Schedule of 2016 summer seasonal trains of Japan Railways

The newest Shinkansen train, Genbi Shinkansen runs between Echigo-Yuzawa and Niigata.
The newest Shinkansen train, Genbi Shinkansen runs between Echigo-Yuzawa and Niigata.

In Japan, the peak period during summer time is mid August that is called “Obon”. Most of Japanese go back to hometown and spend the time with family. All transportation will be busy from major cities at the beginning and back to major cities at the end. I wrote the busy dates and some tips to avoid this situation at the link below:

2016 busiest period to travel by train. Tips to book your seat in even busy period.

And also, the public school is closed from July 20 to August 31 for summer break. This period is busier than usual too.

JR Group operate lots of seasonal trains during summer season. Especially JR Group add lots of extra trains. 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

Trip to Tohoku, Chubu and Chugoku in 2016 winter – Part 5, Matsumoto to Takaoka via Toyama

Old style name plate of Matsumoto station
Old style name plate of Matsumoto station

This post is continued from Trip to Tohoku, Chubu and Chugoku in 2016 winter – Part 4, Nagoya to Matsumoto via Magome.

The second half of 4th day of my trip, I took whole part of Oito line from Matsumoto to Itoigawa. And then I took Hokuriku Shinkansen to Shin-Takaoka with dinner stop at Toyama. Continue reading

Trip to Tohoku, Chubu and Chugoku in 2016 winter – Part 4, Nagoya to Matsumoto via Magome

It was a beautiful day when I left Nagoya station.
It was a beautiful day when I left Nagoya station.

This post is continued from Trip to Tohoku, Chubu and Chugoku in 2016 winter – Part 3, Kakunodate to Nagoya via Sendai and Yamadera.

On 4th day of my trip, my trip was getting crazier and crazier. I visited the places as many as I could. Please do not copy my trip plan but I am sure I can share tons of information from my trip. I made a trip from Nagoya to Takaoka in Toyama prefecture. I dropped by Magome, Matsumoto, Shinano-Omachi, Itoigawa and Toyama on the way to Takaoka. I will show you the first half of 4th day of my trip. Continue reading

Trip to Tohoku, Chubu and Chugoku in 2016 winter – Part 3, Kakunodate to Nagoya via Sendai and Yamadera

Most famous view of Yamadera
Most famous view of Yamadera

This post is continued from Trip to Tohoku, Chubu and Chugoku in 2016 winter – Part 2, Akita airport to Kakunodate.

On 3rd day of my trip, I left Kakunodate, visited Yamadera and then go to Nagoya. It was such a long day. But after I visited Yamadera, my mother took a flight from Sendai. I was a solo traveler. My trip was getting busier and busier. I squeezed the places as many as I could after Sendai. Continue reading

Trip to Tohoku, Chubu and Chugoku in 2016 winter – Part 2, Akita airport to Kakunodate

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This post is continued from Trip to Tohoku, Chubu and Chugoku in 2016 winter – Part 1, Quick trip to Hiroshima from Osaka

On second day of my trip, I flied to Akita and visited Kakunodate. I have been to Kakunodate but my mother had asked me to take her to Kakunodate. Actually she requested Takachiho and Kakunodate.
We had already done Takachiho 4 years ago. This was another task of me. I had JR pass but I booked the domestic flight from Itami (another Osaka airport) to Akita. She is Japanese and she can not get JR Pass. So we flied to Akita to visit Kakunodate and Yamadeara at the beginning part of my trip and I shared these two days with my mother.

Itami airport to Akita airport to Akita station

Itami (Osaka) airport 8:05 (JL2171) 9:25 Akita Airport 9:40 (limousine bus) 10:15 Akita station

In this past winter, Japan had very mild winter. Kakunodate usually have lots of snow in this season. But it did not have any snow on the ground before we departed. But snow started to fall just half day before we departed from Osaka. When we arrived in Akita airport, it was heavy snow falling. We were so lucky.

The flight was approaching Akita airport.
The flight was approaching Akita airport.
Flight just arrived at Akita airport. It was snowy day.
Flight just arrived at Akita airport. It was snowy day.

Limousine bus runs between airport and Akita station.

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Interior of limousine bus to Akita station
Interior of limousine bus to Akita station

All buses depart just after flight arrival. If the flight are late, this limousine bus wait for the flight and pick up all passengers who want to take a bus. So you never miss this bus. After about 30 minutes ride, we got Akita station.

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Akita station to Kakunodate station

Akita 11:06 (Komachi 18) 11:56 Kakunodate

I purchased a ticket for my mother in Akita station. We took Akita Shinkansen to get Kakunodate. I had JR Pass Green but it was a short ride and my mother did not have Green Pass. At this time, we took ordinary seat. But I reserved Green seat for her on next day from Morioka to Sendai.

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After arrival in Kakunodate, we started walking to Samurai residence district (Bukeyashiki) where is the most popular spot in Kakunodate.

Eat Inaniwa Udon and Hinai Jidori for lunch

Before we walked in Kakunodate, we need to eat something. Actually I had decided what I ate. Those are Inaniwa Udon and Hinai Jidori. Inaniwa Udon is one of three popular Udons in Japan with Sanuki Udon in Shikoku and Kishimen in Nagoya. Hinai Jidori is Akita’s local chicken. I researched lunch spot in Kakunodate and I had found the restaurant in Samurai residence district. That was “Sakura no Sato”.

