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help navigating our way through Japan--JR pass? NEX? Suica?

help navigating our way through Japan--JR pass? NEX? Suica?

Old May 9th, 2010, 08:34 PM
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help navigating our way through Japan--JR pass? NEX? Suica?

I am feeling overwhelmed trying to figure out whether I need a JR pass, and now I hear about NEX passes and Suica cards...Can someone please look at my itinerary and try to figure out what I might need...and explain it in English so a non-traveler like me can understand??? I'm feeling quite dense!!!
Kyoto: 1 week. Travel to Nara for 1 day. JR pass? (Maybe to Miyashima/Hiroshima for l day. JR pass? )
Kyoto-Tokyo: Shinkansen train. (I know that JR pass not good for Nozumi --are other Shinkansens ok--or better to pay extra? Others seemed to have lots of transfers when I looked on the hyperdia site for other lines besides Nozumi.) Within Tokyo, is the JR pass good, or is this where the Suica card comes in?
Tokyo-Nikko: 2 days. Tobu line or JR line? Is it worth not using JR pass to take Tobu line? Nikko-Asakusa: 2 days. Which line?
Asakusa-Narita: Train or sky shuttle or limo bus? We have booked MK shuttle from Osaka to Kyoto already, but not sure what to do on this leg...
Many thanks to responses from my other post. I really appreciate your time in making suggestions! This is a trip of a lifetime and we are really looking forward to it.
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Old May 9th, 2010, 11:49 PM
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Hi Burks, I am spending lots of time on-line trying to figure out the same things. We're going to Kyoto and may stay there for almost our entire trip, as we have only a week. I've printed out the rail schedules in teeny tiny type and am seeing that the Nozomi runs quite a bit more frequently than the Hikari or Kodama from Tokyo to Kyoto. In the morning, it seems it runs every 10 minutes, while the Hikari runs every 1/2 hour. The Nozomi takes 2 hrs, 20 min. The Hikari - 2 hrs 40 min, and the Kodama 4 hrs. It also looks like the Nozomi takes more reservations. I think you can't reserve until you are in Japan, though. Not sure.

We are very concerned as we are going on a Friday of a big festival wkend in Kyoto and the next Mon. is a national holiday. The Kyoto hotel we are staying in has recommended we get advance reservations, but I don't know if this is possible if we are not there. Does anyone know?

I am thinking we may not get the JR passes, as they won't save us if we only go to Kyoto and they limit us to the two other slower bullets. We may need to be able to choose between them all to actually get to Kyoto...don't know how it works...

I'm not even there yet and I feel like I'm lost in translation. I told DH today I finally "get" all those Japanese tourist who come on big busses to tourist sites in the US and Europe. These little details are so important yet so hard to figure out.
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Old May 10th, 2010, 01:11 AM
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Burks5
Normally you don't get your money worth with a JR Pass if all you do is one single trip from Kyoto to Tokyo. Though it isn't very clear, I take it you are flying open jaw, into Kansai (KIX) and out of Narita. If you are doing a side trip to Hiroshima from Kyoto, that will make a 7-day pass just about worth its money, and you can use it for other trips to Nara and Nikko, but this depends on your itinerary. If you can schedule your trip to Hiroshima, one-way travel to Tokyo and side trip to Nikko all withing 7 consecutive days, a pass will be worth getting.
From Asakusa to Narita, if you have a lot of luggage, I suggest either get a shuttle or book a Keisei Skyliner from Ueno (and taxi to Ueno). If you only have hand luggage, you can actually travel quite cheaply, by Toei subway Asakusa line to Aoto and change to Keisei limited express commuter train to Narita, which costs only 1060 yen in all.

Orcas
You can only reserve once you are in Japan, but provided you do so at least a few days in advance of travel, getting a seat shouldn't be a problem. Travelling on Hikari is perfectly ok, and you only lose 20 min (Hikari makes additional stop, usually at Shizuoka and one other). As I've already said, whether to get a pass or not depends on your time scale and itinerary. One-way Kyoto to Tokyo is around 13 to 14000 yen, while 7-day pass is 28,300 yen, so it's only worth while if you are making a return trip, or substantial side trip from Kyoto like Hiroshima (21580 yen r/t).
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Old May 10th, 2010, 01:18 AM
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Narita Express/Suica combo isn't available for your trip, as it's only for one-way travel from Narita to Tokyo, not Tokyo to Narita. Otherwise you get a Suica or Pasmo card (pre-loaded card) for travel within Tokyo, to save the hassle of having to buy separate ticket each time, though it doesn't give any discount. There is 500 yen deposit on each card, which you can get back when handing your card in at Narita airport station, plus any balance on your card, minus 210 yen handling charge.
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Old May 10th, 2010, 09:54 AM
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You need to calm down, go to Hyperdia.com and start doing some math and some schedule reading. You can immediately find out that a Hikari shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto will take 20-30 minutes longer than a Nozomi and the Hikari is covered by the JR pass. The Kodama will take far longer and is of no real use other than between Kyoto and Osaka.

