2 weeks in Japan in January

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2 weeks in Japan in January

Avatar for Emmzi99
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Hi everyone,

Me and a friend are planning a trip in January, just for two weeks, and Japan looks like an option we are both really keen on. However, I have 2 main concerns.

1) The time - January is the only time I really know I will be able to have the two weeks off, so it has to be this time we take this trip. This is winter in Japan so I am worried about the weather. As we are not planning to go any further north than Tokoyo, I am hoping it is not going to be too much of a hinderance, and guidebooks all seem to say that travel in Japan is possible pretty much anytime in the year (but spring and autumn are the best times to go) but I would really appreciate some advice from somebody who has been there during this time as to whether they think this is going to hinder us in anyway (other than us having to wear a coat and not getting to see the cherry blossoms!). Especially since most organised tours don’t seem to run at this time, this has got me slightly nervous.

2) The cost - Yes, I know this is a bit of a cliche with Japan but it is a worry! Again, most guides seem to suggest you can get by on about £65 a day if you stick to a tight budget but I usually find guidebook estimates fairly conservative. I am happy staying in basic accommodation and eating basic meals, but I would like to have the occasional nice meal and don’t want to miss out on any experiences because of lack of funds. After my rail pass and air ticket has been paid for, I’m left with about £1,150 (approx £82.00 per day). Do people think this will be suffucient? (I know it’s a bit like asking how long is a piece of string, as I’m sure you could easily spend this in one shop if something takes your fancy, but I’m interested in people’s opinions on this!)

Thanks

     
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Hiya,

When i was on my RTW trip i spent 2 months in Japan so know a little bit about the place.

I can’t comment on the month question too much (i was there between October and November) but even then it was pretty much fine. Few rainy dyas, few cold but was generally warmer than england and no trouble at all in travelling anywhere.

Cost wise you are looking at about £20 a night in a hostel (based on 150 yen to the pound). Food was actually quite cheap. Every type of food has basically a restraunt of increasing value that serves it (i.e. a sushi restraunt could be like economy, medium, nice, pricey or very expensive). It’s quite good because it measn no matter what you wnat you can generally try it for pretty cheap.

A meal at a vending machine restraunt as i call them (pics of the food on a vending machine - you choose what you want, pay for it and then give the ticket you get to the chef who cooks it for you) can cost about £3-5 as is generally really good. Transportation was pretty expensive (but if you are getting a train pass it sorts that). Otherwise it is just sightseeing and drinking. Drinking in bars is generally expensive. Talking at least £3.50 a beer. Buying drinks at 7/11 type stores is pretty cheap and a good way to meet people at the hostels. Sightseeing can get pricey - certain things you thinkk would be quite cheap end up being like £8-10 but then there are so many free things to do (people watching being one of them).

Anyway amazing country and really good fun. Hope something i said may be useful to you.

Jordan

     
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It’s good to know that there are some cheap options out there - although I think exchange rate is bit poorer now. I like to be able to try all the different types of food, I think that’s half the experience, especially somewhere like Japan. And I’m not a massive drinker but do like the odd night out. Did you go to any karaoke bars out there? What are the prices like there?

Anyway, that’s exactly the kind of tips and info I’m after so thanks :D

     
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I was there in January this year for 8 days, only stayed in Tokyo and stayed in a posh hotel so really can’t comment on budgets etc.

But the weather in Tokyo was pretty cold proberly got up to about 8° and down to freezing on the nights. Parts of Japan was covered in snow. From the pictures on the news, couldn’t understand where though lol

     
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Emmzi99 - 19 September 2011 09:11 PM

It’s good to know that there are some cheap options out there - although I think exchange rate is bit poorer now. I like to be able to try all the different types of food, I think that’s half the experience, especially somewhere like Japan. And I’m not a massive drinker but do like the odd night out. Did you go to any karaoke bars out there? What are the prices like there?

