28 top Tokyo travel tips for your first time in Tokyo

Top Tips & Travel Advice For Your First time in Tokyo

32 Tokyo Travel Tips for the Perfect Visit to Japan's Capital

There’s no feeling quite like arriving for your first time in Tokyo. If you’re visiting Tokyo for the first time it’s highly likely that the city will often seem utterly confusing. 

With that in mind, we’ve compiled the complete list of everything you need to know to make your first time in Tokyo as enjoyable and effortless as possible.

Tokyo Travel Tips - Table of Contents

If you’re planning your first trip to Tokyo you’ll no doubt have a lot of questions. We live in Tokyo and know how baffling the city can often be. With that in mind we’ve put together the perfect guide to help you figure out how to navigate the biggest city in the world

From when to visit, how long to stay, how to get around and much more, our guide will arm you with plenty of Tokyo tips and tricks for a worry-free stay.

Whether you’re in the early planning stages or about to arrive and worrying about whether you really need a Japan Rail Pass, here are our top Tokyo travel tips for the perfect holiday in one of the world’s greatest cities.

Tokyo Travel Planning Tips & Advice

Fly in to Haneda Airport

A plane land at Tokyo's Haneda airport
Watching the planes come into land at Haneda airport from Jonanjima Seaside Park

Tokyo has two airports, Narita International Airport and Haneda International Airport.

If it’s possible we’d strongly recommend arriving and departing Tokyo from Haneda Airport rather than Narita.

Haneda International Airport is located in Tokyo, on the southern tip of the city near Tokyo Bay. From Haneda Airport it’s an easy 30 minute train or monorail ride into central Tokyo. Arriving at Haneda will allow you to spend more of your first time in Tokyo seeing the sights.

Narita Airport is not located in Tokyo but in the neighbouring prefecture of Chiba. From Narita it’s a 40-80 minute train ride (depending on the train) or a two hour coach ride to the centre of Tokyo.

Unfortunately flights in and out of Haneda Airport are often more expensive than flights to and from Narita because it is in a much more convenient location.

›  If you haven’t yet booked your trip you can find the best deals on flights to Tokyo on Skyscanner here.

If you do fly into Narita, the quickest way of getting into central Tokyo is by the Tokyo Skyliner Express. The Tokyo Skyliner Express stops at all three of Narita’s terminals and takes around 45 minutes to reach Keisei Ueno Station

If you’re looking to keep costs down then you can also take Airport Limousine Bus from either Narita or Haneda Airport into the centre of Tokyo. 

Though the journey is longer, the Airport Limousine Bus is a more affordable option and surprisingly comfortable. Seats also have plug sockets for charging electronic devices.

The Airport Limousine Bus from Narita stops at various locations in central Tokyo, including Shinjuku, Tokyo Station, and Ginza.

›  You can buy advanced tickets for the Tokyo Skyliner Express from Narita Airport here.
›  If you’d prefer to travel into Tokyo by coach then you can buy advanced tickets for the Airport Limousine Bus here.

Spend At Least 5 Days in Tokyo

Panorama of Tokyo's skyline
Panorama of Tokyo's skyline from Bunkyo Civic Centre's (and free!) observatory

We’d recommend spending at least four or five days in Tokyo.

How long you choose to spend in Tokyo will obviously depend on your budget and if you plan to visit other parts of Japan during your stay.

Yet if this is your first time in Tokyo you’ll want as many days as possible to see as much as you can – there is enough to see and do in Tokyo to last a lifetime and beyond.

With at least five days you’ll get to see a good range of Tokyo’s main sights, from famous landmarks and neighbourhoods as well as some of the city’s off the beaten track spots. You could also fit in a day trip to one of the many beautiful spots that are an easy train ride from Tokyo too.

However, even if you have less time to spend in Tokyo you’ll still be able to see a good selection of the city’s main highlights, as you can see from our two day Tokyo itinerary.

Spring or Autumn are the Best Time to Visit Tokyo

Cherry blossom trees in full bloom in Tokyo
Cherry blossom trees in full bloom in Nakameguro in Tokyo

Spring and autumn are easily the best times to visit Tokyo.

