DEFINITELY one of my favorite cities in Asia, Tokyo is the most populated city in the world (NYC is # 9) and it’s vibrant colors, food and culture will suck you in and make you never want to leave!
When To Go:
The BEST times to visit the great country of Japan are March-May (spring) or October-December (fall). We visited in February and it was COLD, but still absolutely beautiful with snow covered shrines and warm cozy bars. There also were far less tourists because it was the off season, which is always a win.
How To Get Around Japan:
This is a MUST purchase if you’re planning to travel all over Japan. It MUST be purchased prior to arriving in Japan and expires in 7, 14 or 21 (your choice) days from the date of activation upon arrival in the country. The JR Pass can be activated at any JR office, located at all major train stations throughout the large cities.
There are different regions of passes, but I suggest to get the N-Pass (Nationwide), which worked well for the 14 days and multiple cities we explored. The cost ranges from $200USD-$500. Be SURE to reserve your seats on long journeys on the bullet trains (Kyoto to Tokyo, Tokyo to Sapporo) ahead of time at the JR stations at no additional cost. There is no need to do this for short distances.
From Kyoto to Tokyo, the JR Bullet Train will take 2hr45min. Be SURE to stay awake! If it’s a clear day, you’ll get EXCELLENT views of Mount Fuji (sit on the left side of the train car)!
DO NOT be misled, just because you have a JR pass, it doesn’t mean you won’t have to purchase local subway transport in cities. There are special JR lines that go around the cities, but if sometimes you’ll need to purchase a subway card or individual ticket to get around. When you book your accommodation, I’d suggest ensuring it’s walkable to a JR line for more convenince. Each subway ride costs about $1.85USD/one way (ouch).
Bring GOOD walking shoes, as you’ll be walking more here than you ever had in your life! Our average distance per day was 8 miles, with some days reaching 12. If you’re going in the cold months, be SURE you’re wearing warm shoes. I wore Converses in February and my feet were numb after 1 hour of being outside.
Taxis in Japan are SUPER expensive. Each taxi driver wears a suit and tie, if that tells you anything! They all use meters, so it’s very safe and legit, but costly: for a 3.5 mile ride, we paid $20USD. Needless to say, we only took a taxi one time.
Where To Stay In Tokyo:
Photo Credit: www.airbnb.com.sg/rooms/5677917
The best neighborhoods of the city to stay in, which are nearby all of the main attractions, are Shibuya or Shinjuku.
Airbnb is the cheapest option in Japan, although the rooms are small. I HIGHLY recommend our Airbnb, as it was centrally located between all attractions and it included a kitchenette for cooking meals some days, which saved a lot of money. $74USD/night
For $36 off your first Airbnb booking, click HERE:
What To Do:
There is NO shortage of things to do in this great city. I’ve had friends visit and just eat their ways through the city and others who have visited every single site. We did a combination of both and I suggest you do this same if this is your first time!
Location: The tower is a 10 minute walk from the following stations-Onarimon Station (Mita Subway Line), Akabanebashi Station (Oedo Subway Line), Kamiyacho Station (Hibiya Subway Line)
Cost: Adult $900 Yen ($8.50USD), School Aged Children $500 Yen ($5USD), Children 4 years+ $400 Yen ($3.50USD)
Hours: 9:00am-11:00pm Main Observatory (150M), the special observatory (250m) is currently closed
Time At Attraction: 1-2 Hours
Modeled after the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Tokyo Tower stands 13 meters taller at 333 meters and is definitely a must see at night!
Photo Credit: Google
Location: Tokyo Skytree Station (Tobu Isesaki Line) and Oshiage Station (Asakusa, Hanzomon and Keisei Oshiage Lines).
Cost: (more expensive than Tokyo Tower)
|18 and over||12 – 17 years old||6 – 11 years old||4 – 5 years old|
|High School/ Junior High School students||Elementary School students|
|TOKYO SKY TREE
(no time assignment)
|TOKYO SKY TREE
|Tickets purchased on the day only
Time At Attraction: 2-4 Hours, depending on wait time
Tokyo Skytree is the tallest tower in the world, standing at 634 meters (2,080 ft). Sadly, we didn’t have time to visit because of the long wait times, but it’s a must see if you have time to spare! Factor weather in for visibility.
