Tokyo for First-Timers - United Hub

Tokyo for first-timers

By Nick Harper

With a population of more than 9 million people, Tokyo is the most populous city on the planet. A vast, sometimes chaotic, neon-soaked playground that never sleeps, the city can feel daunting to the first-time visitor. Yet Tokyo is surprisingly manageable, as its 23 'wards' are easy to navigate via the city's world-class transportation system.

With so many options, knowing where to go and what to see on your first visit isn't easy. To help guide your trip, consider the following tips — enough to fill a few days in the city.

Getting into the city

Most international flights arrive into Narita International Airport (NRT) located just 37 miles outside Tokyo, but we also have international flights arriving arriving into Haneda International Airport (HND) from San Francisco, and starting March 28, 2020, new nonstop service will operate from Chicago, Los Angeles, NewYork/Newark, and Washington D.C. (subject to Government approval). From Narita, the city center can be easily reached by bus, train or taxi. The quickest option is the JR Narita Express (NEX), which takes about 60 minutes and departs twice every hour. From Haneda, Tokyo is located less than 30 minutes from this airport and can easily be reached by bus, train or taxi

Some international flights arrive into Haneda Airport, also located outside the city center and easily connected through public transportation.

Tokyo U-Bahn

Where to stay

In a city so vast, you'll need to check in somewhere close to the main attractions or close to Tokyo's subway stations — the quickest and cheapest way to navigate the center. (Note: Taxis are the only form of transportation that runs all night but can be expensive.) Shinjuku, Ginza, Shibuya, Roppongi and Tokyo Station are excellent areas to stay with multiple hotel options and subway stops.

While it's possible to find accommodation to suit even the tightest of budgets, Tokyo does glitz very well. If your budget allows it, book at least one night in luxury — The Ritz Carlton, The Peninsula Tokyo and Aman Tokyo are just three opulent options among many. For added kudos, live like a movie star and check in at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, the hotel featured in the movie, Lost In Translation.

What to see and do

Seeing everything Tokyo has to offer requires more than a few days, but if you only have a few days, the following should be toward the top of your must-see list. To get your bearings and appreciate the size and scale of the city, visit one of Tokyo's many observation decks. At 2,080 ft tall, the Tokyo Skytree is currently the highest in the city, but Tokyo Tower and Toranomon Hills are also impressive. For the full neon-lit effect, head up at night.

Embrace your jet lag, rise crazy early and head for Tsukiji Market, not for the fruit, vegetables or flowers on sale there, but for the seafood. The world's biggest seafood market is an experience not to be missed, particularly its live tuna auctions that begin at 5 a.m. You'll have to visit soon though: beginning in November of 2018, the iconic market will reopen slightly further east as Toyosu Fish Market.

Shibuya Crossing from top view in Tokyo

In Tokyo, all roads seemingly lead to Shibuya Crossing — possibly the busiest intersection in the world. When the lights turn red, hundreds and often thousands set off in all directions. Walking, dodging and even taking selfies is an art form in itself.

For a sense of the city's history, add Tokyo's largest and most famous shinto shrine to your itinerary. Meiji Jingu is surrounded by 175 acres of forest in central Tokyo and reached via a long forest path marked by towering gates (torii). The city's oldest and most photographed temple is Sensoji Temple, accessed through the massive Kaminari-mon (Thunder Gate).

If you're limited on time, you'll need to choose museums wisely. The best of a broad bunch is the Tokyo National Museum. It houses the world's largest collection of Japanese art, including Buddhist statues, vibrant kimonos and samurai swords. Visit the Tokyo National Museum and you're on the doorstep of one of Tokyo's best green spaces. Ueno Park is also home to Ueno Zoo, which opened in 1882 and allows you to get up close with its giant panda bears.

Sensoji Temple around Asakusa area in Japan


To experience Kabuki-classical Japanese dance-drama, head to the grand Kabukiza Theater in Ginza. It offers three performances a day or, if you just want to stop by, one-act tickets. Alternatively, you might prefer to witness the national sport of Sumo Wrestling in all its glory. Ryoguku Kokugikan (Sumo Hall) hosts Grand Tournaments in January, May and September, each spread across 15 days. If you visit outside of these tournament times, it's possible to take a tour of a sumo 'stable' and watch the athletes in action.

