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mwalsh
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Finally Going to Japan!

Thu May 25, 2017 1:40 am

Well it's been many years coming, but it's pretty certain we'll be visiting Japan next spring. I say pretty certain because the only thing I have booked thus far is our flight to Narita.

From arriving the plan is to stay 3 full days in Tokyo, before embarking on a trans-Pacific cruise out of Yokohama that visits Hakodate and Kushiro before crossing to Alaska and sailing the Inside Passage. I don't care all that much for visiting Alaska, if I'm honest, except that it'll be a good way to take it off the bucket list without specifically booking an Alaska cruise, but I am very excited about being in Tokyo for a few days! Mrs. W., conversely, is not quite the Japanophile I am, and is more interested in the cruise part of the itinerary.

We arrive on a Saturday afternoon, so I'm hoping we can experience a Saturday night in a Tokyo at full tilt, and maybe the cherry blossoms will hold out next year just long enough that we can experience them in full bloom (doubtful, and I think we have a much better chance in Hakodate).

Anyhow, suggestions for how to make the best of our limited time would be welcome, if you'd care to advise. Arigatou gozaimasu!
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SageBrush
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Re: Finally Going to Japan!

Thu May 25, 2017 1:55 am

A long visit to Japan and rafting down the Colorado river are life-long dreams for me.

Enjoy!
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lkkms2
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Re: Finally Going to Japan!

Thu May 25, 2017 4:34 am

If you ride the Yamamoto train line for a hour it will take you completely around Tokyo at a slightly elevated height to see the big city at one shot. You can schedual to get on and off at a few of the stations to visit some of the local attractions.

At Yoyogi Koen you can visit Meiji Jungu Shrine, Shibuya station has the famous scramble kosaten intersection with all kinds of young people hustling and bustling around, Shinjuku Station has about 5 or 6 levels of subway lines if you'd like to so how deep you can go down without getting lost and hope you can make it back up, at the big stations like Shinjuku and Tokyo station the big department store have great underground food courts, Tokyo Station is near the Imperial Palace, etc.

Food is usually of good quality, enjoy exploring and tastingthe different food!
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RonDawg
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Re: Finally Going to Japan!

Thu May 25, 2017 7:37 am

It's really a shame you'll only have 3 days in Tokyo, especially if you consider yourself a "Japanophile." Tokyo alone could take a month; I was there for 9 days in 2015 (out of a 2-1/2 week total trip) and feel I didn't see enough of it.

As a westerner, particularly coming from the US, one of the things you'll be shocked about is the attitude towards customer service, regardless of position. Your lowly 7-11 clerk will be just as polite to you as the waiter in an expensive restaurant. Oh, and no tipping! Employees are expected to give the best customer service regardless of whether or not you "bribe" them, and some Japanese actually find tipping to be offensive.

Another thing you'll be shocked about is how clean everything is. I saw almost no graffiti there, not even in Tokyo. Japanese are a fastidiously clean people, and they often will carry an empty bag with them (usually the one they got from the convenience store) to put their trash in, and yes they will carry that around with them until they can find the proper place to dispose of it. They're also fastidious recyclers, and even at McD's you'll find different bins for different materials to be disposed of, and yes you'll be expected to use the right bin.

For your short time in Tokyo I'd book a bus tour of the city on your first full day, to give you a brief overview of it. You can then go back to whatever areas you had a greater interest in. I recommend using the Hato Bus tour line: https://www.hatobus.com/ and yes they have tours with English narration.

Speaking of tips, a few more:

1. Narita Airport is a long ways from central Tokyo. DO NOT TAKE A TAXI from this airport all the way into Tokyo, you'll be paying a fortune. There are two express trains, the Narita Express (run by Japan Railways Group or JR) and the Keisei Skyliner (run by Keisei , a "private" railway which is a bit of a misnomer as the JR Group is also privately run, though it was once government-owned). Narita Express or N'EX is best for accessing points along the southern, eastern and western sections of the Yamanote Line "circle" particularly if Tokyo, Shinjuku, and Shibuya stations will be your destination. Keisei Skyliner is better if you're staying in the northern part of this circle such as near Ueno Station where I stayed. The Yamanote Line is the rail line that runs in a circle (more like an oval actually) around central Tokyo. If you're staying in a hotel that typically caters to westerners rather than Japanese, there may be a direct bus from the airport to your hotel, called a "limousine bus" provided by a third-party company. Check with the bus desk at the airport.

