When I imagined Tokyo, I thought of chaos beneath bright neon lights, trains jammed with commuters and ‘hello kitty’ paraphernalia sold in every shop. Though there are elements of this throughout the city, Tokyo, is a surprisingly calm and orderly home to more than 13 million people.
After travelling Japan, I realised there was a protocol and sacred decorum the Japanese live by; patience, lining up and everyday generosity is prevalent and vital to their daily lives. I found there was much to learn from the Japanese. It was an incredible culture to observe.
This city is busy but not out of control, the neon lights glow in the neighbourhoods of Shinjuku and Shibuya while teenagers dressed in sailor moon costumes hang in the ‘cool’ spots of quirky Harajuku.
Tokyo is the main springboard for most travellers, the ski fields are a train or bus from the city and Imperial style Kyoto is 3.5 hours by bullet train. There are several essential day trips from Tokyo such as Nikkō, Mt Fuji, Daibutsu and Tōshō-gū.
Two to three days in Tokyo would be the minimum amount of time I would suggest spending.
Nikkō was a perfect day trip from Tokyo be sure to add an extra day if you intend to visit Nikkō. If you were interested in booking a group tour or going solo to visit Mt Fuji and Lake Ashi as a return trip from Tokyo I would add two extra days.
Honestly, any less than a week in the entire country and you will miss most of what Japan is all about.
WHERE TO STAY?
Make sure you book accommodation near a metro station. Tokyo’s metro system seemed incredibly daunting at first glance but I found it to be organised and straight forwarded after my first brave attempt. There are English-language signs and directions in the station and on the platforms.
Shinjuku and Shibuya are the electrifying centre of the city and where I enjoy staying the most. I felt incredibly safe in Tokyo and Japan as whole, I spent hours exploring the streets and shopping malls at all times of the day.
Personally I liked Shinjuku the most for the hustle and bustle it possesses, though it is considered to be more of a financial district. The Shinjuku train station is the hub of the city’s train system and will allow you direct access to all areas of the city.
Other suburbs to look at are; Ginza, a slightly more ‘upmarket’ neighbourhood and home to the famous Tsukiji Fish Market, if you want to be in the nightclub district head to Roppongi.
REMEMBER… Tokyo is an enormous city similar to London and New York, I personally believe it is worth spending more on accommodation for a convenient and central location rather than spending hours travelling on public transport.
MY TOP FIVE SIGHTS IN TOKYO
Emperor Meiji was considered the first emperor of ‘Modern Japan’ who created a new school system and transformed Japan from a Feudal system to a ‘Westernised Power House’.
The Meiji Shrine is located adjacent to the Yoyogi Park which is also worth a visit, the Harajuku district of Shibuya is a walk away from here as well.
‘Harajuku style’ has become a fashion style of its own, you will find groups of teenagers dressed in colourful and elaborate costumes along Takeshita Dori (street) emulating the popular anime and manga characters.
Arrive early in the morning, around 5am or earlier to line up at the Osakana Fukyu Centre at the Kachidoki Gate. Only 120 visitors will be admitted in two groups to the morning auctions. It is a first-come, first-serve system.
If you don’t fancy getting up that early or you miss seeing the auction there are plenty of restaurants and food bars to sample the fresh seafood in the outer market.
NOTE: Please be aware there is talk of the Tsukiji fish market moving to the Toyosu area for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games. I will keep this page updated as best I can as these changes happen but if you know more information please leave a comment at the bottom of the page.
TIP: There is a great view of the crossing from the Starbucks at this junction, the view has made it one of the busiest Starbucks outlets in the world.
MY BEST ADVICE…
You can buy a 7, 14 or 21 consecutive day pass for unlimited journeys on the networks, these passes work like Europe’s Eurail system.
For current information, prices and dates, click here to visit the official website of the JR Rail Pass.
Japan can easily be travelled by solo women of all ages.
It is protocol and respectful to remove your shoes when entering a house, some hotel rooms and some temples and shrines. There will be signs marking when this is required and there are cubbyholes at temples for your shoes.
When I arrived at my hotel room in Tokyo there was a pair of ‘indoor’ shoes placed just inside the threshold of my room.
If you are walking into a room with a Tatami mat, take your indoor shoes off and leave them at the entrance of the room.
I found the Japanese to be some of the kindest people I have met on my travels, most speak English or attempt to do their very best to help you out.
They don’t always read English well so it’s best to have the hotel or train station you are seeking written in Japanese characters to save you a lot of time and hand gestures!
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So who am I…? Hi! My name is India.
I am a nomadic Australian who has wandered the world full time exploring over 60 countries and 5/7 continents.
After ten years on the road, I have launched my own website – Travelling Notebook – to share the knowledge I have gained on the road and the images I have collected over the years with fellow adventurers. Keep reading…
I am a freelance travel writer, photography and videographer, based in London. If you need specific travel advice or would like to collaborate please send an email my way!
Always say yes to adventure!