A Beginner’s Guide on Tokyo Japan
Japan is always the best trip ever. I have been going to Japan since 2005 at least once or twice a year. It’s always a fun experience no matter how many times I go because there is always something new to do. It ranges from going to Taito Station (Japanese Arcade), amazing Japanese food, shopping for Anime figurines, or even going to try out Japanese snacks at Family Mart (Japanese 7/11). This guide will showcase some of my experiences in Japan and what I believe is a MUST DO if it is your first time going to Tokyo. But first here is a list of what you need for Japan!
- Plane Ticket to Narita Airport
- Money!! (Make sure you call your bank to tell them you are traveling to Japan)
- Book Hotel (I always stayed in a hotel due to heavy shopping)
- Pocket Wifi (Rent at the airport! You need a Credit Card to get one. Debit Card is very hard for them to say yes for some reason)
- Suica Card (You can get them at the train station! This is a transportation card and you can add money on it to take the trains. There is a package deal for 2000 Yen.)
- Big Luggage (I bring a big luggage and also put a small luggage just in case!)
- International charger so your electronic devices do not get bodied. (Usually you can rent one from hotels that are foreigner friendly like the ones I have listed above)
Now I believe these are the Top 7 things that you will need to begin your journey.
Arrival to Narita Airport
You just landed and you feel like crap. You also might be really tired if you couldn’t sleep on a 9+ hour flight. Make sure you fill out your customs forms and walk a little fast so you don’t have to wait over 30 minutes for Immigration. Usually you won’t have to talk since TSA does not really speak your language. After Immigration, you will pick up your luggage and clear customs. Hopefully you do not get bodied since it is your first time.
After all of that waiting, you are finally free. Once you exit, the left of you should be a currency exchange place. I would recommend exchanging $100-$200 just for the day. Once you exchange your money, there should also be a booth to rent Pocket Wi-Fi if you are interested (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) After that is done, there will be an escalator going down near the middle of the Terminal. This will take you to a train to Tokyo.
Now here comes the decision… If you take the local train to Tokyo which is around $12, that will take around 1 hour and 30 minutes to get to Tokyo (Yea I know WTH…) or you can take the Keisei Skyliner for $30 which will get you to Tokyo in 38 minutes. I always take the Keisei Skyliner to Nippori Station. (DO NOT LOSE YOUR TICKET YOU WILL NEED IT TO GET OUT THE STATION!) Once you arrive to Nippori Station, you then want to buy the Suica Card. There will be machines that will say “SUICA.” There is an English option so you can go through the system fairly easily. Make sure to “Get a New Suica Card” which is roughly $20. (You will be refilling this card throughout your trip to get around.) Now for the Suica Card, you want to put it in your wallet because it has a magnet sensor on it so the toll will automatically deduct money from it when you touch the sensor. Now depending on the hotel you have chosen, you can get to majority of Tokyo by following the Yamanote Line (GREEN LINE). The Yamanote Line is a giant circle which goes to majority of the hot tourist spots such as Shinjuku, Shibuya, Akihabara, Ikebukuro, and etc.
Tired but I am in Japan!!!
Finally, you checked into your hotel and you are probably thinking what I was thinking. “I am in Japan and I need to explore!” You will be walking a lot so you should take it easy on your first day. You are probably hungry so what I recommenend is Matsuya!!! Matsuya is pretty much fast food Japanese food. It is 24 hours and its $5 for a Gyudon Bowl (Beef with Onions on Rice) It is the life saver for everybody to be honest. It is very common to find these places.
The logo looks like this
There will be a machine where you use to order your food. You pay the amount in the machine and it will pop out a ticket. Take a seat and give the worker your ticket and enjoy your meal! Once you fill up on Matsuya (I am sure you will run this back) you should look for the closest convenient market like Family Mart, Lawson, or 7/11 and stock up on Japanese drinks, snacks or your necessities. Now if you are staying at one of the hotels I recommend or the main cities, you can check out the arcades! (They close at midnight) The main arcades usually have a couple of floors. First floor will always be UFO Catchers (Crane Games) You want to be careful. This is literally a 10-0 match up for first timers because it’s so tempting since you are probably used to crap prizes back at home. One good thing is that these UFO Catchers are not rigged! You can skillfully win them but understanding the matchup is not easy. My first time I went to Japan, I probably spent over $2,000 on UFO Catchers (Please don’t judge me.) Now if you are having trouble trying to win, look for a game attendant and just look helpless. I am really serious. This is a legit strategy. They will try to use hand gestures and will show you where to hit the sweet spot to make it fall. They really want you to win!!!
Now the next floor is possibly a picture machine floor where you take little polaroid pictures but for some reason, many arcades will deny males to this floor so if you have a female with you, your chances to access this floor are a lot higher. Another floor will consist of games that uses a card system which is useless to you but it’s cool to just check out. Then you will reach the fighting game floor where you will see over 100 arcade cabinets with all different games like SF2, SF3, Tekken 7, Blazblue, and etc. I spent most of my time at these arcades because the average person is Top 16 material at a USA Major which is scary!!! Also make sure you are able to handle cigarette smoke. People can smoke in the arcades which is annoying and hard to enjoy. The only rule you really have to follow is no recording in the arcade. They are really strict on that. Now your first day is over and you should rest because depending how long you are staying, your legs will be destroyed but no regrets!!! Also when you wake up in the morning, you can find currency exchange places in every major city or you can find a world bank such as Citibank, HSBC, and etc to withdraw some cash!
Next couple of topics I will be talking about what areas of Tokyo you might be interested in.
Akihabara – The Land of Otaku
As you may know, Akihabara is just Anime Central. Once you get off the Yamanote Line, you want to take the Electric Town Exit (There will be signs in English) You will know you are in the right place because the first thing you will hear once you get outside is just loud anime music. Now you want to walk straight and check out the stores along the way. Once you see you reached the main street, you pretty much just walk around and check out all the stores. A lot of the stores are 5 floors so you will be walking up and down a lot.
Most of the stores sell anime figures, mangas, cosplay, DVDs, CDs, hentai, and random cool stuff. My favorite store to buy up to date anime stuff is Kotobukiya.
This store is located behind Club Sega on the main street. There is an alley where you have to walk through and you make the first right you see. You will walk past a KFC which means you are going the right way. You will see a lot of girls dressed up as Maids. These maids try to get you to get into their establishment to pay for overprice food and drinks. (I guess if you are into that experience you can try it out…)
Kotobukiya is the main Anime shop everyone checks out in Akihabara. If you go back to the main street, there are a lot of stores that sell very similar stuff but all have different prices. So it’s a lot of walking back and forth so you can get the best deal you can get. This is Akihabara in a nutshell.
Nakano – Old School Otaku Land
In order to get here, you have to get off at Shinjuku station and then take the Chou-Sobu Line (Yellow line) heading to Nakano. There is only one exit and usually you can just follow the people because they are heading to Nakano Broadway. Nakano Broadway is a giant mall full of Anime goodies.
Now you want to keep going straight until you see an escalator. This will take you to the third floor automatically. The 2nd floor and 3rd floor are majority of Anime Figurines store plus some retro game stores. The 4th floor has a small arcade where they stream some old school fighting games if you are interested. Now these stores will carry majority of the same stuff but the prices are different in all of them. So do not automatically buy that special figure when you see it! You want to keep a mental image of where you found that figure and see if other stores are selling it cheaper. You will get salty when you see another store sell it for cheaper and it will not be a $1 difference. Sometimes it can range from $10-$20 difference.
Once you finish shopping for your anime goodies, Nakano has a lot of tasty restaurants. Walk back to the direction of the train station. Once you exit the doors of Nakano Broadway, make a left to the alley. If you go up the alley, you will see some good ramen shops I would recommend you to try out.
Ikebukuro – Sunshine City
You can get to Ikebukuro by taking the Yamanote Line there. There will be signs along the way to tell you the direction of Sunshine City Mall. Once you get out the train station, you will see a street where people are just walking on the road. Follow that road which will lead you to Sunshine City. You will see a Hello Kitty shop along the way to Sunshine City. Once you get to Sunshine City, you will take the escalator down.
Now there are a couple of things you can do in Sunshine City.
- Pokemon Center
- General mall shopping
I love this place. The amount of Pokemon swag you can find here is just insane. Best part is that the prices are so good compared to USA. They have the classic Pokemon like Pikachu, Squirtle, Charmanders, Mega Evolution Charizard, Legendaries, and more. They even have monthly Pikachus were every month is a new Pikachu design which is totally awesome!!
I haven’t been to the aquarium but this is an option if you love an aquarium
General Mall Shopping
It’s pretty much what you have done back at home but in Japan style. You can shop for clothes, shoes, go to the food court. They have a Totoro store which might be a cool souvenir for someone back at home!
Shibuya – Crossing the Street is a Tourist thing to do
You can get to Shibuya by taking the Yamanote Line there. Shibuya is an interesting place. You might know of Shibuya from the game “The World ends with you” Now the first thing everyone does in Shibuya is cross the street. Why? Because it’s probably the biggest you might have seen. Most people will take videos of crossing the street.
Now when you cross the street you can see where the party is at. The alleyway that everyone walks into is where you can find awesome snacks, unique restaurants, unique shops, and Shibuya 109. They have a lot of places where you can buy yummy crepes and cheesecake tarts. Some unique restaurants they have are ramen shops, kaiten sushi (Conveyor belt), and places that specializes in Whale, Horse and Blowfish. There are a lot of bars too. Most young people will hang out and just drink beer at Izakaya establishments. Shibuya 109 is famous for shopping for clothes. If you are into fashion, I highly recommend checking this place out.
Harajuku – Cosplay land
You can get to Harajuku by taking the Yamanote Line to this stop. Now you only want to come here on Sundays!! If you come here on Sunday, a lot of people dress up in outfits and walk around the shops. You really just want to come here to experience just that. There are a lot of clothing shops for the younger crowd. Most of the clothes are just random English words on a shirt.
Tsukiji – Fish Market is the best for Raw Fish
You can get here by taking the Oedo Subway line to Tsukiji. You will probably have to transfer to get to this train. Now this might be the hardest thing for you to do but it is worth it! You want to get here as early as possible like 5-6 AM because this is where the auction for buying fish begins. Once the auction is over, the fish is taken to their restaurants and prepared for the day. There are a lot of restaurants that will make the freshest Sushi/Sashimi you have ever eaten.
It is a little on the pricey side, since it’s a tourist attraction. Price average around $30 but it will probably be the best raw fish you have ever eaten in your life. I say it is completely worth it!!!
Now besides eating and the fish auction, you can buy souvenirs like sushi knives, Tsukiji Fish Market shirts, and even local food.
Shinjuku – The Jack of All Trades
You can get to Shinjuku by taking the Yamanote line to this stop. Once you get off the train, you want to take the South East exit. When you get off the south east exit, you will walk down the stairs and walk straight. You will see a Taito Station there. That is where everyone plays Ultra Street Fighter IV. Lots of people still play this game today and it’s a full arcade with UFO Catchers and various other games. Once you keep walking past the arcade, you will see a lot of people on the street trying to get you into their restaurants. DO NOT FALL FOR THE BAIT THEY ARE VERY OVERPRICED!
Once you walked the strip you will see another main street area where you will see more arcades, more shops, and more restaurants. Pretty much this is Shinjuku in a nut shell. This is an area where you just want to walk around and choose what you want to do. What I did on my most recent trip is I went to get a massage from fishes. On the main street, you should see a 24 hour massage center called Osso. They have an option where you can get your feet massage by fishes. It’s very ticklish but makes your skin very smooth! They pretty much eat your dead skin off your feet.
A couple of stores down, they have a cat café where you pay an hourly fee where you can hang out with many types of cats.
Narita Airport – Time to go home
It’s time to go home… Before you leave for the airport, if you rented a Pocket Wi-Fi device, make sure to put it in the envelope it came with and put it in the mailbox so you don’t get overcharged for the device! Now we want to head to Nippori station which you can get to with the Yamanote Line. I do recommend taking the Keisei Skyliner since your luggage is probably double the weight now! After checking in to your flight, you will clear immigrations and then you will be in your terminal. Now I hope you have some Japanese Yen left. You can use American cash or your credit card. I love their shops in the airport. This is where I get most of my souvenir shopping done actually. I recommend buying a ton of Tokyo Banana.
Tokyo Banana is pretty much a Japanese Twinkie. It’s so good and majority of people I have given this to loved it. You can also buy different Kit Kat flavors like Japanese Sake, Wasabi, Green Tea, Cheesecake and more. They also have different types of Japanese alcohol and cigarettes that would interest your friends that indulge in that stuff. Lastly, you can buy little trinkets such as shirts, snow globes, tea sets, and kimonos which are awesome gifts as well!!!
Now this wraps up my Beginner guide of Japan. I hope this is helpful to you. There are many other things that Japan has to offer besides what I have written. Make sure you follow me on social media for more pictures of my travels or even give me recommendations on what should I try next!
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Here are some honorable mentions of other things you would like to do!