Saturday, November 2, 2013

Tokyo Travel Tips - Online Travel Agencies

Travel Tips to Tokyo, featuring up-to-date information on tourism attractions, hotels, restaurants, nightlife, travel tips and more. Free and reliable advice from

Do not tip

Attentive service is the norm in Japan, part of a cultural dedication to hospitality called Omotenashi. Tipping is not expected in taxis, at hair salons, for door attendants or bartenders. Not only are gratuities not expected, they will not be accepted. Some restaurant checks will include a service charge. If you leave money behind, no matter how much or little, do not be surprised if your server chases you down the street to return it.

Walk right on the left

With 35 million people, greater Tokyo is one of the most densely populated urban centers in the world. Yet crowds are orderly. Everyone waits until the light changes to cross the street. Pedestrians on wide sidewalks follow the unspoken rule of staying to the left almost as strictly as cars (also on the left) do. Exception: On Tokyo escalators, stand on the left and walk on the right

Drink outside & smoke inside

The more enclosed a space is, the more likely you will be allowed to smoke there. The smaller and homier a bar or restaurant, the more likely it is to be smoker-friendly. Many bullet trains still have smoking cars. On the other hand, smoking is prohibited on many sidewalks (look for signs stenciled on the sidewalk), except around public ashtrays. Street patrols stop people who engage in Aruki-Tabako. Cracking open a beer or can of fruity, boozy Chu-Hai on the walk or train home, however, is a cherished tradition.

One card is good for all trains and buses

The Tokyo train system is actually a network of three train companies. Originally, each system required its own tickets. Now rechargeable Suica and Pasmo cards let riders seamlessly touch their way in and out of all lines. As of March 2013, paying fares got even easier a single card became usable for trains and buses throughout the country. You can get one as soon as you arrive in Tokyo from almost any ticket machine.

There are pockets of quiet everywhere

From temples hidden between office buildings Hanazono Shrine in Shinjuku is a favorite of these to the tree-lined canal that runs the length of Nakameguro, you are never far from an oasis of calm in the frantic city. Winding residential streets lined with walled gardens are often just a block away from busy main roads. If you take a detour down a little unmarked road, most Japanese streets are unnamed chances are you will discover a tiny cafe, quirky neighborhood art project or a jumble of ultramodern condominiums and rickety ancient architecture.

Japanese bathhouses

Public bathhouses, or Sento, are a soothing holdover from a time when most homes did not have bathtubs. Whether it is a bright, modern place in Omotesando with fizzy water and fancy soap or a creaky neighborhood bath with a coin-operated hairdryer that has been bolted to the floor since the 1960s, all public baths cost ¥450. The Tokyo Sento Association is redoubling efforts to make them foreigner friendly ahead of the Olympics by posting etiquette and instruction cards in four languages.

That word you keep hearing is 'welcome'

After a few days in Tokyo, you might find yourself asking, "What's that thing they always say when I walk in?” Whether it's sweaty, aproned guys shouting in unison as you walk into an Izakaya (lively restaurants that serve alcohol with lots of small dishes) or one perfectly coiffed woman murmuring as you enter the hush of a small boutique, they're saying the same thing: Irasshaimase

It is a polite way of saying welcome. Although your instinct may be to reply, thank you “Hello?" Locals insist no response is required. A friendly little bow in response does not hurt, though.

The sushi really is that good

The famous tuna auction at Tsukiji market starts just after 5 a.m., but the day's 120 free tickets are often all snapped up as early as four are. Whether you get to the auction or not, the market and surrounding shops will be, springing to life around that time it is the best place to enjoy an early morning plate of the freshest sushi you have ever tasted. You need not be there that early, but many of the hundreds of shops start to close by 1 p.m. Visit and you, too, will be one of those insufferable diners who cannot eat sushi back home without saying, "It's good, but it's nothing like the Maguro I had in Japan. However, hurry the legendary market is set to close at the end of 2013. A new facility will open a few kilometers away in 2014.

Free WiFi is rare

While the number of places that have free and simple WiFi in Japan is increasing, access is not something you can count on. Signs everywhere announce free WiFi if you already have a contract with the provider. Even places like Starbucks that have relatively accessible free WiFi require you to create an account in advance. Instead of renting a SIM card, many travelers find that renting a pocket WiFi at the airport to use with their own smart phones is the best way to get online.

Bacon turns up everywhere

Japan has a long tradition of Buddhist vegetarian cuisine called Shojin Ryori. It is painstakingly prepared and served on fine lacquer ware and ceramics. It is worth experiencing and guaranteed to be vegetarian, but it is expensive and a time-consuming affair. For a quick veggie meal, you usually have to be vigilant. A vegetable sandwich may have a sneaky slice of ham in it, and pasta with no meat could be studded with chunks of bacon. Meat tends to mean beef. Running down a list of every animal product that you would like to avoid is the only way to be sure. In addition, your potato salad might still come with bacon.

Clear umbrellas are the best umbrellas

Into every vacation a little rain must fall. If you are in Japan when it does, lucky you it is a perfect opportunity to pick up a clear umbrella. Why they have not caught on elsewhere such a simple innovation, you wonder. Once the first drops of rain hit the street, you will find them everywhere. Convenience stores will put their stock by the door. One costs between ¥300 and ¥500. The clerk will offer to unwrap it for you if you are using it right away. Hold on tightly, but let go lightly; umbrellas are the one item that is frequently stolen in Tokyo. If yours disappears, consider it a rite of passage.


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