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#1 | Back to Top01-06-2014 03:28:18 PM

winksniper
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From: Under the Cherry Moon
Registered: 09-11-2009
Posts: 764

So I've decided I'm taking a trip to Japan this summer or fall.

I'm gonna save up my money and do my best to make it to Japan this year.  I have a handful of friends who live in Osaka and if I'm lucky I'll get to stay with my closest friend, Mayuka.  I've been speaking Japanese for 6 years so communication shouldn't be an issue.
Anyone ever been there?  Anyone have any advice to give?  I'm all ears.

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#2 | Back to Top01-07-2014 01:18:13 PM

Nova
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Re: So I've decided I'm taking a trip to Japan this summer or fall.

Get a JR Rail Pass. They can only be purchased from outside Japan for use by visitors, and they are awesome. It gets you access to the entire JR network including shinkansen (bullet trains), just not the green car access or the very fastest lines (Nozomi and Mizuho trains).

Edit: Also, do your currency exchange at the airport in Japan after you arrive. Currency exchange outside of Japan tends to be a screw job.

Last edited by Nova (01-07-2014 01:19:21 PM)


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#3 | Back to Top01-07-2014 05:52:05 PM

Ashnod
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Re: So I've decided I'm taking a trip to Japan this summer or fall.

When you to go a ramen-ya, order ramen.

For love of all that is good and decent in the world, don't go the ramen-ya and eat cheese dumplings.

If I only I could go back to that night in Kyoto and change my order, I would not have to live with the horror....


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#4 | Back to Top01-07-2014 07:40:17 PM

satyreyes
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From: New Orleans, Louisiana
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Posts: 10328
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Re: So I've decided I'm taking a trip to Japan this summer or fall.

Don't go in July or August unless you know for a fact that the place you're staying has good aircon.  Order melon soda.  If you haven't studied Kansai-ben and you're talking to people who aren't professionals then be prepared to work a little harder to communicate.  (I got bitten by this when asking for directions in Kyoto, though I had a lot less Japanese than you do.)  Have entertainment for downtime; urban Japan is a lonely place to be lonely.  And don't worry about the people staring at you; it's because you're a novelty, not because you're unwelcome.

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#5 | Back to Top01-07-2014 09:04:08 PM

Nova
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Re: So I've decided I'm taking a trip to Japan this summer or fall.

satyreyes wrote:

Don't go in July or August unless you know for a fact that the place you're staying has good aircon.

When the guy from Tampa says this, he's not fooling around.


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#6 | Back to Top01-07-2014 10:28:50 PM

satyreyes
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From: New Orleans, Louisiana
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Re: So I've decided I'm taking a trip to Japan this summer or fall.

Oh, man, one more thing.  Bring tissues and carry them.  Bathrooms in Japan are very diverse.  Some bathrooms have toilet paper and others do not.  Some bathrooms have toilet paper vending machines and others do not.  Some Japanese toilets will spray your nethers with water and others will not.  Some bathrooms provide none of the above.  One thing you do not want, and I speak from personal experience in this matter, is to get diarrhea while visiting Kinkaku-ji and encounter a bathroom with an old-fashioned squat toilet and no toilet paper.  There is absolutely no graceful way to exit that bathroom unless you brought tissues.  Bring tissues.  Carry them.  Out.

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#7 | Back to Top01-07-2014 11:53:17 PM

Nova
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Posts: 535

Re: So I've decided I'm taking a trip to Japan this summer or fall.

satyreyes wrote:

Oh, man, one more thing.  Bring tissues and carry them.  Bathrooms in Japan are very diverse.  Some bathrooms have toilet paper and others do not.  Some bathrooms have toilet paper vending machines and others do not.  Some Japanese toilets will spray your nethers with water and others will not.  Some bathrooms provide none of the above.  One thing you do not want, and I speak from personal experience in this matter, is to get diarrhea while visiting Kinkaku-ji and encounter a bathroom with an old-fashioned squat toilet and no toilet paper.  There is absolutely no graceful way to exit that bathroom unless you brought tissues.  Bring tissues.  Carry them.  Out.

It's been years since Ashnod and I went to Japan together*, and I've never told her this story, so she'll read it here for the first time when she next logs on.

At the public toilet in the Fushimi Inari Taisha**, I got the shits from the tonkatsu curry we'd had for lunch. It was a dingy squatter, similar to the sort of no-plumbing no-electricity poop shack you might find in a state park. I had to drop my butt way down low to contain the cone of fire from my inverted brown volcano, and I never, ever, was more happy to have 2-3 full packets of train-station freebie tissues in my purse.

If someone hands you a packet of tissues, you take 'em.




(* I had the pleasure of showing her around. I'd been there something like six times at that point.)
(** It's a wooded area, so it's not like there was a horrible Trainspotters shitter inside a temple or something.)

