Sakura Matsuri Stockholm 2017

Sakura Matsuri Stockholm – Cherry Blossom Festival On April 22nd was the annual cherry blossom hanami festival in Stockholm (“Körsbärsblommans Dag”), Sweden. It's an event organized by the Japanese Association, and we were very happy to see that they - once Read more

Top Japanese places to visit in London

Top Japanese places to visit in London In this post we have collected our top Japanese places to visit in London. The city has so many places that are connected to Japan in one way or another. In our top Read more

Best art, crafts and stationery shops in Tokyo

Best art, crafts and stationery shops in Tokyo As a person who love all things art and crafts I've hunted down the best shops that I could find during my travels in Tokyo. Here's a guide to my personal favourites. Read more

Japan Candy Box review + giveaway

Japan Candy Box This is a promotional post. The Japan Candy Box was kindly sent to us to try and review for Why So Japan. We've been wanting to try a Japanese themed box for a long time now and thanks Read more

Japanese TV Adverts #54

It's been a while since we last posted about Japanese TV adverts from YouTube user JPCMHD who uploads them regularly. They're always fun to watch, and the latest upload includes adverts for Mouse the computer company, Y! Mobile with Read more

travel

Review: Japan Travel Guide – The Ultimate Itinerary Planner

whysojapan japan travel guide The Ultimate Itinerary Planner

Japan Travel Guide – The Ultimate Itinerary Planner

We’ve been to Japan a few times now, and before each trip we always try and do some research, so we have a good plan of where we want to go and what we want to do. This can be very time consuming; searching websites, double checking sources, finding out important details are wrong, doing some more research, and so it goes on. This is where a guide would come in handy. The Japan Travel Guide – The Ultimate Itinerary Planner is a great source to turn to before (and during) your trip to Japan. They’ve done all the research for you!

whysojapan japan travel guide The Ultimate Itinerary PlannerAuthors Christopher Crane and Emma Chan have interviewed dozens of expats and experienced travelers to give you all the information you need for sightseeing, fin and interesting experiences and great food. The guide focuses on five areas: Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara and Okinawa. You get tips about traditional and modern Japan, eat and drink, festivals and the cherry blossom viewing, with descriptions, tips and useful information, adresses, opening times prices and more.

Find out about the The Zen Ryoan-ji Temple in Kyoto, a masterful example of Zen landscaping. Learn about the Waterfight Festival in Tokyo, where people fight each other with rotten tomatoes, oranges, colored pigments, and everything in between. Read about Yamachan in Osaka, one of the best takoyaki restaurants.

This is a very useful guide. We found information about well known must-see spots, but we also found great information about things we’ve never heard about before, the hidden gems you really don’t want to miss. The next time we plan a trip to Japan we will sure turn to this guide.

At the moment you can get Kindle edition of the guide for free on Amazon.

Download your copy here:
Japan Travel Guide: The Ultimate Itinerary Planner





Posted on by Vega @ whysojapan.com in Reviews Leave a comment

Using the Japan Rail Pass

whysojapan Japan Rail Pass

Japan Rail Pass

After visiting Japan a few times and spending all our time just in and around Tokyo we discuss if we should try to venture out from Tokyo on our next trip to Japan. There were a few places we wanted to visit, them being Kyoto, Osaka and Nara. So we went about seeing how much it would end up costing if we were to travel back and forth between Tokyo and said destinations day-by-day. We did decide in the end to book a hotel room in Osaka and have that as our base, since both Kyoto and Nara were not that far away from Osaka. We started to look into how much just a round trip would cost from Tokyo to Osaka and back. We found a couple of sites that can be used to look up train prices for Japan, and the site we ended up using was HyperDia. The price of a one way trip was around 14000¥, which would make a round trip around 28000¥ and that’s without the extra trips, like traveling over to Kyoto and Nara.

whysojapan Japan Rail Pass

Rail Pass

We had heard about the Japan rail pass before, so we decided to look into it. The rail pass has to be bought before traveling to Japan since it’s not available in Japan. The rail pass is available as 7, 14 and 21 day pass where once the pass has started it then continues to your last day, so you can’t divide the days up. We ended up choosing the 7 day pass, which would cost around 29000¥. Depending on which travel agent you buy it from, it may cost a bit more.

whysojapan Japan Rail Pass

How to get the rail pass

We checked where we could get the rail pass for the best price. The best price was from online store http://www.japan-rail-pass.com which was cheaper than buying it in our local Japan travel agent. Once the exchange order was ordered, we got them sent to us by FedEx within 2 days and as an added bonus we got the Japanese railways travel guide and a JR network map.

