What to do in Tokyo: 7 friendly tips for anyone
First published on Skyscanner. Find cheap flights to Tokyo and thousands of other destinations with Skyscanner.
Even the most seasoned globetrotters can be overwhelmed by the dazzling capital of Japan; if it is your first Tokyo trip, be prepared to be pleasantly stunned by what the capital can offer for your vacation. Equip yourself with these seven essential tips that Skyscanner has prepared before hopping onto your flight to Tokyo for ease of travel!
1. Essential Japanese phrases
Before you begin anything, “Eigo o hanashimasu ka?” (“Do you speak English?”) will be the sentence that you should familiarise yourself with before the Tokyo trip. That said, many Japanese are modest when it comes to their language skills and are likely say no even if they could understand a little English.
While most of the road signs now have English on them, picking up simple Japanese phrases before the trip can help cut down on how daunting the metropolis is and help you navigate around the capital with additional ease. Hai (yes) and iie (no), along with aru/arimasu (have) and arimasen (do not have), will definitely come in handy while shopping.
To make your trip less of a hassle, here is a list of some simple Japanese phrases that will save you troubles and even embarrassment on your next Tokyo vacation.
- OO wa doko desu ka? (Where is OO?)
- OO ni ikitai. (I want to go to OO.)
- Hidari (Left), Migi (Right)
- Mayoi mashita (I am lost)
- Tasukete kudasai (Please help me)
- Eigo no menyu wa arimasu ka? (Do you have English menu?)
- OO wa taberare masen (I can’t eat OO)
- OO ni arerugi desu (I am allergic to OO)
- Ikura desuka? (How much is it?)
- Kokode OO wa utte imasuka? (Do you sell OO here?)
- Motto (ookii/chiisai) nowa arimasuka? (Is there a (bigger/smaller) piece?)
2. Stay on the Yamanote line
Where you stay during your Tokyo trip will make or break your vacation; staying on the JR Yamanote line will make traveling around the capital easier, and JR trains are cheaper than Metro trains. There are some big-name stations on this JR line – Shibuya, Shinjuku, Harajuku, Ikebukuro, Ueno, Tokyo, Akihabara – all which are packed with touristy spots and shopping avenues.
The added convenience comes when your flight lands in Haneda Airport as you can hop onto a direct train from the airport to Shinagawa Station. If your flight to Tokyo lands in Narita Airport, the express train N’EX will bring you directly to Nippori, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, and Shibuya Station. Even the slightly slower regular JR train departing from Narita Airport stops at Nippori Station!
Nippori is our go-to hood when it comes to accommodation in the capital. Right beside Nippori Station is Hotel Sunny, offering a simple yet convenient stay at RM223 a night. There are complimentary coffee and tea in the room, as well as wired internet.
Want somewhere more economical? Get a bed at one of the dormitories at Hotel Owl for only RM47 a night! Located five minutes away from the station, this is a catch for anyone who is on a tight budget.
Another of our personal favourites is Ueno; the abundance of train lines available makes it easy for travellers to go anywhere in and out of Tokyo. However, the accessibility also comes with higher hotel costs.
You can get a room for two at RM296 a night at Tokyo Ueno Touganeya Hotel. Located right beside the Ueno Station, the hotel also provides free WIFI and cooked-to-order breakfast at RM28.90 per pax.
Looking for a cheaper stay? You are in luck if you are a male as there are plenty of capsule hotels around; you can get a capsule stay in Hotel Dandy for RM64 a night or Capsule and Sauna Century at RM74 a night. Ladies can consider a single room at Hotel New Tohoku, three minutes by walking from the station, at a pricier RM 97 a night.
3. Transportation know-hows
Now that you have decided to find a hotel on the JR Yamanote Line, it is good to know that Ikebukuro Station, Ueno Station and Tokyo Station on the line are all interchange hubs where multiple JR and Metro lines are available, as well as several Shinkansen (bullet train) lines coming into and leaving from Tokyo, making it extremely convenient for tourists.
Getting at Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) is a cost-effective way for you to travel out of Tokyo. Although it is pricey at RM1,071, you will get seven consecutive days of use on the Ordinary cars, except the fastest bullet trains (Nozomi and Mizuho). The price of the pass is approximately that of a round-way trip between Tokyo and Osaka, making it very worthwhile for tourists going to multiple prefectures.
While a bullet train ride between Tokyo and Osaka is typically two and a half to three hours, a night bus at approximately RM258 for a round-trip is more affordable for many. Highway buses take eight hours to complete the one-way trip but fret not, as night buses are aplenty for most routes. You can sleep on the bus (and save a night of hotel!) and reach your destination in the morning to begin a new adventure!
