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> Tokyo FAQ and Starter Kit, Tokyo in all it's glory
uktokyoite
post Jun 12 2008, 08:09 AM
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Why Tokyo? Well in 2001, on March 5th to be exact, I left a cold and grey England behind and set off on a 12 hour journey to Tokyo. This was a new beginning for me. A new culture, new language, new life dance3.gif

I chose Tokyo because I wanted to live somewhere completely different to the UK. I guess I wanted to know if I could make it or not without all my usual safety cushions around me hyper.gif This was the best ever decision.

When I arrived I was taken to my tiny apartment (20 square meters) before going to my company for the first time. I hadn't slept for 24 hours at this stage but I was buzzing. That buzz is still here 7 years later - even though I know so much more now this city is always changing and I'm always seeing new things. My apartment is now twice the size - 44 square meters - woohoo! Rent is the expensive thing here but then, when I compare it to the UK equivalent, London, I think it's actually cheaper.

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Safety

There have been some events reported that might make you wonder how safe Tokyo is. Well compared to the UK, it's mega safe. As a single female I can walk alone at night without feeling myself jump out of my skin whenever someone is behind me and if I lose something, even my wallet, there is a pretty fair chance it will be returned to me. However, you still have to use your head. Don't forget the safety rules that you usually play by at home. I know people who have come here and it's almost as though, because they are in another country, the rules go out of the window. Tokyo is safe in comparison to many other countries - but even the safest place will have the odd bad egg in it. Make sure you bring your common sense with you and if you're unsure - get yourself into a position where you feel safe.

Festivals

One of the things I love here is all the festivals. It's funny because Japanese are often viewed as being very serious types - well you should see them at a festival. It's a real let your hair down, don't let inhibitions get in your way, affair. There are many major events such as hanami, hanabi, boy's day, girl's day, setsubun, and many more. If you get the opportunity to experience one of these they come highly recommended.

Seasons

Japan has 4 very distinct seasons so bring what you will need with you - I can always give you a hand there if you need yes.gif Be careful of some of the bigger holidays because prices double and even triple for both transport and hotels. Not a laughing matter with oil prices as they are right now!

The City

Tokyo is full of some great places to see. Whether you like old or new there's something for you. The city itself used to be a mass of small villages. As the area was developed the villages grew until eventually their borders touched and they all joined to form the Tokyo we know now. After that the only way was up and resulted in the development of the modern skyscarpers that dot the landscape.

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Places

One of my favourite places to go in Tokyo for a bit a peace and calm and to get away from it all is a temple or shrine. There are some famous ones like Meiji Jingu or Yasukuni - both of which are well worth a visit - or just find a local one. They are everywhere. I work in the middle of Tokyo in the middle of an office district, but just across the road from me there is a small shrine. Just go find a quiet spot, sit down, and think your own thoughts for a while away from the madding crowd!

There's also the Imperial Palace. Lots of people seem to think that Tokyo is just a concrete jungle, but there are pockets of greenery everywhere. The Imperial Palace sits in the middle of some Japanese gardens that can't be beaten for beauty and tradition. There's also the remains of the original castle that used to stand on the same land. If you're lucky enough to be visiting on Dec 23rd or Jan 2nd then you are able to go into the inner palace grounds and have the chance to see the Emperor. Be ready to queue though!

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Restaurants

One of my favourite areas for restaurants is Ebisu. Inside Ebisu Garden Place Tower (take the East exit from the Yamanote Line and follow the Skywalk) you can grab a great window view from the 38th and 39th floor. You can choose from Japanese, Chinese, Korean as well as some European menus - prices vary but there are some reasonable options. If you fancy something a little more local in nature then take the West exit and find a local izekaya near the station. Excellent atmosphere, food and drink are all on tap drinks_wine.gif

Odaiba

I love going here. This is one of the funkiest areas in Tokyo. There's shops, restaurants, a future science museum (not your typical museum - check out Honda's first human style robot for starters) and some very cool buildings all in the same place. On top of that grab a night time view of Rainbow Bridge with the Statue of Liberty in the background. I know it sounds strange - I thought I was seeing things the first time I went there - but there is an exact copy of the first lady in front of the Decks shopping centre. Make your way to Venus Fort - another shopping mall - and check out the inside outside decoration. The mall looks like a street in Europe and the lighting changes according to the time of day.

Transport

Tokyo is designed to get you from A to B by a multitude of means. The simplest, cheapest and most reliable method is the train system. You can buy tickets each time you travel or you can buy a prepaid card that you load up with as much cash as you want to. There are 2 cards available - one is the Pasmo card run by Tokyo Metro and the other is the Suica card run by JR. There is basically little difference between the two except that one is sponsored by the subway and one by the overground lines. You can use either card on all lines so it doesn't matter which one you choose.