This is due to the good weather and the beautiful nature that blooms throughout the city in both seasons. If this is your first time in Tokyo then spring or autumn is definitely when the city is at its best.

In spring daily temperatures range from highs of around 13°C (55 °F) by early March to the low 20°Cs (around 71 °F) in May. Most days are typically sunny and dry.

In spring the city is filled with gorgeous shades of pink, white and red cherry and plum blossoms. A huge deal for locals and tourists alike, cherry blossom season is one of the best and busiest times to visit Tokyo.

Sakura season usually reaches Tokyo between the last week of March and early April, though the exact dates vary from year to year. If you miss sakura season you can still admire the azaleas and hydrangeas that fill Tokyo’s parks, gardens and temple grounds during the rest of spring. 

Tokyo's Rikugien Garden in Autumn
Tokyo's Rikugien Garden in early Autumn

In autumn the highest temperatures are in the low 20°Cs (around 71 °F) until they drop a little in December.

In autumn the days are also mostly sunny and dry as the leaves on the trees in much of Japan turn a stunning range of orange, yellow and red. Thanks to these beautiful colours, Tokyo’s gardens and parks are just as popular in autumn as they are for the cherry blossoms of spring.

Many of the beautiful forested areas within easy reach of Tokyo, such as Nikko or Kamakura, are also spectacular in autumn and make for a wonderful day trip from the city.

Summer is the Worst Time to Visit Tokyo

Tokyo in summer
Tokyo gets very hot in the summer

Summer is easily the worst time to visit Tokyo. Early summer is Tokyo’s rainy season, and along with heavy rain the temperatures and the humidity begin to rise. Days are often overcast and cloudy until the end of July, with temperatures in the mid to high 20° Cs.

After July the summer in Tokyo is usually incredibly hot and humid, with temperatures regularly reaching 30 °C. At the height of summer the added humidity can make the temperature feel closer to 40 °C.

The humidity and temperatures do become slightly more bearable by early October as autumn approaches, but needless to say, trekking across Tokyo in the blazing sunshine and unforgiving heat and humidity is incredibly uncomfortable. If high temperatures and humidity are not your thing then consider visiting Tokyo at a different time of year. 

Another problem in summer are typhoons which regularly hit Japan at this time of year. Although the areas worst hit by typhoons are usually around Okinawa, strong rain and devastating winds are not uncommon in Tokyo and they can disrupt flights in and out of the city’s airports.

Avoid Tokyo During Golden Week

Busy crowds in Shibuya in Tokyo

Golden Week is a collection of consecutive public holidays at the end of April and beginning of May that usually coincide with at least one weekend, making this one of the busiest travel periods of the year in Japan.

The Golden Week holiday dates are April 29th, and May 3rd, 4th and 5th each year. A lot of people also use these extra holidays as a chance to travel out of (and then back into) Tokyo over the Golden Week vacation.

While larger business tend to stay open, many smaller cafes, restaurants and museums close down during Golden Week, as people travel across Japan to be with their families.

Flights, trains and hotels are often extremely busy during this period and are often fully booked way in advance. Tokyo’s main tourist attractions are also packed as people take advantage of the extended holiday.

Maybe Avoid the New Year Too

Generally winter is a good time to visit Tokyo. Though it’s the coldest time of year in Tokyo, most days are gloriously sunny, with very little rain. However, travelling to Tokyo during the New Year period is best avoided.

After Golden Week this is one of the biggest holiday seasons in Japan, when people return home to spend the season with their families.

Many shops, bars, cafes and restaurants close completely in Tokyo during the New Year period. Businesses tend to shut down entirely from around the 28th December to and reopen around 3rd or 4th January. 

Think About How You'll Be Leaving Tokyo

Tokyo Skytree

One of our best Tokyo travel tips is to think about your departure in advance. You probably don’t want to think about leaving Tokyo before you’ve even arrived, but it really pays to plan ahead.

If you have an early flight or train out of Tokyo you will want to make your journey out of the city as easy as possible. You do not want to be dragging heavy suitcases all the way across Tokyo on packed commuter trains in the middle of rush hour. 

If you’re flying out of Narita Airport then consider staying within easy reach of either Ueno or Nippori stations. These stations have the easiest access to Narita Airport on the Skyline Express.

