Japan community

Travelling from Tokyo Station to Nara

29 days ago

Hello,

I am trying to figure out what are my options to travel between Japanese cities on particular days in March, 2020. I need to go from Tokyo to Nara (7), to Osaka (10), to Kyoto (14), to Hiroshima (19), to Fukuoka (22) and back to Tokyo (25). I'll have a JR pass. I'll be mostly living around 11 am (from Hiroshima - around 3 pm)
I've tried to use Hyperdia but in vain...
Can anybody help?

Thank you.

Edward

234 miles
65 replies
Australia
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28 days ago

Hyperdia links below. Can you expand on what issues you were having using Hyperdia?

If you’re using a JR Pass, make sure that the boxes for “Nozomi / Mizuho / Hayabusa (Shinkansen)” and “Private Railway” are unticked. If you click on the “Interval timetable” under the name of each train, it will give you a list of all the trains for the day.

I would have thought that an earlier start than 11 am was advisable, otherwise you’re left with shorter periods before / after, which would tend to waste a good part of the day. Note that for Kyoto to Hiroshima, there are direct Hikari Shinkansens at 7.20, 8.00 and 8.23. After that, you’ll have to change at Shin-Osaka or Shin-Kobe.

Tokyo to Nara:

http://www.hyperdia.com/cgi/en/search.html?dep_node=TOKYO&arv_node=NARA&via_node01=&via_node02=&via_node03=&year=2020&month=03&day=07&hour=11&minute=00&search_type=0&search_way=&transtime=undefined&sort=0&max_route=5&faretype=0&airplane=off&ship=off&sprnozomi=off&bus=off&privately=off&lmlimit=null&search_target=route&facility=reserved&sum_target=7

Nara to Osaka:

http://www.hyperdia.com/cgi/en/search.html?dep_node=NARA&arv_node=OSAKA&via_node01=&via_node02=&via_node03=&year=2020&month=03&day=10&hour=11&minute=00&search_type=0&search_way=&transtime=undefined&sort=0&max_route=5&faretype=0&airplane=off&ship=off&sprnozomi=off&bus=off&privately=off&lmlimit=null&search_target=route&facility=reserved&sum_target=7

Osaka to Kyoto:

http://www.hyperdia.com/cgi/en/search.html?dep_node=OSAKA&arv_node=KYOTO&via_node01=&via_node02=&via_node03=&year=2020&month=03&day=14&hour=11&minute=00&search_type=0&search_way=&transtime=undefined&sort=0&max_route=5&faretype=0&airplane=off&ship=off&sprnozomi=off&bus=off&privately=off&lmlimit=null&search_target=route&facility=reserved&sum_target=7

Kyoto to Hiroshima:

http://www.hyperdia.com/cgi/en/search.html?dep_node=KYOTO&arv_node=HIROSHIMA&via_node01=&via_node02=&via_node03=&year=2020&month=03&day=19&hour=11&minute=00&search_type=0&search_way=&transtime=undefined&sort=0&max_route=5&faretype=0&airplane=off&ship=off&sprnozomi=off&bus=off&privately=off&lmlimit=null&search_target=route&facility=reserved&sum_target=7

Kyoto to Hiroshima (direct):

http://www.hyperdia.com/cgi/en/search.html?dep_node=KYOTO&arv_node=HIROSHIMA&via_node01=&via_node02=&via_node03=&year=2020&month=03&day=19&hour=07&minute=20&search_type=0&search_way=&transtime=undefined&sort=0&max_route=5&faretype=0&airplane=off&ship=off&sprnozomi=off&bus=off&privately=off&lmlimit=null&search_target=route&facility=reserved&sum_target=7

Hiroshima to Fukuoka:

http://www.hyperdia.com/cgi/en/search.html?dep_node=HIROSHIMA&arv_node=HAKATA&via_node01=&via_node02=&via_node03=&year=2020&month=03&day=22&hour=15&minute=00&search_type=0&search_way=&transtime=undefined&sort=0&max_route=5&faretype=0&airplane=off&ship=off&sprnozomi=off&bus=off&privately=off&lmlimit=null&search_target=route&facility=reserved&sum_target=7

Fukuoka to Tokyo:

http://www.hyperdia.com/cgi/en/search.html?dep_node=HAKATA&arv_node=TOKYO&via_node01=&via_node02=&via_node03=&year=2020&month=03&day=25&hour=11&minute=00&search_type=0&search_way=&transtime=undefined&sort=0&max_route=5&faretype=0&airplane=off&ship=off&sprnozomi=off&bus=off&privately=off&lmlimit=null&search_target=route&facility=reserved&sum_target=7

Canada
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28 days ago

The main issue with Hyperdia is that it doesn't recognize the names of the stations. I try "Tokyo Central" - Nara, and that's the reply
"The starting station(From) is not found."
The system does offer options but not being that familiar with the cities, I am not sure which to prefer. For instance, in Tokyo my accommodation is near Mejiro/Ikebukuro - should I go for Skytree? Akasusa? Same problem with getting off or changing trains. Normally, I would look for "Central Station" but this approach doesn't work for Japan.
Why should I untick "Hayabusa", btw? I thought, JR wasn't good only for Nozomi and Mizuho...
As for times, my check-in time about everywhere is 3-4 pm - doesn't seem to make much sense to come way earlier than that

United States of America
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28 days ago

Hi Edward,
Contact JR rail and they should be able to get the correct information for you and all of your stop's.

Canada
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28 days ago

Corinth, could you specify which department I should contact for that purpose - and how to find their contacts?
Thank you.

Australia
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28 days ago

Hyperdia has a dropdown list of station names. Start typing a station name and the dropdown list should kick in. Given that it has a list of station names, you have to use what it’s expecting. Most are straightforward - Tokyo is Tokyo, Kyoto is Kyoto. However if you want the JR station at Shinjuku it’s ‘Shinjuku(JR)’ because there are multiple stations at Shinjuku. In a similar vein, the Shinkansen stops at Shin-Osaka and Shin-Kobe ... which are different from Osaka and Kobe.

You untick Hayabusa because the Nozomi / Mizuho / Hayabusa box is one box - you either untick it or you don’t.

Japanese hotels strictly adhere to check in times. However, if you arrive early they will be happy to hold your bags for you.

You don’t need to contact JR Rail - just use the links I provided above.

Spain
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27 days ago

Try changing the navigator, something like that happened to me and I solved it like this.

United States of America
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28 days ago

Todd,
The hyperlinks don't come out clickable but thank you. Could be because of the syntax and or https://booking.com restrictions. Just an FYI --- but it could be just my browser's limitation.
-Rick

Australia
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27 days ago

The fact that they're not clickable (and look ugly) is a limitation of this forum. Just copy and paste the entire link into your browser .....

Canada
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27 days ago

That's what I did, and they helped a lot. I am still trying to make sense of the stations names but it's been a big step forward

Australia
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27 days ago

Edward - let me know if you have any issues with particular station names. Looking at a map (Apple Maps, Google Maps, whatever you prefer) will usually give you the station name. As noted, Hyperdia does have its quirks but it's an invaluable tool. Make sure the dropdown list of station names is working ... as you start typing a station name, a dropdown list should appear that gets more refined the more you type .... so if it comes up with nothing just go back to re-typing the first few letters etc. - make sure the dropdown list has been triggered and go from there as the list gets refined.

As noted earlier, most station names are straightforward ... Tokyo is Tokyo, Kyoto is Kyoto etc. ... and "Tokyo" means the main Tokyo Station - there are 300+ stations in greater Tokyo (with various names) but only one "Tokyo".

The Tokkaido Shinkansen originates at Tokyo, then stops at Shinagawa and Shin-Yokohama before heading towards Kyoto. As noted earlier, the Shinkansen stations in Osaka and Kobe are Shin-Osaka and Shin-Kobe, which are physically separate and away from Osaka and Kobe stations. There can also be more than one place in Japan with the same name - Hyperdia usually distinguishes those by adding a 'prefecture' to the name. If, for example, you start to type "Kobe", the drop down list will give you -
Kobe Airport
Kobe(Hyogo) .... which is the local Kobe station
Kobe(Nagasaki) .... no, not that one, must be a Kobe near Nagasaki
Kobe-Sannomiya(Hankyu) ... OK, Kobe but the Hankyu railway station, not JR
Kobe-Sannomiya(Hanshin) ... OK, Kobe but the Hanshin railway station, not JR

For most of us, the prefecture names don't convey much most of the time .... but if a journey you expect to take 20 minutes comes back as a 4 hour trip, you know you've got the wrong one ...

