DIY Tokyo?

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#1
Wht Mts, NH - Gulf Coast, FL
2,990 Posts
Joined Jun 2004
Looking at options for our cruise next spring.
We disembark in Yokohama after overnighting there. Thinking of a day trip to Kamakura from port, then disembarking the next day and head to Tokyo.
Do we need a tour guide or is it easy to hit major sites on your own (what are the "not to be missed")? We plan to spend the night, then catch a late flight the next day.
FWIW we are comfortable DIY'ers for the most part, but first time in Asia.

Suggestions welcome.
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#2
Melbourne Australia
1,691 Posts
Joined Jun 2011
For tokyo definitely a guide as you are allowing such a small amount of time. I recommend a goodwill guide who are volunteers with English skills ranging from good to excellent. I have been to japan 10-12 times and find tokyo very difficult to get around. Bonus is you get help navigating the city and get to spend the day with a true local. Only cost for you is transport entry and a meal for the guide if you are with him/her at meal time.
Kamakura is easily done on your own but again spending the day with a local is very rewarding.
#3
Honolulu, HI, USA
1,424 Posts
Joined May 2003
Echoing!

Get a guide!
Tokyo is a BIG BIG BIG city and it's not like going to, say New York City, and trying to see everything from the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, Circle Island tour, top of the Empire State Bldg, Broadway etc in a day or two.

If this is your first (and only) trip to Asia, let alone Toyko, don't waste what little time you have there trying to go hither and yonder.
#4
Mijas Costa, Costa del Sol, Spain
1,003 Posts
Joined Oct 2009
Originally posted by Tara Jane
For tokyo definitely a guide as you are allowing such a small amount of time. I recommend a goodwill guide who are volunteers with English skills ranging from good to excellent. I have been to japan 10-12 times and find tokyo very difficult to get around. Bonus is you get help navigating the city and get to spend the day with a true local. Only cost for you is transport entry and a meal for the guide if you are with him/her at meal time.
Kamakura is easily done on your own but again spending the day with a local is very rewarding.
That sounds a really nice option. How do you go about getting a Goodwill Guide? We're in Tokyo in November post cruise. Thanks
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#5
Sydney, Australia
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Joined Jan 2014
With such a short time in Tokyo a guide is probably a good idea, however we find Tokyo very easy to get around on our own. It has an excellent train system and the various exits from the stations are well signposted, often with maps of the local area surrounding the station.

Asakusa is a great place to visit, not only for the Senso-Ji temple, but for the little streets of shops surrounding it. The Skytree gives great views over Tokyo and is only a stop away from Asakusa on the Tobu Skytree line.

The Meiji Shrine at Harajuki is also worth visiting. If you have time pay the extra to go through the gardens, they are very beautiful and tranquil. Tokyo's version of the Champs Elysee, Omote-Sando, also starts at Harajuku and is worth wandering down.

Ueno Park is good for cherry blossom viewing if you are lucky to arrive there at the right time, but if you miss it the Peony Garden might be in full flower, and the temple near that is gorgeous. There is also a zoo there and several museums.

Then there is the Shibuya Crossing (Tokyo's busiest intersection) and Shinjuku.

Hope this helps.
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#6
Wht Mts, NH - Gulf Coast, FL
2,990 Posts
Joined Jun 2004
Thank you for the helpful suggestions.
Especially OzKiwiJJ with suggested specific places to visit.
I have heard of Goodwill Guides, unfortunately the reviews are mixed from those who had excellent quides, to those who were disappointed (understandable as they are volunteers).

Maybe this will help to narrow down our options:
We do completely understand that our time is limited, we have found that in every single country we've visited. In fact, we've made a "return bucket list" for those we need to revisit. We are not "we need to see everything" people. We like to focus on a few interesting sights, and not necessarily the high-volume "tourist traps". Our most memorable travel expereinces have been visits to those places that were unique, perhaps less-visited.
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#8
Melbourne Australia
1,691 Posts
Joined Jun 2011
This is the list of goodwill guides. The actual cities are a bit hard to find as they are listed under prefecture rather than city but google will help you find which prefecture you need.
We have used goodwill guides over the years in Kyoto 3 different times, Kanazawa once, Hiroshima once and Tokyo twice, all have been excellent for what we required. Last year I took a group of 8 friends to Japan and didnt want the responsibility of getting us all around Tokyo without losing someone, our guide a retired businessman who had worked for 20 years in Singapore was excellent. I once lost my husband on the train in Hong Kong when he so very politely stood back to allow others to get onto the train before him...... the doors closed and there he was standing on the platform and the other 11 of our group were on the train!!!!

