Help With First Trip To Japan

Feb 27th, 2016, 05:51 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2014
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Help With First Trip To Japan


I leave March 23 to Japan (Narita) and arrive the 24th at about 2:30pm. I return to the US April 6 (Narita). I had the opportunity yesterday to buy my airfare at an unbelievable low price, so I took advantage of it. I have done many layovers at Narita, but never gone into Tokyo. So, when I get to Narita, as of this writing, I am essential lost. I would appreciate any advice you may give me. I want to visit the well know areas of Tokyo and Kyoto. I do not know how to divide my time between the two, perhaps half and half. I want to book my hotel reservations right away as I know this is a busy season. As far as accommodations I am not looking to be pampered. Clean, reasonable and hopefully near transportation is fine. Would it be best for me to stay outside of Kyoto and train in at this time of year? I know I will have to backtrack to fly out of Narita, but that is okay. I typically spend my last night by the airport if I can so leaving is not too rushed nor hectic. Maybe I should visit Kyoto area first then Tokyo? Should I consider day trips?

Your help and direction from area to base out of, lodging, transportation (rail pass), whatever is really much appreciated.

Thank you!!!
pearsonhaus is offline  
Feb 27th, 2016, 06:21 PM
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First and foremost, scour
Also read the MANY planning threads and trip reports on this forum.

For lodging, check
You might also look at, but it tends to work with higher-end establishments.

If your timing works out for you to push on immediately after your arrival, it would save you a change of hotel.

Many of us think Kyoto and Nara worth at least 6 days for a first time visit. Tokyo, 3 or 4 days, plus any day trips you decide to do. But of course, it depends on your interests -- and only you can decide what those are.

If you can find a place to stay IN Kyoto, doing so is definitely worth considering so you don't have to spend valuable time commuting. JMO.

For planning train options, look at Once you decide where you are going, you can figure out the total costs and compare them to the available passes, which are covered in detail on japan-guide (mentioned above).

When you've had a chance to go through this information and have more specific questions, come back and I'm sure many of us will do what we can to help.

kja is offline  
Feb 27th, 2016, 06:53 PM
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Thank you for the timely reply! I have been reading the Japan threads on the forum and your informative replies to others.

I typical use for my travels and will try to secure a hotel IN Kyoto as you have suggested. Can you suggest the best way to get to Kyoto from Narita? I saw someone mention the Access Narita bus to Tokyo and Willer night bus to Kyoto. Your thoughts?

Okay, I shall look at

Is there a best area to base out of to see Tokyo?

I have been looking at and find it most helpful.

Thank you again for the reply, it is much appreciated!!
pearsonhaus is offline  
Feb 27th, 2016, 07:17 PM
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The airport limousine is a convenient way to get to and from Narita or Haneda into Tokyo, around 3,100 JPY.
curiousgeo is online now  
Feb 27th, 2016, 08:56 PM
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Pearson, are you traveling alone? If so, you can save money by booking single rooms in Japan. These rooms are unique to Japan--they have a decent-sized bed against a wall, and a ledge above the bed for your phone, and maybe a bottle of water. On the other long wall, there is typically a desk, a mini-fridge, and a place to put your suitcase. By the door, there is a separate bathroom, and a small closet. It's very Japanese and efficient, and the rooms do not feel claustrophobic. Many of the chain hotels offer them, including my favorite chain, the Dormy Inns.

I like to stay in the Ginza area in Tokyo. It is a great strolling area, and there are two wonderful department stores there, with food courts in the basement.

It is rare here for someone to post a leisurely itinerary, but with two weeks, you could probably do a third stop. Would you consider going to Takayama for three nights? It's a wonderful, quaint city. I am in the minority of posters here in that Kyoto doesn't do it for me--I much prefer the nature of Japan, and people-watching in the big cities. You can also take some nice day trips from Tokyo, including Niko, Mt. Fuji and Odaiba.
CaliforniaLady is offline  
Feb 27th, 2016, 09:42 PM
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kja gave you an excellent resource with In case you have not come across them yet, here are a couple links to itineraries in each city, as well as side trips:

Note that with Kyoto in particular, it will take you twice as long to accomplish what they suggest for a day, but this will at least give you an idea of the highlights for each area. You could easily fill up two weeks with just the contents of these two pages, especially when adding in the suggested side trips.
russ_in_LA is offline  
Feb 28th, 2016, 04:48 AM
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>>Can you suggest the best way to get to Kyoto from Narita?<<

Take trains!

