Another popular overseas holiday destination for locals is Japan, and as can be seen in the graph below, the exchange rate between JPY/SGD has declined by >20% since Sep 12 and it has been pretty stable for this year at an exchange rate of around SGD$12-$12.50 to 1000 Yen. Of course, there will be some people who are worried about the radiation following the nuclear tragedy in Fukushima in 2011, but there will always be 2 different camps! Who can resist the cute anime, delicious sushi, beautiful sakura and the friendly Japanese? Whether this is your first trip to Tokyo, Japan or your return visit, this article will teach you a couple of tricks to save money on your next trip.
Where should you stay?
a) Shinjuku – One of the most popular and probably the best place to stay for first-time tourists as it is well served by many different train lines and is a major shopping area with plenty of malls for you to shop around everyday. Also, there is direct connection via NEX (express train from airport) to Shinjuku. However, the hotel rooms here tend to be small and the prices may be pretty steep. Many 4 or 5 star hotels are located amongst the skyscapers on the west side of the station, but there are cheaper options located on the east side and around the Kabukicho red light district
b) Asakusa – Located somewhere in the northeast (akin to Sengkang), it is a bit far from the happening places like Shinjuku, Roppongi, Shibuya but it has its own charms as well. It is near the Tokyo Skytree, and the famous Sensoji temple is found here as well. Many inexpensive hostels and guesthouses can be found here.
c) Tokyo Station – Most business travellers will prefer to stay around this area as it is near the Financial district. However, there isn’t much nightlife as compared to Roppongi or Shinjuku. Assessibility is very good as Tokyo Station is a large interchange and there is the option of taking the Tokyo Monorail direct to Haneda Airport from Hamamtsucho station, which is 3 stops away on the Yamanote line. The Tokyo Tower is also located in the vicinity!
d) Roppongi – Not shown on the map above, but it is located in the central area (akin to Bt Timah). This is one of the most happening places in Tokyo in terms of nightlife and is a popular area with expats. Many 5 star hotels can be found in the area, but the only problem is that it is not near the Yamanote line. Don’t worry, you can still hop onto the Toei or Metro subway line and transfer to other trains to reach your destination.
e) Shinagawa – Another large interchange on the Yamanote line, with direct connection to Narita Airport via NEX and via the Tokaido Shinkansen, you can head direct to Osaka in as little as 2.5hours!
f) Shibuya – Another popular place to stay in due to numerous shopping centres and its location along the Yamanote line. Remember the faithful dog Hachiko? A bronze statue of Hachiko is found at the Shibuya exit. And the famous Shibuya crossing? This is definitely a crowded area, so avoid if you prefer some peace and tranquility. Unconventional options are available on Love Hotel Hill.
g) Ueno – Multiple low cost guesthouses and budget hotels located here. The Ueno Zoo and the Ueno park can be found here, which is a beautiful sight to behold during periods of sakura or in the autumn. Also has direct connection to Narita Airport, but note the distance to town (Shinjuku, Shibuya)
In summary, for people who want shopping and nightlife, consider Shinjuku, Shibuya or Roppongi as you can stay out late without worrying that you will miss the last train. Trains in Japan generally run to just after midnight. Do note that the taxis are very expensive in Tokyo! A starting fare is 710 yen which is around SGD8.70. For budget conscious travellers, Asakusa, Ueno and even Ikebukuro will be your amongst your consideration.
Accomodation in Japan is generally not cheap. Couples on their honeymoon should compare sites like Agoda and Zuji for good deals on hotels. For budget conscious travellers who do not want to stay in hostels, do consider Airbnb where people rent out their homes or bedrooms for additional revenue. There may be affordable options even in the popular districts like Shibuya and Shinjuku! There are many other similar websites in the market, but Airbnb is one of the pioneers and is thus reputable and popular. Remember to communicate with the host first and check out reviews by fellow travellors before you book! Get a SGD$31 credit off your first booking if you sign up through this link here.
Stay tuned for part 2 of the guide – is haneda or narita airport better? How to transfer?
And if it is your first time to Tokyo and would like a sample itinerary, do check out I Wandered