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Owen's Travel Notes - Things to do in Tokyo

Owen W O'Sullivan

Essentials

Comfortable non-slip shoes, lightweight (layered) clothing and your SECURITY wallet. A lightweight windproof / waterproof jacket is always a must anywhere you go. Do not leave home without some foreign currency (Yen etc). "You Will Walk .... Don't you worry about that".

Please do some research. Browse any of the excellent travel guides available. Browse the many pictorial books in major stores and public libraries. You can learn some nugget of information from any reference source and the photographs are excellent.

Narita International Airport

The airport is about 70 kms east of central Tokyo in the Chiba Province. It is in farming country and numerous market gardens were bulldozed to make way for the airport. It caused many problems with hundreds of  very angry farmers. Security checks ID's of ALL people entering at the airport perimeter access roads & rail. Everybody on every bus, car, truck or train need to have ID readily available. The security is because of the "Narita Farming problem" and not "Stanley Bin Laden".

Airport / City Transport

The Airport Shuttle Bus will take about 65 minutes to reach T-CAT (Tokyo City Air Terminal), 80minutes to Tokyo Station, 90minutes to the Shinjuku Station and 110minutes to the Yokahama area hotels & Y-CAT. There are many stops at other suburban stations and/or hotels using a variety of schedules. The major bus routes are approx every 10-20 minutes.

These are times based  on smooth traffic flow. You can increase  these times on a very bad day with a variety of traffic & weather problems on the expressways.

The bus costs approx 3000 yen and a taxi "will" cost 20,000-25,000 +yen. The Narita Express train (NEX) will cost you about 3500yen to most of the Tokyo railway Stations served by the NEX. 
Narita = www.narita-airport.or.jp/airport/

Airport Shuttle

Airport Shuttle Bus has these words on both sides of every bus "(Friendly) Airport Limousine". It is a HUGE fleet of mainly 42 seater buses. Buses are White with a very wide Orange diagonal stripe. You will see them nearly everywhere.

Buy tickets can be bought in the airport arrivals hall. Cost from Narita International Airport to the various Tokyo dropoff/pickup locations is approx 3000yen & the cost from Haneda Domestic Airport is approx 1200yen.  

The Shinjuku Sta. / Narita Airport stop is stand 23 at the Shinjuku Bus Interchange beside the Keio Dept Store.  The bus stop for Haneda Airport is at stand 24 diagonally across the street. Tickets can be bought from the Ticket Kiosk (3 windows) at either stop.

A similar arrangement at Tokyo Sta and the Air Terminal (T-CAT).

Bus = www.limousinebus.co.jp

Where Are You Staying ?

Please make sure you have written down  or printed the name & address / map  for your hotel / office etc. The English language skills of Tokyo taxi drivers "will" vary. You may/will need to show them the address written down in the accepted Japanese format. Please printout the official web page of your hotel if possible. It may have a small map of the immediate area with identifiable highlights.   Major hotel addresses should not be a problem for taxi drivers from Shinjuku, Tokyo stations or the city air terminal TCAT.

How near to an Airport Bus dropoff / Pickup point are you staying?  or the office complex etc that you are visiting?

ATM's

Easy to use and in English & Japanese. A 4digit numeric PIN works best  anytime anywhere in the world. ATM's in many countries only display numbers on their keypads.

Bullet Trains (Shinkansen)

Most of the major route  Bullet Trains (Shinkansen) depart from the special platforms at Tokyo Sta.  Japan Railways (JR) only run the Bullet Trains. (Japan does have a number of private railway companies).
Trains = jr-central.co.jp

Currency

The currency is the Yen.

Paper money (Notes) available in 1000, 2000, 5000 & 10000 Yen.

Coins are in Yen 500, 100, 50, 10 & 1. Easy to identify and use.

Japan Information Website

This is an excellent site with lots of info and links.

