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Making the Most Out of Tokyo

Although I've only been to Japan twice, and with both times being spent entirely in Tokyo at that, I already understand why my friends and family make the trip to the Land of the Rising Sun year after year. Each season has its own charm, from the fireworks and festivals in Summer to the holiday buzz and rainbow-coloured illuminations lighting up the streets in Winter. I've enjoyed both Summer and Fall in Tokyo and I'm currently planning another vacation during Winter next year. I hope the following tips will help you make the most out of your time in Japan's capital, no matter the season.

1. Get lost, no seriously, get lost

Unless you're desperately looking for a specific shop, restaurant or landmark, I highly encourage you to plan your itinerary according to the districts and just walk around the area once you hop off at the appropriate train station. You never know what hidden gems you might unearth and if you're worried about getting lost, I can guarantee that there's an entrance to a train station within five minutes of wherever you are. Personally, I found a dozen izakayas, wine bars and restaurants when I was initially looking for a pub that specialised in craft beer. And yes, I did end up at one of these establishments instead of that craft beer place, although I hope to try out its wide selection some day.

2. Try the arcades...or not

I've waxed lyrical about the arcades in Tokyo in a previous piece so you would've seen this tip coming from a mile away. There's something for everyone in these expansive game centers, be it the addictive UFO Catchers filled with merchandise featuring characters from various anime titles and games to old school bullet hell and fighting games like Street Fighter II. My friends and I threw caution into the wind whenever we entered an arcade, with the UFO Catcher and its tempting goodies robbing us of our precious yen time and again.

3. Get a Pasmo/Suica card

A Pasmo or Suica card will be your best friend throughout the entire duration of your time in Tokyo. It's the Japanese version of our very own Ez-Link card and in case you're wondering, your Pasmo or Suica can be used for much more than just paying for the subway or bus. From a can of coffee at a vending machine to a bowl of ramen at a restaurant, there are an increasing number of merchants accepting the re-loadable cards as an alternate form of payment. The cards will come in handy when you least expect them to, and do you really want to go through the hassle of buying a ticket every time you take the train or bus?

4. Stick with public transport as much as possible

On that note, you'd want to stick with public transport as much as possible, unless you plan to stay out past 12am. Taxis are too expensive and I didn't even bother to open the Uber app to check how much a private hire car would cost. Like I mentioned above, there will be a train station within walking distance from wherever you are, given how many lines there are in Tokyo's subway system. Enter HyperDia. The trip planner a godsend, especially if you can't be bothered to scrutinise the Tokyo Metro map for minutes on end. Just key in your current train station along with your destination and the website or app does the rest, much like Singapore's

5. Cash is best

From what I've experienced, cash is still king in Japan, even in cosmopolitan Tokyo. Forget about relying on your credit card exclusively and head to the money changer with extra cash in hand instead. Additionally, prepare a separate coin pouch because there are six denominations and they'll definitely start piling up before you know it. You wouldn't want to be that guy holding up everyone else in the queue as you attempt to differentiate between a 10 yen coin and a 100 yen coin, right?

6. Have fun!

Perhaps the most cliche and overused tip but it's the one I believe many people forget when they travel. You don't need to tick everything off your itinerary and you definitely don't have to buy unique souvenirs from every district for all your friends and family. Fortunately, there's something for everyone in Tokyo, whether you're a fan of Japanese culture, huge otaku, cafe enthusiast or shopaholic. It's a break from work or school after all so let loose and enjoy!

Written by ET

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