Sasha travels in Japan

Staff member: Sasha // Trip date: Aug 2013

 

I arrived into Kansai Osaka airport on August 20th just after 7pm. Even though busy, getting off the plane, through immigration and customs only took 25minutes. I was staying at the Nikko Airport hotel which was located across a walkway, so checked in then walked back across the walkway to the train station.

 

The ticket office to exchange your Rail Plus issued Exchange Order was on level 2F of the airport. From exiting immigration you simply go up the escalators and turn right and you can see the train station ticket office and gates to the train station area. From being served to walking out of the office took 10minutes. I handed over the Exchange Order and my passport and the man asked me what date I wanted to start the pass. I told him and he also pointed on a calendar to August 21st. He then told me and pointed on the calendar that the pass would end on September 3rd. I agreed and he asked me to fill in a form.

 

On the form I put my full name as per my passport, passport number, address in Japan where I was staying that night (Nikko Airport Hotel), my own mobile number, the start date of the pass and then signed the bottom. He then printed out the dates, type of pass (Green) and duration (14 days) and attached this sticker type document to the cardboard type pass. He kept the two coupons that Rail Plus had issued. I then asked him if he could reserve some seats for me. He was most willing to do this and being the organised person I am I pulled out my word doc.

 

During the planning of my trip I used the Hyperdia website http://www.hyperdia.com/ to get the trains I wanted to travel on. I put the date on the document then copied and pasted the times and train numbers from the site. I did this for all the trains I knew I had to take. The staff member was able to understand the details even though it was all in English and he printed out the nine free seat reservations in no time. He then went through the pass, seat reservations with me to ensure all was correct, and that was all done in 10 minutes. Even though his English was limited and so was my Japanese, it was a very easy process.


KANSAI OSAKA AIRPORT TO HIROSHIMA VIA SHIN-OSAKA - WEDNESDAY 21 AUGUST

 

My first train was the next day. I took the 9.46am service from Kansai Osaka airport to Shin-Osaka station, which arrived at 10.35am. As mentioned I had a Green Pass, which is first class. I had decided to spend the extra money and from the first train it was really worth it.

 

Holders of a Japan Rail Pass can't go through the automated gates at train stations, they need to show the pass at the manned gate. There is always someone there or in many cases more than one staff member. I looked at the information board and could see the train left from platform 4 so took the escalator down one level and waited for the train. It arrived 5min before departure and we could not board right away as staff jumped on to clean the train. This was done efficiently and then we boarded. There was only 1 green carriage on this 6 carriage train and in the carriage was another passenger and myself. About 30min into the trip an attendant came around and I showed him my pass and seat reservation and he smiled and carried on.

 

In Green class the seat configuration was 2 seats then the aisle then 1 seat. I was in a single seat with lots of leg room, a footrest, and a reclining seat. There was room at the end of the carriage for my suitcase and overhead racks for my daypack. Going over the bridge to the mainland was cool.

 

We arrived at Shin-Osaka station on time at platform 11. I took the escalator up one level to the main floor and it was busy. Lots of people around but the information board was large so finding my train information was easy. I saw the train number and departure time of 10.59pm from platform 20. I took some time to get a drink from one of the many shops then proceeded through the manned barrier, took the lift up one level and arrived on platform 20. With a 24 minute connection this was very easy and no need to rush. The train was being cleaned so once that was done we boarded.

 

As this was a Shinkansen it was a lot more busy in green class. The seat configuration was 2 seats then aisle then 2 seats. There was a footrest, reclining seat, individual light, power socket and tray table that could come down. All baggage had to go in the overhead rack but this was easy to do and my regular size suitcase fitted up there with ease. Even if you had a large suitcase it would fit in the overhead rack. The seat was really comfy and did that train fly or what!! The speed it travels at is really impressive. I was shocked how fast we arrived into Hiroshima, on time at 12.26pm.

