Planning a trip to Tokyo can be overwhelming, especially if you are unfamiliar with the city’s culture and customs. With so much to see and do, it can be challenging to know where to start. That’s why the Ultimate Long Form Travel Guide for Tokyo is here to help.
This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about planning a trip to Tokyo. From the best time to visit and where to stay, to the top attractions and hidden gems, this guide has got you covered.
Whether you’re a first-time Tokyo newbie or a seasoned veteran, we hope this Travel Guide for Tokyo is the ultimate resource for planning an unforgettable trip to this vibrant city. So sit back, relax, and let this guide take you on a journey through the sights, sounds, and flavors of Tokyo.
Getting to Know Tokyo
Tokyo is a vibrant and bustling city that is known for its unique blend of traditional Japanese culture and modern technology. With so much to see and do, it can be overwhelming for first-time visitors to plan their trip. This section will provide an overview of Tokyo and help you get acquainted with the city.
Geography: Tokyo is located on the eastern coast of Honshu, the main island of Japan. The city is divided into 23 special wards, each with its own distinct character and attractions. The wards are further divided into smaller neighborhoods, each with its own unique charm.
Climate: Tokyo has a humid subtropical climate, with hot and humid summers and mild winters. The best time to visit Tokyo is during the spring (March to May) or autumn (September to November) when the weather is mild and pleasant.
Transportation: Tokyo has an extensive public transportation system that includes trains, subways, buses, and taxis. The most convenient way to get around the city is by train or subway, as they are fast, efficient, and cover most areas of the city. Visitors can purchase a prepaid transportation card called Suica or Pasmo, which can be used on all forms of public transportation.
Language: The official language of Japan is Japanese, and while English is widely spoken in tourist areas, it is always helpful to learn a few basic phrases before your trip. Japanese people are known for their hospitality and will appreciate any effort made to speak their language.
Currency: The currency in Japan is the yen, and most places do not accept credit cards or foreign currencies. It is recommended to exchange money at the airport or a bank before venturing out into the city.
Culture: Tokyo is a city steeped in tradition, and visitors should be respectful of Japanese customs and etiquette. Bowing is a common form of greeting, and it is important to remove shoes before entering certain establishments, such as temples and traditional Japanese inns.
By familiarizing yourself with Tokyo’s geography, climate, transportation, language, currency, and culture, you will be better prepared to plan your trip and make the most of your time in this fascinating city.
When to Visit Tokyo
Tokyo is a year-round destination, but the best time to visit depends on one’s preferences and interests. Here are some factors to consider when planning a trip to Tokyo:
A Quick Note On The Japan Rail Pass Price Hike
The price of the wonderful Japan Rail Pass is going up a massive 62% in October but there’s still time to lock in the old rates if you’re quick. Klook still offers the old prices so if you buy before September 30th you can travel with the old prices until December 28th, 2023.
The four seasons in Tokyo offer distinct experiences. Spring (March to May) is a popular time to visit because of the cherry blossom season, which usually peaks in late March to early April. Summer (June to August) can be hot and humid, but it’s also festival season with events like the Sumida River Fireworks Festival and the Asakusa Samba Carnival. Fall (September to November) is another popular time to visit because of the colorful autumn foliage. Winter (December to February) can be cold, but it’s also a festive time with illuminations and traditional New Year’s celebrations.
Crowds and Prices
Peak tourist season in Tokyo is during the cherry blossom season in spring and the autumn foliage season in fall. This is when crowds are the largest, and prices for accommodations and transportation are the highest. Summer can also be busy because of the festivals. Winter is the least busy time, but prices may still be high during the New Year’s period.