Last edited by Nova (01-08-2014 12:14:06 AM)


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#8 | Back to Top01-08-2014 01:18:08 AM

satyreyes
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From: New Orleans, Louisiana
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 10328
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Re: So I've decided I'm taking a trip to Japan this summer or fall.

Nova wrote:

the Fushimi Inari Taisha

is the place you should visit if you only have time to go to one place in Kyoto.  All poop aside.

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#9 | Back to Top01-09-2014 02:18:16 PM

Giovanna
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From: Edmonton, AB
Registered: 10-12-2006
Posts: 8798
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Re: So I've decided I'm taking a trip to Japan this summer or fall.

I'm going to be closely watching this thread. emot-biggrin

I'd love to hear, nosey as this is, a kind of vague rundown of costs incurred going there. Flights, hotels, eating. I have a fairly good idea of what it costs to travel in Europe and other Asian countries, but Japan is a huge mystery except that I know it'll be expensive. But what about it is expensive? Is the hotel going to cripple? Shopping? Admission into museums and such? Food? All of it?


Akio, you have nice turns of phrase, but your points aren't clear and you have no textual support. I can't give this a passing grade.
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#10 | Back to Top01-09-2014 06:41:00 PM

winksniper
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From: Under the Cherry Moon
Registered: 09-11-2009
Posts: 764

Re: So I've decided I'm taking a trip to Japan this summer or fall.

Oh man, you guys have the greatest advice (and stories). emot-rofl

And I second what Gio's asking.

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#11 | Back to Top01-09-2014 08:19:58 PM

satyreyes
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From: New Orleans, Louisiana
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 10328
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Re: So I've decided I'm taking a trip to Japan this summer or fall.

When I was in Japan, the year was 2005.  I browsed the Internet through America Online, New Orleans had never been submerged by the Gulf of Mexico, and Pluto was a planet.  Even if I remembered what I paid for food and lodging in Japan, I doubt the information would mean much now. :-/  (Though amusingly, the exchange rate was not too different then than now.)

I can say that, as in America, you can pretty much spend as much as you want on a hotel.  There are Western-style hotels and there are ryokan, traditional (or traditionally styled) inns: tatami, sliding doors, knee-height tables, no beds.  Both can be cheap reasonably priced or expensive.  I stayed in a less expensive ryokan for most of my time in Kyoto.  It did not have good air conditioning.  I blame the Kyoto Protocol.

Last edited by satyreyes (01-09-2014 08:22:16 PM)

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#12 | Back to Top01-12-2014 06:54:29 PM

Yasha
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From: Edmonton, AB, Canada
Registered: 10-15-2006
Posts: 6031
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Re: So I've decided I'm taking a trip to Japan this summer or fall.

I should ask my brother about his trip to Japan. He probably remembers airfare and such, and it may be more recent than sat's experience.


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#13 | Back to Top01-12-2014 10:44:36 PM

winksniper
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From: Under the Cherry Moon
Registered: 09-11-2009
Posts: 764

Re: So I've decided I'm taking a trip to Japan this summer or fall.

Yasha wrote:

I should ask my brother about his trip to Japan. He probably remembers airfare and such, and it may be more recent than sat's experience.

True dat.
My friend who travels the world a lot is incidentally in India at the moment and can't get back to me on how much she spent on her trip to Japan.  Hopefully she can give me some advice I can share.

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#14 | Back to Top01-12-2014 11:12:27 PM

Yasha
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From: Edmonton, AB, Canada
Registered: 10-15-2006
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Re: So I've decided I'm taking a trip to Japan this summer or fall.

....actually, I have other resources to draw on too. SA probably has a thread about it, I'll mine it for information. How did I not think of this? They have an entire subforum dedicated to traveling.


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#15 | Back to Top01-13-2014 12:42:55 PM

Yasha
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Re: So I've decided I'm taking a trip to Japan this summer or fall.

Holy shit, wink, SA's FAQ on Japan is like eight miles long. Was there anything in particular you wanted to know about? I don't want to just post the whole thing here, because it's fucking huge.


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#16 | Back to Top01-13-2014 09:45:25 PM

winksniper
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From: Under the Cherry Moon
Registered: 09-11-2009
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Re: So I've decided I'm taking a trip to Japan this summer or fall.

Yasha wrote:

Holy shit, wink, SA's FAQ on Japan is like eight miles long. Was there anything in particular you wanted to know about? I don't want to just post the whole thing here, because it's fucking huge.

