Japan is one of those tourist destinations that are truly year-round. In fact, Japanese culture is so appreciative of the changing seasons, that you will see celebrations, unique food items, and cultural festivals celebrating every season. Finding the best time to visit Tokyo depends on what you want to experience in this popular Japanese city. During the winter, there is skiing and snowboarding, hot springs (onsen), and delicious seafood. During summer, you have colorful festivals, hiking, and coastal areas where you can explore the beaches and sea. During fall, Tokyo has some beautiful sights and ideal temperatures. During spring, you can experience the cherry blossoms blooming. Ideally, you will want to visit from late March to early April to catch cherry blossom season. From August through September you are entering typhoon season, but it will typically not affect Tokyo. September through October brings beautiful fall colors and plenty of sun. December to February brings cold temperatures that range from 40 – 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the daytime.
When booking flights to Tokyo, you will find several international airlines leaving from the United States into Japan. Most require some layover, but there are a few direct flights. Flight options include Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, American Airlines, Asiana Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Airlines, Korean Air, Northwest Airlines, Singapore Airlines, United Airlines and Thai Airways International. When looking for cheap flights to Tokyo, be cautious about amenities that may be lacking; such as a meal, baggage allowance, and more. The flight is quite long, so you want to be comfortable.
All international flights come into Narita Airport which is 41 miles away from Tokyo city center.
Taxis are best for getting around a bustling city like Tokyo, but they are expensive. You will spend ¥19500 JPY – ¥21500 JPY for a 1 to 2-hour ride depending on traffic.
The bus is accessible and stress-free to get to the city center. The bus picks up luggage just outside of Terminals 1 and 2, and then drops you at downtown hotels. If you have heavy baggage or are staying at one of the 40 hotels that the Airport Limousine Bus serves, it is the most cost-effective way to travel at ¥3100 JPY. It departs every hour from the airport but can take up to two hours to reach your hotel.
The fastest way to Tokyo is the JR Narita Express which leads into Tokyo station from Airport Terminal 2 Station and the station at Terminal 1. It departs once each hour and twice an hour during peak travel times. The trip costs ¥3000 JPY one-way. At Tokyo station, the train splits and first cars head into Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Ikebukuro, while rear cars go into Shinagawa. The cost for these stations is ¥3100 JPY. The Keisei Skyliner departs from Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 in the airport and heads to Ueno Station in Tokyo within an hour. These trains leave every 40 minutes from 7:52 am to 10:00 pm for a fare of around ¥2000 JPY one-way. The limited express trains are cheaper and take 71 minutes for a cost of around ¥1000 JPY.
If you want to drive around Tokyo, look for deals on affordable car rentals with momondo.
Some international airlines still land in Haneda (Tokyo International Airport). It is near the city center and is used for domestic flights typically. From here you can take the Airport Limousine bus to Tokyo station, Tokyo City air terminal to downtown, and Shinjuku Station. Fares are ¥1000-1200 JPY. Locals typically take the monorail from Haneda to Hamamatsucho Station in 15 minutes for ¥500 JPY or the Keikyu Line for a 19-minute ride and ¥400 JPY. Arriving anywhere else in Japan, you will need to take the Shinkansen bullet train into Tokyo, Ueno, or Shinagawa stations. They are all served by taxis and subways. Domestic long-distance ferries arrive at Ariake Ferry Terminal on an artificial island next to Odaiba in Tokyo Bay.
Tokyo transportation is vast, and they are big on public transportation in most Japanese cities. The best way to get around is by using the Japan Railway (JR) system. The commuter train close to you can conveniently take you to your destination. From there you can hail a cab or walk. All public transportation systems have their distinct fare, so you must purchase a ticket when swapping between them. If you visit for a few days, you can buy a contactless prepaid card from JR East that deducts fares on all transportation lines.
Buses are not as accessible as the trains and subways in Tokyo due to the complicated route system. Most bus drivers do not speak English either, so they will not be able to direct you. Buses cost ¥200 JPY for a one-way trip, and they only take coins, bills, Suica and Pasmo cards.
Boats are helpful for the destinations that are across Tokyo Bay or on the Sumida River. It is also an excellent way just to explore the bay and Hinode Pier. The trips to the Pier take approximately 40 minutes each and cost ¥800 JPY.
U.S. and Canada passport holders just need a passport that is valid for three months; they do not need a visa if staying under 90 days. For other nationalities, please check the Japan National Tourism Organization website.
Read a travel guide, and you could be quickly overwhelmed by the options for Tokyo. So when booking Tokyo flights and planning your itinerary, there are a few items to prioritize. The Cherry Blossom Festival runs from March to April and five different parks host events celebrating their blossoms (sakura). You must also visit the famous Meiji Shrine and dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. It is located in a forest covering 170 acres, combining nature with classic Japanese architecture. Cultural theme shows and tours are also available, such as the sumo wrestling tours, café experiences, and the Kyoto Rail Tours. Ryogoku has the National Sumo Hall where you can see an authentic Japanese event, moves by former champions, and a parade of official ceremonies. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is a perfect place to admire the natural beauty and wonders of Japan. It is themed by countries like France, England, and Japan.
Do Not Tip
Attentive service is a custom in Japan; not something that is tipped. It is known as osmote nashi. Tipping, therefore, is not expected, and a gratuity will be refused. In fact, if you were to leave a tip, the server might chase you down to return it!
Walk on the Left
Crowds are orderly when walking in Downtown Tokyo. Most will keep to the left of the street just like vehicles. The only time you can go to the opposite side is on an escalator.
Tokyo Residents are Extremely Polite
You will be welcomed everywhere you go, including boutiques, restaurants, and temples. Citizens are impressively polite and always willing to help. When welcomed, no response is necessary. Instead, a friendly bow in response is all you need.
Litter is Not Tolerated
Tokyo’s streets are impressively clean, and you will notice that smoking in non-designated areas is strictly prohibited.
Public Affection is Prohibited
You will see couples walking down the street that do not hold hands or show any affection in public. In Japan, affection is not for public display!