I went to Tokyo in April with my parents for 5 days, and it was one of the most rewarding trips I’ve ever taken. I have never been to Japan before, and didn’t speak a word of Japanese (except arigato?!). On top of that there was also the responsibility of planning the itinerary  while being the “guide” for my parents. So naturally, I put a lot more effort into researching and planning the trip than most people.

Below are 5 tips when preparing your trip to Tokyo:

1. Print Out a Transit Map

Google Map does not work very well in Tokyo. While walking on the streets, the navigation on my phone often pointed to the wrong direction. Thankfully, the transit function still works as it tells you which metro lines to take /stations to transfer at to get to your destination. It also shows you which route would cost you the least money.

    • Google Map Navigation from Sengen-jaya to Tsukiji Market

Attached is an example of a navigation route from our Air B&B stay from Sengen-jaya to Tsukiji Fish Market.

However, it’s still safer to have a physical subway map (English Version) in hand in case Google map fails, especially with Tokyo’s complex transit system. I printed the map out in A3 size for easier browsing. It definitely helped my parents and I to get a bigger picture of where we’re going.

2. Prepare Enough Cash

Almost everything is paid in cash in Tokyo – food stands, tickets, and even subway transit machines. Also, people are not kidding when they say there are A LOT you can buy in Japan. Many Japanese branded electronics and skincare products (ladies beware!) are much cheaper and you can buy them tax free at many locations.

3. Reserve Your Electronic Purchases Beforehand

If you are purchasing bigger electronics, it’s best if you reserve your product at stores such as BIC CAMERA online and then pick up at a convenient store location after arriving. You can also schedule a delivery directly to the airport; it’s free with purchases over 100,000 yen.

4. Bring Less

Remember that you will be bringing back many new triumphs, so make sure you have enough empty room in your luggage! Also, many subway stations either do not have elevators or the elevator locations are not convenient. So… don’t bring too much as you will be going up and down the stairs of the subway stations with luggage at some point!

5. Get Ready to Be Lost

Before the trip, I did tons of research because I was so scared I would get lost in this foreign and complex land. And I did, many times. But help was easy to find. Generally, the people there are all very nice and polite. Although not all of their English were good, they still tried their best, and with the help of Google translator it didn’t turn out as bad as I imagined.

With an over planning freak like me, it took me some time to adjust. But after getting into the mood I was reminded of why I enjoyed traveling so much. It’s really about just enjoying that moment (even if you are lost) and focusing on the things – the people, food, and culture all around you. This trip was so enjoyable for me, and I’m sure you’ll love it just as much!

P.s. Stay tuned for more posts about Japan, and my travel vlog coming soon!

Sensoji Temple at Asakusa


Shir 🙂