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Criminal law
3. labor law
Getting Arou
Alternative/Indie Music
cular amends, however, which is why it can feel a bit hollow to foreigners. An o
unce of politeness on your part will go a long way, whether it be a short bow or
a smile.
Following Rules/Groupthink
Even as a Japanese national some aspects of the unquestioning, rule-abiding Japa
nese person can be particularly infuriating. The Japanese equivalent to gthe nail
that sticks out gets hammeredh (oY) really does discourage any deviation fro
n a party of 8 state they want a beer, it really doesnft matter if you want one o
r not - just order beer as well. Similarly, a friend of mine was asked to remove
her PC power plug from a Starbucks cafe where she was drinking coffee simply be
cause git was against the rulesh. Really?
One particularly interesting aspect of Japanese psychology arises from the need
to gsave faceh by providing a different set of opinions in public and in truth. Ta
temae refers to this public behavior and opinion that a person will profess to h
ave, while they may secretly harbor completely different opinions, which manifes
t themselves in their gtrue selfh (hon-ne). You wouldnft want to embarrass someone
by saying to them gwait, you just contradicted what you told me yesterday!h, becau
se they may actually be maintaining a facade for others.
Tokyo (Kanto) vs. Osaka (Kansai)
There are some interesting nuances and differences Tokyo and Osaka, stemming fro
m the way Japanese is spoken, to the side people pass each other on the escalato
r. The general sense is that Osaka-folks are a little rough around the edges and
are finicky with money, whereas Tokyo-folks will try to be appear a little more
sophisticated and refined.
Media Consumption
Itfs particularly telling to note that of the top 10 highest circulated paid news
papers in the world, 5 are Japanese. Most newspapers have both a morning and eve
ning edition, and youfll see many advertisements on the subway for weekly magazin
es adorned with scantily-clad women. There are quite a few concerns about Japane
se media in general -- the use of kisha-clubs and the lack of international focu
s -- but regardless, consider Japan to be a highly media-saturated country.
Before Getting In
There are some things you canft do if youfre a foreigner unless you do it outside
Japan. The big part is purchasing a JR Pass if you decide to travel outside of T
okyo. Also, consider checking if your credit or debit card provides ATM withdraw
als without fees. Credit unions and Capital One or Charles Schwab Visa are a few
that I know of that have that feature. You will want to have some cash on hand
as well, or travelerfs cheques.
See also: JR Pass
If you expect to be visiting museums or tourist attractions, they will cost on a
verage about 1000~1500 yen per person. You can purchase a Grutt Pass at one of 7
5 museums (see Grutt Pass) for \2000.
Food is relatively cheap. If you really want to swing things very cheaply, you c
an pull off not being hungry with about \1200 per day (\200 for breakfast, \500
for lunch, \500 for dinner, all with stuff from the convenience store), but if y
ou want to make sure to have enough money to enjoy a good Japanese meal/restaura
nt/izakaya once a day, factor in about 2000~3000. Some places, especially those
places that provide beer and food, will put in a cover charge to your meal - donf
t feel duped if you see a cover charge. Protip: if you get a small bowl of edama
me as you sit down, chances are therefs a cover charge.
Transportation isnft cheap and can add up pretty quickly. Since the fare is calcu
lated by distance between departing point and destination, a two-or-three stop t
rip on the subway will set you back \170, with the average about \300 each way (
if you have to transfer between subway systems, it adds up even more). If you pl
an your trip wisely, you can get away with a maximum \1000 for travel each day.
If you plan on doing a lot of traveling, consider getting a day pass, though tho
se have travel restrictions that are sometimes more of a headache than theyfre wo
Also check your bank to see if they levy a fee for withdrawing money at a foreig
n ATM.
See also: Money Stuff, Trains and Subways
The Japanese dress pretty much according to Western fashion, though women do wea
r skirts much more than their American counterparts (regardless of weather).
You cannot drive in Japan with only a US driverfs licence. International Driverfs
permits obtained outside of Japan can be used, but not for extended periods of t
ime. In order to complicate things even further, International Driverfs permits f
rom some countries (France for instance) are not valid in Japan. Driving is on t
he left side, with the driverfs wheel on the right. No right turns on red are all
owed. Public transportation provides more than enough for getting around Tokyo.
See also: Trains and Subways
New Years and Holidays
Japan gets particularly quiet during New Years, with most businesses closed for
December 30, 31, January 1, 2 and 3 (the Tokyo Stock Exchange is closed January
1, 2, and 3).
Protip: if youfre in town during New Years, be on the lookout for fukubukoro (), i.e.
glucky bagh which are basically bags with unknown items inside sold at a steep di
scount. For example, you might pay \1,000 for a bag with a certain theme (like ge
lectronicsh or gmenswearh) - you might not necessarily know whatfs inside, but the t
otal value is always more than \1,000. Another staple of the New Year is the Hak
one Ekiden, where college runners run a relay from Tokyo to Hakone and back. Las
tly, hatsumoude (w), the first visit to a temple of the year, is a big deal, so if
you spot lots of people carrying what looks like wooden arrows with bells (hamay
a j - gevil destroying arrowh), just retrace their steps and pay respects to the loca
spirits and deities.
Japan has a relatively large number of public holidays (see Wikipedia article),
which is basically an excuse for overworked salary-men to relax with their famil
ies - all at the same places. Golden Week, which is usually towards the end of A
pril to the beginning of May, designates the cluster of several public holidays
that allow most to take an entire week off. Visiting touristic places on public
holidays will almost certainly be a crowded affair.
Japan lies on tectonic territory and earthquakes are a common occurrence. As a r
esult, Japanese infrastructure in preparation for earthquakes is perhaps one of
the best in the world - any building built after the 1981 building code revision
must withstand a Shindo 6 magnitude earthquake without collapsing. (Japan doesnf
t use the Richter scale, but the Shindo scale is out of 7). A nationwide early
warning system will dispatch warnings to desktop clients and dedicated receivers
up to 30 seconds before a large earthquake, and TV programmes will regularly ha
ve a text overlay providing up-to-the-minute information about earthquakes. If y
oufre particularly concerned, download Yurekuru Call from the App store or Google
Play, which will warn you of an earthquake. If you feel one, stay calm and chec
k your exit paths by opening doors and avoid places where furniture can shift or
items can fall. If youfre in a high rise or hotel, wait for the PA system to kic
k in and tell you if you need to evacuate.
Getting In
Tokyo has two international airports: Narita Airport (NRT) and Haneda Airport (H
ND). Narita is the main international hub for Tokyo and services ANA, Delta, JAL
, Nippon Cargo Airlines, and United Airlines. Haneda is mostly used for domestic
flights, but recently opened an international terminal. Delta also uses Haneda.
Haneda vs. Narita
Haneda is much closer to central Tokyo than Narita, and as such fares are much m
ore reasonable and therefs less of a headache to get to the airport. Consider, fo
r example, getting into Roppongi:
Get to Grand Hyatt using Limousine Bus: 1,100 yen (takes 60-85 minutes) (as oppo
sed to 3,000 yen from Narita) or
Using the Haneda Monorail: 470 yen, walk to Daimon station and take the Oedo lin
e to Roppongi (190 yen)
Limousine Bus
If you have a lot of luggage or are headed to a downtown hotel (like the Tokyo P
rince Hotel), the easiest way to get from Narita to central Tokyo is to take the
Airport Limousine Bus. The cost is \3,000 and will take you from the terminal s
traight to pretty much any hotel in town, and it takes about 1.5 hours to get in
to the city. There is plenty of luggage space below the bus and the attendees an
d bus drivers will help you load/unload your luggage. The limousine bus also off
ers transportation to and from Haneda airport, as well as to the airport from an
y of the hotels youfre dropped off at.
