When I booked Tokyo for the next destination of our round-the-world trip, I thought travelling in Tokyo would be a lot more complicated than it was. I’ve visited countries before where the alphabet isn’t made up of letters I know, but after reading other traveller’s tips about how little was translated, I was nervous! Luckily, language barriers weren’t as much of an issue as I feared. And if we can manage to explore Tokyo without problems, so can you!

When I checked the weather the day before my flight, I saw that Typhoon Lan was heading straight for Japan. It was not the best timing if I wanted to see much of Tokyo, especially as I only had three days there. But then again, it was forecast to be very windy in Hawaii while we were there, but that actually turned out to be a blessing. It would have been way too hot otherwise! It’s a bit different in Japan, though, because the temperature outside was typical for autumn (around 20C).

Our flight to Tokyo

The flight from Hawaii to Tokyo took about seven hours and we flew with Japanese Airlines. It was our first time flying with them and I have to say Japanese Airlines are now one of my favourites! The plane was new, well designed and even in economy you get a nice blanket, headphones, earplugs, and even cotton shoes so you can relax your feet. So much so that I managed to sleep most of the flight, so I slept through all the food!

It was exciting to cross the international date line while we were flying to Japan. It’s just too bad that we lost a day. After landing in Narita Airport we bought a mobile data router. We knew we were definitely going to need Google Maps and Google Translate while in Tokyo!

Next up was finding the right train to get from Narita Airport to our hotel. I’d done my research before I got there (which was well worth doing, because it took me two hours to work everything out beforehand!) so we went straight to the ticket machine for the Narita Express. It costs about 20GBP to get into the centre of Tokyo, but you can also take the cheaper regular train if you don’t mind changing a few times. There’s also the bus or taxis, but the latter can be expensive. The Narita Express train was nice, comfortable and fast. Just one hour after we left, we arrived at Shinjuku Station, which was a 10-minute walk from our hotel.

Where to stay

We chose to stay at the Shinjuku Granbell Hotel and I actually really liked it. Everyone said that staying in Japan would be very expensive, but we got this place for a very reasonable price and the location was amazing. They have a great restaurant and bar, which we sampled for dinner the first night, as well as a small coffee shop downstairs and several vending machines stocked with snacks, ice cream and even beer.

Our room very pretty small – we could barely fit our two big suitcases there, but where it lost points for practicality, it made up for them in cosiness. And hey, I only had three days to see Tokyo, so the only time I’d spend in my room I’d be asleep.

Typhoon Lan arrives!

And then I woke up the next morning to Typhoon Lan. It literally rained the whole day without even a minute’s break. We were hungry and short on time though, so we didn’t want to write the day off. After a little research I found a place called Sunshine City. This is a shopping mall with a few attractions inside, located an hour’s walk from the hotel. Uber failed and I decided that if I had to walk to the train station, I might as well walk the entire way and see some sights en route. It wasn’t too cold outside and we got umbrellas from the hotel, but I regretted my decision in 10 minutes because I was soaked through!

Where to eat in Tokyo

When we finally got to the mall we were so happy. We wandered about for a while before choosing a restaurant. We went for the busiest place as a mark that the food would be good. The menu had some translations but we did rely on Google Translate to establish just what we would be eating… And we did pretty well! Our table was filled with delicious ramen soup, fried rice, chicken gyoza, and sweet and sour shrimps. To pay the bill you just have to go to the cashier and pay by the exit. This was actually a great way to do it because it saves the waiting time between asking for and paying the bill.

Love all things foodie when you travel? Find out more about what to eat for the best experience in Japan in this guide.

Dried off and refuelled, we popped into some interesting shops and purchased cake from a bakery before heading back to the hotel. This time we decided to take a taxi, which wasn’t too expensive. The rest of the day we spent snuggled up in our room, watching movies and eating snacks from seven until eleven.

Luckily for us, Typhoon Lan didn’t stay long and the next two days brought much better weather. Stay tuned for the next post, where we share the hidden gems and top spots in Tokyo from our time there. And if you just can’t wait, check out these four reasons to visit the mountains in Japan and eight reasons to book your flight to South East Asia today!

Have you visited Tokyo? What were your first impressions?

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  1. Japan is probably one of the top places on my bucket list at the moment. Really cool that you got to experience it. Last year I crossed the date line as well on my way to New Zealand. Will have to cross it again to get that day back. 🙂

  2. It’s amazing how Mother Nature can change our plans sometimes but I think there is always a reason for it! Looks like though it was a short trip it ended up being a good one!

  3. I’m glad that you didn’t let the typhoon ruin your plans. And I’m sure that even though you were soaking wet, you still managed to have a fun time at Sunshine City and eat some yummy food!

  4. I do think walking is the best way to get to know a city – but such a shame it was pouring with rain! Still it sounds like you really made the best of it and found some great food to try. I’ve been reading a few posts about Japan recently and I’d love to visit Tokyo one day.

  5. This is a helpful guide for a first-time visitor to Tokyo and Typhoon Lan. Japanese Airlines seems quite comfortable and well-equipped, as you mention. I would be a bit overwhelmed with all the signs in Japanese language though, so would like to prepare more from that angle.

  6. A great post about the places. I can understand your feeling about the language barrier. Its good that you did not face any problems. And you sure made up for all the food that you did not have on the flight! The food looks utterly delicious.

  7. Loved reading about Tokyo and glad to know that there are no language issues contrary to the myths floating around. Japan is a unique and fascinating country, a place where the past and history rubs shoulders with the present and future. Would love to visit Japan and we definitely will take a few tips from your post.


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