Tokyo, Japan | Cruise port of call | CruiseBe
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Tokyo, Japan

(*cruise tour)

Tokyo, Japan

Tōkyō (東京) is the capital of Japan. Tokyo is the core of the most populated urban area in the world, Tokyo Metropolis. This huge, wealthy and fascinating metropolis brings high-tech visions of the future side by side with glimpses of old Japan and has something for everyone. 

Over 500 years old, the city of Tokyo grew from the modest fishing village of Edo (江戸). The city only truly began to grow when it became the seat of the Tokugawa shogunate in 1603. While the emperor ruled in name from Kyoto, the true power was concentrated in the hands of the Tokugawa shogun in Edo. After the Meiji restoration in 1868, during which the Tokugawa family lost its influence, the emperor and the imperial family moved here from Kyoto, and the city was renamed to its current name, Tokyo. The metropolitan center of the country, Tokyo is the destination for business, education, modern culture, and government. (That's... Read more

Tokyo, Japan

Tōkyō (東京) is the capital of Japan. Tokyo is the core of the most populated urban area in the world, Tokyo Metropolis. This huge, wealthy and fascinating metropolis brings high-tech visions of the future side by side with glimpses of old Japan and has something for everyone. 

Over 500 years old, the city of Tokyo grew from the modest fishing village of Edo (江戸). The city only truly began to grow when it became the seat of the Tokugawa shogunate in 1603. While the emperor ruled in name from Kyoto, the true power was concentrated in the hands of the Tokugawa shogun in Edo. After the Meiji restoration in 1868, during which the Tokugawa family lost its influence, the emperor and the imperial family moved here from Kyoto, and the city was renamed to its current name, Tokyo. The metropolitan center of the country, Tokyo is the destination for business, education, modern culture, and government. (That's not to say that rivals such as Osaka won't dispute those claims.) 

Tokyo is vast: it's best thought of not as a single city, but a constellation of cities that have grown together. Tokyo's districts vary wildly by character, from the electronic blare of Akihabara to the Imperial gardens and shrines of Chiyoda, from the hyperactive youth culture Mecca of Shibuya to the pottery shops and temple markets of Asakusa. If you don't like what you see, hop on the train and head to the next station, and you will find something entirely different.
The sheer size and frenetic pace of Tokyo can intimidate the first-time visitor. Much of the city is a jungle of concrete and wires, with a mass of neon and blaring loudspeakers. At rush hour, crowds jostle in packed trains and masses of humanity sweep through enormous and bewilderingly complex stations. Don't get too hung up on ticking tourist sights off your list: for most visitors, the biggest part of the Tokyo experience is just wandering around at random and absorbing the vibe, poking your head into shops selling weird and wonderful things, sampling restaurants where you can't recognize a single thing on the menu (or on your plate), and finding unexpected oases of calm in the tranquil grounds of a neighborhood Shinto shrine. It's all perfectly safe, and the locals will go to sometimes extraordinary lengths to help you if you just ask. 


Tokyo is classified as lying in the humid subtropical climate zone and has four distinct seasons. Summers are usually hot and humid with a temperature range of about 20-30°C (68-86°F), though it can sometimes climb into the high thirties. Winters are usually mild, with temperatures generally ranging from 0-10°C (32-50°F), though occasional cold spells can send temperatures plummeting below zero at night. Snow is rare, but on those rare occasions (once every few years) when Tokyo is hit by a snowstorm, much of the train network grinds to a halt. The famous cherry blossoms bloom in March-April and parks, most famously Ueno, fill up with blue tarps and sozzled salarymen.


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Tokyo, Japan: Port Information

Cruise liners tend to use the Harumi Terminal (晴海客船ターミナル), best accessible on bus 都05 (To-05) from Tokyo station Marunouchi South Exit or 東12(Tou-12) from Tokyo station Yaesu exit.
Large cruise liners dock at Oi Marine Products Wharf. Shuttle service is provided. 
Nearby Yokohama is also used as a cruise port for Tokyo. The cruise terminal is modern and offers excellent facilities. It's about 25 miles to Tokyo. You can easily get there on a train (there are public buses between the port and the train station).

