Traveling to Tokyo, Japan - any tips?

Jonathan F/2

Mu-43 Legend
Joined
Aug 10, 2011
Messages
5,027
Location
Los Angeles, USA
Planning a Tokyo trip soon and staying near Akihabara. Going with the whole family, four total. We briefly considered leaving our kids (5 & 8 yrs. old) with the grandparents, but we figured we'd miss them too much after one day! Anyways, I think it's also an excellent educational lesson for young people to travel and see the world!

Any tips or ideas on places to visit near or around the area. Transportation will most likely be train and walking only. I plan to do some heavy street shooting during the late evening (after the kids fall asleep). Also since I have several mouths to feed, suggestions for family friendly restaurants/stalls, etc. would be appreciated. Thanks for any tips!
 

ibd

Mu-43 Veteran
Joined
Jun 5, 2016
Messages
420
I can recommend a day trip to Mt. Takao. It can be easily reached by train in about 1 hour (IIRC). There are several hiking routes (some of them with cemented road), so you can adjust the route to your skill & energy level.
You get good views of the nearby city, and if the weather is good, you can even see Mt. Fuji in the distance!

Here's a youtube video about it:
 

ibd

Mu-43 Veteran
Joined
Jun 5, 2016
Messages
420
We also had great fun creating "sampuru" -- Japanese "fake" food, commonly used at restaurants to make your mouth water.
Here's the activity that we booked: Make Fake Food Art - Airbnb
You can decide to turn your fake sushi into fridge magnets (which also makes a great gift!), or to leave them "natural".
Maybe you can ask about how it works for families, and if you can get a rebate if not everyone creates their own. Maybe you can create the sampuru together with your kids.
 

ibd

Mu-43 Veteran
Joined
Jun 5, 2016
Messages
420
Last but not least, you can combine these two activities as they are very close to each other, and somewhat out of the city center:
1. Studio Ghibli museum (Ghibli Museum, Mitaka in Japan), if you like the movies. Requires some planning ahead to get tickets.
2. Inokashira park zoo (Inokashira Park Zoo - TokyoZooNet)
Good connection to both of these by metro train. There's an extra bus going between the station and the museum.
 

ooheadsoo

Mu-43 Top Veteran
Joined
Jan 13, 2018
Messages
597
How long are you staying, and what sorts of things are you interested in? Since you're choosing to stay in akihabara, is it safe to assume you already know a few things about what you want to see?
 

Jonathan F/2

Mu-43 Legend
Joined
Aug 10, 2011
Messages
5,027
Location
Los Angeles, USA
How long are you staying, and what sorts of things are you interested in? Since you're choosing to stay in akihabara, is it safe to assume you already know a few things about what you want to see?
Well we're staying in Akihabara, mainly because the hotel we booked accepted our credit card points! :D I want to see camera shops and do lots of street shooting. My wife wants to eat ramen and sushi. My kids want to see all things Sanrio and robots! :) That's pretty much all we're interested in!
 

ooheadsoo

Mu-43 Top Veteran
Joined
Jan 13, 2018
Messages
597
Well we're staying in Akihabara, mainly because the hotel we booked accepted our credit card points! :D I want to see camera shops and do lots of street shooting. My wife wants to eat ramen and sushi. My kids want to see all things Sanrio and robots! :) That's pretty much all we're interested in!
The good news is that all things touristic in Japan are very well documented. You should have no trouble finding all the info you need for your kids about the robot show, the Hello Kitty theme park, Studio Ghibli museum (hard to get tickets), Odaiba, etc.

