questions & answers: using the japan rail pass

narita to hasuike using the jr rail pass

Narita to Hasuike using the JR rail pass

Hello,

We arrive on Saturday January 25 8:55am at Narita Airport (coming from London, UK). We plan to buy a 14 day JR Rail Pass. We fly back on Saturday February 8 at 11:30am.

Plan:
Jan 25 to Jan 30 - Shiga Kogen
Jan 31 - Leave Shiga Kogen to Tokyo for one night
Feb 1 to Feb 8 - undecided but will be travelling to Kyoto / Osaka / surrounding area
Feb 7 - back in Tokyo for one night
Feb 8 fly home

From reading the forum - I understand we can catch the bullet train to Nagano
So I am trying to work out Nagano to Hasuike - what is the best way?
Our hotel offers free pick up from Hasuike station with advance notice 1 day

Question:
1) Does the JR rail pass cover the bus from Nagano to Hasuike? I found this bus (but can't read the timetable on 25 January!)
http://www.nagadenbus.co.jp/

2) Is there a better route for this? I also read about taking a train to Yudanaka.
But how do we get from Yudanaka to Hasuike?

We will have snowboard and luggage with us - so hopefully there is storage.

Thanks for your help!

sushimelon
sushimelon

Hi there!

1.) Traveling to Hasuike can be a bit of a challenge, mainly because there's almost no bus information available in English. However I was able to look up the bus time table for you. Which is valid until the end of March 2014. The Nagaden bus is not run by JR and unfortunately does not accept the JR Pass. The fare appears to be 1,600yen / per person.

2.) It is true that there's also a bus going from Yudanaka, however I would not recommend taking this route as you would have to pay a separate fee from Nagano - Yadanaka and then pay for the bus to Hasuike. Which only adds extra time and money. Taking the Shinkansen to Nagano and bus from there is by far the best option - there's a very helpful tourist information at Nagano station which can help you buy bus tickets. They speak 7 Language including English.

Enjoy the snow!
Daniel

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Daniel-san
Expert_button_2

Hi Daniel!

Thanks for your quick reply and finding the link, much appreciated!!
I can see the bus schedules start from Nagano

1) So for example for the 1425 departure, what time does that arrive in Hasuike?
I was not sure the Japanese characters - is it 蓮池?

2) So the train from Nagano to Yadanaka - is that not inclued in the JR pass?

3) What is the best site to find out how long it takes to get from Narita to Nagano?

Thanks for the tip about the Nagano tourist station - I will be sure to use them!

Thanks!!
Helen

sushimelon
sushimelon

Oh sorry - I just saw the english names on the right hand side - so it would arrive 15:35. So I guess now I just need to figure out how long it will take me to get to Nagano.

Thanks!

sushimelon
sushimelon

I went on Hyperdia and there seems to be a few options from Narita Airport Terminal 1 to Nagano

Are there particular routes that are better than others? It seems to suggest to Ueno and taken the Shinkasen train from there (I hope all covered by the JR pass)

http://www.hyperdia.com/cgi/en/search.html?dep_node=NARITA%20AIRPORT%20TERMINAL%201&arv_node=NAGANO&via_node01=&via_node02=&via_node03=&year=2014&month=01&day=25&hour=10&minute=30&search_type=0&search_way=&transtime=undefined&sort=0&max_route=5&ship=off&lmlimit=null&search_target=route&facility=reserved&sum_target=7

After I sort out Shiga Kogen will look into what to do in the second week. Thanks!
I have been to Tokyo once for one week but have not explored Kyoto / surrounding area before.

sushimelon
sushimelon

Hi again!

Here is the route from Narita Airport - Hakuba. It takes about 3 hours, involved one transfer and is covered by the JR Pass :)

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

Thank you Daniel San!

The route you showed me looks better as there seems to be minimal walking time transferring to the Shinkasen to Nagano (where as Ueno has a 8min walk). We will be carrying snowboards and luggage. I found this link which seems to show the route:
http://www.snowlove.net/japan/contents/travel.html

I have never used the JR rail pass - but sounds like we don't have to make reservations for the train.

Is the Narita Express the only way to get to Tokyo station?

For the Nagano bus - do you know if we can buy the ticket in advance, or just show up and purchase it?

I was looking at whether it made more sense to do a JR East Pass for 5 days flexi + JR Rail Pass 7 days - but the price seems to work out almost the same.

Thanks,
Helen

sushimelon
sushimelon

Hi Helen,

Using the JR Pass, you can either travel on reserved or non-reserved seats. Personally I prefer reserving seats in advance as it makes travel a little more relaxed and are always secured of seats. The Narita Express is not the only way to get to Tokyo, there are also buses and local trains going there. However the Narita Express is the most convenient way of travel and has a special luggage compartment in each train car.

You can buy tickets for the bus at Nagano station or even in the bus itself.

Best wishes :)
Daniel

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

Hi Daniel,

Thanks again for your help! Sounds like Narita Express is the way to go.

Do you know how much it costs to reserve seats in advance on the Shinkasen?
I'll order my JR rail pass soon - apologies if I am asking obvious questions

Do you know if the bullet trains have a special compartment for luggage?

Have you used the Yamato service before? I was thinking when we leave Shiga Kogen, we might ship our boards back to Narita Airport, so we can travel through Kyoto etc. without our boards
http://www.kuronekoyamato.co.jp/en/tourist/airport/index2.html

Do you live in Japan?

Thanks!
Helen

sushimelon
sushimelon

Hi Helen,

Shinkansen reservations are free of charge with the JR Pass. If you don't have one, then prices are between 200-500yen per tickets, depending on the train and route. Every train car on the Shinkansen has a special compartment for luggage.

The Kuroneko Yamamote service is amazing. I've used it myself when traveling around Japan and it works great. You can ship your suitcases in advance to your hotel.

As for living in Japan, currently I am abroad but I've lived in different areas in Japan over the years and would be more than happy to help you if you have questions about living here.
-Daniel

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

Hi Daniel,

Thanks for your help! I was quickly looking up reservations and it does not seem that we can do it online in advance? I was looking on the JR East rail site for the Shinkansen to Nagano but it says you would need to collect your tickets one day in advance or they will charge a fee - so I guess we just make the reservations when we arrive?

Cool - good to hear that you have used it. I sent them an enquiry about same day shipping our snowboards to our hotel in Shiga Kogen and then shipping it back to Narita and holding it for a week, but have not heard back. I have also asked the hotel to help us look into is (as maybe easier to enquire in Japanese).

Great - sounds like train is doable. IF we can sort out the Kuroneko Yamamote service to get our boards off our hands for the second week, that would be a bonus.

I would love to live in Japan but never looked into it as assumed that language would be a really big barrier. I have only been once for a week in Tokyo around cherry blossom time and loved it! Very cool that you have lived in different areas! Once I get a chance to work out what do for a week post skiing - I may well will have some questions.

Thanks again!
Helen

sushimelon
sushimelon

Hi Helen,

I think that you will be fine buy purchasing ticks once you arrive. The end of January generally is not a busy period when it comes down to travel.

Let me know once you have some more question around your planned skiing, I'd be more than happy to help! In the meantime you may want to check out Snow Japan. It's a great resource for everything related to winter-s(p)ots in Japan.

All the best!
Daniel

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

Hi Daniel-San,

Happy new year! The trip is approaching so trying to plan! Thanks for all your help so far!

A group of our friends are going to Shiga Kogen, which is why we are going. I also want to visit Nowaza Onsen after as it looks interesting.

1) Can someone advise how to get from Shiga Kogen to Nowaza Onsen? Is there any part of this covered by the JR rail pass?
2) What is the best way to get from Nowaza to Kyoto (using JR Rail Pass)
3) Can you let me know if the itinerary below looks ok? For exploring the Kansai region, is it best to stay in Kyoto for 5 nights?
4) What is a good forum for finding accommodation reviews in Nowaza? I looked at tripadvisor but only a few reviews. I found a nice Ryokan from there, but is about 32,000 yen per night.
5) Are there any festivals that we could catch with our itinerary?
6) We also enjoy cycling trips - through villages / rice paddies etc. but not sure if that fits with where we are visiting / itinerary
7) Does it make more sense to do a 14 or 7 day JR rail pass? I was also looking into shared bus transfers from Narita to Shiga Kogen which are 12,000 pp.

Rough itinerary - 13 nights

Sat Jan 25 - arrive Narita 8.55 - transfer to Shiga Kogen. Stay 5 nights.
Thu Jan 30 - Ski Shiga Kogen in daytime, and then transfer to Nozawa Onsen evening. Stay 2 nights
Sat Feb 1 - Leave Nozawa for Kyoto (sent our equipment by Yamato to Narita). Stay 5 nights
Sun Feb 2 to Thursday Feb 6 - Kyoto as a base. Visit Osaka, Nara, Hemeiji Castle..still reading lonely planet)
Fri Feb 7 - Leave Kyoto for Tokyo (in time for dinner, and stay somewhere convenient getting to Narita next day). 1 night in Tokyo
Sat Feb 8 - Catch flight from Narita. Arrive by 8.00 for 11.30 flight back to London. Pick up our equipment from Yamaoto

We have been to Tokyo before for a week a few years ago, hence the quick stopover

Thanks again!
Helen

sushimelon
sushimelon

Hi Helen,

Happy New Year to you too!

