So, you have decided to take the plunge and set your sights on Japan? With so much to explore and see in the country, it can be overwhelming to even think about where to begin. This will hopefully calm any nerves, answer any questions, and even provide a few ideas and tips for your travel plans. So, with your flights booked, let us embark on this exciting journey to the "Land of the Rising Sun!"
After finally stepping off the plane, your mind is probably whirling with all the stunning sights you want to see, food to eat, and experiences to have, but first - you still need to remember how to get into the city from the airport. Tokyo is served by two of the busiest airports in the world: Haneda and Narita.
Getting to Tokyo from Haneda Airport (HND)
Located just 14km (8 mi.) from the city center, Tokyo's original international airport - Haneda- is the most convenient arrival option into the capital. The fastest way into town is via the Terminal 3 (international arrivals) train station. From there, you can take the Keikyū Airport Line to Shinagawa Station (regional trains, including the legendary Shinkansen bullet train) or the Tokyo Monorail to Hamamatsucho Station, which connects to the metro trains to feed all of Tokyo.
Getting to Tokyo from Narita Airport (NRT)
Narita is the airport further away from the city center. Getting to Tokyo can be tricky for newcomers, but there are a few options: the train, a taxi, or a bus. The taxi is the fastest and most convenient; you can easily find them outside the airport in designated taxi areas. Multiple signs are pointing towards or indicating the area for your ease. However, it will be the most expensive as it is still around a 90-minute ride, so keep that in mind.
The second option is an airport limousine bus or a highway bus. They save you the time and effort of carrying your luggage and, depending on the service, can also take you straight to your hotel. The downside is that, unlike a taxi, the drop-off points are fixed and limited. These include spots like Shinjuku and Ikebukuro station, so be sure your accommodation is nearby for it to be a fast and smooth choice of transport. It is generally best to book these online beforehand to ensure your place as soon as you land, but you can also book a seat at one of the various airport desks, although you may have to wait a bit if the next few buses are booked out. They can range from around ¥1200 to upwards of ¥3000, so it can be cost-effective.
The other choice is the train. It is important to note that the train system in Tokyo is state-of-the-art, where multiple options can accommodate your needs. For the fastest trains, there is the Narita Express, operated by JR (Japan Railways), and the Keisei Skyliner, operated by Keisei. They are generally about the same in travel time, where it takes around 1 hour to get to Tokyo Station. Still, given that the Skyliner is dedicated to airport transfers, there is no hassle or confusion with other passengers going on their daily commutes.
On the other hand, as JR handles the Narita Express, some of the trains continue their journey from Tokyo Station to others, like Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Ikebukuro Station, without having to do any transfers. Both have reserved seating, so tickets must be bought, and you will have a guaranteed seat with free Wi-Fi and charging ports. They are similar in price, but you can usually find the Skyliner slightly cheaper, around ¥2500, while the Narita Express can go for about ¥3000.
Best Shopping Destinations In Japan
Now that you have safely arrived and settled in the country, shopping may be one of your priorities for this trip. Whether it be games and anime goods, fashion, traditional souvenirs, or anything else in between, you can almost always find something.
A paradise amongst many video game enthusiasts and anime fandoms, this district can provide everything from retro consoles and games to collectible figures and trading cards. Located in Tokyo near Ueno Park, it is a sprawling metropolis with stores lining the whole street as soon as you exit the station.
Some notable places include ‘Super Potato,’ a retro video game store selling sealed consoles and games, including popular ones like Pokémon Red and Green. Even their opened and used products are pristine, with a small area on the top floor for old-school arcade machines you can play with to compete with others. Another is the ‘Akihabara Gachapon Hall, ' which has an extensive selection of gachapon - small capsule toys you can collect. From characters of your favorite anime to cute miniature food and furniture items, you can try to collect them all.
A central hub for the modernization and high rises that Tokyo is so well known for, some of the more recognized spots of the city are found right here, such as Shibuya Crossing. It is a bustling place for people, and the shopping opportunities are endless.
‘Shibuya Parco’ is a notable example of a shopping center; the first five floors are dedicated to fashion, including brands like Burberry, Human Made, and Comme des Garcons. On the 6th floor, you can find the world's first Nintendo store that sells many products, such as pillows, clothing, stationery, and collectibles from most of the brand's iconic IPs. Right across, you will find the Pokémon Centre for all your Pokémon needs. The centerpiece is a model display of Mewtwo in a test chamber that periodically bubbles, perfect for a photo opportunity. On the same floor, you can find a Jump store for anime-related goods and the Capcom store that offers products from its popular games like Monster Hunter and Resident Evil. If that is not enough, a few floors higher, you will find a cinema with even an open-air rooftop to get scenic views of the world's mega-city.
Hidden Gems to Visit in Japan
Around a 30-minute train ride from the main city of Kyōto, Uji is a quaint little city that can often be overlooked by people who are unsurprisingly drawn to the traditional beauty of Kyōto. The charm of Uji is that it has many similarities to the former capital, essentially making it a mini version of the city with elements like a river running through it, traditional architecture, and a stunning temple. ‘Byodo-in’ is the temple and is, interestingly, the same one you can find on the back of the ¥10 coin. It is one of the most magnificent structures you can see in Japan and should not be missed. The biggest draw to Uji is its fame from matcha. You may have heard or read the phrase ‘Uji matcha’ before, and that is because the top-quality matcha that Kyōto is renowned for is produced here in this city. On the path towards the temple, you will find many stores selling matcha from traditional Japanese wagashi, the tea itself, and even strange food combinations such as matcha curry and matcha takoyaki.
Capital of the Aichi Prefecture, many people travel past Nagoya when moving between Tokyo and Osaka/Kyōto when it has so much to offer. Famous for its fried chicken, this probably would not be a food item most would consider a recommendation in Japan, but here we are... ‘Yamachan’ arguably has the most popular Nagoya-style fried chicken, which does not disappoint. The sauce is packed with flavor and excellently balances the sweetness and savory. It is juicy and succulent, and eating instructions are even provided so you can feast on the wings...efficiently. Fortunately for the city, the recent opening of the much anticipated ‘Ghibli Park’ has attracted many gazes, so Nagoya may finally receive the love it deserves.
What to do and see in Okinawa
Islands situated in the south of Japan are naturally tropical paradises. It is one of the most popular holiday destinations for locals in the country, which is understandable due to its weather and beaches. The crystal-clear waters, white sand beaches, and colorful coral reefs are some of the best you can find in the country, where snorkeling and diving are must-do activities.
For anyone wanting to escape from the crowds of the main island of Okinawa, why not go island hopping to some of the other more remote ones for serenity and peace? Ishigaki, further south, is rich in nature, and even further down, there is Hateruma, the southernmost inhabited island in the whole of Japan.
Ready to visit the Land of the Rising Sun?
Join B.A.G. Travel on our April 11-21, 2024, Cherry Blossom Festival Tour of Japan, or request your customized group tour (11+ passengers) via our contact page.