City Guide: Tokyo – Tips, Tricks & Must-see

27 11 2015

Last week I visited Japan for the first time ever. I jotted down my first impressions on the day I got back. I promised to share all the tips, tricks and a travel guide for Tokyo. Before I traveled there, I got some inside info from my Dutch buddy, Mike Asscher, who goes there often for business. He also sent me a guide of Engin Yenidunya, which I used as a foundation of this City Guide. I tweaked it with my own experiences and feedback:

Picture taken from KLM flight from Amterdam above Tokyo before arrival.

PREPARATIONS BEFORE TRAVELING TO TOKYO:
Transportation from Tokyo Narita Airport: Please note the airport is rather far! A cab to downtown Tokyo costs around us$300, so it’s not recommended. Two alternatives, both approx. 3,000 yen: 1. Narita Express – www.jreast.co.jp/e/nex/; 2. Airport Limousine Bus (to major train stations/ hotels) – www.limousinebus.co.jp/e/

Cell phone: You can rent a cell phone or pocket wifi at Narita Airport (at the following outlets) or at some hotels www.narita-airport.jp/en/guide/service/list/svc_19.html | http://www.softbank-rental.jp/e/

Cash: Most ATM’s in Japan will not accept foreign cards – citibank, shinsei bank, post office and 7-eleven ATM’s are the most foreign card-friendly ones – non-citi/ shinsei atm’s also have limited operating times (if you can believe that – most close at 11pm and will not dispense cash until around 6-7am). The most popular credit card in Japan is VISA and not everyone will accept MasterCard. There are still some places in Japan that won’t take credit cards or that will charge a 5% (or more) premium on credit cards so it’s a good idea to carry some cash on you at all times. You can find many change offices in Tokyo. There are many ticket shops that sell all kind of tickets, they also have good exchange rates.

High-speed trains in Tokyo, Japan.

GETTING AROUND TOKYO:
Concierge: Carry the phone no. of your concierge with you – if not staying at a hotel or your concierge is not helpful, you can try the grand/park hyatt concierge for help (03 4333 1234/ 03 5322 1234)

Cabs: Tokyo cab drivers are notorious for not knowing the city well. it always helps to have a map and phone number for your destination when hopping in a cab – most cabs have gps systems and they can just type in the phone number for your destination (if it’s a commercial establishment) and pull up the map for it. Otherwise, show them the Japanese address which should also help. Pricing is comparable to European capitals.

Subway/Metro: Carry a subway map with you – you’ll be able to see how close/ far things are to/ from one another – download one in your own language at: www.tokyometro.jp/e/ Please note that there are several metro operators in Tokyo and they each have their own tickets. At every station you can get tickets from a vending machine (also in English) and Ticket Office (where they speak limited English). Navigating around Tokyo is very easy, efficient and cheap.

Trains: If you’re planning on traveling heavily around Japan, you should buy a Japan Rail (JR) pass (can only be purchased outside of japan), will save you a fair bit of money – www.japanrailpass.net

WHERE TO STAY IN TOKYO:
High-end Hotels:
– Grand Hyatt – Roppongi Hills location gives easy access to work/ play/ shop… – http://tokyo.grand.hyatt.com/
– Andaz – Opened in 2014. Nice rooftop bar on 52th floor. Good Toranomon location – http://andaztokyo.com
– Park Hyatt – home to “lost in translation” movie, great hotel, great view, business location – http://tokyo.park.hyatt.com
– Ana Intercontinental – Good location in Akasaka – http://anaintercontinental-tokyo.jp/e/
– The Peninsula – Good location by Ginza & views of the imperial palace – http://peninsula.com/tokyo
– Ritz Carlton – In the Tokyo midtown complex – http://ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/Tokyo
– The Conrad – In Shiodome, great views & two michelin star restaurants – http://conradtokyo.co.jp
– Four Seasons Chinzan-so – Peaceful garden, away from the action – http://fourseasons.com/tokyo

