Sandra Barron


  • Tokyo, Japan, Asia

Sandra Barron is a correspondent who lives in Tokyo and covers the city for Forbes Travel Guide. Barron has worked for the Japanese media both in New York City and Tokyo. She loved the serenity of living in rural western Japan and now thrives on the energy of Tokyo. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNN International, in The Japan Times and in its trend blog, Japan Pulse. She also is contributing to a book about some of Tokyo’s most intriguing hidden destinations.

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  • On July 23, 2013
    Sandra Barron answered the question: Sandra Barron

    What are the best day trips near Tokyo?

    Kyoto is too far for what you have planned in Tokyo, but you still want to get out of town for a fix of ancient temples and shrines. What to do? Hop a train to Kamakura! An hour later, you’ll find yourself a world away amid lush greenery and famously charismatic rickshaw runners. There’s a seated Buddha who’s been sitting since the 1300s, shopping streets lined with handicrafts and traditional snacks, and more temples than you could see in even the most ambitious day out. While they might look similar at a glance, each one has its own treasures and surprises to discover. Don’t miss the cave full of devotional deities at Hasudera or the chance to wash your money for good luck at Zeniarai Benten Shrine.
    Bonus: After temple fatigue sets in, you’re just a short hop from the beaches near Enoshima. Take the Eno-den electric train toward Enoshima station, or get off earlier anytime after you can see the ocean from the train. Shichirigahama is one great, quiet option with a few nice cafes near the beach.
  • On July 22, 2013
    Sandra Barron answered the question: Sandra Barron

    What are the best public baths in Tokyo?

    Spa LaQua is a large-scale bath right in the heart of the city next to Tokyo Dome. There are soothing crystals placed throughout the many baths. There is a rooftop bath, great for catching an evening breeze.

    Oedo Onsen Monogatari has “old Tokyo” as its theme. You pick out a light kimono when you enter and wear it throughout your visit. There’s a large food court and amusement zone with carnival games and strolling entertainers. A river of hot water trickles through a spacious garden, a great place to gather with friends and soak your feet. Spa treatments like the foot-nibbling Dr. Fish and hot stone massages also await. The bath space itself is cavernous and has many different types of baths to try.

    EnoSpa is worth the long ride. There are panoramic indoor baths separated for men and women. EnoSpa also boasts the biggest and most varied mixed bathing area, where everyone lounges together in bathing suits and the robes that are provided. There are two indoor pools, one of which has laser light shows every hour after dark that you watch from inside the pool. Overlooking a bay and, on clear days, Mt. Fuji, is a heated outdoor infinity pool, a jacuzzi, and two pools set into faux caves. There is also a small bar and cafe near the pools. You could bring friends and spend a full day here.

    Finally, for just a few hundred yen, try popping into a neighborhood sento, or small public bath. Look for the distinctive “ゆ” mark. Careful, the water is usually piping hot! This is a great way to step out of your comfort zone and get a glimpse of local life that isn’t often seen by tourists.
  • On July 15, 2013
    Sandra Barron answered the question: Sandra Barron

    What is the best time to visit Tokyo?

    Probably not too much controversy on this one - cherry blossom season is easily the most stunning time to visit. It’s hard to plan for precisely; there are entire websites dedicated to trying to predict when the blossoms will peak. But the last week in March through the first week in April is usually a safe bet. However, every season has its delights in Japan, and no country is more finely tuned to the joys that each season brings than the Japanese. Dozens of varieties of hydrangeas bloom in late spring and early summer throughout the city and all over the temple town of Kamakura a short day trip away. Fall brings fiery red leaves. Winter days tend to be clear and crisp in Tokyo. Snowfall in the city is rare and usually lasts just long enough for people to get out and sculpt a few mini-snowmen before it melts away. Unless you really love the heat or are a glutton for punsihment, mid-summer would be a great time to hit the mountains of Nagano or the beaches of Izu instead of sweating it out in the sweltering city humidity.
  • On June 26, 2013
    Sandra Barron answered the question: Sandra Barron

    What is the best way to see Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo?

    Imagine the crowded intensity of being on the floor of the New York or London Stock Exchange. Now add in knives flying on every side, crates of fish stacked in every direction, and motorized scooters whizzing straight at you whichever corridor you go down. All before dawn. If that sounds like an exciting morning to you, then Tsukiji Market, (or the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market if you’re feeling formal) is a must for your Tokyo itinerary!
    I always suggest that friends pencil it in for the first or second day when jet lag may have you wide awake while the market action is fresh and the daily tuna auction is hopping. It’s possible to visit at a more civilized hour - say, 9, 10 or even 11 - but it’s worth keeping in mind that many of the shops around the market are already finished for the day by early afternoon.
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  • On June 24, 2013
    Sandra Barron answered the question: Sandra Barron

    What are quirky local customs in Tokyo?

