Japan – Part 5 – Getting Around Japan

Photo by Karen Lau on Unsplash

Photo by Karen Lau on Unsplash

Finally, Part 5! I’m just ready to get on my flight and get to Japan already!

Okay, so I’ve established how I’m getting to Japan, where I’m staying, what I plan to see and do, and now it comes down to how I plan to get around.

The way I intend to work my trip, I wanted to make sure my hotel is located close to a train station and somewhat centrally located in relation to what I plan to see. For the most part, I have that all figured out. While most of the places I’ll go are in walking distance from my hotels, there are a few that train or bus travel makes more sense.

So, lets get moving.

Rail Travel

Most of my travel will most likely be done on the train. While researching and planning my trip, I quickly discovered how complex the rail system is in Japan. So many lines, going in a multitude of directions, operated by more than one company, it’s a tad bit on the crazy side! But, as confusing as it seems, with some studying of the system map and my destinations, it shouldn’t be that difficult. Also, from what I understand, there are a lot of signs with information in English.

Let’s look at a couple passes I’ll be getting.

JRail Pass

The JRail pass is a pass for foreign visitors to use on most of the JR system, for unlimited use, including most of the bullet trains, and I believe some buses. These passes are good for 7, 14, and 21 days and come as a standard pass and a Green Class pass which is a first class pass for the Green cars. The cost of the pass starts at $265.00USD for a 7 day standard adult pass, and a child 5-11 is $133.00USD. Also, the pass must be ordered before you travel to Japan, you’ll be given a voucher while home, and then redeem the voucher once you get to Japan.

Once you have your pass, most likely picked up at the airport, you’ll want to wait to use it until absolutely necessary, unless you bought one covering the duration of your trip. Once you use it for the first time, the 7, 14 or 21 day clock starts ticking from then. Like in my case, if I get the 7 day, I won’t use it until about day 5 of my trip so that I have it available on day 12 when I return to Tokyo.

I’m going to get the 7 day standard pass, since most of my long distance travel will be during the middle 7 days of my trip. So, I’ll use the Shinkansen to get to Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima from Tokyo, and back.

IC Card – Suica & Pasmo

For all of my travel within each city, I’ll be getting a IC card. I guess you could see these as like a local bus or metro rail pass. These cards are rechargeable and not only can they be used on the local trains and buses, they can also be used in some convenience stores and vending machines to make purchases.

While there are 10 different cards for different regions, most of them are now interchangeable with other regions. You just can’t use them on transportation going outside of a region that you started in. The most popular cards I have seen are the Suica, Pasmo and ICOCA. I’ll be using a Suica during my time in Japan.

There is a 500 yen deposit for each card, and it’s typical to put at least 1500 yen on the card in addition to the 500 yen deposit. Also, unlike the JRail pass, there is no discounted fare with an IC card, so you’re paying full price for your travel, it’s just a more convenient way to pay.

With the combination of a JRail pass and an IC card, transportation should be a breeze. Should be, haha.

Walking

As I mentioned earlier, a lot of getting around will involve miles of walking. I’m okay with that. I sit all day in my job, so two weeks of walking will do me some good. I think most of my walking will be in Kyoto and the majority of my Tokyo exploration. If anyone has a suggestion on some good men’s walking shoes, let me know!

Taxis, Uber, Car Rentals

I had thought about these options when I first started planning my trip, but quickly learned how expensive they all could be compared to using the rail system instead. Now, in saying that, I may get somewhere that traveling by car may be my only option, so I’ll probably use a taxi where available.

I really wanted to rent a car, but the cost of the rental, parking, fuel and tolls, I would probably spend triple what an IC and JR pass will cost me.

I may rent a car on my next visit though and drive around the northern half of Japan. I plan to bring my kids with me on that trip, so it might make things easier.

3 Months and Counting

September is coming quickly, so my goal is to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible before then so I have no hiccups before and during my trip. I have a lot going on with changing my schedule at work so I can focus on my business, starting a travel agency and my kids activities starting up. Busy days ahead!

I hope you enjoyed reading my rambling, found some useful information or just amused with how much/little I know now, haha. Please, by all means, share the post and stick around for the daily updates when my trip gets under way!

Enjoy YOUR journey!

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