Tokyo: Everything You Need to Know Before You Go

Before you embark on a trip to Tokyo there are a couple of awesome things you need to be aware of and a lot of awesome things you need to plan so you don’t miss out on.

Useful Phrases

English has become much more common in Tokyo as preparation for the Olympics in 2020, but in small places it is better to know some useful phrases:

こんにちは – Kinnichiwa – Hello/ Good evening!

おはようございます- Ohayo – Good morning!

ください – Kudasai – Please

さようなら – Sayonara – Goodbye

ありがとうございました – Arigato Gozaimashita – Thank you

ごめんなさい – Gomenasai – I’m Sorry

トイレはどこですか? Toire wa dokodesu ka? – Where is the bathroom?

飲み放題 – Nomihodai – All you can drink (happy hour)

Foods & Drinks to try

  • Chu-hi drink – You can find these yummy alcoholic drinks at any convenient store and supermarkets. They have every single fruit favor imaginable with Zero edition which is stronger than the normal.

Ramen from Ramen Street
  • Ramen – If you are a fan of ramen, eating it at Tokyo station’s underground Ramen Street is ramen goals.

  • Shabu-shabu – Barbecue but with a Japanese twist, it is cooked inside a pot under the fire with water. Thin beef meat, Shiitake mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, thin-cut carrots, napa cabbage, tofu. Since it is cooked with hot water it is commonly eaten during the winter to warm up.

  • Sukiyaki – Also a barbecue with thin beef slices cooked in a pot but without water. This delicious dish includes glass noodles, green onions, cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, tofu and shungiku leaves.

  • Okonomiyaki – Known as Japanese salty “pancakes” made out of thin sliced bacon, veggies, mayonnaise and other delicious ingredients. Going to an okonomiyaki restaurant is fun because you get to make it yourself on a hot stove table.

  • Yakiniku – Barbecue thin sliced meat on the grill.

  • Yakisoba – Fried egg noodles with pork slices, vegetables and yakisoba sauce.

  • Sashimi – Sashimi is actually more common and traditional

  • Unagi Sushi – Unagi is a river eel and the sushi contains a slice of grilled eel on top of rice with a sweet barbecue sauce. Japan waters as a lot of Unagi which makes them very fresh and wild-caught.

  • Yakitori – Barbecued chicken and scallions usually served on bamboo skewers.

  • Kebab bowl – The original Turkish dish has been adapted into a bowl, with rice on the bottom topped with kebab meat, lettuce, tomatoes and salsa sauce.

  • Tonkatsu– Also served in a bowl with rice but instead of beef, its friend pork with Japanese barbecue sauce.

  • Gyudon– The classic beef bowl, just like the others but with thin sliced beef, onions with a delicious sauce combination of soy sauce, sake, ichiban dashi and others.

  • Izakayas – After work tapas restaurants where businessman go to unwind with their coworkers. Every type of common Japanese dish is served here tapa-sized, including common drinks like green tea sour and honey yuzu. My favorite Izakaya chain restaurant is called Kin no Kura, where you can get all dishes and drinks for just ¥270 ($ 2,50) and all you can eat for ¥1,980 yen ($18,60). Plus you can do the ordering from a tablet menu in your own private room. There are also seafood only Izakaya’s where you can grill your own food.

Things you can only do in Japan

Tokyo DisneySea
  • Onsen – Onsen are the best places to relax after a long day of exploring. Take a delicious bath on hot spring pools, take a shower Japanese style and have a delicious cup of hot green tea. Most Onsens are gender separate, unless you are staying at an Onsen hotel, where you get your own pool per room. You can find these places everywhere in the city for as cheap as ¥700 yen ($6,50 ) to very high prices, but the quality is always very good and traditional.SXLLM

  • Disneyland & DisneySea– Personally, I like DisneySea more than Disneyland since it has more thrilling rides than the original park. When at the park, I recommend going checking out the souvenir stores, Japan has their own toy collections that are very kawaii.

  • Karaoke– Singing with your friends to your favorite songs while having drinks and appetizers on a skyscraper is the exact type of fun you can get in Tokyo. Some you can even rent costumes to wear for the night and all you can drink cocktails.

  • Arcade- These arcades are always so much fun, full of crazy Japanese style games like the drumming game, where you have to play the drums according to summer festival songs. The graphics of all the games are so vibrant and really easy to follow.

  • Purikura– At these arcade places you can also find Purikura machines which are silly and fun photo booths. On the pictures you can get crazy backgrounds, filters, cartoons and other silly things. They make you look exactly like an anime character.

  • Shinkansen – This bullet train is the most fun and fastest way to travel within the country. From Tokyo to Shin- Osaka with the train only takes 2.20 m while by car it takes 6.26 minutes. They can be pretty pricy, but they are always on time and perfect quality. The breathtaking views of the country side and rice field make it totally worth it.

