What to avoid in Tokyo

What to Avoid in Tokyo? Stay Safe and Have a Great Time in Japan

Updated November 5, 2019 | by Chad A. Thiele, 23 year veteran of Tokyo.

Tokyo is amazing, but there are things to look out for.

Too often you’ll see popular city travel guides and tourist books share all the awesome things to check out in Tokyo, Japan. What about the areas and things to avoid in this quirky city?


Ooh, this is a great question because all too often, TokyoSpark included, you’ll see all sorts of recommendations for what to love in Tokyo.

But the things to avoid can be equally important. So let’s dive in and go over several things that you should avoid in Tokyo.

Wait. Before we get into it I want to make one thing clear. Tokyo (and pretty much all of Japan for that matter) is very safe.

Of course, there is crime, but it’s not frequent and rarely violent.

Considering Tokyo is a massive city with an estimated population of over 14 million people (src) — if the regular residents aren’t concerned about safety, you shouldn’t worry either.

Alright, that said, let’s see what to avoid to have a better time in Tokyo.


1. Rush Hour Trains

You’re going to hate your life when you get trapped in a train during the rush hours (morning or evening).

From about 0700-0900 in the morning, you can expect the trains to be crammed full of people making their way to work and school.

And then about 1700-1900 in the evening, you can expect it all over again in reverse as everyone is trying to get home.

Maybe try it once?

To each their own. I won’t lie, getting crammed into a packed train is an experience.

I’m not sure I’d say it’s an awesome fun experience, but it is certainly a unique one (shared among many other cities in Asia).

Maybe you’d like to try it once and see what happens. Up to you. But I imagine overall you’d prefer to avoid it if possible.


2. Maid Cafes

This is one that goes against what so many guides will show you and they show up on so many “things to do in Tokyo” lists it’s crazy.

I say avoid them.

They’re not as amazing as some would make them out to be and they tend to be quite pricey — mostly because they charge for everysinglething.

In exchange for the price, you get served by a young woman dressed in a maid outfit speaking a language you probably can’t understand.

Or speaking very broken English.

Or they’re a foreign young woman working in Tokyo speaking English to you while wearing a maid outfit.

Obviously this is a niche thing and if it’s your niche thing… well then, have at it. I hope you have a great time.


3. Kawaii Monster Cafe

Actually, this is a “cafe” that I’ve listed as a recommendation on my “Things to do in Harajuku” guide.

So why do I say avoid it here?

Well… I think it’s one of those places that splits the population straight down the middle.

You either really like it, or you really dislike it.

So I want to say avoid this place if you dislike cheesy, cutesy stuff and over-the-top squeaky voice girls serving you somewhat overpriced food that itself is also cutesy and cheesy.


4. Touts

A tout is a guy that hangs out around the entrance to bars, restaurants, shops… and tries to lure you into their establishment.

Okay, this one is actually serious.

Not serious as in it’s dangerous and you’ll put yourself in danger if you’re anywhere near this sort of activity. Tokyo is generally very safe.

I mean, they are trying to get your money. Most are very shady and if you do get lured into one of their establishments make sure you’re hanging onto your wallet.

Both physically and also figuratively. The prices in many of these shops are overly high and they’ll have hidden fees — like paying for the drinks of the women who will come sit with youeven if you didn’t ask them to sit with you.

Clubs, restaurants, and well… any shop. You’ll see a lot of knock-off clothing shops with touts too.

Avoid eye contact and ignore them

This is the hard part. Some of them are very persistent and will follow you around the around.

It is soooo annoying. Probably one of the single most annoying things you’ll ever encounter in downtown Tokyo.

Just keep your nose down, don’t make eye contact, don’t speak with them, and most importantly never, ever, under any circumstances, enter the establishment they are trying to get you in.

No matter how big of claims they make about how great their shop is — almost 1000% of the time it is the exact opposite and they’re just trying to get your money.

Okay, that went deep. Now you’re probably thinking Tokyo is a dark, scary place you want to avoid because of touts.

No. It isn’t. There aren’t as many of them as you’re probably imagining right now.

Plus, most of them aren’t the way over the top tenacious ones.

Plus they’re generally out in the evening in places like Roppongi, Shinjuku, and Shibuya. So you may not even notice them if you’re not the night owl type.


5. Monks

Not the monks at the temples. And most of the monks standing still at busy intersections (like the one in the photo). They’re legit.

