Planning a trip during this festive season? This Christmas Eve feature brings you Virginia‘s guide to surviving in Tokyo – have a good time over the holidays and remember, to live is to travel!
“If you can’t find it in Tokyo, it doesn’t exist.”
Tokyo’s urban city vibe will get your heartbeat to rise. There’s something to do for everyone: art lovers can spend an entire week just by seeing all the modern art museums, foodies can indulge into the healthy local cuisine, architects can walk around facing the sky and be constantly amazed, anime-fans will find their heaven…The best way to explore Tokyo is to see one neighbourhood at the time and get the subway to go around from one place to the other. You could spend entire months to see the city: exiting the metro you have the feeling of being into a completely different world at every stop.
The fastest, cheapest and easiest way to come around Tokyo is the subway (Toei and Tokyo line) and JR train system. Great place for sleeping, playing games, reading, people watching and of course for relaxing between the “different worlds” you’ll find at the various subway stops. At the airport make sure to get the day passes to use the subway (3 days – 1500 Yen/ 2 days – 1200 Yen/ 1 day 800 Yen) with which you can save up to 500 Yen/ day! (1 day is 1000 Yen if you buy it downtown). The pass is amazing since it gives you total flexibility of travelling with two subway lines around the city as much as you want (usually it’s around 200-300 Yen per ride). You can also get a JR train pass or a pass for one of the two subway lines, but then you need to plan your day according to the stops which are available on your line, which gets way more complicated.
There are numerous nice hostels, hotels and love hotels all around Tokyo. I’ve been staying atNui Hostel Bar & Lounge (2700 Yen/ dorm bed) which has been one of the nicest and most well-thought hostels I’ve been at. It’s a very big hostel which serves also as a bar and lounge and is usually packed with locals, who are completely amazed by the “hipster-atmosphere” and take pictures of every detail. Great place to relax, have amazing coffee & food (must try: pizzas & cocktails!!), meet other travellers and countless locals who want to practice their english! I stayed there around 10 nights and I would definitely go back! When you book the accommodation you have to think about what you want to do first. If you want to rise and shine at 4 am and see the Tuna auction at the fish market, get a place nearby (the subway doesn’t work that early), if you want to party in Shinjuku/Shibuya – get a place there and so on 🙂
Maps & other information
Japan is a place where you need to plan in advance. Have your questions ready before arriving at the airport and go straight to the Tourist Information desk. They speak perfect english and have free maps and information about what to do in Tokyo and special events. They’re also one of the few information desks which has information about the whole country. I spent a good half an hour there getting bus schedules to Mt. Fuji (which unfortunately I didn’t have time for), maps for every region/ city I was planning on visiting and restaurant recommendations.
Tokyo is the city with the most Michelin-Starred restaurants. I’ve been eating out every day and haven’t had a single bad thing. My recommendation is to have sushi at the fish market once and otherwise just try out the restaurants where you see many locals! Japanese food goes way beyond sushi so make sure to try out different things! Some interesting chains: tonkatsu wake (chain which has amazing tempura),
moos burger (japanese burgers), starbucks (matcha frappuccino is something completely different over there!) & sadaharu aoki (japanese french patisserie: matcha macarons (also done with matcha ice-cream!).
You don’t have to worry about not understanding Japanese menus: most restaurants have plastic models of their food at which you can point at or have menus with pictures. If not just point at something and be surprised! 🙂
Kawaii – cuteness overload
Be prepared to complete cuteness in everything: adds, clothes, busses – literally everything is cute in Japan. Sometimes a bit of an overload in ruffles, lace, pink and girly things – take it as a funny thing and try to find the cutest adds and souvenirs!
The variety between modern & old, the amazing architecture, the cuteness overload & latest fashion trends, the delicious food and the amazingly kindhearted and helpful people make Tokyo to my absolute favourite city. Out of the 283 cities I’ve seen this one stands out by far and I can’t wait to go back for the fourth time one day…
This article was originally published at https://chichiconut.wordpress.com/2014/09/28/tokyo-survival-guide-part-i/ on 28 September, 2014.