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Japan Travel |OT| One does simply not visit just once

hwalker84

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This thread has now become the official Gafer's visiting Japan question thread.

Below are some resources to help you plan your trip:

Websites
Accommodations
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.
In general, the most expensive time to visit seems to be Dec and Jan close to New Years, April to May, and August.
Try out some of these to compare prices:
Arrival
Narita International Airport (NRT) will most likely be the airport you arrive in if you're going to Tokyo. There's a few ways to get to Tokyo from there:
Currency Exchange
  • Narita Exchange Rate Table - You won't need yen before you go to Japan. The airport generally gives a very decent exchange rate, just go to any of the banks there after you arrive.
Transportation
  • JR Rail - Most likely your main mode of transport, it's very easy to use and gets you around very quickly. Just purchase tickets and go into the station. Trains do NOT run 24 hours, the latest ones are usually around midnight and they start back up around 5:00AM so prepare accordingly.
  • Suica Card - Can be purchased in from the ticket stations, or with the Suica & NEX deal from the airport. Streamlines everything by allowing you to just swipe your card at the entrance and exit (if you know which rails you need to take already). The amount deducted will be calculated automatically based on where you traveled. ¥500 deposit is required and you can add money from almost any ticket station. You can get your deposit back if you return the Suica Card.
  • JR Pass - Available in either a 7, 14 or 21 day pass, this allows you to use any JR rail as much as you want for a number of days. Pretty much an amazing deal if you decide to travel anywhere outside of Tokyo. If you plan to stay within Tokyo, most likely it won't be worth the money.
  • Tokyo Metro Subway - Works just like the JR Rail, might be needed to reach certain areas, e.g., Asakusa.
Data
  • B-Mobile Data Only Visitor Sim - A sim card that allows for data use only, both versions last for 14 days. Very useful for maps on your phone if you get lost or want to pull up your "My Places" of google maps. The sim MUST be purchased online and can either be picked up at the airport or delivered to your hotel.
  • Japan-Wireless
  • Global Advanced Comm
GAF Picture Albums


Credit goes to RapidCancel for the majority of this post
 

Fivefold

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Get a JR pass and do the Tokyo - Kyoto - Osaka - Hiroshima itinerary, if you can, try to postpone your trip late Nov / early Dec so you can see the autumn colors, summer in Japan is kind of a miserable time to travel, its very hot, humid and rains a lot.
 

andymcc

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Get a JR pass and do the Tokyo - Kyoto - Osaka - Hiroshima itinerary, if you can, try to postpone your trip late Nov / early Dec so you can see the autumn colors, summer in Japan is kind of a miserable time to travel, its very hot, humid and rains a lot.
and on top of being hot and humid, the amount of establishments that don't have AC makes it even worse!
 

equap

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I stayed at K's House in Tokyo and Kyoto. pretty nice and clean hostel.

check 'em out.
 

Chao

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Went this February with my gf. We stayed at Sakura jimbocho hotel. It was cheap, included breakfast and free wifi and it was close to subway stations, supermarkets and restaurants.

If you are going to Tokio, subway is the way to move around town, get a suica pasmo card and charge it. I put like 5000 yen for ten days, and I still had like 1500 left at the end. You can transfer between one area to another easily and you won't get lost ever.

If you are going to visit Japan in general you should get a Japan railpass to save on train trips, because trains are fucking expensive.

Food is cheap, you can eat at most places for like 600 yen or less. You can find sushi places (obviously small places) serving 2 pieces of sushi for 150 yen They will always offer you fresh water so you don't even have to pay for a drink.
 

hwalker84

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Get a JR pass and do the Tokyo - Kyoto - Osaka - Hiroshima itinerary, if you can, try to postpone your trip late Nov / early Dec so you can see the autumn colors, summer in Japan is kind of a miserable time to travel, its very hot, humid and rains a lot.
So would most people agree on the November timeframe?
 

sfedai0

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Japan, much like most of Asia, is a cash based society. So assume to pay in cash and utilize the ATM's in 7-11 as those are open 24-7.

