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Let's plan a trip! [Japan]

TraceofToxinTraceofToxin King NothingRegistered User regular
edited April 2012 in Help / Advice Forum
So, this isn't going to be your typical, "I GO JAPAN WAT DO?" post. This is essentially a blog or log to keep track of notes and ideas as I plan a trip to Japan for myself and the g/f. I'd like to include everyone interested in the entirety of the planning/preperation for this trip and get feedback along the way. Feel free to interject with whatever, help do research, share ideas, etc. whenever you feel the need. This is going to be long-winded because I sit at work for 12 hours a day, so I hope you're looking for something to read.

To get some of the most basic questions out of the way, here's a rough outline of where we stand so far.

I'm 23, she's 24. We're both in good health, I'm only borderline legally retarded. We're both short white folk in good physical condition. Neither of us is into anime, but we both love the food. I'm a cop in the USAF, she's an IT nerd. That should answer any basic questions about us, moving on!

The plan is to take a 3 week trip to Japan as a present to the g/f and myself for finishing my military contract without pistol whipping any of the window lickers I work with. We are aiming for roughly Aug 30th to Sep 20th. There is a major caveat to this though... we are planning on hiking from the outskirts of Tokyo to the peak of Fujiyama then back down to the edge of Gotenba where we will stop being stubborn mules and return to public transit systems again. The idea is to have enough time to mix touristy shit with walking through the smaller towns along the road from Tokyo to Fuji-Yoshida. Besides this hike and the night in Hakone, there is -nothing- set in stone, so this is where I want ideas of where we can go and things we can do.

I know survival Japanese, but pick it up pretty quick from working with JASDF (Japanese Air Self Defense Force) guys on my last deployment in 2008. Before I left I was able to carry short conversations(Albeit slowly!), more if I was using my notepad with vocab in it. She is studying her ass off in fear of sounding like a "baka gaijin", despite me reassuring her that even if she only knows a few phrases, the people will be impressed she took the time to learn at all. I don't view the language as a barrier at all, but in addition to studying I'll keep my personal rite-in-the-rain (Water resistant) notepad with vocab, key phrases and hiragana/katakana table on me at all times. Just in case.

We're currently budgetting for 12k, all inclusive. The basic, basic breakdown for now is;
Flight - 1500 each (3k) - This is the baseline estimate, I've seen a few flights cheaper. We will be living in Connecticut, so we'll be flying out of either NYC or Bradley international. If anyone knows a good way to pick up tickets for less let me know!
Japan Rail Pass, 7 days - 370 each (740) - This may increase next year, I'm not sure when they review their pricing. We're only looking for a 7 day pass because our first two weeks will be either in/around Tokyo or walking. The last week we plan on hitting the bullet train for a few days either North or West before shooting back to Tokyo the night before our flight.
Food - 50 each, per day (100x21=2100) - I know food will be nowhere near this, but it will ensure we are always behind the budget.
Lodging - 100 each, per night (200x21=4200) - This is a more realistic number than the food, but I still highly doubt we'll be paying that much. If you couldn't guess by the plans to walk across the country, we're not planning on staying in expensive hotels. Hostels, ancient ryokans, it doesn't really matter. The only caveat to this is Hakone, where I want to spend one night in a -nice- modern ryokan after our 100 mile death march (Joking).

That puts us at 10040 for 21 days. If you're wondering where our money for trinkets and things is, we don't plan on spending much. We're packing light because of the hike and to maintain the ability to be completely self reliant if we need to. With round-trip plane tickets, a 7 day JR pass and contacts in the greater Tokyo area, we are fairly safe from running out of money and being stranded bar getting stuck on the opposite side of the country or another catastrophic Tsunami.

Areas of interest;
Fuji Sengen Shrine [Fuji-Yoshida]
Chureito Pagoda [Fuji-Yoshida]
Fujiyama summit [Fujiyama!]
Hakone hot springs [Hakone]
Fushimi Inari Shrines [Kyoto]
Hida no Sato [Takayama]
"Japanese Alps" [Takayama/Hida]
Akechidaira Ropeway [Nikko]
Kamakura
Miyajima
Meiji Shrine [Tokyo]

Basic google map layout for our Fuji hike;
http://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=Hachioji+Station,+1+Asahichō,+Hachiōji-shi,+Tōkyō-to,+Japan+(%E5%85%AB%E7%8E%8B%E5%AD%90%E9%A7%85%EF%BC%88%E6%9D%B1%E4%BA%AC%EF%BC%89)&daddr=sagamiko+station+to:fujisan+station+to:Fuji+Sengen+Shrine+to:%E7%9C%8C%E9%81%93702%E5%8F%B7%E7%B7%9A+to:Gotenba+station+to:Gora+station&hl=en&ie=UTF8&ll=35.604835,139.392815&spn=0.227498,0.308647&sll=35.397446,138.988724&sspn=0.456171,0.617294&geocode=FdkPIAId2CROCClBMDRf2R0ZYDGVCTAvmrq3-A%3BFQZ5HwId2dpLCClRlL0LQhcZYDGq6zGT2It04A%3BFYhvHQIdJttFCClVMr2SzWAZYDFee13z-mWafg%3BFeo9HQIdoc1FCCGjG9gDi7ITaQ%3BFbYDHAIdeANFCA%3BFX2kGgIdTPhHCCmBlr2LRHYZYDF7mxQ2Il4jXA%3BFQriGQIdF7VJCCnhfM_i-KEZYDFPfPDArWZT3g&t=p&dirflg=w&mra=ls&safe=on&z=12

This is where the actual itinerary will go.

Packing list! (Come up with ideas for good gear!)
Backpack
Sleeping Bag
4 days of clothes (3 warm weather, 1 cold weather)
7 days of underwear/socks
Foul weather gear (Jacket/Poncho)
Camera
Kindle (2)
Rite-in-rain pads (2)
Mechanical Pencils
Toothbrushes (2)

[Dec 6]Tonight I'm looking at Ryokans. I'm looking for a place with, at a minimum, private onsen baths for reservation, preferrably with private bath with the room. The g/f has some large tattoos on her legs, so public onsens aren't exactly an ideal option. I'm looking to spend, at most, 400 for the both of us with dinner/breakfast included. This is going to be our relaxing night after the long hike, the appearance of the place isn't a big deal, I'm more concerned with the quality of the baths, availability and the food. A nice view would also be awesome.

Possible Ryokans for the night in Hakone;
http://lalaca.com/index.html - Decent price, great reviews. Private Onsen reservations.
http://www.senkei.net/eng/senkei-hotel.html - Strikes me as more westernized, but has private baths. Pricey. Not sold on it.
http://web.travel.rakuten.co.jp/portal/my/info_page_e.Eng?f_no=18497 - Cheaper, no guest room baths, but privates available.
http://english.ichinoyu.co.jp/honkan/room/index.html - Looks like the best. Options for outdoor bath with the room, meals, all right within budget.

Reccomended restaurants;
Sushi Dai @ Tsukiji [Sushi]
Choco Cro [Restaurant]
Grill Miyata [Steak, NICE!]
COCO curry, Mos Burger and Lotteria. [Fast Food]

Things to try;
Onsen [Hot springs]
Thick tuskemen [Food]
Izakaya [Bar/Restaurant]
Baseball game [Event, derp]

TraceofToxin on
Everyday I wake up is the worst day of my life.
Buy my 40k shit.
«1

Posts

  • UseskaforevilUseskaforevil Registered User
    Very jealous of your trip, and I'll start with some random advice. starting with some advice regarding food:
    you can probably hit your food budget if you try to, but when me and my wife spent 3 weeks there we probably spent about 4,000 yen a day for food.

    sushi dai in tsukiji market was so good in tokyo it blew my mind. you have to get there right when it opens though or there's a 2.5 hour wait (we got there late and still waited) Holy shit was it worth it though, the sushi is just leagues better than anything I've had in the States. Me and my wife also don't really speak much japanese, so it was nice that the chefs there knew enough English to be able to tell us how to eat the different courses and so on. it was about 3,500yen each and way way worth it. http://japanniversaryinjuly.blogspot.com/2011_07_01_archive.html

    COCO curry http://www.ichibanya.co.jp/index.html is a fast food place but incredibly good. actually almost all of their fast food type places are great, mos burger, lotteria are probably my favorites.

    choco cro http://1000thingsaboutjapan.blogspot.com/2010/03/will-miss-138-choco-cro.html
    was good enough we've made a few attempts to recreate their dark chocolate croissants back home.

    another thing I wouldn't miss is finding a place that serves a nice thick tsukemen. I don't know exactly how to find it but if you have friends in tokyo i'd bet they would. sooo good

    there's really probably a few dozen things i could add if you're interested.

