Trip Information

Drinking Water
Drinking Water (64)
Trip Date:2005-12-25 - 2005-12-31
# Photos:61 [View]
Countries visited:Japan
Leaving LAX in the morning of Dec. 25, 2005, and coming back at noon time of Dec. 31, 2005, I traveled with my 14 years old son to Japan spending 7 days to this entire trip.

We traveled with light luggage, a fully stuffed regular size day-hike backpack for each one of us, including a Nikon D70 in my backpack and a laptop in my sons backpack. We made a hotel reservation in Tokyo on Dec. 30, the final night we would be in Japan for the trip. All other schedule and itinerary were to be determined after our arrival in Japan.

We bought a 7 days JR train pass voucher for each of us. A JR train pass voucher is valid only after you have it converted to a train pass. The convertion can be done only by youself in Japan. For this reason, no schedule arrangement can be final before our arrival. The vouchers can be bought only from outside of Japan. The vouches are sold with 7 / 14 / 21 days valid durations. You can trade the voucher with a train pass only if you have proved to stay in Japan for a short visit. Once you have it activated, the train pass duration begins to count, even if you don't use it in some of the days.

Our basic plan: Take a sleep car to go distance away from Tokyo at the beginning. Then, converge to Tokyo at each stage of our trip.
Plan 1 to take a sleep car to Hokkaido from Tokyo the first day. To spend a couple of days in Hokkaido, then

Plan 2 to take a sleep car to Shikoku from Tokyo the first day. To spend a day or two in Shikoku, then to Osaka /Kyoto/Tokyo.

Plan 3 we actually have 5 different fallback plans.

After arriving Tokyo around 3:00pm in the afternoon, we found that our plan 1 can not be carried through because the sleep car tickets to Hokkaido are hot tickets for the year-end travelling season. All tickets were long gone. We fell back to Plan 2. To our delight, there are sleep car tickets available. The lady who served us could not find the train we planed. I had to show her the schedule to help her find the train number. It may not be a popular one. The purpose of our visiting Shikoku was to visit Ivy Valley, some nature wonders there.

Out actual traveling routes, hours, and major means of transportations in the region are as follows:
Tokyo (3:00pm, 12/26 --> 10:00pm, 12/26, by subway)
Shikoku (7:00am, 12/27 --> 9:00am, 12/28, by a rental car)
Osaka (12:00pm, 12/28 --> 6:00pm 12/28, by subway)
Kyoto (7:00pm 12/28 --> 7:00am 12/30, by bus)
Nara (8:00am 12/30 --> 11:30am 12/30, by bus and took a taxi once in the entire trip here)
Tokyo (3:00pm 12/30 --> 5:00pm 12/31, by subway)

Because we travelled light with flexible schedule and minimum plan for night-life adventures, we made good use of each minute of the day light we were in Japan. Please see the notes to each of my posted picture for the details.

Some Tips
Planed everything ahead, we did not have anything surprised us during the entire trip. Japan is safe for self-exploration. We stopped by information center at each city we went. The information centers were very helpful, except the information center in Tokyo Station, where we were not able to find an information center. We had to go to a train ticket counter to get help.

It is best to have a bilingual map. Many Japanese do not understand English; it is straight forward to show them the map with Japanese on it to ask for directions. Most of Japanese are friendly and ready to help.

We did not book any Hotel ahead of the time, when we try to book two nights stay for a twin beds room in Kyoto APA hotel, we found that the English web site offered a price of 21,000-yen/night while the Japanese web site offered a price of 14,000-yen/night. We have to get a help to book the better price.

Many "motels" in Shikoku Island are self-serviced motels. It showed the price in front. We tried; however, we did not manage to stay in any of them because we did not able to follow the procedures instructed in Japanese only. We did managed to enter a room. We walked away simply because we did not find out how much / where to pay for the room :D

There are vending machines everywhere you go, for drink, for food, for cigarettes, for beer, for transportation tickets. We have to order our food through a vending machine when we visited a restaurant in Osaka.

The size of one serve food and drink is about half size as in the U.S. For example, in the U.S. the drink sizes in a Starbucks caf are tall, grande, and venti. In Japan, the sizes would be short, tall, and grande. Where "tall" is same as "tall".