https://www.japan.travel/en/plan/lis...unteer-guides/

The hardest part of the guide service is that they are so excited to show you their city that it is physically hard going all the walking, and the up and down stairs particularly around Tokyo stations. You correspond with the guide and decide what you will see together. We are not big city people and love getting down the back little streets and meeting the locals, particularly when on a cruise this is possible as the Japanese ports of often in smaller locations. There is a one day pass for the Kamakura area, I can't recall the name of it but good value, covers all modes of transport in the area for a day. Once again google will help you.
#9
Tampa, Florida
4,635 Posts
Joined Aug 2007
Tara Jane - we are considering using a volunteer guide in Kyoto because our cruise excursions are very limited re that city. I lived in Tokyo in the 60's and went back in 2008. I am comfortable with the public transportation system, although, for some reason I never went to Kyoto.

Can you recommend an itinerary for Kyoto with a volunteer guide? We would take either the local or bullet train from the Kobe port to Kyoto to meet the guide.

Thanks for any recommendation you can offer.
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#10
Melbourne Australia
1,691 Posts
Joined Jun 2011
Happy to make some suggestions but all will depend on how long you have in Kobe/Kyoto. Also how many other temples/shrines you will be seeing at other ports. It takes a long time to get anywhere in Kyoto due to the traffic, even by taxi.
Your goodwill guide will make contact with you to discuss your wishes and their suggestions.
The must sees in Kyoto for me which I just have to visit every time I go --

The Golden Pavilion Kinkaku-ji
Arashiyama Bamboo grove for something different to shrines and temples
Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine out of Kyoto on the way to Nara so maybe too far on a one day trip
Ginza area
Kiyomizu-dera temple
Imperial Palace

Thats probably all you could fit in one day and probably more than you can fit in.
Entry fees are very cheap in Japan.
the view from the rooftop of Kyoto station is worth the effort of going up all the escalators.
When we were last there 2 years ago an all day bus ticket was 500 yen.
They have special taxis for english speakers with english speaking drivers but the queue was always very long and it wouldn't be necessary if you have a goodwill guide. Last time we had a guide in Kyoto we were a group of 8 and had a guide and a trainee guide, both uni students studying English. The trainee is now in Australia on a uni exchange and we hope to catch up with her soon to be able to show her around Melbourne.
Remember 7-11, Lawsons, and family mart will be your best friends in Japan. Great food and very cheap.

#11
Tampa, Florida
4,635 Posts
Joined Aug 2007
Originally posted by Tara Jane
Happy to make some suggestions but all will depend on how long you have in Kobe/Kyoto. Also how many other temples/shrines you will be seeing at other ports. It takes a long time to get anywhere in Kyoto due to the traffic, even by taxi.
Your goodwill guide will make contact with you to discuss your wishes and their suggestions.
The must sees in Kyoto for me which I just have to visit every time I go --

The Golden Pavilion Kinkaku-ji
Arashiyama Bamboo grove for something different to shrines and temples
Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine out of Kyoto on the way to Nara so maybe too far on a one day trip
Ginza area
Kiyomizu-dera temple
Imperial Palace

Thats probably all you could fit in one day and probably more than you can fit in.
Entry fees are very cheap in Japan.
the view from the rooftop of Kyoto station is worth the effort of going up all the escalators.
When we were last there 2 years ago an all day bus ticket was 500 yen.
They have special taxis for english speakers with english speaking drivers but the queue was always very long and it wouldn't be necessary if you have a goodwill guide. Last time we had a guide in Kyoto we were a group of 8 and had a guide and a trainee guide, both uni students studying English. The trainee is now in Australia on a uni exchange and we hope to catch up with her soon to be able to show her around Melbourne.
Remember 7-11, Lawsons, and family mart will be your best friends in Japan. Great food and very cheap.
Thanks so much for all the info. I am now leaning toward a DIY walking tour. As for the food, I am looking foward to going back to the soba shops, the tonkatsu restaurats, tempura, etc., etc. Oh, and the 100 yen shops! Just like home!
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#12
Wht Mts, NH - Gulf Coast, FL
2,990 Posts
Joined Jun 2004
Originally posted by loeb
You might try doing a search on youtube, there are many videos on the top things to do in Tokyo. He is one as an example