Well, my current issue, beyond paying for me just to get over there, is the fact that I suck suck suck at directions.  I'm primarily interested in the easiest and most cost efficient way to get around.  Also, hotels!  I would need a safe, relatively cheap hotel in the event that I can't stay with Mayuka.
Beyond that, just normal tourist stuff: best places to eat, best sights to see, best places to shop, what to look for/avoid, etc etc. 
Also, how not to break the bank.  I know it's going to be hella expensive, but I need to pinch pennies when I can.  So, the cheapest times (of the year) to fly would also be awesome information to have.

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#17 | Back to Top01-13-2014 10:51:56 PM

Yasha
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From: Edmonton, AB, Canada
Registered: 10-15-2006
Posts: 6031
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Re: So I've decided I'm taking a trip to Japan this summer or fall.

winksniper wrote:

Yasha wrote:

Holy shit, wink, SA's FAQ on Japan is like eight miles long. Was there anything in particular you wanted to know about? I don't want to just post the whole thing here, because it's fucking huge.

Well, my current issue, beyond paying for me just to get over there, is the fact that I suck suck suck at directions.  I'm primarily interested in the easiest and most cost efficient way to get around.  Also, hotels!  I would need a safe, relatively cheap hotel in the event that I can't stay with Mayuka.
Beyond that, just normal tourist stuff: best places to eat, best sights to see, best places to shop, what to look for/avoid, etc etc. 
Also, how not to break the bank.  I know it's going to be hella expensive, but I need to pinch pennies when I can.  So, the cheapest times (of the year) to fly would also be awesome information to have.

Gotcha. Okay, some of this won't apply, but I'll paste in the relevant sections.

Short-term Accommodation

Japanese Inn Group should be your first stop if you don't read Japanese. You can plug in all your criteria and find a place that matches.

Ryokan
The traditional Japanese style inn. A list of ryokan which accept and can handle non-Japanese speaking tourists can be found using Welcome Inn. In the countryside, if you donít speak Japanese, you may be turned away by some of the more gun-shy ryokan.

Western style (high-class) hotel
You know how they say Tokyo is the most expensive city in the world? Thatís because of people who think they HAVE to say at the Hilton or Prince Hotel or Keio Inn and eat steak and roast chicken stuffed with foie gras or whatever. I remember one goon in the last thread who stayed in a five-star place because his company was paying for it. He enjoyed it, and you probably will too, but be prepared to pay.

Business hotel/Weekly mansion
These cater to people on business trips. Much more reasonable than the four-star hotels, but just basic amenities (almost all have private bathroom/toilets.) The Toyoko Inn chain has places all over the country Ė they are unremarkable but always clean and serve breakfast. Iíve stayed at a bunch on business before and use them for quick social trips too.

Weekly Mansion Tokyo is a good option that my parents always use when they visit. It's basically a long-term business hotel, but the rooms are slightly bigger, there is a real hotplate and microwave in the room, and there are discounts for stays of more than 7 nights. One drawbacks is that the linen and towels aren't changed every day, but I'm sure we can all live with that. The staff don't always speak English but they do provide information sheets and stuff in English.

Hostel
Most goons talk about Sakura Hostel in Tokyo. Cheap and ready for tourists. I found this place on another guy's web site. Rates and facilities look good. edit: Sakura Hostel sucks, I think K's House is the new recommendation? I forget

Love hotel
"Love hotels" often litter the major towns and offer an inexpensive stay with many amenities: clean showers and baths, complimentary soap, shampoo and conditioner, mini-fridges (often perfect for travelers looking to store onigiri for the next day's breakfast), a clean bed and a locked door. The only requirements (not in all hotels) are that you stay with someone of the opposite sex.

Love hotels will usually have three displayed prices: Rest (3 hours), 30 minutes and Stay. Stay is usually a set period for couples to spend the evening (starting times range from 10:00pm to 12:00am until 10 or 11 the next morning. At most places it costs about 6,000 to 8,000 yen for a stay and at some of the more expensive hotels it will cost you 10,000 to 14,000 yen a night. Just a small warning: If you do not speak Japanese, many, if not most hotels will kick you out. Brought to you by BambooTelegraph.

Comedy capsule hotel/internet cafť option
Capsule hotels are basically an emergency option for businessmen who have missed their last train home after drinking with the boss. You get a shower, a place to put your briefcase/duffel bag (notice I specifically didn't say "suitcases/huge backpacks") and a coffin to sleep in.

Internet cafes are for unemployed people and kids running away from home. Most of them have bottomless drink machines, manga to read and comfy seats. Some have showers. Do it once for fun if you really need to, but it wonít be comfortable. People donít WANT to stay at these places.

Couch Surfing
CouchSurfing is a good way to experience Japan if you are traveling alone or as a couple. Many Japanese people and foreigners are willing to put you up in their apartments for a couple of nights if you have a proper profile and some references. I(Ned), have hosted about 50 people or so over the last year and a half and it has really been a blast. The accommodation is going to be free but take out your hosts for dinner and drinks and let them show you their favorite spots. You'll save money and meet interesting people.

