Tokyo Travel Guide: How To Get Around
Train compartments packed with people at rush hours. Waves of humans scrambling and crossing the spacious boulevard. Such images characterize Tokyo, the capital of Japan and also the most densely populated city in the world. This is where modern skyscrapers meet historical monuments with a mixture of art and culture.
Being an expat, you don't need a tour guide to enjoy this unique city. But within limited time and budget, having basic understandings of the city will optimize your experience and help you avoid regretting missing anything important.
PICK A TRANSPORT!
Taxi: You can say that a car is not an essential vehicle in Tokyo. Tokyo people park their car near a station and get on a bus or a train to go to work. There are countless numbers of taxis but they are expensive and not meant to be an ideal way to go a long distance, even though they may be necessary for travelers with bulky luggage and safe to use at night, especially after you get drunk at bars. In many cases, gentle taxi drivers, mostly old men, will suggest the nearest station and bring you there for a cheaper method. How kind and surprising!
The train is the most popular transport system to go around the city. Stations' names and route maps nowadays are written in both Japanese and English which offer an easier usage to foreigners. The main railway serving within the city limits is Yamanote Line, which also connects to the subway systems to make convenient transportation.
Shinkansen is the best choice for you to move between cities and also known as the bullet train. With the maximum speed reaching 285 kilometers per hour, it is considered to be competitive with the plane. Fast, efficient, and quite expensive!
On foot: Of course! Travelers have to walk a lot. However, when you are strolling on the street, watch out not to be hit by a bike! As cycle lanes are not common in Tokyo, the cyclers just simply ride along the pedestrians' sidewalk...
GOOGLE: SO MANY DESTINATIONS RECOMMENDED! (GASP)
Tokyo Tower: You may not manage to visit all of the attractions recommended by google. But to choose one of the most notable destinations, this Tokyo Tower is not just a sky tree but the symbol and the pride of the city. Are you wondering if it looks like Eiffel Tower in Tokyo?
This tower was inspired by that famous tower of Paris but constructed 13 meters taller. Its red and white coating follows the air safety regulation for construction at a certain height and is coincidently similar to the colors of Japan's national flag. Take time and spend 800 yen each person for the ticket to get on the 250 meters height, the wide-sweeping view of the whole city will not disappoint you at all. At the weekend or national holidays, travelers may meet the Tower's Pink twin mascots at the ground's entrance with whom you can freely take photos as much as you want.
Asakusa Sensoji Temple: Being one of the oldest and most important temples of Japan, this spiritual destination is widely visited by tourists from all over the world. You should not miss seeing this most photographed temple where everyone does not mind waiting for their turn to take a photo with the impressive red giant paper lantern at the front gate.
Because of its popularity, not taken into account festivals yearly hold at the temple's ground, the place is every day crowded. But none will complain about having to jostle among each other since all are satisfied by delicious snacks and interesting items sold at hundred local shops along the front street.
Akihabara, considered as the mecca for manga and games lovers, gathers all types of otaku goods suppliers, from small shops with the walls of magazines to big departments with widescreens showing animation days and nights.
You can enjoy rewarded games at Arcade center and hunt rare items at souvenir shops for your friend later. Akihabara also offers many choices for high-tech products. The camera is the most rated to be the best buy here.
Ginza must be the right place for people who love Facebook luxury check-in. You can feel the wealth by just looking at the elegant showroom displays and stylish pedestrians with big shopping bags.
These are some Departments' names for your reference: Mitsukoshi, Wako, Matsuya, …. At the food floor and restaurant floor where you can find all kinds of finest dishes. Despite the price not being cheap, the quality and the service will be worth your every penny. As long as the budget allows you, trying a high-end cocktail and enjoying Ginza classy nightlife would be mesmerizing.