I’m talking about the roaming “monks” who are often holding a handful of cheap beads (to “sell” to you).

I honestly haven’t researched this to know if they are legit asking for donations for a temple, but I suspect they aren’t. Mostly because most temples already have ways to earn money and ask for donations.

Then you’ll sometimes run into the ones that are obviously not legit.

They’ll jam their beads into your hands and demand a “donation” for the beads they claim are now yours.

If someone does this to you kindly hand them back and if they won’t take them, try to balance them on their hands. If they fall, oh well.

Move along and leave them behind. Ignore them if they try to continue and just keep going until they leave you alone.


6. Animal Cafes

animal cafe

You may be a little confused about this one. Perhaps because that cute hedgehog cafe is one of the biggest reasons you want to come to Tokyo.

Or that awesome sounding owl cafe!

But here’s the thing. Think about it from the animal’s perspective.

Should a dog be forced to interact with guests all day at all hours and only relax when the shop has closed?

Should an owl have a leather leash around its ankle to prevent prolonged flight?

It’s just not right.

But there is hope.

Hope is the perfect word too.

There are some charitable animal cafes, mostly with cats and dogs, which shelter stray animals, feed/house them, and let them interact with guests — with the intent to find a home for them.

That’s heartful. Compassionate. And a phenomenal way to use the venue’s popularity to support animals in need of a good home.


7. Anywhere on Sunday

Avoid Sundays

I touch on this in my article “Costco Japan: My #1 Tip To Avoid Pain And Suffering.”

I suppose I shouldn’t say anywhere.

Well, here’s why I say “anywhere on Sunday.” I’ll let you decide if you agree with my advice.

The Japanese are very hard workers. They work long hours during the week and often work on Saturdays too.

Sunday, it seems, is the single day everyone has off.

As a result, everywhere popular is absolutely packed to the brim on Sundays.

Places like grocery stores, Ikea, Costco, malls, department stores, Starbucks… even pachinko parlors.

All full.

And not just full. Full in that exceptionally un-fun sort of way. Where there are so many people that you can’t move around the store smoothly.

Where the ordinarily nice Japanese person is now rude and ignores the fact you were waiting as they budge right in front of you.

That kind of full.

Pro tip

Go early. Go at the very moment the shop you want to go to opens. Be there before it opens.

And you’ll often find you beat the crowd.

But don’t linger there too long or before long you’ll find yourself swarmed.


Tokyo Neighborhoods to Avoid With Your Kids

Now… obviously this is totally up to you. I’d never presumed to know how you wish to raise your children.

But if you’re the type of parent who would prefer your children were not exposed to certain types of adult activity, perhaps there are a few areas in Tokyo you should avoid.

  • Kabukicho (at night) This is a red-light district in Shinjuku. I don’t think you need much more info than that. It’s seedy. Drinking and partying is the norm.
  • Roppongi (at night) But only half of Roppongi. Half of Roppongi is super upscale and very nice. The other half is seedy like Kabukicho.
  • Ueno (specific areas) I know, this one is strange. Ueno has a nice park and a zoo! But it also has Ameyoko street — which is a sort of seedy market street. Plus a large homeless population.

Is it Safe to Walk Around Tokyo at Night?

Yes.

For the most part, it is very safe to walk around Tokyo at night. Of course, there are some areas that are less safe than others.

Use your common sense and best judgment.

Kabukicho and Roppongi late night are much less safe than during the day — when all the partygoers and touts are out.

I would avoid those areas at night.

While Tokyo is very safe, it’s not 100% without crime. Though chances of violent crime done to you are low. There are cases of getting pickpocketed.

But other areas, such as Ebisu, or even in the Roppongi Hills area of Roppongi, are amazing night walks.


Don’t Worry Yourself Though

As I have said many times throughout this article.

Tokyo is very safe.

Honestly, outside a couple of drunken brawls, I have never personally witnessed any crime in my 23 years living here.

Granted, that could be because of where in Tokyo I live.

But really, if you’re afraid of the exceptionally low crime in Tokyo, you’re going to have a hard time traveling anywhere in the world.

There are very few places with less crime.

So visit Tokyo fear-free and I think you’ll really enjoy it.


Have any tips to share?

Have you been to Tokyo? Or maybe have done a ton of research and have something you could add? Leave a comment below. Thank you!


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