Fukuoka is an oddball - you want Hakata station, which is what Fukuoka used to be called.... though Fukuoka Airport station is "Fukuoka Airport" and there's also "Fukuoka(Toyama)" but that's a completely different place. If Hyperdia says "Route is not found" - which it will if you try Tokyo to Fukuoka(Toyama) with the "Private Railway" box unticked - that's effectively Hyperdia's way of telling you you can't get there solely on JR trains -- tick the Private Railway box again and it will work.

If you're in Kyoto and go to Arashiyama to visit the Bamboo Grove, Tenryu-ji etc., you'll probably want to go to Saga-Arashiyama station ... in Hyperdia, it's all one word, so Sagaarashiyama. Again, the dropdown should kick in if you start typing 's-a-g-a' .... it's the third choice after "Saga" and "Saga Airport"

Canada
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27 days ago

Tony, first and foremost, that's an exceptional message - very detailed and helpful. Much appreciated.
As for stations and routes, there is some (a lot of) confusion because I am so used to the "Central Station" concept. I've traveled a lot, and it's about everywhere (including in your country, as far as I remember from my commuting around Sydney and Melbourne. I didn't have to deal with trains while in Brisbane and Cairns).
Japan is different, and I am trying to come to terms with that. So, I start checking options, and now Tokyo-Nara looks pretty straightforward. Tokyo to Kyoto by Hikari (11:03 - 13:45), and then I'll have 18 minutes to move from Track 13 to Track 8 and take JR Nara Line Rapid to Nara. But then I google - just in case - "Tokyo Central Station", and Google comes up with "Chiyoda". Now I have to wonder if that Chiyoda is the same station where I should take Hikari at 11:03 or not. To make things worse, I check options from Mejiro (my accommodation is 750 metres from that station, seemingly on the Yamanote line) straight to Nara, and the route is completely different - Osaki, Shinagawa (both on Yamanote inner loop), and from the latter Hikari goes to Kyoto arriving at exactly the same time as its twin from Tokyo (Chiyoda?). That must mean changing trains in Shinagawa but this time tracks aren't mentioned - and there are only 13 minutes to transfer from one train to another. Finally, if I go from Mejiro to Tokyo (and "Chiyoda" is just "not found" by Hyperdia), I can make it in 27 minutes but only if I take a 10:04 Jamanote _outer loop" (still for Osaki that seems to be AFTER Tokyo/Chiyoda). Tracks in this case aren't mentioned either.
That's just one example, and -Chiyoda quandary out of the equation - a rather simple one. Now there comes Nara -Osaka on March 10. My hotel in Osaka is SunPlaza , and my indtruction was
____________________________________________________________
Get off at Shin-Imamiya Station on the JR Yamatoji Line,
It is about 3 minutes on foot from the station.
_______________________________________________________-

Hyperdia recognizes no Shin-Imamiya, and every item in the drop-down menu looks to me exactly the same. That said, the train itself seems to be the same Yamatoji, and it's a straightforward 50-minutes ride from Nara to _somewhere_ in Osaka. Finding routes within cities is a totally different challenge...
I'll stop here for now, and maybe you can explain me what I am missing.

Singapore
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26 days ago

Hi buy Pasmo card/IC from vending machine in English version by cash only.

From Narita to Mejiro and back you can buy Skyliner tickets 2ways with 72hr metro card cost 5400yen. Take Skyliner from Narita to Nippori stn use Skyliner ticket and change to Yamanote line to Mejiro stn use Pasmo card or 72hrs metro card. You can use the metro card separately after you have finish your JR pass or use it first. So for the next 72hrs just use the metro card to go anywhere in Tokyo.

For the last part from Nara stn use Yamatoji Line to Shin-Imamiya stn - 38mins.

You can take JR from Fushimi Inari Taisha to Saga-Arashiyama stn or by bus need to change 2 buses, from either bus no 市営南5, 市営急行105 or 市営特南5and change to 市営28, 73系統(京都バス)or 76系統.

You can find anything from google map. It will show you by buses and train.

Hopefully can help you. Mr Tony had explained in detail for you.

Canada
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26 days ago

Thanx for replying.
Can't I use Pasmo on the Skyliner?
And which train goes within Kyoto - or do you mean the subway?

Australia
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25 days ago

An IC card (Suica, Pasmo etc.) and a JR Pass are two fundamentally different products that serve a different purpose. You get a JR Pass if - and only if - you are going to do sufficient long-distance travel on JR trains within the validity period of the Pass to make it cost-effective. Whether or not you have a JR Pass, get an IC card - no ifs, ands or buts about it.

Getting around Tokyo primarily involves either the JR Yamanote line (or the JR Chuo line) and the subway. Although the JR Pass is good for the JR lines (if the Pass is active) it’s no good for the subway - get a Suica! You do not want to become a hostage to the JR Pass, needlessley taking the JR Yamanote line when the subway would be quicker and easier. Most subway journeys are only 200-300 yen. In Kyoto, though you may take the occasional JR train, you're most likely to use the subway, buses or non-JR trains (none of which work with a JR Pass) - use your Suica!

You can get a Suica at designated machines at Narita Airport - see the JR video in the link I posted earlier.

The easiest route from Narita is probably the Keisei line (which goes to Keisei-Ueno Station, next to Ueno Station). Get off at Nippori and transfer to the JR Yamanote line inner loop to Mejiro (7 stops / 15 minutes / 170 yen). To get to Nippori, you can either take a Keisei line regular train (probably 55 - 65 minutes, depending on the train) or the Keisei Skyliner (less than 40 minutes). The Keisei Skyliner is all reserved seating so you can’t use a Suica (or Pasmo) as you need to pay the express fee/seat fee, so get a ticket at the Keisei ticket office.

http://www.keisei.co.jp/keisei/tetudou/skyliner/us/index.php

I wouldn’t suggest going to Fushimi-Inari and Arashiyama in the same day. I don’t know where else you plan to go in Kyoto but trying to (geographically) group the sites/sights you plan to visit makes sense. Fushimi Inari is south of Kyoto (on the way to Nara) and Arashiyama is in the west. To get from one to the other, I’d take the JR Nara line to Kyoto Station and then the JR Sagano line from there to Sagaarashiyama.

http://www.hyperdia.com/cgi/en/search.html?dep_node=INARI&arv_node=SAGAARASHIYAMA&via_node01=&via_node02=&via_node03=&year=2020&month=03&day=15&hour=10&minute=00&search_type=0&search_way=&transtime=undefined&sort=0&max_route=5&faretype=0&ship=off&lmlimit=null&search_target=route&facility=reserved&sum_target=7

Canada
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25 days ago

As I said in my previous message (that has mysteriously disappeared), I was definitely going to buy an IC - just wasn't sure how to actually purchase it. Also, you seem to emphasize Suica over Pasmo - is that indeed the case? Is one better than the other for my purposes? And can I get either at Narita or just Suica? As for the video, could you please re-post the link? There are quite a few of them - I am not sure which one you are referring to.
I checked Hyperdia and found out that I would Nippori (I mentioned it in another message that is gone now). But the site suggests ONLY the Skyliner - I didn't see any option for a regular train. Btw, would I be able to pay for the whole trip (Narita-Nippori+ Nippori-Mejiro) with Suica/Pasmo if I took a regular Keiser rather than Skyliner?
My Kyoto program includes about 15 locations in 4,5 days, and I am trying to divide them into geographical clusters. Judging by the map, I should be able to do the Western cluster (Adashino Nenbutsu, Otagi Nenbutsu, Gioji, Moss Gardens, Bamboo Grove and Iwatayama) on the same day, while another day would be devoted to the "Central" cluster (Fushimi, Kinkakuji, Kiyomizu, probably Gyon...). I am not sure yet what's the exact distance between all those spots - so, I am still working on the exact itinerary. There are also the Railway- and Costume Museums, Nijo Castle and a couple of unknowns (I'd like to pay a visit to Samurai Kembi and attend a Tea Ceremony but not sure if I find anything suitable)

Australia
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24 days ago

We originally had Pasmo cards but now have Suica cards as they are loaded on our iPhones. It doesn’t really matter which you get. A few links -

https://www.jreast.co.jp/e/pass/suica.html

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=G9ZaZbSjzn4

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=U_g01JFvul0

https://tokyocheapo.com/travel/pasmo-suica-cards-tokyo-travel/

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Ai5lT9bXif8

Australia
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24 days ago

Edward - “disappearing” posts. This has happened to me occasionally. Usually it seems I am not logged in and as soon as I log in, they re-appear. No idea why....