 

That afternoon I visited the Peace Memorial Park and Hiroshima Castle. To get from the train station to the park I took tram #2 for ¥200 which took about 10 minutes. The park was quite moving, seeing the A-bomb Dome was thought provoking. I paid ¥50 to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum which was well worth visiting. It has some very sad pieces of information and photos that take your breath away. I then walked 10 minutes to Hiroshima castle, which was free to enter the grounds but cost ¥360 to go into the castle and look at the displays and then climb to the top of the castle. The view from the top was great and the breeze even better. It was very hot and muggy so just being in that breeze was great. It was a 10 minute walk back to the main road with the tram line and then I took the same tram back to the station as this is where the Sheraton hotel was located and where I was staying for two nights. I booked this hotel as its located right next to the train station. Great location. Before I got on the tram I got a Green Tea Soft Serve which was so yum and refreshing. Definitely worth trying.


HIROSHIMA TO MIYAJIMA - THURSDAY 22 AUGUST

Miyajima Island is considered one of the three most scenic spots in Japan and after visiting I can see why.

 

I took the 9.36am JR Sanyo Line service from Hiroshima station to Miyajimaguchi station. This was like taking a service from Melbourne's Flinders Street station to an outer suburb in Melbourne. Thus there was no green class carriage, just the one type of carriage. The train had two seats then the aisle then two seats, some facing one way and some the other. There were overhead luggage racks. The service took 25minutes making regular stops along the way. It was a nice trip, seeing local homes and noticing that any land not having a house on it was used for growing plants and vegetables.

 

I had no idea how many stops it was to Miyajimaguchi station but that was no issue as the signs on each platform that it stopped at had the past station name in small writing on the left, then the station we were at in larger writing in the middle, then the next station it would arrive at in small writing on the right. This was in addition to the announcements that the driver made. And if you still weren't sure when to get off you just followed the mass exit of tourists which left a pretty empty train after we all got off!

 

I flashed my Japan Rail Pass as I went through the manned exit gate and walked straight ahead 50m and saw the sign for the underground pass to the ferry. I went down the stairs, walked throughout the underpass, up the stairs, then another 200m and here was the ferry terminal. There a two competing ferry companies: JR and Matsudai. The Japan Rail Pass is valid on JR ferries. There was a huge blue JR sign so it was easy to work out where to go. There was a ferry sitting there so I walked on, not showing my pass as I saw a number of signs at the ticket windows saying Japan Rail Pass holders are free. The ferry took 10minutes to reach the island and we disembarked and walked up the ramp to the ferry terminal where at 10.25am I had to show my Japan Rail Pass to the attendant.

 

The main attractions on the island are Itsukushima Shinto Shrine and the massive red O-torii Gate that sits in the sea, along with Mt Misen. It was a 10 minute walk from the ferry terminal to the Shrine and Gate. The gate is truly impressive close up. I just loved it. And paying ¥300 to enter the beautiful red Shrine was well worth it. I spent ages walking around the Shrine taking photos and looking at the gate. People queued orderly to get a photo on the main dock of the gate with strangers willingly taking photos for couples, families or single travellers. Also in the Shrine were some cool Sake barrels, areas where locals would pray and walls full of paper prayers for the gods. After that I explored the area around the Shrine but didn't take the Ropeway (cable car) up to Mt Misen for ¥1800 as the views from the ground were enough for me.

 

The ferry back was the same process as going over and then going back the same way to the station and waiting 4minutes for the train to arrive to take me back to Hiroshima. I got back to Hiroshima at 2pm.


HIROSHIMA TO KYOTO VIA KOBE - FRIDAY 23 AUGUST

I checked out of the hotel this morning and jumped on the bullet train to Kyoto. My train left on time at 9.50am to Kobe arriving at 11.08am. I changed trains and departed at 11.25am and arrived into Kyoto at 11.54am, on time of course. The two Shinkansen bullet trains were the same layout as the one I took to Hiroshima. The first Shinkansen was a Sakura and the second Shinkansen was a Hikari. My carriages were quite full with business people mostly. As this was a quiet carriage there was no one on a mobile phone and only soft talking. Just lovely!

 

When looking at the departure either down on the main concourse or on the platform for all my trains the boards had full information on the service. The train name, number, departure time, end destination, intermediate stops and the number of carriages. On the actual departure platform there were clear signs of where what car will be when it pulls in and then also on the ground in large writing the car number, so you know where to stand to board the train. It's all so easy and so well done.

