5 Things I’ve Learned on My First Day in Tokyo

Tokyo is awesome. I mean really awesome! It’s been a dream of mine for years to come and see what the place that fed me half of my childhood looks like. Godzilla, Dragonball, Astro Boy, Speed Racer, Mario, Ryu, Chun Li, and so much more! 

This is Olvier Atom, from Captain Tsubasa, aka Flash Kicker in the USA and Supercampeones in Mexico! The show is 29 years old and this is the first thing I saw when I got on the subway!

But for all these crazy cartoons and videogames, I don’t really know too much about Japan, it’s culture, and the mecca city they call Tokyo. So here are 5 things I’ve learned on my first day out and about on the streets of this great place!

1.- Tokyo is huge. Most people already know it’s a big city. We constantly hear that it has the largest amount of people in the world, and we see pictures of the famous cross walk all the time. But after a 3 hour ride on a subway from the airport to ALMOST downtown, I finally understood how big this city really is. Hint: BIG

2.- Tokyo is CLEAN. You will not see a piece of garbage on the street anywhere. No gum on the ground, no cigarette butts, not even a candy wrapper. The weird thing is that there aren’t many garbage bins around! It took us half an hour to find one! But it’s definitely a cultural effort to keep it clean. Everyone contributes, and it’s amazing! 

3.- Japanese people are fantastic! We had people coming over to see if we needed help whenever we looked lost. We had people walk us to where we needed to go because they said they had the time. People struck up conversations with us at restaurants and were always excited when we told them we were Canadian lol. People from Japan are very polite, very respectful, and most of all, very friendly ^_^

4.- Japanese Subways are PUNCTUAL. I mean to the minute punctual. As in the lady at the booth told us the subway would arrive at 6:43 and would take exactly an hour to get to our next destination, and that’s exactly what happened. For a mecca city like Tokyo, and with the craziest subway maps we’ve ever seen, it’s completely amazing how they manage to run things like clockwork. I live in Ottawa, and we EXPECT the buses to be at least 5 minutes late or early. After seeing this, I fear I’ll be even angrier when I’m waiting in the rain for a 12 minute late bus lol

5.- Nothing can prepare you for the lights. Walking at night in Tokyo is everything I thought it would be and sooo much more! The smells, the lights, the amount of people all looking to have a good time. The endless casinos, the Arcades, the movie theaters, and of course the karaoke bars. They’re all there, they’re all shiny and I can’t get enough of it! 

I have 11 days in Tokyo to take it all in. Day 1 was a blast. But I have a feeling tomorrow is going to be even better. It’s starting at the Ghibli Museum, so it’s already beginning with a big loud bang! If anyone has ideas or tips on where to go and what to see, let me know! 

 

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139 thoughts on “5 Things I’ve Learned on My First Day in Tokyo

  1. >If anyone has ideas or tips on where to go and what to see, let me know!

    I know many places in Tokyo that a visitor should see. What part of Tokyo is your hotel in? What are you interested in? “Modern” Japan? “Traditional”? “Japanese pop culture”?

    You should see the Tokyo Sky Tree ( http://tokyo5.wordpress.com/2011/03/18/mu-sa-shi/ ) even though it isn’t open yet.
    And have you considered one of Tokyo’s “theme” restaurants?

  2. Go here: http://syabi.com/e/contents/index.html – buy tickets to all the exhibitions, it’ll save you money – we spent an afternoon there and it was amazing.

    Go here: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3008.html – there’s lots to see, so you can make a day of it, but make sure you’re there in the evening for the views across Tokyo Bay. Buy the 800 Yen day pass – you can hop on and off the monorail that way. Recommend the Panasonic Centre for the not-released-yet Panasonic cameras alone. We didn’t get there early enough so didn’t have time for the Miraikan, which looks amazing. Diver City hadn’t opened when we were there, but we saw the 100% Gundam outside – there’s a Gundam Café in the shopping complex, too.

