Tokyo City Guide – Tokyo Travel Tips

Travel in the city with largest population in the world

Why Go to Tokyo

The city also know as the largest metropolis in the word with a population over 40.000.000 yes that’s right 40 million, it will take you few days to visit the most important spots.

Most of the tourist areas are in Tokyo Prefecture, which is split in 23 City Wards(districts) also known as ku (区), with the most popular ones being Shibuya, Shinjuku, Minato, Chiyoda and Sumida.

 Tokyo Weather

We recommend March to May but also October and November, the weather is just perfect, not to hot and not to cold. Temperatures vary from 0 – 10°C(32-50°F) in January to 24-32°C(75-90°F) in July.

Rainfall does not vary that much thought the year with an average of 6 rainy days per month.

 Tokyo Local Transport

With a vast network of subway, trains and bus lines there is no place hard to reach. Ticket prices start at 170 yen, 200 yen, 240 yen, 280 yen and 310 yen depending on the distance you travel.

One Day Ticket is 600 Yen or two day pass for 900 Yen only available for Metro Lines, so Toei Subway, Toei Streetcar, Toei Bus, Nippori-Toneri Liner as well as all JR lines will not be available to use.

There is a Combo Ticket for 1600 Yen that allows you to use all the above.

 Language

Main language spoken is Japanese, and around 20-30 percent of the people do speak English, but only about 15 percent can have a conversation in English mostly in tourist areas.

 Electric

Type A (two-prong plug) so if you are from US you can use your electronics but if you are from Europe we suggest having a travel adapter 

 Currency

Main currency is Yen (¥) with ATM’s available almost every 7-eleven shops for international travelers. Cash is preferred and tipping is not required and please do not leave a tip is considered rude.

 Must Try Food

While in Japan you must at least try some Japanese food like sushi, ramen, tempura, okonomiyaki and miso soup.

But as a must try on top of the list must be Yakitori, Onigiri and Soba Noodles, but let’s not forget about desert which we recommend to try Mochi and Daifuku.

More tips can be found at the end of the article.

 Must Try Drinks

While in Japan the legal drinking age is 20, there is no selling of alcohol and cigarettes to minors, but they plan to drop the legal age to 18 in 2022.

Most popular drink is Sake, but what is it exactly, well in Japan sake is considered any alcoholic drink including beer and wine but for rest of the world sake is a alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice wine.

There is also a sweet beverage made out of sweet fermented rice completly nonalchoolic or low alchool content called Amazake

Other favorite drinks you should try are Soy-milk drinks, aloe drinks  and of course the favorite green tea

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Must Know Before

If this is your first time in Japan and don’t want a VISA, they will provide a 90 days visa free for tourists and business for 68 countries full list here.

While there are many airports in Japan, your first stop will probably be Tokyo at Haneda airport, located only 30 minutes from central Tokyo or at Narita Airport a bit further away with approximately 60 min to get into the city.

Before going towards the city you need to buy a Suica or Pasmo card, they are prepaid IC card which can be used to buy Metro, JR, Bus tickets but so much more.

There is no difference between them it’s just who sells them. Both can be used in all major cities in Japan to buy tickets, food from shops and vending machines and a lot of other things.

Buy them as soon as you get into a station by going to a vending machine properly marked and select English from the menu, select Purchase New, deposit ¥1000 and that’s it.

Out of ¥1000, only ¥500 are usable the rest of ¥500 will be returned when you take the card back to any station on departure, it’s very easy to add more money based on needs.

Where to stay in Tokyo

If you are looking for a place to stay in Tokyo, we suggest you look first for an Airbnb and if you are a first time user you can get some money towards your first trip.

Staying in Tokyo close to city center or in one major touristic locations it’s gonna be very expensive so we recommend looking for a place a bit further, even if you will make about 30 min to get to city the price it’s gonna be 4 times cheaper.

One thing you must know is that transport inside Tokyo is pretty expensive if you don’t have any direct metro. If you are looking for a hotel we recommend using Agoda.

