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Terracotta Army
Posts: 11666

Possibly the only user with more posts in the Den than PC/Console Gaming.

on: January 05, 2019, 03:33:44 PM

Have 8 days in Japan in early May and need some advice. I know there are folks here with lots of experience, so throwing it out there.  Flying into Narita and out from Haneda.

Need advice on:

What area to stay in.
Things to do (its me, my wife, and my 14 year old)
Stay all 8 days in Tokyo or do a few days in another part of the country?

Any tips appreciated. Thanks.

"As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.Ē

-H.L. Mencken
Terracotta Army
Posts: 5757

Solely responsible for the thread on "The Condom Wall."

Reply #1 on: January 05, 2019, 04:28:48 PM

I know a non-F13 person I could put you in contact with. (German ex-pat that married Japanese).

But let's wait first, sure we have some Weebos here.

Restoration is a perfectly valid school of magic!
Terracotta Army
Posts: 820

Reply #2 on: January 05, 2019, 06:13:36 PM

I went to Japan last year with my mother (she'd always wanted to go, so I took her, in part to help her cope with my dad's passing). Can't give a ton of advice for Tokyo, as most of our time there was wasted when my mom got pretty sick (side note; the hospital we went to was actually pretty decent; although their English was terrible, and was surprisingly cheap). Also, our time in Japan was mostly spent going to temples and the like, with limited shopping and zero nightlife exposure.

However; we found staying at the Tokyu Excel hotel in Shibuya to be worth it; almost literally on top of the Shibuya subway station (we could actually see the famous Shibuya crossing from our rooms) which allowed for some good transportation options, and a good chance to expose ourselves to the 'oh my fucking god there's a sea of endless people everywhere' part of Tokyo; it also had a decent western and Japanese morning breakfast buffet, and a decent restaurant (really good beef dish there, but expensive) we tried once for dinner. A lot of shopping in the area around it, as well. So, I'd recommend there.

I would recommend the Oriental Bazaar for your touristy-souvenir shopping. Saw some amazing things there, even bought a few, including a gorgeous hand-made wall hanging. Other than that.. I'd say hit the main tourist spots, but also consider the Robot Restaurant (don't go for the food; it isn't good, but the experience was hilarious and very.. Japanese). Can also see the giant Godzilla head nearby that spews fire every hour, which I found to be amusing as a Godzilla fan.

As for travelling outside of Tokyo; with the possible exception of a day trip or 2 down to Kamakura.. 8 days isn't a lot of time just for Tokyo, much less anything else. So, I wouldn't really recommend bothering to cram a lot of other cities/towns in with just 8 days. I'm going back late this year (spending about 37 days in Japan this time), and I've booked about 12 of that just for Tokyo.

To be fair, though, when I went with my mother we couldn't see a lot because of pace (she can't walk far or quickly and the sheer number of stairs everywhere and steep hills took their toll on her; Japan is a country that actually does let you go up-hill, both ways).

What to see largely depends on interests, imo. We tended to really enjoy the temples, graveyards and smaller shops we found in the country. If you're going to a main tourist attraction, however, go close to opening or closing, however, as otherwise the places can, quite literally, be jam-packed with people. In Kyoto when we saw the Golden Pavilion there was almost no room to move and you had to shuffle along at the speed of a tortoise. I have heard good things about the Disneyland or whatever park near Tokyo, but that it is extremely busy (common to get hour+ wait times for rides) so I'd take that into consideration if you and your family had any interest in that.

Kamakura is pretty close to Tokyo, and can be a decent day trip to hit the main high-lights there, though. Even better if you can spend a night there, though. Given your schedule it is about the only place I'd recommend considering if you want to see. Otherwise, I'd say spend all your time in Tokyo and pick a couple key places you want to hit as a tourist, and a few shopping districts to just get lost in for a day.

