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Tokyo Travel Tips

4.0 stars

Insider advice for your Tokyo vacation

7-11 Convenience Stores in Tokyo 5 stars
If you are from Canada or the USA you are probably familiar with the 7-11 convenience store chain. They have spread to Japan and are similar in many ways over there.

However, one difference that a budget traveler might appreciate is that they have a lot more ready to eat foods than they have here and at a much better price. I ate several meals from my local 7-11s in Tokyo that were both economical and satisying enough in both size and taste. They even had a deep fryer near the cashier for cooking wontons and such.

In Canada or the USA you can get junk food or even some sandwiches at 7-11, but in Tokyo they had way more ready to eat with minimal preparation options and I recommend checking it out if you want a quick and cheap bite.


Ways to Pass Time Waiting for the First Metro 3 stars
It happened to me a lot in Tokyo that I would miss the last metro home, and quite often I was in the middle of nowhere at the time, at least by Tokyo standards. If you find one, then 24 hour Manga cafes or Karaoke palours are good ways of killing time til morning (one Japanese friend of mine used to rent a private karaoke booth, queue up a load of soothing songs and go to sleep on the sofs).

However, there were times when I was stranded without enough money for such things, or I couldn't find any around. I quickly discovered though that Dennys filter coffee only costs 122 yen and they refill it for you all night. Even more conveniently, there is a Dennys close to almost every metro stop in Tokyo. It's not very romantic, but it is highly effective - and the staff are used to people taking naps at the table!


Gajalu Indian Restaurant 1 stars
Gajalu Indian Restaurant, Chiba, Japan.


Best Place to Shop in Tokyo 5 stars
Whenever someone sees a picture of Tokyo, Shibuya is most often the place depicted. The area is the best shopping district in all of Tokyo, and that’s saying a lot. Shibuya has a lot of stores, ranging from Don Quixote, a well-known department store in Japan, to small sock stores. There are just so many things to purchase that a tourist can find himself coming back to Shibuya three times in a typical three day stay in Japan. The lights and the pedestrian lanes are also beautiful at night when thousands upon thousands of Japanese people are walking and society becomes a lot more urban than it seems. The Shibuya experience is ethereal and unbelievable, and ultimately unexplainable. It is a must for everyone going to Japan.


Yes, There Really Is A Parasite Museum 4 stars
I can honestly say I did not want to go to a museum dedicated to parasites. I know, that’s pretty selfish. But my daughter insisted that parasites were cool and persuaded me that good dads acquiesced to requests no matter how weird.

The Meguro Parasite Museum is a short, fifteen minute walk (some uphill) from the subway stop. Try your own map. However, many neighborhoods in Tokyo provide maps along the street where you’re walking. If you know your destination and have some reference to point to, many Japanese people will be glad to help.

Parasites and museums are usually not spoken of in the same sentence, so don’t be surprised at the lack of building dimensions. It is a two-story brownstone. The first floor has a general overview of parasites while the second floor focuses on the parasite life cycle showcasing 300 actual specimens. The second floor houses most of the gross objects and displays.

The official name – Kiseichuu Hakubutsukan – might mean 30 foot tapeworm because that’s one of the main attractions upstairs. There are actually five parasite museums in the world. This one, Meguro Parasite Museum, boasts this longest of the tapeworms.

Also on the second floor, you’ll find maps pinpointing areas all across Japan where specific types of tapeworms are found. Drawers and free standing displays educate the tourist. This is one place where tourists are encouraged to look and ask lots of questions. When we visited, the guide showed us the back room where more tapeworms existed, but, unfortunately, there is not enough room for all the exhibits.

What I enjoyed the most was the gift shop. Even in a tiny museum like this, a counter and glass case held all your parasite souvenir essentials. Japanese culture loves to turn almost anything into a cute rendition of its former self; a representative that allows a certain kind of intimate relationship that no one would ever acknowledge otherwise.

