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20-day Japan travel guide

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Seven years ago we traveled to Japan for the second time. And that trip was the trigger that prompted me to create this blog. Many months have passed, I have written many entries and I have received many comments (thank you all!) And the Diary on board has evolved. Looking back, we realize that in the stories of Trip to Japan A pending subject remained: write a complete guide. If we did not do it then, it was not for lack of desire or procrastination, but because instead of doing the guides in a single post as we do today, in that first stage of the blog we made short individual entries. So finally we bring you the 20-day Japan travel guide (first part).

Day 1: Narita airport and Shibuya neighborhood
Day 2: Kyoto
Day 3: excursion to Nara
Day 4: Himeji Castle and Kobe City
Day 5: Kyoto
Day 6: excursion to Koya-san
Day 7: Hiroshima and Miyajima
Day 8: Matsuyama and the Doge Onsen
Day 9: Osaka
Day 10: Kyoto Zen Gardens
Day 11: Takayama and Shirakawa-go
Day 12: the Nakasendo route
Day 13: Takasaki
Day 14: Takasaki and Tokyo
Day 15: Misato's wedding
Day 16: Tokyo (Harajuku, Yoyogi and Akihabara)
Day 17: Tokyo (Imperial Palace, Asakusa and Ginza)
Day 18: excursion to Kamakura
Day 19: Tokyo travel end
Day 20: back home

This was our almost three week itinerary. As we visited several friends and also attended our friend Misato's wedding, we went to cities that we would have never seen (like Takasaki). Also, since experience is a degree, if we return to Japan we would not do this route because it has some time deficiencies. So, here we present our enhanced route (thought to move with Japan Rail Pass).

Day 1: Tokyo - Kanazawa (night in Kanazawa)
Day 2: Kanazawa
Day 3: Kanazawa
Day 4: Gokayama and Shiwakawa-go (Takayama)
Day 5: Takayama (night in Kyoto)
Day 6: Kyoto
Day 7: Kyoto, excursion to Nara
Day 8: Himeji Castle and Hiroshima City (night in Hiroshima)
Day 9: Miyajima (night in Miyajima)
Day 10: Kyoto
Day 11: Kyoto
Day 12: Koya-san (night in Koya-san)
Day 13: Osaka (night in Osaka)
Day 14: Magome (night in Magome)
Day 15: Nakasendo route (night in Tokyo)
Day 16: Tokyo
Day 17: Tokyo, excursion to Kamakura
Day 18: Tokyo
Day 19: Excursion to Nikko / Ghibli Museum
Day 20: Tokyo and back home
<>Is traveling to Japan expensive?

In 2008 I would have responded that at all. Currently, however, with the rise of the yen, everything is a bit more expensive. The most expensive is accommodation and transportation. On the contrary, eating is much cheaper than here (assuming you don't go to Michelin-starred restaurants, of course). In addition, at the time of writing this article you can find cheap flights and, out of high season, you can travel for less than € 500.

You do not have to process a visa before traveling to Japan. With the Spanish passport with a minimum validity of six months you can enter the Japanese country for tourist reasons and for stays of less than 90 days.

It is not mandatory to be vaccinated to travel to Japan, but it is advisable to have the basic vaccines: typhoid, hepatitis A + B and tetanus. Likewise, it is always advisable to go through an international vaccination center before visiting any country. On the other hand, as in Japan there is no public health system and going to the doctor is very expensive, we recommend you take out travel insurance with good medical coverage.

The fastest way to get around the country is with the bullet train (shinkansen). The high-speed rail network in Japan is very extensive and works perfectly, although it is also quite expensive. Luckily, for foreigners (and Japanese residents abroad) the Japan Rail Pass or JPR, which is a 7, 14 or 21 day train voucher that allows you to use all the trains of the JR company (except those of the Nozomi line) unlimited. It goes very well if you want to make a very exhaustive route, although it is also something expensive. In tourist class, the 7-day JRP costs 29,110 yen; the 14-day one, 46,390 yen and the 21-day one, 59,350 yen.

It should be noted that The Japan Rail Pass cannot be purchased in Japan. As it is only for non-residents in Japan, it must be purchased before going. Currently the most economical place to buy the Japan Rail Pass or regional passes is Japan Experience In Barcelona it is also available in the following agencies:

JTB: 43 Guitard Street, 2nd 3rd (between Sants Estació and Pl. del Center), Barcelona.
Phone: 93 490 95 08, fax: 93 490 92 98.

