Guide for Tokyo Japan
Your Ultimate Planning Guide for Tokyo Japan
Here’s a guide to help you with your itinerary planning to Tokyo, the bustling capital of Japan, where about 250 thousand sushi restaurants can be found, home to the biggest wholesale fish market in the world and where the Kitkat wafer chocolate come in a vast array of flavors including sake.
Check Visa Requirements
Aside from a valid passport, any foreign visitor will need a visa to enter Japan either on a short visit or for a long-term visit. If you are a national of countries that have “Reciprocal Visa Exemption Arrangements” with Japan then you will not need a visa to visit. Since I’m a Philippines passport holder, I need to apply for a visit visa to enter Japan. Usually, visa application takes 3-5 working days and you need to leave your passport with the embassy during these days for them to process your visa application.
To check if you do need a visa and to start processing your visa application, you can visit this website.
Check the Weather
Japan has four distinct seasons.
- Winter (December – February)
- Spring (March – May)
- Summer (June – August)
- Autumn (September – November)
You need to check what would be the season on when you will be travelling. After checking the weather, you will have a clearer picture on what to pack for, how to prepare your activities and what to include in your itinerary.
Here is a great source to check and monitor the weather for Tokyo and surrounding cities for your travel dates on the internet. Also, there’s an app for that. I heavily rely on Yahoo Weather app for weather monitoring. It’s got 5-10 days forecast included plus it features nice images and graphics on your destination. Making you more excited for your upcoming trip.
Check Events and Festivals
It’s a good idea to check if there are events or festivals that you may want to be a part of when coming to Tokyo. For first timers like me, the cherry blossoms in early April tops the list.
But if you are coming to Tokyo around winter season or just after winter season, then it might be a good idea to try ski resorts around Tokyo and make your trip a memorable snowy getaway. There are a number of them actually and just within 3 hours of Tokyo!
If you are travelling to Tokyo around the summer months, then a good thing to add in to your itinerary are the Sanja Matsuri Festival and the Tokyo Minato Matsuri.
Check Day Tours or Daytrips
Tokyo is the capital of and is located in the heart of Japan. Being a major tourist destination, group tours and activities are abundant that caters to every type of tourist. If you want to escape the bustling and loud Tokyo for a day, you can always take day trips and be back at Tokyo at night to enjoy yet another ramen place.
For my trip, I booked a day trip and sightseeing tour to Mt. Fuji and Hakone in advance. This might be a good idea for your trip too. One website that has helped me a lot in planning my activities is https://www.gotokyo.org.
To help you with your packing list for Tokyo, you need to have a clear picture of when are you travelling and what activities do you want to do while you’re there.
From my previous post on what not to pack, make sure to travel light. Don’t forget your reading materials and movies on your tablets for your additional inflight entertainment. If you are on a long haul flight, here is my previous post on what else to bring to help you feel better during your flight.
For reading materials, I love to read short stories. Since I can easily go dip in and out of each short story without having to finish the entire book. A good one that I have just downloaded on my iBook is Walden and Hyde (and Other Short Stories). Oh and it’s free!
Tokyo Travel Apps
Part of your preparation to conquer to Tokyo is to download and prepare on your devices travel apps. Travel apps are a heaven-sent to tourist for its big help on navigation and directions.
A good one that I have right now on my iPhone is GPSmyCity. I love the offline feature so I don’t have to worry if I don’t find a good wifi signal. Another navigation app that I prepared on my device is the Tokyo Subway Navigation. Tokyo has hundreds of multi-linked train stations and I still have no idea how to figure it out. Here’s the Japan Rail pdf and you can give it a try.
You can download more Tokyo travel apps from this website.
Tokyo Itinerary Ideas
Tokyo is so lively day and night and has so much to offer for every age and budget. So if you run out of activities to do during your stay in Tokyo, its your fault. There is so much to see, do, and listen to that you will find your stay short-lived.
I visited Tokyo during the cherry blossom season in the late part of March and early part of April and had a grand time rounding up the parks of Tokyo. I had fun visiting the Meiji Shrine and spent the whole afternoon people watching in its sprawling grounds.
Where to stay
Looking for a place to stay in Tokyo is not really a problem, just roam the busy streets and you will find lots of capsule hotels and manga kissa comic book internet cafe that offers overnight stay too in every corner. Try both alternative accommodations for an authentic Japanese experience!
During my trip, I stayed in the suburbs area of Tokyo, along the Niporri line. Its more quiet and away from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo plus you get to feel the neighborhood vibe of Tokyo. Another good thing about staying away from the city center where the action is, is that the rates are cheaper too. Travel time may be longer but the tranquility of suburban area may pay it off.
