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Tokyo Car Rental 4

Tokyo Car Rental 1

There are many methods of getting around in Tokyo. The city has some of the most convenient public transportation around, with a regular schedule of buses and trains that will get you anywhere you want to go.

Most people forget about their Tokyo car rental options. I mean, who wouldn’t? You don’t have a Japanese driver’s license. One wrong move, and you’re going to have a highway police encounter with a very serious patrolman who is going to cite you for…well, who knows? And if you make a wrong turn, how are you supposed to find your way back? If you don’t speak Japanese, good luck

(Editor’s Note: And if you’re an American, the steering wheel is on the other side of the car! Also, there is no such thing as a “left turn on red” here. And although I tell my relatives the contrary, you cannot fire blue shells out of the hood at the guy on his Sunday Drive in the middle of the week.)

Yes, most people will tell you that using a car within Tokyo is a bad idea. However, it can be a speedy and economical alternative to public transportation if you have to get to several places quickly.  Rental cars are handy especially when you want to travel around the rural areas of Japan, where public transportation may be underdeveloped or inefficient. Using rental cars allows people to access areas that public transport can’t get to.

Actually owning a car in Tokyo is a burden. But when headed out on a road trip beyond the city, a Tokyo car rental is a good option, especially if you’re a large group and have a lot of baggage. Also, driving is Japan is enjoyable–the roads are in good repair, and there are special yellow trucks with lights that keep the highways and byways of Japan clear of debris. Service areas appear every 50 km or so, and they have food courts, restaurants, coffee shops, bathrooms and even souvenir stores. A Tokyo rental car allows you to control your experience and allows you to see the sights and enjoy the beauty that is Japan.

 

Rules of the Road

If you intend to a Tokyo car rental service, you are going to need to know the rules of the road. The Japanese Automobile Federation (JAF) has translated the Japanese Rules of the Road into several languages, both in print and digital formats. You can find them at this link.

 

A Couple of Warnings

Tokyo Car Rental 3

WARNING #1: In mountainous areas (such as around Mount Fuji), you’re going to have a problem if you miss something or have to turn back. Service areas in these parts only let you return to the highway going in the same direction–you cannot use them to turn around and go the other way. You may have to drive an hour or so before you can turn around. If your car rental agency offers a navigator in English, get it!

WARNING #2: DO NOT, I REPEAT DO NOT, GET “GAS” FROM A GREEN PUMP! In Japan there is no central heating in most homes, and kerosene room heaters are common. At service stations, kerosene pumps are green and might be on the same pump “island” as automotive gas, and often has the exact same kind of pump handle. Worse, kerosene is cheaper than automotive gas. I’ve had to rescue people several times after they pulled up to the pump, made an economic decision based on gas station signs they couldn’t read, and filled their car’s gas tank with kerosene. If you do this, your car will not go very far afterwards and you will liable for a very large repair bill with the Tokyo car rental company.

Tokyo Car Rental 4

WARNING #3 (Especially for Americans): The police in Japan sometimes use lights and sirens to pull people over. Other times, they just use lights. Either way, pull off to the side of the road. If they follow behind you, come to a stop.

Also, if you are pulled over for a traffic violation, the police will take you from their car and put you in the back of theirs. YOU ARE NOT GOING TO JAIL (that is what this means in America). This is for the safety of both the officer and the person who has been pulled over. If you were Japanese, they would make you write your own ticket. You know, just like when you were in school and had to write apology notes! But here, they’ll write it for you. If you get a ticket, be sure to take it to a post office to pay the fine before you leave. I hear some nasty extra charges could be incurred if you think you’ll just leave the country and not come back. Remember, the Tokyo car rental place has your information and your credit card.

WARNING #4: If you get into an accident or have trouble with your vehicle, light flares and place warning triangles 100 meters and 50 meters behind your car. This helps other motorists see and avoid you. Do your part to prevent further accidents!

 

Tokyo Car Rental Basics

Tokyo Car Rental 2

In order to rent a car, you would need a valid international driver’s permit (IDP). You can obtain one in your home country (in the US, you can get one through AAA) or at any one of Tokyo’s many Drivers’ License Centers. In order to obtain an IDP you must be at least 18 years old and have an existing license from your home country. The permit is only valid for one year.

