The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) publishes a wealth of free, colorful brochures and maps covering Tokyo and other cities. These include a tourist map of Tokyo, brochures of popular destinations near Tokyo, and "The Tourist's Language Handbook," a phrase booklet to help foreign visitors communicate with the Japanese.
Japan Online: You can reach JNTO via the Internet at www.jnto.go.jp (and at www.japantravelinfo.com for North American travelers; at www.seejapan.co.uk for British travelers; and at www.jnto.org.au for Australian travelers), where you can read up on what's new, view maps, get the latest weather report, find links to online hotel reservation companies and tour companies, and browse through information ranging from hints on budget travel to regional events. JNTO also showcases local tourism attractions, Japanese cuisine, and other topics on YouTube at www.youtube.com/VisitJapan.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government maintains a website, at www.tourism.metro.tokyo.jp, as does the Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau, at www.tcvb.or.jp. A different perspective is provided by bloggers living in Tokyo at http://tokyo.metblogs.com.
The JNTO Overseas: If you'd like information on Japan before leaving home, contact one of the following JNTO offices.
In the United States: 11 West 42nd Street, 19th Floor, New York, NY 10036 (tel. 212/715-1205; email@example.com); and Little Tokyo Plaza, 340 E. Second St., Ste. 302, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (tel. 213/623-1952; firstname.lastname@example.org).
In Canada: 481 University Ave., Ste. 306, Toronto, ON M5G 2E9, Canada (tel. 416/366-7140; email@example.com).
In the United Kingdom: Fifth Floor, 12 Nicholas Lane, London EC4N 7BN, England (tel. 020/7398-5678; firstname.lastname@example.org).
In Australia: Level 7, 36-38 Clarence St., Sydney NSW 2000, Australia (no phone service; email@example.com).
In Tokyo: JNTO maintains three tourist offices, known as Tourist Information Centers (TICs), in Tokyo and in its airport to handle inquiries from foreigners and the general public about Tokyo and the rest of Japan and to provide free maps and sightseeing materials. You can even make reservations here for inexpensive accommodations throughout Japan at no extra charge.
If you arrive by plane at Narita International Airport, you'll find TICs in the arrivals lobbies of Terminal 1 (tel. 0476/30-3383) and Terminal 2 (tel. 0476/34-5877), both open daily from 8am to 8pm. Otherwise, the main TIC is in the heart of Tokyo at 2-10-1 Yurakucho (tel. 03/3201-3331; station: Yurakucho), within walking distance of the Ginza. It's located on the 10th floor of a rather obscure office building next to Yurakucho Station called the Kotsu Kaikan Building (look for the building's circular top). Assuming you're able to find them, the TIC staff is courteous and efficient; I cannot recommend them highly enough. In addition to city maps (such as the "Tourist Map of Tokyo") and sightseeing materials, the office has more information on the rest of Japan than any other tourist office, including pamphlets and brochures on major cities and attractions such as Nikko and Kamakura. Hours are daily 9am to 5pm.
There's also the new TIC TOKYO, facing the Nihombashi exit of Tokyo Station, at 1-8-1 Marunouchi (tel. 03/5220-7055; www.tictokyo.jp). Open daily 10am to 7pm, it dispenses information on traveling throughout Japan, and books accommodations, tours, and even air tickets.
Another great source of information is the Tokyo Tourist Information Center, operated by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and located on the first floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) Building no. 1, 2-8-1 Nishi-Shinjuku (tel. 03/5321-3077; www.tourism.metro.tokyo.jp; station: Tochomae or Shinjuku). You'll probably want to come here anyway for the great views from TMG's free observation floor. The center dispenses pamphlets, its own city map (which is a great complement to the one issued by JNTO), and handy one-page detailed maps of various city districts, from Ueno to Roppongi. It's open daily 9:30am to 6:30pm. Other city-run information counters are located at Keisei Ueno Station (tel. 03/3836-3471), open daily 9:30am to 6:30pm, and at Haneda Airport (tel. 03/5757-9345), open daily 9am to 10pm.
Tourist Publications: Be sure to pick up Event Calendar at the TIC, a monthly leaflet listing festivals, antiques and crafts fairs, and other events throughout the metropolitan area. Of the many free giveaways available at the TICs, restaurants, bars, bookstores, hotels, and other establishments visitors and expats are likely to frequent, the best is the weekly Metropolis (http://metropolis.co.jp), with features on Tokyo, club listings, and restaurant and movie reviews. Look also for the free Japanzine (www.seekjapan.jp/japanzine) and att.Japan (www.att-japan.net). Weekly entertainment sections on theater, films, and special events are published in the English-language newspapers, appearing on Friday in the Japan Times and on Thursday in the Daily Yomiuri.