In this episode of our podcast Streets and Eats, we discuss traveling to the amazing city of Tokyo for your very first time. From landing on the airport, ridding yourself of jet-lag, to where to go and what to see, eat, and do. It’s all here.
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Tokyo is one of our favorite cities. We love that it’s clean, easy to navigate, and completely different than anything we would ever see in the US. We love that there are so many mom and pop stores and restaurants, markets with stalls selling everything from fish eggs to washcloths, and neighborhoods that showcase all kinds of different products and walks of life.
There is so much to do in this city that even if you’ve been as many times as we have, it’s difficult to see it all. From world-class museums to sumo tournaments, fantastic festivals, street food and so much more. You’ll never get bored. We haven’t!
1:14 Arriving in Tokyo
2:36 Getting to the center of the city
3:15 Public Transportation
5:17 – Metro and Pasmo card
7:13 – Limousine bus
8:35 – SIM card and Google Fi
12:15 – Getting over jetlag
18:12 – Train Etiquette
23:26 – Taxis and Metro vs. Bus
28:42 – Trash cans?
31:54 – Photography
32:34 – Have some cash available
34:42 – Best time to visit Tokyo
39:02 – Some things to experience on your first trip
45:51 – Our favorite Tokyo hotels
48:35 – Places to eat in Tokyo
- Day Trips from Tokyo
- Narita Airport
- Haneda Airport
- Keisei Skyliner
- Narita Express
- Pasmo or Suica cards
- Dormy Inn
- onsen or public bath
- JR Train – Green car
- Meiji Jinju Shrine
- Sensoji Temple
- Gotokuji Temple
- Tsukiji – tour option
- Rappongi Hills
- Kabuki Theater – tour option
- Sumo Tournament – tour option
- Daruma Fair
- Sumo Cry Festival
- Park Hyatt Tokyo
- Andaz Tokyo
- New Sanno Hotel
- Nakiryu Ramen
- Ramen Street in Tokyo Station – tour option
- Taimeiken Omurice
- Streets and Eats private Facebook group
If you liked First Timer Tokyo...
Well, hi there. We’re on episode 20. And today we’re going to talk to you about your first trip to Tokyo and what to expect and tell you all the things that we love about this amazing city.
Welcome to streets and eats the podcast where we want to inspire your next trip by telling you about some fantastic destinations, and the best food to eat while you’re there. Now remember, until the world opens completely back up and you feel safe to travel again, use this time to research and plan. That’s what we’re here for. In this episode, we’re going to take you to Tokyo,
Japan, Yokoso, so means welcome, Yokoso. So we’ve been. We’ve lived in Japan for five years, a total, two different stints actually. The first time was up in northern Honshu. And then the second time was in the greater Tokyo area and by greater I mean Tokyo, the Kanto Plain is just massive, right? We actually lived at the small town of Kamakura, which is another podcast, but it’s one of our favorite places to recommend on Earth.
But we’re talking about Tokyo.
When do you get there, you arrive in either one of two airports? Yeah, Narita and what’s the other one? Haneda Haneda? Usually you’re gonna arrive in her? Actually nowadays? I think it’s 50/50, isn’t it?
Well, yeah. And my recommendation if you can get a flight into Haneda do it do the Haneda flight because it’s closer. It’s a smaller airport, it’s not as hard to navigate. But yeah, it’s closer to everything in Tokyo. So it just makes your travel time that much better. And after you’ve flown across the ocean, if that’s where you’re coming from that long flight, you don’t want to spend another hour going into your hotel.
Yeah, I mean, you’re already tired already. Because you’re going. I think when you go east, it’s harder on the body personally. Oh, I agree. So I would, if I were you, I would definitely get there and get into your hotel. And then just sort of take it easy on the very first day that you arrive. If your hotel has an onset or a spa, it’s a great idea to go in and try and soak in a bath, or you could do that in your hotel room in the bathtub as well. I guess the SPAS nicer.
If it’s an onsen with mineral water. It’s just that much better. Yeah, more rejunvenating, and it’ll help you with your jetlag, I think Oh, definitely. It’s definitely one of our recommendations for people traveling to Japan.
Okay, so you’ve gotten to Japan, and you’re in either of the two airports. The first thing you’ve got to navigate is how to get into the center of the city. I don’t necessarily suggest that you pay for someone to come pick you up at the airport, that is an exorbitant cost, right. Unless you have an enormous family where it’s just going to be too hard to get you all off the train and take you in on one of the buses. I it’s just not worth it. I mean, it really is an expense. So I would go on a train.
Public transport is the way to go. You you can take a taxi. But again, unless there’s three or four of you, even then I think the price is higher and the trains are comfortable. They’re pretty constant and it’s easier than you would imagine from Narita.
Well, Narita, you got to remember, is pretty far from the city. So it is going to take you some time to get from Narita, which is why we recommend Haneda but there’s a lot of options. There’s an express train that takes you directly into Tokyo Station, the Narita Express that’s its first stop. And after that it stops a few more places in Tokyo before heading out into different directions into the Kanto Plain. That’s one of the ways we would get to Kamakura, in fact. You could take the new Narita express through Yokohama and that would get us pretty close. So if you’re staying somewhere in the farther reaches, the Narita Express isn’t a bad option, It’s going to be probably your quickest way to get there.
