Posted by: jrhorse | November 17, 2017

Japan Trip 2017 Video #2

Presenting my next Japan travel video! This covers the activity on October 11.

I’ve landed at Narita, and am making my way towards Tokyo as the weather gets worse. I’ve planned to visit Tokyo SkyTree tonight, and I read that the clouds will eventually break up later in the evening. Will the reports hold true? Watch the video to find out! I’ll also stroll a bit around the SkyTree, finding one of my favorite drinks in a vending machine along the way.

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Posted by: jrhorse | November 13, 2017

Japan Trip 2017 Video #1

Thanks for waiting… here is the first Japan travel video! In this video I focus on my travel experience flying to Tokyo Narita airport.

As this video focuses ONLY on flying, those who want to see what happens after I actually set foot in Japan should wait for the next video…

OTHERWISE, please enjoy this first video, which runs over 20 minutes. You’ll see how I traveled in a premium class of service, thanks to redeeming my American Airlines frequent flyer miles. This cost 60,000 miles to travel in international business class. My connecting flight, from Dallas to Tokyo, was in Japan Airlines’ 787 Dreamliner.

 

Posted by: jrhorse | November 5, 2017

Japan Trip Teaser Video Posted!

Hello! It’s already been almost two weeks since I returned from Japan, and I miss it already!

I’m sorry to have been silent here on the blog as I’ve focused my posts on my Facebook page, and a little bit on Instagram too. Now that I am starting to review all of my photos and videos I hope to share all of the experiences of my trip with you here!

The first video is available, and that’s the teaser video! I used software called Quik from GoPro, which is free to download, to automatically assemble photos and videos set to music. This gives you a first glimpse at what I saw in Japan. Enjoy!

Posted by: jrhorse | October 9, 2017

Ready to depart for Japan – Video Update

Posted by: jrhorse | October 8, 2017

Time to go back to Japan!

This week I will go to Japan for the fourth time.

It’s wonderful to be able to go across the Pacific horizons again and visit a culture that I’ve appreciated for almost all my life.

I am still lacking in my Japanese after all these years, but I’ll manage.

The preparation is over. The luggage is packed… almost.

I’ll try to share some updates here, but during the trip I’ll most likely be sharing updates on my Facebook page (facebook.com/myjapantips), on Twitter/Periscope (@myjapantips) and on Instagram (jrsideproject).

I look forward to sharing my progress with everyone.

間もなく, 日本… Here I come!

Posted by: jrhorse | September 26, 2017

Japan Travel Update – talking Japanese Currency

It’s less than 15 days until I start my fourth trip to Japan. In today’s video update I introduce you to the different types of Japanese currency.

Posted by: jrhorse | August 29, 2017

Are you sure you need a Japan Rail Pass?

I have a new video update that was posted today to my Facebook page, located at facebook.com/myjapantips.

Amidst the unusually cool weather for a late August day in Upstate New York, I tackled the issue of the national Japan Rail Pass. Many online sites have articles that claim that the Japan Rail Pass is the best deal for train travel in Japan, and you have to get your hands on one.

The first part of that statement is true. The second? Not necessarily.

The Japan Rail Pass provides unlimited travel on Japan Railways lines, including all shinkansen trains (except Nozomi and Mizuho) for 7, 14 or 21 consecutive days in either ordinary class or green class (first class). You can also make free seat reservations on all services that offer them, which include bullet trains and many limited express services, such as the Narita Express and Haruka trains to/from Narita Airport and Kansai Airport, respectively.

To obtain a Japan Rail Pass, you purchase a voucher in your home country from a travel agency, and exchange the voucher for the actual pass when you arrive in Japan. This year JR has started trial sales for the pass in Japan with no voucher exchange necessary, but at higher prices.

The most important question – or perhaps the only question – that you have to ask yourself is: Will getting a pass be cheaper than buying regular tickets?

To answer this question, put together a list of cities that you would like to visit in Japan. Then, figure out the fares between the two cities. Several online sites will tell you the amount. Two sites I recommend are HyperDia and the JR East site (the latter only lets you search bullet train fares by individual line).

One example: If you’re in Japan for a week, and will only travel between Tokyo and Kyoto, a 7-Day Rail Pass (29,110 yen for ordinary class) might not work out, as the regular round-trip fare between these two cities is cheaper (27,820 yen). If, on the other hand, you add another side trip, then the rail pass might pay off.

