Tokyo Travel Guide 2023 Area Guide, Things to do, Itinerary
The traditional cultures built up by our people in history, craftsman and modern artists, engineers and creators makes Tokyo attractive. And this elusive metropolis itself attracts lots of travelers from all over the world and disappears into the hustle and bustle of Tokyo for their reasons that brought them to Tokyo. But some might get lost here overwhelmed by the size of the city, busy streets and incomprehensive quietness that you haven't experienced. Welcome to Tokyo. When you visit Tokyo for the first time, you might be overwhelmed by
the side of the city, busy street and the cultures that you've never seen before. But with some knowledge and preparation, you can enjoy Tokyo 10 times more. Today I'd like to introduce you to Tokyo for the first time visitors.
Tokyo as a center of Japan started in 1603 when Ieyasu Tokugawa found in the center of politics in Edo which was the former name of Tokyo. After the tokuga family who ruled Edo period finished, the Imperial family moved from Kyoto to Tokyo and where the Edo castle was became Imperial Palace. And since then, Tokyo stayed as the capital of Japan. "Edo" changed its name to east of Kyoto which is "Tokyo" Tokyo has lost much of it over and over again through numerous fired earthquakes and Wars, but each time it was rebuilt and transformed into a larger city remembering its traditions and with a renewed culture. Now it's your turn to come and see Tokyo. Let's get an airplane ticket first.
There are several international airports in Japan from Hokkaido to Okinawa and Tokyo has a direct flights from major airports in the world. The airfare greatly depends on the time we fly and where you are flying from. When you look for tickets you can go to Google Flight and put Tokyo as your destination. Let's set Chicago as departure point. I see direct flights to Tokyo. The direct flights are ideal but you might be able to save some by choosing connection flight, either in Japan or the third countries. You might be able to consider low cost carriers too. Asian countries always had several LCC companies as options, but now Japan Airlines started a new Airline called Zip Air and it has a direct flight to United States too. Another Japanese
airline company ANA, they are starting a new long distance International LCC called Air Japan, planning flights to Australia and Southeast Asia. Tokyo has two international airports Narita and Haneda. While Narita is about one hour away from Tokyo City Center, Haneda is about 20 minutes and much closer. If you have a choice for the same price I'd recommend Haneda. Some airlines are serving both airports while some fly either to Narita or Haneda. However, Narita
has lots of ways to access the Tokyo City Center too. And in some areas in East Tokyo like Ueno can be actually more convenient from Narita. When you arrive in Japan after a long flight, you might want to go straight to your hotel but it might help to get some cash of Japanese Yen. Most of the places
accept credit cards nowadays, but you still might need some cash if you stay in Japan for a while. At the arrival gate there are some counters for major Japanese Banks. Their rate is actually not that bad and better than some shops in the city, so you might want to bring some cash from your country and exchange it for Japanese Yen here for your entire stay or next few days. Let me explain Japanese cash. This is 10 000 Yen bills, the biggest bill in Japan. you can get rid of two zeros and it's a little less than the 100 US dollars. This is the 5,000 Yen bill, and this is a thousand yen bill. 10 US Dollars or less than that. And the biggest coin is... it says 500.
