Eco-friendly travel guide to Tokyo advises how to be a responsible tourist. Learn how to explore the attractions in a sustainable way and how to respect the local people and culture. Make your trip green by supporting locally owned hotels, organic restaurants and other businesses. Read more on how to protect the environment by making conscientious choices and how to travel green in Tokyo, Japan.
- Air quality: 3 / 5
- Exploring by foot: 3.5 / 5
- Exploring by bicycle: 3 / 5
- Public transportation: 4.5 / 5
- Parks: 4 / 5
- Outdoor activities: 3.5 / 5
- Locals' English level: 2.5 / 5
- Safety: 4 / 5
- Accommodation: US$80 - $300
- Budget per day: US$200 - $500
- 1 Responsible Travel
- 2 Air Quality and Pollution
- 3 Respect the Culture
- 4 Top 10 Places to Visit
- 5 Explore
- 6 Eat
- 7 Drink
- 8 Activities
- 9 Accommodation
- 10 How to Get There
- 11 Moving Around
- 12 Sustainable Shopping
- 13 Recycling
- 14 Work and Study Abroad
- 15 See Also
Tokyo is the capital and most populous prefecture of Japan. Tokyo is the political and economic center of the country, as well as the seat of the Emperor of Japan and the national government. In 2019, the prefecture had an estimated population of 13,929,280. Tokyo is the largest urban economy in the world by gross domestic product.
Japan’s tourism boom has been a recent but intense phenomenon. Visitor numbers were around 8 million in 2012 and skyrocketed to 31 million by 2018. More international travelers mean more resources are needed and more waste is produced. This has led to concern from locals about the sustainability of the rising number of visitors. However, it has also provided a motivating factor for companies to create opportunities for eco-tourism. This can help to counter the negative impact of tourism in Japan.
One of the ways to travel responsibly in Japan is by using public transport. The Japanese public transport system is known to be the best in the world.
- The shinkansen, or bullet train, is a high-speed railway network that connects most of the major urban centers in the country. Fast, safe, and efficient, traveling by shinkansen around the country leaves a much smaller carbon footprint than taking a domestic flight as well as offering views of the Japanese countryside, including the iconic Mount Fuji.
- Cycling around the island is also a popular tourist activity.
There are various things that visitors can do to reduce their impact on the environment, many of which are considered the norm in Japan. For example, littering is rare in the country, since everyone recycles. Eco-friendly travel tips include:
- Recycle your waste
- Use bicycles, buses, and trains rather than cars, taxis, or domestic flights
- Bring your own chopsticks
Air Quality and Pollution
Japan began tackling its pollution problem back in the 1970s when particulate matter levels in the air reached dangerously high levels around all the major cities. The problems can be traced back to the rapid industrialization of Japan that began during the Meiji period in the 19th century. Coal, wood and gas became the primary fuels that drove Japan to become one of the most technologically advanced countries by the late 20th century. In 1968, the Basic Law for Environment Pollution Control was enacted, in part because of pollution-related diseases including the deadly Minamata disease and Yokkaichi asthma wreaking havoc across the country.
Despite the move away from fossil fuels, Tokyo and other cities still rely on them to provide much of their energy. Even with the marked improvement in air quality, the city is all too aware of the dangers.
Respect the Culture
Japan is a highly structured and traditional society. Great importance is placed on loyalty, politeness, personal responsibility and everyone working together for the good of the larger society. Education, ambition, hard work, patience and determination are held in the highest regard. The crime rate is one of the lowest in the world.
Upon meeting, a handshake is appropriate. The Japanese handshake is limp and with little or no eye contact. Some Japanese bow and shake hands. The bow is a highly regarded greeting to show respect and is appreciation by the Japanese. A slight bow to show courtesy is acceptable.
Nodding is very important. When listening to a Japanese person speak, especially in English, you should nod to show you are listening and understanding the speaker. Silence is a natural and expected form of non-verbal communication.
Some of the other aspects of local culture that you need to understand and respect include:
- Dress code is modern and conservative. The Japanese dress well at all times. Dress smartly for parties, even if an invitation says "Casual" or "Come as you are."
- Do not chatter.
- Prolonged eye contact (staring) is considered rude.
- Don’t show affection, such as hugging or shoulder slapping, in public.
- Never beckon with your forefinger. The Japanese extend their right arm out in front, bending the wrist down, waving fingers. Do not beckon older people.
- Sit erect with both feet on the floor. Never sit with ankle over knee.
- Waving a hand back and forth with palm forward in front of the face means "no" or "I don't know." This is a polite response to a compliment.
- Restaurant entertaining is crucial to business. A person is judged by his/her behavior during and after business hours. Seldom is a business deal completed without dinner in a restaurant.
- Drinking is a group activity. Do not say "no" when offered a drink.
- An empty glass is the equivalent of asking for another drink. Keep your glass at least half full if you do not want more. If a Japanese person attempts to pour more and you do not want it, put your hand over your glass, or fill it with water if necessary.
- The Japanese may ask personal questions. This is not intended to be rude, but rather a polite way to show interest. You may give vague or general answers if you feel a question is too personal.
Top 10 Places to Visit
Tokyo, the capital city of Japan, is also home to the Imperial Palace and the seat of Government and Parliament. In East-Central Honshu, the largest of Japan's main islands, this heavily populated city is well worth exploring. One of the world's most modern cities in terms of its infrastructure and design, Tokyo also holds the title of the world's most expensive city to live in; fortunately, it's also one of the easiest to get around thanks to its superb rail and subway networks. The cultural side of Tokyo is famous for its numerous things to do and top attractions, including museums, festivals, internationally noted cuisine, and professional sports clubs, including baseball, football, along with traditional Japanese pursuits like sumo wrestling:
- Ginza District: Ginza is Tokyo's busiest shopping area: it's been the commercial center of the country for centuries and is where five ancient roads connecting Japan's major cities all met. Lined by exclusive shops and imposing palatial stores, the Ginza district is also fun to simply wander around or, better still, sit in one of its many tea and coffee shops or restaurants while watching the world rush past.
