Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Here are 22 Things You Need to Know Before You Travel to Tokyo, Japan

TOKYO!!! I was beyond words when I found out we were travelling to the city of invention and innovation. I just don't ever know what to expect from Japan. It was everything I've heard of, and more.

1. Booking a Ticket

If you plan to explore Tokyo then you can either book a ticket to Narita or Haneda from Manila. The travel from Narita to Tokyo, however, could be a bit tricky as it would require changing trains and a cab ride. It could also take at least 2+ hours in total. The Haneda Airport would be nearer and would take less than an hour to get there. Either way, it would be worth the trip!

2. Finding a place to stay

There are lots of affordable hotels in Tokyo, but I do recommend staying at an accomodation near the train for easy access to other parts of the city, hence cutting the walking time. We stayed at Hotel Monterey Ginza and we were very pleased with their rooms and services.


If you're feeling adventurous then you can even stay at a capsule hotel. The Japanese think about everything! Well, we really didn't have time to check this out but I believe it's a must-try! I'm sure you  can find lots of options via the help of google.

Hotel Monterey Ginza

2-10-2 Ginza, Chuo-Ku, Tokyo, 104-0061, Japan

3. Getting a Visa

It could take 7-60 days processing so it would be better to sort this out as soon as possible. The only way you can have this processed is via an accredited travel agency like Reli Tours.

Visa Application Form and Requirements

Reli Tours and Travel Agency

Dusit Thani Hotel Main Office: Mezannine Floor, Dusit Thani Hotel, Ayala Center, Makati City

4. Train Rides

The fastest way to get around would be through the train. There are unlimited daily train passes available, however, I would recommend either purchasing a Suica card (counterpart of Octopus in Hong Kong) and then loading it when needed - you can also use this in some stores like family mart, or just purchasing tickets for each trip at the ticket machines - this way, you will have a good use for those coins.

I don't recommend the unlimited day passes as 1 pass wouldn't cover all routes, meaning, it would require you to purchase another pass or ticket, which won't really be practical. 

5. Other Means of Getting Around

Tokyo will require a LOT of walking! Always be prepared. Wear walking shoes and bring an umbrella in case it rains. It would be better to have the clear umbrella, which you can purchase at the streets for as low as 500 yen, so you can still enjoy that Tokyo view.

It would also help to have a GPS or google maps using your phone. My sister was the designated navigator so what she would do is, connect her phone on a wifi - which is easily accessible and then plot out the route. If all else fails, just ask around. The Japanese are pretty friendly and helpful.

The taxis in Tokyo are very efficient but can be a bit expensive at a price of 730 yen for the first 2 kilometers. Each Taxi has a GPS to make your travel more convenient. I noticed that cab drivers do not input the street name or name of the establishment. Instead, they input the number on the address, which could probably represent the coordinates. So when wanting to go to a certain place, be sure you have a copy of the COMPLETE address (ex. 1-3-20, Yokozuna, Sumida).

Riding bikes in Tokyo is very common, well the streets are clean and safe and there lots of places where you can park your bike. I'm sure you can rent this out somewhere.

6. Taxes

One of the best things about Japan, aside from the culture, is the shopping! You will notice how some stores display a big "Tax Free" sign.

What does this mean? Well every time you buy an item or good from a ANY shop, you will be taxed 8% on top of its indicated price. Most of the shops that implement Tax Free shopping would require you to purchase a minimum of 10,000 yen before you can avail of this privilege.

7. Around Ginza: Shopping

Shopping in Ginza is heavy on the high-end brands, and can be quite a walk from one shop to another.

8. Around Ginza: Tsukiji Market 

Walking distance from Hotel Monterey Ginza, is a market called Tsukiji which is known for fresh seafood, fish auctions and sushi.

If you want to witness the fish auction then you need to go as early as 4AM to get a ticket which is limited to only 120 people and is on a first come, first serve basis. 

