questions & answers: general japan travel

dc london

DC London

Hello
I will be travelling to Japan in mid May and it was recommended I stay at the KYoto Garden Spa hotel but its fully booked and I need an alternative place but possibly a bit cheaper ( need a nice 1 twin room -good size/and comfy beds + internet + breakfast is optional )

Suggestions would be most welcome as I cannot face another search on Tripadvisor.. they all look the same now after weeks of looking ..And not sure which area of KYoto is best for staying and sight-seeing as we like walks, gardens and architecture (nightlife spots are a no-no)

We would be arriving ex Tokyo and would need advice on how many nights to stay for Kyoto ( 3-4-5?) as we would like to to got Hiroshima and also Miyajima .. do we base ourselves in Kyoto and then take the Shinkansan to Hiroshima + train + ferry + back on the same day to Kyoto or .. stay in HIiroshima or Miyajima one night .. and then back to Kyoto or go straight to Tokyo? As per current schedule we would be in Kyoto mid-week and dept early Weekend,probably Saturday - if that helps to make an itinerary easier.
After the Kyoto/Hiroshima trip we would go back to Tokyo for a few days ( will have JR railpass for 7 days) and then fly back to London.

I have spoke to a couple people who travelled there in the past 2 years and ALL have a different view what is best..hence my post to the forum..

The email has a lot of questions -sorry about that..

I thank you for your input and look forward to the answers and suggestions.
Many thanks
DC London

DC
DC

Hi DC,

Everyone has their own opinion on a trip to Japan :)

I'm not 100% sure which hotel you were trying to book and so cannot really get an idea of the sort of price range you were looking at. I know from past experience that the Toyoko-inn and Dormy-inn chains offer good value and fair sized western style rooms but they may not be suitable for you? Aside from this I recommend looking in the Higashiyama area of Kyoto as it is convenient and close to many temples.

Assuming you will use the full 7 days from Tokyo and have already spent a few days in Tokyo before you start your rail pass, I recommend the following itinerary:

Day 1: Kyoto
Day 2: Kyoto
Day 3: Kyoto
Day 4: Kinosaki Onsen (overnight)
Day 5: Hiroshima (Miyajima overnight)
Day 6: Hiroshima (travel to Tokyo in afternoon. Tokyo overnight)
Day 7: Tokyo

If you wanted to spend more time in Tokyo you could delete the Kinosaki onsen part of the trip, but it's a great addition.

I hope this helps - maybe our resident Kyoto expert Daniel can add to this!

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mari
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Hi there,

Just to add a little to Mari's post, it is always hard to recommend a hotel. I can take hours looking at websites trying to find the best place to stay.
Here are some Hotel's that I can recommend from personal experience and what I heard from friends.
These are hotels selected with a budget in mind (5000Yen max pppn) but do offer a little extra.

Kyoto Royal Spa Hotel,
The location is great, close to the city center of Kyoto and not far from Gion, also buses stop in front and take you almost anywhere within the city!

Hotel Sunroute Kyoto,
This location would be ideal for your plans, it is close to some of the most beautiful temples like Kyomizudera and just besides the Kamo river, which is beautiful year round.

Hotel Hokke Club,
Just in front of Kyoto station, so very convenient if you have a lot of luggage. You can walk to Toji temple from there or take a bus or the metro to anywhere in the city.

As for Hiroshima, you can visit it as a long day trip from Kyoto but planning is key. You can take an early bullet train there from Kyoto and return in the evening. The ride takes about 110 minutes so it will give you most of the day there. For instance you can visit Miyajima --> A-Dome --> Peace Museum and enjoy a local dinner before returning to Kyoto by bullet train in a single day.

Hope this helps!
-Daniel

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Daniel-san
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Thank you to both of you for the input - will do some research now and check out the hotels.
I understand we can easily spend 3 days in KYoto and then make plans for the other sites.

