Japan Travel Suggestions

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eastwayroad
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Japan Travel Suggestions

Post by eastwayroad » Tue Apr 16, 2019 8:56 am

18 day Japan vacation in October, including Tokyo & Kyoto.
Anyone have recent experiences or advice to share?

sjt
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Re: Japan Travel Suggestions

Post by sjt » Tue Apr 16, 2019 9:07 am

I went to Japan for work last year. Was only able to spend a day or so in Tokyo and we went to Shibuya Station (site of famous scramble cross featured in the highly underrated Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift) - Lots of shops there, and you can see a statue of the famous dog Hachiko.
"The one who covets is the poorer man, | For he would have that which he never can; | But he who doesn't have and doesn't crave | Is rich, though you may hold him but a knave." - Wife of Bath tale

HawkeyePierce
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Re: Japan Travel Suggestions

Post by HawkeyePierce » Tue Apr 16, 2019 9:27 am

I've been seven or eight times over the last eight years.

My recommendations, in no particular order:

18 days is a good amount of time, assuming this is a first visit. You can fit in the standard first-timer itinerary at a relaxed pace. Unless there's something else in Japan you know you want to see, it's easiest to stick to this. You'll still get a solid sampling of everything on offer. Usually it looks something like four nights in Tokyo, 1-2 nights in Nikko, 4-5 nights in Kyoto, 3 nights in Kanazawa and 3 nights in Takayama. Alternatively you could mix in Hiroshima and Miyajima by dropping one or two nights elsewhere.

Two advantages to this: it's a loop that ends you back at Tokyo, simplifying your air travel plans since you just fly in and out of either Narita or Haneda. It also fits nicely with a Japan rail pass. You can buy a 14 day pass and activate it on your way out of Tokyo, covering all your rail needs for the entire trip.

Arriving in Tokyo: if you're landing at Narita, it's a long way from the city itself. If you're staying at an international hotel, chances are one of the airport buses stops there. For first-timers this is by far the easiest and most cost-effective route from Narita to your hotel. You'll be jetlagged and this gives you door-to-door service without breaking the bank. Usually under 20 bucks a person. A taxi will be hundreds by comparison. If you're feeling adventurous you can take either the Narita Express train or Keisei Skyliner train (both semi-high speed) but you will likely need to complete your journey by either taxi or metro. Taking luggage on the metro is a big pain if you didn't pack very light.

If you do opt to take the train from Narita, do *not* transfer at Tokyo Station. It's massive and you will spend half an hour walking to your connecting metro platform.

If you land at Haneda, I recommend just taking the monorail to Hamamatsucho station and then taxi the rest of the way. It's much closer to the city.

Only 7/11 and Japan Post ATMs reliably take international debit cards. 7/11 ATMs are ubiquitous so it's not an issue. Japan is still a cash-heavy society so grab at least 20,000 yen from an airport ATM.

Recommended experiences:

Book at least one Michelin-starred sushi restaurant. I'm a big fan of Sushi Iwa in the Ginza. Six seats, reasonable prices at lunch and the head chef speaks enough English to tell you what he's putting in front of you. Kyubei is also a great choice. You will need reservations. If you have an Amex Plat or Visa Signature, their concierge services can help. If you're staying at nice hotel they should also be able to book for you.

If you like cocktails, Bar High Five is a must-do along with Gen Yamamoto.

Some off-the-beaten-path areas of Tokyo I recommend: Kuramae and Yanaka/Nezu/Sendagi. They're near-ish to each other so you could hit both in a day. Kuramae has some interesting boutique and arts shops.

I'll write up more later. Gotta get to work.

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ResearchMed
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Re: Japan Travel Suggestions

Post by ResearchMed » Tue Apr 16, 2019 9:40 am

eastwayroad wrote:
Tue Apr 16, 2019 8:56 am
18 day Japan vacation in October, including Tokyo & Kyoto.
Anyone have recent experiences or advice to share?
That's a nice amount of time.

Just two years ago (it will be 2 years next month), we spend 2 weeks in Japan, and then a few days in Hong Kong.

We started in Tokyo for a few days, including one *very* serious day of jet lag that caught us by surprise, and then headed toward Kyoto and Osaka (our departure point).

We then headed out for two nights at a traditional Onsen Ryokan (hot springs inn). One night would be "okay", but it's nice to have the middle day, rather than arrive one evening and depart the next morning, etc. From there, we toured the Lake Ashi area a bit.

Then some time in Kyoto, including Nara (deer, huge Buddha), and from there, 2 nights in a Buddhist Monastery. Also the bamboo forest, and a lovely hike right near there.

Finally a couple of nights in Osaka. The aquarium there was NOT a disappointment, although the entry was not as dramatic as the pictures make it seem.

While there, we had arranged a bunch of special tours and excursions, including for DH a private martial arts lesson (which ended up being with swords, starting with a wooden one... and the final one was SHARP, with me cowering in the back corner :shock: ; the Master turned out to be one of the best in Japan, and this lesson was surprisingly one of DH's peak experiences.
We also enjoyed a tea ceremony with a private family in their home of about 11 (or was it 17?) generations! That was quite different than we expected, and very elaborate.

We went to a bonsai museum just outside of Tokyo, and the ages of those little trees was... awesome in the true sense of the word.

And of course, we visited a number of castles and museums.
You'll need to remove shoes at many places, so try to bring/wear some that are easy to slip on/off, etc. (Wear or bring socks.)

The bullet train was amazing.
We picked it up at a station where some trains didn't stop. Point is, before we got on one, we had the stunning experience of having some of them ZOOOOOOM by. That first one was quite startling, and impressive.

There was so much, and that was just in one little "corridor" of Japan. We definitely plan to return.

Read a couple of guide books (and check TripAdvisor for "things to do"), and see what seems interesting.
But also, allow yourselves to go a bit outside your normal routine. It's a very different culture, and both fascinating and beautiful.

It was our favorite vacation ever, and we doubt anything will ever beat it.
(We had arranged a private tour, and it was worth every single dollar/yen. It was the first place we'd ever been where we not only didn't speak the language, but we could not sound out or even write down things, given the complex alphabet. There were just couple of times when we were off the beaten path alone, that we had a couple of serious difficulties communicating. We've never done a private tour before, and doubt we will again, but it was absolutely the right thing for that first trip. We had thought we'd never be back, so had a lot packed in. Glad we did, but... we quickly realized that we *would* go back.)

RM
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DrGoogle2017
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Re: Japan Travel Suggestions

Post by DrGoogle2017 » Tue Apr 16, 2019 9:54 am

Bookmaked. I’m planning 3-4 weeks to Japan in the future, but not in Oct, mostly likely in Spring, hope to see a little Cherry blossoms, but not too much, we get allergies otherwise.

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ResearchMed
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Re: Japan Travel Suggestions

Post by ResearchMed » Tue Apr 16, 2019 9:59 am

DrGoogle2017 wrote:
Tue Apr 16, 2019 9:54 am
Bookmaked. I’m planning 3-4 weeks to Japan in the future, but not in Oct, mostly likely in Spring, hope to see a little Cherry blossoms, but not too much, we get allergies otherwise.
Yeah, unfortunately, DH has very severe allergies.
So we planned for May, safely after the cherry blossoms. Otherwise, we would have tried to time them, although that also would have meant more crowds.

It was already getting rather hot in some places, so we are very glad we didn't wait till "full summer".

But it was really beyond our expectations.
By leaving the major cities, we really had some different experiences, although there is plenty of interest in the large cities, too.

The deer at Nara are quite something, although I was just reading that some of them are getting a bit aggressive (but not sure if that is just "someone selling a story with a good headline and key embellished point", etc.).

3-4 weeks would be so wonderful!

RM
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DrGoogle2017
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Re: Japan Travel Suggestions

Post by DrGoogle2017 » Tue Apr 16, 2019 10:03 am

ResearchMed wrote:
Tue Apr 16, 2019 9:59 am
DrGoogle2017 wrote:
Tue Apr 16, 2019 9:54 am
Bookmaked. I’m planning 3-4 weeks to Japan in the future, but not in Oct, mostly likely in Spring, hope to see a little Cherry blossoms, but not too much, we get allergies otherwise.
Yeah, unfortunately, DH has very severe allergies.
So we planned for May, safely after the cherry blossoms. Otherwise, we would have tried to time them, although that also would have meant more crowds.

It was already getting rather hot in some places, so we are very glad we didn't wait till "full summer".

But it was really beyond our expectations.
By leaving the major cities, we really had some different experiences, although there is plenty of interest in the large cities, too.

The deer at Nara are quite something, although I was just reading that some of them are getting a bit aggressive (but not sure if that is just "someone selling a story with a good headline and key embellished point", etc.).

3-4 weeks would be so wonderful!

RM
Originally I was planning 3 weeks but a lady in my badmington club said it’s too short. Plus I want to fly to Hong Kong, and other areas while I’m there so I need to add 1 week.
I’m thinking of late Feb to early March. I hope it’s not too cold. I’ve read some areas have cherry blossoms as early as Jan. But I don’t want full bloom.

broccoli_rob
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Re: Japan Travel Suggestions

Post by broccoli_rob » Tue Apr 16, 2019 11:01 am

I agree with many of the suggestions already made. I would add a sumo wresting match, if you are at all so inclined. Apparently, very hard to get tickets, though, and pricey :moneybag .

DrGoogle2017
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Re: Japan Travel Suggestions

Post by DrGoogle2017 » Tue Apr 16, 2019 11:06 am

Is it worth going to Disney there. I’m not a Disney fan, but I figure maybe I should try to open my eyes about something, might as well visit the place once I’m there. Just mulling.

krafty81
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Re: Japan Travel Suggestions

Post by krafty81 » Tue Apr 16, 2019 4:45 pm

Some off beat things to do - you can find them on Google

Roppongi Kill Bill Restaurant - Inspired the "Crazy 88" scene from the movie

Owl Restaurant in Tokyo

Alice In Wonderland restaurant in Roppongi

Robot/Bikini Bar Tokyo

Go up SkyTree, visit the Imperial Palace eat sushi anywhere.

krafty81
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Re: Japan Travel Suggestions

Post by krafty81 » Tue Apr 16, 2019 4:46 pm

No cherry blossoms in Feb.

DrGoogle2017
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Re: Japan Travel Suggestions

Post by DrGoogle2017 » Tue Apr 16, 2019 5:06 pm

krafty81 wrote:
Tue Apr 16, 2019 4:46 pm
No cherry blossoms in Feb.
Not full bloom, and we don’t want full bloom. But this link says Okinawa for Jan and Feb.

https://www.japanspecialist.co.uk/trave ... m-viewing/

boogiehead
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Re: Japan Travel Suggestions

Post by boogiehead » Tue Apr 16, 2019 5:25 pm

DrGoogle2017 wrote:
Tue Apr 16, 2019 11:06 am
Is it worth going to Disney there. I’m not a Disney fan, but I figure maybe I should try to open my eyes about something, might as well visit the place once I’m there. Just mulling.
Yes/No, if your not going with kids I suggest you only visit Disney Sea which is quite different from Disneyland and more like California Adventure and share some similarities (i.e.Tower of Terror Ride), however still quite unique in that they have themed lands like Arabian, Little Mermaid, and a fantastic fantasmic show on water. Be sure to do a little research before you go as it does get crowded so you want to maximize your fastpasses, they do a fastpass lottery for shows too, I was lucky that my friend who brought his little one got a 3 day pass so on the 3rd day we met up with him so he was like our tour guide in maximizing our day there.

caffeperfavore
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Re: Japan Travel Suggestions