Of course, there’s regular metro subway trains that are running up to both airports. It’s either the Narita line or the cache line. Oh, there’s also the Keisei Skyliner which is another express train it goes directly from Ueno to Narita. I don’t remember if we’ve ever taken that? Have we?
We’ve gone into Tokyo from Narita so many times it’s just hard to say. Yeah. But anyway, I’m sure the it’s the same. I’m sure I’ve taken it actually. The Skyliner. Yeah, I’m sure I’ve taken it.
Probably. All the times we’ve done I’m sure it was probably the one of the better ways actually. Yes, you’re right. When we lived in northern Japan, we would take the Shinkansen into Ueno and then that’s where you get the Skyliner. And then we take the Skyliner. To the airport. Yeah, you’re right. So that’s probably your best option, that ticket you can get right there at the airport. And you do need to get a ticket. You can’t just get on the train there.
Yeah, don’t think you can pay later. You need to be prepared when you get there. But it’s pretty easy. I mean, they have helpers right there. And they have the machines right there. So if you have any question, and it’ll switch it to English, yeah, if you have any problems at all, they’ll do the whole thing for you just pull them over. And that’s perfectly okay.
Right. If you’re going to use the Metro, the subway, which is a good way to do it, and it might be the best way to get you the closest to your hotel. So I often recommend that over the Narita Express, even though it’s going to take a little bit longer. For that one, you’re going to want to buy a PASMO card or a Suica card.
Which you’re going to need anyways, when you’re in Tokyo.
And we’ll talk a little bit more about getting around. But you can get that right at the airport loaded up, get your ticket on the card itself, and you’ll be good to go. Haneda there’s the same type of options. There is, of course, an express train, buses, taxis a regular train on the subway line. The monorail, built for the Olympics in the 60s, maybe it was a lot cooler and more futuristic back in the 60s when it was first built. But it’s still a monorail, it’s still pretty pretty run of the mill, and it’s gonna take you a direct shot into Hamamatsucho. And from there, you can get on a subway, or a bus to take you to your hotel.
What I would suggest is once you’ve made your hotel reservations, send them an email or message them on the app and ask them specifically, which is the best way to get from the airport to their hotel, via the train or the or the metro, because they’re going to tell you exactly how to do it step by step. Again, they probably have a limousine that’ll come pick you out, but I think they’re gonna charge quite a bit for that. You’ll just have to make that decision when you talk to them.
Well, they do have the limousine buses, which we’ve taken those too. We’ve taken the limousine as it was really good. If you’re at a hotel that’s, that’s on the stops or on the line, that’s a great way to go. Because then it is going to pick you up right at your hotel and take you right to the to the airport or vice versa. I don’t really recommend going from the hotel to the airport. Because traffic can be pretty dicey. And unless you are planning a lot of extra time at the airport to make sure you get there on time, you could run up into a little bit of danger with missing your flight. If the traffic does turn really bad.
I mean, if you’ve seen any traffic in the states, like around LA or New York, or you know any of those places, Tokyo is 10 times worse. But we don’t suggest driving in Tokyo don’t run a car don’t drive, there’s no reason to. And it’s it can be confusing.
Public transport is just so much better and so much cheaper, all the way around from parking to the gas to everything. Definitely.
Taking road trips in in Japan, but not of course, right there in Tokyo, which we will talk about later and talk about traffic and rules and things like that. But that’s a whole different podcast. And that’s not on your first trip to Tokyo, it’s just not.
Now while you’re in the airport, before you get on that bus or that train, make sure you stop at the vending machines, which is right on your way you can’t miss them that sell the SIM cards. Because you’re gonna want to have a SIM card that’s good for the Tokyo area. You just need to bring your phone that’s unlocked from the States that can be hard to get. But you know, maybe get a burner phone or something while you’re traveling. I don’t know. Yeah, before you leave. And that way you’re not messing with your regular product. But you have we have something to use in Japan.
I think that’s a good way to do it.
We use Google Fi. We use Google phi now, which has international coverage. So that’s a good option. If you’re looking at different services or if you’re on Google Fi, then you probably know this. And it’s just a matter of going to a new country and letting it pick up the service. It works pretty good. It takes a little while though. Check with your provider, you might find out that you have international data available for a cheap price. But make sure you know before you go, you definitely don’t want to show up in Japan, or any foreign country, with your data turned on and start incurring charges that could be astronomical.
It can be very expensive. So anyway, a SIM card at those vending machines I saw them everywhere from 2500 yen to about 5000 yen, which we it’s just easy, it’s not exactly correct, but we just basically dropped the zero. So that means 25 to 50- $50. And it’s just a good way to guesstimate it. If you’re a math whiz, and you want to be more technical, that’s up to you.
The current exchange rate, the last time I saw it was like 110 yen to the dollar. So that’s a bit in our favor. But those SIM cards in the machines are data only. So if you do need to make phone calls, you can go there’s plenty of the major carriers have shops in the airport as well. So you can go into one of the shops and talk to somebody, they’ll help you out. They’ll get you a SIM that also includes phone, or you can even rent a phone for the time that you’re there.
You can. And another thing they have with their rentals. Is that what do they call that thing? Where it’s a mobile hotspot? The mobile hotspot?
Which is a really good option, too. If you’ve got a number of people in your party, they don’t all need to get a SIM card, you can just get one mobile hotspot and everybody can connect to that with their Wi Fi.
