Traveling to Japan

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schachtw
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Traveling to Japan

Post by schachtw »

My wife and I will be traveling to Japan next month. I've read pros and cons about renting a pocket Wi-Fi device while there. Two weeks costs approximately $80 USD.

Looking for any thoughts on the above as well as recommendations regarding sites to visit and restaurants to try in Tokyo and Kyoto.

Lastly, any advice/pointers on taking the train system from Narita airport to central Tokyo?
Thanks-
Seoulseeker
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by Seoulseeker »

As someone who lived in Tokyo for 6 years and has traveled there often I would not bother with pocket wifi. If it is for access Wifi is free and fast all over the city. If it is for security I doubt a pocket wifi is any safer than using other available wifi. And if you will be online all the time so you can't have the limited downtime you will experience using free wifi, then you should just stay home. As for taking the train into center city it is a good way to go. A taxi will cost a bundle. The other choice is to take the limousine bus that comes right in front of the terminal. It costs a bit more that the train, but they go directly to hotels and drop points all over the city so you can save some cab fare and/or some time. When we lived there we almost always took the limousine bus because of the convenience and time savings.
paulsalem
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by paulsalem »

What phone and provider do you have?
Dulocracy
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by Dulocracy »

http://www.kyoto-gioncorner.com/global/en.html

This is a must in Kyoto. Not just for the meiko geisha dance, but the court music and other cultural performance art a foreigner has little opportunity to see. This was the highlight of our stay in Kyoto.

Ninja is a fun restaurant in Tokyo. Don't be afraid of hole in the wall noodle shops. Ask where you are staying about a good local sushi shop. Local is smaller. Go off hours from the rush. Tell the sushi chef that you want to try the local flavors. Ours told us when to use sause, etc. It was a fantastic experience.

Oh, in Kyoto, try to get to the golden temple half an hour before sunset or so. It is amazing at that time of day.

If you can take time to go to a traditional onsen Ryokan, Kamesei in the Nagano prefecture is amazing. It is near Obuse and the Hokusai museum.
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terran
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by terran »

Me too! Looking forward to hearing tips from other people.

We're thinking about getting 2 sim cards (purchased from airport vending machines) for our unlocked GSM iPhones so we can iMessage each other if we're not together at some point. Sim cards for foreigners are data only, so no calling/texting than apps that do so over data. The price should be about the same as the single wifi card and we shouldn't have to return them unlike the wifi, but the data is limited to 200 mb per day instead of unlimited like the wifi card.

Here's info about how to get in to Tokyo from Narita: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2027.html -- that whole site has been very helpful so far in our planning.
livesoft
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by livesoft »

Train or bus is easy to the city center, but Seoulseeker is right about delivery to major hotels. If you have little luggage, then the experience of being dumped into Tokyo Station and on to Shinjuku station and either hoofing it to your nearby hotel or finding the right local train to get closer to your neighborhood is a fantastic tourist experience.

Great restaurants are everywhere because there are millions of people living there.
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travellight
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by travellight »

I think we took the express train from the airport to Tokyo station and liked it very much.... not the most budget way to do it though.

My son got a sim card at the airport and that worked great for us so we could look up things as we went and explored the city. It was extremely helpful. Being a boglehead, we didn't get one each. ;)

Golden temple in Kyoto was gorgeous and I loved the Gion district. We found a fantastic tiny Laotian restaurant between our hotel and the central market. We loved Japan.... Shinjuku and Shibuya at night are fantastic.
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ResearchMed
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by ResearchMed »

We'll be in Japan for just over 2 weeks in late Spring, so I'll be following this.

Locations will be Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, and Osaka, and a few sights along the way.
This will include 2 nights in a traditional Onsen Ryokan, and 2 nights at a Buddhist Monastery.
(We wanted to have a full day at each, rather than arriving one evening, and leaving the next morning.)

Suggestions welcome, and we'll be following the discussions here.

We'll be wanting WiFi access to check emails, probably once a day, if location and time permit.
Chances are nothing will be urgent, but we've got very elderly MIL; knowing that all is well...
DH will also be needing to check work-related things at least a bit. If he never did that, we wouldn't be traveling at all, or very little. He does less and less each trip - nice.

