Singapore Expats Forum

The "first time in Japan" recommendations thread...

Discuss about the latest news & interesting topics, real life experience or other out of topic discussions with locals & expatriates in Singapore.

User avatar
aster
Manager
Manager
Posts: 1593
Joined: Fri, 15 Jan 2010

The "first time in Japan" recommendations thread..

Postby aster » Tue, 30 Mar 2010 7:37 pm

For starters: no spamming, no recommending of travel/tour agencies, nothing of the sort pls.

The aim of this topic is to share thoughts on where to go in Japan, not where to purchase your trip there... If you misbehave, SMS will rightfully crack his whip in a way that will make local caning practices seem like a spa treatment... :)

------

Let's make this easy: not so keen on museums, but very keen on having a great time by which I mean getting to know the everyday things (where the locals hang out, etc.), good food, good booze (priority #1). Basically a trip to get a feel for the country more than anything else.

Can do more than one city, especially if that involves taking the bullet train. I assume Tokyo is a must, maybe Osaka as well? Any recommendations on where to go, what to check out, etc.? :)

User avatar
nakatago
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 8333
Joined: Tue, 01 Sep 2009
Location: Sister Margaret’s School for Wayward Children
Contact:

Postby nakatago » Tue, 30 Mar 2010 7:44 pm

Tokyo and the surrounding suburbs and metropolis are more than worthwhile

* get lost in shinjuku station
* get caught in the sea of people of hachiko crossing in shibuya
* cosplayers in harajuku (also retrace Bill Murray's steps)
* geekfest in akihabara
* stand next to someone reading porn manga in the trains
* hanami if spring
* hanabi if summer (also climb mount fuji)

and the list goes on and on and on and on and on...

User avatar
x9200
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 9164
Joined: Mon, 07 Sep 2009
Location: Singapore

Postby x9200 » Tue, 30 Mar 2010 8:11 pm

2 years back we did:

Tokyo: Gore (1 day trip)
|
Osaka: Nara (1dt), Kyoto (1dt)
|
and back to Tokyo.

All by Shinkansen.

Osaka, Dotonbori is IMHO the place for an attempt to get wasted. Lots of very nice well boozed places off the main street. On one hand very touristic on the other full of locals and with pretty specific atmosphere.

raden888
Chatter
Chatter
Posts: 258
Joined: Mon, 08 Feb 2010

Postby raden888 » Tue, 30 Mar 2010 8:16 pm

Yes, Tokyo is a must . Wander through the city and soak in the atmosphere.Don't think you need a tour guide for that! Just a word of advise, don't do any of your traveling during rush hour unless you find the idea of being quashed to the brim 'exciting'.

Warning though, once you have tasted good Japanese food in Japan, you will not be able to enjoy your local Japanese joint.It will never be the same, even tried some of the celebrity chef restaurants and they do not compare to the real deal :mad:

Liked Hideyoshi's Castle in Osaka. If you're into architecture I would recommend a couple of days in Kyoto. Kinkakuji in Kyoto is quite serene, you will instantly forget the mass hordes of Tokyo. If you like a taste of rural Japan, try visiting Kurama outside of Kyoto.Its famous for its hot springs and medieval buildings.

If I had the time, I would like to do the whole of Japan...travel from Okinawa all the way to Hokkaido including the Kuril Islands. That would be an amazing trip. Got to love pipe dreams!

User avatar
Asian_Geekette
Reporter
Reporter
Posts: 558
Joined: Wed, 10 Jan 2007
Location: Still based in Singapore but wanders around...

Postby Asian_Geekette » Tue, 30 Mar 2010 8:23 pm

If you want to experience rural Japan, go to Hokkaido. I've been to Obihiro City several years back and despite being a city, there's a lot of wide open spaces there. I even saw some foxes around the fields there. :)
My business is not to remake myself, but make the absolute best out of what God made. -Robert Browning

Plavt
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 4289
Joined: Wed, 18 May 2005
Location: United Kingdom

Postby Plavt » Tue, 30 Mar 2010 9:18 pm

Should you decide to visit Kyoto in the tourist season trying staying in Osaka only 15 minutes by Bullett train. A Japan rail pass is handy to have but make sure you buy first class unless you are unbelievably thin or just or have a lot in common with being a sardine. Do note the pass cannot be used on the Hikkari Shinkansen or some of the private companies (my info is a little old so do double check). Don't try to hire a taxi from Tokyo Narita airport it is cheaper to fly to Hong Kong and back (I'm not joking). When Japanese in the airport refer to the Limousine they mean the bus that runs from the airport to central Tokyo as does the overland railway and Metro.

