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American food in Tokyo:

If you're going to be in Tokyo for at least a week you're going to start missing the basics... for us it was tacos, fries with ketchup, and big california-style salads, for you it might be american beer, fried chicken and chili dogs.  


The biggest problem is with american/japanese hybrid foods.  Let's call it "Japerican"!  It's got an American name and look, but the food has been adapted to japanese tastes. For example the shrimp burger below, it's just like a Filet O Fish right?

McDonald's Japan

There are many McDonald's and they do sell Big Macs & Quarter Pounders but not everything you'll find in the U.S. (you won't find salads, fruit cups and yogurt) 
You CAN get ketchup for your fries here, but it can be genuine struggle.  
Dessert Menu:
Green Tea McFlurry















Is that?  Is that ...frozen spinach with sour cream and raisins?!  Oh! It's actually a Green Tea with Oreos McFlurry.  Hmmm.... OK yeah, it could be a fair substitute for the bright green Shamrock Shake but  "healthy" and "McFlurry" don't exactly work well together, so blow the works McDo's and put some more Oreos in there!


The Green Tea McFlurry is only for a limited time though, click here to see their latest McFlurry promotion!

For more McFun, why not check out the Japanese McDonald's commercials from their official site.


Also, please don't be fooled by restaurants with english names like Jonathan's.....

They have dishes like "spaghetti with american sauce" on the menu. 

Jonathans American Spaghetti

 Yeah.  You think it's funny so you order it,  but it tastes so different and weird and defrosted, it just makes you want to have 'real' american food...


Jonathan's Grand Menu


...but please try their awesome desserts, with just about any dessert or snack in Japan you just can't go wrong!  See Jonathan's latest seasonal dessert below:

Jonathans Desserts


And then there's Denny's!  Yes, they have Denny's and it has satisfying comfort food (like in the U.S.)


Dennys Japan
But comfort food in Japan consists of katsu-don, soba and udon.


Denny’s Udon and Shrimp Rice

...ahhh...Udon and Shrimp Rice, just like mama used to make.


In any case,  we recommend trying some of the Japerican foods you'll find on your travels, just know what you're in for.  :-) 


If you're in Yokohama, the best place for American food and atmosphere is American House, please click here for more information.  

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Bathrooms in Tokyo

You might have heard that Tokyo has the best bathrooms in the world with electronic devices ranging from self un-fogging mirrors to toilets with heated seats that double as a bidet at the touch of a button and all of that is true.  However, there is a part of Tokyo that still lives in the traditional way, so some bathrooms (found at shrines and train stations) have traditional japanese toilets.  It's a delicate subject but these aren't like any toilets you've seen so for your convenience we've included instructions on how to use a traditional japanese "squat" toilet, see the pic below.   

Japanese Traditional Toilet

Please note that when walking into a bathroom stall in the U.S., you walk in, turn to close the door and then sit down (facing the stall door), even in a European squat toilet you would face the stall door.  In a Japanese bathroom you would face away from the door, and in many cases the toilet is positioned sideways to the door but please know that to properly use the japanese toilet you'll need to face the toilet (for example you'd be facing the handle to flush) and as above you'd be facing the slightly raised end of the toilet.  Also, when squatting your underwear/pants should be pulled down to your knees (like when camping).


Also of note: Traditional Japanese bathrooms sometimes have a sink inside the stall that dispenses water when you flush the toilet.  This is for your privacy's sake, so you don't have to wash your hands in public (if you had an issue).  Please know that in these stalls, there may NOT be toilet paper.   It's a good idea to carry a packet of Kleenex with you especially when travelling in the outskirts of Tokyo.


Scariness aside, most squat bathrooms have one or two "western-style" stalls in them and you can wait in the long line of japanese people waiting to use them, but if you're in a hurry you've now learned how to use a japanese toilet.  Congrats! :-D


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Japanese Phrases in Tokyo

Below are a few very useful phrases to use while travelling in Tokyo:

Greetings & Goodbyes:

english: Hello! / Good Day!

japanese: 今日は

romanji: konichiwa

pronounced: "Kohn-eech-ee-wah!"


english: Good Morning!*

japanese: お早うございます

romanji: ohayo gozaimasu

pronounced: "Oh-high-oh goh-zai-ee-mahs!"