- Sensō-ji Temple: In the Asakusa district of Tokyo, the exquisite Sensō-ji Temple - the city's most famous shrine - stands at the end of a long street market hosting vendors selling masks, carvings, combs made of ebony and wood, toys, kimonos, fabrics, and precious paper goods. Dedicated to Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of compassion, the temple was established in AD 645 and retains its original appearance despite having been rebuilt numerous times.
- Ueno Park: It is the city's largest green space and one of its most popular tourist attractions. In addition to its lovely grounds, the park also boasts numerous temples and museums to explore. Criss-crossed by pleasant gravel paths, this 212-acre park includes highlights such as a trip on a small boat on the reed-fringed Shinobazu pond.
- The National Museum of Western Art: (Kokuritsu Seiyō Bijutsukan) was built in 1959 to plans by famous Swiss architect Le Corbusier. The exhibits, largely made up of works by important French artists, come mainly from the collections of a Japanese businessman and art collector Kojiro Matsukata, bought during visits to Europe early in the 20th century.
- Meiji Shrine: Dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken, construction of the splendid Meiji Shrine began in 1915 and was completed in 1926. Although the original structure was destroyed during WWII, it was rebuilt in 1958 and remains one of Tokyo's most important religious sites.
- Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho: is an atmospheric, narrow lane filled with 60 or so bustling, open-fronted hole-in-the-wall restaurants, each seating only a handful of customers. Even at these small yakitori joints, you can embrace the Japanese concept of omakase, where you leave your meal in the hands of the chefs.
- Tokyo Dome: The Yomiuri Giants, Japan’s oldest professional baseball team, call the Tokyo Dome home, but the multipurpose structure also hosts concerts and other sporting events. Catch a game rain or shine, or spend an hour browsing the nearby Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame.
- Shibuya Crossing: Rumoured to be the busiest intersection in the world (and definitely in Japan), Shibuya Crossing is like a giant beating heart, sending people in all directions with every pulsing light change. Nowhere else says 'Welcome to Tokyo' better than this. Hundreds of people – and at peak times upwards of 3000 people – cross at a time, coming from all directions at once, yet still to dodge each other with practiced, nonchalant agility.
- Shibuya Sky: From below, Shibuya Sky, the rooftop observatory atop Shibuya's newest tower, Shibuya Scramble Square, looks like one of those harrowing infinity pools – people leaning over the edge of nothingness. Rest assured, it has plenty of safeguards, but the open-air, 360-degree views from 229m (the tallest in Shibuya) are still awesome. Also, there are sofas and hammocks for lounging up here.
- Nakagi Capsule Tower: This early-1970s building by Kurokawa Kishō is a seminal work of Metabolism, an experimental architecture movement to create fluid, more organic structures. The tower is made up of self-contained pods around a central core that are meant to be replaced every 20 years.
Tokyo, Japan’s busy capital, mixes the ultramodern and the traditional, from neon-lit skyscrapers to historic temples. The opulent Meiji Shinto Shrine is known for its towering gate and surrounding woods. The Imperial Palace sits amid large public gardens. The city's many museums offer exhibits ranging from classical art (in the Tokyo National Museum) to a reconstructed kabuki theater (in the Edo-Tokyo Museum).
- Ueno Park: Ueno Park is located next to Ueno station and features about half a dozen museums, a zoo, a Toshogu Shrine and the Shinobazu Pond. Ueno Park was established in 1873 on lands that formerly belonged to the temple of Kan’ei-ji. The free admission park is a wonderful place to take the entire family.
- Todoroki Park: Smack in the middle of the residential city ward of Setagaya, a two minutes’ walk from Tokyu’s Todoroki Station, is a small park named Todoroki Valley. With only about one kilometer in length, this park is an attractive green trail that leads through a narrow wooded valley along a small river. It stretches from Todoroki Station, beneath Kampachi Dori, and onwards toward the Todoroki Children’s Park.
- Kiyosumi Teien: Located close to the Kiyosumi-Shirakawa Station in Fukagawa is Kiyosumi Teien, another trail park that features many stones set around the grounds to form a beautiful landscape. The park was originally the residence of a rich merchant during the Edo period. The land eventually changed ownership and in 1932 it was donated to the city of Tokyo and opened to the public.
- Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden: Located only a ten minutes’ walk from Shinjuku station, Shinjuku Gyoen is a large garden of 58.3 hectares with wide lawns, trees and ponds. It was originally a residence of the Naito family of feudal lords, associated with the Takato domain in the Shinano province during the Edo period. Presently, it serves as a National Garden under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Environment.
- Institute for Nature Study National Reserve: The Institute for Nature Study National Reserve is perhaps one of Tokyo’s best-kept secrets. The natural reserve (Shizen Kyoiku-en) is situated in the heart of Tokyo, near Meguro Station. The park is operated by the National Museum of Nature and Science whose aim is to preserve the natural environment of Tokyo’s forests and marshlands, but it is owned by the Ministry of Education.
- Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park: Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park covers an area of over 1250 kilometers square and has eight peaks of over 2000 meters. The national park stretches out west from the city of Tokyo, covering the Saitama, Yamanashi, Nagano and Tokyo Prefectures. There are numerous hiking trails and ancient shrines that attract many adventurous visitors each year. Mount Mitake is one famous landmark that showcases the country’s unspoiled nature.
Tokyo offers a few beaches along its coast, but the water quality in the city is rather low, although it has been improving steadily over recent decades. Many more beaches are located within a 1-2 hour train ride in nearby Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures and on the Izu Peninsula.
The beaches around Tokyo allow for sunbathing and swimming, and many are also good for surfing and windsurfing. Unlike the beaches in Okinawa, most beaches around Tokyo are not ideal for snorkeling and diving except for a few on the Izu Peninsula.
The swimming season around Tokyo spans July and August, during which time lifeguards are on duty. Some beaches offer permanent toilet and shower facilities, while temporary beach huts open during the swimming season, providing beachgoers with additional showers, changing rooms, shaded rest areas, food, drinks and beach paraphernalia for rent.
Tokyo landmarks embody everything from religion to modern culture. Photograph the city from the observation deck of a skyscraper in Minato, or adore ancient temples and sumo wrestlers in Asakusa.
- Tokyo Skytree: The world’s tallest freestanding broadcasting tower looks a little out of place towering over one of Tokyo’s top historic neighborhoods. Tokyo Skytree is located in Sumida, but the broadcasting tower offers a 360-degree view of neighboring districts, including Asakusa. The tower sits next to popular attractions like Sumida Aquarium and Koume Children’s Park, but a trip up Tokyo Skytree itself offers enough entertainment for a whole day.
- Tokyo Tower: Modeled after the Eiffel Tower in Paris and painted bright orange and white, Tokyo Tower is the second-tallest structure in Japan. Start your adventure in FootTown, the tower’s four-story shopping plaza located at the base of the structure. Then make your way up to two observation decks, the first at about 492 feet (150 meters) and the second at 819 feet (250 meters), to peer out over Minato and Zōjō-ji Temple in Shiba Park.
- Rainbow Bridge: Spanning 2,618 feet (798 meters) over Tokyo Bay, Rainbow Bridge connects the Shibaura and Odaiba waterfront districts in Minato and Koto, respectively. At night, the bridge’s solar-powered color scheme of red, white and green lights up the bay. Visitors can cross the bridge on foot for free. The one-mile jaunt offers views of the Tokyo skyline, ships sailing in Tokyo Bay and occasionally, Mount Fuji.
- Mount Kumotori: At just over 6,600 feet, Mount Kumotori is the tallest mountain in Tokyo. With one of the most picturesque views of nearby Mount Fuji, Mount Kumotori sits on the border between Tokyo, Saitama and Yamanashi Prefectures. Although experienced climbers can scale the mountain in one day, more casual visitors may opt for a multiday trip while staying at one of several cabins along the more crowded routes up the cliffside.
- Musée Tomo: Musée Tomo is a collection of modern Japanese ceramics. The wares are owned by Kikuchi Tomo, who used to show them off in America and Europe before finding a home for them in Tokyo. The extensive collection rotates every couple of months. Open 11 AM to 6 PM Tuesday to Sunday, and admission fees vary depending on the exhibition.
- National Museum of Nature and Science: Nestled in the eastern corner of Ueno Park, the National Museum of Nature and Science is a must-see for anyone interested in natural and technological history. The facility is huge and has an impressive collection of flora and fossils, which are beautifully displayed throughout the entire building. The museum also celebrates technological advancement.
- Tokyo National Museum: Also located in Ueno Park, Tokyo National Museum is one of Japan’s oldest and most celebrated museums in Japan. Opened in 1872, the museum displays a wide range of artworks, antiquities and artifacts from both Japan and other countries in East-Asia. It particularly specializes in art, archeological objects and historical documents, and holds around 110,000 items (89 of which are national treasures).
- Suntory Museum of Art: Located on the third floor of Tokyo Midtown, the Suntory Museum of Art has been around since 1961 and proudly maintains a theme of celebrating "Art in Life." The current collection consists of over 3000 articles, with each piece themed to have a close connection with Japanese life. Though the museum has no permanent exhibitions, it houses a range of paintings, lacquerware, ceramics, glass and other items.
- Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum: The museum celebrates the work of avant-garde painter and sculptor Taro Okamoto. After Okamoto died in 1996, his home and studio were turned into the museum to display his art and share his creations with the public. Visitors can see exactly where Taro Okamoto lived and worked.
As visitors to Tokyo quickly discover, the people here are obsessed with food. The city has a vibrant and cosmopolitan dining scene and a strong culture of eating out – popular restaurants are packed most nights of the week. Best of all, you can get superlative meals on any budget.
Traditional Local Restaurants
- Hashimoto: With a history of around 180 years, this famous eel restaurant places importance on where their ingredients come from. As a result, they use premium ingredients from all over Japan that has been produced in the best environments. Compared to other restaurants, they use larger eels and grill them until they're fluffy and soft. Their special sauce that has been continuously added to over many years has a traditional taste.
- Dojo Iidaya: Located in Asakusa, this well-established restaurant has been in operation since the Meiji period (1868 - 1912). It specializes in dishes made with pond loach, which is a type of freshwater fish that was considered food for the common people. The [Dojo Nabe] is a dish that highlights the charms of pond loach, serving it with various vegetables like burdock and spring onions.
- Afuri: Afuri is a great option for a light and delicate ramen. The dish features fresh, local vegetables and spring water from Mount Afuri, which gives it a unique flavor that has made it a firm Tokyo favorite. The specialty dishes at Afuri include yuzu ramen, which features a chicken-based broth, and vegan ramen with lotus root.
- Harajuku Gyozaro: Tucked away in Harajuku, and very unassuming from the outside, is the tiny Harajuku Gyozaro, which is well known for offering some of the best, and most reasonably priced, dumplings in Tokyo. Gyoza (pan-fried dumplings) are common in Japan and Harajuku Gyozaro has taken this simple dish and made it the restaurant’s pride and joy. Customers can pick from steamed or fried gyoza in trays of six, stuffed with either vegetables or chicken and vegetables.
- Itamae Sushi: Fans of tuna sushi and sashimi can’t go wrong with a visit to renowned tuna experts Itamae Sushi. Famous for sourcing the freshest and finest tuna, there are also live tuna-cutting performances while you eat, meaning a meal here is an experience you’ll remember. It has a traditional wooden interior and bar seating set around the kitchen, so you can also get a view of the impressive chefs at work.
- Sasanoyuki: A classic Japanese-style restaurant near Ueno Park that specializes in pushing tofu to its maximum culinary potential, Sasanoyuki is a family-run business that is now in its ninth generation. The restaurant’s surroundings are typically Japanese, with low tables and muted lighting, tatami mats, traditionally dressed staff and a beautiful Japanese garden to look out on. Most dishes are perfect for vegetarians and vegans, but some incorporate a fish-based broth or are sprinkled with fish flakes.
Vegetarian and Vegan
- AIN SOPH. Journey: The menu at Shinjuku’s AIN SOPH. Journey is varied, serving up everything from Japanese-inspired dishes to Western fare. Try the taco rice, a beloved regional specialty from Okinawa given a vegetarian makeover, and be sure to swing by during lunchtime on weekdays to take advantage of the restaurant’s multi-course lunch sets.
- BON: BON is another restaurant in the city serving up shojin ryori, of which there are only a few. While the multi-course vegan meal might be on the pricier side, diners on a budget can stop by during lunch to pick up a takeaway bento for a fraction of the cost of dinner. However, dine in if you can because BON’s interior, featuring tatami mats and stone corridors, is a draw in itself. Reservations are a must.
- Sasaya Café: This spacious café a few blocks from Tokyo Skytree only serves plant-based food and dessert, all made with ingredients sourced from local organic and pesticide-free farms. The spacious warehouse-like building is a rare find in Tokyo; not only is there plenty of seating but it’s also wheelchair and stroller-friendly.
- Izakaya Masaka: Hidden among the cool restaurants of Shibuya Parco’s Chaos Kitchen, this izakaya-style restaurant serves only vegan dishes. The main dish is the mock karaage made with soy meat instead of chicken, which comes in five different flavors including grated radish, Chinese black vinegar, Sichuan style hot and spicy, sweet and sour, and teriyaki mayonnaise. The outer coating of the tapioca flour gives the chicken an extra crunch while the inside is tender and juicy.
- 8ablish: Occupying the second floor of a modern building just off Aoyama-dori, 8ablish is a versatile dining space which can comfortably host a casual lunch or a dinner date. Dinner boasts an extensive menu of appetizers, salads, soups, mains and sides. Innovative dishes such as tofu, tempeh and vegetable souvlaki with soy tzatziki and pita bread come beautifully plated and will have you savoring every bite.
- Ikayaki: Ikayaki (grilled squid) is a Tokyo street food staple. Whole or partially whole squid is doused with sweet soy sauce and seasonings, skewered and grilled. It's popular at fairs and local festivals, but you can also find ikayaki year-round at places like the Outer Market of Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo’s Chūō Ward.
- 'Taiyaki: They are fish-shaped cakes traditionally filled with red bean paste (anko), but these days are stuffed with everything from cheese to custard. Try the famous Kurikoan brand taiyaki stand—there’s one in Akihabara.
- Dango: Dango are dumplings made from rice flour and bear similarities to mochi. They are very common and can be purchased at convenience stores, but homemade versions can be bought on the street, particularly during festivals. Try special hanami dango at the Meguro River Cherry Blossom Festival or the famous charcoal dango of Mount Takao.
- Takoyaki: Takoyaki is round cakes cooked on a special griddle and stuffed with octopus pieces. Also known as octopus balls or octopus dumplings, takoyaki can always be found at festivals and even in some grocery stores, but is also available year-round from specialty stands. Try the famous recipe at Gindaco takoyaki shops.
- Okonomiyaki: Okonomiyaki is savory pancakes held together with a batter and bulked up with meat and vegetables (usually lots of cabbage), and topped with sauce and mayonnaise. They are easily customized and have many regional variances. You can find street-style okonomiyaki at local festivals, but it is also sold in specialty restaurants.
- Kasutera: Kasutera is light and simple sponge cakes, and the street food varieties are usually small and sold by the handful. The recipe was brought to Japan in the 16th century by the Portuguese, so it is long-lasting popularity is a testament to its deliciousness. Find them at local festivals and casual food fairs.
- Yakitori: From skewered hearts and livers to gizzards and necks, this popular bar snack ensures no part of the animal is wasted. Yakitori skewers are a staple of izakaya (a type of pub) menus but are also enjoyed as street food during festivals. Memory Lane (Omoide Yokochō), also known as Piss Alley, is famous for its many small yakitori bars.
- Chestnuts': Chestnuts are a fall and winter favorite in Tokyo. Ōkunitama Shrine even hosts the Chestnut Festival each September to celebrate them. In season, you can pick up freshly roasted chestnuts from vendors around busy pedestrian areas like Asakusa’s Sensō-ji and Ueno Park.
