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So you want to go to Japan.
We’re not surprised. Japan is an awesome country. But it can be daunting for first-timers.
If it’s your first time, there are a few things you need to know. This page shows you how in one place.
Helpful references are provided at the end.
We’ll discuss different aspects of visiting Japan, and some tips + pitfalls most first time travellers to Japan are unaware of. With careful planning your trip can go much more smoothly. Without planning, it’s easy to have a problem in Japan. You want to avoid that.
So let’s begin.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Getting to Japan – passports, visas, customs, and length of stay.
- What to bring, how much to bring, and packing tips.
- Navigating the major airports in Japan.
- Money in Japan – currency exchange, and money transfer options.
- Booking info + websites.
- Transportation – how to get around in Japan as easily + cheaply as possible.
- Food + dining in Japan.
- Accomodation options – hotels, hostels, and capsules.
- Phones, computers, and WiFi.
- How to make the long trip easier, and more comfortable.
- Sightseeing – things to do.
- Other tips + tricks.
Getting to Japan
To get to Japan you need either your home country’s valid passport accepted by Japan, or else a visitor’s visa. Many western countries passports are accepted by Japan. If you are from one of these countries, such as US or UK, you may stay for up to 90 days on your passport. Longer stays, or people from other countries are required to apply for a visitor’s visa with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism within the Japanese government. The Japanese gov’t also operates the Japan National Travel Organizaton (JNTO) which is also an excellent resource on entry into Japan. So get your passport in order, or file for a visa before you go. You must show either at immigration at the airport or else you’ll be deported and sent home.
If you want to work in Japan, then you must apply for either a work visa, or a working holiday visa with Japan’s Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Labor.
What to bring, how much to bring, and packing tips
If you are going to Japan from the west, the flight will be long. From Asia it is much shorter. If the trip is a long one, you’ll need to pack light. Some flights from the west coast of the US can take 16 hours or more. From UK or EU, even longer. The last thing you want is to have to drag a lot of heavy luggage all that way. It will really slow you down. If you must bring a lot of stuff to Japan, we recommend packing all the heavy items into one small rollable suitcase, and then packing other lightweight items into a laptop bag, and or a backpack. Backpacks are much easier to carry. Frame packs take the weight off your back and put it on your hips where it won’t feel as heavy. The downside to backpacks is they don’t have locks.
Another hack to shorten the trip: if you have time + money to spare, break the trip up into multiple shorter flights. The flight from San Francisco to Tokyo is a grueling 16 hours. You can shorten that to 10 hours by first flying to Seattle, staying over 1 night, then flying from Seattle to Tokyo, which is 10 hours. Even better (and more expensive) would be to fly from San Francisco to Seattle, stay over, then fly from Seattle to Anchorage, Alaska, stay over, then from Anchorage to Tokyo. To save fuel by utilizing the earth’s rotation, most airlines don’t fly from the west across the Pacific Ocean as you might expect – instead they fly a parabolic arc north, up past Canada, Alaska, then down from Alaska to Tokyo. This saves fuel + time by flying over the part of the earth that rotates the fastest – near the Arctic Circle where the circular distance is shorter. Taking multi-hop steps will cost more – but if you can’t stand long plane rides, one of these options is a good way to break up the long flights.
Consider shipping a box full of light items ahead of you to the hotel via FedEx 2nd day air. It’s worth the cost not to have to drag heavy items with you. Just be sure to check what items are prohibited by Customs in Japan before you ship. Prohibited items will be confiscated and destroyed by Customs. Surprisingly, Japan has very strict rules on importing meat products, and raw fruits and nuts. Most western packaged food is fine. Use common sense.
An even better way is to just buy clothes in Japan when you arrive. Tokyo is the fashion capital of the world and good cheap clothes are everywhere. Clothes are actually really heavy, and it may be worth it just to bring 2 changes of minimal light clothes with you, then buy everything else when you arrive. Most hotels in Japan have coin laundries for washing clothes.
Bringing knives, and medicines into Japan can also be problematic. And they’re real serious about it. Even western meds such as Benedryll and cough syrup are considered narcotics by the Japanese gov’t and can land you in a Japanese prison if you bring them into the country in your luggage. Firearms + ammunition of all kinds are absolutely banned. If you bring them into the country, you’ll be arrested + thrown in a Japanese prison immediately. Don’t even think about it.
Japan is also strict about quarantining sick people entering the country. In fact, as you pass through customs, your temperature will automatically be taken by remote control without your consent as you pass through. If you have even a cold, or fever, or worse, when you arrive, you might be placed in quarantine. Again, they’re real serious about it.
Also be aware that Japan is a country of climate extremes and can be extremely cold in winter, and extremely hot + humid in summer. Spring and fall tend to be shorter and more mild due to Japan’s northern latitude. Pack appropriately.
Navigating the major airports in Japan
Japan’s major airports are: Narita (east of Tokyo), Haneda (in the south end of Tokyo, near the bay), and Kansai International, in Osaka Bay. Their symbols are NRT, HND, and KIX, respectively. Narita is actually far outside Tokyo. You will need to take the Japan Railways Narita Express (NE’X), a slower train, or a bus into Tokyo from Narita International Airport. See this site for ticket info. Haneda has recently be modernized to add more flights, but it can still get congested at times. The big advantage to flying in to Haneda is the trip into the city is shorter.
If you are flying into KIX, there is an excellent train at that airport called RAPIT (that’s the correct spelling), which shoots you directly into central downtown Osaka stations such as Namba, or the newly remodeled Osaka Station.
For Tokyo the pros and cons of each airport in a nutshell are:
Narita – farther from the city, takes 40 minutes to get into Tokyo, even using the NE’X, but it’s also bigger, and less congested.
Haneda – at the south end of the city. It’s more congested, and smaller but is much shorter to get into downtown Tokyo than from Narita.
Kansai International – Fly into KIX if you want to go to Osaka or Kyoto. You can catch local trains from downtown Osaka to Kyoto which take about 35 minutes and are cheap. If you want to go into downtown Osaka from KIX, just get on the RAPIT at KIX, then get off at Namba or Umeda stations, and you’re there. There’s also a great Osaka Station guide.
Once you arrive at Narita, you’ll need to collect your luggage, get through immigration, then Customs, then Quarantine. If you make it through all 3, you’re home free. Narita International can be really confusing. There aren’t a lot of signs, and it’s easy to get lost. So here’s the quick guide to navigating Narita:
When you land, exit the gate, turn left, unless you’re connecting to another international flight – in which case turn right. Follow the signs to “Domestic Arrivals”. You’ll go down several long corridors + people movers, then have to walk some more. Once you get to immigration, get in line. When you reach the front, an agent will direct you to fill out a simple immigration form with basic personal info. You then present this form + your passport or visa to another agent who will clear you. Once you get through that step, go down one level to collect your baggage if any. Watch the screens for the baggage carousel number for your flight. You might want to get a free baggage cart near the carousels if you have a lot of luggage.
Once through that, you’ll have to fill out another form for Customs. The forms are in tiny boxes at the end of the baggage carousels and they are not clearly marked. Usually you’ll just be asked if you’re bringing any prohibited or restricted items into Japan – or more than $10,000 USD in cash. Fill out the form, and hand it to a Customs agent. Once you’re cleared, proceeed directly ahead to the exit. It’s not clearly marked either, but it’s straight ahead. This brings you out into the main airport lobby. Turn right + walk down the concourse and you’ll find an Information Desk right next to a small coffee shop. You can ask agents there anything you like.
There are a few things you may want to do before proceeding to transportation: you probably will want to exchange some of your own currency into Japanese Yen (¥) at any one of the several currency exchanges there. Just be aware their rates are not the best and there are other places in Tokyo which have better rates, such as Sakura Exchange offices. We’ll talk more about currency exchange below.
You might also want to buy a phone SIM card to use in a GSM phone in Japan, if you have one. Western CDMA phones won’t work in Japan. Up until a few years ago, voice + data SIM cards for GSM phones were available, but due to crime by internationa, drug dealers in Japan, there is now only one Japan SIM card vendor which offers both voice and data to foreign travellers; a company called Mobal. See this article for a comparison of all foreign SIM card vendors in Japan. Another good article on SIM cards for foreigners in Japan is here. A US company called UltraMobile also offers an international SIM card for GSM phones at very low rates.
There are also luggage forwarding services in Narita International. For around $20 per item, you can have your luggage forwarded to your hotel. These are at the far right end of the concourse as you exit Customs. Luggage forwarding can save you a lot of struggle if you have multiple heavy items. Many hotels in Japan also offer luggage forwarding for an additional fee. There are also luggage storage places such as Yamato Transport and railway station coin lockers where you can temporarily store your luggage. More on that below.
You may want to take advantage of these services before you leave the airport.
All connections to trains out of Narita are down in the basement. The entry is near the Information Desk mentioned above. And this is clearly marked. Just take the escalator down. You may have to walk down several additional flights of stairs, so be prepared. If you have lots of heavy luggage, it will be a chore. We’ll cover trains in depth below.
If you want to take a taxi out of Narita, walk out any one of the front doors in the main concourse. But be warned a taxi ride from Narita into Tokyo will set you back $200 -$300.
There are also many good buses out of Narita to Tokyo. In fact, busses are the cheapest way to get to Tokyo – many of them are around or under $10. But it will take about 2 hours vs. 40 mins on NE’X. Search on Google for Narita bus companies.
Money in Japan – currency exchange, and money transfer options
There are a few tricks for currency exchange when going to Japan.
First off, the #1 thing you need to know is: airport currency exchanges are a total ripoff. Some American travellers report close to 30% fees at some major US airports. Don’t even think of paying more than 3%-5%.
You’ll need to change a little but of money into Yen (¥) before you go – just to be safe in case you need to take a taxi, buy food, get train passes, and other small incidentals.
But for the most part, you’ll want to exchange most of your currency in Japan. If you take more than $10,000 USD into Japan, you’ll also need to fill out a Customs form on the plane, or at immigration in Japan.
Japan is a cash society, and credit cards and debit cards are not accepted in many places. So, while in Japan you’ll need to carry lots of Yen. For currency exchange, here are your options, in order from least desirable to most desirable:
- Airport Exchange Counters – in both countries. In general these are too expensive so you’ll want to limit the amount you exchange at airports.
- Your bank at home before you leave – you can order foreign currency from your local bank before you leave, which may take a few days – so plan in advance. This is also not a good option since most US banks will charge you around 10%.
- ATMs – some Japanese ATMs accept foregin bank cards and debit cards. Visa is the most accepted in Japan. But not all Japanese ATMs will accept foreign cards. Check with your bank first to see if they work in Japan. In general business debit cards are your best bet for ATMs in Japan. Both Bank of America and Charles Schwab offer US ATM business cards which work at many ATMs in Japan. So consider opening a business bank acct. in the US and get an ATM or debit card attached to it well before you go. The easiest ATMs to use in Japan that work with US cards are 7-11 (called 7′ and i’) in Japan, SMBC banks, and Japan Post post offices. You can actually walk into most Japan Post offices, slide your card in, and withdraw cash. Many hotels and hospitals in Japan also offer ATMs in their lobbies. Different ATMs and banks will change different fees for withdrawls. As of this writing Bank of America charges 3% per amount withdrawn. 7-11 ATMs in Japan also charge 3%. By far the best deal is Charles Schwab, which charges no fees whatsoever for overseas withdraws. You can read more about 7-11 ATMs in Japan here.
- Online currency exchange – online services for currency exchange have popped up, but by far, the best one is Transferwise. PayPal also offers instant money exchange, but to remove your money as cash in Japan, you must first have a Japanese bank account in that country. There are other exchanges such as OFX, which are also very good. If you are sending cash to someone else in Japan, there is also always Western Union. The big advantage of WU is the recipient can pick up the money at at WU counter in Japan with just an ID.
- Local currency exchanges – there are several small hole-in-the wall offices in Japan which specialize in exchanging currencies. For direct exchange, these are by far the best value. Some of them, such as Sakura Exchange do direct conversion with no fees. You won’t get exactly the market rate, but you’ll get close – and you won’t pay 3% either. In many of these exchanges, you’ll pay as little as 1% for exchange. Most of the exchanges in Tokyo have English-speaking Japanese staff, but we have also heard reports that sometimes the exchanges are staffed by foreign workers who have reportedly tried to rip customers off on occasion. So be careful. You will need to do the math yourself when you do the exchange. The offices can be a bit hard to find. Sakura Exchange has several offices in Tokyo near train stations, so you’ll need to map them on Google Earth to find the one you want. The easiest one by far is just 2 blocks north of Shibuya Station in Shibuya.
So what do we recommend? By far the best deal is a zero fee debit or ATM card from Charles Schwab. Just keep in mind withdraws from overseas ATMs will likely be limited to $1000 per withdraw. The second best deal are the local currency exchanges in Tokyo. We recommend Sakura Exchange. The other huge advantage to using a local exchange is there generally is no limit on the amount you can exchange at a time – walk in, drop a big stack of cash, and they will exchange it on the spot – you walk out with a big pile of local currency. Just remember to exchange a few hundred dollars for incidentals at home or at the airport before you leave so you have a little bit of Yen when you arrive in Japan.
For B of A customers, see this page.
Booking info + websites
We’ll come right out and say that most of the US booking sites are lousy: hard to use, confusing, poorly designed, and limited on payment options. Everyone goes to sites such as Expedia.com or Booking.com, but hands down, the very best booking site online is agoda.com. Agoda has a simple, easy interface, lets you set all options for booking such a smoking/non-smoking, free breakfast, cancellation, and other options right on each property’s page. It even lets you book a reservation for someone else using your credit card. It also offers options for pay now, pay later, or even pay at the property on arrival. Since Japan is a cash society, this is an awesome choice. It also shows you which reservations can be cancelled, and the date up to which you can cancel. Using agoda.com will make setting your trip up a thousand times easier. Just a few clicks, set your options, reserve. All your booking info is also stored in the site, so you can log in from anywhere later + view your entire itinerary. It’s awesome.
Transportation – how to get around in Japan as easily + cheaply as possible
In Japan there are 4 basic modes of transportation:
By far trains are the most commonly used – trains are usually packed, especially in urban centers. Try to avoid rush hour if you use the trains.
However, a lot of people cycle in Japan too – including ypoung housewives with small children and very old people. It’s not uncommon to see people over 70 or 80 riding bikes here. People cycle everywhere. The 1 big downside to cycling in Japan is the parking (see below).
People also walk everywhere – which is perhaps one reason the Japanese are so healthy and have long life expectancies. If you plan to come to Japan, you’d better be prepared to walk – a lot. Like 5-10 miles a day a lot. And up and down train station stairs – a lot. Walking here daily will get you in shape fast.
For trains you have several options:
- Buy paper tickets at stations.
- Buy + reload IC cards such as Suica or Passmo and use them at station turnstiles.
- Buy a regional or nationwide Japan Rail Pass.
Here’s a short tutorial on dealing with the rail systems. Once you get used to it, it’s easy.
- There are several different systems: JR (Japan Rail), Tokyo Metro (Subway), Toei Subway, and Keisei Railways. There are a few other minor ones as well. For the most part you’ll use JR and Metro.
- If you order one of the rail paases online, you will be mailed a voucher, which you pick up at your hotel or at one of the JR service centers in Japan – such as the main one in Shinjuku or Ikebukuro. You can also exchange your voucher for the rail pass at the airport when you arrive.
- Despite what people may tell you it is possible to buy a rail pass once you are in Japan – at the JR Ikebukuro service center, for instance. But you must buy it in person, show your foreign passport, and not be a Japanese citizen in order to make the purchase.
- If you plan to use the trains a lot, a rail pass may be the way to go as it allows yout to save ¥ by breezing through ticket turnstyles at stations.
- If you plan to use the trains only a litle, then a Suica or Passmo card may be better. Suica and Passmo are electronic (IC) cards. You buy one at most JR stations, add money to it, then pass it over a sensor on turnstiles in stations as you enter and exit. Your fare is automatically deducted for each trip. When your card runs out of $, you can add more by using a Fare Adjustment Machine at most JR stations. If you go to exit a turnstile, and your card doesn’t have enough ¥ left on it, don’t panic, just turn around and go to the nearest Fare Adjustment Machine, insert your IC card, press the English on-screen button, then the button for adding fare, then press the Confirm onscreen button – your IC card will be ejected from the machine with more ¥ added to it. You can then go through the turnstile again by passing your card over the IC reader.
- You can also use Suica and Passmo cards at many stores and post offices to pay for things. IC cards make the train system much easier to use.
- When using trains at rush hour or at crowded stations, be ready for a lot of people, and be ready to be packed into a train with lots of other people. When lining up for a train at a packed stations, there’s only one way to deal with the rush: make sure you are first in line or near first in line for the next train. The worst thing you want is to be in the middle of a long line as you’kll usually end up in the center of a car with people packed around you on all sides. Making sure you are near the front of the line when the doors open means you will enter the train first, and get your choice of where to stand (or sit if seats are available).
- In rare cases, be ready for emergency brakes to be used which could send you flying. With millions of people riding Japan’s trains daily, Human Damage Incidents (suicides, jumpers, peopple being pushed on tracks, people falling onto tracks) are not uncommon and you’ll likely encounter one before long.
- As of this post, Japan is busy renovating many of its train stations in preparations for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. This means new facilities, but it also means if you’re there during renovation, you may be inconvenienced by construction.
- Most of the new stations will have full handicapped access, escalators, and elevators, IC card terminals, and kiosks. Even many of the more remote new stations will have more restaurants and shops right in the stations themselves, to make things more convenient.
- There are big express trains that run from the airports – especially NE’X and Keisei Skyliner from Narita International. In Osaka/Kobe the RAPIT train runs to and from Kansai International Airport (KIX) which sits out on a man-made island in Osaka Bay. (There is also a great luggage forwarding service at the Keisei Skyliner Ueno station which will forward your bags in either direction for $9/bag).
An unfortunate human-related accident has caused a delay on the Tobu Tojo Line.
Itabashi‘s beautiful brand new renovated JR station.
A Toei Subway station in Sugamo.
JR Itabashi Station at night.
See the huge links section at the end for complete rail info.
Cycling in Japan has not yet caught up with the rest of the world, but is still popular. New bike lanes are being built, but there are still far too few of them given the huge size of Japanese cities. Many people ride bikes on sidewalks, or simply brave traffic on city streets. Be careful on backstreets as many Japanese will fly thorough intersections on their bikes at full speed without stopping. If you’re not careful at intersections, you could collide with another cyclist.
Most bikes in Japan require a small registration sticker on them so that if they are stolen, they can be tracked. If you buy a bike in Japan, you’ll need to work out registration with the bike shop and the local police.
The one crazy thing in Japan about bikes is that in most cases it’s illegal to just park them anywhere. Instead you have to park them in designated paid bike parking lots. In most cases you’ll have to feed a bike parking machine twice a day ranging anywhere from $1 to $6. Most are around $2/day. If you don’t park your bike in a designated lot, and just lock it up anywhere, it may be impounded by the police. Not a good idea.
The bike parking lots are a bit crazy – the machines are usually in Japanese only, and at first don’t appear to work consistently. Usually you roll your bike up on a rack at a lot, you’ll hear a click. In most cases you pay when you come back to get your bike out. To pay, in most cases, you enter your slot number on the machine, then press a button, then enter the amount shown on the display. There’s also a button for a receipt if you wish. The weird thing is some lots allow free parking for the first few hours, so even if you try to put ¥ in initally, the machine will tell you you’ve already paid – but in Japanese on the display. In these cases it’s only later (like 6 hours later) that you’re required to pay again. This can confuse the hell out of you. If you’re not sure after locking your bike in the rack, and you don’t read Japanese, try to ask a local what the machine is telling you. In most cases it’s telling you you’ve already paid (i.e. that it’s free for the first X number of hours). You’ll need to come back in 6 hours to see if you need to pay again. It may take some time to get used to the machines.
