The all-new, all-encompassing JAPAN THREAD (now with guidelines on the first page)

This thread shall take the place of BOTH the old Japan and Osaka threads.


To take away the confusion over where to post, we are veering away from the 2-thread format

and encourage everyone to post in this thread for all matters concerning travel to Japan;

no matter where in Japan you intend to go to.



pex_japan is a collaboration of those people who frequent the old japan and osaka threads. :)
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Comments

  • pex_japanpex_japan Member PExer
    INTRODUCTION (prepared by kanski)


    Hello and welcome to the all-new Japan thread!


    Every day, more and more Filipinos want make Japan their new holiday destination.
    Majority, however, have no clue on how to go about it.


    There is a website that is considered the ultimate guide for travel to Japan, the appropriately called japan-guide.com.
    Some people however, still find its already simple layout confusing.
    This thread is mainly meant for, but is not limited to, such people.


    In this thread, we hope to present all the essential information that a first-time traveler would need when going to Japan.
    We may even toss in a few non-essential ones for good measure.


    It will be a venue for you, prospective Japan traveler, to ask or clarify, certain aspects or details of your planned trip.


    But before you continue reading, or even before you start posting, please be mindful of the following guidelines when using this thread.


    1. Please be courteous when you post.


    2. Please be clear on what you want to get through with your post.
    Practicing good grammar, either in Tagalog or English will help towards this end.


    3. In line with #2, don’t ask vague questions.
    For example, don’t say “we want to go to Osaka and Sapporo, please help me with my itinerary.”
    Instead, make an outline of your itinerary and ask other people for their opinion or suggestions.


    4. Please ADD A TITLE to your post.
    This will help other people search for the same topic/s as you are discussing or have discussed.


    5. Please backread.
    Your concern might have already been discussed.


    6. Use the search function.
    This will aid in zoning in on what posts should you backread.


    7. Say thanks!
    Thank the person who was kind enough to answer your post.
    Saying "Thank You" and not "TIA" will go a long way.


    8. Did I mention that you ADD A TITLE!!?
    Please see the beginning of post #5 below for guidelines on how to compose a title.


    9. And as they say in the HK thread-
    PLEZ LANG, READ THE WRITE-UPS ON THE FIRST PAGE before you continue to other parts or even, BAGO MAG POST. Lol!


    Enjoy!
  • pex_japanpex_japan Member PExer
    GENERAL CONCERNS PRIOR TO TRAVELING (prepared by kanski)



    VISA

    Japan, unfortunately, is a country that requires Filipinos to have a visa to enter into their country.
    How to procure one will however not be discussed in this thread.
    There is an appropriate thread for that.

    Questions about acquiring a Japanese Visa will not be entertained in this thread.



    COSTS


    Somewhat in line with visa application where you need to prove your financial capability to undertake travel to their country,
    you have to prepare enough funds to travel to Japan.


    What constitutes enough funds is the bare minimum needed to travel and stay in Japan.
    It should cover food, shelter, and transportation at the least.
    Entrance fees to tourist sites and shopping expenses for example, should not be considered as part of the bare minimum
    even if they should be part of your budget.


    Here now is the bare minimum amount you need to prepare for your trip.




    Food
    ¥500 - 1000 / meal


    Shelter
    ¥2,000 /night for a single room


    Transportation
    ¥1,000 /day for intra-city travel;
    for inter-city travel, consult hyperdia





    AREA OF COVERAGE -or- WHERE DO YOU GO?


    And by this, we mean what area or, more appropriately, what region should you go to given the amount of time you have traveling?


    Travel to Japan for touring purposes can generally be divided into 2 areas:
    1) the Kanto region where Tokyo and Yokohama are, and
    2) the Kansai region where Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe are, among others.


    If you have just less than a week to travel, we strongly suggest that you confine your trip to one region and its outlying destinations.


    You should consider going to both regions only when you can spare more than a week of your time.
    When planning on staying for more than a week, be sure that your wallet, too, can spare more than enough yen. lol.


    Each region’s outlying destinations will be discussed together with the City Topics.



    TIMING YOUR TRIP or WHEN DO YOU GO? (Tied in to WHAT DO YOU WEAR?)


    Japan, owing to its geographical location of being in the northern hemisphere, experiences four seasons each year.
    The sights you will witness while traveling to this country will greatly depend on when you travel.


    The more famous times of travel are the following:

    Early Spring or Hanami Season - typically falls on the last week of March to the first week of April.
    Hanami is dedicated to cherry blossom (sakura) viewing.

    Late Fall or Koyo Season - typically in mid to late November.
    Koyo refers to the phenomenon of leaves changing in color from green to shades of yellow and red during this time.


    Other notable times of visit are during the holiday season, wintertime (January - February), and during summer (July - September).


    Expect the temperature to be high during summer and low during winter.
    During both Hanami and Koyo season, expect it to be milder.
    For a more detailed description on what temperatures to expect, take a look at the When to Travel page of japan-guide.com.


    So what do you wear? May we suggest something stylish?
    Leave your hole-riddled t-shirt behind. :D


    Seriously, what kind of clothing you should bring will depend on your own tolerance to cold weather.
    While it might be a burden to bring that extra jacket, it might be an even bigger inconvenience to walk around feeling cold.


    As a general rule, typical MANILA temperature hovers around the 28 - 32°C range.
    BAGUIO weather on the other hand is much cooler, with temperatures hovering around the 22 - 27°C range, even falling to the upper to low teens at night.
    With these in mind, consult websites that forecast weather of Japanese cities and prepare accordingly, using Manila and Baguio temperatures as reference.


    Rain


    Japan is a country that receives its fair share of rain.


    The rainy season (Tsuyu) more or less falls between the months of JUNE and JULY.


    Typhoon season is recognized as a different weather phenomenon and typically occurs during the months of AUGUST and SEPTEMBER.


    However, no matter when you intend to travel outside of the winter months, always be ready for some rain.
    If you come unprepared, rest assured that you can readily buy disposable umbrellas from the nearest konbini.
  • pex_japanpex_japan Member PExer
    GENERAL CONCERNS WHEN TRAVELING (prepared by kanski)



    WHERE DO YOU STAY?


    Japan offers a wide variety of options on where you can lodge while on holiday.
    These options differ in price and character; and they range from your typical western hotel to the more traditional ryokans,
    from popular budget hostels to not so popular (yet) capsule hotels.

    Nowadays, you can even rent rooms or flats from private individuals via AirBnB.com.


    Aside from the aforementioned AirBnB.com, other websites that prove helpful in finding a place to stay include
    Tripadvisor, Expedia, Orbitz, Booking.com, and the Japan-specific Japanican.com, among others.


    You are expected to book a place where you can stay as soon as possible.
    It has been reported in the older Japan and Osaka threads that lodging options can run out fast,
    especially on popular periods of Travel (eg. last week of April - the first week of May, New Years Day).


    As a general rule, it will be beneficial to you as a traveler to book a place at the center of the city.
    This will give you better access to both dining options and attractions.
    If it cannot be helped, particularly when budgetary concerns come into play, try to book a place that is near a well situated train station.
    This will at least easily connect you to places of interest.


    Keep in mind too, that different accommodations may have different encumbrances.
    A traditional ryokan will offer futon mats instead of a bed.
    An older establishment may be equipped squat type toilets.
    Hostels may offer shared rooms and toilets.
    And so on.


    Specific recommendations where to stay will be/ may have been discussed in the city narratives that follow.



    CURRENCY


    Japan’s form of currency is the Yen (¥). All establishments in the country transact in their currency alone.
    Majority of establishments do not accept credit cards. Only the bigger stores and hotels offer that convenience.
    You are therefore expected to have Yen when you travel to Japan.



    Where do you exchange for Yen?


    You can exchange your Pesos or even your Dollars for Yen either before you leave for, or after you’ve landed in Japan.


    In the Philippines, you can purchase Yen at the bank or at moneychangers.
    I have observed through the years that moneychangers offer a better rate than banks.
    Examples of moneychangers are Czarina’s and Sanry’s.


    If you decide to forego purchasing your Yen before you leave, you can do so at the moneychanger at the airport.
    Outside of the airport, you can do the same at a bank or at an ATM.


    I haven’t had the chance to exchange for Yen in Japan as I’ve always bought Yen before I leave at Czarina’s main branch in Makati.
    I have however, withdrawn Yen from my Philippine Bank Account from a Japanese ATM and,
    I can report that the rates at Czarina’s were much more favorable.



    TRANSPORTATION


    This section will pertain to traveling within Japan.
    How to get to Japan from the Philippines will not be covered.
    If you have no inkling on how to travel to Japan, you probably have no business contemplating travel in the first place. :grindvl:


    This section too, will tackle the general rules of traveling.
    For area specific details (eg. routes, what train to take, passes), kindly refer to the posts on specific regions or cities.




    TRAINS


    If the Jeepney is king of the road in our shores, in Japan, traveling by rail is hands down the most popular option.
    Traveling by rail incorporates both train and subway systems.
    When used together, you can practically reach any destination in Japan. Well, almost.
    Expect your trip to be punctual, and your ride comfortable.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++




    Railway Companies


    Japan’s railway system, both trains and subways, is mainly composed of private companies both big and small.


    The biggest of them all is the Japan Railway Company (JR) whose trains encompass the whole of Japan.


    Other smaller railway companies service smaller areas, often connecting two or three cities with one another.
    Examples of these smaller rail companies are Tobu Railways in Tokyo, connecting the city to its northern neighbors,
    and Hankyu Railways, connecting the cities of Kobe, Osaka and Kyoto.


    Think of Japan Rail as being like our Philippine National Railway (PNR), albeit a million times bigger and more efficient.
    Unfortunately, we do not have smaller railway companies in the Philippines.
    Come to think of it, the PNR is comparable to the smallest Japanese rail company.


    Aside from the trains, cities often have a network of subways that crisscross its boundaries and everywhere else in between.
    These subway trains are akin to our LRT and MRT but travel almost exclusively underground.


    Take note however that subways aren’t the exclusive means of rail transport within the city.
    Just like how the PNR also offers a line traveling within Metro Manila, train companies like JR also operate lines within the city.
    JR actually operates the popular loop lines that encircle both the cities of Tokyo and Osaka.


    Now that you have an idea of the complex system of train companies, let’s focus our attention on what do you do to ride a train or the subway.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++



    Means of paying for your train or subway ride

    Tickets
    Prepaid Cards
    Passes



    Tickets


    Just like we do in the Philippines, when riding either the LRT or the MRT, you can purchase an individual ticket to ride a train or subway line in Japan.


    The only difference is that the individual ticket here in our country takes the form of a pliable card with a magnetic strip that we insert in the turnstile at the station of departure.
    In Japan, the individual ticket is an actual ticket that you likewise insert in the ticket gate.


    Tickets
    ticktes.jpg
    Image taken from [url]http://blog.ofjapan.jp;[/url] credits to owner.


    Ticket Gate
    JapanTicketGate_zps679868e0.jpg
    Image taken from [url]https://markystar.files.wordpress.com;[/url] credits to owner.




    Prepaid Cards


    Again, like here in the Philippines when riding the LRT or the MRT, you too, have the option of purchasing a prepaid card in Japan.


    However, unlike here where the prepaid cards look exactly like the individual-ride cards, the prepaid cards in Japan aren’t pliable and are actual cards (think credit cards).
    They have ICs that you just tap on the ticket gate’s reader as you enter the station.


    Note the other differences on the use of prepaid cards:




    Local
    Japan


    Purchase amount doesn’t include a deposit
    Purchase amount includes a ¥500 deposit


    Whole purchase price is consumable
    Cannot consume ¥500 deposit


    Non-reloadable
    Reloadable


    Turnstile swallows card when whole amount is consumed
    Card can be returned to refund deposit and remaining balance





    Kinds of Prepaid Cards


    Different train companies, often grouped as JR and non-JR, offer different prepaid cards
    that are valid on all regular trains regardless of the train company operating that line.


    For example, in Tokyo, JR stations sell the Suica prepaid card while non-JR stations sell the Pasmo prepaid card.
    You can however use the Pasmo card for travel in JR trains and use the Suica card on non-JR trains and the subway maintained by the Toie and Metro companies.



    Limitations of Prepaid Cards


    While you can use the prepaid card to pay for your fare on almost all regular lines, you cannot use it to pay for limited express trains (ltd. exp).
    To be exact, the prepaid card will allow you entry on the ltd exp. train as it will pay for its base fare.
    However, you will need to pay for the supplementary fee either before hand in the ticket counter or to the train master inside the train.



    Train Passes

    This is what we don’t have in our country.

    In Japan, you have the option of purchase a train pass in that is valid on a certain number of trains and/or subways,
    and may offer varying degrees of discounts when traveling in a certain period of time.



    Why buy an individual ticket?

    If you don’t see yourself as traveling much, purchasing tickets on a per-ride basis may prove the prudent option.
    For one, you won’t have to pony up the ¥2000 to purchase the prepaid card.
    Two, if you don’t use up the value stored in your card, you lose ¥220 when you reimburse that remaining amount in the way of a handling fee.



    Why buy a prepaid card?

    If you foresee yourself using public transportation a lot, purchasing a prepaid card may prove to be the wiser option.
    This will afford you to get on the train or subway without scrounging for money to purchase tickets every time you ride.



    When do you buy a train pass?

    Buying a train pass is tricky due to its limitations and its price.


    Of its known two limitations, the time within which the pass is valid is of less concern.
    For majority of passes however, working around which train lines are covered by the pass is often the more bothersome limitation.


    Different passes are valid for a specific number of days.
    Its price directly reflects the number of days it can be used.


    Be aware that a day of usage typically means a given calendar date and not a 24 hour time period.
    A one-day pass initially used at 4:00 pm will be valid till 11:59 pm of that same day and not 3:59 pm of the next day.


    Moreover, these train passes don’t cover all train lines.


    Different passes are offered by different train or subway companies and are often valid only on the train lines they operate.


    For example, the Toei subway company sells a one-day pass that offers unlimited subway rides on all 4 of its subway lines in Tokyo.
    You cannot use this to get on the subway lines operated by rival Tokyo Metro.



    Still other passes are offered as a city or area pass and are valid for use on majority of that city’s or area’s trains and subways.


    In the Kansai area for example, one can purchase the Surutto Kansai Pass that allows travel on all subways, trains and buses except those operated by JR.


    Time and line coverage aside, the most important factor when deciding whether you should purchase a pass or not has to be its price;
    and whether or not you will take enough train rides so that the total cost of all those rides will approximate the amount you paid to purchase the pass.


    The main reason we purchase a pass after all is to be able to save.
    If a pass does not offer a monetary advantage, it doesn’t make any sense to purchase it.
    A prepaid IC card will do the trick in such an instance.


    Figuring out whether a pass will pay off or not is easy enough.
    There are a number of online sites that help you compute the price of a trip, none more important than Hyperdia.com.


    What is important is that you finalize your itinerary and
    1) take the time to figure out what are the trains that you will need to take using that website, and
    2) take note of each trip’s cost.


    Compare the total price of all the trips you foresee taking to the price of the pass
    to make an informed decision on whether to purchase the pass or not.


    For example, when deciding on whether you should purchase a 7-day JR Pass costing ¥29,110.00, you figure out that,
    aside from insignificant minor trips, you can use the pass for the following major trips:




    Haruka Ltd Exp
    Kansai Airport to Kyoto
    ¥2,850


    Shinkansen Hikari
    Kyoto to Tokyo
    ¥13,800


    Narita Express
    Tokyo to Narita Airport
    ¥3,220



    Total -
    ¥19,870




    From the above data, you can now see that buying the pass will not pay offfor you and therefore, you shouldn’t buy the pass.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++




    Different kinds of trains


    Earlier, we were able to establish that different train companies run different lines- some connect areas within a city, others connect cities.
    Each line in turn, runs different kinds of trains, which vary in the amount of time it takes to complete its journey.
    Some are faster; some are slower; mainly depending on the number of stops the train needs to take.


    Each line typically offers a slow local train that stops at all the stations in between points A and B,
    and a fast ltd. express that stops at only the major stations in between the origin and final destination.
    These lines may also offer trains that slot right in between the local train and the ltd. express time-wise,
    often carrying the names like rapid, special rapid service and express.


    To illustrate, the JR Kyoto Line can be used to travel from Osaka to Kyoto and vv.
    The line includes, but is not limited to, travel between Shin-Osaka Station and Kyoto Station.
    Different kinds of trains ply the JR Kyoto Line at varying speeds.




    Shin-Osaka Station
    Station A
    B
    C
    D
    E
    F
    Kyoto Station


    Local Train
    X
    X
    X
    X
    X
    X
    (42 mins.)


    Rapid Service
    X
    X

    X

    X
    (37 mins.)


    Special Rapid
    X


    X

    X
    (25 mins.)


    Ltd. Express
    X




    X
    (22 mins.)




    The local train that stops at all 6 stations (not factual, there are 13) in between Shin-Osaka Station and Kyoto stations
    takes 20 minutes more
    (factual) than the ltd. express train that doesn’t stop at any station at all.


    Not of particular importance but still worth mentioning, the no. of stops isn’t the only factor that determines how fast you travel.
    The actual speed of the train also carries weight.


    To illustrate further, there are 2 kinds of ltd. express trains that ply the JR Kyoto Line from Shin-Osaka station to Kyoto station and vv.:
    the Haruka Ltd. Express and the Ltd. Thunderbird.
    While the latter takes 24 minutes to travel that distance, the former does it in 2 minutes less.
    Hardly significant, I know.


    However, the fastest of them all has to be the Shinkansen, which covers that same distance in just a scant 14 minutes.



