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Tokyo Travel Guide: See Japan’s Incredible Capital City!

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Have you ever been to Tokyo or thought about visiting? Japan is a very unique and fascinating country, and you can never get bored in Tokyo, one of the biggest capital cities in the world!

Tokyo has a range of sights and experiences for travelers to take in: traditional and cutting-edge modern culture, a wide variety of food choices, shopping, entertainment, nightlife, and even nature and outdoor activities. With so many reasons to visit Tokyo, it’s worth making the trip at least once in a lifetime to enjoy what this wonderful city has to offer.

In this Tokyo travel guide, we’ll help you plan a visit to Tokyo by introducing you to some of the best locations in the city. We will also provide you with basic city and travel information, as well as a list of useful Japanese travel phrases. Let’s get you all ready for your Tokyo adventure!

Central Tokyo Has a Range of Skyscraper Buildings.

Central Tokyo has a range of skyscraper buildings.


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Table of Contents
  1. Basic Information for Traveling
  2. Must-See Places for a 1-3 Day Trip
  3. Highly Recommended Places for a 4-7 Day Trip (or Longer)
  4. Nature and Outdoor Activities in Tokyo
  5. Japanese Survival Phrases for Travelers
  6. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

1. Basic Information for Traveling

While international travel can be fun, exciting, and relaxing, we know that it can also be a stressful experience. To give you a hand, we’ve compiled some of the most useful information about Tokyo, including when and how to visit for the best experience. 

City of Tokyo

Facts

Tokyo is one of the biggest cities in the world, with a population of approximately 14 million (2020) and a total land area of 2,194 km². To give you an idea, this is larger than London (approx. 9.3 million & 1,572 km²), New York (approx. 19 million & 1,213 km²), and Paris (approx. 2.3 million & 105km²).

History

The history of modern-day Tokyo can be traced back to the Edo period, some 400 years ago. The Tokugawa Shogunate was established by a Shōgun (Japanese General) named 徳川家康 (Tokugawa Ieyasu) in 1603. Over time, the city grew to become the capital of Japan and has flourished to this day. Prior to this, 京都 (Kyoto) was Japan’s capital for more than a thousand years.

People and Language

Being a huge capital city, Tokyo serves as the center of business, culture, and fashion. This draws many Japanese people from other prefectures to study and work here. 

Although Japanese is the main language used here, there are many people in Tokyo who can communicate in English, especially among the younger generations. English is also used at public transportation facilities and large commercial buildings, as well as in some restaurants (especially those in central areas and touristic places).

Food and Accomodation

In this huge city of Tokyo, you can find food and accommodation to suit any budget. Whether you’re a backpacker or a posh traveler who seeks only the finest lodging and dining, Tokyo has what you need. 

There’s a variety of restaurants, from those offering one-coin meals (¥500 Yen coin) to high-end Michelin-starred restaurants. You can also find a wide diversity of cuisines here: Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian, French, American, Greek, Turkish, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, and the list goes on. Believe it or not, Tokyo is the world’s most Michelin-starred city, with 226 restaurants receiving stars for the thirteenth consecutive year, according to the Michelin Guide Tokyo 2020!

居酒屋 (Izakaya)-style bars are also popular among locals and they make for a great experience for those visiting the city. You’ll get to taste variations of Japanese tapas and Japanese sake for a relatively low price.

Likewise, you can find any type of accommodation in Tokyo, from hostels/guest houses to five-star luxury hotels. 

To learn more about Japanese food, please check out our Guide to the Best Japanese Foods.

The Best Time to Visit Tokyo

The two best seasons to visit are spring and cherry blossom season, but you can enjoy traveling in Japan any time of year. Do keep in mind that the middle of summer can be very hot and winter can be a bit too cold to get around comfortably. But with the right preparation, the weather won’t prevent you from enjoying the city! 

Each season has its own positive features and benefits. Following are the key points of each season.

  • Spring (March, April, May)

    The climate starts to warm up in March, and April is the best time to view beautiful full-bloom cherry blossoms. The month of May also has nice and comfortable weather, and it’s the final month of mild temperatures before it gets really hot in the summer.
  • Summer (June, July, August)

    The rainy season, or 梅雨 (Tsuyu), starts in June and lasts until the beginning of July. There are many rainy days during this time, which makes it less pleasant to spend time outdoors. Although there are a lot of indoor facilities and activities you can enjoy in Tokyo, it’s recommended to avoid traveling during this season.

    After Tsuyu is over, full-blown summer arrives and the temperature increases to as high as 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). The heat usually continues until the middle of September.

    Because the summer season is so hot and humid, it’s a bit tiring to get around outdoors. But don’t worry too much, as Japanese trains and subways have cool air conditioning!
  • Autumn (September, October, November)

    Autumn is a nice season to visit Tokyo as the temperature has cooled down but is not yet cold. In addition, there is far less rainy weather during this season. The Japanese consider autumn to be 食欲の秋, or a “season of good appetite,” and you can enjoy a lot of good foods made with seasonal ingredients.

    In November, it’s very beautiful to see the leaves changing colors on the mountains with a gradation of yellow, orange, and red. It’s worth visiting mountains in the outskirts of Tokyo, which are less than two hours from the center.
  • Winter (December, January, February)

    If you plan to visit Tokyo during winter, keep in mind that it gets very cold, with temperatures often plummeting below freezing; sometimes it even snows in January and February. However, as long as you wear warm clothes, it’s still manageable. It’s a good season to enjoy 温泉 (Onsen), or “hot springs,” and a variety of 鍋料理 /鍋物 (Nabemono), or “hot pot dishes.”

    Depending on how much time you have, you can also extend your Tokyo trip to include ski resorts so you can enjoy winter sports activities.

How to Get Around

Due to the massive size of Tokyo, trains are the most useful means of transportation. The train systems connect the different smaller cities within Tokyo, including so-called Central Tokyo with its 23 wards (each of which can be broken down into smaller cities and areas, as well). 

First-time visitors may find the train system in Tokyo a bit complicated at first. There are many lines for overground trains, which include the public JR (Japan Railway) service and the private Odakyu Line, Seibu Line, and Keiō Line services. There are also two subway systems in central Tokyo: Tokyo Metro and the Toei Subway (which literally means, “metropolis managed subway”). 

While you can buy tickets each time you need to board, it’s recommended to get one of the smart cards (Suica or Pasmo). These are rechargeable contactless cards which you can use to pay fare; they can also be used as electronic money to buy things at kiosks and convenience stores, for example. They’re available at train/subway stations. 

If you plan to visit other regions and cities outside of Tokyo (such as Kyoto, Osaka, or Hiroshima) by using 新幹線 (Shinkansen), or the super express train, buy the Japan Rail Pass in advance. This will allow you to use transportation at a cheaper price. 

Taxis are available anywhere in the central part of Tokyo, but fare can be expensive. Also, the doors of Japanese taxis open automatically, so don’t be surprised!

Other Travel Tips

  • What to Bring

    It’s recommended to have some Japanese Yen in cash while you’re traveling in Japan. Although there are many places where credit cards and Smart Pay are available, cash transactions are still big in Japan, especially at local stores and restaurants.

    You should also buy a SIM card so you can use the internet on your phone at the airport. Availability of free public wifi is still limited even in Tokyo, although there’s free wifi at most of the JR and Subway stations as well as in the main touristic areas. Internet access is the most useful thing for traveling!

    In case of an unexpected rainy day, a foldable umbrella would be useful; you can buy one at any convenience store in Japan. As a matter of fact, you can find almost anything you could need in Japan—especially in Tokyo—so don’t worry too much!
  • Emergency

    In case of an emergency, here are some important phone numbers you can call for free:

    110: 警察 (Keisatsu) – “Police”
    119: 救急車 (Kyūkyūsha) – “Ambulance”
    119: 消防 (Shōbō) “Fire Fighting”

    You should also find the telephone number and location for an embassy of your country in advance; this will be useful in case you lose your passport or run into a similar issue.

2. Must-See Places for a 1-3 Day Trip

Just a couple of days isn’t enough to experience what Tokyo has to offer, but if you plan to stay in other regions and spare a few days in Tokyo, the following cities and areas are not to be missed!

新宿 (Shinjuku)

Shinjuku is the busiest city in Tokyo. The Shinjuku Station is the hub of many extended lines that connect to various regions, including the surrounding prefectures.

Shinjuku itself is a big city which can be divided into different areas, each with its own unique aspects.  

From the center of the station, there are a few key places to visit, outlined below. Note that it’s very easy to get lost around the Shinjuku Station because there are hundreds of exits and paths, both underground and aboveground. Make sure you have Google Maps with you.

  • West (West Exit) 

    After passing the Izakaya bars close to the station, you’ll find a range of skyscraper buildings, most of which are offices and luxury hotels. One of the tallest buildings is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Its observatory on the 45th floor (202m from the ground) is very famous and it’s popular among tourists as well as locals. What’s even more amazing is that it’s free of charge to visit!

    Drinking a cocktail at the “Peak Bar” of Park Hyatt Tokyo on the 41st floor will take you to the world of the movie Lost in Translation.
  • Southeast & East (South Exit and Central East Exit) 

    There are thousands of dining bars and restaurants here, but this area is especially a paradise for shopping-lovers! There are many department stores and large shopping buildings, starting from above the station itself. In addition to clothing and fashion shops, there are also mega electronic stores that are not to be missed. Even if you don’t purchase anything, just window shopping can be very interesting.

