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Sana goes to Japan

Staff member: Sana // Trip date: Mar 2008

Very important: Never travel to Japan without a Japan Rail pass!

The Japan Rail Pass can only be purchased outside of Japan, and specifically designed for tourists. It is definitely great value for money.

The Rail system in Japan is very easy to understand, and is the basis of transportation for many locals and tourists alike.

Japan has one of the World's most modern and developed transportation system, with an extensive rail network that allows access to almost every destination. Expect fast and timely train services. Regardless of whether you are travelling on a Shinkansen or a subway line, you will notice that all the trains are clean and on time.

Announcements are always made about arriving stations in both Japanese and English.

Exchanging you Japan Rail Pass
We exchanged our vouchers at Osaka-Shin station. Filled out a simple form, handed our passports to the agent, and vouchers were then exchanged for the actual Japan Rail Pass.
You must be holding your passport otherwise you can not exchange your voucher for the actual rail pass.

Seat Reservations:
Seat reservations can be done for free at these counters. Passengers in Green/Ordinary class can reserve seats, otherwise if you choose to not reserve your seat you must make your way to the un-reserved carriages. Reservations on the Shinkansen can be made in smoking or non smoking carriages.

Places visited in Osaka

Osaka Castle:

This castle was built as a display of power by Toyotomi Hideyoshi after his goal of unifying Japan was achieved.

How to get there: Take the JR Osaka Loop line, and get off at the JR Osaka-jo-koen station.

Costs and opening times: 9:00am to 5:00pm. Admission to the Main Tower for a view of the city costs ¥600. Tickets are purchased locally from the ticket machines.

The Umeda Sky Building:

This building looks like a space age version of Paris' Arc de Triomphe. The view from the top is incredible, and best to visit after sunset, when you can view the lights of Osaka. Getting to the top is impressive, as you take a glassed in escalator. There are two observation galleries: an outdoor one on the roof and an indoor one just one floor below.

How to get there: The building is reached via an underground passage that starts just north of both Osaka and Umeda Station. Approximately a 20 minute walk from the train station.

Costs and opening times: 10:00am to 10:30pm. Admission to the top observatory costs ¥700. Tickets are purchased locally from the ticket machines.

Spa World:

Billed as the World's largest spa, Spa World consists of two floors of baths, one Asian themed and the other is European themed. The Asian and European baths are segregated by sex; and these switch monthly. A Rooftop water world with pools and waterslides, floors with restaurants, relaxation and massage areas are also available.

Important note: You can not wear your bathing suit to any of the baths; however bathing suits can be worn to visit the water world. All belongings and shoes are to be locked away in lockers provided.

How to get there: Take the Sakais-uji or Mido-suji subway line, and get off at Dobutsuen-mae station.

Costs and opening times: Spa World is open 24 hours a day, however if you stay after midnight, extra costs will incur. Admission is ¥1000 Yen for the baths, however the waterslides, facials, massages are all billed separately. Final payment is made when you are exiting.

Places visited in Tokyo


Head to Roppongi for a diverse range of clubs and a great night out. Roppongi is full of tourists, nightclubs and restaurants. This place, out of everywhere we travelled in Japan is where you will most likely get hustled. Be wary of pushy club promoters trying to get you into their clubs. You will be crazy if you don't check this place out!

How to get there: Take the JR Yamanote Line and get off at JR Ebisu station. Take the Hibiya Subway Line and get off at Roppongi station.


Tokyo's discounted World of Electronics. Nicknamed the Electric Town, the range of electronics here are unbelievable and the prices were unbeatable. For two girls who have no interest in electronics, we spent 5 hours, in 3 department stores, spending more than what we budgeted for. We did find cheap and unique products. We went to Akhibara twice, and will definitely go back again! You must remember to double-check that your purchases are compatible with your home country's system, and have your passport handy to buy duty free items.

How to get there: Take the JR Yamanote Line and get off at the JR Akhibara station. Then follow the signs to the Electric Town exit.

Tokyo Disneyland:

How to get there: Take the JR Yamanote Line and get off at Tokyo. Change trains and board another JR Line direct to JR Maihama station. Disneyland is about a 15 minute walk from the train station to the gates.

Costs and opening times: Admission to Disneyland was ¥5800 for 1 day. If you also want to visit Disney Sea, allow two or more days. Tickets for entry were purchased locally; however make sure you arrive early as the queues are huge. Disneyland is open till 10:30pm.


- Exchanging money: I would recommend exchanging your money before you depart. Money can be exchanged at some places in Osaka and Tokyo; otherwise if you find a Citibank then you can use their ATM. Ensure you check all transactions fees with your local bank before departing Australia.

- Subway trains stop operation between midnight and 5am.

- Tokyo and Osaka both have an excellent public transport system, with everything conveniently close to a subway or JR station.

- Taxis are very expensive. I would recommend using a taxi when you are left with no other choice. Flag fall starts at ¥500-710 for the first 2kms. After which the meter will keep increasing by an additional ¥100 for every 350 metres and ¥100 for every 2 minutes you're stuck in traffic.

- Your mobile must be set to silent when travelling on a train and you will rarely witness a person talking on their cell phone.

- Narita Airport is about 50 minutes from central Tokyo.

Travelling to/from Tokyo (Shinjuku) to Narita Airport:

A taxi will approximately cost close to ¥25,000, or jump onto the Narita Express (NEX) which is covered on your Japan Rail Pass. Seat reservation is compulsory and free of charge. The NEX gets busy, and there is space at the back of your carriage to place your luggage.
The NEX services are fast, extremely comfortable, and run from 7am to 10pm, every 30 minutes. We caught the 1442 train from Shinjuku station, and arrived into Narita Airport at 1554 (duration: 1 hr 12 mins). The train stops at Terminal 1 and 2 at Narita Airport.

Travelling to/from Osaka Airport to Namba (Osaka):

Caught a shuttle bus from the airport to the Namba Bus Terminal. This shuttle bus costs ¥800. Travelling from the airport to Namba takes approximately 50 minutes. This was purchased locally through the ticket machines.


Shin-Osaka to Kyoto (bus from Kyoto to Gion)

Reserved a seat on the Kodoma Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka to Kyoto
Duration: 14 minutes
Passengers can choose between a smoking or non-smoking carriage.

Shin-Osaka to Tokyo

Reserved a seat on the Hikari Shinkansen
Duration: 3 hours

JR Yamanote Line

A Loop Line, covering major subway stations in Tokyo
Major stops: Shinjuku - Shibuya - Tokyo - Ueno - Ikebukuro

JR Osaka Loop Line

A Loop Line, covering major subway stations in Osaka
Major stops: Fukushima - Umeda

More staff stories

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Sana goes to Japan map


Onboard the Narita Express
Onboard the Narita Express

Entrance to metro stations
Entrance to metro stations

Ordinary class on a Shinkansen
Ordinary class on a Shinkansen

Japan Rail Pass Exchange office located in Osaka
Japan Rail Pass Exchange office located in Osaka

Signs at Japan train stations
Signs at Japan train stations

Temple in Gion
Temple in Gion

Temple in Gion
Temple in Gion

Osaka castle
Osaka castle

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