Exchange order

whysojapan Japan Rail PassYou don’t actually get a pass straight away, you get an exchange order, which you exchange once you get to Japan. It can be done at a lot of major transport hubs, i.e. train stations and airports. Just look out for an exchange office for JR. You will need to show your passport and also decide when you want your ticket to start from. We flew in to Narita airport and decided to go to the exchange office there on arrival. At the exchange office we got a form to fill in while we stood in the queue, which was quite long at the time. We started our pass from the point of exchange so we could use it on the JR NEX train into Shinjuku. The ticket can be used on almost all JR transport systems over Japan. Our first couple of days we stayed in Tokyo, so we used it a lot when and where we could, but to get the full value of the pass, you need to travel out of Tokyo on one of the many bullet trains, to earn the rail passes full value.

Riding The Bullet Train

On the day we decided to travel to Osaka we made our way to Tokyo train station, where we were to get the bullet train from. Beforehand we had checked the time-table via HyperDia. A good function on the site is that you choose which companies to travel with, and since the rail pass only works with JR we uncheck all others. You can either book a seat for free at a JR ticket office or via their booking site. Otherwise you can just get on one of the cars which is marked non-reserved. We didn’t have a problem getting a seat, but maybe if you are traveling on a Japanese public holiday you might want to pre-book seats just in case, which you can do for free.

whysojapan Japan Rail Pass

How to use the Rail Pass

The rail pass differs from a lot of other train cards. It can’t be read by the turnstiles in Japan, so you need to always go to the side of the turnstiles, where you normally can find the station staff – either in a little booth or an office. You need to show your rail pass to the staff before entering and leaving the station. The pass does say to have your passport with you, in case the staff needs to check that the rail pass belongs to you. We had our passports with us, but didn’t need to show them at all.

whysojapan Japan Rail Pass

Final thoughts

If you are going to travel a bit while in Japan and not just use the local routes, more long distances like we did to Osaka, then the rail pass is great value. There are some rules and regulations around the use of the rail pass, like it can’t be used by Japanese residents. Check the official site for all the rules and regulations and you can also find a list of places that are official to sellers of the rail pass: http://www.japanrailpass.net/





Posted on by Paul in Visiting 4 Comments

Suica Penguin Mascot

whysojapan_suica_penguin_japan_03

Suica card

If you have used public transport in Tokyo you might well have used one of two smart travel cards: the Pasmo or a Suica card. In Tokyo the cards have pretty much the same function, both  allowing you to pay for travel on the public transportation system in and around Tokyo. Both smart cards can be also used in other parts of Japan for travel, but sometimes you can only use one and sometimes both. It’s always best to check with the local transport for the area you are visiting. The cards that you pre charge can also be used to purchase stuff in different shops and be used as payment on most vending machines.

whysojapan_suica_penguin_japan_01

Suica Mascot

Japanese companies love you to have a mascot to represent their company. Normally the cuter the better. While traveling in Japan you will almost certainly come across the cuteness of the company mascot that is one of my favourites – the cute penguin that represents the travel card Suica. You might wonder what a penguin has to do with travel? Well, penguins are seen to swim through water with ease and that’s how it should feel when using the Suicacard, a smooth moving process as such.