Mid-range Options:
– AirBnB – Number of Tokyo apartments is on the rise – https://airbnb.com
– Asia Center – unbeatable for its price/ location combination – http://asiacenter.or.jp
– Weekly Mansion – Akasaka & Shirogane, most central. No minimum stay requirement. www.wmt.co.jp/en
– The B – Roppongi/ Akasaka – www.ishinhotels.com/en/
– Floracion – Minami-Aoyama – 5 min walk to Omotesando – www.floracion-aoyama.com
– Cerulean Tower – Shibuya – www.ceruleantower-hotel.com/en/
– Excel Shibuya – right in front of Shibuya station – http://www.tokyuhotelsjapan.com/en/TE/TE_SHIBU
– Villa Fontaine – Roppongi or Roppongi Annex – www.hvf.jp/eng/roppongi.php
– Apa – Nishiazabu – www.apahotel.com/hotel/shutoken/04_nishiazabu/english/
– The Glanz – Azabujuban – www.theglanz.jp
– Olympic Inn – Azabujuban – www.olympic-inn.co.jp/azabu_index.html
– Marroad Inn – Akasaka – www.toto-motors.co.jp/marroad/akasaka/

Park Hyatt Tokyo, New York Bar from movie Lost in Translation.

MUST-SEE IN TOKYO:
Neighbourhoods:
– Shibuya 渋谷 – anything & everything – check out the crossing, shopping streets, department stores, 109, and the love hotels – the crossing has the highest population density in the world; you’ll recognize it from the movie “Lost in Translation” – www.japan-guide.com/e/e3007.html

– Harajuku 原宿 – Takeshita Dori (street) and the area next to Harajuku train station are home of Japan’s gothic lolitas (and Meiji Shrine) – especially on Saturday/Sunday afternoons – also lots of Japanese designer clothing/ boutiques in the back streets – check out Yoyogi Park if the weather is nice (or during cherry blossom season) and Bowl-o-rama at the Omotesando end of Takeshita Dori for “bad english” t-shirts – www.japaneselifestyle.com.au/tokyo/harajuku.htm / www.japan-guide.com/e/e3006.html

– Omotesando 表参道- shop till you drop I – the “Champs-élysée” of Tokyo – mainly foreign brands

– Omotesando Hills adding to the diversity of brands on offer – www.omotesandohills.com [Shibuya, Harajuku, Omotesando and Meiji Shrine are adjacent to each other so you can check them out on the same day if you’re pressed for time]

– Ginza 銀座 – Shop till you drop II – Foreign brands as well as big Japanese department stores – www.japan-guide.com/e/e3005.html | www.tokyoessentials.com/ginza.html

– Tokyo midtown/ Roppongi hills – Shop till you drop III & IV- Tokyo midtown is the cousin of Roppongi hills – both are big shopping malls/ office building with a variety of restaurants/ cafés + hotels inside (Ritz Carlton & Grand Hyatt) – they’re a 10 minute walk apart (both connected to Roppongi subway station) – www.tokyo-midtown.com | www.roppongihills.com

– Shinjuku 新宿– 2.5 million people go through Shinjuku station daily; several department stores; take a stroll through Kabukicho, one of Tokyo’s several sketchy nightlife districts (remember to mind your own business) – www.japan-guide.com/e/e3011.html / http://japaneselifestyle.com.au/tokyo/shinjuku.htm

– Akihabara 秋葉原 “electric town” and maid cafés – http://japan-guide.com/e/e3003.html –

Sights:
– Meiji-jingu Shrine 明治神宮 (Harajuku) – http://meijijingu.or.jp/english/
– Sensoji temple 浅草寺 (Asakusa) – http://japan-guide.com/e/e3001.html
– Ueno 上野 area (nice park and several museums) – http://japan-guide.com/e/e3019.html | http://tokyoessentials.com/ueno.html
– Yasukuni Shrine 靖国神社 and the adjacent war memorial museum – (the controversial shrine where japan’s ~2.5 million war dead are enshrined) – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yasukuni_Shrine | www.yasukuni.or.jp/english
– Odaiba お台場 – Oedo Onsen, little hong kong, statue of liberty, good views of rainbow bridge, ferris wheel… – http://japan-guide.com/e/e3008.html | http://tokyoessentials.com/odaiba.html

