questions & answers: general japan travel

advice about visiting japan.

Advice about visiting Japan.

We (a family of 4) are visiting Japan for the first time from Dec 29 - Jan 7 (9 days)
Our plan is to stay in Osaka from Dec 29 - Jan 2, visiting Kyoto from Osaka for day trip/s.
We want to visit Sapporo for a couple of days before returning to Tokyo but the return flight to Tokyo is pretty full as well as costly.
We've bought the 7 day JRP and want to maximize it's use.
We thought that we'll leave the last couple of days for Tokyo.
Is this the best way to go about our trip?
Can someone help?

joe
joe

Hi there!

It is possible to use the JR Pass to travel to Hokkaido and back, it's a very cost efficient way of travel and you can save a lot over normal tickets (generally a 7 day JR Pass almost pays of alone for a single ride Tokyo - Sapporo). At the same time the travel time is very long. Generally it takes 10 hours of non stop train travel from Tokyo to Sapporo. This may be difficult, especially with kids. If you do want to visit Sapporo I would suggest flying at least one way - just to take out some of the travel time.

Here is an example route Tokyo - Sapporo to give you an idea of the route and time involved.

I hope this helps!
Daniel

72a8815842aa5db137c135807bd6bb11?s=50&d=mm
Daniel-san
Expert_button_2

Hi Daniel-San,

Thxs for your advice. You're great!

We did think of that but was not sure if the JR Pass allows us to travel to Sapporo. Should we decide to fly in one way & return by train, would there be a night bullet train that goes from Sapporo to reach Tokyo in the next morning? Is it also 10 hours or longer?

Another alternative we are considering is going to Nagona for a couple of days. What do you think about this place as an alternative to Sapporo? We read that Sapporo has the best snow in the world!

Also if we chose to go to Nagano instead of Sapporo then would it be possible to travel by the bullet train from Osaka to Nagona or do we have to return from Osaka to Tokyo then to Nagano? what would be the travel time from Osaka to Nagona or Osaka-Tokyo-Nagona?

BTW we are arriving at Narita Aiport on Sun Dec 29 at 5.05pm would it be possible to travel by bullet train from Narita Airport to Osaka direct? We are not sure if we should stay over night in Tokyo first + then proceed to Osaka the next morning seeing that our family has taken a long flight.

Really appreciate your advice as we do not know who we could ask as this is the first time we are visiting Japan.

Thanks heaps.

Joe + family

joe
joe

Hi Joe + Family!

That's a very good question, let's have a look at going to Sapporo first. There are no Shinkansen during the night, some night trains are available but they will also be sold out, so that's not really an option. You could however plan a nights stop or two on the way between Sapporo and Tokyo. Hakodate, Hachinohe and Kurosaki all make for decent stop overs.

With Nagona do you mean Nagano or Nagoya? Either way, both places have interesting things to do and see. Although Nagano is pretty small and you will be able to see the city in 1 or 2 days, then-again it does make for good side trips such as the famous Jikokudani Snow Money Park. The best way to get from Osaka - Nagano is to take the Shinkansen to Nagoya and a limited express train from there this will take about 4-5 hours but the trains are very comfortable and the view can be stunning at times. Of course if you mean Nagoya it's just 1hour.

A complete alternative thing you could do is to head south and visit places such as Hiroshima and Miyajima. Or if you want some snow go to Kanazawa and make a side trip to Shirakawago.

As for your arrival at Narita Airport, you will probably be already be weary. So it may be to much to travel on the Osaka (it's about 4H) then again you may as well get as much travel out of the way and enjoy a long sleep in your hotel in Osaka (an early check out in Tokyo may not be the thing either). If you do make the trip to Osaka right away, take the Narita Express to Tokyo station where you can board the Shinkansen to Osaka. Both options have good points and well some that are a little less...What you should keep in mind is that the last train connection to Osaka possible with the JR Pass departs from Narita Airport at 18:48. This may be a little on the short side in case of a plane delay, so staying in Tokyo is probably the saver option (so many things to keep in mind).

I hope this helps too!
Daniel

72a8815842aa5db137c135807bd6bb11?s=50&d=mm
Daniel-san
Expert_button_2

Hi Daniel-san,

It's good. You've have help us to be clear at our plans.

So Sapporo may not be the best plan this trip.

Sorry it's Nagano that we're thinking of. We want to let our kids enjoy the snow. Outside of Sapporo is Nagano the best snow place?

Also we've decided that on arrival we'll stay overnight in Tokyo first since the last connecting train leaves Narita Airport at 18.48. It's a bit risky with the short time.

Our last leg will be back in Tokyo, to make full use of the 7 days JR Pass. How many days should we spend in Tokyo to have a good view of the place? Would you recommend any nice place & hotel to stay while in Tokyo?

Thanks again.

Joe & family

joe
joe

Hi Again!

Nagano is both a city and prefecture (sort of a province or county). The city is located in the prefecture, however Nagano city is not very special when it comes down to snow. In Nagano prefecture however there are different snow resorts that belong the the best in Japan. Hakuba and Nozawa are some of the most famous. Snowjapan.com is a great recourse for winter sports and other snow fun in Japan. It also lists all Snow Resorts in Nagano prefecture.

