Written by Ramona (GREATERTOKYO_Explorer)
Exploring Old Downtown Tokyo By Bus With The Convenient Toei One-Day Pass
Toei One-Day Pass is a convenient discount ticket good on all Toei bus and subway lines. From popular Asakusa to local shopping streets and shrines in old downtown Tokyo, this pass allows access to charming areas that are best accessed by bus.
Tokyo has a very efficient transportation system, with trains being the fastest means to get from one area to another. However, if you rely only on trains, you'll soon realize you tend to visit only places that are in the proximity of a train station. While this shouldn't be an impediment for you to see some of the best sides of Tokyo, a large part of the city - and probably the most authentic one! - will remain unknown to you for the simple reason that there may not be major train stations in the area.
This is where Tokyo's bus transportation network comes in. Used especially by the locals, buses are a very convenient, reliable and flexible way to get around Tokyo and reach even areas that may be farther away from train stations.
To show you a side of Tokyo that you might be missing out unless you get a bit off the beaten path, we thought of an itinerary that includes exciting places in the downtown area of eastern Tokyo. We will be using the Toei One-Day Pass, a convenient ticket that's good on all Toei Subway Lines and on Toei Buses.
8:30 -- Purchase the Toei One-Day Pass at Shimbashi Station
The Toei One-Day Pass can be purchased at any station on the Toei Subway Lines (Toei Asakusa Line, Toei Oedo Line, Toei Shinjuku Line, Toei Mita Line). You can buy it at the ticket vending machines, which all have user-friendly English displays. Select "Value Tickets" and the Toei One-Day Pass will be the first to appear in a row of available discount passes.
This is how the Toei One-day Pass looks like. It is being issued for one day and can be used on Toei Subway lines, on all Toei buses, on the Tokyo Sakura Tram (Toden Arakawa Line), and even on the Nippori Toneri Liner. Priced at 700 yen for adults and 350 yen for child passengers, the Toei One-Day Pass is a real bargain!
From Shimbashi Station, it's very easy to go to the history-rich area of Asakusa (13 minutes on the Toei Asakusa Line), so let's start our exploration of Tokyo from here. Trains heading to Asakusa run every 3 or 5 minutes, so hop on any train going to the Asakusa or Oshiage areas.
9:00 - 10:00 -- Visit Sensoji Temple in Asakusa
Upon reaching Asakusa Station, head to Exit A4. It is the closest to our first destination - the famous Sensoji Temple.
Kaminarimon, the great gate that serves as the entrance to Sensoji Temple is being reconstructed now. However, you can still see the great paper lantern at the entrance. If you look at it up from close, you will notice the dragon carvings on its bottom and other fascinating details that make this lantern so famous.
But before you proceed toward the temple, there is one thing you shouldn't miss out: the view over the city from the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center! The building is right across the street from Kaminarimon.
The eighth floor of the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center is an observatory which can be accessed free of charge. From here, you can see the whole area from above, including Sensoji Temple, the Sumida River and Tokyo Skytree.
After you're done, cross the street to Kaminarimon and go through the gate. You will find yourself on Nakamise-dori, the shopping street in front of Sensoji Temple. You can find lovely souvenirs at the shops lining this street, and even enjoy local snacks on your way to the temple. If you come here in the morning, shortly after 9:00, you'll have the advantage of finding the street not so crowded.
At the end of Nakamise-dori, you will find yourself before the main prayer hall of Sensoji Temple - an impressive building!
Sensoji is thought to have been founded around 1300 years ago. It was erected to house a statue of Kannon, the Buddhist deity of mercy, which was miraculously found by two fishermen in the waters of Sumida River. One of the oldest temples in eastern Japan, Sensoji has received the support of several rulers across the centuries, growing into the magnificent temple complex it is today.
As you face the main hall, to the right you'll see Asakusa Shrine, a Shinto shrine dedicated to the founders of Sensoji.
Take your time to explore the precincts of the temple. When you're ready to head to the next destination, exit the temple precincts through the Nitenmon Gate, the red gate near the entrance to Asakusa Shrine.
