I'm very excited that there is a Japanese version of lastminute.com - http://www.lastminute.co.jp/.
Americans may be unfamiliar with this UK-based service, but it lists lots of great deals on travel and entertainment for those of us who find ourselves planning things a day or two before we want to do them.
Life can be confusing as a functional illiterate; let me help you figure things out fast. Puzzles of Daily Life is a 14 minute video shot on location in train stations, shops, and on the streets--the perfect thing to give you a glimpse of sights and sounds of real-life Tokyo.
Clips from Hello Tokyo
In less than 15 minutes, you'll discover how to:
- summon a waiter
- apologise for running into someone
- say a simple thank you
- choose and use a phrasebook
- deciper Italian, French, other western menus
- take advantage of plastic food displays
- prepare quick meals with instant food and deli items
- read 6 key kanji on food packages
- save money by buying Japanese goods
- puzzle out cleaning products
- shop for American and European foods
- satisfy your midnight-snack cravings
- pay your utility bills
- combine shopping and entertainment at a 100 yen store
- see four movies for the price of 1
- tell whether a movie is subtitled or dubbed in Japanese
- find English language books and magazines
- love your train station
- buy a train or subway ticket
- use a Passnet card to transfer from subways to trains
- what to do when the wicket chimes
- read a Tokyo address
- ...and more
Order Hello Tokyo
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Tokyo Visitor's Survival Guide
Just visiting? Here's some general information on how to navigate Tokyo's restaurants and attractions.
- getting from here to there
- buying tickets
- shoes and other mysteries
- eating out
- Kristen's favorite attractions
- surviving illiteracy
Interesting places to visit in Tokyo.
Hello Tokyo Resources
Restaurants and Food
Something many new arrivals comment on is the amount of useless packaging in Japan.
- A box of chocolates sealed in cellophane contains a plastic tray. The tray holds 12 individually wrapped candies.
-Your newly purchased boutique sweaters are individually wrapped in tissue and sealed before being wrapped in paper with the store's logo and slipped into a shopping bag, which on a rainy day might be covered in a protective plastic bag.
What's up with all the packaging? It's cultural.
Japan is full of layers--from the layers of kimono that cover the body to the layers of politeness that wrap the language. Contemporary packaging rises from gift giving traditions.
Ages ago, gifts to the shogun and emperor were elaborately and beautifully presented. Wrapping symbolic stated, "I have covered this object from my sight. I no longer own it; I give it to you."
The act of unwrapping the package made it the receiver's property. Each layer could be savored for its shape, color and texture. And the more layers, the more beauty to enjoy and anticipation of the gift inside.
Therefore, overpackaged chocolates evoke luxury.
A very scholarly paper explains it in detail: Wrapped gifts: Ritual prestations and social obligations in contemporary Japan
I'm quite sure that I couldn't manage without Jorudan's train route detail website. Type in your starting and ending station and it tells you where to change, how long the ride will be, and how much it costs. Doesn't matter whether you're going across town or across the country--this is one great resource.
In English: http://www.jorudan.co.jp/english/norikae/e-norikeyin.html
In Japanese: http://www.jorudan.co.jp/norikae/norimap.html
I heartily recommend the Richard Hosking's "A Dictionary of Japanese Food" as a key reference book in your library. It describes hundreds of raw ingredients, meals and traditional kitchen equipment. Illustrated with simple line drawings, it's a book I still turn to after nearly 6 years in Japan.
When your Passnet card has less than a full ticket's worth of value, you can slot it into the ticket machine and make up the difference in coins to buy a ticket.
You can use up to two Passnet cards at a time this way.
For example, you need 190 yen ticket and have a Passnet card with 40 yen left on it and one with 60 yen on it.
Insert one passnet card, then the other. The ticket machine will register 100 yen. Add 90 yen in coins, and the machine will give you a 190 yen ticket, plus your two Passnet cards (now completely empty).