- 1 Before Leaving
- 2 From/To Airport
- 3 Data plans
- 4 Money (changes everything !)
- 5 Transports
- 6 Japan Sightseeing
You must have a valid passport and an onward/return ticket for tourist/business "visa free" stays.
Your passport must be valid for the entire time you are staying in Japan which is a max of 90 days.
If you land or depart from HND, it's easier/better.
Be prepared in case or serious shit: Japan can be wonderful, but as you may know is also one of the top countries hit by Earthquakes (daily) but also Typhoons and Tsunamis. Plan your flight(s) with sufficient margin in case of Typhoon (which really means shutdown), but also your train might be delayed after a local earthquake because they need to stop, then lower their speed. You might want to keep an Eye on http://www.jma.go.jp/jma/en/menu.html for that purpose. A dedicated app for foreigners is also available https://www.jnto.go.jp/safety-tips/eng/app.html
Be sure to let know your hotel & plans to someone outside of Japan. For example, French People can use Ariane
Know your nearby English-speaking hospital: https://www.jnto.go.jp/emergency/eng/mi_guide.html and your consulate.
Also save Japan Helpline Number's providing 24/24 7/7 English support : 0120-461-997
Be prepared to pay most of your expenses by cash. Do not expect your VISA card to work in every shop and every ATM (see below). VISA Japan is not VISA international but use the same logo... Note that your embassy is not a travel agency: you are unlikely to receive any help there if you run out of cash.
Japan uses US power plugs and voltage. 110V and 50Hz or ... 60Hz (annoying if you plan to bring in your CRT TV).
Unless you have a OnePlus or other "Global" model, your Phone might not even work, depending on frequencies and network operator (SIM). Check https://willmyphonework.net/
Your data plan is unlikely to work. 4G data in Japan is really expensive compared to Europe. You might want to buy a SIM data plan outside of Japan (see below).
Don't be stupid to bring illegal stuff in: http://www.customs.go.jp/english/summary/passenger.htm
Have a copy of your passport ID page and of your flight and hotel itineraries in a suitcase, especially if you have connecting flight (less a concern inside Japan).
If you plan to bring some goods home, it's better to bring in your own extra bag (Nested suitcase or foldable bag you will use as cabin luggage or secondary checked luggage on your way back). If you need to buy a suitcase in Japan, don't expect to find cheap Chinese ones. The lowest price for a suitcase in Japan is over 7500 JPY and usually 10000 JPY (80 €). Hi Kri5 !
Venue is located in iidabashi which is conveniently a short connection from Tokyo station or Ueno.
We'll try to host and have Hotels in East Tokyo (Let's say around Nihombashi) because it's https://www.google.com/maps/place/Nihonbashi,+Ch%C5%AB%C5%8D-ku,+Tokyo+103-0027,+Japonfirstname.lastname@example.org,139.7590635,14z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x601889579666f253:0x1e95a5c140ebbb6b!8m2!3d35.6811836!4d139.7741538
- Next to Tokyo station to go everywhere
- Crossed by Tôzai (East/West) & Hibiya lines (North/South)
- Not far from Akiba (JEEB)
- Cheaper (the easter, the cheaper)
- Suitengu Mae T-CAT Terminal provides Coaches to Airport
- Tokyo Yaesu provides Cheap Keisei Coach (need to book online, standby boarding is not fun)
- Ueno has Keisei Train line to/from Narita, but it's not really faster than Coach since you need to go to Keisei Ueno. (Warning: that's next to Ueno station)
If you land in HND, then Asakusa Line (becomes Keikyu at some distance) is the easy way.
Narita NRT Access Guide: https://www.narita-airport.jp/en/access
Haneda HND Access Guide: https://www.haneda-tokyo-access.com/en/
Data plans are overpriced in Japan and anti-competitive. I don't know any European operator offering free data roaming.
Also do not expect to be able to buy a SIM card from any store. Outside of Airport it will become difficult. Traveling in groups offers a good opportunity for rental Wifi. Here's a good guide of what to expect: https://tokyocheapo.com/business/internet/prepaid-cheap-japan-sim-card-options/
Note that our main sponsor, Internet Initative Japan, is also a MVNO named IIJmio. If you want to support them back you can find the details here: https://en.japantravel.com/guide/stay-connected-with-an-iijmio-sim/38705
A cheaper option is to bring in a low cost Asian roaming card, like Thaï AIS Travel, or China Unicom, but you'll need to buy it remotely.