Australia
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24 days ago

Narita to Nippori. If you turn off / untick the Limited Express box, Hyperdia will give you just the local / non-Skyliner trains. Alternatively, just click on the Interval timetable link under any of the Skyliner trains and it will give you a list of all the trains for the day. Although the non-Skyliner trains are cheaper (no limited express / seat fee), they take twice as long - I would just take the Skyliner. Buy a ticket at the Keisei Station at Narita. Change at Nippori to the JR Yamanote line, for which you can use your Suica/Pasmo.

Canada
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24 days ago

Tony, I've checked the videos - it does look pretty straightforward.
One question about Suica - are there buses/trains in Metropolitan Tokyo where it can NOT be used?
As for buying it, that would be ideal
_____________________________________________________________
You can purchase the Welcome Suica card at JR East Travel Service Centers at Narita Airport Terminal 1 Station
___________________________________________

That's where I arrive. The question is, will such a centre be open around 6-7 pm?
Disappearing posts. I seem to be logged in all the time - so, not sure if that might be the reason. But as long as we are still in touch, it's all good.
I am not sure how significant the price difference between Skyliner and a regular train is but that's not the main consideration. It's rather about finding that ticket office at the Keisei station (is it at Terminal 1 at Narita?) open.
Was I right about Kyoto locations?

Canada
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24 days ago

Judging by that
http://www.hyperdia.com/cgi/en/search.html?dep_node=NARITA%20AIRPORT%20TERMINAL%201&arv_node=MEJIRO&via_node01=&via_node02=&via_node03=&year=2020&month=03&day=04&hour=18&minute=30&search_type=0&search_way=&transtime=undefined&sort=0&max_route=5&faretype=0&ship=off&lmlimit=null&search_target=route&facility=reserved&sum_target=7
the price difference between the Skyliner and a regular train is negligible (about 5 CAD). So, it's all about being able to buy a ticket for the Liner (since it wouldn't accept Suica)

Australia
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24 days ago

AFAIK, you can use a Suica or Pasmo on any train (both JR and non-JR), bus or subway in Metropolitan Tokyo (and Kyoto and elsewhere). Having said that, someone will probably point out some local bus or train service where it doesn't work but I'm not aware of any.

The Welcome Suica card has the advantage that it doesn't require the usual 500 yen deposit (not that that is a big deal). However, the downside is it expires after 28 days and any unused balance can't be refunded (so just spend it ... go and buy something at a convenience store if needs be). The regular Suica expires 10 years after it was last used. In addition to the Welcome Suica, there is an equivalent Pasmo Passport but, AFAIK, that still requires the 500 yen deposit, so I have no idea why anybody would ever get one - might just as well get a regular Pasmo.

The Narita Travel Service Centre and ticket office hours can be found at the link below. This is actually the list of offices where you can exchange your JR Pass voucher for the actual Pass. I don't know whether you want to do that when you arrive or do it later. When you exchange the voucher for the Pass, you tell them what day/date you want it to start so you may want to do it at Narita if the line isn't too bad or do it later elsewhere.

https://japanrailpass.net/en/exchange.html

If you end up taking the Keisei line in to town, Keisei can sell you a Pasmo (either at the Keisei ticket office or, if not at the ticket office, at a nearby machine). Purchase and top up is cash only.

http://www.keisei.co.jp/keisei/tetudou/skyliner/us/findus/index.php

You can also buy a discounted Skyliner ticket voucher online - exchange it for the actual ticket at the ticket office -

https://www.keisei.co.jp/keisei/tetudou/skyliner/e-ticket/en/eticket/index.html

Canada
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24 days ago

As I expected, making it to a JR East Travel Centre at Narita in time would be a close call but, as long as my plane does land at 4.50 pm or so, I should be able to make it. And then I'll just buy a Welcome Suica as I'll be in Japan exactly 28 days. I am not sure how much to charge it with as I can't really estimate how often I'll be taking buses/trains - and how far I'll have to go. 5000, maybe, to start with?
And can I exchange my JR voucher for an actual Pass at a JR-EAST office? Doesn't it have to be the all-national one?
As for dates, I'll use the Pass between March 7 and 27 as my first trip (to Nara) is on the 7th. Btw, I calculated that the Pass should save me about 350 CAD (can be more if I decide to go somewhere for a day on the spur of the moment) - so, it's probably worth it.
I would be happy to but a Skyliner voucher online but for the same problem - if the office is closed, how will I use that ticket??

Australia
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24 days ago

From Narita to Nippori, the fare on the regular train is 1,270 yen, on the Skyliner 2,520 yen.

Train fares have two parts to them - a base fare component and a limited express / seat fee component. Here's an example -

http://www.hyperdia.com/cgi/en/search.html?dep_node=NARITA%20AIRPORT%20TERMINAL%201&arv_node=NIPPORI&via_node01=&via_node02=&via_node03=&year=2020&month=03&day=04&hour=18&minute=00&search_type=0&search_way=&transtime=undefined&sort=0&max_route=5&faretype=0&ship=off&lmlimit=null&search_target=route&facility=reserved&sum_target=7

If you look at the top of each route output in the above link, you will see a Total. That is the fare you pay. Do not be misled by the Fare column in the middle - that is just the base fare. Some trains (local etc.) will just have the base fare and the limited express / seat fee (which Hyperdia lumps together as a single Seat Fee) will be zero. Other trains (Shinkansen, Skyliner, limited express trains in general) will have both a base fare and a Seat Fee (limited express fee + seat fee) making up the total.

In the above example, you will see that 3 of the 5 outputs are for a Skyliner and 2 are for a local train. Note that the Skyliner has a Seat Fee (so it costs 1,270 + 1,250 = 2,520) whereas the local train does not ... but the base fare is the same so the local train is 1,270 + 0 = 1,270.

Some limited express trains have both reserved and non-reserved seats .... and some trains are all-reserved seats only. If you look in the Seat Fee column in the above link, you will see the Skyliner has a dropdown reserved seat fee. There is no non-reserved seat fee (because the train is all-reserved). Compare that with a Shinkansen, which will normally have both reserved and non-reserved seats.

Because the Skyliner is all-reserved seating, you need to get a ticket before boarding. If the train had non-reserved carriages (which the Skyliner does not) you could pay the base fare with your Suica/Pasmo at the gate, sit in a non-reserved seat and then pay the conductor (in cash) for the limited express/seat fee component on board. Do not be tempted to sit in a (reserved) seat for which you do not have a reservation (i.e., have paid the limited express/seat fee). Even if they do not check tickets, they know which seats are reserved (paid for) and which are not .... so if you sit in a reserved seat without having paid the fee, they will know it.

If you decide to take a local train to Nippori - base fare only, no seat fee - you can just use your Suica/Pasmo at the ticket gate and when you exit the gate at Nippori, it will deduct the base fare amount.

In the above link, you will see that the 2 local trains have "down arrows" alongside Keisei-Takasago Station. That means it is actually the same train and you just stay on the train at that station .... it morphs into another train name (the usual case) or undergoes some other "change" at that point in its journey.

Canada
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24 days ago

I must have looked at the wrong place - 2,520 yen is about 31-32 CAD. That's a bit steep. So, a regular train at 6.36 or 7.25 pm should be good enough - and I do hope to have bought a Welcome Suica by that time. And you are saying I just stay on that train until it comes to Nippori, correct?
As for reserved seats, my understanding was that I shouldn't have the same problem with my JR-Pass - no reservations and no extra-payments are needed on shinkansen for pass-holders.
Is it so? And, just to make sure, can I buy a Suica AND exchange my JR voucher for a Pass at the SAME office?

Australia
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24 days ago

The incremental cost of the Skyliner is 1,250 yen (about $15 CAD). If you buy the ticket online before you arrive, the incremental cost is 980 yen (and effectively 920 yen if you buy roundtrip before you arrive). I would take the Skyliner. They are designed for high-speed transportation of arriving passengers (with luggage). The local trains are commuter trains, with open (most likely) bench-style seating and take twice as long.