    Further southeast, there is an oasis in the midst of the Tokyo Desert (a metaphor for a crowded city with buildings, neons, and concrete), which is 新宿御苑 (Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden). You’ll enjoy relaxing in the beautiful Japanese garden after your time in the hustle and bustle of the city areas.
  • Northeast (East Exit) 

    There are thousands of bars and restaurants here as well, but this area—known as 歌舞伎町 (Kabukichō)—is famous for its nightlife and for being a red-light district. There are thousands of neons around Shinjuku that never go off and it’s a city that never sleeps. When you walk around this area at night (it’s safe to walk around at night), you’ll see some interesting people.

    Some of the most popular places to visit in this area among tourists are ゴールデン街 (Golden Gai) and ロボットレストラン (Robot Restaurant). Golden Gai is a small area which preserves the traditional small buildings for restaurants and bars. Its retro atmosphere reminds one of the old times and foreigners find it fascinating. Robot Restaurant is literally a restaurant that features huge robots which people can actually get on.

    Throughout the area, customers can enjoy shows while having meals and drinks in the colorful restaurants decorated with thousands of flashy neons.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

The observatory in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is one of the most famous observatories in Tokyo.

渋谷 (Shibuya)

Shibuya is known as the epicenter of younger generations, new cultures, and venture and startup businesses. The city has everything that young people and trendsetters need: fashion shops, art galleries, shared workspaces, hip cafés and bar restaurants, night clubs, entertainment facilities, and the list goes on. 

If you’re interested in Japan, you may have seen a picture of Shibuya’s iconic scramble crossing where thousands of people cross the street in just a few minutes. While chaotic, this crossing is also rather organized and reputable because Japanese people follow the traffic lights decently—even during the more hectic times of year like Halloween and New Year’s Eve. Another iconic feature is the faithful dog Hachiko statue in front of the Shibuya Station; the story behind it is so famous that it even became a Hollywood movie.

Shibuya is another energetic city that never sleeps, as youngsters enjoy drinking and clubbing all night long till dawn.

A Huge Crowd of People Crossing at Shibuya Crossing

Shibuya Crossing is famous for thousands of people crossing in a couple of minutes.

原宿 (Harajuku)

Harajuku is famous for new fashion and the “Kawaii” culture of the younger generations, especially teenagers and those in their early 20s. 

There are thousands of trendy fashion shops, hair salons, and cafés on every street in Harajuku. The most famous streets, which have recently become a bit too touristy, are 竹下通り (Takeshita Dōri) and キャットストリート (Cat Street).

If you keep walking east, there’s a big main street for high fashion called 表参道 (Omotesando Street), where many fashion-conscious people love to go. At the end of Omotesando Street, there’s another trendy area called 青山 (Aoyama). Here, there are many chic fashion shops, hair salons, art galleries, fancy bars, and trendy restaurants. This area is regarded as a sophisticated city for stylish adults. You might even have a chance encounter with Japanese celebrities! 

Harajuku is a city within Shibuya Ward, which is the first municipality in Japan to acknowledge same-sex partnership. In addition, Harajuku and Shibuya lead the new LGBTQ+ culture. The biggest rainbow parade in Japan is conducted in Harajuku every year.

While the Harajuku area is renowned for its openness to new cultures, you can also find old Japanese traditions preserved here. A great example is the 明治神宮 (Meiji Shrine). Located just behind Harajuku Station, it’s one of the largest and most famous shrines in Tokyo. Here, VIPs conduct festive events and celebrities have traditional Japanese weddings.

Right next to Meiji Shrine, there is 代々木公園 (Yoyogi Park) where you can find flea markets, world food festivals, and other events on the weekend. 

The Meiji Jingu Shrine

明治神宮 (Meiji Jingu Shrine) is the most famous and important shrine in Tokyo.

皇居 (Imperial Palace and Imperial Garden)

In order to deepen your understanding of the hearts of Japanese people, it’s recommended to visit the Imperial Palace and gain insight on the Imperial House system

Located right in the center of Tokyo (next to Tokyo Station), the Imperial Palace is a symbol of Japan. To enroll in a guided tour of the Imperial Palace and walk around the beautiful Imperial Garden, you have to queue in the time slots which are limited per day. Make sure you check the opening schedule on their official website (there’s an English page). 

The surroundings of the Imperial Palace are stunning during cherry blossom season, as you can see hundreds of beautiful cherry trees along the moat of the palace.  

The architecture and landscape of the Imperial Palace and Imperial Garden represent the ultimate sense of Japanese beauty. That said, you may be surprised to see that it’s far from luxurious when compared to palaces in Europe. The Japanese sense of beauty values simplicity and quality rather than luxury.

The Japanese Imperial Palace in Tokyo

The Japanese Imperial Palace is located close to Tokyo Station.

浅草 (Asakusa)

In Tokyo, you can find both old and new traditions downtown. In Japanese, downtown is called 下町 (Shitamachi), and literally translates to “down town.” It’s the physically low part of central Tokyo along the east side of the Sumida River, and it refers to areas that are traditional and rooted in local communities from the Edo period.

Asakusa is one such Shitamachi city in Tokyo. The most famous things here are:

  • 雷門 (Kaminarimon) – “Thunder Gate”
  • 浅草寺 (Sensō-ji Temple)
  • 仲見世通り (Nakamise Dōri) – the street that approaches the temple

Along the lively street of Nakamise Dōri, there are hundreds of gift shops that sell a variety of traditional Japanese goods, arts, and crafts, as well as traditional snacks and sweets. 

After visiting the temple and tasting some delicious Japanese snacks, you can enjoy strolling around the Asakusa area or riding on the 人力車 (Jinrikisha) or Rickshaw (“human-powered vehicle”), which is pulled by a man dressed in traditional clothing.

Or, you can also enjoy the river cruise. Right next to Asakusa is the mighty Sumida River, along which there are many landmarks. These include the Tokyo Skytree Tower and the huge golden sculpture on the Asahi headquarters building. From the pier near Asakusa Station, you can cruise up to 日の出 (Hinode Pier), お台場 (Odaiba) Marine Park, 浜離宮 (Hama-rikyu Japanese Gardens), and 豊洲 (Toyosu).

Many People Visiting the Kaminarimon Gate of Sensō-ji

The 雷門 (Kaminarimon Gate of Sensō-ji) Temple is a popular site for taking pictures.

上野 (Ueno)

Ueno is another well-known Shitamachi city and it has some features that are worth visiting.

  • Ueno Park: 上野公園 (Ueno Park) is very famous for cherry blossoms and お花見 (O-hanami) parties where people view the blossoms. Even after cherry blossom season, you can enjoy walking around this huge park.
  • Museums: Next to Ueno Park, there are a range of famous museums, such as the Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum of Western Art, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. If you’re a fan of art and science, you’ll need to set aside more than a day to explore the many museums located here! 
  • Ueno Zoo: This is the only zoo you can find in central Tokyo. Here, you can meet cute panda bears.
  • Ameyoko Market Street: アメヤ横丁 (Ameya Yokochō), or アメ横  (Ameyoko) for short, is a bustling market street where you can find a variety of things at relatively low prices: vegetables, fish, dried foods, spices, snacks, utensils, clothing, etc. It’s interesting to see the lively markets.

Up-close Shot of Cherry Blossoms Blooming at Ueno Park

Ueno Park is famous for the beautiful blooming of cherry blossoms and hanami parties.

秋葉原 (Akihabara)

If you’re a fan of gadgets, Anime, and Manga, you can’t miss this city. Akihabara is known for electronics and Anime/Manga, so it’s often called the city of オタク (Otaku), or “geeks,” and subcultures.

There are hundreds of shops selling all kinds of electronics and gadgets, video games, Manga comics, Anime figures, cosplay costumes, and accessories. You may also see cosplayers and amateur pop-idols gathering on the street of Akihabara on the weekends, as well as Otaku photographers having photo sessions.

Maid café and other themed cafés (such as a particular Manga comic theme or an animal café where you can see and touch animals such as cats, owls, or hedgehogs) are also popular and fun to experience!

The Street of Akihabara in Tokyo

Akihabara is a famous city in Tokyo, known for Anime and Manga.

3. Highly Recommended Places for a 4-7 Day Trip (or Longer)

Are you planning a longer trip? Great! That means you’ll also be able to experience these must-visit Tokyo places. 

お台場 & ゆりかもめモノレール (Odaiba & Yurikamome Monorail) 

Odaiba is the waterfront area of Tokyo Bay. Not only does it have a spectacular ocean and city view, but there are also so many things to enjoy on these artificial islands.

