Narita International Airport (NRT) - Tokyo’s main, international airport, is located about 60 kilometres east of Tokyo city center. This is where most international flights come in. It consists of terminals 1, 2 and 3. Terminals 1 and 2 each have their own railway station, located underground, to take you into Tokyo. Terminal 3 services mainly low-budget airlines, and you can access Terminal 2 from here via a pedestrian walkway. Free shuttle buses are available to take you between all three terminals.
Haneda Airport (HND) - Located at the southern end of the city, on Tokyo Bay, this airport was once Tokyo’s main international airport. More centrally located than Narita airport, today Haneda Airport is where most domestic flights land. However, it is beginning to handle an increasing number of international flights once again. Terminal 1 is used mainly by Japan Airlines (JAL), while Terminal 2 is used mainly by All Nippon Airways (ANA). There are many shops and restaurants at this airport to keep you occupied, should your layover be long.
Subway metro - Tokyo has a world-class rail system. Buy an all-day ticket and use the Yamanote Line to access all of the city’s main hot spots. Confusingly, Tokyo's subway is operated by multiple companies who each run individual lines, so if you buy a ticket for one line, it won't get you on another one. The best thing to do is buy a reloadable IC card, such as a Suica or Pasmo card. These are smart cards that can be purchased at stations all around town. They are both issued by different companies, but are basically the same and allow you to move about freely. Just be aware that the metro system can get incredibly clogged during morning and evening rush hours, so be sure to allow plenty of time to get where you are going.
Taxi - Renting a car is not really necessary at all in Tokyo, as this city is much like New York City in that is it much more convenient to walk or take public transit to get around. Traditional taxis are also available in a pinch, although it is the more expensive way to travel within the city. There is always a taxi close by, and the drivers are clean-cut and friendly. Some drivers even accept Pasmo or Suica cards, just be sure your card is topped up beforehand. A fun fact - the taxi doors open and close automatically as if by magic for the ultimate convenience.
Tokyo experiences four distinct seasons.
Spring - Spring is a pleasant time in Tokyo. The season sees a gradual warming, in May temperatures climb to daily highs of 23°C (73°F) by day and 15°C (59°F) by night.
Summer - The hottest temperatures occur July through September, and reaches a general high of 28°C (82°F). With these summer temperatures comes high humidity making for uncomfortable conditions. Rainy season happens around June and July, with an average of 7 inches of rainfall per month. The average monthly rainfall throughout the year is 4 - 5 inches.
Autumn - The cooler days are a welcome relief from the high humidity of summer. Despite not officially rainy season, September is the wettest month. Typhoons can hit Japan in the months of July to October, generally hitting southern Japan the hardest but sometimes Tokyo is affected. Average temperatures slowly drop from 23°C (73°F) in September, to 18°C (64°F) in October and 12°C (54°F) in November.
Winter - The coldest months of the year are January and February, with snowfall being an occasional occurrence. Daily high temperatures during the winter months can get up to 8°C (46°F) but rarely drops into negative territory since Tokyo's geographical location means the colder weather is tempered somewhat and heavy snowstorms are rare.
March to May and September to October are considered the best times to visit. Rainfall is low and temperatures are comfortable compared to the sweltering summer and cold winter. Spring time is an excellent time to experience the beautiful cherry blossom blooming and Autumn a great chance to watch the leaves change color.
The standard voltage in Japan is 100V/50Hz. This compares to 120V used in standard U.S. outlets. Japanese power outlets use two flat prongs, the same outlets as the U.S and China. Some appliances from North America will work fine in a Japanese outlet, without an adapter.
The official currency of Japan is the Japanese Yen (JPY). Credit cards are not widely accepted as Tokyo is a very cash-centric society. It’s easy to exchange currency with the use of money exchange machines available in airports, hotels, malls and convenience stores. They will accept 13 major currencies (including USD, CAD, EUR, GBP, AUD and HKD.) However, these convenient machines do not offer the best exchange rates. The best places to exchange your money while in Tokyo are at forex shops, a chain that offers the best rates in the city.
Many Japanese people believe that good service should be customary and therefore tipping is generally not standard practice. However, certain tourist company workers do appreciate some form of gratuity, although it is never required. Examples are tour operators or guides. Services where tipping is not expected: restaurant staff, taxi drivers, hotel staff, bartenders, spa personnel. Overall, tipping is not expected, but respect and politeness always is.
Japanese is the main language in Tokyo, and most locals will appreciate that you are making an effort to communicate with them in their native tongue. While some Japanese people do understand some English, visitors might be surprised at the overall lack of English spoken. Generally, pointing at items on a menu and a warm smile will get you by, though it is always a good rule of thumb to learn at least a few local phrases to show effort.
A sophisticated railway system - The bullet train is synonymous with Tokyo life. A train where you can speed out of town to other parts of the country. But the inner-city rail system is just as impressive. Tokyo's subway is one of the largest and most complex in the world, there are 13 subway lines and over 100 other surface routes to take you anywhere you need to go within the metropolitan area.
Food - Some of the best food on the planet can be found here. Go to a depachika, which is home to underground food courts and shopping areas. There you can try a plethora of different sushi eateries, as well as different types of food from all over the world. For the fine diner, Tokyo has overwhelmingly more Michelin stars than any other city in the world. There is so much wonderful food to discover, you will have to pace yourself.
Youth fashion - At the famous Harajuku area, you can literally people-watch all day and never get bored. Youth culture is huge here and the fashions exemplify that in the form of outlandish ensembles, where both girls and boys get to dress to the nines.
The world’s largest fish market - The Tsukiji Fish Market is where Tokyo’s top chefs go to get their menu specials for the day. However since October 2018, ahead of the 2020 Olympics, the inner market has now relocated to Toyosu. The market handles more than 2,000 tons of fish daily, and this is most likely where your sushi came from. In addition to buying raw fish, you can have a wonderfully prepared hot lunch so long as you can navigate the crowds.
Bon voyage 👋
Enter your email or your travel partners email to get this handy city guide sent straight to your inbox.