 

Also on most of the platforms was a waiting room. This was heaven as it was 32-35 degrees and quite humid so to stand in this air conditioned room while waiting for the train was great. In winter the room is heated.

 

I got off the train at Kyoto, flashed my pass to the attendant and followed the signs to the subway. I wanted to buy a day pass for the subway as had worked out prior to leaving Australia that would be cheaper for me due to the 4 trips I would make that day on the system. The day pass for the subway was ¥600. The machine had an English button but all you did was enter your money, press the clearly marked day pass button and out came the pass and my change. I got on the subway and went one stop to Gojo station. I was able to check in early to the Citadines Serviced Apartments which was a bonus.

 

That afternoon I went via subway and bus (paying ¥220 for the bus each way - you board from the rear and exit at the front and put the coins in the slot as you exit by the driver) firstly to Kinkakuji. This is known as the Golden Pavilion and it was truly beautiful to see. The reflection in the lake also was lovely. Then via bus and subway to Shijo station and walked about 10 minutes to Nishiki Ichiba. This is a famous food market known as the "Kitchen of Kyoto". It's situated on a narrow paved street with about 150 grocery stores selling the best fresh produce. Also some shops mostly related to food. I loved this market. I used the subway pass to get back to the hotel at Gojo station.


KYOTO TO NARA ROUNDTRIP - SATURDAY 24 AUGUST

I paid ¥210 to go one stop on the subway from Gojo station to Kyoto station. From there I transferred to a JR Nara Line Rapid Service to Nara. There was no seat reservation on this train so thus no Green Class carriage. It was a similar train that I took to Miyajima. Two seats then the aisle then two seats with overhead luggage racks. As it was a rapid service it did not stop at all stations on the line which was good. I simply got on using my pass and took a seat. The train left at 9.33am and 46 minutes later at 10.19am I arrived at JR Nara station.

 

From the station it was a 10minute walk to Nara Park which has many shrines, temples, museums, and around 1000 deer! They just wander all over the park and are known to eat people's pieces of paper if they are not careful!

 

While in the park I visited Kofuku-ju temple which was free, Isuien Gardens (amazing place if you like gardens and so peaceful to walk around with its running streams) which cost ¥700, Todai-ji Temple which was huge! Inside it houses the world's largest wooden statue. A giant Buddha. Tto enter this temple cost ¥500. Then I walked to a place I had been itching to see, Kasuga Taisha Shrine. This shrine is lined with 3000 lanterns and with them covered in moss in parts looked great, especially since there had been some light rain so everything looked really, really green. I loved this shrine heaps and all the walking around the park to see all the things was a great way to spend a large part of the day. I took a same service back to Kyoto that afternoon, again no seat reservation needed, just jump on. From Kyoto station to the hotel was on the subway for ¥210. Visiting Nara is so worth doing.


KYOTO TO OSAKA ROUNDTRIP - SUNDAY 25 AUGUST

From the hotel to Kyoto station was on the subway for ¥210. Then I went to the ticket office and booked a seat on the service to Osaka. I used the pass and booked a seat in the green carriage at no cost. I was on the 9.36am Ltd Exp Thunderbird 8 service that arrived at Osaka station at 10.03am, so a 27 minute trip which I booked 15 minutes before it departed. This service only made one stop and that was at Shin-Osaka. The seat configurations was 2 seats aisle then another 2 seats. It was a comfy yet fast trip.

 

From Osaka station it was a 7 minute walk to the Umeda Sky Building to go up to the Floating Garden Observatory. Cost was ¥700 and worth doing for the views. You took a glass lift up to the 39th floor and then you go up a long escalator that is enclosed in glass that goes on an angle up to the next level. Very cool. Then there is an inside and outside section.

 

It was a 7 minute walk back to Osaka station and then I went on the subway 5 stops, ¥230, to Namba. This stop is in the Dotombori area of Osaka.