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From Haneda

Keikyu Railways(15 min)

With only ¥410 price Connects Haneda airport to Asakusa subway line wich will take you to different parts in the city.

Tokyo Monorail(15 min)

With a price of ¥490 will drop you at Hamamatsucho Station where you can switch to JR Yamanote Line and go anywhere in the city.

Bus(30-60 minutes)

Just outside the terminal, there are multiple bus companies that go in different locations of Tokyo each with different prices starting from ¥500 to ¥2000.

Taxi (20 minutes)

Taxi is by far the most expensive way to get into the city with a price tag starting from ¥4500 to ¥10.000, the only advantage is that they are usually always a taxi waiting for you outside the airport.

 

From Narita

Keisei Limited(60 minutes)

The cheapest option to get to central Tokyo with a price tag of just ¥1000 and departs every 20 minutes.

Narita Express or NEX(60 min)

Not the fastest option to get into the city but at 130 km/h it costs ¥3000 price and takes about 1 hour to reach central Tokyo where you can switch to one of the many lines of Tokyo subway.

Keisei Skyliner(40min)

This is the fastest option to get in central Tokyo with a price of ¥2500 price directly to city center.

Sobu Line JR(1h 30min)

With a price of ¥1300 will drop you at Tokyo center, it’s slow as is a commuter train and stops to almost every station.

Bus(20 minutes)

There are multiple bus companies going to different sections of the city with price ranges from ¥1000 to ¥3000 depending on company and comfort.

Taxi (90 minutes)

We would not recommend taking a taxi from Narita as the prices will go up from ¥10.000 to ¥20.000.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building – 東京都庁

If you want a free 360 view of Tokyo, then this is the place we recommend, building is located in Shinjuku and to come here, you can arrive by taking the JR line to Shinjuku station.

We suggest to go in a day with clear sky because that way you will be able to view the famous landmarks such as Mount Fuji, the Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower and few other places we will let you discover.

The building has two towers, The North and South Observatory desks, the South Observatory is opened from 9:30 to 17:30 with a cafe shop and a souvenir shop with all kind of crazy stuff, but a bit overpriced.

The North Observatory is opened from 9:30 to 23:00 and operates as a café during afternoon and a bar at night but again the view comes with a price even if the entrance is free the drinks are double even triple the normal price, but for a night view of Tokyo is well worth the money.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
Tokyo View
Tokyo View
Tokyo Metropolitan Shop

Nakamise – 仲見世

Located in Asakusa neighborhood, if you want to arrive here just take the metro to Asakusa station.

Just at the entrance is the famous lacquered Kaminarimon Gate, the symbol of Asakusa perfect location to meet locals dressed in kimono and take pictures with them.

If you are looking for a place to buy souvenirs then here is the right place for you, the prices are just perfect considering you are in Tokyo, but in the end  it’s  the perfect one stop shopping.

During the day the place is very crowded, but the street is easy to navigate and leads to Hozomon gates and senso-ji further north.

Nakamise
Nakamise kimono
Nakamise Shop

Imperial Palace – 皇居

The Imperial palace was built on the sites of former Edo castle, which dates back to the fifteenth century and then rebuilt in the year 1888, but destroyed again during WW2 and rebuilt afters in same style. Today is the residence of Japan Imperial Family.

The palace is surrounded by a moat and stone walls right in center of Tokyo, so to arrive here just take metro towards Tokyo Station.

To visit the palace you can do it from Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 to 14:00 by joining one of the three guided tours. To register for the tour you have to go Kikyomon Gate and talk to one of the tour guides wearing a green band on left arm and pick up a ticket with hour desired to join.

The tour is free and takes about 90 minutes so please don’t pay tour agencies to get a spot. Once you selected an hour, just be there 15 minutes before and bring the passport they won’t let you in without it.

The tour will start by taking the people inside the waiting room, where the passport is checked and noted in the system and then a bit of history tour via a projector will be explained for about 30 minutes. There is also a souvenir shop and a few vending machines if you need some water.

