The first Tokyo scenery we witnessed when David and I hopped off of the airport bus was a wall of neon signs and billboards, advertising for us to come gamble, eat ramen, or play video games.
“Wow,” I said aloud.
After the longest flight of my life and nearly an entire day and a half of no sleep, we made it to Shinjuku – one of Tokyo’s several buzzy districts. We rolled our suitcase through the crowd of people who were just getting their night started.
Tokyo was our first and longest stop. David had dreamed of this city for so long, it was important we dedicated a good chunk of time to it. And we were happy we did.
My Personal Do’s and Don’ts of Tokyo:
Win prizes from claw machines at Taito Station.
Gambling is bad.
Except when you are winning toys, then it’s fine!
Japan has loads of pachinko parlors, which are stand alone buildings reserved for gambling. They can be floors upon floors high, are super loud, flash all of the dizzying lights at you, and are filled with smoke. They are quite the experience.
We only walked through them, however, and patted ourselves on the backs for being so strong willed… Until we left the store, and beelined directly into Taito Station Arcade. These arcades have games like Mario Cart, which you can play on the upper levels, but the bottom floors are lined with claw machines AKA still gambling.
We spent a lot of time at Taito station, and other similar stores. Though we started off pretty shaky, by the end of our stay we were able to hone in on our skills and amass quite a collection of stuffed toys (which will make excellent Christmas presents). David even won me a giant, squishy Cinnamoroll character bigger than my head.
Shove your face full of ramen.
Finding vegan and vegetarian cuisine in Japan was as tricky as we had expected it to be.
But once we found it, it was life changing.
I am working on an additional Garbage Gobbles for Tokyo and Kyoto, but definitely know that there are vegetarian restaurants around and they will fulfill your heart’s deepest ramen desires.
Accidentally run into temples.
David and I are big walkers, and upon our first day of exploration set off to walk to Tokyo Tower.
As we approached, however, we were totally side tracked by Zojo-ji Temple which stands right nearby. In fact, anywhere you explore, you should pull out Google Maps to see if there is a temple you can appreciate within close range of you.
And if you are wanting to really be blown away, go and visit Senso-ji. Probably Tokyo’s most famous temple, it holds that title for a reason and is stunning.
Visit as many of Tokyo’s districts as you can squeeze in, as they are all different in their own individual way.
Akihabara, Asakusa, Kabukicho, Harajuku, Ueno, Shinjuku, Shibuya – you’ll never get bored, I promise.
Remain safe & carry a big bag.
The one difference I will say that was the most mind boggling about Tokyo was that it felt so safe. I was not once catcalled or eyed up, which is nearly a daily occurrence in St. Louis. And people left their bikes outside – unlocked!!! Can you believe that?
However, as in anywhere you travel, it is important to remain hyper aware. For that reason, I highly recommend carrying around bag or purse.
You will win prizes from the claw machine (unless you suck), and you’ll want to stash your prizes somewhere. You will buy touristy gifts, that are much easier to carry stuffed away. And after hours of walking, if you’re like me, you’ll want somewhere to safely store your camera, phone, etc.
Let the fear of culture shock scare you away.
“The subways are so busy you’ll have to squish in like a sardine.”
“All of the women wear high heels.
“People will look down on you if you forget an umbrella in a downpour.”
“Avoid seedy men in Kabukicho who will act like your best friend and then steal your money.”
These statements about Tokyo were found in several blogs and forums I researched. Now, I’m sure these situations do happen. But it certainly wasn’t as dramatic as these posts made it sound.
Tokyo felt like any other big city I have been to, except much louder and with more neon lights.
The normalcy was refreshing, as well as relieving to me, especially when the umbrella I dutifully packed broke in the middle of the rainy street and no one scoffed or judged (in fact plenty also ran with their jacket over their head, forgetting their umbrellas too). While the fashion of several individuals we saw was amazing, there were plenty of women wore flats or sneakers. The subways were relatively busy, but they were much busier when I visited Paris. And no scary men tried to convince me to have a good time in a bar.
Japan is one of the friendliest places I have ever visited. Plus you should never let the fear of getting there or culture shock sway you from visiting – anywhere!
Expect your JR Pass will cover all of the subway lines.
Japan has two main railways, and your JR Pass covers only JR lines, not Tokyo Metro.
This is only country I have had this conundrum in so far, and frankly it was the only thing I didn’t like about Japan. It isn’t that inconvenient in Tokyo, but it is confusing when you first arrive and are trying to sort out directions.
In Kyoto, however, it is a nightmare.
Spend all of your money trying to win chocolate from the claw machine.
For god’s sake, stop spending your money! You can buy the chocolate cheaper at the grocery store!
Getting there: We flew, and for cheap! Read my blog post on how we saved some hardcore cash on our flight.
Staying there: Airbnb is by far your cheapest bet if you don’t want to stay in a hostel. Most are in apartments, meaning you get to experience the differences that their apartment complexes harbor.
Wearing there: You are going to walk a lot. Don’t be an idiot like me – pack some comfortable shoes! I also recommend walking around with a large bag or backpack. We have Herschel’s and we love them.
Shooting there: Images are all captured on my Nikon D750 with my 35mm lens, or my iPhone 7.
Etc., etc.: The toilets in Japan are amazing, I tell you, amazing! The stalls are secluded and the seats are heated. Wow!
Note: Nothing in this blog post was sponsored and all thoughts are my own. Post contains affiliate links – click on them and do your Amazon shopping to support me!