Japan is marvelous, it is literally the country of the future. The people are so kind and courteous, the architecture is grand and beautiful, the public transportation is easily navigable, and there is so much to do! My sister and I did a trip through Japan and China, travelling for about 5 weeks, and spent 6 days in Tokyo a couple years ago. This was a true testament to our sisterhood, because I honestly almost killed her a few times haha. Overall, it was a great trip though and I am going to share with you some tips and recommendations about Tokyo, Japan!
Japan Travel Tips
Typically, when I travel, I have the hostels booked ahead of time and I have ideas of what I want to do in each city, but I don’t have each day planned. That is a mistake for Japan! Please plan and book all of your tickets in advance! We had to skip out on a few things we wanted to do because we couldn’t get tickets and we almost didn’t get to go to Disneyland and only got tickets in a last ditch effort by actually going to the Disney store and buying and tickets they had there. So my biggest advice is to actually plan what you are going to do and on what days and buy tickets well in advance! It will save lots of heartache and struggle while there.
I also recommend NOT buying JR passes (which you need to purchase in advance and they are mailed to you) and just getting public transportation card there, unless you are travelling by the Shinkansen (high speed railway) a lot. We did not buy JR passes and we actually saved money. I found lots of the trains I used weren’t actually on the JR pass, so you would need that and to buy local transportation card as well. Even if traveling by the Shinkansen, which we did multiple times, there is an app called called Smart Ex that is very easy to use. Fair warning, travelling around Japan is very, very expensive so do your research and found our what works best for you. We were in Japan for 3.5 weeks and did 4 major cities and by just buying public transport cards and buying tickets as needed, we saved a couple extra hundred dollars over the JR passes + costs of local transport.
As I mentioned, and as you already know, Japan is very expensive, and buying meals is not different. Food that was more in our price range ($10-20 per meal) were noodle and rice dishes, usually served with meat and a little bit of vegetables. While this food was great, it definitely wasn’t the amount of vegetables I am use to eating. This is a bit TMI, but my sister and my stomach’s were fucked! I literally rotated between having to rush to the toilet because my stomach was on fire and having to take a laxative, because I hadn’t gone #2 in like 4 days haha. It was a struggle and toilet problems while travelling are the absolute worst! If you aren’t a massive fresh fruit and vegetable eater for 90% of your meals, then this won’t be a problem, but it was a huge problem for us. My advice if you are like us is to maybe budget for more expensive meals, like $30-40 USD per meal or bring some Pepto Bismol or something haha.
Japan is also the most expensive place I have ever been to. I am a well seasoned traveller and am usually really good at balling on a budget while still getting to see a lot. However, I absolutely blew through any type of budget I had in my head for this trip. So please plan on saving a lot more than you ever planned on for a trip to Japan.
What To Do?
You can’t possibly go to Japan without going to Disneyland or DisneySea. As a rule of thumb, Disneyland is for younger kids, and DisneySea caters to older kids and adults. We only went to DisneySea because of our ticket problems I mentioned earlier, but I would have loved to go to both! The park is very small compared to Disneyland in Anaheim, but even though the park reached capacity, we were literally able to go on every single ride and see the water show! I loved it and definitely recommend going while visiting Tokyo.
Check out the Ramen Museum. Where else in the world are you going to find a museum dedicated to noodles?? This was fun, quirky, inexpensive, and you got a great lunch out of it, so why not? The museum is set up with different ramen stands all around, where you can wait in line for a bowl. A few things to note, you can’t share a bowl, which really sucked because Court and I wanted to share a small bowl so we could buy a bunch of different ones! That didn’t work out, and the small bowl is still pretty filling so we only got to eat one bowl of it.
Reppongi has nice bar/ night life. We went here on our first day we flew in so we were so tired and only had a drink or two, but I imagine late at night it really gets going. We went to a bar called Code Name Mixology. This is totally a tourist trap for very expensive, custom made drinks, but honestly, we had the best drinks I ever had in my life there so…
Asakusa Temple is Tokyo’s oldest temple. This place was really cool to just walk around. There was a mall and parks nearby that we also checked out. Ameyoko Market is also there and a great place to stop and get some food or snacks!
Shinjuku is a district of Tokyo great for walking around and having lunch. Have a picnic at the Gyoen Public Park and stop and have a few drinks in the Golden Cai, a set of alley ways with little bars and restaurants and amazing architecture.
The Moori Digital Art Museum by TeamLab Borderless is incredible! Probably one of the coolest digital art museums I have ever been to! Again, please book your tickets well in advance and get to the museum super early! We were there a little bit after opening time and had to wait in line for an hour still to get in. Also, eat just before you go. There is no food there and no reentry so we left earlier than we wanted to because we were really hungry haha.
Ghibli Studios is great for you anime lovers out there! I would love to say just buy your tickets in advance, however, they are only available for online purchase if you buy it through a tour, which is WAY more money. If you have that kind of cash, go for it. Otherwise, literally on your first day there, immediately try to buy the tickets. We did not have the opportunity to go because their were no available dates during the time we were there. That was a big bummer for my sister, so please weigh your options and decide what is best for you.
We stayed near the Shibuya area. This was definitely a cute area to walk around and was pretty easy to get to public transportation wise. This area has loads to do including: Yoyogi Park, Meiji Jingu (temple), Takeshita Street (shopping), Harajuku, Omotesando fashion and art, and of course, the Hachiko Memorial. We loved staying in this area and would recommend it!
On a side note: we also booked a tour company to take us to and around Mount Fuji. While the company did great for a day trip, we spent hour and hours on a bus and it was cloudy the entire time we were there so we didn’t get to see much. I will do a later post talking about Mount Fuji separate, because I do recommend going to longer than a day.
This is literally just the tip of the iceberg of things to do in Tokyo. You could probably spend a month here and not be able to see and do everything. However, this was a great for our 6 day itinerary.