15 Insider Tips for Your Next Trip to Tokyo

Famous escalator in TokyoGetty Image

11. Learn escalator protocol

You will soon notice that on the escalator, people stand on the left side, and leave the right side open. That is to give way for others who are in a rush to use the right side to walk up without any obstruction. Stay on the left side when you’re riding the elevator to avoid annoyed looks from locals. While you’re living by this rule in Tokyo, you will have to do the opposite in the Kansai region—that will be Osaka, Kyoto and Nara. Just don’t get mixed up between the two.

12. Public bins are scarce—so bring a bag for rubbish

Soon after devouring 7-Eleven’s fried chicken, you realize that you cannot find anywhere to throw away the greasy paper. A domestic terror attack in 1995 that involved deadly sarin gas forced the government to remove public bins to prevent future attacks, as they believed this could be another place where dangerous substances could easily be installed. That being said, you still can find these rare objects in a few spots in public parks, some train stations, public restrooms, and in front of convenience stores.

Tip: Bring an empty plastic bag with you to hold the rubbish until you can take it back to your hotel or Airbnb and sort it. Also, if you buy food or drink, eat it where you bought it. They usually place bins nearby so you can toss your rubbish right away.

Busy streets of Shinjuku, TokyoGetty Image

13. Get to know Tokyo’s neighborhoods

Tokyo, as vast and large as it is, is divided into many neighborhoods that have become city centers in their own right. The capital has several downtowns spread throughout the city. Depending on what you’re looking for, one downtown might be more suitable than another. Here are the five busiest downtown districts of Tokyo which each offer different impressions and experiences.


A frenetic neighborhood full of young people. Expect to spend your money on animal cafes, 100-yen stores, or cute-looking puddings that are too pretty to eat.


The district that never sleeps. Shinjuku is a massive office complex, so its commercial areas are catered to entertain flocks of Japanese salarymen after office hours. Find the infamous Kabukicho, Tokyo’s biggest red light district where almost 300 nightclubs, love hotels, shops, host and hostess clubs, and restaurants are ready to serve you all night long.


An old artistic district that is less festive than Shibuya or Shinjuku, and more family-friendly—but not less lively. The area was a home for many artists’ studios in the 1940s and its image as a district of art and culture is still widely present, especially in the western part. Ikebukuro is also known for its shopping, arcades, anime fans, and family days out at the city’s rooftop aquarium. 


A classy adult-oriented area that is popular among travelers, offering a large number of tourist-friendly entertainment spots. Roppongi’s surrounding districts are home to many embassies and boasts a large expat community. Recently, the district has also developed a reputation as a cultural center with several world-class art galleries appearing in the area.


Tokyo’s first Western-style shopping district is where the city’s old money still shops. It is a bustling upmarket area with rows of prestigious department stores, high-end boutiques, art galleries, and exclusive restaurants.

14. Get used to self-service cashiers

Don’t be surprised if there is no one waiting for you at the cashier when you’re checking out. These days, the country is increasing self-checkouts to ease labor shortage problems. You will find big stores in Tokyo such as Uniqlo, Muji, or GU, and convenience stores like 7-Eleven and Family Mart install rows of self-service cashier counters that will calculate the total amount of your purchase. Note: these machines will automatically deduct payment from your credit cards without applying any payment authentication steps.


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