Tokyo – such a joy to experience this city not just once, but twice! Last year, my family and I did a whirlwind trip covering Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara in just seven days. We saw all the famous tourist-y sights, took lots of cherry blossom photos, and dropped by all the requisite food stalls. Suffice to say, it was a pretty exciting (but incredibly tiring) trip. This time around though, I wanted to enjoy Tokyo at a more sedate pace – focused more on exploring the city like a local, as opposed to the usual tourist-y fare! So today, I want to share three possible Tokyo day trips + a local must-try sushi place you can visit if you’ve got extra days to cover. So read on if you want to learn more on how to enjoy Tokyo – off the beaten track style!

Table of contents

FAQs

As is my norm, here are a couple of well-intended advice for you if ever you choose to go to Tokyo:

What flight should I take from Manila to Tokyo? ■      My personal suggestion would be to go Philippine Airlines. Normally, PAL would never be at the top of my airlines list, but I gotta hand it to them – their flights to and from Japan are pretty outstanding for a couple of reasons:

–     Food is awesome. I usually avoid plane food as I find it quite disgusting and less than appetizing, BUT Tokyo plane food has proven to be the exception to this rule. Each meal is plated prettily on a nice bento box, with fresh and sweet fruits, salad, main meal (usually two options are offered: one is a Japan specialty, the other one is a Filipino specialty e.g. chicken longganisa), and dessert!

–     Flight schedules are decent. I took the 6:45am flight out, and got to the Tokyo city center by ~2pm – leaving me half a day to enjoy the city sights. On the way back, took the 3:20pm flight, which again left me the morning to go around and buy the required pasalubongs to bring back home!

–     In-flight free WIFI! True, internet speed is pretty slow, and you only get 15MB free – but hey, it isn’t something I’ve experienced in other flights (unless you’re business class), so I think it’s a nifty addition

–     Mabuhay Miles don’t expire, which means I can slowly accumulate my miles without worrying about using them up every few years or so

■      Fly into Haneda Airport (not Narita) as much as possible. It’s much nearer to the city center (~30-40 mins), and will save you loads of time! There aren’t a lot of flights to Haneda from Manila as of now though…

What’s the weather like in June? ■      I went early June – in the middle of spring slowly turning to summer. Weather can alternate between hot and humid to cold at a snap of a finger – so bring a light cardigan with you at all times

■      Also, rainy season is fast approaching at this time, so it’d be great if you could bring an umbrella with you as well. If you didn’t pack an umbrella, drop by a 100 yen store (Daiso), or a convenience store (7-11, Lawson) to buy an umbrella – I’d recommend you buy the clear white umbrella so that it looks pretty in photos, and so that you can see through it even as you shield your head from the pelting rain

Where should I stay while in Tokyo? ■      Hotel, hostel, Airbnb – all three are good options depending on what you’re optimizing for. Nevertheless, whichever option you go for, choosing the right location is key to save both money and time. My preference would be to stay near either Shinjuku or Tokyo station – as these are the most well-connected stations. If not possible, stay near stations that can bring you directly to the two aforementioned stations at least

■      Hotel: If you’ve got money to spare, and you’d rather optimize for luxury and service – by all means, go for a hotel

■      Hostel: If you’re traveling alone or if you’re traveling in pairs, and you’d rather spend on food and transport as opposed to accommodations – by all means, go for a hostel. I’d recommend Yadoya Guesthouse for Backpackers D mostly because of it’s excellent location (3 mins walk from Nakono Station, which is one stop away from Shinjuku if you use the JR East Chuo Rapid Service line)

■      Airbnb: Personally, if my group is 3 or more, we tend to go with an Airbnb – just because it feels homier and more authentic an experience. Likewise, most Airbnbs in Japan also offer a portable wifi – which as I’ll explain later is quite invaluable for a traveler who cannot speak Japanese and may get lost multiple times along the way

Do I need to bring a lot of cash (Japanese Yen) with me? ■      While I initially thought that going cashless in Japan was possible – I was proven wrong. Your main mode of transport (Metro + JR East Railway) only accepts cash, likewise mom and pop stalls selling souvenirs and food usually accept cash only as well. Of course, big establishments (hotels, mall stores, upscale restaurants) all accept credit cards – so you can definitely use your credit card for big ticket expenses

■      Note that all taxis accept credit cards, but taxis in Tokyo can be very expensive (~25k Yen from Narita to Tokyo city center, ~10k Yen from Haneda to Tokyo city center). Likewise, Uber is not well-established here, so that transport option is out as well

■      Having said that, my estimate on how much cash you should bring with you on a per person per day basis would be:

–     Transport

□     ~500-800 yen if you’re only traveling within Tokyo

□     ~2k-5k yen if you’re doing day trips outside of Tokyo (example: Tokyo to Yokohama costs 970 yen one-way; while my day trip to Fukukama and Enoshima costs ~4.5k yen as I travelled to multiple temples, each of which could be reached at different rail stations)

–     Food: ~1k-2.5k yen per main meal depending on how much you eat and where you are (tourist-y areas tend to charge more). Likewise, if you’re the type to randomly buy from food stalls you see along the way, these could also rack up quite a huge expense for you as well, e.g. one soft serve ice cream cone costs ~300-400 yen, crepes costs ~400-700 yen

What are the must-brings if you want to survive Tokyo? ■      Outfit-wise: Sturdy walking shoes, light cardigan, and an umbrella are important so you can walk a lot no matter what the weather

■      Suica card: E-money card you can use both for transport (JR East, metro, bus lines) and for shopping (convenience stores) – I could forget everything as long as I had a fully loaded Suica card with me! For a step-by-step guide on how to obtain a Suica card, check out this link

■      Trusty JR East map: Personally, I prefer using JR East lines because its network is more widespread and is cheaper than the metro lines (in my mind.. not sure if true)! Either grab a map from your hotel, or print one out before you head to Japan! Not only is it handy to have when trying to figure out which stop to get off on, but it also helps when communicating to Japanese bystanders when asking for help in determining which stop you’re currently on / which stop you should get off on

■      Portable wifi: Honestly, Tokyo (and most Japanese cities) seem to be full of nooks and crannies and it can be really easy to get lost. If you’re thinking there should be loads of Wifi hotspots in the city, you’ve thought wrong – this is a city with really limited Wifi offerings (restaurants, tourist spots, etc – most of them will not have wifi for you to leech off) So either get a portable Wi-Fi from your Airbnb, or grab one from the airport

■      Willingness to ask for help when lost: Even if you’ve got a map, and even with Google Maps – you may still get lost, so let go of your pride and always be ready to ask for help from those around you! Most Japanese people have difficulty speaking English, but they can definitely engage on a map and will recognize famous tourist sights and train station names

Airport-Hotel-Airport transfer

Do NOT get a cab. It’s crazy expensive… I should know as I stupidly grabbed a cab to go to the city center. Guess I got too used to Southeast Asian countries where cabs are the main mode of airport-city transfers which normally costs ~USD 10-30 at most! But in Tokyo, be prepared to pay ~USD100-250 if you go with a cab – phew, that’s a whole lot of cash!

Check which JR East or metro station your accommodation is located near to, and grab either the Narita Express or the Tokyo Monorail (if from Haneda) to get to the city. Another option is for you to check if your accommodation is near one of the Airport Limousine bus routes – which might save you some hefty lifting of luggage when changing stations from one rail line to another

Possible day trips from Tokyo

Day Trip # 1: Free Imperial Palace Walking Tour (Estimated time: 2.5 hours)

  • Meeting spot: Tokyo Station, Marunouchi Central Exit (meeting place will be on the immediate right once you exit the ticket gate)
  • Meeting time: Every Saturday, 1pm (make sure to arrive ~10 minutes before to sign up). You’ll be assigned to a smaller group (comprised of ~8 people, with 2 guides per group)

If you’re interested in learning more about the city and its history, then this tour is for you! The tour is run by Japanese volunteers– their English isn’t perfect, but they more than make up for it with their enthusiasm and eagerness to share more of their city with you

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MY TOUR GUIDES FOR THE DAY
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TRAIN STATION ARCHITECTURE #WOW
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WHAT HIDDEN SECRETS LURK BEHIND THOSE WALLS?
If you’re lucky – and you come during the right seasons (April to June), you will also be rewarded by a stunning display of the beautiful flora and fauna found within these gardens. Because I came early June, I was greeted by blooming iris and azalea flowers

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LOVELY GARDENS
 At the end of the tour, these awesome volunteers also offered to lend us their one-touch kimonos for photos! Twas definitely an experience to remember!

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DOES THE KIMONO SUIT ME?
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MY TOUR GROUP FOR THE DAY – FELLOW FILIPINOS!

Day Trip #2: Yokohama (Estimated time: 3-5 hours, depending on how many photos you take and how much you eat)

Ramen Museum

  • Operating hours: 11am to 10pm, everyday
  • How to get there: Shin-Yokohama Station (JR Negishi Line)
  • Fee: 310 yen for adults

If you’re starting point is either lunch or dinner time – drop by this museum first, and enjoy 9 famous ramen stalls featuring a regional specialty all housed under a single roof

For those with limited stomach space, I’d recommend Sumire (which claims to sell the most famous miso ramen shop in Japan) and Muku Zweite (limited shop that’s only there for 1 ½ years) – basing this off the queue length… Likewise, make sure to choose the small bowl option so you have space in your tummy for more!

Don’t forget to bring cash with you (no credit cards accepted) – each bowl costs ~500-1k yen, and all adults must buy at least 1 bowl per store

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SO MANY RAMEN STALLS TO CHOOSE FROM #RAMENHEAVEN
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QUICK PHOTO BEFORE WE DIG IN

Minato Mrai

A seaside urban area in Yokohama – filled with sprawling malls, amusement parks, and buildings bedecked with pretty lights at night. I’d recommend you do this when it’s dark, so you can take extra pretty photos – case in point, see below photo

  • How to get there: Sakuragicho Station (JR Negishi Line)
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ISN’T IT BEAUTIFUL? #YOKOHAMA

Yamashita Park

A public park that stretches 750 meters along the Yamashita waterfront, this park offers another perfect spot for picturesque photos – see Hikawa Maru (ship museum), Yokohama Marine Tower, and a smattering of monuments distributed all throughout

  • How to get there: ~20 minutes walk from Minato Mrai

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BEAUTIFULLY LIT WAREHOUSE MALLS
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SEMI-CREEPY FOUNTAIN STATUE…

Chinatown

Japan’s largest Chinatown, where the main attraction is the awesome food within – Chinese cuisine that has been Japanized. Suffice to say, I spent a lot of money here…

Couple of food that are must-tries: Siao long pao, Siopao-looking bun, Hokkaido soft serve ice cream!

  • How to get there: ~10-15 minutes walk from Yamashita Park

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HELLO CHINATOWN!
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A DIFFERENT KIND OF SIAO LONG PAO – WITH CRUNCHY SKIN
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HOKKAIDO SOFT SERVE ICE CREAM – SO CREAMYLICIOUS

 Day Trip #3: Kamakura and Enoshima

Hokokuji Temple

Best known for the beautiful, small bamboo grove found behind the temple’s main hall; this temple is uniquely beautiful and a great place for photos

  • How to get there: From Kamakura Station (Shonan Shinjuku Line), take a bus (#23, 24, or 26) to Jomyoji (浄明寺)
  • Operating hours: 9am to 4pm
  • Fees: 200 yen (additional 500 yen for the tea service)

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BEST TEA DRINKING AMBIANCE EVER
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SHRINES
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BAMBOO PATHWAYS

Tsurujaoka Hachimangu

Known to be Kamakura’s most important shrine, traditional Japanese weddings are held here regularly and it is quite beautiful in an austere kind of way

  • How to get there: From Jomyoji (浄明寺), take any of the buses that’s headed to Kamakura Station but get off at Hachimangu (八幡宮)
  • Operating hours: 6am to 9pm
  • Fees: Free (200 yen to enter the Shrine Museum)

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ATTEMPT AT AHRT
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CRASHED A WEDDING
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QUIRKY TORI GATES
Also – right outside the shrine is the Komachi-dori shopping street – where food and cute knick knacks are sold. Or, you can opt to walk along Dankazura instead, a pedestrian path in the center of Wakamiya Oji Street

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KOMACHI-DORI SHOPPING STREET
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HOMG SO CUTE – FEELS WEIRD TO DRINK FROM A BUDDHA FACE BEER THOUGH
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CAT CAFE AWWW, BUT I’M MORE A DOG PERSON…
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CHICKEN POPS SNACK – TWAS SO GOOD. CAME BACK FOR A 2ND ROUND

Great Buddha, found inside the Kotokuin Temple

  • How to get there: From Hase Station (Enoden line), turn right and walk straight for ~10-20 minutes – just follow the Buddha posters
  • Operating hours: 8am to 5:30pm
  • Fees: 200 yen
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REMINDS ME OF THE HONG KONG BUDDHA

Hasedera Temple

Famous for its eleven-headed statue of Kannon, and its pretty garden by the pond. I was templed out by this point so didn’t bother entering. You’ll have to make do with a picture from the outside

  • How to get there: You’ll pass by the temple as you walk from Kotokuin Temple back to Hase Station (it should be on your right side)
  • Operating hours: 8am to 5pm
  • Fees: 300 yen
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INVITING EXTERIOR – BUT NOT ENTICING ENOUGH TO TEMPT ME TO ENTER

Enoshima

  • How to get there: Enoshima Station (Enoden line)

A pleasant touristy island that’s quite near Kamakura, I highly recommend you come here especially if you’re already in the area

From the train station, follow the crowd and you’ll end up in front of Enoshima Island. You now have two options – either take the ferry all the way to the end of the island (400 yen per adult); or you can walk the entire island and come back the same way. My advice if you have time is to just walk the entire thing – good way for you to burn off all the calories you’ve accumulated by eating yummy Japanese food

Cross the bridge (to your right, if you’re lucky and visibility is good – you’ll see Mt. Fuji across the sea)

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A WILD MT. FUJI APPEARS
Once you get on the island, Enoshima Island and Spa can be found to your right; or you can continue onwards where lots of nice stalls can be found selling Japanese knickknacks and yummy snacks

At the top, you’ll cross Enoshima Shrine and you’ll be faced with another choice. Do you climb all the steps upwards, or do you pay for an escalator ride (360 yen)? Because I’m a total cheapskate, I decided to forego the escalator and just climb instead. I think the steps are doable, if a bit tiring – but you can always rest in between landings

Once you get to the top, just follow the path and you’ll come across Samual Cocking Garden, Iwaya Caves, Love Bell, and Southern Coast

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LOVERS BY THE COAST
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WHAT A VIEW – FEELS LIKE I’VE BEEN TRANSPORTED A FEW CENTURIES BACK
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LOVE LOCKS
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COASTAL VIEW
Aside from checking out the beautiful scenery, you can also play a game while here – called “Spot the fat cat!” Swear, there are so many fat cats in this island… Here’s a sneak peek!

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FAT CAT SIGHTINGS: 1

Local must-try restaurant

 Shutoku Honten (秀徳)

  • Address: 4-14-16 Tsukiji Chuo Tokyo (Tsukiji Market area)

Man, this restaurant is a definite must-try! My local friend brought me here and it was A-MAZING. Fresh sushi galore – and it just kept coming. I counted 18 dishes in total, devoured over a span of 2 hours. Crazyyy! My stomach died, but it died happy 😉

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XX COURSE MEAL – I LOST COUNT AFTER THE 10TH DISH
And that’s pretty much it! Hope you enjoy your Tokyo trip as much as I did – don’t forget to stuff your face with all the yummy food found there!!

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