  • Shopping Malls: There are huge shopping malls here, such as Diversity, Venus Fort, and Aqua City.
  • Entertainment Facilities: If you’re bored of shopping or walking around, there are tons of other things you can enjoy:

    Cinema
    A Virtual Reality (VR) experience
    Joypolis (an indoor amusement park that offers arcade games and amusement rides)
    RoundOne/Spoccha

    The last place we mentioned is an all-you-can-play amusement center that offers a variety of indoor/outdoor activities. These include bowling alleys, arcade games, karaoke, Manga room, billiards, batting cages, basketball, volleyball, tennis, futsal, driving range, rollerblades, and more.
  • Museums: The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation is fun to explore and allows you to enjoy a huge planetarium. The Tokyo Water Science Museum is an interactive museum where you can learn about water.
  • Yurikamome Monorail: Running from 新橋 (Shinbashi) all the way to 豊洲 (Toyosu), this monorail system is not only a means of transportation but also a fun ride that allows you to explore the waterfront and enjoy the wonderful 360° view of Tokyo Bay.  
  • Onsen Hot Spring: 大江戸温泉 (Ōedo Onsen) is a hot spring facility. Onsen is an important aspect of Japanese culture, and you can enjoy Onsen in the central city! When you’re tired from walking around all day, you can wash your sweaty body and relax in a hot tub.

Odaiba and the Replica of the Statue of Liberty

Odaiba is located right in Tokyo Bay, which is the artificial land. There is a replica of the Statue of Liberty here.

六本木 (Roppongi)

Roppongi is traditionally known as a city of nightlife, having many bars and popular nightclubs. In addition, many foreign embassies are located around the Roppongi area and lots of expats enjoy the city’s nightlife as much as the locals do. This gives the city a sort of international atmosphere.

In recent decades, Roppongi has undergone a variety of new development projects and has become a place to enjoy high-end shopping, fancy restaurants, and posh entertainment thanks to the mega-complex buildings called Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown. Both buildings are huge skyscrapers incorporating office spaces, luxury apartments, shops, restaurants, cafés, movie theatres, a museum, a hotel, an outdoor amphitheatre, and some parks.

The Tokyo Midtown Building in Roppongi

Roppongi is famous for night clubs and high-grade shops and restaurants in commercial skyscraper buildings.

銀座 & 築地 (Ginza & Tsukiji)

If you love sophisticated shopping, go to Ginza. 

銀座中央通り (Ginza Chūō-dōri), or Ginza Central Avenue, is the Tokyo version of 5th Avenue in New York. It’s very famous for shopping, and its main road turns into a pedestrian precinct that bans cars on the weekends. There are a number of high-end boutiques, department stores, commercial buildings, hair salons, beauty shops, and exclusive restaurants in Ginza. 

Even if you’re a budget traveler who’s trying to avoid expensive shopping, please don’t miss the デパ地下 (Depachika), or “basement floors of department stores,” such as those in 銀座三越 (Ginza Mitsukoshi) and 松屋銀座 (Matsuya Ginza). There are thousands of delicious choices of sweets, delicatessen foods, and ingredients sold in Depachika and it’s all worth tasting!

If you’re interested in the traditional Japanese Kabuki theatre, visit 歌舞伎座, or Kabukiza Theatre, in Higashi Ginza (East Ginza). Kabuki is a classical dance-drama which has more than 400 years of history behind it and is registered as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO. You have to buy tickets in advance to see a Kabuki performance, but you can also visit the Kabukiza building if you just want to buy souvenirs.

If you keep walking southeast from Ginza, you’ll enter the 築地 (Tsukiji) area. It’s traditionally famous for the world’s biggest fish market, called 築地市場 (Tsukiji Shijō), as well as its tuna bidding (マグロの競り). The fish market itself was relocated to 豊洲 (Toyosu) in 2018, but there are still many sushi restaurants and seafood shops just outside the area of the old market. Tsukiji is home to 江戸前寿司 (Edomaezushi), or Tokyo-style sushi, and it remained a famous place to eat fresh sushi even after the relocation of the fish market.

People Walking Around Ginza

Ginza is a high fashion street that turns into a pedestrian precinct that bans cars on weekends and national holidays.

東京タワーとスカイツリー (Tokyo Tower and Skytree)

If you want to visit iconic landmarks and see the city of Tokyo from different angles, Tokyo Tower and Skytree Tower are both wonderful options. 

Established in 1958, Tokyo Tower is one of the earliest landmarks in Tokyo. It’s 333m tall, which is taller than the famous Eiffel Tower in Paris at 300m. Tokyo Tower has two observatories: the main deck at 150m and the top deck at 250m. You’ll get to enjoy a stunning 360° view of the world’s metropolitan city.

Tokyo Skytree is a relatively new landmark, established in 2012. The tower is 634m and it’s the tallest building in Japan. The observatory is 450m above the ground, and there are also restaurants with skyscraper views. In addition to taking in the view, you can enjoy shopping and cinemas in the complex commercial building.

The Skytree Tower in Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo Skytree, the tallest tower in Japan, is the new iconic tower of Tokyo.

東京ディズニーランド & ディズニーシー (Tokyo Disney Resort & DisneySea)

Whether you’re a Disney fan or not, the Tokyo Disney Resort is worth visiting—especially Tokyo DisneySea, which is the only sea-themed Disney park in the world! You’ll experience something amazing and unique that can only be found in Tokyo. Located right next to Tokyo in the Tokyo Bay, it will take you to a dream world with a scent of sea breeze. The parks are very crowded on weekends and holidays, so it’s recommended to visit during weekdays.

DisneySea in Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo DisneySea is the only sea-themed Disney park in the world.

Outside of Central Tokyo

There are many more cities outside of Tokyo’s city center. 

If you have plenty of time, take a twenty-minute ride on the Chūō Line of the JR train from Shinjuku to visit 吉祥寺 (Kichijoji). There are shopping department stores, shopping arcades, movie theaters, and 井の頭公園 (Inokashira Park) which is often used as a shooting location for TV dramas and movies.

Also, if you’re a big fan of Ghibli movies and director 宮崎駿 (Hayao Miyazaki), you can visit Studio Ghibli Museum in 三鷹 (Mitaka) to immerse yourself in the world of Ghibli. Make sure you make a booking in advance.

If you’re a fan of Ghibli Anime movies, the Ghibli Museum is worth visiting.

4. Nature and Outdoor Activities in Tokyo

Don’t be surprised that there are mountains in Tokyo! As a prefecture, Tokyo Metropolis spreads to the mountains in the west. Believe it or not, Tokyo has an abundance of nature less than two hours from the central city. 

Following is a list of places that are worth visiting when you have a lot of time in Tokyo and want to do something different.

高尾山 (Mt. Takao)

Located two hours away when taking a train from the Shinjuku 中央本線 (Chūō Line), Mt. Takao is one of the most-visited mountains in Tokyo. The mountain is just 599m above sea level, and it offers an easy hiking/climbing path while allowing you to get out in the fresh air and enjoy the spectacular nature view. You don’t need a heavy set of gear for the mountain, but sneakers are a good idea.

Once you come down from the mountain, you can refresh and relax at the Onsen facility called 極楽湯 (Gokurakuyu). 

奥多摩 (Okutama)

Okutama is another popular destination from the city center, and it’s a two-hour train ride from Shinjuku and at the end of the train line 青梅線 (Ōme Line). Basically, Okutama is in a location between mountains where you’ll find 奥多摩湖 (Lake Okutama), valleys and rivers, a water dam, 日原鍾乳洞 (Nippara Limestone Caves), and more.

You can enjoy hiking in the forests, fishing, rafting, canyoning, BBQ by the riverside, local cuisine, and the Onsen hot spring at もえぎの湯 (Moeginoyu). There are also camping sites and lodges for overnight stays.

秋川 (Akigawa)

Akigawa is another great option for nature and outdoor activities. It’s about 1.5 hours by train from Shinjuku to the final station of 武藏五日市線 (Musashi-itsukaichi Line).

It’s a popular spot for hiking in the forest, fishing, BBQ, and riverside activities in 秋川渓谷 (Akigawa Keikoku Valley).

There are also Onsen hot spring facilities at つるつる温泉 (Tsurutsuru Onsen) and 瀬音の湯 (Seotonoyu Spa), where you can relax in an open‐air bath with beautiful views of nature and the greenery. Onsen facilities also offer massages and restaurants where you can taste local cuisines. 

If you want to stay overnight, there are camping sites and lodges.

5. Japanese Survival Phrases for Travelers

Due to Tokyo’s diverse cultural scene and immense size, many younger Japanese people do pretty well with English. That said, knowing at least a few Japanese phrases will make your whole trip go a lot smoother and allow you to form deeper connections with locals. Here are just a few survival phrases you should definitely try to memorize before your trip! 

Hello. 

Japanese: こんにちは (Kon’nichiwa)

Example

こんにちは、私たちはカナダから来ました。
Kon’nichiwa, watashi-tachi wa Kanada kara kimashita.
“Hello, we come from Canada.”

Thank you.

Japanese: ありがとう (Arigatō)

In order to say it more politely, add ございます (gozaimasu) so that it becomes: ありがとうございます (Arigatō gozaimasu).

For the past tense, add ございました (gozaimashita).

Example

親切にしていただき、ありがとうございます。
Shinsetsu ni shite itadaki, arigatō gozaimasu.
“Thank you for being kind to me.”

Goodbye.

Japanese: さようなら (Sayōnara)

Example

どうもありがとうございました、さようなら。
Dōmo arigatō gozaimashita, sayōnara.
“Thank you very much, goodbye.”

I’m sorry.

Japanese: すみません (Sumimasen)

Sumimasen is a very useful phrase that can also be used to say, “Excuse me.”

