Japan:A Closer Look at Kanto-Tokyo Practicalities

Jan 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

Mt. Fuji SuitcaseFirst 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!

Japanese Money YenIf 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.

Getting Around

Tokyo TrainLast but not least, it’s a good idea to start planning how you will get around before you land at Narita or Haneda airport.

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.

Need help to figure out which is the fastest or cheapest route? Jorudan or Hyperdia let you type in your start station and desired end station and they’ll figure out the rest for you. Perfect!

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:

Image Credit:  Flickr, suitcase, Shane Sakata, personal collection

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  1. It’s worth knowing that the post office ATMs (of which there are thousands) will accept Citibank cashcards from overseas, as of course do the Citibank branches around Tokyo.

    For guys, the deodorant issue is less of a problem now that Axe has started retailing in Japan, although it’s not exactly cheap… Probably best to bring your own.

  2. Chris those are some really good points you make… and I forgot to mention the post office so thanks! It does seem like the deodorant issue is less of a thing now for guys - let’s just hope that market opens up a little more to let some other makes onto the shelves.

  3. I’m a leather-jacket wearer and am glad I brought both of the ones I owned with me. Knowing that fashion is big in Tokyo (before I arrived), I thought I might be able to pick one up for a reasonable price. But, all I found was low-quality stuff that was ungodly overpriced.

  4. Hi Honor,
    I totally agree with the three items you listed as must bring to Japan. I usually emphasize especially on medicine since some over-the-counter medication sold overseas are not available here without prescription. Thanks for the good travel tips!

  5. Billy you know I never thought of that one - but you’re absolutely right! All the ones I’ve seen here that are have a ‘reasonable’ price tag just look tacky - the nice ones…. well they’re out of my price league!

    Tokyo foodcast - now I’ve been here a while I either stock up on my meds when I travel overseas or my lovely fella’s mum sends out what we need. Things are starting to get better but the process is oh so slow.

    Cheers to you both,


  6. Thanks everyone for your input, but especially to Honor for pulling this post together.

    You know one thing that we never mentioned here was a reminder that Japan is primarily a cash-based destination, hence the need to access your money :) We just assume that everyone know this because we’ve lived in Japan for a while but others may not and it’s worth noting.

    Hotels & large department stores often take non-Japanese credit cards but outside of those you can’t really expect to use plastic in Japan.

  7. [...] of guests posts on Tokyo in our Japan: A Closer Look Series. Last week she shared some advice on the practicalities of visiting Tokyo and today she will tells us about some of the great things to do and see in Japan’s capital [...]

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