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Trip to Japan - Anyone did it before?

DjiemDjiem Registered User regular
edited August 2007 in Help / Advice Forum
Hi guys.

Three friends of mine and I have booked up a trip to Japan. We're going from Oct 15 to Oct 28. We've got the plane tickets reserved, passport ready, everything's fine, we've got a couple things we want to see and do (I know I want to visit Akihabara), but I was wondering if anyone here ever visited and could tell me:

- Is there anything I shouldn't miss at all? What should I visit, what should I do?

- Do you have any useful tips for me, things I should know, regarding anything?

- I speak French and English. I don't know Japanese. Will I be fine, what might get complicated?

- Anything you feel like telling me.

We'll be landing at the Tokyo airport, if you're wondering where in Japan we'll be.
Thanks all!

Djiem on
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Posts

  • GafotoGafoto Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    - There are some classic tourist spots such as the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto but it kind of depends on what you're into. I could recommend some gardens, as that is what I mostly visited, but that might not be to your taste.

    -Cover over the last two digits of a price to get a rough estimate of cost, always have a city map 100% of the time (with subway map too!), and always carry an umbrella (rain can come any time of day and almost certainly will).

    -You should be able to get around fine with no Japanese. The Tokyo Subway maps and stations are not very well marked in English however so make sure to remember symbols (crude I know but the English names are worthless to you). Don't be afraid to ask someone for directions, most people are friendly but you'll have the best luck with young people.

    -Be ready to explore. Things are not on one level like in North America. Lots of stores have no above ground presence or don't start until floor 2 or 3 of a building so keep an eye out! Don't buy a Kimono for anyone, or a fake sword. Bring lots of memory or a laptop for photo storage, you're sure to take lots of photos (and if you don't have a camera, get one now).

    Eat a teriyaki burger from Mcdonalds. Ask what things are before you eat them or you may get an unpleasant surprise. Get large chunks of money at a time to avoid ATM and conversion fees. Eat at bakeries for breakfast and lunch (try the Sizuya chain in Kyoto) and save your money for great dinners. This isn't just a chance to try Japanese cuisine, I had some great Korean food while I was there.

    Be a stupid tourist, everyone else there is doing it.

    Gafoto on
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  • RetoxRetox Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    I don't know If you're planning to go outside Tokyo, but if you are Nara and Miyajima were two of my favorite places.

    You should be fine not speaking Japanese. I spoke very little when I went there and had no trouble, but people love it when you try to speak Japanese to them so if you know any give it a shot.

    Retox on
  • DjiemDjiem Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Cool, thanks for the tips!
    Gafoto wrote:
    - There are some classic tourist spots such as the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto but it kind of depends on what you're into. I could recommend some gardens, as that is what I mostly visited, but that might not be to your taste.

    Personally, I'm mostly into metropolitan areas as I'm not much of an historical/natural explorer. That being said, going to the other end of the world REQUIRES me to see a few of those places. If I just wanted to go to another city's store, I could just shop online. I'm a city guy, but I'm still up for some really awesome sights.
    Retox wrote:
    I spoke very little when I went there and had no trouble, but people love it when you try to speak Japanese to them so if you know any give it a shot.

    Yeah, I don't speak any Japanese, but I started reading a few books about it, to at least understand the idea behind kanjis, hiragana, and the like. I'm also planning to read much more into it and learn some very basic Japanese. Being a French Canadian, I'm really into the "When in Rome" mentality and I will try to respect the locals the best I can.

    You got any good advice to learn Japanese basics? Or some good travel book I should look at?
    The travel agency gave me an adress for a Montréal tourism bookshop which is supposedly excellent, but I'd also like actual "I've been there, and from experience I can tell" input.

    Djiem on
  • tomisboredtomisbored Cavalier, NDRegistered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Well I have been... and since I am not really sure what you are looking for let me just give out some random things i learned.. if you are looking for an authentic hotel or anything, check with the hotels first before staying, if it has an american name at the end of the hotel (I.E bestwestern or the likes) flee as fast as you can. But beware they can be tricky in hidding who really owns the hotel so if you are calling to make reservations find out if its a chain.

    Also, do you have any tattos? for a lot of the formal or nicer places they will not allow you in or ask you to cover them in any possible ways... my friend had to wear his hoodie in a formal tea ceramony and looked like a total douche...

    I cant agree more with Gafoto more, ask what things are when you eat them, lol my sister learned the hard way what wasabi was when she tried to eat it straight thinking its green it must be mint.

