Hacking Japan: Inside Tokyo for Less than New York

(Photo: e-chan)

Several dozen of you asked for Tokyo hacks after the How to Live Like a Rock Star in Buenos Aires how-to guide.

Summer is upon us, and to encourage all of you to dream of traveling eastward, this is Part 1 of a 2-part series on hacking the world’s foremost cherry-blossom-meets-Bladerunner playground.

To begin: Most of what you hear about Tokyo is either a vast exaggeration or massive understatement.

The world’s most expensive city? Ridiculous. You can have an incredible meal and full night out for less than in NYC (try anything above floor 5 in Kabuki-cho in Shinjuku), and no tipping to boot. Certainly nowhere near the mind-numbing prices of London. Japanese weirdness? Most definitely. Quirky and futuristic, light-hearted but oddly Dilbert, Tokyo is a fusion of inventiveness and eccentricity found nowhere else on earth.

I’ve lived in Tokyo four or five times since 1995 and consider myself more Edokko (Tokyoite) than Californian. Here are a few of my tips for hacking it—seeing the real deal with real Japanese—while keeping the wallet (mostly) intact…

The Most Unusual Top 4

Ghibli Museum: This is the real-life Alice in Wonderland. The most incredible museum I have ever visited, hidden in a park and designed by animation powerhouse Ghibli Studios, this gem is a homerun. Get tickets at a Lawson convenience store well in advance.

Tsukiji Fish Market: Get up EARLY (around 5am) and see the largest fish market in the world. A single tuna for $40,000 USD? That’s low-end. Wrap up eating the best sushi in the world for breakfast in the outer market. Unforgettable.

Takeshita Doori: The kids and fashion here must be seen to be believed. Indescribable, especially sitting right next one of the most beautiful shrines in Tokyo. Red contacts and outfits that make Marilyn Manson look like Pokemon? Prepare to be amused.

Akihabara: From “maid cafes” (you can sit in a mock living room and have maids at your beck-and-call for food, newspaper, coffee, etc.) to electronics years ahead of the US, this “computer city” is the mecca of geekdom. Otaku central. Moe moe kyuuuuu!

7-11 in Japan is Not 7-11 at Home

Looking for a cheap and healthy meal? Grab some o-nigiri (rice balls, wrapped in dry seaweed and filled with various meats, vegetables, or fish) at 7-11, Sunkus, or Lawson. Delicious and a full meal for less than $3 USD.

Becoming an “Ekisupaato”

If you’re in Japan, you have to use the trains. Take a cab once just to giggle at the automatic doors and white gloves, then get on rails. For convenience, consider getting a SUICA card (“Super Urban Intelligent CArd” – sooo Japanese), which is prepaid and can be swiped across the turnstile for almost all major train lines. Not sure how to get from one place to the next, which trains to take and where to switch? Get a map and consider using the site Eki-supaato, which is a pun — it sounds like “expert” in Japanese “eki-su-paa-to” but is written with the character “eki”, meaning train station. Here is the equivalent in English from reader Ken Uno, and a second — somewhat odd — English version. Beware that most trains stop running around 12 midnight.

Three Must-Learn Suffixes

Getting to the right station (-eki):

-eki means station, as in Shibuya-eki, Tokyo-eki

Getting to the right line (-sen):

-sen means ‘line’, as in Yamanote-sen, Ginza-sen, Hibiya-sen, etc.

(They will direct you with a platform number. Confirm with number of fingers if unsure.)

Getting out the right exit (-guchi):

nishi-guchi = west exit

higashi-guchi = east exit

minami-guchi = south exit

kita-guchi = north exit

[Continued in Part 2: housing, restaurants and delicacies, and escapes]


Special thanks to Philip Ashenden for his help with this two-parter.

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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57 Replies to “Hacking Japan: Inside Tokyo for Less than New York”

  1. Very Cool. How long has it been since you were in Japan? This is definitely going to make one of my top places to visit list. Don’t forget to travel south to Nicaragua. Cool place to visit.

    Pura Vida!!!!!!!

    Jose Castro-Frenzel

  2. I heartily second the 7-11 recommendation. Even their egg salad sandwiches are delicious and not at all like the 7-11s in America.

    I stayed in Osaka (south of Tokyo but still a major city) for awhile, and they have fantastic udon shops where you can get a very filling meal and a Sapporo beer for less than $3. Then you can wander the grounds of Osaka-jo (Osaka castle) and read, write, or brainstorm for hours and hours on end. (And play with the wild kitties for a break!) Curry places are also a good bet for cheap fare — tons of rice and meat for just a few dollars.