Visit = www.japan-guide.com/e/e2018.html

Japan National Tourist Organisation

This is a great source of some basic information and maps for Tokyo and other parts of Japan. Please email or phone the offices in your capital city. The tourist maps will help you to understand many of the things written in this travel note.

Tourist = www.jnto.go.jp

Street Maps / Signs

Close to the main subway exits at street levels are English/Tourist maps of the immediate area. They will indicate Hotels, Dept stores, Shrines, Parks & other Tourist Icons. They are well worth making use of. It will save you shoe leather.

Major streets/highways will have a national / city route number. A "4" or "20" etc etc on "Triangle" sign with rounded edges (White numbers on blue background) is a major highway. "414" on a six-sided sign (rounded edges) is a important secondary multi-suburb road ( White numbers on Blue).  You will find it easier to follow highway "20" by its number than trying to unscramble the street names (if you can find them at every intersection). Please make a note of the multi-level Neon sign at the major intersection nearest your hotel. You are unlikely to find more than one five-story high "Toyota" Neon Sign on a prominent skyscraper / shopping complex in Shinjuku. Pls use any navigation aids you can find.

Subway Systems

The city has 13 subway lines ( TRTA = 8, TOEI = 4 & one 'new'). Each is named & colour coded. A number of free Subway / Tourist Information Map (in English) are available to show you the lines & the major tourist suburbs and icons. The system operates from 5am to midnight. Pls note not every subway station has a "pass office" for special ticket sales. Exits from subway stations are identified by letters/numbers example = A13.

TRTA =  Teito Rapid Transit Authority.

TOEI = 

Metro = www.tokyometro.go.jp

World Weather - Tokyo

Weather = www.worldweather.org/068/c00183.htm

Yamanote JR Line (JR = Japan Railways)

It links the following and many more stations: Akihabara; Hamamatsucho; Harajuku; Ikebukuro; Nippon; Shibuya; Shinagawa; Shinjuku; Tamachi; Tokyo; Ueno;  Yoyogi;  Yuurakucho.

Please 'Do Your Basic Research' and these names will "mean" something.

There are 26 stations on this loop/circular line that links the main suburbs of inner west, north, east & south Tokyo. Trains run every 3 or 4 minutes in a clockwise & anti-clockwise direction. Please study the rail map and find the station you want to travel to.

A full circuit of the Yamanote line can take you about 60-75minutes. It is not the most scenic journey in Tokyo. The rail corridor can be anything from 4tracks to 18tracks wide depending on how close you are to Tokyo Station and some other major railway stations.

A circuit of the JR Yamanote line is a fantastic experience for anybody with the slightest interest in construction, engineering or railway infrastructure. This is especially true if you travel in the first or last carriages of any Yamanote train. You can look through the glass windows of the driver/guard cubicles and see the track in front or behind. All trains are made up of 11 carriages. Some carriages are dated by the lack of  computer display & mapping technology. It is the best way to get to many of the "tourist" inner suburbs of Tokyo.

Things to Do

Buffet Breakfast - Japanese Style

Just grab a tray, a plate and move along the counter. Excellent selection to choose from: Mini Omelet or scrambled eggs; pork sausages & sliced ham; mini meatballs; fish slices soaked in a creamy sauce (great with some salad); French Toast; mini Croissants; thin sliced banana, raisin or chocolate bread; various small bread rolls; cereals; mixed fruit; porridge; green salads; Desert = miniature banana cake soaked in a caramel sauce (melt in your mouth); plain mini squares of madeira cake; Juice ( Orange & grapefruit); Coffee & Green Tea etc.

Observe the Japanese business folk and the sequence in which they eat the above mentioned items.

Day & Night Tours Tokyo Area

Many if not most of the day tour coaches depart from the bus terminal at Hamamatsucho. This is close to the port of Tokyo and is minutes from the World Trade Centre. It is an easy walk to the Tokyo Tower. It is near the subway station of Daimon and beside the JR Yamanote line station. Please note: hotel pickups are limited to certain suburbs/hotels because of "traffic".