    Dont worry about the language barrier most of the younger people have been speaking english or at least broken english since they where in about 3 or 4th grade. Many of them will have better grammer then you do. If you are really worried about basic phrases and what not there are some really good free online leasons. http://nihongo.3yen.com/ and http://www.mlcjapanese.co.jp/Download.htm are nice (or at least I think so) just do a google search for free japanese lessons and reap all the fun goodness!

    Dont buy anything at the airport unless you have too.. becuase if you are flying into narita (sp) the national airport you will quickly see its almost as big as a mall as the vegas airport, and just like any other airport mall the prices are pretty high, however on the other hand it has some really nice cheap stuff if you just look really hard.

    I know you said you were not really looking for nature stuff but the north tip of the island is beautifull and the train ride is a great way to just chill out and spend a day.

    feel free to send me a message if you want more info.

    btw this is my first post.. .and cant find the spell checker so sorry for that.

    tomisbored on
    A magician wandered along the beach, but no one needed him.
  • DarkPrimusDarkPrimus Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Make sure to take a travel dictionary, and learn a few phrases so you aren't completely lost if you have to communicate with someone who doesn't speak much English.

    If you're going to be traveling from Tokyo to other cities, the only real way to travel is by the bullet train. The two other cities besides Tokyo on the main island that you should visit (Kyoto and Hiroshima) are both accessible that way.


    I can't think of much in the way of specific tips at the moment (it's kind of late), but as a general rule for traveling, you can never over-prepare. Figure out what you want to do and when, and try and get it all figured out waaay ahead of time. Don't feel obligated to be slave to a strict schedule, but have definite plans and follow them.

    DarkPrimus on
  • mooshoeporkmooshoepork Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Gafoto wrote: »
    (rain can come any time of day and almost certainly will)

    Lime'd for fucking TRUTH. I went in September last year and it rained, a shit load. It rained so much that It went through my bag, my clothes, my money and my passport.

    Pretty though. http://i15.tinypic.com/66ax4rq.jpg

    mooshoepork on
  • ReitenReiten Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    You're probably going to Narita Airport, which is a ways out from Tokyo. DO NOT take a taxi from there to Tokyo. Hop on the train in the basement (local means a transfer at Chiba Station usually, otherwise the Narita Express will take you directly into Tokyo for a little more money and a lot less time/hassle). There are also buses that can take you into several places in Tokyo. If you need help, I think there are some information stands outside the arrival exit with multilingual staff. If you're going into Haneda Airport (unlikely), then it's a short monorail ride to the normal railway system in Tokyo.

    If you're sticking around Tokyo and want some history/culture, check out Meiji Shrine near Harajuku Station. Asakusa Shrine is another big spot to see in Tokyo. A long day trip can go to Kamakura or Nikko. Both have long histories and lots of culture to see.

    For people viewing pleasure, you'll want to go to Shibuya, Harajuku and Shinjuku stations. Wander around and take in the sights. Shibuya and Harajuku are probably the biggest spots for young people.

    I forget if it's still there, but Sony had a building near Yurakucho Station that showcased all their latest and best gear. Pretty fun way to spend an afternoon for the technically inclined.  Ah, here's the homepage and even in English for you:
    http://www.sonybuilding.jp/e/index.html

    If you have the JR Pass, definitely hop on the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) and visit Kyoto. A long trip to Hiroshima for the atomic bomb stuff is good.

    Don't expect most people to speak much (or any) English. A phrase book will definitely help.

    For good, fresh sushi, make sure to take a very early morning trip to Tsukiji Fish Market. Any decent tourist book should have lots of info on it. Some people just stay out all night and visit there before crashing for the day.

    Any good tour book should have lots of good places and tips, including things to avoid doing (like wearing the bathroom slippers outside of the bathroom or passing food from chopsticks to chopsticks).

    If you have some specific questions, feel free to PM me.

    Reiten on
  • DjiemDjiem Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Thanks a lot, guys. I'll make good use of these tips. :D
    I'll PM you if I think of any specific question I have.

    Djiem on
  • RaqieRaqie Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Awesome! I hope you have a great time! Here are a few of my tips:

    - Visit Daiba. Good malls, arcades, a Toyota show room, the Panasonic Center, Joypolis in Decks. (here's a list: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3008.html) Plus the train ride over (the Yurikamome line) boasts great views and travels over the bridge. Buy a day pass for the Yurikamome line and hop around to all the locaitons.

    - Spend time walking around places like Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Ikebukuro

    - I like Mos Burger and First Kitchen for fast food. Most local ramen places are good and cheap. Excelsior is my favorite coffee place (because they have good Royal Milk Tea.)