Narita Express
A faster option is to take the Narita Express Train run by Japan Rail (JR), whic
h takes approximately 1.5 hours, depending on what station you get off at. If yo
u are going straight to Roppongi, I would recommend taking the Narita Express to
Shibuya and taking the bus from Shibuya directly to Roppongi Hills. However, be
sure to note that only select Narita Express trains stop at Shibuya so be sure
to check the schedule beforehand. If you have a non-Japanese passport, you can a
lso purchase the Suica and Narita Express package (\3,500), which is a great dea
l and I highly recommend this option. If you are traveling with a lot of luggage
, I would recommend the Limousine Bus since you will not have to worry about tra
nsferring. You must be fairly quick about getting on and off the trains since th
ey run on a timed schedule.
Keisei Line Skyliner
The fastest option, is the Keisei Line Skyliner, which takes 41 minutes to arriv
e at Ueno station and costs \2,400. However, depending on where you are headed,
Ueno may be slightly out of the way. Therefs also the Keisei Access Express (62 m
inutes) and the Keisei Main Line (70 minutes), which offer cheaper fares but wit
h more stops along the way. The last train out of Narita on the Keisei Main line
is at 11pm.
Getting Around
The Japanese address system differs starkly from those in the United States or E
urope, with the general idea that a Japanese address identifies a particular bui
lding by geographic regions that decrease in size, starting by prefecture and en
ding with the building name (see this Wikipedia article). An unfortunate consequ
ence is that addresses that look close numerically arenft necessarily close geogr
aphically. As a result, finding a location by address requires nothing less than
a through map, and most businesses or homes will help reduce confusion by highl
ighting the nearest subway station.
An interesting tidbit - most Japanese address dropdowns for prefecture are order
ed by geographic order (north to south) rather than any phonetic order.
Trains and Subways
The main form of transportation around Tokyo is by train and subway. There are t
wo main subway services, the Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway. Because these subways
are run by different companies, transferring between these services requires you
to pay and pass through a ticketing gate before transferring - if you use a Sui
ca card, you get a discount on your second leg when you transfer. Prices for tic
kets vary depending on how far you plan to travel. Also, depending on where you
want to go it may make more sense to walk to a different subway station even tho
ugh youfre right in front of one, so make sure to plan accordingly.
Protip: once youfre on the platform look for yellow signs indicating which exits
are more suitable for which destinations. They can save you quite the hassle or
See also: Suica and Pasmo
East Japan Railway Company (JR East) operates trains throughout Tokyo as well as
part of the shinkansen network. Note that the Shinkansen going to Osaka is not
operated by JR East, but by JR Central. If you decide to do some traveling, the
shinkansen is a great option but is fairly expensive. You can purchase discount
shinkansen tickets at special discount ticketing shops throughout Tokyo called (kink
en-ya) or `PbgVbv (chiketto-shoppu). Another less comfortable, but much cheaper opt
to take an overnight bus, called soX (yak? basu).
See also: Shinkansen
JR Pass
If you are foreign passport holder, consider using the JR Pass if travelling a
fair amount outside of Tokyo. This pass is allows for unlimited travel for a cer
tain number of days. The pass covers many Shinkansen as well as certain local tr
ains, busses and even ferries. However, it can only be purchased before you arri
ve in Japan. Plan on purchasing the pass at least several weeks in advance so th
at it arrives before your departure. Note that you do not actually receive the J
R Pass in the mail, rather you receive a coupon that you trade in for the JR Pas
s on the first day of travel. The primary station in the larger cities will have
a specific location where you can receive your JR Pass. If you are unfamiliar w
ith the station, I would highly recommend that you arrive early to find out wher
e you can trade in for your JR Pass. Finally, it is important to be aware that t
he trade-in locations may open later and/or closer earlier than the rest of the
station or ticketing booths.
Another pass useful for Tokyo is the Tokyo Free Kippu, a 1-day ticket covering m
ost trains, subways and bus running in the city (but NOT the trains getting to t
he airports). The pass can be purchased in advance at a Midori-no-madoguchi. JR
East also offers its own pass, valid only for its network, covering Tokyo and th
e northern half of Honshu.
I would recommend downloading a Japanese train application if you have a smartph
one available. The Rail Map Lite app is a good start. Otherwise you can try Hype
Like many major cities, the subways and trains in Japan typically stop running b
etween midnight and 5AM, so be sure to plan accordingly. This is called Id (, sh
st train.
Train types
If you take any of the suburban trains youfll quickly notice there are different
classes of trains. Make sure you know which stops your train stops at before boa
Photo by shunanrail
These trains are faster by skipping certain stations along the route. In order f
rom fastest to slowest:
}, tokkyu
Limited Express
}, jyun-tokkyu
Semi Special Express
}s, kyuukou
}s, kukan-kyuukou
Semi Express (trains that run express during some stretches of the route, and no
rmal at other stretches)
, kaisoku,
occasionally , tsuukin-kaisoku
Rapid Service
Commuter Rapid Service
, futsu,
alternatively ew, kakueki-teisha
Local (stops at every station)
The bus system is slower than the trains and road traffic gets especially conges
ted during rush hour. However, this is the most convenient and direct route to t
ravel between Roppongi and Shibuya and a fun way to discover the city. There is
no direct route via the train or subways and the bus stop for this bus is locate
d in Roppongi Hills. This takes approximately 12 minutes (depending on traffic)
and costs \200. However, be sure to note that buses stop running much earlier th
an trains.
Rates start at \710 for the first 2km and \80 for about 300m thereafter or 2 min
utes in traffic (though this differs slightly between taxi companies). Prices go
up about 30% after dark. Rear taxi doors open and close automatically using hyd
raulic actuators, so your driver may say something to discourage you from reachi
ng for the door handle.
Suica and Pasmo
I highly recommend purchasing a SUICA or PASMO card. These cards are a rechargea
ble contactless smart cards used for train fares. Without this card, you will ha
ve to purchase a train ticket each time you board. This can be time consuming es
pecially during rush hour since you will have to wait in line. Also, these cards
will automatically take care of your transfer fee if you transfer from one trai
n system to another (because sometimes youfll have to exit a turnstile in order t
o get into another). There is no difference between the Suica or Pasmo card and
are just owned by different companies (There may be the rare case in which only
one card is accepted at a particular store, but I have never had this problem an
d you will not have to worry about this if you are using your card for transport
ation). You can purchase or recharge these cards at the traditional ticket booth
where you would normally buy a subway ticket.
These booths have an English guidance option, so purchasing tickets should not b
e a problem. If and when you buy them, you can choose to have your name printed
on them (Personal PASMO) so that you and only you can use it, and you can have i
t reissued if you lose the card. You can choose the General variant without any
Both cards require a \500 deposit, which will be refunded when you return the ca
rd. These cards are also accepted on the bus as well as some combinifs (convenien
ce stores), stores, and vending machines. The minimum recharge amount is \1000.
Transportation out of Tokyo
The bullet train, shinkansen (V) is the pride of Japan and epitome of smooth and extr
emely efficient transportation system. Pricing for the trains differ largely on
speed, with names for each train segment and service:
Nozomi/Hayabusa - fast
Hikari/Yamabiko - semi-fast
Kodama - local
Prices can be on par or slightly more expensive than flying, but the trains are
extremely punctual (a 2003 report by JR Central apparently claimed that average
train arrivals were within 6 seconds of their promised time).
One particular part of the shinkansen experience is the ekiben (w, gstation mealh), w
hich are basically lunch packs that you can buy on the train platforms or even w
ithin the trains. They cost about \1000 but theyfre worth every penny, and since
you really canft get your hands on the authentic stuff outside of the train syste
m, theyfre really worth a try.
