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bobhsv

Tour advice for Japan cruise

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Posting on our aussie section first.  Looking for any advice and recommendations for private tours at these ports......Tokyo, Shimizu, Osaka, Kochi.

We will be on Majestic Princess 18/08/2019, and reading that most onboard cruisers will be Chinese and Japanese (nice!), as it is a short 8 day cruise from Shanghai return.  We are aware of the tours with locals, but would love to hear of any experiences and recommendations please.  

Thanks!

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We used the volunteer local guides and found them to be excellent. I will be using them when we next visit.

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Thanks for your quick replies:classic_biggrin:  Will look at the local guides.  

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Get a mobile data pack and use apps like hyperdia or the website hyperdia for train times and also japan-guide.com for precise directions. You can easily do things on your own.

 

I never do the ships tours in Japan. They are always crowded, congest places and show very little for the time they take and go to ridiculous places for shopping and lunch with excessive time dedicated to both opposed to touring. The public transport in Japan is phenomenal and you can see much more than a ships tour by using public transport and have better meals at Japanese restaurants than what the tours get.

 

I can speak Japanese and am certified at N5 level but am taking the N3 test this year as I am confident in it.

 

You will dock in Yokohama for Tokyo which is a short walk to Nihonodori station where you can get direct train connections via Yokohama straight to Tokyo. Once you are on the Yamanote Line you can get to every major tourist destination in Tokyo.

 

Same with Osaka, you are close to a train station that can get you into central Osaka for Osaka Castle and the main tourist shopping district. You also have the ability to take the Shinkansen to Kyoto and see a few major places there as well and possibly even Nara depending on how long the ship is docked for.

 

As long as you know the train times which Hyperdia is good for you can write a diary to plan your day and be able to go to the places that interest you most opposed to tours.

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Just to note that there are multiple public transport services in Japanese cities, including Yokohama-Tokyo. This means managing the ticketing.

 

Nihonodori station is on one company’s line, while the Yamanote Line is on JR. 

 

If it is just day trips, an ic card (PASMO, SUICA — basically a charge card) can be used across providers.

 

Last time I was in Japan was for 2 weeks with considerable travel, including Shinkansen (bullet trains). For this a JR card bought in Australia, ticket issued in Tokyo) saved lots of money. For occasional use of other lines, single trip tickets are available.

 

 

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Thanks Brisbane41 and Docker123.  I have received a couple of high quotes so far (over $350US pp).  Is the rail signposted easily in English in Tokyo and Osaka?  I am assuming so, as this now looks to be the best way for us at these two ports. They are both early arrivals and both depart at 10pm, giving us plenty of time.  Will get the app you recommended.

We did want to get to Kyoto for the day from Osaka.

I am finding that a lot of the local guides return to their homes during August.....whatever that means!

Thanks again, appreciate all the help.

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Some of the guide services operate with uni students. So, they may use their summer holidays to go home elsewhere in Japan

 

This link site has links to organisations in many cities, often multiple services: http://www.japan.travel/en/plan/list-of-volunteer-guides/

 

Train stations in Tokyo can be a daunting experience until you orient yourself. Some of the bigger ones have multiple platform entries, and even multiple companies operating.

 

so, make sure you map out the destination, company you are using, direction of travel, and which line you need. Many lines have not just the name but are also colour coded - blue line, red line etc.   

 

There are overhead signs showing entrances to coloured lines and directions. 

 

I found locals helpful, even with language barriers. Many have translation apps on their phones and will provide info that way.

 

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The trains in Tokyo are more efficient than anywhere I have seen in the world. There are the English language names written on every station.

 

Some major stations have painted platforms of exactly where to stand in a neat line so that you do not disrupt the flow of people traffic. You will see foot prints and lane lines marked. Normally on trains in major tourist places the last announcement before stopping is always the English version.

 

If you have the hyperdia app on your phone it will even tell you what platform to go to and what time and what intervals they come.

 

If you have data pack for your mobile then the mobile maps are useful too.

 

It is easy to get to Kyoto from Osaka either on a rapid train of the Shinkansen. both are quick and easy. At least by train you have a better chance of making it to some major destinations before the tours arrive and avoid all the jostling for photo spots.

 

Kyoto is always crowded when I have been there. A lot of really rude Chinese tourists go there now to all the shrines and they are loud, ignorant, rude and insolent to all other people. They will stand in the way of your photos and make a commotion. In some cases they even dress up in traditional kimono style clothing which may not even be Japanese style and go to major tourist destinations for photos and create havoc. The Fushimi Inari Shrine is probably the most crowded even off season. When it is not summer, not winter, not cherry blossom and not kouyou season then it is less likely to be crowded at any major tourist destiantion.

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While researching today for my upcoming Japan trip I came across a tour from Osaka to Kyoto. It was 6000 yen pp and went to all the major must see places eg golden pavilion fushimi inari bamboo forest etc.  Entry wasnt included but entry is very cheap if not free at most sites.  There would be added expenses of taxi to station or to pick up location.  I will have a look and post.  My friend did a mt fuji 5 lakes tour with the same company last November and said it was excellent.

Despite offering you this info I still think you would be better using goodwill guide even if you use taxis to get around kyoto along with trains for any outer areas.

