I have first cousins, second cousins, and lots of extended family in Japan, so I used to go every year. Then the pandemic happened, and Japan closed its borders until October 2022. I finally made it back in August 2023. Some of my favorite places had gone downhill but some were as good as ever. So here is my brain dump on how to have a good time in Japan.
Before You Arrive
If you plan to travel around Japan, get a JR Pass. You buy a voucher from the Japan Travel Bureau, and exchange it for the actual ticket once you get to Japan. Make sure the name on the voucher matches the name on your passport. In Tokyo, you can exchange the voucher at the JR Travel Service Center in Tokyo Station or Ueno Station.
Be sure to enroll in the Visit Japan Web app. Make sure you have 2 separate QR codes for each traveler; one for passport control and one for your customs declaration.
Arriving in Tokyo Narita
When you walk out of customs, look for the escalator down to the train station. I usually take the Narita Express, a one-hour express train to Tokyo station that runs twice an hour for about 4000 yen. You can use credit cards in the JR Ticket Office.
If you are in Tokyo, you can use a JR Pass to ride the JR Trains. The JR Yamanote line runs in a circle around the city. Most cool places are near one of the Yamanote line stops. The JR Chuo line runs through the middle of the city from Tokyo station to the fashionable western suburbs.
In addition to the JR Trains, there is also the subway system. If you are a tourist, you can buy a 72 hour unlimited subway pass for 1500 yen, which is one of the biggest bargains in Japan. The subway is newer than the JR Lines and much cooler in the summer, since the subway stations are underground.
You could spend months in Tokyo and never run out of things to do. My favorites:
In Asakusa, everyone goes to Sensoji temple and the little Shinto shrine next to it. You can visit the temple anytime, but the shops on the street leading up the temple are good too.
There are great restaurants in Asakusa.