Japan
Jun 2024
1 week

Tokyo

A surprisingly manageable stay in the world's biggest city.

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The political and cultural center of Japan since the Edo period (1603-1867).

As a world-leading megalopolis, it has a population of over 37 million in the Greater Tokyo Area, making it the most populous metropolitan area in the world.

Verdict:
Highly recommended

A must-visit when in the country and well deserving of at least a week. If you're looking for a longer-term base, I'd be tempted to explore Osaka, where you get an equivalent buzz and ambiance, but with more affordable accommodation options.

🌎
Verdict:
Highly recommended

A must-visit when in the country and well deserving of at least a week. If you're looking for a longer-term base, I'd be tempted to explore Osaka, where you get an equivalent buzz and ambiance, but with more affordable accommodation options.

Verdict:
Highly recommended

A must-visit when in the country and well deserving of at least a week. If you're looking for a longer-term base, I'd be tempted to explore Osaka, where you get an equivalent buzz and ambiance, but with more affordable accommodation options.

👎
Verdict:
Highly recommended

A must-visit when in the country and well deserving of at least a week. If you're looking for a longer-term base, I'd be tempted to explore Osaka, where you get an equivalent buzz and ambiance, but with more affordable accommodation options.

🛫
Japanese Yen (JPY)
14 Million
🏝️ Great for a holiday
🧳 Would like to return
🥇 Top rated

Summary

A city that had always been on my bucket list, but one that I'd always put off visiting due to the distance and the perception of it being wildly expensive.

Unable to find a suitable Airbnb for a longer stay, I opted to condense my visit into a packed 8-night hotel stay.

Accommodation
Great
Good
Ok
Bad

Like everywhere else I found in Japan, hotels are your best bet for a short-term stay. The cost of accommodation in Tokyo was notably higher than in any other city I visited, yet there are still some reasonably good value options on the market, if you're willing to stay a little out of the most popular areas. Like London, New York, or any other global city, your chances of finding genuine good value in the city centre are non-existent.

I spent 8 nights at the Presso Inn Akasaka, which was a solid base at £62 per night. The rooms were comfortable but unremarkable, yet you're within a 2-minute walk to the metro station, and Shibuya and Shinjuku are easily accessible on foot. While the room size is modest, you've got a decent-sized desk, ideal for any inevitable late work that may pop up.

Within Akasaka itself, you've got a reasonable range of food and drink options and are within walking distance to the Imperial Palace, the shopping hub of Ginza, and numerous well-connected metro lines.

A comparable room in Shibuya or Shinjuku would easily be over £100 per night. If you're planning on staying for a week and primarily working, the cost would be by no means justified.

info
New legislation
Recent changes introduced by the Turkish government has made short-term rentals for under 100 days more restricted. Keep an eye on Reddit threads for up-to-date assessments of how the new legislation is impacting short-term rentals in practice.
Places to work
Great
Good
Ok
Bad

You won't struggle to find somewhere to work from in Tokyo. WeWork has 29 sites across the city, and having the All Access Pass is an ideal way to see as much of the vast city as possible. Chain coffee shops are open late, and like the country as a whole, WiFi was generally excellent.

Value
Great
Good
Ok
Bad

Accomodation aside, prices in Tokyo felt in line with the rest of the country with plenty of budget friendly options for food, as well as endless more upmarket options.

info
The yen is currently at a 34-year low
While this is undoubtedly a negative for the Japanese, it makes for an exceptionally good time to visit Japan from abroad. Although this trend is unlikely to reverse significantly in the short term, it's still worth checking before visiting.
Read more
View the cost of living
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Working hours
Great
Good
Ok
Bad

Japan observes Japan Standard Time (JST), which is 9 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). However, the time difference reduces to 8 hours during the summer months as Japan does not observe daylight saving time.This large gap in time zones has advantages and disadvantages, but planning a trip during the summer would reduce the likelihood of having to work past midnight to maintain alignment with European schedules.