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8 hours ago, Tara Jane said:

Thanks for the link Tara Jane.  That's far better pricing than I have found elsewhere, and tour covers all we wish to see.  I'm going to email them to see if they offer anything else for cruisers.  Unfortunately this particular tour begins in Osaka at 8.20am, but ship doesn't dock till 9am.  Btw, keeping our options open and still looking at goodwill guides. (getting nowhere fast atm)

 

Thanks also to Docker123 and Brisbane41 for your great advice.  

Edited by bobhsv
more info

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2 hours ago, By The Bay said:

Thanks for the link Tara Jane. Do you have a link to the Mt Fuji, 5 Lakes tour?

Will find and post.  We usually stay around Gora for 2 nights and use the Hakone free pass.  Hubby has never seen fuji clearly and as our time is shorter this trip I thought the one day would be a good attempt however as we are there in golden week the tours aren't operating.  

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We are in Shimizu on the 6th May 2020 which happens to be Constitution Memorial Day. From what I have read online we can expect businesses to be closed. In your experience, is it likely that tour operators will be working? Does public transport run to a reduced schedule on Public Holidays?

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You will be on the end of golden week which is the busiest time in Japan even more so than new year and cherry blossom time so expect problems.  We sail 5 may this year and having 8 days prior travelling around.  I rarely use tours so cant answer that one other than to say the fuji 5 lakes we hoped to do this year is not operating in golden week.

For train info use www.hyperdia.com

It has all you need even platform numbers times cost etc. Public transportation always reliable unless major catastrophe eg typhoons earthquake etc.

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Sorry when I say problems I meant difficulty with accommodation if  going pre cruise and also many crowds all over Japan.  

It seems that the majority of Japanese travel home to their families and therefore the trains are very busy.

I have spoken to JNTO Sydney office regarding travel on the shinkansen and they assured me I will be able to get a train just may not be able to get the time I prefer.  I was concerned after reading posts here on cc that I might have accommodation booked and not be able to get to the destination, but after speaking with JNTO I am more comfortable about our plans.

JNTO in Sydney are very helpful, will send brochures of the areas you are interested in, however their times for phone enquiries are rather restricted.   

Edited by Tara Jane

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1 hour ago, Tara Jane said:

Sorry when I say problems I meant difficulty with accommodation if  going pre cruise and also many crowds all over Japan.  

It seems that the majority of Japanese travel home to their families and therefore the trains are very busy.

I have spoken to JNTO Sydney office regarding travel on the shinkansen and they assured me I will be able to get a train just may not be able to get the time I prefer.  I was concerned after reading posts here on cc that I might have accommodation booked and not be able to get to the destination, but after speaking with JNTO I am more comfortable about our plans.

JNTO in Sydney are very helpful, will send brochures of the areas you are interested in, however their times for phone enquiries are rather restricted.   

They have 16 carriage Shinkansens leaving one end of the country for the other at roughly 4 minute intervals. Saying you may not get the time you want is an understatement when you only have to wait another 4 minutes!

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Not on all routes. A comment like that is grossly misleading.  Hyperdia gives all timetables for all routes both JR and private lines. We will be travelling narita terminal 1 to Kanazawa. Narita Express and shinkansen and trains are most definately not every 4 minutes, during the middle of the day departing at 30 min intervals but with transfers they arrive into Kanazawa hourly not 30 mins apart.

Edited by Tara Jane

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17 minutes ago, Tara Jane said:

Not on all routes. A comment like that is grossly misleading.  Hyperdia gives all timetables for all routes both JR and private lines. We will be travelling narita terminal 1 to Kanazawa. Narita Express and shinkansen and trains are most definately not every 4 minutes, during the middle of the day departing at 30 min intervals but with transfers they arrive into Kanazawa hourly not 30 mins apart.

Actually they are if you bother to check the interval timetable. The mistake you are probably making is selecting JR Pass only which is limited to the number of Shinkansen types available. If you take the Tokkaido main line for example they have the Nozomi, Hikari and Kodama on one section and Mizuho and Sakura on the others. JR pass is not valid on Nozomi and Mizuho. If you want to bring up Kanazawa then it is the Hokuriku line which has the Kagayaki, Hakutaka and Asama Shinkansen. Perhaps you are selecting the interval of one particular service instead of checking all. It may seem complicated but in Japan it works. Some trains do not stop at all stations and others do. If you bother to go to any train station in Japan and read the timetable you will see that Shinkansens depart daily roughly ever 4 minutes or less in some cases. The Tokkaido main line definitely has more Shinkansen services than the Hokuriku line.

 

Beats my why you would want to fly into Narita when there is a daily service into Haneda that is closer to Tokyo and gives quicker options.

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Re hyperdia.  Have been looking at it on my pc, and very impressed, thanks.  However, I can't download it onto my android phone.  Does this have to be done once we are in Japan? Or is my 2yr old phone too old now?  I have found a similar app, which works ok,  but this hyperdia was simple to use via pc.

Still emailing for tours.  Some are not available online for another couple of months.  The summer August holidays appear to have many taking their 'vacay'.

 

 

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Not being techno savvy I'm sorry I cant help you other than to say my Samsung 7 edge works fine with hyperdia.  It actually looks slightly different on my screen but provides all the info that using the laptop does.  My phone is a hand me down from my son and I've had it 18 months and I have no idea how long he had it. 

To Brisbane 41 - I have specific reasons for my itinerary plans which I dont need to disclose to you.  I am also well aware the JR pass cannot be used on certain trains. 

Edited by Tara Jane

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