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Survival tipps for Tokyo – where to get cash, paying contactless and Tokyo Metro first steps

First impression of Tokyo and things the Japanese do differently


Today is the beginning of spring and the cherry blossom is about to bloom.
Of course the vernal equinox day is an occasion for an official holiday for the Japanese. Although, it’s not the same as in Europe, because only the office workers are off for the day. Shop opening hours are not affected! So everything went its usual way on the streets, especially on the huge, famous intersection in the Shibuya district. This afternoon I was hanging out there to get a feeling for everyday life in Tokyo. Jetlag has not disappeared yet, but with eight hours difference in time it is no wonder after three days. The first two days after the arrival were long working days and so far there was no opportunity to get used to the new rhythm. That’s what my body made me feel: when I woke up today, looking at my watch, I noticed that I had a full twelve hours of sleep – no surprise to me, but of course I still don’t feel well rested.

The first impressions of Tokyo are manifold. Walking through the streets feels like a mixture of New York and London, with an impact of Singapore – I think it’s extremely clean here.
One of the reasons may be that there are almost no public garbage cans, which is sometimes a challenge. The only opportunities I’ve noticed so far are in the Tokyo Metro, right behind the ticket barriers.

Underground travel in Tokyo: I have a split relationship with public transport since yesterday. Google Maps is very helpful when it comes to the shortest route and the right transfer point, but it doesn’t warn against express trains. When I could orientate myself two stops too late yesterday morning, and had already decided to drive these two back in the opposite direction, I caught one of the nasty express trains, which just skips a few stops – including the one I actually wanted to get to. So at some point I found myself at the starting point of my journey. Later I found out that a pink or red label on the electronic display on the platform could not promise anything good for the train in question. Very well.
Apart from that, orientation is quite simple, because the stops are numbered consecutively and the different lines are not only color-coded, but also labeled with letters. Thus, I don’t necessarily have to remember the Japanese names, which are quite complicated for the European taste.
Those who’ve ever been to London will know the Oyster Card. The same principle of a rechargeable payment card is used by the Tokyo people with the “Pasmo Card” or the “Suica Card“. You can buy it at the ticket machines in every Tokio Metro station (Pasmo) or Japan Railway station (Suica) and thus pass the ticket barriers. To my regret, these machines only accept cash payment. The machines remember the entry and exit points and automatically deduct the correct fare for the journey.

Tomorrow I will move to another hotel a bit closer to work before I can finally move into my “long stay” on the weekend, which is within walking distance of my workplace and super convenient. But with my two and a half suitcases I won’t take the train. It’s not that easy to move through the public space armed with rolling suitcases, because the Japanese have installed blind guidance systems everywhere in an exemplary way – floor plates, which are either grooved or nubbed, depending on whether you should move forward or stop as a visually impaired person.

Even if the prices for taxi rides resemble German conditions, I will treat myself to one tomorrow. At least all taxi drivers in this country accept card payment. You can’t get cash with a foreign credit card at any cash machine (“ATM”), because in many cases only domestic cards are accepted.

In the 7-Eleven minimarkets, which can be found almost at every corner, it surely works, though.

Another advantage of the Pasmo/ Suica Card (see above) is that it is not only accepted as a means of payment for the Metro, but also in many shops, so that you can invest more in recharging if you are afraid of cash. Whether at beverage vending machines, in mini markets, when buying sandwiches at Subway – everything works and Pasmo therefore is a great anonymous debit card.


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