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sperry8
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by sperry8 »

Re phone I switched to Google Fi which offers data in over 100 countries worldwide including super fast usable data in Japan. It also saved me some money here in the States as it's monthly cost is lower than T-Mobile (which was my previous provider). If you're on Sprint or T-Mo in the US - make the switch before you go. They use Sprint/T-Mo anyway and you'll save money.
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tigermilk
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by tigermilk »

Did you get a Japan Rail pass? Hopefully so as a round-trip from Tokyo to Kyoto will pay for it, and you can use the pass for unlimited travel for the pass you buy (7, 14, ... day passes). If you have the pass, it works for the Narita Express which goes to Tokyo Station, Shinagawa, Shinjuku. Depending on where you are staying, I'd take the NEX to the closest station, switch to the JR local trains if you need to get closer, and taxi the rest. What part of town are you staying?

For things to see, it depends on your interests, but for me the National Museum in Ueno is always a must. Plus you should be there anyway for the cherry blossoms which will hopefully be blooming. Inokashira Park out past Shinjuku is great too if the blossoms are out. You can get a rowboat (you can at Ueno as well) and have those blossoms above and in the water.

I've been to Japan nearly 30 times and it never gets old. Enjoy.
jumppilot
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by jumppilot »

OP,

When you're in Japan and want a laugh, try to make a menu substitution like soup instead of salad, or extra onions on your burger.

Hilarity will ensue.

And to answer your question, there is enough free wifi all around that you won't need anything else.
harrychan
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by harrychan »

terran wrote:We're thinking about getting 2 sim cards (purchased from airport vending machines) for our unlocked GSM iPhones so we can iMessage each other if we're not together at some point.
This is the way to go if your phones are unlocked. Don't bother with pocket wifi's (or mifi). Those devices are quite aged and usually do not last a day. Not only will you have to worry about carrying a battery pack for your phone, you have to worry about the battery of the mifi. Just buy 2 sim cards at the airport. There will be plenty.

I also would not rely on getting wifi. I'm skeptical of free wifi's and even if you find one, you will likely have to go through a few sign up pages before gaining access.

Also keep in mind services like tmobile have free 3G roaming to Japan.
This is not legal or certified financial advice but you know that already.
Cruise
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by Cruise »

For transport from Narita to your hotel, Google "limousine bus" and "tokyo" and you will find the best way to get right to your hotel.

We are not fans of public transportation or buses, but after researching the options, we used the limousine bus, and found it to be way more convenient that taking a train, and just as fast as taking a taxi.

Have fun in Japan!
ryman554
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by ryman554 »

schachtw wrote:My wife and I will be traveling to Japan next month. I've read pros and cons about renting a pocket Wi-Fi device while there. Two weeks costs approximately $80 USD.

Looking for any thoughts on the above as well as recommendations regarding sites to visit and restaurants to try in Tokyo and Kyoto.

Lastly, any advice/pointers on taking the train system from Narita airport to central Tokyo?
Thanks-
You will be getting the JR-pass,

you need to exchange it in the airport. There is a long line to do so. Plan on 1.5 hours until you get on the train, otherwise, narita express to central tokyo is free to jr pass holders. Just ask for a reservation when you exchange your pass.