A gentleman orders ekiben at the Sendai station before his train ride. Photo by
Rio Akasaka.
Overnight bus
There is a fairly extensive overnight bus network in Japan, and Tokyo is well-se
rved by buses that travel north and south. They are exceedingly cheap: a Tokyo-K
yoto bus ride leaves Tokyo station at 10 and arrives at Kyoto at 6 for a total c
ost of \2700. The same path would take 2 hours and 20 minutes by Shinkansen and
cost you \12,710
Protip: look for buses that have 3 seats per row (3?, san-retsusha) instead of 4 (S?
retsusha) if you want any realistic amount of sleep. San-retsusha buses usually
have bathrooms inside and will only stop at highway stops to give the two driver
s some time to rest, which means it gives you more peace and quiet because peopl
e wonft be shuffling down the aisles to get off as they would in a yonretsu-sha.
Drivers will stop in either bus arrangement about every 2 hours, but the 4-row b
us is a bit more cramped.
Check out for a good hub for searching for buses.
Low-cost domestic carriers include
Beginning January 8, 2013, Skymark is doing a \10,000 promotion for any domestic
flight. While this likely wonft last forever, they give you a good indication of
how low prices go. Be aware about which airports these carriers fly out of, how
As with any metropolitan city, Tokyofs neighborhoods tend to have their own uniqu
e flavor and crowd - this fact is made even more evident by the fact that each n
eighborhood seems to be ringed by residential areas, effectively cordoning off t
he fun parts and the quiet parts of town.
Harajuku is overrun by high school girls and cosplay fans, making it an ideal sp
ot for people-watching. Youfll likely want to swing by Harajuku if you like shopp
ing. Takeshita-doori is a narrow stretch of stores that runs from Meiji road to
Harajukufs JR station, and therefs a ton of accessory stores, music stores and cre
peries. Good luck trying to get by the crowd on the weekends!
See also: Shibuya, Daiso Harajuku
Harajuku and Shibuya are about 15-20 minutes walk apart. If you do decide to go
from one place to another, it may be fun to walk through Yoyogi park as well as
the Meiji shrine inside.
Shibuyafs claim to fame is the scramble crossing (or massive intersection where h
ordes of people cross the road at the same time) - it provides ample opportuniti
es for people-watching. In terms of stores in the area, look out for Tower Recor
ds, for any and all kinds of music. For those into crafts and DIY, the Tokyu Han
ds store is a required stop - youfll find 8 floors of materials from clock hands
to carpentry (therefs 3 mezzanines for each floor, making it a total of 24 flight
s if you want to see it all. Check out the floor guide). If you're a clothing ma
ker, go across the street to Yuzawaya, a great resource in the city for knitters
If youfre looking for the quintessential touristy thing to do here, though, head
for the Akita dog statue, Hachiko. Legend has it that the loyal dog waited for h
is master for years at the station, even after his master passed away. Itfs now a
popular meeting point, right next to the incessantly busy Shibuya crossing.
See also: Harajuku, Tokyu Hands
Alternative/Indie Music
Contributed by dokool, on reddit
Shibuya is also one of the centers of the alternative/indie music scene in the c
ity. In Dogenzaka there's O-EAST/WEST/NEST/CREST and Duo Music Exchange as well
as Club Asia and Bar Come On Rock, then in Center-gai you have Club Quattro, Cyc
lone up on Spain Street, and then across from Tokyu Hands up on the hill is a bu
ilding with half a dozen livehouses (Chelsea Hotel, Star Lounge, GAME, Milky Way
, AUBE and one or two more).
Then around the corner from that are Rock no Cocoro and Rockaholic, two very wel
l-known music bars. A couple streets down are the flagship stores for RUDIE'S, S
KULLSHIT, and ROLLING CRADLE, three of the most influential street clothing bran
ds in Japanese punk.
And if you go up the hill to CC Lemon Hall, you'll also find Shibuya Eggman, the
livehouse that got on the news post-3/11 after Fox News mistook it for a nuclea
r reactor. Shibuya AX is up there as well but that's basically on the way to Har
Some say Roppongi is the area where expats go if they donft want to feel like the
y are in Japan. Roppongi is popular for being a mecca for nightclubs, restaurant
s and izakaya (drinking/eatery), as well as the massive Roppongi Mori Tower whic
h occupies a big portion of a dainty district called Roppongi Hills. You can go
to the top of Mori Tower for a fantastic vista over the city (\1500 for Tokyo Ci
ty View, another \500 for the Sky Deck). One big discount chain store called Don
Quixote (see gShoppingh) stocks a lot of things, from foodstuffs to regular house
hold items. The place definitely comes alive past sundown.
A short walk from Roppongi is Tokyo Midtown, a glitzy shopping/hotel/park/museum
complex that seems to cater to the baby-toting nouveau-riche. (gOh look, I can t
ake a cooking class on the first floor!h)
Akihabara (youfll find signs at the train stations referring to the gElectric Cityh
) hosts thousands of electronics stores. If youfre into gadgets and/or newfangled
tech be sure to swing by. You may want to check prices online beforehand, howev
er, as they might be marked up simply because youfre in Akihabara. The other big
draw of the area is the otaku culture and various related stores (like maid cafe
s), even though it's no longer anywhere close to as interesting as it used to be
now that the Sunday pedestrian walk is heavily policed and restricted.
See also: Purchasing online, Ikebukuro, Bic Camera
Ame-yokocho (gCandy Alleyh)
Ame-yokocho (historically, A) is a open-air street market selling a lot of stuff in
al, though its popularity is more around food. Prepare to spend a bit of money o
n things if youfre hungry, and prepare to be squashed by the throng.
Therefs also the Ueno Zoo.
Ueno and Asakasa are about a 20 minute walk from each other.
Japanfs oldest amusement park, with Japanfs correspondingly oldest roller coast. I
tfs fairly small, though, so donft come expecting a Six Flags in the middle of Asa
kusa. Rides cost a dirt-cheap \100, admission is \900. You may want to check out
the Ghost Mansion as Japanese lore around ghosts/apparitions/demons are pretty
interesting. See park map.
Sensojifs first temple was built in 648, making it the oldest in Tokyo. If youfre
here around May, make sure to check out the Sanja-matsuri, which attracts upward
s of 2 million visitors from around the country. Otherwise, take a walk through
the imposing temple structures and check out the food and souvenir stores on the
nakamise-doori, a road leading out of the temple. You may be scolded if you wal
k down the pathway while eating - the pathway to the temple is considered somewh
at sacred - so eat in front of stalls or dip into a side street.
Ningyoyaki is one of those things youfll want to get your hands on while youfre he
See also: Sky Tree
Shinjuku is very much the business center of Tokyo, with impressive skyscrapers
reaching high into the sky. One of them that might be good for the budget consci
ous visitor is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building, which has a free obse
rvatory on the 45th floor of both the North and South Towers. On a clear day you
may catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji, but they close at 5pm, so you wonft get a glimp
se of the night lights in the city.
If youfre interested in travelling the underpasses criss-crossing Shinjuku statio
n, youfll also find a pathway to Odakyu department store, where can take an eleva
tor ride with uniformed women who will give you pointers as to what to find on e
ach floor.
Kabukicho (lit. kabuki city) is Tokyofs sleazy area, famous for a lot of seedy ac
tivity going on behind the colorful banners and restaurants that line its street
s (the Japanese mafia doesnft hide the fact that its presence is known all throug
hout Kabukicho). You wonft see prostitutes, because the Japanese are far too disc
reet, but if youfre looking for love hotels, massage parlors, nightclubs, or anyt
hing to entertain any fetish of yours, take a slow stroll through Kabukicho.
