I recently made a quick trip to Tokyo, and here are the things that I learnt while I was there and from what my friends told me before I got there.
Don't sit in the middle if you fly Air Asia and can't stand being hungry
So, you decided to fly via Air Asia, and then when you pick your seats you decide to grab some place in the middle of the plane as marked in blue below.
Then when it comes time for the food cart to roll on over, you discover the horrible consequences of choosing the seats in such a location. Being a budget airline, Air Asia's ticket charges don't include meals, while some people would pre purchase their meals, many won't. These people would then make their purchase when the cart rolls pass their seats. Between sorting out exchange rates, taking change, preparing the various food and drinks that people buy, if you're sitting in the middle area (like where I was during my trip) It takes HELL of a while before it's your turn!
The monorail is a great way to head into the city from Haneda airport.
If you're arriving at Haneda airport, the entrance to the monorail station is pretty much right in front of the exit of the departure hall past the information counter. When operating the ticketing machines, one thing to remember is that there's a giant button labeled ENGLISH to switch the display mode. Last train to leave Haneda is supposed to be around 12:30AM
If you're gonna use the subway, get a Passmo card.
If you're going to use the subway to get around Tokyo a lot, get a Passmo card (you purchase it at the ticketing machines)
Travelling around with this stored value card means you don't have to try and figure out how much is the subway ticket you need to buy to get around the city. One caveat to remember though, there's a refundable 500 yen deposit on the card. While that is refundable, whatever value on the card ISN'T, the minimum reload amount is 1000 yen. So try and calculate your expenditure properly so you don't end up with a card with a lot of money on it when you leave the country. One interesting thing to remember is that the Passmo card can also be used in various vending machines and shops.
And of course, if you're going to take the subway, download the map to your phone first!
Get the address of your hotel in JAPANESE handy
It might be a bit hard to get the address of the place where you're staying in Japanese (http://maps.google.co.jp helps) The english names won't be of much help because you its likely you'd pronounce it differently from how the locals expect it too. I wasn't expecting to need to use this since my hotel was 5 minutes away from the station, but when you emerge from a subway station pass 12AM, it's dark and there's a slight drizzle that's happening, and the map you downloaded earlier didn't take into account that there's like 5 exits from the subway station. Being able to show someone an address they can actually read helps a lot!
No one can tell the difference between a Chinese and Japanese
Everyone I talked to expected me to know Japanese!
You NEED THE INTERNET!
You're in a foreign country where you don't speak the language, have no idea where exactly you are at any point in time. You NEED the Internet, you NEED information at your finger tips. And I'm EXTREMELY THANKFUL that my friend told me about eConnect. It's basically a company that rents out MiFi devices to tourist, they'll deliver the device to your hotel, and when you're leaving the country you just drop the thing in the mailbox and you're done! You might scoff at the high price you'll pay for the few days of internet usage, but it's a few days of UNLIMITED HIGHSPEED INTERNET.
What can you do with that? If you're lost, you can pull up Google maps. If you need to ask your friend something, ping them on chat. Not sure wheter you're buying the right item for your friend? Skype them! All this without worrying about astronomical data charges on your own line (obviously you need to disable data roaming on your line when you leave the country)
The only other additional suggestion I can give is of course, bring LOTS OF USB POWER with you so your phone AND the hotspot is ready when you need it!
Japan is a big fan of recycling
When you're walking around you'll notice that trash cans always mark what they're supposed to hold, paper, plastic bottles, cans, etc. etc. And you're holding a polymer wrapper which holds some bits of uneaten food that you want to throw away. But there're no OTHERS trash can anywhere to be found, so where the heck DO you throw stuff like that? The only place I see a trash can marked OTHERS was in the Haneda airport and of course the trash can in my hotel room.
I still don't know where they eat food they buy from food courts in the shopping centers
I visited quite a few shopping centers while I was there, like what we have here they had a food court area where they sold lots of tidbits and snacks. Some could be eaten on the go, but some like Bento boxes would require a place to eat. I tried asking people where I could get to eat but I didn't really get an answer!
Knowing SOME Kanji might be worst than knowing none
Since I can read chinese, I could make out some words and hoped the meaning in Japanese was similar. But in one situation that turned against me. While in one of the food courts mentioned above, my wife saw a bunch of fried things. The sign for the items said 'Chicken Karage XXXX' so I could make out the kanji that formed 'Chicken Karage' but the XXXX was in Japanese. So we thought, well.. it's small enough to be eaten on the go, it's fried chicken something, what's the WORST that can happen?
Finding out that we just bought Fried Chicken SKIN.
Japan has a very high denomination coin in the form of the 500 yen coin. What makes that so bad? Remember that local money changes usually DO NOT deal in coinage for foreign currencies, so try and take care of them before you leave the country. I guess purchasing some USD with it might work.
There're two types of monorail trains that travel to Haneda Airport.
I figured this out a bit late, there are two types of monorail trains that serves the route between the airport and the city, the local one which stops multiple times before reaching the airport, and the express which only stops at the airport terminals. To save time, take the express of course.