4) Clubs! I want to go clubbing, so tell me where to go.

A: Japan has many clubs but they have cracked down on dancing in clubs recently. If a club operates past 1 AM they are not allowed to have any dancing at all and the cops will raid the club and arrest the owners and shut it down. Clubs that have the proper license and close at 1 can reopen around 5 in the morning so you'll have to find a place to go between then. Some smaller clubs are open all night and let you dance but they are skirting the law. Either way, ask in the thread about where to go.

And don't ever let anyone from the street take you to their club. You'll get ripped off hardcore. Go into a place that has people waiting in line to get in, at least that means there are people there.

1) What kind of visa do I need to visit Japan?

A: If youíre coming for a vacation of less than ninety days and are from Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada, the UK or most EU countries, you donít need to apply for a visa in advance. You can get a 90-day or three-month landing permission when you arrive in Japan. You are prohibited from working AT ALL with tourist status. For all other visits, you will need to apply for a visa at a Japanese consulate before you leave.

When you land at the airport in Japan, you will go through immigration and be issued with a Landing Permission. This is a stamp or pre-printed sticker which is placed in your passport and lists the date by which you must leave Japan or have your stay extended, and the status of residence you fall under -- this governs the activities you may and may not do while in the country.

Note the difference between "visa" and "landing permission", as some people have been burned before. For immigration to Japan, the "visa" (usually single-use) is the document that an embassy or consulate issues you in your native country. It is a recommendation to the immigration inspectors in Japan that you be issued with a "landing permission". Once you are given this landing permission at the airport in Japan, your visa becomes invalid and irrelevant. The landing permission, and only the landing permission, governs your status of stay in Japan from there on out.

People between the ages of 18 and 25 from Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Korea and New Zealand are eligible for Working Holiday visas. There will be restrictions on the length of time you can work, both per-week and as a proportion of your trip, and most regular Japanese companies will not consider hiring people on a WHV.

If you want to work in Japan, you will need a working visa or other non-restricted visa, without exception. For the majority of English speakers this will be a Specialist in Humanities/International Services Visa which allows you to work as an English teacher, translator or editor. It does not cover anything outside this field -- it is illegal to do other kinds of work without changing your status of residence. However, it is a straightforward process to do that.

Spouses and children of Japanese citizens can get visas that have no restriction on employment. Permanent residents also enjoy unlimited employment options, as well as much higher chances of having their mortgage applications accepted.

1a) in re ID

A:Tourists must carry their passports at all times. This is a legal requirement. You will be asked to present it when checking into accommodation, and you may be asked by police on the street to produce your passport. Most anecdotes by people who were stopped without their passport end in "and so I had to wait in the police station for six hours while someone went back to the hotel to get my passport and bring it in." If you're going to be on a working/familial status of residence, see "What's a gaijin card?" below. If you're in the US military and are covered by SOFA, I believe you are required to carry your military ID at all times when off your base.

4) Can I get Internet access in Japan?
A: Yes, but there aren't many free open wi-fi spots anymore. Japan (Tokyo at least) went the way of "get the telcos to roll out access points and let them charge 900 yen a month to use them". Otherwise, internet/manga cafes are quite common, especially near train stations. Some places require that you sign up first (around 300 yen), others just charge so much per hour. The quality of the cafe itself varies quite a bit, too, so if you're here for a longer time and are using net cafes a lot, shop around.

1) Japan Rail Pass -- to buy or not to buy?

A: Probably not. You should think carefully about where you want to go in Japan before you buy a Japan Rail Pass. The seven-day pass is only good value (ie. you will just about break even) if you use the shinkansen to travel more than one round-trip between Tokyo-Kyoto (ie. one longer trip or more shorter trips). If youíre going to travel more than that on the shinkansen or mostly on JR lines in a seven-day period then yeah, go for it. If you only want to take the shinkansen for one round-trip, just buy regular tickets.

If youíre considering buying the 14- or 28-day ticket then youíre probably planning to travel around a lot more, so it becomes better value.

Note that within major cities, JR is not the only train network. If you're in central Tokyo, you will use Tokyo Metro much more than you would JR. If you're in Kansai then you can use that private line (Kintetsu?) between Kyoto and Osaka which is cheaper than the JR line.

In any case, if youíre trying to maximize value, note that there is NO shinkansen between Narita Airport and Tokyo, so you donít have to actually convert the voucher to a train pass until later in your trip.

I don't know if this part is useful, but I'll throw it in anyway:

2) How do I get to wherever from Narita Airport?

