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Tokyo - Pros and Cons

Renato1

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May 1, 2015
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These are some thoughts after spending a week in Tokyo in mid May 2019.
We always buy a DK Top 10 Guide of any capital city we visit, and set about knocking off the Top 10, plus check the guide for other interesting sights in whichever area we find ourselves in. The hotel also had a free comprehensive Tokyo travel guide with better maps, which we also made use of.

PROs.
A. ............People are pleasant, and it is a most pleasant and safe place to be. We were expecting it to be very crowded, but didn't find it as crowded as other heavily visited tourist places like Rome and New York. Traffic appeared generally lighter than what we have in Melbourne.
B............. The subway system is a cinch to use. A three days tourist ticket costs 1500 Yen (A$20), but they are only available at certain counters of bigger railway stations, after showing one's passport.
C..............The roads have plenty of large maps for tourists to get their bearings while walking around. I'm partially colour blind and had a tough time spotting the "Your Are Here" marker, whereas my wife could find it instantly.
D. ............Airport taxis are notoriously expensive from Narita airport. If young, fit and healthy, or on a budget, one can use the cheaper train services into Tokyo. but that may involve lugging suitcases between stations, while trying to figure out the subway after a long flight. For older types, it is much easier just to book the efficient Green Tomato minibus service between the airport and hotel, and vice versa.
E.............High Tech. It was confusing at first, but what we thought was an alarm clock between our two beds in our newly built hotel turned out to be the alarm clock and the controller for the room lights and air-conditioning. Very handy, after we finally had it explained to us. Also, instead of having the usual satellite/cable channels, our room had YouTube on the TV which we actually watched and preferred.
F..............Pretty much wherever you are, if hungry or thirsty, you will see a 7 Eleven, Family Mart, Lawsons or some other mini-mart convenience store, all of which have well priced tasty hot fried food (meat patties, fried fish, hash browns, chicken kebabs), superb sandwiches and cans of drink, and they usually have an ATM for getting cash out.
G.............I really liked Narita Airport.

CONs.
A..............If you smoke or vape, well that's banned on the street. Unless you are trying to give up, you won't like Tokyo much. Hotels, department stores, some restaurants and some subways have smoking rooms - it's like never having left the airport. Though there are a few designated smoking areas in some streets, and some restaurants and coffee shops allow smoking inside. Interestingly, the smokers I passed in the designated open-air sites seemed happy, those I saw in through the glass panes of smoking rooms all seemed pretty glum.
B..............Tokyo doesn't seem to have heard of having benches to sit on in the streets. Not a problem for the fit and healthy. But my wife and I had back operations a few years back. So while we had no problem walking around Stockholm and Copenhagen last year, taking occasional sit-down breaks, for us every day in Tokyo became a grind and an exercise in endurance as we got sorer and sorer. We wondered how old folks got along in Tokyo - and realised that we hadn't seen that many, and those that we did seemed to be struggling like us.
C.............My wife likes checking out stores and markets. All I kept hearing her say was "This is ridiculous" with respect to the prices, after she had converted to AUD (divide Yen by 100, and add a third). In sharp contrast, I met a New Zealander who said his wife's luggage was filled to overflowing from all the stuff she had bought because everything was so much cheaper in Tokyo. (Glad I don't live in New Zealand).
D............When hunting for accommodation in Tokyo beware their rooms with a "double bed". Some ads are honest and admit it's actually only a one and a half sized bed, rather than a double bed. The twin bed rooms are more expensive and bigger. The choice often seems to be between sleeping apart or sleeping on top of each other.
E.............Tokyo is the only place I have ever had trouble finding food to eat at night, as we just don't like Japanese food ( I tried every day to get out of my comfort zone by eating Japanese food at breakfast, but it didn't work). We ate most meals at Denny's restaurant, which I initially thought was pretty expensive conpared to back home. But later I realised it was actually inexpensive compared to what other restaurants in the area were charging - which sort of explained why were were often the only non-Japanese people in the restaurant, which was always near full or totally full. We got a bit tired of Denny's and had Chinese one night - ordered standard Chinese meals, cost was dearer than in Australia, and serving size was a lot smaller - and I had to then go and eat more at 7 Eleven. One night we just gave up, and decided to instead have a feast of 7 Eleven food.
F............If you want to see unhappy animals going nuts from boredom or wasting away in inadequate space, then the Zoo at Ueno is the place to go. My wife loves going to zoos in the capital cities, but after only seeing half of it, she said she had had enough and wanted to get the hell out of there.
G..........Never have I paid so much for such sub-average coffee. Prices such as A$7 a cup for milk and coffee, and A$10 to A$12 a cup for sub-average cappuccinos were not untypical while waliking around. The cappuccinos at the Tully's chain were pretty tasty, but were about two thirds froth. The best cappuccinos we had were at Subway for A$4 a cup.
H.........Most smaller places want to be paid in cash rather than take credit cards. The places that do take credit cards want you to sign on a digital pad rather than input a PIN number.
I...........I know it's a matter of personal preference, but the major historical sites in Tokyo seemed to me to be a B-List compared to major sites in other capital cities. I usually take a couple of hundred photos in major capitals, but took only just over a 100 in Tokyo - and that included lots of shots in the zoo, which don't really count.
J...........Prices are most often listed without the tax component, and one gets a bigger bill at the checkout.
I...........I couldn't find Pepsi Max or Pepsi Lite anywhere.