In the Keisei link I posted earlier, it indicates the Keisei information centre and ticket office at Narita Terminal 1 are both open until 9 pm, so if your flight lands at 4.50 pm, you'll be there long before they close. One of the video links I posted earlier (re-posted below) clearly shows you how to get to the trains and to the Keisei ticket counter, has a good shot of the departures board (at about the 2.40 mark in the video) and also shows the Pasmo card machine immediately to the left of the Keisei ticket office (at about the 3.00 mark).

In the video, it clearly shows that, once you take the escalators down to the trains, the JR Service Centre is on the immediate left and then the JR ticket machines etc. - including no doubt a Suica machine - are to the right and the Keisei ticket office is to the left. You could either exchange your JR Pass when you arrive or do it later in town - see the list of exchange offices I posted earlier -- the JR Service Centre at Ikebukuro is open from 9 am to 7 pm (5 pm on weekends).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ai5lT9bXif8

Although you don't have to make seat reservations if you're using a JR Pass (unless it's an all-reserved train), my advice would be to stop by a ticket office ahead of travel and make seat reservations on whatever train you want to take. If you don't do that, you need to line up for the non-reserved seat cars and take pot luck as to seat availability.

Whenever in doubt / lost / confused / don't know which way to go or which button to press, just stand there looking like a clueless gaijin (some of us find that fairly easy ....😀) and it won't be long before someone offers to help. Unlike most countries, where one would be wary of some random stranger offering to "help" you, we've always found these offers of help to be genuine and people will often go out of their way, even to the point of walking you to your destination, in order to help.

Canada
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24 days ago

It's pretty embarrassing but I had previously somehow missed that one video :-( If Keisei ticket centre is open until 9 pm, then I should indeed have no problem exchanging the voucher - so I will use the Skyliner.
Still a bit confused about which IC to choose - earlier you seemed to advise on Suica ( no deposit, more places it can be used at) but now you are sounding like you would recommend Pasmo.
I understand your point about seat reservation on Shinkansen but if I start paying extras for every trip, it would beat the purpose of buying a Pass. As I said, my expected savings are something like 350-400 CAD, and there are at least 6 long-distance trips...
I am afraid it won't be too difficult to look like a clueless foreigner - and I have already heard a lot about Japanese hospitality. I've also been told that, nice as they are, Japanese people don't usually speak English - so, I decided to study Japanese for the sake of this trip. I've made some progress over the last 4,5 months, and I should be able to communicate (even though at a pretty basic level). But I can't read Japanese, not one bit. That might prove important if I am looking for something when it's late, and there aren't many people around. But that's a different topic, of course...

Australia
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24 days ago

Suica vs Pasmo - it doesn’t really matter. Just go for whichever one you come across first. As I mentioned before, if you have an iPhone 8 or later, you can load a virtual Suica - but not a Pasmo - in Apple Wallet. If that does not work for you, then it does not really matter which physical card you get.

With a JR Pass, Shinkansen (and other JR train) reservations are free - you do not pay extra for them. Just go to a JR ticket office, show them your JR Pass and tell them what train you want a seat reservation for. We usually take a screenshot of the Hyperdia output and show them that.

You will probably find that most Japanese people (particularly in major cities) speak better English than they will admit. Many probably read English better than they speak it but an apparent reluctance to speak it may be founded in a reluctance to be found wanting in their fluency. Chances are their English will be better than your Japanese - that is certainly the case as far as I am concerned. A smile, a bow and a (Japanese) greeting goes a long way ... and when they respond in (to you) incomprehensible Japanese, just say (with a smile) wakarimisen (I don’t understand) and they will probably switch to English...

Australia
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23 days ago

Edward said - "I am still a bit confused about those reservation rules - reservations cost nothing with a Pass but account for 50% of the cost otherwise?"

Not really - it's the express fee that adds to the cost more than the seat fee. Hyperdia lumps the two into a single amount.

If you look at, for example, a Hikari Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto, that costs 13,850 yen, comprised of a base fare of 8,360 yen and a reserved seat fee of 5,490 yen. The unreserved seat fee is 4,960 yen (or only 530 yen less). In reality, it's probably a base fare of 8,360 yen, an express fee of 4,960 yen and a seat fee of 530 yen reserved or zero non-reserved.

With a JR Pass, you can just get on a Hikari Shinkansen and sit in any available seat in the non-reserved cars. Between Tokyo and Kyoto, there are about 150+ Shinkansens / day -- 12 Kodama (the slowest), 28 Hikari and 110+ Nozomi. Given that you can get a seat reservation for free with a JR Pass, I think it's worth doing if you know in advance what train you want to take. All the JR Pass holders will be on the 28 Hikari trains as they can't use the Nozomi. The Hikari is frequent enough - about every 30 minutes or so - that it's rarely an issue but, by the same token, it doesn't take much to stop in the ticket office ahead of time and get a reserved seat (for free).

Canada
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23 days ago

Seems like a couple of messages have disappeared once again :-(
Well, yes - if the reservation is free with a Pass, it makes every sense to get it in advance. Btw, there seems to be another complication if I decide to buy a Keisei (round) trip online. I would have to choose a particular departure time, wouldn't I? And if I do, I am completely in the mercy of my (international) flight - even an hour's delay, and I miss my train (and probably lose my money). The alternative seems to be to book a much later train (say, 8.30 instead of 6.30) - and that would mean waiting needlessly at Narita and looking for accommodation closer to midnight...

Australia
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23 days ago

If you buy a ticket online (which you can do no more than 30 days in advance) the only detail you need to specify (other than name, email etc. etc.) is the date - presumably March 4. At Narita, take the email confirmation to the Keisei ticket office and exchange it for an actual ticket .... usually on "the next train". Skyliner trains are at 17.19, 17.39, 18.00, 18.20, 18.40, 19.00, 19.20, 19.40, 20.00, 20.30, 21.00, 21.30, 22.00, 22.30 and 23.20. In addition to the ticket for the "next train", they'll give you an exchange voucher for the return trip. Take that to Keisei-Ueno Station (or Nippori) at any time prior to your return trip and exchange it for a ticket on whichever train you designate. Note that the fare to/from Keisei-Ueno Station is the same as to/from Nippori Station, so you may as well designate Keisei-Ueno as the destination/origin - you can get off or board at either station.

Canada
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23 days ago

That pretty much solves it - and it's indeed quite convenient.
Thanx again, Tony - you've helped me a lot! Now I have a pretty good idea of the stations names (Tokyo, Nara JR, Shinimamiya and - hopefully, Kyoto, Hiroshima JR and... was it Hanata for Fukuoka?), and I can concentrate on my day-by-day program.
Would it be ok if I asked you some occasional question about a certain location or event - or do you prefer to have the discussion limited to the current topic (transportation)?

Australia
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23 days ago

Fukuoka = Hakata

Any questions, please ask and I'll try to help.

Not sure what you've been using as guidebooks, but japan-guide.com is usually considered the # 1 go-to resource for all things Japan. I've also found these two (related) sites helpful -

https://trulytokyo.com

https://www.insidekyoto.com

Canada
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23 days ago

Thanx a lot, I'll keep that in mind.
I've read quite a few articles on japan-guide.com.
I might have stumbled across those other sites you are providing the links to, as well. I didn't like some sites because they seemed to be self-serving and self-promoting ("it's so difficult to meet a geisha in Kyoto but fortunately _I_ have some strings to pull to arrange it. Check my website". Indeed, for mere 700 CAD or so I could spend 2 hours talking to a geisha!). Many others were better and quite informative. I've chosen 7-10 attractions for my shorter stays (Nara, Hiroshima and Fukuoka), 15+ for Kyoto and Osaka and twice as much for Tokyo. I am still looking for authentic experiences - so far I've found only Omizutori in Nara, Sumo Grand-Prix in Osaka and Origami in Hiroshima. Samurai, Tea Ceremony, maybe Kabuki and whatever else typically Japanese I haven't managed to identify are still out there...

Australia
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21 days ago

Don't expect to see any geishas in Kyoto - and if by chance you do (and if you can tell the difference between the real thing and all the tourists dressed in kimonos) don't stop them or take photos. Some parts of Kyoto are now so bad as a result of the boorish behaviour of tourists that they post signs banning photographs.