As for what to do.... random thoughts:
1. Ueno park and the associated museums. Perfect place to see cherry blossoms, if you are early April.
2. walk outside tokyo station (neat building to look at) walk around the imperial palace.
3. sit on the balcony to the south of the JR bus station in shinjuku station with some bento and watch trains come in and go out.
4. go ride a roller coaster *thorugh* a building near the tokyo dome.
5. go to the top of the tokyo metro goverment building (west of shinjuku station) and look at the city and hopefully fuji.
6. wander through any of the "tokyo hands" stores.
7. wander through any of the "don quixote" stores.
8. Loiter around a 7-11 for free wifi. Or a McDonalds. Or a starbucks.
9. sit at the starbucks that overlooks the busiest intersection in shibuya. It's crowded, but fun.
10. walk around yoyogi park.
11. look at neat old-style analog electronic components for sale in the building jsut under akihabara station
12. window shop @omotesando.
13. buy the missus some pearls at Mikimoto in Ginza.
14. take in a baseball / soccer game/match
15. spend one night in a weirdly themed love hotel in shibuya. This is not flippant or intended to be naughty/NSFW at all! Reasonably priced, as far as they go, but otherwise an experience to behold.
16. Find a major train station (shinagawa will do), wear a strong color, and walk the "opposite way" during the morning commute to get the fish out of water experience. I prefer red, and it helps if you and your wife are tall.
17. (near narita) -- visit the Naritasan shrine. I usually only do this for long layovers, but is one stop form Narita on the local lines. The shrine is good and the garden behind it is absolutely stellar.
18. Take a side trip to Kamakoura as you go to Kyoto and hike around the hills/see the big budda.
brito11
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by brito11 »

Preparation checklist:

Apply for JR pass ASAP - it's only available for tourists so you have to get it while you're still at home. This lets you ride any JR train, including the shinkansen, for free with the exception of the Nozomi shinkansen.

Carry a debit card with no ATM fees and foreign transaction fees. Optional,carry a CC with no foreign transaction fees
Pro tip: withdraw money from the Japan Post Offices or 7-11s. There are many in major cities and rural areas. You can go to a Citibank ATM (open 24 hours) but there's really not that many around.

Get the sim card before you leave the airport.

If you have any shellfish/seafood allergies, learn the phrase/vocabulary for asking about it. Japanese cuisine pretty much uses some kind of seafood in almost every dish, even if they tell you it's "vegetarian."

Travel checklist:

Tokyo - Shinjuku Metrpolitan Government Building, Shibuya station and nearby (there is a Toyota showcase building), Meiji Shrine, Asakusa particularly Sensoji temple. All free, hooray.

Kyoto - how much do you like temples? Getting "templed out" is indeed possible. Thought Kinkaku, Ginkaku, and most of the other temples were ho-hum. Do recommend Kiyozumi dera, Gion, Philosopher's Walk, Arashiyama.
an_asker
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by an_asker »

I don't have a trip to Japan planned in the near future, but some friends are planning one. I am astounded by the costs - or are they going for high budget places? I am hearing airbnb rates of over $100 per person per day (which would imply much higher rates at conventional hotels) in Tokyo.

Also, is it not transportation friendly enough to stay at some suburb and commute in to town as opposed to staying in Tokyo? Pros/cons?
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thedeadlybishop
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by thedeadlybishop »

Just to add to the already good suggestions above

Free wifi is everywhere in Japan (almost all convenience stores, fast food place etc.) so unless you are heading out of the major cities you won't need a sim card.

The limo bus is almost always faster from Narita to your hotel and you dont have to move your luggage thru a huge train station when you have jet lag.

If you have some extra time after the main sites in Kyoto, I would recommend Fushimi Inari Shrine. It has thousands of orange torii gates which is fun for pictures.

It is really tough to go wrong with food over there. Almost everything is great quality so will depend on what you want to try. Here are a few suggestions that are English friendly in Tokyo that I have sent friends to:

Yakitori Hachibei - meat on a stick and the roppongi location has a nice bar area you can sit at to see the cooking. Usually will need a reservation a couple days in advance. Recommend getting the sukiyaki, pea croquette, pork cartilage, chicken neck and avocado.
http://www.hachibei.com/en/shop/roppongi/

Teppanyaki Akasaka - the best steak you will ever eat (there are other places you can get top grade wagyu but this one is easy to set up from overseas). i am not exaggerating on how good it is - go all out and get the kobe. this place is very pricey like $150 per person easy for dinner but if you go for lunch it is about half. You can make a reservation online so easy to set up but it does fill up for weekend lunches.
http://www.anaintercontinental-tokyo.jp ... asaka.html

Ippudo - ramen spot that has several locations in tokyo
http://www.tokyoeats.jp/ippudo-ramen/

