She tries trains, bikes
a train? Pay strict attention to departure times or you will be
a sorry Journeywoman. Trains almost always depart on time. So if
your train is scheduled to depart at 9:52, it will depart exactly
at 9:52. Moral of this tip? Allow plenty of time to get your ticket,
find the right track and the right train or you'll be very, very
early for the next one.
Also, please note that the Japan
Rail Pass (7, 14, 21 days) is one of the best bargains for travelling
in Japan. For example, a regular round-trip train ticket from Narita
Airport costs more than an entire Seven Day Rail Pass. If you plan
on buying this pass, you'll need to get it before leaving your home
country. The rail pass is only available to non-Japanese residents
and can never be purchased in Japan.
Subway tickets are not covered
by the Japan Rail Pass. However subway travel is not terribly expensive
by Japanese standards (about US$1.50). Signs at most stations are
in Japanese as well as English, except as you go out to more suburban
areas. There are three very important things for Journey Women to
know about subway travel. (1) Subway lines are not connected and
no transfers are issued. That means if you need to switch lines
mid-journey, you will have to buy a new ticket. (2) And, always
hold on to your ticket for the duration of your trip. The way the
systems works, you cannot get out of the subway without a ticket.
(3) Finally, do not take your first subway ride at peak hours. The
crush of people at that time is next to impossible for a novice
to cope with.
P.S. A Journeywoman living in
Japan sent along this information about cycling. She writes: One
enjoyable way to see Tokyo is by bicycle. I've cycled into Tokyo
a few times and braved the busy streets by bicycle. Actually, there
is so much traffic that it doesn't flow very fast and I feel quite
safe cycling through the heart of Tokyo. You see so much more than
by train, and of course it's faster than walking.
I have done a fair amount of
traveling throughout Japan. I usually carry my bicycle on the train
or ferry and then go on a cycling trip once I arrive at my destination.
I have traveled both alone and with a male companion. When I travel
alone I do take extra precautions such as ensuring I can reach a
hotel or campground before dark, whereas with a companion, I am
willing to do less precise planning and risk camping where there
is no official campsite if the need arises (Semin P. in Japan).
Lisa in Tel Aviv, Israel writes...
If you are planning to ride a bicycle in Japan, it's helpful to
know that, according to Japanese law, bicycles must be registered/licensed.
It is not uncommon for bicycle riders to be stopped by police, who
demand to see identification (always carry your passport!) as proof
of ownership. If you purchase a bike in Japan, the store will take
care of the registration process for you.
When travelling to the airport
from Tokyo, it's much more convenient to go by bus than NEX (Narita
Express.) The price is the same, but the NEX leaves only from Shinjuku
station, which is the biggest, most confusing and crowded subway
station in the world. Access to the NEX platform is by stairs only,
meaning that you'll have to drag your bags up. Also, the NEX trains
leave only once every hour - but not on the hour, and it's difficult
to obtain a schedule by phone since most of the staff do not speak
English. Buses to the airport leave from most large hotels, and
you can make a reservation several days in advance. Hotel staff
do speak English. The bus is clean, faster than the train and of
course you won't have to shlep your bag up a bunch of stairs to
access the bus. You need not be a guest in the hotel to reserve
a place on the airport bus.
An update from Japan...
the information about going to Narita Airport should be updated
( i.e. Lisa from Tel Aviv.) You can now go directly from Tokyo Station
to Narita Airport. (You no longer have to go to Ueno or Shinjuku.)
It's a very long walk from the bullet train platforms to the Narita
Express platform, down some amazing long escalators too, but you
can do it by following the signs with the NEX airplane symbol. I
just checked this on the Japan Rail site to make sure that my suspicion
was correct. It also said that your railpass can be used for this
trip though you must make a reservation.
Barbara in Tokyo
Have cash ready for trains...
Some of the big department
stores take Visa but when I tried to pay for tickets on the Sankenson
(bullet train), they wouldn't accept my Visa. So, be sure you have
enought cash on hand for transportation.
Lynda in Canada