A: You have four choices.
Limousine buses run from the airport to all over the city and suburbs. Seriously, I live on the west side of Tokyo and I can get a direct bus to the next suburb from where I live. As far as I remember, there are two major companies at Narita Airport - Keisei, linked above, and Kanachu, whose website is in Japanese only. Most of the bus counter staff can speak English though, the departure times/fare information is displayed in English, and theyíre not pricey. Your best choice.

The Keisei train line runs a reserved-seat service (the Skyliner) from the airport to Ueno station, from where you can transfer to the different lines. If you donít want a reserved seat you can take a regular Keisei line train for 1,200 yen less (and 15 minutes more, no big deal.)

The JR line is slightly more expensive and runs to Tokyo, then usually continues down towards Yokohama. The special all-reserved-seat Narita Express is spectacularly expensive for outbound trips, but as one of these "foreigners" you can get the special Narita Express + Suica deal! Note, if you are staying in the centre of Tokyo then the Narita Express is overkill Ė take the Keisei Skyliner instead.

Comedy "taking a taxi for 30,000 yen" option

3) So you say the trains are pretty good?

A: Yep. Reliable, clean, quiet and much safer than anywhere else. There are many different railway companies, but if you have a Suica/Toica/Icoca/Kitaca or Pasmo rechargeable stored-value card, you can transfer between them without worrying about if you have the right ticket or not. Seriously, get one of these. Charge it when it runs low at the ticket machine, then all you have to do is touch it to the reader at the wicket when you enter the station, then again when you leave at your destination. Simple.
Suica and Pasmo cards keep their validity and hold value for 10 years after you last use them, so you can take them home with you and use them on your next trip.
In any case, all (I think) JR ticket machines and the vast majority of the private railways' ticket machines outside the deep boonies have a button that you can press to switch the display to English, so don't worry about accidentally buying a ticket to the moon or anything like that.

The trains stop running at night, but only between roughly 1am and 5am. If youíre out after 1am you might as well stay out all night and catch the first train home. (Hey, millions of Taro Salarymen canít be wrong!)

Hyperdia* and Jorudan** are sites where you can check your route, fare and timetable.
* Be sure to click "Search Details" and turn off all but Express, Walk and Ordinary Train if you want a cheap option.
** Watch out for Jorudan! The English site will refuse to give you a local train option if a shinkansen runs the same way, so you may end up paying thousands more yen for a trip that only takes 15 minutes more than a local train.

Stupid stuff that shouldn't need to be said but it does: (More applicable to crowded trains but that's most of them) Take off your backpack when you're on the train. It's really annoying to be bumped by someone's backpack every three seconds, especially when the owner is three feet in front of the thing and oblivious to the people behind them. Also, keep your voice down. A lot of commuters like to sleep or otherwise relax on the train, and since in general English speakers talk louder than Japanese, your voice is carrying through the whole carriage and everyone is wishing you would shut the hell up. One more thing is when you sit on the train, make sure you're only taking up one seat. Long seats usually fit seven and you can bet your bottom dollar yen that six other tired people want to sit on the same bench as you. And turn down your fucking headphones. Nobody else is impressed by your phat beatz, in fact they wish you would die.

1) How do I bring money to Japan? needs updating

A: Japan is still mostly a cash-based society. Itís not uncommon for people to be carrying around wads of notes in their wallets. Department stores, other major stores, chain supermarkets and major clothing stores accept credit cards, but not everybody. Do NOT come to Japan with no cash, expecting to charge everything. Also, some people have reported that stores will turn down Visa and Mastercards issued by international banks because "we donít accept foreign credit cards". Itís not supposed to work like that, but what are you going to do?

Travellersí cheques can be tricky outside major centres. Not all banks can handle them. If you must use travellersí cheques, make sure you know where they can be converted before you come.

It's not all bad news though. Japan Post ATMs, which are linked to the Plus network, accept most ATM cards (see if yours has a Plus logo on the back). ATMs are not open 24 hours a day! There may be daily withdrawal limits! You shouldnít run into too many problems though.

spacebard says "I always forget where the Citibank ATM is in Ikebukuro, but if you need to get more than the post office's daily limit, it's available. It's worth mentioning because it's been around for at least 10 years. It's at Ikebukuro station's Metropolitan Plaza Exit, at the end of a long corridor."

BambooTelegraph says "There is a Citibank ATM on the first floor of the Narita Airport, next to a small 10min/100yen internet cafe. There is also a Citibank near the Imperial Palace. The bank itself shares the building with a Microsoft Center."

LimburgLimbo adds "Actually, now that 7/11s have ATMs which let you use foreign cards*, it's not all that hard to get cash if you need it, at least in major cities. However, if you don't know where ATMs are, etc. you should always have enough cash to get around. I frequently get by with only putting what I'll need for a day (a couple thousand yen) in my wallet, but then I know the locations of ATMs I can withdraw from in pretty much every part of Tokyo I go to, and have a train pass which always has enough money on it to get me home, etc. But a tourist should ALWAYS have cash on hand.
* 7/11 ATMs (including ATMs in 7/11 affiliated stores like Ito-Yokado) take foreign cards, but you can only withdraw in denominations of 10,000 yen, and they have a 210 yen service charge."

