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Washu Takahashi

Traveling to Japan for the first time

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I've always wanted to travel to Japan. It's been a dream of mine for many years, and today it finally occurred to me...what's stopping me? I've finally graduated from college and have a job that pays enough where I can safely pay all my bills and loans and still set aside some money every month towards a trip. SO LET'S DO THIS.

 

I started looking into it, and the general consensus is that the best time to travel is late March-early April when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. It will apparently be a bit crowded since those are also part of the school holiday weeks, but I don't mind that. So my plan is to go the first 2 weeks of April 2016.

 

I've already looked up a general route to take (found this handy guide), but I'd really like to know if anyone who has traveled/lived there has any tips/recommendations. I currently only know a few phrases in Japanese, and am going to try and expand on them, but from my understanding knowing Japanese isn't a MUST for visiting as people are fairly friendly and helpful. I know for sure I want to spend a day in Akihabara, as well as check out other pop culture locations like Harajuku and Otome Road.

 

A little about me:

- I love anime/manga, of course

- I'm interested in lolita fashion, and do have one brand outfit and would love to wear it out and about, assuming Harajuku would be the place for this?

- I'm interested in the history and culture, and certainly want to hit up some museums and shrines, but don't want that to be the whole trip either. Would probably be fine donating 2-3 days of history/culture stuff

- I'm a 23 year old (will be 24 then) female

- Would be interested in staying the night at an onsen, but is that still doable since it's out of season?

 

Stuff I want to know:

- Places to go/things to do

- Money needed outside of plane ticket and souvenir money

- Best places to eat?

- I NEED TO EXPERIENCE A CAT CAFE LIKE NONE OTHER.

- Anything really xD

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Rori   

I went in October/November 2013 and even though it was not cherry blossom season, the weather was still relatively nice. :) We chose to travel then because it was also more cost effective for us that way.

 

It was my observation that the farther we got from Tokyo, the less English that people knew (and also fewer signs in English).

 

Kyoto was really nice for culture and history. I would recommend visiting Fushimi Inari Taisha (a Shinto shrine to Inari) and if you are able, there is a trail that goes up Mt. Inari. I believe its on the JR Nara line. The Golden pavillion is also pretty awesome, as is Kiyomizu-dera (both are Buddhist temples). For those and a lot of other sights in Kyoto, you can use a bus pass purchased from the bus depot kiosk at Kyoto Station. That way you can take as many rides as you want in one day.

 

We saw some classic lolitas in Akiba, but I can't speak for Harajuku because we never made it to that side of Tokyo. You will see a lot of maids around Akiba. Tokyo in general is pretty English-friendly; a lot of times when I asked questions in Japanese I would get answers in English.

 

Go to Yodobashi Camera (its a large department store). There's one in Akiba and there's one kind of in the middle of Kyoto. On the floor with the games and kids' toys, there will be a section filled with gachapons, if you would like to try your luck at capsule toys. :) There are gachapons sprinkled throughout Japan, but the most we saw in one spot were all at Yodobashi Camera.

 

I don't know if you drink at all, but we always enjoyed at the end of each day to go to 7/11 or Lawson and get a chuhai to drink back at the hotel room. They come in all sorts of flavors, my favorite was peach.

 

Send me a message if you want to know anything else, I feel like I'm just rambling now, lol.

 

EDIT: I forgot to add, a large portion of our budget went to the airline ticket and the hotels (we booked hotels through JTB). If you don't plan to really get outside of Tokyo, don't bother with a JR pass. Food is pretty inexpensive, there are a lot of good noodle shops and the like. You can scout out food options ahead of time on gurunavi --> http://www.gnavi.co.jp/en/

Edited by Rori

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Go see a AKB show while your there.They should be doing theater stages - and since your international you get priority in the ticket lottery I believe. I can get links for you if you want.

And you should go to the cat island ;)

or if you prefer bunnies https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pY-GncsZ-UE.

 

Alas - I'm so jealous! I probably wont get to go next year - but the year after that....