Also, IMO, all of the touristic spots are also fantastic for street photography. I think you're going to have a great time.
Some possible night time candidates off the top of my head:
Shinjuku (Tokyo's CBD)
Golden Gai in Shinjuku (I hear you shouldn't eat there, too easy to run into a tourist trap)
Ginza
Shibuya
Meguro river
Asakusa
Roppongi

I'm definitely no expert on street shooting, though. In my hands, all of these areas would probably end up looking the same. I'd look here for inspiration: tokyo – Ming Thein | Photographer
 

Holoholo55

Mu-43 Hall of Famer
Joined
Aug 13, 2014
Messages
3,057
Location
Honolulu, HI
Real Name
Walter
Last but not least, you can combine these two activities as they are very close to each other, and somewhat out of the city center:
1. Studio Ghibli museum (Ghibli Museum, Mitaka in Japan), if you like the movies. Requires some planning ahead to get tickets.
2. Inokashira park zoo (Inokashira Park Zoo - TokyoZooNet)
Good connection to both of these by metro train. There's an extra bus going between the station and the museum.
Agreed. We did Ghibli Museum on our trip to Tokyo. The kids will love it. Plan on eating Ghibli movie based food at their cafe, and don't forget the museum shop! You have to get your tickets in advance before you leave, I believe. JTB was where we bought ours. There's an office in Honolulu. Ghibli Museum, Mitaka in Japan - TICKETS
We walked from the Mitaka train station to the Museum. It wasn't far and it was a nice walk on a nice fall day. Summer is gonna be hot and humid though. Be prepared for rain. It's their typhoon season.

Note: Ghibli Museum doesn't allow photos inside. They sell a nice book in English that you can bring back as a remembrance.

If you're staying in Tokyo and not going far, you don't need JR rail passes. Those are good mainly for using the Shinkansen, which are quite expensive without the pass. The local trains are relatively inexpensive, but carry cash or get a Suica or Pasmo card. Train stations have station maps in Japanese, but have printed English translations available. We found that in most train stations, etc., there was someone who spoke English and can help. After some initial confusion, we quickly got sorted out and confident about using the trains. Wonderful system and on time. Don't be late to the platform!

I found this site to be very helpful. japan-guide.com - Japan Travel and Living Guide
This site was useful for train scheduling. HyperDia | Timetable and Route Search in Japan.
 
Last edited:

Jonathan F/2

Mu-43 Legend
Joined
Aug 10, 2011
Messages
5,027
Location
Los Angeles, USA
Agreed. We did Ghibli Museum on our trip to Tokyo. The kids will love it. Plan on eating Ghibli movie based food at their cafe, and don't forget the museum shop! You have to get your tickets in advance before you leave, I believe. JTB was where we bought ours. There's an office in Honolulu. Ghibli Museum, Mitaka in Japan - TICKETS
We walked from the Mitaka train station to the Museum. It wasn't far and it was a nice walk on a nice fall day. Summer is gonna be hot and humid though. Be prepared for rain. It's their typhoon season.

If you're staying in Tokyo and not going far, you don't need JR rail passes. Those are good mainly for using the Shinkansen, which are quite expensive without the pass. The local trains are relatively inexpensive, but carry cash or get a Suica or Pasmo card. Train stations have station maps in Japanese, but have printed English translations available. We found that in most train stations, etc., there was someone who spoke English and can help. After some initial confusion, we quickly got sorted out and confident about using the trains. Wonderful system and on time. Don't be late to the platform!

We stayed near Ueno station and found a reasonably priced hotel which would take 3 of us (2 min walking distance from JR Ueno station | UENO TOUGANEYA HOTEL | Official site). Harder to find a place to take 4. A lot of hotels are set up for business travelers and usually sleep two. We booked our hotels online before traveling. The Ameyokocho shopping area was right next to the station and a lot of fun to explore and shop. Ueno Park, Zoo, and museums were near the station too.
Good to know about the train cards. I don't plan on using credit much on my trip. Looking forward to just exploring!
 

kevinparis

Cantankerous Scotsman
Joined
Feb 12, 2010
Messages
3,912
Location
Gent, Belgium
jonathan

you are a brave man... I have only done one trip to Tokyo for a week about 6 or 7 years ago... as a solo adult male and it was all a bit overwhelming. I stayed in the Shinjuku area. I wrote a blog of the trip (my only ever blog :)) which you can find here

wandering thoughts

not sure how helpful it will be for a family of four, but might give you a few pointers

hope you are well

Kevin
 

Holoholo55

Mu-43 Hall of Famer
Joined
Aug 13, 2014
Messages
3,057
Location
Honolulu, HI
Real Name
Walter
Good to know about the train cards. I don't plan on using credit much on my trip. Looking forward to just exploring!
More on those train cards (IC cards). Prepaid IC Cards in Japan
Here's general info about train tickets. Guide to Japanese train tickets and rail passes