    Shinkansen (Bullet Train)


    Special mention has to be made of Japan’s iconic bullet train, the Shinkansen.
    It is the fastest train that you can take (it runs on a different set of tracks than the other trains) and makes travel between cities a breeze.
    It may not be as fast as flying but, if you factor in the time it takes you to travel to and from the airport (airports are typically far from the city center while train stations are within the city center),
    and to go through the pre-boarding rituals, travel time between the two evens out.


    The Shinkansen is run by the different subsidiaries of Japan Railway (JR) and thus, may have different names, reflecting different classes.
    Each class, just like the regular trains, stop at various numbers of stations, thus affecting total travel time.


    Central JR company runs the Tokaido Shinkansen Line that services the important Tokyo-Osaka corridor.
    It has 3 classes of bullet trains, listed from fastest to slowest: Nozomi, Hikari and Kodama.
    The Nozomi stops in the least number of stations while the Kodama stops at all stations in between those 2 metropolises.


    Riding the Shinkansen is expensive.

    As previously stated, a trip from Shin-Osaka station to Tokyo station and vv. will cost ¥13,800 one way.
    That is more than double the sleeper bus fare or even the regular train fare.
    However, riding it is highly recommended, as this might turn out to be one of the highlights of your trip.
    This is particularly so if you travel on a clear day and see the peak of Mt. Fuji as you zoom by. Priceless.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++




    Figuring out your fare

    You can figure out how much your fare is for a particular trip even before you travel with the help of the aforementioned website Hyperdia.com.
    But in case you didn’t write it down or forgot it altogether, there is a way to figure out how much is your fare.


    If you have a pass or are planning to purchase a prepaid card, you can skip this, as it won’t matter for you to know how much are you supposed to pay.
    If however you plan on subsisting on buying individual tickets, read on.


    Individual tickets can be bought in the ticket vending machines.
    They come in different amounts and the machine will prompt you to choose one.
    It is thus important to know how much exactly is the fare to travel from the station where you are in to the station closest to your destination.
    If you don’t, you run the risk of underpaying, or worse, overpaying for your ticket.


    To know your exact fare, you simply look at the map on top of the ticket vending machines.


    Japan30June10%20013.jpg
    *image from [url]http://www.eagle.pitt.edu;[/url] credits to owner.


    You then look for the station you want to go to and take note of the price listed beside it. It’s that simple.


    blog-2010-japan-OLYP5053-kyoto-station_thumb.jpg
    *image from [url]http://www.chekyang.com;[/url] credits to owner.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++



    Operating the Ticket Vending Machine


    You can use the ticket vending machine to purchase a single-trip ticket.
    You can also use it to reload your prepaid card.


    To purchase a ticket, you must first determine your fare as described above.
    Once that is done, you insert money in the slot (A). The machine accepts both coins and bills.
    You then choose how many tickets are you purchasing (B).
    Last, you then choose the amount you have predetermined earlier (C).
    Get your change if any.


    JapanTicketVendingMachine_zps260dea06.jpg
    *image from [url]http://mystudyabroad.blogspot.com;[/url] credits to owner.



    To reload your prepaid card, insert your prepaid ic card in its slot (D).
    If I remember correctly, the remaining balance should be displayed in the monitor.
    Press the ‘charge’ button on the lower left corner of the screen.
    Choose amount you want to load (C).
    Insert money (A).
    Get card (D).
    Get your change if any.




    BUS


    There are generally two kinds of buses in Japan: City Bus and the Highway Bus.



    City Bus


    The city bus operates within the confines of the city.
    It transports you from one area in the city to another area also within the city.


    Depending on what city you are in, you either enter in the front door or through the middle door.
    However, payment is almost always made by the driver's side.


    Some bus allow you to pay using your IC cards.
    Some, like the ones in Kyoto, do not.
    For those that disallow the use of IC cards, cash or a bus pass is needed to pay the fare.
    There is no need to scrounge for coins as most buses have a coin dispenser right by the payment slot, that can break your money bill into coins.


    Some bus employ a system wherein the fare is dependent on how far you travel.
    For these buses, you usually enter the middle door and get a ticket.
    You then show this ticket as you go down through the front and pay accordingly.


    Other buses employ a 'one fare for all' scheme wherein the fare is the same no matter how far is your distance of travel.
    For these kinds of buses, you enter the front and pay as you board.


    Those mentioned are by no means the only systems employed.
    Please take the time to research prior to departing if you foresee using the bus during your trip.



    Highway Bus


    The highway bus connects cities to other cities or towns and travel, as the name implies, through Japan's highway system.
    These bus normally have a designated bus stop within the city and you have to buy a ticket at the ticket office or even online before you even board for your trip.

    A famous example of a highway bus are the sleeper buses of Willer Express.
    They famously offer 'red-eye' trips between cities, like Tokyo-Osaka or Tokyo-Kyoto.



    Limousine Bus


    Another category of buses that is neither a city nor a highway bus is the limousine bus .
    These buses typically service trips between the city centre and the airport.

    The cities of Tokyo and Osaka have them, originating from Narita and Kansai International respectively.




    TAXIS

    What's there to be said of taxis?

    They are comfortable and convenient but, expensive.

    Consider taking one if the trip isn't that far and you are with 2 other people to split the tab.
    Do not, and I mean do not, take the cab for long distances like from Narita to Tokyo unless you are fine with blowing your budget for the whole trip. :)
  • pex_japanpex_japan Member PExer
    INTRODUCTION Part II
    (prepared by rdvd)


    I. Welcome to the PEX Japan Guide

    o Request to all: If you’re posting a proposed itinerary, put a summary of the major cities you intend to cover on the first line or on the post title as well as the number of days of your trip inclusive of travel to and from Japan (e.g. “Tokyo-Kyoto-Osaka 5D”)
    *okay*Acceptable format: Tokyo 4D, Tokyo-Osaka-Nara 5D
    *okay*Acceptable format: Kansai-Kanto-Sapporo 10D
    :flog:Not acceptable: Narita-Shibuya-Shinjuku-Hakone-Namba-Nara 5D (too much detail)

    o Before posting, please backread even just a bit, there might be someone with a very similar itinerary posted just a few pages back.

    o Use the search thread function.

    o Important and useful websites:
    • [URL="http://<strong>http://www.japan-guide.com/</strong>"]japan-guide.com[/URL] - uber-comprehensive guide to Japan. A must-read for ALL visitors to Japan. Everything is written there, our aim is not to clone japan-guide here on PEX, but to complement the info there with our collective experience (and Pinoy point of view) here.
    • [URL="http://<strong>http://www.hyperdia.com/en/</strong>"]Hyperdia[/URL] - train route and timetable search. This contains all train (and even plane) routes in Japan. The timetable database is updated annually to synchronize with most railway companies’ annual update. Advanced options such as an option to exclude non-JR trains for JR Pass users.
    • Jorudan - simpler, less powerful (but accurate) train route search. Tags route options as Fastest, Cheapest, and Easiest. No option to exclude non-JR trains.
    • Japan Meteorological Agency: One-week Forecasts, Daily Forecasts - valuable information that will tell you what to pack for your Japan trip and whether to take an umbrella or jacket with you when you leave your hotel.
    • JAPANiCAN - hotel, ryokan, and tour booking. Also useful for discounted bullet train + hotel packages if you do not have a Japan Rail Pass.

    =====================================
    II. Before your trip (1 to 12 months prior):

    o Busy travel periods in Japan: The following are the peak holiday periods in Japan; visitors should expect packed trains, crowded tourist attractions, and higher accommodation rates.
    • New Year and the weekends closest to it
    • Golden Week (April 29 – May 5)
    • Obon (mid-August)

    o Flying to Japan (direct flights)
    • Philippine Airlines from Manila: Tokyo-Haneda, Tokyo-Narita, Nagoya-Centrair, Osaka-Kansai, Fukuoka
    • Philippine Airlines from Cebu: Tokyo-Narita, Osaka-Kansai, Nagoya-Centrair
    • Cebu Pacific from Manila: Tokyo-Narita, Osaka-Kansai, Nagoya-Centrair
    • Cebu Pacific from Cebu: Tokyo-Narita
    • Jetstar Asia from Manila: Osaka-Kansai
    • Japan Airlines from Manila: Tokyo-Narita
    • All Nippon Airways from Manila: Tokyo-Haneda, Tokyo-Narita
    • Delta Airlines from Manila: Tokyo-Narita
    • Cebu Pacific is the cheapest if you chance upon a promo fare (as low as PHP 5,800 rt to Tokyo); otherwise, all things being equal (baggage allowance and in-flight meals considered), it is a toss-up between CEB and PAL. Jetstar is another LCC worth considering when flying Manila-Osaka. JAL, ANA, and Delta are full-service carriers with a round trip ticket costing a few hundred dollars more than PAL.

    o Costs
    • Currency is Japanese Yen (JPY). Most shops display this as ¥ or 円. The Japanese pronounce this as “en” as you’ll hear when they give your change when paying for something.
    • Coins: 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500 yen
    • Bills: 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000 yen
    • The relatively new 2,000 bill is rare (keep it as a souvenir when you get one. The Japanese don't like this particular bill anyway :lol:)
    • Transactions are still mostly cash-based, credit cards can be used in big stores.
    • Unlike here in the Philippines, it’s perfectly acceptable to give a huge bill when paying for a cheap item (e.g. 10,000 yen bill for a 100 yen item)
    • Ticket and ordinary vending machines accept all bills with the general exception of the 2000 bill (see why the Japanese don't like the 2,000 yen bill?)
    • Tip: To keep your coins from piling up, use them to pay for amounts with butal, for example, when paying for a 108 yen item in a 100-yen store, give a 500 yen coin plus eight 1-yen coins so that you'll get four 100-yen coins as change.

    o Booking accommodation

    o Getting a Japan Visa
    • Read more on how to apply for a Japan Visa and post your queries here.

    =====================================
    III. Before your trip (less than 4 weeks prior)

    o Currency exchange
    • Details on where to exchange your PHP to JPY are provided in the previous post.

    o Phone/Wifi

    o Japan Rail Pass orders
    The Japan Rail Pass and some JR passes can only be purchased outside Japan. Once you have decided to get one, contact any of the following to reserve your JR Pass (Universal Holidays and Friendship Tours are convenient because they can also process your Japan visa)
    o Weather Forecasts/Packing for your trip
    • I combined weather forecasts and packing into 1 bullet to emphasize that weather will play a significant factor in your packing needs. If you have made it this far, it is assumed that you already know that Japan has 4 distinct seasons and also has a rainy season (roughly June-July) and a typhoon season (peaks in September).
    • 1 week before your trip, check the one-week forecast on the JMA site for your specific destination. The site shows the weather condition, min/max temperatures (very helpful), probability of precipitation or snow (very helpful as well).
    • Links for specific destinations' respective one-week forecasts:

    =====================================
    IV. At the Airport

    o Terminal Guide
    • NAIA T1: Jetstar, JAL
    • NAIA T2: PAL
    • NAIA T3: Delta, ANA, CEB

    =====================================
    V. Transportation - additional pointers (see previous post)

    o Ticket vending machines: Paper bills are inserted one by one. Coins can be thrown all in one go on most machines.

    o Single journey tickets are idiot-friendly and can be inserted into the gate in any direction, unlike in our MRT/LRT where passengers fumble for the correct side to be inserted first.

    o Outside major urban centers, Takayama for example, human ticket inspectors take the place of automated ticket gates. Just show your ticket to the inspector upon entry.

    o Taxis make sense only for short hops and if there are 3 or 4 of you in a group. Flagdown is 600-700 yen, 80-90 yen per additional 300-400 meters. In most cases a train or subway station is within walking distance so avoid taxis whenever possible.

    o Do not take a taxi from Narita airport to central Tokyo (and v.v.) unless you want your 20,000 - 25,000 yen magically disappear from your travel funds. This also applies to Kansai and Nagoya airports, which are both 15,000 – 17,500 yen away from central Osaka and Nagoya, respectively.


    =====================================
    VI. Etiquette – Japanese behavior is governed by a lot of unspoken rules. Though foreign visitors are cut some slack if they “misbehave”, it’s worth knowing what these proper manners and etiquette are. As they say, when in Rome, do what the Romans do.

    o Conversation topics - Avoid discussions on WWII.

    o Table manners – Thanks to the proliferation of Japanese restos here in the Philippines, most of us know how to use chopsticks and are aware that sticking it into the rice is a no-no. To summarize the most important table etiquette:
    • Modern restaurants might have spoon/fork utensils available. Smaller and traditional restaurants are usually chopsticks-only.
    • “Itadakimasu” before eating, “gochisosama deshita” after eating
    • As mentioned above, never stick the chopsticks vertically into the food or bowl
    • Do not pass food with your chopsticks to another’s.
    • Do not spear or make tuhog your food with your chopsticks
    • Eat one sushi piece in one bite using your hands or chopsticks.
    • Slurping from ramen bowls or soup bowls is perfectly acceptable.
    • For miso soup served on the side, sip the soup directly from the bowl. No soup spoon needed.

    o As a pedestrian – A Japan trip will involve lots and lots of walking. Keep these in mind:
    • Keep left on sidewalks, escalators, and while crossing the road. The right side is for those in a hurry ("overtaking lane").
    • In Osaka, above rule is reversed. Keep right on escalators.
    • No eating and drinking while walking
    • No smoking while walking. Light up only at explicitly indicated smoking areas. The Japanese have the highest smoking population of any developed country, so they are strict when it comes to smoking in public locations.
    • Be aware of approaching bicycles, especially from behind. Bikers will signal their approach by a “ding-ding” bell.

    o As a train passenger
    • If you ride the train during rush hour in the cities, you WILL be squished. This is part of the Japan experience, so just enjoy and go with the flow.
    • Personal space is very small on the train. Don’t be offended if other passengers press against you on all sides. Unlike our very own MRT/LRT, in Japan the chance of you being victimized by a pickpocket is close to nil.
    • Don’t reach for your pocket when you are squished tightly, or you will be mistaken as a chikan (pervert).
    • Give way to alighting passengers. If you are located at a door, get off and let passengers out. This courtesy is also observed by those waiting on the platform, they will not attempt to box you out when it’s time for you to get back in again.
    • No smoking
    • No staring at other passengers (if someone stares at you, he/she is a kababayan. Agree? :D)
    • Switch your phone to silent mode. You will hear announcements repeated over and over to switch your phones to “manner mode”.
    • No talking on the phone (this is also bad for your roaming phone bill)
    • No loud talking with your companions. You will receive glaring stares if you do.
    • Don’t take the seats reserved for PWDs, elderly, and pregnant women
  • pex_japanpex_japan Member PExer
    TOKYO (plus side trips to the KANTO REGION)
    (prepared by rdvd)


    Tokyo is the busy, fast paced and ultra-modern capital of Japan. Together with the surrounding Kanto region (Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki prefectures), it forms the largest metropolitan area in the world by population (~35 million).

    Arriving in Tokyo from a developing country such as the Philippines will come as a shock to some. In many ways the tourist infrastructure (transpo, facilities, service) are years or even decades ahead of us. This quick guide aims to help you, the PEX traveler, get the most out of your trip to Tokyo.



    First things first, how many days are needed for a Tokyo visit?

    Two to three days should be the absolute minimum when staying in Tokyo, excluding flight days, and that's just scratching the surface.

    Theme park days and side trips to elsewhere in the Kanto region are excluded from this count. Those with the luxury of time (and vacation leaves) should consider a full week in Tokyo to fully maximize their visit.



    I'm arriving at/leaving from Osaka/KIX and i want to include Tokyo in my itinerary. Can i include tokyo as a side trip for 1 day?

    Theoretically you can (via shinkansen). On that same line of thinking, you can also fly from Manila to Tokyo in the morning, have late lunch and photo op in Tokyo, and take the evening flight back to Manila. Sarcasm aside, kindly check the previous item.



    Flying to Tokyo: Haneda or Narita?

    Haneda (HND) is Tokyo's original airport 30mins from Tokyo station by monorail (90% domestic, 10% international). Narita (NRT) is Tokyo's main international gateway 1 to 1.5 hrs from Tokyo station (80% international, 20% domestic). It takes 1.5 to 2 hours, excluding check-in time allowance, to connect flights between Narita and Haneda.

    Railway_routes_to_narita_airport.svg
    Map showing Haneda and Narita in relation to central Tokyo, photo from wikimedia commons

    Long haul flights from North America land mostly at Narita, so if you're meeting someone arriving from the US/Canada, Narita is a good choice to arrive in. Furthermore, there are more flight choices to Narita (e.g. CEB flies to Narita, but not to Haneda) because landing at Haneda is more expensive for the airlines. Haneda caters mostly to domestic flights, so landing at Haneda will be more convenient if you're planning to connect to a domestic flight to elsewhere in Japan.

    From Manila, PAL, CEB, Delta, JAL, and ANA all fly direct to Narita. Only PAL and ANA fly direct to Haneda. Check and compare fares between airlines and destination airports when booking online. A flight to Haneda that costs the same as a flight to Narita on the same date is a better bargain.

    For those flying direct from Cebu, PAL and CEB only fly to Narita. Be sure to compare tax-inclusive fares between PAL/CEB before booking a promo flight.



    Where to stay in Tokyo

    Generally, most travelers stay in the Shinjuku/Shibuya area for western-type hotels and the more spartan business hotels, and in the Asakusa/Ueno area for the cheaper accommodation options.

    List of Hotels/other accommodation as reported by other pexers:
    <reserved>



    From the airport to your lodging in Tokyo

    The most convenient way to get into Tokyo from the airport is by train.