JR pass is good if you intend to visit other cities other than Tokyo. If not, you wont need one and you can just ride the Yamanote line to get around the city.
 

gotoadgo

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I recently went there (late January for a couple of weeks with the gf).

Where to stay? If you go anywhere that has a Ryokan(old Japanese style accommodation) I'd recommend doing it for at least one night. Fun experience and they usually have some traditional ceremonies for you to attend as well. We were there for two weeks all up and our itinerary was Osaka(2 nights)->Mount Koya(one night, really pretty and recommended)->Kyoto(4 nights)->Hiroshima(one night, no need for more here as you'll only see the peace park and museum really)->Takayama (one night, really nice little town too but kind of out of the way. Great if you want some Sake)->Tokyo(5 nights, probably too much but depends on what you want to see and do I suppose).

Should I take one of those tours? If so which one? No idea on tours as we travelled everywhere by ourselves.

How would I travel to different cities if I don't take a tour? Train is basically how Japan works. You'll use it a lot so I'd recommend a rail pass for the times you'll be moving large distances, as that's when you want the bullet trains and they're not cheap(we activated ours after Osaka and it lasted until we got in to Tokyo). Once in Tokyo travel is pretty cheap by train.

Etc? Food is cheap despite what the internet says. Sushi is everywhere and the sushi trains are REALLY cheap and awesome. In Kyoto my gf and I found a place called Sushi-Roo and it was 120 yen a plate. We ate there three nights in a row.

Kyoto is a bus town for travelling, Hiroshima uses trams and everywhere else is usually trains.

Don't expect a lot of English speaking natives(we did, we were wrong).
 

Fivefold

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Jul 29, 2011
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There's a lot of information out there since it's pretty much a holy grail destination for nerds but I'll add to this:

Don't expect a lot of English speaking natives(we did, we were wrong).
And say that while you can do relatively fine with just English and a phrasebook, if you know just a bit of Japanese, you'll have so many new doors open to you. For people planning to travel in 6 months or more, I think it's worth to try and learn a bit of the language. While reading and writing are of course a bitch, IMO conversational Japanese is not really that hard - a program like Pimsleur can be easily done in 6 months or so and will make your trip much more enjoyable.
 

gotoadgo

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There's a lot of information out there since it's pretty much a holy grail destination for nerds but I'll add to this:



And say that while you can do relatively fine with just English and a phrasebook, if you know just a bit of Japanese, you'll have so many new doors open to you. For people planning to travel in 6 months or more, I think it's worth to try and learn a bit of the language. While reading and writing are of course a bitch, IMO conversational Japanese is not really that hard - a program like Pimsleur can be easily done in 6 months or so and will make your trip much more enjoyable.
Yeh that's true, luckily I'd studied Japanese in high school and some of it obviously stuck so it helped me to read signs and know what some foods etc were when reading things.
 

lobdale

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Buy a lot of natto, especially if it is summer, and carry it all around in your backpack.
 
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August is bloody hot. I don't recommend it, my sister fainted on her first day visiting me in Kyoto and my gf who is from the country tries to spend summer elsewhere.

Do feel free to ask me anything though, I live in Tokyo and spent a year in Kansai :)
 

hwalker84

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August is bloody hot. I don't recommend it, my sister fainted on her first day visiting me in Kyoto and my gf who is from the country tries to spend summer elsewhere.

Do feel free to ask me anything though, I live in Tokyo and spent a year in Kansai :)
Thanks. I'll probably throw some ideas at you guys in a month or so. You've now all convinced me to go in November. Would the last 3 weeks of November be an ideal time you think?
 

Sigma722

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Get a JR pass and do the Tokyo - Kyoto - Osaka - Hiroshima itinerary, if you can, try to postpone your trip late Nov / early Dec so you can see the autumn colors, summer in Japan is kind of a miserable time to travel, its very hot, humid and rains a lot.
This is what I will be doing this late November. It'll be my second time in Japan. It'll be awesome.
 

Ratba

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If you come I'd do move your way from West to East. Save Tokyo / Kamakura for the end of your trip. I live in Osaka and it's a nice town, but it's definitely nicer to live in than to visit.
 