Lastly; don't be afraid of the roads in residential areas. They don't tend to have sidewalks and both cars and people use them freely. I saw a lot of tourists hesitating to use them when we were there because of the lack of side-walks. Additionally; we fell in love with the Suica card (though the Passmo cards serve the same purpose) for ease of use in using the subways, taxis, even some convenience stores and vending machines. Helps a lot considering how common cash use is in Japan if you don't want to end up lugging around tons of change (fuck the 1 yen coin.. worse than the god damn penny).
Terracotta Army
Posts: 9862

Reply #3 on: January 05, 2019, 07:27:22 PM

First off, budget appropriately: the country is super-expensive.

Tokyo reminded me of New York City in this respect: it may be a better city to live in or near even than it is as a tourist destination. There are staggeringly good restaurants at almost all price levels, there are some very good museums, there are some fun shopping areas, there are some really interesting intense experiences of urban life. But it also at a certain point gets exhausting and a bit confining--a whole world that is a city, or vice-versa, and you still end up feeling like you don't know the place as much as you ought.

If your budget can stand it, consider going to Kyoto. I had two days there and it was a stellar experience, even in the horrible humidity of summer.
Big Gulp
Terracotta Army
Posts: 3151

Reply #4 on: January 10, 2019, 06:53:59 PM

If you dishonor your daimyo make sure that you're up on the proper way to commit seppuku.  Getting it wrong would be...  unfortunate.
Terracotta Army
Posts: 9742


Reply #5 on: January 10, 2019, 08:31:38 PM

Budget is your biggest thing here.  As mentioned, Japan can be pricey (especially for hotels).

Find a place anywhere in Tokyo that looks nice and affordable to you.  Try to make sure itís near a rail station (especially a JR station if you can), and you can get to pretty much anywhere (when youíre looking at options, I'd be happy to tell you if that area is too far away from anything to be worthwhile). 

I want to emphasize, this should be your top priority in Japan.  Japan, IMO, has the single greatest eating out culture on the planet.  They go all out on even shitty restaurants to give great atmosphere, have a lot of special traditions around eating, and of course the food is amazing.  Hitting random places on the fly for lunch is fine as youíll be walking around, but make the most of your dinners.  Iíll assume you are familiar with Japanese cuisine (if not, happy to go over the top things), so just google up top places.  Actually, Schild has compiled extensive lists of places to eat for his future trip to Japan.  Hopefully he can provide some suggestions.  But again, donít skimp on food.  This includes desserts.  The Japanese go all out on cakes, pastries, ice cream, and random other things they've come up with.

Izakayas Ė On that note, one of the more unique to Japan eating out experiences is an Izakaya.  Basically a place where you will often sit on the floor in a big room or your own, and can order all sorts of small plate dishes to share as a group.  And drink a lot.  Really fun and atmospheric.  I see places in the US use the work Izakaya for their Japanese restaurant, but very very few are anything like them.  I found this article on the net to give you an idea of places to go walk at night:

There are alleys like that all over Tokyo (and Japan in general) just filled with tons of places.  Not just Izakayas, but Raman, Sushi, Yakitori, and any other restaurant you could want.  Have fun walking around these at night and going nuts.

Stupid theme restaurants Ė Again, Japan is all about over the top dining out experiences.  I went to a bar in Osaka one time where the entire inside was made to look like you were in a WW2 era submarine (appropriate for how cramped space can be for bars).  It might sound silly, but Japan probably has the highest concentration of over top theme bars anywhere on the planet.  To give you an example, here is another list I pulled from google, but there are plenty more than just these:


May consider doing that one night as Iím sure the family will probably get a kick out of it.  Or just go for broke and drop $70 a person to get into the Robot Restaurant.   


awesome, for real

Things to do: 
Akihabara - Your 14 year old will love this entire district, and you may get a kick out of it also.  Itís basically several major blocks of giant buildings filled with nothing but Arcades, Anime/Manga stores, hobby shops selling literally every kind of model or toy or nerd memorabilia ever made, and weird as theme cafes.  Lots of cos-players running around.  Basically nerd mecca for Japan.  Itís always amusing.

Harajuku - Fun urban district with a lot of cool cafes and hip/boutique shops.  Lots of cos-players and young Japanese people dressing to show off hanging around also.  Worth a walk through.

