JR Rail

Old Jun 2nd, 2009, 09:05 PM
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Jam
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JR Rail

I will be traveling to Japan with my family of 5 the beginning of July. We will be in Japan for only 5 nights, 6 days. During our stay we will be in Tokyo and will go to Kyoto for just an overnight returning back to Tokyo before flying home Riding the Bullet Train will be an experience in itself. In Tokyo, do most travelers get around by the subway system or the JR Rail? I am debating whether to buy a JR Rail Pass before I leave or just buy tickets in Japan as we go. We will be staying in the Shinjuku area and plan on visiting the major touristy areas. I will appreciate any info as this is my first trip there. I realize that we could easily spend our entire stay in Tokyo but my family has decided to go to Kyoto to just get a brief glimpse of old Japan and the Gion area. Thanks so much in advance.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2009, 11:06 PM
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In Tokyo, you would be using subways, non-JR trains maybe, and and JR. But none of those trips cost much. A couple of the JR routes are very useful in Tokyo. A 7-day pass would cover those, but you would have to pay for the others.

A 7-day JR Pass would also cover your airport transfers. Those are around 3000 yen each way. A roundtrip between Tokyo and Kyoto would be about 27,000 yen. That is ~ 33,000 yen. Maybe another 1,000 yen in Tokyo. Compare that with the 28,300 for the 7-day pass.

There is a pass that you can get a discount on the airport train and there are some less than 3000 yen options. You're going to pay for the airport and Tokyo-JR no matter what. So, you need to decide (have have decided) whether or not it is worth 135,000 yen for a brief glimpse of Kyoto.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2009, 11:52 PM
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Thanks so much for the info mrwunrfl. We plan on taking the airport limo bus into Tokyo. Our first trip to Tokyo so I don't want to use the train nor subways with luggage especially during commuter hours. We will be arriving late in the afternoon and by the time we go through customs we will be right in the midst of rush hour. I have read on previous threads that we should buy a round trip pass back to Narita in order to make use of two days of subway passes. Do you know anything about this? I guess the only time we will really use the JR pass is when we do the round trip on the Shinkansen to Kyoto. I agree it's an expensive train ticket to Kyoto but we don't know when we'll go back to Japan. These few days are all we get get with everyone's busy schedules back at home.
Do you know of a closer destination to Tokyo where we can get a glimpse of old Japan? We thought of Kyoto because it's on everyone's itinerary besides Tokyo.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 05:57 AM
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Nikko and Kamakura are both 'old Japan', with shrines and temples to rival those in Kyoto. Nikko is around 2.5 hours from Tokyo, and costs around 2900 yen r/t by Tobu commuter train. Kamakura is linked to Tokyo by Keihin-Tohoku/Yokosuka commuter line and about an hour and around 1800 yen r/t. Both are possible day trips from Tokyo, though Nikko merits an overnight stay, perhaps in a ryokan.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 07:12 AM
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If you want to see Kyoto, the Nozomi shinkansen ride is what you want to do. If it were me with a family of five, I would forgo the JR pass and just purchase Nozomi Shinkansen tickets r/t Tokyo/Kyoto.

I would herd everyone(children or adults?)into a limousine bus to and from Narita for the ease and service. Here is the info on the two day metro passes.

http://www.limousinebus.co.jp/discou...odayspass.html

If you have not gotten your air tickets yet, why not fly out of Osaka then you can have 2 nights in Kyoto and save one shinkansen ticket and limo bus fare? You can get an open jaw ticket and fly out of Osaka. Might be worth it to check out.

With such a short time in Kyoto I would recommend staying somewhere very close to the action on the Shoji street shopping area like the Hotel Okura or at the Kyoto Station area like The Granvia, jmho.

You can also commute to Narita from Kyoto on your last day easily via train in order to get another night in Kyoto but your flight would have to leave in the later part of the afternoon to make me comfortable with this situation....

Aloha!
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 08:23 AM
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No no no. Hawaiiantraveler is usually good for Japan information. I disagree with this train advice if you are traveling in and out of Tokyo. I agree with it if you do an open jaw.

The Nozomi shinkansen is about 25 minutes faster than the Hikari. You take the Hikari if you get a JR pass. The seven-day JR pass will be 28300 yen. The round-trip shinkansen ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto is 26640.

The JR pass also covers: (1) the 3100Y one-way cost of the Narita Express; (2) all JR trains in Tokyo (most notably the Yamanote line and the Chuo line that you'll use to get around the city from Shinjuku); and (3) the train from Shinjuku to Nikko (you can take the Tobu train too, but it's a pain to get to from Shinjuku area - you need to take the Yamanote line and a Metro line or some combo of Metro lines).

