These are some things I have learned in the past 5 days in Tokyo. How they help answer some regularly asked questions.
* Everything is signposted in English and is really easy to follow.
* All lines are color coded so you don’t even have to remember the names of the lines.
* Each station has a number. This makes it so easy to manage where to get off. For example, Ginza Station is on the orange line and is G9. It is also on Red Line and is M16. You just watch the station numbers.
* Above the door they have electronic screens, in English. It shows what number the direction train is traveling, what number station is next, where the best exits are. Announcements are also made in both Japanese and English. I found this metro better than the London tube.
* Trains never run late. If you miss it, there is usually another one in 5 – 8 minutes.
* If you use Google maps they tell you which platform, which carriage is best to travel in for fast exit, and whether there is likely to be seats or standing room only. This was really helpful.
* Be prepared to walk large distances within the stations depending on which entry and exit you use (eg, 850m). This is great in wet weather because you are walking undercover however the km really add up if you are making lots of trips and changing lines. In some cases it is quicker to walk outside than walk to the platform, catch a train, then walk out of the exit.
* The stations and trains are steamy (ie, warm). Which is great in the cold weather but can become uncomfortable in crowds. If you wear glasses, like me, they steam up rendering you blind. Pack glass cleaner wipes.
* If you see a seat on a train, grab it. Any rest from walking should be.
* A Suica card is great but each metro trip is around 300+ yen, depending on how many stops you travel. For 791yen Klook sells 24-hour metro cards ( they also sell 48 he and 72 hr cards) I was making anywhere from 6 – 10 trips per day so I was pleased I bought some 1, 2 and 3-day cards as it has been a real cost saver. When you travel outside the metro area, just go to the manned gate and pay the difference in cash or on such card. Work out a rough itinerary to see if it is worth it for you.
* All stations have vending machines and toilets (Which are clean and free)
TEMPLES / SHRINES
* I loved the variety and differences each temple and Shrine displayed. Many features animals and statues. I researched shrines in Tokyo and found someones that were a bit different and not the main tourist destinations. This meant I avoided crowds and they could be enjoyed as tranquil and peaceful places – just like they should be.
* Each temple/ shrine has a cleansing area at the front on the shrine. If you enter from the back or side it disrespectful to head to the front and complete this ritual out is respect.
* Not going to lie, I struggled with the cleansing ritual because of my drinking phobia when overseas. I strictly only drink bottled water and avoid ice no matter which country I visit and whether drinking water is safe or not. So the ritual of rinsing your mouth as part of this ritual was especially difficult for me and I might have missed the mouth rinsing a few times.
* Some shrines have instructions about the ritual, others don’t. But basically you rinse your left hand and then your right hand. Then you pour water into your left hand and rinse your mouth. Then you rinse your left hand again and the dipper.
* You will collect a lot of coins, and these are great to use at shrines. At the main shrine, put some coins in the offertory box, bow twice, clap your hands twice, bow once again.
* All shrines sell a variety of items for prayers. In addition to writing on the plaques and tying them at the shrine, I also bought a range of plaques to take home as Christmas tree decorations. Don’t expect the ladies to speak English, but they understood pointing and signing a pen for writing. They then entered a price on a calculator for me to see so I knew what to pay. Plaques range from 500 – 1500 yen depending on the Shrine.
* At these shops, you can usually pick up a brochure in English to help you appreciate what you are seeing.
* You could pay to get books stamped, some had free stamps too.
* You can’t take photos up close of main Shrines but you can of the shrine building.
* The locals weren’t dressed up (except for ceremonies) and I wasn’t out of place in jeans and black jumper and raincoat. I didn’t see any bright colors though – most solid and dark colors.
* It’s coming into winter – expect rain. Mother Nature doesn’t understand it might dampen your holidays so just go with the flow and embrace it.
* Every corner store (Lawsons, 7-11, Family Mart) sells clear plastic umbrellas for around 620 yen. They allow you to see where you are going. They are very common here.
* Entry at all shops, cafes, motels have plastic bags for your umbrella. Push umbrella down in the slot and it is bagged – no hands required. As you leave, there is a bin for the umbrella bags. I kept a spare to use on trains so I didn’t have a dripping umbrella.
* Make sure you pack a pair of comfortable waterproof shoes. I brought over my Dr Martens and they have been great to walk in but also have kept my feet dry.
* Bring a raincoat. I brought one that folds up into itself and it has been great both in wind and rain.
* The Japanese ride their bikes wearing raincoats and holding an umbrella. It was entertaining to watch.