how to visit tokyo japan

How To Visit Tokyo, Japan (Part 1)

HOW TO VISIT TOKYO, JAPAN? Read more get the most out of your trip to Tokyo, from scoring cheap plane tickets, to experiencing the city’s best for an affordable price.

how to visit tokyo japan

Tokyo’s literal translation means “East(ern) capital”

When I was 20 years old, I read Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84. The stories of cults, spirits, and modern-day Japan made me cry, laugh and get scared in my lonesome college apartment. As an accidental introduction to Japanese literature, I thought of it as an “oddball” of a country. We know that Tokyo has some of the best food in the world, all the while having a culture and history unlike any other because of its isolation for over 200 years. Without any doubt, I knew I’d visit someday.

How to get to Tokyo, Japan

The Skyscanner app, lets you search “Everywhere” at “Anytime,” giving you a bird’s eye view of what’s cheap. I usually check Skyscanner multiple times a day.

I found roundtrip flights via Philippine Airlines from Cebu Mactan airport to Narita Tokyo for Php 14,000 (USD $280) all-in, including travel tax.

Pro tip: Once you find the flight you like, save it in Skyscanner then look at the airline’s official website. The prices will be the same. Personally, I feel more secure paying at the Philippine Airlines ticket office than giving my credit card details to a third-party site.

Getting a VISA to Japan

In Cebu City, the Japanese consulate is located on the 7th floor of Keppel Building in Cebu Business Park. Some basic requirements are your passports, proof of ticket and accommodation and bank statements. We received our VISA within 5 business days. For more information about the Japanese VISA, click here.

Where to Stay in Japan

Tokyo has a population of almost 14 million people with 20 different city wards. It’s the largest metropolitan area in the world, so choosing an area to stay is crucial. In most of the travel guidebooks I’ve read, they recommend tourists to stay near TOKYO STATION, SHIBUYA, SHINJUKU, and ASAKUSA.

Using a quick search in Booking.com, I found Palace Studio Tochomae in Shinjuku. Just like an apartment, it did not have any front desk or cleaning service. The other downside is it can only fit 2 persons in the quaint 17 square meters room size. We booked for 3 reasons:

  • Close distance to a major transport hub. It’s a short 12-minute walk to Shinjuku Terminal
  • Affordable price of Php3,500 (USD $69) /night for 2 persons
  • Includes a kitchen, laundry, and free wifi

We lived in the city like a true Japanese local, boiling our own drinking water to save money and doing chores and laundry for the 8 days we stayed there. Some people may hate that, but I found it enjoyable, especially figuring out Japanese appliances. The online booking and key delivery were all seamless.

What’s The Weather In Tokyo, Japan

how to visit tokyo, japan

Very cold, top to bottom covered in winter gear

The weather in Japan, Tokyo is generally hot humid summers with mild winters. It’s best to check the weather forecast before you go because that will heavily influence your activities and clothing.

When we landed on November 24th, it coincided with Tokyo’s first November snow in 54 years. We did not expect that much cold – we had to stop in the middle of the street while walking so we can add more layers. The temperature that day dropped to (-1) Celsius, nothing close to anything we experience in the Philippines. It’s good that I’ve had a bit of experience living in cold, foggy city San Francisco, so we knew how to deal.

(READ: How To Visit San Francisco Like A Local)

How to visit Tokyo, Japan: Must Have Items

1. Pocket WiFi (Pupuru)

Perhaps you can skip this and save some yen, but having a pocket Wifi throughout our vacation in Japan was crucial. We used it to load Google Maps for directions, Hyperdia.com for train times, and Google translate for help with the language.

We chose Pupuru for 3 reasons:

  • You can prepay online
  • Convenient to pick up and return via mail drop off at the airport
  • Easy to understand website and video tutorials

The cost of Pupuru wifi rental without insurance was Php10,000 (USD $200) all-in for 8 days.

2. Suica Card

The Suica card is a prepaid e-money for shopping and moving around. You can use it for all trains in Tokyo, without the need to buy tickets from a vending machine and to make purchases onboard trains as well as coin lockers, convenience stores or restaurants.

How To Get From Narita Airport To Tokyo (Shinjuku)

how to visit tokyo, japan

The Narita Airport is a 75-kilometer drive to Tokyo city proper

Note that Narita Airport is 75 kilometers or 1.5-hour drive from Tokyo city proper. There are a couple of ways to do get to Tokyo, depending on the price.

The cheapest way is via local trains or Skyliner. I don’t like this because as a first timer, I’m not yet an expert in navigating local transport.

The most expensive is via taxi, about Php9,000 (USD $180)

The mid-level and best choice for me is Limousine Bus. It only stops at certain major hotels, so I had to research which of their stop is closest to our accommodation. Turns out, Washington Shinjuku Hotel is a 4-minute walk to Palace Studio Tochomae. We were comfortable in our 1.5-hour drive to Shinjuku because of the heater and free wifi.

Pro tip: If you buy roundtrip tickets (and I made sure to bring a printout to show to the counter),  the fare is at a discounted rate of Php1,900 (USD $38)

How to visit Tokyo, Japan summary:

  • Even before you go, start reading about Japanese culture. I highly recommend two books: Lonely Planet Japan and Tokyo Cheapo (the website is also an excellent resource)
  • For cheap plane tickets, use the Skyscanner app feature set to “everywhere” at “anytime”. Pay directly at the airline’s official website
  • Book accommodation as VISA requirement. If it’s your first time in Japan, choose central locations near train / bus stations. Use websites that allow for NO CANCELLATION FEE
  • Prepare all Japanese VISA requirements; apply
  • Check the weather, plan activities accordingly (example, winter is best for Mount Fuji viewings)
  • Bring a lot of yen! Even if credit cards are accepted sometimes, Japan remains to be a cash-based society

    When you arrive at the Narita airport:

  • Buy a suica card at JR East travel service center, for transport all over Tokyo
  • Pickup/buy pocket wifi rental
  • To get to your hotel, arrange for Limousine Bus for Php 1,900 (USD $38)

This is Part 1 of my series “How To Visit Tokyo, Japan” discussing all the preparation. In Part 2, we will talk about the things to see and do in Tokyo, including how much it costs to travel there. Tune in!

 

About the Author

crystal neri head shotCrystal Neri is a Content and Social Media Marketer. She is a Hootsuite and Hubspot certified expert, covering travel, self-improvement and marketing trends. A graduate of Academy of Art University in San Francisco, Crystal currently works as a marketer in Cebu City, Philippines. Say Hi to her on Twitter (@nericrystal).

Have you been to Tokyo, Japan before? Let me know if you have any travel stories or tips to share in the comments section below. Also, say Hi to me on Twitter (@nericrystal) or subscribe to my newsletter:

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