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Japan questions: cash/ airport security speed/ weekend destinations

Japan questions: cash/ airport security speed/ weekend destinations

Old Jun 7th, 2021, 05:25 PM
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Japan questions: cash/ airport security speed/ weekend destinations

Hi all! New here and have loved reading through the many pages of the Japan board for tips & advice. A lot of the posts on here are 2+ years old, so I'm hoping for some updated advice.

I bought my flights for March 2022 on a ridiculous sale (fingers crossed Japan opens by then), so good news is that opened up my budget for other things, bad news is the trip will only be 5ish days (beggars can't be choosers). But I figure 5 days in Japan is better than 0 days right 😬

I'm beginning a rough itinerary so I can book hotels etc, and would really appreciate answers to a few questions.
1. Is cash still king in 2021 or could I get by using mostly cards? How much cash would you recommend I have on hand?
2. I am splitting my time between Tokyo and Kyoto. One of these will have to be over a weekend. I know both will likely be very crowded, but would you suggest spending the weekend in Tokyo or Kyoto?
3. How quickly does security move at Narita airport? I'm trying to squeeze every last minute out of this trip, so don't want to show up 3 hours before my flight if I could be there 1.5 hours early with time to spare.

I know answers will be a little different right now as they are still dealing with an outbreak, but I'd love at least a rough idea as to what to expect. Thank you so much for your help!
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Old Jun 9th, 2021, 09:46 AM
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5ish days sounds like 5 nights which is 4 full days. When/where do you arrive/depart Japah?
Will you have an ATM/debit card to get cash or do you intend to exchange paper money?
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Old Jun 9th, 2021, 11:32 AM
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Originally Posted by mrwunrfl View Post
5ish days sounds like 5 nights which is 4 full days. When/where do you arrive/depart Japah?
Will you have an ATM/debit card to get cash or do you intend to exchange paper money?
Thanks for your response!

I fly into Narita at 7 pm on Friday and leave from the same airport at 9 pm the following Wednesday. I guess technically it is 4 full days, but that 5th day I will have the majority of the day before heading to the airport. I know Narita is about 1-1.5 hours away from Tokyo, which I will account for when planning what time I need to head out. I'm sure I'll need to account for rush hour in my planning as well. Do you have any suggestions as to what time I should be leaving Tokyo to catch that 9 pm Narita flight?

I've been leaning towards doing Kyoto Saturday/Sunday/Monday, heading to Tokyo on Monday afternoon, then Tokyo for Tuesday/ Wednesday until my flight, so I'm not trying to get from Kyoto all the way to the airport on Wednesday.

As for money, I'll have a visa debit card for getting cash, from what I've read 7/11 is a solid place to do that? Should I plan on using cash for most things, or have more places converted to taking cards?

Again, thanks for your help!
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Old Jun 9th, 2021, 02:33 PM
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Ok, then you could get 20,000 JPY at a NRT ATM. I recommend that you have a backup of $200 (USD or CAD, or AUD) just in case.

Your arrival time is too late to get to Kyoto that night, am pretty sure. You could get to Nagoya just before midnight, There are a few inexpensive hotels near the shinkansen entrance, IIRC.

You can consider getting 7-day JR Pass. Use the Narita Express and shinkansen. Understand that having Kyoto on your itinerary is adding 25,000 JPY or more to the cost of the trip.

Intra-Japan flights can be cheap (in money or FF miles).

Sure, 7-11s for cash, the post office outside of Kyoto Station. Getting more cash than you need won't be a problem vs not getting enough.

You've asked some good questions. They will all work out, Taking an extra hour or two to get to the airport early enough to guarantee you will be on time is not wasted., 1.5 hrs vs 3 hrs is NBD. You can go on and figure out where to stay and what to do. (knowing where you stay in Tokyo would help with planning the NRT travel, there are several options depending on location(.
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Old Jun 9th, 2021, 02:42 PM
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I would call it 4.5 days. You could use the time just for one of the cities, of course. Tokyo with a side trip to Hakone, for example.
Links:
www.japan-guide.com
www.jnto.go.jp
www.hyperdia.com
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Old Jun 10th, 2021, 09:38 AM
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Yes to 7-11 for ATMs, also found at Lawson’s.
We found very long lines at NRT security, very disorganized. This was the only time we encountered any disorganization in Japan. We landed around 3:30.
Next time I will fly into Haneda as it is closer to Tokyo.
We took the airport/ hotel bus into Tokyo as our hotel was one of it’s stops. On our return to NRT we used the easy direct Narita Express train.
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Old Jun 13th, 2021, 02:22 PM
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I totally understand the desire to squeeze as much out of your trip time as possible. But 4.5 days to travel to both Tokyo and Kyoto is extremely rushed.

