Tokyo can be an overwhelming destination to visit. It's a huge city with lots of districts, and for most of us, a difficult language barrier. We learned so much in the little time that we were there that we thought we should share. Here's a quick little guide to help guide you in your planning process.
Where to stay
In terms of accommodations, we found Airbnb to be the most affordable option. Even though traveling in a group (three of us), it was much cheaper to stay in someone's apartment than it was to share a hotel room, or even take three beds in a hostel! There are also the hotel pods which are a good option and offered at a decent rate. They seem pretty cool, as long as you're not claustrophobic! As a group however, it's still cheaper to rent an apartment like we did.
When choosing which area you will be staying in, consult the sky train map and make sure you're within close distance and have easy access to one of the stations as that will be your trick to getting around efficiently!
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The sky train is the easiest way to travel around Tokyo, and also one of the most affordable. Don't take a taxi if you want to stay on budget! And don't worry about finding your way either because it's very well organized. Even during rush hour when it's packed with people, it's surprisingly peacefully quiet in there since people are respectful and just generally quiet and keep to themselves.
There are big maps showing the routes at the paying kiosks and usually an attendant who can assist if you need help. The most important part is to make sure you are buying the correct destination and that you get off at that destination as you will have to scan your ticket at the exit to prove you paid for the appropriate route.
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Where to eat
After spending a few days in Tokyo, we found that the Japanese are very much into the French café thing. If you want an authentic experience, I suggest avoiding any restaurant with English signage (really!). Instead, use Google or review sites such as Trip Advisor to select a good place.
We absolutely loved the Japanese BBQ, and definitely recommend you try it. We also tried the typical sumo wrestler meal which is a big stew of vegetables and meats, and was an interesting experience. Oh and sushi of course! Last but not least, you should definitely make a stop at the fish auction market and make sure to try some of their street food. The barbecued scallops were especially delicious!
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What to do
With a city this huge, there's always a ton of things to do and see. If you're limiting your stay to within city limits, you can visit the multitude of shrines and temples, museums, and parks.
The Asakusa Sensoji Temple was an incredible sight to see. We went later in the evening and got to enjoy the sun setting beyond the gorgeous architectures of the temple. Ladies dressed up in the traditional kimono walk around and shop keepers are close by for all your shopping needs. And although a touristic spot, the crowd was not overwhelming at all. Best of all, there is no entry fee to visit the grounds!
The parks are a must, especially during the cherry blossom season! We really enjoyed Yoyogi Park and the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (a small entry fee is required to enter the national garden). Locals and tourists alike meet up there for lunch, for an afternoon of frisbee or simply to enjoy a stroll in the sun.
Also, make sure to make your way to the Harajuku district to experience the Japanese anime fandom. Cat ears, great hair and superb dress ups fill the streets and make for a vibrant sight. We heard while we were there that Sundays are the best for seeing the most people dressed up!
You may also want to take the time to go to Tokyo Tower. It has a 360° view of Tokyo from the top and a very reasonable entry fee. A few souvenir kiosks are located on the first floor where you can buy your ticket to go up to the platform. Once on top, you can enjoy an impressive view of the city and take a few steps on the glass floor for a bit of a rush!
Last but not least is the fish auction market. If you're an early bird (or just really enthusiastic), you can get up around 3AM to line up for a chance to view the actual auction. Although it definitely seems like an amazing experience, we simply could not get ourselves out of bed that early.
The market itself is open until the afternoon and is also really wonderful. Food, trinkets, kitchen knives, ceramic place setting and so much more fill the tables in this indoor/outdoor space! It's definitely a place where you can spend a few hours exploring.
There you are, these are the basics of what you should look for when planning your trip to Tokyo!
Have you been already? What would you add for your fellow travelers? Share your insights in the comments section below!
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