  3. Refreshing! Thx for sharing with us, Tim — I have a longtime dream to visit the Ghibli Museum (Totoro is soooo cute) and your mention of it only reaffirms my hopes.

  4. Love this entry.

    After reading the 4HWW and this blogpost, I can’t wait to get a job ( still a student ) and apply the aspects I read in your book. I want to visit Tokyo !

    Nice post

  5. Hi Tim.

    Thanks for sharing. I had a similar experience when I visited Tokyo for the first time.

    Coming from London it was a reminder of how much sweeter life can be when the essentials are reasonably priced. The various ramen and donburi joints were a real culinary pleasure for me. Had my reservations about paying for my meal using a vending machine but once I saw what I got for my money, I promptly got seconds.

    One question for you, I was fortunate enough to find accommodation at a friend’s but for those without that option, what’s a good way to stay on the cheap. Having looked at a few of the prices I could see that this seriously scupper any plans for a long stay.


    p.s. great to meet you at the London book signing. Loved the message.

    “Jia You!”

  6. We were recommended the fish market by an older friend of ours. At first, we thought it was a bit crazy, but we got up early one morning (didn’t hurt that we were staying within walking distance) and went and damned if he wasn’t right. Really really interesting. I can still hear the auctioneers’ songs in my head.

  7. Long time reader, been a while since posting. I just wanted to put in a few words about your post. You might want to warn people about Kabuki-Cho. It is the sleaze pit of Japan. Prostitution and Yakuza are rampant, and today’s yakuza are nothing like the idealized ones you see in the movies. They are mostly low life money lending thugs. Shibuya, Roppongi (how could you have missed mentioning Roppongi?), and Shinjuku are far cleaner and nicer places.

    I laughed when you mentioned 7-11 onigiri. I like them as well, but they are 40% preservatives. That konbini fare is some of the most synthetic stuff in the world. There aren’t any books in English on the subject yet, but the ones in Japanese make Fast Food Nation look like a comic book.

    Takeshita Doori is a great place. It is also surrounded by very cool places. It is in the middle of Yoyogo Kouen (park), and that borders the ultra high fashion Harajuku. Two more places equally worth mentioning, and free to boot. Well, unless you shop, but the street food in Yoyogi park is not only good it is also cheap, and you don’t have to worry about buying a beer and drinking it while sauntering in the park while you eat your takoyaki.

  8. Tim… 😀

    Love this article… I am soo ready for the life of the young and well traveled. 😀

  9. I’d add, head to one of the parks on the weekend: they offer a cross-section of Japanese culture, wall to wall people doing all the things they can’t do in their midget apartments. Kendo, tai chi, badminton, drumming, playing with their band, frisbee, singing, picnics… I recommend grabbing a crepe from Takeshita-dori and heading over to Yoyogi-koen for a while. There’s also a fleamarket in the next-door carpark once a month. Sugoi!

    And Tim, I hope you’re going to put ramen places in Part 2? I loved getting a ticket from the vending machine and sitting down with sararimen to slurp to a Doris Day soundtrack.

  10. Dude,

    A big shout from party drunk Denmark, a great post – yet again –

    keep inspiring and real.

    To Tokyo we go!

  11. Tim,

    I went to Japan last year, and I must say – I’m sure I have you beat! I went for free! 😉

    I was fortunate enough to go for a week for business – the law firm client paid for our stay up front. However, my colleague and I completed the work in half the time, so we had over three days to explore. We saw Hachioji, Tokyo, Kyoto, Akhiabara, and took a Japanese language tour of some of the old temples. (We took the bullet train to Kyoto – an experience in itself!) I highly recommend Japan to anyone.

    I learned enough Japanese prior to going that I was able to get by – using your method without knowing it! I went to learn-japanese.info, and was able to de-construct enough of the language to get by pretty well. I don’t remember most of it a year later, but I’m sure that if I had to go back tomorrow I’d be able to pick it up again on the plane ride.

    I took over 1,000 pictures while I was there. (If anyone wants to see the pictures, email me at fhww [at] thomasquinlan [dot] com.) I recommend Akhiabara (though with the unfortunate incidents today, I recommend proper caution), as well as Asakusa. The kobe beef is as good as everyone says so if you can spring for that it’s worth it!

    If anyone has any questions, and I can answer them, I’d be happy to do so at the above address.