Restaurants at Tsukiji open very early so it would also be a good place to have breakfast, but don't expect find anything that doesn't involve seafood, vegetables, and fruits.

 It was nice just grabbing a little bit of everything from each of the shops.

Tsukiji Market 

5 Chome-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0045, Japan
+81 3-3542-1111

9. Around Ginza: Imperial Palace

Located at Marunouchi, The Imperial Palace can also be accessed by a 30-minute walk from Hotel Monterey Ginza.

This is where the Imperial family resides and it is surrounded by a moat and ancient stone walls. Be sure to go to the East Garden where you can find a museum and enjoy a long walk along the magnificent architecture.

Imperial Palace 

Admission: Free
Japan, 〒100-8111 Tokyo, Chiyoda, 千代田1−1

10. Around Ginza: Hamarikyu Gardens

 Just a few minutes of a walk from the Tsukiji Market is one of the most beautiful gardens I've ever seen. It houses varieties of trees and flowers.

The highlight will be the 300 year old pine tree located near the entrance.

You can also experience a different kind of tour via the Tokyo Water Bus Tour located at Hamarikyu. You can cruise along the river, passing through countless bridges whilst you immerse yourself in the different architectural styles of Tokyo.

 If you're not into availing the tour then you can simply opt to take this ride to get to this different districts, like Asakusa, and it proved to be a more scenic option. Be sure to check the Water Bus timetable so you don't miss the trip.

Hamarikyu Gardens 

Admission: 300 yen
Waterbus to Asakusa: 620 yen
1-1 Hamarikyuteien, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0046, Japan

11. Around Asakusa: Water Bus Landing

The Water Bus from Hamarikyu will bring you to the Asakusa Pier, right across the Sumida Park where children play or simply walk around.

You will notice the rustic vibe based on the infrastructure and people you see around. Asakusa lives up to the mood during the Edo era.

12. Around Asakusa: Sensoji Temple

The Sensoji Temple is the oldest temple in Tokyo.

It can get very busy as people often come here to pray, admire the structure, and have their fortune told.

For 100 yen you can find out your fortune by shaking a steel box and pulling out one wooden stick. You will find Japanese inscriptions on the stick which corresponds to a drawer. 

Get one sheet, read your fortune. and then tie it on this bar.

Outside the entrance you will find a swarm of people around a big pot for incenses. It is believed that the smoke from the incense brings healing power.

Sensoji Temple

2 Chome-3-1 Asakusa, Taito, Tokyo 111-0032, Japan

13. Around Sumida: Tokyo SkyTree 

One cannot leave Tokyo without getting glimpse of the city from hundreds of meters above ground. The Tokyo SkyTree can be accessed from Sumida Park, crossing the Kototoi bridge. Sumida is a very quiet district, in fact, too quiet that the silence is deafening.

There are two viewing decks to choose from: 350 meters or 450 meters above ground which would be best to go to in the morning or during sunset. If you're lucky enough, you might even get a glimpse of Mt. Fuji which can only be seen a few times a year.

Tickets can be booked in advance online. However, tourists can fastrack their tour by paying a little more. The advantage is that you won't need an assigned time and you'll get to skip the long line!

Tokyo SkyTree

  1 Chome-1-2 Oshiage, Sumida, Tokyo 131-0045, Japan
+81 570-550-634

 14. Around Shibuya: Shopping

If you enjoyed shopping in Ginza then you will get a chance to shop even more in Shibuya. There are lots of stand-alone shops but if you're looking for brands that are not too big on names then it'd be nice to go to the department store like Shibuya 109.

Shibuya 109

2 Chome-29-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0043, Japan
+81 3-3477-5111

 15. Around Shibuya: Uobei

When in Japan, you must try eating at a conveyor belt restaurant. However, there's a place in Shibuya  called Uobei that showcases a modern take on this custom.

The Japanese are very keen on inventing and innovating goods and services that would first and foremost provide convenience.  Uobei offers affordable Japanese delicacies and meals, but the highlight lies in the high-tech approach of ordering.