Temples Ė There are a number of temples through the city.  Asakusa/Sensoji is the most famous (and most tourist visited) and is pretty cool.  You can google up other major ones and visit what looks neat.  Honestly though, many other cities in Japan are better for that sort of thing (but Tokyo has a few nice ones).

Tokyo Tower Ė Go up here one night.  Great view, and unless your kid is terrified of heights, he should enjoy also.

Odaiba Ė Man-made island in the harbor.  It just has a lot of random new tech focused attractions, malls, arcades, and random things that can be fun for tourist.  Here is a random list:

There are also a lot of big major parks and museums, but you can google those up and pick what you want.  Those sorts of things are always very dependent of the people visiting, so youíll know better than I if the family would enjoy going to any of them.  Also a ton of famous districts like Shibuya (which has the giant crosswalk they show in every single movie about Japan ever) and Shinjuku.  Both are just big famous shopping/business/dining districts.  Lots of things like that to see around the city.

Outside of Tokyo:
I would recommend that you do spend some time outside of Tokyo.  While Tokyo is huge and there is a lot to do, I think it would be worth your time to get a break from it and see something else.  Depending on your budget, the best option would probably be to buy Shinkansen (bullet train tickets) to Kyoto and back, which takes 2 hours each way.  If you did that, Iíd probably stay 3 nights so you have two full days to explore.  If you wanted to do that, Iíll write up a whole post on Kyoto as its filled to the brim with temples and cultural stuff. 

If thatís a little too much for you, then there are some good day trips from Tokyo you guys could do.

Kamakura Ė Peninsula south of Tokyo.  Seat of one of the old shogunate rulers.  Iíve never actually made it down there, but Iíve heard a lot of nice things in terms of scenery and cool temples to visit.  Has a giant Buddha statue.

Nikko Tosho-gu Ė Located near the town of Nikko, this is where Tokugawa Ieyasu (the guy who eventually came out the victor from Japans warring states period, unified the country, and founded the Tokugawa Shogunate) is buried.  I went up there a few years back with friends on another trip, and thought it was a pretty neat shrine.  Itís actually a huge complex, with multiple temples, spread out in the woods.  Very pretty overall. 

Either way, even if just a day trip or two, I suggest you get on a train and head out to see the countryside and some of the charming and less urbanized areas of the country.

"My great-grandfather did not travel across four thousand miles of the Atlantic Ocean to see this nation overrun by immigrants.  He did it because he killed a man back in Ireland. That's the rumor."
-Stephen Colbert
Terracotta Army
Posts: 11666

Possibly the only user with more posts in the Den than PC/Console Gaming.

Reply #6 on: January 10, 2019, 08:50:49 PM

Thanks for the info.  Booked a room at the Hilton Tokyo which is in west shinjuku about 15 minutes walk from the big rail station.  Seemed like a highly recommended area for first time visitors, allowed easy travel, and is a decent hotel.

Only time I reasonably expect to make it over there for quite a while, so budget isn't really a concern.  I want to blow this out.  awesome, for real

I doubt we will stay out of Tokyo but we do want to do at least a day trip out to somewhere just to experience the train and a bit of the country.

"As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.Ē

-H.L. Mencken
Terracotta Army
Posts: 9742


Reply #7 on: January 10, 2019, 09:09:49 PM

So, A5-12 Wagyu every night it is then!

Also, yes, that's a nice spot.  That ally from the picture above is at Shinjuku station.  But again, there are places like that all over Tokyo.

Kamakura is less than an hour train ride.  Nikko is 2.5 hours.

Another day trip I forgot to mention is Hakone.  Its about 1.5 hours each way from Tokyo, but Hakone is a popular hot spring resort on the lake of a big lake.  Very pretty out there and another good day trip option.

"My great-grandfather did not travel across four thousand miles of the Atlantic Ocean to see this nation overrun by immigrants.  He did it because he killed a man back in Ireland. That's the rumor."
-Stephen Colbert
Terracotta Army
Posts: 9568

eat a bag of dicks

Reply #8 on: January 10, 2019, 11:49:57 PM

The addition of a kid kills some of the more fun places Iíd recommend, and Iím about five minutes from calling it a night but Iíll toss you some stuff to do tomorrow. Telekuís list is pretty damn solid, though.