A tradition stretching back over 1000 years, Japan’s tea ceremony is largely associated with Kyoto, but there are plenty of stunning spots to enjoy it in Tokyo too. Believed to have been brought over from China in the 9th century, the process involves whisking matcha (green tea) powder with water and presenting it to guests in a formal and elegant ceremony. While taking part in a full ceremony with a teacher is a wonderful experience, it can be a little costly. Served in traditional Tokyo tea houses you can enjoy quality matcha served with wagashi—the small and delicate sweets that are often themed around the seasons. The perfect way to get a breather from a busy day out whilst still experiencing something uniquely Japanese.
Half the fun of drinking in Tokyo is navigating the city’s dense and daunting interior, where some of the best bars are tucked away in unimpressive buildings, down side-street alleys or in office building basements. Hidden within the bowels of this glittering, Technicolor maze you’ll find everything from a collection of serious natural wine bars second only to Paris in their depth of offerings to a variety of tachinomi, or standing bars, meant to be enjoyed like the tapas bars of Spain. More recently, Tokyo has become renowned for its idiosyncratic cocktail bars, which are often tiny, polished and project unmatched attention to detail. With space in such high demand, many of these destinations are found in discrete lanes and down back staircases.
Tokyo’s extensive tap water supply system is safe. In fact, before a single drop of water is released into the system, it has to pass over 50 quality measures set by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare. The tap water is drinkable even without filtration and boiling, in metro stations, malls, public toilets, and even in hotels. The quality of the water is determined at the source and not at each tap! While contamination in such an extensive water supply system is still possible, everyone considers the water safe everywhere.
Tokyo currently receives 80% of its water from the Tonegawa and Arakawa Rivers, and the remaining 20% from the Tamagawa River. The water from Tamagawa is clear enough that it only needs standard treatment to make it drinkable. The quality of freshwater emanating from the first two rivers, however, is somewhat lower. But by implementing advanced water treatment, the waterworks can bring quality to an exceptionally high level.
Although there aren’t as many organic stores in Tokyo, the number is gradually increasing. People are becoming more sensitive to how food is grown or raised because it can have a major impact on mental and emotional health. More and more organic supermarkets, farmers' markets, restaurants, and cafes are opening in the city. And young, trendy locals have found the appeal of going organic during their lunch breaks. Some of the local cafes specializing in organic food include:
- Bio Café
- Yaffa Organic Café
- Brown Rice by Neal’s Yard Remedies
- Daylight Kitchen
Tokyo’s craft beer scene is booming. Dedicated drinkers once had to trek out east to Popeye in Ryogoku for something other than mass-produced beer, but now they're spoilt for choice, with over 400 craft brew bars, breweries and shops in Tokyo. Whether you're a fan of American, Belgian or local Japanese craft beer, you'll find a brew or two to suit you at these Tokyo craft beer bars:
- Hakutsuru Sake Brewing
- Spring Valley Brewery
- Hitachino Brewing Lab
- YYG Brewery
- Sakazuki Brewery
A vast metropolis that is home to nearly 14 million people, there is no shortage of activities in Tokyo. With high-end retail and quirky fashion, Michelin-star dining and hidden cafes, modern skyscrapers and tiny shrines, the city is a place of contrasts.
Tokyo is a very friendly city. Ueno Park makes for a great day out – not only can one stroll around the beautiful lake, but the park also offers many family activities. Stop by Ueno Zoo and say hello to its famous giant pandas. Or visit the National Museum of Nature and Science, which has exhibits on space, dinosaurs, and the Japanese ecosystem. There are many kid-friendly displays, including hands-on experiments with light and magnetism! Head to Odaiba for the Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, or Miraikan.
Yoga and Retreats
Japan's yoga craze started in the early 2000s when Japanese yoga instructors rushed to open studios all over the country and new yogis started picking up the practice in the search for some peace and quiet in their daily lives. Thanks to this, today we have yoga studios in almost every corner of Tokyo, as well as other big cities throughout Japan.
There are many yoga retreats in Tokyo. These include:
- Sun and Moon Yoga
- Oreo Yoga Academy
- Sumile Yoga
- Joyfit Yoga
Choosing holiday accommodation in the capital can be daunting, so we’ve put together this guide to cheap hotels in Tokyo to help you find a good spot to rest, for less. Tokyo might be one of the most expensive cities in the world, but there’s no shortage of budget hotels and other affordable accommodation for families, couples and backpackers alike.
While many of the cheaper Tokyo hotels are located in the Asakusa area, or near Narita Airport, you might have a better Tokyo experience if you are located closer to Shibuya or Shinjuku—both areas are central, offer plenty to see and do, and have great transport connections. Shibuya is a fantastic base, as it has a massive train station, the famous Scramble Crossing, and a lively hub of restaurants and bars to explore. Shinjuku is one of the two main hubs in Tokyo and is home to the busiest train station in the country, so you will always be able to find your way home.
Not only is Japan great for experiencing the nightlife and culture, but they are also enacting their eco-friendly laws. With incentives in place for both residents and businesses, Tokyo is hoping to become the most eco-friendly city in the entire world. Hotels have adopted these environmental practices in their businesses while also becoming leaders in both technology and green energy.
- Shinagawa Prince Hotel: Located in the heart of Tokyo, the Shinagawa Prince Hotel is within walking distance to Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo Tower and the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum. In the last five years, the hotel has begun selling natural mineral water straight from Mount Minamiuonuma-Hakkaisan. It has also been working on a large solar farm project “Prince Energy Eco Farm Nango”.
- Muji Hotel: Muji has delved into the hospitality industry with its signature minimalist style. The 79 room-hotel has opened up in Tokyo right above their store in Ginza. The hotel adorns minimalist furnishing under its "wood, stone and earth" theme and everything that you would find in the room, whether it be a toothbrush or a mattress, is produced by Muji in the most sustainable way possible.
Hostels and Guest Houses
- Book and Bed: One of the city’s more novel hostel options, Book and Bed, located in the bustling hub of Ikebukuro, allows book-loving guests to live out their ultimate fantasy: sleeping inside a bookshelf. The hostel owners wanted to help travelers get over jet lag and overstimulation by cramming every inch of their hostel with books to calm the mind and soothe frayed nerves.
- Nui Hostel: Nui Hostel proves that price doesn't dictate taste. This hostel, bar, café and live music space is one of the trendiest accommodation options in Tokyo. Featuring a variety of rooms, the hostel's stylish design even draws locals to the popular ground floor bar. Be warned, though, that this place is so nice you'll have to motivate yourself to leave and go explore the outside world.
- Sakura Guesthouse: When it comes to guesthouses in Tokyo, no name is more ubiquitous than Sakura House. The friendly team here has been helping guests to secure short and long-term accommodation in Tokyo and the wider Japan area for years. Though many people know about Sakura's long-term share house style options, not many are aware of their recently opened 'hotel' (which is technically more of a private style hostel).
- Bunka Hostel: Bunka is a welcome retreat for travelers of all sorts. Located in the heart of Tokyo’s traditional pocket of Asakusa, this once decapitated commercial building has been completely transformed into a hostel of impeccable taste – it’s not so much a party hostel as a great place to hide out and get a little respite from the manic energy that can be central Tokyo. They also have an izakaya on site.
- K’s House: The guest house is a short walk from the station. The majority of the guests are foreign tourists. The guest house is in a great location only 10 minutes walk from the Asakusa, one of Tokyo's famous tourist spots, and there are convenience stores located close by. The rooms are clean and comfortable and are all equipped with free air-conditioning.
- Tokyo Port City Takeshiba Serviced Apartment: Tokyo Port City Takeshiba Serviced Apartments are located along the Tokyo Bay, just a minute walk from Takeshiba Station on the Yurikamome Monorail, and direct access via the elevated walkway from JR Hamamatsucho Station. The apartment layouts range from a studio for singles to 2 bedrooms for families.
- Plan House: Plan House Tokyo Kanda is a newly built serviced apartment, offering various apartment layouts, from one-room studios to 2 bedrooms, to suit a range of customers. Offering an accommodation solution for both individuals on business to families visiting for sightseeing. With the comforts not offered by hotels in the region, prepare meals with a full kitchen and work from "home" with the desk and highspeed Wi-Fi internet.
- Tokyo Apartments: Newly renovated designer apartments located in central Tokyo. Serviced Apartments fully furnished with Designer Furniture. Located near Tokyo Station and the financial business districts of Marunouchi, Otemachi and Nihonbashi. Only 2 minutes to Kyobashi Station and 8 minutes to Nihonbashi and Tokyo Station. Easy access to Haneda and Narita Airports from Tokyo Station.
- Ichigo Serviced Apartments: Newly furnished serviced apartments with kitchen, located walking distance from Ginza, Yurakucho, and Tsukiji. With access to 4 stations and 4 lines, Ichigo Serviced Apartments offer great access throughout Tokyo. These studio apartments are ideal for individuals on business and/or pleasure. Find comfort, and relax with the natural design furnishing.
- APA Served Residence: Spacious one, two and three-bedroom serviced apartments that are ideal for families or groups. Located one minute from Akihabara Station gives you easy access throughout Tokyo. 24-hour front desk, weekly room cleaning service and a restaurant located on the ground floor for your convenience.
Japan has a reputation as an expensive destination to visit, and, indeed, you can easily end up quickly burning through your cash if you're not careful. Couchsurfing has come in handy to help foreigners who are unable to cater for the high accommodation costs. There is no 'typical' Couchsurfing host in Japan. Members range from Japanese university students who want to practice their English, to people who used Couchsurfing when they traveled abroad and now want to return the favor. Many hosts are foreign nationals who are working or studying in Japan, so if you're worried about the language barrier you can just as easily stay with someone from England or America as with a local.
Japan does not have a general "right to access" like Scandinavian countries, wild camping on public land is theoretically illegal and wild camping on private property requires the landowner's permission. The rules are only loosely enforced and there's a bit of a tradition of "urban camping" in Japan: simply put, if you pitch up a tent or even sleep on a bench in an out-of-the-way place so that you don't disturb anybody and don't make a mess, you're unlikely to be disturbed either. Some of the best camping sites in Tokyo include:
- Wakasu Kaihin-koen Camp-jo
- Jonanjima Seaside Park
- Hikawa Camp-jo
- Nagatoro Auto Camp-jo
- Kanotoen Campground
How to Get There
Tokyo, as the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, is Japan's largest domestic and international hub for rail and ground transportation. However, its airspace has been under the US military's exclusive control after World War II. As a result of World War 2, Japanese planes are generally forbidden to fly over Tokyo. Therefore, Japan constructed airports outside Tokyo. Narita International Airport in Chiba Prefecture is the major gateway for international travelers to Japan. Japan's flag carrier, Japan Airlines, as well as All Nippon Airways, have a hub at this airport.
Expressways link the capital to other points in the Greater Tokyo Area, the Kantō region, and the islands of Kyushu and Shikoku. To build them quickly before the 1964 Summer Olympics, most were constructed above existing roads. Other transportation includes taxis operating in the special wards and the cities and towns. Also, long-distance ferries serve the islands of Tokyo and carry passengers and cargo to domestic and foreign ports.