The “mascot” is very similar to a mutated butterfly with exaggerated ears. They call it Diplozoon. It’s part of the motif for cell phone straps, key chains, pens, postcards, rulers, and stickers. There’s even a real parasite sealed in the key chain. If that doesn’t get you excited, they offer t-shirts and jewelry with pictures of tapeworms.

Make time in Tokyo for this free, one of a kind experience. Closed on Mondays but open from 10-5 the rest of the week. Just avoid visiting before and after eating.


Tsukiji Fish Market 5 stars
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Japan's wide variety of indigenous seafood can intimidate even the most intrepid traveler. Sea snail sushi, for example, causes many foreign travelers to hesitate – a lot. Yet, this need not stop you from venturing into a Tokyo icon like the Tsukiji Fish Market.

Opening daily at 5 AM, the market'sbustling shops, warehouses, and friendly people welcome thousands of tourists each day. I arrived as early as possible and experienced the cultural bustle:
men driving scooters, fish of all kinds, cooks, people moving seafood every which way, surrounding you with a uniquely Japanese perspective. Many owners of the cubbyhole eateries speak English and are happy to help you order a meal to your liking. I satisfied my hunger like the native Japanese and enjoyed their wonderful seafood fare.

Also, while you’re there in the early morning hours, delve into the areas offering the tuna auctions. Tuna weighing hundreds of pounds are auctioned off in a frenzy of shouting and yelling, but tourists must stay behind designated barriers and not interfere. Even taking photographs is prohibited! I had trouble keeping a straight face when some cameras flashed, and the auctioneer berated them in Japanese.

Once you tire of chopped, frozen, and cubed fish of almost every kind imaginable, stroll through the vendors of fruit, vegetables, and other culinary wares. I love trying to find the weirdest dried fish or seafood. Octopus, snails, scallops, and any other creature from the ocean exists in the market. My fascination continued as I discovered kitchen gadgets galore! Whatever you deem relevant for your kitchen’s existence and your part in that cooking space can be spotted amongst the outdoor market stalls. I found a tool used exclusively for removing shrimp from its shell.

I set my alarm for 3 AM, grabbed a cup of coffee, and enjoyed one of the most exciting mornings in Tokyo. And the sushi is definitely fresh!


Eating in Tokyo 4 stars
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Tokyo is an very expensive city and on each travel food is an important thing you cannot go without. So if you are going to Tokyo and you want to save some money try the ramen stores. Ramen is japanese dish. Noodles with vegetables and available meat, chicken, fish, scrimps or whatever. This traditional dish is very expensive in some locations so try out the litte wooden stores by the street. They sell ramen of the same quality as in the normal restaurants but it is much cheaper there, about half the price most of the time. And it is really oishii (yummy). The noodles and meat, vegetables, you are to choose what you wanna eat. The stuff comes in a big bowl and is with sauce, well rather to be called soup i guess.


Visiting Tokyo 4 stars
Tokyo - in a very contradictory city. The counterparts are outstanding, everywhere you can watch the influence of the quick development and I know no other city that is so clearly exposing itself to the rapid movement of time. There is hardly another city who has brighter nights as well. It is a 24 hours life this city favours. The people are friendly but also a little reserved sometimes due to their high workschedule. At the tourist places there are also very relaxed people to be found but it is rather hard making contact with the real japanese people. Most people I met weren't japanese by origin, just visting, too. Even so I liked my stay there a lot, because of the typical chracter this country offers.


