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N00b traveling to Japan this October - need some advice :-)

Darmstadt, Germany
Level Contributor
6 posts
10 reviews
N00b traveling to Japan this October - need some advice :-)

OK, I'm not really a "travel n00b" but I am definitely a Japan n00b! I'm reading stuff about Japan, looks amazing, I'm a bit scared but also excited for my upcoming vacation, surely it will be unforgettable :-)

I'm going on a solo trip to Japan October 4th - 25th. I would like to ask some more expert user for some advice. Part of my trip has been already finalized, part not. In particular, I have 4 questions left.

First of all, here is my itinerary plan.

I'm landing in Tokyo Narita on October 5th early morning. I'm probably staying for a few hours at the capsule hotel at the airport just for the experience, since it would be too early to check-in in any hotel in Tokyo anyway. Then I'll move to some accommodation in Tokyo downtown - I haven't booked it yet, I was thinking of some minshuku-style inn if possible, something mid-range. I'm planning of leaving Tokyo on Oct 11th, and I'd rather stay all the time in the same hotel, to save time.

First question: what area of the city would you recommend me to search for accommodation? It should be convenient for public transport, and possibly close to bars / nightlife areas where I can get in touch with locals more than tourists.

On the 11th I'm getting the Shinkansen to Kyoto, I reserved a 2-night stay in a beautiful ryokan onsen in the mountains north of Kyoto. I'll spend only 2 nights there, then I'm moving back to Kyoto downtown for other 3 nights and 2 full days.

Second question, similar to the first one: convenient area in Kyoto downtown to recommend? More for the historical / traditional flavor than for the nightlife this time.

On Oct 16th I'll leave Kyoto and move to Osaka. I'll stay 3 nights there: one full day to visit the city's main attractions, and one day to visit Himeji castle. Then I'm flying to Okinawa.

I'll stay 4 nights in Okinawa, scuba diving and visiting islands and beaches around. It is my understanding that by then the typhoon season should be over, and the risk of getting bad weather should be relatively low. Anyway I booked the flight already, so it's pointless to worry about typhoons at this time :P

Third question: is it really necessary to rent a car in Okinawa? Considering that I'll try to spend time at the beach and on the water anyway.

Finally, I'm flying back on the 23rd directly to Tokyo Haneda. I'll stay other 2 nights in Tokyo and then leave on the morning of the 25th from Narita.

Fourth and last question: is a Japan rail Pass really convenient in my case? Considering that the only "long" shinkansen route will be a one-way Tokyo-Kyoto, and that the JR pass will be useless in Okinawa... Do you think it will be still convenient?

Thanks in advance for the answers and sorry for the long post! :)

17 replies to this topic
Level Contributor
4,262 posts
9 reviews
1. Re: N00b traveling to Japan this October - need some advice :-)

>>I'm probably staying for a few hours at the capsule hotel at the airport just for the experience, since it would be too early to check-in in any hotel in Tokyo anyway.<<

Rather than to do squash yourself from economy class (plane) to economy class (accommodation), leave the capsule hotel for some other time, and go to somewhere like Niwa no Yu at Toshimaen for bath, relaxation, and some sleep, before checking in at a proper hotel.

http://www.niwanoyu.jp/niwa/floormap/

>>some minshuku-style inn<<

There aren't really minshukus in Tokyo and other big cities; they are B&Bs in the countryside. I think a budget ryokan like Sawanoya or budget business chain hotels should work for you in Tokyo.

Most hotels in Tokyo are not inconvenient for transport (check with Google Map first though), and most areas around the stations have nightlife in terms of izakayas and bars. You might pick somewhere like Meguro, Ebisu, Asakusa, or Asakusabashi for less expensive accommodation and a sort of local feel.

On Kyoto >>More for the historical / traditional flavor than for the nightlife this time.<<

You might consider a temple stay if you like in Kyoto; Kyoto has its own nightlife around Kawaramachi between Sanjo and Shijo, although that is also sort of traditional and could be recommended.