With minimal, to almost none, human interaction involved, you will receive your order on a high-speed conveyor belt. Ordering is as easy as tapping on the screen.


2 150 0043, 2 Chome-29-11 Dōgenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to 150-0043, Japan

 16. Around Shibuya: Shibuya Crossing

is also a home to the busiest intersection known as the Shibuya Crossing. You will be flabbergasted by the waves of people crossing to and from every direction. The best view will be from a higher point like the busiest Starbucks at the second floor of the building located a few steps away from the crossing.

17. Around Harajuku: Fashion and Cosplay

Harajuku is practically walking distance from Shibuya, however it can be quite a long walk. People in this district are more fashion forward and riskier in terms of their fashion choices, compared to other districts in Tokyo. Cosplayers are usually out at night for events and parties.

18. Around Harajuku: Shopping

There are also lots of stand-alone shops in Harajuku like Forever 21, Bershka, H&M, and Cotton On which are roughly close to each other. It's every girl's shopping spree dream as these shops can go on up to 5 floors, or even more!

Be sure to go to the shops located along the allies where you can find great deals and unique items. Don't be afraid and lazy to walk around!

19. Around Harajuku: Meiji Shrine

The location of Meiji Shrine will indicate Shibuya, however, it was easier to go to coming from the Harajuku station via Meiju-jingumae.

Meiji Shrine 

1-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya, Tokyo 151-8557, Japan
+81 3-3379-5511

20. Themed Restaurants

Japan is big on themed restaurants. They think of the quirkiest and most creative themes, from maids, to alice in wonderland, to hospitals, vampires, you name it! We were lucky enough to try out a couple of these unusual places.

Cocktail Glasses. Yup. For Cocktails.

Alcatraz ER would probably be my favourite. It's a Hospital-Prison themed restaurant where you get to eat in Prison cells. 

To call for orders or assistance, all you need to do is get the baton and smash it on the cell doors! It's such an amazing and unique concept. 

The staff were also very friendly, and accommodating. Did I forget to mention, good looking? I would recommend this place for late dinner and drinks. Be sure to inform them if someone's celebrating a birthday cause their special treat for celebrants is pretty epic! 

If you are impressed with aesthetics of the restaurant then you will be more so impressed with how creative they are with their food and beverage presentation - living true to their theme.

Don't miss out on an unforgettable dining experience at Alcatraz E.R. They welcome walk-ins but it would be best to makes a reservation to avoid the hassle of having to wait for a table.

Japan is known for Sumo. However, we weren't able to go to one as it's seasonal. The closest to watching a sumo competition is eating at a sumo-themed restaurant called Hananomai Ryougoku, located a few steps aways from th stadium. 

The restaurant has an actual sumo stadium where you can go for photo-ops. Unfortunately, women are not allowed on the stadium (sigh). The food is also really good and they have lots of food items you can choose from - from fried, to fresh seafood, to hot pots. Take your pick!

Alcatraz E.R.

Admission: 500 yen
Her Best Building 2F, 2-13-5, Dougenzaka, Shibuya

Hananomai Ryougoku

1-3-20, Yokozuna, Sumida

21. Vendo Machines 

You can buy almost anything conveniently from vendo machines located all around the city.

You will also find the quirkiest and craziest things you can think of, just like an underwear for your bottle. Yup. It's an actual thing in Japan! Don't ask me for what purpose!

22. Toilets 

I take my business seriously, so a clean and comfortable bathroom is always a must when travelling. 

I have never seen public bathrooms so beautiful and comfortable that I could actually live in it if I could. There are 100 buttons and some can get confusing. You can choose a bidet for the rear, or the front, or even put on some music if you're getting a tad bit conscious.

There's more to see in Japan and I just can't wait to go back to explore more of the other districts. Each place is different, and it also offers different experience. The people are probably the best part about this trip. They've made our Japan experience more memorable with their humility, kindness, and hospitality. I can't wait to go back because you just really won't know what to expect.