Post by caffeperfavore » Tue Apr 16, 2019 6:45 pm

DrGoogle2017 wrote:
Tue Apr 16, 2019 5:06 pm
krafty81 wrote:
Tue Apr 16, 2019 4:46 pm
No cherry blossoms in Feb.
Not full bloom, and we don’t want full bloom. But this link says Okinawa for Jan and Feb.

https://www.japanspecialist.co.uk/trave ... m-viewing/
You do know that Okinawa is an island a few hundred miles south of the southernmost part of mainland Japan, right? :happy

DrGoogle2017
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Re: Japan Travel Suggestions

Post by DrGoogle2017 » Tue Apr 16, 2019 9:52 pm

caffeperfavore wrote:
Tue Apr 16, 2019 6:45 pm
DrGoogle2017 wrote:
Tue Apr 16, 2019 5:06 pm
krafty81 wrote:
Tue Apr 16, 2019 4:46 pm
No cherry blossoms in Feb.
Not full bloom, and we don’t want full bloom. But this link says Okinawa for Jan and Feb.

https://www.japanspecialist.co.uk/trave ... m-viewing/
You do know that Okinawa is an island a few hundred miles south of the southernmost part of mainland Japan, right? :happy
Yes, you mean it’s hard to get there? I’m sure there are other modes of transportation. I heard it’s beautiful island and I can take a ferry or fly there. In fact this Island is of interest to me, they are among the oldest living people because they eat pork and not just fish as we believe. Interesting island to visit.
Last edited by DrGoogle2017 on Tue Apr 16, 2019 10:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

DrGoogle2017
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Re: Japan Travel Suggestions

Post by DrGoogle2017 » Tue Apr 16, 2019 9:54 pm

boogiehead wrote:
Tue Apr 16, 2019 5:25 pm
DrGoogle2017 wrote:
Tue Apr 16, 2019 11:06 am
Is it worth going to Disney there. I’m not a Disney fan, but I figure maybe I should try to open my eyes about something, might as well visit the place once I’m there. Just mulling.
Yes/No, if your not going with kids I suggest you only visit Disney Sea which is quite different from Disneyland and more like California Adventure and share some similarities (i.e.Tower of Terror Ride), however still quite unique in that they have themed lands like Arabian, Little Mermaid, and a fantastic fantasmic show on water. Be sure to do a little research before you go as it does get crowded so you want to maximize your fastpasses, they do a fastpass lottery for shows too, I was lucky that my friend who brought his little one got a 3 day pass so on the 3rd day we met up with him so he was like our tour guide in maximizing our day there.
No kid, just my husband and I. Yes I would like to experience their version of Disney them park.

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AerialWombat
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Re: Japan Travel Suggestions

Post by AerialWombat » Tue Apr 16, 2019 10:58 pm

ResearchMed wrote:
Tue Apr 16, 2019 9:59 am
The deer at Nara are quite something, although I was just reading that some of them are getting a bit aggressive (but not sure if that is just "someone selling a story with a good headline and key embellished point", etc.).
The stories are true. I have twice spent time doubled over in pain when a Nara deer gave me a solid thwack in the nether region -- once a nose, once a nubby antler. To the OP, Nara is a must-see, but do be careful with the deer. :oops:
“Life doesn’t come with a warranty.” -Michael LeBoeuf

Rob1
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Re: Japan Travel Suggestions

Post by Rob1 » Wed Apr 17, 2019 12:46 am

A highlight for me (that I don’t think has been mentioned) was walking the Philosopher's Walk in Kyoko and visiting temples and shrines along the way.

