questions & answers: general japan travel

japan 9/1/12-9/10/12

Japan 9/1/12-9/10/12

Hello, I am getting overwhelmed planning a last-minute trip to Japan for my brother's birthday, any help would be greatly appreciated!
I was thinking, since our time there is limited, to visit Tokyo (we fly into Narita), Osaka, Kyoto. I was thinking of purchasing the 7 day rail pass and using it for the last 7 days and paying out of pocket for the first 2-3.
For Tokyo, I was thinking of staying in the Shibuya or Ginza neighborhoods, as they seem to be near many sightseeing things (though not that near to Shinjuku). Do you have any recommendations? If you have any recommendations for Osaka or Kyoto, those would be welcome, too. I am hoping to experience staying at a ryokan and also visiting an onsen.
Thanks so much!
Kat

kat
kat

Hi Kat,

Sounds like a great trip! Hotels are a tricky thing to recommend as it depends on so many factors! My main survival tips for Hotel selecting though are:

  • Pick the right area - I really like the arty and cafe influenced Nakameguro, Aoyama and Daikanyama areas, but if you fancy a more 'downtown' location then Ginza or Shinjuku is hard to beat. For nightlife lovers, Shibuya is top of the list.
  • Check Tripadvisor a lot :)
  • For no-frills but clean budget hotels, check out the Toyoko Inn and Tokyu Stay chains.
  • For a no-frills but convenient hotel in Kyoto I recommend the hotel vista behind Kyoto station but there are many others - make sure you check tripadvisor or a good guidebook :). Kyoto in particular can be punishing on the wallet.
  • You should try and combine your ryokan stay with an onsen stay too. Near Kyoto you have Kurama Onsen as an option, or you could use the rail pass to travel out to Kinosaki Onsen (recommended!).

Hope this helps!

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mari
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Thanks! Your advice is much appreciated. What do you think about the 7 day rail pass? Do you think, since I am staying in Tokyo first, just use it for the last 7 days and for the first 2-3 just buy the tickets as needed?

kat
kat

I am flying into Narita and leaving from Narita, so I figured it would make sense to buy the JR pass. Also, yes, we are staying at the Kurama Onsen for a night - it looks great!

kat
kat

Hi there - awesome to hear about Kurama onsen :)

For your trip the following sounds sensible:

  • Narita Express + Suica package - this will give you discounted travel into Tokyo and on the metro for your first few days. You can purchase this at Narita Airport on arrival.
  • 7 day Japan Rail Pass - this will cover you from day 4 until you leave and will cover all of your long distance travel. Based on your itinerary a 7 day rail pass will cost the same as individual JR tickets so by going for the rail pass option you'll have good flexibility for this period to add to or change your plans.

Hope this helps!

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mari
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