You can head towards Robot Restaurant (5000 yen admission, 18+, 60 minute show,
consider reserving ahead of time, no shows Sunday). English site
Insider knowledge: there are fake establishments called bottakuri bars (gcon barsh
) where establishments will charge an unsuspecting customer tens of thousands of
yen for drinks or massages. Beware of being roped into a place without knowing
what youfre paying. (Read more)
Situated on the southeastern section of Tokyo, Ginza is famous for restaurants,
coffeehouses, and high-end department stores. On one intersection youfll find Lou
is Vuitton, Chanel, a glitzy Apple Store, and plenty of similar establishments.
Mitsukoshi and Matsuzakaya are two popular department stores.
Towards the northwestern area of Tokyo sits Ikebukuro, a busy shopping hub that
offers both brand-name items as well as large electronics stores like Bic Camera
and Labi. The electronics here tend to be slightly cheaper than Akihabara. Ther
e are no less than 3 large department stores within walking distance of the trai
n station, and Sunshine City offers a wealth of entertainment (like a indoor the
me park) without ever having to set foot outdoors.
Odaiba has made a name for itself as the one-spot solution to shopping, museums
and futuristic imagination on an artificial island facing the Tokyo Bay. In addi
tion to Tokyo Big Sight, Tokyofs largest conference hall, therefs the Miraikan (Ja
pan's National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation) and two corporate inno
vation showrooms - one for Toyota, and another for Panasonic. Odaiba Palette Tow
n has a giant ferris wheel and a Venice-themed shopping arcade. Most places in T
okyo can connect to Odaiba using the Yurikamome, the monorail. If you visit the
Seaside Mall from the Odaiba Kaihin Koen station, you can stop by the Haikara Yo
kocho on the 4th floor - the entire indoor path is dedicated to the games and ca
ndies from Japanfs yesteryear.
See also: Yurikamome
Therefs a big Tsutaya bookstore thatfs worth a visit, not merely for its architect
ural amazingness, but to marvel at the book-adoring culture that is Japan.
A wonderful and very hip neighbourhood in western Tokyo which can easily be reac
hed from Shibuya station by train (5 min away). The area has for several years i
n a row been voted one of the most attractive areas to live in for young people.
The area is full of small shops, cozy cafes, second hand stores and fashion bou
tiques. It is a great place for shopping as well as strolling around on the week
The best coffee can be found at Bear Pond Espresso -
The most impressive pre-dinner wine can be had in the middle of FLOWER BAR GARDE
NA (you sip wine in the middle of a flower shop!) -
For a great and cheap dinner head to Izakayaism, (*come out south exit, continue
straight down the shopping street and you will see Mister Donut on your right.
If you walk round the back of it there is a little road, which has a lovely bar
upstairs called Heaven's Door, and Shiribe restaurant (Izakayism) on the right)
for great food in a fantastic atmosphere. The address is ` kX Q-PW?Q Kit
-0031, Japan, 03-3413-3785
Other Neighborhoods
Tokyo is gigantic and diverse. Even if you spend a whole week in the city, youfll
just barely scrape the surface of what it has to offer. Below is a selection of
a few interesting places to go beyond Shinjuku, Shibuya or Akihabara and get a
better grasp of the pulse of the city.
Yanesen and the University of Tokyo
The Northeastern side of the Yamanote area, West of Ueno, is made up of three qu
iet and old neighborhoods currently going through a very strong revival : Yanaka
, Nezu and Sendagi, collectively known as Yanesen. A large cemetery in Yanaka, t
emples, wooden houses, but also newly set up designer studios and cafes dot the
whole area, allowing for very rewarding walks through smaller streets. In the he
art of the place runs a small winding street, Hebimichi (snake-street). The stre
et is the site of a former river, hence its very peculiar shape. Several fashion
shops are located along the street. A little on the West is the large and beaut
iful Nezu Shrine. In April, the Shrine is packed with photographs for a major fe
stival of Azalea, as a good part of the shrine is planted with colorful flowers.
South of the shrine is the main campus of the University of Tokyo (Todai), by v
ery far the most renowned university of the country. The campus can be freely ac
cessed, and has a few interesting sites. Not the main entrance, but the most fam
ous one is the photogenic Akamon (red door), where many students and aspiring st
udents will take the pose. Same goes for the Yasuda auditorium. Go there during
the week, mix with the students, feel the vibe.
Yasukuni shrine and Yushukan
Very close to the geographic center of the Yamanote line lie the quiet grounds o
f the Yasukuni Shrine. Here are enshrined millions of soldier who fought for the
ir country since the Meiji restoration, including soldiers who died during WW2 a
nd war criminals condemned to death at the Tokyo trials after the war. Visits by
officials are always a cause of major frictions with neighbouring countries. Th
e main building is a large but agreeable shinto shrine. Note nonetheless the lar
ge Chrysanthemums on the entrance door, the Imperial Seal of the country, as wel
l as the huge toori towards Kudanshita. Flea markets are held twice every month
on Saturday on the large alley leading to the shrine. Yushukan, the oldest mili
tary museum of the country, is on the grounds of the shrine. There is a zero fig
hter is on display at the entrance on the non-paying part of the building. The m
useum is extremely interesting, with a few controversial statements (to say the
Remember that the Yasukuni Shrine is both a religious and private place, and tha
t right-wing nationalists who often roam the place will not be a problem if you
do not provoke them.
On the Northeastern outskirts of Tokyo proper, Shibamata is a lively district re
mnant of the old Edo. Similar in a sense to Asakusa, but less gforeign touristh or
iented, Shibamata is centered around a pedestrian alley bordered with old wooden
shops (most of those offering traditional food) leading to a temple, Shibamata
Taishakuten. It can get very busy in the weekends, but usually not at the crowd-
control levels Asakusa can reach. The district is also very famous in Japan as b
eing the stage of a film series in the 1960s, Otoko Wa Tsuraiyo. A statue of the
main character of the movies, Torasan, can be found just at the exit of the tra
in station.
Do you like books ?
Koishikawa Korakuen and Tokyo Dome
The Imperial Palace (at least what can be seen)
Museums and Touristy Stuff
Of course there are plenty of quirky museums you might not find elsewhere, so a
visit might be worth your time.
Grutt Pass
A Grutt Pass (gurutto means gall overh) costs \2000 and is valid for 2 months from
the date of purchase. Itfs a good deal that likely pays off with three or four v
isits to museums (for example, the National Science Museum, Ueno Zoo and the Mir
aikan each cost \600 each to enter). Check out which museums are free with the p
ass and which provide discounts here:
See Kabukicho, Roppongi
The Yurikamome line is a monorail system that connects Tokyo with Odaiba. While
the line connects Shinbashi on the west with Toyosu on the east, if youfre intere
sted in neat view of downtown Tokyo and the Rainbow Bridge, start from Shinbashi
- the other end is pretty boring and barren.
If youfre looking for an evening boat ride down the river banks of Tokyo, the yak
ata-bune is your destination. \14,000 will get you a bus ride from your hotel to
the boat, and with drinks and a full dinner to accompany the ride. Itfs definite
ly a lot more fun if you go with a group.
Studio Ghibli Museum
If youfre a fan of Hayao Miyazaki or any of his movies (Spirited Away, Totoro), t
his museum is a must. Youfll have to purchase tickets at the Lawson convenience s
tore though, for a specific date, and the museum is about 45 minutes from Shinju
ku on the JR Chuo line. Tickets for adults are \1000. The area immediately aroun
d it, Kichijoji, is really lively at night with a great restaurant and izakaya s
cene, so it might be worth staying around in the evening after your visit, espec
ially if youfre a bit tired of the overpriced areas in central Tokyo. No photogra
phs allowed inside.