In short, carry lots of cash, and charge up your Suica card (you bought one, right?) which can be used at convenience stores and even some restaurants so you donít have to fumble for change.

Food

Eat local food, save yen. It bears repeating that Japan is not a Western country, imports 60% 70% of its food, and is used to catering to Japanese people who (mostly) eat Japanese food. You can get Western food but you will pay a premium for it.

Leaving issues of cost aside for a second, the variety, range and quality of food here is top-notch. Japanese snigger at what we call "sushi" and "teppanyaki" in Western countries because it's so far removed from the real thing. If there's a particular kind of J food you want to try while you're here, post with your request and budget -- you'll probably find that someone can recommend a good place.

If you're on a tight budget, there are lots of great ramen (not the instant-noodle thing you might have thought of -- big bowls of REAL noodles, meat, vegetables and spices), tempura, udon/soba noodle and other restaurants all over the place. If you do need a fix of Western-style food on the cheap, try a chain like Denny's, Jonathan's or Saizeriya (the so-called family restaurants.) I've never visited one outside Japan but American friends of mine say they're a damn sight better than the US equivalents.

Dmoz recommends Tabelog for restaurant information. "It`s by far the most comprehensive restaurant review site in Japan, and is especially good for Tokyo." The site is only in Japanese, though.

CronoGamer says: "Budget travelers [shouldn't forget about] the special price-cuts at supermarkets in the evening. The way it works is (at least from what I saw in Tokyo) after a certain time in the evening, they start putting out big red stickers on the bento boxes advertising 25/50/75% off (better deals the later in the day it is) because they aren't allowed to sell the food the next day thanks to the rigorous health restrictions."
Dmoz adds "This is a good point - it's called Time Service and is best at the major department store foodhalls (depachika) about 10-15 min before closing. I'd also make another point - LUNCH SETS. Jojoen's lunch set (a pretty nice yakiniku) is about 15-20% of the dinner price, for example. Set menus are god."
Sushi shops (as opposed to restaurants) also do this. Every night when I pass the sushi shop near my station, around 8pm, they are selling everything at 30% off.

Convenience stores sell worthwhile food. It is possible to eat three meals a day from a convenience store, with a level of variety even!
Vegetarians beware, Japan is not a vegetarian country, and many people, let alone restaurants, donít understand the different levels of vegetarianism and what constitutes "meat". Search the previous threads with "vegetarian" to see some stories. Here's one.
English menus arenít always available, but point and gesture picture menus are more common. A lot of not-top-tier restaurants have the plastic molded food display outside their shop so you can see exactly what you are getting (and drag the waiter outside to point, if you need to.)
郷に入っては郷に従え。 (When in Rome, do as the Romans do.) It's considered impolite to eat while walking and odd to eat while standing. It's quite rude to eat on the train (except for non-crunchy sweets and stuff.) If you buy take-away food, be aware that rubbish bins are few and far between on the street, so be prepared to carry your rubbish around with you.

What should I do in Japan?

Some generic things to do are eat real Japanese food (common consensus is that it shits all over "Japanese" food in other countries), visit shrines and temples, go shopping (fashion, electronics and housewares are all good), try a bath in an onsen, party till dawn, go hiking or skiing, etc. etc.

uinfuirudo recommends trying a homestay for a more personal experience.

