Japan fun, Tokyo to Yokohama
March 1, 2006 2:31 PM   Subscribe

Japan, Japan, Japan, I've been living in Japan 6 months now, and have a sister coming to visit for four days. I want to show her the best and brightest as quickly as possible.

She's Flying into Narita, so I'm thinking one night in Roppongii / Shibuya area, one day in Kamakura / Yokohama, and then I don't know. Any ideas as to specific bars/clubs, I'd like to stay away from the hip hop scene, but also am not looking to take her to any big tourist sites. Also, ideas about cheap (youth hostel) places to stay, I like the "comunity" type housing, not so much the isolated individual rooms. Hi, Arigato!
P.S. I know the situation, but any good ideas as to where to start looking for some recrataional drugs?
posted by nintendo to Travel & Transportation around Japan (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
any good ideas as to where to start looking for some recrataional drugs?

Not unless you want to be banned from the country. They are *extremely* strict about drugs here.

As for the rest of your questions, check out the "Japan" tag to the right of the page. Here's some stuff I wrote for someone last year, as well:

Well, I've got a few suggestions of my own -- but first, this
Metafilter thread has some links you might find useful:
http://ask.metafilter.com/mefi/8768. Also, this guy
(http://japan.fjordaan.net/index.html) documented his trip to Japan a
few years ago. Hasn't changed too much.

Now, as for my recommendations...

Go see all of the touristy spots at least once. That includes Shinjuku, Asakusa, Ginza, Shibuya, Harajuku & Meiji Jingu Shrine, Ueno & the museums, and Akihabara. Also Ikebukuro, Omotesando, Tokyo Tower, Tsukiji fish market or a day trip to Yokohama if you have time. Shinjuku is, well, Shinjuku: crowded during the day, even more so at night, and neon everywhere. Asakusa is the opposite of Shinjuku: traditional (though almost kitschily so nowadays) and a good place for souvenirs that scream "Japan." Ginza is fun for window shopping and maybe splurging on dinner. Since I'm a poor college student I don't often go there ;-) Shibuya and Harajuku are for young folks what Ginza is for the over-40 set. Shibuya, like Shinjuku, will give you that "Lost in Translation" feeling. Harajuku is the fashion center of Tokyo, and right next to Meiji Jingu shrine, which is pretty damn big. Also, on Sundays interestingly-dressed teenagers and twenty-somethings congregate, and it's fun to watch. Ueno is another big park, but it's also home to many of the largest museums, including the Tokyo National Museum. It's closed on Monday and costs 420 yen. Akihabara was once known for its electronics, and while it still has a ton of electronics stores it now has a reputation for being a haven for otaku of all kinds. I can recommend several places there depending on your interest (I've got a few Japanese guidebooks). Ikebukuro is a smaller, less crowded version of Shinjuku; the two huge department stores there (Tobu and Seibu) are interesting to explore on a rainy day. Omotesando stretches out from Shibuya and is Tokyo's Champs-Elysees (tons of fashionable stores). Tokyo Tower gives a great view of Tokyo (though I prefer the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building in Shinjuku myself -- it's free). Tsukiji is Tokyo's fish market -- there are auctions starting at 4:30 AM. Trains only run from about 5:00 AM, though, so take a taxi. Yokohama is a fun day trip, since it has a much more Western feel than Tokyo. It's Chinatown is very lively, and it feels much more romantic than anywhere in Tokyo. In case you were curious, Roppongi is very much a foreigner ghetto and boring as hell during the day -- the only things there are clubs and the Roppongi Hills complex (a fashionable new living center, with some interesting art).

Other than that, it's all a bonus. It's the off season for tourists, and getting colder, so you may have better luck with some more popular events. Baseball games are still going on at Tokyo Dome, but they should end soon (I think, I'm not a big baseball fan). You'll have a JR Rail Pass, I assume, so make use of it -- you can go anywhere on the Yamanote, Chuo, and Sobu lines for free as much as you want. With the exception of Ginza, Asakusa, Tokyo Tower, and a few other places you can get to any of the main concentrations of stuff with JR. The subways are comprehensive as well, if a bit expensive.

