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Thread: Japan - Tokyo holiday

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
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    940

    Default Japan - Tokyo holiday

    I'm looking at heading to Tokyo (using one of my 2-4-1 BA Amex voucher) in First in a few weeks (March/April) for about 14 days.

    I know Tokyo has two airports - what are the differences, one better than the other?

    I just wanted to know if anyone has visited Tokyo recently (since the Tsunami/Earthquake etc) & if everything is back to normal?

    Where is good to stay (100 a night max I'd say)? Don't want anything too fancy but equally not a dump!

    As we are flying First with BA what is the First Class lounge like in Tokyo?

    I'm in the middle of researching hotels, places to visit etc but it's always useful getting first hand knowledge off people here rather than possibly made up review on Tripadvisor.

    Thanks PTSers!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
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    1,125

    Default

    The only thing I can comment authoritively on is are the lounges at Narita. There is no BA lounge so you can use other One World lounges, the best of which are the JAL ones. This is a comment I made on FlyerTalk about them:

    There are JL lounges upstairs and downstairs. The spa is located in the downstairs one. There are a variety of treatments but they are for a very short time - my foot massage on December 27th was for ten minutes although it was pleasant. If you want this go to the spa immediately as it can get booked up leaving no suitable appointment.

    The upstairs lounge tends to be quieter in my experience (morning flights on BA back to the UK). I like the food. They do a nice cold poached egg in a cold clear soup that I enjoy and there are plenty of other things to try. However, I am new to Japanese food and I can imagine that people who have visited the county and the lounge often will feel the offer in the morning is limited.

    Both lounges are pleasant places to spend some time awaiting your flight. The J lounge does get very crowded.

    You cannot use a mobile phone in the lounge but they do provide small rooms where you can jabber away to your heart's content without disturbing others; how civilised!

    I would not use the AA lounge. I visited it and found it inferior to the JL one. I have no experience of the CX lounge.

    By the way, they stock mini-Kit Kats.


    (The single letter J above is the frequent flyer code used for business class, JL is JAL, CX is Cathay Pacific, AA is American Airways.)

    They are nowhere near the quality of the Concorde Room in Heathrow. It is worth getting to the airport early to enjoy that lounge. I do not think that the Narita lounges would be worth a lengthy visit and anyway the BA check-in does not open until two and a half or three hours before the flight so you can't spend ages in the airport. At Heathrow you can check-in as early as you like on the day of your flight.

    While the tsumi was devastating, Japan is a rich industrialised country and unless you go looking for aspects of the event you will not notice anything.

  3. #3

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    I travelled to Japan a relatively short time after the tsunami (Jan 2012) and in the areas that I visited in the SW of the country (drove Tokyo-Osaka-Kyoto) you'd never have been aware of the devastation elsewhere.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
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    1,058

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    CD267

    I am guessing it's your first visit to Japan?

    I will assume it is, you will have a great time I think, so different to the UK and the West in general, after visiting Japan I understood why they do some some things so well.

    I have been there a few times, you will find lots to do/visit, the city is very busy, outside the city can be very chilled out.

    Maybe rent a car and drive to Mount Fuji for a day out.

    About the Airports, NRT or HND, if I were to visit again, I would make a decision based on the different local times of the flights to try and manage Jet Lagg as best as possible.

    Have a super time in Japan.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
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    940

    Default

    Thanks for the info so far everyone!

    Yes it is my FIRST time to Japan.

    Re the airports I think it will be to the HND one as that is the one which has most availability (as I am using my Amex 2-4-1 vouhcer). Both directions the flights leave at about 8.00am. So not much choice really!

    I can't speak a single word of Japanese other than 'Sushi'. Will this be a big issue? Do they have info/signage in English?

    I've never driven in a foreign country before! What side of the road do they drive on - any major differences between their roads & ours?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Posts
    1,125

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    They drive on the right side, that is the left!!

    Same side as us.

    Don't worry about driving - I can only speak personally but I've never had a problem driving abroad. You get used to it very quickly. Most road systems channel you in the correct direction; I keep singing "Always look on the bright side of life" substituting look for drive, bright for right and life for road. Although right is wrong. it jogs the memory!

    HND is nearer the centre of Tokyo but the flight times are better for NRT - personal choice really especially if flying using your Avios.

    It's a fascinating place; have fun.

  7. #7

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    Driving in Japan is really easy, the cars are RHD and the road layouts are just like here at home, the Japanese are quite well-mannered drivers too .
    The only issue for the independent traveller driving around I'd say is the language issue.
    All the road signs are in Japanese and English but it isn't a country that is particularly easy to navigate around with no knowledge of the language!
    Our Mazda hire car at Tokyo Narita airport had factory satnav but all the programming instructions and display were in Japanese with no English option!
    Luckily the Hertz rep when we picked the car up was a good English-speaker and he was able to input all our destinations into the car before we left.
    English isn't as widely spoken as you'd might imagine, but all the people are incredibly polite and helpful to foreigners, its a great country to visit.