Now, let's get something straight -- if you are flying in and out of Tokyo, with a sojourn to Kyoto in the middle of your trip, you will likely want a JR pass to cover your trips from Tokyo to Kyoto and it will cover any side trips (Hiroshima, Nara) on JR lines. But you need to do the math -- the 7-day pass is good for seven consecutive days and if you're in Kyoto for 7 nights, it won't cover one of your journeys to or from Tokyo. At that point, you need to check if it will be cost-effective to get a 2-week pass. The difference is 17K yen per person (45K for two-week pass, 28K for one-week pass). Round trip from Tokyo to Kyoto is 26K, and r/t from Kyoto to Hiroshima is 21K, so you should do a two-week pass if (1) you are planning to go to Hiroshima and (2) your Tokyo-Kyoto trip requires a return to Tokyo (or Kyoto -- I don't have your whole itinerary).

JR local trains are covered by the JR pass -- this includes the JR trains in metropolitan Tokyo. This does NOT include the Tokyo Metro subway system.

The Tobu-Nikko deal is a good one and you should use it unless you have a JR pass that covers your whole trip. The JR trains to Nikko, however, are FAR less frequent than Tobu trains.

The NEX/Suica deal is 3500 for the card (includes 500Y deposit), discounted 1500Y trip from NEX to Tokyo, and 1500 to use in the Tokyo Metro or the JR lines in Tokyo. If you get a JR pass that covers your whole trip, the NEX/Suica deal is irrelevant other than your use of the Tokyo subway.

And remember: YOU CANNOT BUY A JR PASS ANYWHERE. You must buy a voucher from an accredited travel agent in the US and then you exchange that voucher for the pass in Japan. You do that at Narita in the JR East office and you can tell them what date you want the pass to start on. The transaction takes 10 minutes.
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Old May 10th, 2010, 01:58 PM
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We will be arriving at Narita in the evening and plan on going to Kyoto the next day, so I'm concerned about not having lead time to make reservations.

We are wondering if there is a way we can make these reservations when our flight to Singapore stops over in Narita 5 days earlier. We will have 2 hours to change airlines and continue on our journey. Will we have time to make train reservations at that time? If so, where do we go to do it? Do we have to leave and reenter airport security?
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Old May 10th, 2010, 02:02 PM
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Looked up the airlines and both are in Terminal 1 South wing.
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Old May 10th, 2010, 02:08 PM
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Guess a better question is, do we have to go through customs to make a reservation for the train 6 days in advance. If so, I doubt we'll be able to do it. So, can we reserve the next week, on Thursday at 9 PM for the next morning - a Friday holiday weekend with a big festival in Kyoto? Yikes!
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Old May 10th, 2010, 02:13 PM
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Orcas, unless you will be traveling on a National Holiday or absolutely need to get somewhere during rush hour I wouldn't worry too much about getting a train res. There are so many trains between Kyoto and Tokyo that you need not worry. These are not the Euro train companies, not by a long shot.

It is good that you have printed out your train schedules. Just take them with you when you make your reservations to save time.

Burks5, you have been given good advice above.

Aloha!
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Old May 10th, 2010, 02:18 PM
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Orcas, Oh I see that you are going on a Holiday(oops)As Alec says above, you should be ok as long as you are not married to a time you want to leave. They will have a place for you on the train.
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Old May 10th, 2010, 02:21 PM
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You will need to exit, I believe the JR office is on the second floor of the airport. If you purchase and use the JR rail pass for that trip, you will need to exchange the pass first before you can make reservations. But if you'll be staying mostly in Kyoto and you only have one week, you may not need to get a JR pass.

So you're staying in Tokyo the night you arrive? If so, you may want to consider getting the NEX and Suica combo card. I'm not sure, but you may even be able to use the Suica card in Kyoto.
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Old May 10th, 2010, 08:01 PM
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Orcas, as I recall, Japan is the home of Sony, Toshiba, Fujitsu, Mitsubishi, etc., and therefore the nation has a certain amount of technical know-how. I'm certain this extends to a website for Narita Airport, which can tell you where your flight will land and if there is a JR office in the terminal (when we were there, the JR offices were outside the terminals and close by the train stations; that was two years ago, but I doubt it has changed).

Oh and that "slower bullet" known as the Hikari travels at up to 270 kph/168 mph from Tokyo to Osaka, and the Hikari Rail Star travels up to 300 kph/186 mph from Osaka to points west. That too slow? It's the same speeds as the Nozomi; the difference is the number of stops.

