Tokyo attractions

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About

I visited Japan in Feb 2017 for 10 days for work. I was to visit the Tokyo Google office to work with an incredible team there, but I was lucky that Monday is a US public holiday, so I could fly from San Francisco to Tokyo on Saturday morning, arriving Sunday night.... then stay over the weekend through to Tuesday 5pm, and arrive back in the US 9am Tuesday (before I left) so that I could go straight to work. No vacation days spent.

It was actually a productive trip work-wise, but I also got in some great sight-seeing thanks to some help from old friends and new.  :)

There advice was so good I thought: heck, I'll just copy it below.


Kevin Allekotte: Best 20 daytrips and weekend getaways around Tokyo

Kevin from Google Japan is an incredible photographer and travel enthusiast who created an amazing graphic website of Tokyo day trips (with his own photos).

Screenshot kevins tokyo site.png


Big Jon: Japan Trip Advice

Big John's an amazing friend of mine who married another incredibly friend of mine, a Japanese girl called Satomi. Ironically Jon seemed to have the better advice, versus his wife - who grew up there. Tut tut Satomi.  :-P

I'm going to just paste John's advice verbatum from his Google doc.


So here's a map...

Map tokyo.png

And another...

Map tokyo closer.png

So... with only 3 days, getting out of Tokyo is a bit unrealistic. It's basically a few hours by train to get to other cities on bullet-trains (shinkansen) and will cost you about $100-150 bucks each way (I think from memory). Likely places to go besides Tokyo would be Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and Hiroshima. No saying it's impossible to land in Tokyo and go from there but if you need to get back to Tokyo to fly out it gets a bit unrealistic as you'll lose a day in travel back n forth between towns.

BTW: Google maps public transport navigation works for Japan...

There are a lot of things you could do in Tokyo. Tokyo does get a bit overwhelming after a while in my opinion (city, city and more city). Certainly you could fill 3 days in Tokyo and surrounds if you had to. I honestly find the little stuff entertaining in Japan (i.e. go to a supermarket, find a shopping centre, find public places where there are concerts and stuff, marvel at the lack of graffiti).

Some Rules/Things to Know

  • Japanese people will rarely say “no". They will say things like “that might be difficult", “I'm not sure" or will suck air through their teeth which will all mean “no".
  • Trains are pretty easy to master. You can just buy a cheap ticket and there is a machine to tell you and let you pay the difference when you get to the other end. Really not that hard to figure out.
  • Trains don't run all night. They stop at midnight. After that there are no more trains... Catching a cab, walking or staying out are your options. Cabs are expensive.
  • Japan has a cash culture rather than card culture. You can't use credit cards in a lot of places (almost all places). Take cash. VISA was more readily available than Mastercard from memory. Don't trust that you can just withdraw money from anywhere with a foreign card. Citibank branches are a good bet.
  • Sort out your accommodation as quick as you can. They don't like surprises. If you're going by yourself you should try find a backpackers. You'll meet other people and might be able to go on adventures together.
  • Accommodation can get expensive... and is quite small. You may not have a shower to yourself.
  • Onsen (hot bath) wise... If you want to get naked in front of other men then basically the rules are to wash completely before getting into the actual hot bath. There are showers/stools for this near the actual hot bath. Meh... ask Satomi... I haven't gotten the courage to do this yet.
  • Gaijin means foreigner. You are a gaijin.
  • There is a lack of bins on the street. Take your rubbish with you or look near vending machines where there is usually a bin.
  • Tattoos usually mean they're a bad person... really. Not always but this is mostly true.
  • They don't have much milk with coffee in Japan.

Basic Things you Have to Do

  • Buy beer in a vending machine...
  • Go check out a 7-11 shop and see what you can get there (I always find this interesting when I go there)
  • Pachinko - Basically Japanese version of Pokies... it's gambling. Don't play but just go into one and see how stupidly noisy it is)

Things to Do/See in Tokyo

I haven't done all of these but it's a list and gives you a starting point.

