A few weeks ago, I spent four days in Tokyo (with a side trip in the neighboring Kanagawa Prefecture), and as my friends are probably tired of hearing, I loved it. Absolutely loved it. Behind their towering skyscrapers and their disciplined culture, Tokyo still retains its charm. Here are the things I learned from traveling in this metropolis.
1) Tokyo is a huge city, and the best way to explore every corner of it is through their advanced metro system. It is so complicated that the first time I saw their train map, I was totally overwhelmed by it. Unlike the MRTs in Singapore, Hong Kong, Taipei, or even in Manila, Japan's highly efficient mass transportation system is not fully subsidized by the government. Consequently, the subway and train fare in Tokyo is more expensive. The starting fare costs JPY 170-220, depending on your line or your station, which brings us to the second item...
2) It is no secret that Japan is an expensive country. Most of my Filipino friends who have been to Tokyo have committed a grave mistake in traveling - converting the price to Philippine Peso. Picture this: your Php 35,000, when converted to JPY, is 72,000. Now that's a huge amount of money in our context. But when you travel to Japan, especially to its capital city, JPY 72,000 is just enough. Pro tip: If you've researched extensively prior your trip, there are several ways to lessen your expenses in Tokyo without compromising comfort and experience.
3) Prior our trip, I made sure that we'd be sleeping in a decent hotel room, and not inside a capsule because I'm claustrophobic. We stayed at Flexstay Inn Kiyosumi-Shirakawa at Koto-Ku Ward. We only spent JPY 21,300 (so that's JPY 10,650 each pax) for our 3-night stay, and that's already a great deal in Tokyo. Our room was big, the bathroom was very decent (it comes with a bathtub and a state-of-the-art toilet bowl), and the wi-fi connection was fast and reliable. Not to mention that our neighborhood's peaceful. So, a good night's sleep is highly guaranteed when you stay there.
4) Most of our expenses came from riding Tokyo's trains. Upon arrival at Narita Airport, we bought the 3-day JR Tokyo-wide pass for JPY 10,000, and it was the biggest (and the most expensive) mistake for this trip. Kiyosumi-Shirakawa was the nearest station to our hotel, and it wasn't even part of our unlimited pass! I think we only consumed JPY ~5,000 worth of tickets in our pass. It's only worth it if your hotel's near a JR Line.
5) Unlike in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Manila, you are allowed to eat and drink inside the train. The Japanese take high regards to proper manners, and etiquette, that's why everyone is encouraged to switch their mobile phones to silent mode. No one talks inside the train, and when the need arises, they only converse quietly.
6) Don't get me started with their food. SIMPLY. THE. BEST! I have never eaten something in Japan that was NOT delicious. Tokyo is a haven for food lovers like me. If you want to have an ultimate gastronomic experience in Tokyo, you should try every restaurant available - from convenience stores, hole-in-the-wall ramen stores, restaurants, high-end restaurants, street foods, and stores that sell bento meals. The average price of food in Tokyo ranges from JPY 650-1300. Don't limit yourself to Family Marts or 7-Eleven stores. The Japanese cuisine is already an experience worth trying. I should go back here and try more of their food. Up next: Kobe beef, the one that melts in your mouth.
|10 kinds of Sushi for only JPY 650|
|I scream for ice cream!|
|Chicken Teriyaki bento meal.|
|Grilled squid for JPY 500.|
7) If you're frequently using their subway, get a Suica or Pasmo card. Deposit fee costs JPY 500, and you can add a few thousand yens for your fare. It will save you a lot of time from buying one-way tickets every time you ride one. Also, you can use it for convenience stores and vending machines purchases. How convenient!
8) Tokyo is also a great shopping destination. When we went there weeks ago, most Uniqlo stores are on Autumn Sale. The tallest I've seen was at Ginza Street, standing at 12 floors. There are also numerous shops in Harajuku, Shinjuku, and Ginza. Don Quijote is one of the famous stores in Tokyo. The store sells almost everything under the sun - chocolates, matcha treats, electronics, perfumes, clothes, coats, trench coats, accessories, and a whole lot more.
|Ginza Street at night.|
9) It is true that most kids in Tokyo commute without their parents or guardians. It's so amazing that at a young age, they learn how to become independent. I only started commuting unsupervised when I was already in high school. Filipino parents can be very overprotective of their children.
10) One can easily fall in love with Tokyo. Of all capital cities I've visited, Tokyo is by far my favorite. Statistics show that it is one of the most populated and densest cities in the world. Despite that, the streets are clean, people respect the laws, and everything is efficient and convenient. I have tried riding the train during rush hour. The crowd is huge, and there's negative personal space, but I still loved it. Now I know why my friends still keep on coming back to Tokyo. There are so many things to do here, and there are also so many places to explore.
I could've written more things about Tokyo if I stayed longer. Well, Japan is not your once-in-a-lifetime destination. I will always come back here.