JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass user guide. Perfect deal for the travelers who visit Tokyo and Sapporo by train.

Night view form Mt.Hakodate ©Hokkaido Tourism Organization/© JNTO
Night view form Mt.Hakodate. Hakodate is one of the popular places in Hokkaido. ©Hokkaido Tourism Organization/© JNTO

This brand new pass will be released in April, 2016. This pass covers Narita airport, Greater Tokyo, Gala Yuzawa, Nikko, whole part of Tohoku region, Hakodate, Otaru, Noboribetsu, Lake Toya and Sapporo. You also may use this pass to get Lake Kawaguchi and Hakone even though this pass covers these trips partially. You cannot use this pass to get central, northern and eastern Hokkaido, such as Furano, Asahikawa, Shiretoko, Kushiro. Japan Rail Pass (a.k.a. JR Pass) is better choice if you intend to visit these places.

In this post, I would like to show you the detail of this pass. And I show you some sample rate and compare the pass value and single fares. You may find this suits your plan or not. Continue reading

Guide to take trains in Tokyo. How to choose the best deal and the best route by train to get the major spots?

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You may be overwhelmed by train system in Tokyo. It is very complicated because there are many train lines and many different railway companies. There are lots of deals available but you may not be able to find the coverage of the pass.

In this post, I will show you all subway lines and JR lines in downtown core of Tokyo. And I will also tell you about train system surrounding in Tokyo too. Because some of trains that come from outside Tokyo go to downtown Tokyo via subway line. This is actually one of the reason why it is so difficult to understand train system in Tokyo

Let’s see and learn it together! Continue reading

Schedule of 2016 spring seasonal trains of Japan Railways

EVA Type 500 train runs as regular scheduled Kodama on Sanyo Shinkansen.
EVA Type 500 train runs as regular scheduled Kodama on Sanyo Shinkansen.

Spring is the best season to visit Japan because of the cherry blossom. And also between late April and the beginning of May is one of the busiest period. It is called “Golden Week” in Japan. April 29, May 3, 4, and 5 are National holidays.

2016 Golden Week Calendar
Apr 29 (Fri) Holiday
Apr 30 (Sat)
May 1 (Sun)
May 2 (Mon)
May 3 (Tue) Holiday
May 4 (Wed) Holiday
May 5 (Thu) Holiday
May 6 (Fri)
May 7 (Sat)
May 8 (Sun)

May 2 and May 6 are regular weekday. But many residents in Japan will take extra day off and make longer holidays. Therefore it will be very busy from April 29 to May 8. I recommend you to avoid travelling during this period. I’m not surprised if trains are booked out.

JR Group operate lots of seasonal trains during all spring season. Especially JR Group add lots of the extra trains on those above holidays. It is too many to introduce all seasonal trains. So I pick up the popular trains and are operated in the popular spot. Continue reading

Direct access to Hokkaido from Tokyo, Hokkaido Shinkansen (bullet train)

H5 series will run on Hokkaido Shinkansen as Hayabusa and Hayate. This fleet is same series as Tohoku Shinkansen E5 series. (C) By Sukhoi37 (Own work),  JR Hokkaido H5 series shinkansen set H1 approaching Sendai Station on a test run,CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
H5 series will run on Hokkaido Shinkansen as Hayabusa and Hayate. This fleet is same series as Tohoku Shinkansen E5 series. (C) By Sukhoi37 (Own work), JR Hokkaido H5 series shinkansen set H1 approaching Sendai Station on a test run,CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Hokkaido Shinkansen will be opened on March 26, 2016 between Shin-Aomori and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto. This will be the newest Shinkansen (Bullet Train) line technically. However this line is connected with Tohoku Shinkansen at Shin-Aomori. Many of trains run through Tohoku Shinkansen to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto from Tokyo. You will be able to get Hokkaido from Tokyo directly by this Shinkansen train.