One thing you should definitely do is go to the basement of any major department store (Isetan in Shinjuku is great, as are Seibu/Tobu in Ikebukuro, but they all will do fine) and buy some lunch. After wandering around a bit first, of course. Try not to go right around noon or between 4-7 -- the crowds are hideous. But they have almost anything you want in these "depachika" (department store "chika"--basements). Lunch can run from 400 yen to 2000 yen or more -- all depends on what you buy. Also, there are several all-you-can-eat sukiyaki and shabu-shabu chains around town. My favorite is Mo-Mo-Paradise ("mo-mo" is the sound a cow makes in Japanese) with branches in Shinjuku, Kabukicho, Shibuya, Ikebukuro, and Asakusa. It'll run you about 2,000 yen a head for dinner -- but only half that at lunch.

Don't know where you're staying, but try to spend at least one night in a ryokan (you can do this anywhere, not just Tokyo). Especially nice are the onsen ryokan (hot spring inns). If you google a bit you can find some. Even if you don't stay at one, a trip to an onsen for a few hours is relaxing. I myself am not a huge fan of onsen, so I haven't tried many, but the vast majority of my friends who have tried them love them, so there you go.

Get some coffee at the Starbucks above the main street crossing in Shibuya. It gets hypnotic sitting two stories above the traffic, watching everyone move at once. Best to go on the weekday, but since it gets dark around 5:00 PM these days you could go before dinner and it shouldn't be too crowded.

When you're in Asakusa, you might consider taking the river ferry back to Hinode or Odaiba (the largest manmade island in Tokyo Bay featuring a lot of entertainment complexes and such). It's a bit chilly now, but it's nice seeing Tokyo move on by while going down the river. IIRC it's about 660 yen from Asakusa to Hinode where you can get back to the Yamanote Line (http://www.suijobus.co.jp/english/cruise_e/index.html).

There's a ton of advice I could give you, but this should cover you. Plus, I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend just getting off the train somewhere and wandering around a bit. It's always more fun to discover interesting things this way, and I find it far better than relying on a guidebook. Be sure you buy a map of some kind if you plan to do a lot of exploring and you're not too good with directions -- Tokyo is a huge pain to navigate. Everyone has GPS systems in their cars for good reason.
posted by armage at 4:14 PM on March 1, 2006 [2 favorites]

Please, please, do not try to buy illegal drugs in Japan. Not unless you'd like to spend a few weeks being interrogated, followed by deportation.

From The U.S. State Department website:

ILLEGAL DRUGS: Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Japan are strict, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and fines. In most drug cases, suspects are usually detained incommunicado, which bars them from receiving visitors or corresponding with anyone other than a lawyer or U.S. consular officer until after indictment, which may take as long as several months. Solitary confinement is common.

Japanese police will arrest for any amount of illegal drugs, including innocuous things like marijuana. There are people who have spent months in jail without being able to contact family or friends, all because they got caught with half a bowl worth of weed. Don't risk it.

p.s. It is unwise to ask about buying drugs online, no matter the country! Please be a little more circumspect, for your own continued freedom and health.
posted by vorfeed at 4:16 PM on March 1, 2006

Definately Harajuku on a Sunday.
posted by Jase_B at 6:04 PM on March 1, 2006

Yes Japan is tough on drugs.

But there are Japanese people who take them. If you want to take drugs, you need to make Japanese druggie friends. Don't be a dumb tourist, get with a crowd of locals who knows. If you can't / don't want these sort of friends, then don't try finding drugs on your own.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:27 PM on March 1, 2006

You should read this comment in the kancho thread.
posted by ulotrichous at 6:55 PM on March 1, 2006

Hm, live preview worked, sorry. I meant this, from this comment in the kancho thread.
posted by ulotrichous at 6:58 PM on March 1, 2006

I was taken around Tokyo by a Japanese friend of mine for a few days, and one of the biggest highlights for me was going to a noodle bar. I don't know why it was so much fun.

