Japan Travel |OT| We have to go back

#1
The living in Japan thread is over here!




Below are some resources to help you plan your trip:

Websites

Accommodations

A lot of Japanese hotels and hostels usually release rooms 5-6 months before, so if you search for places to stay too early, a lot of places might not have released rooms yet.

Airline Tickets
There's tons of websites available for this, I would check as many websites as you can, as well as the specials on specific airliner websites. Use a private window to do flight searches!
In general, the most expensive time to visit seems to be Dec and Jan close to New Years, April to May, and August.
Depending on what country you travel from you could check prices from nearby airports which are bigger hubs than your local airport since it could be cheaper. Booking mid-week flights might also be cheaper than travelling during the weekend if possible.
When to book the tickets depends, but usually you should try to book at least 3 months before travel, and it's often better if you book 5-6 months in advance if possible.
Try out some of these to compare prices:
  • Google
  • Kayak
  • TripAdvisor
  • SkyScanner
  • Priceline Priceline sometimes got results for the US that doesn't show up on other search sites for some reason.
  • FlightFox FlightFox is a tad different than the others. You basically pay a small fee and travel agents will compete with each other to find you the best price.

Arrival

In Tokyo you'll either arrive at Narita (NRT) or Haneda (HND). Haneda is closer to Tokyo, so if the flight prices are similar, then Haneda should be your first choice.

Ways to get into Tokyo from Haneda (HND):
  • Monorail: If you got the JR Pass or you're staying at a place close to an JR Station, then use the monorail.
  • Keikyu train: If you're planning to use the subways or you're staying close to a subway station then taking the Keikyu train might be a good choice. You can get various discount tickets for Keikyu + Subway.
  • Bus: If you're arriving really early or late, then taking a bus might be your only choice. It's might also be a good choice if you're staying outside of central Tokyo since there's direct buses to various locations in and around Tokyo. Check the bus information here.
  • Taxi: If you want to waste 10K JPY, then go ahead!
Ways to get into Tokyo from Narita (NRT):
  • NEX: If you got the JR Pass or you're staying at a place close to an JR Station outside of north-eastern Tokyo, then the NEX should probably be your first choice. If you're staying for 14 days or less and you're both arriving and leaving from NRT, then you can get a discount round-trip ticket. There are also the cheaper and slower JR Sobu trains, but there's not a lot of these. If you want to take a cheaper and slower train, the Keisei main line trains are better.
  • Keisei Skyliner: If you're staying in the north-eastern parts of Tokyo (Nippori, Ueno, Asakusa, etc) or near a subway station, then using the Keisei Skyliner is a good choice since it'll be faster than taking the NEX. You can get online discount tickets (both one-way and round-trip), or Skyliner + Subway tickets. There's also the cheaper and slower Keisei main line trains of which there are around 3 trains an hour. You might need to change trains at Aoto station if you take the main line trains.
  • Bus: Various buses go to a lot of locations both in and around Tokyo. Check the bus information here. Of particular interest would be the discount buses going to Tokyo station for just 1000 JPY like Keisei Tokyo Shuttle and Access Narita.
  • Taxi: Even worse than taking a taxi from Haneda. Feel free to waste 20K JPY though!

If you're arriving in Osaka or Kyoto area then you'll most likely arrive at Kansai International (KIX):
  • Haruka: The most useful train from KIX to either Osaka or Kyoto is the JR Haruka train. An obvious choice if you got the JR Pass. If you don't have the JR Pass, then the Icoca & Haruka package is a good deal. There's also slower trains, but they're not that much cheaper if you get the Icoca & Haruka package. If you're staying near one of the JR stations on the Osaka loop line between Tennoji and Osaka, then it might be something to consider though.
  • Rapt: If you're staying near the Namba/Dotonbori area in Osaka then the Rapt train is a good choice. There's various discount tickets available too. If you're going to Kyoto, then you should take the Haruka instead, unless you know how the trains work in Japan. There's also slower trains, but they're not that much cheaper if you get one of the discount tickets.
  • Bus: Various buses go to several locations all around the Kansai area. Check the bus information here.
  • Taxi: More money wasted. From 13K-30K to Osaka or Kyoto.
There's also Fukuoka Airport (FUK) near Fukuoka and Centrair/Chubu (NGO) near Nagoya of the big international airports in Japan.