Edo Tokyo Museum
If youfre a big fan of large, expansive dioramas with miniature figurines of the
bygone era, the Edo Tokyo Museum is a great place to spend a morning.
Tokyo Tower
This is the big red Eiffel-tower lookalike. \1420 for a trip all the way to the
special observatory. Therefs a fun trick art gallery at the foot.
Tokyo Sky Tree
Boasting a height of 634m, the tower is currently the world's second tallest str
ucture after the Burj Khalifa. Itfs \2000 to go up 350m, or \2500 if you book in
advance (which lets you bypass the waiting line to purchase tickets, which on oc
casion might be more than an hour). You can purchase tickets (\1000) to go up an
other 100m.
If you want to take good photos of the building without being up close, the rive
r Kitajikkengawa near Oshiage subway station is a good start for unobstructed vi
See also: Odaiba
Odaiba Ferris Wheel
Apparently one of the worldfs largest ferris wheels.
Things (Some) Locals Do, See and Eat
Capsule hotel
A capsule hotel is so-called because itfs literally a capsule with enough ameniti
es to let one sleep. It was popularized by drunken businessmen (salary-men) who
would miss the last train home and would have to spend the night to put their st
upor to rest. One capsule hotel that seems decent is Hotel Siesta in Shibuya. A
room costs \3300 per night.
Another great capsule hotel is 9Hrs - - in Kyoto, which is lo
cated right in the center of the city. It is cheap, clean and a lot of fun to st
ay in. It has also won design awards for its minimalistic design.
Update October 11, 2013: 9 hours is closing permanently at the end of October.
Stressed out from work? On a lunch break and craving something relatively mindle
ss to entertain you? Try your hand at pachinko - a somewhat uniquely Japanese hy
brid of slots and pinball. Youfre only allowed to get prizes or medals at the act
ual store, but there are special stores nearby that will take your prize and giv
e you cash. Ask for these or look for a map at the prize counter.
dokool says: I won't offer too much tactical advice because I only play one type
of machine and YMMV, but here's basic instructions for tourists:
If the parlor is empty, GTFO. If nobody is playing a certain type of machine, av
oid it. Look for parlors running a promotion on a certain type of machine (Umi n
o Monogatari, Evangelion, etc) and play that if there are any machines available
Shit is loud and smokey. You've been warned.
Most of the time, any machine based on a foreign license (like Spiderman or LOTR
) will be a money pit.
Only put in the amount of money you want to use. If you just want to do it once
for kicks, 2000 yen is enough. If you actually want to try to win, up to 10,000
Above each machine there's a little LED display that tells you how many spins th
ere have been since the last jackpotiX^[gQQQQXsH Each one writes it differ
s today/last few days, and other stats. I generally try to sit down at machines
with higher spin counts (400+).
Realistically you get a couple 'chances' to win every 100 or so spins. Sometimes
your machine will make all sorts of noises, show you all sorts of neat things o
n the monitor, tell you to push buttons, maybe vibrate a little, and essentially
cocktease you with the appearance that you're about to win... and then you don'
t. Shit happens.
If you get one jackpot and see m show up on the screen, that means you're guarantee
d to get another jackpot, so keep playing and hit the CALL button above you so t
hat a staffer can change your tray out for an empty one. Proceed until #8.
If you don't and get some other screen with a countdown timer, you may have X nu
mber of spins with an elevated shot at another jackpot. If this happens just pla
y through until the timer runs out and then proceed to #9.
When you decide you're finished playing and you've won, call a staffer and make
the ~ sign with your hands and they'll count up all your balls and give you a rec
eipt. A good rule of thumb is that 1 tray = 4000-5000 yen depending on the estab
Take the receipt to the prize counter and say nothing when you give it to them.
They'll give you a bunch of plastic cubes w/ gold leaf embedded in them. If you
have balls left over they might ask if you want snacks, drinks, or cigarettes to
use your balance.
Once you've gotten your medals, find the TUC shop nearby. It's always around the
corner or down the street from the parlor, never on a main street. Ask a staffe
r (if you don't speak Japanese, just show your medals and look confused) and the
y'll give you directions, or if they're super-nice walk you there.
At the TUC shop, put your medals into the sliding tray; the staffer there will t
ake them, count'em, and give you your cash.
Convenience stores (combini) in Tokyo are quite the unique experience because th
ey offer so much in the way of lunch food and great bread and other knickknacks.
You can literally feed yourself decently for about \1000 a day. Drop by any of
the following: 7-Eleven, Lawson, FamilyMart, Sunkus.
Things you can do at a combini
Pay your utility bill
Make photocopies, scan, fax
Buy museum/highway bus tickets
Withdraw money from an ATM
Pay taxes
Buy stamps/Mail packages
Pick up orders from Amazon
Buy food and drinks
Print photos from USB
Read magazines for free
Resource (Japanese)
To be fair, the folks who do wake up at 4:00 am to go to the Tsukiji fish market
to see the live tuna auctions tend to be tourists. But the atmosphere and the f
ood there is a fairly unique experience that can be taken for granted by the mil
lions who eat sushi every day. Besides, if you get to the market early, you can
also line up again to grab fresh sushi for breakfast (mind you, theyfre not parti
cularly cheap). If youfd rather not go for sushi, try the cream stew at Senriken
(Z) - theyfre supposed to be really good. If you want to have some truly tasty curry
ad to Toyo-chan - prepare to feel a bit rushed, though - therefs a lot of people
in line usually and people really go in and out fast!
Protip: the line for the tour starts forming at around 4:30 am near the Kachidok
i gate corner- be there early (your only transportation option is a taxi), becau
se only the first 120 are admitted! You get a vest to wear and are taken to the
observation area around 5:30, so you have some time to catch a quick nap in line
. The main market area opens up at 9 am.
Dagashi refers to candy from the late 19th and early 20th century - theyfre very
simple and relatively unglamorous, but they really do either emulate or maintain
original processes from decades ago. You can try your luck at finding some at K
agurazaka or even check out the Dagashi-Game-Hakubutsukan:
iyamotochou/ Therefs a decent one at Odaiba too, on the 4th floor of the Seaside
Mall, which is much closer. Get off at Odaiba Keihin-Koen station on the Yurikam
ome line.
If youfre really interested in these, check out the entire Confectionery Row in K
awagoe (about an hour and a half west of Tokyo by train).
Matsuri - festivals - are popular summer activities that take place over several
days. They really start picking up after May. Usually there is the carrying of
the mikoshi, or portable shrine (more formally, a divine palanquin), which is a
symbolic gesture of gmovingh a deity from the main shrine to a temporary one durin
g the festival. Youfll also want to try your hand at some of the games, which can
be genuinely old-timey - prizes tend to be food or trinkets. Some festivals wil
l have a corresponding fireworks show. Watch out for the Sanja Matsuri at the As
akusa Senso-ji in May, and the fireworks during the summer.
Dezome-Shiki - fire review (January 6, 2013) at Tokyo Big Sight - watch a fantas
tic firefighterfs parade as well as firefighters climbing bamboo ladders Edo-styl
Yabusame - horse archery at Kamakura (throughout the year)
Meiji Jingu Spring Grand Festival (May 2-3, 2013)
Sanja Matsuri (May 17-19, 2013)
Kanda Matsuri (3rd weekend of May)
Hozuki-Ichi at Sensoji (July 9, 10)
Ennichi is more or less a fair, and the one at the Fukagawa Hachimangu area has
one on the 1st, 15th and 28th of each month. Look for the stalls selling snacks
or knick-knacks!
Fake Food
You canft walk around looking for restaurants in Tokyo without spotting food samp
les that look eerily genuine. They are often made using wax, and you can venture
out of Tokyo to learn how to make your own. You can browse a good selection in
Kappabashi-doori, though.