Australia
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21 days ago

"Sumo Grand-Prix in Osaka "

Osaka Sumo tournament is March 8 to 22. You can try to get tickets yourself or use this site. We used them last year and will use them again for 2020. You can register your interest now and they will notify when they start taking pre-orders (mid-January).

https://buysumotickets.com

Canada
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21 days ago

My friend actually saw a geisha in Kyoto and took a picture. I definitely wouldn't try to stop any but would still be tempted to use my camera unless there is a prohibiting sign. As for telling geishas apart from tourists in kimono, I believe their hair is done in a very distinct way (and they have no stripes on the neck unlike maikos). But all that is very chancy, of course.
Btw, can you expand a bit on Kyoto's bad parts? I am not sure what exactly you mean by that - unfriendly/unsafe? Dirty? Anything to really worry about?
As for sumo, I contacted the "buysumotickets" back in August, and they promised to get in touch as soon as tickets were on sale.
In the meantime I've also contacted Samurai Kembu and Nadeshiko in Tokyo (for a Tea Ceremony). Do you possibly have any first-hand experience with them?

Australia
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20 days ago

There are no bad parts of Kyoto - I was simply referring to the boorish tourists in certain parts. Take your pick -

https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/kyoto-gion-photo-ban-intl-hnk/index.html

https://www.timeout.com/tokyo/news/kyotos-gion-geisha-district-bans-photos-on-private-streets-and-introduces-10-000-fine-102919

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201910310076.html

https://www.afar.com/magazine/kyotos-gion-district-bans-photographing-geisha-on-private-streets

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/backstories/741/

Please don’t contribute to the problem.

Canada
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20 days ago

I am not likely to as I am by nature a problem-solver, not trouble maker. And I respect territory (which is one of my personal most important rules). That said, I have no idea how they are going to enforce that and convince those who don't care...
I have essentially completed my itinerary for Kyoto - would you consider taking a look and passing an opinion on how doable (and possibly interesting) it is?

Australia
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20 days ago

By all means post your itinerary.....

Canada
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19 days ago

I should arrive on March 14 about 11 am from Shinimamiya

http://www.hyperdia.com/cgi/en/search.html?dep_node=SHINIMAMIYA&arv_node=KYOTO&via_node01=&via_node02=&via_node03=&year=2020&month=03&day=14&hour=10&minute=00&search_type=0&search_way=&transtime=undefined&sort=0&max_route=5&faretype=0&airplane=off&ship=off&sprnozomi=off&bus=off&privately=off&lmlimit=null&search_target=route&facility=reserved&sum_target=7
(I am choosing between routes 2 and 5 as I am not sure if my pass is valid for Haruka).

My accommodation is next to Nijo Castle (so, maybe I could even use this link)

http://www.hyperdia.com/cgi/en/search.html?dep_node=SHINIMAMIYA&arv_node=NIJO(KYOTO)&via_node01=&via_node02=&via_node03=&year=2020&month=0

If I am allowed to leave my luggage at the hotel, I'll do so and go to the castle for 5 hours or so. I am not even sure if I can do anything else on that day.

I'll leave on March 19 for Hiroshima - the only activity I planned for that day in Kyoto was the Tower. It's right next to Kyoto Station - so, if I can either take my suitcase to the observation platform or leave it in a locker at the station, I should be able to visit the Tower right before leaving.

I plan to divide the remaining 4 days between 3 clusters
As I booked Samurai-Kembu for 5 pm on March 17, I think of combining it with Sanjusan Gendo, Costume and Railway museums (they all seem to be pretty close to each other).
On Sunday, March 15 I consider going to Kiyomizu Temple (to see the Festival), Heian Shrine, Ryozen Kannon War Memorial and Maruyama Park (once again, they all seem to be in the same area).
I save Monday, March 16 for the West - Gioji with Moss Gardens, the Bamboo Grove, Otagi-Nenbutsu and Adashino Nenbutsu, and Iwatayama Monkey Park.
The rest of my list is planned to be left for Wednesday, March 18 - and it seems to be a more relaxed program - Fushimi-Inari, the Philosopher Path, possibly Kinkakuji and Eikando Zenriji temples and a Gyon show around 6 pm.
I am very interested in your opinion as to how viable/interesting this itinerary is. Should I possibly add/replace something? Is it realistic to squeeze those respective activities into one day?

Canada
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19 days ago

Btw, I am not sure where you are physically but I presume your New Year is coming really soon. So, Happy New Year - and thanx again for your help!

Australia
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17 days ago

Edward:

Shinimamiiya to Kyoto - either route 2 or 5 works fine. They are all JR trains (including the Limited Express Haruka). It is not really worth taking the Shinkansen as you have to divert to Shin-Osaka so it just adds an extra leg. Your route to Nijo (as posted) seems to be truncated so I assume it was intended to be -”

http://www.hyperdia.com/cgi/en/search.html?dep_node=SHINIMAMIYA&arv_node=NIJO(KYOTO)&via_node01=&via_node02=&via_node03=&year=2020&month=03&day=14&hour=10&minute=00&search_type=0&search_way=&transtime=undefined&sort=0&max_route=5&faretype=0&airplane=off&ship=off&sprexprs=off&sprnozomi=off&bus=off&privately=off&lmlimit=null&search_target=route&facility=reserved&sum_target=7

Note that the JR Sagano line from Kyoto to Nijo is the same line that continues on to Saga Arashiyama. Unless you have things to do in the morning, I would leave as early as you can, so as to maximise your time in Kyoto. The hotel will hold your bags for you until check-in time.

When it comes to where to go etc, we'™re all different and have our preferences. Even though we'™re not gardeners, for us it is the gardens - just about every temple and shrine has some sort of garden and there is just something serene and sublime about Japanese gardens. Whenever you see people ask "what are the must-see sites in Kyoto?", my only answer (if I bother to answer) is "there aren't any". Kyoto has 2,000+ temples, shrines and other sites/sights, all of them worthwhile in their way. Most answers to the "must-see" question usually start with Fushimi-Inari, closely followed by Kiyomizudera, Kinkaku-ji and the Bamboo Grove. With the exception of the Bamboo Grove (for other reasons), I would tend to run a mile from all of those, as they will be wall-to-wall tourists. I have only ever been to them once - Kinkaku-ji when we were first in Japan probably 20 years ago and went on a Japanese-language follow-the leader-with-the-flag tour (which was hilarious in its own way). After numerous visits to Kyoto, we finally went to Fushimi-Inari and Kiyomizudera a year or so ago when we were in Kyoto with my daughter (who had already been previously). Once was more than enough - the approach road to Kiyumizudera was wall-to-wall tourists (literally). When we finally made it to the top of the approach road (having nearly been run over by some idiot tourist trying to ride his bike downhill through the tourist masses), we turned tail and fled, back down to the main road through the adjacent cemetery which, except for its permanent inhabitants, was virtually deserted.

There are no rights and wrongs of where to go. My only counsel would tend to be to do your homework (which you obviously have) and pick places that appeal to you and what interests you, rather than any that happen to be on somebody's must-see list. You have some interesting (good) choices, particularly for a first-time visitor - it is unusual to see Gio-ji, Otagi-Nenbutsu and Adashino Nenbutsu on a first-time visitors list - though I would draw the line at the Iwatayama Monkey Park. There are a few things that I ha€™ve never understood about Japan, starting with why people want to go to Osaka (it is primarily a commercial city, a bit like a mini-Tokyo but without Tokyo's attractions), closely followed by why people want to go and see monkeys. On those two issues, I guess we will have to agree to disagree.