    OH I forgot! if you are even remotely interested in baseball go to a baseball game in tokyo. I haven't been to an american baseball game in over a decade but the Japanese baseball game was really really cool. it needs to be experienced.

    as for what to do with those rail passes, there really wasn't a lot interesting north of tokyo, if i were you I'd spend a few days in kyoto. really in the kansai region there are definitely three things I would not miss if i were to plan another trip to japan.

    the fushimi inari shrines are beyond cool, we spent all day twice just walking through them and taking a thousand pictures. it's pretty mindblowing, at least for me.

    and the kobe beef steaks at grill miyata http://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowUserReviews-g298564-d1128059-r61740567-Grill_Miyata-Kyoto_Kyoto_Prefecture_Kinki.html (this is my wife's review) This meal was so good even though we were broke both times after eating there i tried to figure out a way to afford it again. it's a splurge at around 10,000 each, but trust me there is no better way to spend it. the owner is also this awesome old japanese guy who is fluent in english and has a lot of good stories. he's getting up there though and the last time we went he looked pretty tired.

    the hot springs at gamagori http://cherryblossomsareawesomes.blogspot.com/2010/04/day-21-hot-springs-are-bestest.html

    2 peices of random advice:

    I would be to try to learn some katakana, as a lot of words you'll be able to sound out, sound almost exactly like english words. it's not that important but it was pretty useful at times. I spoke 0 Japanese outside of a few polite phrases and I got around just fine. even though i worried about that for months before our trip.

    use http://www.hyperdia.com/ to find train times and routes . it's really easy and we used it everyday to plan our trips.

    I'm rambling now so i'll leave it there. I'm sure you'll have an awesome time



    If you're interested our two Trip Blogs are below and I'm sure my wife could help you with any questions you have. she is really interested in helping Japanese tourism after the quake and has helped at least 3 other couples plan their trips

    http://cherryblossomsareawesomes.blogspot.com/
    http://japanniversaryinjuly.blogspot.com/2011_07_01_archive.html

  • TraceofToxinTraceofToxin King Nothing Registered User regular
    edited December 2011
    [Edit] Thanks for the post and here's my thoughts.
    Very jealous of your trip, and I'll start with some random advice. starting with some advice regarding food:
    you can probably hit your food budget if you try to, but when me and my wife spent 3 weeks there we probably spent about 4,000 yen a day for food.

    Definitely sounds more realistic. Perhaps I should adjust our food budget to 50 USD each? That'd still be less than your estimate 4,000Y together (I'm assuming that's what you meant).
    sushi dai in tsukiji market was so good in tokyo it blew my mind. you have to get there right when it opens though or there's a 2.5 hour wait (we got there late and still waited) Holy shit was it worth it though, the sushi is just leagues better than anything I've had in the States. Me and my wife also don't really speak much japanese, so it was nice that the chefs there knew enough English to be able to tell us how to eat the different courses and so on. it was about 3,500yen each and way way worth it. http://japanniversaryinjuly.blogspot.com/2011_07_01_archive.html

    I've heard the Tsukiji Market was a must-go place, I'll add that to our places to visit, and Sushi Dai to a restaurant list.
    COCO curry http://www.ichibanya.co.jp/index.html is a fast food place but incredibly good. actually almost all of their fast food type places are great, mos burger, lotteria are probably my favorites.

    We're not big on fast food, but I'll add it to a restaurant list in the OP. COCO curry, Mos Burger and Lotteria.
    choco cro http://1000thingsaboutjapan.blogspot.com/2010/03/will-miss-138-choco-cro.html
    was good enough we've made a few attempts to recreate their dark chocolate croissants back home.

    Choco Cro will be added to the restaurant list! Giving us all sorts of places to eat in Tokyo, hah.
    another thing I wouldn't miss is finding a place that serves a nice thick tsukemen. I don't know exactly how to find it but if you have friends in tokyo i'd bet they would. sooo good

    Thick tsukemen added to the list of things to try.
    there's really probably a few dozen things i could add if you're interested.

    Anything you think is a good idea!
    OH I forgot! if you are even remotely interested in baseball go to a baseball game in tokyo. I haven't been to an american baseball game in over a decade but the Japanese baseball game was really really cool. it needs to be experienced.

    Thanks for the tip, but we're not baseball fans. We would be more interested in an MMA event, although I know the scene is dying in Japan.
    as for what to do with those rail passes, there really wasn't a lot interesting north of tokyo, if i were you I'd spend a few days in kyoto. really in the kansai region there are definitely three things I would not miss if i were to plan another trip to japan.

    I'm interested in heading North because I'm a big Basho fan, and this originally was an idea for me to follow his 'Road to the Deep North', however turning the trip into a 2 person ordeal and limiting the time transformed it into what it is now. Kyoto is always cited as a must-see, so we're 99% likely to head out West with our JRP our last week.
    the fushimi inari shrines are beyond cool, we spent all day twice just walking through them and taking a thousand pictures. it's pretty mindblowing, at least for me.

    Fushimi Inari Shrines added!
    and the kobe beef steaks at grill miyata http://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowUserReviews-g298564-d1128059-r61740567-Grill_Miyata-Kyoto_Kyoto_Prefecture_Kinki.html (this is my wife's review) This meal was so good even though we were broke both times after eating there i tried to figure out a way to afford it again. it's a splurge at around 10,000 each, but trust me there is no better way to spend it. the owner is also this awesome old japanese guy who is fluent in english and has a lot of good stories. he's getting up there though and the last time we went he looked pretty tired.

    That sounds amazing. Will make sure to hit it up. Grill Miyata added to restaurant list!

    I was planning on going to Hakone for our hot springs, mainly because we need a private bath due to her giant tattoos. Plus she's not completely comfortable with public bathing, but I'll definitely add it to the places to see just in case.
    2 peices of random advice:

    I would be to try to learn some katakana, as a lot of words you'll be able to sound out, sound almost exactly like english words. it's not that important but it was pretty useful at times. I spoke 0 Japanese outside of a few polite phrases and I got around just fine. even though i worried about that for months before our trip.

    Like I said in the OP, I've got experience working with the Japanese Air Force, so my conversational Japanese isn't bad. I'm familiar with Hiragana, and have a notepad I keep the Hiragana and Katakana syllaballaries in, as well as any important Kanji. Thanks for the heads up though.
    use http://www.hyperdia.com/ to find train times and routes . it's really easy and we used it everyday to plan our trips.

    A++ way appreciated.
    I'm rambling now so i'll leave it there. I'm sure you'll have an awesome time

    That's the plan!
    If you're interested our two Trip Blogs are below and I'm sure my wife could help you with any questions you have. she is really interested in helping Japanese tourism after the quake and has helped at least 3 other couples plan their trips

    http://cherryblossomsareawesomes.blogspot.com/
    http://japanniversaryinjuly.blogspot.com/2011_07_01_archive.html

    I'll read them throughout the next 12 hours, and probably several times in the next few months. I'm sure there's a ton of useful intel in them! Thanks again for the thorough post!

    TraceofToxin on
    Everyday I wake up is the worst day of my life.
    Buy my 40k shit.
  • ReaperSMSReaperSMS Registered User regular
    Just a few random observations from my trip over there, which was back in the second week of august:

    Rain can be unpredictable, but there's almost certainly a 100Y shop within a block or so of you in the generally touristy parts of tokyo.

    Those stored value railcards are really really handy, and you want two of them for getting around tokyo. (you zap it at the turnstile at both ends, and it automatically computes the fare. Otherwise you have to go to the kiosk every time. Downside is you can't share them, since it tracks endpoints)

    Aforementioned cards work with a number of the vending machines, and the busses, and with all the JR trains in the tokyo vicinity (even out to fujiyama I think. I know they work for getting to kamakura)

    Coco and other curry houses are good eating, for a price reasonable for a mid to upscale fast place in the US (~7-8$ @ 85Y/$, similar to a Chipotle)

    If you decide to walk across kamakura (tons of shrines, or beaches if the shrines aren't your thing) remember sunscreen.