To sum up, while we've met people here and met some tourists over there who really loved Tokyo, for us we'd rate it as just an "Okay".
Happy enough that we went once, but never going back.
Regards,
Renato
 
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sjk

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Mar 9, 2018
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Some of the best Italian meals I’ve ever had have been in Tokyo.

Some of the best French meals I’ve ever had have been in Tokyo.

The best steak meal I’ve ever had was in Tokyo.

I could go on... but I do agree the Denny’s was pretty pedestrian.
 

suze2000

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I'm allergic to fish and we ate Japanese food for the entire week we were there, no problems. It was excellent. What we (Australians) think of as Japanese food (sushi, sashimi, California rolls) doesn't even come close to the actual food we ate while we were there. I have more trouble finding food to eat in Japanese restaurants here than there. I'm very surprised you were unable to find food that you liked there. Did you at least try the ramen?
 

TomCC

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Joined
Jan 2, 2018
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27
Many of your negatives are so utterly in contrast to my experiences in this brilliant city (& country).
But big differences in age, mobility, context etc so very much each to their own.
If you find it difficult unless you've got cash and time to burn then am sure there would be places more suited to you for a trip.
 

RooFlyer

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I’m a little staggered that you’d go to a country if you don’t like the cuisine
Quite easy to visit a county without liking the cuisine. :) I could take a cheap shot and mention England, but the gristly kebabs that are a staple of many Central Asian countries, and the regional deep fried horrors in parts of Russia come to mind.
 

Renato1

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May 1, 2015
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I’m a little staggered that you’d go to a country if you don’t like the cuisine! Japanese food is incredible and there’s just so many options to choose from. What an interesting review.
I don't think I'm alone in not liking Japanese food much. As I said, after getting comments here before going, I tried - I really tried - and did eat from the heaps of Japanese dishes available at breakfast in the hotel. It's just not my thing. I didn't like the local cuisine in Budapest much either.

But I don't see that as a reason not to visit a country or it's capital city.

And, sometimes we all change with time. I didn't like Thai food once, but quite like it now.
Regards,
Renato


Some of the best Italian meals I’ve ever had have been in Tokyo.

Some of the best French meals I’ve ever had have been in Tokyo.

The best steak meal I’ve ever had was in Tokyo.

I could go on... but I do agree the Denny’s was pretty pedestrian.
As I've written in another thread here, the Spaghetti Bolognaise I had at Denny's was superb. I'd class it as on par with that which I've had in Croatia. Both far superior to the Fettuccini Bolognaise I had in Bologna, and other parts of Italy (where they are skimpier on the meat in the meat sauce).

But the lack of vegetables in Denny's meaty dishes was disappointing.
Cheers,
Renato

I'm allergic to fish and we ate Japanese food for the entire week we were there, no problems. It was excellent. What we (Australians) think of as Japanese food (sushi, sashimi, California rolls) doesn't even come close to the actual food we ate while we were there. I have more trouble finding food to eat in Japanese restaurants here than there. I'm very surprised you were unable to find food that you liked there. Did you at least try the ramen?
Yes. At breakfast in the hotel we had Miso soup and various noodle Ramen dishes. They were okay - I ate them - but I wasn't enthused. After eating one or two small bowls of each every day, I'd then go eat the bacon, sausages and other western stuff with relish. Though I did complain about the scrambled eggs being too runny.
Regards,
Renato


Great thread.....
Thanks. Glad you liked it.
Plainly many of the CONs are subjective, and contentious or irrelevant to others.
I've just noted them because most haven't been an issue to me or for us in places like Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Singapore or Bali.
Regards,
Renato

Many of your negatives are so utterly in contrast to my experiences in this brilliant city (& country).
But big differences in age, mobility, context etc so very much each to their own.
If you find it difficult unless you've got cash and time to burn then am sure there would be places more suited to you for a trip.
I can't really comment about the rest of the country. I met other tourists there who said Tokyo was a tourist rip-off compared to other parts of Japan - but that's their opinion - I don't know.