To express a deeper apology, you can also say ごめんなさい (gomen nasai) or, more politely, 申し訳ございません (mōshiwake gozaimasen). This is something you would hear staff members/businesspeople saying to customers.

Example

[When you bump into someone or take someone else’s baggage by mistake]

すみません! 
Sumimasen!
“I’m sorry!”

To learn more on the topic, please read our articles about Japanese Etiquette and How to Say Sorry.

I don’t understand. / I don’t know.

Japanese: わかりません (Wakarimasen)

Example

すみません、日本語がわかりません。
Sumimasen, Nihon-go ga wakarimasen.
“Sorry, I don’t understand Japanese.”

Is there anyone who speaks English?    

Japanese: 英語を話せる人はいますか。(Eigo o hanaseru hito wa imasu ka.)

Example

すみません、英語を話せる人はいますか。
Sumimasen, Eigo o hanaseru hito wa imasu ka.
“Excuse me, is there anyone who speaks English?”

Where is the restroom?

In Japanese: トイレはどこですか (Toire wa doko desu ka.)

Example

ここから一番近いトイレはどこですか。
Koko kara ichi-ban chikai toire wa doko desu ka.
“Where is the nearest restroom from here?”

How much is it?

Japanese: いくらですか (Ikura desu ka.)

Example

これはいくらですか。
Kore wa ikura desu ka.
“How much is this?”

I want/take this.

Japanese: これをください (Kore o kudasai)

Example

[While pointing out what you want on the menu or at a store:]

これをください。いくらですか。
Kore o kudasai. Ikura desu ka.
“I’ll have this. How much is it?”

For more useful phrases for restaurants, please check out our vocabulary lists of Vocabulary and Phrases at the Restaurant and Restaurant.

Help!

Japanese: たすけて! (Tasukete!)

In order to say it more politely, add ください (kudasai) to make it: 助けてください (Tasukete kudasai).

Example

助けてください! 友達が事故にあいました。
Tasukete kudasai! Tomodachi ga jiko ni aimashita.
“Please help! My friend had an accident.”

To learn more useful travel phrases, please read our article on Japanese Travel Phrases.

A Couple Ordering Something from a Waitress

これをください (Kore o kudasai) – “I’ll have this one.”

How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

In this article, we introduced the must-visit places in Tokyo, gave you an overview of the city, presented you with useful travel tips, and went over a few practical Japanese travel phrases. I hope you enjoyed this article and that it made you feel like traveling to Tokyo right away! Which of the locations we mentioned is first on your list, and why? 

If you would like to learn the Japanese language together with cultural information, you’ll find a lot more helpful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons to help you improve your Japanese language skills. Here are some pages with useful words and phrases for Japan travel:

You can also get personal one-on-one coaching through our MyTeacher service, which is available when you subscribe for a Premium PLUS membership. Your private teacher will help you practice pronunciation and give you personal feedback to help you constantly improve.

And there’s so much more! Enjoy studying Japanese with JapanesePod101.com!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese

Japanese Travel Phrases for an Enjoyable Trip to Japan

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Are you traveling to Japan and want to learn practical Japanese travel phrases? This article is designed to help you learn the most useful Japanese words for travel.

It’s always good to learn basic words when you travel to a foreign country. Not only does it make getting around easier, but it also allows you to enjoy communicating with the locals.

In general, Japanese people are not so good at speaking English, free wifi services aren’t very prevalent (especially outside of the central cities), and Japan is still more of a cash-based society than you may think. However, Japanese people are very kind; they’ll listen to you patiently and do their best to help. So just use these basic Japanese travel phrases to talk to Japanese people when you want to ask something.

When you speak even a little bit of Japanese, locals will appreciate your effort and will be more friendly. Here’s JapanesePod101’s list of practical Japanese travel phrases for your travels to Japan!

Table of Contents

  1. Greeting/Communication
  2. Asking for Directions
  3. Shopping
  4. Restaurants
  5. When You Need Help
  6. Conclusion: How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

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1. Greeting/Communication

Airplane Phrases

To begin our list of essential Japanese travel phrases, we’ll go over greetings and basic travel phrases in Japanese for solid communication. These simple Japanese travel phrases can make a world of difference in your conversations and overall experience in Japan.

1- こんにちは

  • Romanization: Kon’nichiwa
  • English Translation: Hello

In terms of must-know Japanese travel phrases, you probably already know that this is the most common Japanese greeting word. You can say this to anybody for any occasion during the daytime.

2- はい/いいえ

  • Romanization: Hai / Iie
  • English Translation: Yes / No

Hai is “Yes” and it’s pronounced like the English word “Hi.” In Japan, saying yes also means that you understand. Iie is “No” and it’s pronounced ‘EE-eh.’

3- ありがとうございます

  • Romanization: Arigatō gozaimasu
  • English Translation: Thank you

Arigatō gozaimasu is the polite way to say “Thank you” in Japanese, and you can use this for any occasion. In case of a casual situation, you can just say Arigatō, or even more casually, Dōmo (どうも) which means “Thanks.”

4- いいえ、いりません

  • Romanization: Iie, irimasen
  • English Translation: No, thank you.

It literally means “No, I don’t need it,” in Japanese. At a restaurant, say this phrase when a waiter offers to fill your glass of water and you don’t want more.

5- すみません

  • Romanization: Sumimasen
  • English Translation: I’m sorry / Excuse me

This word is usually used to say “sorry” or “excuse me”. Say this when you bump into someone in a crowd or when you ask someone for directions. Japanese people also use this to mean “thank you,” in some cases, such as when someone picks up something you dropped.

6- お願いします

  • Romanization: Onegai shimasu
  • English Translation: Please

When you request something, it’s polite to say Onegai shimasu. When someone offers you something and says please, she/he would say Dōzo (どうぞ) in Japanese.

7- 私はXXです

  • Romanization: Watashi wa XX desu.
  • English Translation: I am XX.

Watashi is “I,” wa is “am/is/are,” and desu is a present-tense word that links subjects and predicates; it’s placed at the end of a sentence. You can put your name, or your nationality, such as: Watashi wa Amerika-jin desu (私はアメリカ人です) which means “I am American.”  

Many Different Flags

8- 私は日本語がわかりません

  • Romanization: Watashi wa nihongo ga wakarimasen.
  • English Translation: I don’t understand Japanese.

Nihongo is stands for the Japanese language, and Wakarimasen means “I don’t understand.” If you don’t know something, you can just say Wakarimasen meaning “I don’t know.”

9- 英語を話せますか

  • Romanization: Eigo o hanasemasu ka
  • English Translation: Can you speak English?

This is one of the most useful Japanese phrases for travelers. Eigo means “English,” Hanasemasu is a polite way to say “I speak,” and ka is a word that you add to the end of a complete sentence to make a question.

10- 英語でお願いします

  • Romanization: Eigo de onegai shimasu
  • English Translation: English, please.

This is another important Japanese travel phrase. De is the particle, and in this case it means “by” or “by means of.” The phrase literally translates as “English by please.” You can also say M saizu de onegai shimasu (Mサイズでお願いします) which means “Medium size, please.”

2. Asking for Directions

Preparing to Travel

One of the most important Japanese travel phrases you should know are directions. Here are some useful vocabulary words and two Japanese language travel phrases you need to know!

1- Vocabulary

  • 駅 (Eki) : Station
  • 地下鉄 (Chikatetsu) : Subway/Metro
  • トイレ (Toire) : Toilet
  • 銀行 (Ginkō) : Bank
  • 切符売り場 (Kippu uriba) : Ticket machine/Office
  • 観光案内所 (Kankō annaijo) : Tourist information office
  • 入口 (Iriguchi) : Entrance
  • 出口 (Deguchi) : Exit
  • 右 (Migi) : Right
  • 左 (Hidari) : Left
  • まっすぐ (Massugu) : Straight
  • 曲がる (Magaru) : Turn
  • 交差点 (Kōsaten) : Intersection
  • 角 (Kado) : Corner

2- XXはどこですか

  • Romanization: XX wa doko desu ka
  • English Translation: Where is XX?

Doko means “where” and you replace XX with the name of where you want to go.

For example

  • Toire wa doko desu ka (Where is the toilet?)
  • Deguchi wa doko desu ka (Where is an exit?)

3- XX e wa dō ikeba ii desu ka (XXへはどう行けばいいですか) : How can I go to XX?

  • Romanization: XX e wa dō ikeba ii desu ka
  • English Translation: How can I go to XX?

is “how,” e is “to,” and ikeba ii can be translated as “good to go.” When you want to know how you can get somewhere, replace XX with where you want to go.

For example:

  • Eki e wa dō ikeba ii desu ka (How can I go to the station?)
  • Ginkō e wa dō ikeba ii desu ka (How can I go to the bank?)

4- Other Examples

1. この道をまっすぐ行きます (Kono michi o massugu ikimasu.):Go straight on this street.

Kono michi is “this street” and ikimasu is the polite way to say “Go.” O is a Japanese postpositional particle which indicates an object (in this case, kono michi).

2. 次の角を右へ曲がります (Tsugi no kado o migi e magarimasu.):Turn right at the next corner.

Tsugi no kado means “next corner” and magarimasu is the polite way to say “Turn.” E is another postpositional particle that indicates direction; this can be translated as the English word “to.”