If your trip includes visits to, say, Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Fukuoka or Hokkaido – which just gained access to the bullet train network recently – then you most certainly can look into a national rail pass. There are also a plethora of regional and local passes that are available… if you’re just meandering around Tokyo for example, consider one of several day passes, including the Tokunai Pass for unlimited JR travel in one day for 750 yen, or the 24-hour Tokyo Metro open ticket for 600 yen. You could also use a stored fare card such as a Suica or PASMO card.

Be sure to do your homework to see if a Rail Pass is something you really need!

Posted by: jrhorse | August 26, 2017

IC Card Shinkansen Ticketing arrives in September

As my next trip to Japan is approaching sooner than I think, I have an update concerning shinkansen ticketing using IC cards.

IC cards go by many monikers in Japan (Suica and PASMO in Tokyo, Toica in central Japan, Icoca in western Japan, etc), but no matter the name, the IC card is an indispensable piece of hardware that make traveling on trains easy. No need to figure out how much a train or a bus costs between point A and point B… just tap your IC card when getting on and getting off, and the correct fare will be deducted from the stored balance on the card. Cards can easily be topped up at train stations and convenience stores, and can be used to pay for items at shops and a growing number of vending machines.

As reported on this blog in February 2016, JR Central and JR West, operators of the Tokaido and San’yo Shinkansen – arguably the two most important bullet train lines in the country – were said to be making plans to introduce some sort of mobile ticketing system for their bullet trains that would be tied to IC cards.

These plans have now been confirmed in a Japanese-language press release from both companies. Starting September 30, 2017, a new service called SMART EX will begin operation, allowing passengers to purchase bullet train tickets on the Tokaido and San’yo Shinkansen using a major credit card and then “store” the details onto a linked IC card. The IC card would then be used to enter through the ticket barriers.

Earlier indications were that the new system would be foreigner-friendly. Following the recent JR press release, the travel site Japan-Guide.com has reported that a dedicated, bilingual website will be created. Passengers would need to create an account, register a credit card, and register a valid IC card.

Of course, if you don’t have an IC card in your possession, you will need to obtain one in Japan before you register for the service. When you use SMART EX to make a shinkansen reservation, you will get a small discount of 200 yen off of the normal fare.

The following brands of IC cards can be used with the new service: Kitaca, Pasmo, Suica, Manaca, Toica, Pitapa, Icoca, Hayakaken, Nimoca and Sugoca.

The following credit cards can be used to purchase tickets: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Diner’s Club and JCB. J-West credit cards, exclusive to Japan, are also eligible.

The service can only be used to make seat reservations for Tokaido Shinkansen and San’yo Shinkansen services, as well as through services between the two lines. Tokaido Shinkansen trains run from Tokyo to Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka, while the San’yo Shinkansen runs from Osaka to Kobe, Okayama, Hiroshima, Kita-Kyushu (Kokura station) and Fukuoka (Hakata station).

You cannot make reservations for Kyushu Shinkansen trains (those that run from Fukuoka to Kumamoto or Kagoshima), and you can’t reserve any bullet train services operated by JR East… in fact, JR East already has a website where you can make train reservations.

If you don’t have a Japan Rail Pass, the SMART EX can be a good way to make bullet train reservations without having to stop at a ticket machine or a ticket counter beforehand. The downside is that you need an IC card in your possession before you can register for the service.

If the reports are true and there indeed is an English option for SMART EX, I may give it a shot on my next trip and report my results!

HT: Japan Guide

Posted by: jrhorse | August 14, 2017

Throwback to June 2004 – Japan Trip 1, Day 1

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Wednesday, June 2, 2004 was my first full day as a tourist in Japan. The day was spent in Tokyo, with stops at the Imperial Palace, Asakusa and Odaiba. Here I posed with some school kids that were interviewing foreign tourists in English outside of Sensoji Temple, the oldest buddhist temple in the city. They gave out small gifts, which included the mailing address of their school. I regret that I never sent them a thank you gift in return. Nevertheless, meeting these young children speaking my language on my first day in another country – a day filled with anticipation and apprehension – made me feel very welcome, and helped deepen my appreciation for Japan even more.

I enjoy reminiscing about the first trip… and I can’t wait for the fourth trip, now less than two months away!

Posted by: jrhorse | July 26, 2017

Japan Travel Update!

A video update on my upcoming trip has been posted on my Facebook page.

In the video I talk about brushing up on my Japanese, rebooking hotels, conjuring a travel budget, and more! Please visit my page on Facebook to view the video: facebook.com/myjapantips

See you there!

 

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