Get around Tokyo, Japan

By train and subway
Tokyo has one of the most extensive mass transit systems in the world. It is clean, safe and efficient - and confusing. The confusion arises from the fact that several distinct railway systems operate within Tokyo - the JR East network, the two subway networks, and various private lines - and different route maps show different systems. Avoid rush hours if possible; trains get overcrowded very easily.
The defining rail line in Tokyo is the JR Yamanote Line (山手線), which runs in a loop around central Tokyo; being inside the Yamanote loop is synonymous with being in the core of Tokyo. Almost all inter-regional JR lines and private lines start at a station on the Yamanote. JR's lines are color-coded, and the Yamanote is green. The JR Chuo (中央線, orange) and Sobu (総武線, yellow) lines run side-by-side, bisecting the Yamanote loop from Shinjuku on the west to Tokyo on the east. JR's other commuter lines, the Saikyo and Keihin-Tohoku, run off the rim of the Yamanote loop to the north and south. JR East has a good English information line, 050-2016-1603 or 03-3423-0111.
Tokyo has an extensive subway network with frequent trains, and these are primarily useful for getting around within the Yamanote loop. The Tokyo Metro runs nine lines: Ginza, Marunouchi, Hibiya, Tozai, Chiyoda, Yurakucho, Hanzomon, Namboku and Fukutoshin lines. Toei operates the Asakusa, Mita, Shinjuku, and Oedo lines. While the JR Yamanote Line is not a subway line, due to its importance as a major transportation artery in downtown Tokyo, it is usually featured on subway maps. In addition, there is a largely underground Rinkai Line, a private line which is operated by Tokyo Waterfront Area Rapid Transit or TWR, that passes through the island of Odaiba.
Announcements and signs are usually bilingual in Japanese and English, though in some areas frequented by tourists, signs in Korean and Chinese can also be seen.
A number of private commuter lines radiate from the Yamanote loop out into the outlying wards and suburbs, and almost all connect through directly to subway lines within the loop. The private lines are useful for day trips outside the city and are slightly cheaper than JR. Among these, the most important to visitors is arguably the Yurikamome which offers great views on the way to the island of Odaiba.
If you are using a smartphone you can benefit from a free, official Tokyo Subway Navigation application available in the app stores. It works offline and has a multilanguage interface, including English. It is very useful for quick route searches, but its lookup seems to be time-optimized and not cost-optimized. Also, it only covers the subway and doesn't cover, for example, Monorail. 

Fares and hours
Most tickets and passes are sold from automated vending machines. Almost all vending machines now have an "English" mode. Keep in mind that JR trains are free with a Japan Rail Pass.
Prepaid fare cards are convenient and highly recommended because they allow you to ride trains without having to read the sometimes Japanese-only fare maps to determine your fare. There are two brands of prepaid fare cards, JR East's Suica, and PASMO, offered by private (non-JR) lines. Functionally they are completely interchangeable and can be used on just about every subway, train and bus line in Tokyo (with the noted exception of JR's Shinkansen and limited express trains).
The fare cards are rechargeable "smart cards": you simply tap your card on the touchpad next to the turnstile as you go in, and do the same when going through to exit.
The older Passnet cards are not accepted anymore. If you still own some of these, you can exchange them for a PASMO or Suica card.
There are also some special tickets that allow unlimited travel, but most are unlikely to be useful to tourists unless you're planning to spend half your day on the train.
  • The Tokunai Pass (都区内パス) is a one-day pass good for travel on JR lines anywhere in the 23 wards of Tokyo (including the entire Yamanote Line and many stations surrounding it). It is economical if you plan to make five or more train hops in one day. A variant is the Tokunai Free Kippu (都区内フリーきっぷ), which also includes a round-trip into Tokyo from stations in the surrounding prefectures. The Monorail And Tokunai Free Kippu is good for two days and includes a round-trip from Haneda Airport to central Tokyo.
  • The Tokyo Free Kippu (東京フリーきっぷ) covers all JR, subway, and city bus lines within the 23 wards. It covers a number of areas that are not served by JR, such as Roppongi and Odaiba.
  • The Holiday Pass (ホリデーパス) covers the entire JR network in the Tokyo metropolitan area, including Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama, and west Tokyo. It is only available on weekends, national holidays and during summer vacation (July 20 through August 31).
  • The Tokyo Subway Ticket provides unlimited travel on consecutive days on all Tokyo Metro lines and Toei Subway lines, which serve most of central Tokyo. It is available as a 1-day, 2-day, or 3-day ticket. It is only available to overseas visitors with foreign passports, and can only be purchased at specific places such as Narita, Haneda, and Yonago airports, and BIC CAMERA stores. It does not cover JR lines, including the Yamanote line.
  • The Tokyo Metro 1-Day Open Ticket covers the Tokyo metro network with the exception of Toei and Ginza lines. Can be purchased in advance or from vending machines.
If you're paying a la carte, subway and train fares are based on distance. As a general rule of thumb, Tokyo Metro lines are cheapest, Toei lines are most expensive, and JR lines fall somewhere in the middle (but are usually cheaper than Metro for short trips, i.e. no more than 4 stations). Many of the private lines interoperate with the subways, which can occasionally make a single ride seem unreasonably expensive as you are in essence transferring to another line and fare system, even though you're still on the same train. E.g. changing between Metro subway line and Tokyu private line amounts to paying the sum of each fare. In addition, several patterns of transfer are listed as "Transfer Discount". When using Suica or PASMO, you can get all the transfer discounts automatically. At some transfer stations, you may need to pass through a special transfer gate (both for paper tickets and PASMO/Suica) which is colored orange - passing through the regular blue gate will not get you your transfer discount and if you have a paper ticket, you won't get it back. At some transfer points (e.g. Asakusa station) you may actually need to transfer on street level as the two stations (Metro Ginza Line and Toei Asakusa Line) are not physically connected and are about one block apart.
It pays to check your route beforehand. The Tokyo Transfer Guide by the Tokyo Metro and Toei subway companies is an online service that allows you to plan subway and train travel from point A to point B, based on time, cost, and transfers. This guide provides information for Tokyo only, and there are other sites which additionally cover the whole country. Some major stations have terminals providing information similar to the Tokyo Transfer Guide.
If you can't figure out how much it is to the destination, you can buy the cheapest ticket and pay the difference at the Fare Adjustment Machine (norikoshi) at the end. Most vending machines will let you buy a single ticket that covers a transfer between JR, subway and private lines, all the way to your destination, but working out how to do this may be a challenge if you are not familiar with the system. When transferring between systems, whether paying with tickets or smart cards, use the orange transfer gates to exit. Otherwise, you'll be charged full fare for both separate parts of your trip, instead of the cheaper transfer fare.
Most train lines in Tokyo run from around 05:00 to 01:00. During peak hours they run about once every three minutes; even during off-peak hours, it's less than ten minutes between trains. The only night when regular passenger services run overnight is for the New Year's Holiday on select lines.
For additional information for train travel in Japan generally, refer to the By rail section in the Japan article. 