Which we have used that when we’ve had visitors. We’ve used it many, many, many times. But when we’ve had visitors, I think we’ve had like six people at a time using it. It didn’t slow it down at all.
It’s a great thing to just hand someone and say here, you can use that for the day in Tokyo. Yeah, it’s really Yeah, and you can get those at the airport to you’ll have to go into a shop again. So it’ll take you a little bit more time. Really, if you’re staying in the Tokyo area, I couldn’t recommend any one provider over another, I think they’re all going to be covering the Tokyo area quite well. And so I would say whichever one has the best deals that they’re advertising at the time, or has the lowest number of people that they’re serving. So you’ll be in there in and out quickly.
Yeah, don’t stand in line, there’s plenty, plenty of vendors that you don’t need to stand in line. So you’re gonna arrive you’re gonna land in Tokyo, you’re gonna go down, you’re gonna buy your SIM card or your rent a phone, and you’re gonna buy a ticket, a PASMO train, and then you’re gonna get on the train, and you’re gonna come into Tokyo and check into your hotel.
Like I said, first thing I would do is take a hot shower or go to the spa or go to if they have an onsen, a public bath go in there. First of all, it’s an amazing experience. But second of all, you just really want to do that. Take a little nap because you’re getting get into Tokyo about eight o’clock in the morning. Yay, to nine in the morning.
So you have all day, take a little nap and just sort of refresh yourself a little bit because it is it’s it’s quite a haul. And when you’re tired when you get there. And then mid-afternoon, I would say get up and try to stay awake until at least nine o’clock. It will be difficult, but at least try because you go out you could walk around your hotel, find yourself some good ramen or something. It’s not I wouldn’t say it’s the day to go out and have a big meal because you’ll appreciate it better when you’re not quite as tired.
You’re always a little groggy when you get off that airplane. Yeah, for a good 24 hours. I think.
Just go get some ramen, have a beer, whatever you want to do. Or a Sapporo and then you know try to go to bed and try to stay on a schedule that is normal for Tokyo.
Then get up at a decent time. Eight o’clock. Don’t sleep all day. A little breakfast. Yeah, you’re not there to sleep. So well. We were going to talk a little about hotels later. But since you mentioned the onsen, one of our favorite chains in Japan is called Dormy Inn. The Dormy Inns, and there is a few different Dormy Inns, in the Tokyo area. Yeah, and most of them have an onsen in the hotel, foot baths. Pajamas. It’s kind of like a hybrid hotel or ryokan experience. And they’re a very comfortable place to go they they’re usually around a mid-range budget, which can be quite nice in the Tokyo area. But that onsen is what really gets me. Of course, they also do have free noodle service.
At nine o’clock at night. So it’s a good reason to stay up till nine.
Yeah, just soak in the hot tub come out and have some ramen on the house. Get one of the ice cold bottles of milk that they usually sell right there in the little vending machines.
Milk is a very popular vending machine, especially at onsens. It’s supposed to be replenishing, so they seem to always have milk right around the onsen.
At any rate, you can check our website for how the etiquette of onsen and what to do. Right. We have just found that one of the most Just amazing ways to get over jetlag, and just to start your trip off feeling pretty good, which going east is hard. So it’s a bonus, it’s a bonus.
Anyway, so the next thing you’re gonna want to do is figure out how to get around Tokyo. Right? Right. While you’re in the airport, you’ll see the information desk, go ahead and grab a metro map, for sure. And maybe a couple of other things that look interesting, but at least a metro map so that you can figure out how to go on the metro. It’s all the signs are in English and Japanese is very simple. And the last time we were there, they may not still be doing this. But the last time we were there, there were so many people asking me if you needed help, alright. But that was right before the Olympics. So true, and may have changed a little bit.
But even before the Olympics, when we were walking around Tokyo, there are plenty of times where we are standing on a corner. And looking at a map. Invariably, if you’re looking at a map for any length of time and looking around, someone is probably going to stop and ask if they can help you. Yeah, there happens to us all the time.
Especially in Japan, they just really love to help. So don’t Don’t feel shy asking; almost everybody speaks English. And if you just happen to pick the one person who is uncomfortable speaking English, the person standing next to them will be so it’s not a big deal at all. Oh, sorry. Go ahead.
I’m gonna say so you got your Pasmo ticket at the, at the airport, if you did it, that’s okay. Pretty much any station is going to sell the Pasmo tickets. It’s a little gray card, like a credit card, it’s an IC card that lets you tap to get your payments in. It’s the way to go. It’s very easy to get at the machines, you don’t need to talk to anybody, you don’t need to worry about speaking Japanese, the machines are on multiple languages, they’ve got you covered.
It’s a really simple process to buy it. The cost, I think a $5 deposit that you put down when you first load it up, and you’re gonna put some money on it. I use it. For a two week period, I would say 5000 would probably cover most of your travel. If you’re not sure how much travel you’re going to be doing, start with 1000. That’s going to get you a couple of rides at least. And then you’re good to go. You’re just gonna use that card to tap when you go through the turnstiles or when you get on a bus. It’s so much easier than buying a ticket and worrying about whether you have the ticket or not. And then at the end of your trip, you can go to any any of the stations and you can get your deposit back. So it’s kind of a no brainer, just don’t lose it.
