Visiting Japan was probably one of the most eye-opening experiences for me when it comes to travel. As an American girl being in Asia for the first time, it’s incredible how different the world is on the other side of the globe. It makes you realize that a whole other culture of people live life on the contrary from your own. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t at all scared of heading to a country for the first time where they do not even use the alphabet. But, in light of it all, that didn’t matter. Sure, it was scary, but it was SO worth it!
No matter where you’re coming from, Japan may surprise you in one way or another. For me, I couldn’t believe how clean the biggest city in the world was! We also noticed how we didn’t see any homeless in Tokyo, which is astounding. Apparently, there are only roughly 5,000 homeless out of a population of around 14 million. That’s INSANE!
Another thing that is really great about Japan is that their culture is very centered around respect. You’ll find that the Japanese are one of the best when it comes to following rules and being polite! If you don’t speak Japanese, don’t worry! You may come across a lot of people who don’t know English, but most are willing to help you the best they can! Hand gestures may become your best friend… Some other things to take account of is with crowded trains, you won’t hear one person talking too loud, as it is considered rude. Same goes with eating/drinking while walking, which is also a big no-no.
Just as a disclaimer, even though Japan is a totally safe country to visit, it’s not perfect. As long as you stay street-smart and use common sense, you will more than likely not have any bumps in the road when you visit.
Getting around in Tokyo is really not too bad, depending on how familiar you are with taking trains. No matter what though, it will feel a bit tricky at first because the train system is so massive. I highly recommend getting a JR (Japan Railway) pass beforehand, that way you do not have to keep buying tickets every time you are in the station (A mistake that we ended up making!) Also, if possible, try to write down the district names of where you plan to travel, so you aren’t frantically trying to figure it out while in the busy stations! Tokyo is also a very walkable city, so if your destinations aren’t too far away, head over there by foot.
Tip: If you still have your luggage with you, don’t fret! There are plenty of lockers in the stations that you can rent to hold on to your luggage! Make sure to take photos of where your locker is and remember how to get back!
The next reason you need to visit has to do with all of the insane, unique and quirky things that you can do while you’re here! If you’re an animal lover, you need to check out one of the many cafe’s around the city! You’ll find ones for cats, ferrets, owls, hedgehogs… the list goes on and on. If you’re big into anime or video games, you will be in absolute nerd heaven here! They’ve got cafe’s for Sailor Moon, Kirby, Pokemon, Square Enix… again, an endless list!
One thing I highly recommend doing is the Robot Restaurant show. I’ll warn you now that it is super cheesy and touristy, but it is SO cool! Basically, it’s an indoor show where you see giant robots and dancers put on a crazy performance.
Make sure to add teamlab Borderless to your list next – It’s a stunning museum filled with all kinds of light projection art, interaction pieces and more! Upon entering, you’ll immediately be blown away by the exhibits. Note that this place gets insanely busy, so make sure to get there when they open if possible, or be prepared to wait in a line that may be an hour or so long!
If you have some extra time and you’re a Disney fanatic, it’s 100% worth it to take the detour to Tokyo Disneyland! It’s amazing how different the parks feel compared to the classic American parks, yet there are so many cool and unique things about them! Depending on where you’re coming from in Tokyo, it could take around 40ish minutes to get here by train, and there are two parks: Disneyland and DisneySea, so make sure to allow yourself enough time to experience these parks to the fullest! You can read my full review of Tokyo Disneyland here.
Another reason why Tokyo should be high on your list, and this should be obvious, is the food…..wow. From katsudon to sushi, Japan is known for some freaking fantastic cuisine!
As silly as it sounds, you need to at least make one visit to a Japanese 7-Eleven… They are huge here! Rather than gas stations like back in the U.S., they sit all over Tokyo as convenient stores, but hold some awesome meals, snacks and drinks you can try! On our first night in Tokyo, we got a big haul of random stuff to take back to our AirBnb, it was so fun to get to try everything! They also have fresh meals that you can purchase if you’re in need for a quick breakfast, lunch or dinner.
While walking around the streets of Tokyo, you’ll find all kinds of local restaurants that you can try! We ended up finding a small one outside of Asakusa to check out, and it was a pretty cool experience. Many joints in the busier areas will have photos of the menu items, you can easily point at which item you would like for the staff!
Tip: Make sure not to tip in Japan, as it is not a part of their culture and is considered disrespectful. If you’re eating noodles, slurping loudly is taken as a compliment to the chef, if you’re looking for a way to show your appreciation!
I find that many people hesitate to visit Japan due to so many cultural differences, but I can assure you that it is not as frightening as it may seem. In fact, it’s actually very fascinating! One of the best gifts that travel can give is a learning experience, and to show how other people live in different parts of the world. What are you excited about most for your next trip to Tokyo?