We spent a day in Tokyo this week before heading further inland on a self guided tour and were very pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to get around and to pack a lot into our one day. We enjoyed it so much we’d love to come back for a longer stop over.
Some good things to know if you will be in Tokyo are:
- It doesn’t rain every day in Tokyo although showers are very common. The sun shone brightly while we were there but if it does rain there are plenty of cheap umbrellas.
- The public transport system in Tokyo is great and reasonably inexpensive. My partner found it easy to navigate as there is a good metro map, signs are in both English and Japanese and each stop is announced on the train in both Japanese and English. I have no sense of direction so would have found it far too difficult! I just followed him around.
- Free maps and information were available at the tourist office which we went to in Ueno station.
- We were not keen on experiencing the frenetic busyness of Central Tokyo so were pleased our tour operator had booked us into the Via Inn Hotel in Asakusa. This is an older neighbourhood which escaped being bombed in World War Two. Life is lived at a more leisurely pace there.
- Wifi was readily available in our hotel and around the city.
- Within easy walking distance of our hotel was Tokyo’s famous Sensoji Buddhist temple. Once through the Thunder Gate with its massive red and white lantern there were many small shops selling a variety of snacks to tempt the taste buds and souvenirs. To avoid the crowds we were there shortly after 9 am. Alongside the main Sensoji temple we discovered gardens, a carp pond and smaller temples. At that time of the day we had these almost to ourselves and enjoyed a peaceful stroll.
- Toilets in Japanese hotels are tech toys and you can have fun playing with them and exploring their various functions although the additional water used can hardly be good for the environment.
- The Public toilets at railway stations were spotlessly clean and Western toilets are now widely available there which for those who have had a hip replacement or have wonky arthritic knees and find squat toilets challenging is good news.
- There was no need to forego having a coffee. Filter coffee was available at our hotel at breakfast time and we spotted a few cafés. The coffee was not up to the standard of a NZ flat white but it was perfectly drinkable, and for a familiar brew there were plenty of Starbucks.
- We did not have to spend a fortune to have a great meal in Tokyo. In Asakusa there were many little restaurants. You can just point at the pictures on the menu to order but conveniently we found a small restaurant with an English menu which served sashimi fresh from the Tokyo fish Market that day. It was superb and cost about $20.
- Yes there are still far too many smokers in Japan but smoking is not as socially acceptable as it used to be. A positive sign of this change of heart was a painted sign on a pavement in Asakusa requesting pedestrians not to smoke while walking.
- We had booked a no smoking room in our hotel and were pleased to find no perceptible cigarette smell.
- Later in the morning we took the metro to Ueno Park but unfortunately the National Museum was closed. We walked on to Yanaka which is another historical neighbourhood. On the way there is a rather austere cemetery which is interesting to walk around.
- In Yanaka there are many little shops to browse in. We had a tasty noodle soup for lunch.
- Honesty is a Japanese virtue. We saw many bicycles left unlocked on the pavement. It was also great to see quite a few elderly folk sedately riding old fashioned bikes around in both the Yanaka and Asakusa neighbourhoods.
- Not being able to speak Japanese really wasn’t a problem. Japanese people we met were very helpful and tolerant.
By Lyn Potter. Read more here.