And getting around on public transportation is pretty simple. The thing is, sometimes it takes longer because I told you, Tokyo is a sprawling city. So sometimes it takes you longer to to get someplace than you might expect. But what’s great is it will tell you that on the map. But basically it tells you on electrical maps or whatever. How long it’s gonna take you to get there.
Oh, yeah. Now there is a few things that are train etiquette and manners. When you’re on a metro or a train, the Japanese don’t do a whole lot of talking, they basically are very quiet. If they are talking, they’re talking sort of under their breath, whispering to the person next to him, but you’re but you’re gonna see there’s just not much talking going on at all. You can always tell when a foreigner gets on because the noise decibel level just raises exponentially.
They do this because a lot of people are commuting and they’re sleeping on the train to catch up on sleep. And you’ll see a lot of people on the trains, it’s not uncommon for you to be sitting down and someone to sit down next to you. And before you know it, their head is on your shoulder and they’re snoring away, because they’re just so tired from working 70 hours or whatever, and they have long commutes.
As far as giving up seats, they’ve been doing just like a lot of places of the world. They’ve been doing the public announcements where they’re like give the old lady the see give the old man the seat and a lot of times it’s so embarrassing. I’ve had 80, I’m sure their eighty year old men, offer me a seat. That’s true. Like no, no, of course not. But they’re very conscious of, of trying to make you comfortable.
So, so give a little back and return and if they have a child or if they’re obviously if they’re pregnant or older, please, please let them sit on the seat. It’s it’s not a big deal. Yeah. The other thing is if you have children, this doesn’t usually happen for adults. But if you have children make sure to keep your feet off the benches, the seats in Japan the bottom, your feet are dirty and they can take their shoes off as soon as you walk into your house.
And like Jim was saying, our favorite hotel Dormy Inns, you take your your shoes off and put them in a lobby shoe locker in the lobby and you don’t see him again to go back downstairs. Well, it’s the same thing about couches and seats on the train that even if their children, don’t let them put their feet up, they can lay down. That’s not a problem. But you need to take their shoes off. Yeah, people love kids. So it’s not about them being upset with the kids, they’re just upset. If it looks like it’s gonna get dirty. Yeah, so just be conscious of that.
And the other thing that you shouldn’t do, whether you’re walking around, or whether you’re on a train is eating and drinking, that is reserved for either if you are eating street food, like, wherever the kiosk is, you sort of came near the kiosk, or you can go to a park with your food, they sit down and eat and sit down and eat but walking and consuming anything is is kind of taboo.
And in fact, when we lived there we were living in Kamakura, as I said, which is a huge tourist town. And they have a lot of little kiosks that sell food. And it was very common for people, all people, people from all over the world, as well as even some Japanese I’m sure, buying a skewer of mochi or whatever and eating it on the as they walked down the street. But they made a law that you weren’t allowed to do that. They have to make it specifically for Kamakura, but it’s just also it’s just not commonly done.
So everybody’s gonna get hungry. And you definitely want to go to something like a convenience store and try eating out of the convenience stores. That’s a huge thing. There’s plenty of choice. But don’t plan on eating it and walking or on the train. No or on the train. Yeah. Don’t decide to give your kid a snack on the train thinking that’s a good time to do it because they’re sitting down, but it’s just not done.
The only exception to that would be if you are taking a JR train maybe a little bit further out, like say to Kamakura or something. And right, are you enjoying the green car, which is the first class car, which we recommend if you are taking those longer trips, then you can eat in one of those seats. But that’s the only one I can think of.
No, no, definitely not on the metro, big long train rides, that’s different rail they’ll provide. Or you can get boxed lunches, before a long train trip, if you’re gonna do some of that while you’re in Japan, but not definitely not on the metro. And if you take a taxi, just remember, there’s no tipping, right? They really don’t want a tip,
The taxi is not a bad option. If again, your group is two or three people, you’re not going all the way across town. And it’s going to take you from door to door. So that’s that’s not a bad option, it is a little bit more expensive. But around, like I said three people, is where it might start to be beneficial, or at least breakeven compared to taking the subway or the bus. So that’s just a choice you got to make.
I’m gonna tell you, if you’ve got young kids, and it’s the end of the day, and you’ve been pounding pavement all day, take a taxi, It can be a lifesave. You’ll just really be happy.
At the end, like we recommend in a lot of other major cities, the subway is great, it’s pretty quick, you don’t have to worry about traffic. So it’s gonna be the time you expect. But if you aren’t going to be able to go directly from one station to the next station where you’re going to get off and leave this the metro line. There’s going to be a lot of walking between transfer points.
Sometimes up to like a kilometer. Yeah, I mean, you’d be surprised at how long they can get. One of the places we’re talking about is the Harajuku region and that’s a that’s famous for it. There’s the station there depending on where you go. There’s a long transfer between Jane Doe has
some big transfers. Tokyo Station itself has some long walk transfers, a sock, so has some long walk station transfers. And we’re not talking walking above ground where you at least seeing things now we’re talking about walking underground. So to get like I said across the city, big distances, you don’t really have a choice. That’s the way to do it. But if you can take a bus and there’s a line that’s going to take you close to where you’re going, or when transfer. I really recommend the bus unless it’s like the major rush hour five o’clock at night, six o’clock at night?
