Tokyo in 4 days!
You could spend a year in Tokyo and still not see everything on your list. The city is enormous; getting around takes time, planning and the cost builds up… Basically, this is not a backpacker city, but it is feasible.
Things to see and do:
- Shinjuku Gyoen national garden- for a peaceful walk 500Y
- Tokyo Metropolitan Government building observatory- for a FREE view of the entire city
- Sony Exhibition FREE
- Rikugien Gardens- for a more authentic Japanese garden 300Y
- Akihabara- for the Manga fans
- Harajuku shopping district
- Shibuya- shopping, food and a view of the famous crossing. Head to Starbucks on the corner to get the best view (first floor)
- Odaiba- sea front
- 47 Runin Graves- for historians and samurai fans FREE
- Imperial Palace- for a nice walk FREE
- Shinjuku- for food, shopping and Golden-Gai (lots of tiny bars- Prepare to pay a service charge in the bars, 800-1000Y. This experience is worth it if you're in a group of 6-8 people as your group alone will fill out these tiny bars and the barman/woman will give you top service)
- Fish market
Things others suggest:
- Meuji Jingu Shrine
- Skytree tower (asakusa)
- Ueno- Museums
The trains and subways are a great way to get around and the best cards to get are the JR cards and the Pasmo/IC. The JR card is only useful if you're planning to travel long distances around the country as you pay for it up front.
And the Pasmo and IC cards can be purchased and topped up at the stations. You will need to pay 500Y deposit for the card. But once you are topped up you can swipe away and travel until you need to top up again. Please note that you will only get your deposit back if you return the card to any subway station office in the city that you purchased it in. These cards will save you around 5% on travel.
The train and subway maps are crazy so the best thing to do is ask the Information Point staff at every station who will happily help you out. You will roughly spend around £8 a day on travel if you’re planning to see and do a lot in a short amount of time.
Most people will tell you that you can’t get a JR Card outside of Japan, but that simply isn’t true and you can buy it at the stations, just enquire.
If you're looking to travel around the country cheaply then look into buses and night buses. More information on this below.
EducatingKavita's view on the JR Card: I personally feel that the JR Card is rather expensive and isn't great value for money. I am staying in Japan for 17 days and would have had to pay for the 21 day pass. After adding up the costs of my travel around the country I have managed to save a large amount by not purchasing a JR card. But please look into it for yourself.
The Japanese are the politest people you will ever meet. They line up, they bow their head in respect and acknowledgment to you (the older the person, the lower you should bow your head), and everything is super clean. It’s just a different world.
But it’s important to note that visiting Tokyo will not be a cheap endeavour in terms of travelling, eating out or even accommodation. So, be prepared to spend or find the cheaper options.
Wait, there are cheaper options?!?
Yes, when eating out look for places that have menus for less than 500Y and no service charge. If in doubt about the charge, ask before you order. There are also some super cool lunch places that you can buy a takeaway box of food for 250Y, you just have to walk around to find them. Hostels further out of the city centre are much cheaper but either way the cost will even out depending on how much and how far you travel around the city.
If you’re just in Japan for a holiday, spending money won’t be an issue as it is much cheaper than most western countries, but if you’re a backpacker trying to stick to a budget, you will struggle.
I had an amazing time in Tokyo as I managed to catch up with friends that I had met in Mongolia “Team Gobi” and an even more shocking run in with a friend who I studied with in Scotland.
Tokyo as a city is fantastic but it’s not a favourite of mine, so, if you plan to head to another city from here DO NOT BOOK A BUS OR TRAIN YOURSELF. You may consider yourself an expert but unless you are Japanese, can read Japanese or know someone who is Japanese you will pay an extortionate amount on travel. After researching ways of getting to Kyoto from Tokyo online and could only find tickets between 6,000-8,000Y I decided to ask a wonderful lady who worked at the hostel who managed to find me a night bus to Kyoto for 1,700Y (£11) ok, so my ticket was in Japanese and she had to translate the important parts for me, but what a bargain- totally worth the £31-£45 savings!
So, if you’re worried that Japan is too expensive and it puts you off, don’t worry about it. It’s completely manageable if you’re good at managing your money… but if not, then stay away until you feel that you can travel here comfortably.