To get to Kappabashi Kitchenware Town, take the Tokyo Metro's Ginza line to Tawa
ramachi, one stop before Asakusa. Walk four blocks west and turn right at the ch
ef's head.
Alternately, head towards Maiduru (pronounced gmaizuruh) for a collection of food
samples you can buy: (see map here)
Read more:
Themed restaurants
Cat cafes, rabbit cafes
There are quite a few establishments dedicated to furry animals wandering (or ho
pping) around while you take pictures or maybe actually try to grab a bite to ea
Romantic spots
I have no idea what would constitute a romantic spot in Tokyo, but herefs a good
website to give you ideas:
Food and Drinks
See Wikipedia articles linked for literal descriptions. Ifve added the nuances yo
u might not find there. Restaurants donft take tips. Some establishments will put
up a cover charge (izakayas, for example, go up to about 500 yen per person). A
lso, if your waiter doesnft seem to be interested in picking up your tab, itfs bec
ause youfll have to pay at the front of the restaurant.
Grilled chicken on bamboo skewers. Also found under the category of kushiyaki (s
kewered grilled items). There are a variety of pieces to choose from. Be prepare
d to decide whether you want it seasoned with salt or with tare, a thick sweet s
oy-based sauce. About 140 yen per skewer - start off by ordering 3 or 4 while en
joying some good draft beer.
Literally, gas-you-like-it-grilledh, a grilled pancake consisting of mostly lettuc
e, and subsequent portions of pork, green onion, and anything else you fancy (se
e Wikipedia page). Nearly always comes slathered in mayonnaise. Popular in the O
saka/Kyoto region. It can feel pretty hefty for a meal, but since itfs bulk is le
ttuce, it makes for a nice lunch item. Have some fun by looking for places that
will make it right in front of you.
Protip: the Tokyo variant of okonomiyaki is monjayaki (or monja for short) and a
popular area to find a wide variety of monja stores is in Tsukishima on the Oed
o and Yurakucho lines.
It sounds less appetizing when you call them goctopus ballsh.
The Sushi Menu book app ($3.99) is a good reference to know what youfre ordering
and how to eat.
Just the fish.
Sushi wrapped in seaweed - comes in rolls. California rolls donft exist in Japan.
Sushi that comes on a conveyer belt. This is a pretty fun experience in and of i
tself - you pay for the sushi that you pick off the conveyer belt, and each plat
e the sushi is on is usually color-coded by price so that you can tell if a part
icular sushi is cheaper or more expensive than youfd like.
What you would normally assume to be sushi. Fish on top of rice. Usually comes i
n pairs.
A type of sushi meal that consists of a variety of sashimi on top of rice. Usual
ly comes in a box. Chirashi means gscatteredh, and thus indicates the variety that
comes with ordering one.
A roll of rice wrapped in abura-age (g), deep fried tofu slices.
Japan has a rather unique curry culture that is relatively different from Indiafs
. The curry tends to be thicker (and occasionally sweeter) and comes on top of J
apanese rice, not Thai or basmati. Therefs usually crunchy red pickled cucumber a
nd radish (fukujinzuke, _) as a relish.
See also: Toyo-chan in Tsukiji
Soba A
Buckwheat noodles, more or less gray in color. The Japanese consider them to be
more of a lightweight snack material rather than a meal. Can be served hot or co
ld. Soba served cold comes with dipping sauce (tsuyu).
Protip: Ask or look for soba-yu, which is the water the soba is boiled in, to po
ur into your dipping sauce. Doing so waters down the saltiness of the dipping sa
uce and makes a nice drinkable soup.
Fried ramen-style noodles. Typically spotted at food stalls during festivals and
outdoor events. May also be found in sandwiches or with ramen replaced by udon
noodles, which becomes yakiudon.
Thicker wheat noodles. Typically served warm, though can be appreciated cold as
with soba. Sanuki udon is a variant popular in the southern prefecture of Kagawa
, with a distinctly chewy consistency.
Somen Af
Super thin wheat noodles - more popular towards the southern part of the country
. Typically eaten cold. Nagashi-somen is a fun deviation where restaurants serve
somen on bamboo flutes with running water, and you pluck somen from it as they
travel downward.
Ramen [
Salt-based soup, pale, yellowish. Usually with a lot of vegetables.
Soy-based soup, darker brown
Pork bone broth, milky brown. Richer, buttery flavor. Sometimes referred to as gH
akata ramenh, from the region where it was first popular.
Miso-based soup. Richer in flavor - a northern favorite.
A Japanese equivalent of a pot-au-feu- think of a stew with all sorts of things simme
ring for long periods of time. You can find these in 7-Eleven.
V Battered and deep-fried vegetables or shrimp. Dip them into sauce before consuming
with rice.
See a wonderful list here. When drinking alcoholic beverages in the company of o
thers (especially Japanese), be sure to serve others rather than yourself. The w
ay to say toast is kanpai!
Japanfs most widely-known alcohol - rice wine. 10~20% alcohol content.
Made from barley and sweet potato. 25% or greater alcohol content, less frui
ty than
Shochu + High ball = Chuhai. 5% alcohol content
Plum wine, popular with the ladies. Usually consists of sake and plum flavor
Japanfs business hours tend to be 10 - 6pm or so.
Don Quixote (Donki)
Don Quixote, or more commonly referred to as Donki, is a discount chain store wi
th stores all over Tokyo. The one in Roppongi stocks everything from household i
tems to foreign snacks to incense, and prices are reasonable, if not the cheapes
t around. Youfll certainly find variety stocked from floor to ceiling, and itfs a
generally fun place to go to see what odd things you can find. Itfs open 24 hours
, no less. Take exit 6 from Roppongi station on the Oedo line, and head towards
Tokyo Tower.
See also: Harajuku
Daiso Harajuku
Daiso has been able to make a name for itself outside Japan as a bargain cheap J
apanese-items store. Daiso in Japan is a strictly 100-yen store business, and ev
ery item in the store is and will always be 100 yen. While there are a couple ar
ound Tokyo, the one in Harajuku is by far the biggest. Look for it midway throug
h Takeshita-doori - the easiest way is to get to Harajuku station on the Yamanot
e line.
Bic Camera, Yodobashi Camera, LABI
Logos here for easier recognition.
These three stores all compete for the perennial Japanese electronics consumer,
and while they all appear relatively similar, my experience in each has been sub
tly different. To note:
most of the larger stores are located in Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Shibuya and Akihab
ara, and many within walking distance of the other. Therefs even a Bic-qlo (Bic C
amera + Uniqlo) in Shinjuku where you can by electronics and shop for clothes al
l in the same establishment.
sometimes one store will be divided into separate buildings (, gkanh) so that a part
icular building is for a specific type of product (like cameras only, or PCs onl
y). Maps on the ground floor near the elevators can be a good way to determine i
f what you want can be found there.
the people who you see dressed up in jackets emblazoned with Softbank or au (cel
l-phone providers) logos are still nonetheless store employees, so you can ask t
hem questions too.
buy your items on the floor you find them.
My experience buying camera equipment is that Yodobashi is a bit cheaper than Bi
c Camera.
See also: Shopping for cameras
Shopping for Cameras
If youfre looking for new or used cameras or camera accessories and equipment, ch
eck out these four stores within walking distance of each other on the West Exit
side of Shinjuku. You can also sell or trade in your cameras here.
Map Camera
Camera Lemon
Camera Ichiba - find older film cameras and gear like Rolleiflex.
Camera no Kitamura
Tokyu Hands
Logos here for easier recognition.
