It’s a must on every traveler’s list: Tokyo. The capital city of Japan can be as equally confusing as it is magical, and the key is knowing some basics and we’re here to help with that. To supplement our own knowledge of the city, we consulted with our friend Keiko, who grew up in Tokyo, and our friend Jared, who just returned with cautionary tales from his first trip there. We’ve covered the five absolute worst mistakes in our mind, but we know there are a score more.
So without further ado, here is the Jaunted guide of What Not To Do In Tokyo: The Top 5 Tourist Mistakes.
Check them out, after the jump.
5. DON’T stop in the middle of the famous “Shibuya Scramble” intersection
It’s like the Times Square of Tokyo, except is way busier. This intersection puts people up against traffic to see who can move the fastest, and usually the sheer mass of people win. One of the biggest, busiest Starbucks locations in the world is here, and if you dare stop while crossing the street, you can say goodbye to your latte. If you pause for a photo, the continuous flow of pedestrians will either involuntarily keep you moving along or you’ll be so jostled that not a single photo will turn out quite right. Just keep moving along. See the intersection from above here
4. DON’T expect the streets to be crawling with kids dressed in Cosplay or as Gothic Lolitas
Manga and FRUiTS Magazine may be awesome reads, but you won’t find the Tokyo youth going to work or the grocery store dressed as their favorite fantasy character, or sporting a full baby doll look. Just like with any regular fashion trend, styles change, and so you may be disappointed to see less Lolitas in Shibuya. Costumes are mainly a weekend fascination, particularly on Sunday on Omotesando Street and the surrounding area. We’d recommend checking out the Harajuku Rockabilly Club, which hangs out and dances in Yoyogi Park. It’s like everything that Grease tried to be: the biggest bouffant hairdos, the baddest leather jackets and the bounciest poodle skirts on the girls.
3. DON’T waste your time and money going up Tokyo Tower
It is not as romantic as Paris’ Eiffel Tower, and although it was a big date spot in the 1980s, it’s just a tourist trap now. Instead, you’d do better to head to “Tokyo City View,” the Observation Deck in the Mori Building in Roppongi Hills, which has a Sky Deck (and heliport!) for a completely open-air 360-degree panorama of Tokyo that takes you higher than Tokyo Tower’s 820-foot viewing platform. Plus, if you go here you’ll get Tokyo Tower in your photos (example here) and be able to spy the national symbol of Mount Fuji on a clear day. [Tokyo City View]
2. DON’T order California Rolls, Philadelphia Rolls or any other “American sushi”
Sure, Japan is full of sushi, but that doesn’t mean that the menus will mimic the ones at your local takeout joint back in the States. The popular California roll doesn’t exist in Japan because it was invented in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo neighborhood in the 1970s, and others‚Äù like the Philadelphia Roll, Spider Roll and Rainbow Rolla are American inventions. That said, if you’ve been to good Japanese restaurants often enough, you should recognize at least a few things on the menus in both countries. Extra tidbit: learn the difference between sushi and sashimi.
1. DON’T think of Tokyo as super expensive and out of your budget
Unless you’re staying at a 5-star hotel, airfare should be the single biggest expense of your trip. That said, Tokyo has the most Michelin-starred restaurants in the entire world right now, so the misconception is that Tokyo is full of pricey fine dining. Backpackers already know this, but the average traveler should be open to it as well: the awesomeness of Japanese street food. Tokyo locals are natural foodies and proud of this, so they’ll be happy to tell where you may be able to find the best ramen, oden (fish cake stew), yakitori (japanese kebab), okonomiyaki (japanese pancake) and more. And this doesn’t just go for food; use common sense and be aware of the exchange rate and, when in doubt, do as the locals do.
What are your Tokyo DOs and DON’Ts? Have you done any of the above and loved or regretted it? Let us know in the comments!
Prices and other information were accurate at press time, but are subject to change. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.