Events and Festivals
There are many events and festivals that take place in Tokyo throughout the year. Some of the most popular ones include:
- Cherry blossom season (late March to early April)
- Sumida River Fireworks Festival (late July)
- Asakusa Samba Carnival (late August)
- Tokyo Game Show (late September)
- Tokyo International Film Festival (late October)
- Tokyo Comic Con (late November)
The weather in Tokyo is generally mild, but it can be hot and humid in summer and cold in winter. Spring and fall offer the most comfortable temperatures, but they can also be unpredictable with occasional rain and wind. It’s always a good idea to check the weather forecast before traveling to Tokyo and pack accordingly.
Transportation in Tokyo
Tokyo is a bustling metropolis with a highly developed transportation system that makes it easy to get around the city. Here are some of the most convenient and efficient transportation options in Tokyo:
The subway is the most popular mode of transportation in Tokyo, with 13 lines and over 300 stations. The Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway are the two operators of the subway system. The subway is fast, reliable, and affordable, with fares starting at 170 yen for a single ride. Visitors can purchase a prepaid IC card, such as Suica or Pasmo, which can be used on all modes of transportation in Tokyo.
Bus is another convenient option for traveling around Tokyo. There are two types of buses in Tokyo: local buses and express buses. Local buses are slower and make frequent stops, while express buses are faster and make fewer stops. The fare for a local bus ride starts at 210 yen, while the fare for an express bus ride starts at 1,000 yen. Visitors can also use their prepaid IC card on buses.
The train system in Tokyo is extensive, with several train lines operated by different companies. The Japan Railways (JR) is the largest train operator in Tokyo, with several lines that connect Tokyo to other parts of Japan. Visitors can purchase a Japan Rail Pass, which allows unlimited travel on JR trains for a set period of time. However, the pass is only available to foreign tourists and must be purchased before arriving in Japan.
Taxis are widely available in Tokyo, but they are also the most expensive mode of transportation. Taxis in Tokyo start at 410 yen for the first 1.052 kilometers and then increase by 80 yen for every additional 237 meters. Visitors should also be aware that traffic in Tokyo can be heavy, which can increase the cost of a taxi ride.
Bicycles are a popular mode of transportation in Tokyo, especially for short distances. Visitors can rent bicycles from several rental shops located throughout the city. However, visitors should be aware that Tokyo’s streets can be busy and crowded, and cycling can be dangerous for inexperienced riders.
Accommodation in Tokyo
When planning a trip to Tokyo, one of the most important decisions you will make is where to stay. Tokyo is a bustling city with many different neighborhoods, each with its own unique character and attractions. Here are some tips to help you find the perfect accommodation for your trip.
1. Location: When choosing where to stay in Tokyo, consider which neighborhoods you want to explore. If you want to experience the hustle and bustle of the city, consider staying in Shinjuku or Shibuya. If you’re looking for a quieter atmosphere, try the residential neighborhoods of Setagaya or Meguro.
2. Type of Accommodation: Tokyo offers a wide range of accommodation options, from budget-friendly hostels to luxury hotels. If you’re on a budget, consider staying in a capsule hotel or a guesthouse. If you’re looking for a more traditional experience, try a ryokan, a Japanese-style inn.
3. Booking: Tokyo is a popular tourist destination, so it’s important to book your accommodation well in advance, especially during peak travel seasons. Many hotels and hostels offer online booking options, which can make the process easier.
4. Amenities: When choosing your accommodation, consider what amenities you need. Some hotels offer free breakfast or laundry facilities, while others have on-site restaurants or fitness centers. Make a list of the amenities that are important to you, and use that to guide your search.
5. Transportation: Tokyo has an extensive public transportation system, so consider how you will get around the city when choosing your accommodation. Look for hotels or hostels that are close to subway or train stations, or that offer shuttle services to popular tourist destinations.
Overall, Tokyo offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit every budget and travel style. By considering your location, type of accommodation, booking options, amenities, and transportation needs, you can find the perfect place to stay for your Tokyo adventure.
Food and Drink in Tokyo
Tokyo is a food lover’s paradise, with a wide variety of dishes and cuisines to try. Here are some must-try foods and drinks:
Ramen: Ramen is a staple of Japanese cuisine, and Tokyo has some of the best ramen shops in the world. Each shop has its own unique recipe and style, so be sure to try several different ones during your trip.