    Sky Tree opens to the public in mid May, I think, but it’s near Asakusa, which is where we always stay in Tokyo – loads of izakaya near the amusement park, plus a Taito Game Centre near the Rox building, and Sensoji and the Nakamise shopping street are great. We have stayed here in Asakusa, if you need somewhere to stay, and it’s good value for money and friendly: http://www.toukaisou.com/index.html – handy for the sites plus there’s a 24 hour sushi bar within walking distance that serves the best sushi I’ve had in Japan.

    Enjoy yourself! Tokyo is mad but amazing.

  3. awesome. My big dream is to go there too. You’re going to have the best two weeks of your life! Good luck and keep the pictures coming. congrats on being freshly pressed.

  4. Oooh, you lucky dog! I’m so jealous of you. I want to go to Japan, particularly Tokyo and Akihabara, sooooo badly! I’m a typical otaku, so I really wish I had powers like Goku or something right now just so I could visit without any problem.

  5. Having lived in Japan, I can assure you that even when you have months to do whatever you feel like, there’s still just so much to see and do that you can’t do it all. Definitely go to Tsukiji if you like sushi, you won’t be disappointed. Akihabara, Shibuya, and Kabukicho in Shinjuku are a must. I saw the Tokyo Tower in your pictures, so I assume you already went there. Like someone else suggested, you should check out the Sky Tree, but I believe it is not finished yet. Asakusa (one of the big temples in Tokyo) is a popular tourist destination as well. Make time to visit a Japanese garden, there are several around the city. Ueno Park and Zoo is a fun place to go as well…..I don’t know how far outside of Tokyo you will go, but if you get a chance to do it, go to Hakone for the hotspring and see Mt. Fuji. There’s even more suggestions I could give, but I think this is a great start. Have fun! 🙂

  6. In the video store right across from Shibuya station (at the “Hachiko” exit, the infamous ‘intersection’)…. Go in and up the escalator a few floors, one floor will send you through a Starbucks. But keep going up and you’ll get to a cafe. Order the magurodon… It’s the best!

  7. What an excellent introduction. The key point for me was the friendliness you described. great. I want to go now.

  8. Chris,
    These are great observations from your first day in Tokyo. I have been there many times and I totally love that place. It is easy to get lost, some places look the same and the city is massive. But there are tons of things to do and it is not a place that gets boring easily.

  9. Hey, I just left you a comment above about the food in Shibuya. If you get a chance, check out my blog about Japan (I think you can click the name on this comment to reach it).

  10. Tokyo is truly awesome. I haven’t been to Tokyo for 6 years. At that time, I only had 3 days in the megaopolis. I would love to visit again. Have fun at the Ghibli Museum. Great jumping photo too!

  11. Never been to Asia but Japan is on my list! I’ve heard that the trains are Japan are super on time–if they’re even a minute late, the announcer will start apologizing for the delay. And the infamous “people pusher” guards–whose sole job is to cram as many people on the train as possible by pushing them! Have you seen them?

  12. Loved this post! ^_^ i get really excited when i hear other people enjoying Japan. While in tokyo check out Ameyoko Market, its filled with many random things great for take home gifts and great buys at a good price 😀 also check out senso-ji Temple if you havent yet its amazing! ❤ One last thing if you have time go to Yanaka its part of the old city and has a great edo era shop there named isetatsu shop great edo style everything 😀 enjoY!

  13. I recommend getting out of Tokyo, go to Kamakura and Inoshima Island- they are not far from Tokyo and you will se a side of Japan that you will not see in Tokyo. They are a little touristy- but they are that way for a reason- Kamakra and Enoshima are nice places to visit.

  14. Do not leave Tokyo without checking out a Beatles Tribute act in the Tokyo Cavern Club. The band can’t even speak English but they sing with a Liverpool accent. You aint haven’t lived until you’ve heard “Rove rove me do.”