HT: hasn't Suica joined up with the Icoca (?) card system in Kansai so that Suica cards are not usable (and useful) in Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, etc?
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Old May 10th, 2010, 08:33 PM
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BigRuss, Yes Suica has joined up with Icoca in Kansai but the most convenient and prevalent means of transport within Kansai areas are the non JR companies. As you mentioned the shinkansens are quickest for the longer hauls between city destinations though. I had problems using(not accepting yet in gate systems and vending machines) my SUICA at JR stations within Kansai just last month. I hope to try again when we return later this fall. Hope they have the glitches cleared up by then.

Aloha!
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Old May 10th, 2010, 10:29 PM
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BigRuss, Please find the location of the Japan Rail office on the Narita airport website and post the link for me. I looked. Didn't see it. What does the technical know-how of Japan have to do with the fact that I didn't find it on the website? (though my logic tells me it has to be outside of customs)

But, since you think everything is available on-line in a nation that houses Sony, etc, then why don't you know if the Suica has joined up with the Icoca card sentsem in Kensai? Surely you can find this on the Suica website.

As for the bullet being slower, a train can be slower (meaning take longer to get to Kyoto) beause it stops in more places, not because it is technically unable to go faster. What is your problem?

Lose the attitude, dude.
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Old May 11th, 2010, 08:49 AM
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You can get JR tickets on the 1st floor of both the North and South wing of Terminal 1, you can take a look at this link:
http://www.narita-airport.jp/en/guid.../32_t1_1f.html

But, I still think you'll need to exit customs to get to the first floor.
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Old May 11th, 2010, 01:38 PM
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Orcas -- I'm not here to do your research for you and you need to be appreciative of the help you've received considering that you've hijacked someone else's thread. Evidently Panda is nicer than I, willing to do your research, and found the link you missed, which indicates that you need to exit customs to reach the JR office.

I asked the Suica/Icoca question of HT because (1) I figured he'd know of the top of his head because he is a great resource for Japan travel; (2) I recalled him mentioning something on the issue before because I read this board frequently (and he may have even answered a question from me on the issue two years ago); (3) it related to the OP's question, which was the one I initially was answering, and I hoped the answer could help the OP.

If a 20 minute difference between Hikari and Nozomi is that large that it encourages you to pay the extra for the Nozomi, so be it. But that's really not a difference worth blowing the budget on. Your question about "worth it" for the slower "bullets" just showed you hadn't checked the minimal difference between Hikari and Nozomi on the Tokaido run.
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Old May 11th, 2010, 03:41 PM
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JR travel office for issuance of JR Pass is located in the basement of both terminals, within the station concourse and you need to clear immigration and customs to get there.
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Old May 11th, 2010, 04:33 PM
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Dear BigRuss, I wrote this in the first post I made on this thread:

"I've printed out the rail schedules in teeny tiny type and am seeing that the Nozomi runs quite a bit more frequently than the Hikari or Kodama from Tokyo to Kyoto. In the morning, it seems it runs every 10 minutes, while the Hikari runs every 1/2 hour. The Nozomi takes 2 hrs, 20 min. The Hikari - 2 hrs 40 min, and the Kodama 4 hrs. It also looks like the Nozomi takes more reservations. I think you can't reserve until you are in Japan, though. Not sure."

I guess this comment you wrote above: "Your question about "worth it" for the slower "bullets" just showed you hadn't checked the minimal difference between Hikari and Nozomi on the Tokaido run" just shows you didn't read my first post.
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Old May 11th, 2010, 05:19 PM
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Furthermore, "Big"Russ, you write:

"If a 20 minute difference between Hikari and Nozomi is that large that it encourages you to pay the extra for the Nozomi, so be it. But that's really not a difference worth blowing the budget on. Your question about "worth it" for the slower "bullets" just showed you hadn't checked the minimal difference between Hikari and Nozomi on the Tokaido run."

If you bothered to read my postings, my concern has to do with the availability of seats to Kyoto. We are to arrive in Japan on Thursday evening and are planning on going to Kyoto as soon as possible the next day. We not only have hotel reservations in Kyoto on Friday night, but there are many activities during the day on Friday for the Gion Matsuri Festival, the highlight of which is a parade on Saturday. Also, Monday is "Marine Day," a national holiday in Japan. So, I am reading space on the trains may be hard to come by.

This is why I am thinking we will not get a JR pass. I want maximum flexibility on Friday night, when we arrive in Narita. I want to walk up to the train office and ask them which is the first train we can make reservations on the next morning. I don't want to be limited to trains that runs less frequently. I want all options open, and particularly the option of the Nozomi, which runs more frequently and, I gather, allows more reservations.

If it were possible, when we are traveling through Narita a few days earlier, to book a train at that time, this would not be such a problem, but it appears this will not be possible, given our short time in Narita and the fact that we'd have to clear customs to make train reservations.

I think you completely missed my point, because you did read my posts, but just assumed I was some sort of nitwit. Thanks for that. I do not claim to know everything, which is why I posted questions on this.

As for hijacking a thread, huh? I don't think it's a big problem for the original poster that I provided some helpful info that I have gleaned in my research and asked more questions about the train service.

What is your problem, anyway?
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