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Japan on Friday - woohoo!
Old 07-20-2008, 12:38 PM   #1
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Japan on Friday - woohoo!

Scrimped and Saved, and we're finally off to Japan to visit some friends of DW who moved there earlier this year.

I'm a little scared as several people have mentioned about $1500USD per person budget for the week (budget does not include accommodation since we are staying with friends) which has put a slight damper on the trip, but will probably be the one and only time to do Japan in my life, so can't complain too much.

Will post pics once we get back.

Any recommendations for 'must see' areas of Tokyo? I'm mostly excited about the break from work and the computer, and if I could see one zen rock garden I would feel complete, but perhaps someone out there has some amazing suggestions?

Mitch
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Old 07-20-2008, 01:34 PM   #2
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I visited last year, during a serious heat wave.

The Meiji park was much cooler than the rest of the city. Museums - I lucked into the Turkish 'Treasures of the Ottomans' exhibit at the National Museum - that was cool - and so was everything else! There is - I forget the neighborhood - a big hanger-like building with a reconstruction of an 'old Edo' neighborhood ... very neat. VIsit one of the big department stores - if you are in shopping mode, see what the handcrafts floor has on sale.

If it is very hot - and even if it isn't - do a day trip out of the city to Hakone - train, to cable car up the mountains, to godola over the hills to the lake, boat across the lake, visit the old Hakone checkpoint. Then you can get the bus back to the train. Great fun! I stopped along the way - got off the cable car - to see an open air sculpture museum... and it has a very nice 'foot-onsen' to soak your toes in when you are tired and about to leave truly a civilized place!!

Do a day trip down to Kamakura - amazing!

Yes, you can spend tons of money, but if you eat at the museum shops, and pick up prepared stuff from the corner store - You will be fine. I live in NYC and didn't think that Tokyo was much different in terms of cost. If you like sushi, go do the early-morning visit to the big fish market. Talk to your friends, and go eat at the equivalent of "joe's around the corner deli".

I don't know your clothing tastes, but 'casual conservative' is what you want - Japanese adults are much more careful about how they look/dress than most Americans on vacation. think LLBean catalog, not, oh, dare I say it, daisy dukes .

Bring - Comfortable shoes / sunblock / hat / foldable umbrella to be parasol - women do that all the time. Walk around with some tissues/TP in your bag/purse. Japanese public toilets are clean, and in every train station, but sometimes it is a 'bring yr own paper' situation. Hehe - there was the fancy toilet in the hotel that not only did the water-noises, but would talk. I hope it was saying 'do you want bidet mode?' not 'ready for blast-off!'

Enjoy!

ta,
mew
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Old 07-21-2008, 04:55 AM   #3
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2 years ago I could add some days to a business trip.
I purchased food at supermarkets, corner shops and small family style restaurants. Due to the long commute employees often buy take away food and there are lots of corner restaurants at reasonable prices.
I purchased some nice souveniers like tea pots at Oriental Bazaar, Omotesando Street, Tokyo. They have lots of touristy stuff, but also some nicer things at reasonable prices. There is also a whole street where all shops have restaurant dishware at very low prices but I did not like the style: Kappabashi-dori close to the Asakusa shrine.
I had a nice boat tour by public transport boats and found no park in the city I did not like.
An unusual relaxing event is the hot spring spa on Odaiba island. You can buy reasonably priced food at the common food court in the middle and relax there jointly, but the bathing areas for males and females are seperate. Info in english is available. Around 30$ per person, discounts later in the evening.
I also used the circle line metro for a quick city tour at low cost.

Have fun!
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Old 07-21-2008, 08:37 AM   #4
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Bree - I've spent a lot of time in Tokyo over the years. It really is expensive. But, as was mentioned above, if you stick to local practice as opposed to "big-business" type of entertainment, you can get by on less. Part of it will depend on the lifestyle your DW's friends lead. If they were sent on a lucrative expat package, chances are good that they don't live like the locals...probably more like expats on a package. My advice would be to plan as Chris2008 and mews have suggested above, but don't be too surprised if the week really does set you back $1500 each. By the way, try to take the trains and busses whenever possible. I'm pretty sure that the taxis are about the second most expensive in the world, behind Zurich. By the way, if you take a taxi from Narita airport to central Tokyo, that alone will set you back about $300...take the Narita Express or the Limosine Bus/Airport bus for about JPY3000 each. Even then, a taxi from Tokyo Station to most of the gaijin ghetto areas will set you back anywhere from JPY2000 to JPY4000.