Trying to find the weirdest vending machine items possible can also be fun.
posted by landtuna at 7:09 PM on March 1, 2006

Karl Taro Greenfield wrote about his own drug use in Japan in his book Standard Deviations. I guess it's not too hard to get pot. According to the book, Japanese police are not allowed to go undercover, so buying drugs might not be as risky, on the other hand, the penalties are much more serious then they are in the US, so you know, don't be stupid. He was (and still is, I suppose) half Japanese and spoke the language.

Another thing to point out: You can get cough syurup with Codine in it in Japan legaly. So that might be fun, I dunno.

Interesting note: Shrooms were legal in Japan until 1998. Not that does you any good now, though.
posted by delmoi at 7:14 PM on March 1, 2006

Wow, give armage the best answer! Your sister will need a lot more than four days to cover everything he suggested!

And yeah, asking about the availabilty of drugs in Japan, especially if you "know the situation" like you say, on a public forum isn't the smartest thing to do. Have fun without them.
posted by misozaki at 7:48 PM on March 1, 2006

I would absolutely not miss Kamakura - one of my favorite places in Japan.

Try to go to the Edo Tokyo Museum - great building and great exhibit.

I second the department store suggestion - free snacks.

And of course, kaiten sushi.

If you have time, you could go to an oonsen.

And if you have money to burn, go see kabuki in Ginza.
posted by anonymous78 at 8:22 PM on March 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm planning a trip to Japan in July, and I found a great "places to go" site—Tokyo Underground Guide. A lot of strange shops, record stores and museums are listed. The prog rock cafe will be a must-see on my visit!
posted by lovejones at 8:44 PM on March 1, 2006

Well, as for non-touristy sites in Tokyo... there isn't much that's non-touristy...

That said, I have a few recommendations:

- Kabukicho at night. It's the "red-light district" and though it has a bad rap, there's not much to be afraid of, and the evenings down there are quite interesting. Tons of neon, tons of people, loads of interesting novelty shops, game centers, etc. There's also a large square in front of Koma Stadium where college students often gather on the weekend. I've had plenty of misadventures begin there...

- Karaoke. If you've lived in Japan surely you're familiar with this. Round up some of your friends and take your sister out for an evening of all-night karaoke. Always a blast. Totally Japanese.

- Shimokitazawa is a bit to the west of Tokyo-proper, but worth a visit if you/your sister are at all into vintage clothes, hipster style, etc. Also a great place to sit down at a small cafe for food, or see a band in a tiny bar. Take the Odakyu line from Shinjuku, it should be 2 or 3 stops out on the express line. Not quite as touristy as other places in Tokyo.

- Ride the rollercoaster outside the Tokyo dome. It's fun, especially at night. Suidobashi stop on Chuo-Line, I think.

- Make some Okonomiyaki. If you've never done it this might be impossible, but since you've lived there for 6 months you're probably familiar with it. Go into any one of the hundreds of okonomiyaki shops, sit down at a grill, and cook it up! A blast for foreigners, owing to the fact that usually we mess up when making it, but still quite fun and delicious.

- Have a picnic in Yoyogi Park. Yoyogi park is certainly tourist central, but something about sitting down and having a picnic there and just people watching is loads of fun, and provides a nice break in a day spent mostly on your feet.

Just a few ideas..

Also, since you're looking for clubs... I'm not sure how well you'll do searching for non-hip-hop or non-Top 40 clubs, unless you're looking for trance... in which case you should definitely check out:

Velfarre in Roppongi. A club that used to be top-notch during the bubble years has come down in prices and is still a neat experience, even if you aren't in to electronic music.

Also, in Ebisu there is the Liquid Room which is a great place to see concerts. I had a blast watching DJ Krush perform there.

One last comment:

I think a lot of people who have family/friends come to tokyo to visit feel like they have to be a good host and show people all over the city--this is fine, but can be incredibly rough on guests who are already jet lagged. I've had many guests, and the ones who spent time sleeping in, rather than running themselves ragged had much better memories of the city, and of their time.
posted by dead_ at 10:25 AM on March 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

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