questions & answers: itinerary check

itinerary check and specific train/bus questions- 13 day trip

Itinerary Check and Specific Train/Bus Questions- 13 day trip

Hello,
Myself and 4 friends are traveling to Japan from March 29th to April 11th. We hope to see the highlights of the country and a few off the beaten path things as well. Also, we would love to see Cherry Blossoms if there is anywhere that is superb for their viewing that you could recommend.

I am including our itinerary below. My main questions is in the transportation to and from each place. I know there are trains, buses and subways to consider. I am downloading the app recommended on this site to help but was hoping you could put my mind at ease ahead of time that this will be simpler than I am thinking. Thank you so much for your help.

March 29- Arrive into Narita, Tokyo (I only purchased 7 days JR pass so I will have to pay for some sort of transportation from Narita into Shinjuku district in Tokyo. What is most economical but also doesn't take so long since I'm arriving from a 15 hour flight?)
March 30-Tokyo (will not have JR pass activated yet so I will need subway/bus transportation around Tokyo. What is most ecumenical for this for 3 days now and 3 days at the end of my trip)
March 31-Tokyo
April 1- Tokyo
April 2- Travel to Kyoto (Will Activate JR Pass at train station in Tokyo to use for this trip)
April 3- Kyoto
April 4- Daytrip to Nara and Back to Kyoto
April 5- Travel to Hiroshima for 1/2 day there. In evening, travel to Miyajima Island to spend night there. (I have heard the best way to do this is by bus and then ferry which are included in the JR Pass. Is this true?)
April 6- Travel from Miyajima to Osaka early morning. (What is the best and fastest way to get from Miyajima to Osaka city? Do I have to go back through Hiroshima or is there a more direct path?) Day trip from Osaka to Hemeji Castle and back and then have dinner back in Osaka and spend the night there. (Is there an easy way from Osaka to the castle?)
April 7- Travel early from Osaka to Hakone to stay at Fujiya famous hotel. (What is the easiest path from Osaka to Hakone at this hotel?)
April 8- Travel from Hakone to Tokyo Shinjuku District. (what is the easiest path from Hakone to Shinjuku station?)
April 9- Tokyo
April 10- Tokyo
April 11- Tokyo to Narita to go home. :-(

Will the 7 day JR Pass be ok for all of our travel outside Tokyo? I would leave for Kyoto on April 2nd and return to Tokyo on April 8th from Hakone. I'm hoping this is enough days and all of my travel made the pass price worth it.

Thank you again for your help!!
Athena

AthenaP917
AthenaP917

Hello Athena,

To start with transportation from Narita Airport - Shinjuku, consider using local trains. Something like this route. It's around 1,500yen about half the price of the Narita Express. Although the Narita Express takes half the time and is a direct connection.

Then from Miyajima - Osaka, take the ferry to Miyajima-guchi, the train from there to Hiroshima station and the Shinkansen to Shin-Osaka station. You could stop directly at Hamji as you wish, as it's directly on the route between Hiroshima and Osaka.

The easiest way from Osaka - Hakote is to take a Shinkansen train directly to Odawara station, from there you can use local transport to travel into Hakone.

You'll want to use the JR Pass to travel back to Tokyo. In order to do so, return to Odawara station. Take the Shinkansen to Tokyo station and a local service from there (such as the Yamanote line) to Shinjuku station.

The JR Pass will cover all rail travel between the above places. You may however need additional tickets within Hakone.