Other types of bike parking racks have a box + slot for coins on each rack itself – along with a long thick wire cable used to secure the bike. These machines you feed coins into directly and are harder to use.
Food + dining in Japan
Myths abound about how expensive it is to eat in Japan. This is not entirely true.
Yes, top good restaurants might cost a pretty penny – a good meal at a good upscale restaurant might cost $60-$100 USD.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t eat well for less in Japan.
There are some surprisingly good supermarkets in Japan with fresh food cheap. In general, the quality of supermarket food in Japan seems to be higher than in the west. Many supermarkets hold midnight sales to clear out excess inventory at dirt-cheap prices. If you take advantage of these sales, you can eat cheap.
There are also conbini (convenience stores) which have good prices. In Japan, most conbini food is fresher and of higher quality than in the US. You can get fresh great conbini sandwhiches for $1.50, drinks for $1-$3, and even cheap snacks. Some conbini have cheap pre-cooked meals in small plastic containers which only need to be microwaved. These typically are a full entire meal and only cost $4-$6.
Some conbini are built into train stations, such as this Kinokuniya mixed-use store @ Shinjuku Station.
There are also discount chains such as Don Quiojte, Can Do, and others which often have sales on good food cheap.
Tokyo and other major Japanese cities also have many good less expensive restaurants – great burger places abound, and there are all kinds of restaurants all over big cities in Japan with an endless variety of good stuff to eat. A really great burger in Japan will cost you $10-$14 but are well worth it, on occasion.
There are even some vending machines which sell hot + cold soups and sandwhiches right out of the machines.
So, sit back and enjoy the list of inexpensive foods in Japan.
We review a few foods with photos below.
There is a huge variety of snacks in Japan. You can buy them at conbini, and supermarkets, but the best place is at discount stores such as Don Quijote, Can Do, SEIYU, and others. Discount places have snacks as low as $1.50 each. Some are good, some are not so good.
Conbini snacks such as these for around $1 abound in Japan. Not the healthiest, but cheap and quick nontheless.
There are some crazy (and good) snacks in Japan. From Don Quijote to supermarkets, to conbini, you can find some strange, wacky, and tasty snacks in Japan, such as:
Lots of cheap snacks @ Don Qijote such as:
Even chocolate covered potato chips.
Conbini (convenience stores) have a wide variety of good cheap food. In general conbini sandwiches are fresher and more natural than those in the west. You can get good salad/egg/cheese/ham conbini sandwiches for under $2.00 in most conbini in Japan.
You can also get a wide variety of drinks + bottled coffee in conbini too.
The cheapest possible breakfast in Japan is a $1.00 bottle of coffee + a $1.28 Tamagoyaki (fried egg) pack from Lawson. $2.28 for breakfast is hard to beat.
Consider the breakfast shown below: $1.00 for coffee, $1.28 for milk, $1.75 for 3 slices of ham, and $2.00 for a 4-pack of croissants from Aeon supermarket. Total: $6. If you cut the croissants out, $4. A very cheap meal. For desert we threw in a $1.25 chocolate donut as well.
Salads + meals
Complete conbini meal – salad, drink, water, milk, green smoothie – $6 total.
Good sandwhiches abound – many for under $3.50 USD.
3-pack of sliced ham – $1.50
You can get large yogurt containers for $1.50-$1.78 at most convenience stores and discount stores. Meiji seems to be the best brand, but there are others, Meiji brand is shown here:
Both conbini and grocery stores in Japan have a wide variety of good drinks. In general soft drinks and sodas are better than in the west – containing less sugar and more natural juices. Water and milk are also around $1.00-$1.25 each. There are endless varietes of coffee, shown on the center right, here.
Incredibly, you can get 1 liter, 26-vegetable drinks for $1.78 @ Don Quijote, SEIYU, and other discount stores. Aeon supermarkets also sell them. They contain a blended mixture of 26 different vegetables – nothing else. They’re an incredibly quick, cheap, healthy way to eat. Just buy 2 + chug them down. $3.25 USD for an entire meal. They’re incredibly healthy + good for you. If you do this once a day, for dinner or lunch you can save up to $7-$10 a day/per meal. That’s $300/month. If you stay in Japan a few months on vacation, you can save $600 this way – just on this one thing alone. Well worth it.
Mixed 26-veg. drink from Aeon – $1.78 US
There are a wide variety of great grocery stores in Japan – YorkMart, Life, SEIYU, Japan Meat, and others. All are excellent with very fresh food. Many are not that expensive. SEIYU seems to be the best discount store. SEIYU and Japan Meat can often be found in the basements of department stores right near train stations. We like the ones just outside Kinshicho Station – in PARCO‘s and OIOI‘s (pronounced “Marui”) basements.
Don Quijote also has small packages of folded paper towels for $1 – perfect for your backpack or bag.
Kinshicho Station, left. PARCO department store, right.
Entrance to SEIYU, in the basement of the PARCO Kinshicho dept. store. There is also an entrance to the Kinshicho Metro Subway station in the basement. To get here, exit Kinshicho south or west exit, head south to the PARCO, take the escalator down.
PARCO – just to the south of Kinshicho Station.
Large healthy salads abound for around $2. A healthy and cheap way to eat.
Cheap, good, pre-cooked meals also abound in Japan’s grocery stores. This midnight sale had some for under $2.50
$.25 bags of bean sprouts make a great cheap filler addition to any meal and are a good way to save $.
If you catch a midnight sale @ a grocery store in Japan, you can find great deals – such as an entire tin of butter cookies for around $1.00 – in this case at SEIYU. Good stuff.
Checkout in Japan Meat.
Great meat deals @ Japan Meat. $1.00-$3.50 for chicken and pork.
If you feel adventurous, and can find a spot to cook, you can even use a small camp stove to cook meat. The best place to buy camp stoves + fuel in Japan is at Xebio SuperSports.
Inside the craziness that is Don Quijote.
More cheap, good yogurt – $1.25 for one pint @ SEIYU.
Another midnight sale. Not the healthiest – but cheap – around $1.50 for 3 corn dogs. Purchased @ YorkMart.
Japan, and Tokyo in particular, have lots of great burger places. Brozer’s on the top floor of the Takashimaya Annex Bldg. 2 blocks east of Tokyo Station has great burgers and other sandwiches for around $10. Definitely worth a trip.
Numerous good smaller burger places abound – such as Darcy’s hidden in the backstereets of Ikebukuro.
Don Quijote has both bottled, carton-ed, and ground coffee for very good prices. A 1 liter carton of black coffee will set you back a mere $.75 USD – an incredible deal. If your hotel or hostel has a fridge in it, you can make one of these stretch 2 days – $.37/day for coffee, not $7 for one cup at a café.
You can get a small jar of honey to use in coffee as a sugar substitute for under $2:
Both groceries + discount stores have some good canned food cheap – fish, ham, chicken. $1.50-$4.00 depending on brand and quality.
Amazingly, 7-11 sells very high quality packaged fish in most supermarkets in Japan. $2.75 gets you a nice fresh package of salmon. A great way to save $.
Since Japan is a seafood nation, most groceries have vast amounts of freshly-caught fish for very low prices. Look around most stores to find good deals on fresh fish.
Most 1st-time visitors to Japan are shocked to discover that the Japanese, despite their good health, and diminutive size are voracious eaters. This is because Japan is a pedestrian society. The average Japanese walks 5-10 miles daily. Up the station stairs, down the station stairs, through train station tunnels miles long, walking everywhere. As a tourist, you will quickly realize after walking all day you want to eat everything in sight.
As a reward, they eat, and eat well. Food is everywhere in big cities in Japan, in vast quantities. Japan has “food parlors” – a throwback to 1950’s-style fine dining. There are restaurants for just about everything. Most dept. stores have food palaces in their basements or on their top floors. All are generally pretty good. There are even entire buildings of 12 floors or more dedicated to food and restaurants – the DAIMARU food palace at Tokyo Station and others. Forget Paris or Italy – you want to eat – Japan is the place to be.
When it comes to food, in Japan, they don’t mess around.
In Japan you can pig out like a native and never gain weight.
Surprisingly, Japan loves deserts + sweets. They can do this without getting fat because they walk 10-15 miles on average per day. Japan is full of an abundance of deserts everywhere you turn. From cheap sweets like the Hokkaido Cream Roll shown below to higher end cakes + cookies in packages, to all kinds of deluxe food parlors, pancake shops, and dessert palaces, which we will discuss next.
Dessert + Fruit Parlors
There are even fruit and desert-only parlors in Japan, such as Takano Fruit Parlour in Shinjuku shown below.
Takano Fruit Parlor, Shinjuku
Heaping plates of all kinds of deserts.
A pancake craze has hit Japan big time. There are big pancake restaurants everywhere and their number keeps growing. The most famous of these is Happy Pancake – one in Ikebukuro, Omotesando, and Ginza. A new one has recently opened in Hong Kong as well. Well worth a trip. Around $10-$15 for just about every variety of pancake you can imagine. There are plenty of other smaller ones as well, such as Flippers, shown below. Happy Pancake Ikebukuro is just a few blocks east of the east exit @ JR Ikebukuro Station.
Rainbow Pancake in the food court @ ODAKYU dept. store in Shinjuku.
Window of a pancake palace in TOBU dept. store, Ikebukuro. If you want pancakes, Tokyo is the place.
Milky Way pancake + ice cream parlor, Ikebukuro
Food basement shops
Many dept. stores in Japan have food basements – huge floors where vendors sell both meals and desserts. Many of these Deepichika also have gift vendors which sell packaged gifts. TOBU, Isetan, PARCO, OIOI (Marui), Matsuyakaza, and SEIBU are just a few. There is also a huge Keio dept. store + food basement just outside the west side of Shinjuku Station, which is very good.
Food basement, Mitsukoshi @ Nihonbashi
Giant cookies the size of pies in the food basement of Keio Shinjuku.
