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A few ways to prepare for your trip

You wonder what to visit?

First of all, here is a map of Japan, with the different prefectures.

map of Japan

The main island, Honshū, is divided into 5 more or less touristic regions:

Japan has many other islands to discover, such as Shikoku, Hokkaidō, Kyūshū and Okinawa, so don't just visit Honshū...

How to prepare for your stay?

Ideal length of stay

2 to 3 weeks.
Japan is a small country, but there are so many things to visit... One week is too short!
If you can take only one week of holidays, you should go to Kinki and mainly Kyōto. It will be difficult to visit Tōkyō and Kyōto in only one week.
If you can take 2 or 3 weeks, you can visit several regions. You can arrive in Japan in Ōsaka (KIX) and visit Kyōto, Nara and Ōsaka, then go to Tōkyō and go back home from Tōkyō - Narita (NRT). You can of course do it in reverse : arrive in Tōkyō - Narita and go back home from Ōsaka KIX. If you plan to take the shinkansen, the Japanese high-speed train, more than twice, you should buy a JR PASS coupon before coming to Japan.

Travel agency or not?

Can you plan your trip by yourself ? With Internet, you can easily book for plane, hotels and ryōkan (japanese inn) and visits, with an English speaking local guide for instance.
In Japan, you can find Japanese English speaking guides and interpreters. You can ask them questions and discover in a better way food culture, everyday life, the respect of Japanese people for traditions and the origin of their mentality, in a word, who they really are. You won't find it in books nor on the Internet websites of traval agencies, because it's a discover you'll make on site.
The advantage of a travel agency is that you won't loose time finding accommodations, restaurants, transports and so on. If you have no time to enquire about Japan before coming, it's a good solution. But tours also have drawbacks : little freedom, setted routes and visit of the most touristic sites.

How to come to Japan?

From abroad, you can choose to arrive :

What budget?

Meals

In Japan, there are plenty of restaurants. You can have lunch or dinner for low prices.
In most of the hotels, breakfast is included, but if you prefer to have it outside, it will be around 500yens per person. You can also buy food at a bakery or a konbini (convenience store, opened 24h a day).
At restaurant, you should reckon on 1,000 to 2,000yens per person for lunch and 1,000 to 3,000yens for dinner. If you eat more luxuous meals, like sushi or kaiseki, it will costs 3,000 to 10,000yens per person.

Accommodations

In Japan, you'll find a lot of hotels and ryōkan (traditionnal japanese inn). Of course, you should book before coming, in particular if you come to Japan in april for cherry blossom... If so, book about 3 to 6 months in advance. It's about 10,000 to 20,000yens a night per person.
In hotels, you can chose between a single, a twin (two single beds) or a double room. In some hotels, you can ask for a third bed, but most of the time, it will be a sofa-bed.
In ryōkan, you'll sleep in a futon, like Japanese people. I especially recommend them for families, for their pleasant and friendly setting. Enquire about your ryōkan, as some of them have a onsen (thermal bath), typical pleasure of a trip in Japan.
You can also find less expensive accommodation (about 3,000yens a night per person), in youth hostels.
Finally, you can sleep in some temples (shukubō) for approximatively 10,000yens a night per person.

Entries of sites

If you visit temples, gardens or castles, it will cost about 300 to 600yens per person and per site. When there are night illuminations, in spring and autumn, entries are between 500 and 800yens.
Some famous temples are a bit more expensive (until 3,000yens).
If you visit museums, entries cost from 500 to 1,000yens.
Contact us for more details.

Transports

JR Pass

The JR Pass allows you to take the trains of the six subgroups of the JR company, throughout Japan (Hokkaidō, East, Central, West, Shikoku et Kyūshū), except the shinkansen Nozomi and Mizuho (Tōkaidō, Sanyō et Kyūshū lines). If you plan to travel a lot, it is very profitable and very convenient to travel into Japan. This pass is also valid for JR buses and the ferry to Miyajima Island, off Hiroshima. You must purchase a voucher from a travel agency or licensed shop in your country of residence before coming to Japan
Upon entering Japanese territory, a temporary visa (stamp or Temporary Visitor sticker) will be given to you by the immigration office at the airport. Once you have obtained the visa, you can go to a JR counter to exchange your voucher for a JR Pass. This exchange must be made within three months of the purchase of the voucher. Your pass is valid for 7, 14 or 21 days from the first validation, depending on what you bought. You can decide on the date of first use at the time of exchange of the voucher. For more details, please contact us.

Kintetsu Rail Pass

Kintetsu is a Kinki railway company. The Kintetsu Rail Pass allows you to take Kintetsu trains unlimitedly. It is convenient to travel in the Kinki: Ōsaka, Nara, Kyōto, Ise-Shima, Nagoya, ...
The train is free for children under 6 years old. It is valid 5 days after the first use. All you have to do is to show your pass at the ticket counter at the platform entrance, to get to the train.
You can buy this pass at Kansai Airport Agency Travel Desk, in Kansai International Airport (KIX). The office is open from 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Kyōto City Bus All-day Pass

In downtown Kyōto and towards Arashiyama, a bus ride costs 230 yen for an adult and 120 yen for a child. Towards the northern suburbs, the price is a little higher and depends on the distance travelled. On the buses that serve this destination, you will need to take a small ticket when you enter the bus. Above is a number that will let you know how much you have to pay. The price is displayed on a screen at the front of the bus.
Be aware that at the Japan, you enter from the back, go down from the front and pay when you get off the bus. If you don't have the extra, you have to make change in the machine to the driver's left. You insert your bill into the opening in front of you, on the right and the machine returns you the equivalent in coins. To avoid keeping passengers waiting, please change before your stop. When getting out the bus, insert the amount due, in the opening on the top.
The one-day card (500 yen for an adult, 250 yen for a child) is valid if you take the bus at least three times in the same day. You can buy it at the Bus Ticket Center, in front of Kyōto station, at a vending machine or at the bus driver. At the first use, you must pass the card in the machine to the left of the driver (opening in front of you, on the left). Afterwards, all you have to do is show the driver the date on your ticket. Please note that this card is only valid in the city centre and towards Arashiyama. You will have to pay extra if you go to the northern suburbs.

Shiei Chikatetsu One-day Free Ticket

In Kyōto, the underground is very convenient. The price varies depending on the destination, for example 210 yen from Kyōto to Shijō (Karasuma Line) or Karasuma-Oike (manga museum and correspondence with Tōzai Line) and 260 yen from Kyōto to Nijōjō-mae (Nijō Castle) or Keage (Nanzenji temple).
The Shiei Chikatetsu One-day Free Ticket, which costs 600 yen for an adult and 300 yen for a child (6-11 years old), allows you to take the subway and bus all day. You can buy the pass at the vending machines of all the underground stations in Kyōto. This pass also allows you to get discounts at Nijō Castle, Kyōto Museum of Culture, Kyōto Municipal Zoo Kyōto Municipal Museum, Murin-an Garden, International Manga Museum, Gion Corner, Kyōto Aquarium and Kyōto Botanical Garden.

Osaka Enjoy Eco Card

The bus will cost you 210 yen for an adult and 110 yen for a child from 6 to 11 years old (free for under 6, up to 2 children accompanied by an adult). For the underground, the conditions are the same, but the price varies from 180 to 370 yen (adult) or 90 to 190 yen (child) depending on the area.
The Enjoy Eco Card allows you to travel one day, unlimitedly, on the municipal buses and subways of Ōsaka. It costs 800 yen (300 yen for children) on weekdays and 600 yen on weekends and holidays. It also allows you to get discounts at some sites.