    A little katakana goes a long way, slime forest (http://lrnj.com) is a passably decent approach for it. It was rather amusing to see that the translation of "Cash on delivery” is カシュオンデリベリ, literally "kashu on deriberi". Hiragana is a bit more opaque.

    The info maps that are scattered around do not put north at the top of the map. The map is oriented such that up is straight ahead, as you are looking at the map.

  • UseskaforevilUseskaforevil Registered User
    if you fly into Narita definitely get the NEX deal, it's a fast train to tokyo and you get a rail card with something like 2k yen on it. you cannot beat this deal and the card can be recharged as much as you like. since the japanese don't use credit cards for barely anything these rail cards are being used more and more in shops too. but cash is definitely king there as i'm sure you know.

  • CygnusZCygnusZ Registered User regular
    It is possible to just stay at love hotels in Tokyo for around 8000 yen a night. That's probably the cheapest accommodations I can think of off the top of my head, and they're actually somewhat nicer than "respectable" business hotels. When you're traveling across the countryside I'd think that minshuku would be the way to go. They might end up costing around the 10000 yen, but usually you'll get a dinner out of it.

  • UseskaforevilUseskaforevil Registered User
    Oh and just in case you looked at the travel blogs and were wondering, we spent way less than you guys are preparing to, probably both trips ended up costing 12k total (airfare was free the 2nd time though) . Just saying in case you were worried about $, I'm sure you'll be fine.

  • TraceofToxinTraceofToxin King Nothing Registered User regular
    ReaperSMS wrote:
    Just a few random observations from my trip over there, which was back in the second week of august:

    Rain can be unpredictable, but there's almost certainly a 100Y shop within a block or so of you in the generally touristy parts of tokyo.

    Since we plan to do a LOT of walking, we'll be having waterproof jackets/ponchos, so we're not too worried about the rain. I'm assuming the 100Y shops carry all the same general things as a dollar store?
    Those stored value railcards are really really handy, and you want two of them for getting around tokyo. (you zap it at the turnstile at both ends, and it automatically computes the fare. Otherwise you have to go to the kiosk every time. Downside is you can't share them, since it tracks endpoints)

    Aforementioned cards work with a number of the vending machines, and the busses, and with all the JR trains in the tokyo vicinity (even out to fujiyama I think. I know they work for getting to kamakura)[/quote]

    So putting some Y on those cards would be a good investment for the first two weeks when we'll be using public transit pretty sporadically then? Vs the JRP which is better if you plan on doing a lot of travelling in the course of the week, right?
    Coco and other curry houses are good eating, for a price reasonable for a mid to upscale fast place in the US (~7-8$ @ 85Y/$, similar to a Chipotle)

    Chiptole is the magic word. That place is amazing, and now Coco is a must-visit. Good call!
    If you decide to walk across kamakura (tons of shrines, or beaches if the shrines aren't your thing) remember sunscreen.

    What is Kamakura? The coastline?
    A little katakana goes a long way, slime forest (http://lrnj.com) is a passably decent approach for it. It was rather amusing to see that the translation of "Cash on delivery” is カシュオンデリベリ, literally "kashu on deriberi". Hiragana is a bit more opaque.

    Could you expand on 'Hiragana is a bit more opaque.' ? I've studied Hiragana so I'm pretty comfortable with it, but I've got more than enough time to learn Katanakana.
    The info maps that are scattered around do not put north at the top of the map. The map is oriented such that up is straight ahead, as you are looking at the map.

    Talking about physical paper maps in Japan? If that's true I'll just orient them to my own maps before navigating. I plan on getting hold of MGS (Military Grid System) maps for anywhere we plan on going as a backup, they'll have the important landmarks for foot travel and in case I can't cipher the Japanese maps for some strange reason.

    Thanks for the advice!
    if you fly into Narita definitely get the NEX deal, it's a fast train to tokyo and you get a rail card with something like 2k yen on it. you cannot beat this deal and the card can be recharged as much as you like. since the japanese don't use credit cards for barely anything these rail cards are being used more and more in shops too. but cash is definitely king there as i'm sure you know.

    Do you get the card at the airport or do I have to order it ahead of time like the JRP? If this is the card previously mentioned by Reaper then it sounds like an awesome deal.
    CygnusZ wrote:
    It is possible to just stay at love hotels in Tokyo for around 8000 yen a night. That's probably the cheapest accommodations I can think of off the top of my head, and they're actually somewhat nicer than "respectable" business hotels. When you're traveling across the countryside I'd think that minshuku would be the way to go. They might end up costing around the 10000 yen, but usually you'll get a dinner out of it.

    I'm assuming you mean for 2 people with your estimates? Most places I'm expecting to pay 4500-6500 each, a night. Maybe as low as 3000 if I'm staying someplace I might wake up without a kidney.
    Oh and just in case you looked at the travel blogs and were wondering, we spent way less than you guys are preparing to, probably both trips ended up costing 12k total (airfare was free the 2nd time though) . Just saying in case you were worried about $, I'm sure you'll be fine.

    I honestly don't expect to spend more than 8-9k, but I've been in the military too long and have a habit of being overpepared. We're trying to stay minimalistic with our packing lists, but money you can't be too careful with. I'd rather pack too little and have enough money to buy what we need than pack too much and get stuck with no cash.

    I'm guessing I should sign up for skymiles or whatever programs before I buy our tickets, eh?

    Everyday I wake up is the worst day of my life.
    Buy my 40k shit.
  • Shazkar ShadowstormShazkar Shadowstorm Registered User regular
    fyi i am also planning a japan trip: http://forums.penny-arcade.com/discussion/152167/goin-to-japan-nnnnnnnnnnnn-yaaaa much shorter duration though

    i managed to snag (and saw plenty of flights) for ~1000 USD from nyc, direct

    just keep searching for flights on kayak, hipmunk, etc

    anyone who flies anywhere ever should always sign up for airline miles programs. there are no downsides. it's a waste if you don't. i use : https://awardwallet.com/ to keep track of miles, but, yeah, you should get accounts on the different major airlines.


    i'm gonna keep an eye on your thread too so i can figure out my plans also...

    | Steam & XBL: Shazkar | 3DS: 3110-5421-3843 | SS Wishlists |
  • wonderpugwonderpug Registered User regular
    On your things to try list, add a visit to a ryokan for food & drinks. They're basically a perfect cross between tapas restaurant and bar. You generally grab a table, order some drinks and a few dishes, and plan to lounge about for a long while, ordering more drinks and more dishes as needed.

    One of the ones I visited a few years back on my Japan trip, I stretched my beginner Japanese to the limits striking up a conversation with a couple guys one table over, and the next thing I know they're buying us drinks and getting us to try new dishes, they're laughing at how we're not keeling over in disgust at the weird foods they ordered us, and we're buying them drinks in return. One of the best nights of the 3 week trip.

    Also, since you've got a rail pass and a good chunk of time for your trip, I highly highly recommend you look into visiting the Hida District; the Hida/Takayama area. The region is called the "Japanese Alps" and the scenery is incredible. Even just the train ride up to Takayama is a treat, as you pass over a bunch of scenic bridges and small towns. In Takayama you'll find the Hida no Sato historical village, a recreation of an old timey village with thatched roof houses and such constructed out of the surviving buildings in the surrounding area. There's also a ton of onsen in the area, either through the usual for-pay institutions or for free in the carved out areas people make in the streams. The region is also where the fancypants hida beef is raised, so if you want to spend a ridiculous amount of money on a piece of meat, this is a great place to do it.

  • TraceofToxinTraceofToxin King Nothing Registered User regular
    fyi i am also planning a japan trip: http://forums.penny-arcade.com/discussion/152167/goin-to-japan-nnnnnnnnnnnn-yaaaa much shorter duration though

    I read your thread, it had some helpful info in there. I'll probably import some of the reccomended places to visit to my OP.
    i managed to snag (and saw plenty of flights) for ~1000 USD from nyc, direct

    just keep searching for flights on kayak, hipmunk, etc

    Who did you fly with? I've seen good deals flying through China, but I'm not sure what connecting in China would be like. Good heads up, I can't imagine the end of August/early Sept being more, considering it's out of "tourist" season.
    anyone who flies anywhere ever should always sign up for airline miles programs. there are no downsides. it's a waste if you don't. i use : https://awardwallet.com/ to keep track of miles, but, yeah, you should get accounts on the different major airlines.

    Did you just go to their websites and sign up? I've flown a TON being in the Military, and I'm pretty sure I could've snagged a bunch of miles by now. Kicking myself in the ass over this one.
    i'm gonna keep an eye on your thread too so i can figure out my plans also...

    That's one of the main reasons I wanted to do this. I wanted to make a thread to cover all sorts of questions people have about where to go and pricing.

    Everyday I wake up is the worst day of my life.
    Buy my 40k shit.
  • TraceofToxinTraceofToxin King Nothing Registered User regular
    wonderpug wrote:
    On your things to try list, add a visit to a ryokan for food & drinks. They're basically a perfect cross between tapas restaurant and bar. You generally grab a table, order some drinks and a few dishes, and plan to lounge about for a long while, ordering more drinks and more dishes as needed.

    At the end of the OP you can see I'm trying to decide on a ryokan in Hakone for one night, although we plan on staying in others while we travel.
    One of the ones I visited a few years back on my Japan trip, I stretched my beginner Japanese to the limits striking up a conversation with a couple guys one table over, and the next thing I know they're buying us drinks and getting us to try new dishes, they're laughing at how we're not keeling over in disgust at the weird foods they ordered us, and we're buying them drinks in return. One of the best nights of the 3 week trip.

    I've had some great times conversing with people I barely understand. It adds a depth to the conversation when you're REALLY trying to understand the other person. Not like when you're talking to strangers in your native language and you're simply conversing to be pleasent. Another reason why we really wanted to get away from the touristy areas and travel on foot, we get to interact with more people and get a more intimate feeling for the area.
    Also, since you've got a rail pass and a good chunk of time for your trip, I highly highly recommend you look into visiting the Hida District; the Hida/Takayama area. The region is called the "Japanese Alps" and the scenery is incredible. Even just the train ride up to Takayama is a treat, as you pass over a bunch of scenic bridges and small towns. In Takayama you'll find the Hida no Sato historical village, a recreation of an old timey village with thatched roof houses and such constructed out of the surviving buildings in the surrounding area. There's also a ton of onsen in the area, either through the usual for-pay institutions or for free in the carved out areas people make in the streams. The region is also where the fancypants hida beef is raised, so if you want to spend a ridiculous amount of money on a piece of meat, this is a great place to do it.

    We're just getting the rail pass for 7 days, so we'll need to plan that time carefully. We could hit Takayama then head to Kyoto before heading back to Tokyo. It sounds like a much more rural area than Kyoto, which is exactly what we're looking for.

    Good call!


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  • Shazkar ShadowstormShazkar Shadowstorm Registered User regular
    fyi i am also planning a japan trip: http://forums.penny-arcade.com/discussion/152167/goin-to-japan-nnnnnnnnnnnn-yaaaa much shorter duration though

    I read your thread, it had some helpful info in there. I'll probably import some of the reccomended places to visit to my OP.
    i managed to snag (and saw plenty of flights) for ~1000 USD from nyc, direct

    just keep searching for flights on kayak, hipmunk, etc

    Who did you fly with? I've seen good deals flying through China, but I'm not sure what connecting in China would be like. Good heads up, I can't imagine the end of August/early Sept being more, considering it's out of "tourist" season.
    anyone who flies anywhere ever should always sign up for airline miles programs. there are no downsides. it's a waste if you don't. i use : https://awardwallet.com/ to keep track of miles, but, yeah, you should get accounts on the different major airlines.

    Did you just go to their websites and sign up? I've flown a TON being in the Military, and I'm pretty sure I could've snagged a bunch of miles by now. Kicking myself in the ass over this one.
    i'm gonna keep an eye on your thread too so i can figure out my plans also...

    That's one of the main reasons I wanted to do this. I wanted to make a thread to cover all sorts of questions people have about where to go and pricing.

    It really depends on where you are flying out of (did you say?).

    I saw flights on Delta for ~980 when I was searching, but I got mine on American (even though American is American and blows), because I wanted to fly into KIX and out of NRT to save time since i'm going for 11 nights only

    I just say keep searching Kayak/Hipmunk/sites like that, and hopefully you'll find something... the prices will go up and down, because for a while I was only seeing 1300+, but then I found a flight for 1000.

    You can sign up for rewards programs on any of the airlines from their websites. Here's a good resource http://thepointsguy.com/beginners-guide/ (you can ignore all the stuff about credit cards if you're not interested, but he provides links to all the major airlines' rewards programs)

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  • wonderpugwonderpug Registered User regular
    wonderpug wrote:
    On your things to try list, add a visit to a ryokan for food & drinks. They're basically a perfect cross between tapas restaurant and bar. You generally grab a table, order some drinks and a few dishes, and plan to lounge about for a long while, ordering more drinks and more dishes as needed.

    At the end of the OP you can see I'm trying to decide on a ryokan in Hakone for one night, although we plan on staying in others while we travel.

    I misspoke. In my mind I wanted to give you a thumbs up for including a ryokan on your trip, because they're a fun experience.

    What I meant to type was that you should visit an izakaya, which is the tapas restaurant / bar type place I described.

  • wonderpugwonderpug Registered User regular
    We're just getting the rail pass for 7 days, so we'll need to plan that time carefully. We could hit Takayama then head to Kyoto before heading back to Tokyo. It sounds like a much more rural area than Kyoto, which is exactly what we're looking for.

    Kyoto isn't rural at all, so if that's what you're looking for then the Hida District is a good bet.

    Another rural option that might be easier to fit into your plans is Nikko, which is a short--well hell, I guess it's like 60 miles away from Tokyo. I didn't remember it taking that long to get to.

    I'll toss it out there anyway. Nikko is a relatively small town with a cool sacred red bridge and a dense assortment of temples clustered together. Nearby is the Akechidaira Ropeway, a tram that goes up some high mountain peaks to give a great view of the surrounding mountainous area.

    Between Hida/Takayama and Nikko I'd opt for Hida/Takayama, but if Nikko is easier to get to then it's a great option for getting away from the big cities. Maybe the train there is really fast? I don't know why I thought it was so much closer to Tokyo.

  • TraceofToxinTraceofToxin King Nothing Registered User regular
    It really depends on where you are flying out of (did you say?).

    BAM. Got me! Something to add to the OP.

    I'll be living in Connecticut, so I can easily fly out of NYC, CT or Mass. NYC will probably be cheapest!
    I saw flights on Delta for ~980 when I was searching, but I got mine on American (even though American is American and blows), because I wanted to fly into KIX and out of NRT to save time since i'm going for 11 nights only

    KIX? I found one flight through Seoul for 1100 out of NYC into Narita.
    I just say keep searching Kayak/Hipmunk/sites like that, and hopefully you'll find something... the prices will go up and down, because for a while I was only seeing 1300+, but then I found a flight for 1000.

    Persistance is the key! I've got plenty of time.
    You can sign up for rewards programs on any of the airlines from their websites. Here's a good resource http://thepointsguy.com/beginners-guide/ (you can ignore all the stuff about credit cards if you're not interested, but he provides links to all the major airlines' rewards programs)

    Thanks for that. I'll need to make sure I get one for whatever airline I pick.
    wonderpug wrote:
    I misspoke. In my mind I wanted to give you a thumbs up for including a ryokan on your trip, because they're a fun experience.

    What I meant to type was that you should visit an izakaya, which is the tapas restaurant / bar type place I described.

    Got it! Added to OP! Thanks for the idea.

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  • TraceofToxinTraceofToxin King Nothing Registered User regular
    wonderpug wrote:
    We're just getting the rail pass for 7 days, so we'll need to plan that time carefully. We could hit Takayama then head to Kyoto before heading back to Tokyo. It sounds like a much more rural area than Kyoto, which is exactly what we're looking for.

    Kyoto isn't rural at all, so if that's what you're looking for then the Hida District is a good bet.

    Another rural option that might be easier to fit into your plans is Nikko, which is a short--well hell, I guess it's like 60 miles away from Tokyo. I didn't remember it taking that long to get to.

    I'll toss it out there anyway. Nikko is a relatively small town with a cool sacred red bridge and a dense assortment of temples clustered together. Nearby is the Akechidaira Ropeway, a tram that goes up some high mountain peaks to give a great view of the surrounding mountainous area.

