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Traveling to tokyo:

post #1 of 46
Thread Starter 
I'm seriously considering Tokyo as my next major vacation adventure the upcoming summer, I was thinking somewhere around June / July / August. Any recommendations / suggestions regarding traveling to, returning from Tokyo, getting around the city, where to eat, monetary exchange (handling money), hotel ideas and of course shopping would be greatly appreciated, from both members who reside in Tokyo and members who have visited the city. So far, I am interested in hotels along the lines of the Park Hyatt Tokyo in Shinjuku (although the Grand Hyatt in Roppongi is a possibility). I did like the Four Seasons Tokyo at Chinzan-so, but was unable to determine how far away the hotel is from the center of the city (and major shopping / cultural centers). I am still completely baffled regarding restaurants, cultural events / museums, shopping, etc... Much obliged. Jon.
post #2 of 46
Ask naturlaut; he'd know. koji
post #3 of 46
As someone who has spent time in Tokyo, I guess I'm wondering why anyone would go there other than at gunpoint. It's a noisy, smelly, crowded city populated largely by people who like only your money. Yes, for the first time visitor there is some exoticism, but the charms of the Ginza and Rippongi Junction fade in about an hour. To boot, there are absolutely no bargains in Tokyo. Sky-high rents force merchants to charge sky-high prices (a Burberry's raincoat was $1850 equivalent last time I was there), and the "indigenous" goods that one might expect to find at an attractive price (watches, pearls), simply aren't. Add to that the whole VAT refund hassle on departure, the cross-country trip to or from Narita Airport (which charges you to get in or out), and the appeal is lost on me. Want the Tokyo experience? Check into the smallest, noisiest hotel room in a gritty industrial district of Pittsburgh, then eat at the priciest east-Asian restaurant you can find, but insist on sitting in the hallway. Tip everyone you meet 300% of the purchase price for anything, while speaking to them in an obscure second language and wearing an "I hate Americans" lapel button, and take taxis everywhere. You'll get the gist of it.
post #4 of 46
I lived in Tokyo for a year, and go back any time I have a chance. I believe it is not a city for everyone, as armscye's post makes abundantly clear. It is crowded, often polluted, and difficult to navigate if you cannot speak Japanese (though the subways and commuter rails are now equipped with barely adequate English maps). If you cannot speak Japanese and do not have fellow travelers who can speak it, you will be in for a ton of adventure (read: frustration). When I first got there after two years of college-level Japanese I was often still dependent on finding English speakers for help. Fortunately, many people will go out of their way to help you--I once got lost in the center of Shinjuku station and asked a woman for help, and when I couldn't understand her directions she walked me several minutes out of her way to lead me to the right line. Despite the initial impenetrability of the language, it is also an extraordinary place to visit, because the food is great, the nightlife is insanely good (very hip bars, some with a last call of sunrise), there is a tremendous amount of great modern and ancient architecture. It is shockingly expensive--there really are no bargains to be had. The only can't-miss shopping for most people is going to Akihabara, where you can pay top dollar for electronics that you can't get in the US (careful, some of them won't work here anyhow). For tourist-oriented shopping, many people would recommend Kappabashi to buy the plastic replica food that Japanese restaurants use for displays (beware the price, but it makes a great souvenir), or anyplace in the "shitamachi" area, especially around Asakusa (which has a really big Buddhist temple) for traditional crafts. You can readily get cash at banks and Amex offices, but beware of ATM fees and bank holidays. When I lived there in '90 even the ATM machines were closed on bank holidays, and that may still be the case. I guess ATM machines that bow to the customers need holidays as well. Where to stay? Pick a hotel you like and go for it. It's too spread out for one hotel to serve as a good walking-distance home base for sightseeing, but I think the proximity of the Park Hyatt to Shinjuku station makes it the best choice. You can start a voyage to just about anywhere in town from Shinjuku station. How to get around? Taxis cost big $$. Use the subways or rail instead. The maps aren't bad, and you can almost always find someone (though usually not the stationworkers) who speaks enough English to help you. June is the rainy season, August is blazingly hot and humid. Out of the three months you mention, I'd go with July for the best chance of comfortable weather.
