First visit to Japan

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false_tooth

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Hello all,

I am sure that this is asked alot, but I am going to Japan for the first time in April and was looking for some recomendation.

I remember about a year ago they discussed their experiences in Tokyo but can't remember what episode it was. If anyone has any advice or any nods in the directions of Bombcast episodes where this topic is discussed that would be amazing.

Thanks in advance!

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dstopia

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#2  Edited By dstopia

Get a JR rail pass, which will make it easy and cheap to go almost wherever you want in Japan.

Grab a train map and go wherever you want along the shinkansen route. It doesn't matter, you'll find something interesting. The only place I would make 100% sure to visit and spend time in would be Kyoto, but other than that, Japan is so interesting you'll find lots of things to do no matter where you go.

Eat locally. Please please please please ignore the fast food. Just walk up to any corner food shop you find. Even if you have to gesture people will be nice and helpful and you'll get incredible food for very low prices.

Related to the last sentence, ignore the GB crew for traveling advice. Other than Drew as far as I can recall they barely explored the country and I always hear them talking about eating American fast food there. Not the place I'd go to for Japan advice.

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afabs515

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Ichiran ramen!

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Axersia

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Really depends on the type of traveler you are. On my first trip in 2011 I definitely grabbed myself a JR Rail Pass and traveled all way to Kyushu, visiting all the major cities along the way for 2 days at a time.

But these days domestic flights are dirt cheap, so if you're OK with traveling at awkward times like 6 in the morning, you could easily make your way to Okinawa for like 3000 yen (or Hong Kong, for that matter. Some of those deals are incredible).

I do agree with dstopia that the GB crew aren't exactly the best people to go to for Japan advice. They never made it out of Tokyo, are just there for business, and it's been a full DECADE since they last went.

Friend of the show Dave Lang, on the other hand, aside from clearly being a guy with more money to spend than the average person, has done some pretty informative Japan travel episodes on his Team GFB Radio podcast. But I'm too lazy to look those up, sorry.

Anyway, I'm a big fan of going where the wind takes you, but you do need quite a bit of free time to make that work. If you wanna get the most out of your trip, just look up what the major cities are (if you don't know already), and do a lot of reading on Wikitravel. Then figure out whether the JR Rail Pass or domestic flight approach is best for you.

Also, be sure to grab yourself a 4G data sim at the airport.

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TopCat88

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#5  Edited By TopCat88

I was in Tokyo and Osaka last year, and I went to Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Fukuoka in 2009.

JR pass or night busses are the way to go if you want to see more than one city. Night busses are cheaper than the bullet train (Shinkansen) and are pretty comfortable for a nights sleep if you can deal with the occasionally slightly bumpy road/traffic noise. However, these issues are mild in Japan compared to Vietnam/Laos where I've also used night busses. Also, using a night bus saves you a night in a hotel if $$$s are an issue. However, consider taking a bullet train at least once too, because they're cool. (Don't be late) - That goes for all public transport.

Try a capsule hotel at least once. They're a thing, and they're cool if you're not claustraphobic or a very large person.

Tokyo is great; it takes 10 days minimum to see ALL of it properly, but you don't need to go that far. 3-4 nights will be sufficient. Plan and look up what you want to do because that city has IT ALL and if you plan to just wander around and see what you find, (you'll find a lot of great stuff!), you might miss out on something you'll regret not seeing/doing.

Kyoto is a 100% must see! It's pretty much central, it's beautiful, it's friendly and it's unforgettable. It's a reasonably small place (3 days-ish), but you may want to stay longer just to soak it in.

April is prime Cherry Blossom season, so you'll see some of that I'm sure. I was in Osaka in March and we found 1 tree that had already bloomed. That was special in it's own way, but when they're all out it must be a wonderful sight. Tokyo tree's tend to bloom first if I remember right (this may be artifically encouraged but I don't know).

Osaka is a cool town, but not essential I guess. That's not to say don't go. Decide for yourself.

