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4 Tips for Successfully Traversing Tokyo

blogger stampFort Collins! It’s been a while! Apologies to my hordes of loyal followers (anyone?) for not posting a blog last week, but I was away from a laptop for a few days. The reason why: I was in Tokyo!

Yes, Tokyo, the capital of the beautiful country I’ve been living in for the last few months. It may seem weird that it’s taken me this long to get to Tokyo, but the city is quite far from my university, and the modes of transportation to get you there are very costly. But I finally made the trip out there, spending five days and five nights in the brightest city in Japan.

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Owl Cafe
Me and my new owl friend, Kuro-chan.

Summing up the trip into one quick blog post would be damn near impossible. In less than five days, I became a master of the Tokyo subway, took my first trip on a shinkansen, visited the Imperial Palace, went to a place called The Cat Playland, ate Japanese Mexican food, ate Japanese Greek food, ate Japanese burgers, met owls and shared a cup of cocoa with some, saw Shibuya Crossing, ate Krispy Kreme, drank some craft beer, stayed at my first hostel, went to the Tokyo National Museum, went in to eat at a prison-themed restaurant and subsequently escaped from my cell after seeing the prices, got propositioned to by hookers, and bought A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 on Japanese laserdisc. And that’s only scratching the surface of what I did. There was never a dull moment.

I’d love to gush about how great the trip was, but I don’t want you to tune out. Instead, I will give potential Tokyo travelers four tips for successfully traversing the city.

  • Skip Tokyo Tower. Tokyo Tower used to be the premier sightseeing location for a good view of the city, but in 2012, Tokyo Sky Tree was opened to the public. Sky Tree is the 2nd highest building in the world; Tokyo Tower is not. Nope, to visit here is to pay $8 for a view that’s less impressive than what you can get from the 40th floor of Sky Tree (which you can get up to for no cost). While you’re at it, skip the Imperial Palace as well, as you can’t enter the grounds without a reservation.

    Maps, Maps, Maps
    Try finding your way in Tokyo without two of these.
  • Get a map of the Tokyo subways. The Tokyo subways are like a giant Kraken, with lines spitting left and right with no rhyme or reason. Navigating them without help is tough, to say the least. But, find a free map and buy a day pass ticket, and you’ll be able to slay the beast.
  • Try to escape from tourist-y locations. This applies to any travelling you try to do, but you can get a better taste of the culture and escape foreigners by going to places outside the mainstream. For example, I took a tour of hipster land Shimokitazawa and went to an owl cafe on the outskirts of Tokyo, and those were two of my favorite stops of the trip.
  • Research beforehand. You can literally find anything you want to find in a city as large as Tokyo. For god’s sake, there’s a restaurant where women in bikinis mock-fight giant robots and pterodactyls. But the city is also huge, and you might miss your dream place to eat or visit if you don’t look it up beforehand. Don’t just use a tourist book, either; scour the Internet.

So there’s some good tips for having your perfect Tokyo trip. The city is fantastic, and I had some of the best times I’ve had in Japan during my five-day trip. See you next week, Fort Collins, when I elaborate on my time in Shimokitazawa and compare Japanese and American hipsters.

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