For places to stay with affordable rates around Tokyo, click here. I have sorted the list listing the cheaper hotel rates first for ease of use.
Things to do in Kobe, Japan
The city of Kobe is in the Hyogo prefecture. It is the 4th most populous city in Japan. Kobe has gained fame for many things. Many people might remember the Kobe earthquake of 1995 that devastated the region. Others might be aware of the Kobe beef that is said to be the tastiest cut of meat available. The cows that create this beef receive special treatment that is designed to enhance the flavor of the meat. The only way to get Kobe beef is to get it from cows bred in this region. Anything else is not the same. Visitors to Kobe still have plenty of things to see and do. It can take a while to see all of the sites in the area, but there are some that should not be missed.
1. Sorakuen Garden
The lush botanical scenery of Japan is on full display in this garden. The garden was first opened to the public in 1941. Unfortunately, the buildings that were in the garden were destroyed during the war. A stable is the only building that still remains. This traditional Japanese garden is open to visitors from 9:00 am to 5:00 PM and there is a charge for admission.
2. Meriken Park
This waterfront park is located in the port area of Kobe. The visitors can see many examples of the architecture that has been used to build this area up. The Kobe Port Tower and the Kobe Maritime Museum are examples of the contemporary look and feel that this area offers visitors. While the park was heavily damaged in the earthquake in 1995, it has come back stronger. The park has a small area dedicated to the victims of that disaster. The maritime museum is a favorite destination in the park and offers its visitors a history of the port and a look at exhibits of modern shipping.
3. Shin-Kobe Ropeway
If a visitor wants to get the best view of Kobe, the Shin-Kobe Ropeway is the best way to do it. It departs from the Shin-Kobe station and takes people past the Nunobiki Waterfall and the Nunobiki Herb garden. The view from the sky offers visitors a unique perspective on these natural sites. The top station of the ropeway allows people to see the area in the best possible way. Most tour guides suggest taking in this view at night when it is the most spectacular. There is also a hiking trail that visitors can take to get to this top station.
The Chinese community is recognized in this portion of Kobe. It was developed in the mid – 1800’s by the Chinese merchants that used the port of Kobe. The area is full of shops, restaurants, and food stands that attract many tourists on a regular basis. The area allows visitors to see and experience the mixture that has resulted from the combination of the Japanese and the Chinese cultures. The shops are typically open from 10:30 am to 7:00 pm and many are open every day of the year.
Things to Do in Kamakura, Japan
Kamakura is located about an hour south of Tokyo. It is a coastal town that is home to close to 200,000 residents. Visitors enjoy taking a trip to this city for many reasons. Its combination of beaches, temples, and shrines along with being close to Tokyo are just some of the things that make this a popular tourist destination in Asia. Visitors to Kamakura can find a lot of different things to do and it has activities and places to see that fit people of all ages. There are a few attractions that stand out from the others and that should be considered if you are planning a trip to this region.
This is an island that is connected to the mainland by a bridge. It can be reached by taking a very short train ride. The island offers the beaches that many tourists want to visit along with a yacht harbor that is accessible by water or by car. There is a hill that visitors can access on foot or by elevators that is the home to several shrines that are also popular. During the summer months, the beaches are full of people who want to enjoy the sun, but the area offers many other activities including an aquarium.
2. The Great Buddha
There are plenty of Buddha statues that can be found in many different places, but this statue is able to tower above many of them. It stands over 13 meters in height and is made from bronze. The statue was cast in 1235 and was located inside a large temple hall until that was destroyed by typhoons and tidal waves several times. It now is out in the open for all to enjoy.
3. Hachimangu Shrine
This shrine is usually considered to be the most important shrine that can be found in Kamakura. It was founded in the 11 current sites during the 12 Minamoto Family and to samurais, Hachiman. The grounds include the main hall and many displays of the antiques that are owned by the shrine. These displays are in a small museum. A garden and two ponds are also something that many people enjoy taking in.
4. Hiking Trails
Unlike the beaches in the south of the city, the rest of the city is surrounded by wooded hills. There are plenty of hiking trails that can be found and enjoyed by tourists. A walk along these trails allows visitors to take in all of the natural beauty of a place that is so close to the hustle and bustle of Tokyo.
5. Zeniarai Shrine
Laundering money is considered to be something that is illegal. This shrine is known as the place where people can legally wash their money. The idea behind washing money in the waters of this shrine is that it will cause the money to double. That type of superstition makes this a must-visit place for any traveler who has seen how expensive traveling through Japan can be.