    - Find an English map of the subways/trains when you get there and keep it with you. Some stations do not have English maps posted.

    - For night life: try Karaoke (look up the katakana spelling and you'll be able to spot them easily) or an izakaya. Or just buy some alcohol from a convenience store and have fun!

    - Try out all the different candies and sodas they have.

    PM me if you want more specific info. I've spent way too much time in various parts of Tokyo (but it's never enough for me).

    Raqie on
  • EliteLamerEliteLamer __BANNED USERS regular
    edited August 2007
    Might as well hit up a Maid Cafe while you are at it too :D I have a question though, how much does round trip cost because the community college here offers round trip, with hotel and everything for 4,600 and that seems kinda high for 10 days in Japan.

    EliteLamer on
    SEGA
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  • phamtqphamtq Portland, ORRegistered User regular
    edited August 2007
    I'm going in September 08 for about 2 weeks. How are you guys doing the housing situation? Are you getting a hotel for your entire stay there? Student Hostel?

    phamtq on
  • MikeRyuMikeRyu Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    I'd love to go to Japan. I can't afford it so I thought I'd learn Japanese in preparation for one day.

    Make sure you say how things went here when you get back. 8-)

    MikeRyu on
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  • phamtqphamtq Portland, ORRegistered User regular
    edited August 2007
    MikeRyu wrote: »
    I'd love to go to Japan. I can't afford it so I thought I'd learn Japanese in preparation for one day.

    That's what I thought too but doing some digging showed that there's lots of ways to save money. For example, I'm going mid September (monsoon season) which means the tourists are mostly out and the prices are down because it's out of season. Tickets are around $930 roundtrip (plus tax & such).

    Save up a year in advanced and you'll be surprised what you can afford.

    phamtq on
  • ArtoriaArtoria Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    You really need to study some Japanese now. I mean right this second. Sure you can get around in most places without any knowledge of the language but knowing even a little of it will make everything 100% easier. People for the most part will speak English to you but currency will be spoken in Japanese to you. This is not an issue in big stores but little mom and pop shops that don’t use a cash register it will be. At least learn Katakana and Hiragana so you can read signs.

    There is a free program called “learn kana” that are Hiragana/Katakana Flash cards.
    http://spider.ipac.caltech.edu/staff/brentb/jal/LearnKana.exe

    Also you should buy some maps from Amazon before you go. I would suggest a Street map of whatever city you plan to be in as well as the corresponding Lonely Planet “insert name of city here” so you are totally covered. I went to Tokyo and between the 1 semester Japanese and my maps I did ok by my self.

    There are what I call the “vending machine restaurant” that you can go it. You go in there is vending machine with pictures of all the dishes and drinks with prices on it. You put your money in, push the corresponding button and you get a ticket. You go sit down and a waitress will take your ticket and bring you your food.

    Most restaurants have mock ups of their dishes sitting in the window too so you can see what kind of food they have before you go in.

    Do try to go to Akiharabara. There are so many game stores there it will blow your mind. be warned though the game stores carry tons of hentai games and porn in the upstairs portion of the store with the PC games.

    Now for some Japan Mythbusting.

    First Japanese Women will not throw themselves at you. Will you have an easier time picking some up? Maybe. Will they be like “OMG American!! He’s mine!!” no.

    I did not see one panty vending machine in Tokyo and I was staying in Shinjuku. I was somewhat disappointed by this.

    There is not a ramen stand on every corner. But they are pretty frequent once you know what you are looking for.

    Artoria on
  • MikeRyuMikeRyu Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    dragonsama wrote: »
    First Japanese Women will not throw themselves at you. Will you have an easier time picking some up? Maybe. Will they be like “OMG American!! He’s mine!!” no.

    What about Englishmen? :winky:

    MikeRyu on
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  • EliteLamerEliteLamer __BANNED USERS regular
    edited August 2007
    First Japanese Women will not throw themselves at you. Will you have an easier time picking some up? Maybe. Will they be like “OMG American!! He’s mine!!” no.

    I thought the Japanese don't really like tourist all that much.

    EliteLamer on
    SEGA
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  • DjiemDjiem Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Don't worry, I'm not forking all that money over some stupid myth ;-) (oh, and I'm not American)

    It seems that many issues are repeated by you all: Get some maps (in fact, get a fucking lot of maps), take train to [locale X] and learn some Japanese. Interesting, I guess I'll get right on these things.

