I got to go to Japan for my honeymoon this past October, and I wanted share with people out there where and I went and how I got around. Now, I read/speak Japanese, so some of the tools I used may or may not be of use to some folks. That being said, lots of facilities (including trains and subways) do have English-language displays and announcements, so travel within Tokyo has become a lot more tourist friendly.
First and foremost, I recommend everyone to rent a mi-fi device (portable wi-fi internet device) for the duration of your trip.
I recommend using Wi-Fi Rental Store; they’re relatively cheap, and you can have the mi-fi device delivered to the front desk of whatever hotel you will be staying in Tokyo for only a nominal fee. It ran around $45 for a 10-day stay in my case.
Link here (English-friendly) : http://en.wifi-rental-store.jp/
There are many train/subway stations that let you connect to free wi-fi, too, but portable mi-fi comes in very handy if you want to use, say, Google maps when you’re trying to walk around.
For my trip to Tokyo, I stayed in the Shinjuku area (since that’s where the Japan HQ of the company I work for is, and I’m familiar with that area). We took the Limousine Bus out of Narita Airport into the Shinjuku area. Some people swear by Narita Express train, which I’m sure is a great way to travel to Tokyo, but I’ve gotten more accustomed to the Limousine Bus.
Limousine bus homepage (English-friendly): http://www.limousinebus.co.jp/en/
It seems there is a round-trip voucher available for visiting tourists that can be purchased at the Narita Airport (sorry, no Haneda Airport availability) : https://www.limousinebus.co.jp/en/information/visitor_tickets/
These Limousine Buses will take you right to the front door of some of the Tokyo-area hotels. If you have the budget to stay at a high-end hotel, I would recommend staying at the Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku, because it’s very tourist-friendly, and most staff members there speak English. There are other options to travel other than Shinjuku: you can choose hotel destinations in Tokyo City, Ikebukuro, Odaiba (home of the life-size Gundam)/Ariake, etc.
I did not have the budget (lol) so I stayed at the Hotel Sunroute Higashi-Shinjuku. (NOT Suntroute Plaza Shinjuku, which does have a very similar name…)
Hotel Sunroute Higashi-Shinjuku is around $140/night for two people. The rooms are VERY small, but it’s comfy and clean, you can buy tickets for a breakfast buffet at the adjacent diner, and I love the location. There’s a Tokyo Metro (subway) station right next door, a Seven-Eleven across the street, and it’s not smack dab in the middle of the hustle and bustle of JR Shinjuku station.
Sunroute Higashi-Shinjuku homepage (English-friendly): http://www.hotelsunroutehigashishinjuku.jp/en/
Another thing I would recommend everyone to get, is the IC card.
I purchased a PASMO card at the Tokyo Metro subway station. You can also get it as a SUICA card at the JR train stations. These IC cards not only function as a pre-paid train pass, but they function as currency, like a debit card, on various vending machines and some participating shops and restaurants.
Speaking of currency- I’m sure you’ll be carrying some cash and/or traveller’s checks with you when you travel, but if you need to make a withdrawal, you can utilize the ATMs in the Seven-Eleven convenience stores (for VISA card only) and the Japan Post (Yucho) Banks (for VISA/Mastercard/Discover). You will be hit with the typical surcharge you’d see when you’re taking money out of an ATM that’s not your bank’s (which is a flat rate regardless of how much you withdraw), but it’s better than getting hit with an International Transaction fee (which is a percentage out of the total amount spent) for using your credit card.
One thing I wanted to note, if you’re trying to buy bullet train tickets at the JR train stations, they do not accept foreign-issued credit cards! (I learned the hard way.) So have some cash on you if you’re buying train tickets to ride the Shinkansen (bullet train). I went to Kyoto using the Shinkansen, and it cost about $160 one-way, per person. You’ll be buying both an express train ticket, and the regular pass that grants you access to the stations. (I’ll write more about the Shinkansen in another article.)
Now that we have everything ready, we shall take the train!
The Sunroute Higashi-Shinjuku is right next to the Tokyo Metro “Higashi Shinjuku” subway station.
I’ve found using Yahoo! Japan’s train route search invaluable for my trip. It gives me a few options for the time and location of departure, as well as which platform to be on for the particular train I’m looking for. Google maps yielded fairly good results too, but it worked better for walking directions for me.
Yahoo! Japan train route search link (Japanese-only): http://transit.yahoo.co.jp/
I’ve found that the easiest route to getting to the JR Shinjuku station out of Higashi-Shinjuku station is to take the Oedo Line to “Shinjuku Nishi-Guchi (Shinjuku Station West Exit)” and follow the signs. Shinjuku station is a behemoth; be prepared to do lots of walking within the station, if you’re switching between subway and train.
Well, that’s it for this round! In Part 2, I’ll be going through the various places I visited while in Tokyo.