Some cities you can go to and just easily navigate and never have a problem, Tokyo is not this city. A little preparation will go a long way. It will also save you so much time! I recommend the following:
1. Guide book
2. Train line map. Make yourself aware of the train station near your hotel.Make yourself aware of the train lines that you may travel on.
3. Ensure the guide book has some basic Japanese phrases
4. Print or write down your hotel name in Japanese
If you are traveling with others, it is a good idea to rent a couple of mobile phones. You can do this right at the airport, and you return the phone there as well. There are several plans to choose from, which are all described in English. I was traveling with two other people, and having the phones was very helpful in getting organized and getting in touch when we got separated (intentionally or not).
Japan has it's own mobile technology, so your American or European phone won't work there (unless you have some sort of uber phone).
Most Japanese are not good at English even at tourists spots. You have to know how to speak '1-10' 'where is this place?', and 'how much is this?'. Throughout my trip, i communicate most of these phrases.
Fondest memory: Best memory of Tokyo are that Tokyo people are extremely disciplined, helpful and friendly.
You have no fear riding Subway even during peak hours. They dont push one another.
Not really a favorite thing, but in case you are in Tokyo and need a doctor but cannot speak the language, there are a couple of things you can do.
1) First, the nicer hotels often have doctors in house who can help get youtaken care of, or to an emergency room.
2) Contact your local embassy. It is a good idea to carry the numbers for your country's embassy with you no matter where you go, but in case of a medical emergency, they can get you someplace where they speak your language, or can help provide someone to assist in language communication.
3) IAMAT: The International Association for Medical Assitance to Travelers. These guys are great! Trust me on this one! For those of us who speak English, they have a list of English speaking doctors.
Fondest memory: Not a fond memory of Tokyo, more of a confirmation that I am allergic to shellfish.
In case you need to contact IAMAT, there are two ways. By phone, before you go to get a list of doctors, 716-754-4883 or 416-652-0137, or by the internet at www.sentex.net/~iamat when you are there and suffering.
Japan is quite expensive but there are ways to live very cheaply without complete suffering...
For example - you could eat a McChicken sandwich 3 times a day or pot noodles - so in this case food daily cost would 1.5 English pounds or 3 dollars - but thats pretty much rock bottom! 1000 yen a day is the more realistic minimum for food
Accommodation - stay in a gaijin or guesthouse for a few weeks at 1500 - 2000 yen a day (7 - 10 English pounds - 15 - 20 dollars)
The tap water is drinkable... A can of coke will cost you 60p (1 us dollar)
All you can drink nightclub will cost 2-3000 yen for the whole night - 15 pounds, 30 dollars
DVD rental - less than 2 pounds (4 dollars) for a week
Trains are reasonably costed at less than a pound for a short journey..
Gusto`s restaruants are good for Western style food and the drinkbar is a bargain.. All you can drink (unfortunately not alchohol!) for under 1 pound
The International Roaming Rates of Mobile Phone Companies are sky high at $ 2.25 minute per call so your best bet while traveliing in japan is using a phone card like KDDI Super World Cards. These Phone Cards can be purchased in vending machines at Haneda Airport, Hiroshima Airport, Okayama Airport, Fukuoka Airport and New Chitose Airport, as well as at Narita International Airport, Kansai International Airport and Central Japan International Airport. Also available at all konbinis like lawsons, 7-11, family mart, am pm and at supermarkets.
Fondest memory: International direct dialing calls are charged in units of 6 seconds to calls placed with this card. To save more, you can take advantage of economical time period discounts. Cost advantage is about 11-22% in the case of calls placed during the Evening & Holiday Rate Period, and about 17-38% in the case of calls placed during the Late Night & Early Morning Rate Period in Japan local time (assuming the calls last 3 minutes).
A single rate of 2 yen for every 6 seconds applies to domestic long distance calls regardless of distance or time of the day.
International calls are charged in economical 6-second increments. Plus, the "Long Call Discount" is applied to calls that last more than three minutes. And there are special discounts for calls made during evening, holiday, and late night/early morning hours.
Always Remember that ATM's in japan are mostly local! you can only withdraw from international ATM locations in Airports, Major Rail Stations, Post offices and on 7-11 stores! when in major Rail Stations or Airports, look for international ATM consortium logos like Cirrus, Maestro, Mastercard, Discover, Plus and a lot more! you can withdraw up to 100,000 yen a transactions at international atms but they also have a transaction charge of 500 yen whatever amount you are withdrawing so if you are needing only small amounts then better to exchange money at money changing shops or hotels.
Fondest memory: Once Again, remember that international atm's only exist in 7-11 stores, post offices and major railway stations and airports so even if you see a familiar logo like mastercard or cirrus or plus at the atm and it is not on the places above, don't dare withdraw money ok!
also look for the english language button for english language translation in the lcd displays of atms!