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62MyzIA8Jh8
Thanks for the suggestion.
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#13
961 Posts
Joined Apr 2009
We had one overnight in Tokyo. We took public transportation from the Yokohama cruise port to Tokyo. We stayed around Tokyo station and took the public transport to Asakusa and the temple and then went to Skytree. We also had an easy time getting to the Imperial Palace. The subway system is very complex. It took about an hour or so to figure out how to use the system. We would have tried to see much more but we had pouring rain the whole day that we were there and we were soaked. But if we can figure it out, some other people can too. We asked for help and people were very kind. Public transport to the airport is good. Just remember that each station has different exits and different sides so you have to know which direction you are traveling.


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#14
California
139 Posts
Joined Mar 2011
Originally posted by sippican
Looking at options for our cruise next spring.
We disembark in Yokohama after overnighting there. Thinking of a day trip to Kamakura from port, then disembarking the next day and head to Tokyo.
Do we need a tour guide or is it easy to hit major sites on your own (what are the "not to be missed")? We plan to spend the night, then catch a late flight the next day.
FWIW we are comfortable DIY'ers for the most part, but first time in Asia.

Suggestions welcome.

I just returned from Japan cruise a week ago. My first time in Japan. I considered myself an experienced traveler and can adapt to metro systems pretty quickly (NYC, Shanghai, HK, London, etc). However, I got on wrong train several times and there is a learning curve (different trains/routes would arrive at the same track/platform, often there are 'express' trains that skips stops, you some times need to get out of one station and enter adjoining station to make transfer, etc.) Riding the packed metro trains is part of the Japan experience. If you budge extra time, it's doable.

As for destination, Shibuya and Harajuku are close by and are a must do. Imperial Palace/Edo Castle is a good photo op but nothing much else. Check out my "japan cruise" pictures linked in my signature. Includes some precruise Tokyo pictures.
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#15
USA
1,029 Posts
Joined Feb 2012
I just got back from a transpacific on the NCL Jewel. We stayed a week in Tokyo. It is easy to get around on the subway. We did not have a guide but we did have a pocket wifi from our airbnb to help out. We visited all the majors sites on our own, no problem at all. We used the subway, buses and lots of walking. Try to go to the top of the government building, you get an awesome view.
It was super busy in Tokyo(it was golden week). But, lots of fun.
#16
1,579 Posts
Joined Oct 2006
Traveling around is pretty easy, you can use Google for a lot and Hyperdia.com for specifics.



I would definitely make a list of the things you want to see/do, figure out where they all are and then do them in groups. No guide is really needed, but using one can get you some local insight.


There are tons of YouTube blogs about places and things in Tokyo, but a lot depends on when you specifically are there and what you are interested in. I made a point of going out of our way to go to the hidden shrine in Akihabara, but skipped many of the more well traveled sights. So it is up to you and your timing.
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#17
Santa Monica
28 Posts
Joined Jul 2009
Originally posted by Level six
I just got back from a transpacific on the NCL Jewel. We stayed a week in Tokyo. It is easy to get around on the subway. We did not have a guide but we did have a pocket wifi from our airbnb to help out. We visited all the majors sites on our own, no problem at all. We used the subway, buses and lots of walking. Try to go to the top of the government building, you get an awesome view.
It was super busy in Tokyo(it was golden week). But, lots of fun.
Hi level six. Which Airbnb you stayed? How do you like it. Thank you
#18
Germany/Sunny Isles, FL
1,634 Posts
Joined Sep 2012
We have done both in Tokyo - DIY and guide.
Getting around in Tokyo is easy if you use public transport. But you should be fit and a bit adventurous.

So my answer would be: a guide is convenient but not a must.

Maybe our review can be of help: https://www.travelandcruise.net/trav...ium-japan.html
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#20
Florida
300 Posts
Joined Nov 2016
Originally posted by Miaminice
We have done both in Tokyo - DIY and guide.
Getting around in Tokyo is easy if you use public transport. But you should be fit and a bit adventurous.

So my answer would be: a guide is convenient but not a must.

Maybe our review can be of help: https://www.travelandcruise.net/trav...ium-japan.html
How was the Millennium? We’ll be on her in November out of Tokyo.