Japan from 2 Jan to 13 Jan
Replies: 14 - Last Post: Nov 27, 2012 3:41 PM Last Post By: Tokyo_girl
Nov 25, 2012 10:27 AM
Japan from 2 Jan to 13 JanMy wife and I are traveling to Japan right after New Year's. Our plan is to spend 4 nights in Tokyo, 4 nights in Kyoto, and the last 3 nights in Tokyo. A few questions for the forum:
1) We plan to activate our JR pass on 6 Jan. Because this is the tail end of the holiday, is it worth buying the green pass? Will it be hard to get a seat traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto that day?
2) While in Kyoto, will we have time to go down to Osaka for an afternoon/evening to see Dotonbori? Connected to this, does anyone know if the ambience for seeing kabuki is better in Tokyo (Shimbashi Enbujo) or Osaka?
3) Once back in Tokyo, we would like to go up to Hakone for a day for a view of Mt Fuji (weather permitting) and a soak at an onsen. I have the Tokyo Lonely Planet, but I'm having trouble trying to figure out which onsen is close to a Fuji viewing area (and close to a train station). Any recommendations? Do people in the forum have preferences over Hakone? We certainly won't go to any on a weekend day.
Thanks for your help and expertise!
Nov 25, 2012 10:56 AM
My wife and I are traveling to Japan right after New Year's. Our plan is to spend 4 nights in Tokyo, 4 nights in Kyoto, and the last 3 nights in Tokyo.
Have you booked hotels yet? Which ones?
Do you plan on going to Kyoto on Jan 6? If you can go on Jan 7 it might be a lot easier. I would try and do that instead of getting a Green Pass, but that's up to you.
I expect it will be busy on Jan 6.
Note that you should exchange your order for the actual JR Pass when you arrive (at Narita?) on Jan 2 and specify the activation date as Jan 6. That way you can start making seat reservations straight away (on Jan 2) for Jan 6 if you wish.
To be honest, you are usually better off setting the activation date as Jan 7 so that it expires on Jan 13 but covers you getting back to the airport, assuming you depart from Narita. Obviously this only works if you go to Kyoto on Jan 7 or later.
Yes. Kyoto Station to Shin-Osaka Station is 14 minutes on the Shinkansen and covered by your JR Pass. From there you can take the Midosuji Subway line to Namba Station for Dotonbori, not covered by your JR Pass but only 270 yen.
You can look up trains and timetables here:-
Use the JR Pass to get to Odawara Station, usually by Shinkansen from Tokyo/Shinagawa. Then if you wish to do the Hakone Round Course you can purchase the Hakone Free Pass (3900 yen) at Odawara. If you prefer to visit it earlier in your Tokyo trip due to really good weather then the Hakone Free Pass is 5000 yen from Shinjuku Station and gets you to Hakone and back as well.
Not many in Hakone have a view of Mt Fuji. Hakone Green Plaza Hotel is one that does. If you definitely want a view of Mt Fuji then you may wish to consider going to Kawaguchiko/Fuji Five Lakes instead.
Here's a small list of public hot springs in Hakone :-
Nov 25, 2012 5:02 PM
2Sunday 6th is likely to be busy on the trains, more coming back into Tokyo though rather than exiting.
There is no point getting a green car ticket, because they are only booked seats. I imagine you will be able to get a booking, but you might not have a lot of flexibility about time. With a regular pass if you don't / can't make a seat reservation, you can always travel in unbooked seats. If it seems too crowded, because Tokyo station is the origin point, you can wait for the next train.
Since you are only going Tokyo-Kyoto-Tokyo (not to Hiroshima) I probably wouldn't bother with a pass. You can get tickets at discount shops (I think they should be valid for 6th - but it may be in a NY blackout). The fact you can't catch Nozomi gives fewer options for trains with the JR pass.
Nov 25, 2012 5:56 PM
3Thanks acc and Tokyo_girl for the helpful information.
The plan up till now was to stay Jan 2, 3, 4, 5 in Akasaka. Kyoto for 6, 7, 8, 9 in Sanjo and then back to Tokyo for 10, 11, 12 in Ginza. All of the hotels booked but refundable through hotels.com. We are not particular about leaving at a certain time from Tokyo on the 6th, so if we need to wait 1 hour to get on a train, that wouldn't kill us. Based on this, do you still recommend shifting our schedule to the 7th?
Tokyo_girl, can you tell me more about the discount ticket? Would we buy that at Narita? Our plan right now is to buy the round trip Suica+Nex and then use the JR pass for any long distance and intermediate travel. You bring up an important point about the JR pass. It seems that there are tons of private railways that are more convenient than JR (e.g., Kyoto-Osaka; Tokyo-Hakone). Based on the prices that Google Maps shows (dont know if these are accurate), they look to be reasonable in price and dont justify the pass.
If you can share more thoughts on the JR pass, that would be much appreciated.
By the way, is Suica/Pasmo good for Kyoto-Osaka trains as well?
acc, I'll look up the other options in the Fuji region. Thanks for the tips.
Nov 25, 2012 6:26 PM
4Suica Pasmo works in Kansai.
There are a lot of discount ticket shops in Tokyo - you can typically get I guess 1,000 off on a trip per person to Osaka (not sure about Kyoto but probably similar - so around 4,000Y for a return trip for 2 people) They allow you to take Nozomi, and I think let you get a seat booking as well. (though I'd have to check that).