whysojapan_suica_penguin_japan_02

Sucia Penguin

The mascot named Suica Penguin, or just Penguin, was designed by Sakazaki Chiharu and has been used as the mascot since 2001. The penguin has become very popular and I can understand why. Who could not like the cute penguin? I’m sure a lot of people choose that smart card for travel just because of the cute penguin on the card. I know I did on our first trip. whysojapan_suica_penguin_japan_04We saw the Sucia penguin on a lot of posters on the public transport in Tokyo, but didn’t really know what it was to do with, since we had a different travel card on that journey, but after coming home and looking the penguin up, I had a better idea to why we saw it on a lot of places. After that we started to watch a lot of the TV adverts on watch here YouTube featuring the cute penguin, showing how to use the card which I loved. Silly that it might sound, like I said, I’m a sucker for a penguin. I also received some merchandise with thanks to a friend in Japan that hunted the products down and sent them to me, and to this day when we meet always manages to find me some cool Suica penguin stuff. The latest thing being a 2015 year calendar, that we now have on display at home. After our latest trip back in 2014 we found the Suica Penguin store in the Tokyo station, called Penguin Stadium, Pensta. They had loads of stuff to sell, like books, food, games, tea towels, inflatables, key rings and more. Now I will never run out of Suica Penguin stuff. If you’re looking for the shop, it can be found via this link.





Posted on by Paul in Mascots, Visiting 1 Comment

Things to think of before traveling to Japan, part 2

whysojapan_japan_rail_pass before traveling to japan
Transport while on holiday

Before traveling to Japan Part 2, Part 1 can be found here. We have mostly traveled within Tokyo and we normally use a Suica card. It’s a bit like the Oyster card that they have in London. You can charge it up with money and you just tap in and tap out via the barriers at the train/underground station. There are two cards that can be used in Tokyo, Suica and Pasmo. Both do for most part the same job while traveling in Tokyo the cards can be brought direct from the ticket machines at the train stations you can get the Suica from the JR green ticket machines and the Pasmo from the pink ticket machines. When buying the cards you have to charge it with a certain amount of yen to get you started and a deposit fee of 500 yen is also included, which can be refunded if you decide to return the cards when you leave Japan. Links for both Suica: http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/pass/suica.html and Pasmo: http://www.pasmo.co.jp/en/. On our first trip we did buy a sort of travel as much you want ticket for x amount of days, but that would only work on the Tokyo metro. See their site for more info: http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/

Traveling out from Tokyo

If you are thinking of traveling to different parts of Japan, maybe like Kyoto, then it might well be worth buying a Japan rail pass. The card gives you 7, 14 or 21 days of travel on all of JR trains across the country to a heavily discounted price. You need to purchase the ticket before you travel to Japan, either from you local travel agent that deals with Japan travel or sites like japan-rail-pass.com. Just google “japan rail pass” for more info.

why_so_japan_3g_modem_01 before traveling to japanInternet on the go while in Japan

We have always rented a 3G and now 4G wifi router while in Tokyo. It lets us use our smart phones on the go in Japan, which can be of great help if you need to look up something on the go, or just check where you are on Google Maps. The company we normally go with is Globaladvancedcomm.com. You can read our review about their service from a previous posts via think link: whysojapan.com/internet-while-on-holiday-in-japan/ or just search for “internet” in the search box on the right hand side of the site.

 

Money

You will need to get money exchanged before traveling over to Japan. Of couse, you could do it once you get to Japan, but it saves time doing it before hand. How much money to take is a difficult question to answer. I don’t know really, it all depends how much you are going to spend, which most times it’s impossible to know. I almost always end up coming home with some yen’s over, which I normally will exchange back (sometimes to a loss). I’ve also saved it till our next trip, because I know we keep returning. You can find ATM machines to use your MasterCard / Visa card in, but not evey machine works with them. Your best bet is to find a 7-Elven store, which normally has an ATM that will work with those cards.

whysojapan_exchange_money_yen before traveling to japan

Power

As we get all more tech savvy we like to take our electrical devices with us on holiday. Now you most probably will need to check if your device will work on the lower voltage in Japan, and in that case you will also need a plug adapter for your device. Check out this post which explains a bit about it all: whysojapan.com/electric-and-gadgets-while-in-japan/

Making plans

What we do each time before we leave for Japan, we make sort of our own guide book to things to see and do and thisis  where a lot of our research time goes into. We look up things to see and do. We always have certain things we want to see, so looking up addresses, opening times and all important info beforehand, saves you a lot of time and less time getting lost and stressed and more time enjoying your holiday. Another fun thing is to just walk around. It’s normally when you’re not looking for anything special you end up finding a gem of a place. A couple sites which are a good place to start with are: japan-guide.comjapantravelinfo.com/top/index.php, and tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g294232-Japan-Vacations.html. Of course there are tons of sites, so your best bet is to use Google as a good starting point.