JALPAK: Consell street of 333, 5 08007, Barcelona. Phone: 34-93-487-2175, fax: 34-93-487-8547. Hours: 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Telephone hours: from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

H.I.S. SPAIN: Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes 645 street, Barcelona. Tel .: 933 022 929.

Depending on the type of trip you make, it is possible that the Japan Rail Pass Do not go to account. Once activated, the days are consecutive, so it is important to decide the itinerary before buying it and thus know how many days you need it. For example, on our first trip we did not buy JRP. In Tokyo we moved mainly by subway and, since we were going to work camp for two weeks, we didn't realize it. There are also Japan Rail Pass from specific regions that are cheaper. You can find more information in this Web.

Fortunately, Japan Not only does it have the main cities connected by bullet train, but it also has an extensive line of regional and suburban trains. A essential tool to organize your trip is the web Hyperdia.com, where you can see how to go by train from one point to another in Japan and includes itineraries, schedules and prices. When checking the schedules, you have to keep in mind that there are many stations in Tokyo. Maybe the main stations are Tokyo and Shinjuku, since most of the country's bullet trains leave from there.

Also keep in mind that the bullet train station in Osaka is the ShinOsaka. If you put "Osaka" only one commuter station will come out. When you use the Japan Rail Pass, you can get on the train without the need for a ticket in the unreserved seat cars (although keep in mind that not all trains have an unreserved seat car). Therefore, it is advisable to reserve a seat and as early as possible in high season. To do this you have to go to the ticket reservation offices called Midori-no-madoguchi み ど り の 窓 口. So that they can understand you better, we leave you some useful phrases extracted from the book JAPAN Introduced in English & Japanese that we highly recommend, just like the book Japan Point-and-Speak. Translation: Two tickets to Kyoto, please. For the ten o'clock bullet train, please. Reserved seat, please. What platform should I go to?

Although it is not the best known alternative, the bus is a good option to get around Japan if you have a reduced travel budget. On my first trip I used the bus to go from Tokyo to Takayama and from Kyoto to Tokyo. The latter was a night bus that made the journey in 7 hours and so we could save a hotel night. To make bus routes in Japan I recommend the 3, 4 and 5 day vouchers of Willer express.

In recent years airlines have appeared low cost Japanese that cover some routes at a great price. Among them is Vanilla-Air with flights to Sapporo (Hokkaido) and Okinawa from Tokyo. Skymark It has many routes in Japan and it is advisable to buy the flight two months before traveling to get good rates. Peach Air It operates mainly from Osaka, but also has departures from various airports in Japan. Jetstar It also has several domestic flights in Japan and connections with countries in the area. All these websites are available in English.

When I first went to Japan it was a bit complicated time of my life. I had been studying Japanese for 4 years and I had just bought a flat by myself. I wanted to go to Japan but my economic situation was not very buoyant. Azuki and I wanted to be in the country as long as possible, with the minimum expenditure and, if we could have the opportunity to volunteer, better than better. So we decided to sign up for a Work field. A classmate had done it a couple of years before and he had loved it, so we were encouraged.

Japanese calligraphy class

The international labor camps (there are also national ones) are normally organized by an NGO from the region where it is carried out and there young people from all over the world meet with indigenous youth. In the labor camps there is a volunteer between two weeks and six months, although the majority are usually in summer. There are many types of work camps (environmental, cultural, social, archeological ...) spread throughout the world and the age to participate in them is from 18 to 35 years. In Catalonia, the inscriptions for the work fields are managed by COCAT.

Preparing the village matsuri

It is an experience that I recommend to everyone. We were in Higashi-Shirakawa, a small town in the Kiso Valley, where we had the opportunity to share activities with secondary and elementary students, cut tree branches from the nearby forest, clean the village Buddhist temple and organize the matsuri (festival) of the town along with twelve students from the University of Nagoya and twelve others from Korea, France, Mexico, United Kingdom and Spain.

