So your bags are packed, there’s a city guide in your pocket and you’re ready to tackle Tokyo? Not so fast! There are a few travel hacks that will make your trip to Japan’s capital as easy, mistake-free and amazing as it should be.
1. Pre-arrange your Wi-Fi service
If you’re traveling with your regular cell phone and plan to visit Tokyo for under 14 days, you’re eligible to receive a free Wi-Fi account that works in many locations throughout the city. Hook up via FLETS before you arrive, or get your access card at Travelex once you’ve landed. You can also try to arrange accommodation in a hotel that offers free wifi, such as the Hotel Ueno East.
2. No pointing
Pointing, unless it’s at yourself, is considered rude in Tokyo and the rest of Japan. This is a pretty crucial piece of information for travelers who aren’t well-versed in the Japanese language. Instead, use an open-palmed gesture in the direction of whatever you want to eat, buy, or talk about.
3. Scope out bathroom stalls before making your choice
When most people picture Japanese bathrooms, they imagine cutting-edge toilets with rainbow bidets and a warm seat. These definitely exist, but so do porcelain sinks inset into the floor of a bathroom stall. Confused? Not as much as you would have been after standing in line for 20 minutes, only to come face-to-face with something that looks more like a shower drain than a 21st-century toilet. If you can hold your bladder a minute or two, take a look in all the stalls before committing.
4. GPS will get you where you’re going
It’s no surprise the majority of street and business signs are written in Kanji. Of course, when you’re in the middle of these foreign characters, finding your way around Tokyo can be overwhelming. To avoid missing out on great Tokyo attractions like the Tokyo Tower, equip your mobile device with GPS that works with Google Maps. For the most part, you will need to enter the address in Kanji, so expect to do a few minutes of online research before setting out from your hotel. Once the address is plugged into your GPS map, you’re good to go! You can also choose a hotel close to landmark districts like Chiyoda City to make navigation even simpler.
5. Learn a few useful phrases
Learning a new language — or at least a few useful pieces of it — is fun and culturally rewarding. Check out some basic phrases before you hit Tokyo, like “dozo” (please), “arigato” (thank you), and “Eigo wa dekimasu ka?” (Do you speak English?). These will help smooth the awkward missteps that come from immersing yourself in an unfamiliar culture.
No matter what you’re looking for in Tokyo — be it the sushi and sashimi, the luscious silks, the beautiful mountains and cherry trees, or the history of this isolated cultural center — you won’t be disappointed.
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