Going alone

Solo traveling is like jumping into a pool. It may seem daunting at first, but in the end, you’ll be glad you did it. You’ll so want to do it again!

Adventures of an optimist

Shit, my turn. The immigration official at the desk in front looks straight into my eyes, a lioness locked onto her prey (he was male, but lionesses do the hunting so…)

An upwards head jerk beckons me. Clutching my backpack straps like a kid walking into school on their first day, I approach.

“Purpose of your visit to the United States?” spits Cranky McCrankface as I hand over a mess of documents.

“Uuuuhh….” I try to recall indeed why I had just disembarked a 16 hour hell ride from Hong Kong. He inspects the photo of a red faced, Kmart-uniform clad teen that resides in my passport, before peering back up with demanding eyes.

“LEISURE!” I burst. Good work brain.

He continues the interrogation, brow furrowed, “By yourself?”

Salty beads moisten my forehead. HE’S GOT ME NOW.

“Yup… first solo trip!” I squeak, in an attempt to convince him that…

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Tokyo – Off the Beaten Path

For anyone planning to go to Tokyo, here are some helpful tips I’ve accumulated from my trips to the big city.

FOOD:

I recommend you try to find smaller restaurants on the side/smaller streets. They’re usually tastier, feel more homey, and are less expensive.

  • The prices we had were: starting from 150 YEN per dish in Conveyer Belt sushi restaurants AND 600 YEN per bowl for Ramen restaurants
  • Department stores have discounted (sometimes 50% off) (Sushi and more) at 6-7 PM (closing time) located in the Basement Levels
  • Onigiri: local convenient stores have what’s called “Onigiri” (rice balls wrapped in seaweed) that are a good cheap option for meals such as breakfast/lunch.

SHOPPING:

  • Thrift (second hand) stores are a budget friendly (and clean) way to buy clothing in Japan. For example, my family once made the spur of the moment decision to go skiing. And for $100 we were able to find two ski outfits in good condition.

SIGHTS:

  • Tokyo Metropolitan Government building – it has free entry, and you can see the skyline of Tokyo from here
  • A lot of Temples in Tokyo to visit (simply Google the one nearest you)
  • Bathhouses: In Japan, there are public bathhouses called Sento. The bathing areas are separated by gender, and require you to shower before you go in. The prices are reasonable, and it’s a nice way to relax at the end of a long day. Bathing in Japan also has it’s own etiquette, so make sure you’re aware of them. A quick search on google should do the trick.

TRANSPORTATION:

  • The “Common One-day Metro Ticket” is a good option if you’re planning on going to many places in the city (1000 YEN per person)
  • There are 2 sets of Metro lines: the “Tokyo metro line”, and the “Toei Line”. This ticket will allow you to travel on all the lines in Tokyo. They can be bought at all subway station machines. Including the airport.
  • http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/ticket/value/1day/index.html
  • Pasmo Card: this is a convenient card that you put money in, and can use to buy things at convenience stores, and pay for the METRO and BUS as well. Plus some other locations.
  • Not all places take credit cards, so when you use the PASMO card, you won’t have you carry cash on you.
  • Also, try not to ride taxis as they are more expensive.

ACCOMMODATION:

  • Hostels and home stays: they are good options if you want to explore Tokyo on a more cultural level.
  • Booking.com is a good site for booking hotels, hostels, home stays, etc. You can find some really good rates on there.
  • Hotels usually charge by person; the second and third person may have a higher rate
  • It’s also a better idea to stay towards the center of Tokyo in a smaller home stay, hostel or capsule hotel. This way you’ll be closer to the restaurants, shopping, nightlife, etc.
  • Some hostels have a kitchen, so you can buy local food and cook a meal or two with any new friends you make!

LANGUAGE

  • It’s a good idea to learn some basic Japanese phrases. Simple words such as “Arigato” (pronounced a-re-ga-to) meaning “thanks” and “toire” (pronounced toy-re(d) without the d) meaning “toilet” will go a long way. You can learn how to say these phrases with a quick google search as well.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below. Sayonara for now!

– April 2016