Japan - Help with transport/activities

Old Feb 12th, 2014, 02:34 PM
  #1  
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Japan - Help with transport/activities

Hi everyone, I'm new here!

My fiancé and I are planning our first trip to Asia - we are going to Japan and Thailand in a month! We have booked hotels in Japan already:
4 nights Citadines Shinjuku
2 nights ryoken in Hakone
3 nights Sunline in Gion, Kyoto

I received a quote from a travel agent to book transportation and activities and it was over €2000!! That seemed overly expensive to me and I would like to try and book myself - my initial hesitation in doing this was that we don't speak/read Japanese or know our way around at all so thought it would be helpful to have the transport particularly in Japanese but that price is way more than I think is worth it.

We are arriving in Tokyo on March 13 and looking for transportation help to
1- get from Narita to Citadines (with bags so don't mind taxi for part of the way if it makes it that much easier
2- get from Citadines to Hakone
3- get from Hakone to Sunline in Gion
4- get from Kyoto to airport in Osaka

Do we have to book any of the transportation ahead of time?

Our main interests for Japan are to see the beautiful temples, sights and experience the culture as well as some touring around Hakone area to see the natural beauty (how do we get the Hakone pass and do you recommend it?)- we are also interested in seeing the hustle and bustle of Tokyo and some of the futuristic/techy stuff there.

Please let me know if you have any recommendations for half day tours in Tokyo and Kyoto (we thought this might help us get our bearings instead of going it alone?).

Also, we would be interested in booking Giesha/Maiko or kimono experience / cooking class in Kyoto so please let me know if you have recommendations.

Lastly, I think there is a sumo tournament in Osaka while we are in Kyoto - in your opinion is this worth the trip to see?

Thanks so much! Amanda
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Old Feb 12th, 2014, 06:11 PM
  #2  
kja
 
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Many of us have traveled very successfully in Japan without knowing the language, except for a few pleasantries.

You will find answers to almost anything you could ask at:
japan-guide.com
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Old Feb 13th, 2014, 08:39 PM
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The websites for the places where you are staying probably have access info. shellyk and Craig, both I think, stayed at Citadines and gave good trip reports that you can find here.

Here is the basic idea:
1 - take the Narita Express train to Shinjuku, then taxi to Citadines. Am fairly certain their websites has good access info.
2 - go to Odakyu Shinjuku station. It is in the big Shinjuku station where you got off the Narita Express. Odakyu is a railway company and the company offers the Hakone Free Pass along with a discounted rail ticket from Shinjuku to Hakone-Yumoto. I recommend it.
http://www.odakyu.jp/english/deels/freepass/hakone/
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2358_008.html

3 - make your way to JR Odawara station and take the shinkansen to Kyoto. Take a Hikari shinkansen - there are infrequent Hikari trains that go through to Kyoto. An option is to go from Odawara to Shin Yokohama and then to Kyoto. Avoid taking a Kodama shinkanesn. Taxi or transit to Gion. Traffic can be pretty bad getting to Gion by taxi.

4 - Kyoto to Kansai airport, you can take a limited express train from Kyoto station. There are airport buses from some hotels.

You don't have to book your travel in advance. I would get the Hakone Free Pass and reserved seat tickets on the Odakyu "Romance Car" train at Odakyu Shinjuku station the day before the trip. Probably that day, I would also get the tickets and reserved seats from Odawara to Kyoto - specifying that I wanted a Hikari (or check the timetable).
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Old Feb 13th, 2014, 08:44 PM
  #4  
 
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Yes, there is a sumo tournament in Osaka in March. I would go, but it is up to you. It would take much of a day: get there by 1PM and stay until 6PM.
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Old Feb 14th, 2014, 02:24 PM
  #5  
 
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You will have lots - lots! of very good advisors on this board.

You will want to become acquainted with hyperdia.com which gives train schedules. By the way, the Japanese are the most organized people on the face of the planet, they know how to handle disoriented and confused travelers with courtesy and competence - even those who don't speak the language.

