Travel Tips - Tokyo, Japan


Tokyo is an incredibly populous city with no shortage of food, shopping and entertainment. Originally we were only going to stay there for 4 days but I extended it to a full week as there are a lot of districts in Tokyo to explore. Below are some tips that I thought could be helpful before visiting Tokyo.

Affordable Eateries

Eating out in Tokyo doesn't have to always be expensive. There are several budget friendly restaurants all throughout the city. Places with affordable eats are sushi belt (kaiten-zushi), machine operated restaurants, ramen houses, convenience stores, and underground food market in department stores. You can have a filling meal for under $15 per person.

Amenities in Hotels

There are certain items that you don't need to pack in your suitcase as you can (a) buy them in Tokyo or (b) they're provided by the hotels. All of the Japanese hotels that we stayed in provided the following amenities: pajamas or yukata, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, razor, soap, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, alarm clock, hair dryer, iron (on occasions), and slippers.

Basics

Aiport: Toronto Pearson International (YYZ) to Narita International Airport (NRT)
Ambulance/Fire 119
Country code: +81
Currency: Yen (¥)
Electricity voltage: 100V 
Language: Japanese
Police: 110
Time zone: +14 hours ahead of Toronto

Comfortable Shoes

I can't stress this enough as it's so important to wear comfortable shoes in Tokyo. There's a lot of walking involved as even some line transfers on the subways are 500-900 m away from one another. 

Credit Cards + Cash

Credit cards are widely accepted in many restaurants and all (large) department stores. However, there are some places that only accept cash so it's best to have some on hand. I've found that many of the souvenir shops nearby popular sites only take cash for smaller purchases.

Don't forget to inform your credit card companies that you will be overseas so that they won't flag the charges as fraudulent. 

Don't Eat and Walk

It is considered rude to eat while you walk in Tokyo (and all of Japan). It is also highly not recommended as there are hardly any garbage cans on the streets of Tokyo.

Escalators

The (unspoken) rule of taking the escalators in Tokyo is the exact opposite as that in Toronto. In Tokyo, you keep to the left if you're standing on the escalators, and walk on the right.

photo credit: yahoo news
Free Wifi

About 85% of the hotels that we stayed at offered free wifi in the rooms. Wifi was available only in the lobby of the other 15%. I found that the wifi signals were pretty good for most of the trip. Starbucks also offered free wifi but we weren't able to connect to it as you have to be a member (site to join was all in Japanese). Lastly, Tokyo Metro offers free wifi at 30 subway stations so you can surf the internet while underground. You can only access the service five times per day and use it for only 15 minutes per connection.

Hotels

Hotel check-in varies between 2 pm to 3 pm, and check-out varies between 10 am to 11 am in Tokyo.

Rush Hours

Try to avoid traveling during rush hour as it can be difficult to get on the trains. The peak rush hours are between 8 am to 9 am in the morning, and 5 pm to 6 pm in the afternoon.

Shopping in Tokyo

Shinjuku is a great place to buy clothes, books/magazines, souvenirs, beauty, stationary, crafts, and electronics. Some popular places to shop in this district are Isetan, Takashimaya, Odakyu, Yodobashi Camera, Bic Camera and Tokyu Hands.

The district to shop for the latest Japanese fashion trends has to be Shibuya. There are several department stores in the area, along with specialty stores catering to both the locals and tourists. Some popular places to shop in this district are Shibuya 109, Tokyu Hands, Don Quijote, Shibuya Mark City, Seibu, Parco, Marui, and Loft.

There is a street called Takeshita Dori in Harajuku where you can find trendy fashion shops, and boutiques (catering to the younger generations). 100 yen stores are also very popular in Tokyo, and the popular Daiso has a large branch here.

Located nearby Harajuku is an upscale shopping area called Omotesando. Here you will find tons of luxury brand goods such as Burberry, Chanel, Dior, Emporio Armani, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton. For the kids and those who are kids at heart; there is a multi-floor toy store called Kiddy Land with a lot of amazing products.

Akihabara is well-known for their large selection of electronics, and toys. It is also a central area for otaku culture, so you will find a lot of anime and manga related items here.

Ginza is an affluent district in the city of Tokyo, and is known for its high-end shopping worldwide. There are countless numbers of luxury stores, and large department stores offering high end fashion and products. 

Smoking Indoors

Smoking in Tokyo is permitted indoors. Therefore, many restaurants have both smoking and non-smoking areas in their establishments. However, there are rarely any barriers to block the smoke from entering the non-smoking areas.

Subways

 The subway system in Tokyo is both a convenient and inexpensive approach to traveling around the huge city.

Taxis in Tokyo

We took the taxis in a couple of the cities that we visited for many reasons (constant hard rain, got lost, getting to the JR station was faster than taking the transit, etc ...). We found that taking the taxi in Tokyo was the most expensive of them all. The meter started at ¥710 (nearly $8 CAD). I was feeling slightly sick one day, and needed to return to our hotel.

Our 16 minute ride from Meiji Shrine to our hotel cost about $25. To compare the cost; our 10 min taxi ride from our hotel in Hiroshima, Japan, to JR Hiroshima Station was under $10.

Our friendly taxi driver in Tokyo.
Tea Bags are Provided in Hotels

All of the hotels that we stayed at provided us with an in-room kettle, packets of instant coffee and green tea bags. These were refilled daily when the maids clean up your room.

Tipping

Tipping isn't practiced nor expected by the wait staff in Tokyo (actually all of Japan).

Tissues

Many public facilitates in Tokyo don't have any paper towels or hand dryers in their washrooms. So it's highly recommended that you bring yourself a hand towel or tissue papers when you go to the bathroom. Don't go wasting money on buying tissues; as you will see plenty of people handing out free packet of tissues on the street (used as a form of advertising).

Tokyo Metro (Subway)

The subway systems in Tokyo may look super complicated at first, but it's so efficient. Many of the main sights are very close by to the main stations, so traveling to each tourist destination is easy.

If you plan on traveling a lot in one day using the subway then I'd recommend getting the Special 1-Day Open Ticket. The ticket gives you one day of unlimited subway travel in Tokyo. However, this is only valid on the Tokyo Metro lines and not the Oedo lines. For visitors from abroad, you can buy the tickets for ¥600 each but this price is only available at either Narita Airport and Haneda Airport. 

If you didn't buy enough passes for your travels at the airport; it is also available at every ticket machines located in all subway stations. However, you will have to pay the full price as the locals do at ¥710 per pass.  
Vending Machines

There are an abundance of vending machines everywhere in Tokyo that dispenses cold or hot drinks, snacks and food. I was taken surprised when my canned Tulley's Coffee (130 yen) came out of the machine pipping hot!


Bon Voyage :)