Japan 2011 winter extravaganza

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Japan 2011 winter extravaganza

Postby spandexmuffin » Mon Oct 10, 2011 6:39 pm

My friend and I are 17 and are traveling to Japan for the first time this winter. We have roughly 4 months of Japanese under our belts and have never been outside of the country before. We are inexperienced in almost all aspects, however, we remain eager. It would be much appreciated if you could shed some light on the following questions.

-what is the best way to convert US dollars into yen? (are there ATM machines, do we bring travelers checks, currency exchange booth at the airport)
-what is the best way to get from point A to point B? (do we need a rail pass, should we rent a bike, night bus)
-Where is the best and most affordable place to stay? (youth hostels, business hotels, dorm rooms, ryoukang)
-What Japanese regulations are different from the US? (drinking age, age to rent a hotel room, etc.....)
-How cooperative and or friendly are the Japanese people when approached by a westerner?
What should we do while we are there? ( karaoke bar, Akihabara, Shinjuku, Shibuya, skiing,)

We plan to be in japan for roughly 20 days and would like to visit at least Tokyo and Nagano. Any recommendations and or suggestions regarding anything at all would be much appreciated.
Thank you! :D
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Re: Japan 2011 winter extravaganza

Postby JFZ Teacher (George) » Tue Oct 11, 2011 12:07 am

Q: what is the best way to convert US dollars into yen? (are there atm machines, do we bring travelers checks, currency exchange booth at the airport)

A: You can exchange at the airport. The rate is pretty good. Travelers checks earn you a bit more on the rate but generally since they cost money to make aren't worth it. They will NOT be so easy to use in Japan. I recommend cash.


Q: what is the best way to get from point A to point B? (do we need a rail pass, should we rent a bike, night bus)

A: This all depends on what you want to do. I almost always get a rail pass, but that is because I visit places far outside of Tokyo. If you are just traveling locally, get a SUICA card at the JR green window and put some money on it at the machines. Trust me! It's so much easier than buying tickets all the time. Night buses are cheap and you can even get a 3 day bus pass but I have never done this. I LOVE THE JR RAIL PASS.


Q: Where is the best and most affordable place to stay? (youth hostels, business hotels, dorm rooms, ryoukan)

A: Check out Sakura House (http://www.sakura-house.com/). If you rent an apartment it MIGHT be cheaper than a hotel, but I would investigate the many options. You can even call them and ask tons of questions in Englsih. They have all sorts of accommodations from apartments, to hotels and guest rooms. There is a ton of paperwork but overall it's a really great service. You should try to be near the train station as it will be your primary travel method in Tokyo. You will do a lot of walking in Japan!


Q: What Japanese regulations are different from the US? (drinking age, age to rent a hotel room, etc.....)

A: You can drink and smoke from age 20 in Japan. Other than that Japan is pretty much similar to America.
Your age of 17 is going to perhaps be an issue. So I recommend you do EVERYTHING that you can in advance.
This way you can have your parents involved if you need an "adult".


Q: How cooperative and or friendly are the Japanese people when approached by a westerner?

A: Japanese tend to be very friendly. Twice this trip 2 random people walked up to me when I was looking at a map and tried to help. A 3rd guy was "acting" like he wanted to help then he asked us for 500 yen. This is not so common. When you are going to take a train it's always a good idea to ask the staff at the station near the turnstile which track to go on etc.


Q: What should we do while we are there? ( karaoke bar, Akihabara, Shinjuku, Shibuya, skiing,)

A: Karaoke bars are one thing, but the most common karaoke in Japan are not bars, but are private rooms you rent.
If you have Japanese friends this is a MUST DO activity. In Ikebukuro there is a great Antoni Inoki (pro wrestler) themed restaurant that I went to for the first time and it was super fun. Akihabara for the electronics, (the Yodobashi Camera store is amazing). Shinjuku, Shibuya are great fun because there are SO many people. Skiing!?!?! I don't know much about that.
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Re: Japan 2011 winter extravaganza

Postby Musouka » Tue Oct 11, 2011 11:12 pm

You can use Hyperdia to look up train routes and timetables.

If you are using the JR Pass, make sure you uncheck the following options in search:

- Airplane (naturally!)
- NOZOMI / MIZUHO / HAYABUSA (SHINKANSEN) (See note below)
- Private Railway (sometimes, you have to use these or their tracks - surcharges)

Note: The Hayabusa is now included in the JR Pass (except for the GranClass) so you may want to leave the option checked if you want to travel from Tokyo to Touhoku.

Another site is Jorudan
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Re: Japan 2011 winter extravaganza

Postby spandexmuffin » Wed Oct 12, 2011 11:46 am

i was also thinking about getting a pre-paid cell phone, do you know about how much they are? Where they are sold?

Also do most places take visa cards?
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Re: Japan 2011 winter extravaganza

Postby Musouka » Thu Oct 13, 2011 4:08 am

You may want to check with your carrier to see if they have a roaming agreement with one of the Japanese carriers. My carrier have an agreement with NTT DoCoMo that would make it cheaper to roam than to purchase a preparid plan.

I guess in the busy urban areas, many would take credit cards. When you go to the country side, small towns or isolated areas, cash is king.

Useful links:

http://www.japan-guide.com
http://gojapan.about.com
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g294 ... tions.html
http://www.jnto.go.jp (provides detailed PDF's for many areas, you can download them)

Also, on the subject of travel:

Tourism blitz: 10,000 to get free flights to Japan

Probably won't happen until next year, though.
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