Tokyo Travel Tips
Keep in Mind...
- Painful ATMs You'll burn through lots cash while you're in Tokyo. And outside of high-end restaurants and hotels, most transactions are done with cold hard cash—not credit cards. But when you look for an ATM, go to the post office. Foreign cards are also accepted at Citibank and 7-Eleven locations. ATMs elsewhere frequently do not accept foreign cards even if they say "VISA" or "AMEX" on them.
- Avoid rush hour on the subway The Japanese conceive of "personal space" very differently than western visitors do. Nowhere is this more evident than on a crowded subway car during rush hour, when commuters become sardines in a high-speed can.
"Animated" is perhaps the best word to describe Tokyo. Crazy about its anime, Japan's mega city is constantly buzzing with movement—feet clack down sidewalks, cars zoom along streets, subway trains hum below ground, ships cruise in and out. And yet bright lights and loud signs beg you to pause, to break your motion for just one second to pray (oops, we mean pay) at the altar of consumerism. This is a city that feeds on motion and progress.
But when you want to stop in Tokyo, the city will certainly make it worth your while. The tech savvy locales may whizz past the monuments and urban parks daily (except during the cherry blossom season when everyone floods the green space), but, we assure you, the museums and historical sites are world-class. Here, there are photos to be taken, sushi to be eaten, and a lot of shopping to be done. So what are you waiting for? You better get a move on.
How To Save Money in Tokyo
- Visit the free attractions Tokyo has some of the best free attractions we've seen in an Asian city, so take advantage of them. Here's a list to get your started: Tsukiji Market, Meiji Shrine, Imperial Palace, Sensoji Temple, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office.
- Buy vintage And by "vintage," we mean the apparel that arrived in stores a month ago and has already been recycled to thrift stores. Tokyo fashions last for a mere second, so don't try and keep up. Buying vintage will make you look "classic" in Japan and cutting-edge back in the States.
- Eat Japanese food This one might seem self-evident, but we need to mention it again. Dining at Western-style restaurants will eat into your budget, so eat delectable sashimi and spicy ramen at local spots.
Tokyo Culture & Customs
Most travelers have heard of the Japanese bowing tradition; however, the Western handshake is becoming more and more common. When you're here, take cues from those who you interact with and follow their lead. Another polite custom is gift-giving. Gifts play a very important role in building relationships. If you are visiting a Japanese family or friends, it is customary to exchange gifts. Bringing some small mementos from your own hometown will show thoughtful consideration and will avoid last-minute shopping. One custom you won't have to worry about is tipping, although leaving spare change in restaurants is the norm.
English is widely spoken among the younger generations, but older folks may not know it. If you need to ask for directions, direct your questions to younger people or those who work at hotels and museums. You'll find that the signs in popular tourist areas use Roman characters rather than Japanese ones. Take a good shot at pronouncing the words, and odds are a native speaker will understand the intended meaning.