I am sure I will be back with more questions..once this itinerary starts developing.. :)

Have a great day
Regards
DC

DC
DC

Hello again,

Pls note I have tried ALL the suggested hotels in Kyoto and none are available in May for the days we wanted to stay (and we are flexible at the moment) so we found some avail at the Best Western in Kyoto - has ok reviews - I would be interested to know your thoughts of the hotel its location and price ( JPY 57,000 for 3 nights for twin room incl breakfast -is that good /okay or expensive for that category/location ? ).
I think the poss problem with the hotel avail is that we require a twin room rather than a double ..If you have any other hotel suggestions - I would be happy to check them out..

Moving onto a different place.. Hiroshima + Miyajima overnight stay.. I think we will stay overnight in Horishima (and then go to Miyajima in the morning.. and back to Kyoto * .. any suggestions for a place to stay would be very welcome.. we may even try a traditional Ryokan if you suggest a nice one ( reasonably priced) or leave that for a later trip and stay @ Hotel? We not old (or even middle aged).. but not that young either and appreciate a good night's sleep, especially as our bodies will need to adapt to +10hrs difference.

  • we may even take the Shinkansen straight from Narita (or Haneda? via Tokyo) to Hiroshima on the day we arrive as we could catch up on the sleep whilst on the train to Hiroshima..and then check into a. rather than wait for 3pm to be able to check into a Tokyo hotel ..whilst roaming the streets tired after a long flight.. After Miyajima.. go to Kyoto and spend around 3 days there.. and then Tokyo..and then fly home ?
    What are your thoughts on this kind of Itinerary?

Many thanks and regards again to the wonderful people who make this trip sound so exciting.. and we have not even left London yet!
DC

DC
DC

Hi DC!

Yes it can indeed be a little hard to find a good Twin Room in Japan.
I did a little search for you and found some nice option/deals. As I did feel that 57,000 is rather high for a 3 night stay at best western. The website I linked has beds available there starting at 8,000yen for a night at the same hotel! Also Kyoto Kokusai Hotel looks decent but I have not been there so can't give you a personal recommendation.

I would recommend using the same website to look around in Hiroshima, I have only stayed in Hostels around Hiroshima, so it is hard for me to earnestly recommend a place there.

About going first to Hiroshima. You can certainly do it, going the same day to Hiroshima and getting most of your travel time out of the way, this way you will have more time on your other days to enjoy Japan. The Shinkansen are comfortable and offer reclining seats, so you may be able to relax a little.

Let me know if you have any other questions!
-Daniel

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Daniel-san
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Thank you Daniel san

will let you know how we get on as our travel plans will be fixed on 20th April so until then I think I will have to wait as our dept date may change and the whole holiday may roll forward by a few days.

I checked out the site for hotels - looks good and will certainly do the same for Horoshima.
Enjoy your weekend !
DC

DC
DC

Hi DC - one other recommendation that I have if you don't mind staying next to the station is the Kyoto Hotel Vista. Rooms are compact, but well formed, and the price is pretty reasonable too.

Good luck with the hotel search!

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mari
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Thank you Mari
The hotel looks okay but I am concerned its near the station = noisy.. and the rooms are a bit too small as there is no option for the largest room to book. However it is worth consideration. We will have a lot of luggage so I am worried that we may not be able to fit into everything in....
I can see their rates are VERY good but do you think there is a better 4* hotel we could stay as we could stretch to a bit more money but not go crazy ... In regards to breakfasts @ hotels in Japan ..as a general rule do people have it at the hotel or would prefer to go out.. and have something to eat in the local places.. I think I would need some European staples from time to time...but would that be possible outside the hotel. I know it may sound silly but I think once I land @ NRT a whole different and exciting world will open up for me and wish to embrace it.. and enjoy it...Also in regards to price.. hotels offer Breakfast for anything upto JPY 3,000 - what is the realistic price ( maybe even the higher end ) if I decide to eat breakfast outside the hotel.. Is it worth paying that money?

I think i have more and more questions every time an answer comes through.. :)

Looking forward to the trip though!!
Have a great day!
DC

DC
DC

Hi DC!