1.) You could take an express bus from Shiga Kogen to Nagano and take a train from there to Nozawa. (The train stration for Nozawa is called Togari-nozawa-onsen.).

2.) Here is an example itinerary, the route is completely covered by the JR Pass.

3.) Using Kyoto as a base is perfect, all places are within one hour travel as of Kyoto station. You could also consider a nights stop over at Kinosaki Onsen when you are in Kyoto.

4.) Have you tried Rakuten Travel?

5.) Definitely, the Lantern Festival in Nara on the 3rd of February is very beautiful and easy to plan in, since you are in Kyoto.

6.) Actually Kyoto makes for a perfect spot to cycle (weather permitting in Feb). I used to follow the Kamo river to the north of Kyoto when I was living there. The Northern part is much quieter than the center and you can find different rice padding's along the way. In addition once the reach the end of the city the mountains begin and you can reach some very beautiful places such as Kibune and Kurama, someplace where real zen can be found, especially after closing time (5p.m.) and the place is deserted, although not actually closed off.

7.) I think something is to be said for both, buying a 7 day JR Pass + normal tickets for the rest is probably the most cost efficient way. The 14 day pass should be considered if you want some extra flexibility and use the train to Shiga Kogen. The price difference from the 7 day to the 14 day JR Pass is 16,800yen so it would be easy to make savings with it if you use it for travel as of the 1st day. At the same time using a private taxi Shiga Kogen is a lot easier, especially with luggage.

If you do take a 7 day JR Pass, don't forget to exchange the voucher for the actual pass once you are at Narita Airport, this because there's no exchange point at Nozawa (you would have to travel to Nagano and activate it there). It is possible to set a later date at the point of activation, so no problem there :)

I hope this helps!
Daniel

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Daniel-san
Expert_button_2

Hi Daniel,

I wrote a reply but I guess it logged me out while I was writing it....sorry!!

Thank you so much for your help! I will definitely go through the links thorough and check Rakuten also. The tips on the JR pass is handy - I would not have known. Thanks for looking up a JR Rail Route for us to get from Nowaza to Kyoto, and the recommendations on Nara festival!! I can't wait..!

Originally I was going to do 14 days but now that we are extending for Nowaza I think I'll do the shared bus transfer to Shiga Kogen and then start my JR pass when I leave Nowaza.

Sorry a few other q's...
1) Have you heard of IXSM tavel? They don't look as comfortable as the Nagano Snow Shuttle but they can meet our flight
http://www.ixsmtravel.com/

2) For Kyoto - what is the area we should look for accomo? We would like old town type of atmosphere, preferably staying in Ryokan, something traditional. We love Japanese food so definitely want to have at least a Kaiseki meal

3) For biking - that is great news! I heard form a friend she did a +50km ride through rice paddies in Japan...I've always wanted to do it..she could not remember the name. We road bike around the outskirts of London on the weekends (about 50km) but no zen mments there!

4) We are looking at splurging on a Ryokan experience but trying to see what we should expect from the more pricey ones, so also reading tripadvisor reviews. I like the all wooden / traditional looking ones like this...but I realised so many options
http://sumiyosiya.co.jp/

Have you stayed in a Ryokan in Kyoto before? Are there ones you would recommend?

5) I wanted to go the floating shrine near Hiroshima and realized it's not really a day trip from Kyoto? I am thinking of shelving for this trip so we don't have to rush and come back next time

Ok time to go zzz here but thanks again for all your tips and helps. If you ever have any questions about London please let me know!!

Thanks!
Helen

sushimelon
sushimelon

Hi Helen!

Let's dig in right away!

1.) I've not heard of IXSM tavel before but they seem to be okay. I'd still do a little bit of research before hand and see how experiences are from other travelers. This way you can avoid possible let downs.

2.) I usually try to avoid specific recommendations when it comes down to accommodations, simply because something I may love could be completely unacceptable to someone else, after all we all have our own standards :) What I would recommend looking at is staying near the Goin district, this is by far the most traditional quarter of Kyoto. Budget allowing, you may want to have a look at Tawara Ryokan it's the best in the world! (and probably most expansive too).

3.) Well you should have no problem what so ever if you are used to 50km rides, going full circle in Kyoto could maybe end up to around 30 but you'd probably never finish within a day since there's so much to see and stop at along the route. I would especially recommend bicycling up the east side of Kyoto which has many great stops along the way. Think about Goin, Ginkakuji, Kyomizu-dera. Here's a map be it a little small.

4.) Not in Kyoto (I had my own apartment) but I did go up to Kinosaki Onsen and staying in a Ryokan there, it was fabulous (link in my previous post). It's not too far from Kyoto and you can combine your Ryokan visit with an Onsen visit, most have their own private Onsen.

5.) It depends, it is a about 2H of travel to to Hiroshima, so you could certainly visit it as a day trip - though you may want to get up early. The ride with the Shinkansen is very smooth so you may not even notice the time going by. Then again it good to save something for a later time.

As for advice about London? I'd love to know a good Ramen (Japanese Noodle) restaurant. Aji Zen Canteen @ London County Hall is one of my favorite's.

Hope this helps too!
Daniel

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

Hi Daniel,

Thanks again!! I didn't find too much on IXSM but did read a few reviews saying the owner is a nicey guy so just booked a transfer with them. i will check out the map and do some more research on Kyoto, and see if I have time left for Miyajima. I don't mind going and staying a night, but will see if time permits. Also...sorry still wondering ....

1) For the Lantern festival - do we need to stay overnight in Nara to see it? I found Kankaso Ryokan from the Fodors forum (but its 22000 pp!). On a side note - think we'll probably do the Ryokans with onsen experience for 2 nights for our trip due to budget!

2) Have you been to Arima Onsen before?

LONDON RAMEN
Yes - I can most definitely recommend some ramen places!! I go at least a few times a month because noodles is my favorite food group. That being said, I didn't have much Ramen when I went to Tokyo, so I probably don't know what real ramen is like...but I hope you like these places!!

As you'll notice - 3 / 4 places I mention below are near Picadilly Circus tube, so it's very convenient.

1) Shoryu
3 Denman Street (there are two locations)
http://www.shoryuramen.com/ The Yuzu Tonkatsu Ramen is great - just went on Sunday
Close to Picadilly Tube, very convenient

2) Cocoro
24 Coptic Street
No website
http://www.shoryuramen.com/ The vibe of the place is a bit cafeteria like, but you can see the kitchen bonus
Ramen - they also do a lunch special where you can get extra side of gyoza or £2
Close to Tottemcourt Road, can walk from Covent Garden area

So the above two I go often...like 2 - 3 times a month!

Also good:

3) Bone Daddies
31 Peter Street
http://bonedaddiesramen.com/ Worth trying for different twist - most Western style, run by Westerners (ex Nobu chef), cool vibe and nice drinks
Tonkatsu Broth is thicker than what I am used to
Closest tube: Picadilly, in Soho area

4) Kirazu
47 Rupert Street
http://www.kirazu.co.uk/en/ Japanese Tapas Bas. The Ramen is nice - but they only do a MISO base, and only two varieties
Also service is very slow - our ramen took almost 30minutes! b
Closest Tube: Picadilly

I personally find Ittenbari London and Tonkatsunot as good, mentioning this as you'll probably also see mentioned if you google 'best ramen in london'

There are others - but yeah, the above are the ones that i have been to, with Shoryu, Cocoro and Bone Daddies popping up a lot in food articles.

Hope this helps!!! :)
Helen

sushimelon
sushimelon

Hi Helen!

That Ramen advise is absolutely amazing! I'll have to bring your post with me next time I visit London. Shoryu Menu looks great, I would love to try out the Dracula Tonkotsu!

1.) Nara is within just 1 hour away from either Kyoto or Osaka, so you can stay in one of those places as well, just be sure to take last train around 11 p.m.

2.) I've been to Arima Onsen last in March 2013, it's a pretty nice Onsen town. It has two approaches, one is by express bus from Osaka station. The other much more spectacular is to travel to Kobe, take the rope way up to Mount Rokko (which as an amazing view over Kansai) and an other ropeway to Arima Onsen.

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

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

Hi Daniel,

Thanks! No problems - really happy to make food recommendations! Any other questions on London let me know (or Vancouver)

Actually I think from Shiga Kogen to Nowaza we might take a bus from Hasuike to Nagano (say take the 14.50 which gets to Nagano 16.15), and find a way from Nagano to Nowaza (thanks for the handy link)
http://www.nagadenbus.co.jp/robus/2013fuyu/shigawin.htm

The private taxi is 20,000 so it might be worth the extra time

Do you have a link for the bus from Nagano to Nozawa?

Thanks!!
Helen

sushimelon
sushimelon

Good evening Helen,

Damn! I want to eat ramen so badly now!

I do have a timetable for the bus from Nagano to Nozawa HERE. It's in Japanese though. However the first stop is Nagano 長野 and the last stop is Nozawa 野沢。 So I think that you should be able to understand it. I believe that the fare is 1,200yen.

As mentioned, it is also possible to take the train, the train station for Nozawa is called: TogariNozawaOnsen so be sure to search for that in Hyperdia, otherwise you may end up somewhere completely different :)

Hope you find this useful :)
Daniel

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

Hi Daniel,

Thanks - the timetable is helpful! I don't know how you find them...but definitely will take it with me!

I am now just deciding whether we try to fit in a day of skiing at Shiga and then go to Nozawa. I noticed the last bus from Nagano leaves at 16.10 - so thanks for the timetable! The hotel said they can pick up from Nozawa bus station.

We are basically meeting a group of friends coming from Sydney (the original reason for the trip!). They leave Shiga Kogen on 31 Jan and return to Tokyo for day, and we stay on for a week :) I figured since we are in the Nagano area, it would make sense to go Nozawa.

Where are you based these days out of curiosity? If you happen to be near Vancouver - there are also some good ramen places there too!

Thanks again!
Helen

sushimelon
sushimelon

Hi Daniel,

I was about to buy the JR pass and just thought of something. The pass is £164 which is about 28000 yen
I might be slow - but if I add up the individual trip cost using Hyperdia - it would be less, as i am planning to stay around the Kyoto area. Am I missing something?

Nozawa to Nagano - 7000
Kyoto to Tokyo (Shinkansen) - 8000

For getting around Kansai area - I saw there is a 4 day pass that covers Osaka, Nara, Himeji for 6000

So together that would be 22000 - is there anything I am missing here?

On the day we leave for the Narita airport on Feb 8, it would be our 8th day of travel so we can't use the pass

Thanks!
Helen

sushimelon
sushimelon

...sorry to continue! Maybe I made a mistake - I just looked at Hyperdia again and noticed

Nowaza to Kyoto - 11,160 (Fare of 6,830 + Seat Fee 4,330)
Tokyo - 13,220 (Fare of 7,980 + Seat Fee 5,240)

I quickly googled and it seems like this 'seat fee' is not optional?
In this case - the JR pass would be more worthwhile it seems...!

Thanks!
Helen

sushimelon
sushimelon

Hi Daniel,

I also looked at the sample itinerary link you sent us from Nozawa to Kyoto. I saw if you go via Nagoya we get to board on of the limited express wide view trains. I did a quick google search and seems like it is scenic route (compared to going to Kyoto via Tokyo which also takes longer)
http://jprail.com/trains/sort-by-type/limited-express/limited-express-wide-view-hida.html

Hopefully I have read it right! Thanks for taking the time to do the sample itinerary - I am able now to use the same search as you have already ticked the boxes so it's covered by the JR pass.

Less than one week to go!!

Thanks again!

sushimelon
sushimelon

Hi Helen,

I see that you've been busy! It's good to see that you are taking so much time for planning and researching travel in Japan!

Our main sales office is based in London although I spend most of my time near Amsterdam, generally I move around quite a lot, last year I was living in Dublin for 6 months and 3 months after in Kyoto.

I also see that you already found out about fares when using the train in Japan, basically the normal fare is the price when you travel on a local train, Shinkansen and limited express trains require a special Seat Fare (sometimes knows as the express fare). Lastly there's also a seat reservation fee if you reserve a seat in advance. All these fares are covered by the JR Pass, so it's not something to worry about.

Also the Wide View Hida Express is amazing! It's a very scenic route and worth making by itself. The track follows a river bed trough the Japanese Alps and there are some very beautiful and panoramic views there!

I hope I covered everything, there was a lot to read :)

Have a great weekend ahead!
Daniel

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

Hi Daniel,

Thanks for your help! It's always good to have someone to confirm. The tip about the wide view train is helpful, I would not have known about it otherwise. I will try to time it so we leave Nozawa via Nagoya.

I think we might book Kyoto accommodation after we get to Shiga Kogen. I am thinking let's see how we like the snow first and then make our way south :) I am hoping the last hotel we stay at will help with sending our snowboards to Narita using the Ta-Q-Bin service.

It has been a bit hectic wrapping up at work before leaving next Friday, but hope to do some research on places to see and eat. But it sounds like Kyoto is packed with good places to eat..I started reading chowhound and I can't wait!

That's cool that you get to travel to Japan for for extended periods of time! I haven't even got there yet but can see myself going back. Oh! another thing for London - you might want to try this supper club - he does Japanese food:

I have not gone myself yet but heard it's good and plan to check it out soon-ish!
http://www.thelondonfoodie.co.uk/p/the-london-foodie-supper-club.html

Have a good weekend!!

Helen

sushimelon
sushimelon

Hi Daniel,

I checked to see if there is a train from Kyoto to Narita Airport on Sat Feb 8 arriving 8.30am (as we have a 11.30am flight) but seems like there isn't, so we'll spend a night in Tokyo.

Last time I stayed in Tokyo Bay so wasn't very convenient...

If you are familiar with Tokyo, do you have recommendations on areas to look for hotels which will be convenient for us to get to Narita next morning? I read either Kesei Skyliner or Narita express.

Probably optimistic - but if I can manage, was thinking would be nice to have 6am breakfast at the fish market before we go..so maybe it makes sense to stay near there?

