Our readers might remember that our own agent WIT Pam spent two weeks last year in Japan visiting her son Matt, who is living and working in Tokyo. As it has been years since anyone from Willamette spent time in Japan, we were thrilled when she came back with such great firsthand feedback!
Have you been thinking about travel to the Land of the Rising Sun? Pam will be happy to answer your questions about travel in Japan and arrange a spectacular trip for you. Call her for a chat at 503-224-0180 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pam used Delta nonstop, and booked a package plan with a prepaid hotel in Kyoto, which saved a lot on airfare. Whilst in Tokyo she visited the famous Asakusa, Shinjuku & Ueno areas–each with their own unique flavor. She took a day trip to Kamakura, where you can tour the many temples without the throngs of visitors found in Kyoto. And she did take the Shinkansen train to Kyoto, spending a fabulous 3 nights there.
Here are a few quick questions we had for her on logistics while traveling in Japan:
What is the link for the portable wi-fi you used? I used http://www.japan-wireless.com There are a lot of companies that do this, but this is the one where Matt has his phone and they are one of the larger providers in Japan. The device cost $55.00 U.S. for 9 days. It allowed me to use Google maps and their GPS function on my I-phone. I could sync it to 4 different devices. It can be delivered to your hotel.
Is there hardware that needs to be returned to the company you rented from, and if so, how is it returned? In the package you get they include instructions for syncing it to your device and a prepaid return envelope. You can drop it in any post box in Japan and it will be returned to them. It is about the same size as a cell phone.
Prepaid ticket for the airport bus: How did you pre-purchase the voucher? I got the bus voucher from JTB in Los Angeles at the same time I got the Japan Rail Pass. It would have been ok to purchase the bus ticket when you got there – it was a little hard finding the booth. I went out to where the buses left and found the bus, and they directed me back inside the terminal to the place where the voucher had to be exchanged. If I were doing it again, I would opt to take the train into the city – it is faster and goes to more stations than I realized.
Green Class Japan Rail Pass: There are multiple train companies in Japan – Japan Rail is the only one you can use on the pass, so depending on where you are traveling you sometimes may still have to buy some tickets. They do go most places, though. You also have to watch what kind of train you are taking – some of the newer high-speed trains still have supplements that you have to pay on top of the pass. I think that for tourists it is worth getting the Green Pass – I can’t stress how crowded and miserable the trains are around Tokyo – and if you are in the Green Car at least they are a little less packed. The long-distance trains from Tokyo to Kyoto can be reserved – there is a small fee for doing this, but you are guaranteed a seat and car number. This can only be done in Japan at a ticket office. I got a 7 day pass so didn’t use it on my arrival. The passes are for consecutive days only, so it didn’t make sense for me to have it validated until I was within 7 days of leaving Tokyo, since Matt isn’t on a JR line. I used it from Tokyo to Kamakura and back as a day trip, from Tokyo to Kyoto and back, for a side trip from Kyoto to Nara and back, and for the return Narita Express back to the airport. The pass price was about $316 and Matt’s ticket purchased from Tokyo to Kyoto round trip around $210. So I figure it was good value for me, but I wouldn’t do it for somebody who was just traveling one way from Tokyo to Kyoto to Osaka, say.
Suica or Pasmo card: Are the kiosks all over so they can easily be re-charged? Are they loaded only with cash, or can they be loaded from a debit card or credit card? These are 2 different cards both pre-loaded with money but they are universally accepted. The kiosks where I bought the cards were self-service – located in the train stations, and I think Matt said that you could buy them in convenience stores also – like a 7-11, of which there are thousands. We ended up reloading the cards at the train stations – Japan uses a lot of cash and you end up with pounds of small change, so we would take the card to the machine, toss in the cash and change, and it all got loaded on the cards which was a good way of getting rid of it. There were instructions on the machine that could be switched into English.
This feedback was also featured in our Winter newsletter. Give us a call for a hard copy in the mail!