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Tokyo suggestions?

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by Giggity, Feb 20, 2010.

  1. Giggity

    Giggity Member

    Due to a weird set of circumstances, I am suddenly going to Japan in a few weeks. Obviously pretty fired up, but I've never really put it high on my list of places to visit, so I don't really have a long list of things I want to see. Normally it's the kind of trip you'd spend six months figuring out. So, anybody ever been? Any food/sight/bar/weird stuff suggestions?

    Going to a cat cafe is definitely on the to-do list: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/japan/090406/tokyos-cat-cafes
  2. Football_Bat

    Football_Bat Well-Known Member

    Make sure your girl is into it before you try to tune in Tokyo.
  3. TrooperBari

    TrooperBari Active Member

    I'm a big fan of Tokyo -- just remember that judging Japan by what you see in Tokyo is akin to judging the US by what you see in New York.

    Do you have a place to stay yet, Giggity? If not, and you'd rather not spend a great deal, I highly recommend Juyoh Hotel:
    It's in Taito-ku, an area with a lot of discount hotels, and has easy access to the JR train network which runs throughout Tokyo and the surrounding area. The digs at Juyoh aren't swanky by any means, but it has AC, a fridge, cable TV and comfortable futons ... and it's not as though you're going to Tokyo just to hang out in your hotel room, right?

    If you're planning on going out on your own, I recommend you pick up a copy of Tokyo City Atlas:

    It was a lifesaver for me, especially considering my Japanese-language skills barely merit the name and my utter lack of directional sense. You'll be happy to have it once you find out how addresses work there.

    How long are you staying, and do you plan to see some of the areas outside Tokyo (Saitama, Yokohama, etc.)? If you're going to be making longer trips and/or want to try out the Shinkansen bullet train, you might want to consider a Japan Rail Pass:
    It's a bit expensive, no question. In return, though, you can ride any JR train or ferry for free, including two of the three Shinkansen trains (which can add up quickly). If you're staying in and around Tokyo, you can get by without it.

    Things to see: I preface this by saying I'm a sucker for Old Japan, so stuff like shrines and temples is a big draw for me. Probably not for you, though, so if you're just going to see one while you're there, hit the Meiji Shrine. It's one of the main ones in Tokyo, and it's in a nice park just a stone's throw away from Shinjuku Station (IIRC). Keep an eye out for the street food vendors and make sure to try the takoyaki -- eat before or after going into Meiji, though, as food isn't allowed on the temple grounds.

    Tokyo Tower is worth a trip on a clear day (springing for the extra observation deck is worth the view), you can take in the frenzy of the Tsukiji fish market if you're a morning person (keep your hands at your sides, lest you go home with $10,000 of bluefin tuna), the Imperial Palace is worth half a day of wandering around, Asakusa Shrine is a short walk away if you're staying in Taito-ku, you can hit Akihabara if you're looking for electronics or are at all into geek culture ... there's just a re-damn-diculous amount of stuff to do, which isn't surprising given the sheer size of the place. You can start picking through some of the highlights here:

    Alternatively, have someone do it for you:

    Sports: If you're going to be in Japan by mid-March, definitely consider taking in the spring sumo tournament in Osaka. You can easily spend the better part of a day taking in all the matches and surrounding pageantry. Osaka is a bit of a trip from Tokyo by car, but the Shinkansen can cover it in a couple hours (this is where the Japan Rail Pass comes in handy).

    If you're there later in the month, baseball will be going by then, and that's definitely worth the trip. You're fortunate in that there's no less than five teams (Giants, Swallows, Marines, BayStars, Lions) in and around Tokyo, so finding a game shouldn't be difficult. Tickets for Giants games will be tough as they almost always sell out, but the others will likely have seats available. You can take your chances at the stadium or a convenience store (Lawson's, 7-11, etc. sell tickets), or you can go through the fine folks at JapanBall. Bob, Wayne and co. are very helpful and have yet to do me wrong.

    That's enough for now, I think. If you have other questions, by all means post here or PM me. I'm not an expert by any stretch, but I have done a fair bit of research on the subject. I'll just sign off with three helpful hints:

    1) Make sure you have comfortable shoes. The mass transit is great, but if you're doing the tourist thing, you're still going to spend a lot of time on your feet.
    2) Stay out of the maid cafes -- nothing good can come of that, unless you like being up to your eyeballs in cute. That goes for other cafes of that ilk (shrine maidens, cat girls, tsundere, etc.), too.
    3) Make an attempt to learn some Japanese, even if it's only a couple survival phrases. The locals will appreciate the effort.
  4. BTExpress

    BTExpress Well-Known Member

    What a wonderful place. In addition to a great many people being my size, the friendliness and helpfulness of the people is something I will never forget.

    Ask someone where a certain subway station is, and they'll take you by the arm and walk you to it.

    And people working even the most menial of jobs were doing so with gusto and enthusiasm. When seeing that I could only marvel, "So that's why Hondas don't break down and Chevys do."

    At baseball games, the cheering and fan participation is non-stop. Every pitch.

    If you can, fly Singapore Airlines. Makes a long trip as pleasant as possible.
  5. Giggity

    Giggity Member

    Bari, thanks - that's a ton of great stuff. We're weighing whether to go to Osaka for a night or two for the sumo tournament. The rail pass might just be a little too much money to justify - planning this thing on such short notice means we have to cut a corner here and there, and that'll probably be one of them. Seems like it would be a blast though. I think we're going to try to get to at least one baseball game, the Imperial Palace, and, since you recommended it, the Meiji Shrine.

    I've got a picture in my head of something else I'd like to see - one of those secluded temples up on a snowy mountain somewhere, like out of a bad kung fu movie. I don't even know if such a place really exists, but I'm stuck on the idea of doing it. We also might try to get up to Mount Fuji at some point, although I hear it may be closed still.

    We're already booked for Delta - never flown it, but not too worried. And we got a super-cheap place to stay locked up, which was one of the factors that allowed us to go.
  6. Zsaji

    Zsaji New Member

    I'd like to second what TrooperBari said and add that if you have time and an inclination toward temples and shrines, a day trip to Nikko would be in order to see the Tosho-gu (Tokugawa Ieyasu's shrine). If you're not shy, there are also some great hotsprings in the area.

    "Never say kekko (enuff!) 'till you've seen Nikko."

    Yes, there are still snow covered mountain temples, but they're sometimes hard to get to. If you're looking for more nature, try Yakuoin Temple. Dunno if it snows there, there are plum and cherry blossoms.

    Other than that, Bari pretty much covered it. Oh, and to add to the list of bars to beware...Anything with the word "snack," "sunaku," or any permutation thereof, is a hostess bar with a hefty cover charge.
  7. Sam Mills 51

    Sam Mills 51 Active Member

    Trooper pretty much summarized it. What I wouldn't do to go back with a little more time and take in a day at a sumo tournament.
  8. TrooperBari

    TrooperBari Active Member

    My pleasure, Giggsy. Just know that going from Tokyo to Osaka on local trains will take you upwards of nine hours (including four transfers) and cost about 9,000 yen. A one-way ticket on the all-stops Kodama Shinkansen will run you about 13,500 yen and take four hours. You might also consider this:

    As for climbing Mount Fuji, it doesn't sound like it's the best time to try. Still might be worth a peek, though, even if you can only go up a little way.

    You could do worse than Delta -- I flew them from Jakarta to Omaha and back again not too long ago, and it's worlds better than United. I concur with BTE on Singapore Air, and while I enjoyed taking JAL my first time going to Japan, I can't wait until Etihad starts flying into Narita.
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