*You can also just say "Ohio", and that's acceptable.  It's probably the only time strangers will happily say hi to you back, but don't say it after 10:30am.


english: Good Evening

japanese: 今晩は

romanji: konbanwa

pronounced: "Kohn-bahn-wah"


english: Excuse me / Sorry / Can you tell me...

japanese: 済みません

romanji: Sumimasen*

pronounced: "Soo-mee-mah-sen"

* The phrase above can be used often.  If you're trying to ask someone directions and they don't seem to hear you...if you accidentally bump into someone too hard...if you're trying to get through a crowd and no one will move...etc...


english: Thank you!

japanese: 有り難う

romanji: arigatou

pronounced: "ah-dee-gah-toh"


english: Thank you very much!

japanese: 有り難うございます

romanji: arigatou gozaimasu

pronounced: "ah-dee-gah-toh goh-zai-ee-mahs" ("zai" as in "bonzai")


english: Goodbye

japanese: さよなら

romanji: sayonara

pronounced: "sigh-yo-nah-dah"


english: Later!*

japanese: じゃあね。 

romanji: jaa ne

pronounced: "Jah, nay?" (there should be a short pause between the two words)

*this phrase translates best as a statement but is literally a question and it means "later, right?" but if you break it down "Jaa, ne" translates as "So, right?"  - it's the abbreviation of "Jaa mata ne" (Jah mah-tah, nay?) which means "So later, right?"

Getting Directions:

english: Where is the bathroom?

japanese: お手洗いはどこですか。

romanji: Otearai wa doko desu ka

pronounced: "Oh-tay-ah-rye wah doh-koh dess kah?"


english: Where is the train station?

japanese: 駅はどこですか。

romanji: Eki wa doko desu ka

pronounced: "Eh-key wah doh-koh dess kah?"


english: Where is the post office?

japanese: 郵便局はどこですか。

romanji: Yuubin kyoku wa doko desu ka

pronounced: "Yoo-bean key-ohk wah doh-koh dess kah?"


If they want to tell you where something is, please listen for one of the following three directions:


english: right (as in right-hand side, or make a right)

japanese: 右

romaji: migi

pronounced: mee-gee (the "g" is pronounced as in "glee")


english: left (as in left-hand side, or make a left)

japanese: 左

romanji: hidari

pronounced: hee-dah-dee


english: straight (as in straight ahead)

japanese: 真っすぐ

romaji: mussugu

pronounced: moo-soo-goo


Getting Food and Service:


english: This, please.*

japanese: これを下さい。

romanji: Kore o kudasai

pronounced: "Koh-day oh koo-dah-sigh"

*Tokyo restaurants have many picture menus, you can point to something on the menu (at your table) and order "This, please."  If it's a menu board and you need to point to it, use "That, please"


english: That, please.*

japanese: それを下さい。 

romanji: Sore o kudasai

pronounced: "Soh-day oh koo-dah-sigh"

*Tokyo restaurants have many picture menus, you can point to something on the menu (at your table) and order "This, please."  If it's a menu board and you need to point to it, use "That, please"


english: Check, please!*

japanese: お勘定をお願いします。

romanji: Okanjou o onegai shimasu

pronounced: "Oh-kahn-joh OH oh-nay-guy shee-moss" ("joh" pronounced like the name "Joe")

*When asking for the check you're asking for someone to do something for you, like a favor, so instead of "kudasai" you would say "onegai shimasu"


To learn more Japanese, please see the links below:


iKnow / Smart.FM - Japanese lessons, with video and sound. The sign up is free, and you get lessons that are similar to the pricey Rosetta Stone software.



Jisho.org - Japanese Dictionary, you can look up english and japanese words in this to get the definition or even example sentences.