Thanks!!
Helen

sushimelon
sushimelon

Actually - I looked around Tokyo station area (Chiyoda?) and through combination of Tripadvisor..the Metropolitan Marunouchi one seems to be reasonable at 17000 yen (for the area)
http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g1066443-d653033-Reviews-Hotel_Metropolitan_Marunouchi-Chiyoda_Tokyo_Tokyo_Prefecture_Kanto.html

It's 1.5 miles to the fish market which is a 30m walk, but I guess good to be located close to the station for one night
I read I could get a one way SUICA card at Narita..so maybe I'll get that when we land (as we don't have the JR rail pass that day).

So hopefully that takes care of accomodation!!

Do you have any recommendations for good ramen or izakaya places (I guess they might be all over the city!!)

Thanks!
Helen

sushimelon
sushimelon

Hi Helen!

I was actually going to recommand staying near Tokyo station, as it is within walkable distance from Tsukiji Fish market and it's easy to use the Narita Express or a local line from Tokyo station to Narita Airport but it seems you already found the answer :)

I do think that you could make a visit to the Fishmarket as it opens around 5 a.m. and that's the best time to visit as well. You can then walk to your Hotel and hop on the train to Narita Airport. Alternative you could stay near Ueno and use the Keisei line from there.

As for Ramen and Izakaya's, they can be found everywhere! The trick is the find the best one around. I always ask my accommodations staff where the best one in town (or at least in the neighborhood) can be found. If English does not work out, simply ask ''Ichiban Izakaya wa doko desu ka'' (lit where is the best Izakaya''. You can ask the same for Ramen. I could give you some places but it's better to take the advise of A true Ramen Master.

Something else really tasty, which you have to try is Okonomiyaki basically it means ''as you like it''. It's kinda hard to explain but the wiki links does a good job. There are variants in both Tokyo and Osaka, the one in Tokyo is called Monya Yaki. It's an interesting experience to try one in Osaka and in Tokyo and taste the difference.

Enjoy!
Daniel

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

Hi Daniel,

Thanks for the tips and the Ramen / Okonomiyaki tips! Can't wait to eat Japanese food...!

I did a bit more research, and I think it seems worthwhile to go to Miyajima, even though it's winter time...I heard the upside is that the oysters are good :)

1) If you have a moment, could you let me know if the itinerary below looks ok? Or am I doing anything silly / wrong order?

Feb 1 - Nozawa to Kyoto (or would it be more efficient to go straight to Miyajima?)
Feb 2 - Kyoto
Feb 3 - Kyoto (Do Nara as day trip - we decided against staying in Nara..although Kankaso looks amazing)
Feb 4 - Kyoto to Miyajima. Overnight on Miyajima (planning to splurge on the Iwaso Ryokan based on reviews! )
Feb 5 - Back to Kyoto - stop at Hiroshima enroute, leave backpacks in lockers
Feb 6 - Kyoto
Feb 7 - Kyoto to Tokyo [I tried looking at going Kyoto to Narita on Saturday but could not find a train to get there at 8.30...]
Feb 8 - Arrive at Narita Airport 8.30am

2) I have been looking at Kyoto accommodation and the number of options are huge, but I have narrowed it down to 3 places..took awhile!!

Feb 1, 2, 3
Toshiharu Ryokan - 15 min walk to Kyoto Station (9150 pp)
Looks nice and authentic, and close to train station [good for Nara trip]
http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g298564-d1093305-Reviews-Toshiharu_Ryokan-Kyoto_Kyoto_Prefecture_Kinki.html

Feb 5, 6
Toshiharu fully booked both nights, - so I found two options below:

Yuhara Ryokan - room overlooks Takase Canal (4,850 pp) - looks like a 20m walk to Gion on google maps
11pm curfew
http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g298564-d302804-Reviews-RyokanYuhara-Kyoto_Kyoto_Prefecture_Kinki.html

Gion Fukuzumi - in Gion District (8000 pp - seems reasonable for area!)
http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g298564-d325773-r178909611-Gion_Fukuzumi-Kyoto_Kyoto_Prefecture_Kinki.html#UR178909611

Yuhara looks like really good value for money, is the location ok?
Does it make a difference to stay in Gion? I would like to be located close to an area where we can find restaurants / quite easily.

3) Sorry for the long posts....!! I have not figured out how to format the links as you have done.....!!
I think I am almost done with the planning (thank gosh!!) People who have visiting recommend Takyama / Arima Onsen
...but I just won't have time so save it for next time!

If we find any great places to eat in Kyoto - I shall report back!! 3 more working days and then we fly out on Friday!!

Thanks!
Helen

sushimelon
sushimelon

Oh I made a mistake...Gion Fukuzumi is full!

I found these two options - which look well located (not sure if any difference..)

