All about Kanda, the area of central Tokyo where we stayed in an Airbnb apartment, how to get around and what you can find to do on a night out in the city!
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Is Kanda A Good Place To Stay In Tokyo?
Kanda is one of the best places to stay in central Tokyo, especially if you’re staying for longer periods. It’s much less touristy than other areas and more where locals hang out. It’s safe, super clean and it has all you’ll need.
Kanda is a district in Chiyoda City, which conveniently places it near the Imperial Palace and popular areas such as the Jimbocho bookshop district; Meidai-Dori, the music shopping district; and Akihabara, the worlds largest electronics bazaar and neon-lit obsession of gamers and anime fans the world over. Trains from Kanda station connects you to these areas in minutes or they’re easy to reach on foot if you’re up for a brisk walk.
While I was in Tokyo for 10 days, B stayed there for a few months, so we can highly recommend Kanda as a great place to stay in Tokyo.
Getting Around In Tokyo
Using the train system in Tokyo was one of my greatest worries before I arrived in Japan. I am here to tell you that you need not fear my dear. You will find the signs that matter at the stations are displayed both in Japanese and, to my great relief, in English! The train stations are easy to navigate if you pause to look and read. The system is actually easy to figure out and as long as you use sense, you’ll be fine without a car in Tokyo.
We got around on foot and by train and used uber to get from the airport and back.
Buy a transit/metro card that you can top up at one of the self-help stations that look like ATM’s and you’ll be on your way. There is no difference between PASMO or SUICA transit cards, the only difference is who sells them. B had one and I had the other.
B bought a bicycle for his extended stay. Now that’s a different story altogether. We marvelled at the number of bikes parked without chains to somehow secure them! The reason that people are so confident that their bike will still be there at the end of the day, must be because of the registration system.
Buy your bike new, secondhand or online like B did on Amazon. Once it’s bought, you must take it and the receipt to any bike shop to have it registered and get a sticker put on it. Only the registered owner is allowed to ride the bike!
Dining In Kanda
For food, we sometimes shopped at one of the many convenience stores you’ll find on every corner and in between. We often went out for dinner in Kanda Keisatsu-dori street or ordered in some nights, but you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to food and entertainment in this area.
Pachinko, like Japanese karaoke, is one of those things that you have to try at least once if you’re in Tokyo. It’s that ‘When in Rome…; thing again.
The game originated in Japan and is similar to western gambling slot machines. Gambling is illegal in Japan but many people are obsessed with gaming, so Pachinko fills that gap.
It’s loud, it’s blindingly neon bright and you don’t know what’s happening most of the time, but when one of the little silver balls fall into the right hole and the wheels start to spin, everyone’s happy. That’s about all I remember! Friendly staff are on hand to explain how it all works, so you won’t feel too lost. You can’t win money, but there’s a loophole for when you win big where you can exchange a voucher of some sort at a nearby coin shop or something similar. This exchange does not happen in the Pachinko joint, but the staff should be able to help you in the right way.
As I said, it has to be done! It’s very different from our karaoke where we stand up in a bar and sing in front of a crowd. Japanese karaoke is especially great for those who can’t carry a tune but love to belt it out, like me, because the singing happens in a private room for your group only. Once you’re in a room, you can order drinks and food from the menu over the phone, and start singing your heart out.
If you go with Japanese friends or colleagues, you can feel safe to still give it a good go, because unlike especially Brits, teasing and criticising is not part of Japanese culture. Instead, they believe in building up lesser singers, while being reserved in praise for the more confident stars.
We went to a Big Echo in Kanda, one of the big chains, for an hour or two (can’t remember exactly). Other popular karaoke chains are Uta Hiroba, Shidax, Karaoke no Tetsujin, and Karaoke-kan. The big karaoke chains in Tokyo stay open 24/7.
The Japanese smoke inside restaurants and public places, while it’s illegal to smoke in the streets unless you’re in an outside designated smoking area. As non-smokers, we were sort of surprised every time someone lit up next to us in a restaurant. We also had to request a non-smoking karaoke booth at the Big Echo. Also, if dining out late at night, check what time the restaurant will close before you sit down because when it’s closing time, you may have to leave no matter what’s left on your plate.
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