My own plan is China Unicom Hong Kong, Travel SIM 15 days 8GB https://www.cuniq.com/hk/data-card/asia . 50extra HKD & 10 days to deliver. VISA Payment only, there's 2 visa payment modes, use the simple non register one, confirmation button always on the left. But beware of potential fraud on CC payment, might use temporary card number.
Free Wifi !
Japan has lot of free wifi... but usually needs to register with a confirmation email ! (Japan...)
If you want to make things easy, get official tourist WiFi app which will log you in automatically (when it works..) https://japanfreewifi.com/
Money (changes everything !)
Be prepared to pay most of your expenses by Cash.
Do not expect your VISA card to work in every shop and every ATM (see below). VISA Japan is not VISA international but use the same logo... Note that your Embassy is not a travel agency, you will unlikely receive any help if you run out of cash.
The ATM Network in Japan got better since the last years, and you can get cash from ATM in any Seven Eleven store, which works 24/24. It has been expanded to some Lawson & Family Mart. See https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2208.html
Other well known alternatives are Citygroup banks, and Japan Post Offices. But beware that like their employees, JPost ATM do not work outside of opening hours, especially on Sunday !
If you want to secure cash before arriving, and if you're starting your trip from Paris, the best deal is to head to Rue Vivienne (Metro Bourse) and find the lower exchange rate there. That tip only works for a fair amount of money of course.
Fortunately for you, Google maps works (and got progressively accurate) since few years in Japan. Also, because of the olympics, everything is now properly translated.
Japan has really good transport network, and always on time, but has plenty of different operators, which introduces additional connection costs, and can nullify your passes benefits. (Tokyo Metro pass does not work on Toei lines) Tokyo Metro Passes https://www.tokyometro.jp/en/ticket/travel/index.html
If you plan to stay more than 2 days, and/or do not want to buy a pass, it will be way easier to get a rechargeable SUICA/PASSMO contact card than buying tickets. Suica/Passmo works almost everywhere, including train, buses, shops... Again, japan guide is your friend https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2359_003.html Check also Citymapper app for Tokyo buses.
NO Uber. And taxis are expensive.
Note that if you ride a taxi, the door will open and close automatically. Since that's not a sliding door, taking a hit in a bad place is not always fun.
Note also that Taxi signs for Busy are GREEN and free sign is RED !
JR Pass (and Others !)
The popular "JR Pass" is a rail pass for overseas visitors sold by the Japan Railways Group, and is valid for travel on all major forms of transportation provided by the JR Group in Japan, with a few exceptions.
Pass is valid for 7, 14 or 21 consecutive days. Prices when buying in Japan are ¥33000, ¥52000 and ¥65000.
It can be bought as a voucher, then exchanged on arrival in Japan. Lots of websites do sell those pass, but prices are linked daily exchange rate, and might not worth it since it's now directly sold in Japan since 2 years.
Note that either you're buying directly in Japan or exchanging the voucher, you'll face long queue at exchange/buying point due to flood of visitors using Rail Pass.
See official website for accurate information: http://www.japanrailpass.net/fr/
Note that using the Pass is not always the best way, as you might want to combine flight + regional pass which could be cheaper. (For example, visiting the Oosaka area can be done for less money and in a more flexible way by combining local pass and flight, or even *night coach* which also saves you a hotel night)
See full list of passes here: https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2357.html
Japan has a large number of Bus lines running all over the country, and for really competitive prices.
Additionally they have night buses, and even Bus Passes to save even more. This is a good option to reach Kansai area.
One of the biggest companies: https://willerexpress.com/en/
Search Engine https://japanbuslines.com/en/
Regional Flight Passes and Discounted tickets
Foreign people flying on ANA or JAL are eligible for regional passes. Those passes need to be booked in advance before departure to Japan.
Additionaly to the large number of low cost companies which can already beat the JR Pass, some companies are providing special tourist rate discounted tickets on regular flights which could be interesting when flying to KIX and use a local JR or other Pass for example.
Again, Japan Guide is your friend https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2364.html
This a unofficial guide written by Rémi, and ported to the wiki.
Upon not-yet-but-surely-soon popular demand, this is the unofficial VDD attendee guide to first time Japan sightseeing. Obviously you first need to determine your time and price budget. Japan is a country with high living standards and costs.
