We fly non-stop from Vienna to the Japanese capital Tokyo five times a week. The best possible reason for David, founder of aviation channel Simply Aviation, to get on board – and share his travel tips for Tokyo and exciting insights into Japanese culture with us.
As well as visiting Tokyo’s classic tourist attractions, it’s primarily Japanese daily life that’s so exciting when staying in Tokyo. From its convenience stores to its fast-food restaurants, right through to its public transport, Tokyo is a host of essential experiences just waiting to be had…
Tokyo is an incredibly pleasant city to be in, for residents and visitors alike. You won’t have to search for a supermarket, for example, because there’s a ‘combini’ (convenience store) sitting on every corner. These are small supermarkets open 24 hours a day. As well as this, you won’t need a rental car to explore the city, as it’s so practically and efficiently organised.
One thing that’s absolutely key to keeping city life in Tokyo bearable is that the residents are polite and considerate – making it a big city without typical big city types, in other words. More than four times as many people live in Tokyo as do in Austria – in an area slightly smaller than Styria. It’s one of the largest metropolitan regions in the world, and even one of the most densely-populated in places. To make harmony possible in this setting, the residents have numerous habits, rules and practices that make daily life in Tokyo surprisingly pleasant and calm.
Tokyo isn’t just one of the world’s biggest cities; it’s also one of its safest. You can move around anywhere in the city on foot, day and night, without a moment’s fear of being robbed or worse. Thefts are also rare in Tokyo, so it’s completely normal to park your bike without locking it.
Road traffic in the city of millions
To keep a hold of road traffic, Tokyo has a rule which is probably unique in the world: if you want to register a car, you have to be able to show you have a parking space for it. This either has to be rented – usually at the car park in your own block – or located on your own plot of land.
What this all means is that far fewer people park on the road in Tokyo, because everyone has their own parking space. That’s why the pavements in the Japanese capital are significantly wider than they are in Europe. On side streets, cars and pedestrians share the same lane of traffic, although the pedestrians are in the majority here. Everyone plays precisely by the rules when it comes to traffic lights, too. Roads with more than two lanes in either direction are rare, and even motorways rarely have more than three. Oh, and by the way: they drive on the left in Japan.
Local transport networks
You don’t need a car to get from A to B quickly here. Japan, and particularly the capital Tokyo, have one of the world’s best local transport networks. The majority of the population use the underground to get around the city. There are more than 120 underground and suburban rail lines in Metropolitan Tokyo.
The punctuality of the public transport there is particularly remarkable. In Austria, a train is considered punctual if it leaves or arrives at the station no more than five minutes after the designated time. This range of tolerance is significantly shorter in Japan, at just 60 seconds.
Such punctuality is also essential to ensure the entire local transport network doesn’t simply haemorrhage. During rush hour, the interval between the departure of one train and the arrival of the next is only around 60 seconds.
Consideration for others
The Japanese, as we all know, are well-known for their politeness. It’s not until you get to Japan itself, however, that you notice how Japanese politeness is about so much more than just friendly bowing. You queue everywhere in Japan. Absolutely everywhere. Even when you’re waiting for a train, a small queue will start to form in front of the automatic door on the platform.
While this may just be politeness up to a point, it is mainly perceived as consideration for others in Japan. The need to avoid causing another person inconvenience is deeply rooted in Japanese culture. You also see this on the roads: the entire country is spotlessly clean, despite the fact that there are practically no rubbish bins. This is because it’s viewed as impolite to eat in public in Japan. You do so either in restaurants, at your workplace or at home. As a result, people don’t produce any rubbish by eating while travelling. Quite simply, the need for public rubbish bins just doesn’t exist. If you ever do want to throw something away, however, you’ll have to take it home with you. After all, you wouldn’t want to cause anyone else any inconvenience, would you?
Everything is practical
Japanese companies have a saying: The company which makes life simplest for the client will be most successful. And you notice exactly that on every corner in Tokyo.
The best example are the combinis, a.k.a. convenience stores. These are small 24-hour supermarkets best compared with the shops at petrol stations in Europe. You find them on practically every street corner in Tokyo. In a small area, these supermarkets stock everything you could possibly need in daily life here. As well as countless standard supermarket products like food and drink, there are usually also coffee machines, ATMs, multifunctional copiers, and ticket machines for the cinema and theatre, bus, rail and even air tickets.
If you still have a day to kill after all the highlights that Tokyo has to offer, jump aboard the Shinkansen. The city of Yokohama – offering not just beautiful shopping streets but also (amongst other things) a Cup Noodle Museum – is just 15 minutes from Tokyo on the Japanese high-speed train. As you might have guessed, the museum is all about the world-famous Japanese noodle snack. Cup Noodle fans can design their own individual cup, then fill this according to their own taste.
If you fancy visiting Tokyo and Japan yourself, just click here to find the flight that’s right: