Cheap flights to Tokyo depart from Sydney, Cairns and the Gold Coast (Coolangatta International Airport) flying into either Narita International or Haneda Airport. Flights departing Brisbane will typically transfer through Cairns. Cheap flights leaving from Melbourne may include a domestic transfer via the Gold Coast while departures from Canberra and Adelaide may connect in Sydney. Perth departures can include a transfer through South East Asia. An option for cheap flights may be making your initial arrival into Kansai International Airport in Osaka and taking the Shinkansen (bullet train) or a sleeper train to Tokyo. There is a taxi rank outside each terminal, however these are quite expensive. Public buses service Narita airport but unless you know the area, route and local language, this is probably not a preferred option. The Airport Limousine Bus services both airports. This is a bit more expensive than the train, the services are less frequent and the duration is a lot longer. Trains (or monorail) service both airports. With the added convenience of English signage, these are the quickest and most affordable options with a trip time into Tokyo from 30-60 minutes depending on the train/airport.
Making your way around Tokyo is relatively easy, even in the face of language barriers. Learn a few polite phrases (please, thank you) and you may find that almost everyone you encounter knows enough English to assist. Taxis are expensive, driving is unnecessary, the public transport system is relatively cheap and will have you covered for distances you cannot walk. Allowing for extra travel time is the key to avoiding stress in this magnificent city. Purchasing a Suica card is the best way to swiftly move between the subway, train lines and bus services. There are a number of different companies that operate rail travel and tickets are not interchangeable. This means that if you’re going to purchase single tickets, be mindful that you may need to purchase another at transfer points. Avoid travelling in peak times as carriages are crowded enough outside of these hours.
The world’s busiest pedestrian crossing is outside Shibuya Station and you can waste hours people watching here. Wander the parks surrounding the Imperial Palace or the alleys of Harajuku to see where the outrageous Harajuku Girls come from. View a Giant Panda at Ueno Zoo or take in a Sumo match – the rituals and showmanship are really something else. The architecture of the Meiji Shrine and Sensoji Buddhist temple are breathtakoing and the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is gorgeous any time of day. For a cultural fix visit the Edo-Tokyo Museum, Nezo Museum or Tokyo National Museum. Theme parks Asakusa Hanayashiki, Yomiyuriland and Tokyo Disneyland are fun for kids of all ages but visit Ooedo-Onsen-Monogatari for the odd experience of a hot spring come theme park. Picnic at the manmade beach in Odaiba as the sun goes down and watch the Rainbow Bridge light up. They’re everywhere, so before you leave visit a Pachinko parlour and immerse yourself in the pokie-like obsession where your winnings could be items normally found in convenience stores - it’s as crazy as it sounds!
Shopping in Tokyo is just plain fun. Meander through the stalls of Yoyogi Flea Market or Meiji Park Flea Market. Visit Akihabara Electric Town for all the gadgets you don’t need or one of the many Daiso stores where most of the stock is 100 Yen. Harajuku has some really quirky shops but Ginza is your best bet for boutique, department, chain and speciality stores. Sit down to any of the restaurants at T.Y. Express or enjoy a cheap meal at one of the Yoshinoya chains. Be romanced by the gorgeous setting of Tofuya Ukai, seduced by the flavours at Sushino Midori in Ginza or wildly entertained at themed restaurant, The Lock Up. Sip cocktails at Tender Bar, Bar Rage or Star Bar. Popeye is great for a casual drink along with any establishment with a sign that reads “nomihodai” – meaning all-you-can-drink. There will be a time limit but it’s a very cheap night out. Use this as a starting point to join one of Tokyo’s favourite pass times, karaoke.
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