It always helps to "go early or go late€". For Arashiyama, we enjoy the walk up through the Bamboo Grove and usually aim to be there by about 8.30 at the very latest. On the way up through the Grove (it is not all that far) you wi™ll pass the north entrance to Tenryu-ji, which is well worth a visit (it opens at 8.30). An interesting temple (check out the mens room for the neatly-arranged slippers) and a beautiful garden - a classic example of "borrowed scenery" -

http://learn.bowdoin.edu/japanesegardens/elements/borrowed/borrowed.html

When you get to the top of the Bamboo Grove, the #1 place on our list is always Okochi-Sanso - the entrance (a large wooden gate) is ahead and to the right when you get to the top of the Grove. Fortunately, it is overlooked by most tourists, who either do no™t know it is there, choose not to bother or baulk at the 1,000 yen entrance fee. A superb garden, it is just a delight to walk around at any time of year. Save your entrance ticket for a (included in the price) matcha green tea and a yummy green biscuity thingy in the wabi-sabi tea house at the conclusion of your tour round the garden. We'™re usually hanging about waiting for it to open and, as often as not, pretty much have the place to ourselves.

https://www.insidekyoto.com/okochi-sanso-villa-arashiyama

https://en.japantravel.com/kyoto/okochi-sanso-gardens-tearoom/22822

You also have Eikan-do and the Path of Philosophy on your list. We usually do that as a "˜loop"™, starting at Keage subway station. For a nice morning out, take the Tozai subway line 5 stops east from Nijojo-mae station to Keage station. When you exit Keage subway station, turn right on the main road and after about 50 metres, turn right through a small tunnel. Follow the road up to Nanzen-ji. While there, don't miss the Tenjuan Garden - it costs extra but is well worth it. Continue on up the main road to Eikan-do, which will be on your right. At Eikan-do, be sure to climb up to the pagoda at the back of the compound for a great view down over the temple and out over this part of Kyoto. Once you come back down, there i™s a tea house (you'™ll see the red-covered benches for you to sit on) so, if you'™re so inclined, stop for tea and admire the view. From Eikan-do, continue on the road a short distance before turning right on Reisen-dori and walk up a few hundred metres to the beginning of the Path of Philosophy. About halfway up Reisen-dori, there are some vending machines on the right if you need water etc, and opposite (more or less) is an ice cream kiosk (you may have to ring the bell) so get yourself a matcha ice cream (though it may not be the weather for it...). At the top of the incline on Reisen-dori, turn left and walk all the way up the Path of Philosophy (alongside the canal, about 30 minutes). At the top, turn right up the approach road to Ginkaku-ji (the "™Silver Pavilion"™). At Ginkaku-ji, you follow a prescribed route around the gardens, which will take you up to the back of the compound, for another great view of the temple and out over this part of Kyoto. After visiting Ginkaku-ji, go back to where you turned right at the end of the Path and go straight over - the bus stop for the #100 bus is about 50 metres along on the left. The bus runs every 10 minutes or so and heads towards Kyoto Station but you can get off at Heian-jingu (by the massive torii gate) opposite the Museum of Modern Art. The Museum is worth a visit - the permanent collection is free and from the upper floors there is a great view of the Torii gate (as it is right there in front of you). Walk back up to Heian-jingu. Don’t miss the Heian-jingu gardens, which wrap around the sides and back - the entrance is on the left if you a™re facing Heian-jingu. Again, there is a tea house (you'™ll see the red-covered benches) if you'™re in need of refreshment (and an excuse to sit and admire the view of the gardens). As you continue round the gardens, you'll head back over the covered bridge (where, if you're lucky, there may be a wedding party taking photographs; that'™s happened to us twice though on another occasion the place was deserted and we just stopped on the bridge to feed the fish.). Continue on the #100 bus a few stops south and visit the Ninenzaka area, from where you can walk to Kiyomizudera (where the approach road will probably be wall-to-wall tourists). From Kiyomizudera, walk back down to the main road through the cemetery (which apart from its permanent inhabitants, is likely to be deserted), turn right on Higashioji-dori to the bus stop and catch the # 100 bus back towards Kyoto Station.

Nanzen-ji - https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3905.html
Tenjuan Garden - https://en.japantravel.com/kyoto/tenjuan-garden/28461
Eikan-do - https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3956.html
Path of Philosophy - https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3906.html
Ginkaku-ji - https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3907.html
Heian-jingu - https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3904.html
Ninenzaka - https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3959.html

When you come out of Keage station and before you turn right through the tunnel, consider carrying on for a short detour (about 7+ minutes) to Murin-An - another superb garden.

https://murin-an.jp/en/

If you do get back on the #100 bus as suggested above and get off near the Ninenzaka area then, if you have any interest in ukiyo-e - Japanese woodblock prints - (think Hokusai’s "Great Wave Off Kanagawa") be sure to stop by the World'™s Smallest Ukiyo-E Museum. It's about a 5 minute walk west. The studio of Ichimura Mamoru, we visited him last year and bought a couple of prints.

https://www.amusingplanet.com/2018/06/the-japanese-museum-with-most-flexible.html

http://www.danielwhistonphotography.com/blog/2016/1/27/ukiyoe-small-museum-kyoto-december-2015

https://tinyurl.com/ykxagoye

Nijo Castle - one of our favourites. You probably don't need more than a couple of hours for a good visit. The entrance to the Castle is round the corner, on the east side. Great gardens, don't miss the 'nightingale' floors in the Ninomaru Palace and, if it is open, sit outside the Waraku-An teahouse with matcha tea and a sweet while you enjoy the view of this part of the gardens (and the Japanese presentation of the tea and the (boxed) sweets).

http://nijo-jocastle.city.kyoto.lg.jp/service/?lang=en#wakaruan-tea-sec

Kyoto Station

Kyoto Station is an architectural marvel in itself. Lots of places to eat both underneath (which is somewhat of a labyrinth of shops, cafes and restaurants) and upstairs in the Station. Take the escalators on the northwest inside of the Station building all the way up to the 10th (good ramen shops) and 11th floors for a good choice of restaurants. Note that you can’t get off the escalators at the 10th floor but have to go up to the top on the 11th floor and walk across the top of the Grand Staircase and back down the stairs to the 10th floor. (It wi™ll make sense when you see it!). To get to these escalators, if you enter Kyoto Station through the main entrance on the north side (opposite Kyoto Tower and where all the buses leave from), turn right and go up the escalator and just keep going up - you can'™t see all the escalators from ground level because of the angle but just keep going up.

https://www.kyotostation.com/dining-at-kyoto-station/

Nishiki Market

The Nishiki Market gets crowded (particularly on weekends) but it's worth wandering along (even if you're not a "foodie") - it's a long covered alley that runs east/west a block to the north of Shijo-dori, the main shopping street in the centre of Kyoto.

If you go to Shijo station (on the north-south Karasuma subway line, and which shares an underground concourse with the east-west Karasuma Station on the Hankyu train line) head for exit 17 (you'll be going north and then east). Turn left, up the short escalator and you'll find yourself in the basement food hall ("depachika") of the Daimaru department store. Amazing stuff, all beautifully presented so well worth a look and a wander round. When you're done, head to the back of the food hall, out the doors and up the steps. If you need a coffee, there's a Starbucks about 50 metres to your left, the entrance to the Nishiki Market is about 100 metres to the right. Various things to snack on in the market (though note that walking and eating is not polite in Japan so just stand to the side as you eat).

https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3931.html

https://www.insidekyoto.com/daimaru-basement-food-floor-kyoto

The Imperial Palace compound is worth a visit. Take the Karasuma subway line north to Imadegawa. When you exit the Imadegawa station (take exit 3), cross the road and walk east along Imadegawa-dori to the entrance on the north side of the (outer) Imperial Palace gardens. Walk south through the gardens until you reach the walls of the Palace compound; turn right and then left, following the wall of the Palace. Previously, to visit the (interior) Palace grounds, you had to join a tour and apply in advance to the Imperial Household Agency. However, the interior grounds (though not the actual buildings) are now open to all so go in and tour the inner Palace compound. There are free English-language tours you can join (we lasted about 5 minutes….) or you can just tour the compound at your own pace. The compound includes a couple of excellent gardens. After you exit the inner grounds/Palace compound, continue south through the outer gardens and exit to the south. Turn right (west) and walk along to Marutamachi subway station.

https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3917.html

Daitoku-ji

You can never be sure which of the 20 or so Daitoku-ji temples/gardens will be open - some are always open, some never open, some open only for short periods at certain times of the year etc. so it's a bit of crap shoot but it's great to just wander around and go in whichever ones are open. Last visit we enjoyed Koto-in (love the bamboo-lined entrance path), Korin-in and Zuiho-in (where one of the monks took it upon himself to correct my bad posture...)

Take the Karasuma subway line north to Kita-oji Station. From the bus terminal there, take a bus (probably a 101, 102 or 204 but there should be some signs) about 3 stops west along Kitaoji-dori. Alternatively, just walk. It's probably about 15-20 minutes more or less due west of Kita-oji Station so just meander the backstreets (which is invariably enjoyable, particularly if you stay off the main roads - you never know what you're going to find) and you'll get there. The entrance is on the east side, opposite Cafe Du Mon (which shows up on both Apple and Google maps).

https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3910.html

Enough for now ....