Getting the Suica, which works like our Touch ‘n Go card, is recommended. Especially for the touristy spots such as Shibuya and Ikebukuro, lines at the kiosks to get single-trip tickets can be long, and with a Suica, you can beat the queue with the pre-loaded value. It is also good to note that JR routes are typically cheaper than subway trains.
When it comes to buses, you only need to tap your Suica when boarding the normal city buses in Tokyo. No tap-outs will be required and hence it is better value for your money if you are only riding the bus for a stop or two; you are charged the same price regardless if you board the bus at the first or the second last stop.
4. 100 yen shops
While you do not get tax-free at 100 yen shops, many of their products, especially food, are cheaper than even the supermarkets in Japan. Shopping at 100-yen shops can be a joy not just because of the wide range of products it offers but also the fact that your money can go further!
However, why shop there when there are also Daiso shops in Malaysia? With each product priced at RM5.90, it is already a catch for Japanese products in Malaysia. That said, Daiso in Japan only costs RM4, with a wider range of Made in Japan products and foodstuffs. Head to Harajuku to shop in a four-storey Daiso building!
Other than Daiso, you can also readily find Can-Do and Seria, both 100 yen stores in Tokyo. If you are looking for more fresh food, Lawson Store 100, a subsidiary of the convenience store Lawson, is also a good place to head to for cheap and fresh produce.
5. Rent a WIFI egg or SIM card
Japan is well-known for their extremely speedy Internet, but good and free WIFI is hard to get. If you are on a tight budget, you can get access to various hotspots with the Travel Japan Wi-Fi app for free, as well as under the FREE Wi-Fi & TOKYO service that is available at numerous tourists attractions and on the trains.
However, if you prioritise easy access along with a secure connection and without all the fuss of numerous smartphone apps, the easiest and cheapest is get a WIFI SIM card. B-mobile Visitor SIM costs 3,980 yen (RM145.90) for 14-days of access for a total of 1GB data while 1GB data on the Japan Travel SIM powered by IIJ mio sells for 2,656 yen (RM97.30) at BIC Camera.
If you are travelling in a group, it is more economical to share a WIFI egg; it can typically connect up to 10 devices, but keeping it at a maximum of four to six devices will help ensure the stability of the connection and speed.
While it costs 7,650 yen (RM80.30) for a 14-day rental on Global Advanced Communications, it is only RM70.10 per person if shared with three other persons! That is more than half the price off compared to B-Mobile’s 14-day SIM.
6. Japanese etiquette
Manners are very important in the Japanese society, and even if you are a foreigner, some basic manners are expected as well.
Japanese greet each other by bowing; a small nod of the head can be done between friends, while a deep bow is done to elders or superiors. Shaking hands in Japan is uncommon, so you can opt for a small nod of the head instead if you are greeting someone in Japan. Also, it is common to see shoes removed not just before entering a house but also at restaurants and ryokans.
While eating at fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s, it is compulsory for you to return your own tray to the return area - unlike in Malaysia. You must also sort the garbage according to types and throw them accordingly before leaving the restaurant.
When visiting a shrine or temple, make sure you rinse your hands before proceeding with prayers or visiting the rest of the grounds. At the purification fountain, use one of the ladles and fill it with fresh water before washing your hands with the water. Never stick your hands into the fountain directly. Photography is usually allowed on the temple grounds but watch out for signs as some might restrict photography indoors.
7. Unique café experiences
Allocate a substantial amount of your Tokyo budget to enjoy unique experiences in this distinctive capital. The modernity of Tokyo is a huge contrast to its traditional feel in specific hoods, and its rigid and strict society juxtaposes the quirky and eccentric entertainment.
Akihabara is the best place for you to head to for its maid cafes; @home café and maidreamin, both huge names in the maid café scene have a handful of outlets there, and you will be treated like the master/mistress of the house by girls in French maid costumes.
Ladies should definitely check out Swallowtail Butler Café, where dapper butlers are ready to treat and pamper you like a princess in a café setting.
Another must-visit is the Robot Restaurant at Kabukicho where dinosaurs, neon lights, laser displays, loud music and huge robots take the centre stage in a pop culture dinner show, giving your senses an exceptional treat.
Check out Penguin Bar Ikebukuro, a unique dining bar where four penguins live in, and guests can watch these cute animals swim freely in the pool beside their tables. Lucky patrons will also get to feed these birds during feeding time which takes place twice a day.
There are also other eccentric dining places such as a ninja-themed cafe, vampire-themed and ghost-themed cafes, Gyaru-themed cafes, and even prison-themed restaurants for you to explore while in Tokyo!
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