5 US dollars or a little less than that. 100 Yen (and 10 Yen coins) you might use these the most often at the bending machine. In Japan, we still use cash so it might help to keep some cash with you. Now it's time to get to the Tokyo City Center. Narita Airport is a little far away from Tokyo City Center but there are several choices of transportations depending on your destination and budget. The most major way to get to the city center is the Narita Express by JR line which goes directly to Tokyo station, Shinjuku and Shibuya. It's more than three 3,000 Yen so a little expensive, but you can get a discount if
you get a round trip ticket that becomes about 2,000 Yen one way. You can also use JapanRail Pass. Another one is Skyliner by a private Railway called KEISEI, which takes you to Ueno area in about 40 minutes. This is the Keisei Ueno station it's a main terminal of the Keisei Skyliner. These two are reserved to see trains but both JR and Keisei operates regular trains which you can take for less cost. A convenient train for travelers is the Access Express leaves from Keisei station. That goes directly to Asakusa and makes some stops along the Asakusa line in Tokyo City center. If you are looking for Budget choices to get to Tokyo station, you can also consider TYO-NRT shuttle bus for 1300 yen. It runs almost every 10 minutes between Narita airport and Tokyo Station. The bus arrives at Shin-Nihonbashi exit of north of Tokyo Station. So after you arrive, you go straight
into the station. And it departs from Yaesu exit. In case you arrive at Haneda, you can take Tokyo Monorail to JR Hamamatsucho station and change to JR Yamanote line to different stations in Tokyo. You can also take the KEIKYU line which goes to Shinagawa station and goes directly into Subway Asakusa line in Tokyo. There are some hotels that have the direct limousine bus from the airport. Tokyo has many hotels from budget to luxury brands. There are international brands hotels such as Hilton, Hyatt and also Japanese luxury brand hotels. But in Japan there are some hotels that you might
not be familiar with, such as business hotels and capsule hotels. You see many business hotels in the city center and the majority of them have single rooms with about 10 to 11 square meters which is around 100 square feet. Considering the major motels in America like Motel 6 and Days Inn have 300 square feet (28sq m), you see how small it is. But it's usually clean, functional and has laundry machines. So it's convenient choice for solo budget travelers who needs a private room. The hotel price in Tokyo tends to be cheaper than other major cities of the world, but when you book business hotels make sure the room size is okay with you and also book non-smoking room unless you smoke. And first of all, you might want to make sure that you have your own room and bathroom.
Sometimes capsule hotels will shared bathroom comes up in the search result. In case you use a train and have suitcases, I recommend you to choose a hotel near the station hopefully within 5 minutes walk. Japan use adapter called type A so make sure you have the converter if you use different types in your country. In case you go sightseeing before you head to your hotel the most of the major stations has coin lockers that you can pay with the IC card or cash.
Green sign which means it's open. This is really big that you can put suitcases. This one is 700 yen until 2 am. So at 2 am, it will be charged again. There are very small one like this too. haha.
Where you should stay in Tokyo and which area has what kind of hotels? Let's see in the next section. Central Tokyo has 23 cities called "ku" but you'll find the most of the hotels located in about 10 cities in the center. Let me explain Tokyo's areas by the station name not by city name which is easier to understand. When you see the map of Tokyo, there are big green area in the middle.
That is the Imperial Palace. Right on the east side of the palace is a Tokyo Station where shinkansen also called bullet train leaves to different parts of Japan. Around Tokyo station is a business district and also has major shopping districts of Ginza & Nihonbashi on the east. This area has many luxury brand hotels and small sized business hotels. Not much feeling of sightseeing but convenient place for shopping and also to take shinkansen to other parts of Japan.
another thing you might notice in Tokyo map is the big circle of train. This is JR Yamanote line with green color. It's a ground level or elevated trains. Not Subway. Most of the major terminals of Tokyo are along this circle line. Let's go up from Tokyo Station to the north. Two stations
north is Akihabara, which is famous for shopping heaven for various hobbies such as anime and gaming. One station north of Akihabara is Okachimachi. Between Okatchimachi and Ueno station is busy street of Ameyoko. Right next to the busy street, there is a large Ueno Park.
Ueno Park is a home of zoo, many temples and shrines, and museums, which are the one of the highlight of tourist destinations in Tokyo. If you get off the JR lines and take Metro Ginza Line to east, there is a town of Asakusa along the Sumida River. Asakusa is center of tourism in Tokyo. There is Sensoji Temple and many streets with souvenir shops. There are a lot of shops where you can try kimono too.
In this part of Tokyo, you feel the traditional side of Tokyo. On the east side of Tokyo, there are many small business hotels and hostels so it might be easier to find a cheaper hotels here. On the other side of the Sumida River, you see the Tokyo Sky Tree, which has the highest observation in Tokyo. I'm going over each topic little by little in this video so if you are interested in the topics and need to know the details please check the videos from the past library or videos I'll post in the future. Let's go down the Sumida River all the way to Tokyo Bay. The Bay Area is a modern area with a nice view of Tokyo's skyline. Odaiba is an area by the artificial
Beach and famous for the Gundam statue. This place is connected with the Tokyo City Center by "Yurikamome" an automated train system and the view from the Yuri kamome is also one of the attraction of Tokyo. The large area in the city center is called "Minato". It's where the Tokyo Tower is. Minato means port and doesn't have a station called "Minato". It has many stations such as Shimbashi, Hamamatsucho and Roppongi. Mainly Minato is a business district and luxury condos, so not many touristy spots. But the tallest building in Japan as of 2023 is being built in Azabudai and it's going to have a new upgraded teamLab's exhibitions when it's done this year or next year.