Tuned in, immediately get to watch cringey Ubisoft talking head offering her deepest sympathies to the families impacted by the Orlando shooting while flanked by a man in a giraffe suit and some sort of "horrifically garish neon costumes through the ages" exhibit or something.  We need to stop this fucking planet right now and sort some shit out. -Kail
Terracotta Army
Posts: 9862

Reply #9 on: January 11, 2019, 07:12:11 AM

Yeah. There's just so many good restaurants. The food in Tokyo makes you realize that you've never really eaten Japanese food in your life if you've just had it in the US, with a few exceptions. You'll want to go to at least two ramen places; definitely an izakaya or two. A full shabu-shabu service is also great. I came back from my trip just absolutely lit up about trying to cook some of what I'd eaten and I've kept exploring the cuisine ever since. I was taken at one point in a smaller city on the west coast to a little country restaurant where they brought us out these towers with little dishes in each drawer, all of them incredibly interesting and tasty. I had simple buckwheat noodles in a cleaner broth than your typical ramen at a place in Kyoto that remains one of my favorite meals anywhere. The only bad meal I had was actually a fancy one and I should have known better.

In Tokyo, the museums that I really enjoyed were the Edo-Tokyo museum (historical, about the city itself), the National Art Center (you can combine that with walking around Roppongi, which has some swanky shops and nice restaurants, and if you want, hit the Mori Art Museum in the same day, which apparently is connected with this very cool new experience called TeamLab Borderless). Also a good view up the tower, though not as amazing as Tokyo Tower. The Ghibli Museum is good, but it's a long haul out of the city center and buying a ticket can be kind of complicated, if I'm not misremembering. I wanted to go to the Bunkamura Museum and the Miraikan Museum but I didn't have time.

Akihabara was amusing, certainly. I remember not liking the Meiji Shrine very much though I'm not entirely sure why. Maybe because I saw it after I came back from Kyoto, which I just found to be one of my peak tourist experiences ever.

My Japanese friends took me to a fantastic restaurant in this newer shopping district--I don't remember the name, I think it was west of Shibuya--that was very focused on innovative/original presentations. Lots of extremely fashionable young people in the area as well as lots of young professionals with their families. Afterwards we did karaoke, the real deal--I don't think I would have tried that without local folks, because it looks and feels a bit more like going into an adult book store with little porn booths and you pretty much had to speak and read Japanese to navigate your way around in this joint. But it was hilarious fun.

I also found it just an amazing city to walk in generally. And I know this is kind of a stereotypical comment, but it's still how I felt: it's the safest I've ever felt in a big city, and I've travelled a fair amount. Every other city I've been to, it feels like you could make a mistake and walk in the wrong neighborhood--though you can usually spot the signs before you do. I'm sure there's a bad neighborhood somewhere in Tokyo, but I honestly never felt menaced or wary or worried--I never had a sense I was being shadowed or sized up. I'm sure in the crush in Shinjuku someone could pickpocket you or whatever, but still.
Terracotta Army
Posts: 9742


Reply #10 on: January 11, 2019, 07:28:43 AM

Dude, you are the most dangerous thing walking on the street.  It was so awesome.  I'm just some tall skinny white dork studying in Japan, and when walking home at night, on coming couples would walk to the other side of the street to pass me.  Cab drivers wouldn't pick me up.  I got rolled by the cops one night in an a side ally who went through all my stuff and even every pocket of my wallet because I was suspicious.

Every time I was like "Yes!  I'm a dangerous immigrant now!  People discriminate and are afraid of me!  This is so cool!"

So yeah, that's about how dangerous Japan is.

But yeah, AGAIN, make sure you eat as much as possible.  Food and the culture/ritual around it is best in the world there.

"My great-grandfather did not travel across four thousand miles of the Atlantic Ocean to see this nation overrun by immigrants.  He did it because he killed a man back in Ireland. That's the rumor."
-Stephen Colbert
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