Tokyo in June

Mike Deane

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Hello,

we have the luxury of traveling to Tokyo in late June for three days. Does anyone have any suggestions as to where to shoot some scenic and cultural images? Along that line, does anyone have suggestions as to where to stay for a family for easy accessibility to go to those places? What travel lenses would you recommend for those places?

Thanks in advance.

Mike
 

tkbslc

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Are you going elsewhere in Japan for this trip, or just Tokyo?

I stayed with my kid in Asakusa and I can highly recommend it. It's a bit more historic part of Tokyo and has the oldest temple, Senso-ji, right there and a 3 minute train ride from Ueno or Skytree areas. Stay near a subway line and you can be anywhere in Tokyo in 15-30 minutes for just a couple bucks fare. It's a bit more laid back and affordable than some other popular areas. (Very little nightlife and neon signs, etc). It is very safe, even a night, to go walking.

Shibuya would be my second choice for a family. It's pretty much the opposite. Ultra modern, bright neon lights everywhere. Tons of shopping around. Always crowds of people out and about.
 

ooheadsoo

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What are your dates? I hear in the hot summer months, there are often festivals at night that would be worth checking out if your dates line up.

Otherwise, off of the top of my head for some of the usual suspects:

Meiji Jingu Shrine: shrine/forest/garden in the middle of the city, can often see wedding processions on weekends. Where the Emperor Meiji is enshrined.

Harajuku/Takeshita Street: interesting youth street culture, becoming more and more touristy, but still good to see on a short trip.

Yoyogi Park on Sunday: large public park, great for people watching. On sundays, there are usually the rockabilly "gang" dancers, and many other things to see, such as normal people practicing their arts (like bartenders juggling bottles), street performers, and possibly exhibitions/fairs.

Omotesando: ultra high end shopping area akin to beverly hills, but 10x more people.

The above are all very close or at most 1 subway stop from each other.

Shibuya crossing: busiest intersection in the world. Also just one stop away from above.

Sensoji Temple: oldest temple in tokyo, old shopping street with traditional snacks. Tourism center across the street has a nice view at the top. Tons of shopping opportunities in the surrounding neighborhood. Temple is lit at night.

Tokyo Skytree: tallest tower in Japan, I believe, one stop away from asakusa (sensoji).

Ginza: cultural heart of modern Tokyo, also a high end shopping district. Huge mix of architecture from late 19th century to the most modern. Main strip is closed to vehicular traffic on sundays so pedestrians can walk freely.

Must visit if you like food and are not familiar with asia: department store food court, usually in the basement, such as Isetan in Shinjuku.

I've stayed at shinjuku and asakusa on multiple occasions. Shinjuku is definitely more central, but the station is extremely large and the busiest in the world, so you definitely want to do your homework before picking a place to stay. "5 minutes from the station" doesn't mean the same thing for every train line/destination...

Ah, I was just reminded that it's monsoon season, 40-50% chance of rain, likely overcast, so be prepared for that. Umbrellas are available at convenience stores for cheap.
 
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masayoshi

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One thing to remember, late June in Tokyo will likely be in 'Tsuyu' which is a rainy season. So bring umbrella and rain coat.
In three days, it's tough to experience a lot. For street/culture, there are a lot places as mentioned above.
If you want something 'historic', then Kamakura is closest from Tokyo. You can go back 700-800 years in time. Kamakura Bakufu was built in 1192. Many old temples and shrines are intact there (not lost by WWII). Since you're visiting in rainy season, I recommend going Meigetu In temple (明月院)which is famous for Ajisai (あじさい)flower.
Google 'Meigetsuin Ajisai' then you'll see some images shot there.

edit: corrected some typos
 
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Mike Deane

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Thanks guys! There is so much knowledge here! I will do my homework and check out all those spots!
Bumper is that it is rainy season!
 

ooheadsoo

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There are many "famous" Tokyo day trips, such as Kamakura, Nikko, and Hakone. I'd like to go to Kamakura, if I have the chance. On my next visit to Tokyo in October, I'll be heading to Nikko for a mix of culture, history, and nature. I don't think you can go wrong with any of them.

That said, on a 3 day trip, especially if it's your first or only time, I'm hesitant to go on a day trip. Especially if the first and third days already involve travel to/from the airports. I'll only be in Tokyo for a week and am constantly second guessing myself about the Nikko side trip, especially with a 1 year old in tow (I'll be staying for 2 days, 2 nights.)
 

Mike Deane

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Thanks, ooheadsoo!
I'd be there 3 whole days, excluding travel time. BUT I am seriously considering one of those 1-day trips for 1 day.
 

masayoshi

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Nikko has magnificent constructions during Shogun era, such as 東照宮(Toshogu), and it's one of my favorite places to visit whenever I go back. In Autumn, fall color there is one of the world's best. But it's deep in the mountain and getting there takes some time. Going there and seeing/experience Nikko in 1 day is tough. I usually stay a night or two to go to hot spa (which is also fantastic experience).
Going to Kamakura is probably 1 hour to 1 and hour half, depending on the places you want to go, but there are lots of railway options. 鶴ケ岡八幡宮(Tsurugaoka Hachimangu)、鎌倉大仏 (Kamakura Daibutsu) are worth visiting, and you can do all these in one day, plus some shopping too.
If you want to go to Hakone, you better take Shinkansen superfast train to get Odawara first. From there, Mt. Hakone and Mt. Fuji is close. From Tokyo to Odawara is less than an hour, maybe 45min if you use Shinkansen. Going to Hakone or Mt. Fuji area is kind of 'weather permitted', because if it's raining hard, you won't have much to experience/photograph.

Since you are going in rainy seasons, have some desiccant in your camera bag. Their convenience stores (like Seven Eleven) usually sell desiccator bags for futon/comforters. You'll be amazed how quickly the desiccants in the bag become watery gels.

Hope you enjoy the trip, and looking forward to seeing your photographs!
 

Mike Deane

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Great idea! Thanks, Masayoshi. I will be sure to put those desiccant packs in the bag.

Mt. Fuji is one of the destinations we'd like to go, like you say "weather permitted." I saw some youtube shows regarding the train network. I am kind of overwhelmed. That is why I hope to stay near where we REALLY want to go.

Nikko sounds interesting. I will check those out.

Thanks again.
 

tkbslc

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I'd be there 3 whole days, excluding travel time. BUT I am seriously considering one of those 1-day trips for 1 day.
Kamakura is about an hour away from Tokyo and has probably the best concentration of old temples and shrines outside of Kyoto. Adding in Kita-Kamakura and Enoshima, I could spend 3 days there alone! So make sure to prioritize and plan your day well to not waste time zig-zagging about.

Nikko is 2-2.5 hours away, and then it can be a long wait for the bus to the main sites, so it's probably more travel than I would recommend for such a short trip to Tokyo. You'll spend a 1/3 of your day on transit and you don't have 1/3 of a day to waste. I did enjoy both Nikko and Kamakura immensely, though.


One thing that I do when traveling is kind of have a list of possible day plans and then choose which one to do based on the weather. It seems to change rapidly in Japan, so when I was there I actually decided between Nikko and Hakone based on weather. I had a day set aside for a daytrip outside Tokyo and Nikko had beautiful weather and Hakone had a high wind advisory. Nikko it was! :)

Maybe if Tokyo is too rainy, one of these above mentioned places will not be and that can decide your day for you.

Edit: Mt Fuji is very fickle and it's very unpredictable as to whether it will even be visible. Given the odds and your short stay, I would not make that a priority.
When to See Mt. Fuji? The Best Time and Season When Japan’s Iconic Mountain is Visible! - LIVE JAPAN
 

ooheadsoo

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Nikko has magnificent constructions during Shogun era, such as 東照宮(Toshogu), and it's one of my favorite places to visit whenever I go back. In Autumn, fall color there is one of the world's best. But it's deep in the mountain and getting there takes some time. Going there and seeing/experience Nikko in 1 day is tough. I usually stay a night or two to go to hot spa (which is also fantastic experience).
Going to Kamakura is probably 1 hour to 1 and hour half, depending on the places you want to go, but there are lots of railway options. 鶴ケ岡八幡宮(Tsurugaoka Hachimangu)、鎌倉大仏 (Kamakura Daibutsu) are worth visiting, and you can do all these in one day, plus some shopping too.
If you want to go to Hakone, you better take Shinkansen superfast train to get Odawara first. From there, Mt. Hakone and Mt. Fuji is close. From Tokyo to Odawara is less than an hour, maybe 45min if you use Shinkansen. Going to Hakone or Mt. Fuji area is kind of 'weather permitted', because if it's raining hard, you won't have much to experience/photograph.

Since you are going in rainy seasons, have some desiccant in your camera bag. Their convenience stores (like Seven Eleven) usually sell desiccator bags for futon/comforters. You'll be amazed how quickly the desiccants in the bag become watery gels.

Hope you enjoy the trip, and looking forward to seeing your photographs!
For Hakone, there is an Odakyu Romance Car ticket package for discounts on all the modes of transportation needed to get there from Shinjuku station, and around the Hakone area iirc. I read somewhere that the forest, river, and shrine are very atmospheric in the rain/mist, but mt. Fuji will almost certainly not be visible. Also, 1 day is not really enough for any in depth exploration of Hakone either, but, you can make the typical tourist circuit.

The beauty and curse of these daytrips is that all of them have far more than a day's worth of sights and activites. Furthermore, they also change somewhat with the season.

Edit: for your 3 day trip, I would advise against Nikko; it's just too much travel time, especially if you are not staying over night.
 
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Holoholo55

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@Mike Deane, lucky you! Three days is a very short time, but you'll love it.

In 2013, we stayed very near Ueno station and it was very convenient to hop on a train to go anywhere. Good sites were right next door (Ueno Park, museums), as well as shopping and eating in Ameyoko. Like you, we spent barely three days in Tokyo and it was much too short. Had to be picky about what we were going to do and not try to squeeze too much in our day. Since we traveled as a family with my then 9 year old son, we went to the Ghibli Museum and Tokyo Disneyland. (we saw historic sites in Kyoto and Hiroshima) Not much fun if you spend most of your time in transit (although we found riding the trains to be a treat) or rushing to get to the next spot. Pick a few and focus on those.

I was there in mid-October and it was quite rainy then. Good thing I had a weather-sealed Olympus camera and lens! Carry a small microfiber towel to mop water off your camera.

Pack clothes that will dry quickly. Synthetics. No jeans or cottons. I also found that my leather New Balance walking shoes dried faster when wet than sneakers which absorbed too much water. :)
 
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Mike Deane

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Thank you, Walter.
I really appreciate your and others suggestions. I was debating between EM1 (power) or GX85 (light). I think you have just convinced me to bring EM1 + weather sealed lenses, plus microfiber towels and desiccant packs.

I also like the idea staying near Ueno. I am already overwhelmed with train map, let alone trying to read Japanese in English and making all the conversions needed, all while with family and children.
 

ooheadsoo

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For train travel within Tokyo, google maps was the easiest in my experience for navigation. Also, with regard to train fares, depending on your itinerary, you should either try to make day/discount passes work, or simply buy an ic card like suica or pasmo and load it up like a debit card. The gates will calculate correct fares for you. If you accidentally load up too much cash onto the cards, most convenience stores accept them, so you can buy food/sundries to use up your balance.
 

Holoholo55

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Thank you, Walter.
I really appreciate your and others suggestions. I was debating between EM1 (power) or GX85 (light). I think you have just convinced me to bring EM1 + weather sealed lenses, plus microfiber towels and desiccant packs.

I also like the idea staying near Ueno. I am already overwhelmed with train map, let alone trying to read Japanese in English and making all the conversions needed, all while with family and children.
@Mike Deane. Yes, the transit system can seem overwhelming, with so many choices, between surface trains, subway, buses, street cars, etc. If you were traveling between cities and staying longer, I'd recommend a JR Railpass, but since you're staying in the city, that makes no sense. We were in Japan a week and made full use of our railpass, going from Tokyo to Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka. We used the ticket kiosks which are in Japanese and English. Fares were reasonable. We used cash instead of a Suica card, but either way is fine. As long as you could find the station you needed to go to, you could figure out your fares. The first obstacle was that the station map over the ticket stations was all in Japanese. But, there was an English version of the station map on paper nearby, so we just matched up the stations and bought our tickets.

It took us a little while, but we got the hang of it and traveled confidently on their system. Platform and direction signs are in Japanese and English, and there were usually some staff who could speak English. My wife spoke some Japanese, so that helped, but I think you could manage even if you don't. Just give yourself enough time to find the right platform and train, so you aren't rushing.

We packed light because we knew we'd do a lot of transit traveling. Since you're there for only a few days, you can go quite lightly as long as you pack fast dry clothes (including fast dry underwear!). I traveled with just a carry-on roller and a backpack for necessities and camera gear, and we stayed in Japan/Okinawa for two weeks. Did a lot of walking!

BTW, we stayed at Ueno Touganeya and would recommend it. ★★ Ueno Touganeya Hotel, Tokyo, Japan
It's close walking distance to Ueno Station and was quite comfortable even for we three. A Lawsons conbini was right around the corner, and just past the station was Ameyoko with a multitude of shops and little eateries, mostly active later in the morning and evening.

Try HyperDia | Timetable and Route Search in Japan. to figure out train stations and routes to various destinations. Helped to figure out routes and timing. Ooh, they have an app too.

Helps to use a mapping app that can download offline map data. Then you don't use up tons of data trying to get around.

If you want to see photos of our trip, PM me. :)
 
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