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Japan Trip Report: Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya and Hiroshima

Travel Forums Asia Japan Trip Report: Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya and Hiroshima

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1. Posted by GregW (Travel Guru 2635 posts) 10y

Just got back from 2 weeks touring Japan. I spent 1 week in Tokyo, and spent 1 weeks burning up the rails using my Japan rail pass to see the temples in Kyoto, baseball in Osaka, sumo in Nagoya and a short trip to see Hiroshima.

I was a little scared in heading to Japan because a lot of what I read and had heard indicated that it was REALLY expensive. But when I got there and started to figure stuff out, it wasn't so bad. It's not going to compare in cheapness, of course, to the fabled $3 a day South-East Asia stories that I've heard, but I think it's reasonable to find a way to get by on $50 to $60 a day, maybe $80 to $100 a day to see some sights and catch a ball game.

The biggest cost is accomodation. The cheapest I found was $20 a day, but usually had to spend closer to $40 a day. Food wasn't bad, clocking in at around $20 - $30 a day, but I'm a big eater and lighter eaters could get by on less.

Anyway, if you're interested, please feel free to check out all my advice (almost 5,000 words worth!), which I collected in a single blog entry about my trip. Also, feel free to post any questions here in this thread, or in the comments of the blog.

Cheers all!

2. Posted by Cupcake (Travel Guru 8468 posts) 10y

Greg! Thank you! I have been following along with your blog as my son is seriously considering moving to Japan when he finishes college. I sent him a link to your blog. He thought it was great! He said he has got more information on Japan from TP (and you! :) ) He called it "real info" not the stuff you see in ads! So again, thank you!

3. Posted by damsler (Budding Member 2 posts) 10y

Hi Greg,

i'm looking at touring tokyo, kyoto (nara and himeiji) very soon next month in Aug. Could you share with me your research and experience specifically the accommodation that you stayed at, as well as if it's more economical to get the JR rail pass.


4. Posted by ggithens (Full Member 5 posts) 10y


Just joined Travellerspoint and I thought I'd give my .02 on a Japan trip after living here in Japan for the past year. Travelling is expensive as mentioned, but I think the quality of sites is overwhelming. Kyoto alone is worth the trip from any corner of the globe here in my opinion.
The JR rail pass is definitely worth it if you fly in Tokyo and go to Hiroshima and back alone. This would not even include stopping along the way or going to Shikoku or Kyushu. There is a website to calculate any train trips.
The 7 day pass is 28,000 and the 14 day pass is 45,300

I would plan a 2 week trip and just buy the 14 day pass. You could start in Tokyo and get all the way down to Kyushu and then backtrack into Chubu, hitting the Mts before ending your trip.
Highly recommeded out of the way places - Takayama in Gifu-ken. Gorgeous mt. town. Matsumoto in Nagano-ken. Similar to Takayama bus less authentic. These towns are nestled on either side of the N. Japan Alps which offer some stunning views and great hiking. Check out Kamikouchi, you have to take a bus there not covered on the pass, but it has some great onsen and is the base for the best hiking.
Please let me know if you have any other recommendations.

5. Posted by GregW (Travel Guru 2635 posts) 10y

damsler - I'd refer you to a couple of paragraphs in my blog

For the accomodation, it can be expensive, but You do need, though, to put some thought into it and think ahead. Just showing up in a place and walking up to a hotel isn’t a great approach. Firstly, not all places accept foreigners. Secondly, it’s hard to know what the rates for hotels will be judging by their looks. I just showed up at a hotel in Tokyo, and ended up spending ¥18000 (US$ 180) a night.

To avoid that, book ahead. You don’t need to book to far in advance (even day before or day of), but it’ll help. Use multiple sources to book ahead. The TIC can book places using the Welcome Inn Reservation Center, and got me a great deal on a place in Kyoto for ¥4000 (US$ 40) that usually charges ¥7000 a night. Also, I found a place on the travellerspoint site for ¥2100 ($US 21) a night. And, of course, there’s always the fall back of the capsule hotel, which run around ¥2500 - ¥4000 depending on the location (not an option for the female backpackers, though, as women are not allowed).

