Hello! My husband and I are trying to plan a honeymoon trip in Japan for a month or longer if we can. Some things I wasn't sure about as we're researching and wondering if anyone can help.
How useful is it to have a Japan Rail Pass? Would we still need to get other ones if we're traveling around the country? And if we're staying longer then 21 days, can it be extended?
Laundry- everything I read was to pack light, any suggestions on laundry if we're not staying at hotels but ryokans instead? I doubt I could wash it in a sink and let it dry...
What are the top places to go? For now we are planning on Tokyo and Kyoto for sure. Also a side trip to Studio Ghibli Musuem.
Thanks in advance. I'm sure I'll have more questions later.
I just got home about 2 hours ago from a 5 week trip round Japan.
When were you thinking of going?
What budget are you looking at for accomodation?
Would you rather visit cities or countryside?
I went from Tokyo to snorkelling Okinawan islands to volcanoes to Japanese Alps to Kyoto to Fuji.
Give me a day or two to catch up on sleep (it was a horror o/n flight with a six year old girl constantly sticking her feet into the back of my seat).
The Returned Ronin
The JR pass is very useful and despite the fact it seems rediculously expensive at the time of purchase it is very cheap compared to what you'd pay for buying the tickets individually. You may need to purchase other tickets even if you have the JR pass, but it just depends on where you want to go. I am no expert on Japan, but I know that when I was there my JR pass was good for getting from Tokyo-Kyoto-Nara-Osaka-Kyoto-Tokyo (and would have also been good for many more places had I had longer). I do know that in Tokyo though if you look at a train network map it looks a lot of noodles places on a table and coloured over. Most of the lines can't be used with a JR pass, but the main one (JR Yamonite line) can. With this one line being accessible it is possible to get to most areas of Tokyo but it just means you have to take the long route.
Nara should definitely be on you list of places to visit. That is only a short distance from Kyoto and is very nice. Kyoto was also very nice especially the Golden Pavillion but you've got Kyoto down already.
When are you planning on visiting Japan? Hopefully you can be there in late March/early April when the Cherry Blossoms are in full bloom. They are very nice and it is a very different cultural experience, but then it would be nice in Jpan all year round I reckon.
Have a great trip and Honeymoon.
[ Edit: Edited on Oct 9, 2007, at 3:59 AM by aharrold45 ]
How useful is it to have a Japan Rail Pass? Would we still need to get other ones if we're traveling around the country?
Very useful. Tickets can be expensive. You might want to plan out an itinerary that has you travelling long distances in just a week or two, and therefore get a week long or two week long rail pass instead of the 21 day one to save some money.
The JR rail pass is good for almost every service that Japan Rail has, so there shouldn't be a need to get any additional tickets. I think some of the really high-speed Shinkansen trains are excluded, but you can still get where you are going.
suggestions on laundry if we're not staying at hotels but ryokans instead?
The ryokan I stayed at in Kyoto had a washing machine (on the roof). I think it was actually the machine that the maids use to wash the towels and sheets and stuff, but because the Japanese are unfailingly nice, they let me use it, includings using some of the laundry detergent.
What are the top places to go?
I did Tokyo (5 days) - Kyoto (4 days) - Nagoya (1 day for Sumo tourney) - Osaka (1 day for baseball game) - Hiroshima (1 day to look around) - Tokyo (5 days). I love big cities, so I had a great time just wandering around Tokyo for the 10 days I was there, checking out different neighbourhoods every day. And the food... oh... my... God... So good.
Kyoto is excellent, very different than Tokyo.
Seeing the baseball and the sumo were definately worth doing. Sumo tickets were 2700 Yen for general admission to the Nagoya tournament. Tournaments run for 3 weeks at different times and different places during the year, and if a tournament isn't going on, I think you can still see matches in Tokyo. You should be able to find the information on the internet about when and where the tournaments are.
There are many different lines in Japan but the JR line is pretty much the dominant one for most of the country. Me and a friend recently got back from a trip to japan and with all the traveling we did just in Tokyo alone would have cost us at least $600. Not to mention the trains to all the other cities. Just a tip on how much it would save if you wanting to visit most of the main cities in japan. The Normal Train (takes about 6-8 hours) from Osaka to Nagoya is about 8600yen pp and the Shinkasen (one of the more recent ones but not the most recent) Which takes i think less then an hour (can't remember though the the one from osaka to tokyo takes about 2 hours which is about 2 and half times the distance) Cost's about $200-$400 depending on what class your choosing and what speed the train is. But we caught the High speed Skinkasen using the JR pass all of the time, theres only certain timeslots you can catch the highspeed ones for free though otherwise you have to pay additional charges. But yes the JR pass defiantly Saves you a lot of money travelling around the cities. And if you want to go to the country side as well its kind of limited i suggest you either catch a bus or hire a car if you wanting to see the mountains aswell because not a lot of trains go very far into the mountains.
P.S. the Food is godamn ridiculous over there some of the best tasting food...its just....unexplainable. If you like Beef make sure to look up Waagyu . Also if your ever in Kyoto try the Ramen there is some of the best in japan. But if you can't make it to kyoto theres a little ramen shop in Akihabara it's kind of looks like a tribul setting with stairs underground that place has really good ramen aswell.