Shitamachi Museum (Shitamachi Fuzoku Shiryokan) 3 stars
When you’ve all stopped sniggering at the back, you’ll be pleased to know that Shitamachi actually means "downtown" and refers to the area of Tokyo in which commoners used to live, mainly around Ueno and Asakusa. Today there's very little left of old downtown Tokyo and with that in mind, the Shitamachi Museum seeks to preserve for future generations a way of life that was virtually wiped out by the great earthquake of 1923 and World War II. Shops are set up as they would have looked back then, including a merchant's shop and a candy shop, as well as one of the Shitamachi tenements common at the turn of the 20th century. The museum also displayed some personal effects including utensils, toys, costumes and tools, most of which I was able to pick up and examine. Many who actually once lived in Shitamachi have donated most of the exhibits. The museum is quite small and I’d only recommend it if you don’t have time to see the better Edo-Tokyo Museum or Fukagawa Edo Museum.


Ota Memorial Museum of Art (Ota Kinen Bijutsukan) 3 stars
I must confess I had a great ignorance of ukiyo-e (woodblock print) prior to my visit but this was a great little museum that specialised in the private collection of the late Ota Seizo, who early in life recognized the importance of ukiyo-e as an art form and therefore dedicated himself to its preservation. The museum collection totals around 12,000 prints but only around a hundred are displayed at any given time, in thematic exhibitions that change monthly and include English-language descriptions. As I’ve said, the museum itself was small but very informative and had some nice traditional touches such as bamboo screens and stone pathways. It's certainly worth 30 minutes of anyone’s time.


Tsukiji Fish Market 4 stars
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
In the heart of Tokyo lies the essence of what compels this country to be a land of seafood enthusiasts.
Creatures of the sea are paramount at the Tsukiji Fish Market which lays out some exceptional and fresh products to the public. So popular is this sea market that even Potter, Yes! Harry Potter played by Daniel Radcliff made an early morning trip to this land of some familiar and yet some strange and distinct swimmers of the sea. Best time to visit is between 5am-10am, the earlier the more action packed.

Take the Oedo or Hibiya train line, stroll along for a few minutes passing by the Jogai Shijo, a grand open air market selling vegetables, fruits, delicacies, snacks and the innumerable stalls tantalizing your taste buds with samples .

I found the Jonai Shijo (inner market) to be a highly lively and noisily atmosphere with a slightly intricate layout, strange odours invading your nostrils, wet floors and fast trucks zooming and winding by inches within you, in the already narrow aisles. It’s definitely a must see and experience, I mean it is one of the world’s largest fish market!

On frequent occasions I found myself pondering upon numerous gigantic tunas, some very cute and famous poisonous puffers (Fugu) added with foreign and bizarre members of the deep blue, which further in quested my curiosity sending me into a frenzy of maniac photo snapping, that was until I traversed along to a stall displaying skewered fish guts, included in this package were vendors with highly amused faces as me my mates dreaded on the “Oooooh” and “Aaahhas”.

I was curious as to whether these gutsy skews were displayed as an option for an appetizer or to mock the tourists for mere entertainment. I walked back and forth several strides and finally decided to catch it on my camera when the vendor approached to ask me if I wanted to purchase a stick, hysterically I mumbled “No Way!” and they all roared into fits of laughter

It was fun and adventurous, gazing at these immigrants from the ocean. A rather grand affair in a fishy sort of a way!


Shopping in Ometosando Hills 4 stars
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Stroll along an upscale avenue resembling a Mecca for spendthrift’s who hunger for constant fashion evolvement, gaze upon the contemporary facades and sense the ambience of an elegant and trendy, Omotesando Hills the Champs Elysees of Tokyo.

Stylish and tasteful, certainly the object here is designed to attract shoppers fitting into the high spender’s and brand lovers niche, with exclusive designer brands like Jimmy Choo, Dolce & Gabbana, Regency of Mine, Porsche, MAC, Victoria Beckham Makeup that retail there. The neigbourhood is also home to an endless list of cardinals like Luis Vuiton, Emporio Armani, Shu Umera, Gucci, Chanel and Dior. However if you love shopping, its a great street to explore.

The inner layout is artistic and compromising of six unwinding levels of boutiques, cafes, resturants, and spa and beauty treatment establishments. Let your nostrils explore the essence of aromatherapy as your ears are soothed with the sonority of fresh crisp nature.