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I know I definitely want to hit Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. Anything else is still up in the air xD It's good to know ahead of time there might be trouble communicating outside of Tokyo...a friend mentioned guided tours, so I might look into those, but at the same time I like the freedom to do whatever I want @.@ Have to dig deeper and find out what those tours would entail, or maybe if there's individual one for different places so I wouldn't be stuck with a group for a week or something xD

 

Yodobashi Camera is definitely going on my must-see list then xD I play so many otome games that feature gacha slots, and they're mentioned in manga all the time...must waste some money on those! xD

 

Rori - If you think of anything else to share, please do <3 Totally don't mind your ranting xD When I start fleshing out my plans a bit more though and making a more concrete schedule, I'll definitely message you for suggestions and questions ^^

 

If I can fit in cat island I totally will...I have a cat problem. When I finally have my own place it's going to be owned by cats and I'll just be their guest lmao xD

 

I'll gladly take info on AKB or other idol shows! Just cause I want understand a word of it doesn't make t any less awesome to have that experience xD So yes, links please <3 Hopefully I can squeeze a show in...

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So I've done more research, and here's what I'm looking at doing!

 

Self Guided Adventure - Anime/Manga The perfect getaway for the nerd xD 11 days total, includes time in Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto. Includes tickets to the Ghibli museum, Kyoto manga museum, Toei Movie Village, maid cafe lunch in Tokyo, and guided tours for one day in Tokyo and Kyoto. I've already contacted them and they said they're very flexible and would be able to add in time at Nara (deer!) and Hakone (hot springs!) for me. This trip is basically them setting up hotels and travel and a few keys thing to do, and me deciding the majority of how to spend my time.

 

JPop and Go Group Tour This is my second option. Very similar. Hits the same major spots (minus the movie village, plus the giesha village and robot restaurant) and includes time in Hakone and Hiroshima. The two trips are very comparable, the main difference is this one is totally guided, where the first option I'm more or less on my own.

 

Which one I choose is going to boil down to if I can get a friend or two to come with me. I'd really rather do the first one, but I'm not sure I'd want to do the first one all by myself (and it's more expensive to go alone). So the second one is what I'll pick if I have to go alone.

 

So yeah, those are the main choices I'm looking at right now. ^^ Any comments/suggestions now that I've got my main routes down are still welcome! And I can't book either of these until summertime, so if you have other tour companies to suggest, I'd be more than willing to look into them and see if they have better deals. I'm sure it'd be cheaper to arrange everything by myself, but I don't want to go to the hassle of trying to find cheap, but good hotels, figuring out tickets to things, and transportation, etc by myself @.@ And if I go through them they have a 24 hour call service that can help me with whatever, whether it's trying to communicate, or get tickets to something, or whatever I may need. Biggest plus is the self guided adventure is HIGHLY costumizable, so if there are places anyone highly recommends I can make sure to have them help me schedule it in ^^

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Sweet ideas there... I'm hoping to have enough money to go to Tokyo this March-early April. Sorta similar to what you wanna do next year at around this time. The difference with my trip is that I'll only be in/around Tokyo.

 

Some background to my trip: my brother's GF is half Japanese, and she wants to go see her grandmother, who lives somewhere in Tokyo. Her mother is going to see her as well, and my brother and I want to tag along. We'll be there from March 22nd to April 6th. It's gonna suck traveling for about a day straight (since I'd be leaving from Boston Logan International Airport, but w/e). When I get there I'm totally gonna hit up Akihabara and maybe get some 3DS games (I'm aware that the 3DS is region locked, but I found a workaround to allow Japanese games to play on my US 3DS, without piracy involved.) Also towards the end of the trip I wanna go to see my first Jpop love Do As Infinity. It's their 15th anniversary and it'd be awesome to go see them live finally. If they won't come to the US to an anime con I'll go to see them. lol.

 

Besides strolling around Akiba and seeing DAI I really have nothing planned. I guess I'll go with the flow. Like Washu I'm all for suggestions, though to keep it affordable stuff around Tokyo would be preferred.

Edited by Shiggitay

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Let me know if you can actually streetpass while you're there, since I was debating bringing my 3DS and the usual games along xD (Pokemon Y and Omega Ruby, and SSBBrawl and Mario Kart) I probably won't bother with buying games since I can't read them, but it'll be hard to resist the otome...ugh. I promised myself I wouldn't spend money on anime/manga while there since I wouldn't understand it, and put all that towards keychains and figures, but we'll see if I last or not xD

 

*throws jelly bomb* I'd LOVE to see DAI. Inuyasha was my childhood and they do quite a few of those songs...oh well. I'm going to have to wait and see if there's any bands I know/idol groups I want to see when I go...that'd be an awesome way to spend a day.