    Two rail companies operate train services from Narita: JR and Keisei. Each company operates different categories of trains, which are classified according to speed and on-board amenities (seats, toilets, luggage racks). In addition, JR and Keisei operate on separate routes and end at different stations in Tokyo, so which train to take depends on how fast you want to get to Tokyo and which general area you’re staying in.

    If you know the station closest to your accommodation, just enter this into the destination box in Hyperdia. A note on using Hyperdia: use “NARITA AIRPORT TERMINAL 1 or 2” as your starting station, “NARITA” is the station in Narita City, not the airport.


    Narita to Shinjuku/Shibuya area
    Cheapest: Y1,230: Keisei Ltd. Exp. (NARITA AIRPORT TERMINAL 1/2 -> NIPPORI -> SHINJUKU/SHIBUYA)
    Easiest: Y1,500-3,390: JR Narita Express (NARITA AIRPORT TERMINAL 1/2 -> SHINJUKU/SHIBUYA)
    Fastest: Y2,670: Keisei Skyliner (NARITA AIRPORT TERMINAL 1/2 -> NIPPORI -> SHINJUKU/SHIBUYA)

    Narita to Asakusa/Ueno area
    Cheapest and Easiest: Y1,290: Keisei Access Express (NARITA AIRPORT TERMINAL 1/2 -> ASAKUSA(TOBU/SUBWAY))
    Fastest: Y2,640: Keisei Ltd. Exp. (NARITA AIRPORT TERMINAL 1/2 -> UENO -> ASAKUSA(TOBU/SUBWAY))

    Narita to Tokyo Station
    Cheapest: Y1,190: Keisei Ltd. Exp. (NARITA AIRPORT TERMINAL 1/2 -> NIPPORI -> TOKYO)
    Easiest: Y1,500-3,220: JR Narita Express (NARITA AIRPORT TERMINAL 1/2 -> TOKYO)
    Fastest: Y2,630: Keisei Skyliner (NARITA AIRPORT TERMINAL 1/2 -> NIPPORI -> TOKYO)

    Here are the photos of the train interiors taken from @kanski's post in the old japan thread:
    NEX02.jpg
    Narita Express

    Keisei_Skyliner_interior.jpg
    Keisei Skyliner

    1374075797-IMG0038r-o.jpg
    Keisei Ltd. Exp. (note, it’s difficult to keep your luggage still with this train configuration)

    For those staying at a family member or a friend’s place elsewhere in Tokyo, you can follow the directions above to a major station such as Tokyo, Shibuya, or Shinjuku, and search the rest of the route on Hyperdia.

    Those staying at major hotels may opt to take a limousine bus (around Y3,000). These buses leave from outside the arrivals area at drop you off at the hotel lobby or at a bus stop outside major train stations. Your luggage will be tagged and handled by the staff.

    Taxis are available at Narita, but because the one-way fare to central Tokyo costs roughly Y20,000, simply stick to the train or bus options described above and save your hard-earned cash for your other splurges.

    Speaking of splurges, another option described in the Narita airport website is by helicopter, which only takes 20 minutes from Narita to Roppongi. It will set you back Y270,000 though (not a typo).

    If you are arriving at Haneda Airport, there are train, limousine bus, and taxi options as well.

    By train: Two railway companies operate out of Haneda and end at 2 Yamanote line stations: Keikyu Railways terminate at Shinagawa Station are useful for access to Shinjuku/Shibuya area and Yokohama and Kanagawa Prefecture. The Tokyo Monorail terminates at Hamamatsucho Station and is useful for going to Tokyo Station, Asakusa, Ueno area.

    Only the Tokyo Monorail is free on the JR Pass and the JR Kanto Area Pass.

    By bus: Like from Narita airport, airport limousine buses are useful for those with heavy luggage because they drop you off direct at major hotels or outside major train stations.



    Orientation and Getting Around

    In central Tokyo, you're never too far from a train or subway station. The huge metropolis is crisscrossed by 13 subway lines, 5 JR lines, and close to a dozen private non-JR railways which are used to commute to Tokyo's suburbs as well as to Tokyo's 2 airports. The train map may look like a multicolored spaghetti plate, but the basics of getting oriented with Tokyo are actually pretty simple.

    Tokyo_Subway.png
    Tokyo Subway System diagram (not to scale, only interchange stations are shown), photo from wikimedia commons

    The most useful JR line in Tokyo is the green-colored Yamanote Line, which runs around the city, connecting major centers Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Tokyo, Akihabara, Ueno in a 1-hour loop. With the exception of the JR Chuo/Sobu line bisecting the loop from Shinjuku to Tokyo station, only subways operate inside the Yamanote loop. The various non-JR operators have their terminal stations at or near a Yamanote line station.

    TokyoYamanoteAreaLines.png
    Yamanote Line Map, photo from wikimedia commons


    Simply put, if the LRT from EDSA-Taft to Roosevelt and the MRT from North Avenue to EDSA-Taft were one, single, continuous train ride, the resulting loop distance would be very similar to the Yamanote line. Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Tokyo station would correspond to various stations on this loop.

    Before exiting a subway/train station, look for a map which shows the location of sights in relation to the station exits. It is frustrating to climb a flight of stairs only to find out that your destination is on the other side of a wide avenue.



    Asakusa Train Station Confusion

    (I posted this in the old Japan thread as a reply to clear up confusion on different stations in Asakusa when using Hyperdia. Reposting it here with a few edits)

    When you type "Asakusa" in the "from" field of Hyperdia, three stations are shown in the drop-down. How do you determine which is which?
    1. Asakusa (Tobu/Subway)
    2. Asakusa (Tsukuba)
    3. Asakusabashi

    The following map from japan-guide shows the Asakusa vicinity:
    3004_06.gif

    The first option is the Asakusa station of Tobu Railways and Ginza/Asakusa subway lines, which are located fairly close together as you can see on the map. These are the stations closest to Sensoji Temple and Nakamise street. The Ginza subway line is useful for going between Asakusa/Ueno/Ginza/Shibuya. Tobu railways, on the other hand, is commonly used by visitors to Tokyo Skytree and Nikko further up north.

    The second option is the Asakusa station of Tsukuba Express line. This line terminates beside the huge Yodobashi store in Akihabara, and is not so convenient for accessing Sensoji Temple.

    The third option, Asakusabashi, is located a couple of blocks south of the Asakusa subway station. Not really that useful for going to Sensoji, unless transferring from the JR Sobu line.



    Itinerary considerations

    Sunset times will affect your sightseeing schedule since some sights are better seen in the day and some at night. Unlike in our tropical country, sunrise/sunset times in Japan vary with the seasons. In late autumn and winter, it starts to get dark from 3:30pm onwards. A useful site for checking this is timeanddate.com. Just enter "Japan" in the search box and click on the city you want to check.

    Be sure to pay attention to the winter/summer schedules of attractions. A few close earlier in winter.



    What to See and Do

    Tokyo sights are a mix of modern and traditional Japan. Aside from the Asakusa area, old structures are a rarity in Tokyo as the city has been largely rebuilt from the rubble of WWII. If you want to visit historical/old sites, add a day to visit Kamakura or Nikko. Or if grand old temples and shrines are really your thing, I suggest you extend your visit to include the ancient capitals Kyoto and Nara.

    The next section lists the top attractions in Tokyo for the average Pinoy visitor, with links to the japan guide article if available. For more efficient use of your valuable time in Tokyo, it is recommended to group adjacent sights in your itinerary.

    The list roughly follows the grouping in japan-guide.com. (guidebooks or other articles in the web might have slightly different groupings). Won’t be posting photos here, just click on the links to read in more detail.



    Top Attractions in Tokyo grouped according to location.
    Average time indicated is just an estimate (not to be taken as hard fact).

    Central Tokyo (major stations: TOKYO, AKIHABARA)

    Imperial Palace and East Gardens – A peek into the residence of the Japanese imperial family; good for a relaxing stroll and photo-ops. 1hr

    Akihabara - Capital of electronic gadgets and otaku. Lots of novelty souvenir shopping as well. 1-3hr

    Tsukiji Fish Market – Largest fish market in Japan, get up early for the tuna auction. 1-2hr

    Western Tokyo (major stations: SHINJUKU, SHIBUYA)

    Shinjuku - Lots of shopping, dining and entertainment options. Jump-off point for Kawaguchiko (by bus or train) and sights in western Tokyo. 3hr

    Tocho (Tokyo Metropolitan Govt Bldg) - Probably the best free night view of Tokyo. 1hr

    Shibuya - Shopping, dining and people-spotting mecca. Famous for the Shibuya Scramble, when all vehicular traffic stops to allow the crowd to cross in all directions. View the spectacle from the Starbucks branch in Tsutaya (if you can get a window seat!). 3hr

    Harajuku - Cosplay capital. 1hr

    Northern Tokyo (major stations: UENO, ASAKUSA)

    Asakusa/Sensoji Temple - Glimpse of old Japan, lots of souvenir shopping along Nakamise-dori. 1-2 hrs

    Tokyo Skytree - highest communications tower in the world, sky-high admission fees as well. (Some members have reported this as a tourist trap). 1hr

    Ueno Park - Zoo, excellent museums, and a park (that’s crowded in the hanami season) 3hrs-0.5 day.

    Southern Tokyo (major stations: SHIMBASHI, SHINAGAWA, ROPPONGI)

    [URL=”http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3009.html"]Tokyo Tower[/URL] -previously the tallest tourist trap in Tokyo. Tokyo’s former tower icon, great for photo ops outside or in its 2 viewing decks. 30min-1hr

    Odaiba - futuristic artificial island 3hrs-1 whole day, depending on the attractions you’ll visit, the most popular of which are Venus Fort, Toyota Mega Web, Panasonic, Miraikan, and Tokyo Big Sight.



    Other spots worth your time

    Shrines/temples: Meiji Shrine, Zojoji Temple, Sengakuji Temple

    Shopping: Ginza, Ameyoko

    Cherry Blossom (Hanami) Spots: Shinjuku Gyoen, Chidorigafuchi, Sumida Park

    Autumn Leaf (Koyo) Spots: Rikugien, Koishikawa Korakuen, Ginkgo Avenue, Showa Kinen Koen, Hama Rikyu



    For kids and the kids-at-heart

    Tokyo Disneyland – no introduction needed. Link to official page/ticket prices.

    Tokyo Disneysea – Water-themed Disney theme park. Unlike Disneyland, there is only one Disneysea in the world so if you have been to a Disneyland elsewhere, Disneysea should be your priority. Link to official page/ticket prices. Access to both Disney parks: train to Maihama station

    Tokyo Dome City – compact theme park in central Tokyo adjacent to Koishikawa Korakuen. Official page

    Sanrio Puroland – Hello Kitty’s own theme park located in Tama city, Tokyo. Access: by train to Keio Tama Center station.

    Doraemon Museum – Formally known as Fujiko Fujio Museum, this museum of Nobita, Doraemon and friends is located in Kawasaki. Official page. (advance ticket purchase at Lawson needed, instructions here: http://l-tike.com/fujiko-m/english/)

    Ghibli Museum - anime museum in Mitaka, a few minutes from Shinjuku. Official page. (advance ticket purchase at Lawson needed, instructions here: http://www.lawson.co.jp/ghibli/museum/ticket/english.html

    Ueno and Tama Zoo - Ueno Zoo is the centrally located zoo in Ueno Park. Tama Zoo, About 1 hour train ride from Shinjuku station (Shinjuku -> Takahatafudo -> Tamadobutsukoen). Tama Zoo’s enclosures are much bigger and the animals there look healthier than the ones at Ueno.

    Hakkeijima Sea Paradise – Huge aquarium and theme park rolled into one. Located in Hakkeijima, Kanagawa. 1 hour train ride from central Tokyo. Access: by train to Hakkeijima station. Link to official page/ticket prices

    Fuji Q Highland – Popular for its world-record-holding extreme roller coasters. Best combined with a day trip (or 2) to Kawaguchiko. Link to official page/ticket prices



    “Don’t miss” experiences in Tokyo
    Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) at a popular spot
    Be squished in a train during the Tokyo rush hour
    Cross the Shibuya Scramble
    People-watch at Harajuku, Shibuya, or Akihabara
    Koyo (autumn leaf viewing) at a Japanese garden
    Whizz across the Kanto plain on a Shinkansen (on your way to Kyoto or Osaka)



    Seasonal guide to Tokyo

    Winter (December-February)
    - Wintersports (ski/snowboard) at resorts within a few hours ride from Tokyo
    - Winter illuminations in Shinjuku, Ginza, Marunouchi
    - Plum Blossom viewing in late February or early March

    Spring (March-May)
    - Cherry Blossom viewing
    - Golden week (April 29-May 5) = crowded attractions and transpo

    Summer (June-August)
    - Rainy season (June-July)
    - Local festivals
    - Hanabi (fireworks): Sumida River Hanabi (last Sat of July), Tokyo Bay (2nd Sat of August)

    Autumn (September-November)
    - Occasional typhoons in September
    - (Oct) Koyo viewing in higher elevations such as Nikko, Kawaguchiko
    - (Nov) Peak of koyo viewing in the cities
  • pex_japanpex_japan Member PExer
    SIDE TRIPS FROM TOKYO
    (prepared by rdvd)



    For those with a day or two to spare, there are a handful of day trip opportunities within striking distance of Tokyo. Choosing your day trip will depend on your interests as well as your budget.


    If you want…
    Night cityscapes: Yokohama
    Snow (in winter, of course): Hakone, Nikko
    Shopping, shopping, and more shopping: Gotemba
    Temples, Shrines, and a bit of history: Nikko, Kamakura
    Mt. Fuji sightings: Kawaguchiko, Hakone
    Extreme roller coasters: Kawaguchiko

    Read on for more details.


    YOKOHAMA

    14263359008_f9dd1f88af_z.jpg
    View of Yokohama's Minatomirai district. Photo mine (rdvd). All rights reserved.

    Just 30 kilometers south of central Tokyo (the distance from Trinoma to Alabang), Yokohama is an easy half day or evening side trip from the capital. Most of Yokohama’s sights are clustered around 2 areas: Minatomirai (literally, “port of the future”) and Chinatown. Make sure you don’t get off at Yokohama station; continue instead to Minatomirai or Sakuragicho station, depending on which train line you’re in (see “How to get to Yokohama” below).

    Sights

    Minatomirai area:
    - Landmark Tower/Sky Garden – Previously Japan’s tallest building with a Sky Garden observatory
    - Cosmo World – small and unexceptional amusement park. At night the huge Ferris wheel is lit up and adds color to the Minatomirai night view
    - Nippon Maru – Old ship permanently docked at Minatomirai
    - (Window) Shopping at Landmark Plaza, Queen’s Center, World Porters – nothing out of the ordinary

    Motomachi-Chukagai (Chinatown) area:
    - Chinatown (Chukagai) – Japan’s largest Chinatown with numerous restaurants and food stalls
    - Yamashita Park, Osanbashi Pier – Open promenades with good views of the Minatomirai skyline

    Shin-Yokohama area:
    - Ramen Museum – Museum about ramen where visitors can try various ramen dishes (for a fee). Access: Shin-Yokohama Station

    How to get to Yokohama

    For those with a JR Pass or Kanto Area Pass: Bundling Yokohama on the way back from Kamakura or from Kansai is OK, otherwise don’t waste your JR Pass/Kanto Area Pass with just a day trip to Yokohama from Tokyo.

    For those coming from central Tokyo without any pass:

    - Coming from Shinjuku or Shibuya area: Take any Tokyu Toyoko line express train (Express, Commuter Express, Limited Express) bound for Yokohama/Motomachi-Chukagai at Shibuya station

    - Coming from Tokyo or Shinagawa area: Take any Yokohama-bound Keihin-Tohoku line train

    Getting around Minatomirai/Chinatown

    First, take note of the important stations:
    JR Keihin-Tohoku / Negishi Line: SAKURAGICHO (closest to Minatomirai), ISHIKAWACHO (closest to Chinatown)
    Tokyu Toyoko / Minatomirai Line: MINATOMIRAI (right under Queen’s Center), MOTOMACHI-CHUKAGAI (under Chinatown)

    It is possible to walk from the Minatomirai area to Chinatown area (a 30 minute stroll). If you’re too tired or it’s too cold/hot to walk, simply take the above mentioned train lines to your destination.

    HAKONE

    14932282089_e1126e2d20_z.jpg
    One of the sightseeing boats at Lake Ashi. Photo mine (rdvd). All rights reserved.

    Arguably the most popular day trip from Tokyo, Hakone has volcanic attractions such as hot springs, views of Mt. Fuji (if you’re lucky!), and a smattering of different transportation modes that makes the journey as exciting as the destination. Good enough for a day trip, better if you decide to stay overnight at the many lodgings with hot springs.

    Sights (and rides)

    Mt. Fuji view – On a clear day (higher probability on winter mornings), Mt. Fuji can be seen from the following vantage points:
    - Owakudani
    - Hakone ropeway from Owakudani to Togendai
    - Lake Ashi sightseeing boat approaching Hakone-machi
    - Hakone-machi lakefront
    - Detached Palace
    - Gotemba Premium Outlet

    The Hakone Round Course – A popular way of visiting Hakone, the following route describes a counterclockwise path through the Hakone region.
    (1) Hakone Tozan Railway (Hakone-Yumoto to Gora)
    (2) Hakone Tozan Cablecar (Gora to Sounzan)
    (3 & 4) Hakone Ropeway (Sounzan to Owakudani to Togendai)
    (5) Lake Ashi Sightseeing Boat (Togendai to Hakone-machi)
    (6) Hakone-machi to Moto-Hakone by bus or on foot
    (7) Hakone Tozan Bus (Moto-Hakone to Hakone-Yumoto)
    The reverse of this route (clockwise) can also be done, the advantage of which is an earlier arrival at Hakone-machi (better chances of seeing Mt. Fuji).

    fig-index-01.gif
    The Odakyu Round Course map, photo credits to Odakyu official site.

