Friday, January 03, 2014

My Tokyo Tips

My last post about Tokyo I promise, but I wanted to share some tips as it was my first trip to Japan and I really appreciated learning these.


I read a lot of guidebooks, Rough Guide, Frommer's but my hands down favourite was Frommers. I found it had the best maps, the best info and the best back history.


Yes I'm going to talk about toilets as they are very different from the typical one found in North America, one the flush handle is often not that obvious and some bathrooms have no toilet paper or no soap or no hand towels or hand dryer.

 This was the one in my hotel room, notice flush is not on the control panel, it was a handle mounted behind. This had heated seats (with temp control), bidet and shower option.
 When I was out and about I looked for department stores to use the bathroom, here I found the flush option on the wall, a normal handle or automated. Plus the option of music to hide any sounds you wanted to hide. I will miss those heated seats.
In the train station I did run into just water, I had brought anti bacterial hand gel with me but having a hand towel on me was also great as there were no hand drying options. You will find people on the street handing out samples of toilet paper - take one.


Taxis are expensive so keep them for short distances, when I landed the Airport Limousine Bus that went to my hotel wasn't running so I opted for the $248 fare to the hotel as I was so tired. There's also the train but depending on where you're staying you will most likely need to transfer trains. if you're hauling a big suitcase this could be awkward especially if you land during rush hour. My number one choice would be the airport bus at $30 each way. I would have tried the train if I hadn't been awake for 20 hrs.

For around Tokyo take the train, there train system is amazing. Maybe a little daunting at first but you'll get the hang of it fast trust me. Get the Pasmo card, it costs you a 5 yen deposit but you can load multiple denominations. I spent just over $40 on train fare in a week. You can return the card and get you money back minus the 5 yen deposit at train station offices. I kept mine as I'm definitely going back and they don't expire for 10 years. Note the Airport trains aren't covered by the Pasmo.

Train Behavior

Do as the natives do, put your phone on silent, speak quietly, don't eat on the train, don't blow your nose (sniffle only) yet yawning with your mouth open seems o.k

Stand on the left of the escalator and pass on the right.


Remember "Sumimasen" it means excuse me and works for asking for directions which could be charades or if you bump into someone. When ordering food there's either a display or a menu with pictures at the till so you can point and get your thoughts across. While there is some English don't assume everyone speaks even a little bit of it. I used "Sumimasen, eggo ka wakarimaska?" a lot which means "Excuse me, do you speak English."

People will bow when they greet you though a foreigner is not expected to bow a nod of the head at least shows respect.

No Tipping
Not at the restaurant or the cab driver or the baggage clerk. Handing over money is crass. If you do give money it's discreetly and in an envelope but certainly no one expects a tip. They take pride in their work and aim to please. The customer service is exceptional by the way.

Bring comfortable shoes
Tokyo is a walking city though I saw very few people in running shoes so I brought Merrels. Casual dress is fine (i.e jeans) but no one dresses like a schlep there.

Random Observations 

It's a fascinating culture, Tokyo has 38 million people but no one is rushed. Very rarely did I see anyone in a hurry and if I did they were catching a train. Revolving doors move slow.

Blowing your nose in public is a faux pas, yet yawing with your mouth open is totally fine.

Mind you I was there in winter but as I watched all the people going to and from work I noticed all the outerwear was black or beige which surprised me.

Make up is natural, I packed my make up bag and then noticed the majority of women wore a very natural minimal look.

I can't wait to go back

1 comment:

sherijung said...

Two more tips: you can get cash at ATMs located in all post offices (so you don't really have to order cash before you leave). Also, 7-11's have good quick food (all the quickie marts do actually) not at all like the dreck we have here.

You simply must see Tokyo Disney Sea next time, it's simply amazing.

And Kyoto!

I've enjoyed reading your trip report and living vicariously. I so want to go back.