Friday, October 24, 2008

Don't know what to do with 2 weeks in Tokyo?

Finally I'm getting over this annoying cold I've had for the entire week. I tired to catch up on some gaming but always seemed to fall asleep, or maybe it was because of the game (Assassin's Creed, still trying to finish it, but it's just toooo boring). The combination of traveling, Jet lag, and an amazingly exhausting trip to Tokyo finally caught up with me. I did so much in 2 weeks when I was there, that I really felt like time was going so slowly, but as I look back at it now, 2 weeks went by pretty damn fast.

I can't say I'm an expert on planning a trip to Tokyo, when I've only been once, and not for very long. After all I just got back from my 2 week trip in Japan, and still never got around to seeing everything I wanted to see. Maybe I over planned a bit much for my trip? In any case, for some other people visiting Tokyo, 2 weeks should be adequate.

There are so many others out there who I think are more capable of offering advice, but since I was asked, I'll do my best to offer up some insight.

Your trip really depends on the time you go to Japan, how much money you have, and are willing to spend, and how much traveling you'd be up for. If you're on a budget you can still have fun, but if you have money to spend even better. I had a budget in mind but quickly threw it out the door as it quickly became obvious it was an unrealistic budget as soon as I set foot in Akihabara and Harajuku. I think I budgeted too little actually. So I guess I had a flexible budget. October is also a good time to go weather/temperature-wise. Some rain, some cloud, some sun, warm, humid. The first day in Shibuya I remember was sunny and hot as hell. It was awesome.

For my 2 weeks in Japan, I had planned my trip with Tokyo Game Show in mind, with staying in Shibuya as my home base, and checking out the surrounding prefectures as the extent of the trip. I knew I wouldn't be able to venture further out of Tokyo, aside from going to Chiba City for TGS an hour away, and Narita for the airport, and Haneda for a trip to Sega. (I mean I could have traveled further out, but I felt like 2 weeks in Tokyo is hardly enough in itself, so while spoil it by venturing out to the boonies.) Mostly everything in my 2 weeks revolved around Shibuya and it's surroundings.

Hotels! I didn't want to stay in a Hostel, especially since I was planning to buy a lot of stuff, and wanted the privacy, convenience and security of a hotel room to come back to at night. I was also traveling with my sister who helped to split costs on twin bed rooms. All my hotels were booked through the Nippon travel Agency who initially booked my hotel for TGS as they have a deal with the organizers of the game show. I discovered them on the TGS website. At first I had doubts on whether they were trustworthy with my money, communicating only through email, but since they dealt with bringing convention-goers to TGS, and other tourists to the country, I felt it was a safe bet. I started off by requesting price quotes for hotels, in Chiba city, then asked about hotels in Shibuya. The TGS rate did not extend to Shibuya but that was understandable. They did all the work of finding and booking rooms within my budget. All I had to do was give them my info and payment details, and show up at the Hotel to check in. Very easy.

I figured that it was my first time to Japan, so I wanted to be focused on having fun, rather than stressing out over the accommodations. Though I actually waited to get to Japan before I booked the other hotels for the rest of my trip. Big mistake.

I had no idea that there was a Holiday the week I was there -- the second Monday of October is 'Health and Sports Day' in Japan -- this actually created some problems when trying to reserve a room, since most of them were already booked, and the Nippon Travel Agency couldn't find us a place in the prefecture that we wanted... So we ended up getting bounced to Ginza for a couple days. Which was kinda stressful but worked out in the end since we wanted to visit Ginza anyway. We ended up staying there, and the hotel was kick ass.

I think visiting Tokyo was an excellent introduction to Japan for first timers. I really didn't feel any culture-shock that most people assume you experience, maybe it's because I'm from Vancouver, I'm Asian, eat Asian food, and have many Asian friends. I actually felt like, holy shit, I could live here. I could wear my expensive sneakers without worrying about getting jacked. I could drink on the train, or while walking down a street, then head over to the Sega Club for hours, then grab some ramen. I felt like I could blend in. Save for the fact that I don't smoke, I could fit in with the locals.

The language barrier. Okay, so before I left on my trip I asked people who've been to Tokyo before about how much Japanese I'll need to know to get around, and they were telling me that most people in Tokyo speak English, or at least basic English, while other people outside Tokyo speak less, or none at all. That was true to an extent, but from what I discovered, the majority of people didn't know jack shit English, not even full Engrish. I had to depend on my pathetic Japanese skills, hand gestures, and altered pronunciation of English words to get what I was saying across, whenever my Japanese friends weren't around to translate. Next time I go to Japan, I'll definitely learn more Japanese. we got around just fine, its just that when u have specific questions, it's tough.

Coming from Vancouver, where taxes are a plenty, and overpriced stuff is unavoidable, I was surprised to see the price tags on stuff and the amount of sales in Tokyo. Food is relatively inexpensive depending on where you go, and there's so many choices side by side too.

The JR Line is the way to get around, and once you get an idea of where you're going, and how much it'll cost, you'll be on your way in no time. The ticket machine has an English option with audio in English. The ticket staff can also help out.

Where I went, minus the above earlier mentioned Chiba, Haneda, Narita:

Shibuya, Harajuku, Akihabara, Asakusa, Shinjuku, Kichijoji, Odaiba, Ginza, Daikanyama, Roppongi.

What I bought, and brought back:

Games, Clothes, Sneakers, Gifts, free TGS Swag.

And yes you can bring electronics back. I believe the acceptable limit at Canadian customs was $750 that you could declare without getting taxed. Don't know how the US customs works.

Finally, be sure to back track on my daily Tokyo blogs. I did a bunch of stuff that you might want to check out. Tourist attractions like Tokyo Tower, and the Big Wheel, arcades, certain stores, food, food, food, etc. Of course don't over plan your trip, be sure to discover things on your own as you explore, that will definitely make the trip even more memorable. No one experience to Tokyo is the same. I was lucky to have Japanese friends to help show me around, and help me out with all the train jumping, but if I didn't I'm sure it'd be a whole other story.

Or you could simply not listen to me, and just use your favorite videogame set in Tokyo, as your guide to locations you might want to visit.

I'm going to effing Tokyo! Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7 Day 8 Back from Tokyo Day 9 Day 10 Day 11,12 - Sega

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