Also called ‘the scramble’ or the ‘Times Square’ of Tokyo, this is a MUST see intersection, with nearly 2,500 people crossing at one time during rush hour and 1,000,000 people per day! TIP: There’s a Starbucks on the second floor that’s perfect for taking photos, videos and time lapses of the crossing, if you’re lucky enough to get a front row seat! Tip: see the crossing at both day and night.
Shibuya is a HUGE shopping district and you’ll notice that as soon as you get off the train station. There are countless amounts of malls and shops and an endless amount of restaurants. For shopaholics, the two largest malls are Shibuya 109 Women, which is opposite the square of Shibuya 109 Men. Be sure to stop and take a pic with the Hachiko Dog Statue, and read up on the famous dog and the loyalty he had to his owner.
Tsukiji Fish Market
Location: Tsukiji Shijo Station (Oedo Subway Line) or a 15 minute walk from JR Shimbashi Statoin
The world’s largest fish market that sells more than five million pounds of seafood, worth approx $28 million USD/day! If you want to eat the FRESHEST most amazing sushi and sashimi you’ve ever had in your life, then Tsukiji Fish Market (outdoor)is a MUST! I’m still drooling over the memory. Do note, you can get up at 2am and wait in line to maybe get lucky enough to see the fish auctions at the indoor market, but it’s limited to 120 people per day.
Photo Credit: https://www.timetravelturtle.com/meiji-shrine-meiji-jingu-tokyo-japan/
Location: Harajuku Station (JR Yamanote Line), Meiji-jingu-mae Station (Chiyoda & Fukutoshin Subway Lines).
Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
Time At Attraction: 1+ Hours
A shrine dedicated to the first emperor of Modern Japan, Emperor Meji.
Photo Credit: https://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g1066456-d561514-i188055664-Yoyogi_Park-Shibuya_Tokyo_Tokyo_Prefecture_Kanto.html
Location: Just next to Meji Shrine
Hours: Always Open
Time At Attraction: 1 Hour
One of the city’s largest parks, Yoyogi Park is a great place to have a picnic lunch after visiting Meji Shrine
Takeshita Dori Street
Location: Harajuku Station (JR Yamanote Line), just one station north of Shibuya and two stations south of Shinjuku
A great place to shop for the latest trends, people watch and eat CREPES! Be SURE to stop at the REAL Santa Monica Crepes as there are many others nearby…it’s totally worth the wait!
Location: Omotesando Station Omotesandō Station (Chiyoda Line)
Omotesando is tree-lined street (less than 1 mile long) full of stores, boutiques, cafes and restaurants that are more high end than Takeshita Dori Street.
Senso-Ji Temple (Asakusa Kannon Temple)
Photo Credit: http://tokyo.hix05.com/Temples/asakusa.kannon.html
Location: Asakusa Station (Ginza, Asakusa and Tobu Lines)
Hours: Main Hall 6:00am-5:00pm (6:30am Oct-Mar), Grounds always open
Time At Attraction: 2+ Hour
A beautiful, ancient Buddhist Temple, with long streets full of food and souvenir shops leading up to the temple.
Photo Credit: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/japan/tokyo/attractions/imperial-palace/a/poi-sig/1238764/356817
Location: 10 minute walk from Tokyo Station
Hours: 9:00am-4:30pm (5:00pm Apr-Aug, 4:00pm Nov-Feb), admission ends 30 minutes prior to closing time. Closed Mondays, Fridays, New Years (Dec 28-Jan3) and the following day after a public holiday.
Time At Attraction: 1 Hour
The primary residence of the Emperor of Japan. Do note that the palace itself is not open to the public, only the East Gardens. You can reserve a free tour of the grounds (10am & 1:30pm), but need to book far in advance-be sure to get the English Audio Guide at the victors center.
Photo Credit: https://www.thousandwonders.net/Rainbow+Bridge
Location: Shibaura-futo Station (Yurikamome Line)-Tokyo Side, Odaiba Kaihinkoen Station-Odaiba Side
Time At Attraction: 1 Hour
A GREAT place for an evening stroll while taking in the views of the beautifully lit, two story, suspension bridge. You can cross the bridge on foot (bicycles not permitted) or take a boat tour via Tokyo Waterbus.
Cost: $6,000-$8,000 YEN (depending on location) ($55-$75USD)-includes costume, fuel, go cart, and accident insurance
This is a MUST do while in Tokyo, but you MUST have an international drivers license (not a regular drivers license from the USA) PRIOR to entering Japan in order to be able to do it (and sadly, we didn’t know this, so we missed out). Imagine dressing up like your favorite characters from Mario Brothers and driving around the streets of Tokyo in go karts…EPIC!
Location: JR Sobu Line (yellow) to Akihabara
If you’re an electronics freak, then this is THE district to stop in for some shopping, with it’s never-ending stores all filled to the brim to satisfy the tech nerd in you!
Location: Ginza Station (Hibiya, Marunouchi, Ginza Lines), Yurakucho Station (JR Yamanote, JR Keihin-Tohoku, Yurakucho Subway Lines)
For more of an upscale experience, be sure to visit Ginza, with it’s endless shopping, dining, art galleries, night clubs, restaurants and cafes.
Day Trip To Mount Fuji
Cost: $133USD per person
You’re rolling the dice when it comes to seeing this gorgeous mountain, as it’s only visible 180 days per year due to the clouds. It’s best to hire a guided tour that takes you to the 5th Station (2,300m elevation), a cruise on Lake Ashi and a ride on Komagatake Ropeway (views of Hakone National Park).
Where To Eat In Tokyo:
Arigato Tokyo Food Tour
Cost: $125USD per person
One of the highlights of our time in Japan, Arigato Food Tours is such a great company to connect you with Tokyo, especially if you’re new to the food in Japan and want to learn more about the culture and cuisine. We choose the Shibuya Walking Food Tour, which included Yakitori, Kobe/Wagyu Beef Skewers, Osaka Takoyaki, Onomomiyaki, 7 Kinds of Sushi at a Stand Up Sushi Bar, and Taiyaki!
Santa Monica Crepes
Location: Harajuku (Takeshita Dori Street)
With an endless amount of mouthwatering crepes to choose from, this is a MUST do while visiting this great city.
No trip to Japan is complete without eating at Japan’s iconic fast food restaurant, Yoshinoya. You can find them all over the city. For the beef bowl, salad and soup, it’ll cost you $6.50USD and it’ll be served super fast!
Uogashi Nihon-Ichi Standing Sushi Bar
For the BEST, fastest, most affordable sushi in the city, this is your spot! We loved it so much, we ate here twice in three days! They have multiple locations all over the city, but there is one located in Shibuya, nearby Shibuya 109 Women, with friendly staff.
Photo Credit: http://supermerlion.com/tokyo-banana/
A trip to Tokyo is NOT complete without picking up some Tokyo Bananas at the airport (they’re difficult to find in the city itself) to take home to all your loved ones! A Tokyo Banana is like a banana-filled twinkie, but a whole lot more delicious. Beware, though, they are MASSIVELY addicting, so you may want to get a whole box just for yourself. Do note, they expire after 10 days, as they’re made with fresh ingredients and no preservatives
Things To Note:
A money changer is located at Shibuya Crossing at Muzuho Bank (just nearby Starbucks at the ground level).
Small Bills are a MUST! Be sure to always have notes of $1,000 Yen or less.
Wifi isn’t easy to get around the city, so be sure to reserve an accommodation that provides pocket wifi.
Map out where you’re going to eat prior to arriving at your sites for the day. Sometimes we’d get stuck searching for a while and ending up with only Japanese menus in restaurants, which was a bit challenging, but all part of the fun.
Many of the train stations don’t have lifts (elevators), so if you have heavy luggage, it’s a LONG journey up/down multiple flights of stairs. Pack light!
Many restaurants add a cover charge of 300-500 Yen ($3-5USD) per person while dining in and there’s no way around it.
When making payment anywhere in Japan, never hand your money directly to the cashier, as there are trays provided for handling these items so hands are not touched between cashier and payee.
Because Tokyo has the largest population in the world, space is limited and the size of a one bedroom apartment is no more than 15 square meters (170 square feet).
Tokyo Disneyland was Disney’s first park located outside the USA.
Shinjuku Station is the world’s busiest rail station, according to the Guniess Book of World Records, with an average of 3.64 million people passing through daily.
There are over 100 universities and colleges in Tokyo, awarding it the world’s highest concentration of higher learning institutions.
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