    Between Hida/Takayama and Nikko I'd opt for Hida/Takayama, but if Nikko is easier to get to then it's a great option for getting away from the big cities. Maybe the train there is really fast? I don't know why I thought it was so much closer to Tokyo.

    Great call, we might get both. 60 miles isn't that far. I'll throw it in the OP!

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  • Shazkar ShadowstormShazkar Shadowstorm Registered User regular
    You should be able to get a direct flight out of JFK or EWR to NRT... there are a bunch that fly direct it seems, which is nice, since it's not that much longer to fly from here to Japan than it is from the west coast to Japan. Thanks north pole!

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  • darkmayodarkmayo Registered User regular
    I say do a day trip to Himeji and visit the castle there, its within walking distance from the Shinkansen and there is a shopping arcade right outside the trains that extend most of the way to the castle.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Himeji_Castle


    For lodgings in Tokyo, I suggest you check out the Sakura Hotel.

    http://www.sakura-hotel-ikebukuro.com/?gclid=CIzQlK-l7qwCFQdN4AodSgruNA

  • LankyseanLankysean Registered User regular
    You should be able to get a direct flight out of JFK or EWR to NRT... there are a bunch that fly direct it seems, which is nice, since it's not that much longer to fly from here to Japan than it is from the west coast to Japan. Thanks north pole!

    I flew out of Newark twice with direct flights to Narita international, the flight there was 14 hours and 16 back if I remember right... could have been reversed. I'd really recommend bumping yourself up to business or first class if you can afford it.

    One cultural note: When you enter a shop they will shout "Irasshaimase" at you and if you are unprepared for it then it can be a little disturbing. You are not required to respond to it but a smile or nod would be nice, especially if its a small store or restaurant. The first time I went to Japan, I had really bad jet lag the first night and didn't sleep at all for almost 40 hours in a row, so I went for a walk at 3am and wondered into an am/pm convenience store. Upon entering the store I was greeted by 2 employees and I promptly ran away, I thought I had broken some rule that I didn't know about and was being told to leave.

  • TraceofToxinTraceofToxin King Nothing Registered User regular
    You should be able to get a direct flight out of JFK or EWR to NRT... there are a bunch that fly direct it seems, which is nice, since it's not that much longer to fly from here to Japan than it is from the west coast to Japan. Thanks north pole!

    Most direct flights are around 1500, with flights connecting in the UAE, Korea or China being around 1100. The extra 400 will save generally 12+ hours and the hassle of connecting, so it might be worth it. Hopefully I can find a direct flight for less, but I'm willing to pay it for the convenience.
    darkmayo wrote:
    I say do a day trip to Himeji and visit the castle there, its within walking distance from the Shinkansen and there is a shopping arcade right outside the trains that extend most of the way to the castle.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Himeji_Castle


    For lodgings in Tokyo, I suggest you check out the Sakura Hotel.

    http://www.sakura-hotel-ikebukuro.com/?gclid=CIzQlK-l7qwCFQdN4AodSgruNA

    Himeji Castle sounds pretty boss, added to the OP!

    That hotel page isn't opening at work, getting a DNS error. Shitty.

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  • TraceofToxinTraceofToxin King Nothing Registered User regular
    Lankysean wrote:
    You should be able to get a direct flight out of JFK or EWR to NRT... there are a bunch that fly direct it seems, which is nice, since it's not that much longer to fly from here to Japan than it is from the west coast to Japan. Thanks north pole!

    I flew out of Newark twice with direct flights to Narita international, the flight there was 14 hours and 16 back if I remember right... could have been reversed. I'd really recommend bumping yourself up to business or first class if you can afford it.

    Yeah, I looked at bumping up... double the flight price... no thanks. Haha. Maybe if I can find a good deal.
    One cultural note: When you enter a shop they will shout "Irasshaimase" at you and if you are unprepared for it then it can be a little disturbing. You are not required to respond to it but a smile or nod would be nice, especially if its a small store or restaurant. The first time I went to Japan, I had really bad jet lag the first night and didn't sleep at all for almost 40 hours in a row, so I went for a walk at 3am and wondered into an am/pm convenience store. Upon entering the store I was greeted by 2 employees and I promptly ran away, I thought I had broken some rule that I didn't know about and was being told to leave.

    I'm familiar with their declarations (itadakimasu, otsukaresama deshita, etc.), but this had me laughing. I look forward to it!

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  • darkmayodarkmayo Registered User regular
    You should be able to get a direct flight out of JFK or EWR to NRT... there are a bunch that fly direct it seems, which is nice, since it's not that much longer to fly from here to Japan than it is from the west coast to Japan. Thanks north pole!

    Most direct flights are around 1500, with flights connecting in the UAE, Korea or China being around 1100. The extra 400 will save generally 12+ hours and the hassle of connecting, so it might be worth it. Hopefully I can find a direct flight for less, but I'm willing to pay it for the convenience.
    darkmayo wrote:
    I say do a day trip to Himeji and visit the castle there, its within walking distance from the Shinkansen and there is a shopping arcade right outside the trains that extend most of the way to the castle.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Himeji_Castle


    For lodgings in Tokyo, I suggest you check out the Sakura Hotel.

    http://www.sakura-hotel-ikebukuro.com/?gclid=CIzQlK-l7qwCFQdN4AodSgruNA

    Himeji Castle sounds pretty boss, added to the OP!

    That hotel page isn't opening at work, getting a DNS error. Shitty.

    Try this one
    http://www.sakura-hotel-ikebukuro.com/

  • UseskaforevilUseskaforevil Registered User
    haha have fun with the book my wife wrote you.

    we went to himeji castle too. it was pretty cool but they're doing a lot of restoration work on (it (till 2014) http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3501.html ) so you might want to head somewhere else. osaka castle is popular but i don't have any personal experience with it.

  • TraceofToxinTraceofToxin King Nothing Registered User regular
    edited December 2011
    haha have fun with the book my wife wrote you.

    we went to himeji castle too. it was pretty cool but they're doing a lot of restoration work on (it (till 2014) http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3501.html ) so you might want to head somewhere else. osaka castle is popular but i don't have any personal experience with it.

    I already ready it and wrote her the novella book report on it, hah.

    I thought I read that, but a quick google search didn't show anything. I'll pull it from the OP. Thanks for the heads up.

    Still getting a DNS error on that link @Darkmayo, might work from my villa computer.

    TraceofToxin on
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  • darkmayodarkmayo Registered User regular
    edited December 2011
    haha have fun with the book my wife wrote you.

    we went to himeji castle too. it was pretty cool but they're doing a lot of restoration work on (it (till 2014) http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3501.html ) so you might want to head somewhere else. osaka castle is popular but i don't have any personal experience with it.

    Bummer on the construction, I was there in 2008 and it was quite a sight. Was at Osaka castle as well.. looks like a castle on the outside but the inside is kinda meh, done up like museum since the original castle was firebombed in WWII (if I recall)

    darkmayo on
  • Shazkar ShadowstormShazkar Shadowstorm Registered User regular
    You should be able to get a direct flight out of JFK or EWR to NRT... there are a bunch that fly direct it seems, which is nice, since it's not that much longer to fly from here to Japan than it is from the west coast to Japan. Thanks north pole!

    Most direct flights are around 1500, with flights connecting in the UAE, Korea or China being around 1100. The extra 400 will save generally 12+ hours and the hassle of connecting, so it might be worth it. Hopefully I can find a direct flight for less, but I'm willing to pay it for the convenience.


    yeah keep checking.

    it's still super early for august.

    right now i'm looking at march and april, and there are direct flights all over for max of 1200.

    flying all the way through dubai is not worth it. that'd blow. connecting in korea wouldnt be so bad if its direct to korea.

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  • TraceofToxinTraceofToxin King Nothing Registered User regular
    I've heard too many horror stories of China, and over the course of 2 deployments had my fill of the Middle East. I've heard good things about Korea though, so that remains a viable option.

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  • CygnusZCygnusZ Registered User regular
    CygnusZ wrote:
    It is possible to just stay at love hotels in Tokyo for around 8000 yen a night. That's probably the cheapest accommodations I can think of off the top of my head, and they're actually somewhat nicer than "respectable" business hotels. When you're traveling across the countryside I'd think that minshuku would be the way to go. They might end up costing around the 10000 yen, but usually you'll get a dinner out of it.

