Tokyo is probably the first city that a traveller would step foot in when visiting Japan. I remembered arriving in Tokyo for the very first time. And being shocked by the speed in which everything was moving. But even more so, by the orderliness among the chaos.
I was told off for standing on the right side of the escalator. (Then later on told off for standing on the left in Osaka after I had gotten accustomed to Tokyo.) Young and abled stayed clear off reserved seats, no matter how crowded the trains were. Pregnant women had a little charm hung on their bags so that people knew they were pregnant and would give up seats to them.
I was impressed by the very long but extremely neat lines forming in front of the train doors. I was amazed by the protocol they had for allowing people inside the train carriage to come out, form a new line while people were getting off the train, then allowing these people to go back into the train BEFORE the people who were waiting on the platform started moving into the train. I was shoved into the train by the staff on the platform when it was my turn to enter. The sardine stories are all true. It was a society like I have never seen before.
My husband and I visited Tokyo several times before we started bringing the kids. Frankly, I cannot imagine what it would be like if I had visited Tokyo for the very first time with kids, luggage and stroller in tow. I’m glad the first few times, I only had to worry about my luggage.
I think our pre-kids visits got us well prepared for the first time we brought the kids to Tokyo. We knew very well to avoid the JR Yamanote line during peak hours. Or any line for that matter during peak hours. We knew transfers required walks of up to 600m, so choosing a train route with minimal transfers but more stops was a better idea than choosing a seemingly shorter route with multiple transfers.
In spite of all the practice we had, I have to admit it was still very overwhelming the first time we brought the kids to Tokyo. So the second time we were in Tokyo with the kids, we tried driving. I know… Most travel guides will tell you not to drive in Tokyo. Traffic jams, expensive parking, expensive toll fees. Guess what? It’s all true!
Traffic jams, we can deal with. We are Singaporeans. Frankly I didn’t think driving in Tokyo was any different from driving in Singapore. Which probably explains why travel guides tell travellers not to drive in Tokyo. Because I would tell you not to drive in Singapore. But the parking fees and toll fees were indeed quite a nightmare. So if you choose to drive for convenience, you may want to close two eyes over the money.
Would I go back to Tokyo again with kids? Sure! Before we had kids, Tokyo was always about eating and shopping and drinking Starbucks at Shibuya Crossing. But after kids, we discovered the Tokyo Fire Museum. Mother Farm. Tokyo Trick Art Museum. And Tokyo Disneyland was just more fun when bringing the kids.
There are many more places that I would love to bring my kids to in Tokyo. Like Kidzania Tokyo. Legoland Discovery Centre. Tokyo Subway Museum. Just to name a few. I hope I get the chance to go back while my kid are still kids!
Tokyo is served by two major airports: Haneda Airport (HND) and Narita Airport (NRT). Believe it or not, although I have flown in and out of Tokyo many times (sometimes for domestic transfer to Hokkaido), I have only used Haneda Airport once. Despite it being the airport closest to central Tokyo. This is because flights to Narita are GENERALLY (not always, but generally) cheaper.
Singapore Airlines, ANA and JAL operate direct flights from Singapore to both Haneda and Narita. Very often when I check prices, the fares by these airlines to Narita is cheaper than to the fares by the same airline to Haneda. For example while I was writing this, I did a quick search on Expedia and these were the fares I found for direct flights:
Delta operates direct flights from Singapore to Narita. And when it comes to direct flights from Singapore to Narita, Delta sometimes has very good promotions and I have flown with them a couple of times. Which put me in Narita.
If I don’t mind making a transfer, I have the option of using Thai Airways and Malaysia Airlines who offer very competitive rates. I can even consider low cost carrier Scoot. Thai Airways flies to both NRT and HND, but Malaysia and Scoot flies only to Narita.
I am not someone who is very particular about which airline to fly with. I usually just book the best deal. And 90% of the time, I ended up in Narita.
” But wouldn’t it cost more to get from Narita to the city compare to Haneda since it is further? “
It would indeed be quite silly if I were to try to save money on flights by flying to Narita, and ending up having to pay a small fortune to get into town. Well, from Narita Airport, you can get into town cheaply using Keisei line (the normal line, NOT the swanky Skyliner). It cost just 1030 yen per ticket from Narita Airport to Nippori or Ueno station – direct. So no, you won’t be burning a big hole in your pocket to get to town by flying to Narita.
Okay! So now that you’ve got your flight sorted out, how do you spend your time in Tokyo? You can check out our past trips to give you an idea of how you can plan your days in Tokyo.