And the limo bus will be traveling in Tokyo traffic. You can time the Narita Express nearly to the second. You cannot time driving through a metropolitan area of 25-30 million people that well.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 09:58 AM
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I didn't say the Nozomi r/t trip idea was the cheapest. I just said that is the way I would go for my first trip. I would not take the NEX with 5 people with luggage on my first trip to Japan but as I said, thats just my opinion
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 10:10 AM
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There were six of us including three kids on our trip to Japan last year. We had JR passes and took the NEX upon arrival. It all worked well until we got to Tokyo station. Three level chess in a dark room. Very confusing.

We went to Kyoto on a Hikari. The train ride is quick and definitely worth it.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 11:54 AM
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Using the Narita Express would be the travel in addition to Kyoto that would make the JR Pass an economical option. There are several good reasons for taking the limo bus (or not), but having decided to take the bus then you don't need a JR Pass, imo.

The Chuo and Yamanote lines that BigRuss mentioned are the ones that I referred to in my earlier post as being very useful in Tokyo.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 12:19 PM
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We have used our JR passes everytime we have travelled in Japan. Our most recent the month of May. We got the Narital Express out of Narita International Terminal #2 direct to Shinjuku Station. Just go to the JR ticket office with your passes in hand and they will give you tickets direct on the NEX.

Depending on the time you arrive the JR office is open until 1900 and you can activate your passes then. If not the ticket office across the way can help you it just might take a bit longer.

The Narita Express is very accomodating for anyone with luggage. All seats are reserved. There is an area as you enter the car to store any big luggage. The overheads accomodate your carry-ons and if not leg room is more than adequate to put between you and the next seat. Once you're at Shinjuku especially if its your first time then calling a cab/or cabs to take you to your hotel is the best bet.

We stayed in this small but very very convenient hotel in Kyoto. We think because it is so convenient that its really difficult to book. We went online through iTRAVEL and booked Kyoto Central Inn. Its right outside the subway exit on Shijo and Kawaramachi. In the midst of everything and bus stops right out front or not more than 5 minute walk to the round the city bus. JR station is 2 subway transfers....

You can avoid the Tokyo Station madness and get out of dodge on the Shinkansen using Shinagawa Station.....unless of course you want to experience the Japanese lifestyle of organized chaos. Our JR agent suggested Shinagawa and we appreciated her advice.

Should you need more help let me know. We were just there in Kyoto on the 17th-20 of May. And into and out of Narita to Shinjuku.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 12:26 PM
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Thanks everyone for your information. My husband and I are traveling with 3 adult sons, 2 who have lived and worked abroad. Our plans are to take the limo bus into Tokyo because we are arriving on two different flights about the same time into Narita. If one plane gets delayed the others can go ahead into Tokyo via the limo and we can meet at the Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku. We are arriving very late in the afternoon. The trip is basically for the boys and my husband and I will follow along as they sight see and shop. They wanted to stay outside Tokyo for one night and we chose Kyoto and are staying at the Westin Miyako Hotel where we will use our Starwood points for free rooms. Then back to Tokyo for our last night staying at the Park Hyatt famous for the movie. We're hoping to dropoff and store our luggage at the Park Hyatt before we depart for Kyoto to travel with minimal baggage.
I'm still trying to figure out if it's worth getting the JR Rail Pass. I guess I need to see if we will use the pass traveling within the Tokyo vicinity. I've heard many people just travel by subway from one to point to the other. Also, has anyone stayed at the Westin in Kyoto? Is it located near any shops or restaurants? Thanks again!
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 05:48 PM
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Jam,

A few more random thoughts.

Ask the bell captain at the Keio about sending your bags to the Park Hyatt. The hotels are very close and they would know the best way to store and send your luggage for you when needed. There might be a modest delivery charge in yen only.

I like your plan of the limo bus as the service to the Keio Plaza and the Park Hyatt(leaving) are door to door so no worries. Don't forget to buy the round trip at the Narita desk so you can get the 2 day Metro passes for free.

I wouldn't worry too much about the traffic as the limo buses are equipped with the latest technology systems which show the drivers what is actually happening with the traffic ahead and they can detour and use different routes if possible.

Your main method of getting around Tokyo city to see the sights would be the Tokyo Metro not the JR trains for a first time visitor. You don't want the hassle of the trains unless you know the system and want to get across the city quickly for some reason. The train stops are few and far between so the Metro is the way to go in Tokyo to see the sights. Section out your days of sightseeing so your not taking long subway rides from destination to destination. Study the maps and use this site for information if you haven't seen it already. Click on the subway map routes button for the subway map

http://www.tokyometro.jp/global/en/

I stayed at the Keio a few years back but can't remember if they have a travel agent in their lobby or not. If they do that would be a great place to make your train reservations and purchase your tickets as they would speak English and the service would be free.

Love the area in Shinjuku which you will be staying. Click on my screen name if you are interested and read my trip reports to Tokyo and the area you will be staying in.

It's only worth getting a pass when you have plans to utilize it,imho.

Aloha!
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 06:34 PM
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I am with mrwunrfl. I would get JR pass, use on NEX, use on Hikari to Kyoto.

