I successfully made the move from Washington DC to Tokyo Japan just in time for Plum Blossoms in March and the Cherry Blossoms in April. But first things first, the easiest way to get around Japan regardless of the time of year, or how long you are here, is the subway.
If you are only visiting for a couple of days and sticking to downtown Tokyo then the traveler’s discount pass is the way to go. A 24-hour ticket is 800 Yen, 48-hour ticket is 1200 yen and a 3-day ticket is 1500 Yen. A great deal. The ticket is good for all Tokyo subway and metro lines but can only be purchased at the international airports, some tourist information centers and some travel agencies.
A second option is the local Suica card. If staying for longer than a few days, or exploring outside downtown Tokyo, I recommend the Suica card. The primary benefit, similar to an Oyster card in London or a metro pass in Washington DC, is once purchased and loaded you don’t have to worry the cost of each trip, buying individual tickets or having loose change. The Suica can be used on the subway, metro, long distance trains as well as buses.
In fact, just last weekend, I took a shuttle bus unexpectedly when going hiking. The machine only accepted exact change (which I didn’t have) or a Suica card. Needless to say I was happy I had my Suica card on me.
Suica machines have an English option (top right hand corner) but the East Japan Railway Company website also has a video and other tips.
Cards do have a 500 yen deposit but it is refunded when you return the card.
In a later blog I will talk more about navigating the subway and metro system but in the meantime here is a great snapshot of some useful apps to help you get around.