Friendly food vendors will encourage you to tour in and sample their beautifully creative delights; Café DEL REY serves premium melt in mouth Belgian chocolates under the moonlight of a Baccarat crystal chandelier. The Gelateria, a tiny but cosy and elegant bar that flash out some innovative sweets and espresso’s with a definite sophisticated flair; or to get your adrenalin pumping opt for the Kyosho, where facilities allow a pit stop for drinks and also entice you to book in a night of circuit racing.

Electrify your sentiments at this distinct creation which lives up to the full potential of creativity, fashion, art and Japanese culture.


Club 911 Black, Roppongi, Tokyo, Japan 4 stars
Two of the biggest party nights in my life started here, previously just Club 911, and recently renamed to 911 Black, in the infamous party street of Tokyo, Roppongi. If you go early, you may think the place is completely dead, but then at after 10:30 all hell breaks loose as the party-goers start arriving. Both times the place was packed that you could hardly move, but somehow it was huge fun both times. Initially I thought this would be just a start to a night of partying, but both times we ended up staying there the whole time. Be careful though... it is underground, so when you come out and see it is bright daylight you'll be shocked! Another good point of this club is that it's got an 24-hour ATM bank nearby - one of the very few that I've been able to locate in Tokyo.


The Imperial Palace, A Must See! 5 stars
The Sakuradamon Gate of the Imperial Palace, Tokyo

Descending from Kasumigaseki Hill where the National Diet Building stands, one comes upon an imposing view of a vast moat surrounding a panorama of trees obscuring Chiyoda Castle (the Imperial Palace) first built by the Tokugawa shoguns in the 16th century at the center of their fiefdom at Yedo. A 50 meter walk over gravel path across the moat brings one to a square precinct of bushes and trees under the shadow of a huge wooden structure, the south gate of the Imperial Palace, Sakuradamon. The leisurely stroll is accompanied by the gentle rustling of leaves in the breeze and the soft warbling of birds flitting from one branch to another. Beyond Sakuradamon is the beautiful well-tended Imperial Palace Plaza with its orderly lawn and its beautiful symmetrical pine trees. Fronting the Imperial Palace Plaza past the centuries-old wooden gate of Sakuradamon is the cemented ramp leading to main entrance of the modern Imperial Palace. Across the moat, portions of the Imperial Palace complex are visible beyond the clump of trees and the Niju-bashi, the famed "Double Bridge" crossing the moat, one slightly higher than the other, one made of stone and the other, iron, many times, mistakenly viewed as one from ground level. This is the main entrance to the Palace opened twice a year during New Year's Day and the Birthday of the emperor when the emperor and empress greet well-wishers.

A Visitor to Tokyo Must See this Gate, the Palace, and the Beautiful Park


Shinjuku Tokyo 3 stars
Upon arriving at Shinjuku Station in Tokyo I duly stored my bag in a station locker and took the key. A very interesting time walking the streets of this busy area ended back at the station - it was time to retrieve my bags. But I could not find the locker! There are miles of them and they all look the same. Little English is spoken here and although I had a numbered key no one could direct me to the locker location. This is a huge station full of people all moving at a frantic pace. It was like standing in a music video where all the people around were speeded up. Signs are also seldom in English. After nearly an hour of trying to re establish some sort of orientation I finally found the locker and retrieved my bag. So yes it is possible... you really can get lost in a train station!