  12. Great article, and quite accurate. For anyone visiting in Japan, print this out and take it with you!

    However, for those looking for the listed convenience stores, it is Sunkus, and not Sunkist. (It is actually pronounced as “sanks,” which is the Japanese pronunciation of “thanks”)

    Another great place to go is the Tama Zoo. You can even ride in a truck surrounded by lions (of course, that is all up to the temperament of the lions), and the whole thing will set you back 5.00 US.

    For those of you coming over, have a great time!

    Takuin Minamoto


    Thanks, Takuin! Damn, I always make that “Sunkist” mistake 🙂

    Pura vida,


  13. This kind of post is why I read your blog, Tim. Keep it up.

    And you’re right:

    Super Urban Intelligent Card is so Japanese. So much so.

  14. Hi, I just came back from Japan actually.

    I have to chime in here with support that Japan is actually affordable these days. Also the lack of the ability to speak Japaneses is not so important these days. But give yourselves plenty of time to get around. If you get lost be brave and ask for help, most Japanese are very helpful. Just know the key words.

    I would suggest though you pay a little more for a better hotel, with good service. From there you can get great recommendations for good and cheap restaurants and directions to go where you need to go.

    Go by train for sure, it is cheaper than a cab.

    The Fish Market is a must go, but it is not quite clear, that tourists are NOT allowed into the fish auction that runs from 5-6am. Infact tourists are not allowed in most of the areas we see pictures of. So my advice is to get off at Tsukiji station, and sneak in the back way. Also prams are not allowed and the place is not child friendly at all. Needless to day, we learned the hard way, but got to see it all.

    My other pick is Akihabara, the electronics city. If you are a foreigner, shop at a large chain store to get duty free, ie a 5% discount. Also do shop in the small stores as they often have massive discounts of products up to 50% off for the older but still new products compared to western shops. Most Japanese electronics brands launch in Japan first before the rest of the world.

    Oh one more thing, bring cash and keep your coins so that you can buy drinks from vending machines all over the place. They are the cheapest way to go. They clock in anywhere from 100 to 150 yen for a bottle of coke or ice green tea.

    Good Luck and Enjoy!

  15. I’m planning a trip to the Kodokan, so I hope you mention it in your next entry.

    Training martial arts around the world has been one of my “things” since 19, where I went to train Muay Thai in Thailand. I’m 20 now and heading to Korea for TKD and Judo. The Kodokan is next.

  16. Great post. And if you want to go a little bit upscale, go out for a sushi lunch at one of the big department stores. You can usually get a really good sushi lunch for around $20-$25.

  17. Having done 2006 and 2007 in Europe in this past May in Japan, Tim is right on with everything he’s posted here. We had fantastic meals in Kyoto, in really nice restaurants, for less than back home in Seattle. The no tipping makes a big difference here.

    While in Kyoto we had breakfast every morning at Daily Yamazaki (a kind of 7-11) that baked fresh bread and pastries in the store each morning! If you grab a non-meat onigiri (musubi if you’re from Hawaii) you can pack it and have it as a mid-morning snack while you decide where to eat. You also will find many hole-in-the-wall udon, ramen, and yakitori joints that are awesome.

    Another must do is to bike it in places like Kyoto and Nara. We never felt we were in danger since you can ride on the sidewalks in Japan. It only cost us $5 to rent a bike in Nara for the whole day! Biking is a great way to see the temples and the little nooks and crannies because it’s so easy to just stop and get going again on a bike!

  18. @DT

    unless things have changed since i went to tsukiji last july, tourists are allowed in one specific (and marked, through i can’t remember if it was marked in english or in japanese) strip in the middle of the auction. tourists are specifically not allowed on the rest of the auction floor. there are also signs prohibiting flashes on camera, but most tourists didn’t notice/care. i felt sort of sorry for the workers that have to deal with the flashes all the time.

    also, the rest of the market is, well, a market. while not meant for tourists, i saw no notices forbidding them. i highly recommend a stroll through the market. the variety of sea critters for sale is astounding.

    one word of caution though: pay attention! there’s tons of workers on motorized carts zipping back and forth. don’t get in their way.

  19. Was in Tokyo a little over a year ago myself, and it was the best trip I’ve ever done. It is a city I could actually see myself living in.

