Read This Before You Head To Tokyo

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Print this out, bookmark this page. This is your ultimate guide to Tokyo. Think of this as a launch pad before you blast off to the land of the rising sun.

If you’ve done your research like I had, most sites like TripAdvisor and Japan National Tourism Organisation only offer you attractions worth visiting, they don’t delve deep into how you can survive in the quirky country. Call me crazy, but on a short trip to a country, I prefer visiting places that locals frequent over picture perfect postcard places (For Mt. Fuji, click this:

With this, let the Japan journey begin.


1. Research

Note down the places you want to visit before you get to Tokyo! It helps if you have the exact location and address. For some reason, Google Maps aren’t accurate in Japan.


2. The importance of having internet Access

There are 2 ways you can get connected while in Tokyo.
1. Ordering a SIM card from Bmobile

Advantages: All you need is your mobile phone. No additional paraphernalia. Pretty reliable connection. use and throw it away.

Disadvantages: Your data usage is capped at 1GB data. It’s purely data usage, no international or local calls.

For more information and how you can order, click this:


2. Rent a WIFI egg (router). With it, you’re a walking WIFI hotspot.

Advantages: sharing the network with your travel companions, especially rental cost.

Disadvantages: Frequent charging of the WIFI egg. Inconsistent network connectivity.
Because it’s rented, losing it or not returning it will incur additional costs.

For more information and how you can order, click this:


3. Grab all the brochures (okay, maybe not all)

Arriving at the airport – Head to the Visitor Information counter after you have passed customs. Grab guides, magazines and maps. Timeout is especially informative for those who wants to know the best restaurants and hippest nightlife, parties, plus events during the month (i.e. Fireworks Festival in Tokyo on 26 July 2014).

At the train station – When you’re at the train station (metro). Remember to take a copy of the metro station overview. Your life depends on it. Okay, maybe not, but it will make travelling a whole lot easier.


Tokyo’s culture, nuances, tips and tricks.

Most Japanese follow rules and regulations to a T. It’s their culture. Please practice cultural relativism (

– Japanese can be inflexible and strict, not because they want to but because they have to. Take note that in most situations, there is no room for negotiation or discussion.
– You might be refused service or even chased out of the place if you do not follow the rules or regulations.
– Jumping the queue or cutting it is greatly frowned upon. (You are silently being judged)
– Most malls open at 11:00am. Being early is generally considered great, but not in this case. If you’re there at 10:58am the doors will not open for you.
– Smoking while walking on the streets is prohibited. If you are caught breaking the law, you might be heavily fined. (I was caught after one puff and forced to stub out the cigarette)
– English isn’t a universal language. The Japanese have poor command of English. Having an English to Japanese translator will come in handy.
– Being able to speak Mandarin is a plus. Most restaurants, convenience stores and malls have staff from China. But do not assume all of them speak Mandarin.
– Japanese are generally helpful and friendly but are shy. They are more approachable if you can speak their tongue.
– If you’re Asian and have (extensive) tattoos, it would be advisable to keep covered. Japan may be open-minded but tattoos are still considered a social anomaly/taboo.
Here’s what I’ve faced: I had difficulty getting through customs. They scanned my baggage twice and customs security patted me down. I also had to remove my belt and shoes so they could x-ray it. In sleazy areas like Roppongi and Kabuki-cho, I felt that I was constantly being observed by both the Nigerian syndicates and the Yakuza.
– When paying at the cashier, place your money in the metal trays provided. Money is seldom handled directly.
Expect lots of coins. Bring along an empty coin pouch or something to put coins in. Dollar notes are only in the denomination of 100 yen and above. Anything below 100 yen will commonly be coins.
– Do not be fooled by the size of the coins. I spent SGD 24 within 5 minutes at a UFO soft toy picking machine.
– When ordering food, be sure to check if there are vending machines outside the establishment. Most times, you would need to purchase tickets from these machines before placing your order.
– In small eateries where space is limited, do not linger after you’ve eaten. Finish up and be on your way.
– Vending machines dispensing drinks and cigarettes can be found on almost every street corner. And they accept both coins and dollar notes. It might be slightly cheaper to buy your bottled mineral water from these machines.
– When paying for your purchases, some stores charge for plastic bag. So if you want to avoid unnecessarily paying for such things, bring a bag.
– Check your blind spot. I know this applies to driving, but in Japan it helps especially when you want to snap shots of interesting places.
– When buying tickets at the ticketing counters, please check the destination and amount before approaching the machine so you do not hold up the queue.
– The entry tickets are very small, so please do not lose them. At the gantry there will be a place to insert the tickets, remember to collect your ticket after passing the gantry. However, at your destination, after you insert your ticket it will not be returned.
– Singaporeans, do not be afraid of sitting on the trains. The priority and reserved seats are found at the end of the train carriages.
– On the trains, switch your mobile phones to silent mode. There are signs on the trains that advice you to switch your mobile phones off. (Don’t worry, everyone still uses their phones on the train)

Keep these pointers in mind and you’ll have a pleasant Tokyo trip. (Without looking very much like an idiot.)

This article has been contributed by a  very angry tattooed contributor. You can find the original article + his website here edbotak!

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