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5 things you need to know before your first Tokyo trip

Want to do Tokyo like a local on your first trip? You’re going to need to some help with that.

A highly renowned megalopolis, Tokyo remains one of the most adventurous Asian travel experiences. As the capital of Japan, the city is one of the largest in the globe, dwarfing the likes of London and New York City in population. Unlike those however, Tokyo is trickier to adjust to in terms of navigation and culture. Follow these helpful hints for a Tokyo head start.

Tips on tipping

In Japan, it is a general business rule that customers are provided the most exceptional service possible. This is not just a formality, but a tradition that many businesses commit to. Therefore, tipping is not going to be a norm in Japan as a whole. Be sure to avoid giving tips anywhere, whether you are at a restaurant or taking a taxi. In fact, doing so may place both the service provider and you in an awkward position. A polite “thank you”, “arigatō” or quick bow on the head is enough if you want to show your gratitude.

Keep left

The highly dense population of Tokyo leaves little elbow room for getting around on the streets. One of the golden rules of walking around in the city is staying to the left, much like on the elevators and footpaths back home in Australia.  This helps improve foot traffic flow and everyone can get where they need to go. You will be amazed at how well the Japanese respect and follow this rule. You will have a much easier time getting around by following it as well.

Go residential

Tokyo is a concrete jungle, but peek between the tall skyscrapers and you’ll uncover loads of secret temples and patches of parks to take refuge in. Particularly in Tokyo’s residential areas, where zen enclosed gardens are tucked away just meters from busy roads. In addition, the alleyways may host distinct shops and older architecture that are good for photos. Even within this metropolis, you can have access to peace and quiet spots.

Get your bathhouse on

You cannot leave Tokyo without trying out a bathhouse, or sento. They are part of an old tradition, going even beyond the Edo period. You can choose modern bathhouses in busy districts, or Ryokans with the robe and slippers offered. In preparation for the 2020 Olympics, local authorities are also working to make bathhouses more accessible and friendlier to foreign visitors. If you are entering a bathhouse, there is a greater chance that the staff will communicate with you in English than in years past. Just a word of warning on tattoos; your ink may or may not be welcome. Ask around before you settle on your bathhouse visit.

WiFi hunter

Japan continues to see an increase in WiFi zones. They are becoming easier to spot as well, as more signs are being posted in multiple languages regarding where free WiFi is served. As the country prepares for the 2020 Olympics, there has been more of an effort at the government level to expand public access to WiFi. One way to get online is to rent a pocket WiFi from the airport to use with your smartphone. This can be handy for traveling through Tokyo, as you can pull up apps and online travel information anytime.

Pay your way

The Tokyo metro is supported by a range of transport companies. However, two cards can get you through most of the train gates – and you’ll only need one of them. Choose either the Suica or Pasmo cards as your contactless, rechargeable contactless smart card for Tokyo’s train system. The cards will let you tap in and out of all lines. They are available from ticket machines, which fortunately provide information in English and other languages.

As Japan continues to climb up the travel list of tourists, so has the growth of the country’s tourism amenities and features. Today, there is no excuse not to experience the unique culture, cuisine, and customs that Tokyo has to offer. By arming yourself with this information and knowing a few more customs, you can fully experience the city at its best.

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