Vista isn't noisy, but the rooms are small, so perhaps other 4*s are better choices. Just an idea, but have you considered staying in Osaka instead of Kyoto? Osaka is a 20min train ride from Kyoto and will have a much wider (and cheaper) range of hotels for you to choose from.

Most people will tend to have breakfast at their hotel in Japan. Although you can get starbucksy western breakfasts outside it will depend on the availability of eateries in your area. About breakfasts volume... - it does depend on how much you eat :), but I think you can bank on spending a similar amount eating breakfast outside the hotel to a UK starbucks (so around £5-10). ¥3000 does sounds like quite a lot, but on the other hand it is extremely convenient to roll out of bed to an unlimited breakfast! You may be able to pay for the breakfast on arrival, so if in doubt check this is possible with your hotel and see how you feel when you get there.

I hope this helps!

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mari
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Thank you for the tips! Re breakfast .. anything BUT Starbucks pls !
Dislike them with a passion !! Local breakfast @ hotel is fine ! Osaka may not be an option as we would like to limit the travel to the minimum and have the convenience and option ..so that is the price we will have to pay for it. Talking about Osaka.. is it worth going for a short visit?

Thank you again for your help + input!
DC

DC
DC

Agreed!!

In that case, I would recommend you opt for the hotel options :). Osaka is a "big city" and is particularly famous for it's nightlife and food. I think it's worth a trip, but as you'll be going to Tokyo I would only recommend it if you have seen all that Kyoto has to offer.

Hope this helps!

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mari
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Hello again

I think we are now closer to that elusive trip to Japan!

Planned itinerary - pls adivse if changes are needed or some tweaking:

Arrival to Haneda early am - going to Hiroshima by Shinkansen from the airport (sleep on the train)
Stay overnight @ Hotel in Hiroshima, visit Mijayima
Then go to Kyoto from ( Miyajima) Hiroshima by train
Stay in Kyoto for 3 nights ( is it too long for Kyoto? )and then
go to Tokyo for 4 nights and then fly back home..

hotels: Hiroshima - ? pls suggest ..for easy access for Sightseeing and transport to Miyajima
Hotels: stay @ Best Western or GranVia @ Kyoto - very similar rates but GranVia sounds more glam.. is it?
Hotels in TOkyo Gizna - is Villa Foundatine Shindome suitable or go for Courtyard Marrriott Gizna?

THANK YOU :)
DC

DC
DC

Hi DC!

Glad to hear that the plan is coming together now!

Having just lived in Kyoto, I can tell you that Kyoto has more than enough to offer to keep you busy for 3 nights and there are always many day trips that you can make from there too, such as Nara, Kobe and the previous mentioned Osaka.
If you have the budget, certainly stay at the Granvia Hotel. It is part of Kyoto station and you can (almost) walk straight from the train into your bed chamber. Best western usually does offer lower rates but you may need to book using a booking website like TripAdvisor.com.

In Hiroshima, if you have the budget and are looking for something fancy, consider staying at the Rihga Hotel the local is very good and located in the middle of the city center. If you are looking for a more economic hotel, consider Dormy Inn that offers much lower rates for pretty good value rooms.

For Ginza, I don't have any personal experience staying in a hotel there but Courtyard Marrriott is a name well established and online reviews are rather positive so my pick would go there. Alternatively consider the Tokyo Station Hotel it offers a great experience both modern and nostalgic, you can easily take any train from there (including the Shinkansen and Narita Express) also Ginza is within 10-15 walking distance.

Hope this helps and thank you for your amazing translation skills in the other topic :)
-Daniel

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Daniel-san
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Hello Daniel san

I think our plans are now set -we even have a ticket to fly :)
This is where I need your help please as I am not sure how to use the timetable website..
We land at Haneda airport ( Terminal 1) on Sunday 12th May at 04.55am !!

