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TOKYO .... HELP

I am going to Sydney in early February and I discovered that it cost no more to stop in Tokyo. Flight times were better too.

So I dont know a thing about Tokyo or Japan.

Lets start with hotel advice. I suspect they are not cheap. But its about location, location, location. I will have 4 days so being in the right place will heip. Any of you great world travelers have ideas?

Posted by
8622 posts

How fun! I have seen quite a few videos on this subject listed on you tube. (I’m going April 2025). There are also quite a few “how tos” regarding the public transportation system and behavior norms that are pretty interesting as well.

Posted by
118 posts

Japan is one of my favourite places! I don’t know your budget but we have stayed twice at https://richmondhotel.jp/en/asakusa/. Great location and great Japanese breakfast selection. Rooms are small though as is very typical in Japan.
There is a posher hotel of the same group across the road if you wish to spend more.
Have a look

Posted by
453 posts

Asakusa is a great location. We stayed at Ryokan Shigetsu. More like a traditional Japanese inn but they have choice of rooms either "Japanese" or "Western". That area has the traditional temple and neighborhood right there. And was still easy to get around by public transportation. Here is link. Note the closure time for renovation this winter. https://www.shigetsu.com/en/rinji_kyugyo.html

Posted by
2034 posts

We stayed at Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku based on a recommendation from another poster and were quite pleased. I anticipated a tiny room at exorbitant prices when I started looking in Tokyo but was happily proven wrong. It was close to the Shinjuku Station. The staff were exceedingly polite and helpful. Our room was comfortable. Many shops and services are nearby. Staff arranged for the bus transport to the airport when we left and we were picked up outside the front door on departure day. Safe travels.

Posted by
7067 posts

Tokyo is actually not that expensive these days. Inflation has been lower than elsewhere for decades now, and the currency is weak at the moment. You'll be pleasantly suprised!
Asakusa, or busier Ueno for better transportation links, is indeed a good choice for a cheaper neighborhood with a traditional feel and good connections to the rest of the city: the Ginza metro line will take you to many key locations.

Posted by
16871 posts

You can get very good information on all aspects of travel in Japan from the very helpful people in the Japan forum on Tripadvisor, including detailed information on the various Tokyo transport systems, neighborhoods, and more. Depending which airport you will fly into and out from, some areas may be more convenient than others.

Posted by
265 posts

It's been a few years but I think it is still true that a decent hotel room in Tokyo can be surprisingly inexpensive compared to most places in Europe or the US. In general, the kind of place to look for if you're on a budget is called "business hotel", small rooms but clean and comfortable. There are literally hundreds of these in Tokyo, including chains like Toyoko Inn (comparable to Premier Inn in the UK). Not to be confused with the infamous "capsule hotel" which are those sleeping pods, you don't want that. For access, it makes a difference which Tokyo airport you're using. I've never used Haneda so can't advise about that. If Narita, I think the Ueno area is especially good, as there is a direct train line to Ueno station which takes about 30 minutes (the Keisei Skyliner, or other trains on that Keisei line which are just as direct, but make more stops and are cheaper), and the Ueno area has a nice park, museums, and plenty of diverse dining, etc., with good access to elsewhere in the city via the extensive subway system. A hotel I've found in the past (but again, it's been a few years) in this area to be good for a Tokyo stopover of a few days is "Ueno First City Hotel", but there are many others like it. And a word about dining in Tokyo, forget those horror stories about the $100 strawberries wrapped in gold foil and such, yes you that exists and you can see it in a department store if you want, but Tokyo is chockful of fine places to eat at very reasonable prices. The thing to remember is that restaurants in Japan tend to specialize in one type of dish, unlike here where if you go to a "Japanese restaurant" the menu typically will have sushi, tempura, grilled things, teriyaki, tonkatsu (fried cutlet) and so on. In Japan, you need to decide which of those you want and choose a place accordingly (which won't be hard, it's pretty easy to tell looking at it), as a sushi place will not have much else than sushi and sashimi, a ramen place will have ramen and dumplings but no sushi, a yakitori place specializes in grilled small plates with beer, etc. If you tire of Japanese fare (which you probably won't on a short visit), there are plenty of international choices, plus coffee shops, etc. -- and with the Japanese flair for quality and service, these can be extremely good, in fact I've found the croissants in Japan to be as good as any in France. And finally, Japanese convenience stores are everywhere and have a far better variety of various kinds of prepared food than their equivalents in the West.

