Japan Rail Pass Question

Old Jul 9th, 2009, 08:48 PM
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Japan Rail Pass Question

I am planning a visit to Japan for the cherry blossoms in March- April next year. As I understand it I would buy the rail pass from outside Japan and it will take effect from the first day of use once in Japan. How far ahead is it advisable to book train seats? It will be a busy time to be travelling and I think I will need to book hostels/ hotels ahead of time. How can I book train seats if the Pass is yet to be activated? Will I need to be in the country for a number of days or weeks before I plan to take a train?

I am finding this a difficult trip to get my head around, I have travelled a lot in SEA and a little in NEA and India but for some reason I am finding Japan a tough tirp to plan.

Sue
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Old Jul 9th, 2009, 09:08 PM
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My hsband and I did just that: bought the rail pass from the US and booked trains and seats while in Japan last year.

Yes, you understand it correctly, the pass is activated once you actually ride.
No, you do not need to be in-country any number of days before the ride.

We booked the day before the actual ride and had no problem doing so. We travelled from Tokyo to Kyoto in late April, not the height of cherry blossom time, so it might be different for you, but there are so many trains to choose from, I wouldn't worry too much.
Good luck.
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Old Jul 10th, 2009, 08:08 AM
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You have to purchase a voucher outside of Japan which you have to have validated when you arrive in Japan at a JR train station and are issued your JR Pass. See this site for details and information you are wondering about. Check out the whole site as the info contained is invaluable.

http://www.japanrail.com/index.php?p...apan-rail-pass

You can only make advance reservations 60 days ahead on the JR East line trains using this site

http://jreast-shinkansen-reservation...menu/menu.aspx

Most just wait till they get to Japan and make their seat reservations at the same time that you activate your JR Pass. Just ask the person helping you to make the reservations for you.

Have you seen this site yet?

http://www.japan-guide.com/

Lots of info here that you need. Let us know what else you need to know about Japan travel. Actually, Japan is one of the easiest countries in Asia to travel around in. Transportation and lodging are top notch and the Japanese really cater to the tourists which they consider their duty to do. Please ask more questions as they arise and we will try to answer them

Aloha!
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Old Jul 10th, 2009, 08:54 AM
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Thank you for your responses.

Hawaiian. I just found your Cherry Blossom trip report. I will need some time to digest it so will print it off and start my Japan File!

I don't know how much work is involved in predicting the cherry blossom time but have you any ideas about Spring 2010? I had intended to be in Kyoto but would also be very interested in Kakunodate as you make it sound wonderful.

If what I am asking is too much work please do not feel obliged to undertake it.

Sue
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Old Jul 10th, 2009, 06:59 PM
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Love your pictures, I need to take the time to do a photo site one day.....

If you have never been to Japan before then the Kyoto to Tokyo circuit would be a good one for you to follow. If I were planning a Sakura trip to Japan next spring I would plan on being there(Kyoto/Tokyo area) around 3/26 through 4/2. This is of course just my guess and should not be taken in any way to be true or accurate, but that's what I would plan for this far out. Kakunodate would be later in the month around 4/19 through 4/24 so to catch all places you have to be on the ground for quite a time. The Japan Meteorological Agency makes predictions in March because there are a lot of variables that can happen that would change the dates but that's the best I can do this far out.

Do some research and pick a time and a list of places you would like to see and the members here will chime in with their suggestions for your trip.

Aloha!
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Old Jul 10th, 2009, 08:07 PM
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Kakunodate is wonderful! It is the quintessential small samurai town in Japan with a bit of history and a river lined with 400 cherry trees. My dream is to be lucky enough to be there along Hinokanai-gawa(river) with the 400+ cherry trees in full bloom kudasai.....I'll keep trying.....

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3601.html
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Old Jul 16th, 2009, 07:31 AM
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Just be sure the rail pass is worth it for what you plan to do. It wasn't for us.

We used the high speed trains from Tokyo to Kyoto, and then from Kyoto to Nagoya. The rest of the trip we used highway buses as the time differences were not signicant, and we wanted to see some areas not traversed by the rail system--buses were a LOT less expensive than trains. However, the train can be a lot faster than a bus depending on where you are going.

We were there at the the height of the cherry blossom season and neither of our trains was even 1/2 full. The trains were clean, quiet, and efficiently run.
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Old Jul 16th, 2009, 07:42 AM
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We were in Japan from March 28-April 6 this year (primarily Tokyo and Kyoto) and had no problems making our seat reservations once we activated our JR Passes. For some, we made our reservations the day of, but never more than a day or two in advance. In one case, we adjusted our schedule due to availability, but that was only to get three seats together.

I never quite finished the trip report but maybe some of this will be helpful:
http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...rom-mrmsgo.cfm
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Old Jul 21st, 2009, 10:58 PM
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We just returned yesterday from 14 days in Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima. We had the 14 day JR Rail passes. Our only regret was that we did not purchase the green car passes as in Tokyo the non-green cars were packed most of the time and we (and our 3 kids were standing all the time). Wonderful time there.

We activated the rail pass at the airport and made reservations the day of (or day prior) to the train trip. High speed trains between Tokyo/Kyoto were excellent.
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Old Aug 15th, 2009, 08:56 PM
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Thank you everyone.

Hawaiian your guesstimate of the optimum time for cherryblossom viewing is noted as is the valuable information from ms_go's trip report.

It looks like the last week in March and the first two in April for our trip and I am beginning to get an itinerary together. Perhaps you will comment when I have the first draft sorted.

Regards to all. Sue
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Old Aug 16th, 2009, 02:21 PM
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Of course we would all love to critique your itinerary when you are ready. Critique is what we do best,lol

Aloha!
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