Right across the street from the gate, there is the Nitemmon (Nitemmon Gate). We'll be taking the bus from here to our next destination - Tokyo Skytree!
Of course, you can walk to Tokyo Skytree from Asakusa, and it would take around 15 to 20 minutes. But if you want to save your energy and explore other parts of city, take Toei bus 都08 (To 08) from Nitemmon (Nitemmon Gate) Bus Stop. Just hop on the bus through the front doors and show your Toei One-Day Pass to the driver.
After a 5-minute ride, get off at TOKYO SKYTREE Sta. Iriguchi and head to the left. In less than one minute, you'll reach an intersection. Don't cross the street but go to the right.
And this is how it will appear before your eyes - the amazing Tokyo Skytree!
10:30 - 12:00 - Tokyo Skytree - See Tokyo from the Highest Point!
634 meters high, Tokyo Skytree has become the new landmark of the city. A wonderful view of the city and its surroundings, spreading as far as Mt. Fuji, awaits in the TOKYO SKYTREE Tembo Deck (floors 350, 345, 340). The observatory is circular, which means that you can see in every direction from the tower.
The view toward Shinjuku's skyscrapers and the one over the Sumida River with Mount Fuji in the far background enjoy the greatest popularity among the visitors. You can even enjoy the view through the glass floor on level 340, which allows you to see the impressive steel framework of the tower.
A ticket bought on the day of your visit to the Tembo Deck (floor 350) costs 2060 yen for an adult, and you can also access the impressive Tembo Galleria located higher on floor 450 for an additional 1030 yen.
We also recommend using the services of the Fast Skytree Ticket Counter, where you can get your ticket without standing in the line. This service can be used by tourists upon showing their passport. The price of the ticket becomes 3000 yen for the Tembo Deck, while the Fast Skytree Combo Ticket for both observatories (floors 350 + 450) costs 4000 yen, but if you don't want to lose precious time standing in the line, the Fast Skytree Ticket is highly recommended. This special ticket counter is open between 10:00 and 21:00.
After enjoying the view from above and exploring the surroundings of Tokyo Skytree, how about a visit to a local shotengai (traditional shopping street)? In order to get to Sunamachi Ginza Shotengai, our next destination, you need to go back to the TOKYO SKYTREE Sta. Iriguchi and take bus 都08 (To 08) once again. This time, go to the last stop of this bus, which is Kinshicho Station (Kinshichō Sta.).
You'll need to take another bus from here, so after getting off at the bus station located in front of the North Exit, please go the to the South Exit of Kinshicho Station to take bus 都07 (To 07) headed to Monzen-Nakachō. It's less than a 2-minute walk to the other side of the station, and the bus stop is very easy to spot.
13:00 - 15:00 - Enjoy Delicious Local Foods in Sunamachi Ginza Shotengai
After a leisurely 20-minute bus ride through the downtown area of eastern Tokyo, get off at Kitasuna-Nichōme (Kitasuna 2) Bus Stop.
You will find yourself at the entrance to the Sunamachi Ginza Shotengai, a shopping street that has been thriving here for decades.
There are around 180 shops and dining places lining both sides of this charming street. It is an area full of life, being loved by the locals for the great variety of products which come at very reasonable prices. From fresh vegetables and fruit to dairy, meat and many various ready-made dishes, all the products are very good quality while being low-priced.
There is no better way to get into the shotengai mood than tasting some of the snacks available on the spot. One recommendation would the yakitori (skewered grilled meat dishes) from Nakafuji. In addition to being very tasty, every item is priced between 50 yen and 120 yen!
These Shanghai nikuman (buns with meat, vegetable or sweet filling) will also attract your attention. Priced at around 150 yen, they taste best while warm.
Many of the shops have a small sitting area for customers to enjoy the fresh snacks on the spot. Do take this opportunity to taste as many types of locals foods as you wish. The shops are owned individually, which means that the products are fresh and taste like home-cooked food. Usually, the food items available at a shotengai are meant to be consumed on the same day, as they don't contain conservatives. Their fresh taste is what makes them so popular among the locals, who would never switch them for supermarket foods.