Harajuku, the name itself has been widely known even before people visit Tokyo. This is the heart of Japanese Kawaii culture where locate many designer brands, beauty services, and events for youth. Every day, groups of young people come and show off their characteristics in unique costumes, colorful wigs, thick makeup, and a bunch of accessories. Even if you are not a fan of "quite quirky" styles, give a try to some hot trend food here. Selfie pictures with a big rainbow cotton candy or a full topping chocolate banana will make your friends at home jealous.
No difficulty to find a proper place to eat in Tokyo where has more Micheline stars than any other city in the world. But it does not seem to be a good idea to have all the luxury meals since you have many other kinds of stuff to spend on.
Convenience stores: Let's get some light meals at a convenience store. Family Mart, Seven-Eleven, Lawson, … those names must have gone beyond Japan and reached where you live. Nothing seems new to you. Then, you must change your opinion when doing shop-and-go here.
Each store has a wide range selection of products under its name. With just a few hundred yen, you can get a warm can of coffee and a delicious bento, which cannot be expected to be so healthy but surely balanced with enough vegetables and meat. Various choices of food and beverage will hold you at the store longer than you may think. Other available services such are WIFI, printers, ATM banks, luggage delivery to the airport, ….
Street food stands: Do you think waiting in line is also a pleasure? You will not be able to take your eyes off the street seller's quick hands when he is making cakes. Even if you try enough food at restaurants and stores, do not miss the tasty handmade version of street food as well.
Themed café: "Welcome home, master (Mistress)!" The female waitresses in nice maid uniforms (sometimes with cat ears and tails) greet their customers with a gentle cute voice. At Maid café, you get typical servings as omelet rice or animal face latte art then take a photo with your admirable "maid". Many popular themed cafés locate mostly in Akihabara: AKB48 café & shop, Railroad-themed café, Gun Dam Café, ….
Discover cool things that you can buy in Tokyo.
UNIQLO: This chain recently has climbed on the top fast retailer ranking of the world by their tech fabric and the simplicity in design with an affordable price. The products and style of each store vary by region and country. Many tourists come just to shop in Japan Uniqlo. The good news is the price seems more competitive. However, do not lose yourself and spend too much in the spacious stores. You still have a lot of things to do!
100 Yen shop: No other type of store can compete with 100 yen shop in terms of good price and variety of goods. One of the most popular franchises is Daiso where you can find dozens of souvenirs for the friends waiting for you after the trip. Despite its name, there are also many different ranges of prices at the shop: 150 yen, 200 yen, 300 yen, … of course, the tax will be added up at the cashier.
Drugstore beauty products: you must have noted Japanese cosmetics in your shopping list.
Seeing Drugstore cosmetics chains spring up like mushrooms all over the city, you understand the big need of consumers in this market. With simple packaging designs, Japanese manufacturers emphasize optimizing the products' quality. The trip is your chance to get the domestic version of your favorite Japanese brand at a price that cannot be more satisfying.
Sweet & Snack: Same as fashion and cosmetics, many Japanese sweets and snack brands are also famous overseas that you used to buy their products: Glico, Calbee, Kitkat, Meiji, …. There are always limited editions within Japan, even within region and season. Even the Japanese are passionate about collecting rare flavors. Do not forget to look at every sweet shop to see a seasonal version of your favorite candy. If you have not tried Royce Nama chocolate, you have not yet known of Japanese specialty.
Vending machine: Japan has the highest number of vending machines worldwide. And Tokyo has the most vending machine all over the country. The machines stand nearly everywhere in public, in front of building blocks, at convenience stores, at the subway, on the sidewalk, …. They offer coffee cans, soft drinks, beer, and wine, sometimes you even find many crazy and hilarious things such as onion, socks, fish bait, umbrella… Once you start using the machine, you can hardly stop checking any other machine on your way and wondering if anything bizarre inside.
It is believed that if there is anything you cannot find in Tokyo, you can find nowhere else. Each part of Tokyo offers a different experience. Tourists are constantly surprised by things beyond their imagination. Be careful! You may voluntarily pay for your over shopping without knowing. And remember to keep the receipts for tax refunds at the airport.