Trip report Japan

Jul 18th, 2019, 12:10 PM
  #1  
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Trip report Japan

We just came back from our first trip to Japan and would like to give back to this wonderful travel community. It was not only our first trip to Japan, but also our first trip to Asia. Following are some suggestions/tips:
1) Do as much as you can upon arrival at the airport: we purchased a sim card, took money out of an international ATM, exchanged our JR Pass (since you need your passport to exchange it), and bought Narita Express tickets and Suica cards at JR office as well. We also booked all our train tickets at the JR office (we had previously researched train schedules on Hyperdia and just showed the employee the ones we had selected).
2) Public transportation in Japan is WONDERFUL! In no time we were taking the subway, buses and trains with no problem at all. We even used our Uber app to request a taxi in Kyoto (Uber has an agreement with the taxi company I guess)
3) Tokyo: don't miss Teamlab, an incredible multimedia experience. Get tickets online in advance and try to get there as early as possible (tickets are for a specific day, but not timed and it gets very crowded). We also did the imperial palace tour, Sumida river ferry, Edo Tokyo museum (highly recommended; you can request a complimentary private tour in English and if there is a volunteer available you can start the tour right away). Senso Ji and Meji temples were incredible. We also did an Airbnb experience in Tokyo and another one in Kyoto. It was very good.
4) Kyoto: took buses everywhere (you need exact change; subway is not as good as in Tokyo). The Silver temple and walking the philosophers path was one of the highlights. The path was empty and it was a nice break from all the crowds at the different temples. Try to go to the Fushimi Inari temple early, as it gets very crowded.
5) Hiroshima: the Peace park and Museum are incredible! The JR pass gives you free access to the tourist buses. The Peace Museum is amazing, not to be missed. We also got a free private tour in English there. Just stop at the customer service desk and ask.
6) Miyajima Island: took the ferry there and stayed overnight in a ryokan with onsen. A great experience! Did some hicking as well at Misen park, very nice views from the top, about 5 km.

We had a great time and were very impressed with the efficiency, cleanness and respect in the Japanese society. Now we want to go back with our children!

Last edited by moderator9; Jul 22nd, 2019 at 02:27 AM. Reason: Added Trip Report Tag
Claudina is offline  
Jul 18th, 2019, 01:44 PM
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Thanks for the info. Where were you flying from? We have such a long flight from Dallas that it’s hard to imagine being alert enough to do all that. But I would like to. Couple questions? Do you have to go to different JR offices to purchase the various passes and tickets? Can you pay via credit card?
yestravel is offline  
Jul 18th, 2019, 02:50 PM
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We flew from west palm beach to Dallas and then to Tokyo. Surprisingly, we were ok to do all these things at the airport. It paid off. You do everything at the same JR office where you exchange the passes
Claudina is offline  
Jul 18th, 2019, 03:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Claudina View Post
We flew from west palm beach to Dallas and then to Tokyo. Surprisingly, we were ok to do all these things at the airport. It paid off. You do everything at the same JR office where you exchange the passes
We'll give it a try! Were you on a JAL flight?
yestravel is offline  
Jul 18th, 2019, 03:27 PM
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Sounds like you did your homework and were well prepared upon arrival, good for you. One can get easily spoiled by the guest services provided in Japan and I love how they are constantly trying to improve on what they do.
curiousgeo is online now  
Jul 18th, 2019, 04:54 PM
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Originally Posted by yestravel View Post
We'll give it a try! Were you on a JAL flight?
American airlines
Claudina is offline  
Jul 18th, 2019, 06:06 PM
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It just shows the more research and prep you do ahead of time, the better your experience is going to be.
For Meiji Shrine, I hope you also went through the shrine garden, Meiji Jingu Gyoen. Unlike the crowds rushing to the shrine, the garden is mostly empty. I just went to both TeamLab Borderless and Planets. The former is the better of the two, though a bit more expensive.
For Kyoto, buses are one way to get around - but rush hour on the buses is definitely not the time to ride them. For a few areas, I just bit my wallet and paid for a taxi to some places. For Hiroshima, everyone stampedes to the Peace Park, but I hope you saw more there as well, like the Shukkeien Garden & Mitakidera Temple. If not, you really shortchanged yourself. The okonomiyaki is something worth trying while there as well. At any rate, nobody sees it all in one shot - you can always go again.
Adastra2200 is online now  
Jul 18th, 2019, 07:00 PM
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Thanks for the report Claudina. I have finally decided on which locations for our Jan trip and am about to start getting into the detail so this is really helpful.
crellston is offline  
Jul 19th, 2019, 04:19 AM
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We recently returned from Japan too. After having traveled all over Asia, we were amazed by Japan. The orderliness, politeness and I have never been in any place that is so clean. We will return.
HappyTrvlr is offline  
Jul 19th, 2019, 06:29 AM
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Couldn't agree more. The most advanced country I have been to.
Claudina is offline  
Jul 19th, 2019, 06:36 AM
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Thank you for the report, seems like you covered plenty. I would also like to go to Japan with the family, but we haven't penciled anything in as of yet. Sorry if I missed it but how long was your trip? Did the language barrier become a problem? This seems nerdy but one of the things that excite me about Japan is its efficient transportation, so I was quite pleased to read your comment.
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Jul 19th, 2019, 02:54 PM
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Originally Posted by kapia View Post
Thank you for the report, seems like you covered plenty. I would also like to go to Japan with the family, but we haven't penciled anything in as of yet. Sorry if I missed it but how long was your trip? Did the language barrier become a problem? This seems nerdy but one of the things that excite me about Japan is its efficient transportation, so I was quite pleased to read your comment.
we were there for 12 days. No language barrier in general, some speak English better than others, but we found people were very willing to help
Claudina is offline  
Jul 21st, 2019, 08:38 AM
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Claudina, I'm glad you had a good trip to Japan.

