Nuts-and-bolts information to plan your trip, plus a checklist of essentials to include when you pack and a list of links to local media
Entry Requirements: U.S. citizens require a valid passport to visit Japan; a visa is not required for trips up to 90 days.
Security: Tokyo is one of the safest cities in the world; even petty crime is unusual. One exception: women on crowded subways are sometimes victims of chikan (gropers); look for ladies-only subway cars at rush hour.
Time: Japan is 14 hours ahead of the U.S. eastern standard time and 13 hours ahead of eastern daylight savings time.
Money: Japan’s currency is the yen. For current conversion rates, visit www.oanda.com/convert/classic.
Phone Calls: Tokyo’s area code is 03. Within Tokyo, dial only the final eight digits. All other numbers (including mobile phones) require all digits. From outside Japan, dial 81 3 eight-digit phone number.
When to Go: Peak seasons are April to early June and late September though November. Avoid the busy Golden Week and New Year’s seasons (April 29-May 5 and December 31-January 3, respectively).
Getting There: Some 60 major airlines serve Narita International Airport (NRT, www.narita-airport.jp/en/index.html), about 42 miles (67.5 kilometers) east of Tokyo. Closer-in Haneda Airport (HND) serves mostly domestic flights. Trains and buses from Narita Airport to the city run between $19-$38. Plan on about $235 by taxi.
Getting Around: Tokyoites live by the elaborate, efficient network of trains and subways. Fares start at about $1.20 and vary by line and distance. Passes and stored-value cards available. Taxi fare is around $6 for the first two kilometers and rises steeply thereafter. Tip: Always carry a map to your destination—businesses generally provide them.
Shoes: All private homes and many religious sites and restaurants require visitors to take off their shoes before entering; slip-on shoes save time and hassle; to be safe, always wear socks.
Eating Utensils: “If you can’t use chopsticks, bring your own plastic knife and fork.”—Steve Beimel, founder, Esprit Travel & Tours, Japanese cultural tourism specialists
Handkerchief: Many restrooms in public places do not have hand driers or paper towels. Use a handkerchief to dry your hands, not to blow your nose.
Toiletries: Bring over-the-counter remedies (pain and allergy relievers, antacid tablets, and so on) with you; most are not sold under the same names in Japan and are very expensive, as is sunscreen.
Appropriate Attire: Tokyoites are snappy dressers, though unless you’re going to business meetings, a nice pair of slacks, neat shoes, and a sweater are fine for men. For women, a simple black outfit will suffice in most social situations.
Umbrella: Rain is possible at any time of year (winter is driest). If you don’t have an umbrella, ask your hotel to lend you one.
What Not to Pack: Virtually every Japanese hotel provides disposable toothbrushes and toothpaste, razors (though not necessarily shaving cream), and combs, in addition to the usual soap and shampoos. Slippers and yukata (lightweight cotton robes) are also provided. However, extra-large sizes are rare.
Database of over 7,000 museums throughout Japan, searchable by city, type (art, history, science), and more. http://www.museum.or.jp/IM_english/
Japan National Tourist Organization
The official guide to the nation is an excellent source for culture, practical information, sights, events, and food. www.japantravelinfo.com
Comprehensive guide to getting around, with up-to-the-minute schedules of train, subway, and bus lines and fares. www.jorudan.co.jp/english/
Nihon Sumo Kyokai
Complete information on Japan’s signature sport, including who’s who, records, and how to buy tickets for tournaments. www.sumo.or.jp/eng/index.html
Encyclopedic website about sake, its brewing, and appreciation by American-born sake columnist and lecturer John Gauntner. www.sake-world.com
Tokyo Food Page
The interface is somewhat clunky and the information is sometimes incomplete, but this is still a useful source for restaurant reviews in English. www.bento.com
Listings and background info for gay and lesbian visitors. www.utopia-asia.com/japntoky.htm
Website of the Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau; breaks down this sometimes confusing city by neighborhood, interest, lodging, and transport. www.tcvb.or.jp
The nation’s leading English-language newspaper, with specialty columns in arts, food, life in Japan, and Japanese language. www.japantimes.co.jp
English-language version of Japan’s largest-selling Japanese daily. www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy
International Herald Tribune
The Japanese version of this newspaper contains English-language versions of articles from the Asahi Shimbun, the New York Times of Japan. www.iht.com
This free, monthly glossy magazine highlights Tokyo food, fashion, and events. www.metropolis.co.jp
English-language version of Japan’s leading financial daily. www.nni.nikkei.co.jp/FR/TNW/
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