3. 交差点を渡って左へ行きます (Kōsaten o watatte hidari e ikimasu.):Cross an intersection and go to the left (direction).

Watatte is a conjugated form of wataru which means “cross.”

3. Shopping

Basic Questions

You’ll definitely love shopping when traveling in Japan, and some of the best Japanese phrases for travel are those related to this fun past-time. Knowing some useful Japanese words will make your shopping even more enjoyable.

1- XXはありますか

  • Romanization: XX wa arimasu ka
  • English Translation: Do you have XX?

When you’re at a store and looking for something, you can use this phrase by replacing XX with what you want.

2- いくらですか

  • Romanization: Ikura desu ka
  • English Translation: How much is it?

This is probably one of the most useful Japanese words for traveling and shopping. You can say Ikura desu ka in many situations, such as when you’re shopping, buying tickets, paying for a taxi, etc.

3- 免税できますか

  • Romanization: Menzei dekimasu ka
  • English Translation: Can you do a tax exemption?

Did you know that, as a traveler, you can get a sales tax exemption when you purchase things greater than 5,000 yen? Menzei is “tax exempted” and dekimasu means “can do.” Don’t forget to say this when you buy something big!

4- これは何ですか

  • Romanization: Kore wa nan desu ka
  • English Translation: What is this?

Kore is “this” and nan is another form of nani which means “what.” There are many unique foods, gadgets, and things which are unique to Japan, so when you wonder what it is, point to it and say this phrase.

5- これを買います

  • Romanization: Kore o kaimasu
  • English Translation: I’ll buy this.

Kaimasu is the conjugation of the verb kau, which means “buy.”

6- カードは使えますか

  • Romanization: Kādo wa tsukaemasu ka
  • English Translation: Can I use a credit card?

Kādo is “card” and you pronounce it just like the English word “card.” Tsukaemasu is a conjugation of the potential form of the verb tsukau which means “use.” This phrase is useful when you want to use your card at small shops and restaurants.

Man and Woman Shopping

4. Restaurants

Japan has an array of delicious foods, of which sushi and ramen are just the tip of the iceberg. Amazingly, Tokyo is the city with the most Michelin-starred restaurants in the world, for several consecutive years. Enjoy yummy food at restaurants with useful Japanese words for restaurants and easy Japanese travel phrases related to food.

1- Vocabulary

  • 英語のメニュー (Eigo no menyū) : English menu
  • ベジタリアンのメニュー (Bejitarian no menyū) : Vegetarian menu
  • 豚肉を含まないメニュー (Butaniku o fukumanai menyū) : Menu without pork
  • 水 (Mizu) : Water
  • 白/赤ワイン (Shiro / Aka wain) : White / Red wine

2- XXはありますか

  • Romanization: XX wa arimasu ka
  • English Translation: Do you have XX?

When you want to ask if the restaurant has something you want, say this phrase (replacing XX with what you want).

For example:

  • Eigo no menyū wa arimasu ka (Do you have an English menu?)
  • Aka wain wa arimasu ka (Do you have red wine?)

3- XXをください

  • Romanization: XX o kudasai
  • English Translation: Can I have XX?

This is another very useful phrase. Simply replace XX with what you want. You can also use this versatile phrase in various occasions, such as when shopping, choosing something, etc.

For example:

  • Kore o kudasai (Can I have this?)
  • Mizu o kudasai (Can I have water?)

4- お会計お願いします

  • Romanization: O-kaikei onegai shimasu
  • English Translation: Check, please.

O-kaikei means “check.” In Japan, people often cross their index fingers in front of their face as a gesture to indicate “check, please” at casual restaurants. However, when you’re at a nice restaurant, simply tell a waiter: O-kaikei onegai shimasu.

5. When You Need Help

Survival Phrases

Sometimes you get faced with unexpected emergencies while you’re traveling. Japan is famous for being one of the safest countries in the world, but you might fall very ill or be caught in a great earthquake.

1- Vocabularies

  • 警察 (Keisatsu) : Police
  • 病院 (Byōin) : Hospital
  • 救急車 (Kyūkyūsha) : Ambulance
  • ドラッグストア/薬局 (Doraggu sutoa / Yakkyoku) : Drug Store/Pharmacy
  • タクシー (Takushī) : Taxi

2- XXを呼んでください

  • Romanization: XX o yonde kudasai
  • English Translation: Can you call XX?

When you’re severely ill or in case of emergency, let people know by using this phrase. Japanese people will kindly help you.

For example:

  • Yūkyūsha o yonde kudasai (Can you call an ambulance?)
  • Keisatsu o yonde kudasai (Can you call the police?)

3- どこでインターネットを使えますか

  • Romanization: Doko de intānetto o tsukaemasu ka
  • English Translation: Where can I use the internet?

Although large cities in Japan provide free public wifi at major stations, metros, and cafes, you may need to find internet access in smaller cities. Remember that there will be kind Japanese people who will share their personal hotspots, or look things up for you with their own phones, as well.

4- 電話を貸してください

  • Romanization: Denwa o kashite kudasai
  • English Translation: Can I use your phone?

Denwa is “phone” and kashite is a conjugation word of kasu, which means “lend.” This phrase is literally translated as “Please lend (me) a phone.”

5- 助けてください

  • Romanization: Tasukete kudasai
  • English Translation: Please help me.

I believe this phrase is the last thing you would ever use in Japan, but in case something does happen, this is useful survival Japanese for tourists.

Japanese Landmark

6. Conclusion: How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

I hope this article of Japanese travel phrases is helpful and that you’ll enjoy your trip to Japan!

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language, you’ll find more useful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons for you to improve your Japanese language skills.

We also have YouTube channel: JapanesePod101. It’s fun to learn Japanese through watching videos and listening to actual Japanese pronunciation, so we recommend you check it out!

Don’t forget to study with our free Japanese vocabulary lists, read more insightful blog posts like this one, and download our mobile apps to learn anywhere, anytime! Whatever your reason for learning Japanese, know that we’re here to help and you can do it! Keep in mind that the best way to learn Japanese phrases for travel is repetition and practice.

Before you go, let us know in the comments how you feel about using these useful travel phrases in Japanese after reading this article. More confident, or still a little confused about something? Feel free to ask questions in the comments!

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8 Tips for a Solo Japan Trip

Solo Japan Trip

The Land of the Rising Sun is by far one of the most rewarding places for a solo adventure. Crammed into the island nation is old-world architecture, delicious food, stunning metropolises, incredible nature, and a culture unlike any other. Even though you’ve likely heard the adage “happiness is only real when shared,” we politely request that you disregard that: here are eight tips to ensure your first solo trip is filled with happiness.

Learn Some Basic Japanese Phrases

Learning Japanese

Although English (Eigo) is taught in most public and private schools throughout the country, everyday people are not usually well-equipped to have a full conversation. Japanese people are extremely helpful and will go out of their way to help, but just know that the language barrier is very often there. Things are manageable in the urban centers, but if you plan on heading out to the countryside, communication becomes increasingly difficult.

Knowing this, one of the best things you can do prior to your trip is to learn some basic Japanese phrases. There are plenty of apps out there, but JapanesePod101 is an excellent resource for fast-paced content that will get you up to speed before your trip. Take a quick scroll through their lesson library to discover survival phrases and other must-knows before taking off.

Know About Japanese Taboos

Sushi

There are entire articles (and books) written about navigating the nuances of Japanese culture, but here are a few major things to keep in mind while on your solo trip.

  • Take your shoes off when appropriate. This is especially common in homes but can be expected in public establishments as well.
  • Don’t talk on the phone while on public transportation.
  • Never stick chopsticks vertically (i.e stab) into your food, as this represents an offering to the dead.
  • Don’t point or gesture at people with just one finger.
  • Generally do your best to avoid loud and distasteful behavior in public. Japan is a place that prides itself on respect and order, so do your best to not stand out.
  • Tattoos are still associated with the nefarious underground culture of Japan, so err on the side of covering up anything that may be offensive.

Make Use of Exceptional Public Transportation

Transport

Public transportation in Japan is incredibly efficient and makes for an excellent solo travel experience. Japan Railways (JR Pass) is the public option that has routes all throughout the country, but you can also find private railway companies like Tobu, Meitetsu, Kintetsu, and Seibu.

Within the city centers, most people get around on subway lines. If you’re staying in Japan for a long period, consider purchasing a prepaid card ahead of time.

Always Carry Cash

Japanese Yen

For as advanced as Japanese society is, a surprising number of establishments still don’t accept credit cards. This has got better in recent years, but it’s still best to travel with a solid reserve of cash in case you get caught short.

Additionally, many ATM’s do not accept foreign bank cards. Consider bringing the cash you’ll need in your home currency and exchanging upon arrival (or doing so beforehand).

Where to Should Stay

Japanese House

For the solo traveler looking to link up with other friendly souls and adventure together, Japan has a great collection of hostels. They cater to the social crowd, they will help you organize tours, and they’ll be more affordable and allow you to stretch your budget.

If you’re looking for an authentic experience, consider booking a room in a traditional ryokan. Ryokans are Japanese-style inns found throughout the country, but commonly near hot spring (onsen) resorts. They usually incorporate elements such as tatami floors, futon beds, modern baths, and plenty of pillows.