Anyway, that’s exactly the kind of tips and info I’m after so thanks :D

Hiya,

There are 2 types of karaoke bars generally. The first are proper bars (generally with either female hostesses or male host who will sing with you). These are normally free but the drinks can be pretty expensive. There are however a few westerner bars that have karaoke machines in just for a laugh.

The 2nd type are what i call karaoke buildings. These are essentially tall buildings with several floors of private rooms. You and your friends can then rent a room for a period of time and sing to your hearts content (really varies array of sttuff from J-pop, jazz, metal etc). The best thing to do is go after midnight. We used to fmeet loads of people in a bar or at the hostel and then all go to to the karaoke palce after being quite drunk. It was then about £25 each to have the room from 12am to like 5am with, and here is the best part, Nomahodi (all you can drink). It’s basically just a great place to drink after the bar closes and you can order food and normally get free soft drinks and ice cream.

Definitley somthing you have to try though!

     
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I’ve been in Japan over the winter (all the way up to Sapporo), and in my opinion you wont’ find it much different to the UK (except that the public transport will still run on time). It will be cold and there might be some snow, but with warm clothing appropriate for a cold UK winter you will not have any trouble. Keep in mind that it will often be freezing in older hostels though (Japanese buildings are designed to be cool in summer, not warm in winter).

Travel: Two weeks isn’t a huge amount of time, and while I would normally recommend the seishun-18 (a cheap but very slow rail pass) for winter travellers you might be better off with a JR pass if you want to see Kyoto/Osaka/Hiroshima as well as Tokyo. Don’t bother with organised tours, the tourist infrastructure is so well-developed you will be able to do everything by yourself.

Accommodation: It is possible to get box-rooms for around Y1000 per night, but you will have to speak some Japanese. Hostels and capsule hotels tend to go for around Y2000-Y4000. Hotels start at Y4000 and go up from there. Alternatives are the karaoke room (already mentioned; generally only worth it with a larger group) and manga cafes (typically Y2000-Y3000 for 8-12 hours overnight; the better ones have sleeping mats).

Food/Drink: If you can self-cater, you will find it about the same price as cooking in the UK (the trick is finding markets). You can eat on an absolute shoestring budget of under Y500 per meal if you use convenience stores, but I wouldn’t recommend it for more than one meal a day unless you are really skint. Hostels that offer breakfast are a good option, as are the vending machine restaurants already mentioned. If you can find a student area, there will be lots of small eateries at good value, and picture/sculpture menus are ubiquitous. Going out at night will be a major wallet-drainer, especially if you go somewhere hostess-y (which I do not recommend). You should try an izakaya (Japanese pub - look for the red lanterns; winter is cheap, hot sake season) and kaiten-zushi (conveyor belt sushi place with prices indicated by the colour of the plate) at least once.

     
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Hey Emmzi,

I was in Tokyo at the beginning of January and it was cold but bearable ... think of winter in the UK and it’s pretty similar. Tokyo can get snow, but it generally doesn’t stick. If you do head further north though (although you’ve said you don’t intend to), be prepared for TONNES of snow!

Timewise, you can do a decent amount in two weeks. I assume that since you’re getting the JR Pass, you are planning to travel to places other than Tokyo. A typical route would be down to Osaka and Kyoto (and maybe Nara as a day trip). Again, it’ll be cold here but nothing so bad as to stop you sightseeing. You could also check out Koya San in Wakayama prefecture, if you fancy staying in a Buddhist monastery! If you want to get your money’s worth from your JR Pass, you could even go to Hiroshima - it takes about an hour and a half from Osaka, and I’d definitely recommend it. Obviously, the further south you go the milder the weather will be, so if you go as far as the southern island of Kyushu it might even be quite pleasant!

As for money, I think your budget will be fine as you’ve already factored in the JR Pass. Travel in Japan is really expensive, but since you’ve got this covered, the rest of your money can be used on accommodation, food and sightseeing. You should be able to find hostels from about Y2500 a night (you generally won’t get anything cheaper than this). Sometimes, it’s actually better value to stay in a business hotel than a hostel, as for the same price you’ll get breakfast and possibly a nicer room, so have a search online before you go.