MARUGAME SEIMEN - for a true salary man lunch head to one of the locations of this place for some decent udon and tempura. best to go during lunch hours when there is high turnover on the tempura. They have an English menu they will show you to order the udon then the tempura is self serve. My recommendation is the Bukkake Udon
http://www.toridoll.com/en/shop/marugame/

Nakameguro Taproom - if you tire of japanese food, this is a good pizza spot with craft beer and is close to nakameguro which has a canal with a walking path
http://bairdbeer.com/en/tap/nakameguro.html

For sushi just head to the tsukiji market early in the morning and walk around until you see something good. I recommend doing this the first full day you are there since you will be super jet lagged and wake up at 4a local time anyways.
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Will do good
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by Will do good »

Maybe we didn't get the right hot spot wifi in Tokyo the first time, the speed was really slow, almost useless. We end up just use the free wifi in the hotel and restaurants. The second time we were there we just use our free T-Mobile 2G plan to check email and use Google maps to get around and it's was more than fast enough.
bluebolt
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by bluebolt »

T-mobile free data service worked great for me.

Download the Hyperdia app. It gives you all the options for traveling place to place by train. Google maps is pretty good also.

Get a Japanese phrasebook (either app or physical book). Helpful to know basic phrases.

I'll second the Ippudo ramen suggestion above.

For about $20, you can eat sukiyaki for lunch at a Michelin starred restaurant.
https://migrationology.com/yoshihashi-sukiyaki-tokyo/
Charlie_Boy
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by Charlie_Boy »

Have spent a good bit of time in Japan and consider it my second home. By chance, I am setting up a site on Japan for visitors and photographers - it is here:

http://occassionalgaijin.smugmug.com

I plan to change it to my own URL in a week or two so if the above does not work you might try www.occassionalgaijin.com

I think it might answer many of your questions including those you have not asked yet. It probably has a few bugs as I work feverishly to release it into the wild but this might be good test. If there are mistakes or things you think should covered, let me know. Currently I am working on adding pages on food and Kyoto. By the way, this is not a commercial site nor do I intend it to become one.

Charlie
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SeeMoe
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by SeeMoe »

You would like Mount Fuji and the surrounding countryside and villages. I visited there in the 1950's when the exchange rate was 360 Yen to the Dollar. We traveled by train from Tokyo, and the train is the way to go. If you have time, then head up North. Never got sick eating the food or drinking the water either. Try Ashlie beer too. Envy you, have a good trip...

SeeMoe.. :beer
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takeshi
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by takeshi »

I wasn't in Tokyo but found a pocket WiFi very useful in Fukuoka and on Tsushima. There was free WiFi all over the place in Fukuoka but it was a real hassle to find the network, negotiate access pages, set up accounts in some cases, etc. Our carrier also didn't have the greatest international data plans and I didn't want to deal with SIM's for each of out devices so a pocket wifi worked for us. Be aware that not all pocket wifi's and networks are equal. I had an excellent experience with JapanWifiBuddy but I was aware that I was going to need one that operated under an extended coverage network while on Tsushima and their Platinum Plus worked very well for our needs with excellent coverage, excellent speed and a battery that was more than sufficient for a day at a time.

It's really up to you to weight the options considering your specific needs, wants, preferences & priorities. These aren't universal matters. I wouldn't recommend a pocket wifi for everyone. SIM cards can be a better option for some. Free WiFi could be better for others. Yet others wouldn't even worry about data coverage.
tacster
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by tacster »

Charlie_Boy wrote:Have spent a good bit of time in Japan and consider it my second home. By chance, I am setting up a site on Japan for visitors and photographers - it is here:

http://occassionalgaijin.smugmug.com

I plan to change it to my own URL in a week or two so if the above does not work you might try http://www.occassionalgaijin.com

I think it might answer many of your questions including those you have not asked yet. It probably has a few bugs as I work feverishly to release it into the wild but this might be good test. If there are mistakes or things you think should covered, let me know. Currently I am working on adding pages on food and Kyoto. By the way, this is not a commercial site nor do I intend it to become one.

Charlie
Superb photography.
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Capsu78
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by Capsu78 »

Hanami Season!!!

This American expat did a detailed Vlog on life in Tokyo. I actually went to his party when I was there and even not being in the same "demographic" as the other attendees we had a unforgettable time:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VrbRojnoZw
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by LadyGeek »

This thread is now in the Personal Consumer Issues forum (travel).
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barton277
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by barton277 »

Did this exact trip recently and it's one of my favorite vacations ever.

- I do recommend pocket wifi, we found it very helpful.
- A Ryokan in Kyoto is a fun experience
- Someone else mentioned the Japan Guide website. It's a wealth of information.
- I recommend the Japan Rail Pass.
- Punctuality is important there. If you're 30 seconds late, you've missed your train.
- Travel light. Trains and stations can be extremely crowded.
- Do try Wagyu beef.
- Enjoy the baths and toilets!
- Kyoto is less english friendly than Tokyo.
d0gerz
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by d0gerz »

Wifi availability has gotten a lot better the last 2-3 years, especially as Japan gets ready for Tokyo 2020. But I wouldn't rely on it, free is sometimes the sort that kicks you off the network every 15 minutes, or makes you jump through hoops to get access.

I'd recommend taking an unlocked Android/iPhone and buying a data-only SIM from one of the large consumer electronic stores (Bic Camera/Yodobashi Camera/Yamada Denki). It should be cheap, for example this 2 GB version from Freetel that lasts 30 days costs 3,750 yen (~$30). You can find 7 or 15-day versions as well.
Capsu78
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by Capsu78 »

Since it has not been mentioned, one of the most "civilized" logistical support I ever received took place in Japan- travel agency arranged for door to door luggage handling between Tokyo and Kyoto, while I took the bullet train.
Brought my luggage to the lobby, showed the desk my voucher to the desk and put my suitcase to where he pointed. Nervously watched a guy come in and take a number of suitcases away on a cart... (Need to have a little faith here!)
Enjoyed the train ride, without having to schlep my bag, arrived at my new hotel to find my bags waiting for me in my room! No even anyone to tip!
Think it might be pretty common and a good way to go if not an "ultra light" traveler. ( I have enough electronics and camera stuff to keep me busy)
Capsu78
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by Capsu78 »

As for wifi- I simply set up a 30 day international plan with AT&T who is my service provider- unlimited texts which is critical and enough data to use sparingly for maps etc, email and in the event of an emergency. $30 ish and can be set up over the phone.
Cash
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by Cash »

We found the pocket wifi to be indispensible during our weeklong trip a few months ago, especially on the trains. One of our traveling companions got it at the airport, so I don't know which network it was. Much better than trying to figure out a myriad of free wifi networks.

Also agreed on the JR Pass. Paid for itself many times over.
youdiditr2
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by youdiditr2 »

Just came back from Japan after a 3 weeks trip. Used Google Project FI the entire time and it worked out great.

Use Google map to navigate the entire country. Visted 8 cities without the use of a taxi or a guide.

Traveling is so easy in Japan(thanks to Google Map).

Train came at EXACTLY the time listed on the schedule. Unbelieveable. How can they get everything on schedule all the time over there???

It was an awesome trip. Would probably go back in another 10 years.
otinkyad
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by otinkyad »

barton277 wrote:Did this exact trip recently and it's one of my favorite vacations ever.

- I do recommend pocket wifi, we found it very helpful.
- Kyoto is less english friendly than Tokyo.
Just got back myself, and found the exact opposite with English in Kyoto and Tokyo. It is true that while Kyoto is a huge tourist destination, I'd guess that 90% of the tourists were Japanese (very unlike Florence, to pick a random example), so tourist-friendly is not the same as English-friendly.

In addition to the JR pass, we got Suica IC cards, to avoid hassles with figuring out how to buy tickets on different trains and buses in different cities. Also handy for small purchases in train stations and convenience stores.

We bought 15-day 3 GB SIMs and had no problems with them. I didn't like the idea of keeping both my phone and the pocket wifi charged.