    Owakudani – volcanic crater where visitors can buy and eat black eggs cooked in the bubbling pool.

    Hakone Checkpoint – re-creation of the checkpoint on the old Tokaido highway, good enough for a quick 15 minute stroll

    Detached Palace – former Imperial villa with good views across the lake and Mt. Fuji, weather permitting.

    Gotemba Premium Outlet – huge outlet mall on the outskirts of the Hakone region. Access is by Odakyu highway bus from Togendai or Gora stations.

    How to get to Hakone

    The best and cheapest way to see Hakone is by using the Odakyu Hakone Free Pass. The pass includes unlimited rides on all Odakyu-affiliated forms of transportation (Hakone Tozan train, Ropeway, Cable car, Lake Ashi sightseeing boats, buses) in the Hakone area without the hassle of paying for individual tickets. For tickets bought in Shinjuku, the pass includes 1 round trip by Odakyu Railways.

    - With a JR Pass – Take a Tokaido shinkansen (Kodama) from Tokyo/Shinagawa to Odawara. Then purchase a Hakone Free Pass at Odakyu Odawara station (4,000 for 2 days)

    - With a Kanto Area Pass – This pass will only cover train rides on the Tokaido Line (not the Tokaido shinkansen) from Tokyo to Odawara (and back).

    - Without any JR pass – The Hakone Free Pass from Shinjuku costs 5,140 for 2 days, but using the ticket in 1 day will still pay off if you do the whole Hakone round course in a day. Additional 870 yen (per person per way) is needed to ride the Romancecar (Odakyu’s ltd.exp. train with front-facing seats).

    Hakone: DIY or Guided Tour?

    It is possible to visit Hakone on a guided tour or on a do-it-yourself (DIY) trip.

    Guided tours are on the expensive side (12,000-18,000 yen per head) but these can bring you to Hakone AND Kawaguchiko in one day (albeit in a fast-paced trip). Combining Hakone and Kawaguchiko in 1 day will be near-impossible when going DIY. But going DIY will give you the flexibility of time, allowing stopovers as long as you like, and skipping those you don’t fancy.

    In the end, it’s your decision. Hakone is a very popular day trip for tourists, local and foreigners alike, so it’s very unlikely you’ll get lost in Hakone as long as you stick to the well-traveled route.

    Gotemba and Hakone in a day?

    The Hakone round course (or its reverse direction) will take roughly one whole day including stops. Going to Gotemba outlet mall on the same day is almost impossible (if someone has done Hakone and Gotemba in a day kindly post a trip report). The best way is to stay overnight in Hakone to make full use of your 2-day pass.

    Increase your chances of seeing Mt. Fuji in Hakone

    It pays to be flexible enough to shuffle your days in Tokyo and go to Hakone on the best possible day for a Mt. Fuji sighting. Check the following weather forecasts 1 week before, 2 days before, and the night before your intended date and adjust as needed.

    KAWAGUCHIKO

    16403940935_b820c080cf_z.jpg
    Mt. Fuji from Kachi-kachi observation deck. Photo mine (rdvd). All rights reserved.

    The Fuji Five Lakes region, Kawaguchiko in particular, is another popular side trip from Tokyo. It has stunning views of Mt. Fuji and its reflection on a lake (there are 5 to choose from, Lake Kawaguchiko being the most accessible). It is also popular in cherry blossom season where it is possible to view 2 symbols of Japan, Mt Fuji and the sakura, in a single vista.

    Sights

    Mt. Fuji view – The famous mountain can be seen from Lake Kawaguchiko’s northern and eastern sides, and many other spots throughout the Five Lakes region. As in Hakone, winter mornings have a higher probability of clear weather.

    Fuji Q Highland – theme park with insane roller coasters ranked among the world’s best. It’s possible to enter without paying for the rides (1,400 entrance only), but where’s the fun in that? Either purchase the all-day pass at 5,200 yen or pay for single rides. Link to official page

    Chureito Pagoda – pagoda with breathtaking views of Mt. Fuji (weather permitting!) coupled with cherry blossoms in mid-April. Access: Shimo-Yoshida station on the Fujikyu Railway line.

    Mt. Tenjo Ropeway (Kachi Kachi Ropeway) – ascends 400m to the observation deck at Mt. Tenjo, with excellent views of Mt. Fuji and Lake Kawaguchiko. In unfavorable weather, just drop this to avoid disappointment.

    How to get to Kawaguchiko

    6905_01.gif
    Access diagram between Tokyo and Kawaguchiko area. Credits to japan-guide.com

    Kawaguchiko is one of the few main tourist areas of Japan that is more accessible by bus rather than train. The bus route from Shinjuku West exit is the most popular route and takes roughly 2 hours traffic-permitting, while the train route requires a change of trains at Otsuki Station from the JR Chuo line to the awfully slow Fujikyuko line which takes almost an hour to traverse the last 26.6 kilometers to Kawaguchiko (total train travel time from Shinjuku 2hr 5min).

    - With a JR Pass – Unlike the JR Kanto Area Pass, the JR Pass only covers the JR Chuo line up to Otsuki. Pass users need to pay separate fare on the Fujikyu Railway from Otsuki to Kawaguchiko (1,140 yen one-way)

    - With a JR Kanto area pass – By a special arrangement by JR East with Fujikyu Railway, the whole route from central Tokyo to Otsuki (all types of trains) and from Otsuki to Kawaguchiko (local trains only) is covered. A separate fee is needed to ride the Fujikyu Ltd. Exp. train but arrives in Kawaguchiko just a few minutes faster than the local train.

    - Without any JR pass – It is usually faster and cheaper to take a direct bus from Tokyo than 2 (or more, depending on your location in Tokyo) rides on the train. The jump-off point for Kawaguchiko is from the Shinjuku West Exit bus terminal. The one-way fare from Shinjuku costs 1,750 yen, and there are roughly 2 buses per hour. Check schedule and fares here.

    map_01.gif
    Location map of bus terminal to Kawaguchiko at Shinjuku West Exit. Credits to highway-bus.jp

    Getting around Kawaguchiko

    The Retro Bus goes around Lake Kawaguchiko from Kawaguchiko Station and stops at various sights along the way. The 2-day pass costs 1,030 yen.

    Increase your chances of seeing Mt. Fuji in Kawaguchiko

    As with Hakone, your travel plans should be flexible enough to allow a visit to Kawaguchiko at the best possible time/day. Check the following weather forecasts 1 week before, 2 days before, and the night before your intended date and adjust as needed.

    On the day itself, the live view of Mt. Fuji from Lake Kawaguchiko can be seen here. But note that weather conditions quickly change.

    HAKONE AND KAWAGUCHIKO USING THE FUJI HAKONE PASS

    Odakyu Railways sells a 3-day rail-and-bus pass that makes it possible to enter Kawaguchiko by bus and exit via Hakone by Odakyu train (or the other way around), and includes unlimited rides on Odakyu-affiliated rides in the Hakone and Kawaguchiko areas. Think of it as an extended version of the Hakone Free Pass.

    Using this ticket, it is possible to go sightseeing in Kawaguchiko or Hakone on Day 1, end Day 1 by shopping at Gotemba (until 8pm, 7pm in winter), stay overnight at either Kawaguchiko or Hakone, and continue sightseeing on Day 2, and return in the evening to Shinjuku.

    Limitations:
    Unlike the Hakone Free Pass, the Fuji Hakone Pass can only be bought at Odakyu’s Shinjuku Station. It cannot be bought at Odawara for those arriving from the Kansai area.
    Entry and exit point is only from/to Shinjuku.

    KAMAKURA

    14229755318_422b367c8f_z.jpg
    The Daibutsu at Kotokuin Temple. Photo mine (rdvd). All rights reserved.

    Famous for its giant bronze Buddha statue, as well as numerous temples and shrines. This side trip is recommended to those who are unable to include Kyoto in their itinerary due to time constraints. Kamakura can be visited in 1 whole day, or a very compressed half day combined with a stop at Yokohama in the latter half before returning to Tokyo.

    Sights

    Usual 1-day itinerary stops:
    Kita-Kamakura area: Engakuji, Meigetsuin, Kenchoji

    Kamakura area: Tsurugaoka Hachimangu

    Hase area: Daibutsu (Great Buddha), Hasedera

    Usual half-day itinerary stops:
    Same as 1-day itinerary above, minus Kita-Kamakura area.

    How to get to Kamakura

    3115_02.gif
    Access diagram between Tokyo and Kamakura. Credits to japan-guide.com

    - With a JR Pass or JR Kanto Area Pass: If coming from Shinjuku or Shibuya, take a Shonan-Shinjuku Line train bound for Zushi. If coming from Tokyo or Shinagawa, take a Yokosuka Line train bound for Kurihama or Zushi. Get off at Kamakura or Kita-Kamakura station, depending on your itinerary. To go to the Great Buddha or Hasedera, just buy single tickets on the Enoden.

    - Without any JR pass: The cheapest way to Kamakura is by using the Enoshima-Kamakura Free Pass of Odakyu Railways. This includes a round trip from Shinjuku to Fujisawa, and unlimited rides on the Enoden and Odakyu lines between Fujisawa, Enoshima, and Kamakura, in a span of 1 day. Those staying on the eastern side of Tokyo will have to go to Shinjuku station to follow this route.

    Other rail passes:
    Kamakura-Enoshima Pass (sold by JR) – Not worth the pass price (700). Odakyu’s Enoshima-Kamakura Free Pass is a better deal.

    Getting around Kamakura

    Kamakura is small enough to be explored on foot. If you would rather take a train, the cute vintage Enoden trams connect Kamakura with Enoshima, passing by Hase station.

    NIKKO

    15233836571_205f1461dd_z.jpg
    Toshogu’s Yomeimon gate. Photo mine (rdvd). All rights reserved.

    Home to probably the most elaborately decorated mausoleum in all of Japan, and a few other natural and manmade attractions that will make you want to linger for another day or 2. Nikko is most spectacular (and most congested) in late October to early November when the mountainsides burst in autumn hues.

    Sights

    The following are the major sights in Nikko grouped according to location. Note that these are spread throughout a large area, therefore it is impossible to see everything in 1 day.

    Nikko World Heritage Area: Shinkyo Bridge, Toshogu, Rinnoji, Futarasan

    Lake Chuzenji Area: Akechidaira Ropeway, Kegon Falls, Ryuzu Falls

    Kinugawa Onsen Area: Tobu World Square, Nikko Edomura

    How to get to Nikko

    - With a JR Pass: Take the Tohoku shinkansen (Yamabiko/Nasuno/Tsubasa) from Tokyo/Ueno to Utsunomiya, then transfer to the JR Nikko line from Utsunomiya to Nikko.

    - With a JR Kanto area pass: Route for JR Pass users can be used. Another option is to take the Ltd.Exp. train from Shinjuku direct to Tobu-Nikko station. For both JR Pass and Kanto Area Pass users, you can either purchase a bus pass or just buy single tickets.

    - Without any JR pass: Purchase a Tobu Nikko Pass which includes a round trip from Tobu-Asakusa station and unlimited rides in the Nikko and Kinugawa Onsen area. There are various types of passes from Tobu, the pass you need will depend on your itinerary in Nikko:




    Validity
    World Heritage Area
    Kinugawa Onsen Area
    Lake Chuzenji Area


    2-day Nikko Pass
    (2,670 yen)
    2 days





    Kinugawa Themepark Pass
    (TBS: 4,080 yen,
    EW: 6,180 yen,
    TBS+EW: 7,380 yen)
    2 days





    All Nikko Pass
    (4,520 yen)
    4 days







    Possible 1-day itinerary using the All Nikko Pass:
    Asakusa(Tobu)
    6:20 rapid, arrives 8:25 at Tobu-Nikko
    Tobu-Nikko
    ⬇ frequent buses going to Yumoto-onsen/Chuzenji-ko
    Akechidai Ropeway stopover (optional) ~10am
    ⬇ frequent buses going to Yumoto-onsen/Chuzenji-ko
    Lake Chuzenji/Kegon Falls ~12pm
    ⬇ frequent buses going to Tobu-Nikko Stn
    Toshogu (Shinkyo bus stop) ~3pm
    ⬇ frequent buses going to Tobu-Nikko Stn
    Tobu-Nikko
    ⬇ 17:36 or 17:39 last direct bus to Asakusa, if you miss this, you'll need to catch a local train and transfer at Shimo-Imaichi.
    Asakusa(Tobu)

    TICKETS/RAIL PASSES FOR TOKYO AND THE KANTO AREA

    The various train operators in Tokyo and the Kanto area sell numerous kinds of single and multi-day passes. The usual dilemma is how to determine which pass to purchase. Continue reading below to know which pass/es will pay off for your specific itinerary.


    IC Cards:


    Suica
    Description: Prepaid card sold by JR East that can be used on virtually all trains, subways, trams, buses in greater Tokyo area and is compatible with other IC card systems elsewhere in Japan (e.g. Osaka, Nagoya, Kyoto, Sapporo)
    Price: 1k, 2k, 3k, 4k, 5k, 10k yen including 500 yen deposit
    Pros: Can be used as cash card at most vending machines and convenience stores. Discount of a few yen over buying individual tickets. Over the course of a few days’ use the total discount can amount to a small snack or drink
    Cons: Cannot be used on the Shinkansen. Cannot be used to travel between metropolitan areas (e.g. between Tokyo and Osaka)

    Pasmo
    Description: Virtually the same description, pros and cons as Suica, the only difference is it is sold by non-JR train companies like the Tokyo Subway operators (Tokyo Metro & Toei), Keio, Odakyu, Tokyu, etc.




    Airport access combo tickets:



    N’EX Tokyo Direct Ticket (Narita->Tokyo only) JPY 1,500 (discontinued beginning March 14, 2015)
    Buy if you don’t have a JR Pass or if you have but do not intend to use its first day on your arrival at Narita
    Particularly useful if you’re staying near a NEX stop (Tokyo, Shinagawa, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro)
    Valid on the Narita Express (NEX) from Narita to Tokyo only
    Link to official page


    N’EX Tokyo Round Trip Ticket (Narita->Tokyo->Narita) JPY 4,000 (on sale beginning March 14, 2015)
    Buy if you don’t have a JR Pass or if you have a JR Pass but you intend to use it outside your flight dates
    Particularly useful if you’re staying near a NEX stop (Tokyo, Shinagawa, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro)
    Valid on the Narita Express (NEX) from Narita to Tokyo, and the reverse direction within 14 days


    Keisei Skyliner + Tokyo Subway Ticket (One-way/roundtrip ticket on the Skyliner + 1/2/3-day Tokyo Subway Pass)
    Price:



    1-day Subway
    2-day Subway
    3-day Subway


    Skyliner One-way
    2,800
    3,200
    3,500


    Skyliner Round-trip
    4,700
    5,100
    5,400



    Useful if you are staying near a Tokyo Subway Station
    Major sights outside this ticket’s coverage: Odaiba and Disneyland/sea
    Great value ticket since a one-way Skyliner ticket already costs Y 2,470, which means you only pay 330 for 1-day unlimited subway rides (for the one-way + 1-day variant).
    For those with Tokyo-only itineraries, this ticket is recommended (buy the round trip variant). Just purchase individual tickets when going to Disneyland/sea.
    Link to official page




    Unlimited use tickets (Tokyo):


    In Tokyo, 1 day is counted as from the first train until the last trains after midnight


    Tokyo Free Kippu / Tokyo Tour Ticket / Tokyo Combination Ticket (JPY1,590, 1-day validity)
    img_term01.gif
    Tokyo Free Kippu coverage map. Credits to jreast.co.jp.

    Can be used on Tokyo Metro lines? YES
    Can be used on Toei lines? YES
    Can be used on JR lines? YES, within the 23 central wards of Tokyo
    Will only make sense if you plan on taking more than 6-8 JR/subway rides in a day, which is a lot!
    Major sights outside this ticket’s coverage: Odaiba and Disneyland/sea


    JR Tokunai Pass (JPY 750, 1-day validity)
    img_term01.gif
    JR Tokunai Pass coverage map. Notice that the Tokunai Pass is simply a JR-only subset of the Tokyo Free Kippu. Credits to jreast.co.jp

    Can be used on Tokyo Metro lines? NO
    Can be used on Toei lines? NO
    Can be used on JR lines? YES, within the 23 central wards of Tokyo
    Will only make sense if you plan on taking 4 or more JR train rides in a day.
    Useful if you are staying near a JR station.
    Major sights outside this ticket’s coverage: Asakusa, Tokyo Skytree, Odaiba and Disneyland/sea


    Toei and Tokyo Metro Common One-day Ticket (JPY 1,000)
    Can be used on Tokyo Metro lines? YES
    Can be used on Toei lines? YES
    Can be used on JR lines? NO
    You have to take any subway 5x or more to maximize this ticket.
    Useful if you are staying near a Tokyo Metro or Toei subway station.
    Major sights outside this ticket’s coverage: Odaiba and Disneyland/sea


    Tokyo Metro 1-day Open Ticket (JPY 710)
    Can be used on Tokyo Metro lines? YES
    Can be used on Toei lines? NO
    Can be used on JR lines? NO
    You have to take the Tokyo Metro subway 4x or more to maximize this ticket.
    Useful only if you are staying near a Tokyo Metro station. NOT VALID on Toei subway lines.
    Major sights outside this ticket’s coverage: Odaiba and Disneyland/sea


    An IC card (Suica/Pasmo) might end up cheaper than any of these tickets, especially if you plan your trips carefully and group sights by area.