 

I spent ages in this area taking in the various streets selling different things from clothes to kitchen tools to food to you name it basically! Dotombori is also the area in Osaka which has the Ebisu-bashi bridge in it and a heap, and I mean a heap of people on a Sunday afternoon! Exploring the area was great fun with this 24 hour TV station having a fundraiser, so on the river was a barge and they had people singing, dancing, acting skits etc. Very Japanese in parts in regards to costumes and skits. I loved it. In the early evening they had a brass band come on which was fantastic. At night all the lights came on so the famous running man was light up. A real Osaka sight. Osaka also has a number of ferries wheels so I went on one that was already sitting on top of a high building next to Osaka station. A great thing to do with the city all light up and good value at ¥700. It was a late trip home (left 9.15pm to arrive Kyoto 9.44pm) and the first train leaving was a Rapid Express service with no green car so I used the pass to jump on that and took an empty seat after a great day in a great city. Osaka was a bumping city for sure.


KYOTO - MONDAY 26 AUGUST

Kyoto is one great city with a lot to see and do. For me I really wanted to visit and see Fushimi Inari Shrine. So I went from my hotel 1 stop from Gojo station to Kyoto station, using a 1 day subway day pass, then used my Japan Rail Pass to go to Inari station. Inari station is only 2 stops or 5 minutes from Kyoto station on a local service. It's like going from Flinders Street station to South Yarra station in Melbourne.

 

Fushimi Inari Shrine is dedicated to the guardian deity Inari, which is often portrayed in the physical form of a fox. So there are a lot of stone foxes. But the real sight for me is the path that you climb and walk through thousands of red Torii gates (Shrine gates) that just stretch before you and go on and on and on. You can do a 2-3 hour hike to the top of Mt Inari but I only went about 20minutes or so. This was a really special place and well worth seeing. I use my pass to take the train back to Kyoto station then used the subway day pass for the rest of the day.

 

I also visited that day Nijo Castle (¥600) and no matter how lightly you tread, the echo of a nightingale's cry comes up through the floor. It was amazing to hear and I did tread lightly in parts and still the damn floor made a noise. It was made that way so intruders could never hurt people or steal things.

 

Then via subway using the day pass I went to the centre of Kyoto to do some shopping. The shopping area in the centre of Kyoto is really great and quite small once you have walked it all. It is filled with massive department stores and long pedestrian only shopping lanes as well.


KYOTO - TUESDAY 27 AUGUST

Paying ¥210 to go to Kyoto station, I then went from the station to street level from exit 6 and waited at bus stop D1 (or you can use D2) for a bus to take me to Kiyomizu Temple. The bus was frequent which was good as there were a lot of people heading to this temple. The trip took 10minutes and cost ¥220. Again you enter from the rear and exit at the front and pay as you exit by dropping coins into the slot by the driver. The bus made announcements of the upcoming stops and also had a display at the front of the bus in Japanese and English.

 

This is a temple that is situated along the lower slopes of Kyoto's eastern mountains. After getting off the bus it was a ten minute walk up the hill to the temple. The temple was great, more than one really but one main one and it cost ¥400 to enter the grounds. The views of Kyoto from the hills was great too. And being Kyoto there were a lot of ladies or couples wearing a Kimono.

 

After exploring the temple I made my way through the narrow streets of Higashiyama. They are lined with small shops, cafes and restaurants and have kept their traditional design so lots of photo opportunities. The walk from the temple to the Gion area is only 2km and wouldn't take more than 25 minutes to walk but with all the looking and exploring it can take half day. It did for me! I just loved this area of old Kyoto/Japan.

 

You come out in Gion and can explore this area which is very old school Kyoto, you are also only a 5 minute walk to Pontocho alleyway which is full of restaurants or once again in the heart of the shopping area. A truly great way to spend a day. I could have walked back to my hotel in 20minutes but had sore feet from all the walking so used the fast and air conditioned subway. Well worth the ¥210 ticket.

 

I really loved Kyoto, it's a city but compared to Osaka (which I did really enjoy and like) not as big and so easy to get around with less people and the feel of the place is smaller. It was a great place to be based and explore/make day trips to Nara and Osaka or other places in the same area of Japan like Kobe , Himeji, Kinosaki or Mount Koya. I was really pleased I based myself in Kyoto for 5 nights


KYOTO TO TAKAYAMA VIA NAGOYA - WEDNESDAY 28 AUGUST

I used the subway one stop for ¥210 then transferred onto the Shinkansen Hikari 462 from Kyoto at 9.56am to Nagoya, arriving at 10.33am. This was the same train as I took to Osaka so the green car was the same configuration.

