Travel

Japan Travel Thread

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  • Jul 20th, 2018 5:09 pm
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Sr. Member
Mar 1, 2016
986 posts
338 upvotes
toronto
as anyone had any experience with purchasing a JR pass in Japan (under the current experiment). I just heard from one of the agent listed under Sri Lanka does not sell the pass, and this is my last stop before Japan (i'm waiting for the other one to reply)
Sr. Member
Mar 1, 2016
986 posts
338 upvotes
toronto
Jereina wrote:
Jan 3rd, 2018 9:05 pm
For the JR pass, you can actually specify which date you want to start using the pass and get reserved seat tickets at the same time if you know which trains you'll be taking

You don't have activate it on the day you want to start riding the trains so in case you pass by one of the major train stations, you can pop in and get the pass before hand so you don't have to lineup in the morning during rush hour

It does get quite busy in the exchange office during the morning and afternoon times

which i highly recommend if you have the possibility. I once had to wait for a later train, because the office wasn't open to exchange my voucher, and there was no other option.
Newbie
May 31, 2006
41 posts
14 upvotes
Coin lockers are available in many major subway/train stations. But really, dragging around 3 bags yourself on such a busy itinerary sounds like a royal pain in the ass. May be easier to have two home bases to travel from. E.g. Osaka as a home base for 1 week and day trip to nearby cities. Then Tokyo as home base for the rest. Only two hotels needed.
Deal Guru
Aug 26, 2002
11040 posts
3412 upvotes
Toronto, ON
yang wrote:
Jan 4th, 2018 9:33 am
Coin lockers are available in many major subway/train stations. But really, dragging around 3 bags yourself on such a busy itinerary sounds like a royal pain in the ass. May be easier to have two home bases to travel from. E.g. Osaka as a home base for 1 week and day trip to nearby cities. Then Tokyo as home base for the rest. Only two hotels needed.
I concur. If you're planning to drive the whole way you could do it with that much luggage as you'll just need to get to the rental car from the airport. But if you're planning to take the train, good luck dragging 2 large luggage and carry ons with you. Train and subway stations are usually elevated from street level so you'll be going up and down stairs a lot. And 3 pieces of luggage for 1 person seems very excessive. You really need to travel light in Japan. If you do insist on travelling with that much luggage, you could also look into sending luggage from one hotel to another by postal service. It's very efficient in Japan and very common for travelers from city to city because it's such a pain to drag luggage onto public transportation.
Deal Addict
Jul 21, 2005
1198 posts
343 upvotes
Your itinerary seems doable. If you are renting, I can get you a name of a rental company that deals with foreigners, just have to ask wife. They have older cars but it's much cheaper. Wife (Japanese) and I rented one for 3 weeks last time and it was very cheap compared to other options. First time I went to Japan was in 2007, at that time some places wouldn't rent to foreigners, at least in Okinawa where we were, so just keep that in mind. Probably lots changed since there. After that time I have been to Japan like 6 times but always used the sister in-laws car, until she got rid of it, so haven't had to rent since until last time. Driving in Japan is fairly calming, aside from the whole "wiper & turn signal" mixup, as they are on opposite sides of a NA car, so you may find yourself wiping your windows when you intend to use a turn signal. Drivers in Japan are fairly slow and most roads are like 50km/h unless you are on a highway. Almost all the highways are toll roads, and $$$$$. You will need a special toll card to make it easier, don't know if rental companies provide those or not, but rental cars will have the special insert for this card. I just used sister in-laws card to do this, otherwise you just have to pay at the booth, most are manned. In Osaka for example, from our inlaws place in Kobe, to get to the airport by car in Osaka you have to take the "same" highway, however it get's offset and you have to exit it and enter it again after a small trip through local roads, and when you enter it again there is an unmanned booth you can pay at, however, if you paid initially to enter the highway, you don't need to pay to enter it again, these types of things make the ETC system much easier to use, you just slow down and drive through.