I found somewhere else that appears to be close to Gion - Ryokan Nakajimaya
http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g298564-d1833536-Reviews-Ryokan_Nakajimaya-Kyoto_Kyoto_Prefecture_Kinki.html

I also saw this place which looks central, but they have a 11.30pm curfew and possibly cold in the winter as it's in old house...so not sure if that works for us
http://www.booking.com/hotel/jp/yumiya-komachi.en-gb.html

I looked at the weather - about 10 c in day time at the moment? Maybe it will be ok, as the second place looks really quaint

No worries if you can't comment on accomodation - totally understand!!

sushimelon
sushimelon

Good morning :)

So first your itinerary, I think it looks great! Going to Kyoto on Feb 1 probably makes more sense than heading right away for Miyajima, simply because after a certain amount traveling time really begins to add up and a nights stay over from Kyoto sounds much better, this way you get much more out of the visit.

Now to accommodations: Honestly they all look pretty good, I would try to stay at least a couple of nights in the city center of Kyoto, as walking the streets in the evening / night really let's you experience the city. I always feel that after dark the city is much more lively then during the day. This does make a curfew a bit of a no go for me - although you could also prefer to wake up early to explore! So from the two I would go for Ryokan Nakajimaya, other reviews about it look promising and the location is spot-on as well!

Actually 10 degrees c is pretty nice for this time of year (last year there was snow), although I don't know how temperatures may feel at night.

Did you make a decision yet?
Daniel

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

Thanks so much for responding! I

I am so excited - our JR pass have arrived! It's very efficient, was dispatched yesterday and arrived today. I also ordered the Japan by Rail book which was mentioned in the email - I like having a hard copy guide book just in case. I have the LP, but the rail book had good reviews.

Thanks for the tip - I think I will stay in Gion on Feb 5, 6. I love places that have little restaurants / bars (seems like that type of neighbourhood). I wrote to Nakijimaya - so they don't have a curfew (kind of). She said they lock the front gates at 11pm for safety, but if we come back after we can use the intercom (but I feel bad waking them up??)

I was reconsidering Toshiharu Ryokan on Feb 1, 2, 3. The Ryokan itself looks traditional and read good reviews about the hosts, baths and food, but I just saw a review which says that it is in a business district so there is not much around, is that true? My original logic was since we are going to Miyajima, we should try different area and accommodation.

For Yuhara Ryokan - does that location look ok? Or is it pretty far from everything? I read that the hosts are super sweet, rooms super clean, but they don't do any breakfast (which I can live with if there are shops nearby?)

I have not even packed yet but I am pretty last minute. Are you based in Amsterdam at the moment?

Thanks!!
Helen

sushimelon
sushimelon

Hi Daniel,

Sorry! I just looked at the map and I am confused on which one has the better location - if you could help that would be great!!

Booking.com says Ryokan Nakajimaya is in Gion, but google map shows it on the other side of the river in Shimogyo-ku?
Yumiya Komachi Ryokan is also in Gion, but on the other side (Higashiyama-ku). I wasn't sure where 'Gion' area is?

http://goo.gl/maps/zqqct

Thanks!!

sushimelon
sushimelon

Hi Helen,

Glad to hear your JR Pass arrived!

The Gion area is on the left side of the river but honestly I think it is better to stay on the right side of the river (Nakajimaya) as this is where you'll find Kawaramachi / Shijou which is the heart of Kyoto city. Gion is well within walkable distance, so both places are located nicely. This Map shows the exact location.

Toshiharu Ryokan, is indeed located in a more residential/business area but still within reasonable distance of the city center.

Yuhara Ryokan, is a little further from things and maybe not the best location if you are visiting for sightseeing, however the area where it is located is very nice. I used to live near the next station north of it (Demachi-Yanagi) which is close to Kyoto University, so there are a lot of student shops but also many small temples that most tourists don't stop at.

Yes, currently I am in Amsterdam! Unfortunately I haven't found any good Ramen here though.

Hope this helps :)
Daniel

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

Hi Daniel,

Thanks for all your help!! Is there a form I should fill out in advance to save time at the airport?
We have having someone from IXSM collect us from Narita, but I would like to go exchange the JR pass and buy a SUICA card before we depart.

I have spent the last couple of days looking up Shiga Kogen. I did not before as my friend booked the accomodation. We are staying at the base of Yokoteyama resort. I am a snowboarder..and I did not realise they still ban us from certain mountains hehe

We then head to Nowaza for 2 nights in a Ryokan, and then head to Kyoto via Nagoya :) Can't wait to try the onsens!!

On Kyoto - thanks so much for the maps and location
So we decided to go with Toshiharu in the end - as it really does look like a nice Ryokan, and I saw it's 8 mins away from Ryokan Nakajimaya (which is around the corner from the LV store as the reviewer decide)

Then we go to Miyajama - one night in Iwaso Ryokan. We'll try to visit the Peace Museum in Hiroshima if time permits. We aren't fussed about seeing Hiroshima but thought that would be worthwhile.

