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October 14, 2005 – A journey to General Tips, Japan in Asia

A Few Tips For Traveling Japan

- Japan Guide is very, very useful in terms of planning your trip. I also used the Let's Go Japan guide and it was a lot more useful than the Japan By Rail guide (hardly used). Haven't checked out the latest Lonely Planet Japan because it wasn't out yet at the time.
- Good to know some Japanese, be able to recognize hiragana and katakana characters, and if you know kanji, even better.
- Get enough cash in the city, especially if you're heading off into the countryside.
- Unless if you're staying mostly in a few places like Tokyo (subway/metro is cheap here) and Kyoto (mostly use buses to get around), definitely recommend getting the JR Pass ($260 pp USD for 7 days) if you're planning to roam around Japan. If we paid for tickets separately, the total would have come out to around 108,030 yen per person, which is around $937 USD per person. Note that you can only use the JR Pass on non-nozomi trains, else you'll need to pay more.
- Get train schedules and routes (mostly did this from online sites, had a hard time reading the timetable booklet I got from a JR ticket office). Some online sites: Jorudan and Hyperdia

- Reserve in advance: hotels (via Internet is best unless if you know or can get someone who knows Japanese to do it for you) and long bullet train rides (can be done at any green or "midori" JR ticket office at any JR station, and it's free with the JR pass).
- Book in central areas – you'll make up for the time and inconveniences that may be accrued while booking at a place farther away from the center. Also, if you have a traveling partner, sharing a business hotel can cost almost the same as if you both stayed in a hostel.
- Toyoko-inns are great business hotels with an excellent price range – they’re all over the main cities in Japan.

simple Japanese breakfast at a toyoko-inn

- Tokyu-Stay is an excellent apartment-hotel stay in Tokyo, and they're all over Tokyo.
- Backpacks can be stored at lockers or left baggage stations at most JR stations or at your accommodation even after you check out. TSA lock for lockers became very useful at this point.
- Cheap food is everywhere (noodle shops, snack shops, obento shops in train stations, Yoshinoya, and even obento boxes from 7-eleven), so no worries about how much you'll need to spend on eating in Japan.

order noodles by this machine ($1 and up), give your ticket to the noodle guy and you get your order (they have this for rice bowls too)

- Internet cafes are hard to find – relied on the guidebook for these. You can try connecting wirelessly via Miako if you have a laptop that can do this, but note that you'll need to create an account first when you get on the system.
- They actually recycle here – so do your part!

- You have your choice with toilets: either really high-tech or traditional.

fancy high-tech bidet-toilet

Japanese-style (no sitting on dirty toilet seats!)

- Yes it's possible to see a lot of Japan in less than 9 days. Although, I would have flown into Hokkaido first and then bullet-trained down.
- Lastly and certainly not the least, the people here are very friendly, polite, and helpful. For instance, at Tsurunoyu Ryokan-Onsen, this very nice elderly Japanese lady was showing us around (speaking in Japanese the whole time of course!), including what her room looked like (that old-traditional style one with the irori and oil-lit lamps). Another time, we were trying to find a Toyoko-Inn branch in Sendai, and I asked this college girl for help. Since she was from out of town, she then asked another lady for help. They both even walked us to the hotel and this was at night! The only incident we've encountered was with the police in Akihabara, but I'm sure that's not going to happen to most people. In any case, rudeness seems to be prohibited here generally speaking - it's a great country to come right after visiting a country that you've had rough travels in. ;)

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