First off, my apologies. I’m a day late but alas it’s better late than never. I’m taking a step away from the world of anime and manga for a few articles (partly because i haven’t watched any in a few months) and i’m going to try and offer you some good, practicle advice if you’re wanting to go to Japan.
You would think trying to find this information is easy enough with google ‘n all. But i spent quite a bit of time delving through the utter crap some people class as websites, in the end i found a few excellent resources. Going to Japan now is a bit sketchy, especially with the exchange rate hitting rock bottom. But i hope this will give you a good point of reference for the future.
Any major airline will have a flight to Tokyo. (unfortunatley Ryanair doesn’t) Prices range depending on how deep you’re pockets are, but generally i found that the lesser known airlines offer the cheapest fares but with the same service in economy. Alitalia offers flights from £694 pp/return and if you did want to fly BA or Virgin Atlantic they cost £772 so really not much of a difference*. If you had the time and money i would seriously reccommend flying to Australia and then up to Japan.
Where to stay?
Now, usually when people go to Japan for the first time they opt for the good old fashioned western chain hotel. Don’t need to give you any information on that, that’s a gimmie. However, if you do want to try something very different you can give a Ryokan a try. These are the hotels that we all know and love from Anime. The Japanese Inn Group www.jpinn.com list every Ryokan imaginable and they have hotels in every corner in Japan so really it is completley up to you. Some do have shared baths etc, but it’s all explained before you book. If you really want a unique experience, this is the way to go. I’ve tried it and it’s something i’ll always remember. You can book in advanced and the prices are very competitive.
One fantastic service that the Japanese Inn Group offers is a travel light service. If you wanted to stay in several of these lovely hotels across Japan, just pack what you need in a travel bag and they will forward on your suitcase to your next hotel, free of charge.
What to do?
There are thousands of websites and hundreds of books dedicated to listing the mountains of stuff there is to do in Japan. If you wanted to get the most out of your trip, for the love of god buy a Lonely Planet guide. I bought a used one on Ebay for £10 and it’s a fantastic resource for planning.
A few other good websites are http://www.destination360.com/asia/japan/things-to-do.php
Japans tourist board website http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/ is also a great place to look. It’s updated daily with good information, what’s on, where to go and discounts/offers. Most of all, it has a decent translation so it’s a breeze to find out those hidden gems.
Moneysupermarket.com, if you travel without insurance, bad things happen. Japanese Health Care is a pain in the backside as it is, you don’t want to be paying bills and writing out paper work with a broken leg. Prices for full coverage will cost you around £20.
Thats pretty much it for the basics, but there is one site i want to link to. http://www.thejapanfaq.com It gives a realistic, albeight slight negative introduction to what you will incounter if you stray outside of Tokyo. The Japanese are fantastic people, but like most cultures they have thier problems too. If you have the time to read that website (yes i know it looks like crap) it will explain a few things, most importantley why everything is expensive over there. But please note these are not my views or opinions, just another take on what other westerners have experienced in Japan.
That’s the basics for this short article on Travel. Next time i’m going to be looking at Learning Japanese, what teaching aides are the best.
* Prices based on one person flying Economy from Heathrow to Tokyo for 3 weeks in April 2009.