We would never have been able to plan and find our away around without these wonderful resources on YouTube:

  • Paolo FromTokyo: his video guides are essential viewing for anyone wanting to learn about the basic touristy stuff (and some hidden ones, too)
  • Japan-Guide.com: their videos offer insights, ideas, and tips for planning trips to various parts of Japan. Indispensable.
  • Only In Japan: Host and producer John Daub really takes his time to produce thoughtful videos that educate and entertain outsiders about traveling in Tokyo.
  • Life Where I’m From: another insightful channel into many issues not many of us are aware of, like homelessness in Japan, and how school meals there are run.
  • Nippon Wandering TV: I must’ve watched hours of this guy walking around major spots around Tokyo, to the point we could actually navigate our first time around last year based on his walking videos. Amazing resource.
  • Japan BackpackersXpress: similarly to Nippon Wandering TV, this guy takes you around popular areas in Tokyo and also provides a map (if you’re a Patreon subscriber) to his walking route.
  • Simon and Martina: This power couple has been vlogging for years and now their videos in Japan are always a delight to watch.
  • Tokyo Lens and Tokyo Creative: these are some of the most fun channels about Japan you can get on YouTube. Always informative.
  • Tokyo Cheapo: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the ultimate guide to being cheap in Tokyo. Hilarious AND useful.
That night sky is something else.

Most of our travels so far have been formulaic: we go out for a few hours, retire to our hotel room where everyone has their own space, and then reconvene again for a meal or the next outing. In planning for Tokyo this year we had to consider the fact that we would be out for most of the day, only returning to the tiny hotel rooms to sleep, there’s no such thing as connecting rooms, there’s no wifi on tap for day-long YouTube surfing, and most importantly: we had to teach the kids not to jump when the automatic toilet washer spray hits them the very first time.

So we went back to H.I.S which helped us immensely last year, and started the enquiry process roughly six months before the trip. We knew we needed to land in Narita due to timing issues: ANA flights land at Haneda past 10 pm, and to navigate with kids and large baggage on trains late at night in cold weather wasn’t something we were prepared to deal with, even if the train to town would only take us 15 minutes compared to the 41 minutes to Ueno using the Skyliner (we fly ANA to Japan because once you’ve flown ANA you can’t go back to any other). Since an 8.00 am flight departing KLIA would land in Narita by 4 pm that would give us plenty of leeway to get into town while public transit was still active. With the Skyliner platform immediately below the Narita arrival terminal gates, we would have smooth sailing into Ueno Station, from which we would take the Ginza followed by the Marounichi Lines directly to the station nearest the hotel.

All of this planning took hours of watching videos from the channels above, studying the Tokyo Subway map, and seeing how the hotels H.I.S suggested match with our needs. I can’t recommend them enough especially for first-time travelers to Japan. They’re not only good at adjusting itineraries to match your budget, but the staff are knowledgeable about train stations, weather conditions and all kinds of stuff that very much minimise any concerns we had. They also bundled a 72 hour unlimited Tokyo Subway pass and pocket wifi device with our package and that alone helped us out a lot immediately upon landing as Google Maps in Tokyo has all sorts of helpful tools to navigate and find the train cars that would allow you the quickest exits, even during lunch hour.

Being able to live-edit our travel plans on separate devices was a godsend.

By this time we had an idea of the spots we wanted to hit, and all that studying the subway routes gave us an idea of how we would hit those spots and in what order. Weather would also play a part, and we monitored the forecasts religiously especially once the typhoon season ended to see if any major changes were predicted. We also built in plan-Bs, involving indoor activities if the weather got too bad, and identified spots we could go to instead. Looking back at it now we definitely seemed to have been overthinking it, but we wanted this (hopefully first) experience to be positive for the entire family and so planned out activities that would include almost everyone. Silly, really, but now that we’re home we realised all that madness resulted in as smooth an experience as we could’ve gotten.

Well, that’s planning out of the way, maybe tomorrow I’ll actually get into the details of what we did there. I think.

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