First Trip to Japan - Travel Tips, Advice & Necessities (2 Weeks)

First time travelling to Japan, after a long overdue holiday!

Will be travelling for 2 weeks from 22/11 - 6/12 as a couple in 20s. So far, from researching, planning to visit Tokyo and Osaka (nothing planned yet) this time. 9 days in Tokyo and 5 days in Osaka.

Any hints / tips for first time travellers. Any other places you recommend to see, accomodation tips, travel tips. We were thinking of purchasing a Suica card instead of a JR pass as we will not be doing many day trips. Main purpose of trip is food and shopping. Not much historic sightseeing. Mobile data sim card, bank card to withdraw cash?

Main activities we would like to see;


Activities - Thermae-Yu Bath House, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo Metropolitan Government building
Food - Robot Restaurant, Dog Cafe, Fuunji Ramen
Accomodation(?) - Hotel Sunroute, The Knot Tokyo Shinjuku, Granbell Hotel, APA Hotel

Activities - Takeshita Dori - 100 Yen Shop, The Daiso, Calbee Plus, boutique Takenoko (Lolita)
Food - Sakura-tei - okonomiyaki, Santa Monica Crepes, ANGEL CREPES and Marion Crapes, Maison Able Cable Ron Ron, Hedgehog café (Harry Café)
Accomodation - Dormy Inn Premium (TBA)

Activities - Takeshita-dori (Shops, cosplay outfits, anime) , Daiso, Shibuya 109
Food - Tofu Ryori Sorano, Café HOOT HOOT, Sushi Uobei, Ichiran - Ramen
Accomodation - Dormy Inn Premium (TBA)

Activities - Yodobashi Camera, Sega Akihabara Building 3, Gachapon-Kaikan, Super Potato, Don Quijote
Accomodation - Kinuya Honkan (TBA)
Food - Maid Café - Maidreamin', Kanda Matsuya (Japanese soba noodles), Tonkatsu Marugo (Deep fried pork)

Motenashi Kuroki
Aoshima Shokudo
Ramen Fukuro

Japanese BBQ:
Yakiniku TRAJI Akihabara

MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM — teamLab Borderless
Megaweb - Toyota world (Car Theme Park)


  • +1

    If food is your thing, I'd avoid the robot cafe. I've read numerous reports the food is not great, and it's very gimmicky, much like the maid cafe.

    Queuing up for food is not my thing, but maybe it's yours, so I'd suggest Nakiryu. You can even get a 7-11 instant ramen version of their signature ramen dish.

    In Osaka, try a Kushikatsu place. I can't recommend one in particular.

    Also note the Tsukiji Fish Market has relocated to a new site which may not have the charm of the original market.

    • Thanks for the great tips, we may pass on the robot restaurant. It is quite expensive as well. I’ve read good things about 7/11 will definitely be stopping by.

  • +2

    Try the Mariocart but need to get your international license. It was my favourite thing to do in Tokyo!

    • Thanks! Read about that as well. If we have time, will be on the list to do!

  • +2

    I have to say that you really have it planned out.

    As a former resident of Tokyo (and sendai city) then I'd really suggest just doing some random walking and trying random restaurants.

    airbnb . it's nice not being in a "centre". you are also given the opportunity to try the local restaurants. last trip I stayed in Jujo. some awesome restaurants there

    Travel tip-
    travelling from Narita airport in to Tokyo then get the Access Narita bus.

    it's 1000yen (~$12.50 ) -half price for kids to 13years- gets you from Narita to Tokyo station by bus - compared to rail which costs minimum 2500yen.

    buses leave every 20 minutes. from each terminal.

    you pay the bus driver directly (no booking required - and, if it is busy, with frequent buses you only have to wait for the next bus i.e. 20minutes)

    here is the website

    the bus runs on the highway express way (i.e. think autobahn) so no traffic lights. except when you get very near to the destination.

    you are subject to the traffic conditions in comparison to rail.

    I went from Narita to Tokyo at 9pm and it took 40 minutes. on the return trip (midday) it took 1.5 hours. so if you have a strict deadline then get rail.

    though the cheapest rail takes at least 40 minutes as you stop at many stations.

    • Is Sendai worth visiting? I'm doing 3.5 weeks in late feb/mar but it seems like a lot of that area really shuts down for the winter. I'm thinking of maybe flying to aomori instead from Tokyo and then heading down the west coast.

      • +1

        yes, It's a nice city.

        Zuihōden is a mausoleum complex of Date Masamune (he led an expedition to europe in the 17th century). it's cool. - I lived 300 metres from it.

        Sendai City Museum is interesting.

        also the Miyagi Museum of Art

        heaps of restaurants, bars in the entertainment district.

        if you want to do something different/fun then you can get the TAIHEIYO FERRY from Sendai harbour to Tomakomai (south Sapporo). I did it years ago. it was fun/relaxing/ different. get a shared "friendly" room i.e. second class shared cabin. takes ~15 hours . leaves after lunch and arrives in the morning. costs about 9,300yen. takes some beers. eat in the restaurants. then have a public hot bath/onsen on board so you can chill.

        get a highway bus to sendai from tokyo.

        • +2

          Thank you. I'd never thought of getting to Sapporo that way. Sounds amazing!

    • Thanks for the tips. For Airbnb, any recommendations for which ones you’ve stayed at?

      If we get a Suica pass, does that mean we can catch a train/bus around Tokyo to Shibuya and odaiba etc?

      Great tip on the bus, will save us some money on arrival!

      • +1

        Airbnb- just tap in the dates and location and check them out.

        Suica card - you can use on JR lines It will get you around. Tokyo has several privately owned train as well.

  • +1

    I can vouch for the utility of Airbnb in Japan. Went recently and spent all of my time at Airbnb places and found it cheaper and more hospitable that what seemed to be offered at a similar price point in hotels.

    • Thanks for the tips

  • +3

    Hotel Sunroute, good Hotel choice in a very convenient location

    • Thanks, we will look into it more!

  • +2


    • Yoyogi Park is quite nice to walk through
    • Ghibli Museum (but you'll need to get tickets months in advance)
    • Tokyu Hands (Store)
    • Golden Gai


    • Ichiran Ramen
    • Royce Chips. It's potato chips covered in Chocolate but they're so addictive.
    • Tokyo Banana


    • Citibank Plus debit card to withdraw cash from 7eleven
    • Get a coin wallet
    • B-mobile visitor data sim from Bic Camera or Yodobashi
    • Wow, great tips. We will definitely be noting them down.

      • +1

        Or you can order the SIM online (closer to when you go), for Delivery to Airports, Hotel etc

        I prefer to do this so I have Data as soon as I land (though there is Free WiFi at most Airports).

  • +2

    If you're planning to go to an expensive restaurant go at lunch.

  • +1

    We did the following;

    River cruise - it was nice, think it was a bit pricey but to us it was worth it.

    Recommed Ghbili museum - we never watched a film before and this place took our breath away
    Maricar - loved it
    Sanrio Puroland - bit kiddish but wife absolutely loved it. hate to admit, I kinda enjoyed it too

    • Thanks for sharing! Few things we can add to our trip.

      Wasn’t sure about the Sanrio Puroland but looks like we can add that to the list. Same with Ghbili museum however tickets not on sale yet.

  • +1

    Just got back from Japan, first time for me

    • Cash
    • Google Map “Giga Daiso”, the largest Daiso in the World, For shopping
    • Bring Passport when you shop, some shops are tax free for over 5000 Yen
    • Get a PassMo for transport card
    • Shop mainly in Akihabara for electronics
    • 7/11 Your friend, loads of cheap meals
    • Be prepare to engage with vending machine to order meal in a restaurant
    • Order Japanese SIM card Data from eBay. Cheap, Unlimited and all you need to so is insert the SIM card to your phone . And it work automatically
    • Excellent. Thanks for these tips. We will definitely be noting them down.

      How was your trip and where did you go.

      • +1

        Tokyo and Kyoto

        It was excellent, but I can do better in terms of costing

        Will be going back there again for Winter, next February

        Other Tips
        - Do not go to the Tokyo Imperial Palace, it just a huge park
        - Do not try to go to all the temple in Kyoto, way too many
        - Used tabelog website to gauge restaurant rating, google map is review by foreigners
        - Tap water is fine, unlike other Asian countries
        - Bring plastic bag, you will find there isn’t many rubbish bin in public places
        - Bring laundry powder/bar to wash clothes, and hangers too, to dry them
        - Google map bloody useful for direction, it give you platform, cost, train colour etc information
        - Consider capsule hotel, really good value . Get discount via Cashreward website using
        - Consider Night Bus if you in between City. Save you from booking accomodation
        - Bandages, got a bad blister from walking too much

  • +2

    "We were thinking of purchasing a Suica card instead of a JR pass"

    You'll need a Suica (or PassMo) card no matter what. Just snag one from any ticket vending machine. As for JR pass, you need 3 long trips to make it worthwhile. Tokyo <-> Osaka isn't worth it. So you can fly or buy single tickets.

    • Thanks, will be passing on the JR pass for next time.

  • Osaka itinerary?

    • Nothing planned as of yet, will update the post with more details. Trying to get a good feel on where to travel outside of Tokyo for 6 days.

  • +1

    for any restaurant thats famous or well known a reservation is generally something you should do , trip adviser is your friend and very useful to look at interesting places too

    shopping in tokyo akiba for otaku anything animu,manga, hardcore electronics
    odaiba has a lot of retro arcades and really nice places to eat near divercity
    Ginza is awesome for a look but you will feel out of place because everything at insane prices
    Nakano Broadway is a good place to check out just be aware most places dont open until 11 am or 12 midday

    places to look into are koedo/kawagoe historical and alot of REALLY cool souvenirs to pick up lots of street food, weekends are packed and Tuesdays a lot of things are closed, chichibu where you can see some of the biggest power spots in the area also a good place for area related souvenirs and specialty foods like miso potato sooo good
    a trip to kawagoe from ikebukuro will cost about 6 bucks same with chichibu on the seibu line

    also if your a fan of Ajin check out iruma airbase its got some really nice parks close to there too

    osaka you can stuff your self stupid on food at dotonburi or shinsaibashi where the term kuidaore is used which means eat to you drop or corrupt yourself with food

    shopping in tokyo

    as people have said buy a permanent suica/pasmo/or any IC card its faster and you dont need to deal with tickets unless your reserving a seat or shinkansen

    word of warning do not feed money into UFO catchers into akihabara they are set to like 4500 yen for a strong claw grab you need to find game centers out of heavy trafic areas where they are a bit easier if you watch people at the UFO catcher swoop in after they had quite a few losses a sunday afternoon is a good time

    also no trips complete without disneyworld xD go on a weekday or day it has a chance to rain for less time in lines

  • +1

    we only ate at a few of the restaurants we planned to eat at, when you walk around and explore that's when you find some cool stuff

  • +1

    Dont forget to buy whiskey from a supermarket. Incredibly cheap but incredibly reasonable quality. 1litre is ~¥1000.

  • +1


    Disneyland/Sea - The Japanese Take it to another level

    Mt Fuji - You can do day trips from Tokyo to some scenic points where you can take good photos of Mt Fuji.

    As for Osaka you should do day trips to Kyoto as there are more to see there

  • +1

    Just came back yesterday went there for 2 weeks.. shoot me a PM if you need an specifics.. Travelled with a kid and covered a lot (non kiddo stuff as well)
    - In tokyo the days you plan to travel alot, buy the 72hours pass for 1500 Yen very useful. Its 500Yen per day and if you plan to have atleast 3 train trips a day, this is great.
    - 100Yen shops - Daiso, Can Do (is good)
    - Grocery & regular food items- Tamade. if not, then 7/11 & Family mart
    - Cash withdrawal - If you plan to use ING which worked out best for me then withdraw at family mart ATMs. 7/11 has 7Bank ATMs and they charge 108yen per 10,000Yen
    - SUICA card will be handy as its you dont have to buy tickets every now n then. I did not buy it.
    - JR pass - obviously not of use if you dont have long trips. I had it and it was so useful in OSAKA as it covered alot of local travel as well.
    From Osaka would recommend Nara (deer park) - the sight of deers roaming around everywhere in the city is cool
    Heroshima - Far and expensive if you dont have JR pass . But the Atomic Bomb Sight & Meuseum is good & worth the trip
    - In osaka - Must go to Dotonbori street in the evening for food and Neon board sighting. Very crowded

  • +1

    Plenty of awesome tips that everyone has provided but to provide a few more additional info:

    Shinjuku - We stayed at APA Shinjuku Tower the past two trips to Japan, cramped but clean and conveniently located. Very easy to find and on top of that, some awesome food around the area (Itamae Sushi and Gindaco for takoyaki is outside the doorsteps of the hotel). There is also the batting cage nearby which is great fun at a cheap price. I'd also go to Ichiran Ramen in Shinjuku as it is much less crowded than Shibuya but still with the same atmosphere.

    Harajuku - Very busy down Takeshita Street, but as a first timer you need to to check it out. Meiji Shrine is right next to Harajuku Station and is a nice detour from all the hustle and bustle. You can also walk down to Omotesando where there are plenty of boutiques and high-end shopping if that is to your taste.

    Shibuya - Tokyu Hands/Loft as others have suggested above. Plenty of great stuff to find here and you can (literally) spend hours in here as well as spend plenty of money. There is also a Mega Don Quijote which has more random items but again great place to shop for cheap (make sure to always bring your passport to claim back tax free).

    Osaka - Wasn't the biggest fan of Osaka as places such as Dotonbori was far too busy for my liking. However it is still a good place to check out for food/shopping. Umeda Sky Building would be the pick to visit, and Universal Studios Japan would be a good place to go if you are a fan of theme parks. I found the food to be better in Osaka and if I was to recommend one place, it would be 'Yakitori no meimon Akiyoshi Shinsaibashiminami.' Stumbled across this place the first time round, and came back to the place on our second trip. Have recommended to plenty of friends who all rave about the place.

    Small tips:
    - Grab a Suica/Pasmo card for travel on the trains. It can also be used to pay for some vending machine drinks too.
    - I used a pocket wifi which I picked up from the airport. More costly than a sim card but provided unlimited data for the trips.
    - Citibank Plus debit card. As suggested above, free withdrawals at any 7/11 ATM
    - Finding food is a wonderful journey in itself. I tried to avoid resorting to Tripadvisor for info, as there are plenty of great eats in Japan. Even if there isn't any English menus, navigating through Japanese menus (with Google Translate) was a highlight of the trip and the staff are more than helpful in guiding you

    Feel free to send a DM if you want more information/advice!

  • +1

    Went to Japan earlier this year for 2 and a half weeks. Here's some tips.

    I would suggest you go to Kyoto instead of Osaka. More to do imo. Plus consider doing some of the other stuff/tips below

    • Mt Koya (Koyasan) temple stay (one of the highlights of my trip) - I strongly suggest you consider this
    • Go to a traditional Onsen (may be intimidating but nothing to worry about)
    • Miyajima was also a highlight (day trip from Hiroshima)
    • Give Ichiran a go once (anti-social ramen place) - I think you already know about this place
    • Free lookout in Government Building
    • You can go see the Godzilla head in Shinjuku (go up the lift to the hotel)
    • Carry cash everywhere
    • Alcohol is pretty cheap if you're a whiskey fan stock up before coming back!
    • Golden Gai and Piss alley is great for a drink in Tokyo
    • Use google maps + pocket wifi to easily get around (carry a power bank backup)
    • You WILL be doing a tonne of walking (we did 20km+ on many days) get comfy shoes
    • Consider a capsule hotel for 1 night for the experience
    • Load up a Suica card (you can buy stuff from 7-11 using this)
    • Lunch is much cheaper than dinner (popular dinner places you may need to book ahead)
    • The tuna sales at the fish market has been moved. It's still 100% worth going to have a look around and get some food.

    Let me know if you have any questions.

  • Buy all the flasks you can!! I can't believe people pay $80 for something that costs $30 in Japan. Zoijurushi or tiger.

  • Thanks everyone for sharing their hints, tips and travel spots. Heaps and heaps of excellent information I can use to plan my itinerary for upcoming Japan trip. You guys are amazing, made my life so much easier. I love this community.

  • +1

    Since this is your first time in Tokyo, you cant go wrong with picking some of the big stations along the Yamanote Line (you've got some already listed) to explore:

    Also, have a look at this guide:

  • +1

    if you have trouble finding the ramen street in tokyo station.

    there is a set of stair behind the macdonalds on the main road take those stairs down one level and there it is Ramen street and there is also public bathrooms there also

    and that is also where the cheap narita airport bus departs from

  • +1

    One thing to consider mid trip: in room washing machines/dryers. Stay at tokyu stay. There are a few in Tokyo/Kyoto.

    Going to Japan again in December. Wife and I 8th trip in 11 years. Love it.

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