Yeah, we like taking buses, because then you get to see where you are. I mean, I think subways and metros are quite convenient. But you don’t get to see anything. You don’t get to see anything at all. So we we really have probably, especially in maybe in the last 10 years or so, we’ve really embraced taking buses, as opposed to trains, as much as possible. Just because we’d like to see where we are, and it feels better. And you can feel like you’re, you know, more a part of the scenery and traveling than just going through the motions and trudging from one station to another.
Exactly right, less walking in an area where there’s nothing really to see.
So and if you have bad knees or something, I mean, I would highly suggest that you always take about as much as possible, because the other thing that you’re going to deal with in Tokyo is stairs. Now, if now don’t let that in saying that they always have an elevator somewhere. But you have to find the elevator. And sometimes that means like climbing some stairs to cross the train track and go on the other side to go up the elevator. So they’re not always that convenient. Butyou can still find what normally. So I guess they’re sure Yeah.
But yeah, that’s definitely something to think about. Oh, one last thing about the PASMO. Good to know. It also works as like a digital cash. So yes, you can look for basically any vending machine, but also in convenience stores. It has the PASMO sign just like it with like a Visa card sign. You can use your PASMO card that you’ve topped off to buy things.
And this is a great idea for like older children or teenagers. Because they tend to get hungrier than we do, right. I mean, they always want to snack. So you can say, well, here’s your PASMO. And you can get two snacks during the day with this. So because there’s vending machines everywhere that will take them vending machines on the street, in the convenience stores, you can pay with PASMO for certain things. So it’s just a wonderful thing to have. And I think it’s great for kids so that they don’t always have to, you know, be bothering me.
Well, what’s your favorite vending machine snack? Or drink in Tokyo?
What’s my favorite one? Yeah. Okay, so one of the things I really love is more of a winter thing. And that is corn soup.
Corn soup. I knew you were going to say corn soup. Well, I love it, too. We love corn soup. It comes out pipe piping hot.
Yeah, it’s so so so good. I like that. I like of course the multitude of coffees that you can get. Yeah. Coffee you want that’s right, hot or cold. And I’m trying to think of a snack that I really liked during the summer. Usually I’m just so hot because it’s so humid in the summers in Tokyo. That is a good option. Yeah, maybe ice cream balls or popsicle balls or something. But I think I’m much more interested usually and just having something to drink and keeping hydrated. But in the winter that corn soup man. Mmm.
That little can of corn soup, a little bit of chunks of corn, chunks. Little bits of corn kernel niblets Yeah, it’s delicious. It’s like a well, it’s like a corn chowder.
It’s so good. Try it if you get the chance. Okay, one thing you need to know about eating and walking to, well, not eating and walking, don’t do it. But anything where you might get a ticket or you’ve collected a receipt, because of shopping, all of that trash that you seem to end up with. There are not very many trash cans, anywhere in Japan. It’s it, in my opinion is extremely frustrating. But it doesn’t matter. It’s the way it is. So just know that going into it, and whether you take a little plastic bag or something and stick it in your backpack or put it know that it’s going to go in your pocket. Tell your kids how to deal with it. Because it’s really important that you don’t put of course trash on the street is no one or very few people litter. I have seen people litter, of course there’s exceptions to everything. That’s just the world goes round. But overall, you won’t see people littering and you won’t know what they’ve done with their trash because they’ve taken care of it. They put it back in their purse or whatever.
It’s kind of astonishing that there are so few trash cans around, yet it’s a very clean city. But that’s exactly right, you want to carry your your leftover trash or your recyclables. I found the best place to unload those things was at a convenience store, they almost always have the set of recycle and trash machine trash cans there.
So that’s a good thing to look for convenience stores are just good for so many things. And that’s one of them. And they do recycle as well. Oh, and I think you’ll find a lot in the train stations down on the platforms, a lot of times you can see him when I say a lot of times it really depends. Yeah.
One of the things, you know, one of the things that you want to do when you’re in Japan, is you’re gonna want to take photo after photo after photo after photo. And luckily, they love photography. So the Japanese will pose for you; they will take a picture of you for you; they will look pictures of you with them. Yes, they will. If they see that you’re trying to get a picture, they’ll try and get out of your way. They’re very polite about it. And they’ll do the best they can to help you have the best time. So if you see a photo you want, just either ask them to be in it or ask them, I wouldn’t really asked people to move. Be patient. But you know, walk beside him on the other side of them or something like that. You can take pictures of monks, you can take pictures of little kids, you can take pictures of anything you want. Just be polite about it. And if they see you doing it, smile and say thank you, you don’t even have to say, arigoato, but just say thank you, and they’ll be very happy.
The other thing is that people think is pretty funny. When you’re watching TV, you see a lot of this or movies about Japan. People slurping their noodles? Yes, they do. I don’t think it’s as prominent as most of the movies I’ve seen. Yeah, it’s true. And I think the more feminine you are, the less you might slurp. But it is it is acceptable. I don’t think you need to go out of your way to try and figure out how to slurp noodles. That’s just my opinion, after living there for five years, it’s up to you how you want to deal with them.
But on the flip side, if you’re making noise with your ramen, it’s okay.
Talking about money a little bit, you will want to have I mean, you have to PASMO so for a lot of times, you don’t even need a you know, like a little bit of petty cash. But it is a good idea to keep some some cash on you. And there are ATMs everywhere. So that’s easy. And they all have an English option. So that’s super, super easy. But I think a lot of times, it’s just easier if you pay by card.