Money

Even if there's more places accepting credit cards now, Japan is still a cash first society (and IC cards second, more about that later). 7-11 ATMs are your best choice to withdraw money. Japan Post ATMs are also good, but post offices got shorter opening hours than most 7-11s. AEON mall ATMs will also accept international cards if you find yourself in one of their shopping malls. Other convenience store chains like Family Mart and Lawson are also rolling out international ATMs, but rollouts will not be finished until the 2020 Olympics, so it's hit and miss outside the big cities. Most other ATMs will NOT work with international cards!

It's best to either exchange some money to last 2-3 days before you go to Japan or at the airport when you arrive in Japan, depending on your currency (USD, EUR and other common currencies might have better rates at the airport in Japan, while less common currencies are better exchanged in your own country), and then use a credit card to withdraw money as you need it from ATMs if you got a card with low withdrawal and currency exchange fees.


Transportation

Use Hyperdia and Google Maps to do route planning when travelling around using trains and subways. For Kyoto buses, check out these bus maps.
  • JR Pass: This is the most useful rail pass if you're going to travel between Tokyo and Hokkaido or Tokyo->Kyoto->Hiroshima->Tokyo or similar distance within a 7 day period. For a 14 or 21 day pass, you should be going on multiple such trips for it to pay off. If you're only going on a round trip between Tokyo and Kyoto/Osaka it will not pay off, neither will it pay off if you're just staying in one area, like Tokyo. You can buy it online from either JRPass or Japan-Rail-Pass, whichever is cheaper wherever you're located at. There's also various regional Japan Rail passes, which may or may not be useful if you're just traveling within one region. The JR Passes only works on JR transportation (with some exceptions and exclusions), Some of the major things it will not work on are any subways or trams, Kyoto buses, non-JR trains run by other companies like Keisei, Seibu, Keihan, Keio, Hankyu, etc.
  • Japan Bus Pass: A cheaper option for travelling far distances while in Japan is to get a bus pass. With this you can take overnight buses and save money on places to stay if you're able to sleep while on a bus. You can get 3,5 and 7 day versions of this pass.
  • Discount flights: If you're only going one way or travelling extra long distances between cities far away from each-other then you could look into taking cheap domestic flights. Cheap airlines includes Peach, Jetstar, Skymark and Vanilla. You can get tickets with prices as low as 3-4000 JPY, but remember to account for extra fees and luggage cost and the transport to/from the airports. Some of the airlines doesn't put flights up for sale until a few months before. As a foreign tourist you can also get cheap tickets with JAL and ANA, so you should never have to pay more than 10800 JPY for a flight in Japan.
  • IC Cards: There are several IC cards that are compatible with each-other that allows you to do travel on trains, subways, buses, trams and other such things in a lot of big cities. If you're arriving in Tokyo you can either get the Suica or Pasmo card. In Kyoto/Osaka you can get the Icoca card (check out the Icoca & Haruka package info above if you're arriving at KIX). These cards work on both JR and non-JR transport, so they'll work with subways and non-JR trains run by other companies like Keisei, Seibu, Keihan, Keio, Hankyu, etc. These cards can also be used at most convenience store chains, some vending machines, some stores and restaurants, so you should be getting one of these cards even if you get an JR Pass! The cards will be valid 10 years from the last time you used it, so you can use it on the next trip to Japan as well ;P
  • Kyoto Bus Pass: In Kyoto the bus pass is the most useful transportation card. These cards costs 600 JPY and will get you to all the most usual tourist attractions. Since 1 bus ride costs 230 JPY it makes sense to make use of the bus passes instead of just using IC cards. Download the pdf version of the bus map here and study it before you go. They've also lowered the price of the Kyoto Subway + Bus Pass now to 900 JPY. There's only 2 subway lines in Kyoto though, but you could save some time by taking the subway if you're going from Kyoto station up to the northern parts of Kyoto.
  • Osaka Amazing Pass: If you plan to sightsee a lot in Osaka, then an Osaka Amazing Pass might be useful if the attractions you can visit with this pass sounds interesting.

