A Travel Guide To Tokyo – Out of all the cities in the world, Tokyo was one of the top destinations on our list. It is a place we always dreamed of visiting and truth be told, expectations were high even before we set foot on the pavement.
Nevertheless, Tokyo met all expectations and then some! It is a world of its own and a must see for all travellers. From bright neon lights, fun cartoon outfits, and delicious food stalls, Tokyo is an electric city you must visit. With a blend of futuristic buildings and old traditions, the vibe of the urban landscape is contagious.
If you are making a trip to Japan, we can almost guarantee you will be spending at least a day, or two in Tokyo. Therefore, we hope this guide can help you plan some exciting things to do during your stay!
A Travel Guide To Tokyo
How To Get There
Tokyo is one of the main port of entries into Japan. With two enormous international airports, there is a high chance that you will be flying either in, or out of Tokyo at some point. However, both Narita Airport and Haneda Airport, are located roughly 45 minutes to an hour away from central Tokyo, thus you will need to purchase a train, or metro ticket to get into the city.
If you purchased the JR Rail pass, you can use this to get into town, otherwise you can purchase a one way metro ticket instead.
We strongly suggest you take the train, and public transportation, as opposed to hailing a taxi. This is because taxi prices are incredibly high in Japan. Be prepared to spend roughly $150- $200 for a cab into central Tokyo, if that is the method you choose.
Since we were flying out of Haneda airport, and opted not to get the JR Rail pass, we purchased single one way tickets at the metro station to get us to the airport. Plan your timing accordingly, but be rest assured that the railway system is relatively easy to navigate and you should have no problems getting there.
For more details about transportation in Japan, please feel free to read our blog post Here.
Team Lab Borderless Museum
An artistic paradise! This museum combines digital artwork, with sensory images to create an experience unlike any other. This is one of the most popular museums on Instagram and is a must if you are in Tokyo. Be sure to book tickets online in advance, as it is often sold out day of. You can also look into which rooms you would like to see prior to your visit, as you will feel pressed for time. There are so many different exhibits to see and even a glow in the dark tea room!
This ancient Buddhist temple is located in the middle of Tokyo. You can see incense being burned for hours and an everlasting smoke over the temple grounds itself. This temple is also known for the infamous large red lantern. It is Tokyo’s oldest temple and a sacred one at that.
Weird, fun, exciting, and colorful, are all words to describe Harajuku. Harajuku has some of the best boutique shopping in all of Japan. It is also lined with sweet treats galore! We loved walking around and admiring all of the great outfits and rummaging for as many yummy snacks as we could find. You are definitely in for a treat if you decide to visit this popular neighborhood!
Known as one of the busiest crossings in the world for a reason! This street is booming with energy and people. The best time to see it is during the evenings after the sun goes down; that is when it is the busiest. One pro tip is to go to the Starbucks on the corner. From there, you get one of the best aerial views of the street below!
If you like electronics, this place is for you! It is one giant street covered with electronic stores and gaming departments. Each store houses a variety of floors which specialize in a specific electronic. Whether you are looking for a new camera, dishwasher, or blow dryer, this place has any and every electronic gadget you could think of.
Depending on the time of year, this neighborhood is where you can find the traditional Sumo Wrestlers going for their morning practice. Unfortunately, we were not there during the right time. However, if we were, this is something we definitely would have done.
These days, there are companies that sell tickets to attend the Sumo practices, but we had heard through some friends about a way you could do you yourself, for free.
If you are interested, visit this neighborhood early in the morning around 6am and look for the sumo wrestlers. You can see them go inside their buildings for practice and if you’re lucky enough, they will invite you in. You can show interest by standing around and waiting, they will generally know if you want to come in if you stand your ground.
It is important to note that there are some common courtesies to follow, should you go. You must be respectful and sit in silence for the entire practice. Be aware, this can be anywhere from 2-4 hours! You must also bring a gift. Typically this is in the form of food, or money. After they finish you must give them the gift, thanking them for their time. It is a common respect that you should do if you are lucky enough to be invited in.