- edit* oh and by the way, you must try a bath house (if your on a honeymoon i suggest a Co head in the hot springs in the mountains). But one of the most relaxing things you could possibly do. And DON'T BE SHY lol me and my mate had to get pissed to get naked with other dudes the last time we went because we had never really been naked with other dudes (extremely disrespectful apparently). But rest assured it actually was a confidence booster if you get what i mean (they are extremly small! like oh my god small...) we were the biggest in the room and we hadn't even turned 18 yet :P(yes we did an allover japan trip at 17 :P and we were treated like adults which was surprising there are very trusting in japan).
[ Edit: Edited on Oct 24, 2007, at 8:58 AM by billyweird ]
Oh Wow! Thanks everyone for the great advice. We'll probably get the JP Railpass.
We're definitely looking forward to the food. I think we're sticking with Kyoto and Tokyo and hopefully do some side trips to Nara, Osaka, and Kamakura. We're going to go Summer 2008, probably the month of July.
There seems to be so much to see and not enough time to be able to see it all.
Thanks again for all the wonderful advice!
In addition to all the questions and answers above:
When you have a JP railpass, do you need to reserve seats on most lines? Or only between the big cities, or maybe the smaller lines only? Or is showing up and waiting for the next train enough?
Also, for travelling between the main points of interest, is the train sufficient enough? I mean, are train station centrally located or do you need to take buses or taxis as well? For example, how close can you get by train to Mt. Fuji or national parks in the alps or on hokkaido?
Dont miss Nikko(mountains and waterfalls/lakes)... and also Isu peninsula(beaches)... even Hakone... They are all acessible from tokyo and not that costly as well... and they are all good places while on honeymoon as well...
If you are staying in Ryokan, they will help you out with laundry or do it for you. It may or may not cost extra. Ryokan are generally very expensive and "full service" is the standard usually.
If you are staying in a minshuku, they can tell how to wash clothes there. If its a 5 star hotel they will do laundary for a fee usually.
If you are planning to buy clothes as you go, be warned that (inexplicably, as many Japanese are big these days) large clothes are hard to find usually, so bring enough if you are not lucky enough to be a "petite" size.
If you plan use of pass with stays at either end of use time, it would be more useful time wise. Try to research what you want to see, and what foods are famous in area. ( almost every place in Japan has some kind of local and or seasonal specialty in food and other things. " Meibutsu" for example Takayama aka Hida is famous for wagyu beef. )
If you have a pass anyway, I would consider going to Hokkaido. I dont know if there is an extra charge but the fast trains run there. Hokkaido is popular in summer as it is quite different to Honshu, and has a lot of famous foods. The best thing about Hokkado is the seafood, especially crab and all sushi. You could even drive around the countryside there without stressing too much in summer.
Near Sendai is a famous place called Matsushima. ( one of 3 traditional famous scenes in Japan.)Sendai is on the train net. Nigata on the Japan sea is also onthe fast train net. As it is on the Japan sea, the seafood should be good there, but all sushi is better in winter not summer...
Don't upset the locals especially at Ryokan about shoe and bath etitiquette. Its not hard once you know.
In cities, especially Tokyo, you should forget about the pass and just use the subway, you probably wont be going far or changing often anyway. Shinjuku, ( the biggest station and real centre of Tokyo, entertainment and shopping central) shibuya and harajuku are all close together, if you actually want to rub shoulders with more foriegners Roppongi is also not far, personally I hate that place.
In Kyoto, be aware that it is basically always high season in Kyoto, so if you have a special place to stay in mind, advance booking is highly advisable year round. ( its popular year round with locals and foriegners) I think summer is the worst time to go, as Kyoto is famously hot in summer, but hey if you like it hot...
Ramen is highly variable in Japan, and several famous ramen places are invarious corners of Japan, you can usually tell when you have found a famous restraunt, thats the one with a cue up around the corner. More commonplace are things such as hand made noodle shops. These are worth a visit if only to marvel at the skill these guys have, and are also usually pretty good too. ( "Te Uchi" soba/ udon, te uchi being " hand made pasta")
In summer cold buckwheat noodles with dipping sauce is often eaten at tourist areas. Most westerners easily take to yakisoba, tako yaki and okonomiyaki. (You know you are "turning Japanese when you eat natto with anything and like it. on the upside its good for you... )
( Ask around if there is one or a famous ramen or other restraunt type you want. The local Japanese usually know alot about whats good, far more than we would know in our countries.)
Well good luck
Ps In Osaka try saying "donaidekka"? to the locals, especially shopkeepers. ( "Hows business", answer is ;"botchi botchi denna" "so so") or in Kyoto try saying "okini" and watch their brains implode because theres no way you should know how to say that. ( and send me photos of imploding brains lol)
or if feeling especially brave try saying " itte komashite rou ka" to a mafia type in Osaka. ( requires health insurance, its yakuza talk for do you want me to come Fk u up? could also get a laugh in the right place...)
By the way for the Japanese, Hokkaido and Okinawa are honeymoon destiantions, about the only domestic ones ... We went to hokkaido, but that was winter, happy honeymooning....