I have traveled to Tokyo many times. I have used both buses and NEX. I disliked the slow going bus in cramped seat just slightly better than the cattle class plane I just got off. The NEX is designed to carry people with luggage. The seats are roomier than the bus, you can use restrooms, can walk around, and not affected by traffic jam.

You will end up using subway in Tokyo a lot because it is usually the fastest way to move around. The surface traffic is a mess most of the time it seems.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 07:27 PM
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Thank-you so much for all the info Hawaiiantraveler, what a great idea about checking with Keio Plaza to see if they can transfer our luggage for us. I will also check to see if the concierge can help us with purchasing Shinkansen tickets. If they can't what do you think about purchasing online before we leave? One of my sons has gone to Tokyo on business and he said he traveled by Metro which is probably what we would do since we are on a time crunch. Since you are a very seasoned traveler to Japan have you stayed at the Westin Miyako in Kyoto or are you familiar with it's location? If so, can you tell me if it's close to any major sites,(by foot) or inexpensive food places etc...We are there for such a short period of time but knowing my guys we will be going non-stop the whole trip. Everything will be new and exciting. Thanks to all for your wonderful suggestions and help.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 10:14 PM
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As far as I know you can only purchase train tickets for north of Tokyo routes on the JR East train routes. You cannot purchase Tokyo to Kyoto online yet that I know of....

No, I have not stayed at the Westin in Kyoto as it is far away from all main sights and shopping but for a free night it is priceless imho,lol.

Don't worry, transport in Kyoto is a breeze and you will concentrate on maybe two main sights and then the Pontocho-Shoji Dori area so where you stay is of no consequence.

Try to get to Kyoto early on the first day to maximize your time there. You can check in early at your hotel and leave your luggage with the front desk and head on out for touring early that day.

Here is a site all about the public transport and info about Kyoto....might be useful to you

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2015.html

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2363.html

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2158.html

Aloha!
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 10:26 PM
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I stayed at the Westin Miyako and it is a bit out of the way. They have a shuttle that goes from the hotel to a subway station and on to JR Kyoto station where there are lots of buses. We got around by taxi, though, since it was convenient and not too expensive.

OP wants to take the limo bus for good reasons, so no JR Pass is a good idea. I agree about the cramped seats on the bus (I could not share a two-person bench, if I had to, because of the lack of leg room). Traffic is also an issue, but the convenience of going right to the hotel and ease with luggage are big plusses - especially with a group of 5.

On my first trip to Japan I took the limo bus from the hotel to the airport and it was a great trip during the daytime. Really got an idea of how huge the city was by traveling above ground. On another trip the bus from NRT to Yokohama took a long time due to traffic in the dark. Might use it again next time, tho.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 10:40 PM
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Thanks so much Hawaiiantraveler and mrwunrfl for all your info and suggestions. We'll buy tickets on the Shinkansen in Tokyo, hopefully we'll find someone who speaks English at the hotel or a travel agency. Regards~
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Old Jun 4th, 2009, 01:05 AM
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I was also wondering what train station would be the most convenient to catch the Shinkansen to Kyoto if I am staying in the Shinjuku area? Since I have limited time it's probably best that I take the Tokaido Shinkansen. Do you recommend getting a reserved seat? Also, is it pretty easy to figure out what train car you ride and where to stand at the train station? I have some concerns since I can't read nor speak Japanese and I understand the train does not stop for very long. Any other advice you can offer about purchasing these tickets would be appreciated. Thanks!
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Old Jun 4th, 2009, 01:32 AM
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You can catch your Shinkansen either at Tokyo or Shinagawa stations. I'd opt for Tokyo, because it's easy to get to by JR Chuo line from Shinjuku (you arrive at platform 1 or 2), and as trains start there, they are in platform longer. Just get to the Shinkansen section of the station (you need to show your tickets or put them through ticket barrier). All displays are in English and Japanese, so locate your platform (14 to 19), get there around 20 min before departure (when the train comes in), find the right car and your seat.
You can get your tickets in advance at the Midorino Madoguchi (with a picture in green of a reclining seat) at Shinjuku station. Most agents speak some English. You can pay in cash or credit card. It can get rather busy, with some waiting in line. Or you can get them, at the same price, at travel agents - there are several near the station, and the lines tend to be shorter and you sit at the counter when you buy.
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Old Jun 4th, 2009, 07:16 AM
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Alec gives great advice above. I think the last two times I took the Chuo Express to Tokyo Station it left on track 8 and arrived on track 2 in Tokyo station. You can ask at the front desk at the Keio about the Chuo Express, they or the concierge usually will have a printed schedule of that line for you. Be forewarned when taking the express train on the weekday mornings between 7:30-9:30 as you've never seen trains this crowded no matter where you are from, it's a hoot!

Yes, get a reserved seat on the Shinkansen.
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