The complete guide to: Tokyo travel

April 17, 2018
Meg Yamagute

So you’re travelling to Tokyo — smart choice! This handy guide (courtesy of our in-the-know local Tokyo tour guides) will give you everything you need to know about visiting Tokyo, from getting to and from the airport, to the cool local spots you should check out.

Getting to and from NRT

Public transit is the best option for getting to and from Tokyo’s primary international airport. The JR Narita Express (N’EX) connects to major stations; a ride to Tokyo Station takes approximately 53 minutes and costs JPY 3,000 (about USD 25). N’EX is also covered by the Japan Rail Pass, but seats must be reserved.

You can also take the Keisei Skyliner (again, reserved seats), which takes about 45 minutes to reach Nippori or Ueno stations and costs JPY 2,500 (about USD 21).

Alternately, there is a limousine bus you can take for JPY 3,000 (USD 25) that takes just over an hour and a half to get to the city.

You can hire a taxi to take you to and from the airport, but we wouldn’t recommend it — you’ll pay 10 times more than by train, and the ride will still take you about an hour (so no faster than via public transit). If you do opt for a taxi, expect to be pay about JPY 24,000 (USD 200).

With the increase in the number of international flights coming into Tokyo’s Haneda airport, you might be lucky enough to fly in through here and score a shorter ride into central Tokyo.

Getting to and from HND

From Haneda, we recommend taking the Tokyo monorail (covered by the JR pass) or the Keikyu line. The monorail takes about 15 minutes to get to Hamamatsucho Station, where you can then connect to the JR Yamanote line that will take you to many major sightseeing areas. The Keikyu line (JPY 410) will drop you off at Shinagawa Station in 15 minutes’ time, and here you can also catch the JR Yamanote Line.

The Limo bus also runs from Haneda and takes about 30-60 minutes to central Tokyo, depending on where you want to get dropped off. Fare for the bus is only JPY 930 (USD 9).

A taxi will set you back about USD 50-100 (roughly JPY 11,000) so again we encourage you to use public transport if you can to save money.

tour guide in Tokyo

Too much to see and do in Tokyo? Our local guides can help you find the must-sees! | Photo by Tokyo Urban Adventures

Getting around Tokyo

Public transit: This is the best way to get to know the city! Tokyo is safe, clean, and well connected by trains and metros. Just try to avoid peak times (especially from 7am to 9am), especially if you don’t like crowds. The rate varies with distance travelled, starting at about JPY 170 (USD 1.50).

Be warned, however, that there are about 30 different train and subway operators in Tokyo, which can be quite confusing. Your best option is to purchase prepaid rechargeable cards (IC cards like PASMO or SUICA). This way you don’t have to worry about how much each trip will cost or deal with buying different tickets for different companies on the same trip. These cards can be purchased in the station ticket machines (there’s an English option on the machines), and can be used on almost all trains, subways, and buses in Tokyo as well as in many other major cities. The system has pretty extensive hours, too, with early lines starting around 4:30am and lines stopping at about 12:30am.

Taxi: Metered taxis are easily available (although you can usually agree on a price ahead of time, especially for longer distances). Expect to pay about JPY 710 (USD 6) for the first two kilometres, and then JPY 320 (USD 2.75) for every additional kilometre. A 20-minute ride should work out to about JPY 1,500 (USD 12.50). Note that taxis charge an extra 20% between 10pm and 5am.

Bicycle: If you prefer to explore Tokyo with your own set of wheels (2, not 4), there are bike rental shops and bike-share stations abound. For a list of a few recommendations of bike rental shops, we recommend picking one from this list. For the bike-sharing program, day passes start from JPY 1,500, with a variety of different time rental options on offer as well. You can find stations in major areas in Tokyo. For more detailed info on Tokyo’s bike sharing program, visit Docomo Cycle’s website. Don’t forget to wear a helmet!

Walking: Because Tokyo is such a massive city, it’s full of tiny veins and alleyways that offer a completely different world to the main avenues and shopping/sightseeing areas. So, that said, using your own two feet to explore is the best way to follow your curiosity and it’s free to walk! On top of that, Japan is one of the safest countries in the world so you shouldn’t worry about walking around on your own.

man with bottles of wine and sake

Trying sake is a must | Photo by Tokyo Urban Adventures

Things to do in Tokyo

Of course, you can’t go to Japan and not take in some Sumo! More than just a sport, Sumo carries 2,000 years of history melded with Shinto traditions, and is something that you can only watch in Japan. The Grand Sumo Tournaments last for two weeks and happen in Tokyo every January, May, and September. Or, you can travel to watch the tournament in Osaka in March, Nagoya in July, or Fukuoka in November. If you want to score the cheapest tickets, buy them on the day directly at Kokugikan, which is where the tournament takes place in Tokyo. Ticket prices start at JPY 2,100 (USD 17.50).