Regarding this: "2. Kobe? (Don't know if there's enough time for this as it is out of the way)", it's very doable, it's like 11 minutes away by bullet train from Osaka, so if you got a JR pass (highly recommended instead of renting car). First time I went to Japan I went by myself without a word of Japanese. Use http://www.hyperdia.com/en/ to plan all your train travel, trains run down to the second. Enter where you start and where you are going and it will tell you every train along the way.

I did one day in Kyoto, one day in Kobe and one day in Osaka. They are all very close together so super easy to leave in the morning and be there just a short time later.

Yokohama is close to Tokyo, 1 day is fine, that's all I spend there when I went my second time. Tokyo at least 2 days for sure. Hakone is great area for hot springs, book yourself into a ryokan (traditional inn) and enjoy the hot tubs and amazing food. Again, some places don't accept foreigners, but if you find it on expedia or whatever you are good. If you got tattoos you may not be able to go to the hot springs themselves. Most are public (unless you book a private one ) and you are naked..no swimwear allowed in the water.

I have been just about everywhere in Japan at this point with and without the wife, so if you got any question let me know.
Deal Fanatic
Dec 11, 2008
8489 posts
769 upvotes
We did 1-3 cities as hubs and just traveled back and forth daily.

So Tokyo/Osaka were hubs for us, stay at a AIRBNB or someplace cheap and just venture out during the day and go back, no need to drag luggage around unless you transfer to your next hub city.
Deal Addict
User avatar
Apr 24, 2006
3094 posts
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eblend wrote:
Jan 4th, 2018 11:23 am
Your itinerary seems doable. If you are renting, I can get you a name of a rental company that deals with foreigners, just have to ask wife. They have older cars but it's much cheaper. Wife (Japanese) and I rented one for 3 weeks last time and it was very cheap compared to other options. First time I went to Japan was in 2007, at that time some places wouldn't rent to foreigners, at least in Okinawa where we were, so just keep that in mind. Probably lots changed since there. After that time I have been to Japan like 6 times but always used the sister in-laws car, until she got rid of it, so haven't had to rent since until last time. Driving in Japan is fairly calming, aside from the whole "wiper & turn signal" mixup, as they are on opposite sides of a NA car, so you may find yourself wiping your windows when you intend to use a turn signal. Drivers in Japan are fairly slow and most roads are like 50km/h unless you are on a highway. Almost all the highways are toll roads, and $$$$$. You will need a special toll card to make it easier, don't know if rental companies provide those or not, but rental cars will have the special insert for this card. I just used sister in-laws card to do this, otherwise you just have to pay at the booth, most are manned. In Osaka for example, from our inlaws place in Kobe, to get to the airport by car in Osaka you have to take the "same" highway, however it get's offset and you have to exit it and enter it again after a small trip through local roads, and when you enter it again there is an unmanned booth you can pay at, however, if you paid initially to enter the highway, you don't need to pay to enter it again, these types of things make the ETC system much easier to use, you just slow down and drive through.

Regarding this: "2. Kobe? (Don't know if there's enough time for this as it is out of the way)", it's very doable, it's like 11 minutes away by bullet train from Osaka, so if you got a JR pass (highly recommended instead of renting car). First time I went to Japan I went by myself without a word of Japanese. Use http://www.hyperdia.com/en/ to plan all your train travel, trains run down to the second. Enter where you start and where you are going and it will tell you every train along the way.

I did one day in Kyoto, one day in Kobe and one day in Osaka. They are all very close together so super easy to leave in the morning and be there just a short time later.

Yokohama is close to Tokyo, 1 day is fine, that's all I spend there when I went my second time. Tokyo at least 2 days for sure. Hakone is great area for hot springs, book yourself into a ryokan (traditional inn) and enjoy the hot tubs and amazing food. Again, some places don't accept foreigners, but if you find it on expedia or whatever you are good. If you got tattoos you may not be able to go to the hot springs themselves. Most are public (unless you book a private one ) and you are naked..no swimwear allowed in the water.