2. While I discourage using a taxi from the airport, it is well worth the money to use a taxi once you get into central Tokyo by train. The regular commuter lines aren't built for large amounts of luggage and they can get quite crowded. There is a popular and rather inexpensive luggage delivery service called "Takkyubin", and they have an office at the airport near the meeting point, but if you do use this don't expect to see your luggage again for a day or two, so make sure you have a small bag with a day or two worth of essentials. If you use a taxi, it's best to have the phone number of your destination, or a printout of their address; Japan uses a very strange and confusing addressing system that makes no sense whatsoever to westerners. GPS/sat-navs in Japan have the ability to take you somewhere based on its phone number. Taxi drivers typically do not speak English.

3. For getting around, buy a refillable transport card. For Tokyo there are two types, the "Suica" and the "Pasmo." The former is administered by JR, the latter by the Tokyo Metro subway. In the Tokyo area they are pretty much interchangeable, and are also good on most transit buses. You can buy and refill them at the train stations and most convenience stores. Some stores particularly those at or near train stations will even let you pay for your purchase with a Suica/Pasmo, and some vending machines will also accept them.

4. Money. Despite its reputation for being high-tech, Japan is still very much a cash-only society. Except for places that cater specifically to western tourists, or the Ginza shopping district, you'll find credit card usage to be difficult. Japan is a very safe place so it's not unusual for locals to carry the equivalent of a few hundred dollars at any time, and some ATMs will dispense as much as 100,000 yen (roughly $900 US) at one time. Speaking of which, the only ATMs that will accept cards from American banks are the ones at 7-11, at the Japan Post office (they have a symbol which looks like a "T"), and at the few Citibank branches in the country.

5. Almost all restaurants have plastic facsimiles of their menu in the front window, which is helpful because most menus will be in Japanese and the servers are unlikely to speak a lot of English. So take a photo of whatever you would like to eat and show it to the server. Many restaurants will also have picture menus but not all.

There are many travel tip websites and videos on visiting Japan, and I would recommend viewing them. I would also recommend the YouTube channels of these two western expats: "Rachel and Jun" who are an American-Japanese couple, and "Abroad in Japan" is a Brit named Chris Broad who came to Japan several years ago and has documented his experiences here. Some of the latter's videos may not be safe for work as he does have a bit of a potty mouth; indeed his funniest video of all is possibly the one where he actually teaches English profanity to Japanese. This video from Attaché also has some good tips on coming to Tokyo:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdIaEL72PwI

Feel free to ask me more questions. When I was there I met up with cwerdna for the Tokyo Motor Show and he's been to Japan a few times, I'm sure he'll have other tips as well.
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DNAinaGoodWay
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Re: Finally Going to Japan!

Thu May 25, 2017 8:14 am

Wow. Thanks for that. I too plan on a Japan trip someday, and I'm going to have to bookmark this thread for tip references. I find travel much easier nowadays with google translate on my phone.
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mwalsh
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Re: Finally Going to Japan!

Thu May 25, 2017 8:35 am

Excellent stuff guys, thanks! Unfortunately I'm stretching the amount of time I can be gone from work as it is - the cruise eats up 15 days of the journey - so just three days in Tokyo it will have to be.

I think from Nartia we're going to use the Airport Limousine Bus, since it will drop us right at the hotel I have in mind booking (Hotel Sunroute Plaza in Shinjuku, unless anyone here has a better suggestion). I would love to take the train, but we'll have a lot of baggage and Naomi isn't especially adept at being her own porter.

To Yokohama I think we're going to book Tokyo Airporter for private van transfers. It should come in at under $200, where the nearest rival, Green Tomato, was $375! :shock: I did consider having the folks from Kuroneko Yamato take care of the bags for us so we could take the train - they have an office quite near to the cruise terminal - but I'm uncomfortable with letting our luggage out of our control when we're heading away from the country (although they might well be able to catch up with us in one of the two Hokkaido Prefecture ports if it all went sideways).

