By Cezar Visan
Tokyo is by far the most iconic city of Japan. Given its population of approximately 13 million people, which is equal to an average-sized European country, Tokyo is a city for everyone. No matter what you are looking for in a city to visit, or to live in, it certainly suits everyone. Just by walking around Shibuya, which has been called the “Times Square of Tokyo,” you can find any kind of restaurant, be it Italian, Indian, American, Chinese, as well as plenty of shops, cafes, bars, and cinemas. Here are some pieces of advice particularly to the nocturnal travelers.
In Japan, shops close down comparatively later than most of the countries around the globe, which makes it very convenient for whoever wants to spend the whole day shopping. Moreover, if you want to buy groceries, you can find convenience stores at almost every corner; and they are open 24/7.
But there is another side of the coin as well. Tokyo’s pace stumbles at night, as most of the trains stop between 1am and 5am, hindering lots of people, especially tourists, from exploring the city outside the area of their accommodation beyond a certain time. Taxis are expensive in Japan, and they are rarely a desirable option for a low budget traveler. As a student in Tokyo, I often find myself rushing to catch the last train back home. Usually, the last ride of the night is crammed with youngsters who have been out socializing, as well as typical Japanese employees (kaishain) on their way home after a typical working day.
Another issue that is often not taken seriously by people coming to Tokyo is the ATMs. If you run out of cash and want to withdraw money at any time after 8PM, the chances of finding an open ATM are rather low. Even if this measure makes an ATM no different from a bank cashier who needs to rest, in Japan it is nothing but normal. If you are a tourist, you should always carry cash with you, as you might have trouble with electronic payment if your credit card is issued overseas. Moreover, as electronic payment is not as popular in Japan as it is in some European countries, you might find yourself unable to pay by credit card in, for instance, a restaurant.
In conclusion, paying some attention to less obvious, often undermined aspects can avoid some unpleasant moments while holidaying in Tokyo. I can assure you that it is not very confortable to find out that you are unable to return back home after the trains stopped, while your accommodation is 20 kilometers away. On top of that, when you realize no ATM is open, and you do not have enough money to afford a taxi.
Cezar Visan is a first-year PEAK student at the University of Tokyo.