Tokyo: Essentials

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TO / FROM THE AIRPORT

Airport Limousine
011-81-3/3665-7220, limousinebus.co.jp
The best choice for transportation into the city. Buses depart hourly from a stand directly outside the Arrivals lobby and make drop-offs at major hotels. Look for the counter as you exit Immigration. From the airport to the central Shibuya area takes about 85 minutes, to the Shinjuku Station transportation hub takes around 100 minutes. $26 for a one-way ticket on both routes.

Japan Rail (JR) Narita Express (N'EX)
011-81-3/3423-0111, jreast.co.jp/e/nex/index.html
Trains run every hour (every half hour during peak times) between the airport station just below the Arrivals lobby and the city's main stations: Tokyo Station (one hour, $25 each way) and Shinjuku (80 mins., $27 each way). Purchase tickets at the airport's JR Reservations Office or from vending machines at the stations.

Keisei Skyliner Train
011-81-3/3831-0989, keiseibus.co.jp
A good choice if you're staying in Asakusa, but not if your hotel is in the more westernized Shinjuku or Shibuya neighborhoods. Purchase tickets at stations or through the Keisei Ueno information office. The plush trains depart every 40 minutes for the central Ueno Station, $17 each way for the hour-long ride.

Keisi Limited Express Bus
011-81-3/3831-0989, keisei.co.jp
Eleven routes connect Narita and major suburban cities in and around Tokyo, including Kichijyoji, Makuhari, Kasai, and Yokohama. Departing times and fares vary depending on the destination. Rides into Tokyo take one hour. Purchase tickets at stations. From $9.50.

Haneda Monorailtokyo-airport-bldg.co.jp
Haneda is Tokyo's central domestic airport, with few inter-national flights, mostly to/from Asian destinations. If you arrive here, the smartest transportation option into the city is the monorail. Consult the map on the Haneda Airport website for details. Purchase monorail tickets from machines at airport stations. From $4 each way.

Japan Rail (JR) Lines
011-81-3/3423-0111, jreast.co.jp/e/index.html
The Yamanote Line, which encircles the city, and the Chuo Line, which bisects Tokyo, are cheap and convenient, and they connect many places worth visiting. Other lines are more circuitous, and more expensive. Trains arrive and depart every few minutes 5 a.m.--1 a.m. Note: Try to avoid the infamous Tokyo morning rush (7:30 a.m.--9:30 a.m.). Purchase tickets from vending machines. From $1.15/ride, depending on the distance.

Tokyo Metro
011-81-3/3941-2004, tokyometro.jp
The Metro is not as confusing as its colorful map looks. Depending on where you want to go, it can be a great way to get around areas not covered by the nicer JR Lines. Trains run every few minutes 5 a.m.--midnight. From $1.50/ride.

Pick up the handy free Tokyo Metro Guide in stations. It lists major landmarks and sights and their corresponding metro stations. You don't want to explore Tokyo without it.

Toei Subway Lines
011-81-3/5322-0400, kotsu.metro.tokyo.jp
In addition to Tokyo Metro lines, Tokyo has four city-operated Toei subway lines--Asakusa, Mita, Shinjuku, and Oedo. You can transfer to and from JR and Metro lines at many stations, but you'll need to pay separate fares. If you know you'll be transferring to or from another transit line, you can purchase a joint ticket at the station where you get on. From $1.50/ride.

Special value tickets
Tokyo Metro's One-Day Open Ticket allows unlimited travel in a 24-hour period. The one-day JR Tokunai Pass is valid for travel on all JR city lines. Both 24-hour passes can be purchased at any station from the cash-only ticket machines. Around $6.25 for a One-Day Open Ticket, $6.50 for a JR Tokunai Pass.

Passnet Cards
Available for Tokyo Metro and Toei subway lines, as well as several other local trains and buses. They won't save you money, but they'll save you time lining up at cash-only ticket machines. As you enter and exit stations, fares are automatically calculated and deducted from the card. Available in 1,000 yen ($8.75), 3,000 yen ($26.25), and 5,000 yen ($43.75) increments.