Commercial flights in the region are served predominantly by Haneda Airport in Ōta, Tokyo as the domestic hub for Japan's major airlines and Narita International Airport in Narita, Chiba as the main international gateway airport to the. Service improved to level pre-2011 following expansions but remains congested. Chofu Airport in the city of Chōfu in western Tokyo handles commuter flights to the Izu Islands, which are administratively part of Tokyo. There are also a limited number of helicopter transport services in Tokyo, with one service linking Narita airport with central Tokyo.
Public buses in Tokyo usually serve a secondary role, feeding bus passengers to and from train stations. Exceptions are long-distance bus services, buses in areas poorly served by rail though not many exist, and airport bus services for people with luggage.
In Japan, railways are a major means of passenger transport, especially for mass and high-speed transport between major cities and for commuter transport in metropolitan areas. Seven Japan Railways Group companies, state-owned until 1987, cover most parts of Japan. There also are railway services operated by private rail companies, regional governments, and companies funded by both regional governments and private companies. East Japan Railway Company, or JR East, is the largest passenger railway company in the world. It operates trains throughout the Greater Tokyo area.
It is almost impossible to hitch out of Tokyo or any large Japanese city by waving your thumb. you have to find the places where drivers going out congregate, which in practice means service areas on the large toll expressways connecting Japan's major cities. As you might guess, service areas are larger and better equipped than parking areas, but surprisingly few Japanese are familiar with the difference so it's easier to label them all service areas. For destinations around Tokyo, such as for Mount Fuji, Hakone, Nikko, hitchhiking is unlikely to be worth the trouble... until you get there, that is. All three regions have expensive local transport but plenty of unhurried tourists driving about, always a good combination for the hitchhiker.
Greater Tokyo is a little different from the rest of Japan regarding other modes of transport. It is home to the majority of Japan's automated bicycle systems and has several bicycle-sharing systems. A bicycle-sharing system is a service in which bicycles are made available for shared use to individuals on a short term basis for a price or free. Many bike share systems allow people to borrow a bike from a "dock" and return it at another dock belonging to the same system.
The transport network in Tokyo includes public and private rail and highway networks; airports for international, domestic, and general aviation; buses; motorcycle delivery services, walking, bicycling, and commercial shipping. While the nexus is in the central part of Tokyo, every part of the Greater Tokyo Area has rail or road transport services. The sea and air transport are available from a limited number of ports for the general public. Public transport within Greater Tokyo is dominated by the world's most extensive urban rail network of suburban trains and subways run by a variety of operators, with buses, trams, monorails, and other modes supporting the railway lines.
Tokyo is one of the most walkable cities in the world. In Tokyo, you can just walk endlessly, and it's enjoyable because there are so many interesting things to see. Tokyo has so many little hole-in-the-wall restaurants, shops, cafes, bars, etc., and seeing the uniqueness of that never gets old. Many people's routine commute in Tokyo includes a walk to and from the nearest subway stop. They also walk to buy groceries locally, for exercise, to meet friends, etc., and sometimes as a detour from their walking commute. When walking to and from the subway, people are driven by time constraints and have a specific purpose.
Bicycles have long been a major staple of Japanese transport (as well as walking), and train stations often accommodate them, a major popularization boom however occurred following the 1970s oil crises and has not abated. Bicycle sheds dominate bicycle storage mechanisms in Japan, most often found at train stations, however, they are giving way to other solutions such as bicycle sharing systems and bicycle trees. Despite bicycle sheds, there long has existed the problem of insufficient bicycle parking, and bicycles can be found parked haphazardly at the more urban train stations, inviting fines and mishaps, though this trend is also in decline.
The fleet of light-duty plug-in electric vehicles in Japan totaled about 303,000 highway-legal plug-in electric vehicles in circulation at the end of 2019, consisting of 152,320 all-electric passenger cars, 141,680 plug-in hybrids, and 8,720 light-commercial vehicles. The Japanese government introduced the first electric vehicle incentive program in 1996, and it was integrated in 1998 with the Clean Energy Vehicles Introduction Project, which provided subsidies and tax discounts for the purchase of electric, natural gas, methanol and hybrid electric vehicles.
Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation operates Toei buses mainly within the 23 special wards while private bus companies (mostly the subsidiaries of the large train operators listed above) operate other bus routes, as do other city governments, such as Kawasaki City Bus, Yokohama City Bus, etc. Toei buses have a fixed fare of 210 yen per ride, while most other companies charge according to distance. Some train operators offer combined bus/train tickets; special fares apply for children, seniors and the disabled. Some routes feature non-step buses with a kneeling function to assist mobility-impaired users.
Tram, Train and Subway
Rail is the primary mode of transport in Tokyo. Greater Tokyo has the most extensive urban railway network and the most used in the world with 40 million passengers (transfers between networks tallied twice) in the metro area daily, out of a metro population of 36 million. There are 882 interconnected rail stations in the Tokyo Metropolis, 282 of which are Subway stations, with several hundred more in each of the 3 surrounding densely populated suburban prefectures. There are 30 operators running 121 passenger rail lines, excluding about 12 cable cars.
The urban rail system in Tokyo does not behave like a single unified network but as a separately owned and operated systems with varying degrees of interconnectivity. Expansion continues, albeit with more service and grade separation upgrades as opposed to new lines. Each of the region's rail companies tends to display only its maps, with key transfer points highlighted, ignoring the rest of the metro area's network. Trains had historically been extremely crowded at peak travel times, with people being pushed into trains by so-called Rossiya ("pushers"), which was common in the boom eras of the 1960s-1980s. Most lines in Tokyo are privately owned, funded and operated, though the Toei Subway is run directly by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Tokyo Metro is owned/funded indirectly by the Tokyo and national governments.