    I can second the fact that Tokyo is not an expensive city to visit; the trains are excellent and inexpensive, food on the go is really cheap (just don’t eat on the run, I’ve heard it’s frowned upon). Most signage is in English and Japanese, and when buying things, pointing and body language go a long way, and many Japanese have a basic knowledge of English, so the language barrier is not as bad as you would expect. I just made sure I remembered a few of the basic phrases from my year of Japanese in college so I wouldn’t be the ugly American.

    My next trip there, I’m hoping to stay in a capsule hotel, just because it’s a completely foreign idea, and it’s cheap (around $40/night). What more is a hotel room than a place to sleep anyway?

    And I’m definitely going to the Ghibli Museum next time around… Didn’t even know about it until this post. I’m looking forward to the next post to collect some more ideas. 🙂

  20. Thank you for sharing. We always get caught up in what others say about a place. It is nice to hear your positive views on Japan.

  21. Just a little thing that made me laugh…the Combini is not called “Sunkist”, it’s called Sunkus! I always do that too though, Sunkist is just easier to remember..

    Rich in Japan (but only 7 weeks left!)

  22. Alas, contrary claims to the expensiveness of Tokyo!

    My friend is currently TEFLing it in Osaka.

    As a sushi addict, I’ve been fancying a trip to somewhere in Japan within 12 months. I can’t wait for part 2.



  23. wonderful article…rather ironic title though, in view of the latest incident in tokyo. i’ve been to tsukiji, missed all the exciting fish bidding of course, but i had the best chirashisushi of my life before leaving.

  24. How could you possibly make a how-to guide of Tokyo and NOT include the required paragraph about a ramen shop?!? 😀

    Certainly Japan can be fairly inexpensive and on the flip side it can be ridiculously expensive. It depends on what you want and trust me that you can have anything you want, it only takes money.

    Here are the things that you just cannot get away without paying more than you’re used to which I refer to as the 3B’s:

    Beer = $6-10 per bottle

    Beef = Not so cheap (even at an all you can eat Shabu-shabu)

    B*tches = Gentlemen’s clubs and/or Hostess clubs (if you can even get in, foreigners are often discriminated against and barred entry from these establishments) are fairly expensive … uh… not that I would know ;D

  25. I lived for 3 years near Hiroshima teaching English and traveling all over the place for cheap on special rail passes that are available during school vacations — google for “Seishun 18 Kippu”. Slow, local trains only, but a fantastic way to really see the Japanese countryside if you have the time. There are of course other rail passes available to foreigners visiting that allow you to use the Shinkansen and other express trains, but remember to buy them before you arrive in Japan at your travel agent. Lastly, the site I always used for my train travel planning is the one done by Hyperdia: http://grace.hyperdia.com/cgi-english/hyperWeb.cgi (for the English version). I wandered everywhere from Sapporo, Hokkaido to Kagoshima, Kyushu with its assistance.

  26. @YokohamaGaijin

    That is actually good info, and it is all very true, luckily, it doesn’t effect me at all.

    1. I don’t drink often enough for it to make a difference.

    2. I don’t eat meat.

    3. I’m married.

    So, if any one else lives under the same criteria, you’ll find paradise. Haha.

    Noodle shops abound, if you know where to look…well, that isn’t exactly true because where I live (close to Ikebukuro) throw a rock and you’ll hit a noodle shop…or a Japanese person…so its best not to throw rocks. But you get the picture. You can practically find them without looking.

    If anyone decides to visit Japan, and if you have a friendly guide, you can find food that will spoil your palette for anything else. If you don’t have a friendly guide, get a map and go it alone. Try to stay out of the tourist places, if you really want to get into Japanese life.

    After all, you are not really coming here in order to hang out with people from your own country, are you?

  27. Great article, I usually go once to Japan each year for holiday, from Tokyo to Hokkaido (the northern island is Japan).

    Now most of the young people could speak English, although not so fluent, but if you ready want to ask for directions or where you are, my experience is those young ladies on the street could provide more help than those guys, they are more patient to point you the right direction.

    Also talking about food, ramen and sushi locate in Shinjuku are also great

  28. Good timing, I was just reading the part in your book on setting 6 and 12 month goals and one of then was visiting Japan, followed by researching it and being horrified at how much it seemed to cost to visit there. Definatly looking forward to the second part of this one.

  29. Hi Tim!

    I was just in Tokyo a few weeks ago during sakura (cherry blossom).

    Some other interesting stuff to do:

    – Have a cocktail at the New York Bar in the top floor of the Park Hyatt (This is the bar in Lost in Translation) – one of the best views in Tokyo. If you haven’t seen Lost in Translation watch it before going to Tokyo or while you are there.