If you’re departing from Haneda Airport, think about staying somewhere with easy access to Shinagawa Station, which is a direct 15 minute train ride on the Keikyu Airport Line. Hamamatsu Station is also only a 15 minute ride from Haneda Airport on the Tokyo Monorail.

If you’re moving on to other parts of Japan from Tokyo on the Shinkansen you might want to stay somewhere close to Tokyo Station.

Shinkansen trains also stop at Shinagawa Station when heading south from Tokyo or Ueno Station when heading north, so you could also look for accommodation near either of these stations.

Tokyo Accommodation Tips

You Don't Need to Stay Right in the Middle of Tokyo

One of the toughest decisions to make ahead of your first time in Tokyo is deciding where in the city to stay. The size of Tokyo and sheer volume of choice of accommodation in the city can be bewildering.

However, you don’t necessarily need to find a hotel right in the heart of Shinjuku or Shibuya to get the most of a trip to Tokyo.

Tokyo doesn’t have a typical city centre and there are a multitude of districts in the city that are crammed with hotels and have great transport links.

When looking for somewhere to stay in Tokyo take a look at other areas of the city, such as Ueno, Iidabashi, Ikebukuro or Shinbashi.

All of these areas have a huge range of hotels and accommodation as well as an endless amount of things to do and places to eat. They’re also well served by train and metro stations and be a great base for exploring the whole city.

Find Accommodation Near a Train Station

Tokyo station signs

You will spend a lot of your time in Tokyo travelling from A to B.

A top Tokyo travel tip is stay within reach of a well connected train or underground station.

Whatever your budget, find a hotel that has good transport connections. The good news is that with close to 300 metro stations and hundreds more train stations in Tokyo it’s almost impossible to find a hotel that isn’t near a train or metro line.

It’s often suggested that it’s best to find a hotel close to a station on the Yamanote Line, the circular train line that loops around many of Tokyo’s major tourist sights and most popular areas, such as Shinjuku, Shibuya, Harajuku and Akihabara.

While it is certainly handy to be close to a Yamanote Line station, in reality, it is not essential.

As there are so many metro and train lines in the city, there are dozens of ways to get across Tokyo, so don’t worry too much if you’re hotel is not right next to the Yamanote Line.

As long as you’re somewhere fairly central that’s close to a train or metro station you’ll be able to get in and around Tokyo easily.

Work Out Which Area is the Best Area For You

Mejiro Garden in Tokyo
Tokyo's Mejiro Garden

When looking for somewhere to stay in Tokyo think about what you want to see and do in the city, and then try to find accommodation in an area that is well connected to the things  you plan to do. 

The sheer size of Tokyo means that it’s inevitable that you’ll spend a chunk of your time here travelling across the city.

If possible, think ahead about the main things you want to see whilst you’re in Tokyo and plan to stay somewhere that makes your journeys as easy as possible.

Good Cheap Accommodation in Tokyo Does Exist

Unfortunately there’s no getting around the fact that accommodation in Tokyo can be pricey. If you have the means then there is a multitude of excellent mid-range and luxurious top end hotels in Tokyo. However, even if you’re on a tighter budget, Tokyo is well stocked with surprisingly affordable accommodation. 

If you’re looking to cut costs but don’t fancy staying in a capsule hotel, then consider staying at a business hotel. Business hotels are primarily aimed at Japanese salarymen on business trips, and you can expect a comfy bed and a good-sized bathroom at an affordable price.

Business hotels are great for cost-conscious travellers, offering small but perfectly functional rooms that are stocked with all the essentials. There are a number of very good business hotel chains in Japan, such as Toyoko Inn, Tokyu Stay and Daiwa Roynet. These hotels are often conveniently located close to major railway stations and usually include a decent buffet breakfast.

Getting Around Tokyo: Tips & Advice

Pick Up a Pasmo or Suica card (or Get Them on Your Phone)

A PASMO IC card used on transport in Tokyo

Pasmo and Suica are contactless prepaid cards (known as IC cards) that allow you to tap in and out of all train and subway stations in Tokyo. They can also be used on most local buses too. Both Pasmo and Suica are essentially identical; Suica is operated by JR East while Pasmo is operated by Tokyo Metro, who operate most of the subway train lines in Tokyo.