If you only have a few days in addition to the three days of conference, you should probably stay in Tokyo. There are plenty of things to see in the megalopolis; you could invest in a pocket city guide. I personally perused -the French translation of- Lonely Planet's Tokyo Encounters.
With a week, you can venture outside, but the stereotypical once-in-a-lifetime (or decade) trip to Japan lasts roughly two weeks, covering mainly Kanto (Tokyo area) and Kansai (Osaka/Kyoto/Kobe area). In that case, I may be old-fashioned, but I'd advise buying a country guide book from your local book shop. Also, as noted in previous communications, if only to save time, you should check airfares of multi-city "open-jaw" itineraries arriving in Kansai(KIX) and returning from Tokyo(TYO) or vice-versa, rather than a round-trip to/from Tokyo.
Japan has excellent public transportation, is a congested left-side driving country. Therefore, it is highly recommended to use public transit rather than a rental car. In fact, it can be argued that using public transit is part of the experience.
Refer to your tourist guide for the key sights of Tokyo. Outside Tokyo, I would recommend the following day trips:
- Nikko: major Shinto sanctuary
- w/ JRP: Tohoku Shinkansen to Utstunomiya, then Nikko line
- Hakone: hot spring, nature viewing
- w/ JRP: Tokkaido Shinkansen to Odawara, then local line;
- w/o JRP: Odakyu private railway from Shinjuku
- Kamakura: old capital, major Buddhist sanctuary
- JR Yokosuka line from Shinagawa, Totsuka or Ofuna
Also be sure to spend one night in a traditional hotel, presumably in Hakone (for the hot springs).
Between Kanto and Kansai
There are three options to get from one region to the other:
- With a JR pass or with a JR Central Tokyo-Kyoto round-trip package, you can take the Tokkaido Shinkansen between Tokyo and Kyoto.
- You can buy the JR Central package there. It makes sense if you are too short on time to visit other cities in Kansai, and both your flights arrive and leave in Tokyo.
- Note that JR pass holders are not permitted on the fastest Nozomi services.
With either a JR pass or an Osaka-Tokyo Hokuriku Arch Pass, you can take the new Hokuriku Shinkansen to Kanazawa The remainder of line to Osaka via Kyoto is not yet built, so you have to switch to express train there, which is obviously slower.
- However, Kanazawa has one of the best Japanese gardens, so you might as well make a stop to visit it.
You can buy the arch pass from specialist travel agents, such as JRpass.com. It is slightly cheaper than the 7-days JR pass, but it is much more limited in geography.
- Hagibis typhoon has severely impacted JR East services between Tokyo and Kanazawa. Avoid this route.
- Without any pass, you can fly between Tokyo-Haneda (HND) and Osaka-Itami (ITM).
- JAL and ANA both have deals for fixed discounted prices on domestic routes, but compare with list prices. These options only make sense if you do not have a rail pass of any kind.
- Those deals used to be restricted to international passenger of the two airlines' respective alliance, but no longer are.
Obviously, you will want to visit Kyoto, including the gold and silver temples, the Kioymizu-dera and many more. Given the crowd and the number of sites, that will occupy a few days.
Ideally, you would book a hotel near the Kyoto central station. From Kyoto, a must-do day trip:
- Nara: big Buddha statue, sanctuary with pesky deers...
- w/ JRP: JR Nara line; w/o JRP: Kintetsu private railway
Further West, I can recommend the following day trips:
- Himeji: wooden samurai castle
- w/ JRP: Sanyo Shinkansen
- Takamatsu: Japanese garden
- w/ JRP: express train from Okayama
- Especially if you do not visit Kanazawa.
- Hiroshima: Miyajima island and ground zero
- w/ JRP: Sanyo Shinkansen; to Miyajima: local train and ferry; to city centre: tramway
Okayama makes an ideal base for those trips, but anywhere along the Sanyo Shinkansen works.
There is no must-follow ordering. This guide starts with Tokyo because VDD is held there, but you can equally travel west-to-east or east-to-west.
These guidelines are geared toward self-guided tourists. If you prefer to spend money to have somebody else guide you, that is of course possible as well. 80 Days is managed by an acquaintance but there are surely plenty others.
Note that the pass is only available in 7, 14 or 21 day spans without interruptions. If possible, don't have it enabled during VDD's, or even while staying inside Tokyo.
Use at your own risk. Not professional advice. No warranties whatsoever.