Yeah, the exception to that is going along with having some cash available, change keep change available. Because when you go to that ramen stand, or a lot of the smaller food stalls, there’ll be a machine that you’re going to use to pay. It’s change only. So keep a hold of that change. Use your PASMO to buy things in the vending machine instead of your chain so that you have that available. And then yeah, because those machines can be difficult to figure out the office oftentimes are not going to be in English, but it’s where you’re gonna find that I think some of the best food, those small little mom and pop shops were especially the ramen and gyoza, things like that. And so it’s a simple matter of putting in your money, punching the button for the food you want. And getting a ticket and then giving that to the counter person or the waitress.
And ramen is anywhere from 800 and probably maybe up to 2000 yen when you add a bunch of stuff to it and you get a drink or beer or whatever. So you know it’s good idea to have some cash on like Jim said, but a lot of times if you’re sitting down at a restaurant, they’ll take a card so that’s not a big deal.
Regular restaurants, shopping, any convenience store, of course, your card is going to work. It’s just going to be those really small, tiny little hole in the wall eating establishments where there’s a machine or maybe even not a machine, but it’s just a very small place and they won’t do a card.
Okay, so when is the best time to get to Tokyo?
I’ve got my favorite time. You do. Oh, it’s got to be Hanami cherry blossoms.
Cherry blossom time. Definitely. I mean, the weather is beautiful.
You’ll still get some rain. But that’s nice because it cleans up the air and it cleans up the city. And everything’s shining and cleaning green because it’s spring. And the cherry blossoms are just incredible.
And the other really nice time is fall because of the maples and trees and all the most beautiful foliage coloring. So those spring and fall are probably the best times to go. Summer is my least favorite time in Tokyo. By far my least favorite.
The couple of good things about summer is there’s tons of festivals and like knightly, you’re gonna see, you know, some firework shows and things like that. Baseball’s happening if you want to go to a baseball game, but overall, it’s just so hot and so humid. And that is just not my favorite time. You want to make sure that you have something to cool down, bring lots of water. I think having this is where parasols originated, probably because the sun just beats down on you. So if you can get an umbrella just to keep the sun off here, it’s not a bad idea. Or wear a sun hat. You’ll see the Japanese wearing them. They’re very common.
They’ll be carrying umbrellas, too. Yeah.
And it’s okay to wear shorts and tank tops and things like that. Try not to be too revealing. I don’t think the Japanese are too revealing. But at the same time, you can wear what you want to wear. Just make sure that it’s it’s nice.
Winter is okay. It doesn’t get too cold in Tokyo at all. It does snow occasionally. But the temperatures probably hover right around freezing to above to maybe the even the 50s. Yeah, in the wintertime. And so it can be quite comfortable. Now, one thing I learned in Japan, and it’s just one of my favorite travel tips ever for cold weather, is bring a pair of ski pants or insulated pants to wear for your sightseeing, especially for the kids. Because that way you can be outside for a really long time. They taught me that you should see them. That’s what they’re around him. And it just makes sense. I don’t know why I never thought of that. Like, for some reason, in the States, we tend to wear jackets. And we put our hats and gloves on our legs worry about our legs. But let me tell you, it makes a huge difference. And it keeps you that much warmer. And that’s great. The only problem with any of it is as soon as you get on a train or in a restaurant or something. You need to be able to peal those babies right off because they are going to have the heat cranked. Yeah, it’s going to be warm.
I want to go back to fall just a little bit. Because it is a great time of year. But people should also be aware that it’s also typhoon season.
It’s just that’s early fall, that’s like late summer, actually late.
October, October, even as late as November. So yeah. Just be aware. Personally, I don’t have a problem with the typhoons. I think they’re really fascinating. I’ve never been in a situation where it was dangerous. Luckily, I guess maybe I’d change my story if I had been. But just to be aware, late summer, early fall.
It can disrupt your travel. I don’t think that the Tokyo side gets as much.
It’s not as common, but they do get a storm that will come through, I would say at least once a year, once a year for sure. A major one that’s going to delay flights and stop ground travel for at least probably six hours. Minimum. Yeah. They’re interesting, but it is a great time of year to go as well. Yeah, just gotta be aware of that.
Okay, well, we can go over a couple of things that we would do on our very first trip. Maybe that’s what you’ve been waiting for. But the idea of going to Tokyo is just in general. There’s so many things that are different about their culture versus our culture that we feel that it was important to give you some of those tips. But of course while you’re in Tokyo, you want to go to some temples and shrines like the Meiji Jinju shrine, the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa And one of my favorites is the Gotokuji Temple or the Cat Temple, which if you’re there in fall, it has so many maple trees is just stunning. There’s some really cool areas just to wander around.
Ginza, the Ginza District for fashion, lots of restaurants. It’s kind of like your upscale area.
We always like to have gyoza while we’re in Ginza. That’s where we Gotta go games all the time.
There’s another good one in Harajuku. Which is the other but Harajuku is like a kind of a really hip walking street with cosplay shops and cafes and really over the top candy shops like we’re talking cotton candy that’s three feet across and just just crazy looking.
Kappabashi if you’re if you want to do some shopping for plastic food, which Japan is known for cooking supplies, knives Kappabashi is a great place to go.
Akihabara for electronic and camera equipment, and Pokemon.