I have been just about everywhere in Japan at this point with and without the wife, so if you got any question let me know.
Car: thanks, very informative. I will have to look further and choose carefully where to drive then :p I'm 100% will be driving in the Fuji/Hakone area, just that I'm not sure if I'll be driving in the Kansai area. If I have time, I could go to Nara for example.
Are Ryokans available on bookings/expedia as well? As for Kobe, I just tried google maps and it told me an hour travel time, I'm assuming that is with the regular train. Will look into Hyperdia for planning. For the JR passes though, do I need to reserve seats in advance or specify which trains I go onto and when? Seems like an unknown factor for me at this moment as things always change once I'm there.
iEyeCaptain wrote:
Jan 4th, 2018 12:16 pm
Make use of the luggage delivery service between hotels:

http://www.kuronekoyamato.co.jp/en/hand ... index.html

$20 CAD for a large luggage. Drop off at hotel concierge the night before. Next day delivery.
Awesome, exactly what I was looking for!




Thanks all, this is very informative, especially the black cat service!

Will be looking at the JR pass this weekend, but I do wonder as one mentioned, if I just get a 7 day pass for the Kansai area, what about travelling east back to Tokyo as I'll be making a few stops? Just buy a regular ticket?

Another thing is, will I need an IC Suica card and if it works throughout the different cities?
Sr. Member
Aug 31, 2017
729 posts
176 upvotes
I travelled solo and the train system was excellent and user-friendly, and they also had Uber (which is pricey) . But, it sounds like you are keen on the car, so let us know how that goes after your trip.

In terms of hotels - check out Sunroute (Tokyo). I felt that the rooms were nice (small but it's expected) and reasonably priced/located, and staff was friendly.

I also recommend doing a night or two in the capsule (maybe after a night of partying if that's your thing?) - it's also a good place to meet people.

I enjoyed Kyoto/Osaka and did a couple of days in each. Definitely take the bullet train - it's a nice experience and relaxing ride.

My advice, try not to do too much. Enjoy the sights and sounds and go at your leisure. Map out things that interest you and go visit them. I love hiking so I made sure to fit that into my travels when I got there, and everyone was soooo friendly on the trails and wherever I went.

As for the JR Pass - buy at least a month before you leave just to be safe. If it doesn't arrive, at least you can do a chargeback to your credit card.
Deal Addict
Jul 21, 2005
1198 posts
343 upvotes
White Comet wrote:
Jan 4th, 2018 11:21 pm
Car: thanks, very informative. I will have to look further and choose carefully where to drive then :p I'm 100% will be driving in the Fuji/Hakone area, just that I'm not sure if I'll be driving in the Kansai area. If I have time, I could go to Nara for example.
Are Ryokans available on bookings/expedia as well? As for Kobe, I just tried google maps and it told me an hour travel time, I'm assuming that is with the regular train. Will look into Hyperdia for planning. For the JR passes though, do I need to reserve seats in advance or specify which trains I go onto and when? Seems like an unknown factor for me at this moment as things always change once I'm there.


Awesome, exactly what I was looking for!




Thanks all, this is very informative, especially the black cat service!

Will be looking at the JR pass this weekend, but I do wonder as one mentioned, if I just get a 7 day pass for the Kansai area, what about travelling east back to Tokyo as I'll be making a few stops? Just buy a regular ticket?

Another thing is, will I need an IC Suica card and if it works throughout the different cities?
Yes you can find ryokans on Expedia. They will say Ryokan in the name most of the time, but keep in mind, it is expensive, but also all inclusive, in terms of dinner and stuff, at least the ones I have gone to and stayed at. I only stayed two nights max in the various ones we have been too, it's the experience.

