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When In Tokyo…

Are you planning a trip to Tokyo? Here are some tips from us!

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Before you go… When to go?

we went beginning of May, and really loved it! It was very warm and sunny; and not yet too hot. I guess you are very likely to miss cherry blossoms (they were still up North, but not in the center of Japan). At the same time, cherry blossoms are so hard to predict!

Also note that if you really into climbing and walking Mt Fuji, it is open from July to September, so May is not a season when it is safe to hike (there may still be snow).

We planned a chill trip and did not intend on huge 2 day hike anyway, so we were good to go!

Practical things to plan before you go:

  • Internet: we recommend getting a e-sim card from Ubigi. I think most phones have e-sim now, otherwise you can get an adapter.. You buy e-sim when you are still at home, and second you land in Japan you immediately can start updating your family about adventures 😉 we got a plan with data only and no calling.
  • Qr code for check in. At the customs, you can either fill in a paper with details of your stay/arrival. But you can also fill the customs declaration online: https://www.vjw.digital.go.jp/main/#/vjwplo001 It was quite easy, and we took a screenshot of our qr code just in case. We added our flight number, hotels where we stayed, so there was no need to fill in a paper 🙂 Even though, if you do not understand how it works, you can just fill in a paper – plenty lay around near customs.
  • Send you baggage via a hotel. Are you planning to visit many places? Many hotels support sending of your language from hotel to hotel! I am not sure if many countries do it, so for us, since we had very short stay in Nara planned, we did not really need our language. So we could already plan to send our language to the next destination directly from Tokyo, and it would wait for us to arrive. Check if that could be an option for you.
  • Don’t forget that Japan uses different sockets (at least if you are from EU like us ;). We got japanese adaptors for cheap from a local store here in the Netherlands. And, think of a life hack – bring an extension cord with you, so even if you have only 1 or two adapters, suddenly one socket becomes three!
  • Add travel card to your phone! In Japan, with a travel card you can use all metro, busses, most funiculars, even get drinks from the vending machines! If you have an iPhone, you can get a card already when you are at home, using Apple Wallet. You can immediately add a bit of money, and easily see balance. Otherwise, of course, you can buy cards when you travel to Japan

Things we liked!

