Organized chaos sums up my feelings towards Tokyo. It only takes one trip on the rail system and a few minutes at the famous Shibuya crossing to quickly understand what I mean. With all the chaos, it’s still easy to find peace in all corners of Tokyo. From Shinjuku Gyoen National Park to the man made island, Odaiba, you’ll find people enjoying the outdoors while escaping all of the commotion.
Why I love Tokyo
Outside of the parks and historic sites, Tokyo isn’t the most attractive city during the day. That all changes when the sun goes down and the billboard lights illuminate the crowded streets below. That’s when the Tokyo I love suddenly becomes alive and is a feeling I always looked back on after I first visited three years ago. I knew I would return to Tokyo after my first visit, but it wasn’t for the adventures or scenic beauty that typically draws me back to a country like Iceland or New Zealand. It was the people and conversations I had while I was in Tokyo. The people are genuinely nice, but they’re also hustlers who like to have fun after a long day at the office. From major roads to alleys inside of alleys, you’ll find bars packed with people enjoying conversation over drinks and a bite to eat. It’s a feel good vibe that left an impactful impression after both of my visits.
Let’s talk logistics
As for what to do, there’s an extensive amount of bars, restaurants, shows and historic areas to visit in Tokyo. It would take me days just to compile a list and all of my recommendations would involve interacting with people who live there. Instead, my recommendations will be more logistic based because I like to make the most out of my time during trips.
My top recommendation for visiting Tokyo would be to stay near a train station because you’re going to be riding it quite often. There’s a lot to see and experience so being within a five minute walk of a train station will help you make the most out of your trip.
Where to stay
I really liked staying in Shibuya because it’s a major train hub. You’ll also have a direct route to/from Narita so you won’t have to carry your luggage during a transfer, which can be a 10 minute walk. If it’s your first time in Tokyo, you’re probably going to be overwhelmed with the rail system unless you’ve lived in NYC. Even then, it’s more hectic than any transportation system I’ve been on and you can easily become lost, especially during peak times.
Another important transportation tip is to purchase a three day rail pass before you leave Narita or Haneda airport. You can’t purchase these passes once you’re in the city unless your hotel offers it or you go through a travel agency. Purchasing before you leave will save you a lot of money, time and headaches. I found this out the hard way after I ran out of funds on my rail pass and couldn’t reload it with a credit card. I had to find an ATM in the middle of nowhere and then head back to the train station. Don’t be an Anthony and get that 3 day rail pass. Learn more about the rail pass for foreign travelers and view the maps showing where to buy at the airport.
That about does it for my recommendations. Pick up a 3 day rail pass, stay near a train station and interact with the people. Other than that, my favorite experiences while traveling typically evolve from the unexpected or becoming lost. And if there’s one city to become lost in while feeling safe, it’s Tokyo.