Tokyo’s got a fantastic museum scene, so you should also make sure to spend some time exploring the dozens of museums and galleries, covering all kinds of subjects, from science and nature to art and ramen.. Pretty much any day is a good day to check out the local galleries, but note that several places are closed on Mondays.

Into festivals? Then you’ll likely want to check out one of the many matsuris (free local festivals) that happen throughout the country, linked to local shrines — almost every shrine celebrates its own event. Expect parades and processions, and lots of street vendors selling local snacks. In Tokyo, the most famous festival is the Sanja Matsuri, which happens on the third weekend in May in Asakusa.

Tokyo day tours

Looking for more things to do? Urban Adventures offers tours in Tokyo, all led by local experts who will give you a taste for local life in the city:

Tokyo After 5
Forget wasting your precious time getting stuck in awkward ‘Lost In Translation’ moments. Join a local guide on this Tokyo tour to experience the capital’s busy, but oh so friendly and compact charms by night.

Get in the Spirit: Tokyo’s Temples & Shrines
Through a visit to a Buddhist temple and a Shinto shrine, gain a fascinating insight into the two dominant religions of Japan. If you want a deeper understanding of the role of religion and ritual in Japanese culture, this is a tour you won’t want to miss.

A Tour Through Tokyo’s Kitchen
Stroll through Tokyo’s kitchen and delight in the tastes, smells and sights of the world’s largest fish market. Discover new flavour sensations and learn about the people who work here. Round off the morning with an introduction to sake and a spirited tasting to whet your appetite.

Kanpai Tokyo: Shinjuku Drinks and Neon Nights
With over 100,000 restaurants and bars to choose from, picking where to eat and drink in Tokyo is a deliciously overwhelming challenge! Join us on this evening tour that takes you drinking and snacking through Shinjuku, Tokyo’s entertainment town. Shinjuku has been deemed the place to be when the sun goes down by visitors and Tokyoites alike so it won’t get more local than this!

Made in Japan: Cultural Curiosities
Spend your day with us browsing Ningyocho, a charming neighborhood known for its special, traditional souvenirs and goods made right here in Japan and get some insight to the foods and snacks the Japanese people eat and typical items they use in everyday life.

Tokyo Private Tour: Create Your Own
Put our team of local experts to work to build the perfect itinerary just for you. This is your tour — so make it your own! If you’re not sure, we’ve got plenty of ideas for what you might want to include. If you let our team of expert locals know your interests, they will come up with all kinds of things.

Watch to see what treasures you can find on a Made In tour in Tokyo!

Tokyo on the big screen

An absolute classic for travellers around the globe, but especially for those Tokyo-bound is Lost in Translation. The bright lights, the culture shock, the language barrier — all that you will find in Tokyo is right there in that movie. Of course, if you’re in the city by choice rather than obligation, we’re sure you’ll enjoy Tokyo way more than Bob and Charlotte did.

Tokyo on record

The video for Read My Mind by The Killers shows off a playful, cool downtown Tokyo. After you’ve watched it once, you’ll think about the city every time you hear the song.

Tokyo in books

Really, anything by Haruki Murakami is a must-read if you’re headed to Japan. A controversial, experimental, and award-winning writer, he’s also one of Japan’s most popular novelists. For a taste of Tokyo, check out After Dark, which paints a gritty and otherworldly picture of the city. Want more ideas? We love this list.

What’s on in Tokyo

To keep on top of what’s happening in Tokyo, your best bet is to go straight to the experts: the Go Tokyo travel guide lists attractions, cool events, and other must-know tidbits. If you want to stay up to date on the best times to see the cherry blossoms or autumn colors, best to keep an eye on Japan-Guide’s seasonal reports. Finally, for all the latest on Tokyo’s hottest new restaurants, exhibits, etc., be sure to bookmark Time Out Tokyo.

Get in touch with us

If you have any questions about your trip, give us a call at +81 80 3012 9269, or email us at info@tokyourbanadventures.com. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; we’re always around town posting about our adventures, so if you want to know what’s happening in real time, we’re your people!

Tokyo Tours | Urban Adventures

Tokyo may as well be the definition of the word ‘city’. The monumental capital of Japan is teeming with life, and if you don’t have a local to show you round you’ll probably miss most of it. Visit Tokyo with Urban Adventures to discover a slice of live in this mega-metropolis, and discover what it’s like to live in Tokyo. We’re especially infatuated with the cuisine, so if you’re foodie, pay attention!