Japan:A Closer Look at Kanto-Tokyo PracticalitiesJan 19th, 2009 | By TokyoTopia | Category: Regional Travel Resources, Tokyo and Vicinity
Today I am proud to introduce you to Honor (UKTokyoite), who has made Tokyo her home since 2001 and shares her love of the city at Tokyotopia. She writes about sightseeing, shopping, festivals and is a host of information about her adopted hometown. Over the next four weeks Honor has agreed to share some of her experiences and recommendations for travelers to Tokyo with us in our Japan: A Closer Look Series.
Oh, and did I mention that Honor interviewed me as part of her Tokyo People Series? Check it out after she tells you about some of the practicalities about visiting Tokyo.
Take it away Honor…
The Kanto region of Japan, located in the middle of Japan’s main island of Honshu, is host to one of the busiest and most populous capital cities in the world: Tokyo. In part 1 of this series we’ll take a look at the practicalities of visiting Tokyo and cover what you need to know and be prepared for before you arrive.
Packing Your Bags
First things first, what do you need to bring with you? Despite being one of the largest cities in the world, Tokyo still lacks some of the necessities that you may take for granted at home.
Some things that you should bring with you when you come:
- Toiletries & Medicine – Not all the brands you use may be readily available in Japan so make sure you have enough to cover you during your stay or be prepared to experiment.
- Deodorant – It may sound crazy but don’t expect to buy this after you’ve landed. You need to bring it with you. There are a couple of Japanese brands here but I’ve tried them and trust me, they don’t work.
- Plug Converters – If you are bringing along electronics that have three prongs make sure to pick up some inexpensive converters as Japaneses sockets only accept two prongs.
For more information about what to pack in your bags see these Tokyo packing tips.
You also need to consider the time of year you will be traveling as the weather changes considerably between summer and winter. Should you pack light cotton clothes or a fleece and winter coat? Some of your answers will also depend on whether you are just staying in Tokyo or plan on visiting other parts of Japan such as Hokkaido or Tohoku as well. I’ve found Wunderground is a great resource to help decide what you will need to pack. Find out what the Tokyo weather is doing right now at Wunderground.
Show Me The Money!
If you are a regular traveler you might be surprised at how difficult it can sometimes be to access your cash in Tokyo. It’s not impossible but it’s definitely better to be prepared. So what’s the deal?
The banking system in Japan is still largely domestic and many Japanese banks still do not recognize international Visa or Mastercard options. American Express gets even less of a look in and if you have anything like Maestro or Cirrus the odds get even worse.
Thankfully, there are work-a-rounds available. Shinsei Bank has recently made the move to accept international Visa Plus cards and their ATMs are open 24 hours, 365 days a year. Seven Eleven convenience stores – which you can find in almost all areas of the city – also operate Seven Bank. Their ATMs accept any of the options that I mentioned above and again, as convenience stores are open 24 hours, so are the ATMs. For locations and accessibility follow the link to Seven Bank.
If you want to know more about costs in Tokyo and get access to a handy currency converter, see this guide to Tokyo prices.
The easiest and least expensive way to travel in Tokyo is by train. Once you get your head around it you can navigate your way to just about anywhere you want to go with just a short walk once you arrive at your closest station. Learning a little about the lines available and layout of the city, however, will really help to lessen the chance that you’ll end up standing in the middle of a station scratching your head, as you try and figure out which way you’re supposed to go. This is particularly true if you’re dealing with some of the bigger stations such as Shinjuku, Tokyo or Shibuya.
So which Tokyo train map do you need? There are three that I regularly use to plot my routes. Follow the link to download them all and start planning where you will go and how you will get there during your Tokyo vacation.
Next week, we’ll be taking a look at some of the must see places in Tokyo and what you can expect to find there. In the meantime, if you just can’t wait to get started, visit Tokyo Toursim Information or drop by my site, Tokyotopia, to learn about lots of great things to do and see in Tokyo.
See you next week.
Other Articles in the Japan: A Closer Look series:
- Japan: A Closer Look at Hokkaido
- Japan: A Closer Look at Tohoku – Part 1 & Part 2
- Japan: A Closer Look at Chubu – Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3
- Japan: A Closer Look at Kanto – Part 1 & Part 2
- Japan: A Closer Look at Kanto – Kanagawa
Image Credit: Flickr, suitcase, Shane Sakata, personal collection