You see many luxury hotels here especially on the higher floors of tall buildings. Now let's move to the west. The west side of Tokyo has several major train terminals and many private railways extend to the suburbs, that brings numerous passengers to their terminals every day. Shibuya has been the leader of the trend in Tokyo and the people who love the fashion and the new things goes to Shibuya.
Also in a walking distance from Shibuya, there is an area called Harajuku. Harajuku is also known for the Takeshita street that is a popular among young crowds. Harajuku is also a home of Meiji Jingu shrine. The west side of the Harajuku station is covered by the large forest of the shrine. Right north of the Harajuku is Shinjuku. Shinjuku is where the Tokyo Metropolitan government is and another center of Tokyo. Shinjuku station has a Guinness record of the biggest number of passengers per
day in the world. The whole station is going to be rebuilt for tall buildings and shopping centers for the next 10 years or so, so we have to wait a bit to fully enjoy the Shinjuku station. Around the large terminal of Shinjuku, Shinjuku has various different types of cities that all different kinds of people gathers. The west side of Shinjuku station is a business district including Tokyo's Metropolitan government building which is a popular spot among International travelers for the observation deck. Shinjuku is also famous for night town of Kabukicho, shopping
area of Shinjuku Sanchome and Nichome that you see LGBT scenes, and north of the town - Shin Okubo is known for the Korean shops and restaurant. For the size of the city Tokyo is unlike other cities in other countries, Tokyo is very single ethnic place and but Shin Okubo has lots of foreign stores like a Korean Chinese and if you miss some ethnic food, probably Shin Okubo is a good place to visit. South side of Shinjuku is blocked by a large greenery of Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden that you can see many flowers. Shinjuku offers variety of scenes for every ages, genders and nationalities. when it comes to the safety, there aren't any areas or direction in Tokyo that I can come up with as a place you should avoid... as long as you keep your basic sense of alert. However there are some areas like Kabukicho, Ikebukuro and some back streets of Shibuya that are usually area with lots of services and hotels or adult fun, you might see some men talking to you either trying to sell you something or guiding you to the restaurant. Do not follow them no matter how lonely you are and how hungry you are. Unfortunately there are people who don't care
even if they ruin your travel memory. Now it's time to leave your room and get around the city. Trains are the most convenient way to get around Tokyo. In central Tokyo, the train you use the most often is JR lines and two Subway companies TOEI and Tokyo Metro.
Let me explain some convenient lines to get around Tokyo City Center. JR trains are mainly running the ground level and elevated tracks. The circle of Yamanote Line is big, so it takes more than 30 minutes if you try to go to Shinjuku from Tokyo Station, but JR Chulo line - the orange one bring you to Shinjuku in 13 minutes. If you need to go to stations in between, you can take the local train which is yellow. It doesn't go to Tokyo station. It goes straight east to Akihabara and father. Next one you use often is probably subways. A major line that you might use is Toei Asakusa line which
consists part of the route connecting Narita and Haneda airports. This "TOEI" means operated by Tokyo Government Right under the Tokyo's government building in Shinjuku is Tochomae station. From here TOEI Oedo Line is making a big loop all over Tokyo. This one is convenient especially when you go to the downtown side of Tokyo. For Tokyo Metro, Ginza Line that is connecting Shibuya and Asakusa is probably
the most convenient one for travelers. This is the oldest subway in Japan and it connects major stations such as Ginza and Ueno too. In addition to these, JR offers lots of other lines connecting with suburbs and there are also lots of other private railways from major terminals such as Shinjuku and Shibuya. So when you take day trips, you might use these lines too. So... now we know there are many different
companies operating trains in Tokyo but the problem is they all have a different fare systems. It's common to use IC cards. IC card is a card you can pre-charge and use it to get on trains. In Tokyo, it's called Suica if issued buy JR, and Pasmo if we issued by other train companies. Initial deposit is 500 yen and you can top up anytime at the machines. Only cash can be used to purchase and charge IC cards. You can use Suica and Pasmo in any other
major cities in Japan to get on trains and buses, and also at convenience stores across Japan. Non-Japanese passport holders can purchase "Welcome Suica" at train stations in the airport or certain stations in Tokyo. The difference from regular Suica is that you don't need 500 yen deposit but it expires in 28 days (and non-refundable). If you are visiting Japan someday again, you can get a regular IC card.
IC cards can be only purchased by Cash of Japanese Yen but if you are using Apple pay or Google pay you can install Suica or Pasmo into them and have it automatically charged from your credit card. This way you don't need cash and you don't need deposit unlike the physical cards. Some information say foreign issued credit card doesn't work, so please let me know in the comment if you get a chance to try them. IC card doesn't have much discount function, but if you plan to use Subways many times, you can consider the subway path that you can use for both TOEI and Tokyo Metro .
Not for JR or other trains. If you purchase 72 hours ticket it will be 500 yen per 24 hours, so you can save if you use at least three times a day. You can purchase regular tickets too. In case you purchase a ticket from Shinjuku to Shibuya you can find the destination and the price above the ticket machine and purchase a ticket for that price. Tokyo can be an accessible destination for travelers with mobility challenges. Many stations and facilities are wheelchair accessible however some older buildings and areas may not be made for wheelchairs and the streets can be very crowded with people and bikes parked on the street.
So Tokyo can be a good destination but some preparation and researches on the accessibility of the specific sites you plan to visit is recommended before your trip. Now you are a master of getting around Tokyo. Let's see how you can get the most of the city. See the traditional and vivid streets in Sensoji Temple and Ueno Park is a highlight of Tokyo's travel. It's popular not just among the international tourists people in Tokyo also loves to go strolling and do shopping there.
If you are visiting only Tokyo in your trip to Japan and like to explore more traditional sceneries, there are many small temples such as Gotokuji and Kuhonbutsu, that are getting popular recently. They are recommended for someone who wants to avoid touristy spots or second time visitors to Tokyo especially. Another highlight is the contrast of the serene Meiji Shrine and busy streets of Harajuku that is busy with young crowds. When the sun set, let's walk to Shibuya to see the Neons and crowds of Tokyo. The Shibuya's intersection in front of Shibuya station is often seen as a symbol of Tokyo
and more than anywhere in the city, you might feel that you are in Tokyo. When you want to take a rest, you can go up to the Miyashita Park - an elevated Park above shopping center. The new spots in Shibuya is "Shibuya Sky" the open aired deck is good to see Mount Fuji in the sunny day time. Tokyo has a lot more other view spots. The major one is Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Skytree and Tokyo City View in Roppongi. Add each of them have different views from different locations of Tokyo.
The highest observatories in Tokyo is Sky Tree. The highest point is 400 meters above ground and as it's located in the North East edge of Tokyo, the south west side of view is especially spectacular. You can see the whole Tokyo in one glance. These observations are expensive too, so you can decide which to go depending on your budget and preferences. There are many museums in Tokyo too,
but you might want to see something very Japanese while you're in Tokyo. The National museums in Ueno is a must visit museum if you are interested in the statue and art. You cannot miss Ukiyoe Museums such as Ota Memorial Museum of Art in the heart of Harajuku and Sumida Hokusai Museum Japan has several camera companies such as Sony, Canon, Fuji, Nikon. Shinagawa has Nikon museum. If you like camera it's an interesting place that you can see about their history and technology.
In Ginza, you can also find one of the Japanese watch brand's museum - Seiko Museum. You can watch the history of the company and lots of stories about their technology of watches. Ginza also has other company's shops and exhibition places such as Yamaha and Sony if you are interested. In Japan museums are closed on Mondays unless holiday so you might want to check the calendar before you go it's closed on Tuesday if Monday is a holiday. On the way to Tsukiji from Ginza, you'll see Kabukiza Theater. Kabuki is a traditional Japanese performance art and all roles of men and women in the stories are performed by all male Kabuki actors. It's an interesting activity to add to your itinerary in Tokyo.
For the ticket, you can go to the basement 2nd floor's ticket counter and ask if the ticket is available for that day. There is no digital boards about vacancy, but they speak fluent English. Today I got a ticket for 3,500 yen and this is the cheapest ticket in the Kabukiza Theater.
They used to have a ticket for seeing just one scene but that is canceled and hasn't resumed. Thinking of traditional performance Sumo is also a popular venue. In Tokyo they have the match in January, May and September. You need to get a ticket in advance. In Harajuku, you see trash boxes like this... * trash. not trush*
but it's very unusual for Japanese Street. In Tokyo you don't really see much of trash box like this so it might help to carry around the trash bag like this and bring trash back to your hotel. Even though Tokyo has a modern and traditional places to see for travelers, adding a day trip to suburb might add diversified experience and memory for your trip.
There are many destinations to visit but if it's your first time to visit Tokyo I recommend Kamakura and Hakone or Kawaguchiko near Mount Fuji. Nikko is also a good place for a day or a one night trip. The fun part of the trip is not just sightseeing. Tokyo is known for its delicious and diverse dining scene from Sushi to Ramen and lots of sweets. Foods to try in
Tokyo in my choices are Sushi, Yakitori, Ramen, Tempura, Tonkatsu, Soba and sweets like Anmitsu. There are a lot more choices. Even just for sushi, the quality varies from $1 per plate Sushi shops to high-end restaurant that charge hundreds dollars per person.
Also, there were many stores closed due to the pandemic so I recommend you to check the Google review always and reorder the reviews from the newest, to find the latest information. In the walking distance from Ginza, there is an area called Tsukiji. The Tsukiji Fish Market was moved to the new location in Toyosun in October 2018. The new market called Toyosu Market is located about 2.3 kilometers Southwest of Tsukiji site. The outer market around old Tsukiji site
are still operating and it's a great place to try some street foods and buy souvenirs. It's in walking distance from Ginza so you can drop by easily and enjoy the atmosphere. Some shops are a little touristy and not a place to look for high quality or reasonable foods, but the fun place to walk around and see different foods. If you are looking for difficult souvenirs for Tokyo I recommend you to get in a tourist area such as Asakusa and Harajuku. If you are interested in anime, do not miss Akihabara. Tokyo Station also has Tokyo Characters Street where you can find many good shops. The most major shopping area
of Tokyo is Ginza. There are major department stores and both Western and Japanese brands have their Flagship shops in Ginza. Ginza is also a good place for reasonable shopping for souvenirs. Each region of Japan has a special local foods. And regions offices are setting satellite shops in Tokyo. Many of them are in Ginza. This Kotsu Kaikan building right in front of Yurakucho station has shops from two most popular regions Okinawa and Hokkaido shops. This area also has Ishikawa, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Kochi and lots of other shops that you can buy local foods. Some shops also offer quick meals too. So it's fun event just to look around.
I hope you could capture the image of Tokyo sightseeing. Depends on how much you like to see in Tokyo, the days you need in Tokyo changes. It might take time to move from places to places, so it might help you to understand what is where. Also some places like Shibuya is better in the evening some places like Shinjuku Gyoen has to be in the daytime. While Asakusa are better in the morning to see the busy streets, but also enjoy night stroll with less people, which can be very memorable.
When you're planning your trip it might help to put a priority on where you like to go and what time you like to be there and other places can be options... for when you have time and energy left. Considering the safety and lots of signs in English, it's an ideal destination for the beginner of the international travels too. The lack of English communication can be tough but that makes you feel that you are in another world in the Far East... I hope this video helped you find
your favorite spot and capture the image of Tokyo trip. It's always helpful to do research and play ahead to make sure that your trip plan aligned with the expectations and interest. if you have been to Tokyo before please share your thoughts and experience with others in the comments below.
Not everything might be pleasant experience in Tokyo but you don't have to like everything about Japan. Please do not let your mistakes or some negative experience occupy your travel memories. It's important to enjoy your time for you, and for your family or friend that you are with.