  8. #8

    Default

    Hi CD627,

    Congratulation on choosing Japan for your holiday. I'm sure you will love it!!
    I used to live & work there, but many years ago so not the best person to advise you on your airport questions.
    Also I was based near Osaka so always used Osaka International Airport.

    Some tips:
    Many Japanese people understand English but may be hesitant to use it as they don't want to make a mistake. In the city if you are lost or stuck buying a train ticket from the machine, dont worry someone will help you!

    Driving is fine, but outside the city centres road signs may just be in Japanese. I used to read a map and count the junctions, luckily I am good at navigating (must be part homing pigeon!!) if you are not then why not take the shinkansen (bullet train) to Osaka/Kyoto, you get a good view of Mount Fuji en route. Alternatively there are many over night sleeper buses.

    The roads in the city can be VERY congested, there are toll roads that you can pay to escape some of it!! I have driven Osaka to Tokyo & back many times, but it really depends on what you are planning to do. If I was doing touristy things I would probably use the trains!

    The public transport in Japan is fantastic, on time, clean, efficient and safe. (How my heart sank when I had to return to the UK rail network!!).

    Having said that if you take the train in rush hour be prepared to have men in white gloves literally push you on to the train to get the doors shut!!! Not an experience for any one with claustrophobia!!! (but you get used to it!!).

    Do try to time your visit with the cherry blossom season (usually early April but varies!)... sitting having a picnic under a forest of cherry blossom in full bloom is amazing. I would suggest Kyoto. Also many lovely temples to visit there!!
    (Visit temples EARLY to avoid the guided tours and the LOUD tannoys!!)

    Do try the Japanese food, I loved it!! The sushi, fresh tofu etc is wonderful, so fresh and also induldge in some Sake (though not with the Sushi!!).
    Many restaurants have plastic mock ups of dishes in the windows so you can get a rough idea what you are eating.

    You will find the Japanese very kind, polite and hospitable but be prepared that people will stare especially if you have blond hair, you may hear people on the train whispering "Gaijin" they are talking about you (Gaijin = foreigner/outsider). But don't worry Japan is very safe compared to the UK
    (Just don't mess with the men with many tattoos! (Yakusa!) )

    Go to a traditional Onsen (Japanese Spa baths) sitting outside in natural hot springs enjoying the crisp air is amazing!!

    Spend a few mad hours in the technology retail districts, again be prepared for the LOUD tannoys but they will have some fabulous gadgets and techy things.

    I agree Trip Advisor hotel reviews can be hit or miss, you have to read plenty to get the general idea!! I do find the Trip Advisor forums useful though as they will have local Destination Experts who have great local knowledge and you can also search the forums for lots of useful info.

    Remember if you visit someone's home... it's strictly shoes off at the door (slippers will be provided) then if you enter a room with tatami matting... take the slippers off! (So make sure you have decent socks on!! )There will probably be another pair of slippers to put on if you visit the toilet. You get used to it!! And be prepared for the high tech toilets, I will say no more!!

    If you stay at someone's house overnight, you will be expected to bathe before anyone else in the house can. You use a shower to wash and rinse off and then (when clean!) sit in the tiny bath. Everyone will use the same water.

    It's considered rude to blow your nose in public, (preferable to sniff it up - urgh!), polite to slurp your noodles, and don't be suprised to see many Japanese on the trains & underground with white surgical type masks on... it's commonplace.

    Do learn some basic Japanese: please, thank you etc. It's not hard and people will really appreciate it!!

    After writing all that... I want to go back now!!! Have fun!!
    Last edited by mutley muppet; 25th January 2014 at 22:53.
    Please adopt a rescued dog or cat from your local animal shelter!

  9. #9

    Default

    Narita quite far from Tokyo, there are regular trains into Tokyo, don't get a taxi from Narita that will cost a fortune.

    I'd recommend getting a Pasmo card for getting around on the underground, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pasmo it's like an Oyster card. You have to pay a little for the card but it means you don't need to buy a ticket for each journey you take on the underground as you just load the card up with credit.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Posts
    940

    Default

    So the flights are booked & we are going to sort the hotels in the next couple of days.
    We aren't just going to stay in Tokyo we want to go across Japan to Kyoto, Osaka, Okayama etc. Maybe a 1 or 2 nights in each place with most time spent in Tokyo.
    Couple of questions for those in the know :
    I don't think we will bother renting a car so I've been researching the 1 week/2 week rail pass tourists can buy OUTSIDE of Japan before they arrive which basically gives unlimited travel on most trains (excludes to super fast bullet trains on some lines I think). Can anyone recommend somewhere to purchase these tickets & a expected price to pay?

    Mobile phones/internet : thinking of just taking a pay as you go sim in an old Nokia N95 or iPhone out with me so I don't run up huge bills. Whats the internet/wifi availability like out there in restaurants, cafes, bars etc? Do you have to pay?

    The hot spring baths - do you REALLY have to go naked in them?

    Can anyone confirm that we don't need visas or vaccinations if just going on holiday for 2 weeks? Just want to double check! Haha

    I'm sure I'll be back seeking more info from you guys that have been before. I'm starting to get excited!

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