Here’s an approximate range of rental fees for certain cars:

  • Sub – Compact Cars = 5,000
  • Compact = 7,000
  • Medium Size = 12,500
  • Regular Size = 15,000
  • Vans = 20,000

Here’s a list of reliable Rental Car Agencies you can access in Tokyo…

Toyota Rent-a-Car ||| Nippon Rent-a-Car ||| ORIX Rental Car ||| Time’s Car Rental ||| Nissan Rent-a-Car

…and you can possibly snag cheaper deals through intermediaries…

Japan Experience ||| TooCoo

Have fun and drive safely!

Check out the links below for other options on getting around in Tokyo–

January 12, 2017 0 comment
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Japan Travel Apps

Japan Travel Apps

 Japan Travel Apps

Preparing to come to Japan is difficult, especially when it comes to technology, but Enablejapan.com has you covered!

Sure, it’s easy to look at our wonderful website and imagine yourself coming to Japan and seeing all of the great things that Tokyo has to offer. But once you get here, you may find that navigating the city streets in person is a little tougher. And who are you going to ask for help?

If you haven’t already, have a look at our Guide to Getting Wifi and Phone Services in Tokyo. Got it? Good! Now that you have a phone and wifi, finding your way around Japan will be that much easier!

Here is our list of the top apps you should download on your smartphone before visiting Japan. These apps will help you deal with transportation, communication, and other traveling conundrums. Once you get here, we promise you won’t regret it!

Top Japan Travel Apps: Japan Travel

Japan Travel App Tokyo
 Japan Travel is one of the top Japan travel apps for English-speaking travelers in Japan. They have articles to help you through different traveling obstacles, like getting to and from airports and how to rent cars in Japan. They also have a route section of the app to help you navigate trains, buses, and streets. Japan Travel also has a section to help you find free Wi-Fi, currency exchanges, ATMs, train stations, and other tourist information nearby. Even longtime residents use this app to help them find their way around on the trains when they are going someplace new.

 Price: Free

Make an account?: No

Can download from: The App Store and Google Play

 

Google Maps

Beyond the fact that all of our articles use it to get you where you want to go, I can tell you from first-hand experience that Google Maps is a lifesaver while traveling in Japan. While many other map applications won’t recognize Japanese addresses, Google Maps will sort it out and get you exactly where you need to go. They will give you directions by car, train, bus, walking, or Uber, and give the exact amount of time it takes to get there. They will also give the amount of money each route will cost, train schedules, and delays if there are any.

Price: Free

Make an Account?: No

Can download from: The App Store and Google Play

 

Taxi!

English Taxi Travel

When you don’t speak Japanese, it can be hard to call a cab.And even if you get one, how do you explain where you are going and what you are doing? The drivers know major hotels and restaurants, but you’re going to have a problem if you want to do anything else.

Lucky for you, we have an article specifically about getting taxis (and Uber) in Tokyo and beyond. Download them and you will never have to worry about partying past train operating hours again!

 

Google Translate [offline]

Travel Apps Tokyo Japan

If you don’t know Japanese, having a translation app is extremely helpful. Although traditional Google Translate requires cellular data or Wi-Fi, it can be used offline if you download the Japanese translation files. This way  you can communicate with people around you even if you don’t have cellular data or Wi-Fi. To download the offline component of the app, first download Google Translate. Then go to Settings –> Offline Translation, and click “Upgrade” next to Japanese.

If you are using data or Wi-Fi, you can take pictures (signs, menus, or other Japanese text), speak into the microphone, write on the screen, etc. and the app will translate it all for you. Do note that due to the differences between Japanese and English in regards to grammar, idioms, etc. you aren’t going to sound smooth (the translation in the picture is not great). But you will be understandable.

Price: Free

Make an Account?: No

Can download from: The App Store and Google Play

 Japan Connected – Free Wi-Fi

Japan is really good about having free Wi-Fi in restaurants and train stations, and this app is here to make it easier for you to get connected! It is especially helpful in case you are here short-term or are on a budget and don’t want to purchase a prepaid cell phone or international data. The app (which has over 146,000 spots in its memory banks) will search for free Wi-Fi in the area and notify you.

Price: Free

Make an Account?: Account required

Can download from: The App Store and Google Play

 

So there you have it! There are plenty of Japan travel apps that will make your Tokyo experience easy and convenient! Good luck, and happy traveling!

For more help with your Tokyo traveling experience, click on the links below–

July 20, 2016 0 comment
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Air Travel

Air Travel
Japan is a terrific place to visit, a country roughly the size of California, but with the geographic diversity of the whole United States. Japan is also however a great springboard to visit other tourist hotspots in the Asia-Pacific region, with Taiwan, Hong Kong and most of South-East Asia in close distance to the country. Recently, there has been a boom in low-cost carriers (LCCs) storming the market and disrupting established carriers in the region. Today, there are many LCCs that fly to and from Japan so you can go abroad without breaking the bank.

