So you are heading to the capital city of the Land of the Rising Sun, all excited and ready to hit the towers and the sushi bars. But before you pack your suitcases, here are a few items that every traveler must have in order to have a pleasant stay in Tokyo (東京).
Depending on your country of origin, you will find the electrical sockets in Japan different. They are rectangular here, so depending on the length of your stay, carry the appropriate number of adapters – one may be for your phone, one for your camera, and if you are in for the long haul, then one for the electrical equipment you wish to bring along. A safe bet would be around two or three adapters for long-term migrants.
This depends on the length of your stay. Tokyo has a wide range of cuisines. You have sushi, fried sausages, and ready-to-eat snacks available in various Lawson, 7-Eleven, and other convenience stores at every street corner. However, if you have kids who require a certain kind of food, it would be advisable to pack biscuits or small corn flake packets which they can munch on while traveling.
Once you visit the supermarket, they do offer you a wide range of fruits and chips that one can savor, however, they will be all marketed in Japanese.
Tokyo weather is unpredictable. Everyone here refers to the weather forecast before heading out. It might be 99% accurate, but it can be sunny one day and pouring rain the next. So make sure you have at least an overcoat or jacket on you at all times. Always check the weather in advance.
Winter starts from December with temperatures dropping lower by January and February, tapering off towards spring in April. The rest of the year is quite pleasant with a gentle blowing breeze. The best time to visit would be in spring (April or May) or early summer (June).
It would also be wise to carry a small umbrella with you because as mentioned earlier, it could rain at any point in time.
It would be wise to carry your basic medicines (e.g. for the common cold, allergies, etc.) as most, if not all, medicines in Japan come with Japanese labels and instructions. Especially when traveling with kids, antibiotics, vitamins, or any other travel medicine would be advisable.
Though Tokyo is well connected through its reliable railway system and buses, it would be good to carry your walking shoes with you. There are taxis available, but they are expensive. Japanese people themselves prefer walking or riding a bicycle when going to nearby places, so expect a lot of walking when in Japan.
In case you are staying with Japanese folks and would like to return the favor, make sure you pack some kind of souvenir from your country of origin. The Japanese respect human relations and would be delighted to get something unique from your country, especially if they can also be put to good use.
The Japanese Yen is the currency in Japan, and of course, you would have made arrangements for an appropriate amount to be used during your stay.
In Japan, the paper bills start at 1,000 yen and lower denominations are in the form of coins, so it would be wise to have a small pouch to keep your change in. The pouch will come in handy as, within a short time, you will have more coins than notes.
The average burger in Tokyo would cost you around 500 yen and a full meal with rice and drinks may cost you 1,000 yen. So make sure you carry enough depending on your length of stay.
Most restaurants and food courts in Tokyo have chopsticks as the means for eating food. They do provide spoons and forks if requested, but there are some that do not and you would not know until you have ordered. So I would suggest that you carry a few disposable spoons and forks, especially when you don’t know how to use the chopsticks.
Also, when dining in food courts, make sure to return the chopsticks and the bowls to the appropriate counter and that your table is left neat and clean for the next person. Cleaning cloths are available at food courts. Garbage segregation gets a big thumbs up in Tokyo, therefore separate your plastics and paper correctly in the food court. They also have separate trash bins for leftover drinks and ice.
To move around in Tokyo, it is best to be independent. So it would be helpful to have a nice mobile data plan to use while traveling that will help show you the best route to take. A good Internet service will allow you to plan your traveling right from which bus or train to take, to what time it arrives. It will also help you in translating Japanese words while you dine, shop, etc. There are various useful applications like Google Translate which can be downloaded beforehand.
In case you do get lost, you can definitely ask anyone around. And to show you the famous Japanese hospitality, that person will sometimes not only give you the directions to your destination but may also come with you to help you, keeping their work on hold. Yes, that is the beauty of Japan. Most Japanese people will be patient in listening and trying to understand English and will try to help you in every way possible.
This one is for the long-term travelers. Tokyo does offer you the basic spices of pepper, oregano, etc. However, if you are looking for some spices from your home country, I would suggest packing a handful. There are shops selling various spices in selected locations but they could be hard to find. And even though you find your particular spice, it could be more expensive compared to what would be available in your home country.
So pack these essentials and be ready to embark on a journey to a serene and peaceful city filled with innovation and hospitality right from the minute you arrive.
Dewa mata suguni ne! See you soon!