Some more specific things to do as recommended by goons and broken down by location are: (please send your information in!)
Hokkaido
In summer, Sapporoís climate hands-down beats Tokyoís. Rent a bicycle and spend a week exploring the city and surrounds.
Tochigi
Utsunomiya is nice and not touristy. Tochigi City is tiny, but worth half a day. Oku-Nikko is really nice.
Tokyo megalolapalooza
Visit the Tsukiji Fish Market (behave yourself!)
Climb Mt Fuji (generally summer only)
go to the Ghibli Museum, then buy a bento lunch and eat in Inokashira Park
Edo Tokyo Museum near Ryogoku is pretty cool, and most of the exhibits have English notations. They let you take pictures inside, too.
Ebisu Brewery and Beer Museum off the Ebisu stop. It's pretty much all in Japanese but most of it is fairly visual. Plus, beer.
Meiji Shrine near Harajuku station.
Senso-ji in Asakusa (arguably the most photographed shrine in all Japan.) A good place to pick up cheesy souvenirs for your friends back in gaikoku.
Consider taking a day trip to Kamakura and going to the Kotoku-in temple to see the daibustu (big buddha.) There are a ton of other really good temples around Kamakura as well.
Kanazawa
Kanazawa is very relaxing and the park is beautiful. A++ Would go again.
Kansai
Gekkikan Brewery Museum in Kyoto. I forget what train station it's near. Some English notations, and an interesting and exploratory look at the history of sake. Small, but hey free sake with admittance.
Nijo Castle in Kyoto. Not exactly a museum but they've kept the old castle pretty much exactly as it was ages ago, and you can walk the grounds. They give English tours (I think for free) but you have to call ahead and reserve them.
In Kyoto, Kinkaku-ji (Golden Temple) simply because it's shiny. Kiyomizu, as it's always gorgeous. Fushimi-inari shrine, because there's nothing like walking through a tunnel of tori gates.
Also consider taking a day trip to Oku-No-In, way up in the mountains in Kii-Hanto. There are a number of fairly unique temples and a massive, ancient graveyard. Especially cool at night when the stone lanterns are all lit.
Himeji Castle in Himeji, as well. Massive and impressive. Not too far from Kyoto.
Hiroshima
Gee I think the Peace Dome might be on the list
Shikoku
Go see (and swim in) the Shimanto River in summer.
Spend a day and night in Kotohira and climb up to Konpira-san.
Drive through the Iya Valley (Alex Kerrís hangout). See the Peeing Boy statue.
Okinawa
Fluffy Bunnies complained that Okinawa's entry was empty two months ago and I never read the PM. Sorry, FB. They say "I mean, I know we're a shitty little island, but what."
Peace Prayer Park
Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
Pineapple Park
Snorkeling, most of the year 'round
http://www.okinawahai.com is basically a stupid ass military spouse blog, but there's a TON of places on Okinawa listed on there and it'd be a fantastic resource for just about anyone visiting. Lots of food joints and reviews, too.

Okay, so that's about it for the FAQ. I'll check the thread and see if anyone mentions flight costs or time of year or something. I hope this info is helpful!


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#18 | Back to Top01-14-2014 06:28:08 PM

winksniper
Qualified Duellist
From: Under the Cherry Moon
Registered: 09-11-2009
Posts: 764

Re: So I've decided I'm taking a trip to Japan this summer or fall.

Super helpful, wow!! Thanks!!  emot-danceetc-love

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#19 | Back to Top01-14-2014 06:33:34 PM

Yasha
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From: Edmonton, AB, Canada
Registered: 10-15-2006
Posts: 6031
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Re: So I've decided I'm taking a trip to Japan this summer or fall.

You're welcome. It's crowdsourced information, too, so it's should be very accurate. Again, I'll check through the rest of the thread and see if there's anything else.


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#20 | Back to Top01-15-2014 02:42:12 AM

Pratyeka
Tenjou Tilter
From: Japan
Registered: 06-02-2013
Posts: 88

Re: So I've decided I'm taking a trip to Japan this summer or fall.

Hey, I currently live in Tokyo and I previously lived in Fukuoka-ken, Kyushu. I have no idea what kind of stuff you might want to know, because I've been here just long enough to start forgetting what surprised me when I first arrived, but if you have any questions I'm happy to answer them to the best of my ability. As far as places to stay and etc: are we talking Osaka, Tokyo...? Any specific locations or things you want to see/do?
Also, my trip to Okinawa last week was part of an internship for Okinawan tourism, so if you want, you can check out the blog here: http://www.okinawagambalog.com/ People of all different languages wrote for it, so if you click the language tag on the side for the language you want to read, you'll just see those posts.

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#21 | Back to Top01-15-2014 11:03:00 AM

winksniper
Qualified Duellist
From: Under the Cherry Moon
Registered: 09-11-2009
Posts: 764

Re: So I've decided I'm taking a trip to Japan this summer or fall.

Pratyeka wrote:

Hey, I currently live in Tokyo and I previously lived in Fukuoka-ken, Kyushu. I have no idea what kind of stuff you might want to know, because I've been here just long enough to start forgetting what surprised me when I first arrived, but if you have any questions I'm happy to answer them to the best of my ability. As far as places to stay and etc: are we talking Osaka, Tokyo...? Any specific locations or things you want to see/do?
Also, my trip to Okinawa last week was part of an internship for Okinawan tourism, so if you want, you can check out the blog here: http://www.okinawagambalog.com/ People of all different languages wrote for it, so if you click the language tag on the side for the language you want to read, you'll just see those posts.

Thank you!  You live a very lucky life.  Anyways, I'm looking to stay in Osaka/Kyoto/Nara.  Osaka preferably.  I would just need a good reliable hotel that's not too difficult to get to/from, because my ultimate plan would be to meet up with my friends there and just do whatever with them.

Also, as far as the visa thing goes as was in the list of FAQ that Yasha posted - when I visit, other than the obvious passport, will I need any other documents?  How does that whole thing work out?  I only plan to stay for about a week.