Fivefold

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Thanks. I'll probably throw some ideas at you guys in a month or so. You've now all convinced me to go in November. Would the last 3 weeks of November be an ideal time you think?
Late november is pretty much the best time to visit, you'll see the autumn colors all over the country, late march/early april is fantastic as well because of the sakura blossoms, but you can always save that for your second trip (and believe me, there will be a second trip).
 

hwalker84

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I think the best time work wise is November 8th - November 30th? Good time?

One question I have is how the hell do I wash my clothes? No way I can pack for 3 weeks!
 
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I think the best time work wise is November 8th - November 30th? Good time?

One question I have is how the hell do I wash my clothes? No way I can pack for 3 weeks!
Some areas might be in 'autumn colours' around then which makes a lot of places beautiful (but busy), you can check online forecasts from previous years to get an idea of which areas are prettiest at which time.

There are plenty of laundromats in Japan, but if you are staying somewhere there's a good chance you can do washing there. I've done washing in cheapo youth hostels a few times.
 

Platy

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A friend is going to japan next month ... does art gaf knows if stuffs like Copic Markers are cheaper there ?
 

Ratrat

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A friend is going to japan next month ... does art gaf knows if stuffs like Copic Markers are cheaper there ?
Around 300 yen I hear.
Edit comparing he prices from copicmarkers.com and amazon.jp I'd say theyre roughly half the price which is insane if your getting say the 72-set...
 

SKINNER!

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Can't speak to tours as I never took one, but the wonderful Ghibli Museum is worth a look, in Mitaka, just outside Tokyo, if you have any interest in the films of Miyazaki. Should be noted tickets need to be arranged beforehand.
Got any idea when's the best time to visit? I'm planning on ordering a ticket for when I head to Tokyo in September.
 

LordCanti

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Suddenly I'm realizing that I could take a two week vacation to Japan for less than $2000 plus the cost of food/souvenirs/train pass.
 

Phoenix4

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Http://www.japan-guide.com is a great resource that helped a lot on our trip from Kyoto to Tokyo through the Japanese Alps last March.

I would definitely recommend Kyoto for the 'old Japan' sights and it's a great city to explore by bike. We rented ours at J-Cycle (do reserve a day in advance)

Also be prepared to carry a lot of cash. Most shops don't accept plastic and our European card was only accepted at ATM's at some convenience stores (7-Eleven) and post offices.

When travelling by train, use the takkyubin (ta-q-bin) service. They delivered our luggage overnight to our the room of our next hotel 200km away for around 10 euro. Don't be the guy with huge suitcases in an extremely crowded train.
 

Fritz

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Http://www.japan-guide.com is a great resource that helped a lot on our trip from Kyoto to Tokyo through the Japanese Alps last March.

I would definitely recommend Kyoto for the 'old Japan' sights and it's a great city to explore by bike. We rented ours at J-Cycle (do reserve a day in advance)

Also be prepared to carry a lot of cash. Most shops don't accept plastic and our European card was only accepted at ATM's at some convenience stores (7-Eleven) and post offices.
That website is super helpful. Thank you!!
 

Kwixotik

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When I went to Amsterdam there was a book called Get Lost!: The Cool Guide to Amsterdam, which focused on modern subcultures and places more interesting to get the feel of everyday life. Does anyone know of a similar guide to Tokyo?
 

jonnyp

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I'd go to Kyoto, Hiroshima and travel Kobe just to try authentic Kobe beef, it was worth every penny!
 

hwalker84

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How's the planning going?
Honestly slow. Work has me swamped all I know is my flight information but haven't planned out each days activities. I arrive in Tokyo at 5pm Saturday November 9th. Wherever I stay I just want to drop my bags and head out asap. Then I want to hit up some awesome Japanese hip hop club. Then see whats up Sunday and move to a new city Monday. Then keep on doing that for a few weeks coming back to Tokyo for the last few days before I leave.

Mufasa you want to go on a 3 week journey with me? Two black men in Japan!
 