Luggage Delivery
If you're doing a lot of traveling between different cities, or from/to the airport and you don't want to carry your luggage around all the time then you could try using one of the overnight luggage delivery services, like Yamato or Sagawa. These costs from around 2000 JPY for each suitcase. There are some things to note though:
  • It's best if each of your luggage items got total dimensions of less than 160 cm and weight of 25kg each (most airlines got similar restrictions to that anyway) or you might not be able to ship them for cheap/at all depending on the company.
  • Luggage delivery is easiest to do if you're staying at normal hotels because they can usually help you with both sending and receiving luggage. Other places like certain business hotels, hostels and AirBnB places might not be able to help you out, but in any case you should contact the place you're staying and ask if they can help you if you're planning on sending stuff or to make sure they allow you to ship items to them.
  • If the place you're staying at can't help you, then you could possibly send and receive luggage at service counter locations instead. Check the Yamato site for locations. You can also send items from convenience stores, but unless you know Japanese, it's better to stick to those service counter locations.
  • If you're planning on sending luggage to the airport then it will take more than 24 hours to do, so you should send items at least 36-48 hours in advance to be safe! Overnight delivery will most likely not be possible to more remote locations like Hokkaido or islands like Okinawa either.
  • If you're visiting Hakone, then they have a special delivery service for luggage at Hakone-Yumoto station which delivers your luggage to/from hotels in the nearby area that's cheaper than normal luggage delivery services. Check out this site for more info.

Data
The best way to browse the internet on the go in Japan is to rent a WiFi device (unless you got free/cheap roaming with your cell phone provider). The WiFi devices gives you a lot more data than rental/one time use sim cards. Some of the best options for WiFi devices are:
Wherever you rent from make sure to check all the details! Some companies who say they provide 'unlimited data' aren't telling the whole truth since most of them restrict data speeds to 128kpbs after a certain amount of GB used.


Itinerary

Suggestions for itineraries for first time visitors to Japan:
  • For a 1 week trip or less: Stay in 1 area and do not get an JR Pass since it would be a waste of money. If you're going to Tokyo, you can take a day trip to Kamakura to get the feeling of old Japan. For onsens you can visit Hakone or Nikko, and in Hakone you might also get a good view of Mt. Fuji. If you're going to Kyoto or Osaka, then the other city is just 30 minutes away from the other, so visit both of those. Nara, Uji and Kobe are other interesting cities near Kyoto and Osaka you can visit.
  • For closer to a 2 week trip: Spend about 1 in the area you're arriving at (Tokyo or Kyoto/Osaka) and then another full week with a 7 day JR Pass with a day or overnight trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima and visiting the other big area (Kyoto/Osaka or Tokyo).

Language

You can get around Japan without knowing any Japanese at all! All train stations in the big cities got English signs, same with areas around tourist attractions. A lot of restaurants got English menus, menus with pictures of the dishes so you just have to point at what you want, or displays outside the restaurant with plastic models of the dishes you also can point at. No need to be afraid to go even if you can't speak any Japanese. Keep calm and visit Japan! I've been there several times without knowing Japanese. Even in really rural places! You can also download Google Translate and the offline Japanese language pack on your phone.