However Hokkaido Shinkansen will be partial open. You can get southern Hokkaido only. You still need to transfer to get most of Hokkaido. such as Sapporo. And also Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto station is not located in downtown of Hakodate. You need to transfer to get Hakodate.

I mentioned many negative things at the beginning. But it will be much more convenient and faster than current trains. There are a few things that you need to know before taking Hokkaido Shinkansen. I would like to show you the detail of Hokkaido Shinkansen and will also give you some tips to use this Shinkansen line in this post.

*Additional info
JR Group has announced that Hokkaido Shinkansen is fully covered by Japan Rail Pass, a.k.a. JR pass.

Continue reading

Tokyo-Osaka Hokuriku Arch Pass user guide. Clarify valid trains, coverage area and compare single fare and pass.

Tokyo, Kanazawa, Kyoto and Osaka are covered by this deal. (C) ©Sue Ann Simon (upper left), Osaka Government Tourism Bureau (lower left), Yasufumi Nish (upper right), Kanazawa City (lower right) and JNTO (all photos)
Tokyo, Kanazawa, Kyoto and Osaka are covered by this deal. (C) ©Sue Ann Simon (upper left), Osaka Government Tourism Bureau (lower left), Yasufumi Nish (upper right), Kanazawa City (lower right) and JNTO (all photos)

This brand new pass will be released in April, 2016. This pass covers Narita airport, Tokyo, Nagano, Toyama, Kanazawa, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Kobe and Kansai airport. It does not cover Tokyo – Osaka/Kyoto via Nagoya direct route by Shinkansen. It is valid for consecutive 7 days. Valid period is same as Japan Rail Pass (a.k.a. JR Pass) 7 days. Price is cheaper than JR Pass 7 days but coverage area is much smaller. Is this a good deal and worth using for Tokyo-Kanazawa-Kyoto-Osaka trip?

In this post, I would like to show you the detail of this pass. And I show you some sample rate and compare the pass value and single fares. You may find this suits your plan or not. Continue reading

Kobe Sannomiya stations guide. Check the location and connections between many Sannomiya stations.

JR Sannomiya station north side
JR Sannomiya station north side

If you make a trip to Kobe, you may disembark a train at Sannomiya station. Sannomiya is downtown core of Kobe and you may access to many places from this station. There are three major railway’s stations, JR, Hankyu Railway and Hanshin Railway. And there are three more stations, two of Kobe subway and one of Port Liner. Each station is not a big station and structure is quite simple. But there are many stations and it may be complicated for you. And you may be overwhelmed.

In this post, I would like to share the information about all stations in Sannomiya. I would like to show you how to move among these stations. And also Sannomiya is the gateway to other areas. I would like to show you some information about bus stops around Sannomiya station. Continue reading

Basic itinerary of Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka in 7 days

Chidorigafuchi near Imperial Palace in Tokyo is one of the best spots to see cherry blossom. (C) Yasufumi Nishi / JNTO
Chidorigafuchi near Imperial Palace in Tokyo is one of the best spots to see cherry blossom. (C) Yasufumi Nishi / JNTO

I made the sample itinerary of Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo in 7 days a month ago. Now I would like to show you the reverse itinerary that start from Tokyo and end at Osaka in 7 days. There is no deal to cover whole part of trip unfortunately. But you can combine some local deals and single ticket.

In this post, I show you the basic 7 days itinerary and the deals that suit this itinerary. But you can extend the duration as many as you want. I also show you how to change or add days in this itinerary too. Continue reading

Visit Osaka and Kyoto for 5 to 7 days sample itinerary

Shinsho-Gokuraku-ji temple in Kyoto. This temple is as known as Shinnyodo and it is getting popular to see fall foliage lately. (C) Yasufumi Nishi / JNTO
Shinsho-Gokuraku-ji temple in Kyoto. This temple is as known as Shinnyodo and it is getting popular to see fall foliage lately. (C) Yasufumi Nishi / JNTO

I have made the sample itinerary that is Kyoto and Osaka stay for 5 to 7 days before.
Visit Kyoto, Osaka, Nara and Kobe for 5 to 7 days sample itinerary

In this itinerary, staying in Kyoto is first and then move to Osaka. But I have received many inquiries that is staying in Osaka first and then move to Kyoto. Those itineraries are very similar but when we choose the deals, it is different.