Many hotels in Tokyo also run elaborate seasonal-themed dessert buffets on their restaurant floors, such as this one:
Dessert buffet @ Sunshine City Prince Hotel
Cafes abound in Japan. You might say they are even more popular than in the US. Much more. There are small independent cafes and larger chains. The larger chains are:
We won’t go into rankings, but let’s just say in our opinion we like Doutor and Excelsior Cafe best with Tully’s a close 3rd. Cafe Crie is IOHO not that great – the food tends to be of lesser quality. Tully’s has charge ports and AC outlets in almost every store. Cafe Veloce is sort of a throwback to the 1950’s style diner. Its only drawback is it tends to have more smokers. Doutor is hands down the best for food value/price. You can get great hot dogs and small sandwiches for under $3 along with coffee for around $2.50 – half what the big chains cost. Definitely worth a look. There are all kinds of great cafes around Tokyo Station, Shinjuku, Shibuya, and other city areas. Here are a few photos of some of the cafes:
Doutor Menu with all kinds of inexpensive sandwhiches and drinks.
Doutor Lettuce Hot Dog and coffee – around $5.
A Doutour on the right, in Iidabashi.
Komeda’s Coffee, Ikebukuro
If you walk 1 mile south from Ikebukuro Station, you will find the Rocket Cafe on the west side of Meiji Dori. It also has a nice 2nd floor seating area. A must-visit. As a footnote if you walk far enough south from here you will eventually hit Waseda University about 2 miles to the south.
Cafe Legato and Sunday Coffee in Shibuya.
Legendary Junk Cafe, Shibuya – now closed.
Other restaurants + food malls
Bakeries abound everywhere – especially in train stations, such as this one – Little Mermaid Café in Komagome Station.
Another bakery in Shinjuku Station.
Sugar Butter Tree, Ueno Station
There are also a few online groceries which will ship food to you:
Accomodation options – hotels, hostels, capsules.
There are several accomodation options in Japan – luxury hotels, resorts, ski places, Ryokan inns, smaller hotels, budget business hotels, and hostels.
We review just business hotels + hostels here since they tend to be cheaper.
By far, the very best value in Japan when it comes to hotels is the APA Hotels chain. There are hundreds of these all over Japan, and they are very reasonably priced. They are designed for business travellers, and have great rooms and service, although the hotel rooms tend to be smaller. Don’t let that deter you though – this chain of hotels is a great value for the money – some as low as $65/night USD, with far better accomodations than a similarly priced cheap Motel 6 in the US. Most of them have 4K TV, a fridge in the room, and power outlets + bathroom amenities. Most also have tiny desks in the rooms to work on. In fact, APA is an acronym for Always Pleasant Amenities – and they’re not joking. These are fine hotels. Well worth a look. There is even an APA just 1 train stop from Narita International Airport. If you want to avoid jet lag and want to crash on arrival, you can check in here for a few nights to recover, then move on to Tokyo on the Keisei Line which has a station in Narita City just a few blocks from the hotel. An easy way to make a long trip a bit easier.
Hostels are a cheap way to stay in Japan – some as low as $25-$35/night but you pay in terms of inconvenience and discomfort. Some are capsule hostels, such as And Hostel in Akihabara and Sumida – which we highly recommend. First Cabin is an upscale larger modern luxury “tube hostel” similar to capsule hotels – but the rooms are larger, cleaner, more modern, and have a large TV. These are very clean first class hostels when you can sleep cheap. There is also one of these near the Sumida River in east Tokyo south of Sky Tree.
The downside to hostels + capsules are noise, lack of room AC control on a per-room basis, cramped quarters, and nowhere to stand up (although First Cabin also offers larger rooms which do have some floor space + a large table). The air in these places also tends to get a little stuffy. There are several First Cabins all over Tokyo – there is even one right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Akasaka near the central gov’t that is worth a look. Beware however that First Cabin requires all residents to check out daily from 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM for cleaning. No exceptions. All rooms also include a small lockbox in which you can store valuables when you leave.
Most First Cabins have shared bathrooms, which are very upscale + clean. Floors are by gender – mens’s floors + ladies’ floors.
Looking out of a First Cabin room, at an empty one across the hall. Note the small black shelf on the left side. That’s where the lockbox is – and you can also set your stuff on top of it. There is also a metal rail along the top of your cabin inside to hang clothes on. The white shutter on front pulls down to nearly the floor for privacy.
Outside of First Cabin we like And Hostel – as mentioned – in Akihabara, Sumida, and a few other locations. While not quite as upscale as First Cabin, they’re pretty good – clean, well ordered, and they also have the good sense to open floor windows to draft stuffy air outside. They have a lounge where you can sit on a sofa, and tables for work. Some of them have a kitchen you can use. These are pretty reasonable at $40-$50/night. Worth a look.
There are also a variety of smaller, older, privately-run capsule hotels – these vary in quality and price. Search Agoda for reviews + reservations.
Most hotel/hostel staff in Japan are very helpful – much more so than in the US – and many speak English as well. If you have any trouble or need something, most will be more than willing to help.
APA Komagome, east Tokyo. “Ekimae” means “At the station” or “In front of the station”.
Inside First Cabin – like something from a 1970’s sci-fi movie. Be sure to keep quiet during sleeping hours.
Inside a First Cabin standard room.
First Cabin bathroom hallway.
Inside And Hostel, Akihabara. You get a plywood tube with a matress, and a pull curtain for privacy. The room also has power outlets + a light – but no TV, unlike First Cabin. The plywood walls help deaden sound, which makes And Hostel much better than most. Plus And Hostel just has a comfy, easy-going feel. A bit Bohemian, but not too much.
Phones, computers, WiFi
Much has been written about using phones + WiFi in Japan.
We will try to keep this subject brief. It’s pretty simple.
For phones, your best bet is to bring a phone from your home country which offers an affordable fixed monthly plan with unlimited roaming. Such plans in the US include UltraMobile and T-Mobile. UltraMobile offers a fixed $19/mo international roaming plan which allows you to use any western GSM phone in Japan. Up until 2016 foreigners could buy a Japanese phone in Japan, but this has now been disallowed by the Japanese gov’t over terrorism concerns. If you absolutely must have a Japanese phone, have an associate or company buy one for you there for you to use. Note that prepaid is not big in Japan and you’ll have to have the company pay the bill for you as well.
As for WiFi there are plenty of options – you can buy small roaming WiFi boxes at most electronic stores in Japan such as Bic Camera – you pay a fixed fee per month (usually $40-$70) and the little box piggypacks on the local cell network. There are various vendors such as eConnect Japan and others. Speeds can range from fast to slow, depending on service, and bandwidth. Most electronic stores are eager to sell/rent these boxes to foreigners and will be more than happy to help explain the services and features in both Japanese and English.
However, today, most hotels and many department stores in Japan now offer free WiFi. Some municipalities do – such as at a public hotspot shown below. Check each city’s website before you go. These are easy to use and usually require just an accept on a web page, or a free email registration. To use them, just get in range of the public WiFi signal and log in.
Computers in general, and laptops in particular are generally cheaper in Japan than the rest of the world – except perhaps for the high end models. Good cheap laptops by Acer or Asus can be had in most electronic stores for $400-$700. Make sure you ask for one with an English keyboard if you don’t speak Japanese as most models in Japan have Japanese. Some models have both on the same keyboard.
A free WiFi spot in Ikebukuro, Tokyo. Just stand nearby + log in. Most of these WiFi booths in Japan are old converted payphone booths. In fact many of them still have their green payphones inside. But of course, no one uses payphones anymore.
Transportation – Rail – IC cards
Most major railways in Tokyo and other large cities have IC electronic fare cards. You buy one from a ticket machine at a station, add money to it on the same machine, and swipe it at entry/exit turnstyles to pay. Trip payment is automatically deducted when you exit the turnstyle. No more paper tickets to buy. The gates have small lighted blue pads on them to indicate where to swipe. The two major IC card systems in Japan are Suica and Pasmo. Osaka also has a few systems of its own.
If you have a late model smartphone, you can set them up to also work as an IC payment system using services such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, and others. Late model smartwatches such as Apple Watch are also now adopting the tech and will allow you to use them as payment devices. You can also use these services to pay in some conbini in Japan (look for the respective company pay symbols on registers in stores). You just add money to your account your phone/watch is connected to, then swipe it over the IC reader to pay.
For a complete review of railway IC cards + other electronic payment methods in Japan, see our full post.
Itabashi Station, western Tokyo. The bank of ticket machines is in the center just under the station sign.
Older-style ticket machine converted to handle Suica IC cards. The tall row of mechanical push-buttons on the left is now largely unused. Newer machines are 100% touchscreen. The slot on the right with the yellow border also allows you to toss Japanese coins in to add fare.
Pasmo/Suica Cards: Smart Tokyo Travel (w/ Instructions) – Tokyo Cheapo
How to return your card:
Only cash (Japanese currency) can be used to recharge Suica cards.
Buying Paper Tickets With Your Suica Card
Location: 35°40’34.56″ N 139°45’40.29″ E
Stations: Yurakucho Station, JR + Yurakucho Metro Line
Free Wifi: Yes
Our Rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑
Worth it? A must-see, and as a gateway to Ginza.
Yurakucho is a very small tiny area in central Tokyo sandwiched in between Yurakucho Station to the west, and Ginza to the east. The area is tiny – just one major square with an array of shops, restaurants, and bldgs. around it. There’s a Bic Camera store to the northwest of the station, and just north of that, the Tokyo International Forum, which also contains = Mitsuo Aida Museum =, a calligraphy museum.
The main small central area is around 35°40’28.54″ N 139°45’43.25″ E and is to the east of Yurakucho Station. You can also cut through the station’s open passages to the west side on ground level. The Bic Camera is just to the north on the west side. Along the east side of the station at ground level is a long row of restaurants and shops. At the very north end is a Doutour coffee shop, and past it a small tunnel leading to a hidden side street lined with fabulous restaurants (see below). To the southeast end of the station on the east side is a huge LUMINE + OIOI (pronounced Marui) shopping complex. If you slip past it to the south along the tracks, you’ll come to another shopping complex called Ginza 5 Five.