Japan Rail Pass

If you are planning on traveling outside Tokyo then it is worth considering buying yourself a rail pass. These are for 1, 2 or 3 week periods and will get you onto any JR line train and also the shinkansen to anywhere in Japan. The only shinkansen you cannot use is the fastest one - the Nozomi. Any of the others is ok. You must buy this pass before you arrive in Japan - you cannot get it once you have landed here. Make this part of your travel plan so that you don't miss out - it can save you a lot of money if you plan on visiting places other than Tokyo. If you are just staying in Tokyo, however, I would say don't bother.

Money

Getting your cash is not the same as in many Western countries. Bring enough with you so that you can see yourself through the first 24 hours without needing to change travelers cheques or visit a cash machine. ATMs are not as regular here as in other countries and some of the Japanese banks, even though they show a visa sign outside, don't accept international visa - only domestic. Citibank has several branches around Tokyo and also the convenience store 7/11 provides ATMs for international card access. As for travelers cheques - there aren't really any money changing kiosks to be found here so you will need to find a bank that accepts your paper. Check it out before you get here so you don't find yourself short of cash.

Shopping

And this is why you need to get your hands on your cash! Tokyo has just about everything you could want. There are designer shops in Ginza, trendy styles in Shibuya, traditional goods in Asakusa, a street market in Ueno and don't forget the fantastic 100 yen stores - the equivalent of a dollar store in the US. The 100 yen stores are also a great place to buy pressies to take back home without spending a fortune. You can get nice chopsticks, Japanese bowls and more and save the rest of your cash to spend on your stay.

If you are fancying a trip over and want any info I'll happily share anything I can with you. More than anything else I want to say this is such a fab city party.gif If you get the chance - visit!


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Honor

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starlagurl
post Jun 12 2008, 10:04 AM
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Thanks so much for that, is that you in the picture? You look really happy among the cherry blossoms, aw.


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uktokyoite
post Jun 13 2008, 03:16 AM
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QUOTE(starlagurl @ Jun 12 2008, 10:04 AM) *

Thanks so much for that, is that you in the picture? You look really happy among the cherry blossoms, aw.


Yes that's me curtsey.gif I love the cherry blossoms - and the parties are great! It only lasts about 2 weeks but it's beautiful while it's here. Have you been?


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rbisset
post Jun 13 2008, 06:39 AM
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From what I can remember about taking money out, it was a real pain in the arse. I think I had to use the ATM's at the Post Office or something?

Edit: You'll be surprised to know that the weather here has been surprisingly good the last few weeks! Still it is grey and miserable for 3/4 of the year!!! When I went to Tokyo in September the humidity was a killer!


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starlagurl
post Jun 13 2008, 09:42 AM
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Nope, I have never been to Tokyo, but I've been kind of obsessed with it lately. See: http://blog.travelpod.com


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uktokyoite
post Jun 13 2008, 09:47 AM
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QUOTE(rbisset @ Jun 13 2008, 06:39 AM) *

From what I can remember about taking money out, it was a real pain in the arse. I think I had to use the ATM's at the Post Office or something?

Edit: You'll be surprised to know that the weather here has been surprisingly good the last few weeks! Still it is grey and miserable for 3/4 of the year!!! When I went to Tokyo in September the humidity was a killer!


You are right - but the money thing has been getting better over the last year and half or so. Used to be just the P.O. - but Shinsei bank has recently moved into the international banking sector and you can use them now 24 hours a day 365 days a year - unheard of right?!

7/11 now has international banking ATMs as well - not in all but a lot - especially in Tokyo so things are getting easier. Not like in the UK yet - but getting there....

I heard the weather has been pretty good there recently. September is pretty humid here but somehow I've got used to it - doesn't bother me anymore. Maybe I'm just weird hyper.gif

Did you have a good time when you here? What were you doing?


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uktokyoite
post Jun 13 2008, 09:53 AM
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QUOTE(starlagurl @ Jun 13 2008, 09:42 AM) *

Nope, I have never been to Tokyo, but I've been kind of obsessed with it lately. See: http://blog.travelpod.com


That video's excellent - and I can vouch that it's true. You see that all the time especially at weekends. It's kind of common here for people to have too much to drink and then sayonara dude! The most popular crashing places are manga cafes because you can hide away in your cubicle and grab some zzzzzzzs before heading home on the first train in the morning.

Basically Japanese people are no hassle when they've had too much to drink - they'll just pass out!


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starlagurl
post Jun 13 2008, 10:18 AM
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Hahaha...wow... I wish you could do that here, instead, we just crash at each other's houses, or roam around in the snow all night! Not pleasant. There are also, a couple of after hours bars, if you can stomach the pounding house music all night, plus the exorbitant cover charge.