    I'm assuming you mean for 2 people with your estimates? Most places I'm expecting to pay 4500-6500 each, a night. Maybe as low as 3000 if I'm staying someplace I might wake up without a kidney.

    Love hotels are fully automated. You walk in press, the button for whatever room you want, go up the elevator and enter the room. Then, the next morning, you just go to the machine in the front of the room and literally press the checkout button and feed it money. It'll be around 4000 yen a person for what is basically a luxury hotel room. Those rooms you're seeing for 3000yen or so are like, 3 tatami mats large.

  • ReaperSMSReaperSMS Registered User regular
    ReaperSMS wrote:
    Just a few random observations from my trip over there, which was back in the second week of august:

    Rain can be unpredictable, but there's almost certainly a 100Y shop within a block or so of you in the generally touristy parts of tokyo.

    Since we plan to do a LOT of walking, we'll be having waterproof jackets/ponchos, so we're not too worried about the rain. I'm assuming the 100Y shops carry all the same general things as a dollar store?

    Indeed. At the time I was there, it was more like $1.20, but yeah, same sort of deal.
    Aforementioned cards work with a number of the vending machines, and the busses, and with all the JR trains in the tokyo vicinity (even out to fujiyama I think. I know they work for getting to kamakura)

    So putting some Y on those cards would be a good investment for the first two weeks when we'll be using public transit pretty sporadically then? Vs the JRP which is better if you plan on doing a lot of travelling in the course of the week, right?

    I don't recall what the cost on the JRP was, in general, a ride on the yamanote line (big circle line around tokyo, pretty much the only train I rode while I was there) is between 130Y and 250Y a ride, depending on how many stops you have to go. If you're just going around Tokyo and nearby areas, the railpass is likely overkill at $363/person. Within tokyo, that's 17-30 rides a day, per person. It's about 700Y or so per person for an all-day pass to Kamakura. I don't know that the JRP would start paying off unless/until you were using it to get to Kyoto, Hiroshima, or other Points Moste Far.

    The Suica card (the stored value one I mentioned) you can get at most of the larger stations in tokyo I think. I'm not terribly clear on that, as the one I had was a loaner from a friend who lived there. I just had to sort through the kiosks enough to get to him, with the occasional phone call to sort things out.

    One thing that comes to mind if you do use the one-off tickets, the slot you'd put the ticket in is about 5x wider than the ticket itself.
    Coco and other curry houses are good eating, for a price reasonable for a mid to upscale fast place in the US (~7-8$ @ 85Y/$, similar to a Chipotle)

    Chiptole is the magic word. That place is amazing, and now Coco is a must-visit. Good call!

    Food is of course curry, so rice + meat, albeit tasty tasty meat.
    If you decide to walk across kamakura (tons of shrines, or beaches if the shrines aren't your thing) remember sunscreen.

    What is Kamakura? The coastline?

    It's a town on/near the coast, with a large number of shrines and temples, as well as hiking trails and beaches. http://wikitravel.org/en/Kamakura has more details.
    A little katakana goes a long way, slime forest (http://lrnj.com) is a passably decent approach for it. It was rather amusing to see that the translation of "Cash on delivery” is カシュオンデリベリ, literally "kashu on deriberi". Hiragana is a bit more opaque.

    Could you expand on 'Hiragana is a bit more opaque.' ? I've studied Hiragana so I'm pretty comfortable with it, but I've got more than enough time to learn Katanakana.

    Mostly just that you have to have some knowledge of Japanese vocabulary to make sense of anything in hiragana or kanji. Knowing that えび is Ebi doesn't do you any good unless you know that Ebi = shrimp for instance.
    The info maps that are scattered around do not put north at the top of the map. The map is oriented such that up is straight ahead, as you are looking at the map.

    Talking about physical paper maps in Japan? If that's true I'll just orient them to my own maps before navigating. I plan on getting hold of MGS (Military Grid System) maps for anywhere we plan on going as a backup, they'll have the important landmarks for foot travel and in case I can't cipher the Japanese maps for some strange reason.

    These were just local information maps, little kiosk things with big friendly 'i in a circle' icons above them, that'd have a map of the surrounding area, with some notable destinations pointed out.

    Oh, another thing, though you probably know this already: your cellphone will not work in Japan. The prepaid ones are apparantly quite difficult to get a hold of, but there's a number of companies that will rent one to you. Some will mail it to you in the US, others you pick it up at Narita. I had one through Mobal Narita. The phone was functional enough, but the plan they offered was a bit usurious. There was technically no daily fee, they just charged 300Y/minute for voice. Incoming calls were free, but SMS texts were 200Y a piece in every direction. Email was something like 20Y per 10KB though.

    Email straight from the phone generally worked well, and everyone with a cellphone in japan has email on it it seems. Only issue I had was that they didn't set up the sender address on the phone, had to enter that myself -- and the only indication about that was an error message in all Japanese that my expat friend didn't recognize until I mentioned the actual problem later.

  • Alfred J. KwakAlfred J. Kwak Registered User
    when I get to visit Japan (eventually), I definitely wouldn't want to miss this

    22MB003_.jpg

  • Limp mooseLimp moose Registered User regular
    Hi,

    I currently live in Japan and have been in the Yokohama/Tokyo area for the last 2+ years. If you have any specific questions feel free to PM me. I can tell you that the HIKE you are planning is one hell of a hike. Not sure exactly where it will start from but FUJI is not super close to Tokyo. A flight in a helicopter from landmark tower in Yokohama (30 mins outside Tokyo by train.) Is a good 40 minutes. And that is at a speed of about 150mph as the crow fly's. Walking that will be painful. Plus hiking Fuji in august when all the tourists are there is not as magical as it could be. You essentially stand in line the entire way up the mountain. The weather will be about as hot as most people can stand plus 100% humidity. (August is just awful in Tokyo. SOoooo Hot.) You are a real mountain/bear grills type person if this sounds appealing. It rains almost every afternoon in early August.

    Not to radically change your plans but you might have more fun if you started up in Hakone and hiked from there. It would still be a several day hike but you would skip about a week of endless city on the outskirts of Tokyo as you worked your way through the kanagawa plain and atsugi area. I drive through there every day on my way to work and it is worth skipping. If you are coming all the way to Japan I could not recommend more a few side destinations I didn't see in your original post.

    You could spend multiple days hiking in Kyoto. After years of being here the coolest stuff I have seen is all down in Kyoto. Its 250 bucks for a round trip ticket if you book through japanican. The 1000 torri gate shrine in my opinion is the coolest thing to see here. But there is still tons of neat stuff besides that. About.com ranks the top 100 things in kyoto and all of them are cool.

    A side trip to Osaka is more than worth it if you have any interest in fashion or night life. Osaka is way cool. If you can get them I can't recommend enough going to a tigers baseball game in Osaka. The most intense baseball ever. If you don't make it to Osaka still go to a yacult swallows game in tokyo/shibuya. The umbrella thing is worth seeing in person. Also in Osaka is the Starwars sushi guy. You can google him. SO COOL!

    If you like hiking and wine I did a wine trip to yamanashi that was very pleasant and pretty interesting. I can recommend some good vineyards.

    In the summer time there isn't much to do in Nagano besides hiking some gorgeous mountains but you can do that anywhere that has mountains so I would say skip it. There is some cool canyoning / kayaking / rafting but it is all in april/may by august most of the runs have dried up.

    The best time bar none to come is during the cherry blossom season. That absolutely blows me away every year. But that is in March/April.

    In summary a 2 week hike in august is going to be hot, miserable, and not exactly as exciting as you imagine. Maybe shorten it to 3 or 4 days from Hakone to fuji and head south to Kyoto/Osaka/Hiroshima with those extra days. You will be tired of riding the shinkansen by the end of it but you will have way more memories and better pictures. Also when you are in tokyo be sure to check out the Meiji shrine, and eat some yakitori specifically wasabi yaki (fried chicken with wasabi.) I make everyone who comes visit do those two things at least!

    Cheers.

  • Limp mooseLimp moose Registered User regular
    I just noticed this bit
    Talking about physical paper maps in Japan? If that's true I'll just orient them to my own maps before navigating. I plan on getting hold of MGS (Military Grid System) maps for anywhere we plan on going as a backup, they'll have the important landmarks for foot travel and in case I can't cipher the Japanese maps for some strange reason.