Tsukiji fish market, or it’s just so you go, yeah, you can’t go for the tuna auction anymore. It’s no longer held there. But it is still a really cool fishmarket area where you can walk around to a lot of different stalls, and a lot of cool shopping and some very good sushi, of course.
And then one of my favorite places is Roppongi as well, it’s crowded with little bars and clubs. It’s really a nightlife scene. But there’s just so much energy there. And I mean, if you like malls, and even if you don’t Rappongi Hills is in this gigantic tower building. That’s just a beautiful building anyway. And it’s got a great art museum, the Mori Art Museum is in there, and some really excellent restaurant choices.
And if you go at Christmas time, they even have a Christmas market in there. That’s right, like a, like a downhome, German Christmas market where you can get Christmas treats and gluhwein and just feel like it’s Christmas. It is very cool.
Some of the things that we think that you should do is maybe go to a kabuki theater show, make sure you go to a game arcade. They have so many it’s just fun. I mean, there’s completely different than the States. And there’s most of them have multiple floors. Yeah, so there’s tons of things,
Multiple floors for different ages. And everybody can find a video game to their liking, or even darts or pool or ping pong. You’re gonna find all that stuff in an arcade.
Yeah, have we played darts at one? That’s right. Also, of course, you’ve got to if you have an opportunity to see us sumo tournament while you’re there, definitely go. They hold them twice a year, I think in January, April, I believe. But I’m not. I mean, if they’re having a sumo tournament or show, I would go to that. Or if you don’t have a chance, you can still go to the sumo Museum, at least at the very least That’s right.
Of course, you’ve got to try to karaoke, it’s completely different than you don’t go to a bar and sing in front all these people you don’t know. In fact, you don’t sing in front of anybody else except who you’re with.
Yeah, everybody’s in their own little room. And you’ve got a menu for how long you want to be there. In drinks, you want some we’ll have food. And you’re just going to be in that room singing karaoke. It’s actually a lot of fun if you have a small group, or if you’re invited with a larger group.
Like you and I, we kind of had a date night, and it was fun with just even just the two of you. That’s right, cuz it’s just fun. Then they serve you drinks. You can get drinks there. You can get little snacks there. And you can just sit there and it’s very romantic.
No one I could recommend, like for Tokyo, but they’re everywhere. It’s simple Google Maps search will find you one very nearby. Or you can ask at your hotel, which one is their favorite? Because I have a favorite.
There’s plenty of great parks. There’s plenty of great museums, there’s more than we can even begin to tell you, but we’ll have on our website Reflections Enroute. Also. There’s tons of great festivals. We’ve been to so many different things. And it’s just pretty amazing. Two of our favorites, I think was one is the Daruma fair, it’s in Jindaiji Temple, or they have other places as well. But the one that’s closest to Tokyo in the beginning of March is the Jindaiji Temple. And the Daruma is a little round bobble or statuette that only has one eye, and then and then you make a wish and the people at the temple will will paint your wish on it. And then when the wish comes true, you can paint the other eye and it’s just a cool, cool tradition.
You can buy your Daruma there. And if you’ve got old Daruma, that’s where you’re going to bring them. Yeah, to recycle them. Yeah, it’s a very cool place. There’s Daruma everywhere. It’s really, really kind of fun. The baby cries Sumo wrestling festival.
Oh my gosh, that was the absolute best though.
It’s really cool. This summer if you can’t get to Tokyo for a sumo tournament, this is one of the next best things. The younger sumo wrestlers. It’s only one day though, will come out, and families with new with young babies will bring their babies. And the sumo, two sumo wrestlers will square off in the ring. And the hold up the baby and they’ll make funny faces at it. They’ll do everything they can, of course short of being malicious, to try and make the babies start crying.
And in fact, it sounds kind of mean but it’s not. Everybody does it good humor. And they want the baby to cry because it brings the baby Good luck, it means that they’re healthy. That’s right.
It is really fascinating. It’s very cool. So did you want to talk a little bit more real quickly about some of the places that are great stays we talked a little bit about our favorite places called Dormy Inns, and quite frankly once we discovered them that’s where we stayed we stay there every time we can find one in any city or any town in the whole country, because they’re just perfect.
You get excellent value for the for the money and the having the onsen there on site. Not all of them have onsen so you gotta be careful. Make sure you make sure it does before you book it, but most of them do. And it’s just a great way to go.
They’re always clean. They’re simple, but they’re comfortable. I just I mean, we just can’t say enough good about them.
Yeah, well, the other two standout hotels that we like are the Park Hyatt, which was the hotel from Lost in Translation.
You can go to the bar there and have a drink where Bill Murray had a drink.
Or the Andaz Tokyo, which has a 52nd floor rooftop bar with stunning views of the city. And also really it since it is such a high rise hotel, great views from almost every room. So the Andaz Tokyo is a great option.
If you have a military affiliation, like if you’re retired or active duty, or if you are a civilian employee in for the federal government, then a really good option, maybe your best option is the New Sanno Hotle in Tokyo. Which you can go to the New Sanno website and book your stay there. It’s very close to Roppongi. It’s close to stations, bus stops, it’s very well connected. And it’s a very, I think, excellent value for the money.