Piss Alley – Izakaya
A collection of small bars and yakitori grills, this alley is such a magical place. Don’t let the name scare you, this alley got its name due to the fact that back in the day, it was known to be a small drinking street where there were no toilets, thus men just pissed right on the alley walls. This is not the case anymore! We had one of the best meals during our entire trip down this alleyway. Here is a photo below of the stand we ate at. We opted to do the chefs special and he kept bringing us different yakitori skewers, to die for! We also sipped some great sake too. This street is such a fun vibrant place to go for dinner and we highly recommend you visit if you get the chance.
Golden Gai Drinking Street
After our meal down piss alley, we walked a short way to Golden Gai. This is a series of streets that are lined solely with small intimate bars. Each establishment seats roughly 7-11 people, which makes it such a fun experience. There are hundreds of bars to choose from and we suggest you just follow your gut. That being said, don’t feel bad if you get turned away. Some of these bars are strictly for locals only, no foreigners allowed. They like to keep their regulars happy, and with limited space they restrict you from going in. Nevertheless, you will have plenty to choose from and we guarantee it will be a fun night out!
Haka Meguro River Walk
Especially gorgeous during the cherry blossom season, this river walk is a sight to behold. You can walk along the river and dip your head into one of the many boutique shops, or coffee stands along the way. It is more of an upscale neighborhood, that reminded us both of Soho in New York. Great art galleries and bookstores, overall a beautiful place to explore.
A Travel Guide To Tokyo
Places To Eat
Wagyu Beef is a Japanese delicacy, beautifully marbled meat sold throughout Japan. We decided to hold off and save up to try it at the infamous Wagyu Mafia. Wagyu Mafia won the award for the best wagyu beef in the world in 2018, and they sell their sandwiches for a pretty penny. The cheapest sandwich starts at $50 USD! While it was a bit ridiculous to spend $80 on one sandwich, it was very yummy and a memory we will never forget.
One of the most fun dining experiences you will ever have! The staff here are all dressed up and you are welcomed into a disney like room filled with eclectic characters. Dining with a show, this is definitely a fun dining experience.
If you are a coffee lover, check out onibus coffee. They have such a great selection of beans and it makes for a wonderful afternoon pick me up!
When it comes to food in Tokyo, you really can’t go wrong! It will be as expensive, or cheap as you allow it, but we guarantee there will be a great restaurant on every street.
For the most part, the places we dined at, either didn’t have english names, or were above our typical price range. This was because we were travelling with my grandma and she treated us to some really fantastic meals, that were not necessarily on the ‘backpacker budget’. For that reason, we decided to only include a few places in this blog post.
Nevertheless, you will have absolutely no problem finding great food in this city!
A Travel Guide To Tokyo
Where To Stay
There are many factors that can take effect when trying to figure out where to stay in Tokyo. Below are some things you should consider when booking accommodation in the city.
Time Of Year
This is a real important one. If you’re heading to Tokyo, or Japan during peak season then booking accommodation can get expensive real fast. Our best answer for those who are heading there during the busy period would be to pre book Air BnB’s. This worked great for us as you can often haggle the prices down and it works out cheaper if you can stay for 4-5 days in a single place. The most popular seasons to visit are during the cherry blossom season, and fall as the leaves begin to change. Also keep in mind that the 2020 Olympics will be held in Tokyo, so prices will be high then.
Type of Accomodation
If you’re a solo backpacker who is running around Japan, than you probably don’t need to worry about the type of accomodation you’re staying in. There is a plethora of hostels and this is your best bet. For those who are traveling as a couple, or if you’re in a group, hostels are still a great choice as they are often the cheapest accommodation. However, if you’re still wanting that privacy then pre-booking an Airbnb is your best bet.
This is a tough one to explain for us, as there are a ton of different districts in Tokyo, each with there benefits and disadvantages. Ideally you want to be near a metro station, due to the fact that Tokyo is a large city and walking can get old real fast. Determining what areas you want to see in Tokyo rather than just ‘exploring around’ will definitely help you decide where to stay and base yourself.
Overall, Tokyo will always have a special place in our hearts. It is a vibrant city that has so much to offer. We were so happy that it exceeded our already high expectations and we definitely plan to go back soon!
This has been our travel guide to Tokyo. For more amazing blogs on Japan