Tourist Information

Local Services

The JNTO operates Tourist Information Centers to aid travelers. The TIC are located in Terminal 2 of Narita or at 3-5-1 Marunouchi, 1st Basement Floor, Chiyoda-ku, 03-3201-3331 (located near Tokyo Station). Here you can acquire maps and assistance. Office hours are 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. – noon on Saturdays.

In addition to the services provided by the JNTO, visitors to Tokyo can visit the Information Bureau of Tokyo located at Tokyo Station (hours: Monday – Saturday, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., located near the Yaesu entrance). This office only deals with issues relating to Tokyo. Visitors are also advised to pick up a copy of the Tokyo Journal which provides coverage, in English, of happenings around the city. It also covers subjects such as restaurant reviews, schools for learning Japanese, and other items of interest.
Other services for tourists include Japan Travel-Phone — a phone service that offers travel advice and information in English. The Tokyo number is 03-303-4400; outside of Tokyo, you can dial 0120-222-800 or 0088-222-800. There is a per minute charge (¥10).

International Services

American Express –– For 24 hour service and information in English, call 0120-376-199; for emergency card replacement service or ATM service, contact the office in Chiyoda-ku at the Yurakucho Denki Bldg, 1-7-1 Yurakucho, 81-3-3214-0280, open Mon – Fri, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. and Sat – Sun, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; another office (with ATM service) is located at the Shinjuku Gomeikan Bldg, 3-3-9 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, 81-3-3352-1555, hours are daily 10 a.m – 6 p.m.

Telephone Information

The country code for Japan is 81; the city code for Tokyo is 3. When in Tokyo, omit the city code; if making a call to Tokyo from outside the city, dial 03 from outside the city (adding a 0 before the city code is standard procedure for all calls between cities in Japan).

Public telephones are located everywhere. They are color-coded, and accept only certain types of coins (check before using). Gray phones accomodate international calls and accept ¥10 and 100 coins. Prepaid phone cards are also available at many locations.

When dialing internationally from Japan, either follow the instructions indicated on the public phone or hotel phone. Generally, you will dial an access code followed by the country code and phone number. Hotels generally provide detailed instructions for using their systems.


They exist everywhere. Currently, a 3% consumption tax is added to most items, including meals in restaurants and hotel rooms. Travelers from outside Japan are entitled to a refund of this tax on items taken out of the country; however, only the larger department stores and tourist shops seem equipped to deal with refunds of the taxes (and sometimes only if $100 or more is spent at the location). Ask the clerk if the refund is available. When leaving Japan, specifically Narita, a ¥2,000 charge (approx. $20) is assessed. This amount can be paid at the airport (there are vending machines to accomodate travelers (pay the tax before proceeding to customs).

Public Transportation In Tokyo

Modes of Transportation


  • Buses are complicated for tourists who don’t speak Japanese. The buses operate as they do in any other city of the world, however, you must be extra-cognizant of where you are heading because the drivers don’t speak English.


The absolute worst choice for tourists. Streets are maze-like and parking is all but impossible.


Subways are generally the best way to travel. They’re safe, inexpensive, and run frequently. The lines are color-coded (a sign of civilization, I’m quite sure) with station names indicated in English. Vending machines sell tickets, and if you err and underpay for your ride, you can pay the difference at your destination. Some machines also have an English-language option that can be activated when buying tickets. Some maps (especially the one provided by the TIC show the names of stations in Japanese and English — this is a big help when faced with ticket machines in smaller stations). One note: the absolute worst time to be on the subway is during morning rush hour — they really do shove people into the trains, and I swear that I spent my morning commute suspended between two larger individuals.


While a fairly expensive way to travel, taxis are good for short trips. Remember that a red light means the taxi is available while a green light means the taxi is occupied. Taxis are plentiful around well-known spots and major hotels. When taking a taxi, it is especially helpful to have written directions (talk to the hotel’s concierge — this person may well become your best friend in Japan). Note: having written directions is no guarantee that your driver will deliver you to your intended destination. On one trip, we actually had a driver through up his hands in disgust at his inability to locate a particular restaurant and kick us out of the cab.


Japan Railways (JR) also operated trains (again, based on a color-coded system). Of these, the most popular (and convenient) is the Yamanote Line. The bright green train loops through central Tokyo (this is my personal line of choice).

Note: Transferring between subways and trains can be tricky. The tickets do not allow for transfers between systems; however, the ticket collectors at the end of the lines can help to sort out any confusion (somehow, I believe that we managed to survive our trip without any problems of this sort).

Public Transportation – Passes

Each system has various passes available — all convenient if you are planning to do quite a bit of sightseeing. There are single-day economy tickets as well as passes that allow a day’s travel on all the subway systems and busses. A valid JR Rail Pass allows unlimited travel on JR Rail Lines.

Medical Care

In non-emergency situations, contact your local embassy for recommendations. The International Clinic, 1-5-9 Azabudai, Minato-ku, 81-3-3582-2646 accepts walk-in patients. Drugstores, or kusuri-ya are located throughout the city. One, The American Pharmacy at the Hibiya Park Building, 1-8-1 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku, 81-3-3271-4034, stocks products from the United States and fills U.S. prescriptions. It’s open Mon – Sat, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. and Sun and holidays, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. Note that as with most stores in town, pharmacies close early. For emergencies, dial 119 for ambulances or 110 for police — the person answering will most likely not speak English or other languages, be as clear and precise as possible. Hotel concierges can also assist in finding a hospital if necessary.


    • American Embassy and Consulate — 1-10-5 Akasaka, Minato-ku, 81-3-3224-5000 
    • British Embassy and Consulate — 1 Ichibancho, Chiyoda-ku, 81-3-3265-5511 
    • Canadian Embassy — 7-3-38 Akasaka, Minato-ku, 81-3-3408-2101 
    • Australian Embassy — 2-1-14 Mita, Minato-ku, 81-3-5232-411 

Contact the your embassy for hours.

Currency Exchange

The best rates are obtained at banks (generally open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.). Better rates are given for traveler’s checks than for cash. Some non-Japanese banks have branches in Tokyo — contact your bank for information. Larger hotels also offer currency exchange service. ATM machines also work (but we’ve found that many international machines only respond to 4-digit PINs) — look for machines that display the symbols found on the back of your card or that allow advances from credit cards.