 

From Nagoya it was a 2 hour and 21 minute journey leaving at 10.48am on the Ltd Exp (Wide View) Hida 7 and arriving at Takayama at 1.09pm.

 

While waiting to board the train they advised there would be no food service on the Hida 7 train. I had already got some lunch to take on the train but it was a good announcement as allowed one to go and grab some food.

 

The Hida 7 train was really nice. The Green car was at the front and you could see right through the driver's cabin and see the track ahead! Seats were 2 then aisle them 1 in green class and 2 then aisle then 2 in ordinary class. Seat in green class reclined way back, had a tray table, footrest and individual light.

 

The route the train took from Nagoya to Takayama was really scenic as you head into the northern alps of central Japan. We passed through tunnels, went along side the Hida river, passed small villages, small cemeteries, crossed over bridges, had stunning high ranges on either side of the train with stunning green forrest, and even had locals standing in the river fishing. I was reading a book but in the end put it away and just watched the scenery. I felt like I was in Canada, Switzerland or New Zealand.

 

On both services to Takayama I had my seat reservation tickets checked and stamped by the train conductors. They didn't ask to see my Japan Rail Pass though. On arrival it was a 2 minute walk to the Best Western Hotel.

 

The old streets of Takayama are stunning and it is easy to spend hours walking around and in and out of shops. It is kind of like stepping back in time to old Japan with their alleyways, low entrance doors and low ceilings. And you have to try the Hida beef here too at a traditional old school restaurant sitting on the wooden floor eating at traditional low tables sitting on a cushion. A lot of fun and yum food. From the Best Western Hotel it was a 10 minute walk to the old town area.


TAKAYAMA - THURSDAY 29 AUGUST

Visiting the Miyagawa Morning Markets, exploring more of the old town, visiting and tasking at Sake Breweries, shopping at well priced shops for things to take home easily filled my morning and suitcase. I was surprised at the prices as it's a smaller place and I would have expected things to cost more but that was not the case. And some of the art work here was great. And all that sake!

 

Then taking a bus from the bus station which is right next to the train station to the Hida Folk Village is something I did and would recommend.

 

This village has 30 typical old houses, relocated here from places in the Hida area. Each home is different and inside they displayed different things like wooden artefacts, sledges for winter, sewing etc. The village is surrounded by a large pond with fish and ducks in it. I spent a good 90minutes looking around then got the bus back. The combo ticket I brought at the bus station was ¥900 and included the return bus fare and entrance fee. This saved me ¥200. The bus ride was 9minutes from the station to the village.


TAKAYAMA TO TOKYO VIA NAGOYA - FRIDAY 30 AUGUST

I got to Takayama train station at 9.20am and went to the ticket counter and booked a seat on the Narita Express for Monday. I showed the employee my pass and showed him the train I wanted to take from my printout. He booked the free seat reservation for me and gave me the ticket. I decide to do this at Takayama and not Tokyo as Takayama station was small so just easier to do.

 

I left Takayama on the Ltd Exp (Wide View) Hida 6 at 9.37am arriving at Nagoya at 12.02pm. This was the same train I took to Takayama so had the same features. Then it was a 22minute wait for the Shinkansen Hikari 518 service that departed at 12.24pm and took 1 hour and 46 minutes, arriving in Tokyo at 2.10pm. Green carriages were not full so lots of space to spread out. I had my daypack in the seat next to me. Seats had the same features as past Shinkansen trains and same seat layout.

 

All the toilets on the trains I went on were spotless. There was always a western style toilet (not Japanese style like at some stations and tourist attractions) and for men they even had individual urinals in small rooms. In green class the normal set up was two urinal rooms and one western style toilet which also had a baby changing table, and was very spacious.

 

I actually jumped off early at Shinagawa (which is in Tokyo) and not at Tokyo station as this was on the Yamanote Line and saved me 5 stops on this line to Shinjuku from Tokyo station. I heard an announcement for Shinagawa and to change here for the Yamanote line and had a quick look on my Yamanote line map and realised this was a good thing to do as would save some time . The Yamanote Line is a JR Line and is covered by the Japan Rail Pass. It is a circular line that passes through most of the major sightseeing areas of Tokyo. Shinagawa station was busy but like all other stations well sign posted so easy to get to the track you needed to get to.