The sale of Pasmo and Suica cards were suspended in 2023 due to the global shortage of semi-conductors that are needed to produce them. However there are still short term versions of both Pasmo and Suica cards available for visitors to Japan – these are the Pasmo Passport and the Welcome Suica.

Both of these are only valid for a 28 day period and you can order a Welcome Suica in advance for ¥1,500 here.

If you’d prefer to use your smartphone to travel around Tokyo then both Suica and Pasmo can be linked to iPhones using the Apple Wallet app. You can find more information about how to set up a Pasmo with an iPhone here. Unfortunately for Android users the Pasmo and Suica apps only work on Android phones that are sold in Japan.

Whether you use a physical IC card or an app they essentially work in the same way. If using an IC card, tap it on the card reader at the barrier to enter or exit the station. If using your smartphone, simply hover your phone over the card reader. 

You can add funds to a Suica or Pasmo card at ticket machines at any train or underground station when required. If using the app you’ll need a data or WiFi connection to top up funds via your linked credit or debit card in the Apple Wallet app. 

As well as essential for travelling around Tokyo, both Pasmo and Suica cards can be used on a number of train lines and buses in all other major cities in Japan that use IC cards, such as Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima and Sapporo.

The Best Way to Travel in Tokyo is by Train

Trains at Ochanomizu in Tokyo
Trains passing through Ochanomizu

Though it’s one of the largest cities on earth, Tokyo has a phenomenally efficient and extensive public transport system.

By far the easiest way to get around Tokyo is by train, and a vast network of underground and overland train lines are connected to nearly 900 stations throughout Greater Tokyo. 

Though Tokyo’s train and metro system might appear daunting at first, it doesn’t take long to figure out how to get around town.

All signs inside trains and on train platforms are written in English, including signs marking which exits you need for nearby sights and attractions. Ticket machines also offer support in a number of different languages, making buying tickets a doddle.

Plan Your Journeys in Advance

With so many metro and train stations in Tokyo it can be easy to get flustered and lost when trying to plot a route across Tokyo. In Tokyo it pays to plan your journey before you set off to make sure you get to where you want to go. 

The Tokyo Subway Route Map and app (IOS here / Android here) and Google Maps apps will be Godsends during your first time in Tokyo.

You can use either app to easily plot out the quickest route across town in an instant. You will need internet or a mobile network connection for both of them to work, so plan on picking up a portable wifi router whilst you’re in Tokyo (more on this shortly).

Know Which Exit You Need

Exit signs on a Tokyo subway station platform
Exit signs on a Tokyo subway station platform

Once you get to your required station it pays to know which station exit you need before you arrive.

Mega-stations such as Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ikebukuro and Ueno are almost subterranean cities. Often simply trying to get out of the station can be an ordeal.

The likes of Shinjuku and Ikebukuro stations are also home to an endless number of shops, restaurants, food courts and massive department stores.

Tokyo’s larger train stations have literally hundreds of exits (Shinjuku station has over 200 exits).

If you take the wrong exit out of the station you can easily end up nowhere near where you’re trying to get to. However, every station exit is numbered and they all have signs written in English, meaning that finding the exit you need should be fairly straightforward. 

It pays to plan your journey using Google Maps to find the station exit closest to where you’re trying to go. Once you get off the train, find the direction of the exit you need and follow the yellow exit signs.

Avoid Travelling During Rush Hour

A crowded rush hour train in Tokyo

Hundreds of thousands of people pass through Tokyo’s busiest stations every day and the worst time to travel is during rush hour.

If you can, avoid travelling by train during rush hour, particularly in the morning. Trains are crammed and stations are hectic. If you need to travel through central Tokyo by train, try to leave it until at least after 9.00am.

If you have a very early flight out of Narita Airport when leaving Tokyo you might want to consider staying at a hotel in the airport on your last night (or in the nearby town of Narita) to save yourself the hassle of lugging your luggage across Tokyo during rush hour.

You Probably Won't Ever Need To Take a Taxi

A taxi in central Tokyo at night

Generally speaking taxis aren’t the best way to get around Tokyo.

Taxis in Tokyo are fairly expensive, plus the scale of the city and the amount of traffic means that it’s often much easier to hop on a train.