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Luggage Delivery in Tokyo 宅配便 (Takuhaibin)


If you've wisely decided to take the train into Tokyo (click here for more information) then you should know that taking your luggage on the Keisei Skyliner and the Narita Express will be really convenient but dragging it to your Tokyo residence, or through other trains or train stations will be a real pain.  Never fear, this is Tokyo and they've thought of it all!  At the airport they have Luggage Delivery Services available at a very reasonable price.  For around 2000 ($20) per piece, they'll deliver the luggage to your hotel (or any address) the next morning. 

Just follow these four steps:

#1 - Pack your carry-on with two changes of clothes, a toothbrush and pajamas so you can live without your bigger luggage overnight.


#2 - When you pick up your luggage at Narita follow the signs to the delivery service (takuhaibin), it looks just like a car rental counter.  

Luggage Delivery


#3 - Give them the address to your Tokyo residence* (and pre-pay for the service).  You might want to consider getting the japanese address printed out here in the states to hand to them when you get there.


#4 - Sign for the delivery the next day at your Tokyo residence*.


*Note: If you're staying at a self-service apartment and don't think you'll be home to receive the package then (if you use Yamato service) you can send it to any 7-11 (they're everywhere) and they'll hold it for you so you can pick it up when you can.  At the airport you can ask where the nearest convenience store is to your address and request a map from the station.  To ask if it's ok to pick up at a convenience store (in japanese) say "Kohn-bee-nee wah die-jo-boo dess kah?" romanji: konbini wa daijoubu desu ka?  in english "Convenience store, ok?".  To ask for a map (in japanese) say "Cheez-oo oh oh-nay-guy-shee-moss" romanji: chizu o onegai shimasu.  in english "Please help me with a map." 


If you want to do the same thing on your way back to the airport you can call them two days before your flight (ask for an english speaker) and schedule a time for them to pick up your luggage where you are so you can pick up the luggage when you get to the airport.  You'll pay for the delivery when you pick up your luggage at the airport.


There are three major takuhaibin (delivery) services at Narita Airport:


JAL/ABC -  This is the owned by the Japanese post office and is very efficient.  Their phone in Tokyo is 0120-9191-20 (phone lines open 8:30 - 17:00) Tokyo Time


ANA Skyporter

 ANA Skyporter- This new company is owned by the airline of the same name and logo. Their phone in Tokyo is 0120-007-952 (phone lines open 9:00 - 18:00) Tokyo Time.  Click their logo for more information


Kuroneko Yamato

GPA/Yamato - Also known as Kuroneko Yamato (Black cat Yamato) Their phone in Tokyo 03-3541-3411 (phone lines open 9:00 - 18:30) - Tokyo Time. Click their logo for more information.


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Money in Tokyo


Credit cards aren't used that much in Tokyo, and even when they're accepted they don't accept foreign cards.  Yes...that means you!  You have Visa, Master Card, American Express and Discover probably on the Plus or Cirrus network.  Cards that are accepted in Tokyo are JCB, American Express and Visa cards on the JP network.  It's possible to find "foreign" ATMs in Tokyo at Seven Eleven (they're everywhere and easy to find) so you can use your Plus and Cirrus credit cards there to withdraw money.  Also, a new law passed to boost tourism a few years ago made foreign ATMs mandatory in Post Offices (Yuubin Kyoku - pronounced "Yoo-bean Kee-ohk")  the symbol on a map for a post office looks a bit like a telegraph symbol see? 〒 It can sometimes be a challenge to find a post office but if you're lost you can ask someone  "Yoo-bean kee-ohk wah doh-koh dess kah?" (romanji: Yuubin Kyoku wa doko desu ka?) and they'll show you the way.  Below is a YouTube of a foreign ATM demonstration in 7-11.



