travel & lifestyle blog by ruth dela cruz

[Travel] Tokyo, Japan: What to Do, Places to Visit, Travel Hacks + First Impressions

January 4, 2019
tokyo travel guide 2019

 Tokyo, Japan: What to Do, Travel Hacks, Places to Visit + First Impressions

Took a while for me to write about my Japan trip. 

But here we go! This Japan Travel Tip post is based on my experiences, research and learnings from my recent Japan Travel. I really cannot share a 6-day itinerary because we just decided on places to visit day by day – and just make the most of the trip. I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I did while writing this story.

tokyo travel guide 2019

Japan is one of my dream destinations. We got to book an amazing deal via Cebu Pacific’s GetGo Promo. I traveled with @rodelflordeliz and @rodmagaru from Manila to Tokyo, then met up with @tracyayson in Tokyo. 
First Things First:

Japan Visa
I got my Visa via an Authorized Travel Agency (Reli Tours). I received mine after 4 days. I would advise that you apply from the travel agency office near your home/office.  

Japan Visa Requirements:
☑️ Philippine Passport: (must be at least 6 months valid with 2 blank pages) – if you are applying with a new passport (and your old passport has Visas and travel stamps), you may include this in your application. Just tell the agent that you want to include the old passport to show your travel history. I noticed that the Japan Application Form does not ask for a list of your travel history or previous countries visited.
☑️ Visa Application Form: completely filled out
☑️ Photo:  (Specs: 4.5cm x 4.5cm, with white background – taken within 6 months)
☑️ Birth Certificate: you need to request this in advance from this link 
☑️ Daily Schedule / Itinerary: just the high level itinerary
☑️ Applicant’s ITR
☑️ Bank Certificate: must be your bank account. 
Regarding the amount of money that you need in your bank for the show money, it is safe to have at least Php 5,000/day based on the number of days you will be staying in Japan. 
To tell you honestly, I was not feeling too confident about my financial credentials. Aside from the above documents, I also submitted copies of stock certificate, project contracts and credit card billings to show that I can support myself during travel to Japan. After 4 days, I received a message informing me that I could now claim my passport. Always a good feeling to get a visa granted!

Wondering when is the best time to visit Japan? Japan has four seasons: Spring (March to May), Summer (June to August), Autumn (September to November) and Winter (December to February).
We traveled at the perfect timing in November which is not too cold. The weather is perfect for morning strolls, and it is chilly in the evening. 
Exchange Money ] FOREX

The currency exchange for Philippine Peso to Japanese Yen is Php 1 = ¥ 2. 
You can exchange your USD in the Narita Airport. It is advisable to get your Yen Currency in your home country for better rates, and just manage with your credit card during travel. 
Getting Around: Borrow or Buy a Suica or Passmo Card
They say that getting around the train station in Japan can be a little tricky; but I find it manageable especially if you have your JR Pass fully loaded.

You can get either a PASMO or SUICA. The only difference between PASMO and SUICA is who sells them. SUICA is from JR East, and PASMO is from Tokyo-area non-JR rail operators, including Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway.

tokyo travel guide
tokyo travel guide
tokyo travel guide

It costs around ¥ 500 to get a Suica or Passmo Card which can be refunded upon return. I would advise that you just borrow from other friends who have previously traveled to Japan – and just load it during travel. If you want to keep one as a souvenir, go ahead and buy one. 
You can use it to pay for bus rides and convenience store purchases/ 

Get a Reliable WIFI Connection
Google Maps is your friend during your visit to Japan. You have to make sure that you have a strong and reliable connection in case you got lost or missed your bus (I did!).
I got connected online via Tep Wireless Pocket Wifi. It lasts for 10 hours and provides strong uninterrupted connection. 

tep wireless discount code

You may use my code: RUTHILICIOUS for 10% discount
Book Your Hotel Near Subway Station and Restaurants
Accommodation in Tokyo, Japan can be really expensive. If you are looking for a hotel or AirBnB place in Shinjuku area, make sure that you stay somewhere near the train station and restaurants. 
Most of the lodging places offer shared bathroom and toilet. There are also capsule rooms for solo travelers. We considered staying in a capsule room but we realized that it would be too much trouble to change accommodations (plus, not a lot of capsule lodging caters to both male and female tourists). 

yoko house japan
The street leading to our accommodation in Japan. 
It is only a 5-minute walk to the train station.
yoko house japan

Our home in Tokyo

yoko house japan

I still prefer the old school Family Computer

We were lucky to book a comfortable room in Shinjuku area near the train station, Don Quijote, restaurants and convenience stores. Our room even came with our own toilet (but shared bath) and arcade gaming console.  We paid around Php 30,000 for accommodation for 6 nights. 
Book your airport to hotel transfer via SkyLiner
[SALE] Tokyo Skyliner Ticket

I got used to arriving at the airport with a car waiting for me at the arrivals. This would never be the case in Tokyo because of the expensive ground transportation fee. Thankfully, there is Tokyo Skyliner that transports tourists from Narita International Airport to Tokyo (Ueno Station). 

