My husband and I are going to Japan in March. I admit, it is a bit intimidating. Trying to decide where to stay in Tokyo. Any suggestions on what area of the city would be the most convenient/interesting? TIA.
Tokyo is HUGE !!! Like asking where to stay in NYC.
I was on a tour and we stayed at the Metropolitan Hotel. All hotels are expensive in my opinion .
My main frustration as a frequent solo traveler all over the world was not being able to read street signs and other signage.....so I stayed with my tour group all the time.
It was fun to see Japan - but not my usual style of independent travel.
I liked Kyoto the best - but we were in a hotel right next to the train station and there was some signage in English.
The area around the Imperial Palace is quite pretty in all seasons, but especially in Spring when the cherry blossoms bloom. Armed with a map from your hotel you can stroll about on foot without getting lost, and there's easy access to the subway system for exploring further afield.
Will also be pretty central if you want to book day tours to see some of the countryside.
Like Frances, we too stayed at the Metropolitan with our tour group. Having the train station so close by was great, and while I normally don't go for American style business hotels when travelling, it was a plus there because the staff spoke English and could help with advice and directions.
We went off on our own when we had free time. We'd done some advance research and used Google maps and Google Street view ahead of time to help us navigate when on the streets.
LOOOOOVED Japan, and would go back in a heartbeat. But the inability to read the language is a definite impediment to our doing it independently.
The Asia Travel Bug blog has a very good article about suggested areas and hotels for first time visitors to Tokyo.
Prior to retirement, I was fortunate to travel to Tokyo on business for many years. While I stayed at different hotels than those listed in the article, I concur that the areas mentioned are convenient for sightseeing, especially if the hotel is close to subway lines and train stations. Get yourself a good Tokyo Subway Map and you can go anywhere on your own (hotels have them or you can print one from the Internet before you travel).
Travel tip: A book which I used on all my trips to Japan is "Tokyo: A Bilingual Atlas" - every map is in English and Japanese! The 1990 version was $14.95 and worth every penny. I also used the Kyoto/Osaka version. Even if taxi drivers or people you encounter don't speak English, you can point on the map where you want to go and they can show you the way.
I hope you enjoy Tokyo - it's an amazing destination with wonderful people!
Tokyo is very spread out, and so are its major attractions. So even if you are walking distance of some attractions, you will still need to catch the train to get to others. Two areas I have enjoyed staying at are Ueno and IIdabashi. I liked Ueno because it has a large park, as well as a few museums. I liked Iidabashi because it is on the river, and has lots and lots of restaurants. They were not just Japanese restaurants, but also French, Italian and others. I tried one of the French restaurants, a crepe restaurant recommended by my guide book and really enjoyed it. Both of these areas are easily reached by train.
Agree with Ted, about Ueno as a good location. I've also stayed near Shinjuku several times (and will stay in both again). But as said elsewhere, it's a huge city, everything is spread out, and you will be moving around - so don't obsess too much on finding the perfect neighborhood.
We stayed at the Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku Hotel...a tip I received on this forum. We were quite happy. It is close to Shinjuku Station so convenient for moving around to any area of the city by public transportation. Staff were friendly and helpful. Breakfast was expensive but a McDonald’s (gasp) one minute away had coffee and that’s about all we need or want. Several small shops for snacks, meals, shopping and all amenities are nearby. We spent 4 days in Tokyo visiting many sights and different neighborhoods and had a fantastic visit. Safe travels.
Denny--thanks for the reply. What would you recommend seeing in Tokyo? Was there anything that you absolutely loved? Did you go with a tour or hire a guide? I have to admit that this is a bit intimidating. Not being able to read signs could be difficult. Anyway, thanks in advance for any ideas you can give me.
Hi. We went on our own. We weren’t on a tour, nor did we sign up for any day tours in Tokyo. I will be honest...we expected to be intimidated and were happily surprised. We’re trying to remember how many signs we saw in English, but it must have been enough, considering I can’t read Japanese! We had no more difficulty getting around than in any European city we’ve visited in many trips. The city is amazingly clean, and orderly. People are very polite and will help you in anyway they can. One elderly woman on the subway saw our confusion and directed the attendants to come help us lost souls; I’m certain she didn’t speak a word of English but sized us up in a second. The city is indeed huge. I suggest you familiarize yourself with the various neighborhoods or districts of Tokyo and plan around what appeals. A favorite area was Asakusa, the Senso Ji Temple and market was a highlight. We walked around the giant skyscrapers near the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building ( I do recall a sign for that in English near Shinjuku Station) and rode to the top observation deck. The gardens of the imperial palace, Ueno Park took a day but I like gardens. We window shopped the Ginza one afternoon and strolled along as the signs lit up in the evening. Likewise Shibuya district...evening/night walk, neon galore and the worlds busiest crosswalk. Harajuku for fashion and (young) people watching, Akihabara for electronics. We did not get to the National Museum but had spent days in Kyoto and I was outvoted. It is all fascinating. We used public transportation everywhere and made our way without major mishap; uniformed attendants are somewhere in these huge stations. Restaurants with few exceptions display models and prices of various dishes in the window, so that made it fun and easy anywhere.