By taxi
Taxis are very pricey but may be a value for groups of three or more. Also, if you miss your last train, you may not have another choice.
These examples are based on standard routing and traffic conditions, so your actual fare may vary in relation to the estimated fare.
Do not count on your taxi driver speaking English--or knowing more than the best-known locations, though most taxis have GPS "car navi" systems installed. The best and easiest thing to do is to prepare a map marked with where you want to go and point it out on the map to the taxi driver. If you are staying at a hotel, they will provide a map. If possible, get a business card, or print out the address in Japanese of any specific places you wish to go. However, because in Japan streets are often unmarked, if the taxi driver does not have GPS he may not be able to do more than take you to the general vicinity of where you want to go. Also, note that taxis can get caught in traffic jams. Tips are entirely optional.
Taxi rear left passenger doors are operated by the driver and open and close automatically. Don't open or close them yourself.

By car
Tokyo is a gigantic warren of narrow streets with no names, with sometimes slow-moving traffic and relatively limited and expensive parking. In this city with such an excellent mass transit system, you would need a good reason to want to drive around instead, unless you already have some familiarity with the city and its surroundings. While renting a car does make sense in Japan in some contexts (e.g. traveling between cities, visiting smaller towns or a rural onsen resort), in general, it is neither convenient nor economical to rent a car to get around metro Tokyo. Taxis are much more convenient if your budget allows it; walking or public transportation is much less expensive and given the difficulties of navigation and finding parking in popular areas, probably easier too.
If you do decide to plunge in and drive around by car, the main expressway serving Tokyo is the Shuto Expressway, abbreviated to Shutoko (首都高). The C1 Loop Line forms a circle around central Tokyo, similar in fashion to how the Yamanote Line does it by rail. When driving around, both on Shuto and on the regular streets, try to avoid the rush hour (with traffic moving into the center in the morning, and out towards suburbs in the evening). Check with the car rental agency whether English-language navigation system is available, as it will make a huge difference, and you will be able to use your car to outperform the public transportation on many occasions.
Driving on the Tokyo Expressway at night can be a pleasant and beautiful experience as you whiz through and around the Tokyo nightlife. When driving at night you should exercise caution and obey speed limits: Street racing over the Shutoko at night became popular in the '80s and '90s and still happens today, albeit on a less frequent basis. Street racers often concentrate their driving on the C1 Loop Line and the Bayshore (more popularly known as the Wangan) Line. "Competitors" sometimes hang out at parking and service areas on the Shutoko, especially the large Daikoku Parking Area at the intersection of the Bayshore Line and the K5 Daikoku Line in Yokohama.

By bus
The few areas within Tokyo that aren't easily accessible by train are served by various bus companies. Buses operating within 23 wards of Tokyo have a fixed fare regardless of distance, which is paid upon boarding from the front door. The fares are not transferable; however, most buses do accept Suica or PASMO fare cards. If you use a "Suica" or "PASMO" card to board a Toei Bus, you will receive a discount on your next Toei Bus ride as long as it is within 90 minutes of the previous ride. The fare can also be paid in hard currency of practically any denomination, which can also be used to charge your electronic fare card if you tell the driver you wish to do so. Compared to the trains, the buses run much less frequently, carry fewer passengers, and are much slower. This makes them amenable to the elderly residents of Tokyo, but rather inconvenient for travelers, who will also have to deal with lack of information in English and sometimes very well hidden bus stops.
The bus routes are named by a kanji based on a destination they serve and a number, e.g. "渋64" for the route between Shibuya (渋谷) and Nakano. The routes can be fairly complicated and are often not listed in detail at the bus stops; signs on the buses themselves often list only two or three main stops in addition to the origin and destination. Finding a bus going towards a main terminal like Shibuya or Shinjuku is therefore pretty easy, the other way around may be more difficult. You may find several different stops by different companies within a few meters, all sharing the same name; sometimes those are full-fledged waiting areas and sometimes only a signpost at a street corner. Inside the bus, the next stop is usually announced several times, sometimes by a taped voice and sometimes by a mumbling driver; recently taped announcements in English are used on some lines, but are still rare. In addition, the stop is displayed on an electronic display, but rarely in Latin writing. Some stops may have similar names, you should make sure you know the exact name of the stop you want to get off at. Drivers are usually very helpful, though aren't typically used to tourists and may be rather busy dealing with fares, passengers and traffic. Nevertheless, north-south routes are useful in the western side of the city since train lines (Odakyu, Keio, Chuo, and Seibu) tend to run east-west. Google Maps has begun adding bus transit information and is possibly the easiest way of planning a trip by bus. 

