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dkuntz (Offline)
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Going to Japan this summer and have some questions. - 10-21-2008, 09:04 PM

I'm planning a trip to Japan this coming July and have been doing a little work on what I'd like to see. So far I've come up with Miyajima Island, Himeji Castle, Kyoto, Tokyo, Mt. Fuji/Hakone, Nikko, Dewa Sanzan and Matsushima Bay. I'm planning a two week vacation. I plan on getting a Japan Rail Pass. Is it possible to do all of this in 12 days or so with 2-3 days each in Kyoto and Tokyo?

Also, at this point I'll be traveling by myself and know almost no Japanese. How difficult will it be traveling and interacting at restaurants or shrines without knowing Japanese. I would like to stay in ryokan's if possible too. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
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10-21-2008, 09:10 PM

Congrats! Before I attack any of these questions, I'll ask you to go through these forums, as these questions are asked weekly. You will surely get a lot of help here, but let's meet halfway after you have done a little reading in this section.

And welcome to JF!
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dkuntz (Offline)
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10-21-2008, 10:11 PM

Ok. So I did a little reading. It sounds like 2-3 days each in Kyoto/Tokyo are probably enough since I'm not really into the whole club/bar scene and want to spend more time looking at historical sites and architecture, not museums in the current sense. If I'm correct on this, I've also gathered that learning basic greetings and "tourist questions" in Japanese is necessary as is purchasing a phrase book to help. However, by no means is a lack of a handle on Japanese a make/break issue.

It sounds like the Japan Rail Pass is a must based on the varying locations I wish to visit. It seems also that I've set up a pretty diverse set of places to visit which I view as a definite plus. I've heard conflicting information from here to other informational sites I've visited about the use of English on signs in train stations or major tourist locations so I'm kind of curious as to the general amount of English displayed/used at the locations I intend to travel to. Again, any help or clarification if I'm incorrect on any of this is greatly appreciated.
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10-21-2008, 10:40 PM

Sounds like you found some good info. Train stations are all pretty easy to use. I agree 2-3 days in Tokyo and Kyoto is probably enough.

A tourist guide to Japan and Japanese would be a good investment. Smaller and more remote hotels won't be as accessible.

Keep in mind the Japan Rail Pass is only for JR trains.
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dkuntz (Offline)
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10-21-2008, 11:11 PM

Thanks. A couple of follow-up questions then. As far as the trains go, as far as you know are any of the places I've listed an intent to visit not reachable by JR trains?

Are ryokans not really accessible due to the lack of Japanese I possess?

Are any of the locations I intend to visit in remote areas where a lack of Japanese again will be a bigger issue?

Is a 12 day visit that includes all of those locations too short of a visit to properly, and I know that properly depends on how much you want to do at each location, see the major sites at each?

Are there any other cities that I didn't list that would be easy to travel to that you would recommend visiting if architecture and history are my main interests?

Thanks.
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10-21-2008, 11:18 PM

I would dump Himeji castle and go to Nara. You can see the Great Buddha which is housed in the largest wood structure in the world...and that is must see.

JR will get you everywhere, but some subways, etc will not be accessable.

Some ryokans may not speak English, so yes, you might need some help there.
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10-22-2008, 01:11 AM

Just some quick answers/suggestions:
As said many times, its ok to get around in Tokyo with english, but every bit Japanese will be helpfull.
Mt Fuji: I have stayed in Fujiyoshida and there was a nice Youth Hostel were the owner speaks a little bit English and you get a private Tatami room, its not a Ryokan, but its ok.
Nikko: The staff in Nikko Tourist Information speaks English, so you should be fine in things like accomodation (you might want to book ahead if you are in high season). Otherwise Nikko is easy to navigate without knowing Japanese.
Matsushima Bay: Defenetly a very nice place and well worth visiting. With Sendai only 40 minutes away, you might want to spend the night in Sendai. Otherwise is also quite easy to navigate, some english signes and many restaurants have english menu (try Gyutan wich is cow toung).

I havent been to Hakone, Kyoto, Miyami Iland and Dewa Sanzan, but the last seems a little bit more remote. I will probably stay there in a few days, so ill let you know about getting around.


Back home after 1 year work and travel in Japan and 3 month in Korea: www.teglas.asia (text is in German, but see the pictures!)
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10-22-2008, 02:08 AM

I've just got a few comments to add:

first, you have an amazing trip planned...extremely busy one, but amazing. i'd only be worried about getting tired and wanting to take a little time off to rest. but for sure, you'll be getting your money's worth with the JR pass.

speaking of the JR pass, like MMM said, JR pass is for JR trains only. In Osaka I rode the subway, and tried to pass thru with my JR pass but the clerk at the counter said "no no". I didn't even realize it wasn't a non-JR train! Haha, just pay attention, more than I did...but you shouldn't have much of a problem. Anything local by subway isn't too expensive, if you have to go that route.

thirdly, about Hakone. please please please, book a hotel/ryokan that has an Onsen! It's an amazing experience and every foreigner should try it! (it being hot springs).

I'm amazed at how much you want to do and how you want to see of a more "traditional" Japan. Good luck and enjoy your time. Don't be shy to ask Japanese for advise, they're really friendly.


ホラ顔上げぇな・・
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dkuntz (Offline)
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10-22-2008, 04:23 AM

Thanks for all the thoughts/advice. I'm feeling really good about the itinerary I had worked out a little bit and my ability to navigate through Japan.
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