post #5 of 46
I think Tokyo is a fairly enjoyable city to visit, I used to go there on a monthly basis for business. Again, if you aren't reasonably fluent in Japanese, it can be somewhat difficult to find your way around. The nightlife is quite good, but definitely the shopping is really expensive. Personally I think other areas of Japan are more interesting to visit (especially Kyoto, areas on Kyushu, and Hokkaido) as some areas seem relatively untouched by technology even though it is such an advanced country.
post #6 of 46
Since you posted in this forum, I assume you are a regular clothing addict who gets excited walking into a clothing store, or your heart beating extraordinary fast stepping into a shoe shop.  I think you will find Tokyo an incerdible place for high-end clothing, even if it's just for browsing. Without getting too much into details like giving addresses for every store, let me tell you that Tokyo will let you see more of the sartorial world beyond Brioni and Kiton and John Lobb.  Takashimaya (a big department store) will have Santoni, Berluti, etc., and a conprehensive bespoke section (from Turnbull to Dunhill, from Carlo Riva to Testi).  Beams (a smaller store) will have all the Cleverley RTW (out-sourced but lasts by Cleverley), rare Enzo Bonafe RTW, etc., suitings from Battistoni to Sartoria (Kiton) to Liverano to Napoletana, as well as various other shirtmakers.  United Arrows constantly stocks (Thracozaag, ready?) both lines of Anna Matuozzo shirts ($600 a pop), Aubercy shoes, Lattanzi RTW (those you won't find in Bergdorf), etc..  Isetan (another big department store) is kinda like Bergdorf (Borrelli, Turnbull, and the lesser-seen Finamore handmade shirts).  Of course, there are stand-alone flagship stores of basically every maker you can think of from Santoni to Kiton to Berluti (the Kiton store even has leather goods, though not regularly).  Other smallers stores even stock Stefano Branchini (shoes and shirts and leather goods), even Lattanzi shirts, Stefano Bemer (oh my...), Bonora (bespoke available).  On a lower end (casual shirts and jeans and what-not) the variety is amazing.   Restaurants will cater to most budgets, from $5 a bowl of noodle (fast food) to $100/slice of Kobe beef.  My greatest enjoyment is going to the central fish market early morning (to see those 400-pound tuna fish) and have fresh sashimi at 8 o'clock in the morning.  You just have to know your budget and plan your spending.  I don't think London or Paris or New York is any cheaper when it comes to dining.   Try to stay close to any train station, as it will be your main mode of transport.  Avoid cabs if you can; even for short trips(my experience: a 15-minute ride cost me $20+).  Just remember that the last train is at 11:30pm; on weekends and on some of the lines, about 12 mid-night. You can take plenty of side trips outside Tokyo for Spas at hot springs.  They are not too expensive, and usually great (for me).   There are quite a few museums, mostly exhibiting Japanese works that were made in context with all the European movements: Surrealism, Abstract expressionism, etc..  Obviously there are also museums dedicated to Japanese folk art. The electronic district is Akihabara (as mentioned above, though it's usually known simply as Akiba).  Be sure to stop by the Sony building and take a peek at the top line of Sony products (everything Sony we are using are actually the lower line of Sony, the top line is called Qualia, and some of them can be custom made) that are not available anywhere else in the world.  (Yes, I am a Sony fan.) The crowds at Harajuku or Shinjuku could be a shock to those who are not used to it, though me being from Hong Kong and New York, it's quite an everyday-thing.  One of my favourite hobbies: taking pictures with the locals.  In all my travel experiences, Japanese almost never say no.  Some of the Japanese men are very well dressed; Japanese women are, well, ... ... My last suggestion: print out all the interesting posts from this forum and that should keep you occupied during your 13-hour flight. Naturlaut
post #7 of 46
Having been several times, I lean more toward the go, not go side on this thread. For me, all of the discussions of the hassles, the food, the facilities, etc. are largely irrelevant. What makes Japan fascinating to me is that it is as close to "foreign" culture as one can get. Japanese notions of ordering society, obligations to each other and to their intitutions, and mores and customs can be markedly different than in many other countries and observing and learning can be quite enjoyable. I speak extraordinarily little Japanese and found that a reasonable amount of common sense, tremendous patience, and a spirit of exploration will serve you well. My wife and I often treated each unexpected outcome as pure serendipity and saw it not as a disapppointment, but an opportunity to expereince something new and different. I find the spin on marketing concepts to be worth the experience. For example, we visited a tie store (now defunct) near the Embassy area that featured very high-end Italian ties. Unlike the US, where dozens or hundreds might be on display, there were FIVE. Each was nice, but there were only FIVE. If you wanted to see different colors or patterns, you asked and the sales clerk brought.