We had a short trip and spent 3 days in Tokyo, 3 days in Kyoto, and 1 day in Hiroshima (including Miyajima). I wouldn't change a thing for such a short trip, but I would love to spend more time in Kyoto if I go back.
RudyS
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by RudyS »

Any experience with Verizon? They offer a $10/day travel pass, activated only for 24 hrs each day if you actually use the service - wifi would be free otherwise. No fooling around with sim cards. That'd be a backup if I needed phone or text. I have a Samsung Galaxy (android) that Verizon says will work on the plan.
otinkyad
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by otinkyad »

RudyS wrote:Any experience with Verizon? They offer a $10/day travel pass, activated only for 24 hrs each day if you actually use the service - wifi would be free otherwise. No fooling around with sim cards.
$10/day is very steep compared to a local SIM at about $1.33/day, which takes less than 5 minutes to install, setup, and remove. Both are cheap in the context of an international trip, but for $100 I'll certainly swap SIMs in my phone.

We used maps all day, every day, and confining the use to available WiFi would have been a major pain. Most of the free WiFi I saw still had some sort of sign-in, which itself adds up to a hassle well beyond swapping SIMs.

The Verizon deal is super easy, and if you don't travel often I can see where you might want to smooth every possible corner, even if it costs a little money.
Gumby252
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by Gumby252 »

We were in Japan a year ago -- truly amazing place with truly amazing people. I can't wait to go back.

We went with a hotspot; it was fast and convenient. One hotspot served four devices -- his and her phones and iPads.

We used Ninjawifi.com and were very happy.

In Tokyo, try the restaurants under the train tracks near the Godzilla statue (google "yakitori Alley). Great food, great fun and mostly locals.

The Fuji area is magical. When the clouds cleared after 2 days Fuji appeared for the first time, I was speechless.


You won't appreciate Bullet trains until you stand on the platform at a secondary station (like Mishima) and watch the express trains blast by you going full-tilt.

Google maps was absolutely indispensable for getting around.

Hope this helps. Have some Yakitori and a Kirin for me...

-G
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ResearchMed
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by ResearchMed »

Gumby252 wrote:We were in Japan a year ago -- truly amazing place with truly amazing people. I can't wait to go back.

We went with a hotspot; it was fast and convenient. One hotspot served four devices -- his and her phones and iPads.

We used Ninjawifi.com and were very happy.

In Tokyo, try the restaurants under the train tracks near the Godzilla statue (google "yakitori Alley). Great food, great fun and mostly locals.

The Fuji area is magical. When the clouds cleared after 2 days Fuji appeared for the first time, I was speechless.


You won't appreciate Bullet trains until you stand on the platform at a secondary station (like Mishima) and watch the express trains blast by you going full-tilt.

Google maps was absolutely indispensable for getting around.

Hope this helps. Have some Yakitori and a Kirin for me...

-G
Thanks.

We leave home for Japan in 2 weeks!

We'll be there for a couple of weeks, and then a few days in Hong Kong on the way home.
(Well, it's not really "on the way", of course, but we were going to be so close... :wink: )

We'll keep our fingers crossed for good weather so we can see Mt. Fuji.
We'll be in Hakone for 2 nights, so we'll have the middle day and part of the first and third to catch a glimpse while we are on a few tours.
We can re-arrange our outings if needed, due to weather.

This trip is so overdue (by decades!)... :happy

RM
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pfranz
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Aug 28, 2015 6:01 pm

Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by pfranz »

It's been about 5 years since I was there, but others here seemed to have better luck than I did with wifi in Tokyo. 7-11 and a few other places reliably had it, but for example, many of our hotels only had wifi in the lobby but only wired ethernet in the room--but that won't help if you have a phone/tablet. Most of the coffee shop's wifi (even Starbucks) was only offered if you were signed up for their "rewards program" so they didn't offer a day pass. I tried to peel off from the group and find a sim card one afternoon and couldn't (I had no problems in London doing this). I didn't even bother looking for Internet after leaving Tokyo (I wasn't visiting any other major cities).

