Hostelworld Guide for Tokyo

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It's hard to think of a city as fascinating as Tokyo. And calling it a 'city' doesn't do it justice. This is a metropolis that encompasses a collection of mini-cities, each with their own intriguing attributes. You have the bright lights of Shibuya, the eclectic people of Harajuku, the electronic gadgets of Akihabara, the hedonism of Roppongi, and the craziness of Shinjuku. This is one of the world's great cities with more to offer than most places. And while some parts may not suit everyone's tastes, there isn't an area that will fail to excite you.







 

 

In this Guide...      

Useful Information
After Dark
Places to Eat
Top Attractions
Budget Tips
Where to Shop






 The Essentials


 Climate


Getting There

By plane: Narita Airport is where the majority of planes touch down. Situated approximately 60km from the city, two train services connect it with the city centre.

The Narita Express (Y2,940) and the Keisei Skyliner (Y1,920). The journeys take between 50 minutes and 80 minutes.

By train: If you're travelling to the Japanese capital by train, you will do so on one of the famous 'shinkansen', also known as bullet trains.

These extremely efficient trains connect Japan's major cities.

By bus: If you travel to Tokyo by bus your journey will end in either Shinjuku Station or Tokyo Station.

Getting Around

By subway: Tokyo's subway network may seem daunting at first, but thanks to the number of lines in operation, getting around is very easy.

Two companies operate the city's subway network and one-way tickets cost between Y160-Y300.

Trains operate between 5am and midnight and, as they cover basically everywhere, you won't need to use buses during your stay.

By taxi: Taxis can be hailed down on the street or called by your accommodation. In relation to other Asian cities though, Tokyo's taxis are considerably more expensive.

 Tokyo facts

Name: Tokyo, which started out a small fishing village, used to be called Edo ('estuary'). The city's name was changed to Tokyo in 1868.

Population: More than thirteen million people inhabit this bustling metropolis.

Area: The city of Tokyo covers an area of around 2,200 square kilometres.


Each season in Tokyo is very distinctive. Winters are very cold and temperatures regularly drop to 0C and sometimes below. Its summer, on the other hand, is extremely hot and in July and August in particular, it can get very hot and sticky. As a result, the most pleasant times to visit the city are spring and autumn.

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 Good to know...

Language: Japanese
Currency: Japanese Yen
Electricity: 100 Volts, AC/50Hz
Area Code: +81 (Japan), 03 (Tokyo)
Emergency Codes: Ambulance 119 / Fire 119 / Police 110
Time Zone: Greenwich Meantime + 9
Central Post Office: There is no central post office, instead there are post offices in the city's various neighbourhoods
Main Tourist Office: 1st Floor, Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, Nishi-Shinjuku 2-chome, Shinjuku-ku

Embassies / Consulates

USA: +81 (0)3 3224 5000
UK: +81 (0)3 5211 1100
Canada: +81 (0)3 5412 6200
Australia: +81 (0)3 5232 4111
South Africa: + 81 (0)3 3265 3366
Ireland: +81 (0)3 3263 0695
Germany: +81 (0)3 5791 7700
Spain: +81 (0)3 3583 8531
Italy: +81 (0)3 3453 5291
New Zealand: +81 (0)3 3467 2271
France: +81 (0)3 5420 8800

 
Hostelworld Guide for Tokyo www.hostelworld.com

 Cheap Eats


 After Dark


Gonpachi, 1-13-11 Nishi-Azabu Minato-ku Seeing as this restaurant (allegedly) inspired one of Kill Bill Vol. 1's most famous scenes, you simply have to check out it. Choose one big noodle dish or lots of smaller ones such as 'yakitori' (skewers) and sushi. Bookings are essential though. Open daily from 11.30am-2am; tel: 03 5771 0170.

A Good Diner, Inc, Maruhachi 2-10-12, Shibuya Amidst the bright lights of Shibuya is this informal eatery where you can easily forget about the crowds. Its extensive menu is packed with dishes comprising of fish, cheese, chicken and salad. It's also a perfect place for a beer as it stays open way into the early hours. Open daily from 5pm-7am.