 

From Shinjuku station I decided to take a taxi to Citadines Shinjuku Serviced Apartment versus a 2 stop subway trip and then a 5 minute walk. I did this as it was just so humid and hot at 37 degrees and for ¥960 or about AUD$10 it was worth it. I had taken a photo on my iPad of the instructions to the hotel in Japanese and the driver was able to easily understand it. He didn't speak any English so I would recommend doing this. The taxis in Japan have an automatic door so the driver opens the door for you when getting in and out from his seat!

 

To get a bird's eye view of Tokyo I walked from the hotel to Shinjuku station which took 15minutes and then I needed to get to the other side of that station which sounds easy but you have to remember this is the world's busiest train station with 2 million people passing through it each day! And there was a load of people in there!! Anyway I just followed the signs to my exit (being a Japanese station it was well signed posted in Japanese and English). I arrived at the other side and got to where I wanted to be which was the Metropolitan Government Building. This has a free observation level on level 45. Going at 5pm was great as I got to see the view in daylight and then as all the lights came on. A really good visit.

 


TOKYO - SATURDAY 31 AUGUST

I jumped on the Oedo Line from Shinjuku station bound for Ryogoku which is where the Edo-Tokyo Museum was. The subway took about 25 minutes and not too many people on it at 9.10am on a Saturday. The cost for this trip was ¥260 and it was not covered by the rail pass.

 

The museum was really good and well worth the ¥600 entrance fee. It basically gives you the history and culture of Edo-Tokyo. Edo was the original name before it was changed to Tokyo. I really enjoyed the museum. Some amazing displays using models on a small scale but the detail in them was amazing. They even had half a bridge in there! The part on the Great Kantov Earthquake was really interesting as was the way the city become more modern.

 

From there I used the Sobu line to go two stops to Akihabara. Again, this was not covered by the rail pass so I brought a ticket for ¥190. Akihabara is the largest area of electronic appliances and devices in Tokyo. It has also gained recognition as the centre of Japan's otaku (diehard fan) culture, and many shops and establishments devoted to anime and manga are here. It was amazing the amount of cards, dolls, videos, costumes, figurines and other collectibles that was on offer and the amount of things people were buying. In addition to all this there was a heap of maid cafes where waitresses dress up and act like maids or anime characters! So people buy stuff, read their comics and are served by the characters! Then there was all the electronic shops too selling many different things. It was a great area to explore.

 

Then it was on the Yamanote train line to Tokyo station. I used my rail pass for this trip and just showed it to the person at the manned gate on entering and exiting. This was a good area for some shopping and also to look at the amazing food hall in the Daimaru department store.

 

I then used the rail pass to go on the Yamanote line from Tokyo station to Shinjuku station. It was just after 4pm and by the time I got the Yamanote line to Shinjuku, changed to the Marunouchi line and went two stops, using a ticket I brought just before I got on the Marunouchi line for ¥160, and walked from the Shinjuku-gyoemmae stop to my hotel it was 5pm. So all that took a good 50 minutes. You realise how big Tokyo is when you are going from one part to another.

 

It was cheaper for me to pay for the three individual subway tickets and use my rail pass on the Yamanote line than get a one day pass for ¥700. The rail pass on the Yamanote line is great as it saves you money.


TOKYO - SUNDAY 1 SEPTEMBER

I got on the Marunouchi line at Shinjuku-gyoemmae for ¥160 and went two stops to Shinjuku, then took the Yamanote Line three stops (using my rail pass) to Shibuya. This is where you see that famous shot of all the crossings and a heap of people crossing over streets. I explored this area, if you like music check out the 6 floor Tower Records which is a 5 minute walk from the station.

 

Then I got back on the Yamanote line and went one stop to Harajuku using my rail pass.

 

I then checked out Yoyogi Park which also has Meiji Jongu shrine in it. It was amazing to be in this beautiful park and forget you were in a city of 13.23 million people! It is one of the largest parks in Tokyo and only a few minute's walk from Harajuku station.

