Useful info when visiting Tokyo

A colleague of mine in the US recently wrote to me asking for tips that he can use when he visits Japan with his family next month.  This is probably the 3rd or 4th time that I’ve done this for friends/colleagues and I suddenly realised that it would make things a whole lot simpler to put all this online.  Below is what I wrote to my colleague, and I’ll be updating it over time, hopefully with information expanding it beyond the Tokyo area (since, embarassing as it is to admit it, I have yet to visit places like Kyoto in my whole 7+ years here…)

I do have a write-up on my trip to Kusatsu earlier this year, and I have visited Hokkaido (hmm.. will have to write up about that at some point…) but following is info more pertinent to places to see/visit around Tokyo.

(update – I think I’m going to re-organize this a little better over the coming days – more info to come!)

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Places to go and things to see in Japan

(work in progress)

Updated: August 20, 2009

It’s a good idea to take the “limousine bus” from Narita.  It’s a bit more expensive than taking the train, but if it’s your first time, and you’re tired, you don’t want to be fiddling about with luggage, transferring from train to train, etc.  You may want to try making a reservation, or at least getting a sense of the timetable from HERE.

Disney is a full day trip – and you DEFINITELY want to plan for that happening on a weekday.  Weekends, the crowds are insane and you can wait up to 2 hrs in line for a popular ride.  There’s also Disney Sea – if you want to do both, then you have to plan for one day each, since they really are full day activities.

Tsukiji fish market is also quite cool, though please don’t be like the other crazy foreigners and bring your luggage there :p  People are really busy and there are carts and stuff zooming around so luggage would be quite dangerous.  To give you a bit of an idea, here’s a write-up I did for when I went there with my family earlier this year.

If you’re going to Tsukiji from Shinjuku, you’ll probably have to leave around 04:30 in the morning.. at latest 05:00 since you miss out on the major auction if you get there any later than… 06:00.  Also keep an eye on the Tsukiji CALENDAR – some days the fish market is closed and it would be a bummer to get up that early for nothing!

I’m not sure about the largest Ferris wheel – but one of the largest is in Yokohama.  The ferris wheel is part of a small amusement park that is especially pretty at night.  Also in Yokohama is the “Red Brick Warehouse” containing lots of small shops – one that stands out in my memory is a store that sold a large number of handmade glass creations.  Yokohama might very well be an all day trip as well, assuming you leave late in the morning, and stay till evening.  You could end things with a trip to the Ramen Museum, a 10 minute train ride away from Yokohama!

For a quick jaunt out of the city, Kamakura is a picturesque tour.  Lots of temples, a small beach, and good eating places.  There’s also a well known statue of Buddha that’s pretty neat, and you can even climb inside the statue (though it’s not that big and pretty dark).

Another place that’s interesting to see is Odaiba – pity you’re not coming till September since there’s a lifesize Gundam statue there till August 31st.  (I’ll be putting pics on my blog on that shortly, just so you see what you’re missing 😛  But hey, at least you can hang out with the mini statue of Liberty!  😉

Akihabara is a cool/freaky place to visit – probably not an all day trip.  Perhaps you could combine your Tsukiji fish market visit (in the early morning) and go on to Akihabara after that (though things don’t open there till.. at least 09:00 or later, so you would have time to wander around/eat breakfast (of raw fish) in Tsukiji.

Tokyo Tower is cool, though I feel it looks more interesting at night.  I would suggest combining a trip to Roppongi Hills with that.  For example, go to Roppongi Hills in the late morning, early afternoon.  You can go up the observatory for a great view of Tokyo, and see the museum, eat, etc.
Then in the evening head to Tokyo Tower for the night view.  There is even a (very small) live band performing there on some days.   Finally, if you still have the energy and want to experience the Tokyo nightlife, you could head back to Roppongi after Tokyo Tower since night time is when all the clubs and bars start opening up.

Harajuku/Meiji Jingu shrine is much more interesting on Sunday mornings – that’s usually when all the people wearing the more…”interesting” outfits come out.

Asakusa is also a definite tourist attraction, with numerous temples, a long shopping street that sells innumerable trinkets, Japanese sweets, clothing, and much much more.  Perhaps a half-day trip, and one that might be combined with a quick walk around Kappabashi street – the best place to be if you want to see where most Japanese restaurants buy the knives, pots, pans, dishes, fake display foods, coffee grinder… you name it, Kappabashi probably has it if it’s related to cooking.  (a brief write-up is HERE)

Finally, a useful link is the train guide.   Will definitely help you figure out which train to take from where.   And speaking of trains, Tet usefully also provided the following link to info about a one-day pass for the JR line!

8 Comments

  • Tet
    August 20, 2009 - 13:13 | Permalink

    I’m surprised you never mentioned anything about the Kanagawa area =p

    Or did you forget the adventures you had there before? XD

  • August 20, 2009 - 13:58 | Permalink

    Old age wipes the memory… >_<
    Remind me! And if you think of anything you feel would be handy/useful for people coming to Japan, let me know and I'll include it, crediting you of course 🙂

  • Tet
    August 20, 2009 - 17:50 | Permalink

    Well, for the Yokohama area:
    – Sakuragicho = Minato Mirai, Red Brick Warehouse, Queen’s Tower
    – Shin-Yokohama = Ramen Museum

    As for the Fujisawa area:
    – Kamakura = Temples, big Buddah statue, nice restaurants
    – Enoshima = Kugenuma Beach, Enoshima Island, Shirasu Bowl

    Beyond that… There’s Hakone and Atami both known for their onsen

  • Tet
    August 20, 2009 - 17:56 | Permalink

    Also, depending on how long they’re staying… It’s possible for visiters to buy the JR East Pass that lets them go on any day all day for a certain number of days too…

    Link…
    http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/eastpass/index.html

  • August 20, 2009 - 18:44 | Permalink

    Oh, my! How could you forget the flea markets/shrine sales??? My favorites were Togo Shrine and Yasukuni Shrine…I picked up lots of neat stuff at both.
    http://www.paperlantern.net/fleamarket/
    http://events.paperlantern.net/month.php

    Also, the convenience stores, the noodle shops, restaurants, D2, Jusco. Ark Hills has two of my favorite eating places: the noodle chain (can you add the name, I’ve forgotten), and the Waku tonkatsu restaurant…sigh, how I do miss Japan 🙂
    In Yokohama is a lovely park. On the little road leading to the park is a small restaurant (very small), that has a tiny main area, and a smaller back area which overlooks a tiny stream w/carp. Yummy noodles there! Will add more ‘suggestions’ as I wax nostalgic!

  • August 20, 2009 - 21:47 | Permalink

    The train pass idea is a good one – and I will put up the info about Yokohama 🙂
    I can see that as this post gets bigger, I’m going to have to find a better of organizing it… but feel free to keep adding ideas if more come 😀

  • August 20, 2009 - 21:49 | Permalink

    Oh yeah, the flea markets are good to include as well! But maybe not the convenience stores…? I mean… there’s one on every street corner pretty much :p
    As for food places…may have to work with Tet on those 🙂

  • August 21, 2009 - 06:32 | Permalink

    I only mention the combini because your brothers like them so much…sometimes for the novel candy featuring cute toys included, other times for the hot dumplings and crispy chicken nuggets served at the check-out. I forget which combini – maybe the 7/11, will ask them ;)…another fav of mine – the takoyaki!

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