>>It is my understanding that by then the typhoon season should be over, and the risk of getting bad weather should be relatively low.<<

Yes, typhoon hits less in October, but it can. Also, October could be the last chance to enjoy marine activities - Okinawa is not a tropical island. You can probably/hopefully swim. If you are talking about the island of Okinawa, it is rather large, and you need to take transportation to the beaches unless you are staying at a hotel located on a beach. Whether you need to rent a car or not depends on where you intend to go (and if there is a lot of talk going on about renting a car, perhaps it's because a) there is need for a car to go to the outreaches, b) some of them are Americans, and cars are part of their life).

>>is a Japan rail Pass really convenient in my case?<<

It isn't, at all.

Edited: 05 August 2018, 03:56
Honolulu, Hawaii
Level Contributor
506 posts
19 reviews
2. Re: N00b traveling to Japan this October - need some advice :-)

Do check weather reports prior to your trip and during your trip. A typhoon did hit (graze) Japan mid-October 2017 (my friend was in Osaka that time) and I arrived several days after it hit. So yes, typhoon season should be over but on some occasions, it goes through October.

I also went through typhoon when I was vacationing in the northern Philippines mid/late October in 2009 which was way past the season.

Fukuoka, Japan
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for Fukuoka, Kyushu
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3. Re: N00b traveling to Japan this October - need some advice :-)

The last typhoon I've ever experienced came in December. It may come when it must.

How do you reach beaches in Okinawa? If I stay in a large resort hotel and manage to do all the things including meals inside, I may not hire a car, but I'd probably choose rental car option to enjoy Okinawa.

puerto princesa
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7,453 posts
447 reviews
4. Re: N00b traveling to Japan this October - need some advice :-)

The attractions in Kyoto are spread out in the north, south, east and west. I stayed near the station which was convenient for traveling, but if you want a historic area Gion might be your choice

California
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4,151 posts
335 reviews
5. Re: N00b traveling to Japan this October - need some advice :-)

You have already booked Okinawa, but my advice would have been to stick to main islands Japan, and specifically Honshu. But what is done is done.

You will have three moves in the Kansai ( Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara) and while I understand getting out of the ryokan, the split between Kyoto and Osaka as a base is a time waster given how close the two places are.

You will need to rent a car in Okinawa. Do you have an international driving permit?

Vermont
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3,881 posts
665 reviews
6. Re: N00b traveling to Japan this October - need some advice :-)

Welcome to the Japan forums, ItaGuy83

Beyond all the good ideas already given you, here's my ¥2 worth of advice re: <<On Oct 16th I'll leave Kyoto and move to Osaka. I'll stay 3 nights there: one full day to visit the city's main attractions...>>

Why move? Just extend your stay in Kyoto and do a day trip to Osaka. Unless, of course, you plan on doing some very late night partying and don't want to return to Kyoto late at night.

Darmstadt, Germany
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6 posts
10 reviews
7. Re: N00b traveling to Japan this October - need some advice :-)

Thanks a lot to everybody for the insightful tips!

Regarding staying 6 nights in Kyoto instead of moving to Osaka: yes, probably you're right, maybe I'll do that instead. I had actually thought about it, the stupid thing is that my flight to Okinawa leaves from Osaka Itami... but the flight is quite late, around 2 PM, so I guess I'll have enough time to reach the airport leaving in the morning from Kyoto. So, I'll just look for a decent accommodation in Kyoto, which is nicer and more interesting than Osaka anyway as far as I can read. I will go to Osaka on a day trip.

Regarding JR Pass: yes, as I thought it's probably not convenient in my case. Any recommendation for a 7-day public transport pass for Tokyo - and another one for the Kyoto area?

Regarding Okinawa: I currently have a Swiss driving license, as far as I understand I can make it international for a small added fee, I'll do it in the next days. I'll plan that part of my vacation later, but yes, probably it would make sense to rent a car anyway if the prices are reasonable compared to local transport. Let's see.

