Japan Trip Part 1: How to prep for your trip
I loved Tokyo. Absolutely loved, loved it there. While I was a bit homesick to see my family and dogs, I was sad to leave. It was so much fun, so clean, so civilized, and very relaxing since we didn’t have to work.
I was in Japan for one week. Mainly in Tokyo, except for one day in Kyoto. I’m finding it a bit daunting on how to collect the information to put on this blog since we did so many things. I think that in this blog post, I’m going to cover some things to take care of before getting to Japan, how to get around Japan, etc. Food and drink will be introduced in a separate post or posts.
Excuse any spelling and grammar mistakes, sentence structure issues, etc., as I’m trying to do this in my spare time.
We exchanged money before our trip because there were cheaper rates at the banks. Keep in mind that the dollars that I write about may differ from what you experience due to exchange rates and inflation, depending on when you go.
You do not tip in Japan. Prices include everything.
We only spent one day out of Tokyo. There were so many things to do and see in Tokyo, that our days were filled to the brim. However, we decided to spend one day in Kyoto, since we weren’t sure when we would be back in Japan. We do have friends that would rather spend time in Kyoto, but our vacation interests differ from theirs. While we were interested in scenery, temples, etc, we didn’t want that to be the main focus of the trip, which is why we spent so many days in Tokyo. We were more interested in city life, comics, shopping, food, and drink. In addition, I had family I wanted to see and it was much easier for them to get to Tokyo than other areas of Japan.
For our trip, we stayed in the Ginza area, which is often compared to 5th avenue in New York City.
Japan Rail Pass:
Since we were going to Kyoto, I purchased Japan Rail Passes for us. With this pass, you can use the bullet train to get you to Kyoto and use the JR train as much as you want. You must purchase this pass before you get to Japan. They do not sell it in Japan. Check out their verified shop lists and be sure to browse this website to make sure that you are eligible for the pass. It was cheaper for us to use the JRP than to buy round trip tickets between Tokyo and Kyoto. Two Japan Rail Passes cost me about $530. Two Japan Rail Passes for Kyoto alone would have cost around $600. And this way, we could also use the pass through the rest of the week. If you do not plan on long distance trips through the bullet train or the JR trains, then do not purchase the JRP. Just buy tickets when you need them.
For this like the bullet train, I would highly recommend reserving a seat, just in case there is an event or holiday going on the day you are using the train that you might not be aware of. We took our JRP to a JRP office at one of the train stations and they reserved our seats on the bullet train.
You cannot use the JRP like how others use tickets or their other passes. Bring it to the agent at the side of the enter/exit booths/turnstiles and they will let you pass through.
We are used to taking the subways in NYC, so it was easy for us to pick up on the Japanese metro. Keep in mind that transportation is owned by private companies in Japan, so things like the JRP will not work on the metro. Different companies mean different tickets. The metro is priced by distance. All you have to do is purchase a ticket first, put the ticket in the turnstile, grab it from the other end. Do not lose your ticket. When you get to your exit station, you will need to stick in your ticket again, but it will not come out again.
To buy the correct ticket, at the ticket booths, simply find your end station. It will be marked by a number, such as 170 or 210, etc. That is your ticket price.
If you purchased the wrong ticket, you can adjust it at your exit station. They have machines set up just for this.
Your hotel can call a car for you or you can simply hail one in the street. Just raise your hand to flag one down. Since we had a lot of luggage, we took a car that we hailed on a taxi line at the airport and had the hotel call one for us to take us to the airport on our last day there. From Haneda airport to Ginza, a cab ride was around $67.
Some people speak English, some people don’t. Learn basic phrases like where is, excuse me, thank you, etc. There are tons of free apps that you can download. The Japan Society NYC YouTube channel also has free Japanese lessons.
If you can make a restaurant reservation, then make one. Especially if it is at a restaurant with limited amount of seating or is famous. Every time a restaurant was willing to take a reservation, I had my family in Japan call the restaurant to get me seats or I went through Pocket Concierge, which is an online reservation service that is much cheaper than other online concierge sites for Japan. Space is very limited at some restaurants, literally, so they may only seat around 10 people for one service, which why a resie is necessary.