 

Then I walked back to the station and crossed the road to Takeshita Dori. Takeshita Street is a pedestrian only street lined with fashion boutiques, cafes and restaurants. It is really popular with teenagers and young adults in different styles of dress. Most of the businesses are small independent shops which was cool as not the brand names around like at home. The other streets in Harajuku also have good shopping.

 

I used my rail pass to go two stops back to Shinjuku station then transferred to the Marunouchi line to Shinjuku-gyoemmae to come back to my hotel for ¥160.


TOKYO - MONDAY 2 SEPTEMBER

Today I explored Shinjuku itself. I was staying in this area but had spent the pass days exploring other areas of Tokyo. It is a great area to shop, eat and soak up the Tokyo experience. There are a number of department stores, major chains, independent shops, electronic shops and other places to see.

The food hall at Isetan (department store) is amazing. I spent well over an hour looking at all the amazing food and buying different things. I sure had a great lunch! There are also another 9 floors to explore.


SHINJUKU (TOKYO) TO NARITA AIRPORT - MONDAY 2 SEPTEMBER

As I had shopped quite a bit I decided to get a taxi to Shinjuku train station as opposed to getting the subway there.

 

The staff at the hotel told the driver I needed to go to the south entrance of Shinjuku station as I was getting the Narita Express to the airport. The cost of the taxi was ¥780.

 

I was booked on Train 41 which left Shinjuku at 4.10pm and arrived at Narita Airport Terminal 2 at 5.27pm. This is where Qantas leaves from.

 

You must book this train you can't just hop on with your pass. In green class the configuration was 2 seats, aisle, then another two seats. The seats reclined, had individual lighting, were leather, had a foot rest, tray table and were very comfortable. There was a food cart that came around (I can recommend the Green Tea ice cream).

 

The walk from the platform at the airport to the check in counters took me 4 minutes. There were free trolleys to use as well.


FINAL COMMENTS

Japan was not an expensive destination in my opinion. I was able to have breakfast for approximately AUD$7per day or for 9 days I had cereal I got from the supermarket so that worked out even cheaper per day. Lunch was less than AUD$10 per day. Dinner for me was AUD$12-$33 depending on where I ate. This included a main meat dish, rice, soup, side dish and a beer. So at some more low key places I got all that dinner and a beer for AUD$12. Great value. Also the food on offer was really interesting at times, don't be afraid to try different things, especially in the markets or food halls.

 

Buying a bottle of 500m water cost AUD$1.30 on average. Drinks in Japan from a 7/11 type store or vending machine are cheap compared to Australia. This includes water, coke, juice etc and even beer.

 

Shopping was something I had not really planned on doing but in the end I did as the prices were really good. In one shop I spent AUD$88 and got two t-shirts, a long sleeve top/sweatshirt and a dress shirt. And nothing was on sale. It was just the normal price. I'd go back to Japan for a shopping trip in the future (especially in Tokyo) as the quality is to a high standard, the selection of clothes is really good and so are the price. The only negative is sometimes I liked something but they didn't have my size, especially for men's shoes. Also buying art, wooden Japanese dolls was reasonable.

 

Even with a lot of clothes and souvenir shopping I came back with some yen due to the good prices of things.

 

Not knowing or speaking Japanese was not an issue. While people may at times speak a little English, you get by. I always said "hello" in Japanese and also "thank you" along with "yes" and "no" and you could tell people appreciated that. The Japanese are some of the most polite and respectful people I have ever meet when I have been travelling. Being walked to the lift/door in a hotel or store and receiving a bow from the person was something that happened to me a number of times. And sincere service and assistance was also very common.

 

I also felt very safe on the trains and in the cities no matter where I went or what time it was. I had no issues with having my wallet in my pocket as well as my iPhone all the while looking at a map in the street. Compared to some places in Europe, USA or Asia it felt very safe for a single traveller.

 

I simply loved Japan!! I had the best time away and using the rail pass to get around on their punctual and reliable rail system was fantastic. Sitting in green class saw more legroom, more space for luggage and less people in the cars. Your seat was also a higher quality.

 

Going to some major cities along with smaller cities and towns also gave me a great overview and experience of the country. Getting off the beaten track to a place like Nara and Takayama is well worth doing.

 

I can't wait to return and see more of this wonderful country.

 

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