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Tokyo Travel Tips

Emma 19.02.2024

Suica card

When you’re navigating around Japan you may see people carrying a ‘Suica’ card and wonder what it is. Suica is a pre-paid card you can purchase at airports and train stations or download digitally to your phone wallet and load and top up with funds, like Australia’s Opal transport card.

Due to a shortage of microchips (integrated circuits or IC), from December 2023 physical Suica cards are extremely limited so if you have one hold onto it! They’re reusable.

Suica is a brand of IC cards but other brands with the same purpose are ICOCA (Osaka’s version but accepted nationally) and Pasmo. It’s a transport card with additional benefits as it can be used for the subway, normal metro and buses but also convenience stores and vending machines, coin lockers, McDonalds and KFC. Basically wherever you see an IC card logo at point of sale. For trains you can use Suica on the JR lines and buy food and drinks onboard.

Physical cards are available at Haneda Airport terminal 3 station on Tokyo Monorail Haneda Line . On Suica’s webpage it states you can also purchase from the following locations but local reports from travellers conflict with this so please please check.

Potentially still purchase at: Narita airport terminal 1 station, terminal 2 and 3 station and JR East Travel service centre. other stations in Tokyo are Tokyo, Shinagawa, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro and Ueno and they’ll sell you only one per person.

Top up smaller amounts (suggest 2000 – 4000 yen) if only travelling briefly in Japan as Suica and other IC cards expire. For digital versions of Suica there is no English option for instructions so please ask friendly Japanese staff and travellers to assist if you can’t read Japanese. If you’d like to try adding yourself:

  1. Open apple wallet
  2. Add to wallet
  3. Choose ‘transit card’
  4. Search Suica or other IC card
  5. When the green card with the penguin pops up follow the prompts to add funds.

Best view of the city?

Head to the 45th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan government building in Shinjuku on a clear day and you just might see Mt Fuji. Head to the rear of the Keio Hotel, Shinjuku, just a few metres from Shinjuku train station. Pick your times, sunset is popular and can get crowded with long lines. There is a gift shop and a cafe up there so worth ducking up if you’re in the area.

Chasing that perfect Tokyo restaurant

If it’s your first time to Japan and you’re short on time in Tokyo, resist the temptation to chase your friend’s restaurant recommendation. Like any capital city it can take a while to navigate and decipher the where/what and it can get frustrating chasing an elusive address. With restaurants in Tokyo there are so darn MANY great ones. Try letting the experience of being in this great city wash over you and explore the depths of a singular location instead. Ueno, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ginza, wherever your accommodation, each laneway is there to be explored, cheaper eateries radiate from the train station outwards, shrines and temples pepper the neighbourhoods. There is karaoke, cute boutiques, 100 yen stores (similar concept to the $2 shop), food courts on the top floor of every department store and quirky places to eat in every nook and cranny. Save the next suburb to your next visit and feel like you’ve done it really well.

Narita

Stopping over in Narita just for one day before your next flight? You can still get the Japanese feel to this old town. Depending on your starting point , such as the train station, walk in one direction, eat, drink, watch your food be killed and cooked in front of you (fish), visit a temple , pay for a visit to an onsen , walk back, jump on your next plane and boom – you’ve got your Japan fix.

Is the water safe to drink?

In Australia we’ve become water-purists and who’s to knock that? Use a filter or BE the filter, I reckon. The water in Japan is generally ‘drinkable’ although if you’d like to bring your own water bottle you can refill everywhere you go for free. Check out My Mizu and download the app. Not contributing to landfill and knowing you haven’t consumed something questionable is hugely reassuring.