    How to compare pass vs individual fares:

    Accommodation: Staying in Ryogoku area
    Itinerary: Shinjuku Gyoen, Yoyogi Park, Harajuku, Shibuya


    Trip
    By JR
    By Toei/Tokyo Metro (nearest station)


    Ryogoku-Shinjuku
    220
    270


    Shinjuku-Harajuku
    140
    280


    Harajuku-Shibuya
    140
    170


    Shibuya-Ryogoku
    220
    310


    TOTAL (using IC card or tickets)
    720
    1,030


    One-day ticket
    750
    1,000



    As shown above, the Tokunai pass won’t pay off. The Tokyo Subway pass will pay off but is 33% more expensive than taking single fares on JR (for the exact same route). In this case it makes more sense to purchase the Tokunai over the Tokyo Subway pass, even if the total fares do not exceed the pass price. But if you want to be flexible and not be restricted to just the JR lines, simple use an IC Card (e.g. Suica/Pasmo) and tap-as-you-go.

    How to do fare comparison on your own?
    ======> Use Hyperdia <======
    To show JR trains only, uncheck “Private Railway” from the SearchDetails menu.
    To show subways only, uncheck “Japan Railway (JR)”.




    Unlimited use tickets (Greater Tokyo):



    JR Kanto Area Pass (JPY 8,300, valid on 3 consecutive days)
    2361_06_01.gif
    Simplified coverage map of JR Kanto Area Pass. Credits to japan-guide.com

    Valid on JR lines (incl. JR East shinkansen lines) and a few touristy non-JR lines in the Kanto region.
    Buy if you have a Tokyo-specific itinerary with 1 or 2 side trips to neighboring prefectures (e.g. Nikko or Kawaguchiko).
    Great if you can time the usage of this pass to coincide with either of your flight dates, taking the NEX to or from Narita Airport on the 1st or last day of the pass validity.
    IMPORTANT: Not valid on the Tokaido shinkansen from Tokyo to Odawara/Atami (this is under JR Central)
    Link to official page

    Sample itinerary using JR Kanto Area Pass:


    Day 1: Arrival
    NEX (Narita -> Tokyo) = JPY 2,820


    Day 2:
    Side trip to Nikko (via Shinkansen to Utsunomiya) = JPY 10,120 round trip

    OR

    Side trip to Hitachi Seaside Park (via Ltd.Exp. Hitachi to Katsuta) = JPY 7,860 round trip

    OR

    Side trip to Kawaguchiko (via Ltd.Exp. Azusa to Otsuki, local train to Kawaguchiko) = JPY 7,120 round trip


    Day 3:
    Side trip to Kamakura (via Tokaido Line to Kamakura) = JPY 1,840 round trip

    OR

    Side trip to Hakone (via Tokaido Line to Odawara) = JPY 2,980 round trip up to Odawara only (need to buy separate Hakone Free Pass from Odakyu Railways)



    As seen above, the JR Kanto Area Pass pays off easily with just 1 or 2 side trips. For those with lots of extra days in Tokyo, 3 side trips on 3 days will really maximize this pass.

    CREATING YOUR TOKYO ITINERARY

    Now that you have a general idea on the attractions in Tokyo and the surrounding prefectures, it's time to create your own itinerary.

    Most take the MNL-NRT flight of Cebu Pacific, arriving at 10:50 in Narita. This means you’ll arrive in central Tokyo around 1 or 2pm. I personally count this as Day 0, which means you can't fit a whole lot of stuff in the remainder of the day. On "day 0", it's best to include spots which are close enough to your accommodation.

    Concentrate on the must-sees in central Tokyo on days 1 and 2. Assuming your departure date is on day 3, substitute your personal must-sees with anything else (e.g. must see Disneysea over Imperial Palace etc).

    If you're staying for a 3rd and/or 4th full day, you can venture out of Tokyo and make a few side trips.

    A draft itinerary is shown below.



    Day 0 (Arrival in Tokyo)
    If staying in Northern Tokyo area (Asakusa/Ueno):
    15:00 Asakusa: Sensoji and Nakamise-dori
    18:00 Tokyo Skytree

    If staying in Western Tokyo area (Shibuya/Shinjuku):
    15:00 Meiji Shrine
    18:00 Shibuya or Shinjuku


    Day 1
    06:00 Tsukiji Fish Market
    09:00 Imperial Palace and East Gardens
    11:00 Ueno Park
    16:00 Akihabara


    Day 2
    09:00 Asakusa: Sensoji and Nakamise-dori
    11:00 Tokyo Water bus going to Odaiba
    12:00 Odaiba
    18:00 Tokyo Tower

    OR

    09:00 Meiji Shrine
    10:00 Harajuku
    11:00 Shibuya
    15:00 Shinjuku


    Day 3
    Whole day: Disneyland or Disneysea


    Day 4
    Side trip to Hakone, Kamakura, or Nikko


    Day 5
    Flight day



    FURTHER READING

    We strongly recommend going through the entries for Tokyo and the Kanto Region in japan-guide.com.
  • pex_japanpex_japan Member PExer
    OSAKA Part 1 (prepared by kanski)


    The Kansai Region is one of the nine regions that comprise Japan.
    Included in this region are the urban prefectures of Osaka and Kyoto, and the prefectures of Nara and Hyōgo.
    The latter is where we could see the cities of Kobe and Himeji.


    Osaka the city is the capital of the urban prefecture of Osaka.
    It is a favorite jumping-off point of the Kansai region and is known as a culinary destination,
    where many favorites of Japanese cuisine like okonomiyaki and takoyaki can be savored.


    It is a jumping-off point for Filipinos in particular because,
    Osaka prefecture is where Kansai International Airport is located, one of three ports of entry where flights that originate from our shores land.


    In this section, we will tackle of all things Osaka. We will try to be as comprehensive as possible, and will include:

    how to get to,
    where to stay in,
    things to see and do in,
    where to eat in,
    getting around, and
    preparing an itinerary for Osaka.







    GETTING TO OSAKA




    It is possible to get to Osaka by bus or train, or even by plane, from the cities of Tokyo and Nagoya.
    But for the purpose of this article, we will concentrate on how to fly in from the Philippines via Kansai International Airport.


    As previously mentioned, Kansai International Airport, or KIX for short, is one of three major entry points for airlines originating from Philippine airports.
    It services not only Osaka, but also most the Kansai region and beyond.




    Arriving at KIX


    This is a rehash of an old post I made at the old Osaka thread. It is meant to take the guesswork out of arriving at KIX.


    It is also meant to guide first-time travelers and to refresh return travelers to KIX, and will cover the following:

    1) your arrival at the airport,
    2) how to get to the bus stop or train station, and
    3) what trains to take to get to your destination.




    Arrival at the airport


    Arrivals from either Philippine Airlines or Cebu Pacific often follow a path marked with signs to a light rail shuttle.
    This shuttle will transport passengers closer to the main building of terminal 1.


    After alighting the shuttle, you walk towards Immigration.
    Be sure to have your embarkation cards filled up and ready along with your passport.


    Once you've cleared immigration, you then go down to where the baggage carousels are, pick up your luggage and head to Customs which is right nearby.


    Once you clear Customs, you go through a sliding door to reach the first floor lobby of Kansai international airport's terminal one.


    Congratulations! You are officially in japan!




    How to get to the bus stop or train station


    For your reference, Kansai international airport has 4 floors that can be subdivided into the following general headings:
    1f - International arrivals
    2f - Domestic arrivals
    3f - Shops and restaurants
    4f - International departures
    *don't ask me where the domestic departures go.



    This illustration gives you a rough idea of the layout of the first floor lobby.

    ScreenShot2014-10-26at62912PM_zpsa3d4e6bf.png



    As you can see in the illustration above, you pass through either the North or South exits once you are done with customs.



    Here is a picture of what you will see once you exit the South exit.

    IMG_7964_zpsb8201341.jpg

    *note the escalator labeled 4 and the exit labeled G and correlate with the illustration on top.




    How to get to the bus stop


    The bus stop for the bus to the Osaka City Air Terminal (OCAT) near the JR Namba Station, is located on the street just outside the airport.
    Looking the picture above, all one has to do is to go through Exit G and find the bus stop, purchase a ticket through the ticket vending machine,
    wait for the bus to come, and board it.



    How to get to the train station


    After exiting to the lobby, you need to locate escalators 2 and 3 to get to the train stations.
    If you pass through the south exit pictured above, that will mean turning right as you walk further into the lobby towards Exit G.
    As you turn right, you will eventually see escalator 3.


    Note that the escalators aren’t really marked with nos. It was only I who chose to identify them with numbers.
    The exits on the other hand really are marked with letters as can be seen in the picture above.


    Escalator 3
    IMG_7966_zps473013c8.jpg


    Get on either escalators 2 or 3 to get to the 2nd floor.
    Exit through either Exits D or E of the 2nd floor (immediately to the left at the top of escalator 3; right when using escalator 2).
    Once you have exited the building, you will see 2 walkways that cross the street below.


    Walkways.
    IMG_7967_zps50da08e2.jpg

    Note man on the left walkway headed away from the airport terminal 1 building.



    Cross the walkway to get to the parking building which also houses the train stations (1st and 2nd floors).


    This is how the lobby of the train station will look like as you cross either of the walkways.
    IMG_8860_zps22869524.jpg


    There are 2 railway companies that service Kansai International Airport- Japan Railways (JR) and Nankai Railways.


    Upon reaching the lobby of the train station, you will notice the gates for both JR (blue) or Nankai (red) on your right;
    IMG_8865_zpsed81503b.jpg


    and the ticket office again for both JR (blue with yellow "JR Ticket office" written) and Nakai (red under the orange sign) on your left.
    IMG_8868_zps5dfb0e81.jpg



    What trains to take to get to your destination


    Both train companies that service the Kansai International Airport have 3 general kinds of trains, a faster Ltd Express, a median Rapid train, and a slower Local train.
    For JR, the Ltd Express is also known as the Haruka ltd express.
    For Nakai, it is the rap:t ltd express.


    What train should you take will depend on what area or near what area will you be staying in.


    Osaka/Namba area
    Nankai rap:t Ltd Express or Rapid/Local trains


    Osaka/Umeda area
    JR Airport Rapid train


    Osaka/Shin-Osaka station
    JR Haruka Ltd Express


    Kyoto
    JR Haruka Ltd Express



    Please note that those trains that i have listed are not the only options for the listed areas; there are other alternatives
    (eg. when i list the JR Haruka ltd express, that means that to me is the best option; you can however take a slower and cheaper jr train instead).


    P.S.

    Those who need to pick up their ordered pocket wi-fi at KIX can do so right before going up escalator 3.
    IMG_7973_zps4390fdc8.jpg


    P.P.S. There are money changers at both the first and fourth floors (at least, that's what I have observed).




    Arriving by bus or train


    In the chance that you plane in to Tokyo or Nagoya from the Philippines and want to visit Osaka, you have the option to get here by either train or bus.

    By train, we often correlate it to mean the Shinkansen; and by bus, we often correlate it with the overnight bus run by the Willer Express bus company.


    Pros and Cons: Sleeper Bus vs. Shinkansen




    Bus
    Shinkansen


    Price-
    Cheaper
    Much more expensive


    Speed-
    Slow
    Fast


    Comfort-
    It doesn’t get more uncomfortable
    than sleeping on a bus
    Much more comfortable


    Others-
    Save on one night’s accommodation
    No such savings





    Traveling by Willer Express bus at night is way cheaper than traveling by Shinkansen.
    Not only are the fares cheaper, but you also save on one night’s accommodation since you will be traveling at night.


    But therein lies the counterpoint against the overnight bus.
    First, you have to busy yourself all night, with your luggage at that, while waiting for the bus to depart, which typically is close to midnight.
    And second, sleeping on a bus could get quite uncomfortable.


    Traveling by Shinkansen on the other hand is a relatively more comfortable experience.
    The seats are spacious and, if you travel with the sun out, the views could be rewarding.
    Mt. Fuji on a clear day anyone?


    Both options have arguments going for and against them.
    Ultimately, you decide between comfort and savings.


    With the Shinkansen, you arrive at Shin-Osaka station.
    Willer Express’ terminal is at the East Tower of the Umeda Sky Building.
    It has numerous bus stops throughout Osaka which are listed here.







    ACCOMMODATIONS




    You will be spoilt for choice deciding where to stay.
    From budget finds to 5-star establishments,
    from modern, western hotels to traditional ryokans,
    from hostels to private apartments,
    you will find it in Osaka.



    HOTELS

    Many members have shared where they have stayed while on holiday in Osaka.
    I have listed below the more recent shares and have grouped them according to their price point.
    Prices reflect actual reported prices or lowest published web rate for a double room.




    ⬇︎Kind∕Area➔
    Shinsaibashi
    Namba
    Shinimamiya
    Umeda
    Shin-Osaka


    Budget (≤¥9,999)
    Hotel Q - ¥3,000
    Nissin Namba Inn - ¥5,000
    Hotel Sun Plaza - ¥2,000

    Via Inn Shin-Osaka - ¥7,000



    Tokyo Inn Shinsaibashi - ¥7,000

    Hotel Shinimamiya - ¥3,600





    Hotel Naniwa - ¥9,000

    Hotel Chuo Oasis - ¥6,200




    Mid-Priced (¥10,000 - 19,999)
    Hotel Vista Grande - ¥13,000
    Hotel Monterey Grasmere Osaka - ¥19,000


    remm Shin-Osaka - ¥11,000


    Upper tier (¥20,000 - 29,000)

    Swisotel Namba - ¥20,000





    Premium (>30,000)










    AREA


    Many people that have come across the old threads ask, "In what area of Osaka is it best to stay in?"
    Budgetary constraints aside, the answer always depends on what interests you, the traveller.

    Do you want to be in the center of it all?
    Do you want a little peace and quiet?
    Do you want to be near a specific place that is the reason for your travel like, Universal Studios Japan perhaps?

    The thing is, there will be options for accommodations in almost any part of the city. It will just depend on where do you want to be in.


    If you'll notice in the table above, it would appear that there are areas that members favor over the rest. They are:



    Shinsaibashi and Umeda
    Choose to stay here if you want to be near Dotonbori among other things



    Lots of shops and food options just outside your hotel



    Hotels range from reasonable to expensive



    Choose to stay in Umeda for easy access to transportation to the airport


    Shinimamiya
    If you are looking for more reasonable accommodations yet is easy to connect to other parts of the city



    Close to several stations that makes travel to other parts of Osaka easy



    Steps away from Shinsekai where eating options abound


    Umeda
    Another transport hub with lots of shopping and eating options available just outside your hotel


    Shin-Osaka
    Useful if you want to explore the Kansai region via shinkansen.









    ATTRACTIONS




    Osaka is a big city and is filled with places to see and things to do. In this segment, we will group those places and activities into ‘must see’ and ‘nice to see categories.’



    Must see places

    In my book, there are three places that I consider ‘must see’ attractions in Osaka. They are:

    Osaka Castle,
    Dotonbori, Shinsaibashi area, and
    Universal Studios Japan




    OSAKA CASTLE

    While it isn’t usually mentioned in the same breath as its more illustrious cousins like the ones in Himeji or Nagoya,
    Osaka’s own Castle is a must-see destination especially when you are not scheduled to visit any other castle on your holiday.
    Even if you are scheduled to visit, say, Himeji Castle, a trip to Osaka Castle might prove worthwhile.


    Today’s castle is not the original castle. That was destroyed several times over the years.
    What you see today is a faithful reproduction of that original castle and, at first sight, is both beautiful and imposing.
    It gives its visitors an example of classic Japanese architecture and distinguishes itself from its modern surroundings.


    Surrounding the castle are moats and the vast Nishinomaru Garden. The garden is a favorite spot for Hanami viewing and requires a fee to enter.

    Viewing the castle from the outside is free. Expect to pay a fee if you want to enter the castle.


    2157_01.jpg
    Image from japan-guide.com; credits to them.



    A fellow member who visited Osaka recently posted a picture showing numerous trees in its fall-colored splendor.

    10734218_10154855075210367_5695791964166834636_n.jpg?oh=4ee8f85f0540c81009c76a15ad13ff61&oe=5511CA29&__gda__=1427602495_c95899ca2e9d7e1eb787033fdfff6bdf
    Image taken from post #1786 in the old Osaka thread; credits to member @jade23


    How to get here:

    Take the Tanimachi line or the Chuo line on the Osaka’s subway and get off at Tanimachi Yonchome (also 4-chome) (stations T23 or C18); or

    Take the Nagahori Tsurumi-ryokuchi subway line and get off at Osaka Business Park station (N21).




    DOTONBORI-SHINSAIBASHI CORRIDOR


    Where young Osaka meets.


    Dotonbori is an open shopping street that is littered with food stalls where you can sample staples of Osakan cuisine,
    such as takoyaki and okonomiyaki; and Japanese cuisine, like ramen.


    Shinsaibashi on the other hand is a covered shopping street that is littered with shops that sell everything
    from clothes, shoes, souvenirs, Hello Kitty paraphernalia and, even more food.


    Shinsaibashi and Dotonbori run perpendicular to one another.
    Somewhat between these two streets is a canal that is parallel to Dotonbori.
    Located along its banks are numerous neon signs (now LED) that this area is famous for; none more famous than the Glico Running Man.
    The canal’s banks also play host to cosplay gatherings.
    When done sightseeing, you can shop for pasalubong at Don Quijote or Donki for short; which is also located on the bank of the canal.


    zUuaXG.jpg
    Image taken from post #1687 in the old Osaka thread; credits to member @Mouldingo



    How to get here:


    Best way is to get on the Midosuji subway line and get of at either Namba station (subway) (M20) or Shinsaibashi station (M19).