    – Go to a sumo-tournament, or even better: go to a sumo-stable and watch a training session. Some stables even let you in for free if you ask nicely.

    – On a sunday go to the Yoyogi koen – park and watch all the action there (crazy!)

    – If you plan to travel by train in Japan get a “Japan rail pass” (before you go there!) – Saves you a lot of money!

    Japan is an awesome place.

  30. meh to temples… Ghibli museum is the bomb, funny thing is you’re more likely to miss out on tickets for it if you’re Japanese than a foreigner, especially on the weekend.

    Kamakiri – haha I call it sun r us (like toys r us)… if you look at the signs it makes sense ok!

    Yokohamagaijin – I don’t know where you come from but alcohol is like half price in Japan compared to my Australia. Granted if alcohol was any cheaper in Australia we’d all be brain dead by now 😉

    $20 for all you can eat meat (???????isn’t a bad deal.

    Tips :

    You don’t need Japanese to get around, just some creative interpretation.

    Living in Japan will teach you how living in a small space is possible.

    Girls will jump on you from across the room if you speak English, it’s not just being White.

    Each city / town ahs their own signature dish. Its kinda fun getting an unlimited JR pass (apply overseas) and getting off every so often to try what they offer.

    Kyoho grapes are the best tasting fruit in the world. bar nothing. just try them ok la.

  31. Tim, you’ve done it again, thanks for another great post. It’s time to stop being envious of your travel experiences and time to start creatign some of my own with your great advice.

    Another outstanding travel resource which I think 4HWW blog readers would love is Rick Steves’ website. Someone mentioned Greece; Rick recently visited and you can read about that – and his recent tour into Iran in an effort to understand more about the *people* of this country – in his blog. Click on my “name” and go see the site when you can.

    I have no affiliation with Rick Steves except as a very satisfied customer of his London and Ireland books. I suggest Rick’s “through the back door”, spend less and experience more perspective is a great compliment to Tim’s perspective.

    In fact Tim, might you consider connecting with Rick and posting a travel related discussion with him in the future? You could trade stories over who lived better in Berlin, for example. 🙂 I’d love to get Rick’s perspective on the mini-retirement too. I think you’d really hit it off. Hope you’ll consider it and thanks again for your blog and book!


  32. I made the move to Japan 9 months ago and it’s awesome! I spoke 0 Japanese when I first moved here and to get help when you need it most I recommend saying things slowly, clearly, and with a smile. People are pretty friendly.

    Some people that talk about how expensive things are in Japan or other countries probably don’t find many good deals in their home land either. Anybody can live right in the action at an affordable price, you just have to look around. Besides… what do you really need to visit short term, long term, or even move some place? Laptop, clothes, and some money for food, shelter, and entertainment. You could always do some networking or couch surfing to save yourself money and make friends along the way. No tipping, great customer service, and an excellent public transportation system are just some of the amazing things in Japan.

    Here are some frugal tips when looking for some snacks or food. You can find a 500ml can of Coca Cola for 100 Yen at the Daily Yamazaki and a decent Teremasu at Family Mart for 105 yen. For an affordable lunch you could head to the nearest Hotto Motto and get a bento style lunch for 300-600 Yen. There’s a nodi-ben which is 290 Yen and tasty, and there’s also Karage (fried chicken) which runs about 350 yen with rice. Bento is a great idea for a picnic.

    Kejia Zhu – You asked about staying in Japan for an affordable price. You might check out couchsurfing.com or search Google for Tokyo (or Japan) hostels. There are weekly apartments available but sometimes it’s tough to find things like that in English. Also capsule hotels are more affordable than regular hotels. And another one day alternative is spending $10-15 for a small booth at an Internet Cafe overnight. These usually have a small shower available in the morning.

    I look forward to Part 2!

  33. i just came off a trip to japan. i preferred the kyoto/osaka area better than the tokyo area, and imo, its a much easier area to hack for a cheap mini vacation (and more aesthetically pleasing). if i *really* wanted to, i could’ve gotten by on less than $50/day and not sacrificed anything, but i was living well and with more comfort in the $100/day range.

  34. awwww- ?????

    Downtown Vancouver has so many 7-11s and exchange students from Japan.

    Too bad they don’t have them here.