The 'Shibuya Scramble' crossing is one of the most iconic scenes from Tokyo, a pedestrian crossing where 5 junctions simultaneously cross. You'll inevitably pass through this on at least one occasion traversing the city.
The 'Shibuya Scramble' crossing is one of the most iconic scenes from Tokyo, a pedestrian crossing where 5 junctions simultaneously cross. You'll inevitably pass through this on at least one occasion traversing the city.
It's astounding how quiet most of the inner-city areas are away from the core areas of transit. If you are walking around somewhere like Akasaka, there is little to indicate that you are in the geographical centre of the world's largest city.
It's astounding how quiet most of the inner-city areas are away from the core areas of transit. If you are walking around somewhere like Akasaka, there is little to indicate that you are in the geographical centre of the world's largest city.
It's hard to imagine there's better views than that from the WeWork at the Shibuya Scramble square. Comfortably the best working location I visited during the week which I was there.
It's hard to imagine there's better views than that from the WeWork at the Shibuya Scramble square. Comfortably the best working location I visited during the week which I was there.
I'll be honest, I had absolutely no idea what I was witnessing as this group of people paraded past me in Shinjuku. After some research, I believe it is a miniature shrine (Mikoshi) which acts as the vehicle to transport a deity. It looked like a lot of fun
I'll be honest, I had absolutely no idea what I was witnessing as this group of people paraded past me in Shinjuku. After some research, I believe it is a miniature shrine (Mikoshi) which acts as the vehicle to transport a deity. It looked like a lot of fun

Where to stay

Prior to visiting, it's hard to know where to start when looking at the map of Tokyo. The metropolitan area is enormous and also incorporates gigantic independent cities like Yokohama and Kawasaki.

If you're only staying for a couple of nights and want the most intense experience possible, you may want to pay the premium and immerse yourself in the unrelenting hubs of Shibuya and Shinjuku.

However, if you're staying for a week or longer, basing yourself a few stops away on the metro will give you better value, a more flexible space to explore from, and ultimately a more restful stay.

Would avoid
Recommended
Shibuya
One of the most popular areas and a hub for leisure and commerce. You'll inevitably spend some time in this area, but accommodation in the direct area appeared to be considerably higher.
Would avoid
Recommended
Shinjuku
Similar to Shibuya, as one of the major hubs, you will no doubt pass through here several times. I wouldn't place myself in the middle of it, but it's handy to be a few stops away on the train.
Would avoid
Recommended
Ginza
Probably the best location for shopping in the city, catering for everything from high-end luxury to the flagship Uniqlo store. Wouldn't be somewhere I would prioritise basing myself; however, conveniently close to the main train station.
Would avoid
Recommended
Akasaka
I stayed here off the back of a recommendation I saw on Reddit. Centrally located and within walking distance to Shinjuku, Shibuya, and the central train station, yet it feels incredibly relaxed and you would not realise you're in the geographical centre of a megacity. Compared to the more lively areas nearby, much better deals on hotels too.
Would avoid
Recommended
Roppongi
I took an instant disliking to Roppongi. Central and with lots of cheap hotels, but it by far felt like one of the seediest neighbourhoods I passed through. A combination of numerous shady-feeling bars and a high density of sex workers on the streets made it somewhere I wouldn't consider.

Where to work

WeWork - Shibuya Scramble Square
Top Choice
☕️ Good Coffee
📍 Top Location
🥗 On Site Cafe
🧍Community Focused
⭐️ Quality Fit Out
🌳 Outdoor Space

Set on the 41st floor of a commercial tower above the Shibuya train station, this has to go down as one of the most impressive destinations you can work from within the city and is the flagship WeWork site in the city. There's four floors with availability for all access members on each, with an internal staircase linking each of them. It's worth it for the the panoramic eastwards facing views alone.

There's an on site cafe selling coffees, salads and light snacks and it stands out with one of the most comprehensive beer selections I've seen at a WeWork with 6 sets of taps available fromn 16:00 - 20:00 daily (keep an eye for the Yohohama Baystars Beer).

Like several of the other sites in popular locations in Tokyo, book as far in advance as possible as you may not be able to book on the day. If it is not your home site you will need to check in at the office building reception and may struggle to reach the elevators without a booking hon the day.

The site is officially open until 20:00, but you shouldn't have any issues staying until 21:00 where most of the Japanese are getting through the last of their beers. After visiting this one, it's hard to make an argument to go anywhere else.

Other options in Tokyo (all open until 20:00)

WeWork Iceberg - Another good alternative in Shibuya, with better desk availability and easier access in and out. Missing some of the ambience and the views which you get at the Scramble.

WeWork Kamiyacho Trust Tower - A good option if staying near Akasaka with more of a corporate feel to both of the ones in Shibuya.

WeWork Link Square Shinjuku - The main site in Shinjuku just outside of the Gyoen National Garden. It actually appears to be unable to be booked through the app, but the doors are unlocked into the main section once you get into the building. Great views over the park.

Remote work visa

No remote work visa
Remote work visa available
Remote work visa coming soon
If staying for a prolonged period, you may want to consider a dedicated visa for this destination.
This country is actively working on a visa support for remote workers.
Check your government website for details of how to obtain a tourist visa.

Japan has introduced a new digital nomad visa under its specified visa category, allowing remote workers to stay in Japan for up to 6 months.

Requirements include having an annual income over 10 million yen (around $65,000 USD), private health insurance, and being from an eligible country like the US, UK, EU, Australia, Singapore or South Korea.

Visa holders are not considered residents, cannot extend their stay beyond 6 months, cannot open bank accounts or access national healthcare system in Japan.

View full details
To the best of my knowledge this information was correct as of 27th April 2024. If you notice something has changed drop me a message and I'll update it!

Citizen Remote is a great source of up to date knowledge for everything to do with remote work visas.

Safety

  • As far as global cities go, incredibly safe.I walked around at all hours of the day, and at all times, it felt extremely secure with no cause for concern.
  • Worth being aware of any nightlife scams.I saw numerous Reddit threads like this one, which are worth having a read over. It's worth being somewhat skeptical if anyone 'invites' you somewhere or offers to buy you a drink. I didn't encounter anything untoward, but walking around places like Roppongi late at night, it's easy to see how you might run into difficulties if you're not careful.

Off-work

Explore the grounds of the Imperial Palace

The Imperial Palace is the primary residence of the Emperor of Japan. Located in Chiyoda, it's built on the former site of Edo Castle in a large park-like area. The palace buildings blend traditional Japanese architectural styles with modern construction. The East Garden is open to the public and offers views of stunning landscapes.

Learn more
No items found.
Explore the grounds of the Imperial Palace

The Imperial Palace is the primary residence of the Emperor of Japan. Located in Chiyoda, it's built on the former site of Edo Castle in a large park-like area. The palace buildings blend traditional Japanese architectural styles with modern construction. The East Garden is open to the public and offers views of stunning landscapes.

Duration & season

If on holiday, 3+ days feels like the bare minimum needed to make the most out of the trip. Anything less than a week and I felt like I wouldn't have had enough time.

Finding suitable accommodation would be the only thing that would deter me from booking or advising on a month-long stay, as the constraints of a hotel experience can begin to wear thin after a while.

During my time there in late May/early June, two days were almost complete write-offs due to intense rain, two days were beautifully clear and sunny, and the rest were a mix of hazy sunlight with warm temperatures at all times. The rainfall is a massive hindrance and does remove your ability to comfortably explore the city.

From everything I can gather, March/April & September/November ranges manage to strike a balance between the seasons and mitigate some of the worst climatic events throughout the year.

Food & drink

Arakawa River
·
Run
Not a particularly fascinating route but if you are looking for a long continuous route to run along, look no further. Several parks along the way with metro stations well distributed along the length of the path. Would be an ideal bike ride from further up.
Hamarikyu Gardens
·
Walk
Serene city park, handy if staying in neighbouring Ginza, the site of a 17th century Shogun villa. 300 Yen entry and it is not permitted to run in the grounds - only walk.
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
·
Walk
Large, well maintained garden with numerous lakes, bridges set against the backdrop of the Shinjuku skyline. 500 Yen entry, and a couple of miles for the full loop of the grounds.
Yoyogi Park
·
Walk
Easily reachable on foot from both Shibuya and Shinjuku, it's around a 2 mile walk around this densely forested park. Nice break if you are in one of the neighbouring WeWorks.
Imperial Palace & Ueno Park
·
Walk
It's surprising how walkable of a city Tokyo can be and just how sedate many areas can be - Ueno Park is worth heading to once finished at the Imperial Palace.
Motoakasaka Loop
·
Run
If you are staying in Akasaka this is a convenient uninterrupted loop taking you around the Akasaka Imperial Residence. Some slight gradients but a decent place to grind out some miles.

People

Tokyo is a truly cosmopolitan city, especially in the main hubs mentioned above. However, you don't have to venture far into more residential areas for that international feel to soon fade.

The high accommodation costs, in comparison to somewhere like Bangkok, make it problematic for conventional month-long stints for digital nomads. Instead, you are more likely to encounter long-term expats or holiday makers from all corners of the world.