Art Museums/ Galleries:
– Mori Art Museum: 53rd floor of Roppongi Hills, Mori Tower (6-10-1 Roppongi) – http://mori.art.museum/eng
– National Arts Center 国立新美術館 (7-22-2 Roppongi): http://www.nact.jp/english/
– Suntory Museum of Art: Inside Tokyo midtown (赤坂9-7-4 Akasaka) – www.suntory.co.jp/sma/
– Musuem of Contemporary Art (MOT): Worth the subway ride (三好4-1-1 Miyoshi) – http://mot-art-museum.jp
– Bridgestone Museum of Art: Quite a collection! (京橋 1-10-1 Kyobashi) – http://bridgestone-museum.gr.jp
– Wako Works of Art: Mix of great JP & world artists – 6-6-9 Roppongi- tel:03-6447-1820- http://wako-art.jp
– Zen Photo Gallery: Same building as Wako – 6-6-9 Roppongi- tel:080-4652-7058 – www.zen-foto.jp
– Tolman Collection: Japanese Prints – 2-2-18 Shiba Daimon – tel: 03-3434-1300 – http://tolmantokyo.com
– Tokyo National Museum 東京国立博物館 – 野公園 13-9 Ueno Park – http://www.tnm.go.jp/en/

MUST-SEE & EXPERIENCE:
Must-see locations:
– Tsukiji Market– Visit the world’s biggest fish market before it moves outside of Tokyo in 2016. ~5am auction is touristy and over-rated; OK to go ~9am to walk around & have breakfast – for sushi, you can line up for an hour (or two) at Daiwa (大和).

– A grand sumo tournament (Tokyo in Jan/ May/ Sep; Osaka in march) – http://www.sumo.or.jp/eng/

– The view from the top of Roppongi Hills Mori Tower – much better at night – www.roppongihills.com/tcv/en/ (no need to go to Tokyo tower once you’ve seen the view from here)

– Purikura – Dive into an arcade for all-you-can pose & edit – http://web-japan.org/trends/11_culture/pop120216.html

– The LIT (Lost in Translation) cocktail at the New York Bar at the Park Hyatt where the bar scenes of “Lost in Translation” were filmed – (西新宿3-7-1-2 Nishi Shinjuku) – Go in the evening and enjoy the great view for a cover charge. Make sure to make a reservation beforehand. [Tip: Watch the movie again after you return home from Japan!] – http://tokyo.park.hyatt.com/hyatt/hotels/entertainment/restaurants/

– Skytree – The highest building in Tokyo with amazing 360 degrees view of the city – http://www.tokyo-skytree.jp/en/

– Natural Spa – If you don’t have time to leave Tokyo, it is highly recommended to visit LaQua Spa in Tokyo Dome City – A spa of the highest class that takes advantage of natural hot springs bubbling up from a level 1,700 meters underground. Featuring an outdoor bath, a massage bubble bath, and saunas. It is open 22 hours a day: starting at 11 am and runs all the way to next morning 9 am. No reservation needed. Make sure to try the Japanese traditional rub-down cleaning massage session. – http://www.laqua.jp/pages/en/spa.html

Shrines:
– There are many Shrine’s in Tokyo. The major ones are listed here above already.

Last minute tips:
Most up to date lists: What’s Going on in Tokyo these days – http://metropolis.co.jp & Time Out Magazine is available free of charge in subway stations – http://timeout.jp

Interesting lists of Tokyo/ Japan experiences/ events: http://unmissabletokyo.com | http://unmissablejapan.com

Japenese whisky

WINE & DINE:
Fun Fact: Tokyo is home to 160,000+ restaurants and 286 Michelin stars (almost 4x Paris’ 77 stars). And, don’t forget to taste the local whiskies, they really reach Scottish level of quality!

– Wakaba [わかば] (Roppongi) – If you can find a Japanese speaker to go along (as there is no English menu).

– Kaikaya [開花屋] (Shibuya)- No fish = No life –03-3770-0878 円山町23-7 Maruyama-cho – http://kaikaya.com

– Toriyoshi [鳥よし] Nnishiazabu) – Yakitori (meat/ veggies on skewers); all counter seats – 03-5464-0466 /西麻布 4-2-6 Nishiazabu – http://r.gnavi.co.jp/g388701/

– Dante (Akasaka) – Teppanyaki with a vintage feel –03-3583-5460/赤坂 2-14-9 Akasaka

– Uoshin (Nogizaka) – cozy, reasonable, loud izakaya – 03-3405-0411/赤坂 9-6-32 Akasaka http://uoshins.com

– Azabu Ramen (Azabujuban) – THE ramen place. Open 24 hours. 麻布十番 1-2-9 Azabujuban

– Honmura An (Roppongi) – Soba – 03-5772-6657/六本木 7-14-18 Roppongi – http://honmuraantokyo.com

– Nodaiwa [野田岩] (Hig.Azabu) –03-3583-7852/東麻布 1-5-4 Higashiazabu

– Maisen [まい泉] (Omotesando) – Tonkatsu that’s hard to beat –03-3470-0071/神宮前 4-8-5 Jingumae