As for things to see, Kamakura is a must, Meiji Shrine is a must, Omotesando has some good shopping but I always find it expensive. Oriental Bazaar in Omotesando area is good for souvenirs. Oh, and do go to the park near Meiji shrine (forgot the name off the top of my head) where the young people congregate in costumes (maids, elvis, various bands, etc)...its quite a sight to see. I think the fish market in Tsukiji may still be open and accepting tourists, but I have heard it is moving and that once it does only the fishmonger/buyers will be allowed.

Have fun!

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Old 07-21-2008, 08:44 AM   #5
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Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention: Japan is still very much a cash based society. Don't expect to be able to get train tickets, bus fares, lunch, 7-11 or am/pm with credit cards. If you have a Japanese mobile phone, you can pay by swiping your phone over a reader in many locations though. Bigger things like souvenirs at Oriental Bazaar are fine by credit card, as are dinners at nicer restaurants. Also, you can't use your debit or ATM card in most banks. You will likely have to find a Citibank if you need to withdraw cash.

R
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Old 07-21-2008, 10:46 AM   #6
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Wow Rambler - thanks for the great advice about the ATM's. I didn't even think about this as I've been to many places in China/Thailand and it was almost always so easy.

Re Money - thanks for all the tips and suggestions. I'm just going to bite the bullet here and chalk it up as one of those 'once in a lifetime' things so if it's $1500, it's $1500... It just makes me cringe when I know I could do several weeks in Thailand for the same amount of money

Thankfully DWs friend is an even bigger penny pincher than I am, so there may be a silver lining hehe. Really looking forward to getting out of Shanghai. this will be my 3rd week (or more) vacation this year - I'm really trying to make the most of this last year in Shanghai.

Thanks again all!
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Old 07-21-2008, 02:12 PM   #7
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$200+ per day per person, not counting lodging? That seems high to me. I'd say $70 per day per person would be fine. Don't eat at super-expensive places -- eat in local hole-in-wall places.

You can sometimes find ATMs that take international cards in 7-11s and at train stations. But to be safe change a fair amount of money at the airport.

If you are traveling around Japan at all, then the JR railpass for foreigners is a great deal.
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Old 07-21-2008, 03:32 PM   #8
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Good point in the credit card stuff - and I agree - train from Narita is the way to go. [or bus, but I have no direct knowledge]

You know, Japan is a pretty safe country. I carried a bunch of cash [exchanged in NYC before I went] and had no problems. As I recall, the rates posted at Narita Airport were pretty fair - but check before exchanging.

enjoy!
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Old 07-21-2008, 09:08 PM   #9
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Hi Mitch, Your friends may have told you about Narita Express? If not - Once you get to the arrivals hall in Narita go downstairs to the JR ticket office. There you ask for the Narita Express/Suica package. They will check your passport then sell you a ticket to get to Tokyo (Tokyo station or Shinjuku) which also includes a JR ticket to get from one of those 2 stations to another JR station (maybe closer to where you need to go) This package also includes a Suica card which is preloaded with 1500 yen worth of travel. You will find this card very valuable during your stay (your friends can explain it more) Total cost is 3500 yen (plus you can get 500 yen back if you return your Suica card when you leave) This is a great deal since it normally costs at least 3000 to get to Tokyo.

Anyway, DH and I are in Hokkaido right now, but will be back to Tokyo this weekend. Send me a PM if you and DW are interested in meeting up somewhere or have any Qs

Be careful, it is hot as he!! in Tokyo right now!
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Old 07-21-2008, 09:10 PM   #10
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Oh, also. Use the ATM card to exchange money. The ATMs at the airport will work. After that, Post offices and 7-11s take foreign ATMs. My Dad actually got the best exchange rate at a 7-11.
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Old 07-24-2008, 03:24 PM   #11
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Thanks for the invite Shiny. I don't think I will be able to take you up on your offer unfortunately as we are staying with DW's friends (pinch those pennies!), and unfortunately she doesn't share my enthusiasm with meeting people IRL that I've met online. That said, if you make it to Shanghai before December - please do send me a PM and I will take you out to some nice dining here in the city.