    Say, am I right in what I heard from various people:

    - No need to tip, as tip is included in bills.
    - Electric outlets are the same as ours.
    - Wear nice socks that are not full of holes, as you may often have to take off your shoes inside places.
    - Meat is hard to come by and is expensive.
    - I'm 6'3", I am NOT going to find fitting clothes over there.

    I'm also wondering, I'm not carrying clothes for 15 days. How should I go about cleaning them up? Is there some sort of public clothes-washing place, like, for tourists?

    Thanks for all the comments. So far, this thread found itself to be very useful.

    (edit: No panty vending machine? Aww, I wanted to buy one pair as a gag gift to one of my friends back here)

    Djiem on
  • GafotoGafoto Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Djiem wrote: »
    Say, am I right in what I heard from various people:

    - No need to tip, as tip is included in bills.
    - Electric outlets are the same as ours.
    - Wear nice socks that are not full of holes, as you may often have to take off your shoes inside places.
    - Meat is hard to come by and is expensive.
    - I'm 6'3", I am NOT going to find fitting clothes over there.

    I'm also wondering, I'm not carrying clothes for 15 days. How should I go about cleaning them up? Is there some sort of public clothes-washing place, like, for tourists?

    -Correct
    -Not exactly the same, but everything will operate (at slightly lower power)
    -Correct
    -I didn't think it was any more expensive than the US or difficult in any way to find meat. I mean, you can eat at a Mcdonalds just about anywhere. Unless you're looking for Kobe beef or something.
    -Not a chance

    I didn't notice what kind of facilities there were but I'm sure there are laundromats (ask at the hotel).

    Gafoto on
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  • DjiemDjiem Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Gafoto wrote: »
    Djiem wrote: »
    Say, am I right in what I heard from various people:

    - No need to tip, as tip is included in bills.
    - Electric outlets are the same as ours.
    - Wear nice socks that are not full of holes, as you may often have to take off your shoes inside places.
    - Meat is hard to come by and is expensive.
    - I'm 6'3", I am NOT going to find fitting clothes over there.

    I'm also wondering, I'm not carrying clothes for 15 days. How should I go about cleaning them up? Is there some sort of public clothes-washing place, like, for tourists?

    -Correct
    -Not exactly the same, but everything will operate (at slightly lower power)
    -Correct
    -I didn't think it was any more expensive than the US or difficult in any way to find meat. I mean, you can eat at a Mcdonalds just about anywhere. Unless you're looking for Kobe beef or something.
    -Not a chance

    I didn't notice what kind of facilities there were but I'm sure there are laundromats (ask at the hotel).

    Well, what did you do? Did you wear the same clothes, or did you just bring a ton of them?

    Also, slightly lower power? What if I'm charging a DS or MP3 player?

    Finally, I'm 6'3", but 145 lbs. Still not a chance, I presume...

    Djiem on
  • GafotoGafoto Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Djiem wrote: »
    Well, what did you do? Did you wear the same clothes, or did you just bring a ton of them?

    Also, slightly lower power? What if I'm charging a DS or MP3 player?

    Finally, I'm 6'3", but 145 lbs. Still not a chance, I presume...

    I was there for about 10 days so I actually just brought enough clothing for the whole trip. This was actually my undoing as I tore my shorts on the planeride home while sitting down about 4 hours from the airport. Glad I didn't have to walk around much.

    The appliances should be fine, it might take a little longer to charge though (I think that's the way it works).

    To give you an idea of the clothing over there, I saw some Ralph Lauren polos for sale. The largest size was a medium (one or two) and went down from there. They had XXXS shirts and things. You're going to be taller than 99.9% of the population, it's like being 7 foot in this part of the world.

    Gafoto on
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  • DjiemDjiem Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Oh well. At least, my friends are like only 1 or 2 inches shorter than me, we won't have trouble finding each other in crowds. :lol:

    Also, what are the best place to get more yens once there? I planned to convert my money here (the travel agency suggested a good place to convert currencies with an excellent rate), but I may need some once I'm in Tokyo. Where do you think I can use my Visa?

    Djiem on
  • GafotoGafoto Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    I got about twenty thousand yen out of an ATM right in the airport and that lasted me the entire trip. There is usually a flat fee for drawing money from an ATM so don't get out a thousand yen at a time.

    Honestly, since I heard so much about how safe Japan was, I wasn't worried to carry that kind of money on me. That stereotype proved true, I don't remember seeing sketchy behavior of any kind at all. I'm not saying it isn't there, but if you don't stray too far off the beaten path you shouldn't have any trouble.