Yeah, it's more fun to travel on your own. We did a LOT of walking, but that was good. Wear comfortable shoes. We ate well, but lost weight. The trains, buses, and subways are very efficient and you can find your way around by being observant (they have a lot of signs in Japanese and English). Avoid taxis if possible. They tend to be expensive, but we used one in Kyoto to get from the hotel to the train station with all our luggage, the only time we booked a hotel that wasn't within walking distance of the rail station. An off-line translation app would help. It rained a lot when we visited, at the end of a long typhoon season, but we wore fast dry clothes, and it turned out that leather shoes dried faster than sneakers. Pack light and bring a water bottle. Be adventurous about food. Japan has wonderful food.

More on Akihabara. Tokyo Travel: Akihabara

I have one strong recommendation for your cameras. Reset your date and time to Tokyo time when you get there so your photos will be properly dated and sequenced when you get back. I didn't do that and all my photos, except my iPhone, were off. And, if you have two cameras, it pays to have their time synchronized. :)

Another tip. If you cross a street away from a signaled crosswalk, remember the cars are traveling in the left lane. They'll be coming from your right as you step off the curb, not your left as in the US. Learned this in New Zealand. :)
 
Last edited:

ooheadsoo

Mu-43 Top Veteran
Joined
Jan 13, 2018
Messages
597
I don't plan on using credit much on my trip.
That's good because places that accept credit are far and few between.

When you say soon, I take it you mean you are going this summer? It's well known to be hot and humid. Convenience stores and drug stores sell these scented cooling menthol wipes that can help you stay cool and smell fresh.

Look for a summer festival. I believe they are frequent in summer and typically have festivities the evening before, sometimes with fireworks.
 

joma416

Mu-43 Regular
Joined
Aug 31, 2014
Messages
197
Location
Toronto, ON Canada
Real Name
John
I really liked Ueno Park which should be very close to where you are staying. There were several shrines there as well as a small group of torii gates. If you are also going to Kyoto the Shrines and gates at Ueno won't be that impressive in comparison but I thought they were pretty cool.
 

Jonathan F/2

Mu-43 Legend
Joined
Aug 10, 2011
Messages
5,027
Location
Los Angeles, USA
jonathan

you are a brave man... I have only done one trip to Tokyo for a week about 6 or 7 years ago... as a solo adult male and it was all a bit overwhelming. I stayed in the Shinjuku area. I wrote a blog of the trip (my only ever blog :)) which you can find here

wandering thoughts

not sure how helpful it will be for a family of four, but might give you a few pointers

hope you are well

Kevin
My kids have had passports since they were born. Both my kids have travelled several times internationally and also they've been drilled in big city Los Angeles survival, so I think they'll be okay. :D

I went through all your blog posts, sounds like fun! I'm definitely looking forward to eating! Also I don't mind trying out the McDonalds, even if it's awful. ;)
 

Holoholo55

Mu-43 Hall of Famer
Joined
Aug 13, 2014
Messages
3,057
Location
Honolulu, HI
Real Name
Walter
My kids have had passports since they were born. Both my kids have travelled several times internationally and also they've been drilled in big city Los Angeles survival, so I think they'll be okay. :D

I went through all your blog posts, sounds like fun! I'm definitely looking forward to eating! Also I don't mind trying out the McDonalds, even if it's awful. ;)
McDonald's and KFC are both very popular and ubiquitous. I heard the ebiburger (shrimp burger) is pretty good, but didn't get to try it. Both chains have Japanese exclusive products. The common fast food seems to be ramen/udon and tempura shops. Saw those all over and some were cafeteria style. We found an udon/tempura shop next to the Ueno station that became our daily breakfast stop (for three days). Even the conbinis (convenience stores) had plenty of quick foods that were surprisingly good. An onigiri (rice ball) is a great snack.
 

ibd

Mu-43 Veteran
Joined
Jun 5, 2016
Messages
420
If you're going to try Japanese burger chains, give MOS burger a try -- a Japanese original! They also have a breakfast menu. I liked their cozy and relaxed atmosphere in the morning.