Canada
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16 days ago

That's quite an input, Tony. Amazing.
Judging by the fact that you mentioned must-see lists, there could be some misunderstanding, too - I have none of those. Or, to be very precise, my concept of them is very different from the so-called popular opinion. "You must see X because everybody talks about it" is definitely not for me. When I travel, I care about what makes the country in question unique. Simply put, it would be preposterous to travel across the globe to see a movie and go to Tim Horton or Mcdonald's. So, I did go to the Louvre and Eiffel Tower in Paris, and I did travel to see fjords in Norway in volcanoes in Iceland. Btw, that partially explains my choice of Osaka - sumo. I don't think there is a sumo Grand-Prix anywhere else in March-2020, and I'd rather not miss on sumo in Japan (the other reason is that I am big fan of Shogun, and Osaka Castle us featured prominently there). So I am striving to see as many "things Japanese" as possible - and, since there are so many of them, my main goal is to strike a balance.
It goes without saying that Japanese gardens are near the top of the list - and so are temples and shrines. Missing on them (as a concept) is unthinkable but doing nothing but them seems to me equally unwise as Japan isn't limited to nature and religion - there is also Japanese culture, history, cutting edge technology... So, I hope to see quite a few gardens (Yoshikien and Isuien in Nara among them) but I am also excited about a samurai show, a tea ceremony, the costume museum (as an incarnation of "The Tale of Genji") the Senryu and Omizutori festivals and such. Unless they are not what I think they are (kitschy, poor quality etc). THAT was the main reason I asked you to pass an opinion on my projected itinerary - of course, if you happen to be familiar with those places.
It will take me a while to check all your suggestions (I can already see that some of them are very interesting - there is no way I am missing on the smallest museum in the world!) - so, for now, I'll just limit myself to specific questions/remarks.
1) Traveling to Kyoto/Nijo - seems to be pretty straightforward but for the intervals between trains. How one changes trains in 2 minutes is more than I can imagine!
2) Nijo Castle - do you suggest it's practicable to combine it with the Western cluster on the day of my arrival?
3) As for monkeys, I just happen to be an animal-lover. I plan to go to both Cat Island off Fukuoka and the Rabbit Island off Hiroshima.
My concern regarding Iwatayama is making it there and back in one piece as it seems that the climb/descent is not only steep (I am fine with that) but it can also be slippery. THAT would be quite a wrench in my works...
4) You mentioned quite a few bus routes and subway stops - I still have to wrap my head around their schedules and locations. I've mostly come to terms with Hyperdia but local transportation in Japanese cities is still a challenge. That's where I might have to put my newly acquired Japanese to the test - unless there are signs in English at the stops. And that's why I am not sure if respective things I planned would actually be doable on the same day.

Australia
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16 days ago

Edward - a few thoughts ...

As you probably know, Grand Sumo tournaments are 6 times / year -- Tokyo in January, May and September, Osaka in March, Nagoya in July and Fukuoka in November - just have to be in the right place at the right time. That said, if we end up going in March, it'll be a day trip from Kyoto ... no need to stay in Osaka. 😀😀

The sumo usually starts around 9 am but no need to go that early - the serious stuff doesn't get started until mid-afternoon, the top division matches usually begin around 4 pm and they're done by 6 pm. Depending on what else is on your agenda, maybe turn up around lunchtime (or after), otherwise you'll probably be sitting in a fairly empty arena watching a quick succession of lower-division matches.

As for Osaka Castle, it's largely a mid-to-late 20th century concrete re-construction. Go to Himeji for the real deal -

https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3501.html

As for Yoshikien and Isuien, one of them was great and the other was disappointing! Regretably, I can't remember which and my notes are deficient. I think it was Yoshikien that we found somewhat disappointing but as it's free to foreign visitors, who are we to complain? As they're next to each other, it's easy to visit both.

Understand that the World's Smallest Ukiyo-E Museum isn't really a museum. Rather, it's the studio (and probably home) of Ichimura Mamoru. It's small and chaotic but worth visiting if you're in the area (and he's open). He speaks some English and he'll be happy to explain the process. He's getting on a bit now but hopefully he's still going...

Some train connections can be tight but 2 minutes would be unusual - usually you have at least a few minutes, even if the platforms are close together.

I'm not sure I would combine Arashiyama and Nijo on the day you arrive. You're likely to spend a good bit of time in Arashiyama, particularly if you're going to Gio-ji, Otagi-Nenbutsu and Adashino Nenbutsu, which are to the north, and also to Iwatayama Monkey Park, which is to the south and across the river. If you do combine them, I'd go to Arashiyama first and then go to Nijo in the late afternoon, if time permits.

As for getting around, I would use the trains and subway whenever you can. Buses can be crowded and slow (because of traffic). Wherever we're going, we always take a train or the subway as close to the destination as possible and then take a bus (or walk) from there. When you see the lines at the bus stops out the front of Kyoto Station, you'll understand why...

I'm an Apple/Apple Maps person so what I usually do is find the bus stops near/next to where we're going, look at the list of buses at that stop and then display the bus route on the map so I can see where they come from / go to so I can figure out where the best place is to get that bus (if that's what we need). Similarly, find the bus stops near your hotel and click on the buses to see where they go .....

English signage in train stations and subways is usually excellent. When you exit the ticket barrier at most stations, there's usually a large map of the local area (though make sure you know which way it is oriented as north is often not at the top...). Also, there are usually signs (they're usually yellow) just after the barriers telling you which exit to take for various local sights / sites / attractions / temples / landmarks etc. Pay attention to them as taking the wrong exit can often leave you with a long walk to get back on track. The other thing to watch out for is stairs. Japanese stations have a lot of stairs and sometimes they're unavoidable. Either you take the exit you want, with all its stairs, or you take the one with the escalator or elevator ... but end up far from where you really want to be. On the platforms, there are usually signs (pictograms) with an arrow to show which way to go to get to the escalator or elevator up to the concourse ... but often you just resign yourself to flogging up the stairs. If nothing else, it's good exercise ....

Canada
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16 days ago

Tony, I did know about 6 annual Grand Prix, and I naturally thought that one in March would be the best to fit the bill.
I do plan to come around 2-2.30 pm and devote my morning to other things - I just don't know the day yet, and can't therefore plan any particular activities.
As for coming to Osaka from Kyoto, by the same logic I could do the exact opposite :-)
I definitely want to go to Himeji but it's on my Osaka itinerary (still in the making because of the sumo tickets). Or I might use my one remaining day (I have accommodation in Fukuoka until March 25, and am not expected back in Tokyo until March 26) to see the Himeji Catle, the Koko-Park and maybe even the Shosha mountain. In that case, I'll probably spend the night in Himeji as well.
"Not really a museum" where I can talk to the creator of the exhibition is, to me, the best kind of museum one could ever wish for.
I seem to have misread the train schedule - it's 2-minutes' ride to Tenoji and 6 minutes' gap between the trains. Still a bit worrying but probably doable.
I planned a whole day for Arashiyama, and it just didn't occur to me what else I could possibly do on my arrival day - so, I planned for Nijo alone. Actually, I have no idea what I might be doing on most evenings as all attractions in Japan seem to be daytime only.
I would be happy to use subways as much as possible but "trains" in that context is confusing. Usually I would use the word for something moving between cities, not within a city - unless I am referring to actual train cars.
Stairs are great :-) I exercise a lot and never mind walking - as long as I know where I am going. Checking schedules will be challenging - I do have an emergency plan for calling and surfing but that's in case I am literally lost. Otherwise, I just planned to check my routes on the evening before when I am back to my WiFi accommodation (none in Nara, though).

Australia
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16 days ago

Not sure I understand why you would be "literally lost". Just open the maps on your phone and look to see where you are / where you're going. Aren't you planning to either put a Japanese (data) sim in your phone or rent a mobile wifi unit?

Canada
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16 days ago

I hope I won't be, of course, but - just in case my self-check-in in Tokyo or Nara doesn't work or the train I am waiting for hasn't come - I might need to call or surf the Internet for options. That's why I've already bought a universal sim-card that's good enough for both purposes. 25 Euro I put on it should be more than enough for emergencies but it won't suffice if I start using Internet on a daily basis.

Australia
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15 days ago

Just get a mobile wifi unit. There are lots of providers - we use iVideo. Probably about US$40 for the month. They'll deliver it to the airport the day before you arrive (suggest the Lawson store in the basement at Narita Terminal 1, if that's the terminal you arrive at) and provide a prepaid return envelope; just package it up when you're done, put it in the envelope and drop it in a mail box (or the Post Office at the airport). Try the Softbank 601HW model.