    Alternatively, you can get on the Hanshin Namba line and get off at its penultimate stop, the Osaka Namba station.
    Or, take the Nankai Main line and get off at its penultimate stop at (Nankai) Namba station.




    UNIVERSAL STUDIOS JAPAN


    I’ll admit, even if Universal Studios amusement park isn’t something you should sneer at, it likewise is something you could easily ignore.
    That said, it hardly is a place anybody should include in their ‘must see’ list.


    Enter The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (WWOHP) and all that changes.
    You suddenly have an amusement park worthy of a ‘must see’ label.


    A trip to WWOHP will bring out the child in you. Seeing the façade of the Hogwarts School of Magic is enough to illicit wonderment.
    Add to that the thrill of the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, plus an atmosphere that takes you to Harry Potter’s world as you stroll Hogsmeade Village,
    and you’ve got an attraction that you won’t regret spending a day in.


    10530762_10152570941274313_734270280106734398_n.jpg?oh=2d957526c80336ea6f213301cccb8e73&oe=55384D03&__gda__=1429869626_81b82d3ac7639b746487696f5c8ce5e4
    *from the Harry Potter Facebook page; credits to owner.


    How to get here: Take the JR Yumaseki line from Nishikujo station to Universal City station.


    Buying Tickets:


    Buy your park tickets at the ticket offices by the gate. You can likewise buy them at Lawson, a local convenience store (Konbini).

    You cannot buy tickets online.

    While it was once reported by a member in the old Osaka thread that a local travel agency- H.I.S. Travel in Serendra, sells tickets, this hasn't been confirmed.


    You can likewise buy an Express Pass, USJ's skip-the-line pass, at the gate. It was reported that you can also purchase this at Lawson's but,
    I don't recall anyone actually stating that they indeed bought one themselves (first hand experience) at the popular konbini.


    In an attempt to manage the crowds going to WWOHP, USJ issues Timed Entry Tickets specifically for this area and this area alone.
    It is a free ticket that you get near the entry gate of WWOHP. It indicates the time you will be allowed entry inside the WWOHP.
    Limited Time entry Tickets are issued for a specific time frame (eg. 10:00am - 12:00nn, 4:00 - 6:00pm) and they may run out.
    If you weren't able to get inside the grounds of WWOHP as the gate opens, be sure to get a Timed Entry Ticket as soon as you can.





    Nice to see places

    UMEDA SKY BUILDING:
    • Tall building in the Umeda (Kita) District that has a 'floating' garden on top where nice views of the city can be had.
    • Expect to pay an entrance fee.
    • How to get here: Get to either Osaka or Umeda Stations and walk approximately 15 mins north east.


    OSAKA AQUARIUM (KAIYUKAN):
    • Osaka's famous aquarium.
    • Known for a big, central tank that features a Whale Shark among others.
    • How to get here: Take the Chuo subway line to Osakako Station.


    SHINTENNOJI TEMPLE:
    • One of the older temples in Japan.
    • How to get here: You can take either the Midosuji subway line or the JR Osaka loop line to Tennoji station. The temple is a 10 minute walk north from the station


    TENMANGU SHRINE:
    • Popular shrine located near Tenjinbashisuji shopping street, Osaka's longest.
    • The Osaka Museum of Housing and Living, dedicated to give visitors a glimpse of old Osakan houses and neighborhoods, is located along the shopping street.
    • How to get here: Take the Tanimachi or Sakaisuji subway lines to Minamimorimachi Station or the JR Tozai Line to the Osakatemmangu station.


    OSAKA HISTORY MUSEUM:
    • Displays depicting important milestones in Osaka's history.
    • Located near the castle grounds.
    • How to get here: Same as how to get to Osaka Castle. The museum is a 2 min walk north of exit 9 of the Tanimachi 4-chome station.


    TSUTENKAKU TOWER:
    • Osaka's answer to the Eiffel Tower.
    • Located in the Shinsekai area, known as one of the seedier areas of Osaka.
    • How to get here: Multiple lines to any of the ff. stations: Shinimamiya, Dobutsuenmae or Ebisucho.
  • pex_japanpex_japan Member PExer
    OSAKA part 2 (prepared by kanski)



    The view atop the Umeda Sky Building
    1544334_10153601995289460_125257840649938391_n.jpg?oh=741a9a5035ece4e6278f4350202bbc64&oe=54EA30E5&__gda__=1424596820_c8b0b35a71b6cfe26a5ec30165efa13e
    Photo by member rgie33; credits to her.







    WHERE TO EAT





    Enjoy the ff. which are believed to originate in Osaka:


    TAKOYAKI: Tako or octopus balls

    OKONOMIYAKI: Japanese pancakes with vegies and diced/shredded seafood


    ..along with other famous Japanese dishes like Ramen, Tempura and Sushi.


    For suggestions on where to find these delicacies, kindly read post #158here, and post #162 here.







    GETTING AROUND




    Osaka is covered by a web of subway and train lines, supplemented with taxis and an equally dense bus route; making nearly any point in the city easily accessible.




    SUBWAY LINES WORTH REMEMBERING


    The city has 2 main centers, Umeda in the north, and Namba in the South.
    These 2 centers, along with Shin-Osaka station (where you can catch the Shinkansen), are connected by the Midosuji subway line,
    making this subway line a vital transportation cog.


    Another vital transportation cog is the JR Osaka Loop line.
    This line goes around the fringe of the city proper and counts Tennoji and Osaka stations as stops.
    Both are major stations where you can connect to numerous other lines.
    The loop line also stops at Nishikujo station where you can transfer to the JR Yumesaki line to get to Universal Studios Japan.



    Other notable lines include:


    The JR Hanwa/Airport line and the Nankai Main line as they connect the city, via Tennoji/Osaka/Shin-Osaka stations and Namba station respectively, to Kansai International airport.


    The Kyoto line of both JR and Hankyu Rail, which connects Osaka/Shin-Osaka stations and Umeda station respectively, to Kyoto station.


    The Hanshin Namba and Main lines and the JR Kobe line that connect Osaka-Namba, Hanshin Osaka and Osaka stations respectively, to Sannomiya and Kobe-Sannomiya stations in Kobe.


    The JR Yamatoji line and the Kintetsu Nara line that connect Tennoji and Osaka-Namba stations respectively to Nara and Kintetsu Nara stations in Nara.





    THE MANY FACES OF NAMBA STATION


    The southern city center of Osaka is popularly known as Namba.
    It is the city’s entertainment hub and the number of transportation companies converging in this area makes this apparent.

    It is serviced by 4 train companies via 3 stations invariably called Namba Station.
    On top of that, 3 subway lines have stops in this area, all of which are also named… Namba Station.

    For a first time visitor to Namba, all this can be confusing.
    Good thing we could set things straight and set the confusion aside.
    Read on.


    ScreenShot2015-01-21at21755AM_zps7abe9d12.png


    The 4 train companies that have stops here are Japan Rail, Nankai Rail, Hanshin Rail, and Kintetsu Rail.
    They all stop at a ‘Namba station.' However, if you look closely, those Namba stations are easily identifiable.




    Train Company
    Station in Namba


    Japan Rail
    JR Namba station


    Nankai Rail
    Nankai Namba station or just plain Namba station


    Hanshin Rail
    Osaka-Namba station


    Kintetsu Rail
    Osaka-Namba station



    As you can see, Hanshin and Kintetsu Rail Companies share a station in Namba.


    And as previously mentioned, 3 subway lines, namely:
    Midosuji
    Sennichimae
    Yotsubashi

    all stop at Namba Subway Station.


    I hope that clears some of the confusion regarding Namba station (till you get to Namba Walks).
    Hyperdia will be so pleased. LOL.





    HOW MANY UMEDA STATIONS ARE THERE?


    If Namba is the southern city center of Osaka, Umeda is its northern city center.
    As such, the same confluence of transport companies you see in Namba, you see even more in Umeda, being the busier of the 2 hubs.


    Aside from JR, this confluence brings about 2 other rail companies and 3 subway lines to stop at stations in the area named Umeda.


    To allay the confusion, here is an illustration showing all the different Umeda stations:


    ScreenShot2015-01-21at32537AM_zps64c8920b.png



    Train/Subway Company
    Name of Station


    Hankyu Rail
    Hankyu Umeda station


    Hanshin Rail
    Hanshin Umeda station


    Midosuji Subway Line
    Umeda Subway station


    Yotsubashi Subway Line
    Nishi-Umeda station


    Tanimachi Subway Line
    Higashi-Umeda station







    OSAKA STATION and SHIN-OSAKA STATION: WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?


    Another transport company with a presence in Umeda is the ever visible Japan Rail (JR).
    In Umeda, they've gone the opposite direction and didn't name its transport hub Umeda Station
    Instead, they went with the unique name OSAKA STATION. LOL.


    While it is hard to confuse Osaka station with all the surrounding Umeda stations, some people confuse it with its distant northern neighbor, SHIN-OSAKA STATION.


    ScreenShot2015-01-21at35113AM_zps670783e1.png





    Thing's to remember:
    Location
    Hub for


    Osaka Station
    Umeda
    Osaka Loop Line, JR Tozai Line


    Shin-Osaka Station
    North of Umeda
    Shinkansen Line






    RAIL PASSES


    For most travellers, getting an Icoca IC card is all they'll ever need.
    Partner this with a Haruka Ltd. Exp. ticket, particularly when purchasing a Icoca & Haruka package, when traveling to Tenoji, Shin-Osaka or Kyoto, and you're all set.

    However, for a select few, getting a pass could prove beneficial in defraying cost of transportation.
    There are a few rail passes in Osaka in particular, and in the Kansai region in general, that could be useful for travelers to this part of Japan.



    Surutto Kansai Pass - buy if you plan to do some heavy train travel out of Osaka.



    Price:
    :¥4,000 (2-day pass); ¥5,200 (3-day pass)


    Limitation
    :not accepted in JR trains


    Pays off if
    :you plan to make a side trip to Himeji



    :you go to Nara and Kyoto in one day



    :travel to Kyoto and travel extensively within the city


    Will not pay off if
    :side trip to Nara only



    :travel to Kyoto only and just go to one spot



    :travel within Osaka only




    Osaka Amazing Pass - buy if you intend to visit attractions within Osaka that are covered by the pass; see the list here



    Price
    :¥2,300 (1-day); ¥3,000 (2-days)


    Will pay off if
    :you plan to visit at least 3 accredited sights


    Will not pay off if
    :you won't see any or much of the accredited sights



    :just use it to pay for transportation




    Kintetsu Rail Pass - ¥3,800 (cheapest); consider only if you will travel to Nagoya



    Japan West Rail (JR West) Pass - comes in different iterations based on no. of days it's valid.
    - consider the one-day pass (¥2,300) when traveling to Himeji (one-way fare is ~¥1,500).



    JR Pass - ¥29,110 (7-day pass); consider only if you will travel to Tokyo and back.


    To know more about these passes and more, visit this website








    PREPARING AN ITINERARY FOR OSAKA




    If you have 1 day to spare

    Do a tour of the city.

    Go to Osaka Castle in the morning.
    Shop and eat at the Dotonbori/Shinsaibashi corridor later in the afternoon.
    In between, you can go to any of the 'nice to see' sights listed above like the Kaiyukan/Osaka Aquarium, the Tenmangu shrine and/or the Umeda Sky Building.



    If you have 2 days

    Go to Universal Studios Japan on the 2nd day.



    If you have 3 days

    Love shopping? Take a 40 min. train ride south to Izumisano and spend the day shopping for bargains at Rinku Outlet Mall.

    Outlet shopping not your thing?
    Stay within the confines of the city and go instead to Umeda for gadget shopping at Yodobashi Camera and clothes and shoes at Isetan;
    or go to Namba to shop at Takashimaya and Namba Parks.
  • pex_japanpex_japan Member PExer
    KYOTO (prepared by kanski)


    The other urban prefecture in the Kansai region (the other being Osaka), Kyoto is arguably the 2nd most popular destination in all of Japan.
    The main reason for this is the wealth of old structures that still stand in the city today, giving its visitors a glimpse of old Japan.


    In this section, we will discuss:

    how to get to,
    where to stay,
    things to see and do,
    what to eat,
    getting around, and
    tips on making an itinerary for Kyoto.





    HOW TO GET TO KYOTO




    Filipinos do not go directly to Kyoto from the Philippines.
    Rather, they go here by train or bus from the three ports of entry available to them: Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya.


    From Tokyo, the popular choices for travel to Kyoto are the shinkansen during the day time, and the Willer Express sleeper bus at night.

    Travel time via shinkansen is 2 hrs. 40 mins.

    Meanwhile, the sleeper bus takes more than 7 hours to travel the same distance.
    Several buses leave Tokyo between 10:00 pm to midnight and arrive in Kyoto at six-ish in the morning.



    Aside from the shinkansen, other slower, cheaper trains can be boarded to get to Kyoto from Tokyo.

    You can even board a day bus.

    But due to the long distance between the two cities, these are not popular choices.
    It will be a waste of time getting stuck on a train or a day bus that long.



    Osaka and Nagoya on the other hand are near enough, making travel to Kyoto via a bus or a train other than a shinkansen a good alternative.

    This close proximity is also the reason why traveling by bus either at night time or day time isn’t a popular choice.
    The regular trains are faster and just as cheap.



    However, it is hard to beat the experience of getting to travel by shinkansen; not to mention, it is the fastest, too.

    Here is a table depicting the times it takes to travel to Kyoto from Nagoya and Osaka.




    Travel time to Kyoto
    From Nagoya
    From Osaka


    Shinkansen
    36 mins.
    13 mins.


    Ltd. Express
    1 hr. 30 mins.
    23 mins.


    Local train
    2 hrs. (with transfers)
    40 mins.






    Tips:
    ☞ If coming from Nagoya, travel by JR and Kintetsu rail.



    ☞ Use JR, Hankyu Rail or Keihan Rail if coming from Osaka.








    ACCOMMODATIONS





    Kyoto offers a lot of attractions and all of these cannot be seen in one day.
    While it is possible to make day trips from nearby Osaka where accommodations are generally cheaper,
    nothing beats staying in Kyoto for a night or two or more.


    Again, several members who have passed through the old Japan and Osaka threads have shared where were they booked while on holiday in Kyoto.
    Some of those are the following:

    ****


    Areas that are ideal to base yourself in Kyoto are the Karawamachi/Gion area and the area surrounding the Kyoto station.

    While it is always good to stay in the downtown area (of which the Kawaramachi/Gion area is for Kyoto) for obvious reasons (lots of shops and food options),
    basing yourself near Kyoto station affords you easy access to neighboring Osaka and Nara.








    THINGS TO SEE AND DO




    Kyoto is filled with temples and shrines.
    Throw in a castle, a palace, and a traditional area where you may encounter fabled Geishas
    and you’ve got a Japan holiday seeker’s dream destination.



    Popular Attractions:



    3195178968_f7db2a350f.jpg
    Photo taken from Christian Jentsch's Flickr page. Photo credits to him.

    FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE:
    • known for the thousand vermillion-colored torii gates present within its site.
    • Free
    • How to get here: Take either the JR Nara line to Inari station or the Keihan Main line to Fushimi Inari station.


    IMG_2921_zps72856e6e.jpg

    KINKAKUJI TEMPLE:
    • known for its pavilion that is covered in gold leaf.
    • Pay entrance fee.
    • How to get here: Take bus nos. 101 or 205 from either Kyoto station or KItaoji station of the Karasuma subway line.


    101.jpg
    Image taken from the suete.ro web page. Photo credits to them.

    ARASHIYAMA BAMBOO GROVE:
    • There are numerous sights that you can visit in Arashiyama but this by far, is the most famous.
    • The bamboo grove is known for its, well, tall bamboo.
    • Free.
    • How to get here: By Randen (Keifuku) tram, the JR Sagano line or the Hankyu Arashiyama line.
    • You can also take bus nos. 11 or 93.


    yun_5745.jpg
    Image taken from wallpaper.free-photograph.net. Photo credits to them.

    GION: GEISHA DISTRICT
    • where traditional wooden shops/houses abound; famous as a Geisha-spotting area in the late afternoon to early evening.
    • Free.
    • How to get here: Walk 5-10 mins. east from Kawaramachi station (Hankyu Kyoto Line) or 5 mins. east from Keihan Rail’s Gion-shijo station.
    • Alternatively, you can take several buses to get to the Gion bus stop, like: 12, 46, 100, 201, 202, 203, 206 or 207.


    ninomaru_palace.jpg
    Photo taken from youinjapan.net. Photo credits to them.

    NIJO CASTLE:
    • old castle surrounded by walls and a moat.
    • Fee on entry.
    • How to get here: Take the Tozai line to Nijojo-mae station or take bus no. 9, 12, 50 or 101 to the Nijojo-mae bus stop.


    kyotosunset-potd-jm.jpg
    Photo from gadling.com. Credits to them.

    KIYOMIZUDERA:
    • very old temple with a spacious, wooden balcony.
    • Pay fee on entry.
    • How to get here: Take bus no. 100, 202, 206 or 207 to the Kiyomizu-michi bus stop and walk up through the Higashiyama District.




    Other favorite attractions:


    GINKAKUJI TEMPLE: Converted temple with a sand garden as well as a Japanese garden.
    ☞How to get here: Take bus no. 5 or 100, among others.



    NANZENJI TEMPLE: Temple with a Roman aqueduct within its grounds.
    ☞How to get here: Bus no. 5 and 100 takes one closest to the temple’s entrance.