Regarding the JR pass, you order it while here (i order mine online, seem to be better rate since you purchase it in JPY, I get mine here multiple times already https://www.japan-rail-pass.com/) and then when you arrive, you can go to the JR office right in the airport and pickup the pass, or any major JR station. If you buy a 7 day pass but you are there for say 14 days, you can choose when it activates, because once the activation date is set, it's valid for 7 consecutive days for unlimited travel. At that same time, depending on how much planning you did, you could get ALL your tickets right away, or just get them later. If you got tickets but missed the train, no worries, who cares, just go get another set of tickets, it's unlimited travel so don't matter. Also don't bother with the Green pass, it doesn't provide you any real benefit other than slightly upscale carriages, but this is japan, everything is clean and feels first class anyways.

And yes, it's 1 hour by local train to Kobe, much faster on bullet train. Just double checked on Hyperdia, it's 12 minutes by bullet train. This is important to note, some stations are called SHIN-OSAKA or SHIN-KOBE for example, because they are Shinkansen (bullet train) stations only, others are mixed, like Tokyo and Kyoto, and from there you would take local train to get to the actual city center etc. SHIN-KOBE station for example is like 2-3 stations away from Sannomiya station, which is like downtown Kobe. There is a cable car right next to SHIN-KOBE station if you want to go up and get great views of the city, I recommend it. Also Merican park is nice to walk around and get do like a boat tour around there.

Going back to JR pass question, if you are in Kansai area and going to Tokyo for example, from SHIN-OSAKA to TOKYO station the bullet train is $14340 JPY one way, which is nearly half the cost of a rail pass for 7 days, so doing a round trip to Tokyo would cost almost as much as the whole pass for 7 days, so keep that in mind, almost always it's more beneficial to get the pass if you plan on doing any long distance travel.

Regarding the IC Suica card, I never used one personally, but then again, I never really used the Metro, and the odd time I did, I just paid directly with cash. If you have a JR pass and it's still active for example when you are in Tokyo, you can just use JR trains for local travel. JR runs two lines that run in opposing directions in a loop around the whole city, and all the major attractions are right on the line, so you could use ur JR pass to get around most places you may want to go while in Tokyo, you just show your pass as you enter the station and the attendant just lets you right through. I don't know about other cities as I usually drove around or walked around. Obviously it isn't a good use for a JR pass, but if it's still active while you are there, why not use it for that additional benefit.
Sr. Member
Dec 9, 2004
938 posts
27 upvotes
Jereina wrote:
Jan 3rd, 2018 8:59 pm

That's a very inefficient way of travelling.
It takes 2.5 - 3 hours roughly to travel one way from Tokyo to Osaka/Kyoto
So in a day you lose about 5-6 hours already just travelling.
Add in the fact that the trains that JR pass holders can take only run once or twice an hour, you're better off staying in Osaka or Kyoto when you're in that part of Japan.
Taking 1pc of checked baggage is fine on the shinkansen. If you're strong enough "most" soft checked luggage will fit on the overhead shelves

One piece of advice for u is to not put in too much activities in one day.
Jereina wrote:
Jan 3rd, 2018 9:05 pm
For the JR pass, you can actually specify which date you want to start using the pass and get reserved seat tickets at the same time if you know which trains you'll be taking

You don't have activate it on the day you want to start riding the trains so in case you pass by one of the major train stations, you can pop in and get the pass before hand so you don't have to lineup in the morning during rush hour

It does get quite busy in the exchange office during the morning and afternoon times
awesome thanks for the info, I guess it's not a huge deal to travel to somewhere like Kyoto and just find somewhere to stay for a night or more if needed.

It's good to know you can specify the activation date. Lots to consider. And I agree that pace is important, better to thoroughly enjoy a few things than rush through a bunch of things. I just feel it's better to overplan and then cut things when you actually go vs underplan and waste time.