    Gafoto on
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  • DarkPrimusDarkPrimus Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    I'd suggest going shopping for a comfortable pair of shoes that are easy to slip on and off to go along with the pack good socks.

    If you got an ATM card, you can use it at ATMs in a lot of hotels and some large shopping places. There should also be currency conversion centers at the airport, if you want to bring along your own cash and convert it once you're there.

    DarkPrimus on
  • poshnialloposhniallo Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Djiem wrote: »
    Oh well. At least, my friends are like only 1 or 2 inches shorter than me, we won't have trouble finding each other in crowds. :lol:

    Also, what are the best place to get more yens once there? I planned to convert my money here (the travel agency suggested a good place to convert currencies with an excellent rate), but I may need some once I'm in Tokyo. Where do you think I can use my Visa?

    You can use post office cash machines for international withdrawals. There are other places, but they are often in super-urban areas like near Tokyo or Yurakucho station. Look on the back of your ATM/Cashcard, check out the symbols (Delta etc - I don't know American/Canadian ones) and check their websites for more info. Things are very safe, so don't worry too much about carrying some cash around - you might find it hard to get to a usable ATM at short notice.

    I really really recommend going to Kamakura - it's easily do-able from Tokyo (I live in Kamakura and I went up to Akihabara, did some shopping and got back home all in yesterday afternoon). There are old temples etc etc - a particularly great one is Enkaku-ji (a Zen temple) and Hokoku-ji (with a bamboo grove, but a little far from the station).

    Akihabara is cool, but I don't know how much of an exciting tourist experience it might be - if you're as geeky as me, it's fun. The further you get away from the main street, the weirder it gets. Shibuya and Harajuku are groovy. Some people say Shimo-kita-zawa is cool, but I've never been impressed. Odaiba is supposed to be amazing. My mum thought Roppongi Hills rocked when she was here recently.

    The museums around Ueno park are excellent if that's what you like. In Akihabara there are galleries full on geek-art and gundam models etc.

    Another cool place is in Yokohama (2nd-biggest city, 30mins from Tokyo). A place called Minato Mirai 21 (Future city 21) which has Japan's tallest building, Landmark Tower. There's an observation deck there which is incredibly cool at night.

    I think 13 days is a long time just in Tokyo. Think about day trips to Nikko, Kamakura, Yokohama, Hakone. Maybe even get on the bullet-train and head down to Kyoto. I spent a couple of weeks in Osaka on business recently, and I wouldn't recommend it for tourists.

    And personally, I think a phrase book is fine. Lots of people speak English, to be honest most people expect foreigners to not speak Japanese.

    Some food types to try apart from the obvious (and wonderful) sushi

    okonomiyaki
    tonkotsu chashu ramen
    zaru-soba
    takoyaki
    udon
    yaki-niku (Korean BBQ)
    katsu-don (good for meat-lovers)
    shabu-shabu
    chanko-nabe (sumo food)

    Much rarer is the teppan-yaki (hibachi and a Japanese chef shouting 'Banzai' while he chops up steak and prawns). I've only ever seen them in Roppongi and other super-Americanised areas.

    try the sweets too - odd but nice.

    And generally asian food is great here - I've had amazing Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese and Korean food here. Mind you, never believe a Korean waiter who says 'It's a little spicy'.

    poshniallo on
    I figure I could take a bear.
  • DjiemDjiem Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Yes, I didn't plan to spend all the time just in Tokyo. We thought about short trips to cities around it, I knew that there was that bullet-train ready for small visits around.

    And yes, I'm geeky, so I expect to like Akihabara ;-)
    This said, I'll look into the other locations you mentionned.

    Also, I don't like spicy food, so I guess I'll have to be careful with that...

    Djiem on
  • TM2 RampageTM2 Rampage Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Gafoto wrote: »
    The Tokyo Subway maps and stations are not very well marked in English however so make sure to remember symbols (crude I know but the English names are worthless to you). Don't be afraid to ask someone for directions, most people are friendly but you'll have the best luck with young people.

    At each stop, the name of the station is will be on a sign hanging from the ceiling. The name is written in kanji(yeah no hiragana) with the romanized name in English letters underneath, in a bit smaller font.

    However, when you're at a train station and you're at the row of ticket machines trying to buy a ticket, there's a big map up above that shows all the lines and all that stations that are on those lines. Each stop is written in kanji ONLY. There is no hiragana or English letters. So this is why it's a damn good idea to bring along some printout that tells you what each stop is called. Underneath each station on the map is a number, and that is the price in yen that you need to insert into the ticket machine to get a ticket that'll uh... allow you to go there.

