5 tips for a Tokyo trip
01 Buy a Pasmo card
When you're in Tokyo it's a no-brainer to use the rail system. Anywhere and everywhere you want to go, overground, underground, it's safe, clean and on time. And the best way to get great value as a tourist is to buy a Pasmo card. There are vending machines at all the larger stations and they're easy to use, with an English option. There's also a top-up service if you start to run low on credit — something that will be shown every time you use the card passing through station gates. A great function not to be underestimated. As a guide, 10,000 yen credit should be enough for a 5-day trip, of course depending on use. Staff at the railway stations are very helpful, and at every electronic gate there's a small station office, usually with English-speaking staff, who can advise if you're headed in the right direction. And you will for a fact wonder, multiple times a day, if you're on the right path, such is the size of the city and the rail network.
02 Do the obvious touristy things
There's no chance of things being boring in Tokyo even if you're following a "Best 5" list of what to do. They're all great fun, even if it's a well-worn path. Skytree? Hell yeah. Looking at the world's most populous city from 634m in the air? Absolutely. Visiting the East Gardens at the Imperial Palace? You can be assured the only thing more Zen than the wonderful landscaping and old tea houses are perhaps the huge, almost seamless blocks that make up the palace fortifications. All are something to behold. The Shibuya crosswalk? Rarely do you see such a huge ocean of humanity waiting, waiting, orderly waiting for the Walk Now signs and then… let's go! Everything alight, everyone abuzz, going places. Shinjuku? Well, that's for the grown-ups who've seen a bit more of the world after dark. Best leave the kids at the hotel for that.
03 Beware The Men In Black
With 21st-century corporate practices changing by the month, the Tokyo Salaryman may well be something of a historical trope, but be in no doubt, the Men In Black still number in their millions. Tokyo's bigger stations deal with 500,000 people or more each day, so be prepared for a roiling sea of people, 50 shades of grey and all manner of pinstripes, every rush hour — make that hours. It is well worth your time making travel plans around these high tides of ties. Certain times of the day can be a real onslaught. And if you're thinking of checking out that cosy and cheap yakinuki joint near the hotel that gets good reviews, be aware there can often be an hour wait, as the place is chock-full of rowdy suits getting sloshed after weekday work (beer-swilling office workers are definitely not a thing of the past). Standing sushi joints sound pretty cool, but they're even livelier due to a lack of seats. At least you won't have any seat envy waiting to get in. Best to make reservations if you can.
04 Visit Tokyo Disney resort
If you think Tokyo can be like entering The Matrix, take a deep breath, pop the blue pill and visit Tokyo Disney Resort. The depth of fakery, the breadth and detail of the unreal reality, it will leave you stunned. Comprising two separate resorts — Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disneysea — it is best to buy a 2-day pass for both. And wear your most comfortable shoes — 11-hour back-to-back days lie ahead, such is the size of the place and the amount of fun on offer. Despite its name, Disneysea is not a marine park. The entrance is Mediterranean Harbor, which leads to six nautically themed ports: American Waterfront, Lost River Delta, Port Discovery, Mermaid Lagoon, Arabian Coast and Mysterious Island. American Waterfront and Mediterranean Harbor are deeply impressive hybrid mash-up recreations of the almost real. As for rides, there's nothing really terrifying, but it's all very thrilling. Even rides for much younger kids are great fun — Mermaid Lagoon is a fantastical immersion into The Little Mermaid and Arabian Coast is all about Aladdin and Jasmine.
05 Go shopping with your passport
When it comes to hassle-free tax-free tourist shopping, Tokyo has it down pat. Do not leave your hotel without your passport, because there are so many shopping spots that are part of a programme, whereby you just simply produce your passport and bingo — no 10% VAT (or whatever your country calls it) for you. Head-to-toe, from brand name beauty products to those just-so retro sneakers and all in between, it's a great system. Of course not all outlets offer the service, but take a quick look online or keep your eyes open for the tax-free signs, and you're in. More money for sushi.