 

I actually found this list of things to do in Tokyo, so maybe you could pick a few off there? The consistent things I've found recommended are to see Shibuya Crossing, to go to one of the temples (Sensoji or Meiji), wake up hella early to go to the fish market (might do this just to try the freshest sushi ever...not a big fan of fish myself), and Tokyo Tower. So if you're looking for the main tourist spots (aside from otaku central Akihabara, haha), hit those up.

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Let me know if you can actually streetpass while you're there, since I was debating bringing my 3DS and the usual games along xD (Pokemon Y and Omega Ruby, and SSBBrawl and Mario Kart) I probably won't bother with buying games since I can't read them, but it'll be hard to resist the otome...ugh. I promised myself I wouldn't spend money on anime/manga while there since I wouldn't understand it, and put all that towards keychains and figures, but we'll see if I last or not xD

 

*throws jelly bomb* I'd LOVE to see DAI. Inuyasha was my childhood and they do quite a few of those songs...oh well. I'm going to have to wait and see if there's any bands I know/idol groups I want to see when I go...that'd be an awesome way to spend a day.

 

I actually found this list of things to do in Tokyo, so maybe you could pick a few off there? The consistent things I've found recommended are to see Shibuya Crossing, to go to one of the temples (Sensoji or Meiji), wake up hella early to go to the fish market (might do this just to try the freshest sushi ever...not a big fan of fish myself), and Tokyo Tower. So if you're looking for the main tourist spots (aside from otaku central Akihabara, haha), hit those up.

 

Haha I hope I can make their concert. It's 6300 yen or around $55 for a ticket. While I'm there I'm going to get Hatsune Miku Project Mirai 1 and 2 and hopefully they'll work using the exploit/workaround I found.

 

About that list, yeah if I have time I'll check it out. :) Thanks.

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Rori   

I know I definitely want to hit Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. Anything else is still up in the air xD It's good to know ahead of time there might be trouble communicating outside of Tokyo...a friend mentioned guided tours, so I might look into those, but at the same time I like the freedom to do whatever I want @.@

 

We took a few one-day tours available through Sunrise (JTB), but traveled on the trains between destinations by ourselves. Once you know how to use the ticket machines and board the trains (there are actually loads of tutorials on Youtube for this), its quite easy to get around without a guide. For shinkansen travel, you can use Hyperdia to see the price and what trains are running. Enter the start and end locations and it will show you itineraries. (You would have to add up costs in this case to see if a JR Pass would be more cost-effective than purchasing single tickets).

 

But then again, it depends on your own comfort level and how much control you want over the trip!

 

I think Kyoto was my favorite city of all of the cities we visited. Kyoto is easy to explore on your own and I would recommend it. If you go there, explore the station... its absolutely massive and if you go to the roof, there is a garden and a place to view the entire city. If you make it to that point, you'll be at the top of the lit-up rainbow stairs. Its one of those things you have to see to kind of believe.

 

So I've done more research, and here's what I'm looking at doing!

 

Self Guided Adventure - Anime/Manga The perfect getaway for the nerd xD 11 days total, includes time in Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto. Includes tickets to the Ghibli museum, Kyoto manga museum, Toei Movie Village, maid cafe lunch in Tokyo, and guided tours for one day in Tokyo and Kyoto. I've already contacted them and they said they're very flexible and would be able to add in time at Nara (deer!) and Hakone (hot springs!) for me. This trip is basically them setting up hotels and travel and a few keys thing to do, and me deciding the majority of how to spend my time.

 

JPop and Go Group Tour This is my second option. Very similar. Hits the same major spots (minus the movie village, plus the giesha village and robot restaurant) and includes time in Hakone and Hiroshima. The two trips are very comparable, the main difference is this one is totally guided, where the first option I'm more or less on my own.

 

The Ghibli Museum is really cool! :D

 

Also, if your budget and time allow, go to Hiroshima. The Peace Park is an important place and might seem like kinda of a "downer" with the mood, but its a really moving experience. There are several monuments on the grounds, as well as the museum. The museum is in two main sections: one is more of the history and WWII and the other side is more of the artifacts and records of effects on the people in the city.

 

If you choose the first tour, you can go to Hiroshima via the shinkansen from Kyoto (try to pick one where you don't have to transfer in Osaka). Its about a two hour ride, so you might want to get an "eki-ben" to eat. Hiroshima Station was kind of confusing to me, but its because the shinkansen part is sort of added on to the main part. Anyways, you can board the Hiroden tram at the station and head to "Genbaku-DOME-mae" station (the signs for Hiroden are in English). (If you can't find Hiroden, just ask someone.) The museum signage is in many many languages, so you shouldn't have trouble there.