    I am in the military out here as a pilot, the maps we have are TERRIBLE!!!!! Would not trust for land nav. The Japanese military has their own maps and we use those. Ours are seriously left over from after the war. They are terrible. I think even our flight pubs were last updated in the 90s We use JAPA charts for our low levels. Even during the recovery effort after the earthquake we couldn't get quality chart products. There are multiple army bases on the kanagawa plain and up at fuji you could try and get maps at but my recommendation would be to buy a GPS unit and learn how to read the Hira/kata on the google maps. It is much more effective. The road system here is maddening due to the hilly terrain so even walking can be confusing as some roads are for pedestrians and some are not.

  • Limp mooseLimp moose Registered User regular
    I also noticed you mentioned the sushi market in tokyo. I can tell you that the rules for that place have changed recently. You can no longer see the fish auctions unless you are a member of a small tour group that has to be booked ahead of time. If you just show up you will essentially just see a lot of fish.

    Instead I would recommend researching a restaurant that serves only sushi from that market and go there instead. You still get to eat great sushi but you don't have to get up at 4am and wait in a monster line to see a bunch of dudes in fisherman outfits yelling at each other. 3 years ago it was quite a bit different experience than it is today. Also in August the market is kind of smelly. Sadly you won't be here during Fugu season (the ber months!) so finding some of that to eat may be difficult. Avoid the sea urchin. Even live squid in korea was better tasting than that stuff. Bleh.

  • UseskaforevilUseskaforevil Registered User
    the fish auction was closed to the general public when we went, and to be honest all we did was go to the sushi place and leave, but it was still way worth it.

    as for a gps we have android phones and just pre-downloaded maps when we were still in the states (they last 30 days now i think) . we turned off all wireless connections outside of GPS and just used those. Often the things we wanted to see were easy to find but a few times it was helpful.

    As far as fugu goes i'd heard it was an acquired taste and not really worth it for tourists. what's your opinion limp?

    oh yea and definitely find an izakaya, we went to one under the train tracks in ginza (i think) the yakitori and the liver were pretty great.

  • wonderpugwonderpug Registered User regular
    If you want more info on how visiting the Tsukiji fish market works now, my dad was on vacation in Japan just last month and he got to see the morning auction. I'd be happy to ask him any questions you may have.

  • TraceofToxinTraceofToxin King Nothing Registered User regular
    Before I respond to all the individual responses (Thanks for the time guys!), and at the risk of sounding like an ass, I have to insist people read the OP before commenting. There were several things said which were addressed or based off info that was contrary to the OP. Regardless, thank you again for your responses!
    ReaperSMS wrote:
    I don't recall what the cost on the JRP was, in general, a ride on the yamanote line (big circle line around tokyo, pretty much the only train I rode while I was there) is between 130Y and 250Y a ride, depending on how many stops you have to go. If you're just going around Tokyo and nearby areas, the railpass is likely overkill at $363/person. Within tokyo, that's 17-30 rides a day, per person. It's about 700Y or so per person for an all-day pass to Kamakura. I don't know that the JRP would start paying off unless/until you were using it to get to Kyoto, Hiroshima, or other Points Moste Far.

    The Suica card (the stored value one I mentioned) you can get at most of the larger stations in tokyo I think. I'm not terribly clear on that, as the one I had was a loaner from a friend who lived there. I just had to sort through the kiosks enough to get to him, with the occasional phone call to sort things out.

    One thing that comes to mind if you do use the one-off tickets, the slot you'd put the ticket in is about 5x wider than the ticket itself.
    Mostly just that you have to have some knowledge of Japanese vocabulary to make sense of anything in hiragana or kanji. Knowing that えび is Ebi doesn't do you any good unless you know that Ebi = shrimp for instance.

    ... I figured that was pretty obvious. I suppose I'll be more clear in the OP that, while my current Japanese is basically survival, at one point I was holding full conversations with strangers. It's been 3+ years since I've been able to use it, so obviously my vocabulary has degraded to the most basic level. "Yukkuri hanashite kudasai", "Boku no Nihongo wa totemo warui desu, gomenasai", "Doko **** desuka?", etc. I have a pocket english-japanese dictionary in addition to my notepad, so I'm pretty capable of figuring most things out.
    Oh, another thing, though you probably know this already: your cellphone will not work in Japan. The prepaid ones are apparantly quite difficult to get a hold of, but there's a number of companies that will rent one to you. Some will mail it to you in the US, others you pick it up at Narita. I had one through Mobal Narita. The phone was functional enough, but the plan they offered was a bit usurious. There was technically no daily fee, they just charged 300Y/minute for voice. Incoming calls were free, but SMS texts were 200Y a piece in every direction. Email was something like 20Y per 10KB though.

    Email straight from the phone generally worked well, and everyone with a cellphone in japan has email on it it seems. Only issue I had was that they didn't set up the sender address on the phone, had to enter that myself -- and the only indication about that was an error message in all Japanese that my expat friend didn't recognize until I mentioned the actual problem later.

    No intention of getting a phone, and you definitely just solidified that.
    when I get to visit Japan (eventually), I definitely wouldn't want to miss this

    22MB003_.jpg

    My god... it's beautiful.
    Limp moose wrote:
    Hi,

    I currently live in Japan and have been in the Yokohama/Tokyo area for the last 2+ years. If you have any specific questions feel free to PM me. I can tell you that the HIKE you are planning is one hell of a hike. Not sure exactly where it will start from but FUJI is not super close to Tokyo. A flight in a helicopter from landmark tower in Yokohama (30 mins outside Tokyo by train.) Is a good 40 minutes. And that is at a speed of about 150mph as the crow fly's. Walking that will be painful. Plus hiking Fuji in august when all the tourists are there is not as magical as it could be. You essentially stand in line the entire way up the mountain. The weather will be about as hot as most people can stand plus 100% humidity. (August is just awful in Tokyo. SOoooo Hot.) You are a real mountain/bear grills type person if this sounds appealing. It rains almost every afternoon in early August.

    Not to radically change your plans but you might have more fun if you started up in Hakone and hiked from there. It would still be a several day hike but you would skip about a week of endless city on the outskirts of Tokyo as you worked your way through the kanagawa plain and atsugi area. I drive through there every day on my way to work and it is worth skipping. If you are coming all the way to Japan I could not recommend more a few side destinations I didn't see in your original post.

    We won't be hiking until September. Everything I've read has lead me to believe the lines will be mostly gone, as we'll be hiking in the 'shoulder' seasons, where many of the touristy huts will be closed. By the time we reach the mountain it should be ~Sep 7th or so. As for the weather, I've lived in Louisiana the last 6 years (Aside from deployments) where the average summer temperature is 100+ with 90%+ humidity. The overall distance of the hike is <100 miles, and we're planning for 10 days. 10 miles a day is ~4-5 hours at an average pace with 40lbs. Broken down into 1-2 hour legs, I have no fear of our ability to make the hike. We're also starting on the outskirts of Tokyo, if you check the google maps link I posted, it shows a rough estimate of our foot route.

    I don't know if you've driven the route we plan on taking through the mountains, but if you have would you comment on the conditions of the path and the towns we go through? We're hoping to hit smaller towns/villages, and if the stops along this route are nothing but tourist traps I would gladly re-evaluate our route.
    You could spend multiple days hiking in Kyoto. After years of being here the coolest stuff I have seen is all down in Kyoto. Its 250 bucks for a round trip ticket if you book through japanican. The 1000 torri gate shrine in my opinion is the coolest thing to see here. But there is still tons of neat stuff besides that. About.com ranks the top 100 things in kyoto and all of them are cool.

    There's been a lot of positive feedback for the Kyoto area, and I have a feeling our last week will mostly be spent in the Kyoto/Hida region, seeing shrines and the such. I'll add any places you reccomend to the OP.
    A side trip to Osaka is more than worth it if you have any interest in fashion or night life. Osaka is way cool. If you can get them I can't recommend enough going to a tigers baseball game in Osaka. The most intense baseball ever. If you don't make it to Osaka still go to a yacult swallows game in tokyo/shibuya. The umbrella thing is worth seeing in person. Also in Osaka is the Starwars sushi guy. You can google him. SO COOL!

