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*I spent 5 days in Tokyo in October 2013 and I really enjoyed it! In this blog post, I am going to give you an overview of the city, and provide travel tips and recommendations for things like culture, attractions, food, nightlife and more. Everything you read is based off my own experiences.

Also, please see my other related blog posts on Tokyo:
10 Things to Do in Tokyo
6 Japanese Foods to Try

Top 10 Japanese Words

General Thoughts

I had very high expectations going into Tokyo, and my experience went above and beyond everything I imagined.

First off, Tokyo is the most populous metropolitan city on this planet with just over 35 million people. I don’t think you realize how many people that is.  Tokyo has more people than the entire population of New York state and New Jersey combined.  Explaining it just doesn’t do justice of just how incredibly overcrowded the streets are.

No matter what time it is, there are loads of people flooding streets, metros, restaurants, parks and every other part of the city.

The Tokyo Metro System is very complex and took me a while to get the hang of it.  There are 4 giant metro systems that cover the Greater Tokyo Area.  Together, these 4 units of public transportation carry over 40 million people DAILY.  No wonder why Tokyo is considered to have the world’s most extensive railway network.

You wouldn’t believe me if I told you that it sometimes took 20 minutes just to TRANSFER from one metro station to another (underground). It’s wild.  Furthermore, my friend and I hardly ever got a seat on the metro because we were squished while standing in between people.  Make sure to bring good walking shoes because you will do massive amounts of walking every day.

Alright, let’s get into some quick facts:

Quick Facts

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 5.48.56 PMCurrency: Japanese Yen (JPY)
Population: 15 million (city), 35 million (metro)
– Tokyo used to be a small fishing village by the name of “Edo” from the 13-15th centuries
– Tokyo hosts 51 Fortune 500 companies: more than any city in the world
– Tokyo was ranked the #1 most expensive city in the world in 2013, and #6 in 2014
– Japan is sometimes called the “land of vending machines,” because there are over 5.5 MILLION vending machines in the country.
– Tokyo has more neon signs than any other place in the world.  It become electric at night
– The Tokyo Stock Exchange is the 3rd largest stock exchange (behind NY and London)
– Tokyo has the world’s busiest railway network

Culture & People

Sumo Wrestling is only held in Japan – and I had the chance to attend the championships when I was in Tokyo!

But in my opinion. the craziest part of Japanese culture is their obsession with anime (Japanese animated productions). Literally every single advertisement around the city has anime characters.   My favorite show as a kid was Pokemon and I didn’t even realize that I was watching anime at that time.  But Japanese people love it, it for one reason or another, and it is extremely unique to Japanese culture.

Japan is extremely safe.  It is actually illegal to own a gun of any kind, and murders are simply unheard of.  Even little things like pick pocketing and petty-theft are extremely uncommon (unless you are in a really touristy area).

The Japanese are known to have the strongest work ethic of any culture in the world.  All over town, you will see middle-aged Japanese men wearing a suit & tie and carrying a black briefcase.  Exactly like you’ve seen in movies about Tokyo.

Not surprisingly, Japanese culture goes by the motto ‘work hard, play hard.’ Marathon drinking sessions are seen all over town- where young businessmen dressed in suits are gathered around gallons of sake and beer.  They essentially get hammered together on random weekdays.  Don’t be surprised when you see old men in suits stumbling on the metros and on the streets (maybe even sleeping on the side of the road)

Karaoke bars are very common, especially after people get drunk at night.  Typically, a big group of friends will go to a karaoke bar on the weekend, after they are nice and drunk from hitting the bars.

For some reason, the porn industry in Japan is huge.  Hardcore sex acts are actually allowed to be filmed by law, and old Japanese men are really into it.  There are porn shops everywhere and it’s kind of creepy to be honest.

I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and make some new local friends! Click this link to learn the Top 10 Japanese Words to keep in your back pocket 😉

What to Do?

There are literally millions of Things to do in Tokyo, in all corners of the city.

My favorite area is called Akihabara, which is Tokyo’s electric city. This district has crazy amounts of anime, computer gadgets, arcades, video games and any other electronic thing that you can think of.  I spent some time playing arcade games in one of the giant 12 story arcade buildings, but I just got embarrassed by these skillful Japanese people who were kicking my ass.  Nonetheless, it was an awesome experience.

There are many Buddhist temples and shrines located around Tokyo (Meiji Shrine and Sensoji Shrine are most popular). They are definitely worth checking out.

Additionally, some nice recreational parks are located throughout the city with tons of activities.  My favorite park to hang out in was Yoyogi Park which was located right in the middle of Shibuya.

If you are in Japan during one of the 3 main Sumo Wrestling tournaments, then you should go see the sport live in action! The months that have tournaments are January, May and September.  I was lucky enough to be there in September for the grand event, and it was such an awesome experience.  I even met some of the most famous ones on the street (shown in picture!)  Tickets to the tournament were only $20 for upper-deck seats, but I easily managed to sneak down.  Grab a local beer, sit back, and watch fat Japanese people wrestle each other.

For a sweet view of Tokyo, go to the top of the Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills.  It is spectacular and you can see skyscrapers for miles and miles on end.

For a more complete list, check out my post on 10 Things to do in Tokyo!

The Food

YES, Japanese Food is amazing as it seems, and YES, the sushi was that damn good!

Everyone kept telling me how expensive Tokyo was, but honestly I didn’t find the street food to be that expensive.    We ate some delicious Japanese noodles (udon and soba noodles), sushi and seafood for most of our meals.  I never spent more than $10 on a meal (except for $30 on sushi). It’s crazy the way that you order your food at street vendors and some restaurants…

There are vending machine that you order from in the front and then it spits out a ticket that you give to the restaurant.  Everything in Tokyo is a vending machine- that’s just how they do it in Japan.

If you want to learn more about the foods that Japan has to offer, please read my post on the Top 6 Japanese Foods to Try.

The Nightlife

I didn’t get to fully experience the nightlife in Tokyo because I was there during the week.  However, I was able to get a taste of Shibuya and Roppongi– the main nightlife districts in Tokyo.

There are thousands of bars and many nightclubs all over these two areas.  You are more than likely to spend the entire night out and take the early metro back home (like I did).  Drinks are very expensive in Tokyo, so do your part and drink mostly before heading out to save money.

I can’t wait to get back to Tokyo soon (hopefully).  Make sure to give yourself at least a week here because there is so much to see.

*Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to book your hotels in Tokyo on this link 🙂

Related Blog Posts
10 Things to Do in Tokyo
6 Japanese Foods to Try

Top 10 Japanese Words

9 thoughts on “Tokyo

  1. Hello Drew! Saw you today in the article of independent (newspaper) btw here you are:

    I am turning 25 and to be fair due to my studies which was happening abroad I have never much traveled, usually I would just go home and visit my family when I had holidays from work and studies. Originally I am from Estonia but speak Russian (I saw that you have visited us and while I am writing this to you I have already opened new tab to read about your experience). For my major first holiday I want to go to Japan, still trying to convince my friend, but seems like I will go solo. Can you please tell me did you meet a lot of foreigners that were speaking English? Was it really expensive? I am planning to go for three weeks: Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Okinawa. Do you think it’s a good plan? Thank you !

    1. Hey Bogdan – thanks for the comment! Japan is one of my favorite countries in the world! Yes, it’s VERY expensive (especially hotels and transportation). Food is normal price. It’s not as easy as you think to meet other backpackers because there are SO MANY PEOPLE in Tokyo, but you can get by with basic English. Have a blast! Enjoy

  2. Drew –

    As someone who has lived in Japan for almost 19 years, it was entertaining to read your traveler perspective on Tokyo. You’re right, it’s like no other place in the world. It’s fun, interesting, and even crazy at times.

    The businessmen getting plastered on weekdays is so common it’s funny, and maybe a bit hard to believe from an American business perspective… but every day you can see a team of businessmen hitting the sake. 😉

    I hope you don’t mind I mention it here, but I’m writing a book to help newcomers and travelers enjoy the dining experience in Japan. I call the book “Situational Japanese: Dining in Japan” where I give the words, phrases, and cultural tips needed in tons of situations around dining in Japan.

    You can read more about it, and get a sample chapter, here: . I think your readers would find it very helpful. In fact, I can’t imagine a better fit. You’re blog is about food and travel… my book is about dining in Japan… so perfect.

    I hope you’ll consider sharing it with your readers.

    Take care, and keep it up — awesome blog.

    – Chad
    Situational Japanese

    1. Chad- Thanks for the detailed comment man! That’s insane that you’ve been living in Japan for 2 decades. I don’t mind at all that you mentioned your book, and I hope that people see your comment about it. Sounds like a fun idea! If you send me a private email, I can figure out other ways where I can help you promote your book. Cheers!

  3. Great info but I am concerned about travel and a solo person to some of the great places you have and of course the cost to travel to a lot of these travel destinations

    Thanks Terry

    1. Terry- You can do all of this as a solo traveler, but the cost will (of course) be more expensive.. Try to meet someone in Japan who will split the costs with yoU!

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