The experts here may disagree with me, but I suggest reducing your nights in Hakone to 1 night, and adding the 4th night to Kyoto. If you leave early for Hakone, you can get there on express in about 100 minutes or so - say 2 hours overall - drop your bags, and have the balance of the day in Hakone. The next day you spend the morning lazing around Hakone, then head out around noon to get to Kyoto by 15:30 or so (or later if you wish.) This gives you more time in Kyoto, and trust me, 4 nights and 3 days will fly by in Kyoto - especially if you want to do special things like a cooking class or a geisha experience (can't help you with either one, sorry.)
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Old Feb 15th, 2014, 07:27 AM
  #6  
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Thanks so much for all the advice!

What do you think about the half day tours when we get to Tokyo/Kyoto? Is it helpful? Do you have any recommended guides for this?

Sue - I was thinking the same thing, I wasn't sure if an extra night to chill would be nice but maybe it is better to have an extra night in Kyoto.... will discuss with himself.

Since we are headed to Thailand beaches at the end of the trip maybe save relaxation for then..
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Old Feb 15th, 2014, 09:59 AM
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I can't disagree with staying one night in Hakone. Two nights in a ryokan can get expensive and you have some commitments - check-in hours and a specific time for dinner. A second night would be relaxing, tho I think relaxing is for the end of the trip. You would be traveling on consecutive days but the travel times are not long at all and the trips are easy enough. OTOH, if you do the Hakone Loop then you would be in motion for much of both days.

Here is the timetable that I would use to book the Odawara to Kyoto trip:

train type, train #, Odawara - Kyoto
SHINKANSEN HIKARI 493 6:15 - 8:01
SHINKANSEN HIKARI 501 7:04 - 9:14
SHINKANSEN HIKARI 503 8:08 - 10:11
SHINKANSEN HIKARI 507 10:08 - 12:14
SHINKANSEN HIKARI 511 12:08 - 14:14
SHINKANSEN HIKARI 515 14:08 - 16:14
SHINKANSEN HIKARI 519 16:08 - 18:14
SHINKANSEN HIKARI 523 18:08 - 20:11

If you take the Narita Express from the airport then you can buy your Odawara ticket at that time. Or get it in Shinjuku. That is if you want reserved seats. Otherwise you can expect the reserved seats to be sold out to pax boarding in Tokyo who are traveling beyond Odawara, like to Nagoya, Kyoto, Shin Osaka.
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Old Feb 15th, 2014, 10:26 AM
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I spent two nights in Hakone. This was due to my spending the day in Tokyo and arriving in Hakone at night. Took the Odakyu Romance Car from Shinjuku to Hakone-Yumoto then the last bus of the day out to Moto Hakone.

Next day, I completed the loop back to Hakone-Yumoto where I visited a ryokan to use their onsen, then bus back to Moto Hakone. Next day, completed the loop to Odawara then went on to Kyoto. I ended up on a Kodama train from Odawara to Kyoto with a change in Nagoya and the frequent stops, added to all the travel of the previous two days, plus two nights on a cheap futon in a minshuku, meant the shinkansen trip was not very pleasant.

Hakone can also be a day trip from Tokyo.
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 10:30 AM
  #9  
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I am going through your posts to make more specific plans for our travel and I just wanted to say thanks again. Your advice and the site links have been really useful.

I am also planning to change our trip to spend 1 night in Hakone and an extra night in Kyoto as recommended.

We will plan on taking one of these 2 Odakyu Limited Express "Romancecar" trains to Hakone:
Depart Shinjuku: 7:28 / 8:53
Arrive Hakone: 9:01 / 10:35

Then we will have 5 to 6 or so hours to tour Hakone (the circle) - will this be enough?

We will then use one of these trains for the journey to Kyoto the next day so we will also have the morning in Hakone:

SHINKANSEN HIKARI 511 12:08 - 14:14
SHINKANSEN HIKARI 515 14:08 - 16:14
SHINKANSEN HIKARI 519 16:08 - 18:14

Since we have the extra day in Kyoto, I will look into going to the sumo tournament as I think we would really enjoy that.