Sushi: Tokyo is home to some of the best sushi restaurants in the world. Whether you’re looking for high-end sushi or a more casual experience, there are plenty of options to choose from.
Tempura: Tempura is a dish of battered and deep-fried seafood and vegetables. It’s a popular dish in Tokyo, and there are many restaurants that specialize in it.
Sake: Sake is a traditional Japanese rice wine that’s brewed in Tokyo and other parts of Japan. There are many different types of sake to try, from sweet to dry.
Matcha: Matcha is a type of green tea that’s ground into a fine powder. It’s a popular drink in Tokyo, and you can find it in many cafes and restaurants.
Izakaya: Izakaya is a type of Japanese pub that serves small plates of food and drinks. It’s a great place to try a variety of different dishes and drinks in a casual setting.
Overall, Tokyo is a food lover’s dream come true. From street food to high-end restaurants, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
Sightseeing in Tokyo
Tokyo is a city that is full of fascinating sights and sounds. From the towering skyscrapers to the serene temples, there is something for everyone in this bustling metropolis. Here are some of the top sights to see in Tokyo:
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
This garden is a peaceful oasis in the middle of the city. It features beautifully manicured lawns, ponds, and a greenhouse with tropical plants. Visitors can take a stroll through the garden and enjoy a picnic on the grass.
Tsukiji Fish Market
As one of the largest fish markets in the world, Tsukiji is a must-see for any food lover. Visitors can watch the auctions of fresh seafood and sample some of the best sushi in the world.
For stunning views of the city, head to the top of the Tokyo Skytree. This towering structure is the tallest tower in the world and offers panoramic views of Tokyo.
Located in the heart of Tokyo, Sensoji is the oldest temple in the city. Visitors can explore the temple grounds, which include a five-story pagoda, and sample traditional Japanese street food from the nearby stalls.
For a taste of Tokyo’s youth culture, head to the Harajuku district. This area is known for its street fashion and quirky shops. Visitors can also sample some of the city’s best crepes and people-watch from one of the many cafes.
These are just a few of the many sights to see in Tokyo. With so much to explore, visitors can easily spend weeks in the city and still not see everything. Whether you’re interested in history, food, or fashion, Tokyo has something to offer everyone.
Shopping in Tokyo
Tokyo is a shopper’s paradise, offering a wide range of shopping experiences from traditional markets to high-end luxury boutiques. Here are some of the best places to shop in Tokyo:
- Ginza: Ginza is known for its upscale shopping, with many high-end luxury brands located here. The main street is closed to traffic on weekends, making it a great place to stroll and shop.
- Harajuku: Harajuku is known for its trendy and unique fashion boutiques, as well as its street fashion. Takeshita Street is a must-visit for anyone interested in Japanese fashion.
- Shibuya: Shibuya is a popular shopping district for young people, with many trendy clothing stores and department stores located here.
- Ameya Yokocho: Located near Ueno Station, Ameya Yokocho is a traditional market selling everything from fresh seafood to clothing and souvenirs.
For those looking for traditional Japanese souvenirs, there are many options available. Some popular souvenirs include:
- Matcha Tea: Matcha tea is a powdered green tea that is popular in Japan. It can be found in many specialty tea shops throughout Tokyo.
- Kimono: A kimono is a traditional Japanese garment that is often worn for special occasions. They can be found in many shops throughout Tokyo, but be prepared to pay a premium for a high-quality kimono.
- Japanese Snacks: Japanese snacks are a fun and unique souvenir to bring home. Some popular options include Pocky, Kit Kats in unique flavors, and rice crackers.
Overall, Tokyo offers a wide range of shopping experiences for any budget or interest. Be sure to bring an extra suitcase to bring home all of your purchases!