GO to Nagasaki or Hiroshima if you have any interest at all in the history. It's not nice, it's heartbreaking, but you'll remember it and more importantly get a totally different perspective on the horrors of it. You can't understand it fully until you see the museums. I only went to Nagasaki, but I'll never forget what I saw. They're done very well.

Mt Fuji: Definitely get a look at it, and if you have any hiking experience, climb it. I did and WOW! It's not too tough, but you need to be prepared. I won't go into details here, but if you want some advice, I did a whole heap of research on it I can share with you. Just ask.Edit: My gf just reminded me that it's only open in the summer! Whoops!

Tokyo->Kyoto should be done back to back in my opinion. The contrast between the two is what helps to make Kyoto so memorable.

I'm certainly not the biggest expert on Japan, but if you want any extra questions answered, I'll do my best. Enjoy it!

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If you take any prescription medication, make sure they're legal to bring in with you.

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Where are you going and for how long? Or do you not know yet? That's probably the most important factor.

In 2015, I spent about 10 days there and visited Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and a small-ish town north of Tokyo called Nikko.

In terms of where I went:

  • Tokyo is the place I spent the most time in. I spent time in Akihabara, Asakusa, Shinjuku, and Shibuya. Tokyo is a fun, unique city. This is a tip for about anywhere you go in Japan, but I would suggest you generally know what you want to do or what type of things you want to do. Do you want to relax? Do you want to see a type of shopping district? Do you want to go to a shrine or temple? Thinking about those types of things can give you direction on where to stay or where to go for the day. With Tokyo specifically, this city is so massive things are kind of scattered. You don't just "go to Tokyo"; you go to a specific ward or prefecture.
  • Nikko is a small town maybe 60 to 90 minutes north of Tokyo. I went there based on someone's recommendation, as I was looking for a quick getaway to an onsen and unwind. Nikko had some of the nicer temples I saw like Tosho-gu. It seems like a random place to recommend, but I did enjoy my time there.
  • I liked Kyoto, but I should have probably planned this part of the trip better. Going to the bamboo forest and Kiyomizudera was really nice, but that was also the most wandering around part of my trip. This was probably the hardest time I got around during my trip and at one point I got lost while looking for Gion, a geisha district. I still recommend Kyoto, but I also have the least to say about it, due to my circumstances.
  • Osaka was probably my favorite part of the trip. There's good historical stuff like Osaka Castle, there's some good videogame/nerd/otaku shops in Nipponbashi (There's stuff like that in Tokyo, but in Akihabara--the more stereotypical place that has all of that stuff--the ratio seems to have tipped over to the point where those shops basically 20% anime/videogame stuff and 80% porn) The day I was walking down to Nipponbashi, I bumped into a random market that sold seafood, produce, and miscellaneous goods. In some ways, it was a nice culmination of everything I was looking for during that trip. Also the rivers give the city a unique look.

And here's some random tips:

  • Japan-Guide is your friend. There are plenty of Japan travel sites, but this is probably the best one I found while I was doing my research. It was a consistently good resource for me. It has a lot of good information ranging from different cities, districts, and recommendations based on activities. Like do you want to go to a temple, but don't know where to look? Check out their guide on temples.
  • 7-11 / 7 & i Holdings was the most reliable place to find an ATM that takes American credit cards like Visa. It felt like every other day I was going to a 7 & i Holdings just to get some extra cash in case I needed it. Generally speaking, I paid for almost everything in cash to make some things easier and to avoid situations where I went to dinner and found out later they don't take credit cards.
  • Google Maps is very helpful. If you are in a place like Tokyo, you can use Google Maps to show how to get to your destination, specify you are walking or using trains, and it will show you the next five or six trains that are coming at your stop. (A lot of stations in Tokyo have a lot of trains back to back, like every two minutes, so this is mainly useful for some lines that run less frequently) Besides that, Google Maps was reliable for me to find my destination or to figure out how to get back to my hotel.
  • If you are staying around some of the major cities and are going to be there for a little while, I would get a JR Pass. JR is one of the main companies that runs the train and subway lines in Tokyo. This won't cover everything, like I encountered different subway lines in Osaka and Kyoto, but it will allow you to board any JR train for free. I took a couple of JR bullet trains from Tokyo to Kyoto and (I think) from Kyoto to Osaka for free. If you are going to spend a lot of time around Tokyo, it is really convenient. If you have to take a couple of bullet trains, it will make your life easier and it will pay for itself to an extent.
  • I'm not sure if you have any interest in going to the Ghibli Museum, but if you were to go there, you need to get your ticket in advance. There's a Japanese travel agency that allows you to request a ticket, and I think they will mail it to you in advance.
  • In terms of cellphone coverage, you should look into your carrier. When I went over there, since I had Sprint, they had unlimited talk, data, and text for Japan for like $5 a month. I'm not sure if it is as easy for other carriers, but whatever their solution is, you should think about this before you go.
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xkkzz

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+1 for JR pass, but it's not as useful for the time you spend staying in Tokyo, so keep that in mind when scheduling which days it's active for.

If you will be hopping cities a lot (as you should IMO), you should use a small suitcase that fits inside a coin locker. Most train stations have lockers and it's very useful to be able to park your stuff somewhere and go do something unencumbered, instead of lugging your crap around until you can check in to your next hotel. This can let you set an aggressive schedule and really get the most out of that train pass!

The less Japanese you know the more you should plan, including restaurants and stuff. I kind of wasted a lot of time looking around for a decent restaurant on my own while not being able to decipher what like 80% of them even offer... and then giving up and going to Matsuya or something. But if you plan it out or get a recommendation, it gives you the confidence to walk in and say "give me this thing"

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DarlingDixie

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#10  Edited By DarlingDixie

Three words: Convenience store chicken

Every day I have FamilyMart boneless chicken for lunch, if I wasn't sick I would go out and get some right this moment.

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picot

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Don't know about the Bombcast, but it depends on a number of factors: duration of trip, budget, where you're going exactly, intention of the trip (food, sightseeing, shopping), etc.

There are a number of guides and blog posts on things to do that you could search up on. A couple for your convenience are:

http://www.weegypsygirl.com/budget-travel-japan/

https://asiatravelbug.com/blog/tokyo-itinerary-7-days-japan-travel/

https://www.thepoortraveler.net/2016/12/tokyo-travel-guide-expenses/

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@dstopia said:

Related to the last sentence, ignore the GB crew for traveling advice. Other than Drew as far as I can recall they barely explored the country and I always hear them talking about eating American fast food there. Not the place I'd go to for Japan advice.

I'll say this though, whenever I hear Jeff talk about Japan I feel he actually gets it. Sure when it comes to advice on the best travel tips, maybe they won't be perfect, but I always felt like Jeff understood Japan better than just about anyone who has a take to give on it.

Just perspective, I've lived in Japan for over 11 years now, my entire adult life basically. Being someone who uses the internet often I, like most people, have seen hundreds upon hundreds of comments of people going on about Japan because the internet is obsessed with it. Usually it's just people talking about the weird or giving their view from the 3 weeks they were here as a tourist and usually you hear the same stuff. Jeff might of been the first person when I heard him talk about Japan, didn't come off as one of these people, he would mention parts that others didn't. Like he had a better feel for the country. It's weird.

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OGBigCarl

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They seem to bring up super potato when talking about Japan on the bombcasts a lot. I just want to mention that I was far more impressed with all the games at the Super Potato in Ikebukuro than the one in Akihabara. It's still worth it to hit up the store in Akihabara, but if you want to see a ton of games go to the one in Ikebukuro, Don't forget to hang out on the fighting game floor of an arcade for a while, playing sf3s/GGxrd in a smokey room was a cool experience.

If you are into sneakers and so on go to Kicks Lab in Harajuku and all the stores around it.