 Japan's most famous food export

Made of vinegared rice and seafood, sushi is undoubtedly Japan's most famous food export. It isn't to everybody's liking, mainly because most of the fish used in sushi is raw. But give it a whirl and you may be nicely surprised. If you do decide to do as the Japanese do, keep in mind that sushi restaurants with moving sushi trains are a lot cheaper than those without.

Tajimaya, 9th Floor, Yodo-Bashi Centre, Akihabara Tajimaya is where you can try traditional Japanese 'hotpots'. This is where you cook meats and vegetables in your own pot of boiling water. Try the 'shabu shabu', a thin beef cooked with vegetables and served with dipping sauces. Open daily from 11am-11pm.

Kushimura, 1F Woo Bldg., 3-8-8 Roppongi, Minato-ku Venture into this inexpensive Roppongi restaurant and order just one thing - the '10-piece'. With this comes a series of dishes served one after another. Their specialites are charcoal grilled yakitori and kamameshi. Open Mon to Sat from 5.30pm-11pm.


Geronimo, 2nd Fl, Yamamuro Bldg 7-14-10, Roppongi, Minato-ku Titling itself as a 'shot bar', this tiny Roppongi venue draws mostly ex-pats who go to down shooter after shooter after shooter. If you really want to leave your mark on the bar, down 15 shots in a row and they'll inscribe your name on a small plaque and stick it on the wall that is holding you up. Open nightly from 6pm-6am.

Karaoke Bars Scattered all over Tokyo are karaoke bars. Different to doing karaoke in other countries, here you rent your own private booth for 1 or 2 hours. After paying for your time you are ushered to your booth with a song book bigger than most phone books and your dignity. Whether you leave with or without the latter is entirely up to you. Open from 6pm-5am.

 Gay / Lesbian Tokyo

Tokyo's gay scene is quite active with most of the action centering around the city's Shinjuku district. Dragon Men (1/F Stork Nagasaki, 2-11-4 Shinjuku) is the area's most famous gay bar and is also one of the biggest. Arch (B/F Dai-2 Hayakawaya Bld 2-14-6 Shinjuku) hosts men-only nights on Saturdays and has themed nights also while Kinsmen (2/F 2-18-5 Shinjuku) is one of the city's longest-established gay bars.

Quest, Rene No. 2 Bldg 3F, 5-3-1 Roppongi "Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!" Get ready to hear this chant in this bar which is a favourite with those from the land Down Under. It has a good selection of Aussie beers and is also renowned for staying open extremely late, or early as the case may be. Open daily from 7pm-late.

Gas Panic, 2F Shintaiso Bldg II, 2-10-7 Dogenzaka, Shibuya This is just one of 3 Gas Panics scattered throughout the city. One other is also in Shibuya, another is in Roppongi and each one is packed every weekend. Thanks to signs up such as 'you must be holding a drink at all times', things can get pretty interesting. Open daily from 6pm-5am.

Legends/Hobgoblins, 3-16-33 Roppongi, Minato-ku If there's an international sporting event taking place in Europe or America you can be guaranteed of a good atmosphere in these bars which stand side-by-side. Between both bars are innumerable TVs and hundreds of fans shouting on their beloved teams. Open daily from 2pm-late.


 Don't Miss


 Mark Your Calendar


Harajuku Made famous in recent times thanks to Gwen Stefani, Harajuku is a part of Tokyo where you will see (arguably) the coolest kids. The best time to visit is on Sunday afternoons when 'Harajuku girls' stand on the bridge outside the train station, posing solemnly for tourists looking to get their picture taken with Tokyo's youth of today. Subway: Harajuku.

 Will you be lucky enough?

Sumo wrestling Held every May, July and September, if you're lucky enough to be in Tokyo during one of these months you're in for a spectacle you'll never forget. Held in Kokugikan Sumo Hall, the proceedings start around 9am and continue until 6pm that evening. In this time you witness everything you ever imagined about the sport - salt throwing, stands offs and more. Subway: Ryogoku (exit 4A); ticket prices vary.

Sensoji Temple, Taito-ku, Asukasa Tokyo's oldest temple reminds you that everything in this city isn't about futuristic ideologies and electrical goods. Thousands flock to this well-maintained temple to rub incense-smoke into their skin for good health and to also pay their respects. Subway: Asakusa (exit 4); admission free.