    NISHIKI MARKET: Covered market in selling dry and wet goods.
    ☞How to get here: Take the Hankyu Kyoto line to either Karasuma or Kawaramachi stations. Alternatively, take the Karasuma subway line and get off at Shijo-Karasuma station.



    RYOANJI TEMPLE: Temple with famous rock garden. And no, there is no singing with electric guitars.
    ☞How to get here: Take bus 12 or 59 from Kinkakuji temple.



    TOGETSUKYO BRIDGE: Another popular landmark in the district of Arashiyama. Pretty during hanami and koyo viewing season.
    ☞How to get here: see Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.



    TOFUKUJI TEMPLE: Temple with garden famous for its fall foliage. A good destination during late November.
    ☞How to get here: Get off at Kofukuji station on either the JR Nara line or the Keihan Main line.



    Bear in mind that these are not the only places that you can visit in Kyoto. For a more complete list, proceed to japan-guide.com’s Kyoto page.








    WHAT TO EAT




    Nothing extraordinary.







    GETTING AROUND





    Just like other big cities in Japan, a busy network of train and subway lines serves Kyoto.
    Unlike the rest of Japan however, it has a bus network that is even more extensive than its train and subway network.



    TRAINS and SUBWAYS


    It will be worthwhile to note the ff:


    Arashiyama is served by 3 rail lines: JR’s Sagano line, Hankyu’s Arashiyama line and Randen’s tram line.


    ☞ The north to south axis is served by:
    1. the Karasuma subway line in the MIDDLE of Kyoto, and is important when going to the Gion area, Nishiki market, the Imperial Palace and Kinkakuji + Ryoanji Temples; and
    2. the Keihan Main line in the EAST; useful when going to Ginkakuji temple, Nanzenji temple, the Gion area, Kofukuji temple and, Fushimi Inari shrine.


    ☞ The east to west axis on the other hand is served by the Tozai subway line right down the middle of Kyoto and is useful when getting to Nijo castle, the Gion-potoncho area, and Nanzenji temple.


    ☞ Lastly, JR, through its Kyoto line and Nara line, connects Kyoto station with the cities of Osaka and Nara, respectively.




    BUS


    As mentioned earlier, Kyoto is unique in that its bus system not only rivals its train and subway system but, even surpasses it in terms of density.
    This density arises in part from the confluence of both city-run buses and those run by private companies.


    tra_bus_pct01.gif
    Image from Kyoto City Web website. Credits to them.


    CITY-RUN BUS

    Kyoto has 3 buses that are primed for tourists, the so-called Raku buses.


    Bus No. 100 departs from Kyoto station and its route travels through eastern Kyoto.
    It passes by the ff., among others: Kiyomizudera temple, Nanzenji temple and Ginkakuji temple.


    Bus No. 101 also departs from Kyoto station and makes its way up the middle of Kyoto to the northern parts of the city.
    It is useful in getting to the ff., among others: Nijo castle, Kinkakuji temple, and partly to Ryoanji temple.


    Bus No. 102 doesn’t depart from Kyoto station. It is confined to the northern part of Kyoto and runs on an east to west loop.
    It connects Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji temples and stops near the Imperial Palace along the way.


    Aside from the Raku buses, the other Kyoto City Buses could be classified into:



    Green Bus
    :confined to the inner city and fare is a standard ¥230.



    :Ex. loop bus nos. 201, 202 and 208






    White Bus
    :services the outer areas of the city, too, like Arashiyama; fare is distance-dependent



    :Ex. bus no. 11 that travels from Shijo Kawaramachi in central Kyoto to Arashiyama





    PRIVATE COMPANY BUSES

    Many of the major transportation conglomerates like Japan Rail (JR), Hankyu Rail and Keihan Railways also run bus lines in Kyoto.
    A example of a private bus that is of interest to tourists is the hop-on, hop-off (HOHO) Bus.

    Known as the Kyoto World Heritage Tour Bus, this hop-on, hop-off bus has its benefits and its misgivings.



    Benefits:
    Counter-point:


    Passes by a number of World Heritage Sites including, but not limited to:
    Nijo Catle
    Kinkakuji Temple
    Ginkakuji Temple
    Kiyomizudera Temple

    At ¥2100 for a single-day ticket, it's expensive


    No need to figure out what train or bus to ride
    May have to wait an hour before next bus comes




    More information on the Kyoto World Heritage Tour Bus can be read here.




    Paying for your bus ride


    There used to be a time (as early as a month ago) when the only way you can pay for your bus fare was either thru cash or bus pass.

    Recently however, Kyoto's city bus have been upgraded to accept payment by tapping your IC card.



    Here now are the steps on how to pay for your bus fare.

    I. By Cash

    ☞ For city buses that travel within the confines of inner Kyoto:
    • Enter the bus by the middle door and pay the 'flat rate' of ¥230.00 at the bin beside the driver as you exit the front door.


    ☞ For buses that travel to the outer fringes of the city:


    Ex. those that go to:
    Arashiyama (Bus no. 11, 28, 91 and 93)



    Takao (Bus no. 8)



    Enkoji Temple and beyond (Bus no. 5)

    • Enter the middle door and take a numbered ticket from the dispenser beside the entry door.
    • As your destination approaches, look at the display in front of the bus and take note of the fare written beside the no. that matches that of your ticket.
    • Pay the corresponding fare in the bin beside the driver as you exit via the front door.


    II. By Bus Pass*

    There are 2 kinds of bus pass that you can purchase from the main bus and subway ticket counters in Kyoto:
    1. All-day bus pass/card (¥500): valid for buses traveling within the inner city 'flat rate sone' only; buy when you plan to ride the bus ≥3 times
    2. Kyoto 1 or 2-day Sightseeing card (¥1200/2000): valid for any bus + the 2 subway lines; consider when going to arshiyama by bus

    Kyoto City Bus Pass
    6011274986_b6f73756bf_z.jpg
    Photo from insidekyoto.com. Credits to them.


    Kyoto Sightseeing Card
    Osaka+and+Kyoto+264.jpg
    Photo from backpackboy.com. Credits to them.



    ☞ For bus that travel within the inner city 'flat rate zone,'
    • insert your card in the reader beside the bus driver as you exit thru the front door

    ☞ For bus that travel outside the inner city 'flat rate zone,'
    • Insert card into the card reader beside the middle entry door
    • Insert card into the card reader beside the driver before you exit the front door


    III. By IC Card*

    ☞ For both buses that travel within and beyond the inner city 'flat rate zone,'
    • Tap (do not insert) the card in the designated card reader beside the middle entry door
    • Tap (do not insert) the card in the designated card reader beside the driver before exiting the front door

    *source: arukumachikyoto.jp




    Note
    The prepaid IC cards are reportedly accepted only on green, inner city buses at the moment






    Tip
    ☞ Purchase a one-day bus pass (¥500) if you foresee using the bus at least thrice in a day



    ☞ Purshase the Kyoto sightseeing card (¥1200) if you foresee using the bus or subway >5x, including going to arashiyama
    by bus



    ☞ Take the subway, tram or train when you can; the bus tends to be slower due to traffic and numerous bus stops









    MAKING AN ITINERARY:



    You can visit Kyoto in a day. Ideally though, you should earmark 2-3 days to be able to see most of what Kyoto has to offer.



    IF ONE DAY IS ALL YOU CAN SPARE:

    Start early and choose 4 sights that pique your interest the most.
    See 2 of them in the morning, and the other 2 in the afternoon.

    Try to arrange the order in which you will go to them according to their proximity to each other, keeping transport options between these sights in mind.
    You should also bear in mind the opening and closing times of these sights when planning your day.



    For example, I have listed down the six most popular sights in Kyoto based on inquiries made at the old Japan and Osaka threads.
    Of those six, choose four. For this example, we will go to the following (in bold face):

    Starting point is Kyoto station.

    ⬇︎ JR Nara line

    Fushimi Inari station > Fushimi Inari Shrine

    ⬇︎ JR Nara line

    Kyoto Station > Kyotoeki-mae bus stop

    ⬇︎ Bus no. 101 (travel 5 stops)

    Nijojo-mae bus stop > Nijo Castle

    ⬇ Bus no. 101 (travel 8 stops)

    Kinkakuji-michi bus stop > Kinkakuji Shrine

    ⬇ Bus no. 101 (travel 2 stops back to where you came from)

    Kitano Hakubai-cho bus stop > Kitano Hakubai-cho station

    ⬇ Randen tram (also known as the Keifuku tram)

    Arashiyama station > Arashiyama Bamboo Grove/Togetsukyo Bridge


    *you can go to Gion at night if you still have the energy for it




    IF YOU HAVE TWO DAYS OR MORE:


    Divide Kyoto into zones.

    The Northeast Zone includes Ginkakuji Temple ➔ Philosopher's Path ➔ Nanzenji Temple.

    The Southeast Zone primarily includes Yasaka Shrine ➔ Higashiyama Preserved District ➔ Kiyumizudera Temple.

    The Central Zone includes Nijo Castle, the Kyoto Imperial Palace, Nishiki Market and the Gion District.

    Arashiyama could be counted as a zone on its own; sights here include Togetsukyo Bridge ➔ Tenryuji Temple ➔ Bamboo Grove.

    Not a zone but, you can add to these Kinkakuji Temple in the north and Fushimi Inari Shrine in the south.



    Now, assign one zone for the morning and another for the afternoon and, you get to see 2 zones in a day.
    So for 2 full days in Kyoto, you can possible tackle (depending on how fast or slow you walk) 4 of the 5 zones listed above.



    Here is an example of a 2-day itinerary for Kyoto:

    Day 1: Northeastern and Southeastern zones

    We begin at Kyoto station

    ⬇︎ Karasuma subway line

    Imadegawa station

    ⬇︎ Walk

    Karasuma Imadegawa bus stop

    ⬇︎ Bus no. 102

    Ginkakuji-michi bus stop ⬌ Ginkakuji Temple

    ⬇︎ Walk thru Philosopher's Path

    Nanzenji Temple

    ⬇︎ Walk

    Bijutsukan bus stop

    ⬇︎ Bus no. 100

    Gion bus stop ⬌ Yasaka Shrine

    ⬇︎ Walk thru Higashiyama Preserved Shopping District

    Kiyomizudera Temple (End of Day)



    Day 2: Fushimi Inari and Kinkakuji + Arashiyama

    Start at Kyoto station

    ⬇︎ JR Nara line

    Inari station ⬌ Fushimi Inari Shrine

    ⬇︎ JR Nara line

    Kyoto station

    ⬇︎ Karasuma subway line

    Kitaoji station ⬌ Kitaoji bus terminal

    ⬇︎ Bus no. 101

    Kinkakuji-michi bus stop ⬌ Kinkakuji Temple

    ⬇︎ Bus no. 101

    Kitano Hakubai-cho bus stop

    ⬇︎ Walk

    Kitano Hakubai-cho station

    ⬇︎ Randen/Keifuku tram

    Arashiyama station (may stop and transfer trams at Katabiranotsuji station) ⬌ Arashiyama

    ⬇︎ Walk

    Togetsukyu Bridge

    ⬇︎ Walk

    Tenryuji Temple

    ⬇︎ Walk

    Bamboo Grove (End of Day)
  • pex_japanpex_japan Member PExer
    NARA, HIMEJI & KOBE: Favorite side-trips from Osaka or Kyoto (prepared by kanski)



    ScreenShot2015-01-21at75348PM_zpsb81132dd.png


    Nara, Himeji and Kobe are favorite side-trip destinations from Osaka or Kyoto.
    Looking at the map above, you will find that their proximity to one another is one reason for this.
    Japan's terrific public transportation is another.


    From Osaka or Kyoto, you can schedule a half day jaunt to Nara.
    Schedule a whole day if you go west to Himeji and Kobe instead.


    Yes, you can fit in both Himeji and Kobe in a day in that order. You however cannot schedule Nara and either Kobe or Himeji in one day.
    Alright, maybe you CAN successfully attempt to visit Nara and Kobe in one day. Nara and Himeji on the other hand might end up in disaster.
    And you can definitely forget about going to all three.


    An alternative to a one-day trip to both Nara and Kobe will be to go to Nara in the morning, then spend the afternoon in your base city, whether it be Osaka or Kyoto.
    You then go to Kobe the afternoon of the next day after spending the morning touring your base city.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++




    NARA


    A favorite side-trip destination from Osaka or Kyoto, Nara is a welcome change of pace compared to its more fast-paced neighbors.


    In this section, we will discuss

    how to get to,
    where to stay in,
    what to see and do in,
    what to eat,
    how to get around, and
    how to schedule an itinerary for Nara.





    GETTING TO NARA



    As mentioned earlier, Nara is a favorite side-trip destination from Osaka and Kyoto.
    It is commonly reached from these cities by train.


    Two rail companies serve Nara. They are Japan Rail (JR) and Kintetsu Rail.
    Both these rail companies travel to and from Osaka and Kyoto.


    JR’s Nara station is located at the west end of the city center.
    Kintetsu’s Nara station on the other hand is more centrally located and is just a few steps away from Nara Park.



    To get to either Nara station from Osaka and Kyoto, you board the ff:

    From: Osaka



    Rail Company
    Station of Origin
    Line
    Destination


    Japan Rail (JR)
    Tennoji Station
    JR Yamatoji Line
    JR Nara Station


    Kintetsu Rail
    Osaka-Namba Station
    Kintetsu Nara Line
    Kintetsu Nara Station





    From: Kyoto



    Rail Company
    Station of Origin
    Line
    Destination


    Japan Rail (JR)
    Kyoto Station
    JR Nara Line
    JR Nara Station


    Kintetsu Rail
    Kyoto Station
    Kintetsu Kyoto/Kashihara & Nara Line
    Kintetsu Nara Station









    ACCOMMODATIONS



    There are a number of mainly business hotels in Nara but, none have so far been reported as been having stayed at by PEX members.

    This is understandable since, as mentioned earlier, Nara is usually treated as a day trip destination from either Osaka and Kyoto;
    meaning, people who go to Nara tend to lodge at either of its neighboring cities.






    ATTRACTIONS




    Nara is known for 2 things:


    IMG_2566_zps2bb2eb1c.jpg


    TODAIJI TEMPLE
    • Its main building, the DAIBUTSUDEN is reported to be the biggest wooden building in the world (from the picture, it's hard to doubt, yah?).
    • Houses Japan’s biggest bronze Buddha statue (bigger than the one in Kamakura)

    and

    NARA PARK
    • Huge grassy sprawl popular due to the presence of herds of free-roaming deer
    • Also features KOFUKUJI TEMPLE which has a 5-tiered pagoda.

    IMG_2516_zps589d64ba.jpg







    WHAT TO EAT



    Again, nothing distinct.







    GETTING AROUND NARA



    Nara is a small city in comparison with its neighbors Osaka and Kyoto.
    Getting around central Nara where all its popular attractions are located involves either walking or taking the bus.


    WALK

    This is a good alternative particularly if you will be arriving at Kintetsu Nara Station.
    From that station, getting to the western edge of the park will only take a 3-minute walk.
    The Todaiji Temple? A reasonable 20 mins.
    Those times don’t include stopping for selfies or to pet the deers.

    If coming from JR Nara Station, add 10-15 mins to those times. Still, not bad!


    BUS



    venue_busloop_small.jpg
    Picture taken from apes-ies-sest.org's website. credits to them.


    Nara has numerous bus routes. However, the ones that tourists should concern themselves with are the loop buses.

    Take Loop Bus No. 2 if coming from JR Nara Station and Kintetsu Nara Station going to the Park and Todaiji Temple.
    You can board this at bus stop no. 1 in front of either train stations.

    Take Loop Bus No. 1 after sightseeing and returning to either train stations.







    MAKING AN ITINERARY



    Making an itinerary for a visit to Nara is straightforward.

    You ‘train in’ ➔ you go see the Todaiji Temple ➔ go roam the park and feed the deer ➔ and go back to where you came from.

    Allot half a day, unless you want to see the other lesser-known temples. In which case, spare another 2 hrs. or three.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





    KOBE


    By my account, Kobe is not as famous a side-trip destination from Osaka or Kyoto as Nara.
    I attribute this to the fact that the city doesn't have an attraction like Nara's Todaiji that tourists would travel to see.
    What Kobe does have is the world-famous, eponymous Kobe Beef, arguably the best beef you can taste..





    GETTING TO KOBE




    There are several train companies that can transport you to Kobe from either Osaka or Kyoto.


    Leading the pack is, as always, Japan Rail (JR).

    You can reach Kobe via JR from both Osaka and Kyoto by riding either the shinkansen or any of their other trains.
    It offers the fastest way to get to Kobe, the shinkansen notwithstanding.


    Another rail company that offers transport between Kobe and both Osaka and Kyoto is Hankyu Rail.


    A third rail company that services Kobe but only from Osaka is Hanshin Rail.





    Rail Co.\Start or Destination
    Osaka
    Kyoto


    Japan Rail (JR)




    Hankyu Rail




    Hanshin Rail











    ATTRACTIONS




    As mentioned at the start, for many, the attraction of Kobe is the beef.

    However, there are some places that you can go to to while the time away. They are:


    Kobe-Japan-G01.jpg
    Image taken from http://japan.tourismsee.com. Credits to them.

    Meriken Park: site of Kobe Tower, Kobe's landmark infrastructure, and the Earthquake Memorial that commemorates the 1995 tragedy that killed 5000 lives


    How to get here:
    The closest station is the Minato-motomachi Station on the Kaigan Subway Line.