Significantly, on May 16 this year, a new airline alliance called “Value Alliance” was established. Unlike the existing full-service airline alliances of Oneworld, Star Alliance, and SkyTeam, the new Value Alliance is made of low-cost airlines only, focusing primarily in the Asia-Pacific region.
The alliance consists of eight LCCs:

AirlineCountry
Cebu Pacific AirPhillipines
Jeju Air South Korea
Nok AirThailand
NokScootThailand
ScootSingapore
Tigerair AustraliaAustralia
Tigerair SingaporeSingapore
Vanilla AirJapan

The major benefit for customers is that it will be possible to book flights with any of the eight airlines on any one of their websites, whilst allowing routing options to new destinations under one booking. This crucially means that your bags can be interlined through to the final airaidestination, even when operated by two different member airlines. With a total possibility of 160 destinations due to the integration between these low-cost airlines, you are spoilt for choice. Moreover, with the alliance expected to result in increased profitability for the airlines, ticket prices should become cheaper eventually for travel within the region. The only Japanese carrier in the alliance, Vanilla Air, which on its own only flies internationally to Hong Kong and Taiwan, is preparing to implement the Value Alliance ticketing system by this fall.

The alliance will ensure frequent air links to the following Japanese airports, operated by a range of LCCs:
– Narita Airport (Tokyo)
– Kansai Airport (Osaka)
– New Chitose Airport (Hokkaido)
– Amami Airport (Okinawa)
– Naha Airport (Okinawa)
– Chubu Centrair Airport (Aichi)
– Fukuoka Airport (Fukuoka)

Non-Alliance LCC profile

The alliance misses out on some key LCC operators in the region, and depending on your destination, some of these airlines offer very cheap fares with frequent flights.

Peach
Peach’s main hub is at Kansai International Airport in Osaka, so most of their flights depart from here, but they also have strong links in Okinawa and are heavily expanding to Tokyo Narita. They fly all over Japan, and fly internationally to Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Domestic fares are frequently under ¥5,000 one-way and international flights under ¥10,000. Make sure to check out their website as they frequently offer promotions.

Jetstar Japan
Jetstar Japan is a part of Jetstar, an Australian LCC that is the second largest low-cost airline in the region. Jetstar Japan has its hub in Tokyo Narita and Osaka Kansai, with routes across Japan as well as international flights to Hong Kong, Taipei and Manila. Jetstar Japan is also integrated with the wider Jetstar network, ensuring a huge variety of destinations with great fares. Direct flights to Australia can be as low as ¥23,000 each-way and domestic fares can be found for less than ¥5,000 each way.

AirAsia
AirAsia is the largest LCC in the region and operates flights all over Asia and Australia. Flights depart frequently from Nagoya, Osaka and Tokyo to Kuala Lumpur, its hub. From there, you can catch cheap flights all over Asia, including Bangkok, Singapore, Bali and Sydney. Flights to Kuala Lumpur can start from ¥12,000 yen each way but they also frequently have promotions where the same route can cost less than ¥10,000

Eastar Jet
Eastar is a Korean budget airline that operates flights from Tokyo Narita, Osaka Kansai, Naha (Okinawa) and Fukuoka (starting 22 July) to Seoul Incheon Airport. Eastar is well-known for its highly frequent flights to the resort island of Jeju, and also flies internationally to China, Cambodia, Malaysia, Taiwan and Thailand. Fares are usually around ¥15,000 but they often have heavily discounted fares, as low as ¥4,000 each way (not including tax and fuel surcharge).

June 9, 2016 0 comment
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English Taxi Travel

English is not widely spoken in Japan, so it can be difficult to navigate the streets and get to your desired location. Despite the fact that Tokyo has four times as many taxis (50,000) as New York City, there are two main problems for visitors. First, it can be difficult to give the correct directions if you cannot speak Japanese. Second, long lines and lengthy waits are common in popular areas such as Ginza or Shinjuku. Although Tokyo has an excellent public transportation infrastructure, taxis become a necessary mode of transportation after midnight once the trains stop running.

But never fear! We here at EnableJapan have done the research so that you don’t have to worry about getting stranded in an unfamiliar town. Below is a list of the most convenient companies for English taxi travel in Japan.