Get Outdoors

Mount Fuji

Speaking of hot springs, one of the best things to do as a solo traveler in Japan is to explore the country’s illustrious collection of parks and natural treasures. Stunning mountains, dense bamboo forests, bucolic countrysides, and colorful springtime flowers.

Some of the most amazing outdoor experiences you can have in Japan include skiing on mountains with more snow than anywhere in the world, hiking through the Oirase National Park, dropping into waterfalls in Minakami, white water rafting at Okutama, and diving at Izu and the Ogasawara Islands. If you’re visiting during the winter months, check out Christmas in Japan: How to Celebrate the Holidays in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Get a SIM Card or Pocket WiFi

Pocket WiFi

Before setting off, be sure to establish a plan of action for communication. One route is to go with your local carrier’s travel package, but those can sometimes be quite pricey. Mobal is the most popular option for a SIM card, and the prices are fairly reasonable.

Another option is to rent or buy a pocket WiFi. Free WiFi in Japan is still fairly rare, so the safest bet (especially as a solo traveler) will be to always have a WiFi connection on the go. There are services that will allow you to pick up your device (a small rectangle about the size of your phone) at the airport upon arrival, or have it delivered to your hotel room.

Pack Light

Kyoto

As a solo traveler, you won’t have anyone else with you to share the load of your possessions, so packing light is a must. It’s definitely on the list of What You Should Know as a First-Time Solo Traveler, and in Japan it especially makes sense. Storing your luggage on trains, planes, and automobiles becomes that much less of an ordeal, and will allow you to move around with your hands-free. You should also be sure to make use of your accommodation’s lockers and safes if they are available.

Writer Dillon is a travel-hungry outdoor enthusiast originally from Encinitas, California. He recently moved to Medellín to begin his next chapter as a content writer for AllTheRooms, the world’s first vacation rental search engine. Besides writing, Dillon enjoys live music, fútbol, cooking, and backpacking.

October in Japan: The Weather, What to Wear, and What to Do

Are you planning to visit Japan in October? The very hot summer and typhoon season ends in September, and October is a great season for traveling to Japan with the perfect weather and beautiful attractions.

October is also a harvest season and there are many delicious foods to be enjoyed at harvest festivals all over Japan. Wondering where to see autumn colors in Japan? In northern areas such as the Hokkaido and Tohoku area, mountains start to turn red and yellow, the result of the beautiful autumn leaves.

In this article, JapanesePod101 introduces fun events and what to see on your trip to Japan in October. We’ll help you enjoy your trip with our culture and language learning materials! Here you’ll find everything you need to know about visiting Japan in autumn: things to bring to Japan in autumn, when to go hiking in Japan, and even about its fall festivals.

1. Holidays in October

There’s a holiday called Sports Day or 体育の日(Taiiku no Hi) in October. It’s on the second Monday of the month, and is a memorial day for the Tokyo Olympic Games held in 1964, which was the first Olympic Games in Asia. Many sports events are held on this day.

Since this holiday is one of the Happy Monday System holidays, and becomes a three-day holiday with the weekend, many people choose to celebrate by going on small trips. Hotels tend to be crowded and airplane tickets more expensive. Be sure to plan ahead of time if you want to travel to Japan during this three-day holiday.

If you need more information on Sports Day or are interested in Japanese holidays, please check out our “Guide of Japanese National Holidays in 2018: How to Celebrate?”

2. Japan Weather in October

Japan Weather in October

1- Sunset Time in Japan During October

The days start to get shorter in October. The sunset time is usually around five o’clock pm. This said, take note that daytime in Hokkaido is a little shorter than it is in other areas.

2- Weather and Temperature

October is a great season for traveling. The hot season has ended and, usually, temperatures become mild and pleasant. Also, the typhoon season starts coming to a close in September, and there are fewer rainy days in October. In particular, daytime temperatures and the temperatures of southern areas are nice.

However, you need to be careful about the weather and temperatures in October, because sometimes it’s unpredictable. It depends on the year and areas, where sometimes it gets cold and other times it gets very hot.

In October, the temperature difference between the north and south is quite extreme. Sometimes it snows in the northern areas of Hokkaido. In 2016, there was first snow in Asahikawa, the northern city in Hokkaido, in October and it remained without melting until next spring. So if you’re planning on going to Hokkaido, you need to be ready for snow. On the other hand, in southern areas such as Okinawa, it tends to be hot during the daytime.

You also need to be aware of temperature differences in daytime and nighttime. At nighttime, it tends to be cool—so be prepared for it to get a little chilly during your nightly strolls.

3- Weather in Sapporo, Tokyo, Kyoto, Fukuoka, and Okinawa

Here, let’s look at the weather and temperatures in each area.

Sapporo, Hokkaido Weather in October

The summer is completely gone and ready for winter in Sapporo. The temperatures get colder day by day and the average temperatures fall down to 9.7°C (49.5°F) at the end of October. Further, the end of October usually holds the first snow. However, on sunny days, you can still enjoy sightseeing and activities.

  • Average temperature:11.8°C (53.2°F)
  • Highest temperature:16.2°C (61.2°F)
  • Minimum temperature:7.5°C (45.5°F)

Tokyo Weather in October

The summer is gone but it’s still hot on sunny days. Sometimes, it might feel as though summer is really just dragging on. On the other hand, it’s cool in the morning and at night. You need to be ready for those differences in temperature when visiting Tokyo in October.

  • Average temperature:19.2°C (66.6°F)
  • Highest temperature:23.0°C (73.4°F)
  • Minimum temperature:16.1°C (61.0°F)

Tokyo Weather In October

Kyoto Weather in October

The city of Kyoto is in a basin and the temperature difference between day and night is extreme. In early October, it sometimes gets higher than 30.0°C (86.0°F) during the day, but goes down to around 10.0°C (50.0°F) during the night. In particular, you need to be careful about the minimum temperatures at the end of October. It usually gets down to around 5.0°C (41.0°F), and it gets colder than in Tokyo.

  • Average temperature:17.8°C (64.0°F)
  • Highest temperature:22.9°C (73.2°F)
  • Minimum temperature:13.6°C (56.5°F)

Hakata, Fukuoka Weather in October

On a sunny day it’s warm, but there are also cool days in October. The difference between the highest temperature and the minimum temperature is extreme. You need to be ready for both summer weather and cool fall weather.

  • Average temperature:18.9°C (66.0°F)
  • Highest temperature:29.2°C (84.6°F)
  • Minimum temperature:11.3°C (52.3°F)

Naha, Okinawa Weather in October

Okinawa is still hot in October and the weather is like early summer. Especially in the daytime, when it usually gets to nearly 30.0°C (86.0°F) . Okinawa especially has strong typhoon influence in summer, but it usually ends by September. There are less rainy days in October, making it the perfect weather for sightseeing.

  • Average temperature:25.2°C (77.4°F)
  • Highest temperature:27.9°C (82.2°F)
  • Minimum temperature:23.1°C (73.6°F)

4- What to Wear?

Full-length pants are recommended since they’re flexible and can be worn no matter the weather you encounter. For upper clothes, wear layers so that you’ll be ready for both warm and cold weather. In some places such as the Kyoto, Tohoku area and Hokkaido area, you might want to bring winter coats with you. Japan in autumn can certainly bring a mix of weather conditions!

3. Seasonal Foods

Seasonal Foods

Since October is the harvest season, there are many kinds of seasonal foods. Here are some examples of seasonal food you should try in October.

  • ぶどう (budō) or grapes
  • 栗 (kuri) or chestnut
  • 柿 (kaki) or persimmon
  • かぼちゃ (kabocha) or pumpkin
  • かつお (katsuo) or bonitos
  • さんま (sanma) or saury
  • さば (saba) or mackerel
  • 松茸 (matsutake) or matsutake mushroom

During the harvest season of chestnuts and grapes, there are some farms that offer chestnut gathering and grape collecting. These are fun activities, especially recommended if you’re with your friends or family.

4. Events and What to See

1- Food Festivals

Food Festivals

Food festivals are one of the most prominent and delicious types of October activities in Japan. October is harvest season, so it’s a great season for eating. There’s a popular Japanese phrase “Autumn’s Appetite” or 食欲の秋 (shokuyoku no aki).

Many food festivals are held throughout Japan to celebrate the new harvest. There are many kinds of food festivals. For example, Ramen Show is one of the most popular food festivals. There are also beer festivals, oyster festivals, BBQ festivals, and so on.

Octoberfest

Also, Oktoberfest, originally held in Germany, is becoming popular in Japan. If you’re a great beer drinker, Oktoberfest is a perfect event for you. You can enjoy drinking German beer with delicious German food such as sausages. There’s a big Oktoberfest held in Sapporo, which is a sister city of Munich, Germany, where the biggest Oktoberfest in Germany is held.

Hokkaido Food Festival in Tokyo

Hokkaido Food Festival In Tokyo

Although there aren’t many farms in Tokyo, many fresh and delicious foods are brought together here from all over Japan, and various food events are held in Tokyo.

One of the most popular food events in October is Hokkaido Food Festivals in Yoyogi Park. There are about 100 food stalls and about 400-thousand people visit each year. You can enjoy various Hokkaido foods, such as ramen noodles, fresh seafood, fresh vegetables, and meat. You can also try local craft beer, too. It’s usually held for four days, and in 2018 it’ll be from October 5 to 8.

