Everything You Need To Know About Tokyo!
In addition to lively and informed debate, exciting social events, and a unique conference spirit, WorldMUN this year offers you the most special experience of all: a week in Tokyo, the city that marries looming skyscrapers with Shinto shrines, that juxtaposes the upbeat novelty of Shibuya-kei pop music with the histrionic antiquity of kabuki theater, and that offers some of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the world.
So that you can make the most out of your Tokyo experience during WorldMUN 2020, we have compiled on this page a guide to the city, including information on cost of living, transportation, a breakdown of various districts, and the must-see tourist attractions. To start, here are a couple of quick facts about Tokyo!
Tokyo Quick Facts
Official Name: 東京 (Tōkyō)
Name Meaning: The two characters of the word Tō-kyō mean “east” (tō) and “capital” kyō, together meaning “east(ern) capital,” a name the city received after the capital of Japan was changed from Kyoto to Tokyo.
Population: About 13.4 million, making it the world’s largest city by that measure.
Size: Using the "One Metropolis Three Prefectures" definition, Tokyo is around 13,556 square kilometers (5,234 sq mi). The city itself, though, is 622 square kilometers.
Safety: Ranked first in the world!
Language: Japanese (but fear not—with English translations on all signs!)
Cost of Living
A common myth is that Tokyo is a very unaffordable city. The truth is that while rent is definitely among some of the highest in the world, Tokyo is a very affordable city for tourists and students!
Tokyo is ranked as 11% less expensive than New York and 8% less expensive than San Francisco, even with rent considered. Tourists will also find many discounts and deals on food, travel, and sight seeing aimed at foreigners. Don’t forget to bring your student ID to tourist attractions and ask for a student discount!
Here are some common prices for reference. For a rough conversion rate, 100¥ is equal to a little bit less than US$1.
Price of Breakfast: 500-1200 yen
Lunch: 1000 yen on average (700-1500 yen)
Dinner: 1000-5000 yen
Trains: from 140 yen
Taxi: fares typically start around 410 yen in Tokyo City for the first two kilometers and increase by around 80-90 yen for every additional 300-400 meters traveled.
Museums: about 1500 yen
Shrines: mostly free
Gardens: mostly free
Our recommendation for your daily budget is to set aside approximately 3000 yen for food and 400 yen for transportation, then add around 4000 yen for the whole week for sightseeing (though this depends on your chosen activities).
How to Get Around: Airports, Train, and Travel
Good news, delegates traveling from far and wide: Tokyo is Japan's largest domestic and international hub for rail and ground! It contains the most extensive urban railway network in the world, as well as an equally extensive network of surface lines. Tokyo’s transportation system is not only world-renowned for its extensiveness, but also for its accessibility, cleanliness, and unrivaled standard of quality, characteristics which have earned it a steady first place in the World City Survey’s local public transportation ranking ever since 2014. In other words, you will benefit from a remarkable ease in accessing conference, unprecedented flexibility in choosing your accommodations for the week, and plenty of opportunities to explore all that Tokyo has to offer!
Arriving to Tokyo
Tokyo has two airports: Narita Airport handles the majority of international flights and is located 60 kilometers outside of central Tokyo, in Chiba, but well-connected to the city either through a one-hour Express Train or a two-hour bus ride, with prices as low as 900 yen. Alternatively, Haneda Airport handles a smaller number of international flights but is centrally located 20 minutes away from the main city area.
Trains in Tokyo
Tokyo has over 80 lines operated by about a dozen different companies, with trains reputed worldwide for their punctuality and efficiency. The train lines operated by JR East and the subway lines are most convenient for moving around central Tokyo, with the JR Yamanote Line being the most prominent one, as it forms a loop which connects Tokyo's multiple city centers. The map pictured to the right displays it in light green, along with the five other JR lines that are most relevant to people traveling within central Tokyo, as well as the major railway stations they pass through.
As for prices and accessibility, a whole variety of day passes is available for the Tokyo area, but we do not recommend them as they do not cover all of Tokyo's train and subway lines. Instead, we suggest you acquire Prepaid IC cards, which provide convenience as you can ride virtually any train or bus in Greater Tokyo (and many other major cities in Japan) with just a simple swipe over a card reader. What’s more, prepaid IC cards can also be used to make quick purchases at a constantly increasing number of shops in Tokyo (and across the country). Two types of IC cards are available for purchase in Tokyo: Suica cards at JR stations and Pasmo cards at non-JR stations.
Running at speeds of up to 320 km/h, the shinkansen is the bullet train that connects Tokyo with most of the country's major cities. Its network serves Japan's main islands of Honshu, Kyushu and Hokkaido, with its oldest and most popular line (the Tokaido Shinkansen) going through Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka. The shinkansen is known for its punctuality (most trains depart on time to the second), comfort (with relatively silent cars containing spacious, always forward-facing seats), safety (no fatal accidents in its history) and efficiency. In other words, for WorldMUN delegates hoping to make the most of their time in Tokyo, the shinkansen is the ideal means of travel for discovering the wonders which the rest of Japan has to offer, from Osaka to Kyoto to Kyushu, Kanazawa, Niigata and various destinations in the Tohoku Region and Hokkaido.