    Blog post and videos here – http://shanewozere.wordpress.com/2009/10/30/a-beatles-tribute-act-at-the-cavern-club-tokyo/

    Also, if you have the time (you won’t!!!) check out some of my other adventures.

    Ghibli museum is awesome. I hope you’ve booked your tickets in advance, though…

  15. Shimokitazawa, or shimokita, great food, shopping, used to live there and the vibe seem a lil different than other cool places like shibuya, shinjuku, omotesandou, harajuku, ebisu, daikanyama, roppongi, etc. Hop on the inokashira Line, express or local train from shibuya for shimokita, it’s just a couple stops. Don’t forget geek town Akihabara! You’ll love it there. Enjoy ur stay!!!

  16. Tokyo sounds like a wonderful place. Have you tried any Japaneese food yet? I love sushi and have always wanted to try it in Japan. I bet it is much better there. Have a fun time!

    • Actually, the sushi here has a different taste than in the USA or Canada. It takes a bit to get used to, but it is still quite delicious! I’ve never been a fan of soups, but my wife tells me that they are fantastic as well!

  17. Wow! Beautiful pictures. Tokyo looks like a nice place. Have you tried any of the Japaneese food yet? I love sushi and I have always wanted to try it in Japan. I am sure it is much better there. Have a wonderful time!

  18. Now how exciting is this! I have never been to Tokyo but I’ve always wanted to travel there. And it’s so exciting tos ee the 5 things you listed. I had no idea that Tokyo was incredibly clean. By virtue of living in NYC for the past few years, I’ve consigned to a belief that all major cities are horribly dirty. But thanks for changing my mind. Enjoy your days in Tokyo and I’ll make sure I keep following to see what cool things you experience as you’re there.

    Keep exploring, writing, and taking photographs!

    cc:Keith

  19. Hi Chris,

    One suggestion is that you consider going to Meiji Shrine. Since it seems like you will be here during Golden Week, you can still catch the last 2 days of the Spring Festival. There are Shinto rituals, performances and music on May 2nd and 3rd. Please check out the Shrine’s English webpage:

    http://www.meijijingu.or.jp/english/highlights/1.html

    Also, Tokyo Art Beat has a list of photography exhibitions that are taking place in Tokyo:

    http://www.tokyoartbeat.com/list/event_type_print_photo

    Take care and have a great time! -E

  20. Tokyo truly is an amazing city. I visited it 2 years ago and the highlights for me were:

    Tsukiji Fish Market: An amazing place to visit. Just watch your step when you’re walking around as the workers drive crazily there because of the heavy business on the market. It’s truly a place one must have visited in Tokyo, especially as it’ll be relocated in 2013 and pretty much closed for tourists by then. When you’re there behave yourself, show respect and be awed by sea creatures you didn’t know that you could eat. Between 5:30-8:00 am it’s the busiest and the best time to visit the market. There also are expensive but delicious sushi restaurants who serve hourly fresh fish from the market. The lines are long though so make sure to be there early. The early bird catches the sushi!

    Akihabara Electric Town: This place is magical for tech geeks and video game freaks and marvellous to just have visited even if you’re neither. You can get great deals on the latest electronics, music and games, especially if you venture into the back streets. I absolutely love Akihabara and it’s what I remember the most. If you’re into video games Mr. Potato is a great store, but not the cheapest, mind you.

    Sensō-ji Temple: The oldest Temple in Japan and also a must see. The stores that lead to the temple are very interesting and maybe you’ll be able to find something pretty to buy. The temple itself is majestic and has angry-looking Gods in pillars. If you want to you can take part of some rituals like cleansing yourself with water from the fountain in the courtyard, among others. A great way to experience some Japanese culture.

    Just walking around in Shinjuku itself is a great experience, and the Harajuku district is also a fun place to have visited, not only for the young people who wear awesome outfits but also because of the cool stores they have there with clothing that stands out.

    Aaah, Tokyo, there’s so much to do. Enjoy your trip!

