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Top 10 Tips for a First-Time Visit to Tokyo

Where: Tokyo, Japan
August 22, 2014 at 1:25 PM | by | ()

Tokyo consistently tops the lists of "must-visit" metropoli for tourism, and the first-time visit is one you're not likely to forget.

It just so happens that this Jaunted contributor recently had the experience of landing in Tokyo for the first time, and learning all the little bits of etiquette and excellence which makes Tokyo so desirable and so influential for travelers. Coming off this beginner's journey, here are our top 10 tips for first-timers to Tokyo:

1. Take a train from your plane

We flew into Narita, which is quite far from Tokyo's center. A taxi ride can cost upwards of $200 dollars one-way into town, so you'll want to follow the crowd on to the N'EX train (Narita Express), which is $14 and up. Although Haneda Airport is much, much nearer to the city, it's also better connected via trains (the Monorail or Keikyu line).

2. Street addresses are not to be relied on

The logical method of finding a business or home is not used here; it's a bit of a free for all, as buildings are not numbered by location but by size and history. So we'd recommend to take a screen shot of what you want to see when in smaller neighborhoods and hunt out your sites that way. Even smaller hotels are difficult to find for locals, so it's best to know exactly where you are going, before you go. Ask for a taxi card from hotel reception, since they're typically printed with a map and Japanese directions for a cab driver.

3. Order your priorities

Tokyo just happens to be the world's largest capital, and once you're loose in its sprawling neighborhoods, you'll understand why. When figuring out where to go and what to see, check out the tourist areas of Shibuya, Ginza, Roppongi, and Akihabara. These are the must-dos, but branch out and find your own little secret corner of the city (we recommend Asakusa).

4. WiFi is everywhere

The folks over at the Japanese tourism board have created a mobile app to sniff out safe and free wifi. Download it before you arrive since it will do all the work help you find a reliable connection.

5. A little bit of Japanese goes a long way

Like with any foreign land, it's best to learn just a few simple words to make your exploring easier. Assume no English is spoken, use your limited Japanese and pointing, and you'll be surprised how easy it is to still have a great experience of local sushi, soups and yummy yakitori.

6. Most tourist-favorite areas are super safe

Now, we would never suggest to let your guard down when traveling either domestically or internationally, but Tokyo in general is very safe. Bustling, vibrant and busy? Yes. Unsafe and seedy? Not really. Even the districts of love hotels and sex shops are still well-lit and inviting.

7. Get used to vending machines...everywhere!

If you've forgotten your bottled water at the hotel, no problem. Suddenly have an urge for a cold green tea on a corner? No problem. Need to sip an Asahi while strolling the izakaya bars? Too easy! Vending machines are all over the city and offer up both soft drinks and alcoholic drinks for a little bit cheaper than convenience stores.

8. The subway system map is tangled like a bowl of ramen

Tokyo's train lines whisking locals from one corner of the city to another and are quite comprehensive, but they're not all owned by the same company and navigating the underground becomes confusing. Take your time with the map to figure out how to get to your destination and then pay the zoned fee. Better yet, score yourself a tourist card if visiting for a few days and then pass through turnstiles like a local. We loaded up a Suica card (like the Oyster of London or Octopus of Hong Kong) and tapped in and out of turnstiles for convenience and ease.

9. Food halls can be your friend

Usually located in the basements of the larger shopping centers in Ginza, the food halls are expansive and well worth a look. Offering up hot and prepared foods or even just individually wrapped gourmet apples, these are not to be missed for quick bites. Most shopping areas will have some sort of food hall to explore and fill your belly.

10. Get lost

Trying something new is one of the coolest things about travel. If a restaurant or bar looks like it's a local hangout, peek in and respectfully inquire (or gesticulate) if you can have a seat. This method lead us to a sake bar where English menus were not available but the drinks and company were beyond compare.

[Photos: Rayme Gorniak/Jaunted]

Archived Comments:

Planning Tokyo travel

I love Tokyo, its by far the most safe city in Asia. The people here are warm, helping and yes knowing a little bit of japanese helps. Though not knowing it will not land you in trouble. What I loved most about the city is ease of transportation. You are not required to hire a taxi, you can easily use the local transport which is much cheaper and you can have an economical trip.