Posted by
3993 posts

I've been to Japan a few times, honestly one of my top 3 countries to travel to in the world, so envious of you! In Tokyo I've stayed at the Royal Park Hotel Tokyo in Shiodome next to Ginza, pretty centrally located, excellent Western style hotel and amenities. Transportation is pretty good in Tokyo so no matter where you stay in the main neighborhoods the main tourist sites are easily accessible. Shibuya and Shinjuku are the more trendy areas to stay at nowadays so you can also look around there.

As for costs, the recent weakness of the Japanese yen compared to Western currencies has made Japan much more affordable for travelers from the West. Think of it like a country wide 40% discount compared to prices 5-6 years ago.

In Tokyo I liked:
Sensō-ji Buddhist temple
Kabuki performance at Kabuki-za theater in Tokyo's Ginza district
Samurai sword exhibition at the Tokyo National Museum
Egg salad sandwiches at Lawson Markets
Ekiben bento lunch on the Shinkansen bullet train to Kyoto

Posted by
839 posts

Location is surmounted by the great transportation system in Tokyo. This does not seem to be a question coming from Mr E who advocates eastern Europe so readily. You can do the same in Tokyo. It is not a big problem. All the known areas to stay are, well, known. So you pick one and when you are there, you have the option of expanding beyond that area easily.

Posted by
7906 posts

We love Japan, our favorite east Asian country.

With only 4 days, you should just stay in Tokyo.
We stayed at a nice hotel very near Tokyo Station (large train station in central Tokyo). You can take the train from the airport into Tokyo Station.

Posted by
15670 posts

Tokyo is the largest and most populous city in the world.

The sights are spread out but the public transportation system in Tokyo is amazing, efficient and runs on time. Plus all the signs and announcements are in both Japanese and English.

What hasn't been mentioned, and needs to be, are the local customs and unwritten rules. Learn them.

Here's an article with some but do a search to understand more:

https://www.jrailpass.com/blog/japanese-etiquette-tips

Here are a few:

--no tipping. It's just not done.

--be prepared to take your shoes off a lot. If you are someplace where your shoes are left at the door, and you need to use the restroom, you will find toilet slippers to wear so your socks don't get dirty.

--Get a Suica card. It's used to pay for transportation but can also be used to pay at some stores (convenience stores) and vending machines.

--Vending machines are everywhere. The same machine could sell beer, soft drinks, water and hot coffee. Some sell clothes. If you buy something to eat or drink from a vending machine is it okay to consume it near the machine or while sitting down. Never walk and eat or drink anything.

--Never touch the doors of a taxi. The driver will open and close the doors via a button he controls.

--learn the proper queing technique for getting on trains and buses. Never cut the queue.

--carry a handkerchief or small towel with you as many public restrooms don't have disposable towels or dryers.

--I'll let you discover the Japanese toilets. It's an experience.

--Japan is still very much a cash society. Not all Japanese ATM's accept foreign cards. However, the ones at convenience stores usually do.

--don't expect to find trash cans. They are hard to find. Most Japanese will carry their trash until they find one. Usually at a convenience store or a train station.

--learn some basic words in Japanese. English is not as widely spoken as you would think.

--there are two Godzilla statues in Tokyo. See if you can find them.

Japan is one of my favorite countries. You'll find the people to be clean, courteous and following the rules.

Posted by
16871 posts

SUICA Card sales have been suspended due to a chip shortage. One can still get a Welcome Suica, as well as a mobile version (but not compatible with all US smartphones). I don’t know about Apple Pay.

https://www.japan.travel/en/ca/news/suica-and-pasmo-transit-cards-to-temporarily-halt-sales/#:~:text=Due%20to%20a%20global%20shortage,as%20of%20August%202nd%2C%202023.

