f.k.a. Edo

Travel Tips

Getting to/from Tokyo from the airport (Haneda or Narita) – get the Airport Limousine Bus to Cerulean Tower. Either walk to Shibuya station (5 mins downhill) or catch a cab from there to your abode. Better yet, go to Bar BELLOVISTO at the top of the tower (40F) and get an incredible view of Tokyo as the perfect konnichiwa/ sayonara moment. Yes the drinks are more expensive but it’s worth it. Plus it’s cheaper than the Skytree and there’s no line. Someone will take your luggage at the reception by the bar. It’s seamless.

Where to stay – it honestly doesn’t matter! I say Shibuya area, but only because I know it and it’s close to other places I visit often and recommend. But every neighbourhood has its unique charm and characteristics, and it can be fun staying out a bit/ somewhere more chill and local for the insights. And Tokyo’s impeccable public transport system makes everything very accessible (bar the hours of 12am – 5am).
Transport – trains, subway and buses are, as no doubt you would have heard, come in incredible abundance and punctuality. Get a PASMO/ Suica card (essentially the same thing) for 500 yen, which you top it up with a desired amount. This makes for seamless public transport travel, avoiding hassle with all that business of changing lines and transfer tickets. Plus they work out cheaper. Uber is virtually non-existent. Taxis are very easy to find, clean, you can pay with card, have a faint scent tobacco and aftershave, decked out with interior lace trimmings, and are driven by drivers likely to be keen to converse with you in the English that they know – but they aren’t cheap (unless you’re splitting the fare a few ways). They do also make for a nice little above-ground perspective of the city. Just look for the pleasingly box-shaped 1990s Toyota Comforts cruising around with drivers in slick suits, hats and dainty white gloves, and flag them down as you would in any other country. There’s no ‘dodgy’ faux taxis to look out for (that I’m aware of). Don’t bother with the JR pass unless you are doing some serious inter-prefectural travel.
Connectivity – GET A TRAVEL SIM!! Basically your options for connectivity are: (1) Relying on public hotspots/ combini/ cafe hotspots. I’m going stop here and say that this is not a viable option. There is nothing worse for you, anyone you’re travelling with, or anyone who lives in Tokyo you are meeting up with (speaking from much experience) than you not having access to comms. I appreciate the digital detox approach as much as any wellness advocate out there, but unless you’re solo in Tokyo (which, even then I wouldn’t recommend it), this is not the time or place. (2) Portable wifi – You can rent these (I’m told) at the airports, or you may be equipped with one by your Airbnb. (3) Travel SIM card – just get one. They will cost you about $20-30 from Bic Camera (all over Tokyo) for 1 or 2GB, last for 3 months, and it means you can find where you’re going and keep in touch with people – everyone’s a winner. Look/ ask for a ‘travel sim’ – I can recommend the iijimo sim.
Things don’t open until later – as in 10-11-ish, unless it’s Tsujiki markets. If you want to get up and go to maximise your day, have a walk around a park or go to a public gallery/ museum that will be open. Or take a stroll around and observe the morning work rush.. yes trains really are so packed peoples’ faces are squished against the windows.
Vocab – Aside from the usual platitudes, commit these phrases to memory:
nama (or, nama biiru) – literally meaning ‘raw beer’, this is a beer of off the tap
o-susume – “your recommendation” – said to a chef/ sake bartender = indispensable
gochisousama-deshita – “thank you for the delicious meal” – say it to the chefs as you’re leaving and you’ll make their day (and yours when you see their reaction)
[your country of origin]-jin – I am [nationality] – you will no doubt be asked this several times
nihon ga daisuki – “I love Japan”
Nice socks – always wear these. You never know when you’re going to be taking your shoes off, and chances are, it will be often
Paying for things – Japan is very much still cash based. Many shops and restaurants won’t take card, especially smaller places, and especially amex. Best to roll with far cash stacks at all times. 7-Eleven Family Mart, Lawson are best place to get out cash (7-Eleven most reliable for international machines). Tipping is not done.
Hangovers – have a liver tonic before/after/both drinking. Either Ukon no Chikara (turmeric-base) or Hepalyse (mystery base). Hit a Pocari Sweat (electrolytes) and a steamed bun from convenience store. Failing that, get a beer.
Eating and drinking out by yourself – totally a-ok. No-one will blink an eye, or give you that sympathetic look often administered in other parts of the world. This goes for everywhere from tiny standing dive bars to upmarket kaiseki. It’s often a great way to meet locals, many who will be rolling solo themselves.
Toilet logistics – toilets are pretty much in every convenience store
Bin logistics – there’s not really public bins aside from at some parks. You’ll need to carry your rubbish around until you get home, or take it to the bins at combini. You will need to get across the bin system. Basically every apartment/ public bin will ask you to separate: PET, glass, cans, burnables (anything not in former 3 categories).

Tampons – ladies, bring these. Men, bring these for your ladies. They’re pretty hard to find in Japan, and if you do find them, they’re applicator ones that I still haven’t worked out how to use.
Eco bags – bring these so you can avoid dying a little inside every time you receive a plastic bag for your already plastic-wrapped goods at every supermarket/ convenience store. If you don’t bring one, hit up a 100 yen store like Daiso.
What’s on – Good sources of information for what’s on: Time Out Tokyo and Metropolis Tokyo

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日々旅にして旅を栖とす – 芭蕉
Each day is a journey, and the journey itself home – Basho