However, as Tokyo’s metro and trains stop running at around midnight, there might be the odd occasion when you might need a taxi to take you home after a late night out.

Vacant taxis can easily be flagged down in the street and there are also usually taxi ranks in near train stations or larger hotels.

Taxi fares can be paid in cash or by card. A growing number of taxis also accept payment by Pasmo and other IC cards too. Remember not to tip the driver as tipping is not the done thing in Japan (more on this below).

Taxi apps are becoming more common in Tokyo, though they’re nowhere near as ubiquitous as they are in other parts of the world.

The best taxi app to use in Tokyo is the Go app (download for Apple iOs here / download for Android here). The Go app is available in English, and you can set your pick up point and destination and see an estimated cost of the journey. Once you confirm the journey a taxi will be booked and you can pay at your destination, either in cash or by linking the app to a credit or debit card. 

A Regional Rail Pass Might be Better Than the Japan Rail Pass

Shinkansen bullet train at Tokyo Station
The Shinkansen, a Japanese icon

If you’re only staying in Tokyo and planning one or two day trips out of the city then you don’t need to buy a Japan Rail Pass as it will not be cost effective.

However the Japan Rail Pass is a good way of saving money if you take multiple journeys across Japan on bullet trains (Shinkansen) or other long distance trains operated by Japan Railways.

In this instance the cost of the Japan Rail Pass is likely to be cheaper than individually buying multiple tickets to various destinations across the country. 

If you are planning on taking a few day trips from Tokyo then one of JR’s regional passes may be a much better option than the Japan Rail Pass.

JR’s regional passes cover the cost of travel on JR trains within specific regions over a specific number of days. They are also a lot cheaper than the Japan Rail Pass, which covers train travel across the entire country.

For example, the 3-day Tokyo Wide Pass covers travel on JR trains within an area that includes popular day-trip destinations such as Mount Fuji, Nikko and Karuizawa.

The 7-day Hokuriku Arch pass covers train travel between Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka via Nagano and Kanazawa. If you’re heading north to the Tohoku region, the 5-day Tohoku Pass is much cheaper alternative to the Japan Rail Pass.

  If you do need a Japan Rail Pass for your trip to Japan then you can buy it online in advance here.

›  You can find out more information and book the right regional rail pass that suits your travel plans here.

Tokyo Practical Advice

Buy Skip the Queue Tickets in Advance

Godzilla in Shinjuku

Since reopening to foreign tourists after the pandemic Tokyo has seen a massive influx of tourists. More tourists means massive queues at many of the city’s biggest attractions.

One way to save yourself a lot of time standing in line is to book advanced tickets from sites such as Get Your Guide, Viator and Klook.

On each site you can book tickets for a huge number of Tokyo’s biggest attractions in advance, such as the Tokyo Skytree, the Tokyo Tower and teamlab Planets

Booking skip-the-queue tickets with sites like Klook, Viator and Get Your Guide is incredibly convenient. Bookings are confirmed in an instant and often mean you just have to show a QR code at the ticket desk when you arrive.

You can also find a huge number of tours for various sites and areas of Tokyo as well as guided day trips to popular destinations such as Hakone and Nikko.

Pick Up Pocket WiFi or an eSim

Businessmen using mobile phones in Tokyo

If it’s your first time in Tokyo then its guaranteed that you’ll be taking a shedload of photos that will need to be instantly Instagrammed. Plus you’ll also need to get online in order to navigate your way around the city.

In which case hiring a portable WiFi router or an eSIM mobile data plan is going to be essential to keep you connected.

Several devices can be connected to a portable WiFi router. If you’re travelling with a phone, a laptop and a tablet, this is by far the easiest and most convenient way to get online.

Also, multiple smartphones can connect to a single WiFi router, making it a great option if your travelling in a group.

If you just need data on your smartphone to browse the web and access essential apps when you’re out and about – and don’t want to carry around an extra device – then an eSIM mobile data plan is perfect.

»  Hiring a portable WiFi router for your first trip to Tokyo is a pretty straightforward process.

Several companies offering portable WiFi routers for hire. These can be booked online before you arrive in Tokyo and collected at either Narita Airport or at Handeda Airport depending on where you’ll be landing. 