By ferry
The Tokyo Cruise Ship Company operates a series of Water Bus ferries along the Sumida River and in Tokyo Bay, connecting Asakusa, Hinode, Harumi, and Odaiba. The ferries feature a recorded tour announced in English, as well as Japanese and a trip on one, makes for a relaxing, leisurely way to see the waterfront areas of Tokyo. Of particular note is the super-futuristic Himiko ferry designed by anime and manga creator Leiji Matsumoto, which runs on the Asakusa-Odaiba Direct Line. You might want to arrive well before the departure time just in case tickets on the Himiko sell out!

By bicycle
Bicycles are very commonly used for local transport, but amenities like bicycle lanes are rare, drivers pay little heed to bikes and traffic can be very heavy on weekdays, so if you use a bicycle, do not be afraid to cycle on the sidewalk (everyone does). Keep in mind, however, that parts of Tokyo are surprisingly hilly, and it's a sweaty job pedaling around in the summer heat. Central Tokyo can still be covered fairly comfortably by bike on the weekends. Tokyo Great Cycling Tour offers a one day guided tour for biking around major tourist spots in Tokyo, like Marunouchi, Nihonbashi, Tsukiji, Odaiba, Tokyo tower, Imperial palace and so on.
Renting a bike is possible from some youth hostels, particularly around Asakusa, although it's not common. However, buying a simple single-speed roadster is fairly cheap, and comes complete with a built-in bicycle wheel lock system (this is what most Tokyoites use). An imported multiple-geared bike will be much more expensive so get a good lock, as bike theft is a common threat, although the problem is nowhere near as serious as in other countries. 

By foot
In this large city with such an efficient public transportation system, walking to get from point A to point B would seem a bit stupid at first glance. However, as the city is extremely safe even at night, walking in Tokyo can be a very pleasant experience. In some areas, walking can be much shorter than taking the subway and walking the transit (the whole Akasaka/Nagatacho/Roppongi area in the center is for instance very easily covered on foot). If you have the time, Shinjuku to Shibuya via Omotesando takes roughly one hour, Tokyo Station to Shinjuku would be a half a day walk, and the whole Yamanote line Grand Tour takes a long day. 

What to see in Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo has a vast array of sights, but the first items on the agenda of most visitors are the temples of Asakusa, the gardens of the Imperial Palace (in Chiyoda) and the Meiji Shrine (明治神宮, in Harajuku).
Tokyo has many commercial centers for shopping, eating and simply wandering around for experiencing the modern Japanese urban phenomenon. Each of these areas has unique characteristics, such as dazzling Shinjuku, youthful Shibuya and upmarket Ginza. These areas are bustling throughout the day, but they really come into life in the evenings.
If you're looking for a viewing platform, the Tokyo Tower is the best known and offers an impressive view, even if it's rather overpriced. The highest spot in Tokyo is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building (in effect, Tokyo's City Hall) in Shinjuku. Its twin towers have viewing platforms that are absolutely free, and offer a great view over Tokyo and beyond. However, the best option would probably be from the World Trade Center Building (10:00-20:00, or 21:00 in July and August) at JR Hamamatsucho station which, although not as high, offers stunning views of Tokyo Tower and the waterfront due to its excellent location, especially at dusk. A recent addition to the viewing platforms around Tokyo is Tokyo City View in Roppongi Hills, Roppongi. Another good option, if you don't mind traffic noise and smell, is the Rainbow Bridge at Odaiba, whose pedestrian walkways are free. The night-time view across Tokyo Bay is impressive but the walkways close at 20:00. Also, on a clear day, the Bunkyo Civic Center (next to the Tokyo Dome) offers an iconic view of Shinjuku against Mt. Fuji (especially great at sunset), also free.
The city is dotted with museums, large and small, which center on every possible interest from pens to antique clocks to traditional and modern arts. Many of the largest museums are clustered around Ueno.
Riding Sky Bus Tokyo, an open-top double-decker operated by Hinomaru Limousine (every hour between 10:00 and 18:00), is a good option to take a quick tour around the city center. The 45 minutes bus ride on the "T-01 course" will take you around the Imperial Palace via Ginza and Marunouchi district, showing the highlight of Tokyo's shopping and business center. You can borrow a multi-language voice guide system free of charge upon purchasing a ticket, subject to stock availability. Four other bus courses are offered, including a night trip to Odaiba, but those trips are conducted in Japanese with no foreign language guidance.
  • Tokyo Skytree. Tokyo Skytree is a broadcast, restaurant, shopping mall, and observation tower in Sumida, Tokyo, Japan. The construction was started in July 2008 and finished its construction on 2012 of February. It measures 634 meters, which is about 2,800 feet and became the tallest structure in Japan and also in the world. There are two illuminations that light up the tower, which is called Iki (lighted blue) and Miyabi (lighted in pink). The observation deck is available from 8:00~22:00 and the admission fees are required only when entering the observation deck.  
  • Classic Tokyo, Modern Tokyo — a one-day tour of the old and the new
  • One day in Tokyo — a hectic whirlwind tour of the many faces of the city