Fare Adjustment Machines
If you don't quite get the train line maps and ticket pricing system, don't worry. Simply buy the cheapest ticket available when entering a station, and pay the extra at the other end using a Fare Adjustment Machine. Just press the English button for directions and insert your ticket. The machine will tell you how much to pay.

Taxis
Fares are about $5.75 plus $2.50 for every additional 262 feet traveled. Rates increase 30 percent 11 p.m.--5 a.m. The average cab carries up to four people. In Tokyo, you can hail a cab just about anywhere by holding your arm out. A red windshield light means vacant; green means out of service. Note: Licensed taxis vary in color and make of car; just look for the identifying windshield light.

Free on the streetMetropolis (the best of the English guides), Tokyo Notice Board, Tokyo Journal, and Japanzine; available at HMV, Tower Records, and Kinokuniya

In bookstoresKatei Gaho International is a beautiful, glossy English-language magazine with articles on traditional and contemporary Japanese culture and the arts, as well as on local events and restaurants. Well worth a look. $7.50.

TOURS

Goodwill Guide Tours
Asakusa Cultural and Sightseeing Center, Kaminarimon 2-18, 011-81-3/3842-5566
Enthusiastic English-speaking volunteers conduct walking tours of the historic Asakusa area, which encompasses Tokyo's busiest temple, Senso-Ji. Another tour option takes you through Ueno Park and the city's liveliest market, Ameya Yokocho. Asakusa tours last one hour and depart at 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Sundays. Ueno tours run 90 minutes and depart at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. Free.

Hato Bus
World Trade Center, Hamamatsucho 2-4-1, 011-81-3/3761-1100, hatobus.co.jp Half- and full-day bus tours in English that include the space-age sounding Cityrama Tour, which covers the distinctly un-futuristic Meiji Jingu Shrine and Senso-Ji Temple. $35.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

 

  • Directory inquiries 104 (ask for English assistance)
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  • Police 110 (for English assistance call 011-81-3/3501-0110)
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  • Fire/Emergency/Ambulance 119
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  • Narita Airport Flight Information 011-81-4/7634-5000
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  • JR East Infoline 011-81-3/3423-0111 Train information in English, Korean, and Chinese
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  • International Access Code From U.S. 011; from Japan 001
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  • City Code 03
  • Note: When dialing from abroad, drop the 0 in the city code in the Japanese number, e.g. from U.S.: 011-81-3/3761-1100

     

  • Pay phones take 10- and 100-yen coins. (Note: If you use a 100-yen coin, you won't get change back.)
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  • Some phones only take calling cards, which you can purchase from vending machines and at most convenience stores. To use, insert the card in the slot and begin dialing. For international calls, there's the popular KDDI Super World Card, also available at most convenience stores.
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  • Within Tokyo, start dialing without the city code 03; e.g., 3501-0110.
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  • For example: If you want to call A Bathing Ape (p. 5) from a pay phone in Shinjuku, pick up the receiver, insert coins or a calling card, and dial 3407-2145.
  • USEFUL WORDS

    Conbini General term for convenience store (Lawson, Family Mart, etc.--most are open 24 hours and are licensed to sell alcohol).

    Futon Thin mattress. Unlike a western futon, there is no wooden frame; the mattress is folded up when not in use.

    Onsen Hot spring

    Ryokan Traditional Japanese inn; guests use futons rolled out on tatami mats on the floor. Baths are usually communal.

    Shoji Wood and paper screens used as room dividers

    Tatami Traditional reed mat

    Yukata Light cotton robe provided in ryokans and onsens. A thicker, more stylish variety is worn outside at summer festivals.

    TIP: Finding addresses can be difficult in Tokyo because most streets don't have names. The locals get around by using landmarks and by asking directions. Ask the concierge at your hotel to direct you. And be sure to get a card with a map of your hotel from the front desk to make sure that you can find your way back again.

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