The best and most popular time to visit Sakura City is during sakura season, of course! That would usually be in spring, between March to early May. Avoid summer, unless you are here for the yearly Fuji Rock Festival at Niigata.
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In Tokyo, you can expect travelling by public transportation to be a breeze. You just have to put in a bit of effort to diligently plan your routes right and know which line you need to get on and off. The JR line is the most convenient option when getting around the touristy/shopping areas.
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So the two important tips here are:
Find accommodation within 5 minutes walk to any station along the JR line
Get the JR pass! It beats buying one-time passes, especially if you only have the Tokyo Metro pass. The Tokyo Metro pass brings you to a lot of places, unfortunately, you will still have to make transfers and purchase JR tickets if you want to get on the JR line – plus one-way JR tickets are more expensive as compared to the Metro! Do not be intimidated by the extensive map though!
As Japan is quite unpredictable with its weather in spring, sometimes bright and sunny, other times just wet and overcast, it’s safe to bring a raincoat or an umbrella. Nope, you won’t look like a goon carrying an umbrella with you all day.
First stop: Food! Savour your taste buds at Tsukiji Market and prepare to spend all your cash on fresh oysters, uni, scallops, fish, fish and more fish. Slide into one of the many izakayas and enjoy freshly prepared sushi. Watch the bones of your salmon carefully removed out of its succulent, pink flesh and sliced to perfection, and served right in front of you. Mind the Japanese rules on table manners, they take it quite seriously, although they are more accepting now. But remember: don’t stick your chopsticks upright in the bowl of rice and don’t cut a piece of sushi in half with your chopsticks. And, don’t mix your wasabi into your soy sauce the Singaporean way, just don’t.
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Next up, shopping! Surely you’ve heard of Harajuku and Shibuya and shopping paradise. Well, they are! But the real deal lies behind Takeshita Street. Take a hit behind and through the alleys – rare vintage finds of everything clothes! Walk up to Omotesando, another popular spot for everything trendy and hip, so don’t miss it! While you are there, go and a scavenger hunt for Omotosando Koffee. The minimalist café dwells in between private housing in the hills – if you get lost, just walk back down and continue shopping.
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Rental lockers are aplenty in train stations, ranging from small to big ones. The big ones can fit up to 2 luggage! Pro tip: if the number of shopping bags gets too overwhelming, drop them into one of the lockers but don’t forget to collect them at the end of the day!
These lockers are available for rent for up to 24 hours, after which, everything that is uncollected or left behind will be disposed. Safe, right? You may never know what people could store in those lockers. Ok, let’s not go there.
Another tip for the lockers – use them if you need to travel on a day trip out of Tokyo. Save all the hassle bringing your baggage on a short trip out to Lake Kawaguchiko by bus.
Lake Kawaguchiko has a small scenic town, where your lovely sakura are in full blossom in spring. The small town is one of the five best spots in Tokyo to have a full view of Mount Fuji. Get a ticket for the gondola to go up to the viewing deck and witness the magnificent view of the majestic Mount Fuji. Try to avoid visiting on days with overcast; the clouds tend to block the view sometimes.
Spend the rest of the day cycling along the lake and have an ice cream. It’s the simple pleasures that make the experience more memorable for keepsake. If you have time, get a dose of adrenaline rush at Fuji-Q!
Then, catch the last bus out from Lake Kawaguchiko around 2100h back to Tokyo.
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Also, tick off these items off your Tokyo bucket list:
Spend all your money on cutesy stuff at the 100yen store
Not forgetting, Daiso at Harajuku.
Visit the theme parks! They’ve got tons - visit at least one!
Tower of Terror at DisneySea, Tokyo
Fuji-Q Highland located near the base of Mount Fuji
Visit an arcade and win at the claw machines. Caution: They are highly addictive.
When in Rome, do as the Romans. Do as the Japanese – find a karaoke station.
Explore the 24 hours Don Quijote. Best to go when you run out of places to go at night. Thrilling adventures at Don Quijote because you’ll have a lot of weird finds!
Take a ride up the Tokyo Tower.
Tokyo Tower / Photo by Louie Martinez on Unsplash
Have a picnic and cycle in Yoyogi park. Buy snacks from Lawson’s or Family Mart.
Lastly, learn basic Japanese and make a Japanese friend. Not all of them are weird!