There are ticket shops clustered in the building to the south of the square outside Shinbashi station inside the yamanote line, there are also a lot in Shinjuku - near the south east exit, also near the west exit. Okachimachi has quite a few. There are quite a lot of them about once you start looking for them.
I guess the blackout period for them is from the 29th - 4th, but it's possible that it goes until the 6th.
They typically look something like this.
Until you sit down and do the maths on your time frame and routes, you are not going to know whether the pass is worthwhile. If you are staying in Akasaka (or Asakusa) it is not on a JR line and you'd probably be using subways mostly to be getting around.
Nov 25, 2012 8:44 PM
Thanks acc and Tokyo_girl for the helpful information.
That seems fine then, especially if you are happy with a non-reserved seat. I would try and reserve when you arrive though if you are not picky with an exact time then they may be able to find you two seats together.
Note that there are usually a number of queues on the platform, one for the next train, one for the train after that, so it would pay to line up in the correct queue.
That seems fine.
Depends where you need to go, the JR options aren't usually bad.
Except you still have to get to Kyoto and back. You also save 1100 yen if you use the JR Pass to get to Odawara and back. You can also use the JR Pass for day trips from Kyoto. With 4 nights you could even consider a day trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima if you wish to get more "value" from the JR Pass. Other common day trips are Nara and Hikone Castle both of which are covered by the JR Pass.
I would still get one.
It can be used on JR trains in the Kansai region including the normal JR Special Rapid train from Kyoto to Osaka. It can't currently be used on the subways (non-JR) in either Osaka or Kyoto.
You are welcome.
Nov 25, 2012 8:47 PM
Nov 26, 2012 5:18 AM
Nov 26, 2012 8:31 AM
8Thanks for the clarifications. It sounds like it might be easier to stick with the JR pass even though we are only planning one long distance trip (Tokyo-Kyoto-Tokyo).
acc, one other question, it looks like we could go to an onsen in Hakone and then use the ropeway to get some views of Fuji. Is this correct?
Also, do you recommend using the Odakyu Romancecar to get to Hakone (paying the surcharge for the Free Pass) or stick with JR to Odawara and then just buy separate tickets for the next legs of the journey?
Finally, do you have any recommendations for any nice off the beaten path markets in Tokyo? There looks to be one in Minowabashi (at the end of the Toden Arakawa line). We really like visiting pedestrian food markets.
Thanks again for the great advice.
Nov 26, 2012 2:17 PM
9The shotengai at Minowa is a very run down, very tired shopping strip.
I hadn't been there for a while and went in the summer.
It feels very recessed and somewhat poverty stricken - cheap recycle shops
selling odd teacups, old ties etc.
Mukojima Hyakaen is quite lovely. I've taken some pics of it here.
For off the beaten path Tokyo shitamachi with a lot of researched detail,
I think it's hard to go past http://rurousha.blogspot.jp/ this blog.
Whether or not you go with the JR pass is obviously up to you, but check the
interval timetable on hyperdia. The hikari are much less frequent than the Nozomi.
Nov 26, 2012 5:09 PM
If the weather co-operates then yes. I usually recommend doing the round course with the Hakone Free Pass so you can get some nice views from the lake/across the lake, but you could just try for the ropeway if you prefer.
Assuming you have a JR Pass I'd definitely take the JR path. It is quicker, you get to ride on a Shinkansen, and it is free.
The Odakyu Romancecar is significantly more expensive to use with the Hakone Free Pass as you have to pay 870 yen surcharge for the Romancecar, so instead of 5000 yen from Shinjuku and back it becomes 6740. Compared to 3900 yen if you buy the Hakone Free Pass at Odawara Station.
Of course, if you don't want to do the full round course and only go up the ropeway then it is even cheaper than 3900 yen (from Odawara).
Nov 26, 2012 5:17 PM
My apologies for the misleading info.
I assumed the publicity about the Icoca compatibility meant that it was actually compatible, not just on JR.
All good, will be nice once they all become interchangeable finally!
This is true of course. Hikari run usually every 30 minutes and there around 30 per day to Kyoto. In comparison there around 90 Nozomi per day and they depart every few minutes during peak hours.
I'd still get the JR Pass and use the Hikari but I don't think either choice will be "bad".
Nov 27, 2012 5:29 AM
Nov 27, 2012 7:07 AM
No, you would have to pay full fare on Nozomi Shinkansen.
To be honest I don't think you will have a drama as you are flexible with your time, and if you can't get a reserved seat you are happy to queue at Tokyo Station and try your luck.
Although not ideal you could always stand for the journey.
Nov 27, 2012 3:41 PM
14Although not ideal you could always stand for the journey.
You will be able to get on to train, but it depends how important it is for you to sit.
I will try to remember to ask next time I pass a ticket shop whether discount tix are valid for the 6t - it's quite possible that they aren't.
The seat reservations can only be done a month ahead,(a month plus one week they start taking bookings) so it's impossible to know how booked the trains will be at the moment - typically the 6th will be a heavy day in to Tokyo -29th the heaviest day out.
AFAIK only JR East lets JR pass holders book seats before they come to Japan.
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