    We may spend one night in Osaka for the night life, but we're more interested in seeing cultural things, the local populace, nature, etc. A baseball game has already been added to the OP, that's two people who've reccomended it.
    If you like hiking and wine I did a wine trip to yamanashi that was very pleasant and pretty interesting. I can recommend some good vineyards.

    I'll have to take a look and see where it is. I'll add it to the OP.
    In the summer time there isn't much to do in Nagano besides hiking some gorgeous mountains but you can do that anywhere that has mountains so I would say skip it. There is some cool canyoning / kayaking / rafting but it is all in april/may by august most of the runs have dried up.

    Mountains are not the same anywhere, that's part of the main reason we want to visit Japan. To see the country itself. Watersports are awesome, I'll check into if any are available around september.
    The best time bar none to come is during the cherry blossom season. That absolutely blows me away every year. But that is in March/April.

    Not an option right now, as I'll still be deployed until April. This September happens to be right when we transition from military to civilian life, and a month long vacation fits perfectly right there.
    In summary a 2 week hike in august is going to be hot, miserable, and not exactly as exciting as you imagine. Maybe shorten it to 3 or 4 days from Hakone to fuji and head south to Kyoto/Osaka/Hiroshima with those extra days. You will be tired of riding the shinkansen by the end of it but you will have way more memories and better pictures. Also when you are in tokyo be sure to check out the Meiji shrine, and eat some yakitori specifically wasabi yaki (fried chicken with wasabi.) I make everyone who comes visit do those two things at least.

    I think you may be assuming that I'm romanticizing the trip. I'm not. I don't think this is going to be a beautiful, perfect stroll in the park. Part of what makes this appealing is the challenge. It's a pilgrimage of sorts. We're not looking for just the touristy areas. If we had the money/time, we'd hike up to Hokkaido and back down.

    Wasabi would kill me, I'm borderline allergic to spicy food and even stuff like normal Tostitos salsa causes me serious physical pain! It makes eating a lot of Asian foods very difficult. I'll add Meiji shrine to the OP as well.

    Limp moose wrote:
    I am in the military out here as a pilot, the maps we have are TERRIBLE!!!!! Would not trust for land nav. The Japanese military has their own maps and we use those. Ours are seriously left over from after the war. They are terrible. I think even our flight pubs were last updated in the 90s We use JAPA charts for our low levels. Even during the recovery effort after the earthquake we couldn't get quality chart products. There are multiple army bases on the kanagawa plain and up at fuji you could try and get maps at but my recommendation would be to buy a GPS unit and learn how to read the Hira/kata on the google maps. It is much more effective. The road system here is maddening due to the hilly terrain so even walking can be confusing as some roads are for pedestrians and some are not.

    We planned on having a GPS, but I'll make sure to look into the map situation. Thanks for the heads up.
    Limp moose wrote:
    I also noticed you mentioned the sushi market in tokyo. I can tell you that the rules for that place have changed recently. You can no longer see the fish auctions unless you are a member of a small tour group that has to be booked ahead of time. If you just show up you will essentially just see a lot of fish.

    Instead I would recommend researching a restaurant that serves only sushi from that market and go there instead. You still get to eat great sushi but you don't have to get up at 4am and wait in a monster line to see a bunch of dudes in fisherman outfits yelling at each other. 3 years ago it was quite a bit different experience than it is today. Also in August the market is kind of smelly. Sadly you won't be here during Fugu season (the ber months!) so finding some of that to eat may be difficult. Avoid the sea urchin. Even live squid in korea was better tasting than that stuff. Bleh.

    Many locations in the OP were added by other posts, this being one of them. It's important to get multiple feedbacks on what to visit, so posts like yours are greatly appreciated. I'll remove it from the OP.

    Everyday I wake up is the worst day of my life.
    Buy my 40k shit.
  • TraceofToxinTraceofToxin King Nothing Registered User regular
    Has anyone visited Northern Japan, aside from Skiing/snowboarding in like Hokkaido?

    Everyday I wake up is the worst day of my life.
    Buy my 40k shit.
  • italianranmaitalianranma Registered User regular
    edited January 2012
    Hey brother, good luck on your trip. The last two times I've gone to Japan I've done the southern trek, and there are some great things to see there, but it's a lot more travel time and I'm not too sure how expensive all those railway passes would be.

    My best advice is to buy a guide book: I've bought a few and found The Rough Guide to be the best (http://www.amazon.com/Rough-Guide-Tokyo/dp/1848366027/ref=sr_1_36?ie=UTF8&qid=1327853900&sr=8-36)

    With as long as you'll be there you do have the option of seeing a lot more than Tokyo, though I'm sure you could easily fill up your time just in that city (especially with the hiking). If you're staying in Tokyo proper, then my recommendation is Hardy Barracks in Roppongi, which I think you still have access to with your veteran's ID card.

    I've been studying Japanese on and off since college, and I know enough to read comics and watch some TV, and I know it makes all the difference when I travel there. I'm sure you'll pickup a lot when you go, but if you're at all serious about learning the language (maybe thinking about doing the JET program there, or just getting a regular job) then in the 6 months you have left you could easily be a JLTP 3 or 4 (conversational). My recommendation is www.ajatt.com: it's a website that is run by an eccentric loudmouth who taught himself to fluency in 2 years without taking any classes or living abroad. His methods are pretty extreme though; cutting out all non-required English interaction to replace it with total immersion. That's pretty tough to do, especially with your job. That being said, here is the 'essence' of his method that you and your GF could use.

    Start with a book by James Heisig called "Remembering the Kanji." Katakana is useful as has been described, but the real trick is learning the meanings behind the Kanji. Doing that you'll see signs that you can't 'read' but totally understand. While you're memorizing all these things you'll also need a Spaced Repetition System like Anki or Supermemo (both free): what an SRS does is manage digital note cards that you create. So long as you spend the 20-30 minutes each day reviewing them you'll quickly find that your retain 90 to 95% of what you study. From their AJATT will recommend a holistically learning by mimicking things you see on Japanese TV, or any other Japanese example, but I'd use a grammar book to help you along your way with some basic structures. Genki is the textbooks that I used at college, and they're good for elementry grammar, but a cheaper all encompassing book is 500 Essential Japanese Expressions (like at bottom as I couldn't get the scripting to work) by ALC press. That should set you up for success for continued study. AJATT has a lot more useful links so I'd check that out too.

    http://www.amazon.com/500-Essential-Japanese-Expressions-Sentence/dp/4872345894/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1327854866&sr=8-1-fkmr1

    italianranma on
  • TraceofToxinTraceofToxin King Nothing Registered User regular
    Thanks for the reply! I really appreciate all the time people put into their posts, it's a lot of awesome info.

    When you say southern Trek I'm assuming you mean southwest of Kyoto towards Kyushu?

    We really only want to spend maybe 3-4 days total in Tokyo, including our arrival and departure date. My experience in foreign countries is that metro areas, is that they're like chinese food. Every place has it's own take on it, but it's generally the same stuff. We're looking more towards the rural/semi-rural sights, pagodas, shrines, etc. Hardy Barracks eh? I'll do some research, is that some sort of joint military installation?

    We're both using the Michel Thomas method, it's coming along for her and for me it's mostly a refresher so far. I understand how to frame basic sentences, I just need to get my vocabulary back up to snuff. Like I've mentioned, I was able to hold conversations with native speakers when I was using it on a daily basis, so I'm not too worried about it. I'll take a look at the site, can't hurt!

    We -definitely- need to work on the Kanji. It's going to take some work, but the SRS sounds like something that would work well for us. Would you reccomend foregoing working on Hiragana and switching to Katakana? I'm mainly just practicing it right now to be able to read/write it more quickly, but I'd hate to invest more time on it if I'm not going to need it as much as Katakana. I've noticed a lot of things are done in Katakana so it's making me want to lean that way.

    I've been considering picking up one of these - http://www.amazon.com/New-12-Language-Global-Translator-FRTBG12/dp/B005D9QGWE/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&qid=1328045250&sr=8-12

    The guys I worked with had them and they were super useful for quick vocab checks. No substitute for a grasp on the language, but definitely work 100-150 bucks to make some conversations move smoothly.

    Everyday I wake up is the worst day of my life.
    Buy my 40k shit.
  • RobesRobes Registered User regular
    If you have an android phone, pick up google translate for free.

    R0bes.png
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