You can eat cheaply in Japan - combinis (convenience stores) have already been mentioned, but I wouldn’t recommend eating a lot of your meals from here as you will feel absolutely disgusting afterwards - the food is really not healthy! There are lots of chain / ‘family’ restaurants over here; they may not be the highest quality but they’re relatively good value. For example, Cocos is a family restaurant doing things like pizzas, steaks etc., then there’s Kappa Sushi which is a cheap sushi place - I actually really like it here, although apparently it’s the McDonalds of the sushi world! Izakayas (Japanese ‘pubs’wink are also good as you can either order tabehoudai (all you can eat) for a set price, or just select a lot of small dishes off the menu.

Entertainment-wise, nomihoudai is good value if you are wanting to drink. You’ll pay a set price, usually around Y2000, and get about 90 minutes of all you can drink. If you’re planning on going out, it’s a good idea to do nomihoudai first as clubs in Tokyo are really expensive. Karaoke is another fun option, and it can get really addictive. I like the karaoke places where you can get a private room ... again, you can get nomihoudai with this (or endless soft drinks and ice cream), and depending on what time you go, you may pay as little as Y2000 for hours of singing fun! Lots of places are 24/7, or close, so you might find yourself turning up at midnight and heading home at 6am, without intending to!

I know you’ve said you don’t plan on going further north than Tokyo, but Japan is an awesome place for skiing and snowboarding, so if you do fancy having a go there are plenty of places you can get to by train in just a couple of hours. One of the most famous is Hakuba, in Nagano prefecture ... they once hosted the winter Olympics. If you do wanna do some winter sports, all of the equipment can be rented at the resorts, although of course if you can take some of your own stuff (even if it’s just goggles and warm clothing) it’ll be cheaper. But if you have the chance, it’s definitely worth having a go!

Anyway, hope that helps, and if you have any more questions fire away or feel free to PM me!

     
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Oops double post

     
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This is why I love this site! Thanks you lot for such detailed and enthusiastic posts - really appreciate it and really looking forward to going.

Think we were thinking of staying in Tokoyo and Kyoto for most of the time and taking a few trips to Nagasaki, Osaka and possibly Nara.

Never tried skiing or snowboarding as I am the most accident prone I know! I think there’s plenty to keep us occupied for 2 weeks without factoring in snowsports for absolute beginners!

Thanks again smile

     
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Just FYI, Nagasaki is an extremely long way from the other places that you are planning on going to. In my opinion, it’s not worth an extra trip unless you are in the West anyway (if you are interested in atomic history, Hiroshima is a much better bet and is also close to Itsukushima).

     
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It’s true, Nagasaki is much further than the other places you’re planning to visit (it’s on a different island as well!). I assume you’d be going mainly for the atomic bomb history side of things, in which case Hiroshima would make much more sense as a side trip ... as I said previously, it’s not that far from Osaka by Shinkansen. I personally also found the museum in Hiroshima to be much more informative and surprisingly objective. Plus the A-bomb dome is a really haunting sight, particularly when floodlit in the evening. And there’s always the option of Miyajima, if you want to see one of the (numerous) famous Japanese views that crop up everywhere - google ‘floating torii’.

But, if you are set on Nagasaki for whatever reason, 2 weeks would be enough time to see Tokyo, Kyoto/Nara, Osaka AND Nagasaki ... it would just mean quite a bit of travelling, but with the JR Pass you’d be able to shinkansen between places easily. I did a similar route over two weeks in April/May (‘Golden Week’wink, but as I live and work here I don’t qualify for the rail pass so I was mostly on nightbuses ... it was tiring but certainly doable, and I’d say worth it.

     
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Just reading through all this information as I fly to Japan on January 3rd - so excited. I’m scouring the message boards for useful information so I can have the BEST time ever. You guys have helped a lot. Thank you!