JapanTaxi App (Android)


The most convenient and efficient way to reserve a taxi for English-speakers in Japan is the JapanTaxi app, which was launched in 2014. JapanTaxi agglomerates Japanese taxi operators across the country, and has coverage over all of Japan’s 47 prefectures with 29,625 cars available from 163 taxi companies. Simply download and open the app, and tap “Call taxi here” to hail a cab from the various companies available.


Main page
Companies on offerThis is especially useful when facing a long taxi queue, or at night when taxis are sparse. There is no registration required, but keep in mind that unlike Uber, you have to pay in cash directly to the driver. The app essentially connects you to a driver from a registered cab company, and you can set your destination within the app.

Nihon Kotsu

Nihon Kotsu is a well-established taxi company in Tokyo with over 3,200 taxis. Nihon Kotsu operates a 24/7 English line where reservations can be taken for English speakers. The taxi bookings are taken efficiently, and cash and card are accepted in all Nihon Kotsu cabs. A typical taxi ride starts at ¥730 for the first two kilometers, plus ¥90 per 280m thereafter. There is also a late-night surcharge of 20% between 10:00PM-5:00AM.
English phone line (24/7): 03-5755-2336

MK Taxi

MK Taxi is an upscale service, offering premium cars with chauffeur service. All of the high-end automobiles are fitted with free Wi-Fi and offer a 24/7 telephone interpreter service, ensuring that you can communicate accurately with the driver. Fares start from ¥640 for the first 1.72 kilometers, plus ¥90 per 280m after. There is a late-night surcharge of 10% between 11:00PM-5:00AM, and if you request for a luxury vehicle, a flat fee of ¥1,000 is added.

Make sure you check out their special promotions, where you can book taxis to Haneda or Narita at a significantly reduced fare. MK Taxi is great for airport transfers as they also offer a 10% discount for charges over ¥9,000.

Uber

Although Uber is popular in other major cities like London and New York, the company has a comparatively small presence in Japan.  Tokyo is the only Japanese city where the service operates, and there is a lack of operators in the city. Wait times are significantly longer than for its competitors, not to mention more expensive. UberBLACK fares start at ¥103, and is ¥67 per minute plus ¥309 per kilometer. This means that the fare quickly adds up, and you’ll generally pay more than Uber’s competitors. The only advantages of Uber in Tokyo are that there are no late-night surcharges and the cashless fare system.

Special mention:

Line Taxi is a relatively new service integrated with the popular LINE app and could very well become the “Uber of Japan”. It’s a good service, but not geared towards foreign customers. Line Taxi utilizes Line Pay for payment, which requires the user to have a Japanese driver’s license or insurance card, as well as a Japanese credit card.

June 7, 2016 0 comment
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Hotel Room, Tokyo Japan

 

It’s finally starting to heat up as summer quickly approaches. It’s time to get out of the city, enjoy some of the great weather, and take that vacation you’ve been planning for like, forever. Traveling isn’t an issue here in Japan; if you’re going by Shinkansen or train, easy. If you’re going by air, check our article Top 5 Sites for Cheap Flights for an overview of a few of our favorite flight booking sites. But all hotel sites aren’t created equal: some are just more useful, while others are cheaper—but don’t worry. EnAble Japan has compiled a list of our favorite sites to use when it’s time to plan a getaway. So when it comes time for you to book your next stay, you can thank us for assisting you in finding the site that fits you best.

Great Sites for Domestic Bookings

tripadvisor.com

As one of the largest websites that offers hotel booking, TripAdvisor includes all the services you need for booking a room and then some. The site also includes a restaurant section for finding great places to eat near you, and flight reservations, making TripAdvisor a one-stop ‘shop’ for transportation, rooms, and meals.

agoda.com

Agoda is one of those traditional booking websites that’s easy to navigate and very useful. These guys specialize in hotel bookings, and they do it well with real-time “x amount of people are looking at this room.” Agoda is one of my personal favorites because of its cheap prices.

hotels.com

Another giant in the field, Hotels.com offers some of the best deals including a seasonal sale and deals of the day. Also, when you join their rewards program you can earn one free night after booking ten nights through them.

Great Sites for International Bookings

hotwire.com

Hotwire is a very popular website in the U.S. and should be one of your go-to sites when you want to reserve a room for international trips. In addition to rooms, rentals, and flights, Hotwire also offers vacation packages. Unfortunately, Hotwire only offers its price in a few select currencies, so keep a conversion table ready if your country’s currency isn’t listed.

priceline.com

A lot of the other sites we looked at had great services, but none like Priceline. Priceline offers hotels, flights, rentals, vacation packages, cruises, and even theme park tickets. Another website optimized for U.S. residents, only a select number of currencies are available, and the site is only offered in English.

Tripadvisor, Agoda, and Hotels.com are your best bets for travel and booking while in Japan, but these sites also provide fantastic services for international bookings. With a multitude of languages and unique services, these three sites are just what you need to plan your stay with peace of mind.

Hotwire and Priceline are more geared for your international trips to the U.S. or Europe, and fall short of previously mentioned sites when it comes to domestic bookings. However, these sites offer unparalleled services and packages when you do decide to take a break from Japan.

July 1, 2015 0 comment
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Airplane wing

Airplane wing

So the boss finally gave you a few weeks off, and now you’re planning your next vacation or trip. You’re on your computer hunting for the best deals on flights and hotels. But not all trip planning sites are created equal. Some are more interactive and have great interfaces, while others offer cheaper, better deals. Here at EnAble Japan we’ve created a list of our favorite websites we use when it comes time to plan a getaway.

We compared all of the sites with a roundtrip flight for 1 passenger in coach from Narita (Tokyo) to KIX (Osaka). Here’s how they compare, from the cheapest to the most expensive:

1. hipmunk.com
Hipmunk is an awesome site with a cool interface. The name might be a bit deceiving, but this site offers some of the cheapest flights, hotels, rental cars, and travel packages. Also, you can download their app for either the iPhone or Android for quick savings right from your mobile device. Hipmunk has an easy to use, interactive platform where you simply slide bars in order choose the time that best fits you.

2. skyscanner.com
Skyscanner is another great site we love, and it was just a few bucks more expensive than Hipmunk. Skyscanner specializes in flights, hotels, and car rental services—so unfortunately, you won’t find any package deals here. Skyscanner also has both an iPhone and Android app, so booking from your phone is quick and easy.

3. kayak.com
Kayak is one of my personal favorites, and it offers all travel services including travel packages. Kayak has a nice sleek design and is very easy to navigate and use. It also offers an interactive map, so if you’re not sure where you want to go, you can quickly check the prices of flights to anywhere in the world. Kayak also offers its services in its convenient apps for iPhone  and Android.

4. cheapoair.com
Surprisingly, Cheapoair didn’t live up to its name in our search, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth using. Cheapoair offers more than just your usual flight, car rental, and hotel services; it also offers vacation deals and cruise packages through third-party sites. So if you want more than just a flight+hotel, head over to Cheapoair and download the iPhone and Android apps.

**Honorable mention**

expedia.com
Expedia is the largest of all of these sites, and the most popular for sure. Expedia has some pretty sweet deals, such as savings of up to 100% off the hotel price if you book the hotel and the flight together!

If you’re a deal hunter we strongly advise taking 10-15 minutes out of your day to go through these sites, and find what’s best for you. Next up: Best hotel booking sites.

June 23, 2015 0 comment
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Tokyo skyline - view of Shinjuku skyscrapers and Fuji in the background

People come to Japan from all over the world. Are you young, single, looking to cut loose? In search of the hottest clubs, the coolest parties, and the best places to go be your young, carefree self? Look no further!

Seriously, look no further. This article isn’t for you.

This article is for the rest of us, who broke all of the good parties and tore up all the dance floors long ago. We sure rocked it, didn’t we? But then, it got boring. So we moved on, and now we have careers and spouses and 2.3 kids (adjusted for inflation) and a pet of some sort.

And now you are coming to Japan with your family in tow. Maybe you’re vacationing. Maybe you are on an extended layover, or going to the Big Meeting in Tokyo and are hoping to do some sightseeing on the side.

“But how will we get around?” you wonder aloud. “We don’t speak the language! We don’t know how the trains work! We can’t even hail a taxi!”

Never fear, hypothetical family! I also have children, and have experienced firsthand the trials involved with herding small and medium-sized people through Tokyo. Allow me to offer some tips on how to do this yourself, as easily as possible.

Lost-Proofing Your Family

First of all, I want to help you avoid a Griswoldian disaster. Getting lost on your own is bad enough. Getting lost with children in tow could ruin your whole trip. In this part of the article, I will attempt to “lost-proof” you.

First, watch this video.

