What to do in an 18-hour layover in Tokyo?
September 16, 2012 4:22 AM   Subscribe

Hi! On Xmas day this year, we'll be en route to Vietnam for two weeks... But before that, we'll be spending an 18 hour layover in Tokyo. Any recs on what we can do/see in that little time?

Any tips on what the weather will be like? Vietnam is supposed to be in the 50s and above, so I'm not sure if we need to bring a jacket just for Tokyo... We're also not sure how much we'll get to see since I haven't yet looked up how far the airport in Tokyo is from everything... We know we don't have too much time but thought it might be nice to grab some good sushi and maybe take a drive? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated, thank you!
posted by picarosado to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The weather will be cold, compared to Vietnam. Well, it might be balmy, but December temperatures do drop to freezing, so absolutely bring a jacket. You'll want it even if you're simply wandering the airport. Narita has a nice outdoor observation deck that is fun to check out while waiting for your flight.

Which airport are you flying into? There are buses and trains from both, so it's definitely feasible to make it into the city fairly quickly, where there are lots of things you could spend your time on. For example, you could find a nice karaoke box (the kind where you get a private room), order lots of food and sing lots of songs while staying close to your ride back to the airport. There's also spa/resort type places, as well as the usual eating, drinking and shopping.

Or, if you want to have a look from above at the city, The Shinjuku Government buildings have observation decks at 200m which are free, and offer lovely views until 10.30 PM. They were one of my favorite places to go kill time in Tokyo. Or you could check out the newly opened Sky Tree, a 634m high broadcasting tower that opened this May. I haven't been there, but I know the air is generally clear in winter, so you would have absolutely stunning views of Tokyo, Mt. Fuji and everything else.
posted by harujion at 4:43 AM on September 16, 2012

What time do you arrive/depart? Are you here overnight?

Narita to Tokyo is about 30 minutes to an hour depending on the train you take. If you'll only have a short time, Narira is actually a pretty nice town to wander around. There's a large temple with a newly (last two years or so) erected gate. The temple is one of my favorite places here. Along the road to the temple are all sorts of restaurants, with some excellent sushi places. If you have more time, you could take the Keisei train to Ueno from the airport. Ueno itself has some good places to see in an afternoon, and itself is two stops from Akihabara if that's the kind of thing you'd be interested in.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:08 AM on September 16, 2012

Thanks guys! We get to Tokyo in the afternoon around 4pm and then fly out the next morning at 10am... Sigh, it's gonna suck to carry around a jacket since we were planning to pack super light but I guess we have no choice! We're interested in pretty much anything, although our favorite thing to do is explore near places and eat good food (it's just my bf and I)
posted by picarosado at 7:02 AM on September 16, 2012

With that kind of schedule, I'd probably reserve a hotel near Narita station (town, not airport), and get yourself a really good dinner in town. You probably wouldn't get through customs and immigration until about six, and it'll be dark by then. That way you won't have to get up insanely early to catch your flight.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:14 AM on September 16, 2012

What part of Vietnam are you going to? It might be relatively balmy in the south in the December, but as you go north it can be freezing at that time of year. You'll be able to buy some warm clothes cheaply, but be warned if your schedule doesn't permit that.
posted by Flashduck at 10:04 AM on September 16, 2012

You don't have time to go into Tokyo really.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:12 AM on September 16, 2012

Christmas day is a bit of a strange day in Japan. It's a tradition for couples to go out to dinner or a movie, so getting food in a restaurant is much more difficult than usual. It's also traditional to have Kentucky Fried Chicken for a family dinner. The cinemas and art galleries will probably be packed too.

Your best bet is to go shopping or browsing. All the department stores have nice decorations. There's always a famous Christmas tree up in Ginza at the bookshop near Mikimoto. There are a couple of department stores there too, and the whole area is lit up, giving a nice Christmas feel. Have a look in Ito Ya, the stationary shop near to Mikimoto, which has a nice display and some fantastic pop-up Christmas cards.

The other Christmas tradition there is go to looking at Illuminations. You'll need a coat, it's very chilly that time of year.

To get to Ginza, take the Skyliner from Narita to Nippori, then take the Yamanote line to Yurakucho. It takes about an hour.
posted by nevan at 10:58 AM on September 16, 2012

I forgot one thing. Because Christmas day is traditionally a day of romance, all the hotels in Tokyo (in particular love hotels) are likely to be booked quite early. Make sure that you have a reservation a couple of months in advance.
posted by nevan at 11:36 AM on September 16, 2012

Don't go into Tokyo, not enough time. Instead, ask at the Narita info counter and they'll fix you up with a nearby hotel, cheap, which has a shuttle waiting. Later, you could walk along the main drag leading to the big temple if you have the energy, otherwise the hotel probably has a restaurant. You'll awaken refreshed, ready to continue your journey, and the hotel's little shuttle van will whisk you back to the airport in plenty of time.
posted by Rash at 6:29 PM on September 16, 2012

Southern Vietnam/Saigon is hot. Northern Vietnam/Hanoi most definitely is not.
posted by bardic at 2:49 AM on September 17, 2012

Go to the Tsukiji fish market at 4am, check out the auctions, then eat the best sushi of your life at Sushi Dai! Except to wait in line for a while, though.
posted by Grither at 6:01 AM on September 17, 2012

Er... Expect.
posted by Grither at 6:05 AM on September 17, 2012

Yes, Grither. Given a nominal tourist's itinerary to Japan, where (because of jet-lag) you usually wake up your first day around 2PM local, a visit to Tsukiji for breakfast at Sushi Dai is a wonderful idea. However, picarosado has a plane to catch.
posted by Rash at 11:32 AM on September 17, 2012

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