Read up about Japanese culture and customs...it really is pretty different over there. This was our second trip, first to Tokyo. My experience: Learn some basic phrases...learn the formal not colloquial form...my mistake...huge difference in how you’re received; pronunciation isn’t expected and they’ll warmly smile and respond to your effort. If you see a small tray in a shop or cashier, put the money there. I stood like a goof for days holding yen in my hand (error 2) until I figured it out...handling money isn’t polite. Your change will be deposited there. And everything will be handed to you...change,a room key, a pen...with two hands, and you should accept it with yours. Much of this is left to you to discover...the Japanese are exceedingly polite and disdain confrontation. I felt that they were reluctant to correct because it could be interpreted as criticism.
We have traveled for many,many years throughout Europe and other western destinations, but our time in Japan just might have been the most rewarding in terms of learning to look at the world in a very different way. Have a great time!!
If it's your first time to Japan, I would recommend taking a one day tour of Tokyo to understand local logistics and then you should be good to go on your own (if you're feeling comfortable). This tour company has plenty of tours to choose from:
Two years ago, we stayed at the Hotel Metropolitan Marinucci (SP?), which is located a little north of Tokyo Station. Cost was about $175 per night. Saved on taxi from Narita with the Narita Express, then rolled our luggage to the hotel.
In regards to Denny's suggestion to learn something about the culture, go to japanesepod101.com. There are free lessons on culture and beginning Japanese. Also, search on YouTube, there are lots of videos on subjects like "ten things not to do in Japan".
Such as do NOT leave your chopsticks sticking up in your bowl of rice, because it resembles the incenses in the burner used in funerals. Here's one I'd wish we have in the USA. It is extremely impolite to speak on your cell in public, subways, and trains.
We booked a 3 hour walking tour on the architecture and city planning of Tokyo with Context Tours. We learned facts such as those wide streets, like the Ginza, in a disaster also serve as a fire break and is reserved for emergency vehicles.
Central Tokyo can be divided into districts, with shopping and entertainment located around Shibuya, Shinjuku and Ikebukuro stations (these areas tend to be popular with younger people). Ginza has high-end shopping, expensive gourmet dining (popular with adults). Ueno and Asakusa stations are in the shitamachi (old Edo) area of Tokyo which has an older population that attracts many domestic tourists (especially Ueno Park and Asakusa temple complex). Roppongi Station is home to the international scene, with many bars and night clubs popular with young, international crowds.
The Hibiya (Imperial Hotel) and Tokyo Station areas are ideal in terms of a central location that will get you to any of the above areas quickly via subway, however, these are located in business districts that offer slightly less in terms of dining and shopping. In some cases, you may even find that some places close on the weekends, which tend to be quiet and less crowded than the busy weekdays.
All hotels in Tokyo are expensive and small compared to what you are probably used to. That being said, the level of service and professionalism in Japan is unrivaled, so you really can't go wrong where ever you choose. Be aware that accommodations in Japan charge by the person, not the room, so the rates you see should be multiplied by two (for you and your husband).
Have you considered staying a traditional Japanese inn (ryokan)? That is a really neat experience, and there are several that have English-speaking staff. In fact, as Japan is preparing for the 2020 Olympics, a whole lot of English signage, menus and other information is popping up all over. Japanese are required to study English in school, so many people can understand a little English, although they may be a bit shy about speaking.
Here are some ryokan that have English-speaking staff:
Kimi Ryokan (for budget travelers)
Ryokan Sawanoya (mid-range, for international travelers)
The Edo Sakura (high-end)
You can also search for ryokan on the Japan Ryokan & Hotel Association website.
At many ryokan, dinner is included in the price (and served privately in your room). I recommend trying a ryokan for a night or two for the real Japanese experience.
Don't feel intimidated, Japan is clean, safe, polite and Tokyo is serviced by an extensive subway network that is easy to use and understand (everything is in English). I am sure you will have an amazing experience!
Hi...I'm staying near Shingawa station (using points at the Intercontinental). I arrive at Haneda and trying to figure out how to get from the airport to Shingawa.
Anyone give me some help as the subway map is confusing for this route. And, should I reconsider the area.
Frank, have you looked at this site for travel from Haneda Airport to Shinagawa Tokyo station?
Thanks, I figured out I was looking at the wrong map after I posted. My choices now are near either Shingawa station or Shimbashi station--both of which are direct trains from Haneda.