Tokyo is a world unto itself, and it’s an absolute must-see for any travel lover. Soak in the traditional Japanese culture, learn about modern life in the city, become a real-life cartoon character and people watch until your head spins. Not to mention the unique, eclectic and delicious selection of restaurants. There’s no place like Tokyo… so here’s my ultimate Tokyo travel guide!
What to Expect in Tokyo
Language: Most people in Tokyo speak limited English, but with the 2020 Olympics coming up, more English signs will be popping up around the city.
Internet Access: Free public Wi-Fi isn’t common in Tokyo. Save yourself some time and cash by getting a Skyroam device before you go.
Currency: Tokyo uses the Japanese Yen. There are around 111 yen per 1 US dollar.
Cash and Cards: Many smaller spots don’t accept cards, so it’s good to have cash on you. 7-Eleven is always a sure spot to find an ATM. Most ATMs dispense a minimum of $100 so you won’t need to make too many trips to get cash.
Sanitation: Public garbage cans are incredibly rare. Japanese women stash a baggie in their handbag to hold onto garbage until they get home. Be sure to keep a few extra tissues in your bag too for non-Western-style toilets.
Good to Know: Download a QR code reader before you go. Many shops use them to access free Wi-Fi, and they are generally a very popular way to get info.
Our Experience as a Lesbian Couple
Tokyo is an amazing destination for LGBTQ+ women and same-sex couples! LGBTQ+ laws in Japan are more progressive than most other countries in Asia, and acceptance of the community is growing in Japanese culture. We felt very safe on our trip and the locals were extremely welcoming. The Ni-chome district in Shinjuku is Tokyo’s gayborhood, and we highly recommend the district’s lesbian bar, Goldfinger!
Getting Around Tokyo
You’ll most likely want to use public transportation to get around, so your first step to getting settled into Tokyo should be familiarizing yourself with the transport map. Grab a bilingual one and start planning your adventures!
Helpful Tip: When you are on public transport, stay off your phone and keep it on silent. If you see a young child, pregnant woman, elderly person, or someone disabled, give up your seat to him or her (it’s the law!).
Harajuku: Harajuku is an ultra-hip fashion district while Ginza is home to upmarket shops. Meanwhile, techies will love shopping in Akihabara.
Kabukicho and Roppongi: These are the districts to see at night when the city comes alive at the clubs and bars. These districts have got everything you need for a fun night out.
Sensoji: Sensoji has Tokyo’s largest Buddhist temple and is home to several cultural treasures. Ueno is another cultural center well worth exploring.
Ebisu: For a view of modern life, check out Tokyo’s most expensive neighborhood, Ebisu, and then see the breathtaking skyscrapers of Yebisu.
Golden Gai: You’ve never been anywhere like Golden Gai. A throwback to days gone by, this area of the Shinjuku district gives you a glimpse into what the city looked like in the 1950s.
Read More: A Quick Guide to Tokyo’s Major Districts
The Peninsula Tokyo
The Peninsula Tokyo is an ultraluxe hotel in the Marunouchi district; you’ll fall in love at first sight. Located opposite the Imperial Palace and Hibiya Park. This 5-star Hotel stands 24 stories high and offers commanding city views.
Shangri-La Hotel, Tokyo
Located in central Tokyo, you’ll find the fab Shangri-La Tokyo. If you want five-star comfort, look no further. Located adjacent to Tokyo station where the “Bullet Train” connects to most areas of Japan. this hotel occupies the top 11 floors of a 37 story building, with panoramic views of Tokyo Bay.
Tokyu Stay Shinjuku
In the Shinjuku district, the Tokyu Stay Shinjuku is a chic and comfortable spot in the middle of all the action. This budget-friendly hotel was rated the best value for the money compared to other properties in the city.
Hotel CEN is a sleek, modern hotel in the Shinjuku district—just a quick walk from two different JR stations. The rooms are more spacious than the average in Tokyo. They also have a beautiful terrace and delicious food offerings!
Accommodation: Boutique Hotel
Kawaii Monster Cafe
Get ready for an explosion of color and the cutest spaghetti ever. Check out my experience at Kawaii Monster Cafe!
Although this is a chain, these ramen spots are popular for a reason– they serve the best ramen.
Fun Fact: Ramen noodles are very time sensitive. Once placed in boiling water, they expand. Ichiran has a standard of delivering your ramen from kitchen to table within a fifteen second window to ensure the perfect texture. Anything over 15 seconds is unacceptable, which is why all seats are within arm’s length.
Kagari is a famous ramen shop in Ginza, Tokyo. With only 8 seats, prepare to wait in line. The line wrapped all the way down the tiny alley and for good reason; this was the best soba I’ve ever had.
What to Order: Tori Paitan Soba (鶏白湯SOBA)- a creamy and extremely flavorful soba dish.
Takashimaya Dept Store
The first department store building designated as an important cultural property. This architecturally unique property hosts shopping and restaurants on its 8 floors. The rooftop is an oasis for relaxation or recreation with its lush gardens and serene fountain.
Restaurants in Shibuya
It’s hard to get a seat, so plan your visit. There is an absolutely dizzying array of foodie hot spots.
Pretty much anywhere in Tokyo has mouthwatering sushi. Check out the Standing Sushi Bar locations.
Eat With A Local
This was one of my favorite experiences of my trip to Tokyo! I connected with a local through Traveling Spoon who walked around the farmers market with me to tell me about different foods I tried and we picked up some fresh ingredients. We ended the day back at her place to cook up a fresh, traditional Japanese meal. Watch my experience here!
You can easily get lost in a market like this! It’s a large wholesale market mainly selling fish, fruits and vegetables. Check out my video on the experience here!
Narukiyo is a funky, quirky and unconventional Izakaya restaurant. A great place for an introduction to Japanese cuisine and culture. Check out my video from dinner at Narukiyo!
Wander around this hip spot to find a top selection of adorable restaurants.
Visit Shibuya Crossing
No trip to Tokyo is complete without joining the sea of people in the busiest intersection in the world.
You’ve got to belt out at least a few tunes while you are in Japan. It is the birthplace of karaoke after all!
Watch my night of karaoke here!
Bars in Golden Gai
This is the perfect spot for bar hopping, and you’ve got to check out the view from Albatross.
Use My Guide to Golden Gai to plan your trip!
Goof Off in Don Quixote
Easily one of the most fun shopping experiences you’ll ever have, Don Quixote is the perfect spot to find all things quirky and crazy.
Visit the Tokyo Imperial Palace
Home to the Emperor of Japan, the Tokyo Imperial Palace is incredible. Covering 1.3 square miles, the grounds include hanami (cherry blossom viewing) spots, art galleries, ancient ruins and beautiful gardens.
Day Trip to Kyoto
Take the bullet train to Kyoto in just 2.5 hours and check out Arashiyama and Inari Shrine.