On the way back, we decided to try Yumiya Komachi, and try a different neighbourhood (but not late nights with the 11.30pm curfew!!). So far all the hotel owners have been so warm and helpful too!!

Then back to Tokyo at the Marounouchi (we get 10% discount with JR pass! :)

DONE!!

I have not packed yet but will do that tonight and we are off tomorrow.
Thanks for your help! Maybe you can start a ramen place!! I saw one before in the Amsterdam Schipol airport but did not look very good.

Helen

sushimelon
sushimelon

Hi Helen,

I guess you will be departing soon today! First let me say, have a good flight and great trip ahead!

You will be supplied with a customs form while you are in the air, so you can fill it i beforehand and have smooth passage trough customs.

Let me know if you need any advice during your travels!
-Daniel

PS: I make for a very bad ramen cook! So i'll leave the cooking to the Chef. Still there may be a change that I could become a professional ramen taster!

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

Hi Daniel san!

I think we are really jet lagged as I woke up at 3am! This is our second day on the slopes and I don't think I can ski anywhere else after Japan because of the powder conditions! :) Thanks for all your help so far - exchanged our JR rail pass and can report ixsm transfer was good and ontime, would use them again.

I was looking up some stuff on itinerary - but if you have any advice that would be super!

1) Do we need to make a seat reservation before taking the Shinkasen? I was reading Japan rail book and says that we need to even with JR pass, otherwise we need to pay a fee onboard. Reason I am asking is I am wondering if that means we can't just jump on any train, so would need to allow time to make a reservation..

2) For the Lantern Festival on 3 Feb, is this in Nara only?

The reason is because we are thinking of leaving Kyoto on Feb 3 and staying overnight in Hiroshima (or maybe even Fukuoka if ambitous), before we go to Miyajimaya the next day. We booked into the Iwaso so would like to get there early afternoon.

Also looks like Himeji is en route Kyoto to Hiroshima, so we can fit in.

We would like to visit the museum in Hiroshima, and also I read about the seafood and oysters around Hiroshima / Miyajimaya at this time of the year so can't wait to try.
I also read about the food stalls in Fukuoka and seems like there is a convenient connection to Hiroshima

But the downside is that we'll miss the lantern festival...decisions!

3) Can I check - I definitely want to take the wide view hida express - is that the Nagano to Nagoya route? I looked at hyperdia and the train is called wide view shinano, is this the same?

Thanks again for your help!
Helen

sushimelon
sushimelon

Hi Helen,

We've all experienced a JetLag before, I remember eating a full menu at a 24H McDonalds in Tokyo the first time that I arrived at 4am in the morning - still is probably one reason why they still say ''Henna Gaijin'' (meaning strange foreigners).

1.) Making is reservation is not necessary but recommended. Trains all have reserve and non reserved cars. You can just hop on and take a seat at a non reserved car, however it is much better to reserve a seat in advance so you don't have to line up before hand at the station and just makes for a more relaxed travel experience. Reservations can be made up to 5min before boarding but I would allow for 15min, just in case there's a long queue

2.) Yes the festival is special to Nara, I would recommend trying to fit it in as it is indeed very special (and also very romantic if you are into that stuff :) )but I see that it would be hard to fit in with travel to Hiroshima.

3.) There are a couple of Wide View Expresses and all very scenic, the best is probably Nagoya - Takayama but travel to Nagano from Nagoya is also well worth making.

Hope this helps!
Daniel

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

Hi Daniel,

Thanks for your help! So we have decided to stay in Kyoto for 3 nights and go see the lantern festival in Nara. We will try to see Hiroshima on the way back from Miyajimaya, and maybe Himeji as a trip from Kyoto on the day we see Nara.

I also just read about Setsobun in Kyoto where there is a big bonfire and we can watch from it from the hills in the north? Have you been?

We are en route to Kyoto now will be there around 9pm. Do you know if we can use our JR pass for the subway (probably not!)

Also thanks for writing the article on the mobile apps - read it this morning and downloaded them, very helpful!

Have a good weekend!
Helen

sushimelon
sushimelon

Hi Helen,

I am getting too jealous reading all these Japan posts all day - so starting to plan a new trip myself. Planning to visit the Ogasawara Islands this time.

Do you mean the Setsubun? I was in Kyoto last year around this time and saw the mountain light up, you can also make a hike up the mountain which is about 40min and a very nice walk.

You may already have found this out but the JR Pass can't be used on the metro, you can however use it for some travel around Kyoto, mainly to Uji, Fushimi Inari and Arashiyama.

Make the most of your day (I guess it's just about morning there now)!
Daniel

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