Posted on by Paul in Visiting 1 Comment

Things to think of before traveling to Japan, part 1

whysojapan_flying_over_mount_fuji

Things to think of before traveling to Japan

Before traveling to Japan eveyone thinks different, but I would like to share what things I think of before traveling to Japan. Of course, lots of things are obvious, but while planning what can be a big trip, it’s easy to forget different things, especially if you have never been to Japan before. I can remember the first time we decided to book Japan as our next holiday destination. The amount of research we did, even then, I’m sure we missed a bunch of things, and we probably still do. But as we are planing our next trip I thought I would share the things that we think about before we leave for Japan.

Visa before you buy your tickets?

Before you buy your tickets to Japan it’s importet to make sure your passport will be valid for the whole trip. It’s also important to check if you need some sort of Visa to entry Japan, which you might need to apply for before you buy your flight tickets. For us, we did not need to apply for any extra document, since we were entitled for the Visa Exemption Arrangements. Check with this site for more info about travel Visas: http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/arrange/essential/visa.html

Booking your flight

Booking our flight we wanted to get the best deal as possible, so I kept my eye on flight prices to and from Japan. I ended up using a flight comparison site called Travel Supermarket, which is available in different languages. A great function they have is a price agent, which emails you every day with the cheapest prices and fastest flights. Now we wanted to balance the price to the amount of flight time, since we diden’t really want to be flying for 22 hours if we did not need to. We knew that we could get a flight for about 12-14 hours, so now it was just to keep an eye on the lowest flight time prices. Most of the time we found the flights that took more hours waiting at some airport for transfer were cheaper than ones with less transfer time. In the end we got a great deal, so our next trip to Japan from Europe will only take around 13 hours. It seems like we bought the tickets at the right time, because had we bought them a week later we would have had to pay a lot more for them, which might of ended up us have to take the longer timed tickets, just keep the price down.

whysojapan_travelsupermarket_email

Landing in Japan

We have only flown into Narita airport, which is the primary international airport for greater Tokyo. Traveling from the airport you have a few different choices. We have always gone with the JR Nartia Express (NEX) train, which has been handy for us, since we normally stay in Shinjuku, which is one of the station NEX stops at. This means we don’t need to change trains with our luggage or anything, which is great. It’s not the cheapest way of getting into Tokyo, but it is one of the easiest, being a direct route for us to Shinjuku. Other train services that available are JR Sobu Line, Keisei Skyliner, Keisei Limited Express. A few different bus services are available too, and of course you could jump in a taxi too, but that will cost a bit, since the airport is about 60 km away from central Tokyo. A great site that I used to research what would be the best transportation for us can be found on this link here: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2027.html

Hotel

Finding a hotel can be a pain because of the choice. There are a lot of hotels in Tokyo to choose from. A site that we always use is Booking.com. You can search for all different sorts of hotels, from the cheapest to the dearest ones. One thing we always do when we choose a hotel is to read the reviews for the hotel both on Booking.com and TripAdvisor.com. We also check around for the best prices. Booking.com might not always be the best price, sometimes it does pay to book direct via the hotel’s own homepage. Things we think of when booking our hotel are: is breakfast included in the price, if not how much does it cost? Is free wifi available throughout the hotel? In Japan you can choose if you want a smoking or non-smoking room, so this might be important to some people. Check-in and check-out times is something we also look into, and if you get to the hotel before check-in, can they store your luggage for you, and other hotel amenities.

Read part 2 click here.

Photo credit: El Scrapeo飛行機から富士山が見える





Posted on by Vega @ whysojapan.com in Other 1 Comment