Green Tea Pool at Yunesan

Seasonal things to try

Girls wearing Yukata at an takoyaki stand

Summer festivals (Matsuri)– During the summer, the whole country becomes a festival waiting to happen. The entire summer there are street festivals happening everywhere in specific days. Since Japan is very humid, there are festivals at night as well. Which I love because everything becomes more bright and magical. With all the lanterns, traditional food and drinks booths, dancing, singing and of course the beautiful yukatas (summer version of kimonos). These festivals usually take place at or close to temples which makes everything a billion times more special and beautiful. When you are in Japan during the summer make sure to check-out when these festivals are so you don’t miss it.

Full schedule of all the summer festivals in Tokyo

New year festival– New Year is the biggest and most important holiday in Japan, and on the first day of the year families gather together to visit Shinto shrines and make new resolutions for the upcoming year. People buy omamori which are charms that bring you luck on what you need that year such as love, money, strength, knowledge, health and so on. Then for lunch they celebrate by having a delicious special new year meal called, Osechi Ryori, served on big Bento boxes called jubako.

Useful tips

Transportation – During the day, rely on train, metro and busses – they are always on time, clean and there is information everywhere to help you find your way.

At night it’s better to take taxis since public transports stop working around midnight until 5AM

Get a JR metro card and fill it with money for the days you are there, it is much easier than buying a ticket every time, you can use it at the convenient stores inside the station and JR stations usually have Wi-Fi.

Take the Shinkansen bullet train to other cities, they are super comfortable and fast. Quite expensive as well, but the experience is very worth it.

Convenient stores (Family Mart, Lawson, 7Eleven…) – They are ALWAYS open and you can find them EVERYWHERE. They have literally anything you need here; food, drinks, ATM, printer, underwear, you name it.

Japan is really safe so you don’t need to worry about getting robbed. Although, girls might want to keep an eye out for men doing creepy things like trying to take a photo of underwear under the skirt, but apart from such petty crimes, they are harmless.

Always bring an ID with you, although restaurants and cafes don’t require it. University IDs are NOT accepted so make sure to bring an actual identification or driver’s license.

Best to use cash, American Express or Visa cards- Master Cards are not accepted in many places and it can be hard to find an ATM to withdraw. If you don’t have any other option, make an account at Western Union International Bank where someone can send you money from any currency.

Hotel check-in time is usually at 3PM so make to let your hotel know if you are going to be arriving early in the morning so you don’t have to walk around bamboozled to kill time.

Wi-Fi can be pretty hard to find in the city, except for several convenient stores, so make sure to purchase a wireless hotspot at the airport when you arrive so you can use it to find yourself around the big metropolitan

Electronic bathrooms can be a big surprise if you are not aware of them. Japanese toilet seats are VERY complex. Not in a bad way though, they have numerous functions and some of them even talk to you. They can play lounge music, serve as a duvet in different levels and are electrically warm. The main reason to why you should be aware of these toilets is because they are EVERYWHERE. Hotels, malls, restaurants and so on.

Other cities

Yokohama Port
  • Yokohama (MY HOME CITY & south) – A beautiful port city, 20 minutes south of Tokyo with the Toyoko line. At Minato Mirai 21 you can spend a day at the amusement parks by the bay, Cup Noodle Museum and a landmark view of the city and mount Fuji from the 69th floor. Yokohama also has a big Chinatown and the walk from Minato Mirai to Osanbashi Port is breath taking.

Nara in the spring

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  • Kyoto (south) The most ancient city in Japan filled with beautiful temples, old streets and sakura trees.

  • Osaka (south) – A modern city similar to Tokyo but in the South.

  • Nara (south) – One of the oldest cities in japan full of temples and deer parks where you can feed them.

  • Hokkaido (all the way north) – All the way to the north, this is the best place to go skiing and other winter sports. It is also home to the Sapporo beer and the delicious Santouka ramen.

  • Hiroshima (south) – So much history and culture in just one city.

  • Okinawa (all the way south) – Beautiful beach coast with clear waters and occasional turtles in clear and blue waters.

If you want to have a spontaneous and crazy trip, Tokyo is definitely the right place. There i always something new and unexpected at every corner of this huge city that never sleeps.

Reasons Why You Should Travel to Stockholm During the Winter

Slussen

December can be a stressful month for everyone, with final exams, Christmas planning and the end of the year! So visiting the Swedish capital at this time of year will give you the opportunity to relax and enjoy the beautiful Nordic city.

What makes Stockholm unique is that it is incredibly busy while at the same time very quiet and relaxing. The streets are always filled with people and activities, such as sports, museums, shopping and seasonal events. Here are a few ways you can spend your serene vacation.

