8 Places to Go On Your First Japan (Tokyo) Trip

Wow, more Japan posts! (HAHA BAD WITH DATES WHY DID I WRITE 2015. PROPHETIC!)

I’m back from my 2014 Japan trip, and instead of procrastinating and waiting a whole year to post ten days worth of pictures, I decided to consolidate everything I did on this trip to introduce a place that I have fallen in love with, and so hope to share this love as well.

Also, I am trying to pass time from now to January, where the JET Programme results are out…

Some of my friends have been asking me about accommodation, but I’ll talk about that at the end of the post. For now.. I’ll keep your interest piqued with 8 places you should totally visit:

 

1. Asakusa

Asakusa, a walk from the Asakusa subway station. Last year, I visited Asakusa in the day with Chikage, on a Sunday, no less. It was crowded and lively, with rows and rows of shops selling food and chopsticks and fans and the like. But this year, Gima-sensei took us to Asakusa at night.

It was the first time seeing the beauty and majesty of the temple being lit up at night. Perks – it was practically empty because all the shops were closed. It was also drizzling and horrifically cold but.. Look pretty lights!

Near Asakusa you can also find the Kabuki Theatre, and it’s a short train ride to the Tokyo Skytree at Oshiage station (view it in the day if you have bad night vision like me), so if you haven’t been it’s one of the iconic places to go!

2. Ginza

Firstly, because it’s one of the biggest shopping districts with all the high-end brands, you’ll be wow-ed when you’re walking on it.

And more importantly, there is GU (the sister cheaper brand of UNIQLO), and THEY HAD HOT GUYS TO TRAP YOU AGAINST THE WALL AND SAY YOU LOOK CUTE IN THE OUTFIT WHAT.

-regains composure-

Also it is home to the amazing yakitori place which Chikage recommended and took me to last year, and it’s apparently one of the best yakitori places around!

Which brings me to my next point:

3. Visit Your Teacher (s) when she performs in Shibuya which is near the shopping district Omotesando and Harajuku

You can’t tell this super sweet lady has a super deep and slightly terrifying noh singing voice right? I watched Chikage perform Noh for the first time this trip, and behind the mask and her costume, I was, “WHO IS THIS PERSON?!” I knew it was her, she told me her character. Even so, I couldn’t link the character to her. It wasn’t her. I only saw the character, the mask, not the actor.

The Kanze Noh Theatre is in Shibuya, home to Shibuya 109 (SHOPPING WOOHOO) and the Shibuya scramble, an iconic crossing… So it’s all there! You can also take the train to Harajuku, follow the fashionable people to the famous shopping district, and spend a whole day shopping and cafe-hopping.

I also met Gima-sensei, who knows all the sights to see and good photo op places. So if you don’t have a teacher, he’ll be your Skype Japanese tutor! He speaks fluent English and helped my Japanese improve a lot when he taught me in Singapore, so if you’re looking to learn Japanese, go to Gima-sensei!

4. Akihabara

Home of electronics and otakus. It’s like Sim Lim Square (Singapore) meets Sunshine Plaza meets… cosplay convention. It was my first time at Akihabara and I was overwhelmed with loud advertisement (welcome to Japan), bright lights, music everywhere, and adorable maid-loli’s giving out flyers.

There was a meido in a window being cute awww she was adorable and sweet But I didn’t go in because I’ve already experienced a maid + butler before and.. uh.. not my thing. But it’s your first Japan trip, so everything’s an experience!

When I was in Japan last year, the other backpackers told me about a robot cafe, but there wasn’t time this trip to look for it amongst the tall buildings and anime shops.

I did, however, find a seven story adult shop. For a culture so shy and polite, everyone was so nonchalant about it like it’s any other department store. Check out the article about it here. I didn’t believe it existed but… you have to see it to believe it! ._. Both the young and old can be seen entering and exiting the shop with nonchalant poker faces. Ohhh Japan~~

5. Roppongi

Christmas illuminations in Japan are SUPER awesome!! It’s also where you can see the Tokyo Tower, another iconic tower of Japan.

Actually the Christmas illuminations in Roppongi were my favourite part.

