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Tokyo - Pros and Cons

Renato1

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I must say that this Tokyo sounds quite different from the city I've spent so much time in, but much is obviously in the eye of the beholder. Someone who chooses their accommodation on the basis of proximity to Denny's is bound to view things somewhat idiosyncratically.
I might have written a very negative summation of Tokyo here, if I hadn't had the foresight to pick the hotel with the Denny's close by. All I can say is "Phew, that was lucky".
Cheers,
Renato
 

Renato1

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What did you think of the vending machine coffee? The cafe au lait would do in a pinch.

As for the rest of the food, and excluding my 80yo "meat and 3-veg" father, I can't imagine anyone not liking shabu-shabu or any of the plethora of nabe types or yaki niku. It is not always easy to find these places for a newbie though, or even understand them. Can't go too wrong at an isakaya though, especially a Tengu.

I lived in Tokyo for a year in the 90's and I would agree that it is a difficult place to get a handle on. It was easy to bump along the surface but I didn't really love it or indeed scratch the surface until I made some friends who showed me places that only those who read Japanese would even know about.
You mean the cold coffee cans of drinks?
I had heaps of those. The Boss one in the white can became my favourite.

Very interesting your deeper perspective of the place from actually having stayed there for some time.
Thanks.
Regards,
Renato
 

love_the_life

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I certainly do not regard Tokyo as a tourist rip off destination. It is a large city, a capital, with distinct areas, prices vary between areas, just like any city in Australia or anywhere else for that matter.
Glad you enjoyed Bali - there are plenty examples of tourist pricing there I found. Not a place I am interested in visiting again TBH.:)
 

Renato1

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What’s the story with all the Pepsi Max references?
It's my favourite drink which I posted about here first time I went to Bali and couldn't find it anywhere. So I was amazed to see it missing from Tokyo as well.

Luckily, Jetstar sold it on the way home - pure heaven.
Regards,
Renato
 

Renato1

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I certainly do not regard Tokyo as a tourist rip off destination. It is a large city, a capital, with distinct areas, prices vary between areas, just like any city in Australia or anywhere else for that matter.
Glad you enjoyed Bali - there are plenty examples of tourist pricing there I found. Not a place I am interested in visiting again TBH.:)
Thanks for your thoughts on that issue.
Cheers,
Renato
 

GarrettM

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Before reading the OP's first post I would have said there are zero cons about Tokyo. But my lived experience is different.

I would say though that the lack of genuine historical sites isn't much of a surprise. With a few exceptions (the Imperial Palace and a handful of other places) most of them were wiped out by US bombing.
 

bigpetebrown

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Interesting conversation starter Renato.

We are Japan lovers but everyone can't love everywhere. Japanese food, people, culture, scenery. Drron and Mrs Dron time to join in :)

I can't even imagine going into somewhere like a Dennys in Japan (or anywhere) but again, it's personal preference.

I'll disagree on your con about history. Tokyo has amazing historical buildings as does the whole of Japan. From amazing art deco right back to castles and homes that are hundreds of years old. Many did survive the US bombings during WWII. You just have to hunt them down.

Then I'll agree on another of your cons - Ueno Zoo. What a blight on the planet. The most horrific 'zoo' I've ever been to. Zoos do have a place in the modern world, as centres for species survival. sadly any poor animal at that zoo would pretty much be better off dead :(

Is Tokyo a rip-off? Yes, if you want to be a western traveller and expect Tokyo to be a western experience.

We stay in business hotels in Japan (well, we stayed at the Oz embassy in Tokyo last year...). We can cope with a double bed. If you want a king or even a queen bed it's expensive. If you want western food at sit down restaurants then again yes, you will think it's expensive. That doesn't make it a rip-off though. Non-immersive tourism is a market that incurs a premium in Japan. Stay in business hotels, eat Japanese, drink beer and cold 'coffee' from vending machines and Tokyo is an absolute bargain compared to many other capitals we've travelled to.
 
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drron

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Absolutely agree bigpete.Now I have discovered that it is not hard to drive in Japan we will be spending even more time there.Just love the place probably because they have been modernised but have been able to so far save their culture.We have already had ~ 60 trips to Japan.
 