Tokyu Hands is quite frankly the most amazing store ever (insert author bias her
e). Therefs literally everything and anything you could ask for, though the most
impressive store is the one in Shibuya. Items arenft limited to household stuff -
you can get craft tools and material, modeling equipment, repair tools, toiletr
ies, travel equipment - well, just take a look at the floor guide below (current
as of January 4, 2013). The one near Ikebukuro has a cat petting zoo on the 8th
Beyond Tokyo
One of the nicer beaches in the area is in Enoshima. It can get quite crowded du
ring holidays, however. You can bundle a trip to Kamakura (see gKamakurah) and Eno
shima together, and both have their own beaches. Enoshima also has a few deep se
aside caves that you can go inside and see small carved out statues. These can f
eel slightly claustrophobic but are awesome visits if youfre tired of the beach.
Yokohama Chinatown
For a fun little half-day detour or if youfre just in for some good Chinese food
and buying Indian souvenirs and trinkets, consider a trip to the Yokohama Chinat
own, which recently became exceedingly accessible from Ikebukuro and Shibuya by
way of the Fukutoshin subway line. The subway line automatically becomes the Tok
yu Toyoko line and then the Yokohama Minato Mirai line, so you just need to jump
on the train and go to the terminus, which is the Motomachi-Yokohama Chukagai s
tation. Taking the limited express (}, gtokkyuh) will get you there in half an hour f
rom Shibuya. The store selling India import stuff is called Cayhane.
Mt. Fuji
Climbing Mount Fuji is almost a ritualistic event that elicits images of pilgrim
s making their way up holy ground. In reality, the mountain is quite the physica
l hurdle that requires a lot of determination to climb.
Before planning
Fuji-san is open from July 1 to August 31 and upwards of 400,000 people clim
b during
that period. This makes it one of the most crowded spots to visit, and as such,
planning for it requires a lot of preparing in advance. The two most important t
hings that get filled up: a way to get there and a place to stay. Most places to
stay in August will be full by the beginning of July. Weekends are packed, whil
e weekdays are relatively quiet. Weather is notoriously unpredictable.
Things you want to bring
Some of these things you can buy at 5th Station, and they arenft terribly marked
Rain gear
Waterproof gloves to keep you warm: temperatures can get really chilly and may g
o below freezing at the top
Trousers, shirts, socks - note that you can check things into a locker at fifth
station if you do need to.
Sunglasses are a must because of brightness at the top, sunscreen
Headlamp (better than a flashlight - some paths are really steep)
Water - there are very few places if any to stock up on water
Fleece jacket
Plastic bag to carry your trash
Energy bars or other snacks (but there is food at your hut, so no need to bring
a whole meal)
Toilet paper or tissues
Hand towel
Camera + extra batteries
Stamps if you want to mail something from the post office at the top
First aid items
Coins - all bathrooms require a small 200 yen fee.
Oxygen canister (optional - you can buy them on the mountain, but they get more
expensive the higher up you go)
Getting there
The Fujikyu and Keio highway buses leave Shinjuku Bus Terminal and get to the Fu
jisan entrance for 1700 yen with about a two hour trip. You can take the train o
ut there but itfs more trouble than itfs worth, since even having a JR East Pass w
onft cover one stretch of the line (Otsuki to Kawaguchiko, at 1100 yen each way).
The problem is that bus tickets for weekend trips to Fujifs 5th station (which i
s the recommended starting point) go really quickly, so be sure to reserve in ad
The highway bus stops for Mt. Fuji are a bit separate from Shinjuku station. Cou
rtesy of
Once youfre there
Kamakura is a fun day-trip spot about an hour by train out of Tokyo. There you c
an go see the Daibutsu, the large statue of the buddha, as well as a number of b
eautiful temples. The beach is also a short distance away, and you can also take
the smaller gEno-denh train that connects Kamakura with Enoshima (see gEnoshimah).
Getting there
Take the reserved-seating Odakyu Romance-car (g}XJ[h) from the West Exit in Shinju
h ends up being about 1200 yen each way. You also want to make sure you purchase
tickets for your ride back, as they get booked full pretty quickly and youfll ha
ve to otherwise take the commuter trains back. You can also take the commuter ex
press local lines which are less expensive at about 560 yen each way. If you wan
t to go to Kamakura first, take the commuter to Fujisawa and change to the Yokos
uka line (two stops from there) at Ofuna.
The Great Buddha of Kamakura.
Photo courtesy of
This gthings not in the guidebooksh section has been submitted by matthewguitar on
Climb the mountains to the east of Osaka.
Go to Shijonawate station and then walk east up the hill. The road will go strai
ght up the hill from the station, through some really ancient stone gates (that
cars can still pass through) and then up some huge steps to a temple. The mounta
in trail starts behind the temple.Takes about 1.5 hours to climb, bring water+pi
cnic. Beautiful views, temple, abandoned WW2 radio station at the top, cool samu
rai statue. No one speaks any English.
Go to SPA-World.
4-floor onsen in Osaka. 1000 yen ($12) for the whole day. Greco-roman or asian t
heme, depending on the rotation. Giant scented public baths, food, water slides,
salt saunas etc. Nearest station Dobutsuenmae. Nice to relax in after climbing
the mountain. Some of the attendants can speak a few words of English.
Buy weird stuff.
21/22nd of every month, flea market in Shitennoji temple. Lots of weird curios t
o buy, cool food, turtles. Get there early in the morning. Nearest station Shite
nnojimae-yuhigaoka. No one speaks any English.
Good Bars in the city-center.
The best bars are in Namba/Shinsaibashi in the center. Umeda (the north of the c
ity has some cool stuff, but itfs not as good as namba). Most people you meet her
e will speak good English and can give you advice on where to go. (to meet peopl
Balabushka - free pool/darts
Cinquecento - everything is 500 yen
Pure - nightclub, all you can drink on the weekends. Warning: very sketchy.
RockRock - tiny, very hard to find nightclub. On the 8th floor. Bands go here af
terwards to chillout after gigs. My friends and I have met members of Metallica
and Limp Bizkit here. (to go to with people after)
L&L - shisha bar
Oliveira - best burgers ever
SpaceStation - computer game bar above oliveira
To stay in Osaka
Overnight Orange house (backpacker hostel) near Tennoji is good. Nearest station
is Fuminosato. Entirely traditional rooms, tatami matting, the works. The owner
speaks English and there's a really cool rooftop area that everyone has parties
on. Good for meeting people.
Getting there
You can get to Kyoto via overnight bus (check out Bushikaku) for 2500 yen, leavi
Tokyo at 11:15pm and arriving at 6:20pm if you book on the day youfre leaving.
Places to Stay
bAkpAk Gion Hostel has rooms going upwards from 2000 yen a night depending o
n how
many people youfre willing to share the room with - itfs within walking distance t
o Gion and Gion Shijo subway station (I stayed there).
Places to Go
Before you do travel, you may want to consider renting a bicycle, as it is fairl
y cheap (going up from about 1000 yen per day) and it would help you get from pl
ace to place.
The following are some of my own personal thoughts when I visited (May 2012). Ifv
e tried to shy away from historical facts and instead put in some of my interpre
tation. Ifm also one who likes to visit places without crowds of people to wrestl
e through. In order to succeed at that in Japan, you either have to be at an att
raction ridiculously early or late.
Most of the temples are not ADA friendly. Most temples close around 5pm, except
those that are specifically listed otherwise.
Protip: if youfre feeling particularly adventurous or just want to make me enviou
s, get a hold of a shuin-cho at your favorite temple (or the first one you visit
). These booklets, sold at the same place where the omamori or protective charms
are sold, go for up to about 1000 yen each and are then stamped with the templef
s seals and inscription. The stamps themselves cost 300 yen each. You can then t
ake the book around with you in your travels across Japan and have them stamped
at each temple, like a zen-passport.