To the east across the street is Ginza | Nz– another shopping complex, and beyond that to the east, the gateway to world-famous Ginza. Most of this is described below.
To get to Yurakucho, hop on the Yurakucho Metro Line or Ginza Line, or the JR Yamanote Line. Yurakucho Station is just one stop south of Tokyo Station on the JR Yamanote Line. Another important point for reference is that Yurakucho is just 2 stops east of Nagatcho/Akasaka on the Yurakucho Metro Line. Nagatcho/Akasaka is well worth a look if you have time.
In the station, head for the east exit – which puts you smack in the town center facing east towards Ginza.
Central Tokyo facing west. The Imperial Palace is the green area above. Tokyo Station is in the center at the bottom. The Tokyo International Forum is the long small slender bldg. on the left. Yurakucho is just south (left) of that, out of frame.
Overhead view. Up is north. Yurakucho is in the center. Imperial Palace and Hibiyabori Moat is to the upper left out of view. Marunouchi is at the top out of view. Ginza and Maronnier Gate are to the lower right. The LUMINE/OIOI complex is lower center. The small central square is just above that. Upper right center is Tokyo International Forum – its long courtyard on its west side is full of great restaurants and cafés. The small bldg. just south of the pink bldg. is Tokyu Kotsu Kaikan which has the rotating Ginza Sky Lounge restaurant on top.
A small Koban (police box) with a pointed roof facing north into Ginza on the left. Yurakucho is just behind the huge LUMINE bldg. on the left. Just up the street to the right is MARRIONER GATE – the gateway to Ginza. Ginza | Nz runs up the left side of the street. Even in this huge metropolis, the streets are spotless.
LUMINE complex facing northwest. Yurkucho is just behind it. Ginza 5 Five is just below. You can pass through the 2 large bldgs. at ground level to get to Yurkucho Station.
Facing south back towards Yurkucho Station which is down on the right. A row of shops is on the right. The large OIOI complex is on the left, and behind that, LUMINE. Left down the street out of view is Ginza | Nz. A few blocks to the east is Ginza.
Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan in fall.
Facing back the other way (north). Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan in the round bldg. on the right. Ginza is a few blocks to the right (east). The station is just to the left and behind the camera is the OIOI/LUMINE complex. The long slender glass bldg. behind the station is the Tokyo International Forum, and lots of restaurants, shops, and cafés including a Shake Shack and Brooklyn Roasting Company. Also note the large Bic Camera on the left. If you head straight, then left, you will come to an alleyway which leads to a side street of lots of restaurants which runs behind the Bic Camera (see below). If you head straight up this street you’ll come to the small Doutour Café, and past that, the tunnel that leads to the hidden side street with restaurants. You can also cut over to the Bic Camera from here by taking the station tunnels to the left, out of view.
Head straight, then left to find the hidden side street. Also note the tiny private Izakaya (bar) on the right.
Center Square + Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan
Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan at Christmas time.
As you exit the station to the east you’ll be in a small square. Here there are roughly 4 areas: 1) a row of restaurants on the left to the north, 2) Doutour and a tunnel north of that, 3) Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan on the east side of the squarejust to the west of Ginza | Nz, and 4) OIOI/LUMINE complex on the south. That’s it. At the base of the OIOI complex there are also a nice handful of restaurants to enjoy.
Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan was built in the 1970’s and it shows. The inside has a very 1970’s-ish retro vibe. There are lots of shops here, a post office, and a large grocery in the basement. On the roof is the Ginza Sky Lounge restaurant and bar.
Oddly, the tiny square is considered one of the best trainspotting places in Tokyo. Shinkansen heading both south and north via Tokyo Station run right on the tracks overhead. If you stand in the square and wait, facing west, you’ll see them:
Yurakucho Station is straight ahead, facing west. Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan is just behind the camera to the right and OIOI/LUMINE is out of view just to the left (south). If you head west through the station tunnels and turn right, you’ll come to the Bic Camera. You can also cut down the tiny alley left next to the lighted buildings on the left to get to Ginza 5 Five.
The west side of the station looking back east at the square on the other side. The Bic Camera is on the left. Pass through the tunnels ahead to get back to the square.
Another view of the west side facing northeast. The 2 pass-through tunnels are on the left. Ginza Sky Lounge is the round structure on the rooftop on the other side.
Ginza | Nz
Just to the west of the center square + station, but before crossing Rt. 405 east into Ginza proper, you’ll find Ginza | Nz – a long row of shops + restaurants which lines 405, which runs north-south. Just to the left out of view is the 1st large gateway shopping center into Ginza – MARRIONER GATE. The last tall bldg. to the south in this photo is the new Tokyu Plaza Ginza which has a great open-air roof garden + lots of restaurants. The LUMINE complex is the tall bldg. in the center. Ginza Sky Lounge is the round bldg. on top, right. Ginza | Nz runs the length of the street back south to the Koban shown in a photo previously. Turning just to the right from the photo above, you’d see the street leading back to the station to the west:
The Doutor is just up this street to the right. Flipping around 180 degrees from this view is MARRIONER GATE to the east:
MARRIONER GATE just to the east of Ginza | Nz and Yurakucho, facing east. Just east down this street is Ginza Six and many other Ginza attractions. Prepare to spend at least one full day walking around Ginza.
Ginza 5 Five
Heading south past Ginza | Nz on the right you’ll come to Ginza 5 Five – a small shopping mall. Just next to that is the new Tokyu Plaza Ginza which is a must-see:
Ginza 5 Five is on the right. Tokyu Plaza Ginza is the tall black bldg. behind it. This is facing southeast.
Tokyu Plaza Ginza
At the very south end of Yurakucho is a brand new complex called Tokyu Plaza Ginza. This complex is a must see – it has an external escaltor leading into the bldg. which has endless great restaurants. There are upscale places and a really great Hawiian burger place. Also be sure to check the cool dessert place TSUJIRIHEI-HONTEN GINZA out. But the most interesting parts of the complex are the view from the huge indoor bar + café which provide incredible nightime views out over Ginza, as well as a very large open-air rooftop garden. After stopping at Ginza 5 Five, be sure to check out Tokyu Plaza Ginza just across the street.
Entrance to Tokyu Plaza Ginza.
View of the Hermes Bldg. from the indoor café across the street in Tokyu Plaza Ginza.
The Hidden Restaurant Side Street
At the north end of the station, just at the north end of the Bic Camera bldg. you’ll find the Tokyo International Forum. If you pass through the small tunnel next to the Doutour and turn left (west), you’ll be on this street. You can also get to it by exiting the Bic Camera bldg. at the very north side. But instead of heading straight across the street, head down the small side street just to the right which runs the length of the Forum south to north. Along this street on the right hand side are endless great restaurants of all kinds – dozens of them all neatly packed into a row. At night in Yurakucho, this stroll is a must-see. You can’t go wrong at most of these places and they are full of people every night. The south entrance to the street is around 35°40’32.52″ N 139°45’49.21″ E.
The south tip of the Tokyo International Forum. Instead of heading left into the Forum’s courtyard, head down the hidden side street to the right. This photo is facing north.
The Hidden Restaurant Side Street
Ren Ren Ren Chinese Restaurant
As you come to the north end of the Forum along the hidden side street, you’ll come to a skyscraper across the street. There is an extremely good and upscale Chinese restaurant on the ground floor in the corner called Ren Ren Ren Tokyo. One of the best restaurants in the area if you want Chinese food. Also note this restaurant is just 1 block south of Tokyo Station.
Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum
Just 1 block to the west of Ren Ren Ren, is the Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum – a huge multi-floor spectacular museum, which is a must-see in the area.
Tokyo Midtown Hibiya
Just a stone’s throw to the west 2 blocks of the station is the newly-opened Tokyo Midtown Hibiya shopping complex which has a spectacular winter illumination every year. Not to be missed.
Yurakucho is a tiny little part of Tokyo but there’s a surprising amount to do within just a few blocks. That and its close proximity to a major station on the Yurakucho Line means you can get quick access to other parts of Tokyo. Yurakucho is well worth a visit for a day or night, or if you plan on seeing Ginza too, several nights. It’s a must-see in Tokyo for any traveller.
Another view of the square facing southeast. The station is on the right. The tall bldg. in the center is the OIOI complex. MARRIONER GATE is just one block down the side street on the left.
Facing south towards Ginza 5 Five between the OIOI bldg. on the left and LUMINE bldg. on the right. The station is to the left.
Looking north into Ginza.
The area behind the Tokyo International Forum. Lots of nice restaurants on this street.
Yurakucho Concourse – a small overpass with restaurants.
Another view looking south towards Yurakucho Station. The OIOI is just on the left out of view.
Another hidden side street full of restaurants.
Under the tracks.
The Bic Camera @ night.
Christmas illuminations at dusk in Dec. facing back south towards the OIOI + the entrance to Yurakucho Station, which is down on the right. The small row of restaurants is on the right. The Doutor and small tunnel are just to the right behind the camera.
One of many interesting streets in Ginza.
View from the Forum facing back south. Bic Camera is straight ahead, the station is to the left.
800 Degrees in the Forum courtyard.
Brooklyn Roasting Company also in the Forum courtyard. The place for coffee in Yurakucho.
Name: Nagatcho + Akasaka
Location: 35°40’33.86″ N 139°44’36.21″ E
Free Wifi: Yes
Our Rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑
Worth it? A must-see, and as a gateway to Akasaka.
Nagatcho is a small area where the central gov’t in Japan is located. The Federal Diet Bldg. is here, as are assembly offices, and a the Prime Minister’s Office. Most activity in the area is centered around government work, but there is still a lot to see and do here.
Nagatcho is also the eastern gateway to a much more interesting area: Akasaka. We won’t go into Akasaka too much here, but we’ll touch on how to get there and a few interesting tidbits.
