4 Great Tips for your Japan Holiday

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Planning for a Free & Easy trip can be a mind-boggling process. All aspects need to be well thought out to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip. Though tedious, those who had done such planning will attest that these efforts add immensely more fun and sense of satisfaction to the trip!

Planning is Half the Fun!

 

Below are 4 great tips to jump-start your Japan trip planning! =)

 

Click here for my blog on 11-Days of Free & Easy in Japan

 

Tip#1: Mobile Wi-Fi rental

  • Renting a local mobile Wi-Fi is one of the easiest ways to stay connected in Japan. It eliminates the concern of whether your phone is compatible with the Japanese network, avoid roaming charges and eradicate the need to install a new SIM on your phone.
  • There are plenty of companies that provide mobile Wi-Fi rentals. The typical steps to rent/use the mobile Wi-Fi device are as follows:
    • Step#1, Order: Order the device online (at least 1 week before your trip) and state where you’ll like to ship your device to (Japan addresses only).
      • Typical pick-up locations include post offices and hotels. Most airports will have post office branches. e.g. You could pick-up the device from the airport post office upon arrival.
      • Obviously, post offices are not open 24 hours. As such, if you’re landing in Japan after office hours, state your hotel as the pick-up location instead.
    • Step#2, Shipment: A few days prior to your trip, the company will ship your device to the stated pick-up location.
    • Step#3, Pick-up: Once you’re in Japan, pick-up the device from your stated location.
      • e.g. If you’re picking up from the airport post office, proceed there and show your passport/rental documents to pick up the parcel.
      • The parcel will include: your mobile Wi-Fi, charger/cable, return mail envelope (fully paid).
    • Step#4, Use it!: Turn on the mobile Wi-Fi, connect your devices via the provided password and surf away!
    • Step#5, Return: At the end of your trip, chuck all the items into the provided return mail envelope and drop it into any mailbox; most airports will have mailboxes. Else, ask your hotel reception to mail it for you. Simple!

 

Parcel contents (device, charger, cable, pouch, return envelope, instructions) @2015
Parcel contents (device, charger, cable, pouch, return envelope, instructions) @2015

 

  • For my trip (2weeks, Jun2015), I rented from Sakura Mobile (website).
    • The rates are reasonable and I choose them as they are using the NTT DoCoMo network, which is the predominant mobile network in Japan.
    • Overall, I’m happy with the device and network quality. I was able to get network accessibility in most (if not all) areas that I travelled to.
    • The only comment is that I realised the device’s battery tend to run flat after 8-10hours on certain days when the usage is slightly higher, though this might not be too surprising.

 

 

 

Tip#2: JR Pass (Japan Rail Pass) (Unlimited 1/2/3 Week Pass)

