Tokyo is great! It was the first city we visited in Japan and we were blown away. We totally liked it, but it probably also helped that we usually like big modern cities. But still we would share some thoughts about it to make your visit easier.
Tokyo has two airports – Haneda (near) and Narita (away). Good news: both are connected with public transport (train or bus) for a reasonable price. Check their websites for exact prices and departure.
You also need money. Japan’s currency is Japanese Yen, the exchange rate is approx. 1€=125Yen. If you want to exchange, do it in the city, as the rate will be better. We always used ATMs (some banks charge a service fee) and usually foreign cards work in 7/11 ATMs only.
By now you probably made it from the airport to the city and you exchanged/withdrew money. Now you need a place to sleep. We stayed at Sumidagawa YH. It’s in walking distance to the interesting and freaky Tokyo Anime Center (worth a visit), but more important: it’s quiet, surrounded with many good and cheap restaurants, small shops. The hostel is also small, not crowded and the staff is very helpful and friendly. And don’t think hostels have only dorm rooms – Japanese style private rooms are so lovely, I would have one at home.
Tokyo has at first sight a little confusing public transport system: different companies demand different tickets.
Toei Lines (4 + some buses) – the day ticket is 700 Yen
Metro lines (9) – day ticket is 600 Yen
JR lines – day ticket 750 yen
Toei + Metro – day ticket is 1000 Yen
Tokyo one day free ticket – day ticket 1590 Yen
Yes it looks confusing, but you’ll get the system quite fast. Our recommendation: divide your sightseeing by lines – one day we used only Toei lines and visited sights, which were connected with these lines. If you’re unsure or limited with time, take the joint ticket.
Everything in Tokyo is good, really. We didn’t have one bad meal. Just watch out for service charges (especially around Shibuya!). Food prices are very reasonable – noodles, bowl of rice with some tempura (deep fried stuff) and miso soup usually costs between 500-900 Yen. Sushi is also a must when in Japan – we went to the Tsukuji fish market and got a big plate of different sushis, shasimis etc. for 2000 Yen. Drinks on the other hand are a bit pricey, but good news: green tea or water are free in most restaurants.
Like in every city it all comes down to the time you have to explore and your interests. Tokyo has something for everyone, for every taste, age or interest. From temples, shopping malls, calming Japanese gardens to crazy night life, busy markets and light headed skyscrapers can be enjoyed in this never-sleeping city. Just a few sights by districts we recommend:
Shinjuku: free observatory in Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Tokyo’s »sin-city« Kabukicho, small bars lined in narrow alleys in Golden-gai
Shibuja & Harajuku: the beautiful forest surrounded Meiji Jingu Shrine, shopping enthusiasts don’t miss Shibuya 109 (next to the famous Shibuya crossing) and Takeshita Dori shopping street
Asakusa: first things first – go to the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Centre and get some info and maps (don’t forget to go to the viewing platform), Kaminarimon Gate with a huge bright red lantern, Nakamise Shopping street connects Kaminarimon gate with Sensoji Temple, the oldest temple in Tokyo
Sumida: Tokyo Skytree, the second highest building in the world, Sumida park next to the river full of cherry trees
Ryogoku: Sumo hall and museum (check for tournaments), Edo Tokyo museum is all about the Edo era in Tokyo, Earthquake memorial at the Yokoamichu Park
Ueno: don’t miss the Ueno park, especially in the time of Sakura, Yushida Tenmangu shrine is a beautiful Shrine dedicated to the God of Learning
Akihabara: Tokyo Anime Center for all geeks, Electric Area for electronics shopping, Kanda Myojin Shrine for a break from all the Akihabara maddnes and romantic mAAch ecute KANDA MANSEIBASHI next to the river for a good tea, coffee or selected shopping
Ginza: the shopping district is huge, although be prepared for high end brands, for all food lovers Tsukiji fish market is a must!
Marunouchi: Imperial Palace (but don’t expect to go in)
Nihombashi: nicely illuminated Fukutoku shrine and lovely (high end) restaurants and shops around
Roppongi: head to Roppongi Hills, a huge building with shops, TV Station, restaurants, a hotel, cinema and an obesrvatory »Tokyo City View«
Shiba and Takeshiba: Tokyo Tower looks like the Eiffel tower painted bright, Zojoji Temple is again a big but nice and not crowded temple just next to the Tokyo Tower
These are some sights you should consider to pack in your itinerary when in Tokyo. We were there 4 full days and managed to see all of these.