This is the kind of information one can get from the Tripadvisor Japan forum I suggested. It is well worth a look.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g294232-i525-Japan.html

Posted by
16871 posts

“You can take the train from the airport into Tokyo Station.”

Tokyo has two airports, Narita and Haneda; both are used for international flights. We have flown into or out of both. The transport options are different (for example, from Haneda you have to transfer between monorail and train to reach Tokyo Station, or other areas of Tokyo besides Hamamatsuchō.)

These Tokyo Cheapo websites set forth all the options.

https://tokyocheapo.com/travel/transport/cheapest-transport-haneda-airport/

https://tokyocheapo.com/travel/transport/cheapest-transport-to-and-from-narita-airport/

It is possible Mr E will be flying onto one airport and out from the other (we did), so it is good to explore all the options in advance.

I will add that I may be unusual in being rather fussy about transport options when I choose a hotel location, since Tokyo does have an excellent subway and train system that can get you almost anywhere. However, we have found that the stations, especially Tokyo Station, can be huge and confusing (though well-signed in English as well as Japanese). Transfers between trains or systems can be complicated. There are lots of YouTube videos devoted to the process of changing trains at various Tokyo stations, to help visitors. That to me is an indication that my husband and I are not the only ones who find it stressful, particular in Tokyo.

Posted by
782 posts

Most hotels in Japan are very clean, very safe, and have very small rooms. I have stayed at the following. The first three were paid by our hosts so I don’t know what they cost. Tokyo is spread out but the transit is great.

Akasuka View: very nice. I sent my nephew here and he was pleased.
Rehm Akihibara. Not the most interesting neighborhood but very convenient and central. Great breakfast.
One of the Toyoko business hotels. There are many. Less expensive.
The b Akasaka. There is also a b Rappongi. This was our base for our vacation days on two trips. Moderately priced.

I loved Tokyo and there is a lot to see. We were taken on a day trip to Nikko and to an onsen. Both were great.

Edited to add that Frommers Tokyo has some good walking tours.

Posted by
959 posts

I routinely stay at the Hilton Tokyo. Many other places at all budget levels. If you specify your budget, the help may be more specific. There are several Tripadvisor "experts" who can give you very, very, good advice.

Tokyo is vast - you might want to determine which airport, Haneda or Narita, you will arrive at and check the transport options into central Tokyo. Some areas from the airports are quite direct, others may require a change from train to subway or taxi depending on your arrival and destination location. Or, determine some of your must see areas or individual sites and see where they are located. This might also influence your decision as to area to stay.

No matter where you decide to stay, public transport, subway/train, is excellent. Taxis are readily available. Much depends on your personal preferences and budget decisions.

Posted by
466 posts

I stayed in Asakusa, (at the Ryokan Shigetsu), on my trip many years ago, in 2002. The reason I picked Asakusa for my very short trip in Tokyo (three or four nights) was that I felt that it would have the most authentic feel to it and if I were to return to Tokyo, I'd want to stay in in that area again.

I would also suggest taking a day trip to Kamakura.

Posted by
1588 posts

You have been given excellent advice.

Which airport are you flying into and out of? This really matters in terms of hotel choices. balso and others raised a great point: the yen is now weak and Japan is much more affordable than NYC or SF. One thing to note is that it's less cashless than most other advanced countries. Therefore, always have some yen notes in hand. Not all ATM machines take foreign cards, but those inside 7-11s do. They charge a tiny fee which is reimbursed by my bank.

What in Tokyo do you wanna see? The modern stuff, historical buildings/hoods, natural scenery, a mix? Are you ok with day trips?

Budget? Number of people...?

Posted by
15670 posts

Lola...it seems that Suica cards are once again available but only from JR East Travel Service Centers at the major train stations in Tokyo.

Posted by
16871 posts

We found the Lawson’s Family Mart ATMs easy to use with my US debit card. And one could choose to withdraw 1000 yen notes (about $7.00) which are very handy to carry around.