Renato1

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Before reading the OP's first post I would have said there are zero cons about Tokyo. But my lived experience is different.

I would say though that the lack of genuine historical sites isn't much of a surprise. With a few exceptions (the Imperial Palace and a handful of other places) most of them were wiped out by US bombing.
They rebuilt some.

But just off the top of my head in terms A and B-list - does the Meiji Shrine compare to the Tower of London? To the imperial palace in Bangkok?

Do the imperial gardens compare to the Summer Palace gardens in Vienna?
Regards,
Renato

Interesting conversation starter Renato.

We are Japan lovers but everyone can't love everywhere. Japanese food, people, culture, scenery. Drron and Mrs Dron time to join in :)

I can't even imagine going into somewhere like a Dennys in Japan (or anywhere) but again, it's personal preference.

I'll disagree on your con about history. Tokyo has amazing historical buildings as does the whole of Japan. From amazing art deco right back to castles and homes that are hundreds of years old. Many did survive the US bombings during WWII. You just have to hunt them down.

Then I'll agree on another of your cons - Ueno Zoo. What a blight on the planet. The most horrific 'zoo' I've ever been to. Zoos do have a place in the modern world, as centres for species survival. sadly any poor animal at that zoo would pretty much be better off dead :(

Is Tokyo a rip-off? Yes, if you want to be a western traveller and expect Tokyo to be a western experience.

We stay in business hotels in Japan (well, we stayed at the Oz embassy in Tokyo last year...). We can cope with a double bed. If you want a king or even a queen bed it's expensive. If you want western food at sit down restaurants then again yes, you will think it's expensive. That doesn't make it a rip-off though. Non-immersive tourism is a market that incurs a premium in Japan. Stay in business hotels, eat Japanese, drink beer and cold 'coffee' from vending machines and Tokyo is an absolute bargain compared to many other capitals we've travelled to.
Yes, and interesting conversation starter it turned out.

I can't imagine why one wouldn't eat at Denny's - the vast majority of people happily eating there are Japanese. Often we were the only westerners there.

If they have amazing historical buildings in Tokyo, most didn't make the cut into my Top 10 book, or into my Tokyo Tourist Guide which they gave me.

I was constantly looking at prices outside proper Japanese restaurants (decent ones with nice tables and chairs and some space, with Japanese people eating in them) and the prices were pretty dear, despite not being in heavy tourist areas. Sure, one can go to those tiny crowded eateries and find something tasty and inexpensive if one is into Japanese food. But that's like saying go to Melbourne and eat in a crowded shopping centre food court - one may do it sometimes, but it's not what I'd consider regular dining. The meal we ate in a fairly basic Chinese restaurant (sweet and sour pork, beef and vegetables and special fried rice) cost us A$57 - which is akin to the prices over here, but the size of the servings on each plate was around 60% of our serving sizes - so that was pretty dear too.

Luckily we stayed in new hotel which I'd booked for A$200 a night including breakfast, before the prices went up. Given my overall perceptions, I'd have been really cheesed off had I been paying the more typical A$300 or more a night in four star places.

And I still think something is wrong with their cafes, if the best cappuccinos we had were far and away the cheapest ones we bought at an American Subway sandwich place.

I suspect it's a case of love Japanese food and you'll really like Tokyo, else it could be a problem.

I've stayed in dearer places - like Stockholm and Copenhagen last year. But at least I had lots of photos of interesting places to show for the expenditure.

I'm glad we do concur on Ueno Zoo. One Spanish chap I met at my hotel, had visited it on the same day as us - but had actually gone through all of it. He was utterly disgusted.
Regards,
Renato
 
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drron

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Ah but in Japan there are some magnificent gardens.There are better ones than the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.
Outside of Tokyo do the Imperial Palace gardens in Vienna compare to the Kenroku-en gardens in Kanazawa or the Koraku-en gardens in Okayama?
But probably comparing apples and oranges.Personally I can just sit and take it all in for a long time in a good Japanese garden.
 

GarrettM

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They rebuilt some.

