Japan Filter
May 31, 2008 7:23 AM   Subscribe

I will be staying in Japan for a week before I go to S.Korea and would like some recommendations of things to do and places to stay. I will be landing in Narita; however, it seems better to go to Tokyo once I land. I am a student and can't afford too much; therefore, I am looking for some cheaper places that I can sleep and store my bags while I wander around. Also, I will be there August 19th until August 26th -- are there any events happening? Is there anything to be careful of? Anyone know of any good websites or forums that I could check out before I go? I really want to make the best of this trip, yet it's quite intimidating.
posted by Knigel to Travel & Transportation around Japan (23 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
K's House Tokyo is awesome. I stayed there in the fall of 2006 for around $25 USD/night and it was quite nice. It's in Asakusa, really close to a subway station. If I were looking to stay in Tokyo on the cheap again, I'd definitely go back.
posted by Nelsormensch at 7:28 AM on May 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

One week might be just enough time to take advantage of a JapanRail pass (for one week) which is one of the world's great travel bargains, and something you can only buy outside of the country. You might consider riding the trains all over Japan for one week - the more modern trains are really fantastic. Japan is very safe and a blast to visit. It doesn't have to be ridiculously expensive, although it can be. I guarantee you will have a great time. :-)
posted by thomas144 at 7:31 AM on May 31, 2008

What's your budget? It would be useful to know since travel is the most expensive part about traveling in Japan. Just getting from Narita into Tokyo by highway bus is going to cost 4000 yen.

In fact, what I receommend you do is buy a seishun 18 ticket....

Sez Wikitravel: The Seishun 18 Ticket (青春18きっぷ Seishun jūhachi kippu) is a discount rail ticket offered by Japan's JR network. When available (three times a year), it is easily the cheapest way to get around Japan, costing only ¥11,500 for five days of unlimited travel.

I used this ticket to travel across Japan when I was 27 - there's no age restriction. Print out the Wikitravel page, and take it to the JR train station in Narita, to show them (they may not speak English) what you want to buy.

Anyway, a potential itinerary for five days might be:

Day 1: Arrive at Narita, travel to Ueno in Tokyo, stay near Ameyoko (cheap eats)
Day 2: Explore Ueno Park (go to the museum?), take Yamanote Line to Akihabara, then travel to Kamakura
Day 3: Explore Kamakura, take train to Shuzenji and take a bath, look around Izu
Day 4: Return to Tokyo, look around Shibuya, go window shopping in Shinjuku
Day 5: Travel to Narita and visit an temple; travel on to Narita airport

If you had an extra day, you could try hiking Mount Fuji (maybe the day after Kamakura)
posted by KokuRyu at 7:41 AM on May 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

KokuRyu: If you had an extra day, you could try hiking Mount Fuji (maybe the day after Kamakura)

My friend in the area (that I'll be visiting just after the OP leaves), says that you aren't allowed to hike Mount Fuji. Is he wrong?
posted by philomathoholic at 9:37 AM on May 31, 2008

Generally, the Mount Fuji hiking season is from July 1st to August 31st (after the end of the rainy season, and before the start of typhoon season in the Kanto area).

I've never climbed Fuji, but it's not supposed to be an easy hike at all due to the altitude, the cold, and the volcanic moonscape up to the the crater. If you decided to climb Mount Fuji, it would likely be the focus of your brief stay in Japan. And hiking at the end of August would be pretty cold up there (but broiling hot lower down around Tokyo).

Personally, for this particular I would rather do some mountaineering or hiking around Minami-Arupusu (Southern Japanese Alps) City in Yamanashi instead of hiking Mount Fuji.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:33 AM on May 31, 2008

My friend in the area (that I'll be visiting just after the OP leaves), says that you aren't allowed to hike Mount Fuji. Is he wrong?

You are most certainly allowed to hike Mount Fuji. It's not an easy hike and as KokoRyu says, it can be quite cold. It is almost 4000m tall, after all. The JR station for Fuji is pretty far from the fifth station (as high as roads go), so it's probably too much for such a short trip.
posted by Nelsormensch at 5:20 PM on May 31, 2008

My friend in the area says you aren't allowed to hike Mount Fuji. Is he wrong?

Yes and no. KokuRyu states the climbing season, when anyone can go. Apparently there's so many people making the trip, youre never alone on the trail, at that time. Outside the season, yes, you'd need special permission.

I am looking for some cheaper places [to] store my bags

The train and subway stations have luggage lockers, just like in Europe, 300-500 yen (coins only!)

Traveling cheap between Narita and downtown Tokyo, many opt for the Keisei Skyliner train. That ticket's about 2000 yen. However, you can take the normal Keisei train for about half that price, travel time just a bit longer, and you won't be traveling on a train full of tourists. Buying the ticket from the Japanese-only machine can be intimidating for the novice, however.
posted by Rash at 5:32 PM on May 31, 2008

One bit of free entertainment is perfect for Yanks who are fresh off the plane. The Tsukiji Fish Market is a pretty incredible thing to see, with every conceivable aquatic creature on display, either dead, or in the process of being brutally killed to feed the city. You'll see Tunas the size of sofas being cut with table saws, and the whole thing is free.