Certainly, the lack of anywhere to sit in the streets made our life a bit miserable (very miserable on a couple of days). As we were going around, and pain became uppermost in my mind, I just kept thinking that the place reminded me strongly of Bologna in Italy - the only other place we've visited without seat benches in the streets.
Regards,
Renato
 

LadyC

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The lack of rubbish bins is what confounded me! Until I realised that only westerners eat on the go/in public in Japan - oops!
 

Renato1

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May 1, 2015
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The lack of rubbish bins is what confounded me! Until I realised that only westerners eat on the go/in public in Japan - oops!
Before going there I watched this video which explained that if one eats or drinks while walking, one is at very serious risk of getting the "Stare Of Disapproval".
Cheers,
Renato


 

kpc

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Mar 11, 2003
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I have been to Japan 5x and Tokyo 3x. I love Tokyo! I also do love Japanese food so can eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Western food is also available but tends to be more expensive, and you need to seek it out. I recently came back from Sapporo and Okinawa.....after 2 weeks of non stop Japanese food, i must admit I haven't touched any Japanese food since i came back 5 weeks ago :)
 

Renato1

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May 1, 2015
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CONs.
A..............If you smoke or vape, well that's banned on the street.


I see this as a Pro and not a Con.
I was actually going to list it in both sections, but then realised it couldn't be a PRO because people who don't like smoke are going to have to face it in some eating places and cafes.
Regards,
Renato
 

Renato1

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May 1, 2015
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I have been to Japan 5x and Tokyo 3x. I love Tokyo! I also do love Japanese food so can eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Western food is also available but tends to be more expensive, and you need to seek it out. I recently came back from Sapporo and Okinawa.....after 2 weeks of non stop Japanese food, i must admit I haven't touched any Japanese food since i came back 5 weeks ago :)
I wasn't entirely negative.

Japanese sandwiches were great, all with a slightly different flavour than what would have been expected from what was written on the packet.

Similarly with the fried fish bites at 7 Eleven - each had a strip of some unusual Japanese sauce under the batter - which I liked ( but my wife hated).
Cheers,
Renato
 

Ausbt

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Apr 21, 2012
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Thanks for the post, valid opinions as of course they are yours. On Ueno Zoo I could probably agree with you. As for the rest ...ahhh you don't like Japanese food that much; you like to smoke/vape; you like Pepsi ( :eek: ); you like to shop a lot at bargain prices (well, I guess who doesn't).

I love Tokyo for it's sense of the unusual around every corner. That you can be in a toy/manga/pop culture store and my goodness (!) this really is a 'toy' store. The fact it seems chaotic yet efficient at the same time. And watching train attendants and (at opening times) cashiers and desk attendants bow to the queuing crowd is really cool, although of course for them just culturally normal. Looking forward to getting back there next January.
 

Renato1

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Thanks for the post, valid opinions as of course they are yours. On Ueno Zoo I could probably agree with you. As for the rest ...ahhh you don't like Japanese food that much; you like to smoke/vape; you like Pepsi ( :eek: ); you like to shop a lot at bargain prices (well, I guess who doesn't).

I love Tokyo for it's sense of the unusual around every corner. That you can be in a toy/manga/pop culture store and my goodness (!) this really is a 'toy' store. The fact it seems chaotic yet efficient at the same time. And watching train attendants and (at opening times) cashiers and desk attendants bow to the queuing crowd is really cool, although of course for them just culturally normal. Looking forward to getting back there next January.
interesting perspective, thanks.

I didn't really find it that unusual or chaotic (except mildly so in the middle of markets) - rather just very pleasant.

The only really unusual thing was one day when we took the wrong turn going out of the Meiji Shrine and walking down that set of streets (just before finding the Subway with the good cappuccinos), we did actually see a bench seat on the street to sit on. And it was covered with grafitti and lots of papers that had been stuck on it - so that we and no one else would sit on it. Now that was extremely incongruous for the place.

Not so much looking for bargains, as looking for regular prices. For example, In the big subway leading to the central station there were a lot of shops. My wife went into a sock shop with lots of pairs of "Happy Socks". She asked how much they were in dollars, and I said A$20. She said that was nuts, as she could get them back home for $10 to $12 a pair. Then she went and looked at little decorated plates next door, costing $25 to $50 each. She said that they were just cheap plates - nothing special about them at all, to justify those prices. And so it went.


I buy my wife a Robyn Ruth bag of whichever capital city we visit. Fortunately, that price for the Tokyo Robyn Ruth bag was on par with prices around the world.
Regards,
Renato
 
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