Edo-Tokyo Museum, 1-4-1 Yokoami, Sumida-ku Founded in 1993, this museum is where visitors come to learn more about Tokyo's history and culture. This futuristic looking museum also looks at how the city will develop in the future. Subway: Ryogoku (exit 4A); open Tues-Sat 9.30am-5.30pm; admission Y600.

Meiji-Jingu Shrine, Shibuya-ku, Yoyogi Kamizonocho 1-1 Dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and his consort, Empress Shoken, this is Tokyo's best example of a 'Shinto' shrine. It is located in a huge park which is visited by many looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Subway: Harajuku; admission free.


January - Ippan Sanga This day on January 2nd is one of only two days in the year when visitors are allowed enter the Imperial Palace to give their New Year greetings to the Emperor and the Imperial Family.

February - Setsubun Thousands gather in Tokyo's Sensoji Temple to kiss goodbye to winter and welcome the spring. To do so they hurl soybeans and shout "Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!" (Fortune in! Devils out!).

May - Natsu-basho Sumo Tournament The year's first sumo tournament takes place in Kokugikan Sumo Hall each May. The country's top sumo wrestlers can be seen squaring up to each other in one of Japan's greatest sporting events.

May - Sanja Matsuri Tokyo hosts three 'Grand Festivals' each year and this one, held around the Asakusa Shrine is the biggest. Over three days thousands gather to drink, dance and more.

July - Sumida River Fireworks Festival This 'Hanabi Taikai' (fireworks display) is Japan's biggest. Almost a million people gather to watch the 20,000 rockets shoot into the sky, most of them around Asakusa's Sumida Park.

July - Fuji Rock Festival First staged in 1997, the annual Fuji Rock Festival attracts the world's top acts each year. Some of those who have played to the masses in the past include the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Eminem and the Foo Fighters.

August - Asakusa Samba Carnival Asakusa's streets become the most vibrant in the city towards the end of August for this Brazillian-flavoured festival. Expect to see some outlandish costumes in breathtaking parades.

September - Aki Basho Sumo Tournament This tournament is the last time sumo wrestlers get the chance to battle each other, meaning it's also the last time for the public see the sport live. Don't miss it if you're in Tokyo in September.

November - Shibuya Festival Yoyogi Park is the location for this annual winter festival. Aimed mainly at children, it also includes food stalls. Shows are performed and parades also entertain.

December - Tenno no Tanjobi On this, the holiday of the Emperor's birthday (23rd), Tokyo's Imperial Palace is opened for only the second time of the year as thousands visit to give their best wishes.

 
Hostelworld Guide for Tokyo www.hostelworld.com

 Neighbourhood Watch


 Retail Therapy


Roppongi Best visited after dark, Roppongi is where you will find endless bars and nightclubs. Most of those who populate them are 'gaijans', or foreigners. You won't find too many Japanese here. But if you want to paint the town red when in the Japanese capital look no further. Start the night at Roppongi Crossing and make your way from there. Subway: Roppongi.

 Totally crossed out

Ginza Known for its plush boutiques and swanky karaoke bars, Ginza is also where you will find one of the world's most photographed pedestrian crossings. Not Tokyo's busiest crossing (that's in Shibuya), travel to take one of the most generic photos of Tokyo or just to make your way through the crowds to the other side. Subway: Ginza.

Shinjuku While Roppongi is overrun with 'gaijins' rather than locals, Shinjuku is where the Japanese go to play. Worth going to during the day to witness the bright lights and take advantage of the cheap restaurants, at night it can be slightly seedy as this is where you will find the city's red light district. Subways: Shinjuku-sanchome, Shinjuku.

Akihabara Known as 'Electric Town', Akihabara is the Tokyo most of us envisage when we think of the Japanese capital. This is where you will stumble upon electrical shop after electrical shop offloading hundreds of cheap cameras and other electrical goods. Subway: Akihabara.

Shibuya Tokyo has many different, bustling centres, but Shibuya is arguably the busiest. They say that Shibuya Crossing, the one resembling Times Square more than any other, is the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world. Explore this area and its lanes to find a bundle of cool restaurants, bars and shops. Subway: Shibuya.