Also, consider a 1-2 night stay on the art island of Naoshima: https://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/28/trav ... ction.html

tigermilk
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Re: Japan Travel Suggestions

Post by tigermilk » Wed Apr 17, 2019 2:48 am

Get the JR Pass so you can travel out from either city. From Kyoto, you can take the local train to Nara. I have been 3times, most recently last year. I didn't find the deer any more aggressive compared to previous trips. The tourists? Sure, but not the deer. But I wasthere at the height of cherry blossoms last year, so the number of tourists from a particular region known for being a bit rowdy was high. From Kyoto you can take the Shinkansen to Himeji, which has a fantastic castle. Osaka castle is pretty good too and Osaka is a 15 to 20 minute Shinkansen ride away. You could conceivably make Hiroshima and the atomic bomb museum a day trip. It would be a long day, but the museum is a place to go to appreciate the raw power of such a weapon and contemplate why we should never let it happen again.

From/in Tokyo, National Museum is a favorite. But so is Inokashira Park and renting a row boat. You may have fall colors, so a gentle row under the leaves will be great. Likewise, a day trip to Nikko. Depending on when you will be there in October, you may be able to catch a playoff series baseball game. The games there are entertaining and completely unlike the experience of an American game. While tbe descriptions are mostly in Japanese, the Edo Museum is nice. Honestly my favorite part about Tokyo is just wandering around, soaking up the energy of the city. That and just chilling at cafes and the like.

What are your interests? If you like Formula 1 racing, the race in Suzuka is mid October. Rugby world cup will be happening later this year. My wife's favorite classical music store is in the Shinjuku area (actually Disk Union caters to all genres and has stores scattered around Shinjuku specializing in each).

Number one suggestion? Go to www.japan-guide.com. It is a great resource to plan where you would like to go, festivals that are happening, some of the top places in each city, how to get there and around, etc.

I have made about 30 trips to Japan for work and vacation in the last 15 or so years. Never gets old. Love the place for the food, people, nature, vibe, etc. Yet we still have not been to places we really want to go. Places like Kanazawa, Sendai, Sapporo, ...

tigermilk
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Re: Japan Travel Suggestions

Post by tigermilk » Wed Apr 17, 2019 2:56 am

Forgot to mention - go to the website for NHK television and their YouTube channel. You can watch some of their TV programs (theft are in English). They have several travel shows, and there is a show specific to Tokyo- Tokyo Eye 2020. I watch it every week to get ideas for our next trips.

SrGrumpy
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Re: Japan Travel Suggestions

Post by SrGrumpy » Wed Apr 17, 2019 3:09 am

eastwayroad wrote:
Tue Apr 16, 2019 8:56 am
18 day Japan vacation in October, including Tokyo & Kyoto.
Anyone have recent experiences or advice to share?
This coincides with the Rugby World Cup being held in Japan, so there may be accommodation availability issues. Or, of course, you could go and cheer for USA at a game or two. (https://www.rugbyworldcup.com/fixtures)

Re: Others' posts:

I loved the friendly deer at Nara. And the snow monkeys in Nagano.

Cherry blossoms are over-rated, though this isn't an issue in October anyway.

Disney - are you kidding me?

BanquetBeer
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Re: Japan Travel Suggestions

Post by BanquetBeer » Wed Apr 17, 2019 5:12 am

Why go to American commercial park (Disney?)

All the food was amazing, drink lots of sake.

I found the time spent in the big cities way less fun the smaller mountain towns. If you’re going winter/cool weather - hot springs are amazing. Summer might be a bit warm.

People there are super polite but from an American perspective they all feel kind of like a hotel concierge (will help but feel super fake/polite - like it is culturally forced and not always who they are as a person - and hard to get to know anyone on a more personal level)

bob60014
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Re: Japan Travel Suggestions

Post by bob60014 » Wed Apr 17, 2019 7:47 am

If you have a interest in electronics and cameras, the Akihabara district in Tokyo can be interesting. Though its changed over the years, it still can be a place to go for things you cannot readily get here.

https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3003.html

DrGoogle2017
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Re: Japan Travel Suggestions

Post by DrGoogle2017 » Wed Apr 17, 2019 9:30 am

Ok, no Disney then. Has anybody got any experience with regards to pearls shopping down in the factory. My mom went to Japan in the early 70s, she did go to a pearls factory and purchased.

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