What to do in Tokyo, Japan

  • A beautiful weekend afternoon is best spent in Yoyogi Park, where young people from all walks of life gather to socialize, practice their hobbies (devoid of any fear of public humiliation), join a drum circle, play sports, etc. Afterward, take a stroll down the trendy Omote-sandō (表参道) shopping street nearby.
  • Check out the hip and young crowd at Harajuku's Takeshita-Dori (Takeshita Street) or the more grown-up Omotesando.
  • Eat a sushi breakfast at the Tsukiji Fish Market.
  • Enjoy a soak in a local "sento" or public bath. Or one of the big "super sento" onsen such as LaQua at the Tokyo Dome (Bunkyo) or Oedo Onsen Monogatari in Odaiba.
  • Explore nightlife with a boisterous crowd of thirsty locals and expats on the Tokyo Pub Crawl.
  • Ghibli Museum, Shimorenjaku, Mitaka (15min walk from Mitaka Stn). 10:00–18:00. For die-hard Anime fans, the Ghibli Museum is a must. For international visitors, tickets need to be purchased before leaving home. 
  • Go to an amusement park such as Tokyo Disney Resort, which consists of Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea which are Asia's most visited and second most visited theme parks respectively, or the more Japanese Sanrio Puroland (in Tama), home to more Hello Kitties than you can imagine.
  • Have a picnic in a park during the cherry blossom (Sakura). Unfortunately, Sakura only lasts for about a week in Spring. But be warned, parks are usually very crowded during this time.
  • In the spring, take a boat ride in Kichijoji's lovely Inokashira Park, and afterward visit the Ghibli Studios Museum (well-known for their amazing movies, like Spirited Away, and Princess Mononoke), but you will need to buy tickets for these in advance at a Lawson convenience store.
  • Lose yourself in the dazzling neon jungle outside major train stations in the evenings. Shibuya and east Shinjuku at night can make Times Square or Piccadilly Circus look rural in comparison — it has to be seen to be believed.
  • Take a stroll through the Imperial Palace's East Gardens (open to the public daily at 09:00, except Fridays and Mondays).
  • Meet with locals that speak English and want to meet foreigners. There is a regular British themed tea party between foreigners and local Japanese in Kagurazaka on weekends "British Tea Party".
  • Take a boat ride on the Sumida River from Asakusa.
  • Take the Yurikamome elevated train across the bay bridge from Shimbashi station to the bayside Odaiba district, and go on the giant ferris wheel — the largest in the world until recently.
  • Watch a baseball game; the Yomiuri Giants at the Tokyo Dome, or the Tokyo Yakult Swallows at Jingu Stadium. Nearby Chiba hosts the Chiba Lotte Marines, Saitama has the Seibu Lions, and Yokohama has the DeNA BayStars.

What to eat and drink in Tokyo, Japan


The sheer quantity, variety, and quality of food in Tokyo will amaze you. Department stores have food halls, typically in the basement (called depachika), with food which surpasses top delicatessens in other world cities. Some basements of train stations have supermarkets with free taste testers. It's a great way to sample some of the strange dishes they have for free. Tokyo has a large number of restaurants, so see the main Japan guide for the types of food you will encounter and some popular chains. Menus are often posted outside, so you can check the prices. Some shops have the famous plastic food in their front windows. Don't hesitate to drag the waiting staff out to the front to point at what you want. Always carry cash. Many restaurants will not accept credit cards.
Tokyo has literally tens of thousands of restaurants representing more or less every cuisine in the world, but it also offers a few unique local specialties. Nigirizushi (fish pressed onto rice), known around the world around simply as "sushi," in fact originates from Tokyo. Another is monjayaki (もんじゃ焼き), a gooey, cabbage-filled version of okonomiyaki that uses a very thin batter to achieve a sticky, caramelized consistency. It is originally from the Tsukishima area of Chuo and today there are many restaurants near Asakusa offering monjayaki.
  • Hot Pepper Available in various editions, by region, around Tokyo, this free magazine offers a guide to local restaurants in Japanese but provides pictures and maps to the restaurants. Some restaurants even offer coupons. Most restaurants within this magazine are on the mid-range to high-end scale.
Go to a convenience store (konbini), there is one on every second corner. Really, the options may surprise you. At most convenience stores, microwaves are available to heat up your food for no additional cost. Supermarkets (suupaa) are usually cheaper and offer a wider choice, but more difficult to find. (Try Asakusa and the sidestreets of Ueno's Ameyoko market for local--not big chain--supermarkets.) Also, the 100 yen shop (hyaku en), have become very common, and most have a selection convenient, ready to eat, items. There are 100 yen shops near most minor train stations and usually tucked away somewhere within two or three blocks of the big stations. In particular, look for the "99" and "Lawson 100" signs these chains are essentially small grocery stores.
Also, look for bentō shops like Hokka-Hokka-Tei which sell take-out lunch boxes. They range in quality and cost, but most offer good, basic food at a reasonable price. This is what students and office workers often eat. 
Noodle shops, curry shops, and bakeries are often the best option for people eating on the cheap. They are everywhere. You buy your meal ticket from a vending machine at the door with pictures of the dishes and hand it to the serving staff. The one question you will typically have to answer for the counterman is whether you want soba (thin brown buckwheat) or udon (thick white wheat) noodles. Some offer standing room only with a counter to place your bowl, while others have limited counter seating. During peak times, you need to be quick as others will be waiting.
Fast food is available just about everywhere, including many American chains like McDonald's and KFC. But if you are visiting Japan from overseas, and wish to sample Japanese fast food, why not try MOS Burger, Freshness Burger, Lotteria, or First Kitchen? If you're looking for something more Japanese, try one of the local fast food giants, Matsuya, Yoshinoya or Ootoya. Drinking water or hot ocha (Japanese green tea) is usually available at no extra cost. 
Raw fish enthusiasts are urged to try kaitenzushi (conveyor belt sushi), where the prices are very reasonable. Prices are depending on the color of the plate, so be sure to check before they start to pile up.
Many of the larger train and subway stations have fast, cheap eateries. Around most stations, there will be ample choices of places to eat, including chain coffee shops (which often serve sandwiches, baked goods, and pasta dishes), yakitori places, and even Italian restaurants.