All of the hotels are going to have a concierge that will book you tours and things like that if you need to. Yeah, I suggest you book them ahead of time. But you know, you can do that once you get there as well. And the nice thing about the New Sanno if you’re eligible to stay there is that they know that you’re American, they have an American breakfast. And it’s kind of you know, a little oasis, I guess in the middle of the sprawling Tokyo. Yeah, the only thing about it is that this is something you have to plan because those rooms book fast.The longer the more advanced as you have the better off you might have getting into them.
So that’s just rundown a really quick what to eat and where to eat, and then we’ll have to sign off I think.
The the places that we’re going to mention are places that we love to eat in Tokyo. That’s right, some are a little bit more expensive than others, but actually there are not too bad most of them are pretty inexpensive. My number one favorite? Okay, so I didn’t even like ramen before I went to this restaurant every time Jim wanted to go and he loves ramen. So that was quite frequently I would just sort of groan and go “Oh not again.” ButI went to this place and oh, now I dream of this ramen. That’s how good it is.
It hasn’t converted you to all ramen, but yes. If you can get to Nakiryu and get in line there early. You might have to wait for a little bit but the ramen there is I think best in the world.
We will tell you exactly how to get there on the show notes.
Well, it’s we’ve got it covered on web article as well.
have the gills the place we mentioned we have the ski G fish market that we mentioned. Another place that we really, really really really love is called well I’m not sure what it’s called, but it’s Omurice.
Taimeiken Omurice. That’s the name of it.
What omurice is, is an omelet that is over rice. And the one that we like to go to, they have them on a lot of different places, and most of the time you’re gonna find them, they’re gonna have a tomato sauce. Ketchup, I’m not a real fan of the tomato sauce, because it’s very sweet. Kids love this. That’s something that kids would eat every time I guarantee you. But for adults, the one at Taimeiken that we really love is with a beef and a gravy demiglace. Oh my gosh, you’ve never tasted anything so wonderful in your life. I mean, I could go down.
So of course, you also want to try things like Okonomiyaki, which they translate loosely to Japanese pancakes. They’re not really anything like a pancake. No, but they are delicious. And the experience when you find a good Okonomiyaki restaurant is a lot of fun to takoyaki octopus balls or any kind of street food and at Asakusa you can find all kinds of food as you’re walking up and down the area where the temple. Sensoji. Anything else?
Maybe just one mentioned for the Tokyo ramen Street in the Tokyo? Yeah, where there’s a little tiny ramen stalls, like right along the same area, supposed to be some of the best in Tokyo. Now, for me, it’s still Nakiriyu. But if I can’t get to Nakiriyu, the Tokyo ramen street is the next best thing.
Well, the thing about Tokyo ramen Street in the station is it changes every year. And they pick the top eight rated ramen places. I’m not sure who’s rating them, but maybe they are. But they they go out and they find the best Tokyo ramen places and then they offer them a stall. So it’s an honor to be asked to go there. And then in doing so that it sort of ensures that you’re going to get a really good experience. So it really is a good place to go. Don’t forget to try sushi. And if you like Starbucks, the Japanese love them. They’re everywhere. They even have a roasters there, which is a beautiful building lots of good stuff.
Also a good place to go during the cherry blossom season because it’s right along canal. Yeah, that’s lined with cherry trees. So it’s beautiful.
Of course everybody’s there then, so you’re going to wait in line. At least you are waiting under cherry trees, if you’re waiting in line at a restaurant, and actually the places that we’ve mentioned you might be because they’re all places that are very popular. That’s why we go there, because it’s the best food.
They almost always have a line. So how you do a line in Japan is you’re very polite, we stand there pretty quietly, like you do everywhere else in Japan. And you might move pretty slowly, but you move and you just sort of plod along, if there happens to be like for example at Taimeiken, they have chairs, so you have a line where you’re getting in the door, then you get in the door, and then there’s still the chair waiting room. So then you actually move seat to seat, to seat, one at a time, until you get up to the maitre d’. You’ll see it. I mean, you can’t not see it. And let me tell you something. If you’re somebody who hates lines, and most Americans, do I get it. That’s okay. Because if you don’t want to wait in line, you’re not going to eat the good food. That’s all there is to it. You just have to make that choice.
And I think that sometimes people are lined up. And other people get in the line, just because there’s a line. Because usually we know it’s gonna be good if there’s a line. And it’s always been true. There’s a line, it’s always good.
Well, we didn’t even really scratch the surface of Tokyo, which you probably won’t even scratch the surface on your very first trip. But there’s, I’m sure will will cycle back to it and tell you like all our favorite places to go and all the good sites same places in a different episode. But for now, I think that we’ve at least given you a lot of food for thought, so to speak. Lots of things to savor.
And a good guide on how to get around. And yeah, how to experience Tokyo.
If you have any questions, or you want more clarification on one of the things that we’ve talked about, please join our private Facebook group. It’s called Streets and Eats. And we welcome questions and we welcome experiences. So if you have some experiences you want to tell us about Tokyo please jump right in.
That’s right. And you can also find much more in depth information about all the things we’ve talked about on our website. So please join us there as well. Leave comments on other articles there we also answer those. And you know, just know that we really love having you. Join us on our podcasts and thank you for listening.
Ciao for now.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Podcaster Bios for Jim and Corinne: Jim and Corinne are a married couple who love everything travel. Having met and married in Germany, they’ve never stopped. Along the way, they have raised two kids, visited over 90 countries (including every country in Europe), and have plenty of stories and travel tips to share. Read more about them on our About page.