Something I see asked a lot when it comes to Japan, is how to use the transport system and get around effectively. I have some recommendations that are particularly suited to first-timers, but there may be something for the seasoned Japan traveler too!
5. Fly in to Tokyo and out from Osaka
If you are traveling to Japan for the first time, I recommend planning a two week trip if possible. It’s a good idea to fly into Tokyo, stay for a week, then get the shinkansen to Osaka, make your base there, and then fly out from Kansai. A lot of people just get a return flight from Tokyo, but find themselves taking very long and expensive train journeys to other locations, and then they need to come all the way back to Tokyo for their flight. If you make your base in Osaka, you can much more easily reach Kyoto, Kobe & Nara! Plus, Osaka is a super fun city with lots to see and do in it’s own right.
If you are traveling as a family, in a large group, or are just a shopaholic like me that has a lot of luggage, you can save yourself a lot of hassle by using a takuhaibin service. These services take your luggage from door to door, so it can be picked up from the airport and delivered to your hotel! Japan Guide has some great information on takuhaibin if you want to try it out.
3. JR Pass/Tourist Passes
You’ll probably see this recommendation on a lot of top tip websites – the JR Pass is a pass that is available to tourists over set periods of time, that give you discounts on certain lines. Personally, I choose to avoid the JR Pass as I always take tip number 5 and only make one shinkansen journey and lots of small subway journeys, but if you are doing more than one fairly long journey on the JR line it’s usually worth the money.
However, there are a few other passes that are worthwhile, and they are rail passes combined with tourist attraction passes! Usually, you can get a good deal on these! An example of this is the Osaka Amazing Pass, which lets you travel around Osaka and grants you entry to the most popular places to visit.
2. Use Hyperdia
I’ve relied on Hyperdia since my very first Japan trip, and it has never let me down. It’s a simple website where you put where you are traveling from and to, and it will tell you the appropriate routes, times and costs to help you on your way! They now also have an Android app which will certainly be helpful on the move.
1. Suica/Icoca Pass
I love these passes, because they just make life so much easier. The first time I went to Japan, I did not have a SUICA pass, which means you have to check each individual journey and buy a ticket for that. It’s a huge time waster! The cards can be picked up at most stations via a machine, and you can top them up, scan them when you go through the barrier, and scan them when you leave the station. It’s super handy and quick! You can also use these passes on certain vending machines too, so you aren’t handling loose change all the time. For information on which passes to buy, see here! But generally speaking, I used ICOCA for Osaka and SUICA for Tokyo with no issues.
- Please wear appropriate footwear! You will likely do a lot of walking in Japan, even between stations if you need to change trains. Dolly shoes and heels won’t cut it for long walks! Yes, I learned the hard way.
- It’s vital to learn the difference between Local, Rapid, Limted Express etc. trains in Japan. This can be a real source of confusion, especially as the english subways always stop at every stop, pretty much. If you get on a Rapid when you need a Local stop, you’ll sail right past it! Hyperdia should help ease the confusion, and all the train signs state which train is which before boarding.
- If you do get lost, try not to sweat it too much. I’ve always found Japanese people to be very helpful, and able to point me in the right direction if I get off at the wrong stop or not sure where my next transfer is.
What are your top travel tips for Japan? Would love to know!
Ganbatte Girl x