Ginza Not a shopping area that targets the budget traveller, Ginza is where you will find branches of all the world's top designers. Here you'll find stores belonging to Gucci, Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Cartier and more. It's particularly nice to wander around on Saturdays or Sundays when its main roads are closed to traffic.

Shibuya 109, 2-29-1 Dogenzaka Shibuya-ku This landmark building in the middle of Shibuya is where Tokyo's trendsetters come to stock their wardrobes with the latest fashions. The centre has over 9 floors with stores catering for every age and taste. Open daily from 10am-9pm.

HMV/Tower Records, Shibuya Of these two world famous music stores, Tower Records is the biggest, although the HMV sign is the one to catch your eye first as you approach Shibuya Crossing. Both are enormous and always busy. If you fancy purchasing some 'Shibuya-kei' music, a unique type of Japanese pop music, look no further.

100 Yen Shops Dotted all over Tokyo are '100 Yen' shops, stores selling a wide range of products for Y105 (Y100 for the item and Y5 consumption tax). In them you can pick up everything from chopsticks to ping pong sets. Many can be found around subway stations.

 Electric Town

Akihabara Located in north-east Tokyo, Akihabara is the Tokyo most of us imagine before going there. If you plan on picking up cheap electrical goods, and in particular cameras, hop on a subway bound for here. The best known department store is Yodobashi which is conveniently located right beside the subway station. If you don't find what you want there, head towards the streets and lanes of central Akihabara for tons more electrical stores.


 Budget Tips


 A Day in Tokyo...


Visit Yoyogi Park on Sunday If you venture down to Harajuku on a Sunday, don't stop once you get your photo taken with the girls on the bridge. Keep on walking, past the teddy boys showcasing their moves, and on to Yoyogi Park. Chill out for an afternoon watching people skinny dip in the lake, others playing frisbee and budding musicians jamming in every corner.

Check out the Sumo Museum If your visit to Tokyo doesn't happen to coincide with one of the year's three sumo tournaments, it isn't all bad news. Situated beside the city's Kokugikan Stadium is the city's Sumo Museum. Exhibits include pictures of the all-time greats and various bits of memorabilia. Open Mon-Fri from 10am-4.30pm.

 Save when singing!

Save money in karaoke bars Rather than buy individual drinks to give you some Dutch courage in a karaoke booth, ask the person at the desk for the 'unlimited drink' option. With this you pay around US$14 for the booth for an hour and as much drink as you want! This includes beer and shorts too. Your friends won't be able to get you off the mic!

Enjoy free views For a bird's-eye view of Tokyo you don't need to fork out lots of yen. Instead you can visit some of the city's skyscrapers which have free observation decks. One of the city's best free viewing platforms is inside the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Offices (Nishi-Shinjuku 2-8-1, Shinjuku).

Stroll through the Imperial Palace's Gardens While the Imperial Palace is only open twice a year, members of the public are allowed to wander around its gardens all year long. Inside you'll also find a museum housing Emperor Showa's art collection. Open daily except Mon and Fri; admission free.


Rather than head straight for the bright lights of some of Tokyo's more vibrant districts, start the day in Sensoji Temple, Tokyo's best known place of worship.

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Go from the old to the new and visit Akihabara. Pick up a high-tec bargain or simply embrace the electrical atmosphere!

While it may be best-known for its electrical shops, Akihabara is also home to some great restaurants. For lunch grab some sushi or ramen (noodles).

The next neighbourhood to explore is Ginza, one of the city's more affluent areas. Browse in its boutiques and cross its manic pedestrian crossing.

Next check out Harajuku. Keep an eye for the Harajuku girls before moving onward to Yoyogi Park. Take a break from the city and chill out in the park for a while.

See where the locals go for their kicks and visit Shinjuku. Its train station is the busiest train station in the world! There are lots of cheap restaurants and shops here too.

Go to Shibuya, an area best seen at night. Its pedestrian crossing is the world's busiest. Also full of cool bars and restaurants, the ones here are a little more upmarket.

Jump in a cab bound for Roppongi before they get too expensive! Check out some of the bars in Tokyo's most vibrant district after dark.

Finish the night off singing away to your heart's content in one of Roppongi's many karaoke clubs.

 
Hostelworld Guide for Tokyo www.hostelworld.com