Recently a couple of my friends have been asking for tips on what to see and to when visiting Japan. I decided to gather a few of my responses and post them here, so I can just give out this web page to people.
Feel free to add your own suggestions! This is by no means a complete list – just the first things that came to my mind, after living in Tokyo for over 7 years. I will also update this post with more info as time goes on.
From Narita Airport to Downtown
If you’re planning on taking the JR Narita Express, make sure you get the Suica & N’EX package listed on this page! It includes a prepaid 1500 yen Suica card (2000 yen value) plus a one way Narita Express ticket (3000 yen value) all for 3500 yen. But you might be better off taking the airport bus instead, depending on your destination.
Lodging in Tokyo
My mom stayed at this place a long time ago and really liked it:
Inexpensive, good location, and you can meet other interesting travelers. If you stay at a Ryokan (Japanese inn) you get more of a Japanese experience than staying at a hotel, which is the same in every country. Kimi has double rooms, small and larger size… It also has free WiFi, nice common area, and nice international staff. Otherwise, my advice would be to search for business hotels. They are cheaper than regular hotels, and usually quite clean and modern and centrally located, but very westernized.
Free Brochures from the Japan National Tourism Organization
If you have enough time before your departure, you should call up the US office of the Japan National Tourism Organization and ask them to send some free brochures, or failing that, just browse their web site. They have a ton of useful information. Here is their web site:
Here is a list of their offices:
Failing that, visit their travel info desk inside Narita Airport or in downtown Tokyo. Here is a list of their Tourist Information Centers in Japan:
What you should do in Japan depends on how much time you have and what parts of the country they want to visit. I would recommend getting started at the JNTO web site above, and then I can answer any questions.
Sightseeing in Tokyo
As for Tokyo, Roppongi is core to most of the nightlife. Asakusa has a great “old” downtown feel and a nice temple. You can take the boat from Asakusa to Hama-rikyu park or to Odaiba, which also is nice. There’s a free observatory at the top of the metropolitan government buildings in Shinjuku, with a nice view. Harajuku is good if you want to see trendy teenage girls (think of Gwen Stefani’s “Harajuku Girls” song). Ginza is good if you want to see expensive brand goods stores and lots of glitter. Park Hyatt hotel in Shinjuku has a great restaurant and bar on the upper floors, but there are a lot of new places offering it a run for it’s money these days as well…
Tokyo Day Trips
- Asakusa: including Kaminarimon gate and the surrounding temple – you can also take a boat down the Sumidagawa river from here
- Tokyo Tower: has a great view of Tokyo but maybe a bit out out of the way
- Metropolitan Government observation deck: free to go to the top, a 10-15 minute walk from Shinuku
- Roppongi Hills – has a museum and observation deck on the top
- Edo Tokyo Museum – has a lot of interesting history on old Tokyo (formerly called Edo)
- walk through the Ninenzaka/Sannensaka areas (see http://www.pref.kyoto.jp/visitkyoto/en/theme/amusement/downtown/ninenzaka/ - this web site looks like it has a lot of other good info in English, check it out)
- walk through the Arashiyama district full of old temples
- walk through the Gion district with all it’s small stores, as well as the Sanjo/Shijo/Kawaramachi area
- visit the silver pavilion, Ginkakuji, and walk the philosopher’s walk
- visit Fushimi Inari which has a trail up a mountain full of tori gates – impressive sight
- visit Heian Jingu, a big Shinto shrine with it’s huge red tori gates (nice but a lower priority than the above)