Tokyo 4 stars
My husband and I had been saving up for the trip of a lifetime. We had always wanted to go to Asia and we have a friend who lives and works in a suburb of Tokyo.
‘Why don’t you come over and stay with me and we can all do some travelling to China and Hong Kong as well’, he said. Jim was our oldest friend and he speaks Japanese and Cantonese. What a great way to spend a holiday, we thought. So off we flew from Manchester to Narita Airport and Jim met us there. We took the train to the Matsubaradanchi suburb and went to his small apartment. We spent the evening at the izakaya where Jim goes every week. It’s a sort of Japanese version of the pub and we met the owners, affectionately called Master and Mamasan. We also talked with Jim’s friends and colleagues from Dokkyo University, where he teaches Business English.
We used Jim’s apartment as a base, sleeping on a mattress on his tatami floor, seeing Tokyo and travelling. We got to know Ueno, just outside Tokyo, pretty well. We went round the market and walked through the park, glorious with cherry blossom. This blossom is very important to the Japanese. It symbolises life and re-birth and they take pictures of it with their mobile phones. We also went round the Tokyo National Museum there and saw costumes, swords and art and we toured the National Science Museum, which is the most impressive science museum I have ever seen. In the evening, we met up with Jim and went to an Irish bar in Ueno called the Warrior Celt where a very good band called The Dead Flower Children was playing. They were made up of two Japanese guys and an Australian woman and they did some great covers. The bar was full of Japanese and ex-pats and everyone sang along to Sweet Child of Mine by Guns & Roses. Most of the bar also enthusiastically joined in with the tequila game.
One day, one of Jim’s friends took us to meet his 92 year old mother. She lived in a small house, the last surviving home in her neighbourhood after the allied bombing of World War II. She made us very welcome, serving us green tea and home made snacks. She had been an English teacher and her bookcase was full of English classic novels. Her eyesight was quite bad and we realised that she had mistaken my husband for a woman! I think that this was due to his long hair, rarely seen on a man in Japan. We corrected her mistake and we all had a good laugh about it. Of course, I’ve never let my husband forget it.
The Japanese people couldn’t have been friendlier. They were especially excited to find that we were English and were desperate to practice their English on us and to know what we thought of their country. If we stopped in the street and took out our Lonely Planet book, there was a Japanese person instantly at our side, asking if we needed assistance. We soaked up the culture and it was so rewarding. The only thing that got us down was the food. We like Japanese food up to a point but we didn’t want endless amounts. There aren’t many non-Japanese restaurants, apart from the odd Italian or fast food joints such as McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken. My husband however, did take to sake with great enthusiasm!
One of the highlights of our stay was the earthquake. Yes, I mention that casually but we had secretly wanted to experience just a little one, to tell the folks back home. It woke us up one morning when we were at Jim’s apartment. It was about 5 on the Richter Scale at our location. Of course, Jim is used to them and he reassured me, telling me to go back to bed as he attempted to stop the glasses from flying out of the cupboard. It only lasted a few seconds and it was just the right sort. Not too scary but definitely something to remember.
Our last day of the holiday was spent buying presents in the Soka district and we had dinner at the izakaya with Jim and some of his friends. They had all made us feel so welcome. It was good not to have just done the sightseeing thing but been able to talk with Japanese people in their own environment.
We saw other parts of Japan too and flew to Hong Kong and saw a bit of China but that’s another story.


Ueno Zoological Gardens 1 stars
This zoo is set in Ueno, Tokyo. It s OK, but I have been to better. THe grounds are lovely and in that I can't complain. Some of the animals seem happy, but others do not. In particular I saw a pretty distressed looking Polar Bear, this of course was saddening. It was great to see Pandas, although they too did not look overly pleased to be stuck in square box rooms, with no apparent outside area. I won't be rushing back to Ueno if I visit Tokyo again, I think there is some catching up to do as far as providing better housng for their critters.