In this post, I will show you Osaka and Kyoto 5 days sample itinerary. But I will also tell you how to extend this itinerary and how to add other spots. And of course, I will show you how to choose the deals. Continue reading

Tokyo Wide Pass is newer version of Kanto Area Pass. Nikko, Fuji, Gala Yuzawa and Odaiba are covered by this pass.

The view of Rainbow Bridge from Odaiba (C) Mike Luk / JNTO
The view of Rainbow Bridge from Odaiba (C) Mike Luk / JNTO

Tokyo Wide Pass is currently sold as Kanto Area Pass. This pass will be remodeled and will be sold as Tokyo Wide Pass on December 1, 2015. It covers Tokyo and surrounding area, such as Mt. Fuji, Izu peninsula, or Nikko. Echigo-Yuzawa will be covered by Tokyo Wide Pass but it is not by Kanto Area Pass.

Tokyo Wide Pass will be sold at the higher price on December 1st, 2015 but the coverage ares will be bigger. I would like to show you about this pass and also I talk about the difference between Tokyo Wide Pass and Kanto Area Pass. Continue reading

Schedule of 2015-16 winter seasonal trains of Japan Railways

Asahiyama Doubutsuen train runs betwen Sapporo and Asahikawa. It has Azahiyama Zoo specialized seats.
Asahiyama Doubutsuen train runs betwen Sapporo and Asahikawa. It has Azahiyama Zoo specialized seats.

In Japan, New Year holidays are the busiest period in entire year. Most of Japanese go back to hometown to stay with family in this season. This is Japanese traditional and classic.

Therefore the trains depart from major cities, like Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya will be very busy in the beginning and opposite direction is busy in the end of holidays. Most of companies will be closed from Dec 30 to Jan 3. In this coming season, I expect Dec 29 and 30 will be busy. And everybody come back on January 2 and 3. So you should avoid to take a train on those days. In some of the trains, the occupancy rate may be more than 200%. As long as trains have non reserved seat, you can get on anyway without any reservation. But you will be forced to stay on the isle or passenger’s deck without seat. We see many passengers without seats in the train during those busiest days.

The movie below shows you the station and train in new year in 2013. You can find how it goes in New Year holidays.

Continue reading

Basic itinerary of Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo in 7 days

The scene of Gion Festival in Kyoto. It is one of the biggest summer festivals in Japan.
The scene of Gion Festival in Kyoto. It is one of the biggest summer festivals in Japan.

I have received many inquiries about the deal for one way trip from Osaka to Tokyo with stopover at Kyoto. Unfortunately there is no deal to cover whole part of trip. But you can combine some local deals and single ticket.

In this post, I show you the basic 7 days itinerary and the deals that suit this itinerary. But you can extend the duration as many as you want. I also show you how to change or add days in this itinerary too. Continue reading

Signage and announcement in the station and train

Signage at Nishikujo station platform. Most of signage are shown in Japanese and English.
Signage at Nishikujo station platform. Most of signage are shown in Japanese and English.

Some of you are very nervous of language barrier. But in 2014, more than 13 million tourists have visited Japan. I believe 99% of tourists did not understand Japanese. But most of tourist have completed their travel without a huge issue. It is not very hard to make a trip to Japan without speaking Japanese. I think the signage and the announcement in both station and train help travellers and take them to the right direction.

In this post, I would like to show you the signage in the station and train. I hope this post will relief your pain. Continue reading

Sample itinerary of day trip to Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route from Nagoya and Osaka / Kyoto

Tateyama Ropeway gives you the amazing experience.  (C) Nagano Prefecture / (C) JNTO
Tateyama Ropeway gives you the amazing experience. (C) Nagano Prefecture / (C) JNTO

I have written about visiting Alpine Route from Tokyo as day trip. And then I have received an inquiry about day trip to Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route from Nagoya. Yes. We can do it. You also can make it from Osaka and Kyoto as well.

I would like to share with you about day trip to Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route from Nagoya and Osaka. Continue reading

Sample itinerary of day trip to Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route from Tokyo

Snow Walls is very very popular on Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route.  (C) Tateyama Kurobe  Kanto / JTOA
Snow Walls is very very popular on Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. (C) Tateyama Kurobe Kanto / JTOA

I have never thought visiting Alpine Route from Tokyo as day trip. But I have received some inquiries and check the timetable. And I found that we can do it.

Actually it is quite easy trip. Please fine the sample itinerary of day trip to Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route from Tokyo. Continue reading

Sample itinerary of day trip to Kanazawa and Shirakawago from Tokyo

Higashichayagai area is one of most popular spots in Kanazawa. (C) Kanazawa City / JNTO
Higashichayagai area is one of most popular spots in Kanazawa. (C) Kanazawa City / JNTO

I have just written about day trip to Kanazawa and Shirakawago from Osaka and Kyoto on the previous post. Some readers have asked me day trip to Kanazawa from Tokyo. Thanks Hokuriku Shikansen. It reduce drastically the trip time to Kanazawa from Tokyo. Now you can do day trip to Kanazawa from Tokyo easily.

I would like to show you the sample itinerary of day trip to Kanazawa and Shirakawago in this post. Continue reading

Sample itinerary of day trip to Kanazawa and Shirakawago from Osaka or Kyoto

Kanazawa castle is one of the best places to see cherry blossom. (C) JNTO
Kanazawa castle is one of the best places to see cherry blossom. (C) JNTO

I prefer to stay in many cities and feel different atmosphere. But I know that some of you do not agree. Because you will travel with huge luggage and it may be issue for you.

Thus day trip is a prefect solution. When you stay in Kansai area, there are many places to see, such as Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Himeji, Mt. Koya and many more places. But can you believe that you can visit Kanazawa and Shirakawago from Osaka or Kyoto in one day?

I would like to show you the sample itinerary of this day trip in this post. Continue reading

Trip to Shikoku in 2015 spring – Part 6, visiting Oboke gorge and riding Anpanman train.

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This post is continued from Trip to Shikoku in 2015 spring – Part 5, visiting Ryugado from Kochi.

After visiting Ryugado, we took Limited Express train again to get Oboke gorge. The train went into Shikoku mountains and Yoshino river was seen through the window Continue reading

Trip to Shikoku in 2015 spring – Part 5, visiting Ryugado from Kochi.

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This post is continued from Trip to Shikoku in 2015 spring – Part 4, travelling along Shimanto river to Kochi.

When I planned, I supposed to include Naruto whirlpool. But my daughter wanted to visit the cave more. Ryugado is very well known limestone cave.

We took streetcar again. Continue reading

Trip to Shikoku in 2015 spring – Part 4, travelling along Shimanto river to Kochi.

Nijinomori Park is located beside Hiromi river.
Nijinomori Park is located beside Hiromi river.

This post is continued from Trip to Shikoku in 2015 spring – Part 3, staying at Morinokuni Hotel in Nametoko canyon.

We really enjoyed to stay in Morinokuni hotel. The hotel staff gave us ride to Matsumaru station. But I asked him to drop off us at Nijinomori park near Matsumaru station. This is the roadside service station and there are some shops and small aquarium. Train does not run very frequently on Yodo line. We needed to spend a couple of hours near the station. Continue reading

Schedule of 2015 fall seasonal trains of Japan Railways

Setouchi Marine View runs between Hiroshima and Mihara via Kure line along the shore of Setonaikai sea.
Setouchi Marine View runs between Hiroshima and Mihara via Kure line along the shore of Setonaikai sea.