Halal Food
Ameyayokocho (Ameyoko Market near Ueno Station) - There is a kebab joint in here, Kafkas Turkish Kebab (Store 39-B). Staff speaks good English.
Ginza - You can visit "Rasa Malaysia", a Malaysian restaurant serving South-East Asian foods. They are halal. The address is 8th Floor, Ginza Five Star Building, Ginza 5-8-13, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 104-0061. Tel & Fax: 03-3289-1668 Nearest subway station: Tokyo Metro Ginza station (Exit A3), 1-minute walk. Staff speaks good English.
Nishi Azabu - Yakiniku Restaurant. NK Aoyama Holmes 1F, 2-2-2, Nishiazabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 106-0031. They serve halal meat. Staff speaks minimal English.

By tradition, the basement of almost any department store, including Mitsukoshi, Matsuzakaya, or Isetan, is devoted to the depachika (デパ地下), a huge array of small shops selling all kinds of prepared take-out food. You can assemble a delicious if slightly pricey picnic here — or, if you're feeling really cheap, just go around eating free samples! The very largest department stores are Tobu and Seibu in Ikebukuro, but Shibuya, Ginza and in fact any major Tokyo district will have their fair share. Shinjuku Station is home to several famous department stores, such as the Keio and Odakyu department stores. Many stores begin discounting their selections at about 19:00 each night. Look for signs and stickers indicating specific yen value or percentage discounts. You will often see half-price stickers which read 半値 (hanne). This discounting is also common at supermarkets located near the smaller stations, although the quality may be a notch or two down from the department stores, it's still perfectly edible.

Tokyo has the world's highest number of Michelin-starred restaurants priced to match, but one splurge is worthwhile even if you're on a limited budget: the best sushi in town, if not the world, can be found in Tsukiji, fresh from the famous fish market. A sushi breakfast in Tsukiji, after exploring the fish market, is a great option for the jet-lagged traveler's first morning in Tokyo. Arrive on or before the first train to avoid waiting up to two hours for a place at the sushi bar.
For upmarket Japanese eats, Ginza is guaranteed to burn a hole in your wallet, with Akasaka and Roppongi Hills close behind. You can limit the damage considerably by eating fixed lunch sets instead of dinner, as this is when restaurants cater to people paying their own meals instead of using the company expense account.


As with everywhere else in Japan, the legal drinking/purchasing age of alcoholic beverages is 20.
The party never stops in Tokyo (at least in the karaoke bars), and you will find good little bars and restaurants everywhere.
The most Japanese way to spend a night out would be at Japanese-style watering holes called izakaya (居酒屋), which offer food and drink in a convivial, pub-like atmosphere. Cheaper chain izakaya like Tsubohachi (つぼ八) and Shirokiya (白木屋) usually have picture menus, so ordering is simple, even if you don't know Japanese - but don't be surprised if some places have Japanese only touchscreen ordering systems. There are also some good clubs to checkout in Roppongi with regular and frequent visitors.
Visiting clubs and western-style night spots can get expensive. For a splurge on a beverage or two, Western Shinjuku's Park Hyatt Tokyo houses the New York Bar on level 52. Providing stunning views day and night across Tokyo, it was also the setting for the movie Lost in Translation.
If you're new in town, Roppongi is home to a number of vibrant clubs and establishments which specialize in serving non-Japanese - but it's also overflowing with hostesses and 'patrons' who will occasionally hassle you to visit their gentlemen's clubs. Nonetheless, the party scene thrives in Roppongi, in which case it might be a good idea to check out one of the many independently produced events such as the Tokyo Pub Crawl. As an alternative, some Japanese and foreign nationals instead prefer the clubs and bars in Shibuya, or trendy Ginza, Ebisu, or Shinjuku.
Hub, a chain of British-style pubs, has branches in Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Roppongi (as well as near most major stations) and is reasonably priced, but is often used by foreigners and Japanese who want a bit of "action". Other British/Irish pubs can be found in Roppongi, Shinjuku, and Shibuya.
In Shibuya, the bar area behind 109 (not 109-2) and next to Dogenzaka ("Love Hotel Hill") has a large number of clubs. Unlike those in Roppongi and Shibuya's Gas Panic, these clubs have entrance fees, but clubs without entrance fees often hassle you all night to buy drinks which ends up just as expensive and without people who are actually there to enjoy the music. Shinjuku is home to Kabukicho, Japan's largest red-light district. Also in Shinjuku is the gay bar district of Shinjuku-nichome. A little further from the city center are Shimokitazawa, Koenji, and Nakano, full of good bars, restaurants and "live houses" offering underground/indie music popular with students and 20/30-somethings. 

