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.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is deeply integrated with western culture. Although its foundation began with China, it became more influenced by British colonialism and, as such, has developed an identity all its own.

You’ll notice this unique mixture immediately when you arrive. Street signs that line the city are printed in plain English with names like “Queen’s Road” or “Russel Street”. We quickly learned, however, that you can’t count on the English versions of the roads to get around.

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None of the cabs we took spoke a lick of English, nor did they understand the English version of our destination’s cross-streets. Even more complex, as we learned from some locals, is the Chinese version of the streets don’t directly translations to the English ones. In essence, many streets have two distinct names.

Tip #1: Always take a picture of the local Chinese text of the destination you want to go (or write it down) so you can show it to the cab driver. Learning a nearby landmark’s local name won’t hurt either.

Other than that, getting around town was fairly easy with Google Maps and English (remembering, of course, that it is always a good idea to learn a few local phrases out of respect for your host country.)

times-squareThere is a constant sense of old and new while walking through Hong Kong. A trendy bar filled with young business people dressed to the 9s is placed directly next to a tiny old-style market with burlap bags of dried foods displayed on its stoop. You’ll see bamboo scaffolding next to an ancient temple with rising incense smoke flowing into the neon lights of a brand new bar, only a block away from a two story aluminum-plated Apple store. The city is somehow both completely foreign yet comfortable and familiar.

Tip #2: You’ll notice symbols such as “11/F” on some signs. The pattern refers to the floor an establishment is on. In this case the “11th floor.”

ho-lee-fook-4-818x535On our first night, we stumbled through a neighborhood filled with expats. It took a moment for it to register, but rows of restaurants and bars were completely filled with non-Chinese locals. In a way, it was like Hong Kong’s American-town, nicely balancing out our China-town back home.

The concept of culture fusion continues into the world of food. There’s a continuum of tastes ranging from the very pure and authentic Chinese dishes, to its modern interpretations, all the way to an east-meets-west blend. The first restaurant we stopped into was brand new and, sadly, we were drawn to mostly on name alone. It was called “Ho Lee Fook” and it had a 1-hour waiting list. We used the time to visit some local bars and grab a drink before dinner.

Jackie has an amazing sense of finding “good spots” when we travel. She is an instinctual Yelp database. On our kill-time-before-we-eat bar-cruise her spidey-sense drove us into a small bar called the Three Monkeys. No exaggeration, we had the best drinks we’ve ever had in our lives. Perfectly blended and absolutely delicious. At this point we also began to realize that Hong Kong was not cheap by any means – each drink was around $15+ USD.


We finished up and headed back to Ho Lee Fook. The hostess led us down into the basement; Jay-Z and Jimi Hendrix’s music filled the rooms. Once we sat down and got comfortable we realized the restaurant was filled with Americans and Brits. We stumbled into another ex-pat bunker.


Tip #3: When you are visiting other countries and time is limited you can sometimes get a slight feeling that you’re getting cheated out of your adventure when you get surrounded by tons of your own people. But, in this instance, we recognized that these ex-pat areas were very much part of the local culture and we embraced it. It helped that the food was amazing. The final bill came in around $80-$100.

We hit the must-do list.

27712944We took The Peak Tram up the famously steep climb to the top of The Peak Tower. There you get a 360-degree view of the city, 396 meters above sea level. Walking around the small town at the top of the hill finally gave us a sense of the beautifully lush, island-rich landscape that is Hong Kong.

Tip #4: Don’t waste your money on The Peak Tower’s 360-Degree View entrance fee. Wrap around to a nearby building’s rooftops and get pretty much the same view for free. Also, sometimes it’s foggy and you can’t see anything up top anyway. Try to go on a clear morning.

We also headed to see the “big buddha” by the way of gondola and got even more breathtaking views of the country.


But mostly we ate.

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 1.39.42 PMI’m not sure, but I imagine it’s quite rare to visit two of the least expensive Michelin star rated restaurants in the world back to back. We had dim sum at Din Tai Fung, which was good but not mind-blowing – and a bit pretentious. Even more memorable was the savory gravy biscuits we had at Tim Ho Wan on the bottom floor of a mall for about $1 each. They close early so make sure you check the hours before you go. We got there a bit late, but they were nice enough to make a few to go boxes for us take out. We shared one biscuit from the bag as we walked away and they were so good I ran back to the restaurant to get six more.

My biggest food fumble was made by my weakness to marketing propaganda. Everywhere we went we saw a McDonalds promoting “the prosperity burger.” I had to know what it was so I finally gave in and ordered it on our last day. All it was was a McRib with onions. Yuck.

prosperity burger

Finally, I want to give a shout out to the awesome stay we had at Hotel LBP. They staff was friendly, the rooms were super nice and we got it at a great price (possible from a promotion.)

Plans for World Tour 2015

aroundworld Jackie and I will be taking a trip around the world in 2015 and based on feedback from friends we’ll be tracking the trips here on this page! We’ll post maps, updates, pictures, and destinations; if you want to join us at a stop just check in!  You can also follow our updates by following me on Twitter.

Things We Will Do On This Trip

Explore: Our love for travel and adventure will be a major driver for this trip. We have many places we’ve always wanted to see and activities we are excited to try. If you have an activities or adventures that are a must we’d love to hear your ideas! One thing we are thinking of trying is hiking every mountain we visit, or snorkeling in every ocean 🙂

Work With Startups: There are many “startup hubs” around the world starting, growing and blowing up. While on this journey I’ll be looking for ways to get involved, help grow/create them, and contribute to the ecosystem in any way I can. I’m excited to see how different each city has developed their mix of cultures, perspective, and goals that are sure to be even more diverse than ours in the states.

Volunteer: We’ll be pursuing a mixture of the things we love (in addition to one another.) We plan to volunteer a few weeks between each trip offering help to local communities such as working with kids, farms, and/or employing Jackie’s nursing experience and my entrepreneurial experience where we can. If you have suggestions let us know 🙂

Find A Home Base: We are not only looking forward to traveling in all these amazing countries, but we are interested in making one of them our home for a while. At the very least an HQ to call home between each trip. That being said if we find an environment we can add long-term value to and a community we like – we may stay! I’ve always wanted to live overseas, and I hope we can find a place that fits us nicely! Our potential home base ideas so far are: Berlin, London, Dubai …

Extend The Trip: From now and throughout the trip I’ll be working on projects that can hopefully generate passive income to extend the trip as long as possible. I am further inspired by what this entrepreneur calls a “digital nomad”. I’m looking forward to getting back to basics and building small focused products, finding a niche, and supplying  a demand without “searching for the next big thing.”

Below are some interactive maps (click on the map to get an interactive version) of where we are planning to go. From what I’ve heard, “planning” a long trip like this can be self-delusional. The reality of what you really end up doing will occur along the way. How long will it last? Well, as long as we can make it last I suppose. Making the dollar stretch for two will be an adventure of its own. We get a lot of questions asking where we’ll be – below is our best guess so far.

UPDATE: As predicted our our trip route hasn’t gone as planned below. You can track our actual route as we create it here.

Part I: First Teaser Trip – Pacific Islands / Hong Kong / Japan  [COMPLETED!]

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Part II:  South America [CANCELED] 😦

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Part III: South Pacific/Asia Legs – (Old Route)

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Part IV: Middle East – Europe (Incomplete plans)

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Part V: Africa  (Incomplete plans)

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