Cashiers are very careful to issue exact change—right down to the penny. I ended up with 4 of these in one transaction. The Canadian person in line behind me thought this was hilarious (Canada abandoned the penny some years ago).

Posted by
15670 posts

Speaking of money.....never hand cash directly to the cashier. There will always be a little tray near the cash register. You put your money in the tray and the change is put there as well.

In most restaurants, don't wait for the waiter to take your check for payment. You go up to the cashier.

I once had a store clerk come after me in HIroshima because he had given me the wrong change. He was short by about a nickel and was very apologetic. I hadn't even noticed.

Posted by
16871 posts

I had the same experiene. I paid cash for our ferry tickets from Naoshima to Uno port, and walked away from the ticket window with our tickets. Next thing I knew, people in line were getting my attention to come back to the ticket window— I had neglected to collect my 100:yen change from the purchase .

Posted by
1259 posts

Mr. E

We are going to Japan for the first time in October.

Check out ZipAir, a newish discount airline owned by JAL with cheap direct flights from San Jose, Los Angeles and San Francisco. If you connect from Texas, you may save a lot. Their lay flat seats are cheaper than most economy seats on other airlines.

Our Japan expert friends recommend staying in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo. They also advised us to load up on Yen now because it is very weak and will probably rise this year. It is a no brainer to spend time in Tokyo (shopping), but I think that Kyoto (historic buildings) and Osaka (food) will be more interesting. Have fun.

Posted by
18752 posts

Thank you. My connection is from Hungary ... changing in Shanghai, I believe. Trip home changes in Sydney and Bangkok and Cairo. So if nothing else, the flights will be interesting. It's a bit more than $300 one way from here to Tokyo.

I am hoping TexasTravelMom will chime in as she lived in Japan for like 100 years or something ...

Posted by
927 posts

We stayed four days at the Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku several years ago and would stay there again. You can take an airport shuttle from Narita directly to the hotel. If I remember correctly the shuttle terminates at the hotel. As for cash the ATMs at 7-11 and the Post Office worked great. I didn't try using a bank ATM since they seemed to not honor US ATM cards.

Posted by
11368 posts

We stayed at Hotel Dai-ichi, only a short walk to Ginza. Most staying there were Japanese which we liked. The room was large with nice views of the city. And there were pjs for us in the drawers which we always found in our rooms during the rest of our trip in Japan, a nice surprise!
We were offered either a very hearty Western breakfast or a Japanese one.
Helpful English speaking concierge.

Posted by
15670 posts

I've also stayed at the Dai-Chi hotel. Very nice. Great location.

There is a more modern annex across the street.

I would definitely stay there again.

It's a few minute walk to the Ginza and virtually connected to the Shinbashi train station.

Posted by
4329 posts

You have no need of me. I lived there for a hundred years a hundred years ago - which makes me Methuselah’s cousin. And I haven’t been back since 2009, unfortunately. So you can give me hotel tips for my next trip…. I stayed in the same small ryokan in Tokyo every time and couldn’t begin to find it again…..

That being said, you have gotten good overall information. Location is indeed going to be key - figuring out which airport (I am sure you know) you arrive in and where you wind up after transportation into the city will give you a good hotel location - unless you depart from the other airport. Then you have 2 options for convenience. 🤣

I also LIVED there (and not even in Tokyo itself), which makes me an even worse tourist guide. As you well know. But I could find my way around the Yamanote line (the circle train around Tokyo) and to a few other places. And you can call if you need some simple conversational translating or cultural interpretation. LOL.

Edit: Frank II is spot on for his observations but absolutely right on no tipping. I know you will find this hard to believe.

Your flights look adventurous, to say the least…… Hope it all works out.

Posted by
959 posts

If you plan on taking public transport in Tokyo, you may find it helpful to study some online maps of the larger stations - Tokyo, Shinjuku, Shinagawa, etc - where you might be changing lines and/or entering/exiting. Even if you are very used to European or Asian undergrounds, for instance the more confusing Paris stations (Les Halles) or the hoards in Hong Kong subways, Tokyo's stations can initially be a bit of a shock.