tokyo travel skyliner klook
tokyo travel skyliner klook

SkyLiner Train has outlets where you can charge your gadgets

We booked our SkyLiner Tickets via Klook which we conveniently picked up at the Skyliner Office in the airport. It was a smooth ride with reserved seating, space for keeping the luggage and outlets for charging your gadgets. The ride took us only 30 minutes. 
Always bring your passport with you wherever you go
You can buy goods less the tax if you present your passport. Stores would charge goods less the tax and would staple a receipt to your passport. But there is no longer need for you to claim for a refund upon exit in the immigration flying back home.  Purchases that total 5,000 yen or more qualify for a tax refund. I would suggest that you shop together as a group and only pay one bill for your purchases. 

Second reason why you need to bring your passport, police officers roam around in the city and might ask for your identity. We were held up during one night of stroll around our hotel’s neighborhood while we were searching for a good dinner. 
We don’t look Japanese (with my moreno friends) and my dagger eyes. We told them we left our passport in the hotel because we were afraid to lose them. We showed them our SSS ID! Haha
It is always good to have a copy of your passport when you are traveling.

tokyo ruth dela cruz

Wear Comfortable Shoes
You would do a lot of walking. I know it is inviting to wear the cutest OOTD while in Japan, but always think of comfort. You can go further with more comfortable shoes. 
Take Many Photos or Try Puripuka!
I was torn between taking photos and videos during the Japan Trip! I want to record each moment so I have something to watch to after.

puripuka ruth dela cruz
puripuka ruth dela cruz

Thank you Tracy for introducing us to Puripuka!

Anyway, if you remember the fun photo booth Neoprint some x years ago,  you will go crazy over Puripuka which even has a room filled with different booths! The most amazing thing about it, there are even dressing rooms where you can change outfit. It appears that Japanese really love taking photos in Puripuka! You can play with the designs and stickers before printing the photo which costs around 500 yen. 
Go Around Asakusa Wearing a Kimono
Wearing a Kimono to go around the streets of Japan would be a nice outfit to go with the shrine or temple background – or cherry blossom (if you are feeling lucky during Fall Season).  
ruth dela cruz
 tokyo travel guide 2019
 tokyo travel guide 2019
Book Your Tokyo Kimono Experience via Klook.
Eat at a Revolving Sushi Bar!
I cannot remember which specific revolving sushi bar we visited, but I tell you, there are a lot in Tokyo and all the restaurants offer good food!

revolving sushi bar tokyo travel guide 2019

Just take what you want! 

revolving sushi bar tokyo travel guide 2019
Eat and enjoy! 
revolving sushi bar tokyo travel guide 2019
Pricing is based on the color of the plate
revolving sushi bar tokyo travel guide 2019

So many choices!!!
You can tell from my empty plates that I had a lot!

We tried a revolving (or is it rotating?) sushi bar where you can just select and pick your preferred sushi and food offerings from a revolving belt (like a luggage carousel in the airport). Wondering how to compute the food that you consumed? The food is priced based on the color of the plate. 
Eat all the Ramen and Japanese Curry Rice that You Can Eat!
I am craving for Japanese Curry Rice now that I am typing this!
We were laughing at how we felt so “Pinoy” craving for rice every single time and finding ourselves inside a restaurant that offers Japanese Curry Rice. Why not? It is one of my favorites! But you must also try the Ramen! It is so good and comforting.

tokyo travel guide 2019
tokyo travel guide 2019

One thing I notice about Japanese restaurants is that you have to order via the machine and the table turnover is really quick that you have to eat quickly and move – because people come and go. Reasonable meal in Japan is around Php 350 to Php 500 pesos. You can also check out convenience store and buy food in the evening so you have something for breakfast. I usually skip breakfast and just have banana. 

Visit and Shop at Don Quijote
Don Quijote is a popular discount store in Japan.  Days before our trip, I already did my research and watched Don Quijote Haul Videos. 

tokyo travel guide 2019  don quijote

There are so many things to see and buy at Donki like beauty products, bags, shoes, medicines, displays, food, souvenirs and knick knacks. You would feel so overwhelmed! I can almost hear Don Quijote’s theme song playing in my ears now (Trivia: a single was released in 1999 for the theme song!) 

I think, I can spend the whole day inside Don Quijote just looking at all the fun and cute stuff inside. But as usual, I only bought the things that I need during our travel.  Some items I spotted which are cheaper in Don Quijote are Biore Sunblock, K Palette makeup, Anello Bags, and other cute souvenir items.

Keep Your Luggage in Coin Luggage Storage 
We had the whole day during our last day in Japan, and as soon as we checked out from our lodging (at around 10:00 AM), we headed to Luggage Storage called Sagawa to keep our luggage so we can still roam around the city before our flight. Sagawa can also offer to send your luggage directly to the airport (but must be checked in at least a day before your flight).

tokyo travel guide 2019  sagawa locker

There are also luggage lockers around the city and train stations that offer different sizes with price amounting to Php 400 + for the biggest luggage size. It is a reasonable price for convenience. Make sure that you take a photo of your locker and nearest station exit so you won’t get lost. 

Meiji Shrine
Here is a Shinto shrine  dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his consort, Empress Shoken. At the entrance, make a stop at the cleansing station where you can dip into a communal water tank and purify your hands and mouth before offering up a prayer.

Tourists write their wishes in a Votice Tablet, they call ema and hang it in the designated area. I had a serene time reading the wishes and partly regretting not hanging one for myself. I want to leave a part of me in this beautiful place in Tokyo. 

Yoyogi Park
Yoyogi Park is one of the Tokyo’s largest city parks and I fell in love with it. I love strolls at the park. It is said that it makes a good cherry blossom viewing spot in Spring, and its Ginko Tree forest turns intensely gold in Autumn.

yoyogi park tokyo travel guide 2019

But even in a cold November day, Yoyogi Park is serenely beautiful. 

Shibuya Crossing
Shibuya Crossing is said to be the busiest intersection in the world. The most interesting thing about this place is that traffic lights turn red all at the same time at this busy junction – the car flow completely stops and a surge of come rushing from different directions – students, families, men in suit, couples and commuters.

tokyo travel guide 2019 shibuya crossing
tokyo travel guide 2019 shibuya crossing
When we arrived, we just observed and created a game plan on how to take photos. Then we joined in the crowd for the real Shibuya Crossing experience. 

Hachiko Memorial Statue

Just right in Shibuya Crossing is the popular meeting spot with a bronze statue honoring Hachiko, the famously loyal Akita dog. Please say hello to Hachiko!

tokyo travel guide 2019 shibuya crossing

Tokyo Tower
I read about reviews of the Tokyo Tower being a tourist trap, but I would say it is a beautiful place to visit where you can see the whole Tokyo district above the 333 meters tower. This served as a tower for sending out television and FM Radio broadcasts signals. You can book your  Tokyo Tower Main Deck Admission here.

tokyo travel guide 2019  tokyo tower

tokyo travel guide 2019  tokyo tower

tokyo travel guide 2019  tokyo tower

Today, Tokyo Tower is considered one of the most visited spots in Tokyo. You have to check the observatory decks and the Sky Walk Windows. 
We went in the evening with less people and a better viewing experience. You can book your tickets through Klook. 

Disney Sea
Tokyo DisneySea is a theme park which is uniquely Japan and is truly a must-visit when traveling to Tokyo. Tokyo DisneySea is a  176-hectare theme park inspired by the myths and legends of the sea and is designed for the adult crowd with deadlier rides. 
tokyo travel guide 2019 disney sea
tokyo travel guide 2019 disney sea
tokyo travel guide 2019 disney sea
I know it is a long blog post. I want to create more concise and meaningful blog posts but there are just many stories to share which I hope you also find helpful. 
I now understand why people fell in love with Japan. The country is a balance mix of rich culture and modern technology, fun and discipline, chaos and order. 
Some Japan Impressions and Observations:
🌸 Food is good everywhere in Japan. Something that I never liked is the milk tea we had on our first night. 
🌸 Convenience Store food is inexpensive and good. Three major stores are 7-Eleven, Family Mart and Lawson. 
🌸Never leave a tip! Leaving a tip means the person don’t earn enough money. It is refused and discouraged in Japan. 
🌸 You order meal via Vending Machine! So cool and efficient!
🌸 Cars do not honk their horns – they would wait for you to finish your business (take photos). Or maybe I just got used in Manila that cars unabashedly honking their horns every single time. It is actually offensive. 
🌸 When shopping at Japan stores, the dressing room has a face cover for you to use to cover your face. The girl asked me to wear the face cover (even if I am fitting a skirt?) I thought it is to protect yourself in case someone takes a photo or video of you taking your clothes off? But face cover is to prevent the clothes from getting makeup stains when fitting.

tokyo travel guide 2019
Follow me @ruthilicious

The most interesting thing about my travel to Japan is the people I got to cross paths with.

1️⃣ I unknowingly sat on a damp bench and a woman beside me took out tissue from her bag to wipe the bench so I could comfortably sit on it.
2️⃣ I got lost and missed a bus stop. An old woman went out of her way to make sure I get to the right bus despite language differences. How can I forget the smile that she gave me when I got on the bus and we waived our goodbyes. ❤️
3️⃣ Random people/tourist offering to take my photos when I found a good spot. Kindness is really contagious. 
4️⃣ Everyone seem to love what they are doing. They always give their best to make you feel comfortable and they feel honored to have served you.

Japan is officially one of my favorite countries and I can’t wait to go back. I pray it is soon.

I hope you find this post helpful. If you have other tips that you want to add on my list, feel free to drop a comment below.

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