If you have the Japan Rail Pass For your entire stay in the country, you can validate it directly at the airport at the JR East Travel Service Center, a kind of travel agency with a green sign that is located just down the escalators located next to the information booth. There they will activate the pass and give you the train ticket for the destination you want. There you can also book all the train tickets you need during the trip. It is highly recommended to do so if you travel the week from August 10 to 15, during the Golden Week or during the hanami in spring. The fastest way to go from Narita to Tokyo is with the Narita Express (N'ex) that leaves you at Tokyo station (¥ 3,020) and at Shibuya or Shinjuku (¥ 3,190) in about 50 minutes. You can buy the round trip ticket for 4,000 yen.

Okaerinasai Welcome to Japan.

If you have limited resources you can also go by local train. To do this, just when you go to the train station, on the left there are some ticket offices where you can buy the ticket for the Keisei Skyliner that in an hour it will leave you at Nippori station (1240 ¥) and from there you can already take the subway or another local train.

Narita Express

Another alternative, although a little more expensive, is the so-called Slime bus. This leaves at the T-CAT terminal and takes between 60 and 90 minutes (¥ 3,000), although I only recommend it if you stay where I did it (see below) or near there, because the T-CAT is right at side.

On the Keisei Skyliner on the way to Ueno

When I discovered how to do it, it seemed like the best invention in the world. In Japan it is very common to use courier agencies to send luggage from the airport to the hotel (or from one point to another in the country). As soon as you leave the terminal you find the “delivery baggage” and there are several courier companies such as Kuroneko Yamato (the label with a cat). We sent the bags from Narita airport to our hostel in Kyoto for ¥ 3,600 (price 2008), and so we could spend the day in Shibuya without dragging luggage and go to sleep at my friend Misato's apartment without occupying half a house. We use this service again in Kyoto to send our bags to Tokyo while we spent three days touring the Kiso Valley. Upon arriving at our accommodation in Tokyo we had them waiting inside the room. Another thing not, but in Japan the efficiency is maximum.

Some companies (such as Lufthansa and JAL) fly to Haneda airport, which is closer to Tokyo than Narita. From there, it will take about 40 minutes by bus to get to Tokyo station and by train 19 minutes to Hamamatsucho station (¥ 490) and there you can already take the Yamanote train line (¥ 160) to the neighborhood where your is hotel.

Kurumi weekly mansion The two times I have been to Tokyo I have stayed in these apartments next to the Sumida River that can be rented for days, weeks or months. It is a basic accommodation, but clean and quite economical. At the time of writing these lines, the double room with bathroom for 6 nights costs between ¥ 34,560 and ¥ 38,880 (depending on size and views). The bad thing is that it is not very close to any train station. On the second trip, as we had Japan Rail Pass, we went by subway (about three stops) to Tokyo station and then we moved through the city with the JR Yamanote line (the circular line).

Tripadvisor photo

K's Hostel Asakusa This hotel is in the beautiful district of Asakusa and our friend Gemma stayed there. The double room with bathroom costs at the time of writing this entry about 9,200 yen per night and the bed in a bedroom for 4 people about € 26. AirB & B In Tokyo there is a wide range of private apartments and rooms in private homes at very good prices. Like this apartment for two in the beautiful neighborhood of Setagaya near Shibuya for € 60 the night or is Private room for two near Ueno for € 21 the night. Remember that you We invite you to try the AirB & B experience with a discount of $ 20.

AirB & B photo

Edoya Hotel If you prefer traditional style accommodation, you can stay at this hotel that Patricia recommends Mad about Travel. It is a 10-minute walk from the Okachimachi train station of the Yamanote train line, so if you have the Japan Rail Pass activated you will be fine to save on transportation. The traditional double room with breakfast costs about € 80 per night at the time of writing.

Booking photo

Tokyo subway. It is very extensive and closes at night, but it happens very frequently and is the only cheap way to reach some neighborhoods in Tokyo. The most complicated thing is to buy the tickets, which are 170 ¥, 200 ¥, 240 ¥, 280 ¥ and 310 ¥, depending on the distance you want to travel. Although there are no ten-trip vouchers, you can buy the Tokyo Metro 1 Day Open ticket, which for 600 yen a day gives you the option of using the metro unlimitedly. On the other hand, it should be remembered that when entering the subway you have to save the ticket because when you leave you have to go through the control machine again. And if the fare you have paid is lower than the one you made, a barrier will prevent you from passing. But that is no problem, because we always bought the cheapest ticket and, if the barrier was activated when we left, we paid the difference at the box office. It is also highly recommended that, before leaving the station, check on the maps which exit is closest to the point where you want to go, because if not, you can end up at the other end of the station and get lost easily, especially in The most central stations. Finally, it is important to note that the Tokyo subway does not work at night.