Being where the central gov’t is located, there are a lot of ways into Nagatcho: you can take one of the Subway Metro lines listed above, you can cycle, or you can walk. Nagatcho is just to the west of the Imperial Palace + Diet Bldg. and there is a nice sidewalk which runs the length of the palace’s moat (Chidorigafuchi) on the western side (known as the Hanzomon area (due to Hanzomon Gate which dates back centuries and protects the western side of the palace).
Subway lines include Yurakucho, Hanzomon, Namboku, and Ginza Lines. There are lots of station portals at the street level scattered all over the area, but the 3 most important ones are the Akasaka-mitsuke Station on Sotobori Dori around 35°40’34.24″ N 139°44’17.11″ E , Nagatacho Station (just up the street to the north), and the Tameike-sanno Station portal on a side street just behind the Prime Minister’s office. For Tameike-sanno Station, take only the Ginza or Namboku Lines. 2 other notable street-level portals are in the Sanno Park Tower, and in the basement of the Bic Camera store just to the northwest.
In short if you want to see the Diet area, hit the Tameike-sanno Station exit and walk up the street, if you want to see Sotoboto Dori Ave, the Bic Camera, or Akasaka, hit the Akasaka-mitsuke Station exits, or if you want to get to the north side go for any of the north Nagatacho Station exits. Also of particular note is Tokyo Garden Terrace to the north around 35°40’46.30″ N 139°44’13.85″ E, just west down the street from one of the Nagatacho Station exits. Around Christmas/New Year’s Tokyo Garden Terrace is a must-see (we’ll discuss this more below).
Nagatcho + Akasaka sit to the north of Toranomon, east of Roppongi, west of Imperial Palace, and south of Yotsuya.
Underground in a Nagatcho Station exit. Some subway stations in Japan have a decidedly Soviet feel to them.
An Akasaka-mitsuke Station portal on Sotoboto Dori, just west of the Diet Bldg.
Tameike-sanno Station portal, left. The Prime Minister’s Office can just barely be seen above the trees.
Prime Minister’s Office viewed from Sotoboto Dori Ave. facing northeast.
Tameike-Sannō Station, and Prime Minister’s office, lower center. To the left out of frame is Akasaka and Sotoboto Dori Ave. the tall bldg. on the left is the Capitol Hotel Tokyu. On the far right are 3 Federal assembly offices. The smaller bldg. in the center is the APA Pride Hotel. This view is facing north. To the lower left out of frame is Sanno Park Tower. Akasaka-mitsuke Station is also out of frame just to the upper left corner.
Nagatcho is a fairly small area. There’s the central gov’t/Diet area, a small area north of that with various gov’t bldgs. and museums, a smaller area east just across from the Imperial Palace, and the area south of the central gov’t which rolls into Akasaka. Not much else, but the area is still interesting. A stroll or bike ride around the central area is interesting, and in the fall spectacular. There are also smaller various shrines (See below), historical points of interest and other things to do. When you’re done exploring the central gov’t area, head north to see Tokyo Garden Terrace Koicho (also see below), and then southwest to see Akasaka and all it has to offer.
If you want to see the Diet area, pop up out of Tameike-sanno Station which puts you just west of it. Akasaka proper is just 2 blocks west. Both the Prime Minister’s Office and Official Residence are on this street. Turn left (east) up a side street for the Diet bldg. One can spend hours just strolling up and down streets in the area.
A must-see area is just out front of the Diet to the west. There are 3 major attractions here: Kensei Memorial Park, a small historical park to the north of that, and further north, the Parliamentary Museum. Kensei Memorial Park has a very nice garden worth a stroll. The main road between the Diet and the palace is Uchibori Dori and is popular with joggers and walkers. In fact, you can circumnavigate the palace 360 degrees around over into Otemachi, Hibiya, and back. The entire distance is spectacular and one of the best walks in Tokyo.
Just to the southeast of Kensei Memorial Park is Kasumigaseki, where more gov’t bldgs. are located – including the HQ for the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There is also a Metro station at Kasumigaseki.
Just south of Kasumigaseki is the must-see Hibiya Park. This lush well-kept park is huge with lots to see + do. Not bad for just 1 more block’s walk. Definitely hit it. There is also a very nice German Christmas Market held here every December.
Sanno Park Tower + NTT DoCoMo HQ
Just to the south of Tameike-sanno Station 2 blocks on the corner of Sotoboto Dori Ave. is a giant skyscraper called Sanno Park Tower. There’s lots to do here. The basement has all kinds of shops + a convenience store. Sanno Park Tower is also home to Japan’s mobile phone company NTT DoCoMo. There are also cafés in the bldg. Just for kicks, you can have a brief thrill riding the massive gleaming glass corporate elevators from the lobby to the top floor. But be warned all floors including the top floor have lots of security guards, and you will not be admitted for any reason without a badge officially obtained in advance. Still, the elevator ride itself is a thrill – the huge glass elevators fly upward at incredible speed, while you watch the ground drop out from under you and their inner workings of cables + huge flywheels spin as you look on. And then in the blink of an eye you’ve been flung 50 stories skyward. Fun – if just for a few moments.
The massive glass elevators inside Sanno Park Tower – as close as you can get to an amusement park ride inside Corporate Japan.
There are a few photos of the inside of the bldg. over at Mitsubishi Estate.
Sanno Park Tower, left looking northeast on Sotobori Dori Ave. Tameike-sanno Station is just up this side street on the right. The Prime Minister’s Office is also just up this street to the right. Capitol Hotel Tokyu and APA Pride hotels are also up this street to the left. Just behind the small red van is a small round glass portal with an elevator inside which takes you down to shop level.
If you exit the Nagatcho Sta exit around 35°40’44.55″ N 139°44’25.63″ E and head just a few blocks west downhill, you’ll come to a major intersection on Sotoboto Dori with a river + Benkei Bridge and a huge office bldg. just to the north. One of the area’s best hidden gems is at the base of this bldg: Tokyo Garden Terrace Koicho.
Tokyo Garden Terrace Koicho. The Prince Gallery Tokyo Kioicho is an ultra-deluxe ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑ hotel.
Christmas lights display @ Tokyo Garden Terrace Koicho
Hotel choices in the area are endless. The aforementioned Capitol Hotel Tokyu is luxury beyond belief, but it will cost you $400+/night. Clearly the best value in the area is the APA Pride Hotel – which is is very deluxe + clean and in an off-peak time will cost you only around $70/night – unimagineable in the west. It’s right next to Capitol Hotel Tokyu. A definite winner. Hotel Monterey Hanzomon is also very nice, but a bit more expensive + little further north.
If you’re looking for a good capsule, lots of them abound in the area, but a really nice one is First Cabin Akasaka just to the west. There are lots of other hostel + capsule type hotels in the area.
The really cool hotel area is on the hidden small side street just behind the Bic Camera to the north. There are endless hotels here including Centurion Hotel, Granbell Hotel Akasaka, and Kitano Hotel Tokyo. The entrance to this hidden side street is around 35°40’35.15″ N 139°44’12.46″ E. Just across the street from that to the west is the Tokyu Plaza Akasaka Hotel – a huge hotel right at the north end of Akasaka. This is also a mixed-use development with lots of restaurants + shops and a mall. There is also a Metro subway portal just at the entrance to the hidden side street.
Inside our little room @ APA Pride Hotel – which included this small desk. Don’t mind all the food + loot – we had just made a massive cheap food haul from Don Quijote Ginza when this photo was taken. Incredibly, this room was only $70/night.
APA Pride room. Small but very nice, clean, and somewhat upscale.
Capitol Hotel Tokyu lobby.
The area has lots of great co-working spaces at reasonable rates – most notably a very nice Regus space at Akasaka K Tower.
Smack behind the APA Pride Hotel to the west up on a big hill is Hie Shrine. You can exit the rear of APA Pride + climb the steps to reach the top. On the other side is a massive granite staircase which leads down to Sotoboto Dori Ave. and into Akasaka. The view from the top of the stairs allows you to look to the west, over a massive white Tori Gate, and into Akasaka. From here you can also see the TBS Broadcasting HQ a block away.
View from Hie Shrine facing west into Akasaka. Sotobori Dori Ave. is below. Straight ahead is Akasaka. The bldg. with the round section on top is the TBS HQ. There is also a small Japan Post Office just ahead on the left. On the 1st floor of the orange bldg. is a very nice FamilyMart conbini (convenience store). 1 block ahead on the right is a Tully’s Coffee, and beyond that Akasaka SACAS + Akasaka Biz Tower (shown in vids below). Since Akasaka is just a stone’s throw from Nagatcho, it’s a must-see in the area. Also down this street just on the right is a huge First Cabin Akasaka capsule hotel. There all kinds of restaurants and shops on this street + backstreets to the right.
Sanno Matsuri is a traditional Japanese festival held every other year which starts at Hie Shrine and ends later in the afternoon. If you’re in the area when it happens (usually in summer), it’s worth a look.
Dive Into Akasaka
To the west beyond Nagatcho is Akasaka proper. There are 2 main areas to see here: the Akasaka SACAS/Biz Tower area (and the Biz Tower Attrium mall next to it), and the myriad hidden side streets just to the northeast of that. There are some fabulous photos of the area over at Konnichiwa | My excellent Japanese adventure. JNTO also has a great page in English describing the area. The Akasaka SACAS area consists of: Akasaka SACAS, Biz Tower, Biz Tower Attrium, a Merto entrance, and several shops/restuarants across the street. There is also a concert hall called BLITZ to the north of Biz Tower Attrium. In the winter BLITZ has an outdoor ice-skating rink. The TBS broadcasting HQ is also in the area. BLITZ is owned + operated by TBS. A Tully’s is also located across the street:
Tully’s across the street from Akasaka SACAS/Biz Tower facing north. Nagatcho is to the right (east). The large First Cabin Akasaka hotel is the white bldg. on the right. The hidden side street area is just behind this block. 2 blocks down on the right is the large FamilyMart, and there are all sorts of other great restaurants + shops on this street to the right. Don’t be afraid to wander down side streets to find unexpected enjoyment.