“What is this?” you’re asking. This is the Yamanote line, and those are the train stations of that line, as sung by a famous children’s show. Most places you would want to go in Tokyo are on this train line, or on another line that connects to it. The Yamanote line is a light green JR (Japan Railways) line. You will see that color (the same as in the video) next to its name in the train stations, on train maps, and on platform billboards. The train lines in Tokyo also make announcements in English, but don’t rely on it. I have many times waited for an automated explanation of what was going on (especially during train stoppages), only to be left wondering.

Yamanote Line at Shinjuku Station

The Yamanote line goes in a circle, stopping at all of the important stations around the city. That means if you get on this train, even if you are going in the wrong direction, you are not going to get lost. It still goes in a circle, so you’ll get to where you’re going eventually. This is a vast oversimplification of Japan’s train system, but it will do for a short trip.

Do you need a taxi? No problem! Many taxis in Tokyo now have a “point and say” card in the cab. All you have to do is decide where you want to go, find a cab with the “point and say” sticker on the back passenger window, point at the appropriate phrase on the card, and you’re on your way.

Now if you are an adventurous sort, you will get lost (or at least try to). That’s where the NAVITIME Travel App comes in (available for iOS and Android). All you have to do is put in your location, then your destination, and then hit Search. You will then get step-by-step instructions on how to get where you are going, in English. You can upgrade to a “Journey Pro” version for additional peace of mind, but the free version has always worked for me.

Moving Little People Around With You

As a parent, the first thing you’ll notice about Japan is that no one has any children.

Ok, that’s not true. But it sure seems that way. Japan isn’t very kid-friendly when it comes to transportation. You won’t see many people pushing around strollers or dragging along reluctant little travelers while you are out sightseeing. But you have your kids with you, so some adjustments are in order.

First, if you need a stroller, opt for a smaller one. Train stations can get crowded, train cars even more so, and the trunks of taxis are only so large. A smaller stroller will be easier to maneuver than the Baby Monster Trucks that seem to be so popular these days. Train stations are stair- and escalator-oriented, but they do have elevators so you can move between levels and platforms. They may be a bit out of the way, so add a few extra minutes into your transit plans when you travel.

Second, everyone should have their own hand towel. You can’t go five feet back home without someone needing to potty, and that’s not going to change here. Train stations and public restrooms occasionally have hand dryers, but they never have paper towels. Also, Japanese restaurants do not do napkins. If you ask for one for your sloppy eater, you’re going to get a tissue. Just bring a towel, it’s easier for everyone involved.

Third, spare change. Drink machines are everywhere, and it’s amazing how thirsty children get when they see one. Water fountains are rare, and bottled water only goes so far. Besides, some of the machines are really fun (like the ones that use facial recognition and give drink recommendations) and they have stuff that you can’t get back home. C’mon, try one!

But What if Something Happens?

There is a horror movie sub-genre called “travel horror,” in which terrible things happen to people who are far from home and don’t speak the local language. Hopefully, you won’t be pursued through the streets by a katana-wielding maniac wearing an oni mask (my screenplay is available, Hollywood), but there are other things that could happen that will ruin a trip. Let’s get our prevention in order.

#1: Traveler’s insurance. Your insurance provider likely covers any hospitalizations or accidents that occur outside of your home country, but it’s always a good idea to check. Call your agent and get answers on what would and would not be covered, should a situation arise.

#2: The Embassy can help. Familiarize yourself with the website of your country’s embassy to Japan. Most embassies are located in the Tokyo area, and somewhere on the site will be a list phone numbers for you to call if you run into a serious issue.

#3: The Hotel can help. Customer service in Japan is incredible. I have had people chase me down the street to give me back 10 yen in change (fortunately, they weren’t wearing an oni mask, or it could have been a long pursuit). The staff of any decent hotel in Tokyo usually has English speakers who will go above and beyond to assist you with anything you need.

Photo of Koban (police box)

#4: The Koban. Kobans are tiny neighborhood police stations that can be found throughout Japan, usually manned by one or two uniformed police officers. In Tokyo, no matter where you are, there is probably a koban nearby. You can identify it by the presence of the officers and (in some places) by the red police light near the door. The officers probably can’t speak English, but they can find someone who can if you need assistance. Kobans can assist you if you have to report a crime, have lost something (they have lost-and-founds), and can even provide directions if you are lost (a friend of mine had a policeman actually leave the koban to guide him to a place he was looking for).

