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Tokyo, Japan in March


We (a couple in good health and can walk 5-7 miles a day) really need some help and guidance on an already-paid for trip to Tokyo, Japan to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary.

Here is the plan: Flight out from Chicago to Tokyo on March 9 and coming back on March 15. Will be staying at the Hotel Gracery Shinjuku (Godzilla hotel). We will have 4 full days in Tokyo with no firm plan yet.

Need advice on:
1. How to get from the Narita airport to the hotel. We borrowed a couple books from the library and also searched for advice online. It is very confusing. We could take a taxi but that would be very expensive. We read about Japan Rail (JR) system and subway but not sure what line to take. Also, for the JR system, it said that we have to purchase the pass before arriving Japan.
- If someone can guide us with good information on means of transportation from the airport to the hotel.

  1. What wild and not so wild things we can do in Tokyo. The wife (boss) wants to see Mt. Fuji - so Mt. Fuji we will see. Thus, we have 3 full days left.

  2. The boss likes to shop. I like electronic gadgets and street food.

  3. Would tennis shoes and jeans be suffice? Japanese seem to be very well dressed.

Many thanks,


Posted by
3287 posts

One thing you need to be aware of is that Mt. Fuji is often obscured by clouds. Have a plan B.

As to dress, you will, of course, stand out as foreigners (unless you happen to be of Asian descent). Foreigners are granted a degree of latitude by the Japanese. Nonetheless, you should wear neat and place-appropriate apparel. If you're old enough to be married 30 years, ripped jeans are probably out.

Posted by
327 posts

Michael, a few answers to your questions:

  1. You will likely be tired and sleepy after a long flight from Chicago to Narita so I would not bother trying to figure out Narita Express unless you do the research ahead of time. The Airport Limousine Bus has a route from Narita to Shinjuku. You can buy the tickets at Narita and they will tell you when the next bus departs and where to catch it. Depending on the time of day and traffic, the bus takes 1-2 hours and it's usually quiet so you can doze until you get to the area where the stops are. You could figure out how far your hotel is from one of the Limo Bus stops and if too far to walk, you could take a short taxi ride. Many taxi drivers don't speak English so print out the name of your hotel and the address to give to the taxi driver ... and have some cash (yen) to pay for your trip.

  2. There are one day motorcoach trips from Tokyo to Mt. Fuji and Hakone which you can research online - and perhaps book at your hotel - check with the hotel to see which tour companies stop there or nearby.

  3. One of the best electronics areas of Tokyo is Akihabara. Oriental Bazaar in Harajuku Shibuya is a one-stop shop for all things Japanese (souvenirs). Asakusa has interesting shopping, street food and a temple. Looking around the major department stores (Mitsukoshi, Hankyu, Isetan, etc.) is interesting - be sure to check out the food floors. The Ginza shopping area (Chuo-dori) has pedestrian only hours on the weekends - very crowded but interesting. Shopping is everywhere!

  4. So much to see and do in Tokyo - get a good guide book and a bilingual Japanese-English map of Tokyo. You can download a Tokyo Metro subway map before you travel - the system is fairly easy to use (just be sure to note the correct exit from the station if you are headed somewhere specific). If you like birds eye views, check out Tokyo Tower. Enjoy!

Posted by
379 posts

While you're at Harajuku, visit the Meiji-jingu. Then, walk along Omote-sando for shopping. I think it is nicer than the Ginza. (Chuo-dori is for pedestrians on Sundays. That is the better day to go.) The street is also noted for many distinctive designer architectural buildings. But don't just stay on the main road, wander off into the side streets and you will encounter smaller shops and restaurants.

Both the Ginza and Omote-sando is like Michigan Ave or NY 5th Ave with all the big designer names, if that you what you are looking for.

If you like fish, a very nice and inexpensive place for lunch/dinner off Omote-sando is Yanmo, Minato-ku, Minami Aoyama 5-5-25. Tel: 03-5466-0636. It is in a basement and a bit tricky to find. Best to have your hotel call to get the directions and write it down in Japanese for you. I had mackerel cooked in miso. A very filling lunch for two came to only about $14 total. No tipping needed in Japan.

If you want ramen, the easier place to try them all, is the Ramen Street inside Tokyo Station. Your wife can actually shop at Tokyo Station. It is huge. When the Japanese travel, they are expected to bring back small gifts, usually something to eat, an o-miyage. So, the train stations are filled with shops, especially foods beautifully packaged.

For "street food" there are the yakitori stands near Yurakucho.