The unit will last about 8 hours on a full charge so it helps to have a power bank (either your own or they will rent you one). The wifi network name and password will be on the back of the unit. Just turn it on, connect your phone to the wifi network and off you go.

Not the greatest looking website but it works -

https://www.ivideo.com.tw/english/

https://www.narita-airport.jp/en/shops/detail/t1cbb1_t000eb/

Canada
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15 days ago

I was considering this option but decided against it for 2 reasons. First, not being tech-savvy, I knew very little about it. More important, I needed to make sure I would be able to call in case of emergencies. So, I chose a sim that combined those surfing with calling. Actually, there is one more reason - psychology: if I am permanently connected, I'll be severely tempted to keep dealing with my daily life at home - answering emails, checking sports results and such. Not the best mindset for enjoying a unique country.
Just received a pre-order notification from SumoTickets - hopefully, soon enough I'll be able to tackle my Osaka itinerary...

Australia
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15 days ago

Obviously your call but I wouldn't want to be out and about in Japan without a data connection on my phone so the map can show me where we are as we're wandering about. As for calling, either just use roaming on your regular sim (if needs must) or use the wifi/data connection to message people or use FaceTime (if it's an iPhone), Skype, WhatsApp etc.

Canada
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15 days ago

I thought I solved the map problem with Maps.Me - it has a tracking option and should therefore be able to "find" me in every Japanese city/town. As for my regular sim, there is none :-) As I said, I was anything but a tech-man - and I simply don't use cells when I am home. It's only for traveling. And messaging requires that the recipient has their Skype on - which might not be the case if/when I find myself in front of a locked door.
Don't get me wrong: your advice is very sensible - it's just my general awkwardness with technology that prompts me to choose the simplest (if somewhat restricting) solutions.

Japan
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12 days ago

i like that you chose to visit Himeji castle :-)

Canada
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12 days ago

I am not sure yet how I'll manage but I definitely want to.

Canada
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13 days ago

Tony, could you possibly help me with some planning around Hiroshima and Fukuoka as well?

Australia
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12 days ago

I’m not sure I know that much about either place (have spent much more time in Kyoto and Tokyo) but happy to help where I can.

Canada
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12 days ago

Makes sense as, I guess, Tokyo and Kyoto are more popular destinations than the other two. I thought I would ask, anyways.
Let's start with Hiroshima. I'll have less time there (only 3 days), and I'll have seen quite a few temples/shrines and gardens by the time I get there. So, I am considering adding only one of each - Gokoku Shrine (because of its 7-5-3 ceremony - even though I am unlikely to catch one) and Shukkeien Garden(it seems to be touted as something special even for Japan). I also wanted to visit the Arts Museum (because of the Impressionists Exhibition) and Orizu Tower.
My main emphasis in Hiroshima is obviously the Peace Memorial Park (I'll have a guided tour there on March 22, my last day in Hiroshima, right before leaving) and the islands - Miyajima and Okunoshima (as well, as maybe Shimada Fisheries). I haven't found anything too specific about them - apart from the famous torii on Miyajima but I am not sure if I can possibly come there early enough to catch the ebb and be able to stand right next to them. No idea how much time I need on either island - so, for now I am very confused about logistics. My accommodation is Tenryu Ryokan that seems to be very close to Hiroshima station.
Since I plan to see Kyoto Tower right before leaving for Hiroshima, my most realistic option seems to be taking the 11.46 Hikari and arriving at Hiroshima at 1.34 pm. I might leave my luggage at Tenryu by 2 pm and...
Any comments, ideas so far? In the meantime I'll check the opening days/times of my planned destinations in the city itself but I have no clue how to go about the islands...

Canada
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12 days ago

Oh, and i just forgot Hiroshima Castle - if you know anything about it as well...

Canada
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11 days ago

Tony, I know you've just me a message (got notified) but I can't read it because it's not here! This site is somewhat preposterous...
Would you consider getting in touch by email instead?
Mine is

sherlok7@gmail.com

Spain
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17 days ago

Google also tells you the seasons you have to catch and the walking stretches you need.
Beware of the visit to Hiroshima, because the last shinkansen (at least the day it was me) was at 5.20 p.m.

Canada
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16 days ago

Google can help, of course, but I need more information only local men know (I haven't spoken Spanish for many years and unfortunately forgot)

Australia
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10 days ago

Edward - I don't know why you can't see my earlier response but here it is again --

Three days is a lot longer than most people spend in Hiroshima - though no reason not to take the time if you have it.

To get there from Kyoto (assuming you're using a JR Pass), I would take the 7.20 am Shinkansen, which will have you in Hiroshima at 9.05, or the 8.00 or 8.23. After that, you'll have to change trains at Shin-Osaka or Shin-Kobe. As for 'seeing' Kyoto Tower, I assume you mean go up to the viewing platform (as you can 'see' it every time you come out of Kyoto Station). I would find an earlier time to do it - not leaving for Hiroshima until 11.46 seems to me to waste a large part of the day .... some of us would have been in Hiroshima for 2++ hours already by that time.

The Shukkeien Gardens are certainly worth a visit. I can't speak to the other things you have planned, except the A-Bomb Dome, Peace Park and Museum etc., which are very worthwhile though I don't really know why you need a guided tour - it's easy enough to do it yourself.

If you're visiting Miyajima, it's better to stay overnight on the island if you can. The Itsukushima Shrine torii gate is currently undergoing renovation and is largely covered by scaffolding. It's not know when the renovations will be complete but it's likely to be at least another six months.

https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3450.html

As for Okunoshima, are you going for the rabbits ... or the Poison Gas Museum? I can't say that either of them are of any interest to some of us .... obviously YMMV!

Canada
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7 days ago

Tony, I keep checking options and fine-tuning itineraries - and now I am done with Fukuoka. Two questions - if you aren't tired of guiding me yet :-)
Is it practicable to visit Ainoshima and Nokonoshima on the same day?
Is there anything at all to do there (actually, in all cities in questions, Kyoto and Tokyo included) after 5-5.30 pm?
Everything seems to be open between 9 and 4.30-5...

Australia
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6 days ago

No idea about Ainoshima and Nokonoshima but I would think the answer is no, as they’re nowhere near each other. This trip report about Nokonoshima may be of interest -

https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-2677

For Ainoshima, this may be of interest -

https://japancheapo.com/entertainment/ainoshima-cat-island-fukuoka/

As for what to do after 5.30, the same as in any city .... restaurants, nightlife, late-night shopping etc. ... plus some sites, by their nature, never close - for example, Fushimi-inari and the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in Kyoto but whether you’d want to to there at night is another matter...

Canada
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6 days ago

The articles are quite helpful - and now I am really in trouble :-)(
Nanzoin Temple with all its riches is my own "must see", and there seems to be no way to do it and both islands in less than 3 full days - which is more than I currently have in Fukuoka. And I still hope to drop by the Disaster Prevention Centre and a couple of shrines (Tochoji and Kushida) + the tower and the Acros building.
That means that I'll need an extra day there - and to go straight back to Tokyo on March 26. That leaves out Himeji (unless it's practicable to return there for a day from Tokyo on March 27) which is a pity...
I don't really know if I want to go to Fushimi Inari at night (not to the Grove, for sure, as I'll have to do it with the rest of the western cluster). Can you think of any (dis)advantages of doing so?
My plan A was leaving the respective Towers (and possibly the Tempozan Ferris Wheel in Osaka) for the evenings as they seem to close much later (at 9-10 pm or so) but once again I am not sure how much I'll be able to see from the viewing platform in the dark. Is it worth it that way?

Canada
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10 days ago

Fortunately, I can see it now, Tony.
A guided tour in the Park is free - so I thought it might be a more poignant experience to learn about the place from someone who is passionate about it.
I did mean going up to the viewing platform. It would be better to do it towards the end of my visit when I am more familiar with the city and can recognize at least some key buildings and areas from above. I could probably do it after 6 pm on the previous day but I am not sure how much I'll actually see in the dark. Other than that, of course, I would love to come to Hiroshima earlier than 11.46.
I don't see how I could manage staying overnight on Miyajima as I've booked my stay throughout in the city itself. I was wondering if I could possibly combine visiting both islands on the same day, logistics once again being my Achilles heel. And yes, it's the rabbits I am interested in.
On the other hand, if I can't see the famous torii, visiting Miyajima becomes less tempting somehow...