But just off the top of my head in terms A and B-list - does the Meiji Shrine compare to the Tower of London? To the imperial palace in Bangkok?

Do the imperial gardens compare to the Summer Palace gardens in Vienna?
Having been to none of the three sights you mention I couldn't comment. I enjoyed Meiji for what it was.

I do agree with you about the coffee.
 

bigpetebrown

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Some of the questions you ask Renato are so subjective - 'But just off the top of my head in terms A and B-list - does the Meiji Shrine compare to the Tower of London? To the imperial palace in Bangkok? Do the imperial gardens compare to the Summer Palace gardens in Vienna?

The only correct answer to your question is yes, they do compare.

That you think the ToL, the Imperial Palace in Bangkok and the summer palace gardens compare more favourably than anything in Japan is again subjective, but you did ask the question.

ToL v Meiji Shrine is apples and oranges. I found the ToL like an amusement park and the Meiji shrine deeply moving.

Imperial Garden v Viennese Summer Palace garden - Fuji apple v Delicious. I hate flowery delicious apples and would always choose a crisp Fuji.

Imperial Palace in Bangkok v Meiji Shrine? My lasting memory of the Imp Palace in Bangkok (now visited twice) is scammers lying to me at every turn outside the palace and beautiful tiling that gave us an opportunity to take some great pictures.

I would no more visit a Denny's in the good ol' US of A than I would in Japan. I'm big enough already and don't need that temptation.

One of the most expensive, and ordinary, meals we've ever eaten was at the Hilton Millennium in Bangkok. In their steak restaurant. We still wonder why we did it considering we were surrounded by great Thai food.

I'll say again, interesting conversation starter, but it's pretty clear Japan was not for you. Despite many of us being able to show it is not a rip off, and is full of history, a cheap coffee, a meal at Denny's, and classical European history will always trump anything Japan has to offer.
 

offshore171

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These are some thoughts after spending a week in Tokyo in mid May 2019.

Ok having been for 7 holidays in Japan and one work stint, here's my thoughts on your thoughts:

Ueno Zoo - agreed. Japan is not the place for decent zoos.

Narita to city - we always use the train. Same for Haneda.

Subways - agreed, they are a great thing in Tokyo. Rather that use those 3 day tickets, I'd always go for the Suica card. It makes using public transport a joy, because it works for everything.

Comment about smaller places wanting cash. Yes very common in Japan. Another good use for your Suica card is for these small transactions. Many places let you pay with a Suica card tap, and this saves you ending up with lots of loose coins.

Coffee - agreed. Like much of asia, Japan is not the place for coffee. I have the canned stuff when I'm there. Note they aren't all cold. If the button on the vending machine is red, it comes out hot (almost too hot to hold) and a blue button is for the cold cans.

Double beds instead of queens - not really an issue. Wife and I can comfortably use doubles on holiday. We normally go for a room with two double beds. Kids share one, we share the other.

You had street smoking bans as a con. I'd have it as a pro.

Historical sites - I'm kind of with you. I'm not hugely impressed with Japanese temples and the like, compared with say Renaissance era places in Europe.

Gardens however are fantastic. In tokyo alone there are several spectacular large public gardens.

Dennys. As someone who really enjoys Japanese food, as well as other cuisines such as French that the Japanese have perfected, Denny's is a big no. Not anywhere and especially not in Tokyo.

Pepsi max. I still don't get this. It's just a run of the mill soft drink, for which there are many alternatives. Certainly wouldn't ever factor something like this into travel plans.
 

Renato1

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Ah but in Japan there are some magnificent gardens.There are better ones than the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.
Outside of Tokyo do the Imperial Palace gardens in Vienna compare to the Kenroku-en gardens in Kanazawa or the Koraku-en gardens in Okayama?
But probably comparing apples and oranges.Personally I can just sit and take it all in for a long time in a good Japanese garden.
Hi Dr Ron,
No doubt people love Japan - even the girl who gave me my flu shot the other day said she loved it, and my neighbours said they loved it (though they were only there for three nights in a ritzy hotel).