>> go to somewhere like Niwa no Yu at Toshimaen for bath, relaxation, and some sleep

This sounds interesting, I'm not sure it's gonna be convenient though. Did you go there already? Basically my flights lands at 7 AM and I'll be jet lagged as hell. I could probably survive the trip to the spa but I might risk falling asleep in the water :D I read that they have a "nap area" though, so it might be worth. Is the place easy to reach from the airport? Will they store my luggage while I'm in?

Thanks again!

Fukuoka, Japan
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for Fukuoka, Kyushu
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8. Re: N00b traveling to Japan this October - need some advice :-)

I think you won't be able to drive by the driver's license issued by Switzerland. Instead, driving with the Japanese translation along with the original license will be permitted. The translation must be done by the embassy, the consulate, or JAF office. The translation is valid as long as your original license is effective.

London, England
Destination Expert
for Solo Travel
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10,985 posts
28 reviews
9. Re: N00b traveling to Japan this October - need some advice :-)

From Naha, the main city on Okinawa, it is easy (by taxi or monorail +walking, no car necessary) to get the ferry to Zamami where there are beaches, snorkelling and scuba diving as well as resorts for doing those things.

There are also other islands close to Zamami that would be good for beach holidays.

Ishigaki is a flight from Naha and ferries go from there to wilder islands.

Although the Manta Scramble on Ishigaki is fantastic.

The Okinawa airport has a monorail into the city, which I am geek enough to find incredibly cool. The reception area of my Naha hotel connected to a monorail stop by a curved ariel walkway.

I have tried staying in various areas in Tokyo and keep returning to Asakusa. It is an old area of Tokyo and on a human scale. If your idea of Tokyo is streets lined with skyscrapers, Asakusa won't meet that, but it is an area where poking around alley ways will show you gardens in pots and old workshops.

I love ryokens and minshukus but I also love Japanese business hotels.

The rooms are small (but IME fine for a solo traveller) and are immaculate with ensuite bathrooms.

The breakfasts vary from wonderful to just ok but the views are sometimes spectacular.

The prices are usually very reasonable and they are a very Japanese cultural experience.

If you are leaving from Haneda you might think about staying in the area around Hamamatsucho Station for your last couple of days.

The monorail to Haneda leaves from there and while one side of the station is all office buildings, if you go towards the river, there is a proper Tokyo neighbourhood with proper neighbourhood restaurants (I was the only European where I had dinner but was greeted with friendly smiles).

There are free apps for the Tokyo Metro and they are well worth having. I use Metro Maps which also has free maps for the Kyoto metro, Osaka metro and the JR Shinkansen, I also had also a map app for the Naha monorail but I think it is from a different supplier.

Be careful. I went to Japan for a "once in a lifetime" in 2009. I have now spent almost 20 weeks in Japan over 5 different trips and am going for a 6th time for a month next January/February.

It is an amazing place to visit and so varied you keep coming back.

Re Driving: With my UK license I just need an International Driving Permit, which I can get from a post office,

It is worth checking whether that works from a German license before you start buying translations.

Edited: 05 August 2018, 16:01
Darmstadt, Germany
Level Contributor
6 posts
10 reviews
10. Re: N00b traveling to Japan this October - need some advice :-)

Thanks a lot again for the replies!

Regarding my stay in Tokyo, I considered all the options you guys gave me, but it's not easy. I wanted to stay in Ebisu, but the options are EXTREMELY limited there considering that I'm looking for a single room. Same applies for Waseda, which I also considered. Odds are slightly better in Asakusa. I have found some good options close to Ueno and Minami-Senju.

>> Be careful. I went to Japan for a "once in a lifetime" in 2009. I have now spent almost 20 weeks in Japan over 5 different trips and am going for a 6th time for a month next January/February.

This is scaaaryyy :D

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