Hope this helps,
Daniel

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Daniel-san
Expert_button_2

Many questions here, but I will try to help:
1) From Narita - there is by bus or train. Bus is cheaper, but a lot also depends on where your hotel is. The last thing you want to do after 15 hours on a plane is drag luggage up and down stairs in stations and down the street etc. So there is economical and there is sensible - only you can decide which is the best for you.
There are 4 main ways to travel - 2 ways by train: the Narita Express train, plus the Keisei, and 3 by bus: the limousine orange bus, the 1000 yen bus, and Keisei bus.

http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/nex/

http://www.keisei.co.jp/keisei/tetudou/skyliner/us/fares/index.html

http://www.limousinebus.co.jp/en/information/visitor_tickets/

http://accessnarita.jp/en/home/

http://www.keiseibus.co.jp/en/kousoku/nrt16.html

The Narita Express is one of the fastest, and the only one you can use with a JR Pass - but you are already committing that for the long distance travel in the middle of your itinerary. It stops at several places in Tokyo, and is very good if you are trying to get to the west side of Tokyo. The Keisei is cheaper, with a slightly faster version, the Skyliner. It stops at Ueno and Nippori Stations. The limousine bus is one of the more expensive ways, but it stops at several major tourist hotels and may be more convenient if you have a lot of luggage. The 1000 yen bus is cheap, but only goes to Tokyo and Ginza Stations. The Keisei is a bit less and stops at several places, maybe close to your hotel or not. You need to find what works best for you. This page may help:

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2027.html

There is also a discounted N'Ex ticket:

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2359_nex.html

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For cheap transport within Tokyo, look at a 3 day subway pass:

http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/ticket/value/travel/index.html#anc03

--

For Miyajima, the easiest is to take a JR train to Miyajimaguchi and take the JR ferry to the island (there are 2 ferries - make sure you go to the JR one). I haven't heard of a JR bus from HIroshima to the docks, but if there is one the Pass might be accepted.
The fastest back from Miyajima to Osaka is back through Hiroshima, catching a bullet train from Hiroshima Stn. The easiest from Osaka to Himeji is a direct bullet train from Shin-Osaka Stn to HImeji. Aside from the magnificent castle, be sure to see the Kokoen Garden next to it - most people just blow on past it...too bad.
You can't go all the way to Hakone by your JR Pass. This link will help you:

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5206.html

Be sure to click on "To/From Osaka". For the return, click on "To/From Tokyo". Using your pass for Apr 2-8 is fine. But for Hakone, look into the free pass:

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2358_008.html

You are spending a lot of time in Tokyo though - I'd say 3 days is plenty. You might consider taking a day trip to Nikko as well as Kamakura/Enoshima.

Toraneko
Toraneko

This forum is so helpful and worth the cost of a JR Pass alone. Thank you to both of you for your kind information. I think I will take one of the trains depending on how tired I am when I arrive after 22 hours of travel from Miami. I don't carry much luggage, just one small carry on bag and a small backpack. Too much baggage has ruined trips for me in the past and I like to be as mobile as possible on trips with many stops. Thank you again for all of your advice. I am going to print all of this to take with me in case of poor wifi connections.

I have a couple more questions for you as well if you wouldn't mind:
1. I have heard that credit cards are not widely accepted in Japan except for at hotels and high end restaurants. Is this true? If so, would ATM's be available to withdraw cash in Yen Currency or is my only option to bring a bunch of cash and exchange it there periodically at banks or exchange stations?
2. On this website as well as others, I have seen them advertise mobile Wifi that you purchase at the airport as a rental for your time in Japan. This allows you to connect to wifi on the go since I have heard that only hotels really have free wifi. Is this worth it and can you recommend a company or place to do this in Narita or Shinjuku district. I arrive on Sunday so a place that is open that day would be preferred.
3. I reserved the Green Car 7 day pass. My travel dates are 3/29 to 4/11. When I make the voucher exchange, should I book all of the seats at that time or should I wing it and book them the day of travel? I'm not sure how busy it will be during those weeks and if the advance reservations is necessary. Also, if I do book them ahead, then can I change them last minute without a fee?
4. The rest of my travel party is departing for Seoul on 4/9 and I am alone until 4/11 so I have a few days leftover in Tokyo at the end. I plan to do a little shopping but I appreciate your suggestions above regarding a day trip to Nikko and Kamakura. Are there any other day trips or even longer overnight trips you would recommend for those two days I am alone that I haven't hit in the itinerary above? Also, since my first stay is in Shinjuku district would you recommend a different area of Tokyo that I could stay with a different feel for the last two days? I don't have a hotel yet for the last two nights so I'm weighing my options.
5. Do you know of any activities in Miyajima that we could take part in? Maybe kayaking or something similar?
6. Lastly, for clothing, I was planning to bring dark colored jeans and pants and sturdy waterproof boots and trainers as well as a variety of shirts, 2 sweaters and a raincoat. I see the weather is about 60 degrees farenheight right now. Do you think I need a heavier jacket, scarf, gloves and cap for night time or I could live without it by layering this time of year? I'm trying to pack as little as possible as you can tell. Also, for dinners out, do women need to wear dresses and pantyhose or would dark jeans a shirt work ok for this?