2- Autumn Leaves

Autum Leaves

In October, trees start to turn red and yellow in northern areas such as Hokkaido and Tohoku. Since more than 70% of Japan’s land is mountains, autumn leaves are quite a special autumn feature.

The view is beautiful and amazing. We recommend going to see autumn leaves, especially if you don’t have autumn leaves around where you live. The peak season of each area is very short, so the more popular spots tend to be very crowded. Some mountains have only one or two roads leading to viewing sites, so it might be better to visit on a weekday if it’s possible.

Here’s a list of some of the best places to see fall colors in Japan:

  • 定山渓 (Jōzankei) in Hokkaido
  • 洞爺湖 (Tōyako) or Toya Lake in Hokkaido
  • 弘前公園 (Hirosaki kōen) or Hirosaki Park in Aomori
  • 抱返り渓谷 (Dakikaeri keikoku) in Akita

Toya Lake is a famous hot spring spot and you can also enjoy fireworks every night here around the end of October.

In Kanto areas, including Tokyo and south of the Kanto area, the peak of autumn leaves is in November. However, you still have a chance to see these color-changing beauties in more mountainous areas. For example, the peak season of 日光ひろは坂 (Nikkō hirohaa zaka) in Tochigi is around the middle of October.

3- Unique Autumn Festivals

Some of the most exciting events in October are autumn festivals. Many unique autumn festivals are held throughout Japan. At these festivals, you can see Japanese traditions such as dances and sports. If you use SNS and want to take unique photos of Japan, these festivals are great photo opportunities.

Here are some recommended festivals in October.

Kawagoe Festival or 川越祭 (Kawagoe Matsuri)

Kawagoe Festival

Third weekend in October
Kawagoe-shi, Saitama

The Kawagoe Festival is an annual festival of Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine. It’s registered as a National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property. The most attractive event of the festival is 曳っかわせ(hikkawase). People draw magnificent floats or 山車 (dashi) face each other and compete for traditional 囃子 (hayashi) dance, flute, and voice performances. Kawagoe is just outside of Tokyo, so if you visit Tokyo on this day, the festival might be one of the most exciting options for you. The hon-matsuri, which means “full festival” is held only once every two years.

Kurama Fire Festival or 鞍馬の火祭 (Kurama no Himatsuri)

Kurama Fire Festival

October 22
Kurama, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

The Krama Fire Festivals is one of the three major festivals in Kyoto. This festival is held to honor Yuki Shrine in Kurama Village. This is a very old festival which originated in the 10th century during the Heian period. Hundreds of people with flaming torches illuminate the mountain of Kurama and parade with 神輿 (mikoshi) or a portable shrine. The largest torches are as heavy as 100 kilograms or 220 pounds. It’s a very dynamic and exciting festival.

Nagasaki Kunchi or 長崎くんち (Nagasaki Kunchi) in Nagasaki

Nagasaki Kunchi

October 7 to October 9
Suwa-Jinja Shrine, Nagasaki-shi, Nagasaki

Nagasaki Kunchi is an annual festival of Suwa Shrine and is also registered as a National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property. It’s an old festival with a history of about 400 years. In the period of national isolation in the Edo era, the port of Nagasaki was a trading hub. Therefore, Nagasaki has a unique culture influenced by Portuguese, Dutch, and Chinese. During this festival, people draw colorfully painted festival cars and perform music and dances. There are also Chinese-influenced dragon dances and western-style ship-shaped festival cars.

Halloween on October 31

The celebration of Halloween is relatively new in Japan and it has become bigger and bigger over the past two decades. However, Japanese Halloween isn’t like a traditional Halloween party in western culture, and trick-or-treating isn’t popular in Japan.

Halloween is more like a big cosplay party, and for many Japanese people, it’s a chance to wear unique costumes once a year. People dress up and go to parades held in the city or events held at nightclubs or theme parks. The downtown areas of big cities become crowded with costumed people. The biggest Halloween parade is held in Shibuya, Tokyo.

There are people wearing horrible costumes, such as witches, ghosts, and zombies. However, for Japanese people, the meaning of Halloween isn’t very important and many people wear fun costumes instead, such as characters of comics or animes. So if you enjoy Japanese animes, we’re going to bet that you’ll really enjoy the Japanese Halloween celebration.

5. Conclusion

October is a great season for traveling to Japan. There are many fun and unique festivals, both traditional and modern. When you plan for your trip to Japan in October, don’t forget to check the dates of those festivals.

You need to be prepared for temperature differences and wear layers in October. In many areas, it’s warm and pleasant weather during the day. So enjoy beautiful autumn leaves, delicious seasonal foods, and fun festivals in October!

August in Japan: Don’t Miss Fun Activities and Events

Are you planning to travel to Japan in August? It’s in the height of summer and very hot across Japan, though it’s also the best season for traveling.

In August, there are many fun events to look forward to such as summer festivals and firework displays. August is also a great month for outdoor activities like going to the beach, participating in water activities in Japan’s rivers, and hiking.

Table of Contents

  1. Weather in August
  2. What to Wear in August
  3. Summer Festivals
  4. Firework Displays
  5. Wearing Yukata
  6. Hiking and Mountain Climbing
  7. Beaches and Water Activities at Rivers
  8. Flower Fields
  9. Conclusion

August is one of the peak seasons for traveling in Japan, but in order to get the most out of it, you need to plan earlier. One thing to keep in mind is that Japanese students have summer vacation from July to August.

Also, there is お盆休み; おぼんやすみ (obon yasumi) or the “Obon holiday” in August, for which people go back to their hometown and visit their parents. The Obon holiday is usually from the 13th to the 15th. Some people take their summer holiday with the Obon holiday, so that it can last a little longer.

In this article, I’ll introduce you to things to do in Japan during August. I’ll also explain what the weather in August is like so that you can better prepare yourself in advance. Here you’ll find some of the best ideas for your fun trip to Japan in August.

Traveling

1. Weather in August

It’s very hot and humid in Japan during the month of August. The average temperature in August is around 26 to 28 degrees Celsius (78.8 to 82.4 degrees Fahrenheit). In many places, it even gets higher than 30 degrees Celsius (80 degrees Fahrenheit) during the day—and it gets higher still than 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) in a few places.

Since Japan is long from north to south, there are differences between the weather in each of these two sections of Japan. The northe
areas—such as Hokkaido—are less hot. However, in early August, it sometimes gets higher than 30 degrees Celsius (80 degrees Fahrenheit).

Of course, the southe
areas, such as Okinawa, are hotter. Further, big cities like Tokyo and Osaka tend to be hot and humid, and so many buildings use air conditioners. So you have to be ready for the heat no matter where you visit in Japan during August.

The average temperatures of popular sightseeing areas are as follows:

  • Sapporo, Hokkaido: 22 to 23 degrees C (71.6 to 73.4 degrees F)
  • Sendai, Miyagi: 24 to 26 degrees C (75.2 to 78.8 degrees F)
  • Tokyo: 27 to 29 degrees C (80.6 to 84.2 degrees F)
  • Kyoto: 28 to 29 degrees C (82.4 to 84.2 degrees F)
  • Hakata, Fukuoka: 27 to 30 C (80.6 to 86 degrees F)
  • Naha, Okinawa: 28 to 30 C (82.4 to 86 degrees F)

Typhoons

In August, you should be careful about 台風,たいふう (Taifū) or “typhoons.” A typhoon is basically the same thing as a hurricane, but it occurs in the northe
Pacific.

Typhoon

Typhoons are very dangerous. Unfortunately, if a typhoon hits where you are during travel, you’ll have to stay inside of a building. When a typhoon comes, many domestic air flights get cancelled as well. Sometimes, a typhoon can cause Japan to get rain for up to a week!

You should be especially careful if you go to a southe
area like Okinawa, Kyushu, or Shikoku. Typhoons tend to get weak as they move north, and usually don’t hit the northe
parts, such as Hokkaido.

Summer Clothes

2. What to Wear in August

Since it’s very hot in Japan during August, I recommend you wear T-shirts or short-sleeved shirts. But keep in mind that you have to be careful when visiting a sacred place such as a shrine or temple, meaning especially that you shouldn’t wear sleeveless. Most religious places aren’t too strict about casual clothing, but sleeveless might be too casual for most.

3. Summer Festivals

In August, there are many summer festivals across Japan. In Japanese, summer festivals are called 夏祭り; なつまつり (natsumaturi). 夏; なつ (Natsu) means “summer” and 祭り; まつり (matsuri) means “a festival.”

1- Types of Festivals

Summer festivals were originally Shinto’s (神道; しんとう) religious events and most 神社; じんじゃ (Jinjya) or “Shinto shrines” have summer festivals. Each religious summer festival has meaning. For example, people pray for a bumper crop at some summer festivals.

Summer Festivals

At some festivals, you can see mikoshi (神輿; みこし). Mikoshi is a portable shrine and is a carriage for gods. People carry the mikoshi and walk streets, while yelling “Wasshoi, Wasshoi,” which can be a little overwhelming. The word Wasshoi (わっしょい) is just a word for shouting, and most Japanese people don’t know the meaning. There are several theories about the origin of this word. Some say that 和; わ (Wa) means “Japan” and しょい (Shoi) means “to carry.” This would make it mean “to carry the future of Japan.”