But I'm comparing capital cities - and your examples are outside the capital. At the Vienna Summer Palace I got the double bonus, scores of pictures of and inside the Palace and scores of the garden outside it. In Tokyo, the fifteen or so I took weren't all that great (though my wife who's into plants took more photos of individual plants, and a few of the bigger crows they have over there - although technically our crows are usually Little Ravens rather than crows).
Cheers,
Renato
 

Renato1

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Some of the questions you ask Renato are so subjective - 'But just off the top of my head in terms A and B-list - does the Meiji Shrine compare to the Tower of London? To the imperial palace in Bangkok? Do the imperial gardens compare to the Summer Palace gardens in Vienna?

The only correct answer to your question is yes, they do compare.

That you think the ToL, the Imperial Palace in Bangkok and the summer palace gardens compare more favourably than anything in Japan is again subjective, but you did ask the question.

ToL v Meiji Shrine is apples and oranges. I found the ToL like an amusement park and the Meiji shrine deeply moving.

Imperial Garden v Viennese Summer Palace garden - Fuji apple v Delicious. I hate flowery delicious apples and would always choose a crisp Fuji.

Imperial Palace in Bangkok v Meiji Shrine? My lasting memory of the Imp Palace in Bangkok (now visited twice) is scammers lying to me at every turn outside the palace and beautiful tiling that gave us an opportunity to take some great pictures.

I would no more visit a Denny's in the good ol' US of A than I would in Japan. I'm big enough already and don't need that temptation.

One of the most expensive, and ordinary, meals we've ever eaten was at the Hilton Millennium in Bangkok. In their steak restaurant. We still wonder why we did it considering we were surrounded by great Thai food.

I'll say again, interesting conversation starter, but it's pretty clear Japan was not for you. Despite many of us being able to show it is not a rip off, and is full of history, a cheap coffee, a meal at Denny's, and classical European history will always trump anything Japan has to offer.
The only dead people at the Meiji Shrine related to the former Emperor and Empress. While the Tower of London has centuries of brutal deaths associated with it.

I didn't see any apples in either gardens, though the Vienna Summer gardens had an amusing hot dog seller. My wife was feeling hungry and went and bough a hot dog, whereupon the seller pulled out a six inch bread roll, into which he put a near two foot long hot dog - which my wife had to hold with both hands with a "Is this really happening?" look, and she called me for help not knowing what to do with it.

One will find far more picture opportunities - because there is far more to see - at the Tower of London and Bangkok Imperial Palace.

Shame I picked the Meiji Shrine as an example, because as I said in another post, it was my favourite day in Tokyo - since despite the long walks, there were enough seats around not to make our life a misery.

I avoided the Hyatt restaurant in Bangkok which was way too expensive, given there were excellent spacious inexpensive restaurants next door with decent Thai food. Unfortunately, in Tokyo where we were, the equivalent quality restaurants were far more expensive.

As for the rip-off part - those were comments made to me by other tourists and foreigners living in Japan at the hotel. Also, one amiable Japanese chap who kept apologising for his English and who was there for work, also said he thought Tokyo was very expensive.

For a comfortable, sit-down, filling meal which doesn't smash one's budget, I got the impression that the Japanese thought Denny's was great value - given that they were far-and-away the vast majority customers in the place.
Regards,
Renato
 

Renato1

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Ok having been for 7 holidays in Japan and one work stint, here's my thoughts on your thoughts:

Ueno Zoo - agreed. Japan is not the place for decent zoos.

Narita to city - we always use the train. Same for Haneda.

Subways - agreed, they are a great thing in Tokyo. Rather that use those 3 day tickets, I'd always go for the Suica card. It makes using public transport a joy, because it works for everything.

Comment about smaller places wanting cash. Yes very common in Japan. Another good use for your Suica card is for these small transactions. Many places let you pay with a Suica card tap, and this saves you ending up with lots of loose coins.

Coffee - agreed. Like much of asia, Japan is not the place for coffee. I have the canned stuff when I'm there. Note they aren't all cold. If the button on the vending machine is red, it comes out hot (almost too hot to hold) and a blue button is for the cold cans.

Double beds instead of queens - not really an issue. Wife and I can comfortably use doubles on holiday. We normally go for a room with two double beds. Kids share one, we share the other.

You had street smoking bans as a con. I'd have it as a pro.

Historical sites - I'm kind of with you. I'm not hugely impressed with Japanese temples and the like, compared with say Renaissance era places in Europe.

Gardens however are fantastic. In tokyo alone there are several spectacular large public gardens.

Dennys. As someone who really enjoys Japanese food, as well as other cuisines such as French that the Japanese have perfected, Denny's is a big no. Not anywhere and especially not in Tokyo.

Pepsi max. I still don't get this. It's just a run of the mill soft drink, for which there are many alternatives. Certainly wouldn't ever factor something like this into travel plans.
Interesting contrasts between you and I.

Coffee - I can't really forgive most of their cafes, Our hotel had a decent coffee machine at breakfast where they inserted a pack of liquid coffee into the machine - why didn't actual coffee places have soenthing similar? And any of the dozen coffee machines in our house make a better coffee than in the numerous cafes we visted (with the exception of Tullys and Subway). It's not hard to make something relatively decent - just buy a Nespresso machine.

Can I take it that you and your wife are relatively young and fairly fit and travel light? We are the exact opposite, so trains aren't the go for us. Maybe 10 years ago they would have been, but we'd have lost a day in recovery mode by not getting the minibus.

The Suica card I'd been thinking of getting, but opted for the tourist cards since I'd mainly be using the subway and not teh JR line. All the stacks of loose change I accumulated was spent on the vending machine in our hotel, mainly for cold coffees.

It wasn't double beds instead of queen beds. Instead, it was something on par with what we call a King Single bed that was being called a double bed in many of the hotels I was looking at.

If street smoking bans is a Pro for you, then the smoking that occurs in some cafes and cheap steet eateries would be an even bigger Con for you - since you'd actually have to inhale it.

Historical sites - Glad were in sort of agreement, and am not the sole perceived cultural barbarian who thinks that.

Denny's - one of the best and meatiest Spaghetti Bolognaise I've ever had anywhere (not counting my late mum's). Coming from me, that is saying something.

Pepsi Max - I once thought it wasn't much compared to Coke. Boy was I wrong. To me, heaven is when I get on a Jetstar or Ryanair flight and get my can of PepsiMax, after being deprived of it for weeks.
Regards,
Renato
 

k_sheep

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I had very mixed feelings about Tokyo and Japan too. The subway I found very easy to use. All the private options though? Forget about it! Basically every time we bought a pass there was always a reason why we couldn't use it (their fault, not ours) and guess what, no refunds. Airport limousine bus and Hakone pass are 2 that spring to mind. Certainly did not enjoy forking out $40pp odd extra each time.

The food for me was tremendous. I wish I could eat more than 2-3 meals a day!
 

Quickstatus

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I have been to JPN but only once, and still consider myself a novice.

Interesting comments all round - all valid I must say because that’s wonderful nature of travel. The different points of views add to the overall insights one gets when visiting a new place. There is no right or wrong.

But No one has yet mentioned Sake. I enjoyed the different Sakes during my time there. The differences in the taste, Warm and cold versions, clear and cloudy, the different designs in the porcelain cups used, and the associated cultural aspects adds to the overall experience. The custom of overpouring is a sign of welcome and generosity to the customer.

Did you know that the QF lounge at NRT has 2 Sake stations - each with different Sakes?.. And the attendant there can tell you about the differences - almost like a sommelier.
I realised I don’t get the headache associated with Red Wine when I do Sake!

Also no one has mentioned Matcha. It’s everywhere. I don’t know what the big deal is. I suspect it is mainly geared toward tourists.

I really enjoyed train travel in JPN. Such an efficient way to get around.
 
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bigpetebrown

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But No one has yet mentioned Sake. I enjoyed the different Sakes during my time there. The differences in the taste, Warm and cold versions, clear and cloudy, the different designs in the porcelain cups used, and the associated cultural aspects adds to the overall experience. The custom of overpouring is a sign of welcome and generosity to the customer.
,.. then there's the pink, and the sparkling. Yummn
 

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