In the middle of the trip I needed emergency Internet to rebook a room for the night. I found an Internet cafe and had to fill out a membership. They were very, very helpful but when their signup got to a place where it needed a Japanese address they got a bit flustered. Thankfully, they worked it out and I was able to hop on to book a room for the night.

Reading after I got home, people then were recommending getting a sim beforehand mailed to your first hotel (assuming your phone is unlocked). It sounds like more airport vending machines have sims, too. I rented a portable wifi when visiting Iceland a few years ago. I set it up before hand and picked it up during business hours (not sure if there were better options), but it was great that many of us could have Internet during the trip. Knowing most of Iceland is remote I also got a local sim from a different provider as backup and bounced around to whoever had service. I was surprised how well it worked even in remote areas (I'm guessing they have bigger antennas than most cellphones?). We were near a car for most of the trip so we didn't test out the battery. That could be a big concern if you use it all day.

If you decide to add an international plan to your domestic cell phone plan, you may want to wait an extra month before removing it. I've heard stories about foreign billing getting delayed so people get charged the month after they had removed the international plan.

I've also been meaning to use this site next time I travel internationally:
http://wikitravel.org/en/Tokyo
d0gerz
Posts: 251
Joined: Thu Apr 10, 2014 9:45 pm

Re: Traveling to Japan

Post by d0gerz »

pfranz wrote:It's been about 5 years since I was there, but others here seemed to have better luck than I did with wifi in Tokyo. 7-11 and a few other places reliably had it, but for example, many of our hotels only had wifi in the lobby but only wired ethernet in the room--but that won't help if you have a phone/tablet. Most of the coffee shop's wifi (even Starbucks) was only offered if you were signed up for their "rewards program" so they didn't offer a day pass. I tried to peel off from the group and find a sim card one afternoon and couldn't (I had no problems in London doing this). I didn't even bother looking for Internet after leaving Tokyo (I wasn't visiting any other major cities).

In the middle of the trip I needed emergency Internet to rebook a room for the night. I found an Internet cafe and had to fill out a membership. They were very, very helpful but when their signup got to a place where it needed a Japanese address they got a bit flustered. Thankfully, they worked it out and I was able to hop on to book a room for the night.

Reading after I got home, people then were recommending getting a sim beforehand mailed to your first hotel (assuming your phone is unlocked). It sounds like more airport vending machines have sims, too. I rented a portable wifi when visiting Iceland a few years ago. I set it up before hand and picked it up during business hours (not sure if there were better options), but it was great that many of us could have Internet during the trip. Knowing most of Iceland is remote I also got a local sim from a different provider as backup and bounced around to whoever had service. I was surprised how well it worked even in remote areas (I'm guessing they have bigger antennas than most cellphones?). We were near a car for most of the trip so we didn't test out the battery. That could be a big concern if you use it all day.

If you decide to add an international plan to your domestic cell phone plan, you may want to wait an extra month before removing it. I've heard stories about foreign billing getting delayed so people get charged the month after they had removed the international plan.

I've also been meaning to use this site next time I travel internationally:
http://wikitravel.org/en/Tokyo
Your experience sounds about right for 5 years ago. At the time things weren't easy for tourists looking for connectivity. Two things have happened since then to change that:

1. Yen's devalued a lot. At the end of 2012 it was around 80 to a dollar (going as high as 75 a year prior). By the end of 2013 it was at a 100, and by the end of 2014 it was at 120 i.e. a 50% devaluation over 2 years, as a result of Abenomics. This made Japan a whole lot cheaper to visit all of a sudden and led to a massive increase in tourism.

2. Tokyo won the bid to host the 2020 summer Olympics, which promised a further increase in tourism to come. The government conducted surveys as to what tourists liked/disliked and one of the top complaints was lack of wifi. So over the last few years there's been a big push to provide various options: especially more 'free' wifi spots at train stations, convenience stores etc., and wider availability of data-only sim cards that can be used with unlocked phones.

So overall things are a lot better now for tourists than when you visited.
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