Keep the tips coming!
2011 Blue Ocean SL with 71,000 miles.
2015 pack under warranty 12/30/15.
Tinted windows.
Michelin MXV4 tires.
L1 EVSE upgrade.
FIAMM horns.
Superbright LED lighting.
2013 sun visors.
LED shifter.
Heated seats.
GT-R map lamp lenses.
AV L2 EVSE.

91040
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Re: Finally Going to Japan!

Thu May 25, 2017 9:18 am

What are your and your wife's interests? That will help narrow the choices.
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Stanton
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Re: Finally Going to Japan!

Thu May 25, 2017 9:24 am

We also took a cruise all around Japan last Fall: started in Tokyo and ended in Shanghai...with a short detour to South Korea (Celebrity Cruises). The highlight of our trip was a couple days (on each end) in Tokyo Disney and Shanghai Disney. There are plenty of "1 day tours" of Tokyo, and we took one arranged by the cruise line (the bus passed right by the Nissan plant in Yokohama where my Leaf was built).
Have fun: it's an interesting country!
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RonDawg
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Re: Finally Going to Japan!

Thu May 25, 2017 9:29 am

mwalsh wrote:I think from Nartia we're going to use the Airport Limousine Bus, since it will drop us right at the hotel I have in mind booking (Hotel Sunroute Plaza in Shinjuku, unless anyone here has a better suggestion). I would love to take the train, but we'll have a lot of baggage and Naomi isn't especially adept at being her own porter.


If there is an airport limousine bus direct to your hotel from Narita, this is the best option. As far as getting to the cruise terminal, I also came across this website: https://www.veltra.com/en/asia/japan/tokyo/a/124496 I don't know how good they are, but they are about half the price of the Tokyo Airporter (probably shared use service like SuperShuttle). Viator has something similar: https://www.viator.com/tours/Yokohama/P ... OKPRTHTL_P is for going from Yokohama to Tokyo but I'm sure if you cal them they can book something in the opposite direction.

I've never stayed at the Hotel Sunroute Shinjuku, but looking at the map it looks to be in a very convenient, if very crowded place. Shinjuku is not only Japan's busiest rail station, but it's the busiest transport hub in the world. It's important to look at the maps inside the station and use the right exit for your hotel, or you could get seriously lost; I've been in towns that were smaller than the network of below-ground stores and restaurants attached to Shinjuku.

You also mentioned spending your first night in Tokyo at "full tilt." Assuming you're not jetlagged, I would not wander too far from your hotel, as there's plenty to see around Shinjuku. If you've never been there, Japan is quite a culture shock and even little things like figuring out how to buy a transport card take a bit of time, much less navigating your way around such a densely packed environment. It really brings you out of your comfort zone to be thrust into an environment where you can't read most of the signage, but you'll be glad you experienced it.
Last edited by RonDawg on Thu May 25, 2017 9:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
Blue Ocean 2012 Leaf SV, lost that 1st bar on 11/21/2015 at 26,435 miles.
Lease returned on 12/23/2015. Final LeafStat figures: 225 Gids, 17.44 kWH, SOC 91.89%, SOH 82.36%, 69.49% HX, 54.57 Ahr, battery temp 61.8 F
Now driving a 2015 VW eGolf SEL

User avatar
mwalsh
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Re: Finally Going to Japan!

Thu May 25, 2017 9:41 am

RonDawg wrote:As far as getting to the cruise terminal, I also came across this website: https://www.veltra.com/en/asia/japan/tokyo/a/124496 I don't know how good they are, but they are about half the price of the Tokyo Airporter (probably shared use service like SuperShuttle).


Veltra is booking for Green Tomato there. Green Tomato's shared shuttle service to/from Yokohama only runs when the Diamond Princess is docked. And we'll be on Holland America Volendam, so unfortunately that won't work.
2011 Blue Ocean SL with 71,000 miles.
2015 pack under warranty 12/30/15.
Tinted windows.
Michelin MXV4 tires.
L1 EVSE upgrade.
FIAMM horns.
Superbright LED lighting.
2013 sun visors.
LED shifter.
Heated seats.
GT-R map lamp lenses.
AV L2 EVSE.

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