Avoid travelling around June July (rainy season). I found Osaka a much friendlier place than Tokyo since not infrequently Japanese who could speak English would offer to help without being asked. Try seeking out Murphy's bar where a good number of foreigners resident in Japan can give you guidance on some things. Osaka has some rather intriguing malls and many Japanese working there have little if any knowledge of other business that exist often quite close to them. While using the Metro I didn't see any of the rudeness or aggression so common in London.

One further tip: the ATM's often won't dispense to a foreign card even when showing the Visa logo. A good source of information is the 'Lonely Planet' travel guide which is updated and maybe a little accurate than this post since I haven't been to Japan for a while.

Travelling back to Singapore by plane? Have your camera handy when I flew the plane flew right over the top of Mount Fuji - quite a sight.

User avatar
Splatted
Reporter
Reporter
Posts: 892
Joined: Sun, 11 Jul 2004

Postby Splatted » Tue, 30 Mar 2010 9:34 pm

Plavt wrote:One further tip: the ATM's often won't dispense to a foreign card even when showing the Visa logo. A good source of information is the 'Lonely Planet' travel guide which is updated and maybe a little accurate than this post since I haven't been to Japan for a while.


This is true. You can forget about using ATM cards in most Japanese ATM's, apart from 2 exceptions.

I found all my ATM cards that carried the PLUS symbol worked, but the only two locations I could withdraw cash were Narita Airport, and Post Offices (The trick was finding post offices that had ATM's.. not all do).

Don't know about whether cards from other payment networks (Eftpos, star, nyce, etc) also work...

edit: We were, however able to regularly shop with my AMEX card at the local supermarket. Prices were no more expensive than what we were used to in Australia for a lot of stuff. So, if worse comes to worse, you can still buy food using your credit cards

User avatar
Mad Scientist
Director
Director
Posts: 3447
Joined: Thu, 03 Dec 2009
Location: TIMBUKTU

Postby Mad Scientist » Wed, 31 Mar 2010 4:07 am

If you landed in Narita, take the coach from the airport to Shinjuku Station beside Odakyu shopping Mall. Cheaper. Taxi will cost you an arm and a leg

Get yourself lost in Shinjuku Station. I lost for 2 hrs there.

Try to go the opposite direction during Rush Hour in the station !!!!

Go to GINZA. Behind Shinjuku there is a street near Paramount Hotel(I think) nice ladies........
Play Pachinko

Go to the Palace and the Botanical Garden

Go to Osaka by Shinkansen and eat those cold sushi sold in train coach

Free food around 8 pm at the temple.

Visit Kadoma, the birth of Matushita Electric Industries and the number of factories producing electronic gadgets

Kyushu Island is nice too

Eat Kobe Beef !!

User avatar
Splatted
Reporter
Reporter
Posts: 892
Joined: Sun, 11 Jul 2004

Postby Splatted » Wed, 31 Mar 2010 5:45 am

If you're travelling around Tokyo on a budget, stock up on Tokyo Metro 2 day passes before you leave Narita Airport.

http://www.tokyometro.jp/global/en/ticket/narita.html

I think you can only get them at the airport.. or they're cheaper at the airport.. can't remember which.

Only disadvantage are that you are limited to the subway system, rather than other rail networks.

Oh, and you can get a metro rail map in English.

edit: only difficult part is finding someone at Narita who speaks English.
Also, the metro ticket doesn't work from the train station at the airport so you have to pay for a one way train ticket to connect and get to Ueno. The tickets were fairly inexpensive from memory when we went there 3 years ago.

Plavt
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 4289
Joined: Wed, 18 May 2005
Location: United Kingdom

Postby Plavt » Wed, 31 Mar 2010 6:10 am

Splatted wrote:edit: only difficult part is finding someone at Narita who speaks English.
Also, the metro ticket doesn't work from the train station at the airport.


That's curious, I had no difficulty finding somebody who spoke English as the customer services announcement were in English. Perhaps something has changed but I find it unlikely that you wouldn't find any English speakers at an International airport. However, if you are travelling by Singapore Airlines there will several native Japanese flight attendants provided by reason of knowledge of language and culture of their country.

User avatar
Splatted
Reporter
Reporter
Posts: 892
Joined: Sun, 11 Jul 2004

Postby Splatted » Wed, 31 Mar 2010 7:22 am

Plavt wrote:
Splatted wrote:edit: only difficult part is finding someone at Narita who speaks English.
Also, the metro ticket doesn't work from the train station at the airport.