  35. Hi Tim,

    everyone has pretty much summed up what could be said about this post- you have successfully summarised the best information and thwarted all those rumours about Japan for the good of everyone- Japan too expensive?? hahaha Sydney, Australia must be the most expensive city in the universe if Tokyo holds number 1 spot in the world!

    I also was an exchange student to Japan, I went in 2005 for a year and it really is a life changing experience. Much of what I do now is based around Japan and East Asia, I was really excited to see that you were also an exchange student to Japan as well- I’m hoping to do many things that you have done with languages and life also, everything you have written has been a major inspiration. Thanks for everything.


    Sydney, Australia

  36. Tim, have you ever met Evan from Tokyogetter? He runs a website and consultant service for living in Tokyo on the cheap, and I think you guys must be seperated at birth or something… he drug me to Kabikuchou, Akiba, and Harajuku over a few days and it was awesome. You two should have drinks!

  37. I love how you point out 7-11 is not the same in Tokyo as it is here. I was in Tokyo a couple years ago and was blown away at how inexpensive it was to eat and I mean great food. I was equally surprised when I did venture into a 7-11 and picked up some fresh munchies.

  38. Thanks for the tips. I’ll be making my second trip to Japan in November. I’ve already done a couple of the recommended things (especially Tsukiji — which I hope to see again, because it’s so incredible), and I did learn about the conbini (like 7-11). But it’s always good to have more information — and it has gotten me excited about my trip back. Time to dig out the language tapes.

  39. Great post Tim. I’d love to meet you one day. Having bought and read your book here in Japan, it changed my way of thinking and working. As a native Californian myself, I packed my bags at 22 and moved to Japan and been here ever since. I used to work at a Japanese IT company pounding my head on the desk and watching the clock waiting for something to happen, but now I am free from it and enjoying my passion which is now my job and enjoying life more. I’d like to tell all of you more details and my life story here, but it be too long to post. When you come to Japan again, I hope you would be in touch.

  40. Hi Tim, Nice Post…I really love Japan and still learning the Japanese.Since, Japan is the central of fashion and design in Asia with its famous style “harajuku”. “Harajuku” that’s really cool I once implement this concept onto one of my client business card and the respond is wonderful.

    Hopefully, I can fly there next year 2009..

    Thanks for sharing this information Tim

  41. Not bad, but…

    I was really hoping for a little more than this. All these tips were fairly mundane and ordinary. This article should be called “Traveling on a budget in Japan”, not “Hacking Japan”. Next time give us some real hacks or “urawaza.

  42. Japan sounds amazing. My friend actually ordered a Japanese toilet for her home here in the States. I have yet to check it out… She also mentioned how the Japanese do everything beautifully, as in wrapping one donut or danish in the most beautiful paper and box; an art form in itself.

  43. How about 7-11’s lower-key localized competitor, Lawson Station? Steaming Udon Noodle Bowles for 450 yen! How can you go wrong!

    Next time you see a 7-11 look around for a Lawson Station. That’s the local’s fav.

  44. I used to eat at Shakey’s Pizza in Tokyo (Kichijoji area) that had all-you-can-eat lunch buffet for 600 yen (over ten years ago). Also, Yoshinoya used to have a great little meal for between 400 and 600 yen.

  45. This is a fantastic article. I’ll have all these tips in mind when visiting tokyo. Thanks Tim!

  46. I lived in Japan for a few years about, well a few years ago. I lived in Northern Japan, but traveled often to Sendai by Shinkansen. Went to Tokyo a few times and even climbed Mt. Fuji. I was engaged to a Japanese woman down there and she lived about 5 hours away from me. So I would usually set up a hotel down there and we’d walk around Sendai. What I found particularly useful was this site I found from a few co-workers down there, and it helped me save a ton of money. Look up “Rakuten Travel”, and it’s possibly the best site I used to set up hotel reservations, often at half the usual cost. Some places cost $70 if you did it through regular channels, but through there you were able to spend $30 a day or even less at times if you booked early enough. I don’t really have a ton of tips as far as saving money. I still remember Sunkus and Lawsons, they were really “convenient” stores, not like the stuff you see here. People are amazingly friendly and as long as you make an attempt to respect their customs they’ll smile and be friendly with you. God I miss living there, but I plan on going back someday. I want to Climb Mt. Fuji again and travel further south than Tokyo this time.

  47. I love Japan! It is not expensive there; getting there tends to be the expensive part. Tho I did save $400 using priceline.com’s “name your own price” feature. Thanks, Tim! Keep the Japan posts coming please!