– Sabuzen (Shibuya) – Shabu Shabu – 03-3485-0800/ 神山町 10-8 Maruyamacho http://shibuya.shabuzen.jp

– Andy’s Shin Hinomoto [新日の基] (Yurakucho) – The first foreigner-owned izakaya in Japan – talk to Andy about what to order – near Ginza –有楽町 2-4-4 Yurakucho/ 03-3214-8021 – http://www.andysfish.com

– Gonpachi [権八] (Nishiazabu) – 西麻布 1-13-11 – 03-5771-0170 – Tarantino’s inspiration for the restaurant scene in Kill Bill 1 + Where Koizumi took bush – www.gonpachi.jp/en/nishi_azabu/home/location

– Sushi Seizan [鮨 清山]– Decent sushi in Roppongi hills – 03-5772-2077 – http://r.gnavi.co.jp/fl/en/g183526/

– Like your Michelin stars? Then, here you go: http://gm.gnavi.co.jp/restaurant/list/tokyo

Even an full vegan meal becomes art in Japan.

HANG OUT:
– Womb (Shibuya) – THE club in Japan spread over three floors – considered one of the world’s top clubs – mainly house/ techno/ drum ‘n bass – check who’s playing at www.womb.co.jp

– Golden Gai (Shinjuku) – 200 tiny bars in 6 tiny alleys. Most have 6-8 seats usually filled with regulars. http://unmissabletokyo.com/golden-gai

– Geronimo’s (Roppongi) – drink up and see if you can leave a permanent mark in Tokyo expat history – right at Roppongi crossing – www.geronimoshotbar.com

– Two rooms (Kita Aoyama 北青山 3-11-7) – Slick bar in Omotesando; great terrace – www.tworooms.jp

– R2 (六本木 7-14-23 roppongi) – Two rooms’ Roppongi sister. Beginning of the slippery slope – http://r2sc.jp

– Feria (六本木 7-13-7 Roppongi) – Packed with Japanese/ foreigners dancing/ standing around http://lounge-feria.jp

– Vanity: The “new Feria” in Roi building – (六本木 5-5-1 Roppongi) – http://vanitylounge.jp

– Le.g.a: Another relatively new club in Roppongi – (六本木 7-8-6 Roppongi ) – www.le-ga.jp –

Paraiso (Roppongi) – Latin bar with good food and drinks – http://paraiso-bar.com

– Oak door at Grand Hyatt (Roppongi hills)– busy most nights- http://tokyo.grand.hyatt.com/

– Muse (Nishiazabu 4-1-1 西麻布) looking to get jiggy? muse will deliver – http://muse-web.com

– A971 (Roppongi) – standing bar at Tokyo midtown with some tables – www.a971.com

– Black List – Regular parties organized by Cedric and Beno – www.blacklisttokyo.com

– Ageha (Shinkiba) – The suburbs’ answer to Womb – the Shinkiba location is a trek (~7,000 cab ride from roppongi; try taking the train or the bus from Shibuya) but certainly worth it for some of the dj’s that play here – 3 areas (arena, water bar, island bar) with the water bar outdoors with a pool going mad past sunrise. Ageha gets going around 12 and doesn’t stop till 6/6.30 so be prepared for a big one – www.ageha.com

– The Room (Shibuya) – 桜丘町 15-19 Sakuragaoka-cho – A Tokyo institution that pre-dates Womb and the now closed Yellow. Very cozy atmosphere. Check who is on at www.theroom.jp

– Mado Lounge (Roppongi hills) – Sip your drinks enjoying the best night view of Tokyo – www.ma-do.jp

– New Lex (Roppongi) – Formerly Lexington Queen – Has hosted many celebrities coming through town in the past – these days, mostly packed with European models – www.newlex-edo.com

– Superdeluxe (Nishiazabu 3-1-25 西麻布) – Cool performance/ event space – www.super-deluxe.com

LIVE MUSIC:
Tokyo has an abundance of live music whatever genre you fancy and whether you like surrounding yourself with 1000s of people or just 10. Here are some of the options:
– Electrik Jinja (Roppongi 5-9-22) – A hidden bar with great live music/ dj’s – http://facebook.com/electrik.jinja.official
– Shelter: http://loft-prj.co.jp/SHELTER
– Que: http://ukproject.com/que
– 251: http://club251.com
– Blue Note: http://bluenote.co.jp
– Cotton Club -http://cottonclubjapan.co.jp
– Body & Soul: http://bodyandsoul.co.jp
– Sometime: http://www.sometime.co.jp/sometime
– Pit Inn: http://pit-inn.com
– Intro: http://intro.co.jp/intro/
– B flat: http://bflat.biz
– All of me: http://allofmeclub.com

Nike Store in Tokyo with Michael Jordan Art Piece floating in the store.