That's curious, I had no difficulty finding somebody who spoke English as the customer services announcement were in English. Perhaps something has changed but I find it unlikely that you wouldn't find any English speakers at an International airport. However, if you are travelling by Singapore Airlines there will several native Japanese flight attendants provided by reason of knowledge of language and culture of their country.


Sorry, I should have been clearer. Yes, there are plenty of people that speak English at the Airport itself. Just the counter where you purchase train tickets wasn't manned by anyone that had functional English.

Our only saving grace was we knew exactly what sort of tickets we wanted to buy beforehand, but even then it took us a while to communicate it to the staff member who spoke only a few words in English.

I think we had a map / diagram from the backpacker hotel which helped a lot at the time.

User avatar
JR8
Immortal
Immortal
Posts: 16514
Joined: Wed, 24 Mar 2010
Location: K. Puki Manis

Postby JR8 » Wed, 31 Mar 2010 7:23 am

Hehehe...hehe...

Some very sage advice above!

I used to live in Tokyo. You have to visit places like Shinjuku, but be aware that some of the very backstreet 'authentic' eateries won't welcome foreigners just walking in (ditto in other towns). They make 'Cheers' look cosmopolitan and open to visitors in comparison lol.

If you're only on holiday if won't even register on your radar, as there is so much culture to preoccupy you. You know there is so much to dazzle you, I won't even try and suggest stuff.

Out of Tokyo, Kyoto is great. Be aware though that in summer it can get very very hot (the humidity is like a thick fog, and it is so intense). The temples are incredible, esp the minamalist moss and gravel gardens. Sit back eyes closed in front of them (:)) and just contemplate the beauty.

The food is amazing. Do some looking up before you go, of some highlights where you think you might like to eat. I'll say that honestly, whether it's sushi, yakiniku (table barbecue), suki-yaki, nabe (wrestlers winter stew), burgers at Jonny Rockets, curry at Motis is as if from an a higher world. And so on and so on... :)

User avatar
nakatago
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 8333
Joined: Tue, 01 Sep 2009
Location: Sister Margaret’s School for Wayward Children
Contact:

Postby nakatago » Wed, 31 Mar 2010 8:49 am

Commuting directions to practically any part of Japan: http://www.hyperdia.com/

When asking for anything in English, try asking schoolchildren or college kids--their English lessons are still fresh in mind.

From Narita airport, you're better off taking the limousine bus from there to Yokohoma (also the train station) or Tokyo (Suitengumae Station) and transfer to a train or cab from there. Get your limousine bus tickets by the counters before exiting the airport (marked by huge flower murals).

Depending on where and how long you'll stay, try looking into a suica or tekki card, for practically unlimited train fare (YMMV). If not and when in doubt, just pay the minimum fare for the trains and then do a fare adjustment using the machine or approach the station master's booth before/by the exit turnstiles with your ticket. He already knows what to do then.

Grab the comprehensive, fold-out rail map of Metropolitan Tokyo. They're available in the newstand just before exiting Akihabara station and Books Kinokuniya (one store is in Shinjuku). Not sure where they're available else. Very valuable tool before Google Maps, GPS phones and wifi.

missis
Chatter
Chatter
Posts: 194
Joined: Wed, 24 Mar 2010
Location: Holland Road/6th Ave

Postby missis » Wed, 31 Mar 2010 4:58 pm

I spent many years in Tokyo before moving here a few months back. Some great points made by other posters here.
Hot springs are an essential part of your visit. Very relaxing! These days they are nearly all male/female separate (only in the deepest countryside are they mixed) - take everything off, wash yourself off and immerse yourself in the hot waters..bliss!
Enjoy the conveyor belt sushi - usually very cheap and easy to do. You take what you want and they count the plates when you're done.
Sadly Johnny Rockets closed a couple of years ago and nabe usually a winter dish.

User avatar
JR8
Immortal
Immortal
Posts: 16514
Joined: Wed, 24 Mar 2010
Location: K. Puki Manis

Postby JR8 » Wed, 31 Mar 2010 5:44 pm

Oh that wrenches me to hear Jonny Rockets has closed....so many burgers I had there.. fk im off to bed to sulk!

funny anecdote from a friend (American, but well Japonified). He went into an onsen, scrubbed and washed etc. Then saw the two pools - one crowded, the other only one man in it. So he went to the quiter pool. At which the man, a yazuza with tattoos all over immediately got out. I don't need to explain the layers of class/cul;ture to those who have lived there lol


  • Similar Topics
    Replies
    Views
    Last post

Return to “General Discussions”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests