~ Japan planning pt 2. ~

Tuesday, April 25, 2017
      The second part of planning my Japan trip was all about finessing the details. This meant in-country travels as well as purchasing tickets that had to be bought beforehand. I had a notebook where I wrote down places that I might want to visit in each city as well as important information such as addresses and telephone numbers of the hotels/airbnb's I was staying at.


One of the first things I recommend is to simply Google places you want to go to beforehand and create gentle itineraries for each day.

       Everyone travels differently and I actually consider myself a slow traveler. I usually only allocate about 1-3 activities/sights to see per day. It varies from place to place but it's also important to remember how much time it takes to reach each place and if you'll be side tracked often as I was with shopping in Japan!

      Prior to and during my trip I relied heavily on Google maps for directions as well as an estimated time for travel. I allocated nearly double the amount of time recommended because 1.) sometimes the GPS was wonky and I'd be walking a block before it realized "oops sorry wrong way" 2.) I'm a bit slower at navigating in new places and 3.) it allows you to sneak in activities that you hadn't planned for such as breaks in cute coffee shops or some souvenir shopping.


      I'm sure anyone that has traveled to or plan to travel to Japan has heard of the Japan Rail Pass. It's essentially a pass that lets you ride the JR lines (including shinkansens) for a fixed price and fixed duration of time. I believe they sell them for 7, 14, and 21 days. You can buy the pass from various places online so take into consideration shipping time, for example folks in Canada can buy it from JTB. It does omit some trains do so please be careful when planning.

      If you are traveling from city to city it is a good idea to look up the estimated price for tickets and time it takes on a site such as Hyperdia  and the compare it to the value of the pass. This is what I did and turns out it was a little cheaper for me to not buy the pass. We ended up taking the subway only once in Osaka and took taxis mainly in Kyoto. We didn't use public transit in Takayama and in Tokyo we used Suica cards that I had left over from my previous trips.

      You may also want to look up special day passes that certain cities may offer. For example Osaka offers the Osaka passes that not only gives you unlimited transit but also offers discounts on entrance fees to certain attractions or even free admission. In Kyoto I believe there's a 500 yen 1-day pass you can buy.


For the majority of attractions I believe you don't have to worry too much about getting tickets. The only two that I wanted to buy beforehand was for Tokyo Sea and Studio Ghibli Museum. 

      The first one wasn't a big deal because the tickets can still be bought at the park itself as well as in Disney shops. I bought mines at the Disney store in Osaka. Make sure you know which park you want to enter (or both) and which date you will be going on.

      The latter was the trickier one. There are only a few ways you can buy the tickets overseas. The first few is directly from their English website or through Lawson's English website. Another way is to go through a travel agency and the third is through a third party who will try to buy the tickets for you in Japan and deliver them to you or your hotel upon arrival. Fourth is to wing it and try buying from Lawson machines when you're in Japan. 
I found this website very useful: 6 ways to buy tickets for Studio Ghibli

       I decided to use the first option, buying directly from their site. Let me tell you, I sat at my desk ready to buy at their opening time/date and it still took me 40 minutes of agony! I was constantly getting logged out because their server was so busy and each time I managed to get back on more and more dates were being sold out!

     Make SURE you know the dates AND entrance times you want to visit. I managed to buy tickets for the date that I want although not the time I originally preferred but honestly, I was happy to get tickets at all. Here is a link to their English  ticketing site. Good luck. Oh and the tickets were practically sold out after a day on their English site.


      It's popular to rent pocket wifi's in Japan as public wifi is a bit hard to find or even if you find it, you might not be able to connect as in my case. I personally did not rent a pocket wifi as the Airbnb's I stayed in provided them and the times I didn't have it was in Takayama (a small town) and Osaka where I relied on the hotel wifi to plan the day and any available publie wifi (Starbucks). I would recommend it as I relied heavily on wifi's in larger cities or during longer stays.

      From what I read the price of the rental depends mostly on the amount of data you need and the speed. They can be picked up at the airport or delivered to your hotel. At the end of your trip you simply drop it in a mailbox to be shipped back to the company.


      Personally I like to exchange all my money beforehand so that when I arrive I don't have to worry about it. The only time I haven't is when I went to Morocco because they have a closed currency system, meaning they only sell/use their currency within their country so make sure you change back any money you have left too. 

       In Japan it's super easy to find ATM's to use in nearly all their convenience stores. I used these a few times and I was charged about 2$ CAD to withdraw. Check with your bank if you want to know how much they charge you for overseas withdrawals or fees for using your credit card. It might also be a good idea to give them a call and let them know you're leaving the country so they don't lock up your debit/credit card.

       To round up this post make sure you also remember details such as making sure your passport is valid and that you bought travel insurance. I usually double check my flight times and pick my seats as soon as possible. I photocopy my passport that I leave with my family in case of emergencies. Double check if you have any appointments that you have to change or reschedule.