    From here, it is a 10-15 min. walk



    Alternatively, if coming direct from Osaka or Kyoto, you can get down at the Motomachi station of Japan Rail



    or the Motomachi Station of Hanshin Rail if coming from Osaka



    From either, it is a 15-20 min. walk





    Harborland: entertainment and shopping complex
    How to get here: The nearest station is Kobe station of both JR and the Kaigan subway line. The latter is also known as the Harborland station.


    Shin-Kobe Ropeway: Cable car ride up the mountain behind Shin-Kobe station for unparalleled views of the city.
    How to get here: The closest station is the Shin-Kobe station. This station is connected to Sannomiya by the Seishin-yamate subway line.


    If you are impressed with engineering marvels, a trip to the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, reportedly the longest suspension bridge in the world at 4 kms., can be worth your while.

    3559_01.jpg
    Taken from japan-guide.com. Credits to them.








    WHAT TO EAT



    In the vernacular, "Tinatanong pa ba yan?"


    IMG_8291_zps71a93121.jpg
    Kobe Beef, cuts of sirloin (left) and tenderloin (right).

    Aside from the usual staples of Japanese cuisine, people flock to Kobe to go to the source of Kobe Beef.
    Whether you think of it as hype or not, trying this delicacy at least once in your life is a worth-while endeavour.

    Where do you go? The ones that I at least know of are:

    IMG_8307_zps40a8b6d3.jpg
    Steakland: just across the Hankyu Sannomiya station.



    The three branches of Moriya, all located in the stretch of Ikuta Road (just around the corner from Steakland)


    IMG_8302_zpsf38b43e1.jpg
    The building that houses 2 of the 3 branches of Moriya.


    Google for more options.


    ☞ Tip: Lunch sets are cheaper than dinner sets.
    ☞ Tip: It is fine to walk-in but, you run the risk of a full house (the restaurants aren't that big). It is recommended that you make a reservation on line.







    GETTING AROUND KOBE





    kobe-map.gif
    Image from diversitytravel.co.uk's web page. Credits to them.


    On top of the railways mentioned earlier, Kobe is served by 2 subway lines, the Seishin-Yamate line (indigo) and the Kaigan line (violet); and
    2 elevated light rails, the Port liner (red) which connects the city to the port and Kobe airport, and the Rokko liner (green), connects Rokko island to the city.



    Sannomiya Station


    The term Sannomiya station, just like Namba station and Umeda station, is used to describe several stations that are drop off points of several train and subway lines.


    To illustrate, here is a map that identifies the 3 train stations of JR, Hankyu and Hanshin rail, and the 2 stations of the Seishin-Yamate and Kaigan subway lines:
    kobe.gif
    Image taken from the harukapat.jp website. Credits to them.


    Please note that, just like Osaka, Kobe has a Kobe station and a Shin Kobe station, the latter being where the shinkansen stops.



    Kobe City Loop Bus

    A convenient way of going around Kobe. Single-ride tickets are at ¥250, the day pass is ¥660. Not sure if you can use your IC card to pay.






    ITINERARY




    If by going here you are planning to partake of some Kobe Beef, your itinerary should center on lunch and dinner times.

    An example of an itinerary would be to go to Himeji in the morning, and proceed to Kobe after.
    If you get to Himeji when the castle opens, you can probably catch (a late) lunch at Kobe.
    If you take a more leisurely approach and arrive at Kobe in the afternoon, you can probably take in one attraction (eg. Meriken Park) and proceed to dinner after.


    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





    HIMEJI


    Himeji is known for its castle, reputed to be Japan's most beautiful.






    GETTING TO HIMEJI




    One can take a JR train, sinkansen or otherwise, from both Osaka and Kyoto.
    Those coming from Osaka have the added benefit of traveling via Hanshin Rail.




    Rail Company
    Station-Departure
    Line
    Station-Arrival


    JR Shinkansen
    Kyoto station or Shin-Osaka station
    Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen lines
    Himeji station


    JR Non-Shinkansen
    Kyoto station or Osaka station
    Kyoto and Sanyo Main Line
    Himeji station


    Hanshin Rail
    Osaka-Namba station
    Hanshin Main line + Kobe-kosuku and Mukogawa lines
    Hanshin Himeji station









    ATTRACTIONS




    himeji_castle_the_keep_towers.jpg
    Image taken from famouswonders.com. Credits to them.


    HIMEJI CASTLE ...need I say more? Apparently I do.

    How to get here: From either of the 2 Himeji stations, walk 20 mins. north along Otemae dori till you reach the castle grounds.
    Bus and taxis available, too.







    ITINERARY




    This should be straightforward, you come in to Himeji town, visit the castle, and leave Himeji back to possibly for Kobe, or Hiroshima, or back to Osaka or Kyoto.
  • pex_japanpex_japan Member PExer
    ELSEWHERE IN JAPAN
    (prepared by rdvd)

    Other destinations outside Kansai and the Kanto regions

    NAGOYA

    16471783975_a247117475_z.jpg
    Nagoya’s Sakae district. Photo mine (rdvd). All rights reserved.

    Reasons to go to Nagoya

    Toyota-related museums – There are 3 scattered in different locations in Nagoya: Toyota Kaikan Museum, Toyota Techno Museum (aka Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology), and Toyota Automobile Museum. Toyota Techno is the most accessible, being the first stop on the Meguru bus loop and within Japanese walking distance from Nagoya Station.

    Nagoya Castle: Reconstruction of the original castle. Open to visitors but there are renovation works until 2018. Accessible via Meguru bus loop or via subway to Shiyakusho station.

    Getting to Nagoya from Tokyo

    By train (without JR Pass): Nozomi shinkansen (1 hr 40 min, 10,360 yen)
    By train (with JR Pass): Hikari shinkansen (1hr 50 min, no charge)
    By bus: 5 hours by JR Kanto Bus or Willer Express (5-6hr, 3,000-5,000 yen)

    Getting to Nagoya from Osaka

    By train (without JR Pass): Nozomi (50 min, 5,830 yen)
    By train (with JR Pass): Hikari (55 min, no charge)
    Kintetsu Ltd. Exp. (2 hr, 4,260 yen or included in a Kintetsu Rail Pass) from Kintetsu-Namba station
    By bus: Willer Express (3 hr, 2,000-3,000 yen)

    Getting around / Useful tickets in Nagoya

    One day Bus and Subway Pass (850 yen) – unlimited rides on subways and buses (and Meguru loop bus) on 1 day.
    Donichi Eco Ticket (600 yen) – discounted version of the One day Bus and Subway Pass, only available on weekends and national holidays, and 8th of each month.
    Toica – Prepaid IC card sold by JR similar to Tokyo’s Suica and Osaka’s Icoca.
    Manaca – Prepaid IC card sold by Meitetsu Railways and Nagoya Subway, similar to Tokyo’s Pasmo

    Sample itinerary (1 day)


    Start at Nagoya Station, purchase Donichi Eco Ticket (600 yen) or One-day bus/subway pass (850 yen)
    Take Meguru Loop bus to first stop
    1. Toyota Kaikan Museum (2.5-3 hours)
    Take Meguru loop bus to 3rd stop
    2. Nagoya Castle (1 hour)
    Take Meguru loop bus to 4th stop
    3. Tokugawa Art Museum and Tokugawa-en (2 hours)
    Take subway from Ozone Station (Meijo line) to Osukannon Station (Tsurumai line)
    4. Osu Kannon Temple (1 hour)
    5. Osu Shopping Arcade (1 hour)
    Take subway from Osukannon to Sakae
    6. Photo op at Nagoya TV Tower



    TAKAYAMA/SHIRAKAWAGO

    14232013487_bc525b2aa3_z.jpg
    Gassho-zukuri farmhouses in Shirakawago. Photo mine (rdvd). All rights reserved.

    Reasons to go to Takayama/Shirakawago

    Gassho-zukuri traditional houses – Centuries-old farmhouses collectively inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list, There are 3 villages: Ogimachi (the largest and most visited), Ainokura, and Suganuma. In addition, the Hida Folk Village (Hida no Sato) in Takayama also has Gassho-zukuri houses in an open air museum style.

    Getting to Takayama/Shirakawago from Nagoya

    Nagoya is the usual jump-off point to Takayama and Shirakawago. See how to get to Nagoya from Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto in the Nagoya section above.
    From Nagoya, Nohi bus goes to Takayama and Shirakawago. Check timetables here:
    Takayama-Shirakawago-Kanazawa bus timetable (japan-guide)
    Nohi Bus Official Timetable

    Getting to Takayama from Tokyo via direct bus

    Keio Highway Buses depart from Shinjuku West Exit (5.5 hours, 6,690 yen). Official site and timetable.

    Getting to Takayama/Shirakawago from Osaka/Kyoto via Kanazawa

    JR Ltd. Exp. Thunderbird Osaka -> Kyoto -> Kanazawa (2 hours, 6380 yen)
    Nohi Bus Kanazawa -> Shirakawa-go (75 minutes, 1850 yen)
    Nohi Bus Shirakawago -> Takayama (50 minutes, 2470 yen)

    Sample itinerary 1a without JR Pass (Tokyo -> Takayama/Shirakawago -> Kyoto)




    Day 1:
    07:00 Tokyo (Shinjuku West Exit Bus Terminal) – Takayama (Keio Bus, 5.5 hr, 6,690 yen)
    12:30 Arrive Takayama, visit Hida no Sato, stay overnight







    Day 2:
    07:50 Takayama – Shirakawago (Nohi Bus, 1hr, 2,470 yen one-way)
    08:50 Arrive Shirakawago, day tour
    17:30 Shirakawago – Kanazawa (Nohi Bus, 1 hr 15 min, 1,850 yen one-way)
    19:43 Kanazawa – Kyoto (Ltd. Exp. Thunderbird, 2 hr 15 min, 6,900 yen)
    22:02 Arrive Kyoto





    Total transpo expenses 17,910 yen



    Sample itinerary 1b without JR Pass (Tokyo -> Takayama/Shirakawago -> Tokyo)


    Day 1:
    07:00 Tokyo (Shinjuku West Exit Bus Terminal) – Takayama (Keio Bus, 5.5 hr, 6,690 yen)
    12:30 Arrive Takayama, visit Hida no Sato
    16:30 Takayama – Shirakawago (Nohi Bus, 1hr, 4,420 yen round trip)
    17:20 Arrive Shirakawago, stay overnight


    Day 2:
    08:00 Shirakawago whole day tour
    14:50 Shirakawago – Takayama (Nohi Bus, 1hr)
    16:00 Takayama – Tokyo (Shinjuku) (Keio Bus, 5.5 hr, 6,690 yen)


    Total transpo expenses 17,800 yen (Discounted package rate 14,710 yen – available at Shinjuku Highway Bus Terminal)



    Sample itinerary 2a with JR Pass (Tokyo -> Takayama/Shirakawago -> Kyoto) via Nagoya


    Day 1:
    07:30 Tokyo – Nagoya - Takayama (Hikari train on the Tokaido Shinkansen, 1 hr 20 min)
    09:40 Nagoya – Takayama (Ltd. Exp. Hida, 2 hr 30 min)
    12:15 Arrive in Takayama, visit Hida no Sato, stay overnight


    Day 2:
    07:50 Takayama – Shirakawago (Nohi Bus, 1hr, 4,420 yen round trip)
    08:50 Arrive Shirakawago, day tour
    17:00 Shirakawago – Takayama (Nohi Bus, 1 hr)
    18:45 Takayama – Nagoya (Ltd. Exp. Hida, 2hr 15 min)
    21:11 Nagoya – Kyoto (Hikari train on the Tokaido Shinkansen, 50 min)
    22:01 Arrive Kyoto


    Total transpo expenses 4,420 yen on top of Japan Rail Pass



    Sample itinerary 2b with JR Pass (Tokyo -> Shirakawago -> Kyoto) via Kanazawa
    (note: Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kanazawa starts operation on March 14, 2015)


    Day 1:
    07:30 Tokyo – Kanazawa (Kagayaki train on the Hokuriku Shinkansen, 2.5 hours)
    10:50 Kanazawa – Shirakawago (Nohi Bus, 1 hr 15 min, 3,290 yen round trip)
    12:05 Arrive in Shirakawago, stay overnight


    Day 2:
    10:50 Shirakawago – Kanazawa (Nohi Bus, 1.5 hours)
    12:15 Kanazawa, half-day tour
    18:30 Kanazawa – Kyoto (Ltd. Exp. Thunderbird, 2.5 hours)
    21:00 Arrive in Kyoto


    Total transpo expenses 3,290 yen on top of Japan Rail Pass



    HIROSHIMA

    14436711923_f0c4323f74_z.jpg
    Hiroshima Peace Park. Photo mine (rdvd). All rights reserved.

    Reasons to go to Hiroshima:

    Hiroshima Peace Memorial – Composed of 2 major sights: Peace Memorial Museum and A-Bomb Dome, and a handful of smaller monuments dedicated to peace and nuclear disarmament.

    Itsukushima Shrine (Floating Torii) at Miyajima – classical Japan postcard photo. The torii will only be "floating" at high tide, but at low tide you can walk to the torii. Check tide levels here.

    Okonomiyaki – Hiroshima’s version of Osaka’s specialty

    Getting to Hiroshima from Osaka

    By train (without JR Pass): Nozomi or Mizuho shinkansen (1 hr 20 min, 9,710 yen)
    By train (with JR Pass): Sakura shinkansen (1 hr 30 min, no charge)
    By day or overnight bus: Willer Express (6 hr, 3,500 yen)

    Getting to Hiroshima from Tokyo

    By train (without JR Pass): Nozomi shinkansen (4 hr, 18,040 yen)
    By train (with JR Pass): Hikari and Sakura shinkansen (5 hr incl transfer at Shin-Osaka, no charge)
    By overnight bus: Willer Express (12 hr, 6,000 yen)

    Getting Around / Useful tickets in Hiroshima

    Trams/streetcars are the main mode of transportation in downtown Hiroshima. The main sights are very much accessible by tram for a flat rate of 160 yen per ride. Note that ICOCA are accepted on trams, but SUICA/PASMO are not.

    Japan Rail Pass – the JR Pass is valid on the Miyajima ferry and the JR Loop bus (Maple-oop) in Hiroshima

    Maple-oop Bus (JR Loop bus) - Green line is useful for going from Hiroshima station to Peace Park and back, Orange line is useful for Shukkeien Garden and Hiroshima Castle.

    One-day Pass (600 yen) – unlimited tram rides except tram line to Miyajimaguchi on 1 calendar day. Buy if you plan to take the tram 4x or more in a day.

    Sample itinerary (1 day) from Osaka with JR Pass


    06:25 Shin-Osaka – Hiroshima (Sakura train on the Sanyo Shinkansen)
    08:06 Hiroshima – Miyajimaguchi (JR Sanyo line)
    08:45 Miyajimaguchi – Miyajima (JR Ferry)
    09:00 – 12:00 Explore Miyajima, Itsukushima Shrine
    12:00 Miyajima – Miyajimaguchi (JR Ferry)
    12:15 Miyajimaguchi – Hiroshima (JR Sanyo line)
    13:00 Hiroshima – Peace Park (JR loop bus)
    13:30 – 17:00 Hiroshima Peace Park
    17:00 – 19:00 Shopping and Food Trip at Okonomimura
    19:00 Hiroshima – Shin-Osaka (Sakura train on the Sanyo Shinkansen)


    Total transpo expenses: 0 (fully covered by JR Pass)



    SAPPORO

    15691200832_b52c17ce92_z.jpg
    Sapporo Snow Festival in February. Photo mine (rdvd). All rights reserved.

    Reasons to go to Sapporo:

    Sapporo Snow Festival – huge snow and ice sculptures concentrated in Odori Park and Susukino district. A 3rd site in Tsudome specializes in snow activities geared mostly toward kids (and the feeling kids). The festival is held every 2nd week of February.

    Getting to Sapporo from Tokyo

    By Plane from Narita: JAL, ANA, Jetstar, Vanilla Air
    By Plane from Haneda: Air Do, Skymark Airlines
    By Train: not recommended for those with short itineraries as the fastest rail trip will take 10 hours and 2 transfers along the way. The one-way cost (24,000 yen) will almost cover the price of a 7-day Japan rail pass (29,110).

    Getting to Sapporo from Osaka

    By Plane from Kansai: JAL, ANA, Peach
    By Train: not recommended for those with short itineraries as the fastest rail trip will take 13 hours. The one-way cost (33,000 yen) exceeds the price of a 7-day Japan rail pass.

    Useful tickets in Sapporo

    Subway 1-day Card (800 yen) – 1 day use of subways in Sapporo.

    Donichi Subway Ticket (500 yen) – discounted version of Subway 1-day card available only on weekends and holidays.

    Sample itinerary (2 days) for Snow Festival



    Day 1:
    Morning: Fly into Sapporo from Osaka or Tokyo
    Afternoon: Explore Odori Park (snow sculptures)
    Evening: Explore Susukino District (ice sculptures)


    Day 2:
    Morning: Explore Tsudome Site (snow activities)
    Afternoon: Half-day tour to Otaru
    Evening: Fly back to Osaka or Tokyo

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    Last na, RESERVED! :D
  • kanskikanski Member ✭✭✭
    Hi everyone, worth it ba bumili ng 7 days JR pass for Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka na 8D/7N? If not, anong pass ang maganda? TIA!
    Hi Kanski, our route would be MNL-NRT KIX-MNL. We'll stay in Tokyo for 4 days and the remainder in Osaka. We'll spend 1 day in Kyoto. We want to try Shinkansen going to Tokyo and Kyoto. TIA!


    don't purchase the pass, just buy a ticket when you ride the shinkansen.
«134567333

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