Where To Go: A Breakdown of the Tokyo Districts
One thing that makes Tokyo especially unique is the fact that it is made up of multiple districts, each endowed with a distinctive character and charm. As you make your way from the sleek skyscrapers of Marunouchi to the effervescent nightlife of Roppongi to the cherry blossom parks of Shinjuku, you are sure to find yourself in a constant state of discovery and awe of the kind rarely experienced within a single city. Without further ado, here is a brief outline of the major Tokyo districts so you can make sure to get a taste of all of them during your daily adventures!
Marunouchi is one of Japan's most prestigious business districts and is located between the Imperial Palace and Tokyo Station. It is easily identifiable by its sleek, modern skyscrapers which are home to Japan’s largest finance companies and offer striking views of the imperial palace and the Tokyo skyline. Visitors will find many cafes and restaurants in any of the skyscrapers, in addition to a few museums, and a shopping avenue with fashion boutiques and cafes lining the street. Perhaps the biggest attraction is the imperial palace outer compound and its gardens which are easily accessible from Tokyo Station, located less than 20 minutes by train from the conference venue. Tip: If you find a restaurant you would like to try online, make sure to make a reservation as they tend to fill with bankers and lawyers for weekday meals.
Shinjuku, one of the largest neighborhoods of Tokyo, is truly a city unto itself. Aside from having the busiest train station in the world (with more than 2 million users per day), Shinjuku means shopping, eating, partying—and lots of people! With department stores, samurai museums, cherry blossom viewing parks, skyline observatories, music stores, and even cat cafes, Shinjuku offers an immersive and diverse Japanese experience—not to mention the hundreds and hundreds of bars and restaurants you will find that cater to every taste imaginable. It is only 7 minutes by train from the conference venue! Tip: Locals and tourists alike tend to avoid switching trains at Shinjuku Station during rush hour.
Shibuya and Harajuku
Shibuya, one of the most popular areas of Tokyo, is the go-to neighborhood for entertainment, shopping and fashion, and cuisine (both local and international). It is also home to the iconic Shibuya crossing, one of the busiest intersections in the world with up to 1,000 people during rush hour. When it comes to people watching, this is the place to be! As for Harajuku, it is a true hub of Japanese fashion and youth culture, where you can begin by exploring the endless boutiques and vintage shops on Takeshita Street, stopping by the iconic local cafés for crazy, bright-colored eats, or by one of the many purikura photo booths for an old-school photo souvenir. These districts are located only 3 minutes away from the venue by train, that is to say a 15-minute walk.
Roppongi is one of the most beloved neighborhoods in Tokyo and has a dual personality. During the day it is known for being home to large corporations such as Facebook and Google, and for its many high-end fashion boutiques, museums, observation decks, and highly rated restaurants. At night, however, it becomes the hottest entertainment and nightlife district in Japan, being home to some of the most popular clubs and bars in the world. Visitors to Roppongi have their fair share of things to do, including shopping, movie-watching, checking out art, enjoying a club, and a whole lot more. Roppongi is located only 6 minutes away from the venue by train, and 10 minutes by taxi. Tip: Delegates who plan to frequent the Roppongi nightlife may want to stay at Roppongi hotels since trains close at midnight (see Accommodations page for more information). Please note that a taxi for four people from the Westin to Roppongi is approximately 1000¥, also making the Westin an affordable option.
Akihabara is a must visit neighborhood for all anime/manga lovers and secret (or not so secret) Otaku, the Japanese word for people with very intensive interest in these aspects of popular culture. Known as the electronics capital of Japan, visitors will find maid cafes, people in cosplay, manga stores 10-floors high, vintage game stores, and cheap gadgets such as laptops, rice cookers, and even vintage VCRs. Akihabara has enough attractions to keep anime fanboys/fangirls and electronics lovers busy for a lifetime. It is located 28 minutes away from the venue by train. Tip: Stores closer to the station tend to be more expensive, so do not be afraid to stray further away and explore! Tokyo is a very safe city to wander around and get lost in.
Ebisu is an upscale area of Tokyo where the conference venue is located. It is a sweet little area of Tokyo, which has been consistently rated the best place to live in the city. It is quite different from other parts of the city insofar as it has a more laid-back character, and thereby serves as a refreshing break from the busy movement of other areas. Known for some of the best food in Japan, Ebisu is the place to be for food lovers and amateurs alike. Its cozy and small restaurants, pubs, and the famous tachinomiya standing bars will leave you wanting more as you encounter everything from traditional Japanese eateries to cutting-edge foodie hot spots, all within a 5-minute walk of the Westin and with some offering prices as low as 500 yen ($4.60). Finally, one of the best things about Ebisu is that it is centrally located in Tokyo, meaning that the choice of conference venue will provide delegates with very easy access to popular tourist destinations such as Shinjuku, Shibuya, Harajuku, Roppongi, and Tokyo Station. In particular, the Westin is a short walk from Ebisu Station, an extremely accessible public transport hub with direct links to all parts of the city.
Ikebukuro is one of Tokyo’s multiple city centers, and its station is the second busiest railway station (surpassed only by Shinjuku Station). Ikebukuro offers many opportunities of entertainment, shopping and dining. Sunshine City, specifically, is a large complex for shopping not far from the station. Ikebukuro, like Akihabara, is also a center of otaku culture, containing anime, manga and cosplay related shops for women such as Animate, Mandarake and K-Books. It is situated 20 minutes away by train from the venue. Tip: Ikebukuro Station is a major station on the JR Yamanote Line, meaning that you can easily get to this district after a day of conference using only the Yamanote line from Ebisu Station!