Appreciate the answers peeps! If anyone has any other tips feel free to pile em on. And we were leaning toward AirBnB but we're totally unfamiliar with what else is available, and now we have to factor in possibly staying in another city. Just need to factor all of it in I guess.

edit: oh and I know you guys briefly touched on it a couple pages ago but and possibly elsewhere on the thread but how frequent are places that accept something like Visa? Or the recco to just hit up an ATM and use your debit card to get cash. Though I figure it will be important to have some amount on hand for random things that may come up.
Member
Mar 15, 2004
293 posts
33 upvotes
Toronto
And we were leaning toward AirBnB but we're totally unfamiliar with what else is available, and now we have to factor in possibly staying in another city. Just need to factor all of it in I guess.
Lots of options in major cities of Japan. Airbnb is quite popular as well as the hotels. You also have capsule hotels if you want to experience those. Cheaper than hotels but you don't get as much privacy. There are also hostels. I've tried all of them before all are good options in Japan.
oh and I know you guys briefly touched on it a couple pages ago but and possibly elsewhere on the thread but how frequent are places that accept something like Visa? Or the recco to just hit up an ATM and use your debit card to get cash. Though I figure it will be important to have some amount on hand for random things that may come up.
A lot of places accept credit cards nowadays but as always carry cash. Cash is king in Japan. Upscale restaurants, department stores, big box stores will usually accept credit.
Some places are even encouraging you to use credit cards nowadays. Last time I was there in October, Bic camera had this promotion going on where if you use your Visa card for purchases, you get an extra 5% off on top of the 8% off for tax free and any other discounts
Easy to get money from an ATM nowadays so no excuse to not have cash in your wallet when you're in Japan
Sr. Member
Oct 17, 2002
602 posts
20 upvotes
Toronto
Hi All, unfortunately I've only budgeted 1 day for Hakone in an upcoming trip (end of Feb). I'll be traveling from Tokyo (Romance Car) to Hakone and then back to Tokyo (Romance Car).

I’m still debating the Hakone Free Pass since I don’t really plan on doing the entire Hakone ‘Loop’. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I want to take the Romance Car from Shinjuku. I believe the Romance Car travels all the way to Hakone-Yumoto station? From there, I take the cable car to Sounzan?

Question about ropeway… are there 2 or 3 legs/transfers?
1) From Sounzan I take the Ropeway to Ubako.
2) Then from Ubako, I take the Ropeway to Owakudani?
3) Spend some time looking at the sights then take the Ropeway down to Togendai station.

From Togendai station, I guess I can walk around and sight see around Lake Ashi? Now from here, this is where I want to END the loop and head back to Hakone-Yumoto.

1) Can this be done in half a day (ie., finish around 12pm).. I’d like to get back to Hakone-Yumoto by 1 or 2 PM
2) What’s the best way to get back to Hakone-Yumoto? Go back the same way (ropeway to Owakudani – Ubako – Sounzan, then cable car back to Hakone Yumoto, or is there a bus that can take me back from the base of Togendai station to Hakone-Yumoto?)

My plan for the rest of the day is to get lunch and go to Hakone Yuryo and then walk the shops near the station before taking the Romance Car back to Tokyo.
Deal Guru
Aug 26, 2002
11040 posts
3412 upvotes
Toronto, ON
yang wrote:
Jan 3rd, 2018 2:19 pm
Make sure to get your international driver's permit in Canada before going. It takes $35 and a brief visit to a qualified CAA office.
Not sure if other provinces have different prices but in Ontario it's $25 (no tax). I just got my IDP last week. All you need is 2 passport photos and your drivers license. There is a form online that you can use to apply using mail (if there's no CAA office near you).
Jr. Member
Sep 14, 2009
164 posts
32 upvotes
Vancouver
Bought a JR Rail East Nagano/Niigata Pass. Any suggestions for smaller cities that I should consider visiting in the region? So far, I am looking at Matsumoto & Takayama. Thanks.

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