Your children should know about kobans, in case they become lost. Even if they cannot readily understand what the child is saying, the police will move heaven and earth to find their parents. I’ve seen it happen.

#5: Emergency Services. In Japan, you can report a fire or call for an ambulance by dialing 119, and for the police by dialing 110. Emergency calls from a public phone are free. In a pinch, you can do this yourself, but it will probably be easier to get help from a passerby—most emergency services will take some time to find an English-speaker, but a Japanese person can communicate with them right away.

Hopefully, I have been able to make you comfortable with the idea of getting around in Japan with your family. It may not be the easiest thing to do, but it is safe and there are plenty of ways to get back on track if you get lost. So pick out a few sites to see, get on the train or in the taxi, and enjoy your trip!

Now that you’re set on how to get around Tokyo with your kids, read about where to go in  36 Hours in Tokyo: Kids in Tow.

December 12, 2014 0 comment
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Japan Travel Tips for Women - Image of Women's Only Train Car

Are you a solo female traveler planning on visiting or living in Tokyo in the near future? Here are a few tips will make your life easier here.

Be alert on busy trains

For such a safe and polite country, it can come as a surprise that Japan has a big problem with groping. Strange men will sometimes seize opportunities on jam-packed trains to touch women inappropriately. For this reason, many trains have implemented women-only cars during rush hour. If available, it’s always a good option to ride in these cars. If anyone does grope you, be sure to shout out and/or grab his arm to make him stop and then report him.

Pack toiletry essentials

Even if you understand Japanese, toiletries in Japan can still be confusing and very different from home. For this reason, I highly recommend packing enough deodorant, sanitary products and face wash to last you your stay. Or if you`re planning on staying long-term, pack enough to last you until you find Japanese versions you like, or can have some mailed to you from home. If, like me, you live here long-term and don`t manage to find Japanese brands of toiletries you like, don`t despair! Amazon.co.jp and Ebay also mean you can import products at a low-cost. If you need something right away, you can also find imported toiletry items at stores like Loft and Tokyu Hands, though they can be a bit pricey.

Japan isn’t 100% safe

Japan is relatively safe compared to most of the world, but it still isn’t completely crime free, so please use common sense. Keep possessions close in crowded areas and don`t go walking through dark areas by yourself at night. If you are ever followed or touched inappropriately, don`t be afraid to shout-out. Most of the time this will scare the creep away immediately.

Big Luggage

If you`re in Japan for a while and have big and heavy luggage, the best tip I can give you is to ship your luggage straight from the airport using a delivery (takuhaibin) service. It can be the best 1800 yen you will ever spend, especially when you take into consideration that many stations are vast and/or don’t have elevators. Also, men in Japan don’t generally help women who are dragging heavy bags stairs like they do in the UK and many other countries. I made the mistake of hauling my big bags across Tokyo`s train and subway system, taking several hours of sweating, awkwardness and very painful hands. Once was enough! You can also select a pickup time to have your bags shipped back to the airport free of charge using English-friendly services like Yamato.

May 8, 2014 0 comment
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If you’re from the opposite side of the world from Japan or just need to visit one of those areas, flights can be extremely time-consuming and astronomically expensive. One way to make the best of this is to buy a round the world ticket instead. These often cost almost the same as buying a return ticket to far away destinations and allow you see several parts of the world in one trip.

Round the world tickets range between $1,500–$10,000 USD, depending on your mileage, route, and number of stops. Generally, the fewer stops and less mileage, the cheaper it is. Also, if you’re a student you can take advantage of insanely cheap student fares through STA Travel.

One great thing about this kind of ticket is that you can change the dates and times on your ticket at no extra cost (you have to pay extra if you want to change destinations though).

Booking directly with the airline alliances usually costs a little more than booking through a third party agent. So check with travel agencies before you accept a ticket fare offer directly from an airline.

Here’s a round-up of the airline groups that offer round-the-world fares from Japan:

Star alliance

Star Alliance offer airfares according to three different levels of mileage: 26,000miles, 29,000 miles, 34,000 miles and 39,000 miles and the cost of the ticket depends on which mileage level and class you choose along with where you buy the ticket.

Star Alliance also offer a Circle Pacific ticket that is basically the same as the round-world-ticket except it only applies to Pacific region (this includes the islands of the South Pacific, the Pacific side of Asia and Australasia and the West Coast of North America).