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When we traveled, it was shoulder season. Many shops and restaurants were closed but this restaurant was open and that served both Udon and chicken.

I was so hungry and my answer is very simple, I ate both Udon and chicken. I ordered Oyakodon and small portion of Inaniwa Udon. Oyakodon is braised chicken and egg over the rice.

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Customer review was right. Both Udon and Oyakodon were so yummy. Especially Oyakodon is most recommended menu of this restaurant. It was very very good.

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After lunch, I started to walk in Samurai residents district.

Walk in Samurai residence district

This district is very very popular in Cherry blossom and fall foliage seasons. But I love this town in winter. Samurai residence have black wood fence. The scenery is amazing in snowy day.

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We entered several residences, Ishiguro family house and Aoyagi family house. Those houses exhibit many historical items.

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You need to pay to enter these residences. But it is worth spending to enter these houses in my opinion. The admission is 300 to 500 yen.

Stay at Tamachi Bukeyashiki Hotel

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Kakunodate is one of the popular places in Tohoku region. But this town does not have many hotels. I picked Tamachi Bukeyashiki Hotel. The rate is not very affordable but I believe this hotel is the best one in this town.

Room is nice and cozy.

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This hotel has one of the best dining in this town. You may enjoy the fine local cuisine.

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This hotel does not have Onsen bath but if you want, hotel takes you to local Onsen bath. I took a bath there but Onsen was very very hot. I could stay there for only 5 minutes.

If you are interested in this hotel, please check the link below:
Tamachi Bukeyashiki Hotel, Semboku, Japan (link to Hotel Combined)

I had a good sleep in this hotel.

In next post, I will show you day 3 of my trip, visiting Yamadera and moved to Nagoya.

Trip to Tohoku, Chubu and Chugoku in 2016 winter – Part 1, Quick trip to Hiroshima from Osaka

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I made the trip to Japan in this past February. At that time, I visited Hiroshima, Kakunodate, Yamadera, Magome, Matsumoto, Shirakawago, Takayama, Kanazawa, Nagano Snow Monkey valley and Kurashiki. That was super busy trip and visited many many places in just 7 days. I do not think you can copy this trip and I do not want you all to follow this itinerary. I really really enjoyed this trip but it was super super crazy. Continue reading

Yokohama and Kamakura access guide. Find the right deal and route from your place to stay.

Red Brick Warehouse is very popular shopping site in Yokohama Waterfront Area. (C) Y.Shimizu / JNTO
Red Brick Warehouse is very popular shopping site in Yokohama Waterfront Area. (C) Y.Shimizu / JNTO

Yokohama and Kamakura are very popular places to visit from Tokyo as day trip. Of course you can visit these places from other places, like Osaka and Kyoto. But there are several routes to get Yokohama and Kamakura from Tokyo. If you visit these places from Osaka, Kyoto and Nagoya, you will consider to drop by these places on the way to Tokyo. But is this a right way. Should we go to Tokyo first and then go back to Yokohama?

In this post, I show you the major access to Yokohaama and Kamakura from Tokyo. And I show you how to get Yokohama and Kamakura on the way to Tokyo from Osaka, Kyoto and Nagoya. Continue reading

JR East Pass Tohoku. Flex 5 days pass in 14 days period to cover Tokyo, surrounding area of Tokyo and Tohoku region.

Cherry blossom in Kakunodate Samurai Residence district. It is one of the highlights in Tohoku region. (C) Akita Prefecture / JNTO
Cherry blossom in Kakunodate Samurai Residence district. It is one of the highlights in Tohoku region. (C) Akita Prefecture / JNTO

JR East has decided to divide JR East into two regional passes, JR East Pass Niigata and Nagano, and JR East Pass Tohoku. Current JR East pass will be discontinued in the end of March and these two JR East passes will be on sale. In this post, I would like to explain one of these passes, JR East Pass Tohoku in this post. Continue reading

JR East Pass Niigata and Nagano. Flex 5 days pass in 14 days period to cover Kanto region, Nagano and Niigata.

Zenko-ji temple in Nagano (left) and Yuzawa Onsen in Niigata (right)  (C) Nagano Prefecture / JNTO
Zenko-ji temple in Nagano (left) and Yuzawa Onsen in Niigata (right) (C) Nagano Prefecture / JNTO

JR East has decided to divide JR East into two regional passes, JR East Pass Niigata and Nagano, and JR East Pass Tohoku. Current JR East pass will be discontinued in the end of March and these two JR East passes will be on sale. In this post, I would like to explain one of these passes, JR East Pass Niigata and Nagano in this post. Continue reading

Limited time operation. Specialized Shinkansen train 500 TYPE EVA

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This is a collaboration of Shinkansen and very popular Japanese Anime “New Generation Evangelion (link to Wikipedia)” as Sanyo Shinkansen 40 years anniversary special project. This unique Shinkansen fleet has very different exterior that is painted by Evangelion color. And also it has Evangerion exhibition in car #1. There are many more Evangerion characters and designs in the trains. If you know this anime, you must be excited. Even if you are not familiar with this anime, you will be impressed by these decorations.

I just have got on this train in this early February, 2016. I would like to share the information and many photos of this train with you. Continue reading

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

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