My brief newbies guide to Tokyo

Ok, a couple of pointers if you’re on your way to Tokyo for a couple of days…

  • It takes about 1.5 hours to get into the city from the airport so you need to factor that in.
  • I’d recommend catching the Limousine bus in from the airport to whichever hotel you were planning to stay. It eaves from right outside the arrivals gate so it saves you traipsing all over the airport with luggage, to get to the trains. It takes about the same amount of time.
  • Your biggest cost will be accommodation. Eating and drinking can be cheap if you avoid the luxury hotels/restaurants. (Cheaper than Sydney/Brisbane unless the dollar keeps dropping)
  • Hotels in the central (more convenient) parts of the city are more expensive. Villa Fontaine are a reasonably priced option although the rooms are very compact. The Roppongi one is very close to the action (and to the ANA which is one of the hotels that the Limousine Bus stops at)
  • Public transport has a consolidated ticketing system which is handy as you don’t have to worry about prices, you just insert the card when you jump on and off. The cards cost 500yen ($5) to buy and you charge them. you can use it on almost all of the trains and most of the buses.
  • You’ll find plenty of stuff out there on what to see in Tokyo. Depends on what your thing is – art, buildings, alcohol, shops, electronics shops, porn, people… Its got it all ;)
  • Some tips on the various centres around Tokyo (you should be able to Wikipedia them all too)
    • Roppongi: Was a red light area from post war days frequented by US Army types (and still has lots of bars/clubs of all variety) but a couple of big developements have raised the bar a little. Roppongi Hills and Midtown are the developments – they both have huge towers so you cant miss them. Lots of restaurants here as well – good for a look
    • Shinjuku: Its like a mini tokyo, in one place – HUGE. Station is a big as Sydney city so don’t organise to meet anyone here. You will get lost when you go here.
    • Harajuku: See previous Cosplay mention. Lots of kids hang out here so interesting people watching and kids/crazy fashion. Also home to Yoyogi park and Meiji Shrine which are worth a look.
    • Omotesando: The Champs-Élysées of Tokyo. High end brand shops and well dressed guys and girls. The usual array of restaurants etc.
    • Ginza: Another high end shopping area with a number of big department stores. Worth going into the basement of a dept store and checkout the gourmet food stalls.
    • Ebisu: Lots of good restaurants and bars. A little more classy than Roppongi and less full-on. Famous for Ramen retaurants.
    • Shibuya: Centre of Tokyo pop-culture. Go here to get an eye-full of high skirts on very tannned highschool girls and boys with super glue in their hair. More bars, clubs and restaurants abound. Home of the famous crossing that you need sonar to avoid the people coming at you from all directions as you make your way accross.
    • Other: There are heaps of cool places that are just out of the way so its worth getting lost and hoping to stumble on something. There’s no point trying to give directions to them as you wouldn’t find them. 
  • Street names are not a reliable way to navigate as 90% of streets don’t have one. People typically use landmarks (buildings) and train stations. 
  • There are Taxis everywhere so carry the address of your hotel (preferrably in Japanese) in case you get very lost and can’t find a train station. A lot of cabs have navigation systems now so you should be ok. Minimum cab fare is 770 yen. The fare ticks over faster late at night.
  • The Subway system is pretty straight forward, so just as long as you can find a station, you should be able to get home. you can pick up an English subway map in most of the stations.
  • There are plenty of people who love to practise their hard earned conversational English on anyone looking foreign and remotely lost so if you walk up to a street sign with a confused look on your face, someone will probably start talking to you.
Here are a couple of tours that I often reccommend to the Tokyo, first-timer:
Imperial Palace – Ginza
Hire a bicycle and ride to and around the Imperial Palace (centre of Tokyo). From there ride over to Ginza and do the Department stores.
Yoyogi – Harajuku – Omotesando
Head to Yoyogi station and walk through Meiji shrine to Harajuku. Either head to Yoyogi park from here if you packed lunch or stroll down the main street of Harajuku and grab something. From there continue walking and you are in Omotesando brand heaven
Shinjuku Gyoen (park)
For those feeling adventurous, head to Shinjuku and make your way (if you can) to Isetan department store. Head to the basement and grab an assortment of Japanese goodies for lunch. You can’t really eat there so head out of the department store and on to the huge Shinjuku Gyoen park. Pay the 250yen (I think) entrance and relax in this oasis in the middle of the Shinjuku madness with your lunch.
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