Tokyo - from the tallest building 4 stars
Wow! Thats my first impression. Upon arrival, despite the fact that I had been up since silly o clock, and was now exhausted my brother dragged me and my suitcase round the centre to get my first impressions. Firstly, we went up the tallest building, the lift seemingly taking ages, whilst business people chattered around us. The view from the top was immense. The sprawling mass of Tokyo is like nothing I have ever seen before, or ever believed really existed. It goes on as far as the eye can see, in every direction! Helicopters gather like flies over the city, whilst helipads are the only green space I could see. If you wanted to sit and enjoy this crazy, nauseating, impressive view then there is a cafe. I and my suitcae, however, chose to simply stand awestruck, frequently expressing how very, very big it all was. I guess, aprat from grabbing a helicopter, this is the only time I may see a view quite like this, and it really hammers home what a massive sprawling metropolis Tokyo is. Definately reccomend to do. Does not tak long and will no doubt blow you away!


Tsukiji 3 stars
Tsukiji is the home of Tokyo’s biggest fish market, and should definitely be given at least a half day of exploration. The first time I entered Tsukiji, I immediately noticed that fish was the main theme of the area. Sushi and Sashimi restaurants abound there, and everything is centered around a huge dockside quarter where the famous market exists. If you want the best experience at the Tsujiki fish market, go early. After around 10 am the market closes and only surrounding restaurants can hint at its wonder. Arrive at around 6 am and you’ll be treated to miles of fish carcasses, lobsters, crabs, octopi and sea urchins being sold to restaurateurs near and far. Many of the world’s top seafood companies import from this market, so visitors can finally see the 14 foot long tuna that they had pieces of for dinner the night before. While the smell may get the best of you, it’s worth it if you can find a farmer eager to tell his stories. While most fishermen don’t speak English, they can still show you the process in which they catch the fish, and may do so avidly. By starting in the center of the fish market, at tsukiji shijo off the asakusa subway line, or tsukiji off the hanzomo line, it can take a few hours to navigate your way out, and by then you’ll probably be pretty sick of fish for the rest of the day (though the day after you’ll crave it again, of course). Luckily, Japanese merchants have those thoughts covered, as the edge of Tsukiji is surrounded by bread, meat, and fruit carts and cafes that offer quality food at slightly raised prices. I highly suggest stopping for the melon bread and braised eel from the stands in this area, though the nearby convenience stores can sell you onigiri (rice balls) for cheap as well.


Asakusa 4 stars
Asakusa has been my favorite part of Tokyo on every visit, although I am a fan of cultural history. While you will not see as many neon lights littering the Asakusa streets, you will find the best cheap food and fun, and the most history in this temple-laden area. Most of the main streets in Asakusa lead to various temples and shrines, though the most famous strip is probably the one leading to Sensoji temple. Almost year-round you will find carts lining the streets on the road to Sensoji, selling everything from snow globes to authentic Japanese clothing. Food carts are the real reason to stop along the way. These carts offer chocolate rice crackers (which are rewarded according to your score in a pachinko-like marble game), candies, and even pigeon food (the streets are covered with them). The lunch carts even offer bargain prices on some of the best Okonomiyaki and Yakisoba in Tokyo, so make sure to bring along some cash. Once you actually reach Sensoji, there is a large incense burning pit and various donation pits to throw away your money into. While you will be urged to do so, there are so many money pits (grates for 5 yen offerings) in Tokyo, that you could easily spend 500 yen in a day if you aren’t careful. The temple itself is a beautiful example of early Japanese architecture, and worth exploring as far as your yen will take you. The outside of the temple is a great place to meet other travelers who are looking for old Japan and Japanese students looking to speak English, so feel free to be social! On the main streets of Asakusa, visitors can find lots of hidden bath houses for cheap. Just remember, don’t go bathing in Japan unless you don’t mind being naked in a room full of (the same sex at least) other people. The best entertainment Asakusa can offer is its karaoke scene. There is at least one karaoke studio on every block, and most offer an all-you-can-drink/all-you-can-eat deal for about ten dollars after the initial studio rental fees. I easily stayed up all night singing music from around the world for only 2000 yen (~$25.00). I think that Asakusa is the best place to set a base camp in Tokyo, as it’s the quietest at night, and surrounded by a great mix of history and technology.


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