1. Kinkaku-ji - 400Y
Kinkakuji, not to be mistaken for Gingakuji, is the temple known for its gilded
gold-leaf exterior. It gets crowded pretty quickly (and especially with the shug
aku-ryoko, the elementary/middle/high school kids who travel from around Japan o
n their field trips), so be forewarned.
2. Ginkaku-ji - 500Y
Unlike Kinkakuji this sibling temple is a lot more subdued, but its raked garden
and mountain path is nice and picturesque.
4. Nanzen-ji - Free to walk around, 300-500Y for inner areas
Nanzenji is a relatively calmer but nonetheless imposing set of structures on th
e southern end of the Philosopherfs Path. The Nanzen-in was a bit of a disappoint
ment, but if you read the description on the wall to the left of the entrance (i
n the alcove) you might be able to get some more historical context.
6. Yasaka-jinja - open all day and night
A nice respite from the hubub of the Gion road, Yasaka is also very pretty at ni
7. Nijo-jo - 8:45-5pm, 600Y
Download an audio guide because you canft take pictures inside Ninomaru, and the
history behind the building is a lot more interesting if you know what to look f
or. Ask me for a copy of my audio guide which I can send your way. It opens at 8
:45 and not a minute earlier, which means therefs going to be a crowd wherever yo
u go.
8. Nishiki Market - Free, not much to see or do before 8:30 or 9am.
Great food and great little things to supplement your lunch. You may want to do
your souvenir shopping in Gion, however.
9. Higashi and Nishi-Honganji - Free
If Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji are the glamorous, gilded siblings (or at least one o
f them is), then the Honganjis are the imposing, hulkish brothers whose very pre
sence is awe inspiring. Nishi (West) Honganji is a little prettier and my favori
te of the two, but they are both amazing for their lanterns, wide terraces, and
peaceful praying spots.
10. Chion-in - Free to wander about, 400Y for some inside areas
I was pleasantly surprised by Chion-In simply because I had no idea it was there
. You might be able to attend a monkfs morning prayers. Therefs construction going
on on the main building but you can walk behind it to some of the more smaller
12. Kiyomizu-dera - 300Y - open from around 7:15
You can get here early in the morning in advance of the throngs of school-childr
en and tourists. The gardens below have particularly vocal warblers, so if you f
ind yourself making a relatively quick return to the front of the temple, go bac
k in with your original ticket and take the upper path around into the garden.
13. Fushimi-Inari Shrine - Free
I went there during the evening and stayed until the sun had set, which gave me
the benefit of taking pictures when the crowd thinned out, and also take a wonde
rful walk of the mountain behind the shrine as the sun set. Take the Keihan line
from Gion Shijo to Fushimi Inari. There are a couple of udon places where you c
an have kitsune-udon (which they call inari udon).
Toji - 500Y, but can see things without paying
The tallest wooden tower can be appreciated even beyond the gates.
Recommended pathways
Ginkakuji connects to Nanzenji via the Philosopherfs Path, and you can visit Hone
n-in along the way as well as a couple of nice smaller temples, all while follow
ing a pretty little creek. (Numbers 2-3-4 on the map)
Kiyomizudera connects to Chion-in and Yasaka-jinja by way of a pretty old Kyoto
pathway snaking through Higashiyama. This path is highly recommended. (Numbers 1
2-10-11 on the map)
Sidenote: Whatfs the difference between ji/tera (jand in (@)? Both can be translated
as gtempleh or gshrineh (though note a temple is a place for Bhuddist worship, while
a shrine, more often referred to as a jinja _ is for Shinto). The primary consensu
s seems to be thus:
They are not different, just used in different places where reducing a really lo
ng temple name to a shorter one would sound better with one or the other. For ex
ample, Akasakusa-derafs long name is R`@@: Kinryuzan Denpo-in Asakusa-dera wh
name is m@O: Kacho Chion-in Daisan-ji
Places to Eat
Since I couldnft go to Nara, but I nonetheless beseeched the kind folks on Reddit
for advice on why one should go, be sure to check out the discussion there.
Haikyo, or abandoned ruins, tend to the urban explorerfs dream. Therefs a nice lis
t of the ones you can try to go to here, but be forewarned: you risk being arres
ted for trespassing.
Other Logistics
Telephones, Cellphones
Renting or buying a cell-phone in Japan is not at all worth it if youfre going to
be in Japan for less than a couple of months. Therefs only one prepaid cell-phon
e provider (Softbank) and the prices come out to about 90 yen a minute, which is
almost as bad as being ripped off at the airport by those phone rental companie
s. Instead, if you think youfll need to communicate, buy a 1000 yen telephone car
d that will let you make calls from public phones. Rates on those machines for t
he 23-ward Tokyo area come down to about 10 yen a minute. Therefs something calle
d B-Mobile which might be worth taking a look at if you have a compatible SIM-ca
rd smartphone, like an iPhone 4S, with you.
Money Stuff
Japan is very much a cash-based economy - if youfre unsure about whether a restau
rant or bar accepts cards, ask first.
Currency Exchange
Exchanging money at the airport is an obvious disaster, but you may not have muc
h of a choice unless you have come prepared with travelers cheques or cash in ha
nd. Itfs harder to find dedicated currency exchange stores like Travelex, so youfr
e better off going to a bank, like Mitsubishi UFJ or Mitsui-Sumitomo (SMBC). Som
e places will have a dedicated ground-floor space for foreign currency exchange.
Theyfll usually levy a 2% fee. Be sure to check with your credit card and debit
card providers to see if theyfll dock you for using your card overseas. Charles S
chwab Visa and Capital One donft charge fees.
Purchasing online
You can purchase things on and pay and have them delivered to you a
t a convenience store, which can be convenient if youfre in need of something on
the cheap. Amazon also does same-day delivery in Japan. Check out this page for
Credit cards
By my experience, purchasing certain things like flights or advanced reservation
tickets online using a non-Japanese credit card may not work. Rakuten accepts i
nternational credit cards, but Skytree and Japan Airlines, for example, wonft. Yo
ur mileage may vary, but keep this in mind.
Most convenience stores have an ATM, as do most banks, but banks do close outsid
e regular business hours with very little if any access to the ATMs inside. Not
all ATMs accept foreign credit cards, though from personal experience the 7-11 A
TM gave me 100,000 yen from my Bank of America checking account at pretty accura
te exchange rate and no fee except Bank of Americafs charge of $5. Also, withdraw
ing money from an ATM, even at a 24-hour convenience store, may be restricted by
bank access hours. If youfre arriving at Daimon via the Haneda monorail, therefs
a Citibank just outside the ticket gates that accepts foreign cards. In short, d
onft be stuck without cash.
Donft count on it being free. There are a lot of wireless access points across to
wn, but most of them (like FON, Wi2, and 0001softbank) require a cellphone contr
act to actually connect. As of July 2012, Starbucks now does offer free Wi-Fi in
select cafes in Tokyo, but youfll want to sign up beforehand if youfre planning o
n using your smartphone (itfs really hard to sign up with a smartphone). You migh
t have some luck with 7-Elevenfs 7Spot connection but youfll need to sign up. Anot
her neat alternative is Skype Wifi, which lets you connect for about 20 cents a
minute to select providers like Livedoor, NTT and Wi2.
Postal System
The Japanese postal system is known to be efficient and timely. The wait at the
postal office is rarely long, but not all post offices in Tokyo are open at regu
lar times, with many offices closed on weekends. One post office regularly open
on the weekends is the one near Tokyo Station (Marunouchi exit). A typical lette
r to the United States is 110 yen as of January 1, 2013, while a domestic one wi
ll cost 80.
See also: Addresses