The capital of Japan, a city with over 13 million residents, the second most populated area in the world, Tokyo is overwhelming, but positively: fascinating, dazzling and continually astonishing. There’s always something new going on; dullness steers clear of Tokyo, it has no chance of survival in this colorful world. Here’s a list of 10 practical Tokyo travel tips, to help you find the right way through the metropolis.
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Get from the airport to the city center without spending a fortune
Tokyo has two airports, the international Narita and the Haneda airport used mostly for domestic flights. Taxies from Narita to the city center are madly expensive (starting from around 130 Euros or 140 dollars), keep it in mind. Haneda Airport is located closer to the city. Nevertheless, taxies are quite costly too. The best and cheapest way of getting from both airports to the center is taking a train.
Try out a traditional Japanese lodging
Spend at least one night in a ryokan (inn), a type of traditional Japanese building serving travelers on their way through Japan. Ryokan date back to the Edo period and, in the past, they were located along Japan’s highways, usually in scenic, natural areas (in the mountains, by the sea, etc.). There still aren’t many of them in the major cities, including Tokyo, but you can find a few examples (like Tama Ryokan or Tokyo Ryokan). Some of them are more expensive than hotels, but not all. It’s a unique experience, definitely worth a bit of research. The ryokan is not only a place to stay; it’s a great chance to have a taste of authentic Japanese cuisine and experience the culture.
Take a look at manga and anime
For manga and anime, go to Akihabara, the Electric Town of Tokyo, there are plenty of anime stores and quirky otaku geeks all around the streets. Akihabara is also the paradise of gamers with countless shops selling all sorts of electronic gadgets. One more place to do not miss in search of manga and anime is the Broadway Shopping arcade in Nakano ward, with lots of comics, travel gadgets, collectible toys, and interesting individuals reading/watching/playing/shopping.
Be ready for problems with Wi-Fi
There’s not much of free Wi-Fi in Tokyo. If you want to spot some, prepare for a city hunt. Several popular cafés, like Starbucks Coffee or Wired Café, provide the guests with access to Wi-Fi. In case you don’t want to spend lots of time in these cafés, but Internet’s something you simply can’t live without, there are a few more options. One of them is renting a portable router or a smartphone. You can also download an app for tourists allowing you to use certain hotspots for two weeks (it’s available here: http://flets.com/freewifi/index.html). Another alternative is visiting internet cafés. They’re popular in Tokyo; many stay open for 24h a day and travelers on a tight budget sometimes use them instead of paying for accommodation, spending nights in front of the computers. If you miss a train to your hotel, then it’s also one of the best things you can do. That’s pretty good and, for a traveler seeking to explore all different, odd faces of Tokyo, a night in an internet café is a part of the cultural experience.
Visit historic sites
Don’t miss the Tokyo’s must-sees, such as the Imperial Palace and its fabulous gardens. The temples of Asakusa and the Meiji Shrine are also on the list of Tokyo’s main tourist attractions. It’s great to see how the historic buildings contrast with modern side of the city. Tokyo has the shocking, incredibly developed technology, the glittering billboards, and skyscrapers, but it also has the history, ancient art, and culture. To get to know this bustling city, you should at least catch a glimpse of both.
Take a bath
One more must-do: visiting sentō, a bathhouse. After a day of running around the vibrant, noisy city, nothing can be as relaxing as spending a little while in the sauna or bathtub. Even though many sentō are now rather fancy and modern, the tradition is old and dates back to the times when people didn’t have baths in their own homes.
Watch Japanese street performers (and join them)
Yoyogi Park is a lovely place to stroll about and observe various Japanese artists, from rockabilly dancers to horn players. Whatever your hobby or artistry is, gather the equipment, costumes or what it is that you need and practice in the park as well. Have you ever worried about looking a little bit odd when making these figures or trying out these steps? As soon as you enter the Yoyogi Park, you’ll forget all the shyness and doubts. The stranger the better, all creativity is more than welcome.
Remember that in Tokyo left is the new right
Whether you drive or walk, don’t forget to do it on the left side. It’s straightforward to forget when you’re a pedestrian, but Tokyo is a crowded city, so to avoid encounters that are just too close, keep the left side rule in mind.
Learn new crafts
If you’re planning on spending more time in Tokyo, an amazing thing to do with this time is studying Japanese culture, for example, martial arts or tea ceremony. There are quite some dojos (training places) where you can practice Judo, Aikido, Karate or Kendo without speaking Japanese. Art classes are being organized too, and many various workshops. Nothing will make you experience Japan as deeply as studying and practicing its culture.
Tokyo is a huge city, with lots to see, listen, do and taste. There isn’t such a thing as “too much time in Tokyo.” You can spend days or months discovering this large metropolis, and it won’t cease to surprise you. Besides, it’s a safe and welcoming city, so you don’t have to worry getting off the beaten track will lead you to some strange spots you would prefer not to end up in. Use the list of Tokyo travel tips and, while traveling, make your own to share it with us later on. Enjoy exploring!