At Sunamachi Ginza you can even find great souvenirs to take back home. Ocha no Kiminoen is a well-established tea shop handling various types of green tea, as well as cute tea cups and Japanese teapots. If you want to take a small part of Japanese culture with you, tea and traditional handmade tea cups would be a great choice.
You'll most surely forget about time while walking around the lively Sunamachi Ginza. But there is still more to explore while it's still light outside! So let's get back to the Kitasuna-Nichōme (Kitasuna 2) Bus Stop and hop on Bus 都07 (To 07) again. This time, we'll be going all the way to the last stop: Monzen-Nakachō.
15:30 - 17:00 - Visit Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine
Our next destination is Tomioka Hachimangu, a shrine famous for being the birthplace of professional sumo. While the tradition of sumo has ancient roots, the first sumo matches supported by sponsors were held here around the middle of the 17th century, under the permission of the Edo shogunate.
After a 2-minute walk from the Monzen-Nakachō Bus Stop, you will reach the street leading to the shrine. The area has many small souvenir shops that are bustling with visitors. In fact, some of Tokyo's representative traditional sweets are made by the stores in this area. We definitely recommend tasting some of the sweets you find on your way to the shrine.
Fukagawa Fudo Temple, a Shingon Buddhist temple, is also in the area. Visited mostly by locals who come here to offer prayers, it is an impressive structure so feel free to stop by.
Picture courtesy of Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine
A great torii gate marks the entrance to the Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine grounds, a place with a distinctive, sacred atmosphere. The main hall itself is a beautiful building dedicated to Hachiman, the guardian deity of warriors and archers, who answers prayers for good luck in competitions.
Take the time to enjoy a walk around the shrine grounds, and maybe even draw a luck diving paper (omikuji).
After your visit, how about taking a coffee break at the charming cafe Un Deux Trois, which is located right by the stairs that lead to the shrine? You can have coffee and sweets, and even simple dishes in a cozy interior beautifully decorated in vivid colors and warmly lit. After a stroll around town, there's nothing like some coffee and a snack to recharge and recollect the events of the day.
Around 17:00 -- Take the Bus from Monzen-Nakachō and Head to Tokyo Station
After exiting the Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine grounds, go back to the Monzen-Nakachō Bus Stop. Please look for Platform No. 7, which is on the opposite corner of the Monzen-Nakacho intersection from the direction of the shrine. Take bus 東22 (Higashi 22) headed to Tokyo Sta. Marunouchi-Kitaguchi (Marunouchi North Exit).
The bus will take you through one of the most beautiful and less-known parts of Tokyo, the area where the Sumida River flows into the Tokyo Bay. A thriving business district with shiny skyscrapers reflecting into the waters of the river, this area is especially beautiful to see at dusk.
If you have some time to spend at Tokyo Station, how about enjoying the view of the station at dusk from one of the high buildings in the area? Marunouchi, Shin-Marunouchi or the KITTE building are all structures that allow a great view of Tokyo Station. They are also great stops for dining and souvenir buying as well.
Please refer to our article Let's See Tokyo Station From Three Great Free Viewing Spots! for details.
Explore Tokyo with the Convenient Toei One-Day Pass!
Using both the bus and the subway allows you to visit places in Tokyo that are full of charm and less-known, in addition to the representative sightseeing spots of the city.
Please feel free to customize the route and the time you spend at each facility. Just remember to make full use of the Toei One-Day Pass! For 700 yen you can ride any bus and any subway line in the Toei network for a whole day, so do enjoy your own exploration of Tokyo with this pass.
Asakusa - Tokyo Skytree - Sunamachi Ginza Shotengai Route Summary
Shimbashi Station → Asakusa (Sensoji Temple) → Tokyo Skytree → Sunamachi Ginza Shotengai → Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine → Tokyo Station
Toei One-Day Pass: Adults 700 yen, Children 350 yen
Tokyo Skytree: Tokyo Skytree Tembo Deck 2060 yen, Tokyo Skytree Tembo Galleria 1030 yen, Fast Skytree Ticket 3000 yen, Fast Skytree Combo Ticket 4000 yen.
Lunch, snacks, other expenses: around 1500 yen.
Supported by Toei Transportation.