Of course, there are always the stalls at the outside market at Tsukiji.

Since you are staying in Shinjuku, you can go up the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building for a free view of Tokyo. There is also a tourist information center. You should be able to get a subway map there.

Posted by
5428 posts

Before getting into any other details, I have to suggest you take a hard, sober look at the amount of time you will be in Japan.

I would stop worrying about what kind of shoes or pants to wear, train details, and everything else - you have bigger issues to confront: You say you will have 4 full days in Tokyo - which is crazy to begin with. I'm sorry to tell you, that is not true. You will have at most 3 full days. I hope you recover from jet lag quickly.

If (as you say), you leave Chicago on March 9, then you will probably arrive in Japan sometime on March 11 (it is a long flight, and you cross the international date line - check your flight details for the date when you arrive in Japan). When you get there, you are going to be wiped out, and no matter what time of day you arrive, that day will pretty much be in a fog (probably the next day, too). You fly back to the US on March 15 (you will probably arrive in Chicago the same "day" you leave Tokyo, due to the magic of the international date line - but you will still be on flights for 10-16 hours - I sure hope you have non-stop flights).

Look at a calendar. You will only have three full days in Japan.

I'm sorry to tell you, I don't think this is a realistic or reasonable plan (not even close) - it seems like a huge waste of your time and money, and I would seriously question anyone who would sell you a trip package like this.

Can you change this plan? Even if it costs you a fee to change the flights, you should. There's no point in flying to the other side of the world if you're only going to be there for two or three days. Japan is a wonderful place to visit, you really owe it to yourself to give yourselves a chance to actually see a bit of it.

I know this is not what you want to hear, but this plan is (in my opinion) crazy and tragic. Please reconsider. (And I'm sorry to sound so negative...)

Posted by
1709 posts


You have gotten some good information. It IS a long trip and unless you sleep well on that long flight, you are going to arrive in a real fog.

The Airport Limo will go to Shinjuku Station but you will probably need to catch a taxi to your hotel (looks like a bit of a walk for arrival - but by all means doable once you get a bit of rest). As an alternative, the Seibu-Shinjuku station is about a 5-minute walk, but would require 2 changes if you decide to take the Skyliner.

I second Harajuku for Oriental Bazaar and Meiji-jingu and Akihabara. That would be a full day. I enjoy the Imperial Palace East Gardens - you can't enter the palace itself. Another more involved idea might be a kabuki or bunraku performance. I see they have both scheduled: The area around Shinjuku itself could easily occupy a half day, just wandering.

A Plan B for Mt. Fuji might be a day tour to Nikko. It has a really good combination of ancient buildings and beautiful scenery - and is less dependent upon sunny, clear weather in order to enjoy the day. Mt Fuji is indeed beautiful and iconic but it would be a shame to go all that and not see it. My daughter lived in Fuji for 2 years and you don't take being able to see it for granted.

Don't be afraid of the train and subway systems (although rush hour might be best avoided). They have good signs in English. You can walk miles and miles just sightseeing, so use them when you can. Most are large, so make sure you know which exit to take.

Don't worry about clothing - just be neat.

We are 2 episodes into a Netflix series from Japan with English subtitles called "Midnight Diner." You might enjoy checking out a few of those before you go, just for some ambience.

Tokyo can be overwhelming with people, signs, buildings, - everything different; so I would advise making plans that have a couple of main things to do or see each day (not that you have many days) and time to just enjoy all the different things you will see. David is right that you are really short on time on the ground compared to time spent in transit and it wouldn't be my ideal trip. But do your research and you can have a great experience sampling the culture!

Posted by
191 posts

You'll want to take the Narita Express from the airport to Shinjuku. You can purchase it after you arrive - should be no problem.
There is something called the Japan rail pass that lets you travel on the trains during a set time period that must be purchased outside of Japan. I'm not sure if it would be worth it for you based on your short time period and limited travel plans.

You'll spend a lot of time on the Yamanote line in Tokyo (Green Line). It runs on a circle through all of the major parts of the city.

I'm not sure if Mt. Fuji is worth it...I probably have seen it when riding the train, but I was never inclined to visit. Since your time is limited, I would suggest a day at Kamakura instead. It is a wonderful city to walk and see the shrines, temples, and a big buddha.

Final tip for communication - if you are trying to get somewhere or identify something (like food you want to eat, etc), it is helpful to show the person you ask the word written in Japanese. Most people will do their best to help you or find someone to help you even if they don't speak English.