Where we could, we explored Tokyo mostly by foot and we think this is the best way to see most cities. Especially where they are compact enough to do so. We will admit that this did make for some long and tiring days. And we promised ourselves on several days that we would have an early finish but it never really happened. It was quite tough at the time and sometimes felt a bit like a military operation! But now, we’re glad we did it that way. There’s so much to see and do in Tokyo that we couldn’t justify simply chilling at the hotel. We wanted to sample as much as we could in the time we had.
Guides and maps
The Lonely Planet’s “Discover Japan” guidebook really helped us with the planning. We also requested, by e-mail, some tourist maps from the Tokyo Tourist Information Center. They kindly sent us an Official Tokyo Tourism Guide. You can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We found this guide very useful for getting around and carried one at all times. It really did help us navigate the city and we would recommend this. We were able to pick up copies of it at the Airport and train/subway stations.
We didn’t find getting around too difficult once we got used to it. A lot of signs are in English and we got the impression that there was a lot of work being done to assist English speaking Tourists. This may be partly down to the Rugby World Cup in 2019 being centred on Tokyo. The city was also due to host the Tokyo 2020 Olympics which has now been postponed due to COVID19. In terms of the language barrier, our experience compared very favourably to others we know who visited before us.
Each day, we worked out a rough itinerary of things we wanted to see and do by area. We then travelled there, back and around by subway, train or on foot. We found Japanese people to be amongst the nicest and most helpful people we have come across. On the odd occasion that we were unsure of our bearings we found that someone would come to our rescue.
For more information on transport in and around Tokyo, visit the city government office’s official website: www.gotokyo.org/en/tourists/info.
Before we went we read that Tokyo’s transport system was one of the most complicated in the world. Given that, we were very pleasantly surprised. We found Tokyo to be fairly straightforward to get around. A lot of signs were in English and the information provided on the subway to be some of the best we have experienced. We also found the subway to be spotlessly clean, efficient, well-maintained and comfortable.
Tokyo’s Public Transport is amongst the most punctual in the world. We did find that in ‘strong winds’ trains were temporarily cancelled or delayed. Even then, a friendly commuter would keep us informed as announcements were made. As a side note we found the definition of strong winds to differ greatly to here in West Wales!
Staff at stations were very helpful with information and guidance in the use of ticket machines. Once we’d got the hang of the machines we found purchasing tickets for journeys a doddle. Everyone had a go!
As our hotel was in Tokyo Bay, the last piece of our journey was on the train. We purchased the tickets for these journeys at the train station using the ticket machines. The ticket for this journey cost Y160 for an adult (just over £1) and Y80 for a child.
We bought our subway tickets at a store in Odaiba. We just happened to see a sign stating that the Tokyo subway tickets were sold there. You can also buy the Tokyo subway tickets at the Airport, in subway stations, Tourist Information Offices, some stores and some Hotels.
We found the Tokyo Subway Navigation app helpful in deciding on routes.
We quickly learned not to concentrate too much on the names of lines and stations. Instead, we focused on the colours and numbers. We really don’t mean that to sound patronising and apologise if it does. But we found this really helped and made things far easier.
Don’t be put off using the subway. We found it quite straightforward when we got the hang of it. For us it was also another opportunity to get a real sense of how this city works and provided some interesting interactions with it’s people. Because the stations and trains are so clean, comfortable and punctual we actually enjoyed using the subway. We also found some great places to eat, especially at Tokyo Station, and of course, lots of vending machines!
For more information check out some of our other posts and pages on Tokyo