A collection of Tokyo travel tips for those travelling to Tokyo for the first time.
1. Bins are almost non-existent
Despite being one of the cleanest cities imaginable, bins are hard to find in Tokyo. It’s a good idea to have a plastic bag you can keep rubbish in until you find a bin. Bins can usually be found next to vending machines or outside convenience stores.
2. Japan is not too expensive
Japan is not as expensive as people have been led to believe. Cheap food is abundant and public transport is super efficient. There are many affordable accommodation options with hostel standards far higher than in Europe, and capsule hotels for those who aren’t claustrophobic. If you are comparing Japan with other Asian destinations like Thailand and Vietnam then yes, it is far more expensive. But it is a completely different type of holiday!
3. Vending machines sell HOT coffee
Yes, hot! The best of these is Boss Black – it actually tastes like coffee! They offer black coffee, white coffee and iced coffee. Good coffee is hard to find in Japan (although easier in Tokyo than other cities). The quality of vending machine coffee is on par with what you’ll find in a cafe and much cheaper!
4. Don’t walk and eat
It is considered rude to eat on the street (except in market areas where street food is sold). If you are in need of a snack, convenience stores usually have a designated eating area where it is okay to eat.
5. Don’t look down on convenience stores
They have a wide range of decent cheap food which is great when you can’t afford to eat out. I have frequented them for breakfast or lunch a number of times and had steamed buns, onigiri rice balls, yoghurt drinks and sushi. In Japan, cheap does not mean dodgy! Plus, they sell alcohol 😉
6. Department store food floors have great food
Another good spot for cheap food is the basement floor of department stores. This is the food floor and generally has an amazing variety of food, including western food and healthy options such as salads. I bought a piece of salmon with a broccoli salad for lunch for about $5.
7. Don’t judge a restaurant by its exterior
Sometimes the dingiest looking restaurants have the best food! It is impossible to get a bad meal in Tokyo.
8. Sushi is everywhere
Contrary to what many people say, it is not hard to find sushi in Japan. It IS hard to find ‘makizushi’, which is rolled sushi with the seaweed on the outside. Most sushi is ngiri sushi, which can be found everywhere for cheap prices! What you won’t find is street side sushi stalls. Sushi is either sold in sushi restaurants or at standing sushi bars.
9. There is plenty to eat in Japan besides fish!
If you aren’t crazy about fish, not to worry, Japanese cuisine has so much more to offer! There is yakitori; meat and vegetable skewers, many different noodle soups, asian salads, curry and rice, vegetable and meat dishes. There is also plenty of western food available.
10. Tokyo Subway App
There is a great phone app for navigating the Tokyo subway: Tokyo Subway Navigation for Tourists (it is the first app that comes up when you search ‘tokyo metro’). This app will tell you which subway line to get, where to change trains, which direction to go and how much your trip will cost! If you can’t get the app then make sure you get an English subway map! (Just ask at one of the manned windows in the subway). Plus, most of the ticket machines have an English option, just look for the button that says English!
11. Consider the one day metro pass
If you are going to catch the train more than two or three times in a day, the One Day Pass will save you money. It is 1000 Yen (approx. $12 AUD) for unlimited one day use of the Tokyo Metro and Toei Line, which will get you almost everywhere in Tokyo. Otherwise, a one way trip will cost between 120-240 Yen.