum and Ninja Trick House. As a central hub of Tokyo, Shinjuku Station is also where you'll head to if you're planning to take a day trip out of the city itself! If you're planning to get the most out of your time in Tokyo, finding a hotel in Shinjuku will definitely give you some of the most convenient access to just about anything. ?
#HHWT Tip: Looking for a Tokyo hotel near halal food? We have a list to help you out!
As mentioned above, Asakusa is one of the more traditional areas in Tokyo where you can see a strong blend of Japanese customs and heritage with modern-day crowds. You won't find many skyscrapers or designer shops here - instead, the streets are lined with temples, traditional markets, rickshaw tours, and even a retro-style theme park with one of the oldest roller coasters in Japan! To find out more about this neighbourhood (beyond just Senso-ji Temple and Nakamise Shopping Street) click here to read our Muslim-friendly guide to Asakusa!
Planning to shop till you drop? Whether you're looking for international designer brands, hole-in-the-wall vintage shops, or independent Japanese brands, Shibuya is where the fashion-forward flock to seek out the next season's trends! Shibuya is also where the famous Meiji Shrine is located, where you can have a moment's peace before resuming your exploration of the busy streets. The iconic Cat Street is also located here, where you can find chic independent boutiques right next to secondhand shops and hipster-esque custom-made accessory shops.
P.S. If you're okay with more affordable capsule hotels in Tokyo, check out this list! (Do note that as capsule hotels are quite small, you may have to find alternative arrangements to do your prayers)
Credit: @hamakuafarmer on Instagram
If you're travelling with young kids, you may want to look for a hotel in Ueno for two simple reasons: Ueno Park, and Ueno Zoo. Ueno Park is one of the largest parks in Tokyo and is usually filled with families enjoying a leisurely day out picnicking, flying kites (if the weather is good!) or enjoying a quiet time paddling around the lake. Whereas kids will adore visiting Ueno Zoo, which is the oldest zoo in Japan and houses a children's petting zoo, Japanese macaques, and even giant pandas!
#HHWT Tip: Thinking of buying souvenirs such as Tokyo Banana back home from Tokyo? Click to find out which Tokyo Banana products are Muslim-friendly!
Getting around Tokyo: how to navigate public transport
One glance at Tokyo's complicated multi-layered public transport map can be pretty intimidating, with the sheer number of lines available that turn the map into a bewildering kaleidoscope of colours. With over 10 companies operating the various lines, here's 3 simple facts you need to know to keep your commute fuss-free:
- Tokyo's subway lines are operated by 3 different companies: JR, Toei, and Tokyo Metro
- If you have a JR pass, you can make use of the JR Yamanote line that's a circular loop passing through all the major stations in central Tokyo
- If you do not have a JR pass, opt for a combined Tokyo Subway passinstead that will let you enter lines operated by both Toei and Tokyo Metro! To purchase this tourist-specific pass, either pre-purchase it online before you reach Japan, or head for a manned ticket counter and present your passport to pay for it in cash.
- If you do not want to buy the JR pass or Tokyo Subway pass, you'll have to use a reloadable card such as the Suica card to pay for your trips. This is advisable if you're only staying around 1 area of the city, as you won't have to spend any more money on transport than you'll need to.
Mosques in Tokyo: where to pray
The Muslim community in Tokyo has really grown a lot in the last few years alone, and with that growth comes even more super convenient mosques and prayer spaces you can do your prayers at! ? Here are 5 Tokyo mosques in major areas or near famous attractions:
Tokyo Camii Masjid and Turkish Cultural Center
Credit: @_er52 on Instagram
Tokyo Camii is easily one of the most famous Tokyo mosques, and is also the largest mosque in Japan! The Turkish influence on its architecture is beautiful both inside and out, and its location in Shibuya makes it a convenient place to do your prayers before you shop and explore the rest of the day away. There's even a halal supermarket on the premises so if you have a kitchenette in your accommodation make sure to stop by and pick up some ingredients to cook yourself a meal or two!
Address: 1-19 Oyama-cho, Shibuya City, Tokyo 151-0065, Japan
Darul Arqam Masjid (Asakusa Masjid)
Credit: @harilukman on Instagram
Asakusa is one of Tokyo's most traditional neighbourhoods, filled with kimono rental shops, traditional shopping streets, as well as the iconic Senso-ji Temple. Walk 10-15 minutes from Asakusa Station and you'll find tucked away along its streets the modest Darul Arqam Masjid, more commonly known as the Asakusa Masjid. This narrow building might be small but it's perfect for completing your prayers while you're in the area.
Address: 1 Chome-9-12 Higashi-asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo 111-0025, Japan
Credit: @ar_firmansah on Instagram
Located in a converted apartment room rather than a full building, this small space might be cramped and overcrowded but its location near major Shibuya attractions including Shibuya crossing and Shibuya 109 department store make it a great stop for visitors looking to do their prayers in the middle of the busy city. The room can only fit up to 20 individuals with no separate prayer space for women, so we advise that you avoid visiting this mosque during busy times such as Friday prayers.
Address: 11th Floor Room 1107, 2 Chrome 15-1 Noa Dogenzaka, Shibuya 150-0043, Japan (take the elevator to the 11th floor)
Credit: @fufuwuwu on Instagram
At first glance, you might almost miss this small mosque located in the Kabukicho area of the Shinjuku neighbourhood! Located down an alleyway, this mosque is nonetheless a great spot to take a break, do your prayers, and recharge yourself in the middle of the hectic streets.
Address: 1 Chome-3-10 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo-to 160-0021, Japan
Other prayer spaces
As Japan grows more Muslim-friendly, you can increasingly find prayer spaces in department stores, restaurants, and even selected hotels too! If you're in Ginza you can head to Matsuya Department Store and if you're in Shinjuku you can look for the rooms at Takashimaya Shinjuku and LAOX Shinjuku for a quiet area to complete your prayers in the middle of your busy day. ☺️ There are even prayer rooms at Narita and Haneda airports so you can squeeze in a prayer before you board your flight!
P.S. Check out these other prayer rooms near popular Tokyo attractions!
Tokyo 2020: How will the Olympic games affect my travel plans?
2020 is already shaping up to be an exciting time to travel to Tokyo as the Summer Olympics and Paralympics will be taking place in the city! Both events will be held between 24 July to 6 September 2020, and preparations for them have already begun with the reconstruction of the National Stadium and construction or renovation of venues. There are also plans to increase transport links within the city (such as cutting railway travel time between Narita and Haneda International Airports to almost half) which will benefit visitors to Japan too!
Of course, this also means that you can expect larger crowds from mid-June to mid-September, so it's best to plan ahead and book everything ahead of time. Some hotels were already fully booked for this period by late 2018 ? and as we draw closer to the end of 2019 it's likely that even more slots will be snatched up by eager fans and spectators. Transport links such as the metro are also expected to be packed beyond full capacity, so make sure to plan out your routes carefully and try to account for possible delays. If you're looking for a quieter holiday or aren't a fan of crowds, we advise travelling to Tokyo at a different time as the city will definitely be packed.
We hope this guide will help you get started in planning your Tokyo trip - let us know what else we missed out, and safe travels! ?