My suggestion would be to stay only in Kyoto, using Tokyo as your transit hub. Or spending the entire time in Tokyo with a possible day trip to Kamakura, Hakone or Nikko. There is plenty to do in either Tokyo or Kyoto to easily fill all the time you are spending in Japan and even that will probably be too short. Enjoy your trip whatever you decide.
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Old Jun 14th, 2021, 06:24 AM
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Just a couple suggestions.
RE: 1st TRAVEL DAY-Limousine Bus vs. Airport Hotel
I'd flown nonstop to Narita from Chicago back in Oct. 2019, and had done the same trip a year earlier. Don't know how long your flight will be, but I find the flights to Asia exhausting. So, for your first travel day, if you decide to go directly into Tokyo (rather than crash at an airport hotel), be prepared for another 1.5-1.75 hrs or so tacked on to your travel day. It's not terrible, but you'll likely be really tired, so a good idea to bear the bus ride in mind, have a bathroom break and a couple bottles of water/juice for the bus. (That's why I hope to fly into Haneda next time.) The 2018 trip, we took the Limousine Bus to the hotel after our flight, and there was an added 15 min wait for a train to clear the tracks while we sat with nearly a view of the hotel from our window. I recall it being an exhausting wait. In 2019, as I'd had my mother with me, the first night we stayed at a Narita airport hotel to recover, and it was a much nicer start to our vacation.

RE: Tokyo Hotel reco and Shinagawa Station
We like to stay at the Shinagawa Prince Hotel, right across the street from Shinagawa station. It's a wonderful hotel for foreign travellers, and also on the Limousine Bus route. It's a large complex, with a 7-eleven, and so many restaurants. We enjoyed having breakfast in Shinagawa station at the City Baker and Dean and Deluca, and watch the river of humanity flow by. Shinagawa Station has a JR train line, but ot sure if the shinkansen to Kyoto departs from this station or not.
Also, the station has a lot of shopping available. Lots of takeaway bakery and food items, so you'll never go hungry in your room. Plus, outside, along the station, there are a lot of ramen/soba restaurants which are really good.

RE: Pocket WiFi? Portable/Backup Phone Battery
It's been over a year, but my last 2 trips, I rented a pocket wifi/mobile wifi that I picked up/dropped off at the airport, if I recall. If your phone provider has service in Japan, that would be easiest, but I have Verizon, and at the time, I decided to rent the pocket wifi. Also, if you don't already have one, a backup phone battery is nice to have.

RE: Tokyo and Kyoto Things to Do
In Tokyo, if skincare is of any interest to you/women in your life, I like Don Quijote stores. You can find lots of youtube videos from beauty influencers on Japanese skincare, or things to buy at DonQ. Sunscreen, lip balms, eye drops, Hada Labo, etc. You can buy them tax free, so long as you let them package it at the store for you (and it's not been opened before departing for home b/c the airport will check.) And of course, there's lots of advice as to where to go: I think Harajuku is great fun. I love 18th-19th century history, and yet it's difficult for me to find exhibits that interest me in Tokyo, so I tend to focus on just the sights and foods of Japan. Love just strolling through a basement grocery store in a department store and buying mochi and a bento.

I've only been to Kyoto once, so can't offer much advice except to really try to go. It's like Venice in that there's no place in the world like it. Also, dress for a hike. There are so many temples, some are a climb. Kiyomizu-dera, for example. The gardens around Ginkaku-ji and Kinkaku-ji are extensive, as well. I enjoyed Sanjusangendo as well, but if it's a bit out of the way for your itinerary, you might pass. It's a spectacle, but I didn't find much more to it than that.

RE: TV Japan
Also, you may want to fit in some TV Japan if that's a channel on your cable lineup to become familiar with some of the foods.