Best time to go

The best time to go depends on where in Japan you're travelling to, but usually the best months are March-mid-May (try to avoid Golden Week though!) and mid-September-November for pleasant weather in the usual tourist cities. June-mid-September should be avoided due to the rainy season, the hot and humid weather otherwise and most of the typhoon season. Hokkaido might be more pleasant if you go during summer though.

Cherry blossoms usually bloom in in the last week of March/first week of April in Tokyo and Kyoto/Osaka. If you're planning to climb Mt. Fuji, then you have to go during July-mid-September when it's climbing season. You can find the exact Mt. Fuji climbing season dates and useful into on the official website. The Sapporo Snow Festival is held in the beginning of February.


Attraction tips
For the Ghibli Museum you can now get tickets onlinehere. The tickets will be put online on the 10th at 10:00 JST the month before (so at January 10th 10:00 JST for February tickets, etc.). You will need to be online at the moment the tickets go up if you want some since they usually sell out within a few hours. These online tickets are from a separate ticket lot from Japanese tickets. The Japanese tickets sell out much slower, so if you got somebody you know in Japan, then it's best if you can get them to buy some for you, except for July and August when Japanese tickets are sold in a ticket lottery. In certain countries you can also get tickets from JTB. These are put up on the 1st of each month 3 months in advance (so tickets for all of April will go up on January 1st, etc), but they're also more expensive than online or Japanese tickets. If you're desperate and tickets are sold out both online and from JTB, then you could try the expensive Japanican tour: https://www.japanican.com/en/tour/detail/GDT1J01901MMS/

For Disneyland or DisneySea check this crowd calendar and try to find a less busy day. Weekends are usually the worst days to go. Buy your tickets online, so you don't have to first wait in line to get tickets and then wait in another line to get into the park. If you actually want to ride the rides in the park, then you should plan your visit! Check this page for info about fast passes and there's info about what rides there are in each park, which ones are most crowded and which ones do single rider here: Disneyland and DisneySea. If you plan to do Monsters Inc or Pooh’s Hunny Hunt in Land or Toy Story Mania or Tower of Terror in Sea on a crowded day, then prepare to run, run and run some more!



Picture Albums



The living in Japan thread is over here!
 
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#3
Gah, you beat me :)

I was in the middle of writing up an OT.

Note for newbies going to Japan for the first time, when you visit an onsen as a general rule though, no matter how drunk or bi your travel partners are, do not enter the opposite gender bath area.
 
#4
If you want your image albums in the OP let me know so. Didn't copy those links over since people might change usernames or not join us here
 
#8
MikeHattsu you made it my good man. I'm so happy. You aren't on the K-On! Discord so I thought maybe you are lost while in Japan...

It's great that you're here.
 
#12
Sorry that this post it isn't exactly about travelling to Japan, but does anybody have any idea about a Learning Japanese thread? Thanks!

EDIT: Sorry, just spotted it while scrolling through the forum another time. Ignore this lol
 
#13
Nice, I was hoping this thread would be remade quickly. Maybe it's a little obsessive but I ended up reading every post in the last thread a few weeks ago. I hope to help repopulate the photo albums list when I go.
 
#14
Cool. Added.


Quick and dirty edit:
Pffft


MikeHattsu you made it my good man. I'm so happy. You aren't on the K-On! Discord so I thought maybe you are lost while in Japan...

It's great that you're here.
It's all about Line ;p
 
#29
First time posting in this community cause I've never been to Japan and I won't be going until Fall of 2019, but the old thread was such an incredible resource that I was scared of losing access to that I actually ended up archiving the whole thing before the'ol site went down. Incredibly happy to see that it's already up and running over here. :)
 
#30
I just got back from my honeymoon a couple of weeks ago - two weeks in Japan followed by a week in Singapore.
The wife and I had a properly fantastic time.

We stayed at an AirBnB in Shinjuku for a week - visited what feels like a tiny fraction of what there is to see in Tokyo - Asakusa, Harajuku, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Nakano, Akihabara. We also took a day trip to Hakone which was fantastic & visited both Disney and Disney Sea.