I know we need to allow for immigration /luggage etc AND we have to validate our JR passes (which also arrived!) so I need to know how to get to HIROSHIMA without too many problems/changes @ Tokyo or without getting on the wrong train as we will be a bit knocked out from 12h flight and also the jetlag..as I think the local train from Haneda will take us to Tokyo and we need to change there for the Hiroshima train...

I think we would need a couple of options re timetable, just in case we miss one.. and need to get onto the other one..
Also ..do we need to book a seat for the actual Shinkansen train - can we do it @ Haneda airport at the time we validate our JR pass or not.. also If we miss that JR train and have a seat reservation.. can we just reserve seats for the next one??

I know this sounds a bit over the top but I need to know:) I am a bit of a control freak lol

Have a good day
Greetings from sunny London
DC

DC
DC

Hi DC!

Happy to hear that you have bought your ticket!

Getting to Hiroshima is not very hard but a couple of steps in Tokyo are required before you can board the Bullet train.

One inconvenience is that the JR Office at Haneda Airport opens at 11.00 a.m. So it will be better to travel to Tokyo station to activate your JR Pass there, which opens at 7:30.

To get to Tokyo, take the Mono rail from the 2nd floor of the Haneda International Arrivals hall. The airport is very small so you can't miss it. From here take the mono rail to the final station called Hamamatsucho (you can enjoy the morning view of Tokyo during the ride) here transfer to the Yamanote line, bound for Tokyo. Both the mono rail and Yamanote line depart every couple of minutes, so there is no need to worry about a time table here.

Once you arrive at Tokyo station head to the JR EAST Travel Service Center near the Marunouchi North exit. You can exchange your JR Pass here and also reserve your tickets for the Shinkansen to Hiroshima. Trains depart every 30 minutes at xx:03 and xx:33 so no need to worry about being late here either :)
JR allows you to take the next train if you missed the one you reserved for but you may have to take an non reserved seat, usually it is no problem and you can just reserve a new seat.

Enjoy the Day!
(Its cloudy here on continental Europe). -Daniel

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Daniel-san
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Hello Daniel san

thank you for the info.. it kind of makes sense.. but here are more questions:

Where do we get a ticket then to cover our trip from HANEDA TO TOKYO and how much is it pls (approx) as I i feel we may not be able to use the JR Pass as its not validated..

Once we change to Yamanote line - which is the "last stop" - if it says "TOKYO" - is that the main train terminal in Tokyo as its a bit confusing with so many train stations/names ..>

Is the JR East Travel Center located in the same "TOKYO" station that we arrive at.. on Yamanote line?

Once ready to board the Shinkansen to Hiroshima.. which platform is it leaving from and which is the "destination" of the train.. so we get on the right train.. and how long is the actual journey ( incl how many stops before Hiroshima) so I get the fee for how long we can sleep and set our alarms haha )

I understand re reserved seating so that is fine..
THANK YOU
Singed:
DC - control freak :)

DC
DC

Hi Again!

Let's fill in the details:
The price to reach Tokyo is ¥590 (¥470 for the mono rail and ¥120 for the Yamanote line).
The Yamanote line is a loop line that makes a circle through the metropolis of Tokyo so it does not have a final stop, still the station called Tokyo is just a couple of stops away so just read the sight posts that are available in English that display ''for Tokyo''.

There is only one Tokyo station so in Japan so you can't go wrong there! The JR East Travel Center is also there and the Shinkansen also depart from this station, very handy all together!

I don't know the platform at this time but the clerk who reserves your ticket will always tell you the platform and there are LED displays everywhere with the latest information on departures.

Once you board the train to Hiroshima you will only have one transfer at Shin-Osaka, the transfer time will be around 15 minutes, which is ample time as the Shinkansen area is very small and electronic sights are easily found with departure information. Your total travel time will be 290 Minutes. Here is an example route so you can get a feel for the journey. Press train timetable in Hyperdia if you wish to see all the stops that the train makes.

Your train ticket will also display arrival time and a lot of other useful information, so you can set your clock by that too :)

Enjoy the ride!
-Daniel

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Daniel-san
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Thank you Daniel san

this is now starting to make sense..

Can we buy 1 ticket from Heneda to Tokyo for both trains ..or do we have to buy separate ones and how do you validate the tickets please?

JR Seat question:
Please confirm if there is a Seat reservation fee for JR pass passengers ( I would hope this is included as the timetable quotes a seat fee of JpY 6,710! ) .. and just in case we fail to reserve a seat..will be still be able to get onto the trains..and then take the first available seat and how would we know that particular seat is NOT reserved?

Thank you
Regards DC

DC
DC

II think that you have to buy a separate ticket for the Monorail and Yamanote line.
The process is rather simple. Find one of the ticket machines, press the button with the right fare and the ticket will be printed. Ticket machines also have an English menu and you can find a map with the right fares above the machine.
Once you have a ticket, simply put it in the ticket gate and take it out while passing trough. When you exit your destination station, you will have to put the ticket again in the ticket gate before exiting the station. Its almost the same as traveling with a paper ticket in the London Underground :)

As for the seating, yes both the seat fare and reservation fee are covered by the JR Pass, so you won't have to pay anything once you use the pass.

You can always take a non reserved seat, if you don't have seat reservation for any reason. There are seperate train cars for both reserved and non-reserved seats. Where what kind of car will stop is displayed at the platform. For instance a train may have 8 cars and car 1 through 3 will be for passengers without seat reservations. This is also announced on the platform and in the train in both English and Japanese. Its all very neat really.

Hope this clears things up!
-Daniel

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Daniel-san
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Yay I am almost good to go now :)

Thank you !
I have sleepless nights about the trains in Japan so I am really grateful for ALL your input!
I do live in a big city and it's kind of natural here to know your way round but its always to be prepared !

THANK YOU AGAIN
regards
DC

DC
DC

Glad to hear it!

We got your back here, so just post if you have any other question!

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Daniel-san
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Hello Daniel san

we are almost packed ..but I just realized I am not sure what is the best way to get from Kyoto to our hotel in Tokyo so I would kindly ask you to work out the best itinerary for me.. - thank you !

Plan is to dept ex Kyoto around lunchtime by Shinkansen and then go to Tokyo / our hotel is Courtyard Marriott in Ginza.. I can see on the hotel website there are suggestions.. and then I can see at least 3 Ginza stations.. talk about confusing.. so what would be the best course of action for us.. Is there a direct train from KYoto or would we need to change somewhere? I expect we will need to change once we get to Tokyo..also pls advise which segment of the trip needs a new ticket as I know JR pass is not valid on some of the Tokyo lines.

Thanking you in anticipation.
Kind regards
DC

DC
DC

Hi DC!

Its really coming close now!
I looked up your hotels access page and maybe the best thing to do, is to take a Taxi from Tokyo Station the first time that you travel there. It is not so far away, so you won't have to pay much more than the initial fee.

Your hotel is about 0.5km away from the closest (metro) station and having to look around whilst packed is always great to avoid.

This would also really simplify the journey as you can take a direct bullet train from Kyoto to Tokyo without having to change trains. On Tokyo station head for the Yaesu exit (the one facing Ginza) and take a taxi from there.

If you do want to save money and avoid the taxi, take the Yamanote line from Tokyo to Yurakucho and walk from there, you can find the map on the previous liked access page.

Have a great time!
-Daniel

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Daniel-san
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Thank you :)

off tomorrow 9am local time yay

Will email if stuck or need more advice but thank you soooo much FOR YOUR help!

Regards

DC

DC
DC

Enjoy the trip!

Would love to read a little about your experiences in Japan once you come back!

Best Wishes,
Daniel

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Daniel-san
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Yes, will do it .. I am very much looking forward to it to be honest. We have 2 guides in Kyoto over 2 days and also have a personal friend in Tokyo so I am hoping for a "non-touristy" views and experiences although we will do the sights..

Standby for more.. also I saw somebody posted a question from Serbia re JR Pass and their English sounds great so no need to translate :)

Have a great day
DC

DC
DC

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