RE: Money
We always exchange a little money in the US to have when we land. In Chicago, I go to a main branch in the loop as the smaller branches may not have yen. Also, sometimes they won't have it on hand, so don't wait till the last minute to exchange. I've never had an issue, as I'm not exchanging a lot, but I'll take about $300 in yen. Cash really is easier. Also, don't be surprised that the hotels will charge you the full amount at check-in.
Have fun planning!
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Old Jun 14th, 2021, 06:28 AM
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Also, Narita Airport is not all that exciting. And at night, it may feel even more drab. Not sure if the restaurants will still be open, but there are a handful. A bookstore, and a few shops, with merchandise that's pretty underwhelming. Don't plan on any last-minute souvenirs or gifts there.
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Old Jun 14th, 2021, 06:42 AM
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Originally Posted by ChgoGal View Post
Also, Narita Airport is not all that exciting. And at night, it may feel even more drab. Not sure if the restaurants will still be open, but there are a handful. A bookstore, and a few shops, with merchandise that's pretty underwhelming. Don't plan on any last-minute souvenirs or gifts there.
Sorry...I have a much longer post that is in moderation, so this one may seem a bit abrupt.
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Old Jun 14th, 2021, 08:16 AM
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All of the shinkansen stop at Shinagawa on the way from Tokyo to Kyoto. The Narita Express goes to Shinagawa, in addition to other rail/bus options. Shinagawa would be a good choice for the first night if you were heading to Kyoto the next day,. It is not a great location for visiting Tokyo. There are better options depending on where your interests are.

Last edited by mrwunrfl; Jun 14th, 2021 at 08:20 AM.
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Old Jun 15th, 2021, 03:22 PM
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I fly non-stop to NRT from New York - I don't think it is that hard to go into Tokyo for the night. I never considered staying at the airport....I usually take the Narita Express train. I agree with mrwunrfl that the Shinagawa area is convenient. As a budget traveler I often stay in the nearby Toyoko Inn when I am going to Kyoto on the following day.
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Old Jul 30th, 2021, 05:53 PM
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Needless to say, it is too early to tell if things will be back to "normal" by next March. I hope your tickets are refundable. Have a look at this site from time to time on letting in foreign tourists. A few insights:
1. The "cash is king" notion is getting increasingly dated. Yes, you should have enough cash to get you through the day. But credit card acceptance is increasing in Japan, especially in the large urban areas. Japan also has been making using credit cards easier in anticipation of the Olympics (which won't have millions of foreign tourists going there, but anyway...) I pay all my big ticket items this way - hotels, chain stores, department stores, medium to long distance rail & bus tickets, places that handle lots of international tourists, etc. As well as many supermarkets, taxis, and restaurants. The small mom & pop stores and places in the sticks rarely accept them though. A few places might allow you to choose to have your card charged in either yen or dollars, but if so, always choose yen - your bank will almost always give a better exchange rate than the merchant. If you want to save some good money, get a credit card that has NO foreign exchange fees like I do. And as said, your ATM card at a Japanese 7–11 (or 7-Bank ATM) or post office is just fine - good exchange rates, and small fees on the Japan side. Put your money in a credit union or other good place and not a rip-off Big Bankster place to save on lots of unnecessary fees. Be sure to notify your bank about your trip before you leave.
2. Realistically, with just 4½ days, I'd just stick to the Tokyo area unless you just don't see yourself going back to Japan again, at least in the foreseeable future. You could easily spend all your time in Tokyo, and on top of that there are 3 dozen day trip possibilities from Tokyo. Kyoto & Nara are of course the traditional soul of Japan, and you could spend months there to just scratch the surface. There is of course good reason to go to Kansai - I've made a dozen trips there over 4 decades - though you are rushing things enough. Is there no way you can extend your trip at all?
3. Lots of variables but you could be through Customs & Immigration in 45-60 minutes. From there the best choice to get into Tokyo depends on where you're staying. One of the cheapest and easiest ways is the Tyo-Nrt Bus - just ¥1300 to Tokyo Station in about 65 minutes. If staying near Nippori or Ueno on the northeast side, the Keisei Skyliner is the fastest, and there are some good money saving combo tickets with the Tokyo subway as well. If on the west side, the Narita Express often works well, with a good 14-day discount round trip ticket for ¥4070. And then the most expensive but perhaps most convenient, the orange limousine bus at ¥3100 yen one way, but essentially door to door service if you're staying at one of the big tourist class hotels they stop at. They have a cheaper round trip ticket as well.

You could show up 90 minutes before your return flight at Narita and do just fine, and if taking the train there, they are quire reliable. But I wouldn't push it more than that.
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