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#22 | Back to Top01-16-2014 07:09:14 AM

Pratyeka
Tenjou Tilter
From: Japan
Registered: 06-02-2013
Posts: 88

Re: So I've decided I'm taking a trip to Japan this summer or fall.

winksniper wrote:

Thank you!  You live a very lucky life.  Anyways, I'm looking to stay in Osaka/Kyoto/Nara.  Osaka preferably.  I would just need a good reliable hotel that's not too difficult to get to/from, because my ultimate plan would be to meet up with my friends there and just do whatever with them.

Also, as far as the visa thing goes as was in the list of FAQ that Yasha posted - when I visit, other than the obvious passport, will I need any other documents?  How does that whole thing work out?  I only plan to stay for about a week.

You won't hear me complaining, I love it here. 
Kansai is fantastic, and it's really easy to get from Osaka to the other Kansai cities - even day trips to Kyoto and Nara are simple. Osaka also has some great hostels, really friendly and helpful people, and the best food in all of Japan. It was the first city I stayed in for more than a day on my first two trips to Japan, and loving it was a large part of the reason I decided to move here.
I've also had a friend to stay with most times I've visited, so I can only recall two places I've stayed - Hotel Chuo Oasis, which wasn't especially close to anything except a train station, but it was a hostel-priced room with all the amenities and features of what they call here a 'business hotel'. The staff were friendly, and became really happy and excited when I spoke to them in Japanese. The other I stayed in a while back, so it may have changed - it's called Hotel Kinki (The other, more exciting name for the Kansai region! They should use it in tourist slogans, really.) and can be difficult to find the first time you get to it, but is in a fantastic location near Osaka Station, a huge transport hub. It's also really cheap (for hotel prices). Rooms are small, though. It also had a coin laundry out front, which was strange but useful.  Of course, you might be able to get even cheaper rates if you go the hostel route, but I know a lot more about the hostels here in Tokyo than the Osakan ones. Hostelworld.com and it's ratings system is usually a good bet, though. I'm a bit tired and rambly right now, so I hope this helps.
Regarding documentation, the passport is all you need! Keep it on you at all times, as the police can stop you and ask to see it to make sure you aren't illegal. It's never happened to me the entire time I've been here, but you really never know. Be aware that police here are amazingly nice and friendly and helpful - like police in a 50's TV show - but, you know...don't get arrested. True story, though: I lost my wallet with my visa/id, school card, a decent amount of cash, a train pass charged with more cash, and a bunch of other stuff in Shinjuku's club district in the middle of the night one weekend (I may also have been smashed). I stumbled into the nearest Police Box sometime after 1 in the morning, reported it - the Police didn't even worry that I said I didn't have my card - and gave me a case number to follow up with. I pretty much figured it was gone forever. Two days later, the police called to tell me they had it and I could come pick it up. I got to the station, gave them some info to verify it was me, and they gave it back - not a single thing was missing. Seriously, everything you hear about Japan's amazing honesty (and police force) is true. Great place to be a drunk foreigner.

Now I've somehow managed to write a hell of a lot for two question so sorry again for the rambling! Feel free to ask me anything else and I will answer when I'm more awake and coherent emot-biggrin

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#23 | Back to Top01-16-2014 06:32:13 PM

winksniper
Qualified Duellist
From: Under the Cherry Moon
Registered: 09-11-2009
Posts: 764

Re: So I've decided I'm taking a trip to Japan this summer or fall.

Thanks for all the info!! Why are you living out there, if you don't mind me asking?  I'm just curious.

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#24 | Back to Top01-16-2014 10:49:05 PM

Pratyeka
Tenjou Tilter
From: Japan
Registered: 06-02-2013
Posts: 88

Re: So I've decided I'm taking a trip to Japan this summer or fall.

My pleasure!  I'm currently here on a student visa, attending what they call an "intensive language school", which basically means nothing but language study for 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week. I love Tokyo, though, so it'd be great to get a work visa and stay here indefinitely.

*ETA: Related to the SA post, which I only just skimmed: most of that info matches with what I know, but some may be out of date. 7-11 atms, for instance, stopped taking Maestro and MasterCard last year, saying they would re-institute use of MC soon but that Maestro would never have functionality with them again. They have yet to reinstate MC properly, though, far as I know. I've been using the Post Office/Japan Post atms since, which can be found in many places and allow you to pull cash in all sort of denominations.
Oh, and in Tokyo, they really don't like tourists at the Tsukiji fish market, as it's started to get in the way of business, so the tuna auctions (which is apparently the fun thing to watch) is not currently open to non-buyers. You should still be able to walk around and see fish being sold, though.

Last edited by Pratyeka (01-16-2014 11:03:10 PM)

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