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  • Fall Break: Tokyo, Japan! Part II

    Getting Around

    Narita and Haneda International Airports will likely be your landing/departure points. Narita is about 1.5 hours away from Shibuya, while Haneda is just 30 minutes.  A prime example of how expensive Japan can be is in the cost to get to/from the airport in a taxi.  One-way trip from Haneda is roughly 7600 yen ($76USD) and from Narita, a whopping 20000 yen ($200USD)!  However, the workaround to this is pretty simple.  If you land during regular hours of the Tokyo metro - you can take the train from Narita or Haneda into all parts of the city.  Another more affordable option are the limousine busses and these run late night/early morning to/from the airports to hubs around Tokyo.  I landed late at Haneda and the last bus had already departed, so I took a taxi. I had our AirBnB address printed out in Japanese so it was quite easy for the driver to map it on his GPS.  (Note: all Tokyo cabs are equipped with GPS and credit card machines.)  But on the way back to Haneda, I had an early morning flight. From our AirBnB, I grabbed a taxi to Shibuya Station West entrance where the limousine bus stops.  It only cost me 2060 yen ($20.60USD) to take the bus. The driver accepts cash and provides change.

    Once you get past the enormity of the Tokyo metro system, it really is not difficult to figure out. Maps/kiosks/etc. can be set to English.  A good friend of ours who lives in Tokyo showed us how to buy Suico cards. These are cards that you top up and make it much faster to get in/out of the metro vs. having to get an individual ticket each time.

    Budgeting

    Have the cost of taxis left you in shock? Don't worry - while Japan isn't dirt cheap like Southeast Asia, it is still fairly reasonable.  The exchange rate is 100 yen = $1USD and 1000 yen ($10USD) can get you a filling, affordable and tasty meal in Shibuya. We stuck to mostly local food - ramen and sushi kaiten with stops at cafes, etc.  To really get the most out of your $, stay at an AirBnB.  What I enjoyed about our AirBnB in Tokyo is that it was in the residential side of Shibuya and we got to see a glimpse of local life. It was neat to be inside a Tokyo apartment and realise how much they can pack into a tiny space. Furthermore, most AirBnBs in Tokyo come with a portable wi-fi hotspot which makes navigating the city much easier.

    Shopping

    While all the major international brands can be found in Tokyo - I enjoyed checking out the local Muji, Kinokuniya, and Tower Records. If you're a fan of music, the Shibuya Tower Records is 6 floors of bliss. My favorite floor was the Soul Floor where every possible Soul/Hip Hop/R&B artist  you could possibly think of can be found along with rare releases, mixes, etc. that are only available in Japan.  I was also turned onto local R&B artist - Nao Yoshioka - when they played her album over their PA system. Dedicate at least an afternoon to browse. They have a cafe if you need a break.

    In conclusion, there's so much to see in Tokyo - that my 5 days was just the tip of the iceberg. I cannot wait until I go back and I feel like it will happen sooner than later.