FreeMufasa

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Honestly slow. Work has me swamped all I know is my flight information but haven't planned out each days activities. I arrive in Tokyo at 5pm Saturday November 9th. Wherever I stay I just want to drop my bags and head out asap. Then I want to hit up some awesome Japanese hip hop club. Then see whats up Sunday and move to a new city Monday. Then keep on doing that for a few weeks coming back to Tokyo for the last few days before I leave.

Mufasa you want to go on a 3 week journey with me? Two black men in Japan!
Haha yeah, just lemme know when u arrive.
 

hitoman

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I booked a trip for the end of this October through mid November. We're going to do Tokyo-A couple days in Kyoto-A couple days in Hiroshima-back to Tokyo for a week. We're going to get the JR pass and have already booked our hotels. Hasn't been nearly as bad as I thought in figuring things out using various websites. Hiroshima was surprising easy to plan when I searched. Almost got all of our activities down and starting to just figure out which rail to take where. Also you start considering converting money. I meant to do so when the dollar was above 100 yen but didn't and now it's down again :(
 

Biff

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OCD-Travel GAF representing here.

Does anyone have an itinerary they could share? I'm drawing one up in Excel and it would be awesome to see other successful trips as inspiration. The more specific, the better! :D
 

SKINNER!

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Is it wise to get a Japanese interpreter or just try to wing it?
Just learn a few phrases and you'll be fine. Would be awkward having an interpreter follow you around and do all your talking. Like Michael Jackson shopping or travelling in North Korea.


I booked a very similar trip to hitoman's. Couple of days in Tokyo then a couple of days in Kyoto via rail and then spend the last days in Osaka and fly out from there.
 

Formless

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At pretty much every subway station there'll be an officer who either knows a bit of English or should have an English map.
 

marcurius

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I highly recommend ordering a pocket-wifi in advance. You pick it up at the airport and when you're leaving, you just put it in a post box. When I was in Japan this spring three of us used the same wifi without any problems at all, just have to be a little careful with the battery if you use it a lot. Having access to Google Maps wherever you went was indispensable, makes planning any trips inside the country an absolute breeze, since it tells what platforms trains depart from, etc.

It cost 15k yen or so for 12 days.
 

Gromph

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I highly recommend ordering a pocket-wifi in advance. You pick it up at the airport and when you're leaving, you just put it in a post box. When I was in Japan this spring three of us used the same wifi without any problems at all, just have to be a little careful with the battery if you use it a lot. Having access to Google Maps wherever you went was indispensable, makes planning any trips inside the country an absolute breeze, since it tells what platforms trains depart from, etc.

It cost 15k yen or so for 12 days.
You can buy a portable battery and have the pocket wifi running all day. ( I did that with a friend Pocket wifi prior moving to live in Tokyo.)

I also recommend to the OP one of the best places of Gyoza (dumplings) (¥290 6 pieces) in Tokyo

Harajuku Gyoza Lou - 原宿餃子楼.
 

Chao

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I highly recommend ordering a pocket-wifi in advance. You pick it up at the airport and when you're leaving, you just put it in a post box. When I was in Japan this spring three of us used the same wifi without any problems at all, just have to be a little careful with the battery if you use it a lot. Having access to Google Maps wherever you went was indispensable, makes planning any trips inside the country an absolute breeze, since it tells what platforms trains depart from, etc.

It cost 15k yen or so for 12 days.
I believe they are giving free wifi to tourists now, so I guess you don't need to rent those pocket wifi anymore:

http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/indepth/exotic/JapanesQue/special/ntteast.html
 

Desmond

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Hey guys, similarly I'm flying out to Tokushima prefecture on Friday on a two month exchange programme. I just have a quick question regarding average weather there. I've heard it is very warm and humid but does it rain often too? I've only packed shorts/shirts to wear.
 

Antagon

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Hey guys, similarly I'm flying out to Tokushima prefecture on Friday on a two month exchange programme. I just have a quick question regarding average weather there. I've heard it is very warm and humid but does it rain often too? I've only packed shorts/shirts to wear.
Don't worry, if you need jeans just buy them there. Nothing beats a pair of quality Japanese denim anyway.