  • Free walking tour. We went for this one: Tokyo Free Walking Tour – Tokyo Localized. Our guide Hiroshi was very good and fun! Despite bad weather he showed us highlights of Tokyo, showed us how to make a wish at a shrine, explained how to wash hands before entering temples. and told a lot about history! Recommend! Great 101 into Japan!
  • After you explore Shibya crossing. Go Crazy on Takeshita Street after staring at Shibya crossing. It is insane crazy street, straight out of movies. There are a lot of strange shops, cat cafes, bunny cafes, strawberry candy, boba, steakers… we ate a small lunch at a Foodcout at Dream*Station JOL, since we wanted some peace. Might not be the fanciest place, but we saw a boy band playing in the foodcourt and it was so fun! It was a true “only in Japan” experience! There are also a lot of fun photoboothes in that area.
  • Play some games in Akhibara!! Not only Akhibara area has a lot, and I mean, A LOT of geeky/nerdy stuff, you can also play some games. We enjoyed arcades a lot. And we could enjoy them among locals!
  • Watch Kabuki Performance! We got a ticket here: /www.e-tix.jp/shochiku_makumi/en . Kabuki traditional theater, where up until now only men can perform! You can get ticket a day before, starting 12:00, so we had a timer set up. You can watch a full show, or just “one act show”. We went for 1 act – which was around 2 hours. This is exactly what we watched: Link. It was a very traditional Japanese story about young servant who saved his emperor. I also highly recommend getting a translation in your ear – extra 800 yen, but totally worth it, since it helps to understand what is going on XD
  • Visit Imperial Palace! You can sign up online, but all spots were taken (read here more). So we just went for a morning tour. We were at a location at 8:30, around 9 AM we got a paper. Do not forget to take your passport with you, since they check it as well! See more information on the website – there are two tours, one in the morning, and one in the afternoon: https://sankan.kunaicho.go.jp/multilingual/lang/en/information.html#sankan1 From what we saw, everyone in our queue got in, so.I think it is good, but I still recommend coming a bit earlier – to be sure. After a visit, swing by Chocolatier Palet D’or Tokyo. Very cozy cake place! And afterwards you can enjoy some Marunouchi – business district of Tokyo, and even see some mountain views from the top of skyscrapers. Imperial Palace gardens are free for a visit, in case you do not want to bother with waiting for the Imperial Palace.
we were on this square during the tour!
  • Yoyogi Park and Huge Meiji Jihu Shrine. A bit touristy but together with a parks makes a great day out!
  • Gotokuji Temple: Tokyo’s Maneki Neko ‘Lucky Cat’ Temple. Not very far from the centre of Tokyo, a temple filled with kittens! You can get a lucky cat for home, or leave one behind. Story says the one cat saved life of a samurai, so he then dedicated whole temple to cats.
  • Hike on top of Mount Takao for the best views : see more below in “Mt Fuji” section!
  • Eat sushi from a real conveyer belt sushi! We ate here: Oedo Shinjukuminamiguchiten. You can combine with shopping in Shinjuku area, and also after seeing Tokyo Government building! We LOVED IT!. Reasonable prices. Amazing and unforgettable! around same area you can go to Sekaido Shinjuku for art supplies – if you are a fun of creating art, like me!
  • eat local tokyo Pancake at Tsukishimamonja Moheji Uenobunten. Name of local pancakes is Monjayaki . You can do it right after enjoying a large market – Tsukiji Market. I personally was not a super huge fan of the pancake, but it is a fun think to try in Tokyo, We were told, that Monjayaki is like Okonomiyaki for Kyoto. I guess, you have to try both and compare 😉

Seeing Mt Fuji!

You can check on the website if Mt.Fuji is available for view: http://fuji-san.info

Attempt 1: See from Tokyo Metropolitan Government building. It is free and wait for the elevator is around 30 minutes. It is great. You can also get a stamp on top of Tokyo Metropolitan Building, if you are collecting Stamps!

it is great in person!

Attempt 2: Hike on top of Mount Takao for the best views! Mount Takao ( Takaosan) is one of the closest natural recreation areas to central Tokyo, offering beautiful scenery, an interesting temple and attractive hiking.

It is quite a steep hike, so you can also take a small ride. We hiked up, and we went with a ride down. Hike is intense but doable in 1,5 hours (depends how many rest stops you take). You also will see a beautiful temple on top, I actually liked it so much, my most favourite temple in Tokyo!

in full glory !

Fun Facts!

  • Toilets are real! I was overwhelmed at first about how to use them
  • People dress so cool! I LOVED japanese street fashion!

Food Places we liked and can recommend!

  • Asakusa: Cozy restaurant: Yamaka Sakaba https://maps.app.goo.gl/8suqhhaCQcccZiMJ7?g_st=ic. Drink a HighBall – whisky with soda! It is my favourite drink now ;)very cozy place, great view. Cards accepted . Recommend highball – local Japan drink, whiskey mixed with soda! Has English menu Cards accepted!
  • Another small Izakaya in Asakusa: Okamoto

these type of restaurant are called izakayas (Japanese drinking restaurants). You usually pay a fee for “sitting for two hours”, and you need to get 1 small snack and one drink per person.

  • Another Great FoodPlace in Asakusa: Isomaru Suisan. So fun! You can grill your own fish!!! So vibes! English menu – yes! ✅ Card payment – yes! ✅ Vibes! Check! ✅
  • Another tasty dinner in Asakusa: Sanchan Yokocho Cozy and friendly. Cards accepted. Menu only in Japanese but stuff is friendly! there we learned about small sake in glasses, and many people are collecting sake glasses!

Tokyo, it was fun!

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