Exercise

Arakawa River
Not a particularly fascinating route but if you are looking for a long continuous route to run along, look no further. Several parks along the way with metro stations well distributed along the length of the path. Would be an ideal bike ride from further up.
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Hamarikyu Gardens
Serene city park, handy if staying in neighbouring Ginza, the site of a 17th century Shogun villa. 300 Yen entry and it is not permitted to run in the grounds - only walk.
keyboard_arrow_down
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Large, well maintained garden with numerous lakes, bridges set against the backdrop of the Shinjuku skyline. 500 Yen entry, and a couple of miles for the full loop of the grounds.
keyboard_arrow_down
Yoyogi Park
Easily reachable on foot from both Shibuya and Shinjuku, it's around a 2 mile walk around this densely forested park. Nice break if you are in one of the neighbouring WeWorks.
keyboard_arrow_down
Imperial Palace & Ueno Park
It's surprising how walkable of a city Tokyo can be and just how sedate many areas can be - Ueno Park is worth heading to once finished at the Imperial Palace.
keyboard_arrow_down
Motoakasaka Loop
If you are staying in Akasaka this is a convenient uninterrupted loop taking you around the Akasaka Imperial Residence. Some slight gradients but a decent place to grind out some miles.
keyboard_arrow_down
Arakawa River
Not a particularly fascinating route but if you are looking for a long continuous route to run along, look no further. Several parks along the way with metro stations well distributed along the length of the path. Would be an ideal bike ride from further up.
Hamarikyu Gardens
Serene city park, handy if staying in neighbouring Ginza, the site of a 17th century Shogun villa. 300 Yen entry and it is not permitted to run in the grounds - only walk.
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Large, well maintained garden with numerous lakes, bridges set against the backdrop of the Shinjuku skyline. 500 Yen entry, and a couple of miles for the full loop of the grounds.
Yoyogi Park
Easily reachable on foot from both Shibuya and Shinjuku, it's around a 2 mile walk around this densely forested park. Nice break if you are in one of the neighbouring WeWorks.
Imperial Palace & Ueno Park
It's surprising how walkable of a city Tokyo can be and just how sedate many areas can be - Ueno Park is worth heading to once finished at the Imperial Palace.
Motoakasaka Loop
If you are staying in Akasaka this is a convenient uninterrupted loop taking you around the Akasaka Imperial Residence. Some slight gradients but a decent place to grind out some miles.

Verdict

Positives
  • Surprisingly calm outside the major hubs.Contrary to my pre-visit expectations of an unrelenting hive of noise and activity across the entire metropolis, the reality is quite different. While areas like Shibuya and Shinjuku are as intensive and raucous as imagined, you don't need to wander far for the ambiance to become remarkably tranquil.
  • Abundant green open spaces.Central Tokyo features a great number of expansive, well-maintained parks and gardens to explore with very low entry costs. Further out, the rivers offer well-marked bike paths that are popular routes for exercise and respite.
  • Whatever you desire, you'll find it.Tokyo caters to every taste and interest imaginable, from refined to unconventional - world-class art galleries, vibrant nightlife, exquisite fine dining, rich traditional culture, and a dizzying array of diverse culinary options.
  • Currently exceptional value.There may never be a better time to experience this global city at such competitive prices. I have no doubt the undervalued yen will eventually swing back.
  • A WeWork haven.If you enjoy having a variety of workplaces, the numerous WeWork locations spread across Tokyo enable you to explore neighbourhoods you may never otherwise venture into.
Negatives
  • It covers an enormous area.It's impossible to explore Tokyo solely on foot, meaning inevitable heavy reliance on the extensive public transportation network.
  • Overwhelmingly crowded areas.While some neighbourhoods offer surprising calm, passing through major train stations at peak hours can be unpleasantly hectic, especially if burdened with excessive baggage. Try to plan around these rush hour times if possible.
  • A week barely scratches the surface.Even after covering substantial ground over the course of a week, there were still so many gaping holes left to explore. I doubt that even a month would be truly sufficient.
  • Avoid the rainy season if possible. With the potential for entire days being washed out by prolonged rainfall, the rainy season poses a significant hindrance if you're on a limited schedule and time is precious.
Tips
  • The metro closes at midnight, and public transport options are nonexistent after that.Compared to somewhere like London, where the night bus network will get you just about anywhere (eventually), you are going to be reliant on taxis once the last train departs
  • Make the most of quieter shopping periods during weekday mornings.If shopping in Ginza on a Saturday, you do begin to become aware that you might be in a city of 32 million people.
  • If heading to Narita Airport, get the NEX.This direct express train service is the best way to get to the city's second airport, with the first service starting at around 05:30AM.
Planning a trip?
I loved everything about this trip to Japan. I've put together some thoughts on my entire stay in the country, which may come in handy if you are planning a visit soon.
With the metro finishing at midnight and the sky getting light just after 04:00, if you head out to enjoy the nightlife, it's highly likely you'll experience a bleary-eyed sunrise en route home.
Shinjuku felt equally as busy as Shibuya, a hive of noise and activity in every direction during both the day and night.
If there's any data missing that you would like to see in these articles please leave some feedback and I'll aim to add it in.