Tours = www.hatobus.co.jp/english/

Day Trips from Tokyo

It is possible to take day trips to a number of places close to Tokyo. Hakone, Kamakura, Mt Fuji, Nikko and Yokohama are just a few choices.

Department Stores / Shopping Complex's

Daimaru Dept Store; Flags; Keio Dept Store; KEIO MALL; Kinokuniya Bookstore; LUMINA1; LUMINA2; MARUI CITY; Matsuya; Matsuzakaya; Mitsukoshi; MYCITY; MYLORD; Odakyu Dept Store; ODAKYU ACE; Seibu; Takashimaya Times-Square; Tobu; Tokyu Hands (DIY).  These are some of the major stores you will see in many parts of Tokyo. Many of these stores occupy up to 12 levels of floor space. Some can be entered from within the "huge" railway station complexes.

"Shop till you drop". No excuses!  Plenty of stores available.

Ginza

This is one of the great shopping areas of Tokyo. Numerous stores for shopping and eating etc. It is a great area to visit by day and by night (neon lights & crowds). The five levels of the Sony Showroom (exit B7 or B9 from Ginza subway) are well worth a visit. It has many "new" (on loan from Sony Research) products that are yet to be released.

Hibiya Park

This is near the Imperial  Hotel & Imperial Palace. A mix of Western & Japanese styles. Many flowers in spring. (Hibiya subway sta). It is a very easy & short walk to Ginza.

Imperial Palace

The perimeter of the palace is very popular with walkers & joggers. A nice 5km+ distance around the moats. Tours are possible but advance booking essential.

Imperial Palace East Gardens

These are open to the public. It can be a do it yourself walk through. You can bring along a picnic lunch.  Please check the days that Tokyo attractions are closed. It does vary with the relevant icon.

Imperial Palace Plaza

This is a short  easy walk from Tokyo / Yuurakucho Stations (JR) or the  subway stations Hibiya, Kyobashi  or Tokyo. Popular stop for tour groups and people wanting to take some photographs. You may be lucky to see the Mounted Police in their colourfull uniforms.

Monorail

It runs along Tokyo Bay from the Hamamatsucho bus terminal. to Haneda Domestic Airport. You will get some great views of Tokyo Port.

Museums

Many major museums in the Ueno Park complex. (JR Ueno Sta.)

NEC Showroom  C&C Plaza

A hands-on paradise for high tech buffs. 9am - 5pm weekdays. Subway = Uchisaiwaicho Sta.

Observation Decks

Ikebukuro Sunshine City Complex Level 60 (Yen620); Narita Airport Terminal 2 Level 5 (free); Tokyo Metropolitan Government Offices Twin Towers (TMGO) Level 45 in Towers 1 & 2 (free); Tokyo Tower (Eiffel Tower clone, Main & Special Decks. Entry Fee); World Trade Centre Seaside Top Level 40 (Yen620)

Sunshine = www.sunshinecity.co.jp

TMGO = www.yokoso.metro.tokyo.jp

Olympic Complex

Many of the Olympic sites are located near the Yoyogi Park. Use JR Harajuku Sta or subway Yoyogi-Koen.

Rainbow Bridge

A busy access point from the port, Narita Airport,  business parks and the Disney complex east of central Tokyo. It is worth viewing when lit up at night.

Shinjuku & Shinjuku Station

Japan's Manhattan. Numerous skyscrapers occupy this suburb. It makes Shinjuku Station a very busy place during the morning rush hour. It is estimated over 2.5 million people pass through daily. A steady amount of activity between 7 & 9.30 in the morning. It is an experience to tackle the rushhour crowd headon. Evening rushhour is a more staggered affair (4pm to 10pm).