Actual tour will take about 40 minutes on a rush mode with about 100 other tourists, at least if you are on the first tour of the day, the rest are not so crowded. Pictures are somehow allowed inside but there will be spots where they will make sure to tell you not to take pictures for some reason.

Imperial Palace
Imperial Palace Outside
Imperial Palace Park

Tsukiji Fish Market – 築地市場

Tsukiji Market is a large wholesale market for fish, vegetables and fruits in central Tokyo, unfortunately the inner market will be closed on OCT 6 2018 and will be moved in Toyosu, and will be renamed as Toyosu Market starting OCT 11 2018

The Market consists of an inner market and outer market. The inner market is where most the famous tuna auctions are taking place, and the outer market is where shops and restaurants are.

This is the most favorite places to eat fresh sushi especially if you want to try the best. The market is opened from 5 in the morning to 14:00, we suggest going as early as you can because after 10 it will be mostly empty.

 fresh sashimi
Tsukiji Fish Market

Meiji Jingū – 明治神宮

The shrine is dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and the Empress Shoken and it was completed in 1920, but sadly was destroyed in WW2 and completely rebuilt the same way shortly after.

The peace and tranquility offered is a much needed escapade from the bustle of Tokyo. It’s also a great place to take photos of newly wedded couples in their traditional costume.

It’s split in 3 main locations the Meiji Shrine, Treasure House and the Inner Garden. While Meji Shrine and Treasure house have no entrance fee, the Inner Garden has a ¥500 price to enter.

The main shrine is opened from 05:00 to 21:00 and the Inner Garden from 09:00 to 16:00 while the Treasure House is unfortunately closed at the moment due to renovations and will be reopened late 2019

Meiji Jingū

Sensōji – 浅草寺

Sensoji which is also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple it’s a Buddhist temple located in Asakusa neighborhood and easily reached from Asakusa metro station right after Nakamise market.

It is one of Tokyo’s most popular temple and usually always very crowded, so you will have to navigate though a lot of people so we prefer to go there early in the morning or late in the evening. The temple was complete in 645, making it the oldest temple in Tokyo.

Before you enter you will pass thought  Kaminarimon  also known as Thunder Gate, then it’s followed by the main temple Asakusa Shrine.

 

Sensōji
Sensōji

Tokyo Skytree – 東京スカイツリー

It is mainly a broadcasting tower but also has a restaurant and an observation deck for visitors. It’s also known as being the second tallest building in the world standing tall at 634 m after Burj Khalifa (824 m) overtaking Shanghai Tower by only 2 m.

Visiting might be a big hassle, always very crowded from buying tickets to the main observatory deck. Prices will differ depending how long you prefer to wait there is a skip the line pass for tourists only.

Normal ticket price to go up cost ¥2,060 and if you want to skip the 3 hours line and go straight up price will be ¥3,000 to get to floor 350, but if you want less people and better view you can pay extra ¥1,000 to go to floor 450 also for even better view. Buy Tickets 

At level 344 there is also a restaurant with the best view in the world, in order to get to the restaurant you have to make a reservation up to 1 month in advance and pay ¥2,060  fee. Sky Restaurant 634

Tokyo Skytree
Skytree view

Disneyland – ディズニーランド

If you are a Disneyland fan then this should be the place to come, it’s like every other Disneyland but with a Japan accent to it, very long queues, but most move quite quickly with staff ensuring that everything was done efficiently and orderly.

The price for 1 day pass is as follows Adult – ¥7,400, Junior – ¥6,400 and Child – ¥4,800 you can buy tickets here 

Tokyo Tower – 東京タワー

Tokyo Tower is a communications and observation tower in the Shiba district.  Standing tall at 332.9 metres, it is the second-tallest structure in Japan.

Mainly tourist visit it because it looks exactly like Eiffel Tower in Paris only it’s 10 m taller then the one in Paris, we suggest going during evening or night to get the best view.

