FIRST TIME IN JAPAN. NEED HELP!

Mar 11th, 1999, 06:32 AM
  #1  
KRISTA
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FIRST TIME IN JAPAN. NEED HELP!

I've travelled quite a bit through the U.S, Caribbean, and Europe so I'm definitely an experienced traveller. But Japan kind of scares me since I'm so unfamiliar with the culture and language. I would rather not go on an escorted tour since I like to plan the trip myself and do what I want to do. I've read all the postings here and have gotten a lot of information, but I have a few more questions.

Which area of Tokyo should a first-timer stay in? I would like to be near all the tourist attractions.

I'm looking for a hotel for under about $125 USD double per night, preferably a western-style hotel. (I'm not really ready to jump right in yet!) I would like a hotel near a subway stop.

I am interested in doing an escorted day trip or overnight trip to Mt.Fuji/Hakone. Does anyone know of one or is it pretty easy to get there ourselves?

I am also interested in an escorted 2 or 3 night trip to Kyoto. Again is it pretty easy to get there and get around ourselves?

I've read a lot about getting a Japan Rail Pass. Does anyone have any prices on them?

Thanks for any help you can give.
 
Mar 16th, 1999, 09:48 PM
  #2  
jenny
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hi krista,

i was in japan last week. like you, it was my first time and had the same concerns as you. i am also an experienced traveler and understand them well. i'll try to answer your questions as best i can.

1) i do not speak japanese, but i found that when i asked for help or anything, starting my question with "sumimasen" rendered a genuinely helpful response, even if they don't speak english well or any!
2) i stayed at the crowne plaza metropolitan (part of the holiday inn chain) when i was in tokyo. it is adjacent to the ikebukuro station. it is not near the tourist attractions because they are rather scattered all over tokyo. it was a great place to stay because a) it was near a shopping center where you can get cheap food and fruit in the department store; b) there is a post office and citibank there. i cannot convey how helpful it was to be near that citibank. i relied on my visa/atm card to get japanese yen when i was there (this cuts down on costs on conversion fees) and it seems that most atm machines do not accept foreign issued cards. that citibank accepted it without any problems. so i'd get money before each outing and problems solved; c) the hotel is adjacent to the rail and subway station which gives easy access to anywhere; d) with a coporate rate discount, we paid $150 for our double. other comparable hotels would have been at least $50 more...at least!
3) i didn't go to mt. fuji. my guide stated that it is tricky to get there but well worth the effort. i used frommer's tokyo guide, very helpful.
4) i went to kyoto though only spent half a day there. if you want info on tours, go to the tourist information office near the asakusa subway stop (you'd want to go to asakusa anyway for the old temples). the ladies there speak english and have some brochures on tour packages to kyoto. i got around by myself mainly by bus, but buses were never my thing. i never knew where to get off! taxis there are reasonably priced too...seems to be the rough equivalent of how much a taxi costs in the uk outside of london.
5) it was my impression that kyoto was not quite as easy to get around as tokyo, simply because the attractions were far from one another, and buses were confusing. taxis were a reasonable alternative.
6) i highly recommend a rail pass. it costs, i think $250, or so, for 5 days. i didn't have one and regretted it. the trip from tokyo to kyoto is already $235 or so. once to tack on the price for getting to and from the airport, you have more than paid for it. besides, you can ride in the green car (first class) with your rail pass where available. it is a definite must if you are planning on going as far as kyoto.

i hope i was helpful. please e-mail me directly if you should have any other questions.

good luck!

jenny
 
Mar 17th, 1999, 06:03 AM
  #3  
KRISTA
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Thanks, Jenny, for your great response. It DEFINITELY answered my questions. I called the Japanese Tourist Board and they sent me all kinds of information including package tours to Mt.Fuji and Kyoto. The price, however, for a 4 day tour including hotels and lunches only is about $900USD per person! So then I thought maybe I would just do it on my own. But I read what you said about how hard it is getting around Kyoto and now I'm not sure. $1800 is a lot of money, but at least I wouldn't have to worry about anything. Anyway, I'm still going to think that over, but thanks for all the info.
 
Apr 15th, 1999, 05:08 AM
  #4  
HKJudy
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You don't have to spend a fortune, Krista. And I don't believe that you have to take a tour to go to Kyoto. As Jenny said - the Japan Rail Pass is highly recommended and you can use it on certain trains in Tokyo as well as across the country. Someone put up information on the exact prices (and a comparison) on our "Travellers' Exchange" (check it out at: http://www.accomasia.com/cgi-bin/Ultimate.cgi).

I highlighly recommend Ryokan Asakusa Shigetsu in Asakusa - it's in a beautiful area (probably that with the most history left), and overlooks Sensoji Temple. It has both western and Japanese rooms and you can have your choice for breakfast as well!

If you use the Japan Rail Pass and eat in local restaurants (where you can point to plastic food) - NOT hotels... you can keep expenses down. The Tourist Info. Centre (TIC) in Ginza and Tokyo Station in Tokyo and right beside the station in Kyoto are incredibly helpful - they'll give you maps and lots of information to create your own walking tour. In Kyoto, they even have local residents who volunteer to assist tourists in order to better their conversational English skills - they are gems!

Read all you can find - especially travelogues of fellow travellers for their hints and experiences. We have a number of them on our "Travellers' Notes' pages in the Japan section of our website.

Also - if you have further questions, we have a moderator who has lived in Japan for many years (an expat American) and he and many others would be happy to help you on the Travellers' Exchange. Please stop by!

Cheers from Hong Kong!

Judy

ACCOMMODATING ASIA...let travellers' experiences be your guide.
http://www.accomasia.com

 
Apr 25th, 1999, 11:03 AM
  #5  
Shizu
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Krista,
Just a word of advice from a Japanese person. I don't know how many days you are planning to spend in Tokyo, but it's just another big city. I would STRONGLY recommend you spend more time in Kyoto/Nara/Osaka/Kobe than in Tokyo. In this region (as colletivly called "Kansai"), you can enjoy ancient temples as well as big cities. Osaka is also known to have the best food in Japan. I've been to Kyoto three times but I cannot never get enough of the city.

Have a good trip!
 

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