Today, there are many non-religious summer festivals, too. For example, there are many food festivals, during which you can enjoy the various local foods. Also, many young people enjoy summer music festivals.

2- Japanese Festival Foods and Activities

Foods:

At most summer festivals, there are many 出店; でみせ (demise) or “food stalls” so that you can enjoy walking around and trying various festival foods. You might be surprised by the crowd around demise; at some big festivals, it’s hard to even walk because of the crowd.

Japanese Food Stalls

There are many kinds of food at demise. Popular foods include:

  • 焼きそば; やきそば (yakisoba) — “stir-fried noodles with vegetables and meat”
  • 焼き鳥; やきとり (yakitori) — “Japanese style skewered chickens”
  • たこ焼き; たこやき (takoyaki) — “octopus dumplings”

I also recommend traditional festival food such as:

  • わたあめ (wataame) — “cotton candy”
  • りんごあめ (ringoame) — “candy apples”
  • かき氷; かきごおり (kakigori) — “shaved ice”

Activities:

At most festivals, there are no chairs or tables to eat on. People typically buy their food and eat around demise, which also has some activities for children such as:

  • ヨーヨー釣り; よーよーつり (Yōyō-tsuri) — “water balloon fishing”
  • 金魚釣り; きんぎょつり (Kingyo-tsuri) — “goldfish scooping game”
  • 射的; しゃてき (Shateki) — “shooting game”
  • くじ引き; くじびき (Kujibiki) — “lottery stall”

3- Festival Recommendations

If you enjoy big summer festivals, I recommend the following as they are some of the largest summer festivals in Japan:

  • 青森ねぶた祭り; あおもりねぶたまつり (Aomorinebutamatsuri) — “Aomori’s Nebuta Matsuri”
  • 仙台七夕祭り; せんだいたなばたまつり (Sendaitanabatamatsuri) — “Sendai’s Tanabata Matsuri”
  • 秋田竿燈; あきたかんとう (Akita kantō) — “Akita Kantou”

These festivals are held in the Tohoku area, which is the north part of Honshu.

If you’re searching for summer festivals around Tokyo, I recommend:

  • 麻布十番納涼まつり; あざぶじゅうばんのうりょうなつまつり (Azabujūban’nōryōmatsuri) — “Azabu Juban Summer Night Festival”
  • 深川八幡祭り; ふかがわはちまんまつり (Fukagawa Hachiman matsuri) — “Fukagawa Hachiman Festival”
  • 浅草サンバカーニバル; あさくささんばかーにばる (Asakusa sanbakānibaru) — “Asakusa Samba Ca
    ival”

If you’re searching for summer festivals in the weste
area
, I recommend:

  • 京都五山送り火; きょうとござんおくりび (Kyōto gozan’okuribi) — “Kyoto’s Mountain Bon Fire”
  • よさこい祭り;よさこいまつり (Yosakoimatsuri) — “Kochi’s Yosakoi Festival”
  • 阿波おどり,あわおどり (Awa Odori) — “Tokushima’s Awaodori Dance”

4. Firework Displays

花火大会; はなびたいかい (Hanabi taikai) or “firework displays” are usually held in July and August. As one of Japan’s main summer features, there are many firework displays throughout Japan. Most foreign travelers are surprised by Japanese firework displays, despite the fact that they have firework displays in their own countries. This surprise is due to the fact that Japanese fireworks have a long history and developed uniquely.

More than ten-thousand fireworks are launched at the big firework display events. These usually take 1 to 2 hours. You can enjoy various firework displays, and most events are free to watch; however, keep in mind that you may be charged for a seat with a good view.

At most fireworks displays, you can also enjoy demise. Many people enjoy drinking chilled beer and eating various foods during the show.

Fireworks

If you’re searching for big firework displays in August, I recommend:

  • 大曲花火大会; おおまがりはなびたいかい (Ōmagari Hanabi taikai) — “National Fireworks Competition in Oomagari Akita”
  • 諏訪湖湖上花火大会; すわここじょうはなびたいかい (Suwako kojō Hanabi taikai) — “Nagano’s Lake Suwa Festival Fireworks Show on the Lake”
  • 洞爺湖ロングラン花火大会; とうやころんぐらんはなびたいかい (Tōyako-ko ronguran hanabi taikai) — “Lake Long-Run Fireworks”
  • At Lake Tayak-ko in Hokkaido you can enjoy firework displays every day during the season.

If you want to see firework displays around Tokyo in August, I recommend:

  • 江戸川区花火大会; えどがわくはなびたいかい — “Edogawa City Fireworks Festival”
  • あつぎ鮎まつり大花火大会; あつぎあゆまつりおおはなびたいかい — “Atsugi Ayu Fireworks Festival”
  • 八王子花火大会, はちおおじはなびたいかい (Hachiōji Hanabi taikai) — “Hachioji Fireworks Festival”

5. Wearing Yukata

Are you interested in Japanese traditional 着物; きもの or kimonos? If you visit Japan in August, you should try wearing a 浴衣; ゆかた or yukata. A yukata is a casual kind of kimono, and August is the best season to wear one. Many Japanese people wear it at summer festivals and firework displays.

Unlike normal kimonos, there are many inexpensive yukatas. Some yukatas are sold from about three-thousand yen at the cheapest. Also, there are rental yukata shops in big cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. If you go there, they’ll dress you in a yukata.

6. Hiking and Mountain Climbing

August is also a great time of year for hiking and mountain climbing. Mountain climbing is a good way to get away from the summer heat.

During this season, there are many hiking tours throughout Japan. I recommend hiking tours on:

  • 知床国立公園; しれとここくりつこうえん (Shiretoko kokuritsu kōen) — “Shiretoko National Park” in Hokkaido
  • 屋久島; やくしま (Yakusima) — “Yakushima” in Kagoshima

The places listed above are World Heritage sites.

If you want to climb a mountain, I recommend Mt. Fuji, as it’s the highest mountain in Japan and is one of the symbols of Japan.

7. Beaches and Water Activities at Rivers

August is also the best month for beaches and water activities at rivers.

1- Beaches

You can swim on most beaches in Japan in August. The beaches in Okinawa and the small islands of Kagoshima are particularly beautiful. But do keep in mind that after the Obon holiday, beaches in the northe
Tohoku and Hokkaido areas might be too cold.

If you’re searching for beaches, I recommend:

  • サンビーチ (Sanbīchi) — “Sun Beach” in Atami Shizuoka
  • 宜野湾トロピカルビーチ; ぎのわんとろぴかるびーち (Ginowan toropikarubīchi) — “Ginowan Tropical Beach” in Okinawa

Atami, near Tokyo, is a wonderful place to enjoy hot springs. Also, Okinawa is very south and quite a ways from Tokyo, but the beach is absolutely beautiful.

Rafting

2- Water Activities at Rivers

You can also enjoy water activities on rivers throughout Japan in August. You can go away from high heat in August and enjoy the beautiful nature of Japan.

There are many things to do in rivers on this season. For example, you can enjoy rafting, canoeing, kayaking, and canyoning. There are many tours that you can enjoy these fun activities. At the most tour, you don’t have to prepare anything, but you can just go there and have fun.

Especially I recommend, river activities in Niseko (ニセコ) in Hokkaido. Niseko is the very popular sightseeing spot for foreigners and you can enjoy many more activities there. If you want to do water activities in Tokyo, Okutama is a good place.

Sun Flower

8. Flower Fields

If you like flowers or gardens, you can enjoy flower fields in August. There are many beautiful flower fields for you to see, especially in Hokkaido, the northe
island of Japan.

One of the most famous flower gardens is a lavender garden in Furano, Hokkaido. The most famous lavender field in Japan is ファーム富田; ふぁーむとみた (Famu Tomita) or “Farm Tomita.” Many foreign people visit this farm—even the 天皇; てんのう (Tenno) or “Emperor” of Japan himself has visited this farm.

Unfortunately, the peak season of lavender is in July and it’s a little late in August. But if you visit in early August, you still have a chance to see huge, beautiful purple flower fields. Don’t worry! Even if you visit in mid- or late-August, there are many other beautiful flowers to enjoy.

There are also many other flower fields near Farm Tomita that you’re sure to enjoy.

Other recommendations:

  • ひまわり畑; ひまわりばたけ (Himawari batake) — “Sun Flower Field: Himawari-Batake” in Gunma
  • 山中湖花の都公園; やまなかこはなのみやここうえん (Yamanakako Hananomiyako Koen) — “Yamanakako Hananomiyako Flower” in Yamanashi, near Mt. Fuji
  • 京都府立植物園; 京都府立植物園 (Kyotofuritsu syokubutsuen) — “Kyoto Botanical Garden”

Conclusion

If you go to Japan in August, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the experience. It’s very hot, but there are many fun activities and events.

Particularly, I recommend summer festivals and firework displays. At those events, you can enjoy traditional aspects of Japanese culture such as yukatas and various demise. If you want to enjoy the beautiful nature of Japan, August is one of the bests months to do so. You can also enjoy flower fields and summer foods.

Don’t forget to plan your trip ahead of time because many people travel during this season. That way, you can get tickets at far better prices, especially on weekends and August holidays when it becomes hard to reserve air tickets. So start searching for tickets as early as possible. I hope you have a great experience in Japan.

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I'm in the middle

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Carry a notepad

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