Alternatively you can arrange for the router to be delivered to your hotel or you can collect it from central Tokyo. At the end of your trip simply post the router back in the enclosed pre-paid envelope in any postbox. 

»  If you’d prefer an eSIM, simply select how much data you’ll need and how long you need it for. You can top up the data if you exceed the limit.

Plan a Rest Day

There is so much to see and do in Tokyo that it’s very easy to do too much. So many people who visit Japan create hugely ambitious itineraries before they arrive, unaware how exhausting travelling across a city the size of Tokyo can be.

To avoid burnout, ditch the FOMO and make at least one day a relatively relaxed one in order to avoid burnout. Have a plan to spend at least one day at a slower pace, perhaps by exploring a few things in a single area of Tokyo, or by relaxing for some of the day in one of the city’s parks or gardens. 

Alternatively, take a couple of coffee breaks during the day to rest and refuel. There are hundreds of cafes in Tokyo where you can sit and relax over a coffee for as long as you need to.

A top Tokyo tip is that most Japanese cafe chains, such as Doutor or Renoir, offer plug sockets at tables. These are so you can recharge devices such as your smartphone or pocket WiFi routers free of charge, as well as recharging your own batteries over a coffee.

Don't Fall Victim to Touts

Japan as a whole has a remarkably low crime rate and Tokyo is one of the safest cities in the world for travellers. Though crime is extremely rare in Tokyo it’s always wise to be exercise common sense when you’re out and about at night in more touristy areas.

Though edgy rather than overtly dangerous, its best to keep your wits about you if you plan a night out in the areas of Roppongi and Kabukicho, two major nightlife areas with hundreds of restaurants, bars, and clubs. In both areas it’s not uncommon for touts to try to lure (usually male) foreigners into bars with the promise of cheap drinks and the company of pretty women. 

Touts tend to be non-Japanese and usually pretty persistent. If approached by a tout ignore them until they give up. This is a well-known scam aimed at fleecing unsuspecting tourists of a lot of money. 

Unsuspecting tourists will usually find their drinks spiked and memories of the evening a total blur. At the end of the night they’ll be presented with an enormous bill which they will be forced to pay, even if it means being marched to the nearest ATM.

Bring Your Best Socks

Bring good socks to Tokyo

If you’re planning on visiting temples, shrines or any historic buildings during your first trip to Tokyo, be aware that some will require you to take your shoes off when you enter.

This is common in Japan, with many attractions, such as tea houses, temples and even some traditional restaurants often requiring visitors to remove their footwear on entry.

If you have to take your shoes off in Tokyo then don’t be shamed by your socks. Bring your best socks to Tokyo just in case you need to take your shoes off.

If you need to up your sock game after you arrive in Tokyo, you’ll be glad to know that all convenience stores sell a decent variety of socks.

Tokyo Money Saving Tips and Advice

A sumo themed vending machine in Tokyo
A sumo themed vending machine in Tokyo

Though Tokyo is expensive it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to save a few yen here and there during your trip. If you’re looking for a few money saving ideas for your first time in Tokyo, here are a few tips and tricks to help you keep costs down.

Fall in Love With Tokyo's Konbinis

A FamilyMart convenience store in Tokyo, Japan
A FamilyMart convenience store in Tokyo

If you’re looking to save money on food then embrace Japanese convenience stores.

Called ‘konbinis’ in Japanese, the likes of Lawson, Family Mart, and 7-Eleven are great places to eat cheaply, selling a wide variety of pretty decent sandwiches, salads, and ready made meals that only need a few minutes in a microwave.  

Most convenience stores have small eating areas, meaning you can eat in and dispose of your litter too. If you want to eat in then meals can be heated up in-store by konbini staff while you wait in just a few minutes.

If you need to take out money whilst in Tokyo the most reliable cash machines can be found in convenience stores, particularly in 7-Eleven. 7-Eleven’s ATMs usually accept a wide variety of overseas bank cards.

Remember Not to Tip

A bowl of ramen in Tokyo
There's no need to tip even when the food is this good

Tipping is an alien concept in Japan – in fact it can sometimes be seen as something of an insult.

