Pros and Cons of visiting Tokyo
There are always pros and cons of visiting a country for the first time, especially with language barriers and everything looking "strange".
Here are the pros and cons of Tokyo that I experienced during my short visit.
1. English on subways
There are a lot of English signs. In the subway, the Japanese signs are all accompanied with English signs. They even announce things in English. Many residents can also speak basic English too, and aren't afraid to do so.
There isn't as much traffic in Tokyo. When you visit London or Seoul, you constantly here the sound of horns, not in Tokyo! Also, the side streets are empty from cars, even parked ones.
3. People are friendly
I was busy looking at a subway map when a Japanese guy with his wife and a sleeping baby in his arms stopped and asked me where I was going to help me! He even helped me purchase my ticket and told me the directions to the platform.
Another time, I was looking at the subway map, and a waegookin, foreigner as we call it in Korea looked super busy purchasing her own ticket. She saw me and came and asked where I was going. Then stood for 10 minutes to try find out the route to Ajinomoto stadium. She even waited in line to ask the security man. She walked through part of the station with me too, and showed me where to go.
4. Convenience stores
Japanese convenience stores are amazing. There are a lot of amazing pre packaged food. My friend told me that most stores use local produce too. There are things from yakisoba noodles to donburi. It's so convenient and cheap. Most packaged meals cost around 300-400yen.
Although it is a capital city, it is very green! There are many parks in Tokyo, and everywhere has beautiful trees and green! For example, Sumida park is located with next to Skytree tower.
1. Subway confusion
When you arrive at Narita airport, nowhere does it tell you where to get the subway. Even then, nowhere tells you how to get into Tokyo. There are many train services in the ticket hall. Which one do you go to? Where is the subway?
Well, Tokyo has many private railways from JR to Skyliner. Tokyo Subway does not run from Narita airport. You have to get a private line, to join onto the main subway line.
Luckily there is an English guide you can ask. But, there was only one and he was very busy!
The guide told us to purchase a 72 hour pass for Tokyo Subway upstairs in the departures lounge. He didn't tell us we couldn't use it from Narita, so we tried and got denied at the ticket barrier.
Confusion struck again, and we found the guide and he told us we needed to buy more tickets...
It was our first time in Tokyo, we didn't understand a word he said. He said something along the lines of "Buy tickets to Kasedei Station and go on the Kasedei train. Then buy more tickets to go to Funabashi. Don't buy the 600 yen tickets, buy the 200 yen tickets because you can just show your 72 hour pass later".
When you're there on the spot, you have no clue what he's on about! He buys us our tickets and shows us through the barrier. Which way do we go now? There was a left platform and a right platform. We hopped on the first train and luckily after an hour or so, we reached "Kasadei Station". There we bought tickets to Funabashi at 600yen instead of the 200yen that he said because the guy with the baby (mentioned above) helped us buy tickets.
We reached Funabashi and change trains to the subway metro train towards Kiba Station. This is why we didn't need to buy the 600 yen ticket, as we can just use the 72 hour pass from Funabashi.
Some trains don't stop at certain stations. Some are fast trains. It doesn't tell you by the way. The signs are in Japanese and the announcements in Japanese. You don't know until it goes past your stop. Sometimes they will say on the small screens inside the train, but then it's too late.
Be prepared to walk miles to a change over station too. Some stations go through malls. At certain times of the night, they close of a section you're supposed to walk through, and end up getting lost.
Confusing just reading it? Try going for your first time!!
2. Tokyo is so expensive
For a tourist, it is so expensive! I understand it is the capital, but my money did not last long! David and I took around 50,000 yen with us each. Which is around £350 each
FYI, Yen looks like nothing! 50,000 yen was 5 x 10,000 notes. Coins look like change and shrapnel, but a 500 yen coin is around £5!
We went to all the free things, didn't go up towers. The only tourist attraction we paid for was the Edo-Tokyo museum.
Food was the expensive part. Restaurants inside malls are so expensive.
Compared with Seoul, there is no wifi anywhere. Public wifi is a pain when you're out on the streets trying to find you way.
They do have wifi in some subway stations though, but not on the trains.
4. Taxi costs
Taxis are super expensive and can wrack up a bill. A short distance could cost you about 4000 yen!
Don't use taxis, it's much cheaper getting the subway.
5. No English in Mcdonalds
You're in a different country where English isn't the main language. Of course they don't have to have English everywhere. But when the subway and other parts have English under the Japanese why can't Mcdonalds? Especially when Mcdonalds is a worldwide brand. McDonalds in Seoul has English and so does Hong Kong.
Seriously, there is no English. Just pictures and Japanese writing.
There are a lack of signs pointing you in the right direction towards a tourist attraction. It was rare seeing a sign telling you where the tourist attraction is located.
The only sign I saw was to Skytree and even then, there weren't many.
Like in the UK, we pay tax on everything we buy. Japan too. But, some stores don't add tax onto the price shown. They add it when you go to the till, so when you buy a product, it's more expensive and sends you in a panic. Especially when you have the exact money.
Also, tax is 8%!! 8%!!! Crazy high.
So these are my pros and cons.
Of course, if you've been many times, or live there, these will seem like nothing to you.
But for a newbie, traveling there for the first time, the cons I listed can become a problem.