Signs are in English, but it is easy to miss one and lose your bearing. Also some of the signs may not say what you expect to see - for instance, you might see "JR" instead of "Yamanote". It helps to know that the Yamanote line is operated by the Japan Rail (JR) company. Three big players - JR, Toei, and Tokyo Metro. English is spoken and people are helpful in those instances where you are confused. With several days in the city, a Suica or Paso card makes travel easy - transit card that you load as you go. These can be purchased at the airports on arrival.

Edit - adding credentials. Multiple trips to Tokyo in recent years. 3 separate trips in 2023, more booked for 2024.

Posted by
15670 posts

Just be aware, as has been noted on this thread, that Suica and Pasmo cards are no longer available from machines. The Suica cards must now be purchased from the JR Travel Office at the main rail stations. (You will need cash to top up these cards.)

If you get confused at train staions, especially when buying a ticket, there is usually someone there to help. They speak English.

Posted by
959 posts

Frank - is this new in 2024? I bought one a few months ago from a machine at Narita for a travel companion. There have been some problems with shortage of the semiconductor chips, so access may have changed. My companion was specifically not allowed into the Traveler Center for this purchase and was directed to the machine rank.

There is also difference between a tourist oriented "Welcome Suica" and the more standard Suica card. The sales points differ (or did - everything could have changed). OP can research current options and sale points if interested.

I'm taking another first time colleague to Tokyo in a couple months and had "buy a Suica" as an airport must-do. If all the points of sale are changed from 2023 and someone could let me know, that would save us time!

Posted by
16871 posts

I posted upthread about the problem with Suica and PASMO cards. Here is the link:

https://www.japan.travel/en/ca/news/suica-and-pasmo-transit-cards-to-temporarily-halt-sales/#:%7E:text=Due%20to%20a%20global%20shortage,as%20of%20August%202nd%2C%202023

Here is more detailed information:

https://www.jreast.co.jp/e/pdf/press_20230802_suica.pdf

Suica Welcome cards are still available for purchase from machines at certain outlets. We saw people buying them at Narita when we arrived in November. I do not know how these differ from regular Suica cards. We were heading straight to Kyoto so we did not buy them.

Posted by
69 posts

Re:Suica cards - you can use Mastercard (not Visa) and AmEx to upload a digital Suica card to wallet. Several weeks before our Autumn 2023 trip, I was able to add one using by Citicard Mastercard. For some reason after that, I was never able to add value to the Suica using my credit card, but when we were in Japan, we were able to add value at all the konbini at the front register. It was so easy and having the card in my phone made it very, very easy to transfer at train stations.

We stayed 6 nights in Asakusa at the Richmond Premier Hotel Asakusa and loved it. We loved staying in Asakusa - I really don’t understand the rule of thumb to stay on the Yamamoto line as Asakusa is only a short distance away. Although the train system is daunting at first, it didn’t take too long to get a handle on it. And Asakusa has so much going on - lots of small restaurants and just a general energy that made it fun. A big advantage was seeing Sensoji Temple early in the day before the hordes arrive and seeing it at night when it was all lit up. I had a wonderful view from our hotel window of the temple and Tokyo Sky Tree.
https://richmondhotel.jp/en/asakusa-international/

Posted by
959 posts

Thanks for the additions and clarifications to the Suica question. Seems that "be flexible" is a word to the wise!

Posted by
335 posts

Lots of good advice here. Also consider staying near the Shinagawa station, especially if you are flying in and out of Haneda. I’ve stayed briefly at the Shinagawa Prince Hotel when I only needed a couple of nights before moving on and was quite happy with it. I choose a pretty basic room there, as I was alone on that trip.

Posted by
7067 posts

Also consider staying near the Shinagawa station, especially if you are flying in and out of Haneda.

In my opinion, that would be fine for a night or two but not for four days: Shinagawa is far from most attractions in Tokyo and you'd be spending more time than you want on the Yamanote line.