Hello From Tokyo!

Nelson's in Shibuya, Tokyo
I’m in my second of two weeks here in Tokyo. Japan has more than lived up to my expectations, which, for those that know me, means a lot. A few of the highlights so far include eating a bowl of ramen at the Ebisu branch of Ippudo, exploring multiple six-story toy stores, and visiting the Ghibli museum.

The Google team here is incredibly helpful. Everyone goes out of their way to make me feel welcome and comfortable. I hope to eventually repay their kindness when they visit Mountain View. I just returned from dinner with some friends from the office and currently have a bellyful of ramen to energize me to blog for the first time in, wow, almost six months!

In the tradition of my Indian movie theater tips post, and along with Charlene’s tips, here are some things to keep in mind if you visit Tokyo:

  • Visit the Ghibli museum! If you plan ahead, that’s best, since the available tickets each day run out quickly and you have to buy them in advance. I could write a whole post about the museum and the experience, but I couldn’t do it justice, as every detail of it was carefully thought out. This video tour of the museum hints at the fun to be had!
  • If you’re approaching someone in a narrow hallway and intend to walk by them, stay to the left. This might sound obvious since cars here drive on the left side of the road, but I’ve created a few awkward problems by relying on my bad instinct to stay on the right in these situations.
  • Take the subway or trains, not the taxis. There are multiple, interoperating systems running around the city, so you can usually get where you want really quickly and easily by public transit. You can also walk most places, which you might not realize at first. The stations aren’t actually that far apart.
  • Along with the previous tip, be sure to get a Pasmo or Suica card and load it up with a few thousand yen to get you around for a week or two. They’re basically the same within Tokyo, except you buy the Suica at the train stations and the Pasmo at the metro. For travel outside of the Tokyo area, the Suica might be a bit better, since the trains operate over a larger area, but I got the Pasmo.
  • As of 2010, don’t expect wifi coverage in many places, since Japan is still very much wired.
  • Carry cash. A lot of places don’t take credit cards, especially if you want to visit the smaller restaurants and shops. ATMs might not take your cards, but I had good luck with the Citibank, despite their annoying fees. Get a lot at once, since you don’t have to worry much about theft.
  • Walk across the Shibuya crossing as many times as you can. It is an amazing sea of people crossing the road from all directions. I first saw it in Lost in Translation and have been consistently amazed at how crowded it gets.

3 Comments

  1. Char says:

    +1 about passing on the left! i made awkward passes on the right more than a couple times.

  2. Camie says:

    Yea I had that same problem whenever I encountered Japanese tourists in Scandinavia… they would stick to the left and I would try to veer out of their way without bumping into them…

  3. Kenji says:

    Welcome to Tokyo, Nelson!

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