Our 2014 and 2018 trips to Japan

Introduction

The long awaited trip to Japan, finally took place in May 2014.
We enjoyed it soooo much that we returned in 2018!
Our 2014 itinerary started in Osaka, followed by Kyoto, Nara, back to Kyoto, Nagoya, Yudanaka (near Nagano) and finally Tokyo.
Our 2018 experience concentrated on the island of Kyushu and a sidetrip to Hiroshima
So many new experiences, new friends, new cultural backgrounds, new food!
Something that we will cherish and remember for many years to come, and definitely an experience we would love to repeat sometime in the not too far future!

We would like to thanks all of our Servas hosts for not just providing us with accomodation, but teaching us about their culture, sharing their daily lives with us.
By welcoming us to their homes, we were given the opportunity to get to know a Japan that the regular (Hotel reservating) tourist does not see.

4 (8) years of learning Japanese came in handy too. For that I thank my many teachers for their patience and dedication!

Suggestions

Anybody wanting to visit Japan, these are a few suggestions for your trip:
  • Rent a Wi-Fi device! For less than $7 a day, we enjoyed constant internet access, which was not only great for immediate posting of pictures to Facebook, and to be in constant email contact with loved ones, but more importantly allowed us free use of Google Maps, without being afraid of facing enourmous data bills on our next mobile phone bill.
    We used Japan WiFi Service and were very happy with their product
  • Consider purchasing a Japan Rail Pass. But before you leave, check if it is worth your while by checking out individual trip prices.
    For the 2018 trip, we found that it is more economical to schedule the trip so that we only book a JR pass for those times where we will be travelling longer distances in the fast train, (The Shinkansen)
    Also, now there are cheaper tickets if you book a pass to just an area of Japan instead of the whole of Japan. (For example we had a pass for North Kyushu, then another one for South Kyushu)
    Verify prices using the HyperDia website.
    If the JR Pass is for you, then further consider upgrading to the Green pass, which is the equivalent of a first class ticket.
    Every intercity train has two or three "Green" carriages, easily recognisable by their 4 clover green symbol. Many urban trains have them too.
    We found the Green pass useful, as it provided us with front seats on a scenic route which had a large glass front window and we had incredible views and could watch the driver too. We also had a situation when coming home from a day trip, a train was fully booked for non-Green pass passengers. Finally, in Tokyo, during rush hour, we travelled in confort and not like sardines.
    If you do get a JR Pass, then also be careful, as not every train in Japan belongs to JR, and hence it is not always accepted.
    Make sure that you book your accomodation near a JR station!
  • Pack lightly so that you have smaller luggage to take. Nearly all train stations have lockers to store your luggage wihile you go sight-seeing. It is easier to find a locker for smaller luggage!
  • Be prepared to climb lots of stairs! Not every place has elevators or escalators! On the positive side, this is the first trip where I actually lost weight!

Pictures!

The following are links to my Facebook albums of the trip. You do not have to have a Facebook account to view them.

2018 trip - Kyushu and Hiroshima

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Visits since 7 Sep 2014