Shopping in Tokyo, Japan

If it is for sale anywhere in the world, you can probably buy it in Tokyo. Tokyo is one of the fashion and cosmetic centers in the Eastern world. Items to look for include electronics, funky fashions, antique furniture, and kimono, as well as specialty items like Hello Kitty and Pokemon goods, anime and comics and their associated paraphernalia. Tokyo has some of the largest electronic industries in the world, such as Sony, Panasonic, and Toshiba, etc.
Cash payment is the norm. Most Japanese ATMs do not accept foreign cards, but the post office, 7-Eleven, and Citibank ones do and usually have English menus as well
Although credit cards are becoming more widely accepted, retailers are much less likely to allow their use than in most other developed countries. The crime rate is very low, so don't be afraid of carrying around wads of cash as the Japanese do. The average Japanese citizen will carry a month's worth of expenses on them.
There are numerous convenience stores throughout Tokyo, which are open around the clock and sell not only food and magazines but also daily necessities such as underwear and toiletries. Supermarkets are usually open until 22:00, while drugstores and department stores usually close at 21:00.

Anime and manga
Akihabara, Tokyo's Electric Town, is now also the unquestioned center of its otaku community, and the stores along Chuo-dori are packed to the rafters with anime (animation) and manga (comics). Another popular district for all things manga/anime is the Nakano ward and its Broadway Shopping arcade. Check out the mandarake shop for loads of used and rare mangas.
In recent years there has been an "otaku boom" in Akihabara. A lot of attention, in particular, was paid to the town thanks to the popular Japanese drama "Densha Otoko", a love story about an otaku who saves a woman on a train and their subsequent courtship.
Akihabara was previously known for its many live performances and cosplayers, some of which had drawn negative attention due to extremist performers. These have become increasingly scarce following the Akihabara massacre in 2008, although girls in various maid costumes can still be seen standing along the streets handing out advertisement fliers to passers-by for Maid Cafes.

Serious collectors should head for the Antique Mall in Ginza or the Antique Market in Omotesando, which despite the rustic names are collections of small very specialist shops (samurai armor, ukiyo-e prints, etc) with head-spinning prices. Mere mortals can venture over to Nishi-Ogikubo, where you can pick up scrolls of calligraphy.
The Antique Festival (全国古民具骨董祭り) is held over the weekend about 5-6 times a year at the Tokyo Ryutsu Center, on the Tokyo Monorail line, and is well worth a visit. 

Jinbocho is to used books what Akihabara is to electronics. It's clustered around the Jinbocho subway stop. The Blue Parrot is another shop located at Takadanobaba on the Yamanote line, just two stops north of Shinjuku.

Cameras and electronics
Ever since Sony and Nikon became synonymous with high-tech quality, Tokyo has been a favored place for buying electronics and cameras. Though the lines have blurred since the PC revolution, each has its traditional territory and stores: Akihabara has the electronics stores, including a large number of duty-free shops specializing in export models, and Shinjuku has the camera stores. Unfortunately, local model electronics are not cheap, but the pre-tax prices for the export models are similar to what you'll pay pre-tax in Europe and are a little higher than U.S. prices. You can sometimes find cheap local models if you avoid big shops and check smaller retailers, and are willing to deal with Japanese-only interface, manual and service warranty. It's also surprisingly difficult to find certain things, eg games machines.

Shibuya and neighboring Harajuku are the best-known shopping areas for funky, youthful clothes and accessories. Note that, almost without exception, clothes are sized for the petite Japanese frame.
Department stores and exclusive boutiques stock every fashion label imaginable, but for global labels prices in Tokyo are typically higher than anywhere else in the world. The famous Ginza and Ikebukuro's giant Seibu and Tobu department stores (the largest in the world) are good hunting grounds. Recently, Roppongi Hills has emerged as a popular area for high-end shopping, with many major global brands. Other department stores in Tokyo are Mitsukoshi, Sogo, Marui (OIOI), and Takashimaya. Mitsukoshi is Japan's biggest department store chain. Its anchor store is in Nihonbashi. Marui Men store in Shinjuku has eight floors of high-end fashion for men only.

The district for this is Kappabashi Street near Asakusa, also known as “Kitchen Town.” The street is lined with stores selling all kinds of kitchen wares — this is where the restaurants of Tokyo get their supplies. It's also a great place to find cheap Japanese ceramics, not to mention plastic food!

Ochanomizu is to the guitar what Jinbocho is to used books. There, you’ll find what must be the world’s densest collection of guitar shops. Plenty of other musical instruments (though not traditional Japanese ones) are also available.

Adult goods
Japan is a world leader in various intimate adult products, from stylish Tenga devices to various dolls with the replaceable body parts (and whole floors selling the spare "parts" for them), as well as some other bizarre goods. Akihabara hosts several large, multi-floor adult stores which are clearly marked as such. Prices for the Japan-made goods are generally better than in Europe and the US; notably, Tenga products are 10-12% cheaper than the lowest online price in the US or Europe, and the selection is better. If buying toys or lingerie make sure you purchase the "export" version to avoid size issues.

