Our flight to Thailand was shaping up to be our longest flight to date, originally shaping up to be around 24 hours of travel, twenty of which was flight time. When researching flights we saw that most itineraries had us spending 2-3 hours for a layover in Tokyo and props to my husband who suggested that we just fly to Tokyo, spend a few days there recovering from the flight and jet-lag and then continue on to Thailand.
We ended up spending three full days in Japan and recommend the stop if it makes sense for your itinerary. It’s a great way to break up a lengthy flight and allow yourself to ease into Asian culture. Here are a few tips and suggestions if you visit Tokyo, Japan:
1. Don’t expect a lot of English. You likely won’t encounter much English unless you go out of your way to find businesses who cater to tourists. We taught ourselves hello, check please and a few different forms of thank you and felt like it helped alot, making some effort to speak Japanese seemed to make locals more likely to at least attempt English with us (fair enough!).
2. Check your plane ticket and know that Narita Airport is about a 1.5-2 hour train ride from most popular parts of Tokyo. A cab or Uber for the ride could run you a few hundred dollars (really) so beware of the fact that you will need to get your bearings and jump right into Japan’s crazy (but impressive) public transportation system (see below). There’s a capsule hotel located at the airport and you might want to consider staying there when you arrive or depart if it’s late or early.
3. Maybe do some research into Tokyo’s Public Transit. Tokyo has one of the world’s most complex train systems. It’s incredibly efficient, but confusing! We had some friends who had recently visited that kind of broke it down for us. I’d suggest doing the same or watching some YouTube Videos to get your bearings (as mentioned in #1, you might want to use it as soon as you land).
4. Make sure to visit the Golden Gai District. This was one of my favorite parts of Tokyo. Golden Gai is a small area of Toyko that contains over 280 tiny bars (most are like 8 feet x 15 feet) and they are all stacked on top of each other. It’s really crazy to experience in person, but a lot of fun! Fair warning: not all the establishments are welcoming to foreigners. If you see a sign that says “Japanese speakers only” or there’s a curtain across the door, those are good signs that you will probably be asked to leave.
5. Vending machines in restaurants. Some of the restaurants in Japan have a vending machine type of system that allows you to place your order at a vending machine, then hand your ticket to a chef/waiter. It confused the heck out of us the first time we encountered it! Watching this video will give you the gist so you know what to look for and what to expect.