If you came to shop, you're in luck. Nakamise Dori and Omotesando Avenue are shopping musts for different things, the former for souvenirs, the latter for boutique stores along Tokyo's version of the Champs-Élysées in Paris. Follow Omotesando until you reach Harajuku, where Tokyo's trailblazing tribes ferment their new and ever more daring fashion statements.

Despite being so densely populated, Tokyo is a city of many green spaces. Visit in spring and you'll see the city (and country) covered in pink blossoms —hanami season. Many of the city's parks and green spaces are in full color as winter gives way to spring. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Chidorigafuchi and Ueno Park are three jaw-dropping options.

Mt. Fuji with fall colors in Japan.

Last but not least is Mount Fuji, Japan's highest and most prominent mountain. While it's tempting to make the journey out to Mount Fuji, 60 miles southwest of the city, you really need a full day to scale its 12,388-foot-high summit to experience it properly. If time is tight, but you really want to experience that view, the solution is easy. An hour north of Tokyo is Fujimi Terrace in the Kanto region. It's not the only place affording views of the iconic mountain, but it's considered the best and worth the journey.

Where to eat

While Tokyo proudly boasts more Michelin stars than any other city, that's not what makes eating here such a life-affirming experience. More important than the fact you can eat the best sushi in your life made by one of the city's most celebrated chefs is that the greatest ramen noodles or yakitori (grilled chicken) you'll ever eat can be served by a street vendor in the middle of nowhere.

Sushi on a wooden set.

For the highest of the high end, try three-Michelin-starred Kanda, if you can reserve one of the eight seats along its wooden counter. For surely the cheapest Michelin-starred food you'll ever taste, try ramen restaurant Tsuta — but expect long, long lines.

Alternatively, but every bit as good, look for a neighborhood izakaya — a cross between a tapas bar and an English pub — to eat and drink like (and with) the locals. Kushirokuya, Kagaya and Gonpachi are excellent options — the latter reputedly an inspiration for the movie Kill Bill's iconic fight scene.

Wherever and whatever you eat, be aware that in almost all restaurants, tipping is not expected.

When to visit

Spring and autumn are the best times to visit, with the city in full color. Plus, during both seasons, rainfall is low and temperatures are mild. It's best to avoid mid-June to mid-July during the city's rainy season.

Getting there

United Airlines offers customers more nonstop fights to Tokyo than any US carrier, flying into both Haneda and Narita airports. For details and to book your tip, visit united.com or use the United app. Don't forget to share your story on social media with the #MyUnitedJourney hashtag once you arrive.

Search flights

United cargo connects products to people all over the world this holiday season

By The Hub team, November 23, 2020

Critical medical shipments – Check.

High-tech electronics – Check.

2.7 million pounds of lobster? Check.


While this year's holiday gatherings will look a little different, millions of people around the world will still carry on the tradition of celebrating the holidays with a meal.

As the appetite for different types of food from all over the world increases, so does the need for safe and reliable transport. Fish caught in the United Kingdom can depart at breakfast and arrive in Washington D.C. in time for dinner. Thanks to United Cargo's expansive network, we are longer constrained by global distance or the seasonality of a product,

United Cargo plays a big role in transporting shipments with a limited shelf life around the world. Packed in between the latest electronics from Asia and the hottest fashion items from Europe, our aircraft carry a variety of perishable shipments like flowers, fruit, meat and vegetables, where speed and careful handling keeps them fresh. Whether it's cherries from Washington State or vegetables from Peru, our temperature-controlled shipping processes and vast global network helps move these commodities all over the world.

While the holidays are an exceptionally busy time of year for shipping perishable items, United Cargo transports these critical goods for people all over the world year-round. Earlier this year, United Cargo moved nearly 190,000 pounds of fresh produce to Guam for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program to support communities impacted by COVID-19. Additionally, with the holiday season here, we anticipate the cargo holds of our aircraft to be full of grocery store replenishments, including staples like turkey and ham, hitting shelves across the globe.

We take pride in our role to make sure perishables and produce arrive on time and at the peak of freshness. These products sustain, feed and nurture the world, and consumers around the globe depend on them every single day.

Since March 19, United has operated nearly 8,000 cargo-only flights, moving over 272 million pounds of cargo on those flights alone. United Cargo is proud of the role we play maintaining the global food supply chain and helping people access commodities from all over the globe.

Bon appetit!

Happy Veterans Day

By The Hub team, November 11, 2020

With thousands of veteran and reservist employees at United, we are incredibly grateful for their dedication, courage and bravery. Not only do they serve our country, they also bring a standard of excellence and professionalism to work on a daily basis.

We are thrilled to celebrate and thank our veteran and reservist employees this Veterans Day. We asked a few of them to share stories from their experiences while enlisted. Read a few of them below!

Larry Ferrarini, ORD Lead Ramp Service

youtu.be

Tiffini Wilson, ORD Customer Service Representative

Tiffini served in the U.S. Navy Reserves from 1999 to 2013. She came from a military family and always knew she wanted to serve. In her experience, the Navy has a real sense of brotherhood and sisterhood. She feels proud that she is able to serve her country and other people get to stay home and feel safe.

Tiffini has worked at United for 24 years and feels grateful that her supervisors have always been supportive of her military service and flexible when she was deployed. She even received care packages from colleagues when she was serving in the Middle East. She has learned that being a leader is about listening, in the military and at United. She applies that mentality to when she is working with customers, as well. She says, "sometimes people are having a bad day and need to vent and be acknowledged."

Thank you for your service, Tiffini!

Terry Blake, DCA First Officer B767/B757

Terry joined the U.S. Air Force in 2014 and is currently serving. He says, "The military is a great career and I am proud that I have been given the opportunity to serve my country and the State of West Virginia." During his time in the service, he has been working aeromedical evacuation missions where he moves the critically wounded warriors from combat zones to hospitals in Europe and the U.S. He feels lucky to fly for United and work with many great people. He is proud to work alongside ALPA professional pilots and all the other employees at the company.

Thank you for your service, Terry!

Katherine McDonald, HR Partner Senior Manager

Katherine served six years in the Michigan Air National Guard and says, "For me, serving is a calling. It means serving this great nation and being ready when needed." She joined the military to belong and contribute to something bigger than herself. When she was applying for her job at United, she found information about the United4Veterans business resource group on the company website. This increased her desire to work for a company that she could bring her military experience to and be celebrated. "The inclusivity I feel at United makes me feel so valued, both as an employee and as a veteran. I am so grateful to work for a company that is committed to our military employees and customers."

Thank you for your service, Katherine!

Troy A. Engholm, DEN Ramp Service

Troy served in the U.S. Air Force from 1983 to 2013. He says, "I loved serving 30+ years in our United States Air Force because it gave me a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction and pride to know that I was serving in the best Air Force, with the best professionals, the world has ever seen."

After serving, Troy joined United in 2015 and has loved it ever since. He believes this profession allows us to connect families together and provide a multitude of experiences for our customers. They get to see the world. The most rewarding part of his job is when he sees joy on a customer's face.

Thank you for your service, Troy!

Fred "Motown" Crowell, ORD Lead Ramp Service

Motown served in the U.S. Army from 1969 to 1970. Motown grew up in Detroit and aspired to follow in his brother's footsteps by applying to a job at United. Just after he was hired, he was drafted to the Army and was on active duty in Vietnam. His unit was the first to invade Cambodia. His unit that served together still meet up every year in Washington D.C. at the Vietnam Memorial.

When he returned home, he returned to United and has been here for 53 years. Over the years, he's been able to travel with his family around the world and even take his wife back to Vietnam and show her where he was stationed.

Thank you for your service, Motown!

Garrett West, Regional Director Aircraft Maintenance ORD

Garrett served in the U.S. Marines for 7 years and 1 year in active reserves. From childhood, he had always dreamed of becoming a United States Marine. He has been grateful to serve with many different people from all types of backgrounds. And, he has many fond memories and experiences of cruising the Mediterranean when he was part of the Marine Amphibious Ready Group. He says, "Having the honor to wear the EGA (the Marine emblem that includes an Eagle, Globe and Anchor) and to represent and serve our great nation is beyond words."

Garret began his career at United as a frontline technician and has worked to a Hub leader. He says, "As we all press on and continue to work through challenges, the tenacity of our employees across the board and working alongside so many dedicated people has done nothing but instill confidence in our future."

Thank you for your service, Garrett!

Pete DeLeon, ORD Lead Customer Service Representative

Pete served in the U.S. Marines from 1977 to 1984. He grew up in a military family and had a desire to join early on. During his time in the Marines, he traveled all over the world, including to the American Embassy in Cyprus; Lima, Peru and Okinawa, Japan. He has a great sense of pride for his time in the service and feels grateful that he could give back to his country.

After the Marines, Pete joined United 33 years ago. He has held many roles in various places across the system. First, he was a load planner in Miami, then moved to New Orleans where he was the chief coordinator during Hurricane Katrina. Pete says, "I thoroughly enjoy what I do on a daily basis, working with and assisting customers. I enjoy the people I work with I look forward to coming to work on a daily basis as every day is different at the airport."

He says the Marines taught him how to be professional, treat people with respect and to make quick decisions when necessary. He always goes the extra mile for customers and colleagues.

Thank you for your service, Pete!

Steve Driver, ORD Customer Service Representative

Steve served in the U.S. Army for 20 years from 1976 to 1996. He says, "It was my honor to serve my country. I was very proud to be a part of the U.S. Army and protecting my country. The camaraderie was amazing. The way my unit worked together to complete missions was not like anything I've ever been a part of before. Wearing the uniform gave all of use a sense of pride." He has worked with United for over 23 years and he describes his time as very rewarding. He enjoys working with his coworkers and learning about the industry every day.

Thank you for your service, Steve!

Jim Herrera, ORD Lead Customer Service Representative

Jim Herrera served in the U.S. Marines Reserve from 1976 to 1985. Though he served after the Vietnam war, he saw the impact of that on his fellow veterans. Over time, he has seen a great shift in positive support for veterans and he is very grateful for that. He has been with Untied for over 42 years. He is grateful for the stability his career at United provides for him to do what he loves and raise his family.

Thank you for your service, Jim!

Session Martin, ORD Lead Customer Service Representative

Session served in the U.S. Army for 3 years and 9 months. He says that his time in the service means everything to him. He is proud to have been part of the team and did his duty to preserve our lifestyle in America. "I feel like I owned that to my country. If I had to do it again, I absolutely would," says Session. Even after 51 years at United, Session still says he is having a good time, he enjoys coming to work every day. His favorite part is connecting with the customers and networking with people.

Thank you for your service, Session!

Troy VanderWeyden, DCA First Officer B777

Troy has been flying the Air National Guard for the past 10 years. His missions include aeromedical evacuations, strategic delivery of troops and cargo across the globe, as well as humanitarian aid flights. Five years ago, his lifelong dream was fulfilled when he was hired by United. A special family connection is that his father is also a United pilot, Captain Alan VanderWeyden.

Troy shares, "United is extremely accommodating and appreciative of my and everyone's military obligations and offers endless support. The DCA Flight Operations has a strong relationship with the West Virginia Air National Guard and reflects highly on the Flight Operations folks and our personnel in the unit."

Thank you for your service, Troy!

Scott Kirby, CEO

'No excuses.' Fellow U.S. Air Force Academy grads are familiar with a lesson in leadership that I still apply in my work today.

This simple saying teaches freshmen cadets to take responsibility in solving problems, no matter whose fault it is. At @United I see this mantra in action every single day. Not one United team member caused this current crisis, but we are all 100% focused on solving the impact it has had on our company. Veterans Day is the perfect reminder that the thousands of veterans at our company — including the colleagues in these photos — are part of that charge. It's an honor to have so many veterans in our ranks.

Making our app more accessible for people with disabilities

By The Hub team, October 28, 2020

We're proud to launch a redesigned version of our United app to make it easier for customers with visual disabilities to manage all aspects of day-of travel, including check-in, viewing reservation details and flight status, bag tracking and more.

This latest version of our app is now available to both Android and iOS users, and it offers increased color contrast and more space between graphics. Furthermore, we have reorganized how information is displayed and announced to better integrate with screen reader technologies like VoiceOver and TalkBack, which are built into most handheld devices. By restructuring the way the information is organized on the app, screen readers are better able to convert text to audio in the proper, logical sequence, allowing customers to better understand and navigate the app.

Scroll to top