    (Basically when you have your train ticket and head over to the correct train platform, you'll insert the ticket into this machine at the gate, and it'll come out the other end with a punched hole in it or something. Keep your ticket cuz you'll need it when you get out of the next train station. A set of small door thingies might also open to allow you through, but some gates don't have that. I guess they rely on the honor system, and also they have some employees/security people standing nearby.

    Oh, and try not to get on the wrong train ^_^;. I mean, I was on the platform at Narita Airport, and this one train stopped by on the platform, but it was not going where I wanted to go. You check with one of the employees on the platform whether it's the right train or not...

    Well, they have electronic signposts usually that tell you when the train is coming, where it's headed, and at what time it will arrive. It's pretty punctual and it should arrive right on time. They'll probably have several trains that go to the same places, and they'll show up one after the other. Some trains have extra stops, though, and some are more "express" where they'll have less stops and just go to from point A to point D without stopping at B or C inbetween.)

    Thus, you'll need to use that overhead map so you can figure out which price of ticket to buy. If you're experienced with taking trains, this kind of stuff might be similar to how it works where you live.

    TM2 Rampage on
  • GafotoGafoto Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    poshniallo wrote: »
    Djiem wrote: »
    I think 13 days is a long time just in Tokyo. Think about day trips to Nikko, Kamakura, Yokohama, Hakone.

    I would highly recommend Hakone, if just for the Hakone Open Air Museum (google it). To tempt you:

    Sulfur Springs:
    japan23.jpg

    Torii:
    japan22.jpg

    Awesome sculpture:
    japan21.jpg

    Architecture:
    japan20.jpg

    And a pretty view:
    japan19.jpg

    Gafoto on
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  • DjiemDjiem Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    I always found it funny that for geographic/space reason, the Japanese build very low and high, and yet they have all this awesome-looking barren landscape. But I guess they don't want to destroy the nature in these areas, and who can blame them? These places look incredible (just googled the Open Air Museum, nice!)

    Djiem on
  • DarkPrimusDarkPrimus Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    My personal favorite shrine in Kyoto was Ryoanji.

    The big attraction there is the rock garden, but there are other gardens there that are just as awesome, even if they aren't as popularized.

    DarkPrimus on
  • GafotoGafoto Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Djiem wrote: »
    I always found it funny that for geographic/space reason, the Japanese build very low and high, and yet they have all this awesome-looking barren landscape. But I guess they don't want to destroy the nature in these areas, and who can blame them? These places look incredible (just googled the Open Air Museum, nice!)

    They occupy an absurdly small percentage of the island at absurdly high densities. I guess that is simply the way the culture has evolved, I don't think it is some kind of conscious development they've had for the last few hundred years. A small island encourages growth in small spaces, the exact opposite of the US where we sprawl as much as possible because we have so much space between things.

    Gafoto on
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  • DjiemDjiem Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Well, Gafoto, in Canada, we don't use most of our landscape. Then again, the climate in the upper half is pretty rough.

    Poshniallo, you said 13 days is a lot to spend just in Tokyo. I do plan to visit a few other locations, but this website http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2164.html sure makes it seem like there's a lot to do just in this one city already.

    I checked "Kyoto" on this site, and you're right, it looks amazing.

    I'm using the site as a base to decide what we want to check out. The four of us will gather someday soon, find out the best places in there, try to find some schedule to make the most of our trip, but have the schedule loose enough to allow us to skip a place or insert in another. We don't want to follow a strict planning, but we can't just roam around, confused.

    Djiem on
  • TorgoTorgo Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Despite being a very high tech sort of society, trying to find a foreigner friendly ATM machine in Japan, EVEN in Tokyo is a total PAIN IN THE ASS. Only places that exclusively cater to foreigners like The Grand Hyatt will have an International Cash machine. Be warned, and take EXTRA cash.

    When I was in Tokyo, I had the choice of one more night in an overpriced hotel, or no food for a day. Luckily I ran into an ESL teacher that let me crash at his overpriced apartment.

    Shinjuku Station is the most INSANE Japanese traveling experience I've ever had. Something like 200,000 people pass through that place EVERY DAY. There are SEVEN subway lines that you can connect to at the same station, all of them a maze with different exits and entrances. Really, REALLY confusing, and the signage is rather lacking. You will be lost. Stare at a map long enough and you will usually have someone approach you and offer to help.

    If you want to go to a shady place, when I was in Ropongi someone approached me on the street to ask if I wanted to see a woman take a bath in a strip club. WTF.

