Sunday, February 12, 2017

Things to know before flying to.. Japan!

Travelling around in Japan was one of my greatest fears, because omg so confusing!
Other than that it's the language barrier, which would be even worse if we get lost.

Since I'm safely back, I can confidently say that my worries were uncalled for. :D

Download a local train maps app to navigate easily

I think I have a collection of train maps from the countries I've been; Korea, Taiwan, HK, Japan.
Most of them are extremely helpful, calculating the trip duration, cost, and even planning the route to take.
Using the network map helps you to keep track of where you are - which I find especially useful for countries like Korea and Japan.,
cause you have no idea what they are announcing sometimes hahahaha.

For Japan, I used Japan Rail for the network map, and Japan Trains to plan routes.
Sadly I didn't find an awesome one that combined both functions hahah.

The beauty of Japan Rail is that it separates the different train networks of each region, so that it doesn't get too overwhelming.
You only download the region you're going, so simple!
The network lines are colored accurately too, so you'll have no problem if you use line colors for recognition.

For Japan Trains, simply input the start and end points and they'll give you a range of options.
Not only are there suggestions based on shortest duration, they provide no. of transfers as well.
Their train schedule is pretty accurate too.

Which brings me to my next point..

Check the train schedules in advance, and don't be late!
Japan trains are split into the following categories:

1. Shinkansen/Bullet train
Mostly serving major stations, Shinkansen is Japan's most famous and fastest way to travel among regions.
Needless to say, tickets can be quite expensive.
There are 4 types available: Nozomi, Mizuho, Hikari, and Kodama in the order of fastest speed/lesser stations first.

2. Tokkyu/Limited Express
Similar to Shinkansen, the limited express trains only serve major stations, but travels at slightly slower speeds.

3. Kyuko/Express
Stops at more stations than Limited Express trains, and travels at the same speed.
There may be Special Express trains which only run at certain timings.

4. Kaisoku/Rapid
Stops at more stations than Express trains, and travels at the same speed

5. Futsu/Local
Stops at every station along the line.

Easy right~
Basically when you're booking the tickets, check that the station is listed on the train stops.
Check the type of train - which will be displayed next to the doors and on the info board - before boarding and you'll be safe :D

Similar to Taiwan, the trains arrive and leave exactly on the dot.
For busier stations, you might have an extra 2 or 3 minutes? Hahaha.

Keep in mind also that the train stations can be very big and might be confusing.
So allow yourself more buffer time to find the platforms.
Especially if you're travelling with your luggage omg :x
The rush hour can be quite scary too.

Should I be buying a JR Pass?
It's every question that travelers love to ask hahahah.

For JR Pass, it is only usable on JR trains and Shinkansen (Hikari only).
If you intend to travel across regions in Japan, e.g. Osaka to Tokyo,
then yes, JR pass is worth it for the Shinkansen tickets alone, since you can use it for JR express and local trains.
But if you're staying in only 1 region, or even Osaka/Kyoto, there is no need. :D

Getting around is a breeze with IC cards
I sound like some credit card ad LOL

Other than the JR Pass, IC cards are a must have for traveling, as they work with non-JR trains.
It's a prepaid card which can be used for subway, metro, buses, vending machines, and even convenience stores.
Saves you the trouble to buying tickets - just tap in and out and the correct amount will be deducted.
No need to be scared of buying the wrong tickets liao bwahahah.

Since 2013, no matter which IC card you buy, they are usable in all regions in Japan.
We used SUICA for this trip - because penguin LOL.

Google is still your best friend.. no matter what country you go to.
Google Maps - savior. 'Nuff said.
Google 'how to say beef in Japanese'
Google to check for opening hours in case the website is wrong >:(

If not Google, then ask the locals!
Aim for the younger locals as they're able to understand English most of the time.
Actually even if they don't know how to speak Eigo, they'll try to use some sign language also hahah.
They're actually quite friendly; one uncle noticed we were looking for our way and offered his help without us asking!
So kind heheh.

Seriously, Japan turned out to be a more easygoing trip than I expected.
Once you've got the train system down pat, it wasn't as difficult as I thought. :D
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