Hostels, travel insurance + rail pass sorted

Japan Rail PassPretty much got everything booked for Japan now which is a bit of a relief after all the car problems! Got all the hostels bar somewhere in Sendai/Matsushima booked through Hostel World which has been very easy, and a lot of the hostels have since been in touch confirming everything personally and offering extra info on directions and local attractions. Never come across that before when booking accomodation! Travel insurance was easy as ever through Insure & Go. And the most important bit maybe, the 14-day Japan Rail Pass which lets me jump on pretty much any train, bus or ferry ran by Japan Rail arrived too. Really looking forward to the ‘shinkansen’, bullet train, even if some do say they’re over-rated!

So, the plan at the moment is into Tokyo for 3 days, 2 days in Osaka, a day in Nara, 2 days in Hiroshima, back across to Kyoto for 3 days, through Tokyo up to Nikko for a couple of nights, over to Sendai/Matsushima for a couple of nights, then back down through Tokyo again to Fuji 5 lakes + Mt. Fuji for 3 days (hopefully climbing Fuji-san too, depending on weather conditions!) before heading to Narita for the night to make it easy to get to the airport first thing in the morning to fly home. Phew! Before anyone asks, swinging through Tokyo a couple of times simply lets me make the most of the rail pass without occuring additional charges, and Kawaguchiko (Fuji 5 lakes) to Tokyo then Narita is very cheap on the train since the rail pass will have expired by then.

I’m still pouring through guidebooks + websites, so anyone with ideas, suggestions or recommendations – get in touch 😀


Senior Content Development for Microsoft writing about Azure virtual machines. Occasionally I play video games.

Posted in japan, travelling
4 comments on “Hostels, travel insurance + rail pass sorted
  1. Jake says:
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    I went to Japan earlier this year for 3 weeks and it was excellent.

    The japan rail passes are excellent value for money and it’s great fun travelling on shinkansen. (I clocked us going at over 300km/hr on my bluetooth GPS)

    I recommend – if you can squeeze it in – going to Himeji Castle in Himeji. The castle is the largest original (e.g. not a reconstruction) castle in Japan and it is simply amazing. It is a short walk from the train station. You’ll probably pass Himeji going to/frm/between Kyoto & Tokyo & Hiroshima.

    Hiroshima was great, we only spent a day there going to the war memorials, A Bomb Dome and Meuseum. The Japanses take on WW2 is quite interesting as they seem to miss out the part where the US asked for their unconditional surrender before dropping the bomb, and then they still did not surrender after the first bomb was dropped.

    Osaka has great night life so I recommend going the particular district at night (I think it’s Ginza – memory not too good on that one). Also go to the Umeda Sky building in Osaka it’s an awesome structure and you can get a great view over the whole of osaka from the top.

    Nara obviously has heaps of temples and so forth, the best being the Golden Temple.

    In Kyoto climb the hill near the main city on which they have the Red Tori Gates. The are hundreds of these centuries old Red Tori gates which have the names of dead ancestors inscribed on them.

    Tokyo was also excellent. I really liked the War Museum (I can get back to you on the actual name).
    Also you’ll want to go to Akihabara – a technology city. There are lots of gadgets, electornics, computer gear, etc.

    Oh! Also the aquarium in Osaka is very cool!

    So many places to mention. Let me know if you want any more suggestions! jake.

  2. fouldsy says:
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    Jake – that’s a stack load of info, thanks man! Really nice to hear from people that have been over to Japan themselves rather than stuff in guidebooks or websites (okay, the people have actually been, but it’s not the same commentary on things!).

    Osaka, Nara Kyoto seem like a really cool collection of cities – really looking forward to going there! Where abouts did you stay in Nara, if you can remember? I’m having a hard time finding somewhere decent cheap in Nara.

    A couple of people have mentioned the aquarium in Osaka, and the nightlife in Osaka Kyoto. I can’t remember the exact names either! Hiroshima is somewhere I think deserves going to, though I’ll only have a day there as although I’m there two nights, I won’t get into the city until late afternoon. One day seems about enough to see the memorials, peace park and museum though.

    But, where is Akihabara? Haven’t come across that place before. I’ve heard of the Odaiba area (?) in Tokyo which is meant to be a bit like that with a Honda/Toyota exhibition of something? Will go find out about Himeji Castle too as that sounds pretty cool.

    Thanks again for all the suggestions, really appreciate it!

  3. Jake says:
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    We didn’t stay in Nara. (I was with a group of ten friends & half of them went to Nara, half of us went elsewhere, so I didn’t actually go there myself, but my friends said it was really good) We were staying on Kyoto when they went to Nara, it’s not far by shinkansen from memory.

    The Osaka Aquarium is called Kaiyukan.

    We only went to Hiroshima for one day and we were able to cover all the stuff we wanted to see easily – from memory I think parts of Hiroshima are quite industrial – compared to Kyoto the cultural capitol of Japan.

    Akihabara is easy to find in tokyo. There is a station called Akihabara and you just walk outside the station and everything is around you.

    When you get to tokyo pick up an English rail and subway map and you’ll be fine. The whole train/subway system is really easy to use as a lot of maps and place names are in romaji (english letters japanese sounds – e.g. Akihabara)

    Here’s the tokyo subway/rail map.

    Looks complicated, but it’s not too bad at all.

    Oh also my girlfriend and I went on a day trip to Kobe which is an awesome city. All of the harbour area is new becuase of the earthquake in 1995. So I recommend getting there is you can. You can take a cable car part the way up the mountain there too and it’s a real good view from the top. There’s also an area called the western district, which is where all the old foreign consulates were many years ago, so there’s some very old school colonial buildings.

    Odaiba is a sort of island – it’s reclaimed land.
    The best way to get there is by monorail. You can take the subway to the monorail station and catch is to odaiba from there. The car exhibitions there are pretty cool and they have Sega World (but that’s not really worth going to, the rides were pretty tame/lame).
    There’s also a good onsen at odaiba.



  4. fouldsy says:
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    Thanks again for all the info, it’s all really useful! Travelling in a group of 10 sounds pretty cool – this will be the first time I’ll be travelling on my own rather than in a group, so hopefully stopping in hostels will get me chatting with others doing the same thing!

    Decided to treat myself in Nara though as accomodation is limited at the budget end, so am having two nights in Ryokan Matsumae which is meant to be a really nice, traditional Japanese ryokan right next to Nara-koen where all the shrines temples are. Should be good 🙂

    Have heard a couple of people say the Tokyo subway system looks complicated but is actually very easy, clean efficient (not like the London Underground!). Should be able to find my way around okay and get to some of those places.

    As for Kobe, I looked at it, but as you did, it’s probably best just for a day trip. Might go there from Kyoto as I have 3 days there – depends on what I get up to in Kyoto as there seems loads to do! Would like to get to Kobe, as that’s where the world’s longest suspension bridge is, well, just down from Kobe anyways!

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About Me

Iain Foulds, 33 years old. Originally from England, now living in Seattle. I currently work as a Senior Content Developer for Microsoft writing about Azure VMs. Gamer. Very passionate about photography. Comments and opinions expressed here are my own. More...