26 Jun Make the Best of Two Weeks in Tokyo Part 1: Preparation
Preparation before your trip, what to bring, and useful apps.
1. Before your trip:
Best time to go
Before planning a trip to Tokyo, consider the season. The best time to go is also probably the worst time to go: Sakura season. Cherry blossoms bloom during this time. It’s one of the most beautiful seasons, but also one of the busiest times to go.
I went during rainy season (early to mid June). Even though it gets hot and humid around this time, I didn’t think it was too bad (maybe because I’m from Vegas?). It only rained about 2-3 times during the couple of weeks I was there. I’m not even mad that I missed Sakura season because honestly, Japan is beautiful all year long — rain, snow, shine, and all.
Choose a hotel near a subway station
I was able to get a hotel right next to a subway station by luck. I wasn’t even thinking about it when I booked it, it just happened to be right next to one. If your main transportation is going to be via subway, highly consider booking a hotel relatively close to a station and of course near the places you want to go. It will make your life easier, trust me!
Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass)
If you have plans of traveling hours outside of Tokyo (like Kyoto) and using the JR trains, the JR Pass is a necessity. You must apply for a JR Rail Pass before flying into Tokyo.
What is a JR Rail Pass?
It’s a one-time purchase pass that allows you to travel on JR trains unlimitedly. Depending on which pass you purchase, JR Passes are usually good for two to three weeks. Visit here to learn more.
If you know you’re going to be traveling long distances and using the JR trains, I would say it’s well worth your money.
Learn common Japanese words
You don’t really need to learn Japanese fluently, but it will be extremely helpful to know the common words.
Thank you very much: Arigatou Gozaimasu
Good morning: Ohayo Gozaimasu
How much is this?: Kore wa ikuradesu ka?
Learn Japanese manners
It’s probably a good idea to learn common Japanese manners. Here are a few that I know.
- Bow when saying hello, thank you, goodbye.
- Never tip at restaurants or anywhere! Japanese people find this offensive.
- When paying at a cash register, do not hand your money directly to the cashier. There will be a little tray provided to put your money in.
- Don’t try to charge your devices in public outlets, you will get scolded (oops).
- Don’t be loud and obnoxious in public, it is frowned upon. You might even get reported, eek. This is why the streets and subways of Japan are so quiet!
- Slurp your noodles! It’s a sign of deliciousness.
- Don’t stick your chopsticks upright in your rice –this is only offered to the dead in Buddhist rituals.
- Don’t fill your own glass. You should only fill the person next to you and wait for them to reciprocate.
- Always take your shoes off when entering a home, hotel room, or when necessary. Slippers will usually be provided.
- Before eating you should say, “itadakimasu”. This means “I will receive”. Then after eating you should say, “gochiso-sama deshita”, which means “It was a real feast”.
Create a map on google
Plot all the places you want to visit on the map. I will show you how this is useful below under “Useful apps”.
Register for wi-fi
Most airports, hotels, and train stations already provide free wi-fi. You might just need to register for them. I don’t think it’s necessary to purchase prepaid wi-fi or anything. Read more about it here.
2. What to Bring:
Multiple power banks
You’re probably going to rely on your phone when roaming Tokyo. Make sure to carry around at least two decent power banks or purchase a solar power bank — your battery will never run low. Here’s the one I currently have: Poweradd Apollo2 Solar Panel Charger 10000mAh in pink hehe.
You’d be surprised, but a lot of the restrooms in Japan don’t have Paper towels or hand dryers. Most of them have hand dryers, but I still came across a lot of them that didn’t. Having a washcloth might come in handy, but if you’re like me and don’t care about wetting your jeans…then it’s not necessary.
Extra space in luggage
It might be a good idea to under pack especially if you plan on doing major shopping or bringing back a ton of souvenirs.
Camera + extra batteries + extra memory
It’s always nice to have memories of your travels. Don’t forget to bring a camera and extra accessories (batteries + memory cards).
Depending on the hotel you’re staying in and how many people you’re traveling with, there might be a shortage on outlets. The solution to this is to bring outlet extensions. There are a ton of travel outlet extensions for under $20. Click here
Cash + change
Convert your money at the airport. If you don’t purchase a JR pass, you’re going to need a lot of change to ride the JR trains.
Airborne (Vitamin C)
If you’re going to ride the JR trains, chances are — you will be packed like sardines. Being exposed to the flu or other illnesses is inevitable. Boost your immune system with vitamin c!
3. Useful Apps:
Never get lost again! This app let’s you download maps of where you’ll be traveling. You can also find nearby hotels, restaurants, sights, gas, shops, entertainment, and a lot more — without data or wifi! If you don’t have free roaming, this app will save your life. You can also import google maps you’ve created to see points you’ve plotted.
Once you’ve listed out the places you want to visit, plot them on the map to get an idea of where everything is. Download and import them into Maps.me! Click here.
Tokyo Subway Navigation for Tourists
This is similar to Maps.me, except it’s an offline subway map.
My Currency Converter (or know conversion rates)
It might be a good idea to know how much you’re spending. Download a currency rate converter app, or figure out the conversion rate and do the math!
If you don’t know Japanese, this might be helpful. Google translate has an option to speak into the phone and translate it. I found this very useful.
Stay tuned for part 2!
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