Outdoor activities

Sweden is the dream destination for sports lovers. With an average temperature of minus 1 degree Celsius in December and minus 3 degrees Celsius in January, there are several activities you can try out such as:

❄ Ice skating at a rink in the center of Kungsträdgården.

❄ Ice-fishing or long-distance skating at a frozen lake.

❄ A day trip to Hammarbybacken, located right outside of the city, where you can go skiing and snowmobiling.

Sollentuna during winter

Museums

Stockholm has plenty of interesting and educational museums for all tastes in history, music, art and science.

❄ Because of the country’s rich Viking and medieval history, there are several museums dedicated to different decades, such as the Vasa Museum, Swedish History Museum and the Nordic Museum.

❄ For science-based ones, there is the Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of Science and Technology.

❄Skansen, the world’s oldest open-air museum, lets you experience Swedish life before the industrial era.

❄ For music lovers, there are many music-related museums such as the ABBA Museum, dedicated to the Swedish band.

❄ Swedes are fans of modern art and photography, and you can check out their work at the Museum of Modern Art and the Fotografiska Museum.

Cafés & seasonal treats

Since it is cold for a large part of the year, the city is filled with cozy cafés, restaurants and bars where people can hang out indoors and enjoy Christmas-y treats.

❄ Warm glögg (mulled wine) and pepparkakor (gingerbread cookies) are served at all times of the day during this season in cute booths and restaurants.

❄ Espresso House is a beloved coffee shop that serves delicious drinks and traditional Swedish snacks. In Stockholm you will find coffee shops on almost every street.

❄ Swedish cafés have a laid-back and casual style to them, with candles, cozy couches and plants that will make you feel right at home.

Fashion

Sweden, especially Stockholm, has been acknowledged for being an iconic fashion location due to its simple but elegant style.

Kungsgatan at 4:30PM

❄ Many high fashion brands such as ACNE, Filippa K, Tiger of Sweden, WesSC and others hail from Sweden.

❄ Walking down the streets of Stockholm is like being on an outdoor runway, since Swedish people are so effortlessly fashionable. In winter, it might be difficult to be able to see outfits, but it is nice to see how Stockholmers get fashionably creative in this season.

❄ Youngsters who want more affordable clothes should check out Bik Bok, GinaTricot, Cheap Monday and Monki, which are Scandinavian brands found all over Stockholm.

❄ Make sure not to miss H&M. Their Swedish stores are even better than the ones around the world because not only do they have clothes, but they also have a large section of beauty products and H&M Home, which sells home decor.

Unique experiences

Hötorget at 4:30 PM

Since Stockholm is located in the Nordic region, there are several unique features that come with the territory, especially during winter.

❄ Unexpected sunsets at 3 p.m. Can you imagine being able

to watch the sun set every day in the middle of the day?

❄ Saunas are a big part of the Swedish culture, and they can be found in many places in the city, including at hotels and hostels.

❄ There are ice bars all over the world, but how unique would it be to actually go to an ice bar in an icy country – especially when it is sponsored by the country’s leading Absolut Vodka and Ice Hotel. At the hotel, you can have drinks at the Nordic-themed ice bar at minus 7 degrees and learn how to create ice sculptures.

Convenience

Since Stockholm is the capital of Scandinavia, leading the region’s commerce, education, fashion and sustainability, it is no surprise that the country functions extremely well, providing a stress-free trip.

❄ English is fluently spoken by the majority of the people, so if you are lost in the middle of Gamla Stan (Old Town) and ask someone for help, they will most likely be able to help you.

❄ There is easy access to Wi-Fi almost everywhere at cafés, restaurants, stores, malls, convenience stores and other places, making it much easier to find your location on maps and decide where to go next.

❄ Swedish tap water is extremely clean and every café, restaurant and bar offers free water.

Stureplan

Cheap flights

Winter is the off-season in Stockholm, making round-trip flights super affordable! Flights from New York can be found as low as $315 and from LA for just $342.

Swedes are very private and reserved, so if you are looking for a quiet and relaxing trip where people won’t disturb you, Stockholm is the perfect place for you.

Romantic European Destinations for Valentine’s Day

What better way to spend Valentine’s Day than to go on a spontaneous trip with your Valentine? Here’s a list of romantic European cities you should check out that will give you the ultimate romantic feeling.

Vienna

Schönbrunn Palace

If you want to spend Valentine’s day feeling like a queen and king, Vienna is your place. The Austrian capital is one of the most glamorous and elegant cities in the world because of its rich history, music, art, cuisine and architecture.

Wonderful chandelier-lit cafés where you can have the delicious Sacher cake, restaurants and bars. Make sure to order the Viennese Schnitzel that is so big, you’ll have to share it in two, perfect for a dinner date.

The city has kept remarkable features throughout the centuries, such as offering horse-drawn carriage rides along the beautiful Danube River and regularly having plays and musicals at the city’s numerous opera houses. You can also go on a romantic Ferris Wheel ride at the Riesenrad Amusement Park that overlooks the city.

