Continuing our post from yesterday, we’re looking forward to our time in Japan – our second stop on our Round The World trip.
To get set, we recently bought a pair of seven-day JR Rail Passes to help us transverse Japan which has a land area about the size of California. After doing some research, The JR Rail Pass seems like our best bet for getting around Japan. While the cost of the second-class ticket set us back a sweet $350 per pass, it looks like it is going to be money well spent. The pass covers you for a seat on just about any long-distance train (including the famed Shinkasen bullet train), intra-city travel and ferries. There are exceptions on locations, but overall this is designed for tourists. You must purchase the pass before you get to Japan. The handy staff at the Morningside Heights 112th street STA helped get us set.
Yesterday, we shared some feedback from our friend Dax who lived in Japan for a number of years. Below are some more of his incredibly helpful tips based on his own extensive experiences:
Like New York, trains in Tokyo run local and express (plus sometimes super-express). Unlike New York, the trains don’t run at night, so make sure to find out what time your last train leaves. The last train often doesn’t go all the way to the end of the line, so also make sure that it will stop at your station. If you end up stranded, though, no one minds if you sleep on the station floor. When buying tickets, the price varies depending on the distance, even inside the cities (New York felt like an all-you-can-ride-buffet after Japan), so you have to put your ticket in the turnstile both entering and leaving the station.
Just for the hell of it, I recommend riding a train at rush hour, simply for the adrenalizing madness. It literally feels like being at the very front of a music festival crowd. I would try to convey the crush to friends and family, but when they visited me, they would still get on a mildly crowded train and say: “Wow, this train is crowded!” And I would say: “Haven’t you read my emails? Do you have both feet on the floor? Does your body not feel like it’s wrapped with a python? Then this train is not crowded.”
Summer is festival time in Japan, so if you ever see crowds of people and music, go in. The Japanese never mind foreigners entering their festivals. If you see people doing a coordinated dance in a circle, jump in and try to follow along. The Japanese around you will probably laugh and show you how to do the dance.
For train travel, Excellent portable snacks are onigiri, which are seaweed-wrapped rice balls with a little filling like tuna or pickles. You can buy these in any convenience store. The plastic wrappers are very conveniently designed if you know the correct way to open them, so ask a Japanese person (like the clerk) to show you how.
I think Lonely Planet makes the best guidebooks for Japan (and just about every other country).
Have fun and good luck!!