Akasaka’s Hidden Gem: The Hidden Side Street
Starting at around 35°40’37.79″ N 139°44’13.16″ E to the north, and running north-south is a long hidden side street behind the Bic Camera bldg. At night, this street is actually the livliest street in the area and is a must-see. At night this street comes alive with light, sound, smells, restaurants, shops, clubs, and bars. You can spend an entire evening here and not even scratch the surface. In addition there are several smaller adjacent side streets to explore. If you go to Nagatcho/Akasaka, absolutely do not miss this street. Photos are shown in the Additional Photos section below.
Biz Tower lobby.
Okamura Chair Museum
One last little bit of madness: just north of Akasaka-mitsuke Station is the Okamura Chair Museum. This place is a museum for office chairs + car seats. Turns out this company has been making OTT office chairs for decades in Japan and also supplying Japan’s major auto manufacturers with auto seats for decades also. A crazy quick stop if you’re in the area. Just walk in off the street. The company is still in business and some of their office furniture is absolutely amazing. “muffle creates the right balance. For both concentration and collaboration space“
Conclusion + Footnotes
Well, that’s it for now. Nagatcho/Akasuka is one of the most exciting up-and-coming areas in Tokyo – a must see. As another footnote, just to the south is also the very nice Toranomon area – it’s close enough most people could walk to it. It’s definitely worth a trip. See our 2-part post on Toranomon.
You’ll also see lots of baton-wielding police in the area (shown in the 1st image at the top of this page), due to the critical nature of the central gov’t. If you’re behaving however, and not causing any trouble, they will generally leave you alone. If you get too rowdy, especially inside gov’t bldgs., they may very well arrest you + throw you in prison. And you do not want to ever end up in a Japanese prison because in Japan, guilt is assumed. It’s not the same as the US. If you do end up in one, a forced confession is likely (even if you are innocent), and if you are a foreigner, you will mostly likely serve some time, and then be deported and banned from ever entering the country again. If the police do approach you and ask to see your passport or alien registration card, be ready to provide it in an instant. By law, foreigners are required to carry their passport/registration card on them at all times, so be prepared. Don’t risk a prison term in Japan due to sheer neglect or bad behavior. It’s just not worth it. Always remember you’re a guest in someone else’s country. Respect them.
One more note about the Nagatcho/Akasaka area is because it’s the national central gov’t area, nearly everything in the area except the hidden side street shuts down early at night. So be prepared to not have access to certain things after around 9 PM. Trains however, continue to operate until 11-12 PM.
Overall master view. North is to the top. To the upper right is Imperial Palace, with the Diet + offices center right, left into central Nagatcho, then south + left into Akasaka. Notable buildings are the TBS HQ in the far lower left corner, Akasaka Biz Tower to the upper-right of that, Sanno Park Tower is the huge bldg. lower right center, and the large grey bldg. is Tokyu Garden Terrace just left of center at the top of the frame. If you continue along the major road shown at the top of the photo up to the northwest, you’ll pass the Imperial State House (which offers tours normally), and then into Yotsuya. If you turn left (west) at the main Yotsuya intersection, after a long way you’ll reach Shinjuku. Hibiya is just out of frame to the lower right. The small square bldg. with the blue square on the roof to the right of Sanno Park Tower is the Official Prime Minister’s Residence. APA Pride and Capitol Hotel Tokyu are hidden from view behind Sanno Park Tower. Just to the upper-left of Sanno Park Tower is Hie Shrine. Sotobori Dori Ave. is the main road running north-south. Just out of view to the southeast is Toranomon, and beyond that to the south Shimbashi. To the left out of frame about a mile is Roppongi.
Looking back north at the Diet Bldg. approaching from Toranomon to the south.
Bic Camera on Sotobori Dori. (In Japan it’s pronounced “Bee-ka Ca-mé-da” by locals).
.belleVie shopping complex, including Bic Camera. A subway portal is just down the stairs to the right. If you pass straight through to the other side, you’ll be on the hidden side street. Make a left. You’ll come out near the entrance to the hidden side street just down on the right here:
Entrance to the hidden side street facing south. At night this street comes alive with restaurants, shops, clubs, and hotels. The .belleVie shopping complex is the large bldg. on the left. This street is probably the #1 attraction to see in the Nagatcho/Akasaka area at night. If you walk this street a few blocks and turn right, you’ll come to the Akasaka SACAS area. 90 degrees to the left out of view is the Tokyu Plaza Akasaka Hotel:
Between Tokyu Plaza Akasaka Hotel and the entrance to the hidden side street is this plaque which details how all the local areas got their names. English is included at the bottom. Tokyu Plaza Akasaka Hotel is the bldg. in the background.
Turn to your left 180 degrees from the entrance to the hidden side street, and you’ll see Tokyo Garden Terrace Koicho (the tall bldg.) just to your left only 2 blocks away. Tokyu Plaza Akasaka Hotel is the large white bldg. on the right. There’s another portal to Akasaka-mitsuke Station shown in the center. The plaque shown in the previous photo is just out of view to the right.
Nagatacho Station on the Hanzomon Line platform (which is color-coded purple).
TBS HQ. BLITZ is just behind it.
Heading west up the street across from Hie Shrine, which leads to the next corner shown in the next photo below. You can also hang a right here before the corner at the brick alley to get to the hidden side street heading north/.
The view on the corner with the Tully’s facing west. Akasaka SACAS/Biz Tower are just ahead as shown in the photo below:
Akasaka SACAS/Biz Tower. A Metro portal is the small box on the right next to the lighted signs. Biz Tower is on the right, and beyond the lights on the left is the Biz Tower Atrium complex – and beyond that, BLITZ. You can also head right here down the street the Tully’s is on instead for more discovery:
There is a restaurant/bar just to the right called SMT. If you continue down the street north of that you’ll see:
There is also another small APA Hotel on this street as well. The hidden side street runs one block parallel to the right (east).
Looking back east from the Akasaka SACAS/Biz Tower area towards the Tully’s. There are more streets to the right (south) to explore as well.
Another view of Biz Tower Atrium.
The BLITZ complex.
The view of west Nagatcho facing north from the pedestrian bridge next to the entrance to the hidden side street. Tokyo Garden Terrace Koicho is at the base of the tall bldg. on the right. A Nagatcho Station Metro entrance is just up the hill to the east (right).
Looking back south 180 degrees from the photo above. The hidden side street is just to the right of the small black bldg. right of center. A Metro portal is just in front of that. The main gov’t area is off to the left a few blocks, Sotobori Dori is the street on the left with the cars on it.
Centurion Hotel on the hidden side street.
The hidden side street heading south – a must see. Itamae Sushi on the right is very popular. Down on the left a bit is a good jazz club.
Location: 35°41’14.86″ N 139°45’52.56″ E
Free Wifi: Yes
Our Rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑
Worth it? Absolutely do not miss it.
Don’t miss our other post on one of the best sub-sections of Otemachi: Ootomori.
Also be sure to check out the Tokyo 4K YouTube channel which has a lot of good vids around the Otemachi area.
Take the Marunouchi, Hanzomon, Tozai, or Ginza lines to Otémachi Station, or those lines or the JR Yamanote Line to Tokyo Station. If you exit Tokyo Station, head northwest on surface streets, or through Tokyo Station‘s vast underground walking tunnels to get to Otemachi Station, then head up to surface streets.
To get to Otémachi, take one of the lines listed above, and exit Otémachi Station. If you’d like a slightly longer way with more of a walk through central Tokyo, exit @ Tokyo Station, and head northwest on surface streets or through the vast underground network of tunnels under Tokyo Station which lead to Otémachi Station. If you do chose Tokyo Station there is a huge map of the entire area just next to the JR East Baggage Service office in the northwest corner at the Marunouchi side northwest exit
JR East Baggage Service office in Tokyo Station. The large area map is on the right.
Northwest corner of Tokyo Station at the Marunouchi side northwest exit. JR Baggage Service office is just to the left, JTB tourism office just to the right, out of view. To walk to Otémachi from here, head left and out of the station, then head northwest on sidewalks.
Just outside the northwest Marunouchi side exit. Head left (west) + north from here to reach Otemachi.
One of the long underground walkways connecting Tokyo Station + Otemachi Station. Incredibly, there are actually miles of these tunnels all over the Marunouchi/Otemachi area. In fact, they run all the way to the south to Yurakucho Station. Many of them connect in the basements of skyscrapers and other stations. It’s possible to traverse the entire area underground.
Hibiya-Dori runs north-south and connects Hibiya to the south with Otemachi to the north. This walk is one of the most spectacular in Tokyo and passes right in front of the Imperial Palace. A must-see.
Otemachi‘s layout is shown on the map below in white. Marunouchi is just to the east (right), and Hibiya to the south. The big green area on the left is the Imperial Palace. Just to the northeast is Kanda and Ueno. Tokyo Station is the big area in the lower right corner to the southeast. Out of view to the northwest is Tokyo Dome City.
Central Tokyo. North is up. Clockwise from left: Imperial Palace + Gardens, Otemachi (highlighted in white), Marunouchi, Tokyo Station (lower right). Just to the south of Tokyo Station is Yurakucho. Just to the east of that is Ginza.
Otemachi is in the heart of the financial district and has endless huge office bldgs packed with Japanese workers.
Otemachi Station street entrance/exit – facing west from the Marunouchi side.
Area Street Maps
In addition to the huge area maps in Tokyo Station, there are many area maps just outside Otemachi Station on the street level. Most are in both Japanese + English, so if you’re lost, a quick glance at one of these can help.
Tokyo central area map near Oazo, facing south. Otemachi is the blue area at the bottom of the map (north).
Otemachi derives its name from Ōtemon (“Great Hand Gate”), and was a critical area in the early Edo Period after Japan’s capital was moved from Kyoto to the Tokyo area.
Today the area houses dozens of critical Japanese companies including Japan Post HQ, Marubeni, Development Bank of Japan, Mizuo, Mitsui, Nisso (Nippon Soda) and The Nikkei newspaper.
MARUNOUCHI AREA GUIDE
Otemon Guide + Otemachi One
Also be sure to check out the Otemon Guide – Chock full of good stuff to do in Otemachi. Shops, restaurants, displays, and museums. Definitely worth a look.
The top attraction in the area is called Otemachi One – a huge complex in the ground + basement levels of The Otemachi Tower. Also in this area with a little walking is Ootomori – which connects to Otemachi Station. Otemachi One is in the block to the east of Otemachi Station. Otemachi One has fabulous shops, restaurants, and museums to check out. A must-see.
The Otemachi One block is just one block to the east of the Imperial Palace – just across the street from the small north Imperial Palace Gardens.
1-chōme-2-1 Ōtemachi 1-chōme-2-1 Ōtemachi, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 100-0004
Directly connected to Otemachi Station on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line, Marunouchi Line, Hanzomon Line, Tozai Line, and Toei Subway Mita Line
5-minute walk from Takebashi Station on the Tokyo Metro Tozai Line
14-minute walk from JR Tokyo Station（from the Marunouchi Central Gate）
12-minute walk from JR Kanda Station（from the South Exit）
Otemachi 1st Square + Coworking Spaces
In the block just to the south of the Otemachi One block is a complex called Otemachi 1st Square. There’s a nice large park + several good restaurants in the area – as well as a sidewalk entrance to Otemachi Station.
In the Otemachi 1st Square office bldg. there is a great shared office space by Regus which has some very nice decked-out office spaces starting at around $600-$799/mo per person. Very reasonable considering this is central Tokyo. Check ’em out. There is also a LIFORK coworking space here.
Also in Otemachi 1st Square is the NTT R&D HQ
Ote Center Building
TOKYO SANKEI BUILDING
Also in the same block – on the fast east side is the TOKYO SANKEI BUILDING – there are a few nice restaurants on the ground floor. Outside is the world-famous “red tube” artwork:
The Hidden Gem Courtyard
Just to the west of the Sankei Bldg., around 35°41’16.23″ N 139°45’54.45″ E is a nice little hidden gem of a courtyard sandwiched in between 2 office buildings. Lots of great restaurants, cafés + shops. Definitely worth a stop.
Wadakura Fountain Park
Just 2 blocks to the southwest of the Otemachi area and 1 block west of Oazo around 35°41’00.02″ N 139°45’39.55″ E is a great concrete urban park called Wadakura Fountain Park. It’s near the Hibiya area and across from the Imperial Palace. Well worth a quick stop or walk. Just on the north side of the park is the fabulous Palace Hotel Tokyo (if you can swing the $500/night cost).
Palace Hotel Tokyo, right, and entrance to north Imperial Palace Gardens, left. This is facing north. Otemachi is on the right up the street. Wadakura Fountain Park is just on the right behind the red trees.
Just to the south end of the park is a small pedestrian walkway (Gyoko-dori) which runs west-east with a straight view of Tokyo Station. Gyoko-dori is best known for its spectacular fall view of Ginko trees, which turn a brilliant yellow around mid-late Oct. Like this:
Looking east towards Tokyo Station. Gyoko-dori is out of view to the left.
Looking west towards Imperial Palace from Tokyo Station. Gyoko-dori is the walkway with streetlamps on the right.
Looking northeast from Tokyo Station. Gyoko-dori is out of frame to the left. Marunouchi is the area with the tall bldgs. to the east of the station.
There is also a free shuttle called the Marunouchi Shuttle which runs in a loop between many of the larger office bldgs. including a few in Otemachi. A quick way to see the area for free. The shuttle also has an app for Android and iOS, but it’s in Japanese only. The above page also has a PDF map of the area.
If you don’t want to lug your heavy bags around the area, you can drop + lock them in any one of the many paid coin lockers around the area. The inside of Tokyo Station has huge banks of these, and you can usually find one available. Cost is anywhere from $4-$8. Most of them take electronic Suica prepaid rail cards for payment. Storage time is usually 16-24 hours.
Just at the edge of Otemachi to Marunouchi to the west, is a small complex called Marunouchi Oazo. It’s mostly offices, but also has a shopping and a dining floor. Well worth a look. It’s located at 35°41’00.61″ N 139°45’58.92″ E.
Northwest to Takebashi Station
If you head northwest on Rt. 403/401 past the Imperial Palace and loop around to the west, you’ll come to the northwest part of Otemachi. This area is just north of the north entrance to the Imperial Palace. You can also get here by taking a Metro subway to Takebashi Station on the Tozai Line.
Just across from the Imperial Palace is the Palaceside Bldg. – an older office bldg. but still worth a look. The ground-floor lobby has lots of shops and restaurants + a post office. The building also houses some coworking spaces. There is also a Tully’s on the north side of the bldg.
Rt. 301 North to Tokyo Dome City
If you head north on Rt. 301/Haukusan Dori from the Palaceside Bldg., a few miles up you will find Tokyo Dome City. See our other post on the area. Keep in mind from TDC, it’s only a few quick miles east to Ueno. In the 2nd block along this route there is also a very large nice museum on the left hand side of the street.
9 Hours Otemachi
If you’re looking for a cheap place to stay in Otemachi, 2 blocks to the northwest of the Palaceside Bldg, is 9 Hours Otemachi. Can we recommend it? Well it depends – if you’re a light sleeper, not really. As with most other 9 Hours capsule hotels, the tubes you sleep in are made of plastic. It’s common to get stuck in these places with lots of snoring Japanese salarymen who will keep you awake all night. If on the other hand, you’re a heavy sleeper and nothing bothers you, then it may work. This particular 9 Hours has nice showers, and a nice common lobby with a small desk and charge ports, but the common locker rooms are a bit cramped and the minuscule lockers they provide are hard to deal with. At this hotel, for us at least, we also experienced rude, immature staff – very young teens from China staff the place – nothing like the legendary Japanese hospitality you’ve come to expect. Even by Tokyo capsule standards it left a lot to be desired. So, if you’re rough ‘n ready, 9 Hours Otemachi might work for you, else think twice. 9 Hours is located around 35°41’31.39″ N 139°45’39.14″ E down a tiny side street.
9 Hours Otemachi: entrance, capsules, showers:
9 Hours Otemachi is just down this side street on the right. This is facing west. There is also a big 7-11 on the corner.
Northwest to Jimbocho + glitch Coffee
If you head just to the northwest of the main street the 9 Hours is off of, you’ll come to Jimbocho – Tokyo’s famous used book area. Just to the northeast of that is WATERRAS, Ochanomizu, and lots of sports and music shops. You can walk from Jimbocho to Ochanomizu by walking along Yasukuni Dori to the east, then north on Rt. 405 for a few blocks. WATERRAS is just a few blocks north on your left (west) side of the street. 1 block northwest of that is Ochanomizu Station. Ochanomizu is known for its guitar shops. There are also a lot of ski/snowboard shops in the area.
Along the street north from the 9 Hours, around 35°41’37.44″ N 139°45’40.64″ E, on the right-hand side just before Yasukuni-Dori, is a hip little café called glitch Coffee. This place has some really high-end pour over coffee + Espresso, and lots of seating with a big window. Worth a stop. When we stayed @ the 9 Hours, they had a free breakfast ticket for glitch Coffee. The shop also serves lots of scones + pastries. The bldg. is a little hole in the wall, and the only sign is the small painted name in English on the front window.
|Address:||1F 3-16 Kanda Nishikicho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 101-0054 VIEW MAP 東京都千代田区神田錦町3-16 香村ビル1F|
Near the WATERRAS complex, there is also a very nice big Olympic Grocery.
Your food options in Otemachi/Marunouchi are endless. Aside from the ultra-deluxe restaurants in Otemachi One and the big hotels, you can stop in a café for a quick bite, or a local noodle shop. Many of the upscale hotels in the area have spectacular fabulous restaurants, though they will cost you.
Cappuccetto Rosso café in northwest Otémachi.
Conclusion + Footnotes
There’s a lot to do in Otemachi and it can serve as a jumping off point to lots of other interesting parts of Tokyo – it’s just north of Tokyo Station, just west of Marunouchi (from which you can jump to the northeast to Nihonbashii and its fabulous hotels + restaurants), it’s just a few miles south of Tokyo Dome City and just southeast of Akihabara. Also keep in mind just down Hibiya Dori to the south from Otemachi is the fabulous Hibiya area. It’s even close enough to walk to for most people. So, in summary, you can see everything Otemachi has to offer + get to lots of other interesting destinations quickly at the same time.
Plan on spending a 1/2 or whole day in Otemachi + surrounding area – especially if you want to see the Tokyo Station + Marunouchi areas at the same time.
Wadakura Fountain Park
9 Hours Otemachi
Information counters are located on the first floors of both Marunouchi Building and Shin-Marunouchi Building. Please feel free to pay them a visit if you have any problems.
11:00-21:00 until 20:00 on Sundays and national holidays.
Tourist Information Center, JNTO(TIC, JNTO)
Providing information on tourism throughout Japan at customer counters.
Turning east (left) off Hibiya Dori. Otemachi is to the left.
A spectacular night view in Otemachi.
A Doutour Café on the northwest side.
Street outside Oté Center Plaza bldg., Otemachi.
Otemachi Park Bldg.
Northwest side of Otemachi, facing east. Just to the right 2 blocks is the Imperial Palace and Hibiya Dori. Just to the left a few blocks is 9 Hours Otemachi. As a small footnote, the small tan bldg. in the center is currently a shared working space. Just behind the camera is a very nice Tully’s Coffee. If you go left here for several miles, you’ll come to Tokyo Dome City.
2 more views at station street-level exits.
Info desk inside Tokyo Station.
Another view of Oazo.
A huge coin locker bank inside Tokyo Station.
“TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese property developer Mitsui Fudosan Co said on Friday it would pay $1.2 billion to buy ballpark operator Tokyo Dome Corp, a white-knight bid likely to help fend off prominent activist fund Oasis Management.
Tokyo Dome, which owns the home stadium of the Yomiuri Giants baseball team, has been under pressure from Hong Kong-based Oasis. The fund has called for the removal of board members, including Tokyo Dome’s president, and a change in operations”.