 

Other Miscellany:

  • unless things have changed since we were there, free Wi-Fi seemed pretty hard to find. We signed up for Starbucks access but you have to verify before you leave on your trip or it won't let you login while in Japan. I think I heard NTT was going to have a way for free Wi-Fi available for tourists, but I never looked into it further because it wasn't going to be available when we went.
  • The hotels we stayed at all had wired Internet but only one had Wi-Fi. I brought an old netbook with an ethernet port to get on the Internet in the mornings before we set out for the day.
  • If you go to Osaka, you may want to check out Den Den Town. Its kind of like Akiba, and I actually liked it a little better than Akiba in some ways.

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You are like, my new favorite person xD It's so nice to hear the experience from someone who's actually lived it xD I definitely plan on having at least 2 days in Kyoto, possibly 3. I'm going to Osaka for sure, so I'll make a note to find Den Den Town ^^ I'm not sure if I'll be able to squeeze in Hiroshima, but will do the museum if I can fit it in.

 

Will definitely be bringing my laptop if I'm not going to get wifi on my phone...phone usage is definitely something I'll need to look into, since my mother is a worrier and will assume I'm dead if she doesn't hear from me at least every other day :P/>

Edited by Washu Takahashi

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Rori   

You are like, my new favorite person xD It's so nice to hear the experience from someone who's actually lived it xD I definitely plan on having at least 2 days in Kyoto, possibly 3. I'm going to Osaka for sure, so I'll make a note to find Den Den Town ^^ I'm not sure if I'll be able to squeeze in Hiroshima, but will do the museum if I can fit it in.

 

Will definitely be bringing my laptop if I'm not going to get wifi on my phone...phone usage is definitely something I'll need to look into, since my mother is a worrier and will assume I'm dead if she doesn't hear from me at least every other day :P

 

:highfive:

 

Let me know what you find on the phones. We ended up just doing without them entirely (only really pulled my phone out for the Starbucks WiFi) because Verizon couldn't give us a straight answer on the costs. In lieu of calling my parents every so often, I kept a blogspot blog that I updated almost every day to say where we were and what we were doing (hence the netbook in the hotel). Its about a 12 hour difference anyways, and the blog turned out to be more convenient for all of us. You might also want to look into Skype. We used it a couple times and it went fine. :)

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Haven't dug into too much, but it's looking like a good option might be to buy a portable wifi attachment for my phone for the two weeks. When I went to the Caribbean by myself for a week I kept my mom updated through the promised 1 Facebook status a day with the hotel computer (which was from the dark ages and hella slow), so that'll probably be a good way to go again, since calling would probably be too expensive.

 

Washu, as it turns out I've decided NOT to go this year... Long story. Will tell if you're interested.

 

You can private message me if you'd like :3

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Gherkin   

I went to Japan with PACSET Tours: https://pacsettours.com/ OMG it was the best time I've ever had! We stayed at the hotel right in front of Tokyo towers just a block or two from the train station. I went on the Summer Matsuri tour so it was August and it was hot but they have tours all year round. You can book a tour and use their monthly payment plan, like a layaway!

 

Buy your souvenirs at the 100 yen store, they are 100% better than our dollar stores!

 

Get Travelers checks and exchange them for yen at the airport in Japan, people think you're crazy but you get the best rate.

 

Pack light if you will be moving around on the trains to different hotels. I packed an extra duffle bag to bring home souvenirs but only took a carry on. So much easier to get around with!

 

There is not as much wifi as you would think Tokyo should have :(/>

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I went to Japan with PACSET Tours: https://pacsettours.com/ OMG it was the best time I've ever had! We stayed at the hotel right in front of Tokyo towers just a block or two from the train station. I went on the Summer Matsuri tour so it was August and it was hot but they have tours all year round. You can book a tour and use their monthly payment plan, like a layaway!

 

Buy your souvenirs at the 100 yen store, they are 100% better than our dollar stores!

 

Get Travelers checks and exchange them for yen at the airport in Japan, people think you're crazy but you get the best rate.

 

Pack light if you will be moving around on the trains to different hotels. I packed an extra duffle bag to bring home souvenirs but only took a carry on. So much easier to get around with!

 

There is not as much wifi as you would think Tokyo should have sad.gif/>

 

OOoh great post! I'll use them when I'm ready to plan my trip for either next year or the year after!

 

Also, Washu I PM'd you. smile.gif

Edited by Shiggitay

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