The Schönbrunn Palace is one of the most beautiful baroque palaces in the world, decorated with incredible Viennese art pieces and a lot of gold. The palace also consists of an enchanting park, a maze, fountains, and a ball house, located above a hill overlooking the city.

Vienna is also home to the waltz dance, so naturally, you can find many jazz bars and clubs all over the city during the week and weekends where you can dance the night away.

Amsterdam

Amstel Canal Bridge

The Dutch capital is the picture-perfect Valentine’s day destination. The city has endless amounts of fairy-lit canals with swans swimming through, flower arrangements and cute restaurants. The city is the literal definition of the word “aw”.

Dutch people usually eat their favourite foods from local food trucks, where you can try authentic fried seafood with their homemade sauces, the delicious thick Dutch fries with the Oorlog sauce (half mayo, half peanut sauce) or grab a burger or a frikandel at a hole-in-the-wall café where you put a coin in the slot next to the display of the food you want and voilà, just open the door of the display and grab your food. These unique foods are really fun to try that don’t take too much time that you can spend exploring the city.

Amsterdam also has many fun museums to explore like the cheese museum, tulip museum, electric ladyland, marijuana museum and even a sex museum. If you are more of an outdoorsy kind of couple, you can rent bikes and ride them around the city, parks and even to nearby towns.

The city is very lively at night with lots of bars and clubs where you can drink the nation’s delicious Heineken beer and dance to EDC music.

If you want a more relaxing night, book a romantic dinner in a boat, that gives you a whole different perspective of the city. The trip is so romantic, it will make you feel like the only two people in the world.

Swiss Alps

For the sports lovers, skiing at the amazing Swiss Alps and staying at a wooden cabin surrounded by snow is incredibly romantic. Skiing resorts are always very quiet and preserved, giving the guests plenty of privacy.

After a full day of skiing, you can go relax and have a delicious Swiss hot chocolate or warm wine in a café overlooking the snow.

For dinner, make sure to try the delicious Swiss cheese fondue for two in front of a fireplace. Then go relax at a Jacuzzi that many of the cabins have.

The Swiss Alps is not only known for being one of the best skiing destinations in the world because of their numerous long slopes and incredible nature but because of their diversity of winter activities. Such as exploring the Matterhorn mountains and the Bettmersee Lake with their beautiful colourful sky, stargaze at Majing Lake and hike at the Aletsch Glacier.

Porto

Dom Luís Bridge

Porto is an exquisite city on the coast of Portugal filled with monumental and artistic heritage. So much so, it has been nominated 2017’s Best European Destination. It has everything a couple wants for a romantic weekend; endless amounts of wine, colourful architecture, delicious gastronomy and markets.

Porto is home to the sweet Porto wine, making the city full of wine tasting factories where you can take tours and try the delicious wines poured in chocolate cups. You can find wine stores spread around the city’s incredible landscapes, bridges and colourful houses with matching tiled roofs.

The Bolhão Market is an exciting place to go in Saturdays where you can get local food and wine for a good price. The market gives you the opportunity to see how the locals live an incredibly welcoming atmosphere. Discovering a new place with your Valentine is a great experience.

Porto is the warmest and most colorful destination from this list. In February the temperature can go up to 15°C degrees which makes a great weather to eat lunch outdoors by the River Douro (River of Gold). While having a glass of wine across from where it was made at the Sandeman, Croft, Offley, Churchill’s, Kopke House and Cálem wineries, on the Gaia side.

Since Porto has a large river and is by the ocean, you can take boat trips on historically designed Portuguese boats and take a tram to the Foz do Douro’s beaches on the Atlantic sea.

Paris

Arc de Triomphe

Last but not least, the capital city of romance, Paris. Where you can walk along the beautiful streets of the Seine River. Have a cup of tea or coffee in the afternoon at a pavement terrace while watching the Eiffel Tower light up at sunset.

Paris is the coldest city in the list, but don’t let that discourage you. It just increases the need for candlelit dinners and cuddles. For a great place to cuddle, book one of the city’s many bed and breakfasts, where you can also have your morning meal in authentic Haussmain style bedrooms.

French cuisine is considered to be a delicacy, always dominating lists of romantic dishes. So eating at an authentic French restaurant, at the heart of France, can’t get any more romantic. A popular menu to try is coq au vin (chicken with mushrooms and vegetables braised in red wine) as the main course and chocolate fondue for dessert with a side of Pinot noir wine.

The city is also full of extraordinary museums, such as the Louvre and the extravagant Versailles Palace where you will feel like a true royal couple while having a divine lunch at the Angelina restaurant.

For a romantic Valentine’s day, you cannot go wrong with these amazing cities. Each city has its own charm, elegance and adventures that add contribute to the romantic atmosphere.