For the rail pass (and as g33shag mentions above), The best deal in Japanese travel is the JR Rail pass. The JR rail pass allows unlimited travel on any Japan Rail service for a period of time (either 7, 14 or 21 day). It is only available to international travellers on a tourist visa, and must be purchased overseas. You will be given an exchange order, and upon arrival in Japan, the exchange order can be exchanged for a JR Pass (once they see your passport and visa type). The 7 day pass is ¥28300 (US$ 280). Even if you are just planning on travelling between Tokyo and Kyoto (the two most popular destinations in Japan), the pass will almost be paid off. Any additional side trips and the pass is paid for.

g33shag - thanks for the additional information.

[ Edit: Edited at Jul 19, 2006 5:48 AM by GregW ]

6. Posted by ggithens (Full Member 5 posts) 10y

I omitted one very important piece of info. The best website for answers on Japan is
Almost any question you have is already answered or will be expeditiously by Japanese nationals who can read kanji on the websites. Search for anything and look into the forums. There are also detailed descriptions of many great places to travel.

7. Posted by damsler (Budding Member 2 posts) 10y

Thanks Greg and g33shag.

I was actually considering buying this Seishun-Kippu 18 5-day pass, which is only available during the summer period (aug) that costs Yen 11,000. Like the JR rail pass, it offers unlimited rides and can be shared by as many passagers as possible. The minus of this pass is that travel on bullet trains (shinkansens) are not applicable. Therefore, a lot more time is spent on commuting. Only local rapid/limited express trains are allowed. Certain overnight nagara trains from Tokyo to Osaka/Hiroshima are included though.

Will this pass be a better value buy?

PS: Have anyone of you climb MT Fuji overnight to reach the summit and watch the sunrise? I'm planning to and wanna find out how tough is it gonna be and if the view is breathtaking:)

8. Posted by GregW (Travel Guru 2635 posts) 10y

I didn't see either Nara or Himeji, but they are both close to Kyoto and so you'd be taking a local train to them anyway (assuming you are using Kyoto as a base). Therefore, the only big ride will be the Tokyo-Kyoto (and, assuming you are leaving out of Tokyo, the return trip). So the question just becomes if you want to do a 9 hour trip versus a 3 hour trip. With the Shinkansen, you can still get more than half a day in your destination, wherease the 9 hour local trains means that you lose a day travelling, and pretty much are just arriving in your destination to eat dinner and sleep.

Is losing two days of sightseeing worth a savings of 17300 yen? If you don't have much money, or have lots of time, then I would say yes. If you don't have much time and have the money, then I would say no.

9. Posted by Gelli (Travel Guru 2457 posts) 10y

I was actually considering buying this Seishun-Kippu 18 5-day pass, which is only available during the summer period

It's actually available during other holidays as well, but the summer is the main period. If you have a bit of time in Japan (i.e. you are there for longer than 3weeks), yes, it is a great deal. Sure you take more time to travel, but a bit of planning and you can go along way. There a a couple (not many) of night routes that you can use it with as well (Ditto the JR pass), and you REALLY want to find out which ones yuou can use on it and take advantge. Trips like Osaka - Tokyo take about 8hours, but are dead easy and require no planning. Trains are so frequent that it's easy.

I only had time for one Seishun Kippu (i was travelling around Japan for 3mths, but only got there at the end of August), but I used that to get from Nagasaki to Tokyo in 5 days, stopping off on the way.

The JR pass is certainly great value for Japan (i spent a mad 3weeks going to all corners to get to the trickier more obscure places, and planned it so i could use night trains and save there as well. I didn't waste a single day, but then I didn't need to see major sites with it), whilst buses aren't bad - but take time - and ferries can be ludicrously cheap for no apparent reason. Hitchhiking in teh country, and the whole of Japan North of the Northern Tokyo suburbs is quite easy, although be aware that different techniques are needed than in teh rest of the world. And for a single female, it's not really recomended

Cheap hostels are available in Tokyo and Kyoto, but elsewhere can be very expensive (the official hostel in Hakodate, for example, was over 4000yen), but things like can get you free accom and meet locals/locally based people, whilst 24hour comic/internet centres (with free drinks, internet, showers and reclining leather couches) always have a night package which can be great value, especially if you aren't a fussy sleeper.

10. Posted by arch_tr (Budding Member 4 posts) 10y

Quoting damsler

Hi Greg,

i'm looking at touring tokyo, kyoto (nara and himeiji) very soon next month in Aug. Could you share with me your research and experience specifically the accommodation that you stayed at, as well as if it's more economical to get the JR rail pass.