post #8 of 46
Re: Getting there... Talk to a mileage broker about buying a VIP upgrade to first class ($450 vs $2000) it is against airline rules so shhhhhh... If you can get a 777 the first class seats go allllllll the way back and you will arrive rested, fatter and slightly drunk.  On 10+ hour flights I have to sit in biz or first or else I am completely worn out for the first couple days of the trip.  Also... wear loose shoes and take them off for the flight, when ya land your feet will be like Sasquatch's ...I socked it through a few airports before i figured that one out. check flyertalk.com and post there for deals on travel and tricks on maximizing points.  
post #9 of 46
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Re: Getting there... Talk to a mileage broker about buying a VIP upgrade to first class ($450 vs $2000) it is against airline rules so shhhhhh... If you can get a 777 the first class seats go allllllll the way back and you will arrive rested, fatter and slightly drunk. On 10+ hour flights I have to sit in biz or first or else I am completely worn out for the first couple days of the trip. Also... wear loose shoes and take them off for the flight, when ya land your feet will be like Sasquatch's ...I socked it through a few airports before i figured that one out. check flyertalk.com and post there for deals on travel and tricks on maximizing points.
Pardon my ignorance, but who is Jill? As well what is a mileage broker? Jon. Thanks to all who posted so far...the more I learn, the better prepared I am.
post #10 of 46
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Re: Getting there... Talk to a mileage broker about buying a VIP upgrade to first class ($450 vs $2000) it is against airline rules so shhhhhh... If you can get a 777 the first class seats go allllllll the way back and you will arrive rested, fatter and slightly drunk. On 10+ hour flights I have to sit in biz or first or else I am completely worn out for the first couple days of the trip. Also... wear loose shoes and take them off for the flight, when ya land your feet will be like Sasquatch's ...I socked it through a few airports before i figured that one out. check flyertalk.com and post there for deals on travel and tricks on maximizing points.
Pardon my ignorance, but who is Jill? As well what is a mileage broker? Jon. Thanks to all who posted so far...the more I learn, the better prepared I am.
post #11 of 46
If you check the newspaper you will see guys who advertise that they buy airline miles and upgrades and sell them... not exactly beloved by the airlines and of course I'd never do it (cough cough) but I've HEARD that it works. Jill's my better half, posts here - she's 'heard' more than me about such things. Google on mileage brokers and several will come up, Check you PM's in a minute and I'll leave you the details on one I've 'heard' about.
post #12 of 46
August is VERY HOT AND HUMID in Japan. I spent the month there a few years ago with my Japanese friends and I swear I left SALT stains on my t shirts from sweat. However, the country is a total mind warping place. Its funny to see all the imported pop American culture. The beauty of the Japanese architecture and women (man do they dress FINE in Japan) is a treat. I suggest skipping Tokyo altogether and hitting more rural parts. It will be harder w/ language but much much cheaper on food and lodging. Tokyo is insanely expensive. The rest of Japan is rather affordable in my experience. As far as clothing, I hope you are either Asian or of a very small build otherwise. Most non Asians in Japan are far too big for the clothing stores. Ligament.
post #13 of 46
Wow, I'm so surprised at how pessimistic the posters have been so far on this thread. Everyone that I have ever talked to who have lived or at least been to Japan said it was incredible. I have not been myself, but I plan to live there for at least a year after graduation.
post #14 of 46
Quote:
I'm seriously considering Tokyo as my next major vacation adventure the upcoming summer, I was thinking somewhere around June / July / August. Any recommendations / suggestions regarding traveling to, returning from Tokyo, getting around the city, where to eat, monetary exchange (handling money), hotel ideas and of course shopping would be greatly appreciated, from both members who reside in Tokyo and members who have visited the city. So far, I am interested in hotels along the lines of the Park Hyatt Tokyo in Shinjuku (although the Grand Hyatt in Roppongi is a possibility). I did like the Four Seasons Tokyo at Chinzan-so, but was unable to determine how far away the hotel is from the center of the city (and major shopping / cultural centers). I am still completely baffled regarding restaurants, cultural events / museums, shopping, etc... Much obliged. Jon.
Be careful not to lose in translation.
post #15 of 46
That joke would have been horribly lame coming from anyone else, but from Ernest, you have made my day.
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