Even if you've spent lots of time in other big cities, there is no way to adequately prepare for Tokyo. The sprawling modern metropolis has a dizzying kaleidoscope of neon lights, pachinko parlors, karaoke palaces, standing sushi bars and basement noodle restaurants dotting its busy streets.
An Imperial City, Tokyo is home to the Imperial Family, ensconced most of the year in the Imperial Palace. But unless you're in the city on January 2 or December 23, forget about visiting. It's off-limits except for New Year's Greeting Day and the emperor's birthday. But you can visit the contemplative outer gardens that surround the palace.
Such quiet spots exist throughout the city. Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples are great spots to stop and think about all you've seen, but don't wonder too far afield. You'll hit a high-end and name-brand shop before you see the next peaceful oasis.
The Japanese take shopping very seriously, dedicating entire districts, like high-end Ginza and electronic-centric Akihabara, to it. And their malls aren't just places to buy things, you'll find some of the best restaurants, and at one -- Skytree Town at the foot of the 2,080-foot Skytree Tower -- you'll also find an aquarium and planetarium.
Tokyo is an amazingly easy city to get around. The massive train system covers nearly every inch of the city, and though few people speak English, they will do their best to help if you just ask.
Small cruise ships that can fit under the Rainbow Bridge dock at Harumi Passenger Ship Terminal on Harumi Island. The nearest train station, which is about a 30-minute walk away from the port, is the Kachidoki Station on the Toei Oedo subway line.
However, the vast majority of cruise ships dock at Osanbashi Pier in Yokohama approximately 15 miles southwest of Tokyo. The nearest train station is the Nihon-Odori station on the Minato Mirai line, about a 10-minute walk from the port.
Very few people in Tokyo speak English, so it's important to always have a map that has both Japanese and English on it. That way, if you get lost you can point to where you want to go to get, at the very least, basic directions.
The yen is the official currency of Japan; coins are available in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500, while bank notes come in 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000 yen. For up-to-the-minute conversions, visit www.xe.com or www.oanda.com.
Credit cards are widely accepted for payments. If you want to use cash, you'll need to exchange money at an official currency office, or withdraw cash from an ATM in a post office or at a 7-Eleven store. ATMs at Japanese banks do not accept foreign country ATM or debit cards.
Japanese is the official language of Tokyo, and though some people speak English, do not count on it.
Choose from a large variety of iconic Japanese souvenirs, including painted paper fans, colorful kimonos and charms of various shapes and sizes to protect against evil, provide good health or success, or bring love.
Tokyo has numerous izakayas, drinking establishments that also serve small bites with beer and sake. While craft beer and microbrews have caught on (as in most cosmopolitan areas worldwide), popular brands include Baird, Asahi, Kirin and Sapporo.
For those who have only sampled sake in an American sushi restaurant, the sheer variety of rice liquor in Japan can be overwhelming. Nigori, or unfiltered sake, is colored white instead of clear and has a sweeter taste than the clear sake that you've probably had in the U.S.