Japan itinerary for Autumn 2019Back to Forum
Lots of advice here, thanks.
FDOS, it may be different now, but i recall my first (and only) trip to Taiwan in the early 80’s, when all the signs and street names were in Chinese. My hotel wrote the name of the hotel and street in Chinese on a card so I could show it to people for directions which were given by hand pointing in the right direction. It was only when I asked the same person a third time that he kindly walked me to the hotel which was only two minutes away but I just couldn’t find it!13 Jun 2018
Fukuoka is a very nice small (by Japanese standards) city. It has a lovely French restaurant in one of the parks – maybe someone else can remember the name.
Totally off topic, on one of my visits, Richard Branson was standing on the kerb outside the Domestic terminal waiting for a ride…heaven only knows why he was there!13 Jun 2018
If I may add some observations The Japan rail pass does offer some huge savings but unlike the European Rail pass the only option available is continuous use. If you go from Tokyo to Osaka for example and stay for more than one day then those days are also deducted from the pass I would also like to recommend if you have the time to spend a weekend at resort based in Okinawa or Ishigaki the climate is like Tahiti and the waters are pristine.13 Jun 2018
Some of the many regional rail passes offer ‘days on/days off’ options.
Buy directly from the websites of jreast, jrwest, jrkyushu and jrhokkaido.co.jp. (English options).
There also several private railways, including the KitaKyushu Railway and the delightfully named Kinki Nippon Railway, that do not accept JR passes.
But all offer exceptional service, reliability and punctuality that even SBB-CFF-FFS could envy.
And train drivers wear spotless white gloves and point at all the signals!
Subarash’ee!14 Jun 2018
Thanks everyone for all your useful and helpful comments. If things do come together, then we would be ranging from Sapporo in Hokkaido (in the north-east) down to Oita on Kyushu to the south-west. This will involve plenty of opportunity to sample the very best of Japanese trains – we always try out the various means of surface transportation in preference to flying.
Rodders: Aha, so someone else whose got a similar idea. I may be ridiculously optimistic about attempting to get a 241-er and will have to be online at 00:01 on the appointed departure date -355 in order to attempt that one. Otherwise, this may turn into one of my “how many airline lounges can you work into an itinerary” routings. Yes, let’s touch base as per plans. FYI, my personal email is: email@example.com (assuming that it’s alright to publish this here…!?)
RHMAngel: VMTs your sage advice. As it happens, we have Japanese neighbours who have offered an intro to Japanese culture, customs and language. I will also need to dig out “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword” which was written back in the 1940s by an American social anthropologist by way of a guide to the US forces occupying forces as to what they might expect. It is a timeless classic. I’ve plenty of time (and the inclination) to get my head around each of these over the next year plus. And the linguistic demarkation line between myself and Snr Mgt is that she does anything romance/latin-based and I have a stab at anything else…! So far, a smattering of Mongolian, Burmese and Putonghua (Mandarin Chinese). Looking forward to this very considerable challenge.21 Jun 2018
We enjoyed a marvellous holiday to Japan last summer. Started with a few days in Tokyo, then moved to Odawara (spa town just south of Tokyo), Kyoto, Hiroshima (we were there for the anniversary of the bombing – commemorations were very moving), then back to Osaka and finally ended up back in Tokyo for a last couple of nights. I’m fortunate to work for a large hotel company so was able to take full advantage of staff discount. However, we also made sure to spend a night in a ryokan, for an authentic Japanese hospitality experience – it was wonderful but expensive.
If you do go to Hiroshima then make sure you plan a side-trip to Miyajima Island – it’s very popular but amazing.
The food is as you would expect, pretty much wonderful wherever you go. Don’t be afraid of walking into a tiny restaurant in a side-street, the quality is always exceptional, and you will get far better value by going off the beaten track. Avoid expensive western-style hotels or restaurant chains unless you want to spend a fortune.
Kyoto, as others have said was the highlight of our trip. We didn’t manage a side-trip to Nara, but it is also recommended (you can go from Osaka or Kyoto quite easily).
We purchased 14-day Green Japan Rail Passes, and the trains were fantastic. You need to book seats for most Shinkansen journeys with a Green pass, and there are some restrictions on which trains you can use (i.e. not the very fastest ones). Pro-tip: if you are travelling from Tokyo to Kyoto or Osaka make sure to get seats on the correct side of the train to see Mount Fuji.
It’s also worth buying Pasmo/Suica cards – these are smart cards that you can use for the metro in Tokyo and for many other uses around the major cities. Check which card is most suitable for where you are going. If you are with others then it’s worth having a mixture (we had 2 of each) in case you want to pay for something where only one type of card is accepted (both are accepted on the Tokyo metro and in other cities like Kyoto and Osaka).
Like others said, Haneda airport is generally thought to be better, and has a direct fast train to central Tokyo, but then I’ve never flown to Narita, which is a bit further from the city.
Another useful tip is to carry cash – it’s surprising how many places don’t accept credit/debit cards, but you can always get cash from 7-11 stores. It’s quite safe to carry large quantities of cash – crime involving foreigners is so unusual, and you do feel safe everywhere at all times.
Enjoy the trip, I’m very jealous and would love to be back there for the rugby next year!23 Jun 2018