For more information and to see prices, go to: http://www.staralliance.com/en/booking/book-and-fly/

Sky team

Similar to the Star Alliance round the world ticket, the Sky Team ticket is also based on mileage levels. You can choose from: 26,000 miles, 29,000 miles, 33,000 miles and 38,000 miles. Fares also depend on cabin class and origin of journey.

More information at: http://www.skyteam.com/en/your-trip/Travel-Passes/Go-Global/

One world

OneWorld offers two kinds of round the world passes. One, called Global Explorer, is similar to Sky Team’s and Star Alliance’s tickets; it is mileage based, with a choice between 26,000 miles, 29,000 miles, 34,000 miles and 39,000 miles.

The other, arguable better, choice is the OneWorld Explorer which is based on the number of continents visited (from three to six) and has no maximum mileage limit and a maximum of 16 flight segments.

More information at: http://www.oneworld.com/flights/round-the-world-fares


Photo Source: American Airlines Flight by Konstantin Papushin

May 8, 2014 0 comment
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If you’re visiting Japan you might be wondering how you’re going to get from Narita airport, which is located 57.5 km away from Tokyo Station, to central Tokyo.  There are several options to choose from, each costing different amounts and taking different time:  

Keisei trains

The Keisei main line is the cheapest line that runs to Narita and takes about 1 hour 13 minutes from the airport to Nippori station and costs 1000 yen. The faster options are the Keisei Skyliner and the Keisei Sky Access Line. The Skyliner serves Northern Tokyo and takes about 41 minutes to go from the airport to Nippori station and costs 2,400 yen. The Sky Access Line serves Southern Tokyo and at stops at stations on the Toei Asakusa line and Keikyu line. From Narita Airport to Shinagawa station is takes about 1 hour 18 minutes and costs 1,460 yen.

For a full schedule please look at their website or use Google maps.

More info: http://www.keisei.co.jp/keisei/tetudou/skyliner/us/ae_outline/  

Narita Express (N:EX)

The Narita Express is a great option if you have a non-Japanese passport. One-way tickets from Narita airport to central Tokyo (not vice-versa) are only 1,500 yen.  Another option is the combined N’EX ticket and Suica card, this includes a N’EX ticket and a Suica card pre-loaded with 1,500 yen; this costs 5,500 yen with a return N’EX ticket or 3,500 yen for a one-way ticket. First class (green car) tickets are also available. These discounted fares are only available at the JR East travel counters in Narita Airport, so not of you’re going from central Tokyo to the airport. If you’re doing this, fares are more expensive Trains take less than one hour to go from the airport to Tokyo Station and they have extra space for luggage.

More info: http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/nex/

Keisei Bus

Keisei Bus runs Tokyo Shuttle, a bus service between Narita Airport and Tokyo Station that only costs 900 yen with a reservation. There are about two buses every hour and they run all day. This is the best and cheapest option if you’re staying near Tokyo station.

More info: http://www.keiseibus.co.jp/global/en/

Airport Limousine

If you don’t want the hassle of navigating Tokyo’s complicated train system while carrying heavy luggage around, then the Airport Limousine bus service is probably the best choice for you. Tickets cost 3,000 yen each way and they take you straight from the airport to one of their many stops all over Tokyo. Most of their central stops are at hotels, so please check their route map on their website for detailed information. They also stop at many major train stations in suburban Tokyo.

More info: http://www.limousinebus.co.jp/en/

Taxi

A taxi from Narita Airport is extremely expensive, so it’s really only an option if you have plenty of money or are in an extreme hurry. A metered taxi typically costs about 25,000-35,000 yen depending on traffic and destination. If you book a fixed rate airport transfer beforehand however, this will cost around 15,000-26,000yen, depending on your exact destination.

More info on taxis here

Between Narita and Haneda Airports

For transfer between the two Tokyo airports, there is a direct limousine bus service that costs 3000 yen and takes around 1 hour/1.5 hours.

More info: http://www.limousinebus.co.jp/en/

Or you can take the train, which is run by Keisei Electric Railway and is cheaper and potentially more reliable than taking the bus. It takes 101 minutes and costs 1740 yen.

More info: http://www.keisei.co.jp/keisei/tetudou/skyliner/us/index.html  

Baggage

If you want to take the train but don’t fancy lugging your bags halfway across the city, the best choice is to use a baggage delivery service. There are many to choose from at Narita airport and they are all fast and reasonably priced.

More info: http://www.narita-airport.jp/en/guide/service/list/svc_05.html

 

Photo source: Tokyo Airport Limousine 2 by Stefan Krasowski

April 18, 2014 0 comment
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