We will soon have family and friends coming to visit Japan and we can't wait!!! In order to make our visitors' travel prep a little easier, here are some recommendations.
Have one! Being able to use Google maps to route your trains and find that hole-in-the-wall restaurant is invaluable. So is Google Translate. You won't be able to count on wifi here.
National Japan Rail Pass - 7, 14, or 21 Day
If you'll be traveling on the shinkansen (bullet train) to cities outside of Tokyo, this pass is well worth it. You'll be able to use it on pretty much all transport - trains, subways, buses. Purchase it online and have it mailed to you now.
If you will be staying within the city, it might make more sense to purchase a Suica/Pasmo metro card when you arrive. Add money easily at stations' charging kiosks and tap the card to get through the turnstiles. Saves you time and the headache of trying to figure out what ticket value to purchase on each trip.
- boots (during rainy winter/spring weather sneakers will get soaked)
- comfy walking shoes
- hats, scarves, gloves (winter/spring)
- thermal underwear (especially through March)
- compact umbrella
- warm jacket
- backpack (optional, but good for day trips around Kyoto, Disneyland, etc.)
- Ladies, if you want to look like more of a local, pack a dress/skirt paired with warm tights
- tissue pack (many places have few to no napkins)
Here's a list of some of the biggest attractions worth seeing/doing/eating in Tokyo. Of course there are MANY more but it's a place to start. They're grouped according to proximity and in no particular order.
You'll want to reserve some things in advance. They include:
- owl/cat/rabbit/etc. cafes (you must experience this)
- Imperial Palace (can ONLY be seen with a booked tour)
- Tsukiji Fish Market tours (or any tours for that matter)
- Tokyo Disney (guarantees you'll get into the park - oh, and whatever you do, don't go on a weekend)
- Ghibli Museum (Miyazaki's exhibit; fun for funs but it's all in Japanese)
- Michelin star restaurants (there are tons in this city)
- Robot Restaurant (not a restaurant, mainly a show)
It's mandatory for Nihonjin to learn English in school but many are not comfortable using it. If you're having a hard time communicating with someone it helps to write it down for them to read (and don't forget Google Translate). Also, look for college-aged girls to help you on the streets. They are especially friendly and many like to practice their English.
Be quiet and respectful at all times, but especially in tight quarters such as on the train, in a queue, on an elevator, etc. The worst you'll receive is an admonishing glance, but still.
Don't touch taxi cab doors. They will open and shut for you.
On escalators and travelators, stand on the LEFT, walk on the RIGHT.
If you only learn one word let it be "sumimasen". It's used mainly for: Excuse me, I'm sorry, or to get a waiter's attention. It's an especially nice way to start out a conversation if you will be speaking in English but want to show that you are trying to speak some Japanese and are very sorry for inconveniencing them.
And that's the short list. You will absolutely love Japan. Enjoy every minute!