AthenaP917
AthenaP917

Well I will try and answer your questions.
1) This is largely true. Japan is still mainly a cash based society. Bigger stores can sometimes take a credit card, but the more rural you get, the harder it will be. Using your ATM card at a Japanese post office or 7-11 is a lot smarter.
For Americans at least, you will also get a far better exchange rate by using your ATM card in Japan compared to exchanging cash. Buying yen with cash is usually better in the UK than in Japan, however. There will be a certain fee for using the ATM card (check with your bank first) as well as a foreign exchange fee, but often is only a few dollars unless you are doing business with a rip-off bank. Having your money in a credit union will often be a lot kinder to your wallet in many ways.
If you do plan to use your ATM in Japan, make sure the bank knows about it first so they don't freeze your account and suspect fraudulent usage.
These websites have more info:

http://www.jp-bank.japanpost.jp/en/ias/en_ias_index.html

http://www.sevenbank.co.jp/intlcard/card2.html

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2208.html

To compare, you can see current exchange rates in Japan at:

http://www.narita-airport.or.jp/exchange_e/index.html

It depends on where you go in Japan, of course. Some cities are opening up more on allowing free wi-fi. Some places like Starbucks have "free" wi-fi, but you have to sign up for it first. I'd say first read this page:

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2279.html

I've had one traveler rave about this place, which has disposable SIM cards and rental wi-fi units:

https://www.econnectjapan.com/products/

But to he honest I have not had the chance to go there yet.

Other possibilities are:

http://www.softbank-rental.jp/e/rental-plan.php

http://www.bmobile.ne.jp/english/u300_visitor.html

3) Up to you - I've traveled during that time and rarely had a problem getting a seat I wanted. On some routes like Tokyo to Osaka you might want to book a window seat on the right side ahead of time for example, but otherwise it is not as bad as say Golden Week (from the end of April).

4) It's all up to your interests. For within Tokyo, you might browse:

http://www.gotokyo.org/en/index.html

http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/regional/tokyo/index.html

http://www.ar.jal.com/world/en/guidetojapan/city_information/tyo/see/akasaka/

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2164.html

To get out of the city and see other things, you might consider Mt. Takao (still within Tokyo), or Hakone, Kawagoe in Saitama, Yokohama, or Mito for the Kairakuen Garden and nearby Hitachi Seaside Park:

http://goo.gl/WQchWL

5) There is no kayaking in Miyajima. But you can hike to the top of Mt. Misen for a fantastic view. There are also sometimes boat rides by the shore at low tide than take you through the big torii gate. Look through this travel guide:

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3401.html

6) Weather in April is usually quite warm and comfortable in the daytime, except farther up north or in the mountains. You won't need anything like winter clothing. Bring a medium coat or sweater with you, otherwise it will be springtime weather. You will do a lot of walking though - wear your most comfortable walking shoes for going up down hills and so on. Even if you take a lot of trains and buses, you will likely do a lot more walking than back home. For going to dinners out, it depends on the dinner - but it is quite true that in the West women are women and in Japan women are ladies. You will frequently see young Japanese women wear a dress and high heels for everyday things that most western women would only wear on a fancy date. So you could certainly bring something nice to wear for a night out - you certainly can't wear heavy hiking boots every single day...

Toraneko
Toraneko

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