    Learn to say "Thank you", "No, Thank you," and, "Please" before you go.

    Torgo on
    History is a spoiler for the future. (Me on Twitter)
  • KelorKelor Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    This is perfect timing for this thread, since I'm heading over there next month and was going to post almost the exact same thread.

    The way I was figuring it was to pack 5 days worth of clothes for the 12 day trip and hunt down a laundry place or if theres one at whichever hotel I'm staying at.

    Taking the train instead of a taxi is a handy advice since I was going to grab a taxi.

    I'm getting a new digital camera as a present from family next week. I was guessing it might be worth getting some extra mem sticks and maybe a wallet to hold them in.

    So a couple more questions for those of you that have visited there; (Warning, incoming wall of questions)
    How much were spending on average on food and trips? I'll be there for around 12 days, so if I can just withdraw the cash at the start I'm just as happy to do that.

    I'm from Australia, so I'll be going from winter here to summertime while I'm there. Are the beaches worth checking out at all? Body surfing beaches in particular, but I can make with the regular kind if theres some around.

    So shrines are worth checking out too? I'm sort of looking to stop in Tokyo and Kyoto as well as Mt Fuji at some point. The travel agency mentioned that the train network is pretty good, so would my best bet be to take the train or fly between them? I wouldn't mind visiting the zoo while I'm there as well. After seeing some of Gofoto's pics I'm really tempted to try out that open air museum as well.

    I figure with the trains, if I keep a travel dictionary with me and a notepad so that I can write down the last three symbols/kanji and just use that to tell where I should jump off?

    A follow up question to the last one, I don't speak Japanese. Not a word. Now so far its been fairly reassuring that I shouldn't have any problems finding someone who speaks English or at least some sort of translation around the place. If I genuinely have issues, is my best bet to talk to one of the younger people around for directions? I was under the impression most students take English as a second language the way we have German/Indonesian/Japanese classes here through out school.

    How hot does it get there in summer? I'll pack a couple of pairs of jeans but if I can get around in shorts thats going to save some room as far as packing goes.

    Whats around the place in the way of nightlife. I'd like to go out to some clubs while I'm over there a couple of nights, wheres the best place to head to?

    Foods to stay the hell away from? I don't mind most seafood but if theres anything I should avoid mention it if you can.

    And lastly, any fellow PAers who live there or will be staying there between the 23rd of September to the 4th of October? Its always fun drinking with a group of fellow PAers.

    Kelor on
  • ruzkinruzkin Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    I really really think you will have a shitty trip without some basic japanese. Learn the essentials - hello, excuse me, where is, what is, how much does stuff cost, and THANKYOU. Gotta be polite.

    Spend some time at a traditional Ryoukan, must nicer than the hotels.

    Also, are you a whitey? Go to Gas Panic in Shibuya, you'll be draped in ladies within the hour.

    ruzkin on
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  • DjiemDjiem Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    ruzkin wrote: »
    Also, are you a whitey? Go to Gas Panic in Shibuya, you'll be draped in ladies within the hour.

    For a few reasons, I don't drink alcohol, though. I wouldn't last a second inside. How long would they let me in drinking fucking 400Y orange juice? :P

    Oh, and about Ryoukan and hotels, I was wondering, do you guys have any good hotels or Ryoukan to suggest in Tokyo? Like, I'm dropping off at Narita, where should I reserve if I want to be close to everything, or close to trains/subway that connect with everything?

    And what are the major difference between hotels and Ryoukan?

    Djiem on
  • RaqieRaqie Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    About the laundry: I was able to find a laundromat a few blocks from my hotel once by asking at the front desk. They call it "coin laundry" so you know what to ask for. It was actually a pretty awesome experience since it was attached to an old Japanese woman's house. She was nice to me because I looked confused and showed me where the free laundry detergent was...

    I could suggest places to stay but I'd need to know your price range. If you find a place close to any station on the Yamanote like you can get around easily. Some business hotels are cheap and have booking online.

    I never had a problem finding an ATM. They have Citibank over there if all else fails. Also, the bigger banks will exchange cash for yen. I tried to pay with credit card as much as I could since you get a better rate. A lot of places still don't take credit card though.

    A ryoukan is a traditional hotel. You can search and find pictures easily. You'll be sleeping on a futon on the floor, probably be sharing a bathroom, and also probably have a curfew. Obviously this is not for everyone.