    Let’s focus in on an area you might not expect to find cultural differences in Japan: shopping. In Japan, you will never carry a dripping umbrella through a store. Museums and some restaurants will have racks with keys out front where you can lock your umbrella while you’re inside. But many stores will have a contraption out front that you dip your umbrella into, and then pull it out fully sheathed in a plastic bag. Simply discard the wet bag on your way out in the bin attached to the bag dispenser.
    You know you have to take your shoes off when you go into someone’s home and even in some nice restaurants. But did you expect you’d find yourself suddenly barefoot in the middle of a clothing store, even familiar western stores like The Gap? You will take your shoes off when you enter any dressing room, whether it’s simple or opulent. Each stall will have a section that’s raised or carpeted, and that is a no-go zone for shoes. Once inside the dressing room, women will find disposable “head covers,” soft, translucent bags that go over your head as you try on clothes to avoid smearing your makeup on the clothes.
    Finally, at the register, look for a small tray. Place your cash or credit card on this tray instead of handing it to the clerk directly.
  • On June 24, 2013
    Sandra Barron answered the question: Sandra Barron

    Should visitors rent a car in Tokyo?

    There is no reason to rent a car on a trip to Tokyo. The city arguably has one of the cleanest, safest, most efficient public transportation systems in the world. For longer distances, no place makes it easier to get out of town on bullet trains. Taxis, while not inexpensive, are also some of the world’s finest, from the doors that open automatically to the white lace doilies on the seats.
    Even if you are accustomed to driving on the left, learning the traffic signs is not a project to be undertaken lightly, not to mention dealing with emergency vehicles that broadcast instructions in Japanese from loudspeakers as they pass with sirens on. As you’re planning your trip, instead of thinking about renting, choose a hotel that gives you plenty to do within walking distance. If you’re in any of the major districts, this will be snap. And use the money you would have spent on a rental on a few decadent wee-hours taxi rides after the last train has already left!
  • On June 23, 2013
    Sandra Barron answered the question: Sandra Barron

    What are the best water activities in Tokyo?

    There may be more exciting or more relaxing water activities in Tokyo, but there is no water activity with a better story than the swan boats in Inokashira Park. But paddle at your own risk! It is said that the small lake in the park is inhabited by a jealous female spirit who doesn’t like to see happy couples. Couples who boat on the lake together, the story goes, are bound to break up soon after. Care to test your luck? Take the Chuo Line west of the city from Shinjuku to Kichijoji and follow the masses through a pleasant shopping street and down a wide set of steps to the park. Take a few minutes to admire the weeping willows and the artists and musicians who hang out in the park, and then walk across the low footbridge to the far side of the lake where the boats are. They don’t cost much to ride — at least financially! If you want to play it safe, there’s a lovely walking path around the lake, too.
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  • On June 21, 2013
    Sandra Barron answered the question: Sandra Barron

    What are the best neighborhoods in Tokyo?

    There’s plenty out there about Shibuya and Roppongi — let’s take a look at a couple of the slightly smaller neighborhoods. Kichijoji is on the Chuo line, west from Shinjuku, and has a funky, fun vibe. Walk down a laid-back street full of second-hand shops in Kichijoji to get to the beautiful Inokashira Park, with lots of space to relax and a lake with pedal boats. Fans of Japanese anime will love the Ghibli Museum. The yakitori (skewered chicken) at the two Kichijoji outposts of Iseya has been loved for decades.
    Head to Daikanyama on a sunny Sunday for brunch or coffee, and enjoy the slightly arty, Euro-inflected ambiance. There are record stores and galleries among the high-end clothing stores. T-site is a luxury book and record store perfect for whiling away an afternoon, with a gorgeous cafe/bar to retreat to as evening falls. And surprise, New Yorkers: This is where Italian food import emporium Eataly got its international start.
  • On June 17, 2013
    Sandra Barron answered the question: Sandra Barron

    What are the best boutique hotels in Tokyo?

    The Claska must make any list of Tokyo’s boutique hotels. It’s as up-to-the-minute stylish on the inside as it is deceptively bland on the outside. Clean lines and fresh materials with a modern Japanese feel are the rule. There are even rooms designed with the playful, idiosyncratic touch of local designers for a more personalized feel.
    Granbell  can’t be beat for location or style. Staying right in the middle of Shibuya means you don’t have to worry about rushing back for the last train. Rooms are cleverly designed to maximize space, and all feature quirky designer touches, like unexpected fabric and wall decor pairings.
    The Agnes Hotel is tucked away in a residential part of Kagurazaka, a wonderful old traditional neighborhood that combines kimono shops with creperies and wine bars. This is a quiet retreat that boasts a homey feel for short or long-term visitors.
  • On June 13, 2013
    Sandra Barron answered the question: Sandra Barron

    What should I pack for a trip to Tokyo?

    You’ll want to be comfortable, as walking is a wonderful way to see the city, but keep in mind that locals tend to dress up a bit more as they go about daily life. It’s rare to see people in sweats and sneakers outside of the gym. Err on the side of covering up a bit if you want to minimize funny looks: Women wear barely-there shorts, but are likely to pair them with tights and conservative necklines.

    Twenty-four hour convenience stores are everywhere and they’re great for picking up just about any small thing, including socks, underwear, make-up and toiletries you might have forgotten. However, many of them do not have the simple cold and headache remedies you might want in a pinch. Best to have these with you. You’ll also want to make sure you have whatever brand of deodorant, toothpaste and other personal care items you prefer - local varieties are just different enough for some travelers not to like them. If you’re traveling during rainy season in the early summer, you’ll want to have some stylish rain gear with you!
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