Autumn is the best season to travel in Japan. The climate is very mild and fall foliage is amazing. JR will operate many seasonal trains and introduce some new trains.

It is too many to introduce all seasonal trains. So I pick up the trains that run in the popular spots only. Continue reading

Trip to Shikoku in 2015 spring – Part 3, staying at Morinokuni Hotel in Nametoko canyon.

Matsumaru station entrance. There is no station staffs but day use Onsen facility is in the station building.
Matsumaru station entrance. There is no station staffs but day use Onsen facility is in the station building.

This post is continued from Trip to Shikoku in 2015 spring – Part 2, from Toyo port to Matsumaru via Matsuyama.

I spend one hour to get Matsumaru station by Yodo line local train. This is the nearest station for Morinokuni Hotel. But it took another 30 minutes to get Hotel. Hotel staff picked up us at the station and gave us a ride. If we drive, it is more accessible but if we take public transportation, it is not. Continue reading

Trip to Shikoku in 2015 spring – Part 2, from Toyo port to Matsumaru via Matsuyama.

At Matsuyama castle. Plum trees were blooming.
At Matsuyama castle. Plum trees were blooming.

Continue from Trip to Shikoku in 2015 spring – Part 1, taking Orange Ferry from Osaka to Toyo port.

Ferry arrived at Toyo port. This port is 10 minutes away from JR Nyugawa station. Nyugawa is located at west part of Ehime prefecture in Shikoku island.

Breakfast was issue in that morning. I could not find the place to eat breakfast. Breakfast was available in the ferry. But we had to wake up before 6:00 am. It was too early and too tough for my daughter. I googled before we departed but I could not find any places near Nyugawa station. There were some convenience stores and first food. But those were at least 10 minutes walk away from the station. I could not find any solutions but the bus arrived at the station. Continue reading

Trip to Shikoku in 2015 spring – Part 1, taking Orange Ferry from Osaka to Toyo port.

2015 spring Japan trip 338

When I went back to Japan in this past March, I wanted to visit my friend’s grave in Iyo-Saijo, Shikoku. I though it was a great chance to travel Shikoku. But my 6 years old daughter and my wife were with me. My trip is usually very busy and squeeze the things as many as I can. But at this time, I had to make easy and slow itinerary.

In this post, I would like to show you my trip to Shikoku in spring, 2015. I hope this trip report to give you some idea about travel with small kids. Continue reading

Guide to take trains in Kobe. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots?

Night view of Kobe Harborland and Meriken Park
Night view of Kobe Harborland and Meriken Park

You may be overwhelmed by train services in Kobe. Actually it is much easier to handle than Osaka and Kyoto. Most of places to see are located in downtown Kobe. Many of them can be accessed on foot from major stations directly. However understanding train system is a key to save your time. Kobe can be combined with Himeji easily. You may spend half day in Kobe and enjoy in Osaka rest of the day.

For travelling in Kansai area, there are many types of deals, such as ICOCA, Kansai Thru Pass, JR Pass, Kansai Area Pass and many more. Each pass has different conditions. You have to understand which train system is covered by your pass. And also Kobe is very closed to Osaka. You may not have many chances to take a train and that means single fare may be the best option for you.

In this post, I will show you the route map and explain all train systems in Kobe. Continue reading

Himeji station guide. How to get Himeji castle from the station

Himeji station terminal building at north side.
Himeji station terminal building at north side.

Himeji station is the gateway to UNESCO World Heritage Site, Himeji Castle. It is very popular day trip destination from Kobe and Osaka. You can get Himeji by JR trains, Shinkansen and Sanyo / Hanshin Railway.

How to access to Himeji and Kobe from Osaka

I would like to explain about these station’s structures and show you some images of Himeji station. And I also show you how to get Himeji castle from the station too. Continue reading

Japan Rail Pass and rail travel in Japan complete guide. Let's use the Japan Rail Pass to its maximum!!!