Shinjuku Sta has three major exits: East, South and West. The subway exits are labeled  letters/numbers e.g. A13 etc. Maps of the  immediate area are well placed throughout the complex. Each exit has a list of hotels, offices, tourist icons etc nearby (A narrow vertical strip of "Exit Info" on a Yellow background). Pls use them they will save you shoe leather. Please remember the number (A13 ?)  above the escalator / staircase of the entrance nearest your hotel. You will come to appreciate this info. You can & will walk marathons in the underground passageways.

A major interchange station for JR and four Subway lines only increases the number of underground levels and passages. Nearly every station utilises automatic ticket barriers. There is usually a manned barrier at every major exit from a subway or JR line. Shinjuku & Tokyo stations could have over 13 of these separate exits within the one major complex.  Always find a pillar or other wall to stand beside and read the computer screens and other information being displaced. The bigger the station the more variety of  information. You will learn to "duck & weave" your way through these stations.

It will be a big shock if you have never experienced rush hour in a big city (e.g. New York or London).

Smart Card

A stored value smart card is due for release in 2006. This will make it so much easier to use the variety of public transport systems in Central Tokyo.

Sony Showroom

Open 11am to 7pm. Pls see Ginza.

Sumida River

Cruises of the river and port are available.

Cruise = www.suijobus.co.jp

Tissues

A packet of tissues is a very handy thing to carry around Tokyo. Paper towels and hot-air dryers are a "hard to find" thing in most Tokyo public toilets.

Tokyo City Air Terminal (TCAT)

It is located close to Tokyo Bay and avoids most of the central Tokyo heavy traffic. You can transfer to a taxi for the journey to nearby hotels.

Tokyo Combination Ticket

Cost is 1580 yen per day. You can buy at any JR Ticket office daily  (0530-2300) or from a subway pass office.  Excellent convenience value in using the two different subway systems & JR Yamanote line & other JR Metro lines. It can be used on the buses. Only one or two bus companies  display information in English.  If you are game, go for a mystery ride.

Tokyo International Exhibition Center

(Tokyo Big Sight). It is accessed via the New transit  "Yurikamome" line from Shimbashi. It crosses the Rainbow bridge into the port area.

Tokyo International Forum

Easy walk from Tokyo Station at street level or via the underground railway passageway. The  Glass structure well worth viewing.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Offices  (TMGO)

Twin Towers Observation Level 45 in Tower 1 & Tower 2  Great Views, distance depends on smog  haze etc. Tower 1 access possible seven days from 9am to 10pm.

TMGO = www.yokoso.metro.tokyo.jp

Tokyo Port

A very busy port with lots of cargo containers, cruise ships etc.

Tokyo Station

This is a huge railway station with many levels giving access to various JR Railway & Subway platforms. It is also the major "Bullet Train" station for Tokyo. It is not easy to move around with heavy luggage. The same rule applies with any huge multi-level railway complex. Ticket barriers were never designed for "jumbo" luggage. Daimaru Department Store (12 floors) is part of the station complex. Exits from JR stations are identified by words: Central, East, North, South & West.

Tokyo Tourism Info

Visit this website for more information about Tokyo.

Tokyo = www.tourism.metro.tokyo.jp/english/

Tokyo Tower

Eiffel Tower clone. Two Observation Levels at 150metres (Main)  & 250metres (Special). Easy walk from subway at Daimon, Kamiyacho or Shiba-Koen  Sta. (Entry Fee(s)).

Toyota Auto Salon AMLUX

Special cars on display. Many videos etc being shown. Well worth a visit. 11am-8pm daily & 10am-7.30pm weekends. Closed Mondays.

Ueno Park

A park of 210acres. Home to a Zoo & many national museums. Zoo & Museums closed Monday. (JR Ueno Sta. & Subway)

World Clock  - Tokyo

To get the time & date for many International cities inc Tokyo.

Time = www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/city.html?n=248

World Trade Centre

Great Views of Tokyo Waterfront (Harbour/Port) & the city sights. Observation Deck on Level 40. Entry fee adult Yen620.


© Owen W O'Sullivan, 2003

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