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First Time in Japan

 
Food:
– Honestly, I don’t have many because historically my friends and I would just go to whatever good local place there was. These little places are everywhere in Japan and all generally high quality, BUT..
 
– My Tokyo list on Foursquare though…these pretty heavily trend towards ‘normal’ places Japanese people go to, aka Italian restaurants and things like that https://foursquare.com/thejanellemj/list/tokyo-list BUT I highly recommend Yoroniku as it has some of the best Japanese BBQ (aka Japanese korean style BBQ) I recommend within a price range that isn’t insane.
 
– For ramen: Ichiran and Ramen Jirou for ramen. Ichiran for the experience alone (you sit quietly in a booth and interact with no one and quietly eat and savor the wonderfulness.)
 
– I’ve eaten at the Sukibayashi Jiro (as in Jiro Dreams of Sushi) which is run by his son, which is in Roppongi and fairly easy to get a reservation at (they have English speaking staff.) I believe it’s 2 Michelin stars instead of 3 — personally, my sushi palate isn’t sophisticated enough to tell the difference between a $300 omakase and a $500 omakase meal, though. 😉 I’ve heard anecdotally that any non-Japanese speaking guests are funneled to his son’s restaurant, but I can’t confirm that.
 
Traveling Around Tokyo:
– DO NOT TAKE A TAXI TO TOKYO UNLESS YOU FLY INTO HANEDA.
– DO NOT TAKE THE SUBWAY WITH TONS OF LUGGAGE
Not only will people literally want to kill you, there’s VERY very few handicapped access points so you may be dragging a giant suitcase literally for up to a mile underground. The Tokyo subway system is vast and cavernous and something that looks like an easy transfer on a map could be a 1km walk up and down stairs during rush hour.
– By Bus (recommended):
From Narita, you could take Limosine Bus directly to certain hotels and certain areas. From there you can easily grab a taxi.
 
You can find the information here: https://www.limousinebus.co.jp/en/
 
Tickets can be bought at Narita right after you exit customs (they speak English.)
 
– By Train:
Take the Narita Express to Shinagawa (or Tokyo station) and then take a taxi from there.
 
Tickets can be bought at the station, go downstairs after exiting customs:
 
 
General Advice:
ATMs:
– Japan is a cash based society, but you can use credit cards in most (not all taxis), hotels, and bigger restaurants and shops (but not smaller mom & pop places, ramen places, etc.) 
– ATMs don’t generally take foreign cards, and even if they do, a lot of ATMs and banks are actually close at night. Your best bet to take out money is at the ATMs in 7-11, Citibank, or the Japan Post Office.
– Don’t be one of the many hilarious stories of the moneyless foreigner who had to sleep in a park. Or do? YOLO.
 
Taxi:
– Taxi drivers generally speak no English. Give them the address (in Japanese) and they can punch it into their GPS
– They open the door automatically for you. Do NOT slam the door, the little stick they push with their leg to open/close a door will smack them, painfully.
 
Etiquette:
– Eating/drinking while walking on the street is considered rude
– Blowing your nose towards people or worse, while you eat, is considered insanely disgusting
– If you go to an onsen/hot springs, you need to bring something to cover up your tattoos (if you have them)
– Do NOT tip. Don’t even try. They’ll chase after you with your money, at best. At worst, you’re insulting them by suggesting they need the money and they’re some kind of bum or something.
 
Places to Go:
If I was staying in Tokyo for 2-3 days (the most I’d personally spend there) and I was showing a newb around, I’d go to: Tokyo DisneySea, the Ghibli Museum, Shimokitazawa (like the Silver Lake of Tokyo, your hipsterness quotient may differ), Harajuku/Omotesando/Meiji Jingu
 
What I would really do is…Leave Tokyo, even for a day trip
– Going into the country side is as short as a 30 minute train ride. Hakone is an easy day trip with beautiful onsen. There’s also amazing onsen in Gunma. I would definitely recommend this.
 
If you’re super adventurous and/or have a lot of time, here’s my guide to West Japanhttp://www.tripadvisor.com/GoListDetail-i16929-Off_the_beaten_path_Japan_West_Japan.html
 
Kansai section:
Re: Kyoto / Osaka – There’s some beautiful hikes in Arashiyama (famous for the bamboo forest) that you can read about here,http://www.kyoto.travel/2009/11/hiking-course-1.html — I like the foot bath, it’s a fun way to do something traditionally Japanese without getting naked in front of strangers (but highly, highly recommend going to an onsen anyways). 
 
Kyoto is known for Temple exploring, there’s literally like a hundred temples lol. I would skip the Golden Pavillion which isn’t as interesting as the Silver Pavilion (but it’s way more gaudy. GOLD.) Heian-Jingu is particularly striking, and I would definitely not miss Kiyomizu Dera which will be beautiful with the red and gold leaves of autumn Japanese maples. Plus the walk up the hill is pretty cute. Fair warning, if you go on a weekend, GG you’re going to be crushed by tourists. Highly recommend keeping Kyoto for a weekday and Osaka/Tokyo for weekend.
 
Osaka, well, it’s a big drinking town… just wander around Dotonbori main street and side street (http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/regional/osaka/dotonbori.html) and you’ll be fine. It seems touristy, but it’s not really. If it’s baseball season too, you may get caught up in the excitement of Hanshin Tigers fans (if they win something) raging excitedly in the streets. There’s some really good ramen along that street too (I mean, it’s touristy ramen, but it’s still super good.)
 
My top cities in Japan to visit are (in order):
– Kyoto
– Osaka
– Kobe
– Fukuoka
– Tokyo
– Yokohama
 
Janelle’s Top List of Things to Do (in order)
1. Go to a traditional onsen (hot springs) – yes, you’re naked with strangers (of the same sex as you), but it’s an amazing experience. 
 
2. Stay at a traditional ryokan (Japanese inn)
 
3. Eat a kaiseki meal (traditional Japanese 10+ course meal)
 
4. Attend a local festival 
 
5. Visit a shrine in the country side
 
 
Bon voyage XD