If the reason you travel is to experience new and unusual places, then Tokyo, Japan, is the perfect place to visit!
Traveling to Tokyo is an experience unlike any other, but as a first-time visitor in the largest city in the world, you may feel outside of your comfort zone. To that end, read on for a list of excellent travel tips from local Japanese experts. Once you do, feel free to message us with any questions you still have about getting by as a first-time visitor to Tokyo!
Want to make the most out of your trip? Tap into our network of local travel planners—Heroes—who build unique, locally-curated trip plans, designed just for you. Get started.
To ensure you have the best trip possible, here are some top tips for traveling to Tokyo:
1. Don't assume everyone speaks English in Tokyo.
Learn a few basic Japanese phrases before arriving:
- "Sumimasen" (sue-me-mah-sen) ... “Excuse me/Sorry”
- "Arigatou" (a-ri-ga-tō) ... “Thank you” (informal)
- "Konichiwa" (kohn-ee-chee-wah) ... “Hello”
- "Oishi" (oh-ee-see) ... “Delicious”
2. Keep your hotel name and address (written in Japanese) on you at all times.
It is a very comprehensive system, but can be confusing.
4. People are very quiet on subways and trains in Japan.
Stay quiet when riding public transit.
5. People walk to the left on stairs on streets, or in crowded passageways in Tokyo.
6. Do not wear your shoes or slippers on tatami mats.
7. Tokyo subway maps can be confusing.
Be sure to double check the map before hopping on the train.
8. Free wifi is not abundant in Japan, so consider purchasing a sim card.
9. Japan has a tropical climate and it rains often.
Be sure to carry an umbrella.
10. There are very few trashcans in Tokyo.
Carry a plastic bag to gather your trash while exploring.
11. "Nomihodai" is Japanese for “all you can drink.”
Keep an eye out for this word if you are on a budget.
12. There is a stigma towards tattoos in Japan.
Consider covering them up if you are traveling for business or plan on entering an onsen.
13. Get the following apps for Tokyo travel:
- Hyperdia - Explains different routes, and the timetables for railway and plane travel in Japan
- Tokyo Metro App- Allows users to find the best route in the metro system
14. It is accepted/expected for your to slurp your noodles while in a restaurant.
15. If you’re looking for an authentic experience, consider staying in a Ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn.
16. Buy a map that is bilingual.
So if you ask a local for directions, they can read, in Japanese, where you are trying to get to.
17. Some small restaurants and bars have a "seat charge."
Be sure to ask if there is a cost for sitting down.
18. It is not customary to tip in Japan, and some people may get offended if you try to.
19. If you want to get off the beaten path, have a local expert plan your trip for you.
20. Expect amazing hospitality, and return the favor by showing gratitude.
21. ATMs are hard to come by...
...and don't expect that all ATMs will accept foreign cards. If you find an ATM that works, consider taking out a fair amount of cash.
22. Not all restaurants or shops will accept card payments.
23. Don’t wear all black or all white.
This is associated with death.
24. Japan frequently suffers from small earthquakes.
The buildings are designed to withstand them, but be sure to look up some earthquake safety before arriving.
25. There is so much to do, so it is important to have a plan before you arrive.
26. Have one of our Japanese travel experts assist you in curating your perfect trip before you arrive.
27. Because buses and trains are usually very crowded, there is not a lot of room for luggage.
Be sure to pack light.
28. Pack plenty of socks...
...and always have a pair on you. There are many situations where you will be asked to remove your shoes.
29. It is legal to drink in the street.
So save money by purchasing beer in a grocery store, and drinking it on the way to the club.
30. Don't wipe your face with the wet nap.
When a restaurant gives you wet cloth to clean up before the meal, clean your hands with it, fold it, and put it back on the plate.
31. Don't talk on your phone in a crowded area.
Don't blow your nose, either. It is customary in Japan to act more demure in public.
32. Toilets range from super high-tech to squat pots.
Think heated toilet seats.
33. If you have food allergies or restrictions, know how to communicate them in Japanese.
A lot of people confuse "meat" with beef, so know how to share (in accurate Japanese) any food restrictions you have. It will probably be best to write these down in the correct characters.
34. It is cheap to rent a bicycle to explore in Tokyo.
35. You can buy anything...
...and then some. Wander malls and markets, and prepare to be impressed.
36. Some places are for locals only.
37. Most tourists read the same resources...
...and go to the same spots. For a unique experience in Tokyo, have one of our local travel experts plan your trip.
38. Always carry your passport on you.
39. Food stores discount some dishes later in the day.
Check back after 7:00 PM.
40. Don't be afraid to get lost!
Ready to plan your trip? Let our Japanese travel experts help! And before your trip, make sure to check out: