I brought my family for a trip to Japan, all five of us. There was my wife and I, and my three kids, my 11-year old daughter, my 7-year old boy and my youngest, 3-year old toddler. It is the beginning of winter there. As you might have known, I am from Malaysia. It is always sunny in Malaysia with occasional rain. Normally it is 32 to 36-degree Celcius. You can’t walk for a block without sweating. So the cold in Japan is rather new for us. We prepared as much as we can to face this new climate environment — jackets, long johns, face creams, lip gloss, snow cap, gloves, shoes…
And when we got there, yes, it was cold. Really cold. No snow, but still very cold. At times it went as low as 6-degree Celcius. If you come from a four-season part of the globe, maybe that is nothing to you. But this is new for us. It was a bit of a shock. But thanks to our preparation, I think we did well.
The 10-day program in Japan includes three main locations, Tokyo, Kanazawa and Kyoto. We arrived at Tokyo via the Narita International Airport. ANA (All Nippon Airline) was a great company to fly with. From the Airport, we took the Narita Express (NEX) train to Tokyo Station. After an overnight in Tokyo, we took the Shinkansen (Japan bullet train) to Kanazawa for a two-night stay. Then we took the Shinkansen to Kyoto for a 3-night stay. And our last leg of the trip was another 3 nights in Tokyo.
Our first night was spent in Akihabara, the manga and anime town of Tokyo. It was already late. But our Japanese friend, Tao Sasaki, took us to dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant, and later a stroll down the streets of Akihabara. It is interesting to see the lights and colorful buildings at night.
In Kanazawa, we visited the Kanazawa Castle, the Omicho Market and the Higashi Chaya district.
In Kyoto, we managed to visit the Nijo Castle, Kyoto International Manga Museum, the streets of Gion, Fushimi Inari and the Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama.
In our trip from Kyoto to Tokyo, we managed to squeeze a detour to Odawara and then up the Hokane Cable Car. We didn’t get a chance to go up to the Hokane Ropeway because it was already late and we need to chase for our check-in time in Tokyo.
In Tokyo, we stayed in Shinjuku this time. It was convenient as there was a supermarket downstairs and easy for us to shop for food. In Tokyo, we made a trip to the Odaiba island to see the giant Gundam in front of DiverCity Plaza. Then we took the Tokyo Cruise up the river to go to Akasuka. We had dinner and shopped for souvenirs there. If you are looking for Japan-theme souvenirs, then Akasuka back street market is definitely a must go. The next day is Disneyland day… really is a great day at Disneyland with all the rides, fireworks and parades.
Oh yeah… Maybe I should also mention that we took the JR Pass to ride the Shinkansen around Japan. You need to buy it from out of Japan and then get it activated when you arrive in Japan. The the JR Pass, you can take almost any train operated by the JR company in Japan, nationwide, with unlimited number of rides. You are only limited to the number of days that you bought. There are the 7-day pass, the 14-day pass and the 21-day pass.
Since my trip is 10 days, and my JR Pass is only 7, I made sure that the last leg of my trip we are only going around Tokyo. We can use local subway and metro tickets for that, and don’t need the JR Pass, as it will be expired anyway.
I think most cities would have some kind of bus service for tourists or at least some kind of day pass tickets where you can get unlimited number of rides for a day. In Tokyo, you can always buy tickets for subway and metro using the machine. Don’t worry, there is always the English language option at these machines. And since the locals mostly use some kind of electronic payment cards like the Paymo or Suica, the machines are always available.
In Kyoto, there is the City Bus Day Pass. You can get it at the Tourist Information Centre at the Kyoto Station. At the Kanazawa, there is the Kanazawa Loop Bus Day Pass, which works similar to the Kyoto City Buss Day Pass. Head to the East Gate of the Kanazawa Station and you should be able to find a counter that sells this. You can still get on the bus and pay as you ride, but at 500-yen for a day pass and 230-yen for any single bus trip, I think it is worth it to take the day passes. Just plan your trip around city, know the bus routes and know which bus to take. The information counter where you buy your tickets should be able to help with that.
Also, Google Map is a huge help as well. In Kyoto, if you have JR Pass, you can visit Fushimi Inari and Arashiyama using that as there is a railway line going to these two places operated by the JR company.
I guess that’s all that I can share so far. Maybe I will write more later.