For a quick nigiri snack: give 7eleven a try! They're a different style than in the US. Many 7eleven also have ATMs. We used them a lot.

Regarding Suica and Pasmo cards: we were confused about any differences between the two. However they're exactly the same.
 

ooheadsoo

Mu-43 Top Veteran
Joined
Jan 13, 2018
Messages
597
Regarding Suica and Pasmo cards: we were confused about any differences between the two. However they're exactly the same.
In earlier years, not as many places accepted both cards, so you had to do your research to figure out which card worked best for your itinerary. These days, most places accept both. I still stick with suica, though, for some reason.

One tip about ramen - I think in tokyo, they typically don't drink their broth as a soup so it tends to be on the saltier side since it's primary function is to season the noodles.

Also, don't forget to find some bakeries to try. If you go to any major food court like Isetan, you won't be able to miss it. Also quite common near train stations.

Another culture shock tip: bentos for eating on the go tend to be cold - even when it's supposed to be hot food.
 

Holoholo55

Mu-43 Hall of Famer
Joined
Aug 13, 2014
Messages
3,057
Location
Honolulu, HI
Real Name
Walter
You might also consider the boat ride up the Sumida river to the Asakusa temple and SkyTower. My sister folks did this and loved it.
Tokyo Cruise (Sumida River) (Minato) - 2019 All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (with Photos) - TripAdvisor

An early morning visit to the fish market (aka Tsukiji) would be worth it to see the amazing variety of seafood they'll have. I think the fish auction moved to the new location at Toyosu, but the old Tsukiji site has a lot of restaurants and seafood sellers still in operation. I'm into the ocean and seafood. Anyway, worth checking out for the sights and the food. I wanted to go so bad on our 2013 trip before the auction moved, but didn't make it. :-(
Tokyo Travel: Tsukiji Fish Market

BTW, if you have not done ofuro (Japanese hot soak - the original hot tub), make sure you try. It feels so good, and relaxes your entire body. Great after a long day of walking and touring. In Okinawa, we were lucky that the hotel we stayed in for a week had ofuro baths (segregated of course) on the top floor. After we discovered it, we used it every night. What a luxury. Or, you could find an onsen resort, where it uses hot spring water and is more luxurious. Note that there is a code of etiquette with using ofuro, so best to research it before going.

We did do Tokyo Disneyland, specifically DisneySea. The Tokyo version has two separate parks. Disneyland is like the Anaheim park with similar attractions. DisneySea is unique to the franchise, which is why we chose it. Unfortunately, the day we went (we bought tickets online in advance), it was pouring rain all day. We got soaked, even with rainshells and umbrellas, but persevered. Managed to do a few rides, and wade through the puddles.
 

ooheadsoo

Mu-43 Top Veteran
Joined
Jan 13, 2018
Messages
597
I posted this up in another thread, some may be of interest:

Seeking Japan suggestions/ideas

Be sure to check out the Ramen Museum, which is more of a destination to just buy ramen and eat it (portions are large, share one bowl with family in multiple locations within the museum.
There are some good tips in that pretty recent thread.

More info about your interests would help us give more advice. My own trip is coming in October, and I can't wait.

Whatever you decide, I very sincerely hope you post your images here, whether youe shoot them with m43 or not. I really like your work.
 
Links on this page may be to our affiliates. Sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
Mu-43 is a fan site and not associated with Olympus, Panasonic, or other manufacturers mentioned on this site.
Forum post reactions by Twemoji: https://github.com/twitter/twemoji
Copyright © 2009-2019 Amin Forums, LLC
Top Bottom