The next time I go to Japan, as on previous trips, I will do as little as possible at the airport on arrival: get about 80,000 yen and a ticket to the city.

The ticket might be for the Narita Express and I would do the JR Pass exchange if I wanted to use the pass for that train. If I don't need the pass for the N'Ex then I might do the exchange if there was no line or no extra effort.

I'd rather just get the JR Pass at a station in the city later whre the line, if there is one, will be shorter than at the airport. For a reserved seat I will just go to a JR ticket office. They have a separate counter just for issuing reserved seats and which, often enough, won't have anyone in line (and at least it will be less likely than at the airport that you would be waiting behind someone who is getting multiple seats for multiple future trips).

More likely, the ticket I get at the airport would be for a bus: a limo bus to my hotel (Tokyo), an airport bus to a city station (Osaka), or a city bus (Nagasaki, Kumamoto). There is maybe a 50% chance that I will go into Tokyo/Yokohama on arrival in Japan. It is just as likely that I will connect to a domestic flight to a different city. If figure that I can take that next leg of the trip without having to go to the airport (or a railway station) because, you know, I am already at the airport.

I understand that people get all of their reserved seats for trains on arrival and that relieves some anxiety when they have the tix in hand.

To me, that would be adding schedule pressure.

More later.

yestravel, do you have a question about JAL?

Last edited by mrwunrfl; Jul 21st, 2019 at 08:44 AM.
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Jul 21st, 2019, 08:59 AM
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Mr wurfl- I think I like your approach. We will take the Narita Express to Tokyo and thatís it after a long flight. Re JAL, weíre flying it from DFW to Narita in biz class and just was interested in first hand experience.
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Jul 21st, 2019, 09:51 AM
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By schedule pressure, I mean knowing that I have to be at a certain place at a certain time can prevent me from relaxing in my mind. Having to keep track of the time interferes with my enjoyment of a place.

I might get my reserved seat to Himeji today for a day trip there tomorrow, but I won't get one in advance for the return. I don't know how long it will take. I might find that I would like to take my time with a picnic on the lawn or viewing a presentation of bonzai trees that happens to be there that day. Or the line might be long and slow. Or I might find the castle that I really take my time, plenty of time, to soak it in because this is the only time I will visit there in my life (I have visited there twice). I don't want to have to return to the station at, say, 4PM to use the reserved seat ticket or turn it in.

I do want to know the timetable to some extent: the frequency of the trains and when the last train of night departs.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Jul 21st, 2019, 09:58 AM
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I do have experience in international first class and business class and in domestic economy on JAL, but not from DFW. I could tell you about that, if you want. It was all (almost) very positive.
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Jul 21st, 2019, 10:07 AM
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Originally Posted by mrwunrfl View Post
I do have experience in international first class and business class and in domestic economy on JAL, but not from DFW. I could tell you about that, if you want. It was all (almost) very positive.
Sure. Last time I flew JAL was 7 years ago and it was just ok. Iím hoping itís improved.
yestravel is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2019, 09:26 AM
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My experience was less recent.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2019, 10:17 AM
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I think it depends on your personality and the type of traveller you are. I personally like to have as much reserved in advance as possible, that's why I suggested doing as much as possible when you arrive, since at that time you have your passport with you and your chances of dealing with english-speaking people is higher. It worked really well for us, that's why I shared. JR tickets can always be changed or cancelled, so there is really no downside to booking in advance.
Claudina is offline  
Jul 24th, 2019, 05:11 PM
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We got all our train tickets at the JR desks at Shinbashi Station near our hotel the next day. Very easy. We only had a few minutes to make the Limousine Bus at Narita after getting through the long lines at immigration.
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