10 Critical Things to Know Before Traveling to Tokyo

Planning your trip to Tokyo, Japan? Perfect. You're in for an amazing experience, but there are some crucial things to know before traveling to Tokyo. 

This article covers the top 10 essentials to ensure your visit is smooth, enjoyable, and free from unexpected surprises. From understanding local customs to navigating the city’s transport system.

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10 Critical Things to Know Before Traveling to Tokyo
Image Source: Thrillist

10 things to know before traveling to Tokyo

These topics should provide a comprehensive guide to help prepare travelers either for a solo trip to Tokyo or a family trip to Tokyo.

1- Navigating Public Transport 

The best way to reach places to see in Tokyo, Japan, is public transport. However, public transport is efficient but can be complex. Here’s how to navigate it:

  • Suica or Pasmo Card: Get one of these rechargeable smart cards for easy travel on trains and buses, and even to buy things at stores.
  • Train Lines: Familiarize yourself with major train lines, especially JR Yamanote Line that circles the center of the city.
  • Station Signs: Look for English signs. Most stations and trains have them.
  • Apps: Use navigation apps like Google Maps for real-time directions.
  • Timing: Trains are punctual. Be on time.
  • Rush Hour: It’s crowded. Avoid traveling with large bags during this time.
  • Platform Lines: Stand in line to board the train.
  • Train Etiquette: Stay quiet and don’t talk on the phone.

Follow these tips, and you’ll be reaching things to visit in Tokyo like a local in no time. Additionally, take Tokyo tours to familiarize yourself with the city.

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2- Cash is King 

In Tokyo, cash is essential. Many places, especially smaller shops and restaurants, don’t accept cards. Be sure to get yen as soon as you land. Airport ATMs offer good rates and English instructions.

7-Eleven and Post Office ATMs are reliable places to withdraw cash throughout the city. Estimate what you’ll need and carry that amount to avoid being stuck without cash.

Keeping small bills is handy for smaller purchases and makes transactions smoother.

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3- Local Customs and Etiquette Matters 

Etiquette is a big deal in Japan. It shows respect and helps you fit in. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Bow When Greeting: A slight bow is a sign of respect.
  • Say Thank You and Please: Basic politeness goes a long way.
  • Don’t Tip: It’s not customary and can be seen as rude.
  • Follow Public Manners: Stay on the left on escalators, and don’t talk loudly in public spaces.
  • Mind Your Trash: Public trash cans are rare. Be prepared to carry your trash until you find one.
  • Respect Queue: Always line up and wait your turn.
  • Indoor Etiquette: Remove your shoes when entering someone’s home.

4- Shoe Rules 

Japan has a clear rule about shoes: take them off when entering homes, certain accommodations, and some traditional Tokyo must-visit places like temples, castles, and restaurants. 

You might be offered slippers to wear inside, but take these off when stepping on tatami mats. Keep a clean pair of socks with you, as you might need to take off your shoes unexpectedly.

5- Stay Connected 

Staying connected in Tokyo is crucial for navigation and communication. Here’s how you can ensure you have internet access:

  • Pocket Wi-Fi: Rent one. It offers unlimited data and can connect multiple devices.
  • SIM Card: Purchase a local SIM card with data.
  • Free Wi-Fi Spots: Use free Wi-Fi in cafes, train stations, and convenience stores. Be cautious about security when using public Wi-Fi.
  • Portable Charger: Carry one to keep your devices charged while on the go.

6- Convenience Stores 

Tokyo’s convenience stores are a lifeline. They’re open 24/7, and you can find them everywhere. From snacks, meals, and drinks to everyday essentials, they’re your go-to for almost anything, anytime.

Many have ATMs that accept foreign cards. Pay for online purchases, bills, or even top up your travel card. Not all, but many stores offer clean and free restrooms.

7- Tokyo Food Tour 

Tokyo is a food paradise. Here’s a guide to help you decide where to eat:

  • Sushi: Try Tsukiji Fish Market for fresh options. Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi are popular choices.
  • Ramen: Ichiran and Afuri offer unique and tasty ramen.
  • Street Food: Explore Ameya-Yokocho Market for various street food delights.
  • Local Dishes: Head to local izakayas (Japanese pubs) to try a range of Japanese dishes.
  • High-End Dining: There are numerous Michelin-starred restaurants. Reservations are recommended.
  • Theme Cafés: Experience unique dining at various theme cafés around the city.

8- Weather and Clothing 

Packing depends on the season. Here’s a quick guide:

  • Spring (March to May): Bring light jackets and layers. Don’t forget comfortable shoes for cherry blossom viewing.
  • Summer (June to August): Pack light, breathable clothes. Have an umbrella for sudden showers.
  • Fall (September to November): Similar to spring, layers are key. It’s a great time for sightseeing.
  • Winter (December to February): It’s cold, but not extreme. A warm jacket, scarves, and gloves should suffice.

9- Safety Tips 

The city is generally safe, but it’s always good to be prepared. Here are some safety things to know before traveling to Tokyo:

  • Stay Aware: Pay attention to your surroundings, especially in crowded areas or Tokyo tourist places.
  • Secure Your Belongings: Keep your valuables secure and be mindful of your belongings.
  • Know Emergency Numbers: 110 is the number for police, and 119 is for fire and ambulance.
  • Travel Insurance: It’s a good idea to have it, just in case.
  • Follow Local Laws: Stay on the right side of the law to avoid any trouble.
  • Stay Hydrated: The city can get hot and humid, especially in summer. Drink plenty of water.
  • Respect Customs: Understanding and respecting local customs will help you navigate social situations.

10- Accommodation Tips

Finding the right place to stay is crucial. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Location: Stay near a subway station. Areas like Shinjuku, Shibuya, or Tokyo Station are convenient. Also, consider the distance to the best places to visit in Tokyo.
  • Size: Hotel rooms can be small. Check room dimensions before booking.
  • Budget: Capsule hotels are budget-friendly. Mid-range options and luxury hotels are widely available too.
  • Amenities: Ensure your accommodation has the amenities you need, such as Wi-Fi.
  • Book Early: This is a busy city. Book your accommodation well in advance.
  • Check Reviews: Look at guest reviews to ensure the quality of your stay.

Conclusion

These things to know before traveling to Tokyo ensure an exciting adventure. The city combines modern vibes with traditional aspects seamlessly. 

Navigate public transport confidently, keep cash handy, and observe local customs and etiquette. Stay connected, explore convenience stores, and savor the diverse food options. 

Choose your accommodation wisely and pack according to the season. Follow safety guidelines to ensure a smooth journey. Dive in and enjoy the experience.