Sunday, March 28, 2010

Solo trip to Tokyo for the first time

So, I%26#39;m heading to Tokyo for the first time, by myself. I%26#39;m an maturer photographer, so I%26#39;d LOVE to see everything I can during my stay there. Being Chinese American, I%26#39;m hoping my English + the ability to read Kanji would help me get around.

I got the flight booked for the end of May. Besides the date, nothing else is set. I haven%26#39;t reserved any hotel, and I have NO idea where to go. The only destination on my list right now is the ';Meiji Shrine';.

This being a solo trip, I don%26#39;t mind traveling around more, as long as I make it back to Tokyo for my flight home. Maybe just go to hotels as I travel from places to places.

Any suggestions? Past travelers want to share their itinerary?

Thanks a bunch in advance.

Solo trip to Tokyo for the first time

For great pics, here are some suggestions:

In Tokyo:


Harajuku (on weekends)






Imperial Palace

Tsukiji Market

Shinjuku Gyoen

New National Museum of Art

Roppongi Hills Observatory at night

Tokyo City Hall Observatory in day

Yasukuni Shrine (and war museum)

Maybe Tokyo Tower (its a little kitsch, but beloved)



May is probably difficult to get photos of Mt Fuji - shrouded in clouds.

Tokyo looks especially striking at night. You can pick up a tripod at Bic Camera in Yurakucho for 2,000 yen and get some great night shots of Ginza and Marunouchi.

Solo trip to Tokyo for the first time

A good site to do some research -

Please do a search for itineraries on this forum. Also cruise through previous posts for ideas. You might want to consider day trips out of Tokyo.

Welcome to the Tokyo forum !

Many of the frequent posters here REALLY know their stuff. Trust them. ( I just try to help out a little!)

I am NO expert, but I%26#39;ve been tapping out a number of messages for first timers to Japan here at TA of late.

Hoping to not sound like a snob, if you do a search here in the Tokyo for my user name, you might find a tip or two you could use.

Good Luck with your planning!

Just a few random notes in no particular order:

Narita Airport. WOW. Super efficient, full of helpful people who will do almost anything to help you get started on your adventure.

Trains -- an initial look at the train map (for me) was SCARY. Trust me, in a day or so, you%26#39;ll be riding the rails like a native.

Pick up a foldable %26#39;Toei Subway Map and Guide%26#39;, and you%26#39;re set. All the train stations have small kiosks with helpful staff. I%26#39;d just point at my destination, then they%26#39;d tell me which ticket to buy, platform to go to, and line to ride.

Route stops and train announcements in Japanese and English

Safety -- not even a concern. SUPER safe at all hours day and night.

Money -- I had a little problem using my USA ATM card. Later found out I needed to use mine at the Post Office. Then I had no problem.

Place to stay -- this forum will provide you with an astonishing array of choices. Depends on your budget. I stayed in a wonderful Ryokan in the Chidoricho area. Simple, safe, clean, great staff. Quiet, residential area. Good train access. It is called the Ryokan Kangetsu. Booked it at

In a day, the Tokyo experts will flood your query with accommodation options.

Places to go -- I loved strolling the Imperial Palace East Gardens. Asakusa area not to be missed. The big fish market (Tsukiji) (spelling - sorry) I understand is a BLAST.

Took a day trip to Kamakura. Quiet, peaceful, pleasant. Easy train ride down to Yokohama area, then over to Kamakura.

Again, once the Tokyo experts log on, you%26#39;ll be flooded again with things to do.

All in all, LOVED it in Japan. Can%26#39;t wait to go back.

HAVE FUN with your planning and trip!

Absolutely agree with Dave148. Start searching here in the Tokyo forum for first timers -- and you%26#39;ll get LOADS of ideas from the experts, and all the other helpful people here at TA.

3 days would be more than enough for Tokyo...Do not expect a lot of english speakers, even in the info offices, but everybody is very helpful..As a photographer, Kyoto would suit you perfectly, you need 2 to 3 days to cover all the main sites in Kyoto. If you take the train from Tokyo (the bullet, Shinkanzen,) sit on the right side facing the directions, great views of Mt Fuji. Or climb the Yokohama Landmark tower (30 min. by train from Tokyo, right by the station), depending on the weather, you can easily picture the mountain.

make sure your hotel is nearby a subway station, then you have easy access to anywhere in Tokyo; use the passmo unlimited card or Tokyo metro card...

Bon Voyage..

Dave%26#39;s Japan Guide website is the place to research, not just for Tokyo but for Japan in general.

From a photographer%26#39;s point-of-view, there are many modern architecture sites all around Tokyo (new shopping malls, Skyscraper District of Shinjuku, Odaiba, etc). For some good traditional or cultural shots:

Tsukiji Fish Market (inner and outer markets)


Sensoji Temple/Nakamise-dori at Asakusa

Shibuya Crossing

Shinjuku at night

Meiji Shrine

JR trains in motion during rush hour

Anything food-related, even budget items are usually impeccably presented

Around Tokyo:


Hakone, Fuji Lakes (both offering views of Mt. Fuji as well as other scenes)

Nikko, Lake Chuzenji, Kegon Falls

You%26#39;re already ahead by your ability to read the characters. The slight problem you%26#39;ll have is them thinking you speak as well, but it will become all part of the experience.

You may encounter a reluctance by citizens being photographed, common in Chinese culture. I do not equate this with being offensive. Some department stores, all Starbucks, and some government buildings are off limits as well. I just shoot random shots at these questionable spots then put the camera away to avoid attracting attention and looking like a Los Angeles spy. Expect to learn a lot, beginning with yourself.


What are you going to be shooting and what kind of gear are you taking? I just came back and I found one good ';walking around zoom lens'; was enough, unless you plan to do some real setup shots like landscapes or scenery where you probably need something wider. I took four lenses with me and realized that I should have left two of them home. I used my fast wide lens only a few times and really didn%26#39;t need it. I never used the prime or long lens and it was a waste to carry it around all over Japan. I also took my tripod which was a mistake. I wanted to get some bulb night shots but never really got the opportunity. I used it in Osaka to shoot the Glico sign but never pulled it out again the whole time I was there.

I also found that if you%26#39;re just walking around that IS (image stabilization) lenses are fantastic. I wasn%26#39;t looking for tack sharp, just sharp enough so my IS lenses were fine.

Thanks for all the great replies so far guys! Loving it.

I%26#39;m shooting a Nikon D90, I%26#39;ll have my full gears with me, ~6 lenses and a tripod. Speaking of which, will they allow me to bring a tripod, packed in the luggage?

Sounds like Kyoto is the place to be for a photographer! Would it be a good idea to stay in Tokyo for 3 days, and then book a hotel in Kyoto and stay there another three days?

Again, thanks for all the great input. I can use every bit. :)

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