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inasia2008
post Jun 23 2008, 10:48 PM
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How did you manage to get a job and an apartment whilst still in the UK in Tokyo? Did you visit beforehand, go for interviews etc. I am intrrested in getting a job if I am lucky enough to go there next year, how easy is it and what sort of companies are there around? Do you know the area of Yokuoska?
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uktokyoite
post Jun 24 2008, 07:38 AM
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Hia - sorry for late response - this week is flat out!

I applied for a job with one of the eikaiwa schools - in my case Geos. They're the best way of getting over here and landing with a job in your pocket. I couldn't afford to take the risk of no job cos I was paying off student loans at the time.

You do your year with them, all the time getting to know people and voila - other options start to open up. Tokyo is very much a city of connections for some of the better jobs. I was recommended by a friend of a friend for my current position.

Yokosuka is a great place. You will have a ball jump.gif

Actually you won't be that far away from me - maybe we could catch up at some point when you get here - just a thought.

I will write more this weekend - got to go for now - gomen ne frantics.gif


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starlagurl
post Jun 24 2008, 10:40 AM
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Yeah you guys should totally get together, it seems like you would get along really well. Seriously!


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inasia2008
post Jun 24 2008, 05:54 PM
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Ohyo Gazimus! Please don't worry about not coming back straightaway, I know you are busy! It's totally fine...
I am so happy you said that about Yokosuka, I was hoping that would be the case! Oh well, so far as the job is concerned, we'll see (one step at a time for me anyway!) I don't have a degree or anything so teaching is out...
Sounds great, it would be so cool to meet up with you, I told Mike about you anyway! I think Louise is right!
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uktokyoite
post Jun 28 2008, 08:07 AM
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QUOTE(inasia2008 @ Jun 24 2008, 05:54 PM) *

Ohyo Gazimus! Please don't worry about not coming back straightaway, I know you are busy! It's totally fine...
I am so happy you said that about Yokosuka, I was hoping that would be the case! Oh well, so far as the job is concerned, we'll see (one step at a time for me anyway!) I don't have a degree or anything so teaching is out...
Sounds great, it would be so cool to meet up with you, I told Mike about you anyway! I think Louise is right!


Definitely! Let's meet up sometime yes.gif That would be fun ne?

Bit of useful info if you don't already know about this website - check out http://www.gaijinpot.com

This is a good starting point for looking for jobs in the Tokyo and Yokohama area. Take a peek - just forget the forums on this one. It's full of the same old people banging their drum about life in Tokyo. Not very helpful for someone first getting here.

Will be posting again soon - have a good one.


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inasia2008
post Jun 28 2008, 07:03 PM
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I have seen this website, I thought it would come in handy for me now, but no luck in Misawa, there is nothing here except teaching and I don't have a degree! But year for Tokyo etc. probably much more helpful, and plus I have another one I think its called Universal and I get posts from them about jobs in Tokyo too, office jobs and such like!

You have a great weekend! What are you up too...
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jalis
post Mar 2 2009, 05:15 AM
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was just wondering...how will the weather be in Tokyo around late april to early may?
my friends and i are going to tokyo for 5 weeks...smile.gif
wat kind of clothing should we bring over....tq
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uktokyoite
post Mar 2 2009, 08:21 AM
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Hi Jalis,

Wow a five week break smile.gif Lovely!

End of April and May, hmmm, the weather is getting warmer by then and some days can almost be described as hot but there's also lots of colder days too. You're probably looking at an average daily temperature of around 12 - 15 degrees but the weather can be changeable. It's a bit like the UK - April showers mixed up with lovely warm May weather too!


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jalis
post Mar 2 2009, 09:08 AM
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for 5 weeks, is suica card advisable? is there any cards/tickets i should buy before i reach tokyo?
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starlagurl
post Sep 30 2009, 09:07 AM
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You can get a monthly Suica card: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suica


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uktokyoite
post Sep 30 2009, 08:14 PM
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Hi Jalin,

If you're traveling for 5 weeks it depends on whether you're going to be staying in Tokyo or traveling around to other areas of Japan as well.

The Suica card is really handy if you're staying in Tokyo and is basically a travel pass that you charge with credit as and when you need to. You pay a 500 yen deposit on the card which is refundable when you leave - all you have to do is hand it in to a JR ticket office ( you can do this at the airport when you leave ).

If you're arriving at Narita airport you can also get a special deal called N'Ex which gets you your train ride into the center of Tokyo and your Suica code ready to go - see http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/suica-nex/

If you're traveling further afield then the Japan Rail Pass is a great deal for longer journeys and gets you on the shinkansen (just not the fastest one). See http://www.tokyotopia.com/japan-rail-pass.html You must buy this one before you get to Japan and you will exchange it for the proper pass on arrival.

Hope this helps


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starlagurl
post Oct 1 2009, 10:56 AM
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Thanks Honor, you are such a wealth of Tokyo information!


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