    • I’ve been here for about a week now, and every time we get lost, or are confused about the subways, people still go out of their way to help! Even when they can’t speak English, they’ll try!

  21. Just got back from Tokyo myself. It truly was an amazing experience and as foreigners, we notice the exact same things about Japan! Your photos look great!

  22. Well I am glad that your enjoying Tokyo. Living in Japan for two years was freaking awesome, and I would go back there in heartbeat. Try the miso soup its great, ramen is so great. I would like to make suggestion if you get a chance. There are two cities I like that you can visit for day from Tokyo. Yokohama, they have building called the landmark tower, and the view is, well I can’t do no justice about the view. Then there is china town freaking awesome. Then you have a town called kamakura. What makes Kamakura great is all the temples and gardens. I really felt at zen drinking green tea in a bamboo forest there. But I can go forever why I love Japan, but I think your finding your own reasons.

  23. Hey, yea the punctuality catches you a bit off-guard doesn’t it.
    I have never been to Japan, my friend had and I was told that 8.23 is 8.23 not 8.30.

    True. the Japanese people are very respectful of their guests.

  24. Great blog! I lived in Tokyo for a year and just reading over what you have discovered has taken me back -so thank you 🙂 As for where you should visit. One of my favourite and less visited places was Ikebukuro’s Sunshine 60 Tower. It is much less touristy than Tokyo Tower and the views are fantastic! Make sure you have a kakigori (Japanese style snow cone) at the top. Check it out on Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunshine_60

  25. Nice pictures! I concur on all the points you’ve mentioned about this vibrant metropolis. My wife and I were there last October, and the 5 days we spent in the city really blew us away! In a way, that can be said about the entire of Japan. The night lights and neon-signs are a sight to behold, even if one has spent a lifetime in similar cities like New York. There are about 4-5 different companies operating subways in Tokyo, sharing the same infrastructure at times, and even then its punctual, which is awesome! The people are the some of the most amiable you’ll ever come across.

    You’re definitely going to have a wonderful time there. Apart from the sights and sounds of the city, do try out as much of the Japanese cuisine as you can during your stay there. You’ve mentioned the cross-walk, do try and visit the place in the Shibuya suburb of Tokyo, preferably at night. You can sip though coffee at Starbucks opposite the corner while you watch people & cars cross the road. Believe me, the ‘live’ experience is one of a kind. Also, don’t forget to say ‘Hi’ to the cute Panda at the zoo at Ueno Park!

  26. WHen I was there, Shinjuku had the most neon per square foot than any other place on the planet. Very cool to see. Tokyo is a fantastic town!

  27. Cooooool!! More Canadians!! 😀

    Welcome! Tokyo is very big…but oddly, walking ain’t such a big deal: in the areas around the Yamanote Line anyway, it really doesn’t take that long to walk between stations. I used to live near the Ghibli museum.

    What brings you to Japan?

    • Finishing the end of our 7 month long trip around the world! We’ve walked as much as we can! But Tokyo is an enormous city! My feet started hurting after a couple of days of just walking from one place to another!

      • I might have missed the boat on this one, but if by any chance you are still kicking around Tokyo, and don’t want to walk anymore, I highly recommend checking out http://www.tokyorentabike.com – 1000yen for a full day’s bike rental. Shrinks the whole city down to a very manageable size on the comfort of your bum!

  28. Going to Tokyo is a dream of mine and my boyfriend’s. Their culture is absolutely wonderful and even the city scapes are beautiful in the night time. I’m always impressed by the cleanliness from when I see it in pictures. I’m guessing that you managed to do some cherry blossom viewing from looking at your photographs?

    Enjoy the rest of your days there =]

  29. Like anywhere it depends what you’re interests are- history, sports, food, cinema etc, Japan and Tokyo has it all. I could spend weeks nerding it up in Akihabara. Ninja Akasaka is a fun resturant where the staff are ninjas…

  30. My favorite observatory is the Roppongi Mori Tower. It comes with admission to a really cool modern art museum. If you’re looking for an easy but fun hike with a view of Mt. Fuji (on a clear day), I’d go to Mt. Takao, which is about an hour from Shinjuku on the keio line if you take the semi-express. Yanaka-nezu is a cute area that’s not much frequented by tourists but gives you a taste of old town Tokyo (everything closes early). Asakusa is a fairly typical place to visit, with Kappa-bashi, where all that plastic food comes from, nearby.

    If you’re going to Mitaka for the Ghibli museum, you should stop by Kichijoji! It’s supposed to be one of the most desirable places to live in within Tokyo. There’s a park (with swan paddle boats!) there if you get tired of all the buildings.

    Harajuku/Omotesando are fun, but Shimokitazawa is also a Japanese hipster hang out that’s fun to wander around.

    Have a great stay in Tokyo!

  31. I’m really looking forward to visit Japan some day..hopefully next year. I’m more inspired to make it happen because of your stories in the blog post. Keep it up. Cheers!

  32. My brother is on a break from teaching English in Thailand right and said he hasn’t stopped smiling since stepping off the plane in Tokyo. If you run into an American named Dave; give him a high five for me.

  33. Nice pictures!!

    I would say you should go to
    Harajuku (omotesandou),
    or go see the sky tree it’s not open yet but I think it would still be a experience 🙂

    T-collect

  34. I couldn’t have said it better myself! Make sure you go to the Asakusa district at night for some hot sake at the outdoor market! If you have the time and the weather is nice, a daytrip to Kamakura is also fantastic. And definitely go to Ice Cream City in Ikihabara, they have over 1000 kinds of ice cream and it’s hidden at the back of the most bizarre indoor theme park you’ll ever see.

  35. gosh ur making me jealous..i love Japan and dying to visit.
    Hope you enjoy the rest of your trip, which i have no doubt you will!

  36. Tokyo is perfect. ❤
    I've always wanted to visit such a city. Have as much fun and enlightenment as you can on my behalf! 😀

    Rae

  37. I think I’ll be living vicariously through you while you have your Tokyo adventure. It’s one of the places I’ve always wanted to go. I hope you have a wonderful time and keep taking pictutres! You’re photography is amazing. =D

  38. Great observations and nice photos. Tokyo is somewhere I must visit sometime in my life. My fear is I will never want to leave. I look forward to seeing more posts on your trip. Looks amazing so far!

  39. I love that Japan seems to dominate the freshly pressed page ^-^ Congrats!
    I watched the Tokyo episode of Trashopolis twice (and really, I could watch it again…) and the reason there are little to no trash bins is because there was once a terrorist threat (don’t know the details) so they got rid of them for safety reasons. Fear of someone hiding bombs in them, I guess. If the Saskatoon government were to get rid of our trash bins, it would be total chaos.. only in Japan could it be a success!

  40. Have fun at the Ghibli museum- it is beautiful and amazing! One of our favorite memories. We also checked out the electronics district in Akihabara, the Anime center, and right off the subway is a cute little shrine that’s kind of tucked away on a side street.The temple in Asakusa is not to be missed, and there’s a stand right by the temple that serves the best manju ever! We also LOVED Harajuku, and just walking down Takeshita street is a wonder. So many cool things and memories. Sometimes just wandering is fun too.
    And you’re absolutely right about the cleanliness in Tokyo. It was fascinating, because we never saw anyone actually cleaning, and there is a dearth of garbage cans. And yet, so clean. It even smells nice. Makes other big cities pale in comparison.
    Have fun in your adventures! So jealous. Wish we could go back.

  41. I’m super jealous right now, but happy you seem to be having a great time! Isn’t it AMAZING how we appreciate a really clean city? Munich, Germany was like that for me. You’d think we’d all want our home towns to be clean and yet…Awesome post, thanks for sharing!

  42. And, so, why would you head for nuclear radiation central? Do not quite get that, guy. Unless, of course, you are actively suicidal. Well, here’s to denial and stupidity. Cheers, mate!

  43. When i went to Japan the same things stuck out to me. Everybody there is really polite and friendly. And it is a very clean country which everybody works towards. I dont know about the scale of Tokyo because I did not get to spend very much time there, but when I go back I definantly will.
    Tip: Make sure to visit the Buddist and Shinto shrines throughout the country, they are some of the most beautiful and peaceful places you’ll ever see.

  44. Hi Chris! I liked this blogpost – I think you’ll find a lot of these points actually go for all of Japan! I’m from Ottawa as well, but I’m living here in Japan teaching English with the JET Programme. I arrived last August (so I’ve been here almost a year!). Have fun touring around Tokyo!!! It’s Golden Week this week so it should be very busy but fun 😀

    • Thanks! We’ve been having a fantastic time! Do you know of a good karaoke place to go to? My wife and I are dying to go to one! You’re welcome to come btw, the more the merrier lol!

  45. Love the pics and everyone’s comments! I just came back from a 3 week vacation in Japan…..didn’t spend a lot of time in Tokyo this time since I was visiting family in Nagoya and Hiroshima. If you have a chance, you gotta try monjayaki…..its soooo good and it was created in Tokyo. The food is just so delicious – they are so creative with food…..I spent a lot of time roaming through depachikas (food floors of department stores)…..hope you had a chance to taste some unique things. What’s your favourite?

    • So far my favorite has been sushi tacos! I know they’re probably not called that lol, but basically, they have a huge bowl of rice, different raw fish, and some toppers like avocado and cucumber, and you mix and match it all into a sheet of nori! W were lucky enough to have it at a Japanese family’s house for dinner!

      • Omg, I know exactly what you’re talking about….its called Temaki (handroll) and its my favourite family meal of all time! Lol…..We used to have them for dinner all the time when I was growing up – I describe it as family-style sushi!

  46. Nice pictures, but what I really like is the nostalgia mixed with the thrill of being in a new place, and your obvious enthusiasm for taking it all in. Love the energy! Please post something on the Ghibli Museum if you haven’t already, and congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

  47. nice post! its always interesting to talk about Japan and its culture, japanese people are very polite, discipline, clean, on time, and always eager whenever they meet foreign people =)

  48. Wow, I’m so jealous. I hope you have a blast and share most posts with WordPress on your trips in Japan. I would like to see food posts!

  49. Wow, how much I want to be in Tokyo right now after reading this..and Ghibli Museum, that would be awesome, definitely

  50. As a photographer you might find this place interesting –> http://www.trickart.jp/en/

    I can say from experience that that place is probably the funniest and inspiriting museum I’ve ever been. You can find samples of it from the museum’s website or from my blog http://fromnorthernlightstojapan.wordpress.com/. I’m no photographer neither by equipment nor skill but you’ll get the general idea what to expect. Relatively easy and cheap to go from Tokyo (comparing how expensive it can be).

  51. Wow, I really envy you for your amazing experiences in Tokyo, a city I have always wanted to visit. Thank you for sharing your first impressions! Love your blog!
    Regards from Madrid (Spain), from your new follower!
    Ana
    Viajocomprando.worpress.com

  52. Nice to stumble upon your post about Japan and reminds me of my stay to the country I considered my second home. If you have enough time you may at least try to visit Yokohama too. Its just a train ride off Tokyo but around Tokyo there a A LOT!!! hahaha Harajuku, Shinjuku, Ginza, etc etc etc! ^_^

  53. It’s been a long time since I was in Tokyo so thanks for taking me back. As you like Tokyo try Xi’an sometime, a little easier to get up close and personal and a different look of Asia.

  54. I am extremely inspired with your writing skills as well
    as with the format in your blog. Is this a paid topic or did you modify it yourself?
    Anyway stay up the nice quality writing, it’s rare to look a great weblog like this one these days..

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