Whether you’re planning to head to Tokyo soon or in the future, there are a few things you should know before you go.
I always convert my money at my bank before traveling to a foreign country, but apparently for Tokyo, it would have been better if I didn’t. There are exchange booths on the streets that take no commission or fees, so you can easily convert your money when you are there. I even saw and used a machine that looked like an ATM where you insert your local currency and get the exchange rate in yen right then and there – no fees. Note: The smallest bill you can get is ¥1000 so you will accumulate a LOT of coins! Try to keep track of these and spend them as much as possible.
I tried to look into the train system before going to Tokyo and it literally made my head spin! The maps and routes were so intimidating and overwhelming. However, I promise it only looks that way on paper. Yes, their train system is very complex, but it’s simple to navigate. The Japanese are very efficient! The trains always run on time. You can easily use the maps feature on your iPhone under the “transit” tab and it tells you which trains to take, the number of stops, transfers and even how much it will cost you. The only downside is they stop running at 12:30am, so if you’re planning to stay out late – have another mode of transportation in mind. Uber is available, but it is quite expensive in Tokyo.
Where to Eat
- Ichiran Ramen – I had this Place on my list before I went, but I didn’t think we’d actually make it. We happened to find it while walking but the line was insanely long so we didn’t want to wait. We left looking for another Ramen spot and happened to find their second location a few blocks away with no line! Lucky us. Pro tip: if one has a line, go to the other. You order on something that looks like a vending machine – press the buttons for what you want and pay there. A worker will give you a paper (also in English) with options on how you like your noodles cooked, how spicy, etc. It was delicious! So much flavor and the restaurant itself is an experience. There’s individual bar type seating where you can close a wooden curtain and have your own booth.. or don’t.
- Zhao – now this Place was incredibly hard to find! No one in this area spoke English, but two very sweet people in a nearby dentist office left their job to show us the way. Here there’s a pond when you enter and you catch your own fish to eat! Afterward you tell the chef how you’d like it prepared. It’s cheaper if you catch your own fish, but you can also from the menu. My friend caught hers almost as soon as she dropped her rod – I wasn’t as skilled and ended up ordering from menu. Lol. It has traditional Asian seating where you remove your shoes and sit on the floor at a wooden table – cute experience. Note: Go to the listed address, then up the stairs behind the building, from there take the elevator to the 7th floor – that’s where you’ll find it.
Conveyor belt sushi – in case you haven’t realized, we were into eating at places that were also experiences. There are several conveyor belt sushi restaurants all over Tokyo. At the one we ran into, the chefs prepare in the middle and the food just comes around, you grab and eat whatever you want, and if there’s something you see on the menu that isn’t there, just ask them to make it. The plates are different colors and your price is based on plate color (you know how much everything is before you take.) Then you just pay right at the end.http://accordingtokaitlyn.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/img_7692.mov
Try new things. You’re in a foreign country after all! Don’t be afraid to try something that looks a little different. Like I said, we never had a bad meal.
Where to Shop
There is SO MUCH shopping in Tokyo! From local fashion, to high end designer – they have it all.
Takeshita Street is the Main Street of Harajuku and right off the Harajuku Station train stop – you can’t miss it. There are nothing but shops that line the entire street (as well as food stalls if you get hungry.) You can definitely find your souvenirs for loved ones back home. You’ll find Harajuku style fashion here, of course, as well as some cool vintage shops and even urban wear that you won’t necessarily find back home.
- Daiso is a dollar store (¥100) with locations all over, but the Harajuku location is huge! It’s definitely worth a stop in here for all kinds of things you probably don’t need. There’s also lots of interesting snacks.
Cat Street Still within the Harajuku area, take a turn off the main street and walk a little, you’ll be here. This is the more hipster area. Keep walking from here and you’ll find all the high end designers – everyone from Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Cartier – everything!
Shibuya109 is home of the local fashion. You’ll find all Japanese brands here including streetwear and more boutique styles.
Don Quijote if you’re on the quest for the infamous Japanese multi flavored Kit-Kats like I was, this is the spot! There’s a few locations all over. It’s 24hours and multi story.
Where to Stay
Now this is something I wish I did more research on before booking, because our room was quite far from everything we wanted to visit. Now we knew Tokyo was big, but i think we underestimated HOW big! If possible, stay in Shibuya or Shinjuku – as that’s where all the main attractions are. If that doesn’t work, try Asakusa.
Helpful Tips: having a pocket wi-fi saved our life! Luckily, our AirBnb provided us one, but they are for sale at the airport as well. You’ll definitely want to have internet connection in a foreign country to help with navigation.
One thing in particular to note is there are basically no trash cans! This was very curious to me as the streets are spotless – no litter. The first day I carried an empty bottle for three hours because I had nowhere to throw it away. Maybe carry a plastic bag with you for your trash until you can find a bin. I even saw one food stall with a can that said “for customers only.” Perhaps this is because you’re not supposed to eat and walk. There are designated areas where you can sit and eat.
Stay to the right. There are so many people in Tokyo, but no one gets in your way. Things as simple as walking are in an organized fashion. Stay to your right and you’ll never bump in to anyone waking in the opposite direction. Going up escalators – stay to one side if standing to allow walkers on the other side to walk passed you.
Currency converter unless you’re a math wiz, download this app to your phone to check what actual prices are in your local country.
Tokyo is extremely safe! If anyone is wondering. People are so sweet and calm, everyone just minds their business. The streets sometimes get dark and deserted, but there was never a time we felt unsafe. No one is hanging out, lurking at all. We never even saw one homeless person. This place is definitely an experience and if anyone is thinking about visiting, you absolutely should! Fell free to message me with any questions, I’ll be more than happy to help. Find me on Instagram.