Increasingly, shops around Japan are implementing measures to become more environmentally friendly such as replacing regular plastic items with recycled versions, or alternative wooden or paper options. The environmental awareness trend, and social pressure for more sustainable options, has also created an incentive for companies in Japan to come up with creative sustainable solutions.
The popular snack Kit-Kat recently upgraded from their old plastic bag to a biodegradable paper bag which also features a description of how to turn the paper packaging into an origami crane. P&G recently announced their first product, a bottle of dishwashing liquid, to be made using recycled plastic they retrieved from the ocean. As eco-friendly values become a more vital part of companies' strategies, more companies put a lot of effort into meeting the demand for their products to have a less negative impact on the environment.
Tokyo’s best food markets can be found tucked deep underneath shopping centers, at monthly pop-up park events and hidden away in traditional neighborhoods. The range of food markets in Tokyo is as diverse as the city's contemporary culinary scene, and there are places to cater to all sorts of niche tastes. Some of the best food markets in the city include:
- Tsukiji Fish Market
- United Nations University Farmers Markets
- Market of the Sun
- Ameyoko Market
Tokyo is often thought of as an expensive city. While in some departments that statement may ring true, it's also easy to grab more than your fair share of bargains—you just need to know where to look. Tokyo's flea markets are a bargain hunter’s paradise and there's also a strong chance you can pick up some seriously unique items while you're at it. Here are some of the best known:
- Tokyo City Flea Market
- Kinshicho Event Plaza Flea Market
- Mottainai Flea Market
- Koto Family Bazaar
Second Hand Stores
Tokyo is a huge city; with very many districts each known for something unique. Each district has its style – pay attention to that while searching for stores. Some common second-hand store:
- Roko Shira
- The Hard Off Stores
- Fool’s Judge
Tokyo truly has a vibrant and diverse shopping landscape, where you’ll find international luxury brands and domestic designer labels all mixed in with a plethora of vintage and consignment shops. In recent years, however, fashion waste has become a serious issue, especially with the heaps of disposable clothing and accessories coming out of the fast fashion industry. Although this global problem is a tough one to tackle overnight, a select group of brands and shops in Tokyo are heading in the right direction by focusing their attention on up-cycling. Some of the stores promoting eco-fashion are:
- Nozomi Project
- Ichie Ichie
- D&Department Tokyo
Every week, thousands of plastic crates are placed along the streets of Tokyo to collect recyclable materials. In offices, supermarkets, train stations and other facilities throughout the capital, recyclable bottles, cans and other materials are meticulously separated and placed in the appropriate receptacles.
Few of Tokyo’s 23 wards have a recycling plant; most rely on private companies to process recyclables. In addition, the type of recyclable material varies by ward — Minato gathers plastic containers for recycling but Setagaya Ward, Tokyo’s most populous, does not. Recycling companies are just one of many players in the recycling game that also includes individuals who illicitly gather recyclables from plastic boxes put out by wards.
There are nineteen waste incineration plants in the central part of Tokyo. For many people, waste incineration plants have a negative image, associated with dirtiness and air pollution. But with the latest technology, waste disposal methods are actually efficient and environmentally friendly. Household waste generated by approximately 9 million people (roughly 8,000 tons per day) is put out for disposal, collected within a day, and transported to waste incineration plants. The garbage collection rate is 100 percent. At the plant, the garbage is first mixed with a large crane so that all the different kinds and sizes of items are uniformly distributed for easier burning.
Work and Study Abroad
Initially, a student visa does not allow one to work in Japan. It is necessary to apply for "permission to engage in activity other than that permitted in the status of residence previously granted," or a work permit, for short. As a student, you can apply for almost any kind of job posting but you are not allowed to partake in those that are related to adult entertainment. There are tons of part-time jobs in Japan for foreigners in the tourism and service industries that do not require Japanese abilities. There are more companies than you might expect that hire foreigners, with some interesting positions like working at Legoland Tokyo and go-kart drivers. Even if you cannot speak Japanese, You can find employment in Japan.
Student exchange programs to Japan typically allow participants to discover what it is like to live with a host family and attend a Japanese learning institution with Japanese peers. A Japanese exchange program may be an ideal opportunity to experience a life-changing adventure during your school years. By staying with a host family, foreign exchange programs to Japan may enable you to immerse yourself in a new culture and language. Japanese educational exchange participants typically live with a screened, local host family who provides you with two to three meals a day.
Tokyo has many universities offering higher education:
- University of Tokyo
- Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology
- Advanced Institute of Industrial Technology
- The Nippon Dental University
- Hitotsubashi University
- Tokyo Medical and Dental University
Tokyo is the most popular city in Japan to live and work given its extreme safety, convenience, status, and ability to meet other au pairs just like you! Like mentioned before, Facebook groups are the best way to reach out, connect, meet up, and explore with other expatriates around Tokyo. There are endless things to see, do, eat, and try in Tokyo, as it is one of the most bustling, established, and attractive cities on the planet. You certainly will never find yourself feeling bored in this city. Typically, an au pair in Japan will not be required to pay rent, as their host family provides housing for them. But the ability to live within the means of the agreed-upon monthly stipend is strongly suggested.
Volunteering is a good thing to do the world over and Tokyo is no exception. Volunteerism has been rising in popularity in Japan in recent years following the Great East Japan Earthquake Disaster and resulting Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011, and there are numerous nonprofit organizations (NPOs) dedicated to all manner of causes that take thousands of hours of volunteer help to accomplish their social missions. The good news for those of us English speakers is that there are quite a number of opportunities and NPOs that can employ non-Japanese speakers, some of which we are uniquely suited for.