SNEAKERS:
Obviously as a #SneakerHead I couldn’t skip all the sneaker stores in Tokyo:
– Mita: http://mita-sneakers.co.jp
– Atmos: http://atmos-tokyo.com
– Kicks Lab: http://store.kickslab.com
– White Mountaineering: http://whitemountaineering.com
– Chapter World: http://chapterworld.com
–  GoodEnough – Fuji Warahiroshi: http://gdeh.jp

Casio G-Shock Watches

WATCHES:
And, as a #WatchNerd I had to find watches in Tokyo:

– Common Time by Charmy: http://common-time.jp
– Ishida: http://ishida-watch.com
– Archimedes Spiral: http://archimedesspiral.com
– Best: http://best-watch.com
– Oomiya: http://jw-oomiya.co.jp

VENTURE OUT:
Possible day trips from tokyo:
1. Hakone: http://japan-guide.com/e/e5200.html
2. Nikko: http://japan-guide.com/e/e3800.html
3. Mount Fuji: http://japan-guide.com/e/e2172.html
4. Kamakura: http://japan-guide.com/e/e2166.html
5. Yokohama: http://japan-guide.com/e/e2156.html
6. Mount Takao: http://japan-guide.com/e/e3029.html

Other destinations/Experiences in Japan:
– Kyoto: www.plus-alpha.jp . Hyatt Regency is a nice accommodation option – http://hyattregencykyoto.com . If looking to spend less: http://palacesidehotel.co.jp

– Naoshima: One-of-a-kind “art island” that is home to many outdoor art works (i.e. Kusama’s pumpkin), three great museums (Chichu, Benesse house, Lee ufan) including works by Monet, Warhol, Pollock among others, and the “art house project.” 1-hr. flight from Tokyo Haneda followed by 1-hr ferry ride – stay at the Benesse house (some rooms inside the museum) – info on hotel/ art works at: http://benesse-artsite.jp

– Spa Experience – Onsen / Ryokan: you’ve come all the way to Japan – you don’t want to leave without enjoying a refreshing onsen (Japanese bath) experience… a listing of high quality, English-speaking onsen are available at http://www.ryokancollection.com.

– Winter Sports- Ski resorts: More and more people are starting to come to Japan on ski/ snowboard holidays. With decent slopes starting 1.5 hours from Tokyo by train, the options are endless. Here are some of the best:
1. Kagura Mitsumata (Niigata): www.kagura-mitsumata.ne.jp
2. Naeba (Niigata): Kagura’s neighbor – http://www.princehotels.co.jp/ski/naeba/
3. Gala Yuzawa: www.galaresort.jp (off the train & on to the ski lift)
4. Nozawa Onsen (Nagano): www.vill.nozawaonsen.nagano.jp/info/english/start.htm
5. Niseko (Hokkaido): www.niseko.ne.jp/en/

SERVICED APARTMENTS / LONG STAY:
If you’ll be spending a couple of weeks/more in Tokyo, you may want to check these out:
For higher end options, check out:
Oakwood, Mori, Somerset – www.oakwoodasia.com | www.moriliving.com | www.somerset.com

Slightly cheaper than the three above are Bureau and Asahi Homes – www.space-d.co.jp/en and www.asahihomes.co.jp

Weekly mansion & monthly Chintai: Apartments/ rooms all over Tokyo – www.wmt.co.jp | www.monthlychintai.com/en

Cheaper alternatives incl. shared apt./rooms:  Sakura house: www.sakura-house.com – Some others are listed at www.moveandstay.com and www.tokyoapartments.jp

Hope this is usual to you. Thank you Engin for the wonderful source. I hope you like my additions. Please share your tips & hints in the comments.

[Photo credits: All images are taken by myself. For more views of my trip check my Instragram account for more snap shots and my Flickr account for more qualitative images.]

 


Actions

Informations

Leave a comment

You can use these tags : <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>