Tokyo Tips & Cliff Notes

You can check out a more detailed description of Tokyo and Kyoto here. For a quickie on Tokyo notes read on.


  • Most of the time, public transportation was between $2-5 USD one way
  • Ramen was about $5-8
  • Sushi $2-$5 per nigiri
  • You can spend $45 for a single sushi plate easily at a casual place if you aren’t paying attention.
  • Banana $1-3 but then $5-10 other places. here is a story we read as to why.
  • Big Mac $3.14


Things we noticed

  • Separate slippers were provided to you, after you take off your shoes, for the bathroom at the hotel and some restaurants
  • Shops and restaurants are on each level of building – explore up.
  • Lots of Department stores. Basement always had good food.
  • McDonalds highlighted chicken teriyaki burgers
  • Many Ramen shops used vending machine to dispense ticket to hand to chef at resturant
  • Strong posture in workers/waiters/hostesses. All very helpful.
  • Public transport was awesome. Not nearly as complicated as people described. If you know your final destination you can use displays to get around. If not, staff was helpful.
  • When people highlight Tokyo there is so much over characterization. Much of the city is very typical of any other big city. Strange things were tucked away, like most strange things usually are.
  • People really do wear kimonos out and about.
  • Alleys and main streets all had amazing restaurants – no bad places really.
  • When it comes to numbers – Arabic numbers seem to be used universally over native characters.
  • Major city intersections often all “all way” crossing. Where pedestrians can go diagonal, or across intersections at the same time. First all cars go, then all people go etc.
  • Some fruit is outrageously priced. Fruit is a big gift giving item. Cantaloupe $100. Single Strawberry $5
  • Uniqlo is full of departments stores



  • Sumo – Buy months in advance.
  • Common Words: Sumimasen (excuse me – use before asking for help ), Arigato (demo or guy may), Konichiwa, Ichi/Ni
  • Google Translate is awesome – use the card feature and just show it after you say hi and or excuse me
  • Japan Rail Pass (JRP) is awesome. If you plan to go between cities (Kyoto/Tokyo) get it. It works in local Tokyo as well. Remember: You NEED to exchange the pass for a ticket when you enter Japan for the first time. Then as a pass you just show between stops.
  • Careful of subway day passes if touring around and not sure where you will end up – many are only for one line
  • Even if there is English in signs, and even when many people “speak” English – taxis do not. Don’t expect it. Get a picture of the destination in native language to show.
  • Even if you’ve tried sushi at home and didn’t like it tries it again here – changed my mind on some items
  • Keep an open mind on what you eat. If people next to you order it at least you know it isn’t a agag 😉
  • Ask your hotel to make reservations for you in advance. Many popular places need it.

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Things We Did

With so many things to check off I ended up making a Google Spreadsheet list to track what we wanted to do and where. You can copy it and use it yourself, or use it to get an idea of things to do. Remember though, one of the biggest lessons I learned in Tokyo was that I should just stumble into places as much as possible.

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tokyoTokyo was our favorite stop on our Asian Pacific teaser trip. There are more places to eat and drink there than I’ve seen anywhere else (yes, including NYC.) Restaurants and bars are literally stacked upon one another on each highrise-filled block, and no alley is without a series of ramen, sushi, or skewer joints. To paint a picture for my American comrades: imagine the vastness of LA’s sprawling cities, except that each city is attached to one another by multiple subways and train systems. Add to each city a NY bustle – such is Tokyo.

(Note: You can see a summary of tips and notes on Tokyo here.)

The density and massive nature of Tokyo’s cities are balanced only by the contents within. The majority of restaurants and shops you find are small mom & pop-esque, cozy, and occasionally cramped by local business people throwing back a cold Asahi beer and bite before they head home. When you’re in an establishment you feel very small town, when you walk out it is all big city.

Small place we stumbled into

We ate a ton. One of the most memorable experiences in Tokyo was eating Sushi at the Tsukiji Fish Market. Truth be told, all the sushi in Tokyo we had was AMAZING and fresher than I have ever had before. But the idea that we ate sushi 100 ft from where it was bought and butchered was mind blowing; site, taste, and sound. It is quite possibly the freshest, purest sushi we will ever have in our lives.


In addition to all the individual restaurants and shops, Tokyo was filled with departments stores (about one every few blocks.) The class and quality of goods sold within changed from one to the next, but the setup was fairly cookie cutter: first-floor beauty and jewelry, the few floors above made up the women’s sections, above that men’s, and the two floors below were the supermarkets, restaurants and produce. Imagine if you went to Macys to get fresh fish and dinner. By American standards it seems odd, but the food selection in these malls were great. It was like a Whole Foods (or two) in every basement. There was one restaurant in Tokyu’s basement in Shibuya that was cheap and delicious called Uoriki Kaisen. It was the only place on the entire trip we ate at twice 😉

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Our trip to Japan was primarily a gastronomical one, we had fresh tempura cooked right in front of us, we had high-class sushi at Kyubey Sushi in Keio Place Hotel (very “Jiro dreams of sushi” style,) I had a delicacy or two I’ll leave untranslated for the faint of heart (shirako,) Kobe Beef cooked on a small personal grill atop a bar, and the list goes on and on. From $12 fruit desserts overlooking the famous Shibuya Crossing (the Japanese seem to love fruit desserts, by the way. Shops were strewn across the cities) to a $5 strawberry (yeah, A single strawberry. Just one.) to Ramen you select from a vending machine. We ate it all!

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Our strategy was to sift through all the “best places to eat” lists we could find online and did our best to hit them all. Luckily for us many of them were nearby in Shinjuku or the Neighboring towns Shibuya and Goya where our hotel was. We had to be sure we tried the best. After our tanks began to run low, running from spot to spot, we broke down and started to stumble into any place we saw – and you know what? … Some of our best experiences wasn’t eating the web’s best-of, but it was with our serendipitous finds.

There are so many lively spots n Tokyo you would never know of if you didn’t take a chance on a random street elevator to an unknown floor and open the door.


I think the need to run off a list when you get to a new city is expected, you have to get a benchmark to know what counts as what counts for “good” or “bad” when you travel. Not only that, but Japan is a bit intimidating to expect to just throw yourself in. Few places are marked in English, and many spots are tucked away on the 2nd-7th+ floors of buildings. There isn’t the ability to “window-shop” your way into all Tokyo has to offer. So, if you have never been to Tokyo before I won’t try to convince you to stumble through the city, but you will realize soon, as I did, and as others told me, the beauty of Tokyo will not come from a list but your ability to take chances in any place you have the guts to stumble into.

Remember, you can see a summary of tips and notes on Tokyo here, or check out my experience in Kyoto here.