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Essential Tips For Travelling to Tokyo

July 10, 2024
Charlie

Tokyo, the capital of Japan is situated in the Kanto region. It's the first point of entry for many travellers into Japan. Deciding what to see and do in Tokyo can be very difficult, at first, because the city is HUGE. Japan is looking like the hottest destination of 2024 for young travellers so here we have tokyo travel tips for first timers. In this blog, there are top things to do in Tokyo, food you have to try, things to avoid in Tokyo, tips on customs and etiquette. There are also restaurant recommendations in here as well as day trip ideas around Tokyo. It's a hot guide and it's all for you. Your Tokyo travel itinerary is here. Check it out before you plan your trip to Tokyo.

Things To Do

1. Bhuddist Temple

2. Shinto Temple

3. Onsen 

a. This is a very special kind of japanese spa. Its built on a hot spring. There is a specific etiquette. Follow the following steps, and don’t deviate because it will be a huge social faux pas: 

i. Go into the changing room and get naked, but bring a small towel with you. (Japanese don't care about being naked because you will be 

gender segregated) 

ii. Sit down at one of the mirrors/chairs 

iii. Wash yourself VERY thoroughly and all over, using the bowl to pour water over yourself, and obviously the soap. 

iv. Wash yourself again 

v. Wash yourself again 

vi. Then you can get into the hot spring (like a small swimming pool). It will be REALLY hot, but just sit and get used to it. Then get out, and 

repeat from step ii. 

vii. After your down you will feel like you have never been that clean. You will probably go straight to sleep so make sure you are going to one 

near your bed! 

4. Shinkansen (This is the high speed train, it goes like 400kmph…) 

Food you CANNOT miss

1. Tonkatsu 

a. Breadcrumbed chicken or pork 

2. Sushi 

a. There are plenty of rules about how you can eat this, but basically: i. Expect them to have put wasabi on it already and just get used to eating it (It is delicious) 

ii. Dont just dunk the fish in Soy. Touch one corner of the fish into the soy, its supposed to bring out the flavour, not replace it. 

iii. Try everything and remember what you liked, but don’t just eat the sushi we can eat in the UK. Expand those horizons. 

b. My favourite is Otoro Tuna (This is the tuna from the belly of the fish, so its fatty and melts in your mouth) 

3. Unagi 

a. Teriyaki Eel. Comes in a special box, and takes 40mins to make so don’t order it when you are just looking for something to fill your stomach. Its

absolutely stunning and comes with Miso, Rice, and a Soup made from the Kidneys of the eel. Expect to pay £30pp. 

4. Ramen 

a. Fantastic noodles, but even better drunk (no hangover) 

5. Yoshinoya 

a. Fast food chain in Japan, they will give you rice bowls and a raw egg… crack the egg on top and mix it into the rice to cook it. Perfectly safe and delicious.

6. Korea BBQ 

a. Wagyu beef and a grill… you cook the beef yourself and it's incredible.

7. Shabu Shabu 

a. This is basically a broth that is kept on heat, and you add meat/veg to it and cook it at the table. Its absolutely delicious and something you cant get in the UK to anywhere near the same level. 

8. Gyoza 

a. Just go to the supermarket and pick some up, probs need a microwave if you want them hot but they are SUPER cheap and amazing 

9. Onigiri 

a. Buy these from a supermarket. These are basically rice balls with a filling. They have a very special way of opening the packet because the seaweed that you wrap them in is kept off the rice (so it doesn't go soggy). 

b. They are a really good way to have lunch for like £1.50 because two of them is really filling.

Things to Avoid

● Rush hour trains (You cannot imagine….) 

● Anywhere with tourists eating: this is no indication of being good and is much more expensive. 

● Nato - this is the name of japanese fermented beans. They all love them, but it's really a bit grim. You can get it in sushi or rice balls… it's super healthy, but I don't recommend trying it somewhere that you couldn't spit it out… 

DO NOT EVEN, EVEN ONCE, GO AND TRY TO FIND EUROPEAN FOOD IN JAPAN. IT WILL SCAR YOU FOR LIFE. I’VE BEEN GIVEN SPAGHETTI CARBONARA WITH FISH EGGS ON TOP AND A CHEESE MADE OF TOFU. YOU ARE IN JAPAN, EAT JAPANESE, CHINESE, OR KOREAN. YOU WILL MISS IT WHEN YOU LEAVE. 

Tips & Customs

There are a lot of rules in Japan about etiquette and honour… if you don’t look Japanese then they are not going to enforce these very much, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn't try if you can. For example: 

● Pay attention in restaurants and houses to take off your shoes when you are expected to do so (Always in houses, Sometimes in restaurants) 

● Don’t touch the Japanese, their culture doesn’t understand hugs or public kissing etc.

● BOW. To say hello, thank you, or goodbye 

● On the train stations there are little places you have to stand to queue up for the train. Join the queue… otherwise people will hate you. 

If you are moving to Japan, check out our blog on Do's and Don'ts When Living Abroad in Japan.

You need cash for everything. Go get some out in one big chunk before you go. There banking systems are really complex and your card wont work in most banks (or there is a huge charge). If you want to travel around Japan for any period of time, you can get a Japan Rail pass which gives you unlimited travel around the entire country for a week which is super cheap. 

Accept hospitality from people without thinking twice. Its the safest place i’ve ever been to and the culture is very much about showing foreigners are good time so that they speak well of Japan. If you make a japanese friend and they invite you to their grandmas house for tea… its because their grandma wants to meet you and hosting you will bring her honour… the definition of a win-win.

“Hai” means yes 

“Ari-gato-zy-mas” means thank you

 

Shinjuku

1. Uogashi Nihon-ich (Standing sushi bar) Cheap! Wasn’t great English, but you can just point at what you want on the menu. You have to wait at the door to be taken to a place you can eat, but its super good for the price. 

2. Yona Yona Beer Works

a. Underground bar 

The best places for food is anywhere with a queue. One of the best was Tatsunoya. Just get in the queue anywhere, it's so worth it.

Shibuya 

1. Uobei

a. Sushi-go-round (conveyor belt) but its AMAZING. Cheapest Sushi in Tokyo and its good quality too. Gets busy, so go here when you don’t mind waiting (you dont always have to wait, but sometimes there is a queue of 20 people… takes 30mins) 

2. Shibuya Crossing - busiest road crossing in the world. Insanely good to watch. There is a starbucks overlooking it, i suggest getting a coffee and taking a video at rush hour. For the best views of the Shibuya crossing, head to Mags Bar instead of the view point. It's cheaper and you get a free drink of choice on arrival!

Rappongi 

This is party central. Go here for a big night! All the bars are fun. Avoid the ladyboys and the yakuza… 

1. Tokyo Cook

a. Best cooking school in Tokyo. Just a bunch of Japanese Mums/Grandmums who love cooking food 

Others 

1. Tokyo Zoo

a. There are insane animals here, including Giant Pandas.

2. Tokyo National Museum

3. Imperial Palace 

4. Yokohama (The harbour of Tokyo) 

a. Maurwa (Tonkatsu restaurant)

b. Yokohama Chinatown 

5. Ginza (Richest part of Tokyo) 

a. Don't go for lunch here (££££) but it has all the fashion brands and if you go there at night you can see the Yakuza partying.

Getting around in Tokyo

Get yourself a metro day pass. It costs 1600 YEN for the day and is worth every penny. Be prepared to wal 20k plus steps a day with the help of the Metro system.

Day Trips 

Kamakura 

This is the seaside town where the Japanese go on holiday/day trips. 

1. Matsubaraan: https://goo.gl/maps/iNUbkGdPRmM7CC9u5 

a. Book in advance and dont look at the prices. GREAT noodles that they make there. 

2. Giant Budda Statue. YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS FUCKING THING. 3. Wander across the beach, its gorgeous! But dont stare at anyone with Tattoos because they are Yakuza 

Mount Fuji (Fuji-San) 

Google all the tips you want but here are the essentials: 

1. You have to get a bus from Shinjuku to Station 5 (Halfway up the mountain)

2. Its like a 7 hour walk to the top, you can sleep in a hut on the way up/down if you want but its like £100 each … your choice.

3. You need walking boots that cover your heels because its a volcano and you will otherwise spend all your time picking dirt out from between your socks and shoes. 4. Buy a stick at the bottom (for walking) and get it engraved at each station on the way up. Costs about £4 per stamp, but its an amazing momento. 

5. Altitude sickness is a real thing.. Don’t take it lightly. 

6. Take the day off for the day after, you will be so tired. So don’t plan something crazy the next day. 

Enoshima 

Another beach town, but it has this INCREDIBLE island you can walk across to. Spend the afternoon walking around this, there are temples, random cats, loads of cool shops, and great food. You should also watch out for the eagles (like 20) that circle the port, they are absolutely gorgeous and looking to pick the fish out of the boats driving pasts. 

You can also spend the morning Surfing here… its fantastic!

Check out our next blog about Japan: Do's and Don'ts When Living Abroad in Japan

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Written by

Charlie

Charlie lived and worked in Tokyo Japan during his study abroad semester. He loves Japanese food and culture and learning about the local customs. Charlie shares his best Tokyo travel tips.

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