It has two observatory desks, a main observatory(150 m) and a special observatory(250 m) with a price tag of ¥900 to go to main observatory and  ¥2,800 to go to the top. Buy Tickets Here

tokyo-tower

Hachikō Statue – ハチ公

Hachikō Statue is based on a real story of an Akita dog that came to Shibuya Station every day to greet his owner, but after the owner died in 1925 Hachikō  continued to come to the station every day for almost 10 years until he died of old age.

The story became a legend and even got it’s own movie adaptation called Hachi: A Dog’s Tale.

Statue now stands near the famous Shibuya crossing in one of the most popular rendezvous points where everyone meet even thought it’s always full of people.

Hachikō

Shibuya Crossing – 渋谷交差点

It’s very easy to find it, just take the metro to Shibuya station and get outside and done you arrived, also know as the busiest crossing in the world with sometimes over 1000 people crossing it at once, it would be a shame to come to Tokyo and miss it.

Shibuya Crossing

Akihabara – 秋葉原

Akihabara is also known as Akihabara Electric Town, but it’s actually a shopping district for electronic goods such as computers and video games. Its also well known place for Otaku cultures and the best spot in Tokyo if you are a nerd for all things Japanese.

There are hundreds of shops with all kind of Japanese things, i’m pretty sure that if you are looking for something this is the place to find it.

One last thing Akihabara is well known for is Maid Girls that are all over the street inviting you inside to different shops, cat cafe, owl cafe and much more.

Akihabara
Akihabara owl cafe

Ichikawa – 市川市

Ichikawa is not one of the places you will find in a must see in Tokyo, it’s situated 20 Km from city center and it’s considered village area.

We suggest to come here just to see how a normal Japanese people live and how different is from all the craziness in  the city, locals here are very friendly with beautiful Japanese style buildings all over, narrow streets and full of hidden gems.

Just take the metro to Keisei Yawata Station and start walking around and discover the normal way of how Japanese people live.

Ichikawa

Cherry Blossom Festival – 桜の祭典

We all know why Japan is so beautiful, the Cherry Blossom festivals, taking place in different locations of Japan based on when different type of cherry tree bloom.

They start blooming from late January to late March, and in Tokyo only there are hundreds of places where to see them.

Hanami or also known as “flower viewing”, It’s the custom in Japan of having parties under sakura trees when they bloom in early spring.

sakura tree

What to eat

Sushi

You are in Japan and of course you will eat Sushi but where, well we recommend looking for a Kaiten-sushi also known as conveyor belt sushi where plates of sushi revolve around the restaurant on a conveyor belt.

If this is your first time eating at thins kind of place it’s easy just take a seat and start eating, the price will be calculated based on the color of the plates so look around for a price guide. They will also offer different things for free like water and tea right on your seat just do it yourself.

Ramen

We found the best ramen not in fancy restaurants but in backstreet alleys of local food where they didn’t even speak English for around 300 – 500 yen but made with love.

As you probably know ramen comes with different flavors Tonkotsu Ramen (Pork bone-based), Miso Ramen (Soybean-based) and Shoyu Ramen (Soy sauce-based) you should at least try them.

Tempura

A fried snack made from seafood and vegetables, you can find it almost anywhere with different sauce.

Miso Soup

Hands down the most traditional Japanese soup made from miso paste (fermented soybeans) and dashi (the consomme) inside a soup base with pieces of tofu and seaweed

Udon and Soba Noodles

Udon noodles are made from wheat while Soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour which gives them a more brownish color, both of them are cheap and popular and usually served with a soup base.

Green Tea

This is Japan’s most famous drink because of the history with Geisha, there are plenty of tea houses around Tokyo and it’s the most common tea found in Japan, also the most common thing found in sweets as a flavor.

We want to thank you for reading this and we hope we helped you get a small taste of Tokyo life. Safe Trip well, with Tokyo being the safest place in the world i think have fun is better word.

Ramen
Kare raisu
Crab Soup
Sushi

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