JR Yamanote Line This is a circular train line that links the main stations in Tokyo. If you have JRP activated, it is the best way to get around the city without spending extra money. As with the subway lines, remember that it closes at night and that you have to look at the map of the exits before leaving the station.

In Tokyo you can visit the neighborhoods of Shibuya, Akihabara, Ueno, Ginza, Harajuku, Roppongi, Akihabara ... etc. There are endless interesting places. So that I do not extend too much, I recommend you consult this article by Lega Traveler.

If you go to Tokyo in the sumo season, you can go to see a training. You will find more information at this post from Patricia, from Mad about travel.

Mad about travel photo

An interesting recommendation to visit Tokyo if you have a sufficient level of English is to use the service Tokyo free guide in which some kind volunteers will show you the city in exchange for being able to practice their English. On the other hand, on the Japan Tourism website you can find free guided tours in Spanish, although you have to pay the transport costs and tickets for the guides.

Souvenirs in Asakusa

From Tokyo you can take several day trips to Hakone, Odaiba, Yokohama or Nikko, among others. We did the following:

Whether you're a fan of Hayao Miyazaki's animation, author of I put on the cliff, Chihiro's journey, The walking castle, etc ... as if not (although if you are not you will enjoy it less) I recommend you visit its museum in the town of Mitaka.

This museum, like the films of Studio Ghibli, is gorgeous. Through it we can tour the filmography of the company, watch a short film and visit the alleged reproduction of Miyazaki's drawing studio. Attention because tickets are not sold in the museum and are usually sold out, so you have to buy them in advance. Luckily, they can already be purchased in Spain at the Jaltour offices for 1,000 ¥.

From Shinjuku station you have to take the train from the Chuo line to Mitaka station (¥ 220 one way) which takes about 20 minutes. From there you can walk to the museum (15 minutes) or take the bus you will find when leaving the train station for 320 yen (i / v). More info here.

Kamaura was the capital of Japan for more than two centuries and here we can find numerous temples and historical monuments. In addition, it has many nature trails, so it is an ideal destination to spend the day departing from Tokyo. Among the attractions to visit are the Great Buddha, the second largest bronze Buddha statue in Japan (only surpassed by the Great Buddha of Nara), the Hasedera, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, the Engakuji temple and the Hokokuji temple.

Japan Guide Map

From Tokyo station you have to take the JR Yokosuka line (55 minutes, ¥ 920), and get off at Kamakura or the previous station, Kita-Kamakura, and from there go hiking along the Daibutsu road until you reach the Great Buddha.

Great Buddha of Kamakura

TOOLS TO ORGANIZE YOUR TRIP✪ Hotels in Tokyo ✪ Guided tours and excursions in Spanish in Tokyo ✪ Apartments in Tokyo and discount code✪ Japan Rail Pass✪ Pocket wifi rental

Takayama is an ancient feudal city located in the mountains and still retains a very pretty old town. Of course, we recommend you visit it before Kyoto because if not, its charm will pale. In addition, Takayama is a good starting point for the excursion to Shirakawa and Gokayama.

On my first trip to Japan we went to Takayama from Tokyo. For this we took a bus from Shinkuju station that took five and a half hours. On that trip we didn't have Japan Rail Pass and it was the cheapest way. Currently, you can go to Takayama with the Highway-Buses bus companies (6,690 yen, 7 buses a day), Nohibus (5,860 yen, 7 buses daily). Obviously, you can also go by train. Take the bullet train to Nagoya and there the Limited Express Hida train. In total it takes about four hours and costs 7,880 yen if you don't have JRP.

Takayama is famous for his old neighborhood which preserves several well preserved streets of Edo period (1600-1868). He takayama festival (April 14 and 15) is well known in the country (considered the third most beautiful) and you can see the floats that parade exposed all year in the Takayama Matsuri Yatai Kaikan. It's also very nice to see the takayama temple and enjoy Higashiyama Walking Course, a three and a half kilometer path that runs from the Takayama Temple on the outskirts of the urban core. Nor can you stop trying one of the delights of the area: the beef from Hida, comparable to Kobe's, although not as famous. Various restaurants of different prices prepare it in the city. In the tourist office in front of the train station they will give you recommendations.

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