Is it just us, or is America really loud? Let’s paint a Tokyo picture for you: Imagine if San Francisco had absolutely no garbage anywhere and was mostly quiet other than the bustling of bodies moving quickly from place to place. With its illuminating neon lights lighting up the night skyline, crisp CLEAN fall air, and stomach warming food, Tokyo has been a dream thus far.
Blogging to you from a high speed train headed out of Tokyo, this time along with my trusty brunette side kick (AKA my bestie Julie – the Brunette’s Eye View 🙂 We’ve been in Japan for a total of 24 hours now and we’re throwing up a quick post while it’s fresh, with just a few tips that have been helpful for you beginners as we navigate through Tokyo!
Best Play for Internet and Phone Access
OBVIOUSLY an immediate need in any foreign country is internet access. After speaking to several Japanese friends we learned about a little wonder called “pocket wifi.” Literally using it right now to write this. As soon as you’ve landed, visit one of the booths in the airport and rent yourself a pocket wifi box. This little gadget is a game changer, it’s about the size of a pager (remember those?) and holds a strong signal allowing up to 10 devices to connect to it. Our group of four cellphones and two laptops are having no problem at all connecting all at once. This will allow you to Instagram or Snapchat to your hearts desires as you explore Tokyo on foot. This device will run you about $15 per day and up to 10 people can connect. This is WAY more economical than buying SIM cards for each person, as long as you’re okay with using wifi to make phone calls.
NTK Phrases (Need to Know)
Although my husband John is part Japanese, and does know enough to get us a lot of help, the times we go off on our own we have found ourselves using these phrases over and over again. For the record these are very simple ways to ask these phrases (think 2nd grade).
- Do you speak English?- Eigo o hanashimasu ka (eh-Go, Oh, hawn-awe-she-moss-kah)
Sounds pretty basic but it’s crucial if you don’t speak a lick of Japanese.
- Where do I buy a train ticket? Den sha no kippu wa dokodesu ka (Den, shaw, no, key-poo, wa, dough-coh-des-kah)
You will need to know this in case you get lost in the massive Tokyo train stations.
- Where is the bathroom? Otearai wa dokodesu ka (oh-tay-awe-rrye, wa, dough-coh-des-kah)
- Where is this? Kore wa dokodesu ka (coh-rray, wa, dough-coh-des-kah)
Learn how to say this and you can literally point at anything on a map, itinerary, ticket etc.
Tips for Navigating the Trains
- You will need your ticket for entry and exit so make sure to keep it with you. When you no longer need your ticket the ticket scanning matching often takes your ticket and doesn’t return it. Sometimes (when making a transfer) you need to put MORE THAN ONE ticket into the machine – if you get an unexpected RED light try inserting both tickets.
- Specific train lines have different ticket purchase machines. I’ve found it useful to look for the color of the train you’re taking and a corresponding machine. For example the “JR” trains are green and the machines to purchase tickets for these lines are green.
- You can change the language on the machine to English – the button is the top right corner, you’re welcome.
- You purchase more than one ticket at a time by selecting a physical button on the left side of the machine indicating a number of bodies.
What to Expect When You’re Exploring
Our first impression of Japan is, “holy moly this whole place is like a library” – clean, quiet, and respectful. As always, we try our best to adhere to the cultural norms of the place we’re visiting. We have found ourselves whispering a lot, especially on the trains and subways, moving quickly to avoid being in anybody’s way, and going out of our way to keep our spaces and belongings clean and tidy. Oh also, everybody seems to own and ride a bike here, additionally it seems rare to lock said bike up – this is a testament to the level of safety and security people feel here.
After a Long Day of Travel, Authentic Japanese Ramen Awaits
We have yet to eat a meal here that wasn’t fabulous, but the Ramen in Japan is something really special. Though there are great Ramen places in America, it just doesn’t compare. Each ramen house is known for their specific broth, each of which is made in house and is the big differentiator between each place. Some are saltier, some are meatier, some are lighter, and you are just going to to have to try each one to figure out which one you like the best. Tip: “Yuzu broth” has a lemony flavor, which can be a nice departure from the norm. A friend living in Japan recommended Afuri Ramen (there are a few locations, we ate at the one in Shibuya Station), and needless to say, it did not disappoint.