In Japan it is believed that people are paid fairly for the work they do and tipping might suggest that they are being underpaid.

In bars or cafes you may  occasionally see a small tips jar by the till, and leaving a tip will be entirely at your discretion. Otherwise remember that tipping waiters, bar staff, taxi drivers or hotel porters is not necessary and may even cause offence.

Save Money With Tax-Free Shopping

Many stores in Tokyo offer tax free shopping to overseas tourists, removing the 10% consumption tax. This only applies in shops that are part of the tax free scheme and on purchases over ¥5000.

You’ll need to show your passport and usually have to go to a specific counter inside the same store to get a refund on the tax after paying for your goods.

Local Etiquette Tips & Advice

Japanese society is famously polite. In a city the size of Tokyo there are a number of unwritten rules and accepted customs that help everything to run smoothly and to prevent people from imposing on others.

Also, there are a number of things that might seem pretty normal elsewhere that are frowned upon in Japanese society.

Here are a few social rules the first time visitor to Tokyo should follow in order not to appear rude or fall foul of a few social faux-pas.

Don't Eat in the Street

Unless it’s outside a food stall, it’s incredibly rare to see anybody eating or drinking openly in public.

Eating a tray of sushi whilst walking down the street is a very easy way to mark yourself out as a tourist.

If you get hungry while you’re out and about and fancy a snack, eat in at a convenience store, or find the nearest park where you can tuck into something to eat.

Eating food on a train is also a huge no-no and should never be done. The exception to this rule is on the bullet train, when eating in your seat is absolutely fine.

Don't Litter

Tokyo is one of the cleanest cities that you will ever visit, largely because littering is practically unthinkable in Japan. This is despite the fact that you will hardly ever see a public bin anywhere in Tokyo.

There are usually bins for plastic bottles and cans next to vending machines and small bins in convenience stores, public toilets and sometimes in train stations.

Otherwise it is incredibly hard to track down a bin on Tokyo’s immaculate streets. If you accumulate any rubbish pack it up and take it away with you until you can dispose of it.

Always Respect the Queue at Train Stations

For many overseas visitors this might seem an alien concept but when waiting for and boarding trains, the queue is king. On station platforms lines mark out the position of the train doors and where to queue.

When waiting for the train to arrive line up behind the last person in the queue. When the train arrives passengers board in order of the queue rather than just piling on en masse.

Also, if you have a lot of luggage keep out of the way of the flow of human traffic and don’t clog up station walkways or platforms.

Keep the Noise Down

For a city of 16 million people Tokyo is a quiet place.

Collectively keeping the peace is an essential part of ensuring that the city ticks over so smoothly. Even in the busiest areas of Tokyo, loud behaviour is uncommon. Similarly, no matter how busy they get, Tokyo’s trains are almost always as quiet as a library.

Talking loudly or making noise on a train is considered incredibly inconsiderate and will be frowned upon by other passengers. People rarely talk on their phones, and if they do will talk as quietly as possible so as not to disturb other passengers. Conversations are always conducted in hushed silence too.

You Might Want to Consider Covering Any Tattoos

For decades tattoos in Japan have been associated with organised crime and gang membership.

With the steady influx of foreign visitors, as well as a more open-minded younger generation, Japan’s attitude towards tattoos are (very) slowly changing. However, many people still frown upon openly visible tattoos.

It’s down to personal choice but if you have tattoos and you’re keen to avoid any awkwardness you might want to consider covering up any visible ink, especially if you’re visiting sacred monuments such as temples and shrines.

If you’re looking to visit an onsen then you’ll need to find one that offers private baths or one that is happy to accept people with tattoos – these are rare but do exist.

As a general precaution, don’t be surprised if you do get asked to cover up your ink as old attitudes towards tattoos still remain.

Go Easy on the Cologne

In Japan it is very uncommon for people to wear a noticeable amount of aftershave or perfume. Even Japanese deodorants and anti-perspirants are usually odourless.

Wearing strong scents are seen as a way of inconveniencing others, something that is very much frowned on in Japan. 

One way to really stand out from the crowd is to slap on a high dose of your favourite cologne. Wearing a lot of perfume or aftershave is a very good way to clear a train carriage or find yourself sat alone in a cafe in Tokyo. 

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