I read a few things about the JR pass -- is there any reason we would want to get that?
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 10:30 AM
  #10  
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I am going through your posts to make more specific plans for our travel and I just wanted to say thanks again. Your advice and the site links have been really useful.

I am also planning to change our trip to spend 1 night in Hakone and an extra night in Kyoto as recommended.

We will plan on taking one of these 2 Odakyu Limited Express "Romancecar" trains to Hakone:
Depart Shinjuku: 7:28 / 8:53
Arrive Hakone: 9:01 / 10:35

Then we will have 5 to 6 or so hours to tour Hakone (the circle) - will this be enough?

We will then use one of these trains for the journey to Kyoto the next day so we will also have the morning in Hakone:

SHINKANSEN HIKARI 511 12:08 - 14:14
SHINKANSEN HIKARI 515 14:08 - 16:14
SHINKANSEN HIKARI 519 16:08 - 18:14

Since we have the extra day in Kyoto, I will look into going to the sumo tournament as I think we would really enjoy that.

I read a few things about the JR pass -- is there any reason we would want to get that?
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 10:30 AM
  #11  
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Posts: 7
I am going through your posts to make more specific plans for our travel and I just wanted to say thanks again. Your advice and the site links have been really useful.

I am also planning to change our trip to spend 1 night in Hakone and an extra night in Kyoto as recommended.

We will plan on taking one of these 2 Odakyu Limited Express "Romancecar" trains to Hakone:
Depart Shinjuku: 7:28 / 8:53
Arrive Hakone: 9:01 / 10:35

Then we will have 5 to 6 or so hours to tour Hakone (the circle) - will this be enough?

We will then use one of these trains for the journey to Kyoto the next day so we will also have the morning in Hakone:

SHINKANSEN HIKARI 511 12:08 - 14:14
SHINKANSEN HIKARI 515 14:08 - 16:14
SHINKANSEN HIKARI 519 16:08 - 18:14

Since we have the extra day in Kyoto, I will look into going to the sumo tournament as I think we would really enjoy that.

I read a few things about the JR pass -- is there any reason we would want to get that?
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 10:53 AM
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Posts: 4,466
Amanda, we took 7:28 train to Hakone and did the Hakone loop and checked into the Ryokan at 2 and still felt we had seen a lot of the area ( we skipped the boat ride) it meant then we had the afternoon free to avail ourselves of the lovely Ryokan we were staying in and relax before the Japanese dinner that night.

I can't remember what Shinkansen we got to Kyoto, I "think" it was around 10 ( ish) but if Filmwill sees this post he will chime in, as we were with him .

We also used Tokyo free guides for a full day tour of the city. As the names suggest they are FREE and the people volunteer as a way of meeting English speakers to practise. Ours was lovely and Mui g by what others have said for guides they paid for we lucked out. We arranged this fr the morning after we arrived the night before and am glad we did this.

We also used a guide in Kyoto but we paid for this. She was lovely,great fun and took us to some lovely places in Kyoto( although Filmwill and I had researeched where we wanted to go) let me know if you want her details.
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 01:08 PM
  #13  
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Hi Sméagol,

Thanks very much for your feedback - that makes me feel better that we will get the full experience in Hakone.

Yes, please do share with me your guides in both Tokyo and Kyoto - would love to use them. I had no idea they had free guides in Tokyo, that's great!
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 01:29 PM
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The free guides are found on www.tokyofreeguide.com
I will dig out Satokos details ( she was the guide we had in Kyoto)
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 01:30 PM
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Just checked out the web and it seems they are now in Kyoto too!
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 02:03 PM
  #16  
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awesome! thanks so much, I just registered for the Tokyo guide and will do the same for Kyoto... maybe they will have ideas for the cooking course and kimono/geisha experiences too.

Thanks again
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Old Feb 17th, 2014, 05:05 AM
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just be mimdful, these are not professional guides, they are volunteers showing you around their city! That said our lovely guide Yoshino did pick out some great places.
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