How can Japan Surprise you

How can Japan Surprise you

The #Tokyo metroplex is the world's largest, so it's an #aspirational destination for many travelers. This also means there are a variety of different notions of what #Japan has to offer. I took a #spontaneous trip to see for myself. Here's what I loved, and a few things I found surprising.


How did I end up in Japan? 

I think my trip to Tokyo was the most unplanned and unexpected trip of my entire life. On Monday I found out that I have a long weekend so that night I booked my flight for Wednesday. By using my frequent flier miles, I got a free flight from Lufthansa (cheers to Miles&More program) On Tuesday I booked a hostel and started planning what to do once I arrived in Tokyo. I might let some people down by saying this but Tokyo disappointed me a lot. Here is what surprised me positively (+) and negatively (-) in Tokyo.  

I think my trip to Tokyo was the most unplanned and unexpected trip of my entire life

All smiles in Tokyo

Tokyo isn’t expensive (+) 

After hearing a lot of opinions on how expensive Japan is, I was a bit afraid of destroying my budget. To my surprise it turned out that Tokyo is not expensive at all. Well, if you compare it to other places in Asia like Vietnam, Thailand or India it will be expensive for you. However, Tokyo is less expensive than London and much cheaper than Holland. For example, you can eat in a small restaurant for 3 euros and you’ll get a big portion. If you want to try an all-you-can-eat type of restaurant with a hot pot you’re going to spend 20 euros. 

Tokyo is less expensive than London and much cheaper than Holland

Accommodation (+)

I paid approx. 24 euros a night for my bed at the Oak Zen Hostel. 

This is about the same price I’d pay in Berlin, Amsterdam or London, although the standard was much better. Each bed had 2 individual plugs, a lamp, curtains, a free locker, and the Wi-Fi worked everywhere. The bathroom had free amenities such as shampoo, conditioner, etc. I would love to see more hostels like this around the world. 

 I would love to see more hostels like this around the world 
from  $27

Hotel Oak Zen Hostel

 Tokyo, Japan

Toilets (+) 

Talking about bathrooms… I loved Japanese toilet seats. You get to press some buttons and you’ll get a quick wash, bidet, massage (!) and dryer for the end. You can also adjust the temperature of the seat. Amazing! The women’s toilet also plays cicada sounds so you can’t hear any noise coming from the toilet.

Transportation (-) 

The transportation system in Japan surprised me, but not in a good way. For a city as developed as Tokyo I’d expect at least some sense in the metro system. Each metro line is operated by a different company, so therefore they all require separate tickets. For example, if you need to change 3 times then every time you have to get out and purchase another ticket. How do you buy tickets? Each time you should check the map and see how much it costs to get to your destination (not the final one obviously, just until your interchange). If you change your mind and the fare you’ve chosen isn’t enough then you need to go to the machine and adjust it before you get out. If you paid more then oh well, you’ll lose the money. It’s also important to mention that the trains close at midnight and the metro closes at 1am. Not only that, there are no night buses so unless you take a cab there is no way you can get home until the trains reopen at 5am. 

Each metro line is operated by a different company, so therefore they all require separate tickets

Safety (+)

I’d have thought that since Tokyo is one of the biggest cities in the world, it’s not very safe. To my surprise Tokyo is one of the safest places I’ve been in my entire life. You can put your phone next to you on the train and fall asleep or leave your opened bag behind when shopping and nothing will happen. It’s quite amazing actually!

You can put your phone next to you on the train and fall asleep or leave your opened bag behind when shopping and nothing will happen
The other side of Tokyo
The other side of Tokyo

Tokyo isn’t That Modern (-) 

Japan is the Mecca of modern technology and neon lights. This is why I expected Tokyo to be a very modern city: full of shiny skyscrapers and modern technology. To my surprise Tokyo looks like a regular city, kind of like New York except 50 years ago. For those who are looking for a city that’s modern and impressive I’d recommend a visit to Hong Kong or Shanghai. Moreover, there’s one important thing that Tokyo is missing – trash bins. You can’t find any free-standing bins ANYWHERE in Tokyo because the city wants you to carry your trash with you. The only place where you can find bins is next to 7-Elevens.

For those who are looking for a city that’s modern and impressive I’d recommend a visit to Hong Kong or Shanghai

Inability to Withdraw Money From the Bank and pay by Card (-) 

It amazed me that in a supposedly modern city like Tokyo you can’t withdraw money from a regular bank ATM. Banks never accept foreign cards and the only places where you can take money are 7-Eleven stores. The idea of withdrawing money from an ATM located in a corner store seemed super sketchy to me, but in Japan that was my only choice. Moreover, it’s quite hard to pay by card anywhere, unless you visit some 5-star hotels or exclusive restaurants. Most places accept cash only or Japanese cards. However, in various local restaurants you have to place and pay for your order at a machine and bring your ticket to the waiter.

Banks never accept foreign cards and the only places where you can take money are 7-Eleven stores
One of the many vending machines around Tokyo

Sushi (-) 

Japan = sushi, right? Sushi is present on Japanese tables but it’s not as common as pizza and pasta in Italy. Quite the opposite actually: sushi is seemingly hard to find in Tokyo and when you finally find it it’s either terrible or incredibly expensive unless you visit the Fish Market before 9am. I don’t think I’m being subjective on this matter because a few of my Japanese friends confirmed that Japanese people eat sushi like 5 times a year.

Japanese sushi menu

When talking about eating out it’s impossible not to mention that in the majority of Tokyo restaurants, the staff doesn’t speak English at all and an English menu isn’t available. I felt bad for two vegetarian girls at my hostel because you can never be sure that what you’ve ordered is actually what you thought it would be. 

The Image of Cherry Blossoms and Mount Fuji (-) 

The first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Japan is the traditional cherry blossom trees, ideally surrounding Mount Fuji. There is nothing more wrong than this image. Cherry blossoms are blooming for just a month around March and Mount Fuji is rarely visible due to the mist and clouds. I guess you should just Google those beautiful photos because the chance of capturing those two together is no higher than 5%.

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