And they have the hugest Don Quixote there, which is a 24-hour department store that sells practically anything.

But Christmas illuminations. *_*

6. Kichijoji

If you have 10,000 yen to spare, travel from Shinjuku, take the Chuo line to Kichijoji, look for Satou’s Steak House, and have beef so amazing you’d think you were drinking it. With the most amazing rice that seemed to be picked from the meadows of heaven.

It’s worth going to Kichijoji for eating. Shopping there isn’t bad as well. There’s a huge electronics store there. But this beef… It haunts me.

It’s in the main shopping district in Kichijoji, if you ask around, I’m sure you’ll find it! I.. found it with my gut feeling.

7. Disney / Universal Studios

Because DISNEY. And THE WIZARDING WORLD.

Tips – Get a fast pass. Don’t bother with the castle walk in the wizarding world, just go for the ride within the castle instead, it’s called Harry’s Adventure… or something. Take lots of pictures because it’s the wizarding world. And it’s weird watching Dumbledore speak Japanese. For Disney, fast pass and stay for the fireworks!

It’s pretty self-explanatory.

8. Osaka / Nara / Hakone

If you want get out of Tokyo, get a JR pass (it’s an unlimited use for the shinkansen and all JR lines, which is super useful because JR Yamanote Line will get you everywhere). It’s a 2-3 hour trip from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka.

Osaka is home to Universal Studios, Dotonbori (famous shopping street where the big crab and Glico neon sign is), and takoyaki (octopus dough balls). Away from Osaka, you can take a day trip to Nara, buy some senbei (crackers) and the deer will chase you until you show your hands and tell them you don’t have any.

Some of them will know you’re lying and bump you. But they’re super cute, so it’s worth going to Nara!

Osaka’s train station is super simple and tonnes easier to read than Tokyo’s crazy subway map. Just stay on the main line (Namba area is good) and you’ll be fine!

You can also take a Shinkansen to Hakone (Odawara Station). It’s an hours trip, and full of onsen and inns, if you want to relax! I pretty much stayed in the ryokan and rolled around during my stay.

November Special: Festival Tokyo

If you’re there in November, Tokyo’s theatre festival is happening, and there are TONS of amazing theatre pieces to watch! I caught Ninagawa’s “Ravens, we shall load bullets!” in Nishi-Sugamo Arts Factory this year. It was performed by Saitama’s Gold Theatre, which consisted of senior citizens and it began with old people sitting in fishtanks – you can see how amazing it was from the beginning.

Everywhere: CONVENIENCE STORES

Because if you’re on a budget. And also I can live on 7-11 onigiri (rice balls) and oden daikon (radish) everyday. And they have everything. I went to a convenience store every day. IT’S AN EXPERIENCE OKAY. It’s also where you can buy tickets to the Ghibli museum in Mitaka!

Lodging / Getting Around / Wi-fi?

AirBnb and if you don’t mind little and shared spaces, hostels. If you’re near the Yamanote Line (it’s a circular line in the middle), it’s easy to get around everywhere. Hosts on AirBnb are super helpful and friendly, and I think it’s a great way to meet people! You can take a limousine bus from the airport to Tokyo station, or take a train. I’ve always taken the train from Narita, which is the Keisei Line all the way to Ueno/Nippori which was on the Yamanote Line.

You’ll need to download or get a Japanese subway/train map (chizu) at a main train station. The train station at the airport should provide it. It takes a lot of scanning and squinting at the map because there are SO many stations. If you can read Kanji, download the app called “Navitime”, where it plots your route for you and tells you how much it cost.

I had pocket wifi, get the faster one with less coverage. It’s unlimited data, so you’re only limited by battery life. Bring your external charger. With it, you can google everywhere.

 

Well, I hope this short post helps you on your first Japan trip! Everything within Tokyo is super convenient and close, so you can do lots in one day! The younger generation speaks English, and everyone is super helpful so you can just ask for directions. “______ wa doko desuka?” (where is ____?) or “_____ ni douyatte ikimasuka?”  (how do I go to __?” and bow thankfully a lot.

Comment below and let me know how your trip goes!

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