This was my experience spending 1 week in Tokyo, including where I ate, where I stayed, how to get around, activities I enjoyed and how I tried to make this an affordable experience!
I had always heard that Japan was a wonderful country to visit but for some reason, I never set a plan into motion to go there. When that finally happened in November of 2017, it turned out to be one of the best places I have ever visited!
I think one of the biggest things that held me back was that I had always heard that it was super expensive to go there. Being a lover and advocate of affordable travel, I was determined to prove this theory wrong and easier than I thought! It is certainly not as cheap as Thailand or Central America, but I found it to be more reasonable than people had told me.
I spent 2 weeks in Japan, split between 1 week in Tokyo and 1 week around the rest of central Japan. I will just focus on Tokyo in this post and you can click here to read about the rest.
Accommodations in Tokyo
Tokyo is very well connected with public transportation, so staying near a metro station stop is a key to getting around quickly and easily (and affordably)! I found a private room from Airbnb right in Shinjuku next to Yotsuya-Sanchōme Metro Station for $70/night for 2 people, so $35 per person. This guest house had 4-5 private “hotel” rooms that locked, and then shared communal spaces such as the kitchen and multiple bathrooms. When searching on AirBnb in Tokyo, you should consider “private rooms” as well as “entire place” for options like this! It still felt very private and we actually never saw anyone else there.
Like most places in Japan, the room came with a simple folding floor mattress that could be folded away during the day and a low table that you use sitting on the floor.
Shinjuku was an excellent central location in Tokyo to explore all around from!
Transportation to/around Tokyo
I flew from Las Vegas to Tokyo on AirCanada for $695 round trip, a great price for such a far away destination!
As I mentioned previously, the metro station is extremely efficient in Tokyo, and cost only $5 per day for unlimited use. I HIGHLY recommend this over the notoriously expensive taxis. From the Narita Airport, I took the Narita Express N’EX train to Shinjuku and then got on the Metro from here to my stop. You will have to get a metro card when you first arrive and load it up with money. This can all seem a little overwhelming when you first arrive and are trying to find your way around, but its super easy once you get the the hang of it! On top of that, everyone in Japan is SO friendly and helpful, so don’t be afraid to just stop and ask for help. Most people speak at least some english and many times people will just walk up to you and offer help if they see that you look confused.
I would grab a metro map and keep it with you all the time to easily see which line you need to take to get to your destination. Easy metro tip: Type in your destination on google maps app and select the little bus symbol for your transportation method and it will tell you which bus/metro to take, how many stops, etc. Super easy! **this goes for any country with public transportation.
The subway in Tokyo is always on time, clean, and the people are so polite and quiet! The trains do get very full during rush hour times though, so sometimes you may have to squeeze on there!
One last note on navigating Tokyo. When you type in a place on your phone and are trying to find it, keep in mind that Tokyo is stacked up high and even has many underground places too. So you may be at your location according to your phone and not see the place. Try going up to the next floor or see if there are stairs that go down underground!
Food in Tokyo
There is endless food option in Tokyo of course, but I will just highlight some of the places I ate at! One of the most common things I would eat was “vending machine” ramen from places like the famous Ichiran Tokyo. You move quickly in what almost always starts off as a long line of people. When it’s your turn you select your ramen and toppings from a machine and insert money and then wait for your turn to sit down in a booth and eat. The ramen cost from $9-$14 dollars and is AMAZING! There are little dividers between each seat that face a curtain with the cooks behind it. They slide your ramen out to you, you eat and then keep it moving! Tokyo is a fast paced city like New York, with busy people who have places to be! Its a fun experience that I definitely got tired of.
For really cheap and easy, there is also actually decent options to grab from convenient stores as well as vending machines that serve cold and HOT beverages! This was my first time ever seeing this!
Tokyo has an abundance of hip/cute spots to eat as well as traditional or fast places. Here’s a few more of my favorites through out the city:
Armwood cottage– A cute spot that was close to my AirBnb in Shinjuku
Harajuku Gyozaro – Amazing gyoza spot in Harajuku
Kawaii Monster Cafe – The food is not great here but this place is a WHOLE experience and show that I think everyone needs to see at least once! It takes the love of “cuteness” in Japan to the next level.
Kaitenzushi Nemuro Hanamaru – A nice conveyer belt Sushi experience
Kayaba coffee – A cute old coffee shop if you are in the Ueno area
Katsuya– Excellent spot for tonkatsu in the Akihabara area
Sarabeths in Shinjuku – Not Japanse at all but if you are craving a delicious american style brunch, this place has epic pancakes!
Mikkeller – Hip little brewery in Shinjuku that had a nice selection of craft beers to try from.
Piss Alley – This is not only an area to eat, but a whole experience in Tokyo that is super cool and highly recommended! It’s a little alley way with tiny restaurants lined up on both sides that maybe fit 4-6 people in each one with virtually zero space. You squeeze in to an empty seat and order from a person cooking right in front you, and make friends with who ever else is squeezed in there with you!
More Activities Around Tokyo
There’s endless entertainment and sights in Tokyo. Honestly one of the most fun activities (besides eating) is just to walk around and people watch! Tokyo is so different from the US that just walking around and looking at everything in the city is amazing. To see how people operate and interact. The different fashion styles. The interesting stores and areas. My favorite area to do this is in was Harajuku. This is where all the Japanese fashionistas can be seen walking around in there out-of-this-world fashion.
Even if you are not really shopping for yourself, looking at the shoes and clothing in the shopping areas of Tokyo was fascinating as well, as they have such futuristic styles that I had never seen in the US. Shibuya is an excellent area for this, and of course you have to come here to walk across the worlds busiest intersection~ Shibuya Crossing! Not only did I walk across this several times, but even just hanging out in this area and watching the craziness of the people and traffic is a fun activity.
Another touristy but very fun activity was seeing a show at the famous Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku. It’s definitely more of a show then a restaurant but they did have some snacks and drinks. It’s hard to grasp with words but it’s a high energy show with robotic monsters, dancers & lasers that will definitely keep you entertained for an evening.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Building was a great place to see views of the city lit up at night from high above.
Akihabara is an area you want to visit if you are into games and electronics. There’s lots of places in Tokyo where you can play arcade machines, new and old!
Shimokitazawa is a hip little neighborhood in Tokyo to find some excellent shopping -thrift stores in particular, along with mural painted walls, cafes and breweries. You could definitely spend a whole day hanging out in this area!
You could definitely spend way more then a week in Tokyo, but I felt like that was a good amount of time to get the feel for things overall and see some of the magic that the city has to offer. I would love to go back again some day and dive into deeper into this vibrant city!