After that, we got the shinkansen to Kyoto where we spent a couple of days seeing some of the shrines and the castle (and had the best meal of our trip at a restaurant you'll find on Tripadvisor called Okonomiyaki Katsu - tiny place run by a couple in their kitchen. Bit of a hassle to get to but worth it tenfold)

We then nipped across over to Osaka & visited Universal Studios, the aquarium & took a day trip to Hiroshima which may have been the most sobering day of my life.


Loved Japan so much & I desperately want to go back. The food was amazing, the people were lovely, Tokyo might be the most fun & interesting city I've ever been to & what we saw of rural Japan (very little as we passed it) was gorgeous.

We'll definitely be going back in a few years for another week in Tokyo and maybe a week of seeing life outside the cities.
 
#31
Glad to have this community back.

My girlfriend and I visited Tokyo in April of this year and absolutely loved it. So much so that we’re planning to go back in May of 2018. Thanks for all you do, Mike. You and everyone else in this thread are a tremendous resource.
 
#33
Welcome to the club. Glad you enjoyed your stay.
It's sort of not fair though. I only wanted some fucking noodles, not to fall in love with the place.


We only actually decided to do Japan because I just read Pretty Good Number One: An American Family Eats Tokyo and already being pre-disposed to the little Japanese food I'd had (various sushi restaurants and a mild Wagamama obsession) it sent me over the edge.


Anyone who cares about food I recommend to read that book. It's a proper love letter to Tokyo framed by the food culture there.
 
#38
Thanks. So as an Austrian I could buy Austrian goods in Japan for a probably much higher price than home? Sounds intriguing. :D

Probably one of those spots that are nice to see while doing something else in an area.
 
#39
Haha yeah, they're selling expensive Mozartkugeln and stuff like that, so nothing special. We just stumbled upon it by accident when we walked through the embassy quarter and went inside the small shop. It's always funny to see how your country is represented somewhere else.
 
#40
Glad to see this thread made the jump to era. Me and my sister are going to Japan in May after golden week and I'll need advice as the itinerary is finalized. My coworker is in Japan right now on his honeymoon, I'm curious to hear how everything went, especially since they were there during the typhoon
 
#47
Never posted in the other thread, but just stopping by to say that I'm enjoying my "visit" to Japan.

I've been here for 1 year, and got 2 more left.
 
#48
My wife would like to see some more rural places but I am very worried about the language barrier. We made it through the cities by ordering off English menus, pointing to things and saying futatsu, and some pleases, thanks, and excuse mes. We have seen Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. I've poured through the Japan Guide site looking for places that aren't huge cities but also may have a tiny bit more English than rural Japan and have come up short. Where would you recommend someone who doesn't know the language but has been to the most popular cities already go? Maybe a few weeks exploring Hokaido? Hiroshima and surrounding areas? We loved Arashiyama and I've wondered about starting there then just exploring north and west. Places close to Kyoto are interesting because I proposed there so we likely will want to return.

Thanks in advance, I know this is a bit rambling.
 

AJx

Banned
Member
#49
Has anyone been to both Okinawa and Hawaii? How do they compare, weather wise? Obviously the culture will differ and is the most important aspect. Just curious to hear a comparison from a well traveled person.
 
#50
Has anyone been to both Okinawa and Hawaii? How do they compare, weather wise? Obviously the culture will differ and is the most important aspect. Just curious to hear a comparison from a well traveled person.
I am from Hawaii and spent a couple of weeks in Okinawa a few years ago.

The vibe between the two places is similar in a lot of ways. Hawaii is as different from the mainland as Okinawa is from the rest of Japan, and especially once you get out of Naha it feels a lot like driving on one of the neighbor islands.

I was there in September and I think it felt hotter and more humid there at that time than Hawaii. But the climate is probably not too different.
 
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