For touristy Japanese knickknacks, the best places to shop are Nakamise in Asakusa and the Oriental Bazaar in Omotesando, which stock all the kitschy things like kanji-emblazoned T-shirts, foreigner-sized kimonos, ninja outfits for kids and ersatz samurai swords that can be surprisingly difficult to find elsewhere. Both also have a selection of serious antiques for the connoisseur.

Street markets
Bustling open-air bazaars in the Asian style are rare in Tokyo, except for Ueno's Ameyoko, a legacy of the postwar occupation. Yanaka Ginza in the Shitamachi Taito district, a very nice example of a neighborhood shopping street, makes for an interesting afternoon browse.
There are often small flea and antique markets in operation on the weekend at major (and minor) shrines in and around Tokyo.

Safety in Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo is probably one of the safest big cities you will ever visit, and Japan, in general, is one of the safest places to visit in the world. Most people, including single female travelers, would not encounter any problems walking along the streets alone at night. Street crime is extremely rare, even late at night, and continues to decrease. However, "little crime" does not mean "no crime", and common sense should still be applied as anywhere in the world. Often the biggest risk is travelers taking Japan's apparent lack of crime too close to heart and doing things they would never do back home. The most common crime is sexual harassment on crowded trains; when people are pressed up against each other, hands can wander. However, locals are far more likely to experience this than tourists, as the latter is considered more aggressive and more likely to stick up for themselves, especially if they are Westerners. The best way to deal with any wandering hands is to yell "chikaan" which is a widely publicized Japanese term for sexual harassment, specifically groping on trains.

Small police stations, or Koban, can be found every few blocks. If you get lost or need assistance, by all means, go to them; it's their job to help you! They may, however, have difficulties with English, so some knowledge of the Japanese language helps.

Take the usual precautions against pickpockets in crowded areas and trains. Also, be aware that theft is more likely to occur in hangouts and bars popular with travelers and non-residents.

The most real and most immediate potential threat to your safety in Tokyo is likely to be found in the form of rip-off bars in red light and nightlife districts such as Kabukicho and Roppongi. While even these areas are almost never dangerous to casually walk around in, take note that large numbers of Japanese and African touts prowl the streets after dark looking for marks for their clip joint scams. If you are approached (as a tourist, most likely by an African) do not give in to promises of pretty girls or "happy endings." These men are extortionists and scam artists, charging customers exorbitant bills, often without providing the services promised. Some touts are persistent and may follow you for a few paces, though a firm "No, thank you" or simply ignoring them will usually shake them off in short order. On the open street, touts are annoying but harmless. Once inside their establishment, spiked drinks, threats of violence, beatings, seizure of personal documents and effects and more have all been reported. Just ignore them or say "no" on the street and you will be fine.

Tokyo is geologically unstable. It is prone to volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis. On March 11, 2011, Japan was struck by its biggest earthquake ever which measured 9.0 on the Richter scale, it was the 4th largest earthquake since record keeping began in 1900. Although the epicenter of the quake was 373 kms to the north, 130 kms west offshore Sendai, Japan's 6th largest city, the intensity in Tokyo was from 5 to 7 (moderate to very strong) on the Merracalli scale, or 5- to 6- on Shindo scale, the whole metropolitan area was completely halted. The rapid transit stopped working, people had to spend nights in the train station, offices, shops etc, fires broke out in many places and the had long power cuts. Luckily, Tokyo was not affected by the devastating tsunami. In 1923, Tokyo was struck by a Mag-8.3 earthquake, whose epicenter was just 50 kms away from the city center. The city was completely destroyed, 143,000 people died and the whole city was put on fire. Tokyo lies near the junction of 3 fault lines and many smaller ones are directly under the city. The area is near an active subduction zone and the elevation is not too high, so its prone to tsunamis also. To the west is Mt. Fuji, which has not erupted since 1707 but can erupt anytime. So if you are in Tokyo, always be ready for earthquake, tsunamis, volcanoes. Japan has the world's best quake and tsunami warning system, if anything happens, it will warn you immediately.

If you make it as far out as the Izu Islands, note that visitors to Miyakejima Island have in the past been required to carry a gas mask, due to volcanic gases. Those in poor health are advised against traveling to the island.

Language spoken in Tokyo, Japan

It's possible for English speakers to navigate their way around Tokyo without speaking any Japanese. Signs at subway and train stations include the station names in romaji (Romanized characters), and larger stations often have signs in Chinese and Korean as well. Though most people under the age of 40 have learned English in school, proficiency is generally poor, and most locals would not know more than a few basic words and phrases. Some restaurants may have English menus (ask for an "Eigo (ey-go) menu" before you sit down), but it does not necessarily mean that the staff will speak much English. You can ask for "osusume (oh-sue-sue-meh)" if you'd simply like to eat a recommended menu item. Reading and writing is much better though, and many people can understand a great deal of written English without actually knowing how to speak it. That being said, staff at the main hotels and tourist attractions generally speak an acceptable level of English. While it is possible to get by with only English, it will nevertheless make your trip much smoother if you can learn some basic Japanese. It should also be noted that the Japanese are much more willing to speak English if you make some attempt to speak Japanese. At the very least learn to say common greetings and "which train to...".

Overpronouncing the Y in names like Tokyo make it difficult for the native Japanese speaker to understand. It's not silent, but it's not a separate syllable either. "Toh-qyo"


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May 29, 2022


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