What makes it good for new arrivals is that you have to go at around 5am, which is normally a PITA, but when flying from the States, you tend to wake up then anyway while you're getting adjusted.
posted by Doctor Suarez at 5:58 PM on May 31, 2008

Response by poster: Doctor Suarez, can only "Yanks" enjoy it, or can Canadians such as myself also enjoy it?
posted by Knigel at 6:30 PM on May 31, 2008

Aw, Knigel, cut some slack. MetaFilter was started by Americans and is used by a lot of Americans, so it's a pretty minor faux pas. Besides, people in Japan and South Korea (actually maybe Korean can tell the difference) where you're going have little clue about the distinction between Americans and Canadians (quick - no Googling - what's the difference between a Loatian and a Cambodian?) You're going to be mistaken for an American A LOT during your Asian travels. It's just the way it is.

Yours truly,

A former Canadian expat
posted by KokuRyu at 7:11 PM on May 31, 2008

Thanks for the clarification concerning Mount Fuji.
posted by philomathoholic at 12:58 AM on June 1, 2008

Response by poster: Yes, I've already learned how to say: "I'm Canadian, not American, please don't kill me" in Korean, but I still need to learn how to say it in Japanese. It's amazing how fast people's reactions change once they know.
posted by Knigel at 7:02 AM on June 1, 2008

Even if you're doing it on the cheap, you'll kick yourself for not having more time in Tokyo - it's hard to wrap your head around how huge the place is, and how much stuff there is to see! But anyway, the J Rail pass is totally the way to go. Includes shinkansen (bullet train) rides with a few exceptions, meaning you can do a side trip to places like Kyoto. I seem to recall that you can only get these passes in a few places in Canada/US, otherwise you'll have to buy one in Japan, and only if you have your foreign passport. Check the website though, it's very helpful.

Beware two things: the Tokyo subway is not part of J Rail, though you'll find it doesn't matter too much since the trains go pretty much anywhere anyway; and there are also private rail lines that again will not be covered (e.g., getting to/from the Kamakura area I think?)

The other major cost saver is the famous Kaiten (conveyor belt) sushi places, as long as you understand the pricing system and stay away from the crazy expensive stuff (as indicated by plate colour).
posted by drmarcj at 8:27 AM on June 1, 2008

Japanese people generally do not hate Americans, but your YMMV I guess...
posted by ejoey at 7:41 PM on June 1, 2008

Not yours per say, but American travelers reading the thread :)
posted by ejoey at 7:42 PM on June 1, 2008

The JR pass may not be worth it, depending on how much travelling you'll be doing. And the seishun 18 ticket only allows you to take the slow local trains. It's good if you have a lot of time and not much money, but if you only have a week, I wouldn't recommend it. If I were you, I'd base myself in Tokyo, take a day trip to Kamakura, and maybe spend a couple nights in Kyoto. Use hyperdia to check out train info and fares.

As for places to stay, there's capsule hotels everywhere, usually about $30 or $40 US a night, one of those 'only in Japan' experiences, and there's Sakura Hostel, a reputable, cheap hostel in Tokyo.

And drmarcj - I wouldn't exactly call kaitenzushi a major cost saver, unless he plans to eat a lot of sushi anyway. There is a lot of cheaper better food out there.
posted by Sar at 2:01 AM on June 2, 2008

I was also going to say that the folks in Japan or Korea don't hate Americans at all, and are quite friendly. As well, one of the things I miss about living overseas the most is working with people from all over the world, especially from the States, and I must say that the two closest friends I made during my ten years in Japan (that is, the two people I can always call up at 3AM, even today, years later) are from the United States.

People will mistake you as an American in Japan and Korea, but it's no big deal.

And, to remain on-topic, check out this website for cheap Tokyo eats, etc.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:21 AM on June 2, 2008

Response by poster: I really thank you for your help, and hate to seem ungrateful by adding to an argument; however, I already know from experience that many Asians, like many people from around the world are highly resentful towards Americans -- it is, at this time in the world, often a good idea to distinguish oneself from Americans if one is Canadian. Of course, not everyone *hates* Americans, but there is a reason why many Americans travel with Canadian flags pinned to their bags. "It's just the way it is."
posted by Knigel at 10:08 PM on June 2, 2008

When you are talking specifically about Japan, KokuRyu and I speak from a combined 14 years of experience living in Japan, so I think we know what we are talking about.

I've never met an American in Japan masquerading as Canadian either.
posted by ejoey at 1:11 AM on June 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Here's some free things to do in Tokyo to hopefully undue my derailing. #10 is my favorite. You can find things to do at these site too:

Japan Times Events & Festivals
Tokyo Art Beat
Asoboo Tokyo Events
posted by ejoey at 1:16 AM on June 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for more information, these look very useful. To clarify, I have not been to Japan; however, I have quite a few Japanese friends (with 16-40+ years of experience in Japan) who have communicated their resentment; therefore, I know that the resentment does exist. I'm not saying I expect to be lynched if someone thinks I'm American, yet I know there are often subtle changes in behaviour that I should attempt to be aware of.

I digress myself, and really do appreciate your advice and feedback.
posted by Knigel at 10:49 AM on June 3, 2008

Of course, there is a chance that their resentment is influenced both by living outside of Japan and living in Canada, both factors that make them far from the typical Japanese person you will encounter 99% of your time in Japan.
posted by ejoey at 6:05 PM on June 3, 2008

Response by poster: They weren't living here, they were travelers. I doubt it influenced them that much. Also 1% is quite a lot of people. I'm done this digression though, I have nothing really to prove, nor reason to do so. I'm really happy with all of the help I've been getting on this thread.
posted by Knigel at 7:49 AM on June 4, 2008

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