  • Weird Stuff
    • Akihabara - This is a suburb that's full of anime, maid cafes, video game arcades and just basically anything odd.
    • Owl cafe/Cat cafe/etc - Do some googling. You'll find them.
    • Burlesque Tokyo
    • Robot Restaurant
    • Madame Tussauds Tokyo
    • Finger Puppets Shokichi
    • Harajuku - This is where people dress up in weird outfits. There is an awesome old temple here as well Meiji Jingu.
    • Mario Cart - Found this myself, looks fun.
    • Tsukiji Fish Market - Haven't been but apparently it's pretty cool. This is where the millions of people's fish supply is hauled into the city. It would be a very early morning to get here in time for tours/etc.
  • Restaurant
    • The Lockup (a workmate vouches for it... themed restaurant)
  • Night Club
    • Club Atom (a workmate vouches for it... foreigners and single people. Big nightclub)

Kyoto

Think temples and tradition... and that's Kyoto. Beautiful place. A bit slower than Tokyo/etc... but it is temple, temple, temple. There are monkeys on a hill. There are geisha girls. There is a bamboo forest. Visually gorgeous place.

Osaka

Comedians, rough people and takoyaki. I was sick when I was here so I don't really remember much.

Nara

Old capital of Japan. Lots of parks and deer. The world's biggest wooden structure is here (and it's awesome). Slower place. I wanted to spend more time exploring this place.

Hiroshima

Basically a city revolving around "no nukes" since it was nuked in WW2. There is some haunting stuff here to see and experience. If anyone ever says “nuke ‘em" they've not been here. Humbling and sobering. I was near tears at one point. Other than that... not much going on here. Quiet place.




What I Actually Did!

After seeing Kevin's site I decided I wanted to do some shrines, so I took the weekend up to Nikko. Didn't quite make the snow monkeys, but lots of temples, great food, Kegon Falls, Lake Chūzenji, Nikko Park Lodge Mountain Side, bullet train, Onsen bath and traditional Japanese room at this place in Kinugawa above the angry ghost river (and beside some wonderfully creepy abandoned hotels perked on cliffs) and Edo Wonderland (theme park based on early Tokyo) to learn about Japanese culture and throw some ninja stars (lots of fun)!

I might try to document more later.

Around Tokyo itself I went to a fun Cat Cafe in Shibuya with workmates, Korean BBQ, giant Kaminarimon lanterns and fun karaoke experience in Asakusa, workmate drinking and salsa dancing in Roppongi (only two small places really Salsa Caribe Latin Bar - tiny and bit $ lessons and El Cafe Latino) and a free salsa lesson within Google, plus their amazing food and a work party at a car showroom.  :)

Luckily the Google office itself is over 40 levels high so I was able to see Mount Fuji and not both with any other tall buildings. On my last day I looked at the The East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, which was a lot of walking before catching a 1000 yen (~$10 USD) bus to Narita International Airport (NRT). I actually arrived at the other airpot, Haneda Airport (HND), which I would generally recommend as closer to the action.

Really I wish I had been able to stay a full vacation week just in Tokyo. So many fun things Jon recommended I missed out on.... if I had even a few more hours I would check out an Owl Cafe and there's a Hedgehog & bunny cafe only 5 minutes walk from the Google office I missed out on!


Some Random Japanese Words

Peng taught me some words I hope I remember... spelt out phonetically.

  • Excuse me - sue-me-my-sin (think: sue me for my sins)
  • Delicious - oi-shee
  • Cold - sa-moo-eee
  • Thank you kindly - origato go-zi-mus
  • Cheers - do-mo
  • Delicious thanks - got-cha-so-summer-dish-stop
  • How much? -  ?


Links


Acknowledgements: Jonathan Bekkers for his great "Noske's Japan Trip" guide he typed for me, Kevin Allekotte for his guide, and Peng Wang for her terrific help and patience teaching me just a few words of Japanese!  :)