Nightlife in Tokyo
Tokyo’s nightlife is legendary, with something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a quiet drink or a wild night out, Tokyo has it all. Here are some of the best places to experience Tokyo’s nightlife.
Tokyo has a thriving bar scene, with many unique and interesting bars to choose from. Some popular options include:
- Golden Gai: A small area of Shinjuku with over 200 tiny bars, each with its own unique atmosphere.
- Bar High Five: A classic cocktail bar that has been named one of the best bars in the world.
- Robot Restaurant: A wild and wacky bar with robot shows and neon lights.
Tokyo’s club scene is also legendary, with some of the best DJs in the world performing regularly. Some popular options include:
- Womb: A huge club with multiple floors and a variety of music genres.
- Contact: A smaller club with a focus on techno and house music.
- Vision: A club with a focus on electronic music and a large dance floor.
Karaoke is a popular pastime in Japan, and Tokyo has many karaoke bars to choose from. Some popular options include:
- Big Echo: A chain of karaoke bars with multiple locations throughout Tokyo.
- Shidax: A karaoke chain that also has private rooms for groups.
- Karaoke Kan: A popular karaoke bar in Shibuya with a wide selection of songs.
Overall, Tokyo’s nightlife is diverse and exciting, with something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a quiet night out or a wild party, Tokyo has it all.
Day Trips from Tokyo
While Tokyo itself has enough to keep visitors occupied for weeks, there are also several worthwhile day trips to take from the city. Here are a few options:
Kamakura is a coastal town located about an hour south of Tokyo by train. It was once the political center of Japan and is now home to several impressive temples and shrines, including the famous Great Buddha of Kamakura. Visitors can also enjoy the beaches and hiking trails in the area.
Nikko is a mountain town located about two hours north of Tokyo by train. It is known for its stunning natural beauty and historic sites, including the Toshogu Shrine and the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Visitors can also enjoy hiking, hot springs, and other outdoor activities in the area.
Hakone is a mountainous area located about 90 minutes west of Tokyo by train. It is known for its hot springs, scenic views of Mt. Fuji, and the Hakone Open-Air Museum. Visitors can also take a boat ride on Lake Ashi or ride the Hakone Ropeway for stunning views of the surrounding area.
Kawagoe is a historic town located about 30 minutes north of Tokyo by train. It is known for its well-preserved Edo-era architecture and is often referred to as “Little Edo.” Visitors can stroll through the old streets, visit the Kita-in Temple, and sample local snacks like sweet potato chips and soy sauce-flavored crackers.
These are just a few of the many day trip options from Tokyo. Whether you’re interested in history, nature, or just getting out of the city for a bit, there’s something for everyone within easy reach of Tokyo.
Tips for Traveling to Tokyo
Traveling to Tokyo can be an exciting and daunting experience at the same time. Here are some tips to help make your trip smoother:
- Learn some basic Japanese phrases: Knowing a few phrases such as “hello” and “thank you” can go a long way in showing respect to the locals.
- Carry cash: While credit cards are widely accepted in Tokyo, it’s always a good idea to carry some cash for smaller purchases and for using public transportation.
- Get a Suica or Pasmo card: These reloadable IC cards can be used on trains, buses, and even vending machines. They save you the hassle of buying tickets every time you need to use public transportation.
- Use Google Maps: Tokyo’s public transportation system can be overwhelming, but Google Maps makes it easy to navigate. Just plug in your destination and it will show you the best route to take.
- Respect local customs: Tokyo has a rich culture and it’s important to respect local customs such as taking off your shoes when entering someone’s home or bowing as a sign of respect.
- Try the local cuisine: Tokyo has some of the best food in the world, so don’t be afraid to try something new. From sushi to ramen to takoyaki, there’s something for everyone.
- Be mindful of your surroundings: Tokyo is a safe city, but it’s always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings and keep your belongings close to you in crowded areas.
By following these tips, you’ll be able to make the most out of your trip to Tokyo and have a memorable experience.