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

MXLLS

  • 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.