    Raqie on
  • DjiemDjiem Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Raqie wrote: »
    About the laundry: I was able to find a laundromat a few blocks from my hotel once by asking at the front desk. They call it "coin laundry" so you know what to ask for. It was actually a pretty awesome experience since it was attached to an old Japanese woman's house. She was nice to me because I looked confused and showed me where the free laundry detergent was...

    I could suggest places to stay but I'd need to know your price range. If you find a place close to any station on the Yamanote like you can get around easily. Some business hotels are cheap and have booking online.

    I never had a problem finding an ATM. They have Citibank over there if all else fails. Also, the bigger banks will exchange cash for yen. I tried to pay with credit card as much as I could since you get a better rate. A lot of places still don't take credit card though.

    A ryoukan is a traditional hotel. You can search and find pictures easily. You'll be sleeping on a futon on the floor, probably be sharing a bathroom, and also probably have a curfew. Obviously this is not for everyone.

    Let's pretend my price range is limitless but I'd like try to stay with cheap/affordable hotels. You got any name? At any rate, I'll check these business hotels of yours. Also, the travel agency could help me on that part, I was mostly trying to find out if you had any personal experience with a certain hotel and were going to say: "Man, go there, it's perfect!". Also, the Ryoukan would be nice but I really really don't like the idea of having a curfew.

    Djiem on
  • Andy KAndy K Pastor of Muppets Cary NCRegistered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Hey, lived in Japan for five years, hopefully this will help:
    - Is there anything I shouldn't miss at all? What should I visit, what should I do?

    kyoto, Kyoto, KYOTO. Seriously, going to Japan and not visiting Kyoto is like, I dunno, *really bad*. Particularly aim for Kyoumizudera and Sanjuusangendo. Most people go to Kinkakuji (Golden Pavillion), but I thought it was "just ok". If you like nature, there's a way inside Kyoumizudera to make a left before you enter, go through a fence, and find yourself in the national park behind the temple. Great views and overlooks. The actual plants, earth and trees are familiar and yet unlike the ones in the US.

    If you have the time, a side-trip to Nara for the Daibutsu is well worth it as well.

    Make sure to eat RAMEN when you are there, particularly MISO RAMEN. It will be the best $5.00 meal you will ever eat.

    In Akihabara, if you can read/speak a little Japanese, there's a restaurant/izakaya that's really good called "GOHAN" (ゴハン, all in katakana). Basically, as you leave the train station, and face the Sega amusement center, turn left and walk a block. It's on the other side of the big intersection in the corner building, a few floors up.

    If you can read/speak a little Japanese, look for one of the several rice specialty restaurants called Tambo (田んぼ) (there's one in Shibuya as well as all around Tokyo). It was one of the coolest meals I'd ever eaten, everything is somehow based on rice, the freshest rice one can find. Not really all that expensive either, but can be hard to track down:

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    The best part of Japan is the Onsen (hot springs) and Sentou (public baths). Look for one. Anywhere. Doesn't matter. Just GET IN THE TUB. If you have some time and cash and head up to NIKKO from Tokyo, around that area are some onsen. Or you could go over to Kusatsu, Ikaho, Minakami, etc. But even if you can't get to an Onsen Resort, at least aim for a Sentou. There's a few good ones in Kyoto.
    - Do you have any useful tips for me, things I should know, regarding anything?

    Banks close at 2-3PM in the afternoon. Make sure to carry lots of cash on you.
    Capsule hotels are awesome, but you will only be able to bring like one large bag with you, don't expect them to be able to hold 2 huge suitcases or anything.
    In the Kabuki-cho (Red light district), keep your head forward and keep walking straight.
    If you happen to be queer, the best place to be is Shinjuku's "Ni-Chou-Me" district (something like 500 bars within 3 city blocks, all dedicated to gays, lesbians, bisexuals, etc)
    - I speak French and English. I don't know Japanese. Will I be fine, what might get complicated?

    Many people in positions where foreigners may speak to them (hotels, stations, etc) people can speak English.

    Just, if possible, don't do the thing where you accost a total stranger in English, some random passerby. Go to a store or station or something.

    -Andy

    Andy K on
  • RaqieRaqie Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    You can find ryoukans without a curfew but...it's not easy.

    For the location I'd say the Shibuya Excel Hotel is good. It's attached to the station and the price isn't that bad (for Tokyo). I stayed there a couple years ago. It worked out very well.

    Raqie on
  • DjiemDjiem Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Say, this might sound like a dumb question, but would you think it'd be a good idea if I practiced eating with chopsticks at home or is this actually not used anymore in Japan?

    PS: thanks for all the help.

    Djiem on
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