We're fortunately flying into Hameda which is much, much closer to the city than Narita. I remember riding the train for at least an hour the last time I made inroads into Tokyo - ouch.

On another note, I got a cheap little Asus EEE computer (micro laptop) and loaded it up with ebooks about photography, so hopefully will have some time to get a few pointers in and get some stunning photos with DWs new Cannon Rebel.

Selling digital photos online is stage 2 of my ER income auto-pilot plan, so I'm hoping to mix a little business with pleasure on this trip

Thanks again all for the recommendations - I made a list and have them with me. Back in a little over a week.

Cheers!
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Old 08-10-2008, 03:16 AM   #12
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'Must see' areas of Tokyo? Do go to Harajuku on weekends to catch the Harajuku girls! They do dress weird...
Otherwise for the usual touristry spots, Meiji Park, the Imperial Palace, the Asakusa temple etc.

We stayed in an executive apartment in Shinjuku area which we were very impressed with and the rates pretty affordable.
Tokyo, Japan Serviced Apartments - Temporary Furnished Apartments in Tokyo, Japan by Oakwood


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Old 08-25-2008, 11:58 PM   #13
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I'm back from a week in Japan ... Kyoto and Tokyo mostly. I was impressed with how inexpensive it was. My employer paid my bills, but lunches were $10 and dinners were $20-$40. I'd pay more at home for the same food! Hotel rooms were just $160 a night near the 4-Seasons at Tokyo Station. I remember $200+ per night rooms at the Century Hyatt near Shinjuku more than 10 years ago.

Also I was able to use a credit card for just about everything except a couple of subway rides in Kyoto. I got about $35 worth of yen out of an ATM machine and still have about $10 left when I got back to the US.
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Old 08-26-2008, 10:14 AM   #14
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The Airport Limosine will take you from either airport (Narita or Haneda) downtown for around $25.00 USD Actually it is an express bus, and very comfortable; they help you with luggage, etc. Used to be you could check in for your flight at the bus station, and they would transfer your luggage. Not sure if they still do that.
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Old 08-27-2008, 01:03 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by LOL! View Post
I'm back from a week in Japan ... Kyoto and Tokyo mostly. I was impressed with how inexpensive it was. My employer paid my bills, but lunches were $10 and dinners were $20-$40. .
Do you remember the names of the places that you had lunch and dinner? What types of food was it? I love to try recommendations from other travelers. Thanks.
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Old 08-27-2008, 06:40 AM   #16
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Do you remember the names of the places that you had lunch and dinner? What types of food was it? I love to try recommendations from other travelers. Thanks.
Lunch almost anywhere is about $10 bucks, dinner can be $10 w/o alcohol. One of my favorite Tokyo cheap eats is Osho Gyoza, 12 gyozas for about 400 yen and a bowl of rice for about 200 yen...lunch for $6 (or dinner).

Favorite dinner is Jojo-en in Akasaka. There are several of these in the vicinity, but if you are going to Jojo-en, the best one is Jojo-en Yugentei. It has an excellent atmosphere, and excellent food (try the highest grade of beef there...it is excellent Kobe-style beef). Its a bit pricey, and will set you back about $100 per head incl a reasonable amount of alcohol (not too much).

Going to Japan?

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Old 08-27-2008, 08:35 PM   #17
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Do you remember the names of the places that you had lunch and dinner? What types of food was it? I love to try recommendations from other travelers. Thanks.
I went to places with names in Japanese script (not in Latin letters). Basically, seafood, sushi, Thai, katsu, tempura, etc. Every building had several restaurants either in the basements or on the top floors. For example, around Tokyo Station there were very few people walking around above ground. Underground was an entire complex of shops and restaurants that covered several city blocks through the interconnected buildings.

One place I ate at had no menus. I just pointed to the plastic food in the window to get what I wanted. The local Japanese had to do the same pointing because of lack of menus. You didn't need to know any Japanese, nor English nor any other language to get a great meal.

Now years ago, the best meals I have ever had were at the top floor restaurant of the Century Hyatt. I'm sure it was over $500 per person for what we ate.

So go explore and have an adventure eating. I don't think you are gonna hop in a taxi or subway to go clear across town to a Michelin-starred restaurant, but you might go to one within a few blocks of where you are staying.
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