one of the things i was most thankful for before getting to japan was a crash course in japanese culture and norms. japan is weird just go with the weird.
here are some helpful hints:
- a slight bow is polite when addressing someone
- never pour your own drink or sake and wait for the cheers "kampai" to drink
- do not tip. ever.
- use chopsticks - asking for a fork is a major no no
- always take your shoes off before entering temples and homes
- it's totally chill to drink on the metro or really anywhere and there are vending machines that sell booze
- it is more common for someone to be able to read english than speak it and most japanese signs and maps have romanji spelling so you can decifer
- there are lines on the sidewalks to show you where to go and people never j-walk or walk before the signal
- the subway shuts down at midnight and taxis are wildly expensive
now for activities!
i was 20 when i went to japan... we spent an entire day in a theme park, bath house, and going to a baseball game (which you could totally do they have home games friday and saturday) at the tokyo dome area. it was pretty fun.
that being said, there is so much to do in tokyo and its a pretty big city to navigate around. i spent a lot of time just wandering around harajuku and shibuya but i've listed some of the attractions we went to below.
- tokyo national museum and the asakusa neighborhood - this is old tokyo where you can see traditional guest houses and a kabuki show as well as the biggest shrine in tokyo. it's also where i got most of my souvenirs.
- ghibli museum - if you like studio ghibli films like totoro and spirited away you absolutely cannot miss this museum. you have to purchase tickets in advance on the website and make an appointment.
- check out the meji shrine and do a walking tour of shibuya/harajuku
tokyo is a food city. they have the best crepes i've ever eaten (sorry france) and a long food history. it's insane the care and deliciousness that is displayed through food. you can't go wrong even getting your snacks from the corner store or 7-11 and you should absolutely try the green tea kitkat. i've broken food down into a few major categories. sushi. ramen. izakaya. drink.
also if you get a bit homesick while in tokyo they have some 💣.com hamburgers.
sushi. 🍣 🍣 i adore sushi. there are upwards of 5,000 (5,000!!!!!!) sushi restaurants in tokyo proper but there are a few can't miss experiences:
- stand up sushi
- breakfast sushi at the tsukiji fish market - pair this with the tokyo national museum/asakusa and visit the skytree.
- plated/coursed sushi a la jiro dreams of sushi - this is fancy.
ramen. 🍜 🍜 there are so many ramen shops in tokyo that are worth a visit. this list by ivan from ivan ramen is probably a really great start. i've only been to the first place on the list. i would add going to the ramen place in the tokyo station. it's called rokinushura and is listed in the footer of the article.
izakaya. 🍱 🍱
drink: 🍶 🍶 much like their food scene, the drink scene in tokyo is well crafted and amazing. i think everyone should have a lost in translation moment and visit the tokyo park hyatt for a drink followed by karaoke. however, i'm aware that's not for everyone. there are three amazing and exclusive bars below.