  • Most cities within Japan are connected by JR lines. In particular, most of the major cities are connected via the JR high-speed rails known as Shinkansen (aka “bullet train”). (Wikipedia)
  • JR trains are an extremely great way to travel between cities as its relatively quick, insanely on-time and convenient; train stations are normally situated in city centres compared to airports which are normally some distance away from the city it serves.
  • Other than being a great mode of transport, these bullet trains excite kids (and adults alike) as they are capable of reaching speed as high as 320km/hr. I’m not sure about you, but I’m definitely excited.
  • Depending on your itinerary, you could save tonnes of money by purchasing JR Passes that gives you unlimited access to the entire JR network for 1/2/3 weeks.
    • e.g. The price for a 7-day Ordinary Adult JR Pass is almost the same as a round-trip ticket from Tokyo to Osaka.
Voucher for JR Pass @2015
Voucher for JR Pass @2015
  • JR Pass can ONLY BE PURCHASED OUTSIDE JAPAN.
    • JR Pass comes in Ordinary Pass (for normal cabin) or Green Pass (for 1st class cabin)
    • Steps in getting JR Pass:
      • Step#1: Purchase JR Pass online or at any affiliated tour agencies in your area. Google it.
      • Step#2: Obtain the vouchers from the sellers. (vouchers must be exchanged for JR Pass within 3 months of their issue) Online sellers will courier the vouchers to you.
      • Step#3: Travel to Japan. Exchange your vouchers for the actual JR Pass at designated JR stations.
        • Refer to your seller for the list of JR stations with exchange offices.
        • Passport is required during the exchange process to prove eligibility (locals are not allowed to purchase JR Pass).
        • During exchange process, inform the office what is the “activation date” of your pass. Once decided, this “activation date” cannot be changed.
      • Step#4: Start using the JR Pass from the activation date. On the very first use of the JR Pass, approach the JR staffs at the manned gates to have them stamp on the pass.
JR Pass @2015
JR Pass @2015
  • Tips when using the JR Pass:
    • The following webpage (click here) offers very good instructions on how to online check (via hyperdia.com) the train schedules in Japan. Hyperdia is one of the best route planners for Japan rails, and the said web page helps you to understand how to select the myriad of search options and interpret the search results in Hyperdia. 
    • In most cases, Shinkansen trains have dedicated cabins, namely: Green cabin (1st Class cabin), Ordinary Reserved cabin and Ordinary Non-Reserved cabin. (website)
      • Before the trains arrive at a station, the platforms will display the cabin numbers for the respective cabin types mentioned above.
      • Green cabins (1st Class cabins) are all reserved seats.
      • For users of JR Pass (Ordinary), there is no extra fee for reserving seats. Simply proceed to the ticket office to make advanced reservation for Reserved seats on the train schedule that you want.
        • If you’re not able to board your scheduled train, don’t despair. Simply hop onto the next available train and proceed to take a seat in the Non-reserved cabin and carry on your journey.
      • If you’ve not made any reservations, simply turn up at the platform and board any of the Non-Reserved cabins as what you would do on normal subway trains.
    • FAQs on JR Pass (click here)

 

  • To view Mt Fuji from Shinkansen Train:
    • If you’re travelling south-west from Tokyo in the direction of Nagoya/Kyoto/Osaka: Sit on the RIGHT side of the train. Mt Fuji will be best viewed on the section BEFORE reaching Fuji Train Station.
    • If you’re travelling in the opposite direction towards Tokyo, obviously, sit on the LEFT side of the train. Mt Fuji will be best viewed on the section AFTER leaving Fuji Train Station.  

 

  • I purchased my JR Pass from this link. The seller is located in Europe and I engaged them as the rates are slightly lower. However, do your homework and google a few online sellers for comparison.

 

 

Tip#3: Tokyo Subway Ticket (Unlimited 1/2/3 Day Pass)

  • One of the best ways to travel within Tokyo city is via its extensive network of subways. These subways are operated by a number of different operators including Tokyo Metro, Toei Subway and a few other smaller private lines.
  • Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway together form the bulk of the entire Tokyo subway network.
  • If you’re looking to travel within Tokyo city via subway, consider getting the Tokyo Subway Ticket which gives unlimited access to Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway for 1/2/3 days. (website)
  • Before getting this day pass, do consider your itinerary and accommodation location. e.g.It might not be worth it if your accommodation is only accessible via one of the private lines (which is not covered by the pass).

 

 

Tip#4: Pasmo/Suica Pre-paid Rechargeable Smart card (pay-per-trip)

  • There are a number of pre-paid rechargeable smart cards (aka IC cards) that passengers could use to electronically pay for most modes of public transport in major Japanese cities.
  • These smart cards are issued by individual transport companies. However, since 2013, ten of Japan’s most popular smart cards became compatible with each other. Meaning that passengers could use these ten smart cards interchangeably. (details)
  • Of these ten smart cards, the Pasmo and Suica cards are the most commonly used.
  • These smart cards are extremely convenient for passengers as it eliminates the need to buy tickets from different transport companies when switching between different transport networks. This is especially useful for tourist who are not well-versed in differentiating between different transport companies when making transfers.
  • Other than paying for transport, these smart cards are also widely accepted in making small purchases from convenience shops and vending machines.
  • Smart cards can be purchased in most train stations. Children Smart cards are available; approach ticket offices for purchase.
  • These cards have a validity of 10years. So keep them for your next trip!
  • Pasmo website (click here). Suica website (click here)

 

 

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