As for Tokyo, the metropolis has so much to offer that it can keep you busy for months. Some places I would recommend visiting are Shibuya, to see the Shibuya Crossing. Asakusa for the temple and Thunder gate. Akihabara also known as electric city is also not to be missed either.
Also consider a visit to Shinjuku, here you can enter the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, you can go up 202m / 663 ft to enjoy a panoramic view of Tokyo...the best thing is that it is free!

I you need some place to blow of some steam with the family, consider the Tokyo Disney Resort. They have both a Disneyland and a Disney Sea park.

As for Hotels, it is always a bit tricky to recommend hotels. We all have our own needs, wishes and budget. I would recommend using booking websites, such as travel advisers to compare hotels and search with your own preferences.Tthe best thing to do is to read other traveler experiences so you really know what to expect. Booking websites that focus on Japan instead of global websites, as websites focused on Japan usually offer better prices. I personally use japanican.com and rakuten travel.

Let me know if I can help with anything else!
Daniel

72a8815842aa5db137c135807bd6bb11?s=50&d=mm
Daniel-san
Expert_button_2

Hi Daniel,

You're so awesome!

So sorry for this delay in reply. I've been so very busy with work leading towards Christmas that I have not have the time to reply you or look into our holidays.

But THANK YOU so much for your help. Everything that you've advised us have been taken on board with very careful thoughts. Your direction to the booking site japanican was especially good since I've been so busy & have just booked the hotels in the last minute. I've managed to book our Osaka & Tokyo stay through the site but not the snow resort yet.

We've decided to visit Hakuba following your suggestion but not sure which is the best way to go. Is there much in Hakuba town? Is is true that most of the resorts away from Hakuba town have good snow this year? How far is it to make a trip from Hakuba to the Jikokudani Snow?

Yes we've already decided to visit all the places you recommended in Tokyo - especially Tokyo Disneyland! Just wish that we've more time.

Could you pls give us some advise about the JR Pass? Some TIPS as to the best way to use the JR Passes would be great. I've just been told that we need to purchase the passes before we arrive in Japan, which I've done. I understand also that the passes have to be exchanged with actual tickets? Is there just one ticket for travel everywhere within the 7 days for each pass? Thats about all that I know regarding JR Pass. Do I need to book & reserve seats in the routes that we take now through the internet before we leave for our trip? There're many things about the JR Pass that I'm not familar with & your advice will be of great help.

Thanks again. Hope to hear from you soon.

Joe & family

joe
joe

Hi Joe,

Christmas is getting really close now and so is Japan.

Hakuba is one of the most popular and best winter resorts in Japan, I think it is definitely a good choice. Here's a great website which things you can do there (except for snow sports). Jikokudani is something to consider. While I would not recommend trying to use to train for a day trip to get there (it takes over 4 hours for one way), local tours are organised at bring you there by bus and pick you up at the end of the day.

I was thinking about what else could be interesting to visit for you and your family in Tokyo and two things came to mind. One is a visit to the Ghibli Museum. The other would be a visit to Odaiba. Which has a lot of interesting attraction for both young and old, it is also a great place for some shopping. You can use the Yurakimome to get there, this is a monorail without a driver and you can sit on the place where otherwise the driver-seat would be, making for a very cool ride!

As for JR usage, I am sure that it will fall all into place once you start using it. To start using the JR Pass activate it at one of the exchange stations such as Narita Airport or Tokyo station. Once you activate it you can start using it right away or select a first day of use for a day in the near future.

To use the JR Pass simply show it to the JR Pass at the station gate to get access to the train platforms. From here you can go on any train you wish. It is also possible to make reserve your seats in advance once you've activated your JR Pass. We have a good blog-post explaining in detail how to make reservations. It is recommend to do this when you travel on the Shinkansen or limited express trains in order to secure seating and it's just something that can make your travel more convenient.

Merry Christmas!
Daniel

72a8815842aa5db137c135807bd6bb11?s=50&d=mm
Daniel-san
Expert_button_2

Hi Daniel,

Merry Christmas to you & a great & prospering New Year ahead!

Thanks for the advise & tips you have given us. Really appreciate all of them.

We're very excited about our coming first trip to Japan.

We'll be in Osaka on New Year Day! Any suggestions as to some good places in Osaka & Kyoto, especially during the New Year Day.

We know that we're going to have a wonderful time in Japan.

Thanks to wonderful people like yourself, full of knowledge & wisdom about Japan.

Joe & family

joe
joe

Hi Joe,

New years night is probably best spend in Osaka to enjoy the fireworks, the next morning I would recommand heading to Kyoto to see how Japanese celebrate new years day. It is common to visit a temple and preform several rituals. Such as ringing the bell of the temple shrine. The Japanese may be a bit surprised when a foreigner takes part but it only makes for more fun Here's a bit more about celebrating new year in Japan!

Have a fantastic trip!
Daniel

72a8815842aa5db137c135807bd6bb11?s=50&d=mm
Daniel-san
Expert_button_2

Thanks Daniel.

You've been of great help.

Best wishes for your New Year.

Joe & family

joe
joe

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