Also here's a link to for locations in Japan where they accept Visa's on the plus system.




and here's where the 7-11 atms are, with their list of accepted cards (MasterCard is temporarily suspended, pending a legal agreement):




Traveler's checks  aren't accepted anywhere except for places that exchange money, like at the airport or certain banks.  Please see the link below to connect to the American Express traveler's check office locator:




Cash is accepted everywhere.  In Tokyo, it's convenient to carry cash around and everyone does it.  It's the safest city in the world and Tokyoites take advantage of that.  They carry stacks of 10,000 bills ($100 bills) in their pockets/purses and think nothing of it. 


Don't count your change

Japanese yen

When dealing with cash, please note that it is rude in Japan to count your change.  If it's just too much of a habit, do it out of sight of anyone who saw you buy the item, you'll look stingy, suspicious and mean.  For Americans it can be really hard to wrap our heads around this one "What if they made a mistake?"  "What if they just stole some of my money?"  The answer is pretty simple...it doesn't matter.   If you brought it to their attention you'd probably make the clerk cry, anger the store owner/manager and humiliate the other patrons in the store.  There's not even a 10% chance they'd believe you anyway because you're a foreigner, and apparently mean and suspicious (see above) so they'll just kick you out anyway.  Y'know what?  You're on vacation, so just trust that they got your change right and leave the counter peacefully and gracefully.  We guarantee that you'll have all your money with you.  It's just a different culture to get used to. :-)


Getting cash in advance of the trip -  You can always bring your U.S. cash or traveler's checks to Narita Airport and exchange your dollars for yen when you get to Tokyo, but it's much more convenient (and economical) to have cash with you when you land.  The following are a few ways to get cash in advance:



Believe it or not you can order your foreign currency safely and securely online at Travelex or Well's Fargo.  The rates are very good and you'll get the money the next day with Travelex (when their system is back up and running) and in two days with Well's Fargo (you need to be at home to sign for it or they can send it to a nearby Well's Fargo branch and you can pick it up there).    


Travelex Foreign Currency


Well's Fargo Foreign Currency 



In Person

You can find a local currency exchange office and pick up your cash in person.  Please call ahead to see if they have the amount and currency available for you to pick up.


Travelex locations



American Express Travel Office locations, click the link then choose the box next to "Foreign Currency Exchange - Buy" before you enter your address.



Please remember that buying cash will cost more than the current exchange rate between the dollar and the yen.  This is for the service the office provides of getting the actual paper money in hand and giving it to you.  However, for current exchange rates please click the link below.




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Tipping in Tokyo

Please know that there is only one person that you tip in Japan and that's the Ryokan maid.  By comparison here you tip many people, but in Japan it's considered rude to tip taxi drivers, bartenders, servers, bellhops and valets.  It may seem odd that tipping in these situations is rude but if you tipped a salesperson in an american department store for their help, they might get offended that you think they're paid so little and anyway they certainly couldn't accept the tip.  So please don't tip those people.  That being said it would be really rude to not tip for maid service, since it's literally the only time you should tip.


Pay a minimum of 1000 / night for maid service at a Ryokan


If you get maid service at a Ryokan (in particular), then be prepared to pay 1000 -  2500 (If there are extensive meals served in your room at the Ryokan, then the tip price goes up) multiplied by each night you are staying at the hotel in advance of your stay.  For example, if you're staying for 3 nights at the hotel (with standard service) then you would pay 3000 as a tip.  It may seem like alot, but you don't ever have to tip anyone else and that'll save you at least that much since you'll be eating out practically every day.


Tip in advance, with an envelope.

We mentioned paying in advance as well, and this is equally important.  Please get cash before your stay (click here for more details on getting cash before you get to your hotel) and place the entire amount in an envelope on your pillow the first night you spend the night. 


If you're a family and are taking more than one room, than note that the tips above are per room.


Also note: Even at a Ryokan, if you leave the envelope on your pillow after your first night and for some reason you come back to a clean room with the envelope still on your pillow, leave it for one additional night and if no one picks it up then go ahead and take the money back.  It may not be the custom at this hotel or your bill might be charged with a "maid service fee" at the end of your stay.

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そうだ 東京行こう!