On, start typing "Narita Airport Terminal 1" (or Terminal 2, depending on which terminal you'll arrive) as your starting point, type Kyoto as your ending point.

The fastest way is to take a Limited Express train (Narita Express) from Narita to Shinagawa, and then change to a Shinkansen from Shinagawa to Kyoto.

Purchase your train tickets (2 tickets, one for each segment) on arrival at a JR service at Narita airport, or exchange your JR Pass voucher for a JR Pass and book your train tickets all at the same JR service at the airport.
Reading54 is offline  
Feb 28th, 2016, 04:57 AM
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curiousgeo - Thank you for the airport limousine link! I have looked at it and that may be the best thing for me.

CaliforniaLady - Yes, I do travel alone. Thank you for the room information! My itinerary appears leisurely, but my recent trek to France, Italy and Switzerland was not. So, I kind of want to, if I can make myself, take things a bit more leisurely. However, I intend to be busy every day. You mention Ginza and that is one areas I should visit while in Tokyo. I want to get a base in Tokyo near transportation to visit the city from. Would Ginza be a good base? It is my preference to check into a hotel and stay without moving if I can. I am for day trips both from Tokyo and Kyoto. I do hope to get to Fuji. And yes I would consider going to Takayama. I'll have to do a quick research and see if it fits for me. I, like you, enjoy nature and people-watching and I also enjoy history. I am an avid photographer and typically take thousands of pictures on my treks. Can hardly wait to get to Japan!

russ_in_LA - Thank you for the links! is such a great tool to use!!

Hotels in Kyoto seem to be fairly well booked. I know that was a risk this late. Hopefully today something will show up. If not I think I shall go ahead and secure a hotel outside to Kyoto and travel in, which is okay with me as long as it is not too far away. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Perhaps a location that day trips would be good from.

Thank you all!!
pearsonhaus is offline  
Feb 28th, 2016, 05:01 AM
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Reading54 - Thank you for the information! I am thinking now that after such a long flight and arriving in the afternoon. I may just stay in Tokyo for days and then move on to Kyoto. Going straight to Kyoto upon arrival may not be the best thing to do. Also, as of now, it looks like I may have to stay outside of Kyoto, so it may be best to do Tokyo first. Thanks again!
pearsonhaus is offline  
Feb 28th, 2016, 08:50 AM
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If you can't find lodging in Kyoto, one option you might consider is Nara. It might not be as close as some of your other options, but you would likely want to see parts of Nara while in the area. Just a thought.

IME, where to stay in Tokyo depends on what you want to do while there. For my purposes, staying near Ueno Park worked well; for others, that would not have been a particularly good choice.

You have plenty of time to visit a place or two in addition to Tokyo and Kyoto, and there are plenty of choices that include lovely scenery. The difficult part will be deciding what to skip!
kja is offline  
Feb 28th, 2016, 11:17 AM
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Access Narita and Tokyo Shuttle are cheap bus services from NRT to Tokyo. They cost 1000Y which is half or a third the price of the regular limmo buses.

If you decide to go to Kyoto first, there's a lot to be said for taking a flight from NRT (since you'll already be there) to KIX. Peach and Jetstar Japan do these for under $75. That's much cheaper than the train.

I will be leaving Japan the day you arrive; I booked my accommodation a month or so ago and it was in short supply then, and will be even more so for your dates (which are close to peak Cherry Blossom). It's possible you won't find anything in Kyoto. Try Nara, which is at least as interesting as Kyoto, and more pleasant. If that fails, make lemonade from lemons and consider going somewhere else entirely (though everywhere will busy). I'd suggest Matsue and the San-in coast, or Kakunodate and around that part of Tohoku (Akita, Morioka, Hiraizumi), but there are plenty of attractive destinations.

Toyoko Inns are a reliable brand of Business hotels (typically $50 a night) with a functional English web site and properties everywhere. . Join their frequent guest program if you stay there.
someotherguy is offline  
Feb 28th, 2016, 03:31 PM
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kja - I changed my Kyoto dates and was able to get 4 nights during the week. Although I am not pleased with the hotel it is in city center. I may play with some other dates and see if I can improve. However, it is only for 4 nights and I think I can endure that. I did look at Nara, but no luck there.

Asa for Tokyo, I want to see the more popular districts, Ueno Park being one of them. From what I have read Tokyo has a fantastic public transportation system. So, I just need to find a place to perch and work out of there. There is no way I will see it all. I have returned to some countries many times and that is a possibility for Japan also.

Thank you again for your comments!
pearsonhaus is offline  
Feb 28th, 2016, 03:37 PM
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someotherguy - Thanks for the input, much appreciated!! I think, as of now, I will begin in Tokyo. However, the flying idea is great!

I have decide not to let the busy season trouble me as there is so much to see in Japan. That said I am thinking of day trips or perhaps locating elsewhere if need be.

I did secure a 4 night stay in Kyoto, so that is a plus.

Thank you again and enjoy your visit!!!
pearsonhaus is offline  
Feb 28th, 2016, 06:34 PM
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Pearson, you asked me about the wisdom of staying in the Ginza area. I like it because the airport limo buses stop there, there is a close subway stop, and there is lots of strolling. Have you ever been to Santa Monica, California, where some of the streets are blocked off, and people walk around shopping and eating? Ginza is like that. On a day you when finish sightseeing at 4 PM, you can go rest in your room for an hour, and then head out to people watch. We found an Infiniti car dealership and a model train store, just as examples. It was loads of fun.

Regarding finding hotels in Japan, I always book direct with hotels via email. Many of the budget hotels book that way. Just look in the Rough Guide, for example, and write to maybe five hotels in each city, and you will probably get a good response. Make sure you cancel the unwanted ones.

I agree with kja that you might be able to add another stop. If you like nature, it would be a shame to visit Japan without seeing its beauty.
CaliforniaLady is offline  
Feb 29th, 2016, 08:39 AM
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CaliforniaLady - Hello Cal-Lady. I know what you are talking about with the streets blocked off for dinning and shopping. It is like that in Nice France. I really like that too. It has been a while since I was in California, I hope to go back to Monterey again.

I do not have everything settled yet, Kyoto was a challenge, but should finish up soon. Since my planned schedule has been altered because of my booking in Kyoto I DO plan to make at least one other stop if not more. There is so much to see there!

Your comments, as always, are appreciated.
pearsonhaus is offline  
Feb 29th, 2016, 11:41 PM
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I don't know that I'd bother flying between Tokyo and Kyoto if you're not already at the airport on arrival -- given the trek out to your chosen Tokyo airport and then the journey to Kyoto from the Kansai airport, you'd be better off just taking the shinkansen directly from Tokyo station straight into the heart of Kyoto.

You mention your Kyoto hotel, what is it that you don't like about it? Location, hotel itself, price? Perhaps if you ask here, people may be able to comment?

If you only have 4 nights in Kyoto, I'd definitely add 1 or 2 nights in Nara contiguous to the 4 in Kyoto.
Kavey is offline  
Mar 1st, 2016, 09:14 AM
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Kavey - I am scheduled to spend days in Tokyo then on to Kyoto for days there.

Actually, I am, perhaps, not being fair to the Kyoto lodging. I made that comment based on some reviews, others were good. The hotel is close to the train station and in town, so that should serve me well. After all I only plan to sleep there any way. The main thing is I have a place to rest and I will be in Kyoto.

Nara is definitely on my list as well as Hiroshima. In fact it seems I keep adding to my list.

It looks like the Japan Rail 14 pass is the way for me to go.

Thanks for you note!
pearsonhaus is offline  
Mar 1st, 2016, 10:29 AM
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Kyoto is likely to be stupidly full and pricey by this stage, and Osaka (last I looked) was heading the same way. I recommend people look at Nagoya - still fairly close, interesting city and cheaper.

As for transport - trains.
PatrickHarnett is offline  
Mar 1st, 2016, 11:51 AM
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<< I recommend people look at Nagoya - still fairly close, interesting city and cheaper.>>

And Nagoya to Kyoto by an express shinkansen is < 40 minutes.
BigRuss is offline  
Mar 1st, 2016, 12:20 PM
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I am already booked into Kyoto and you are correct it seems to be stupidly full and pricey. I may still visit Nagoya and use the JR Rail pass.

Thanks to all for input, much appreciated!!
pearsonhaus is offline  
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