Tokyo is a futuristic city where you can sleep in a spaceship, eat seafood delicacies off the street and watch robots battle all in one go.
Accommodation: No matter what you do in Tokyo you absolutely must spend AT LEAST a night in a capsule hotel. I recommend Oakhostel Cabin for about 2800 JPY ($25USD)/night for a bed in the dorm. As you walk in you’ll trade your shoes for slippers, which the hostel provides, along with a shoe locker near the entrance. You’ll then get a key to your floor and locker to store your luggage. Your spaceship..I mean capsule, will be patiently waiting and comes complete with bedding, an American plug outlet, a light, a few hangers, a mirror and a pull-down shade for privacy. Basically it comes with all the essentials to make the most out of your galactic experience.
Getting There: You can take the Narita-Airport Limousine Bus from the Narita International Airport to Tokyo City Air Terminal. It will cost about 2800 JPY ($25 USD) and takes about an hour with a 7-minute walk to the hostel from the bus station. You can also take the Narita Sky Access train to the Asakusu Line for about 1330 JPY ($12 USD).
Random things to know…
The Toilets: Have you ever wished your toilet could do more? Well in Japan they can. The whole bathroom experience is as if they took a national survey to find out what people want from a toilet, and then implemented the top 5 ideas. They are intuitive and come with many buttons that are connected to exciting features: seat warmers, cleaning options for hard to reach areas, nature sounds to cover up any awkward noises, and so much more. What I’m trying to say is Japan is on top of their toilet game and the bathrooms are very innovative and an experience simply unto themselves.
The Subway: Tokyo has figured out what most cities have not…the simplicity of numerical order when it comes to public transit. Each train station has a number that lets people know if they are going in the right direction, if you are standing on the right platform, and how many stops you have until your destination. HyperDia is a great resource for plotting out your subway routes when you have wifi. The cons to the Tokyo Subway are that many of the lines (e.g. JR) are operated by different companies and require different tickets, making transfers expensive and not very seamless. The ticket machines only take cash so make sure you are stocked with Japanese Yen before going underground. You pay different prices by distance and for different lines, but the average one-way ticket is about 180 JPY ($1.60 USD). You can also purchase a 24-hour unlimited ticket for several of the lines. Here is an English version of the Tokyo Metro Map. The Station Numbers Guide will also give you a nice breakdown of how to read station signs and the map.
The Locals and Customs: The Japanese culture is extremely clean, orderly, and dignified. This manifests in many forms like taking off shoes when entering your accommodation, obeying traffic signs and using crosswalks, and respecting personal space in subways. It also means that showing off large tattoos is taboo, and in some instances forbidden in places like hostels or bath houses. Overall, I found the overwhelming majority of locals on the street and those in hospitality to be extremely helpful. Even if they didn’t speak English, people went out of their way to attempt to understand or google my sometimes obnoxious requests and questions.
Robot Restaurant: This deserves its own section (and maybe even it’s own blog post later). If you want a unique experience and can handle the likes of bright lights and chaos that are notorious in places like NYC’s Times Square, then this is the activity for you! Reminiscent of Chuck- E- Cheese’s or an acid trip at Tomorrowland at Disneyland, this 2-hour performance will have you repeatedly saying “WTF!?” By the time dancers dressed in black with flashing tube lights start breakdancing to Michael Jackson songs, you won’t be able to look away. Try booking through a tour agency rather than on the spot to save a little bit of money.
Tsukiji Fish Market: Whether you like seafood or not, this is a must-see section of Tokyo. Winding up and down the aisles of the world’s largest wholesale seafood market is an intriguing sensory experience you will thank yourself for. The most difficult part will be trying to make more space in your stomach for all the delicious fresh seafood snacks you’ll come across in the endless stalls of eel, oyster, and everything in between.
So even if you don’t have time in your life for a whole tour of Japan, you should definitely make time for Tokyo!!!