Sunday, March 29, 2015

Japan Rail Pass Journey - Introduction to my JR pass Experience and Itinerary

In May 2010, I traveled to Japan using the 14-day Japan Rail Pass. I traveled solo. I visited as south as Kumamoto in Kyushu to as north as Asahikawa/Furano in Hokkaido, passed by many cities and walked through many local streets. I would like to start blogging about The Journey Series to share my travel itinerary and experiences with travelers who are thinking about using the JR rail pass to see more of Japan.
Japan Rail Pass Route. Tokyo Consult. TokyoConsult.
Japan Rail Pass Route

- To read about my recommendations of affordable, Reasonable, Convenient hotels in Tokyo, visit: Affordable Cheap Reasonable Hotels in Tokyo
- To read about my recommendations of affordable and reasonable hotels in OSAKA, visit: Osaka Reasonable Affordable Hotels
- To read about my recommendations of reasonable, affordable, and convenient hotels in KYOTO, visit: Kyoto reasonable, affordable, and convenient Hotels
- To read about the most famous ramen franchise in the world, visit: The origin of Ippudo Ramen: Quest for world's first Hakata Ippudo restaurant
- To read about how to plan your trip to Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe, visit: Planning your trip to Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe in Japan 
- To read about basic information of the JR rail pass, visit: Japan Rail Pass
- To read about Kobe beef in Kobe, visit: Kobe Beef in Kobe: My Kobe Beef experiences

Recommendations on planning your Japan Railway Pass trip
1. Plan ahead
Revise your itinerary a few times; have plan B ready in case of possible weather change

2. Book your hotel ahead of time
To ensure vacancy for better value and convenience of accommodations.

3. Avoid Japan's holiday and Golden Weekend
Sightseeing spots will be overcrowded with tourists. Difficult to make hotel reservation. Difficult to reserve seats on the bullet train despite of the use of JR pass.

4. Avoid changing hotels too frequently
Stay at the same hotel for two or more nights; use the same hotel as a base so you can take day trips to neighboring cities. checking in and out of the hotel will waste precious vacation time and carrying luggage from one place to another should be minimized.

5. Stay at hotels near JR or bullet train station.
JR train travel will be covered by your JR rail pass. Staying near bullet train station will also ensure high mobility. I would recommend paying slightly higher price for convenience of proximity to major JR train stations.

6. Activate your JR rail pass on Day 0 (or prior to your starting day) for Day 1.
So you are able to take the earliest train on Day one.

7. Buy your JR rail pass ahead of time.
JR rail pass is only sold outside of Japan. You will not be able to buy it after arriving in Japan. If you are fortunate enough to be living in a city where there is Japanese travel company, you can purchase and pick up a JR Rail pass directly from their office. If you do not have easy access to a Japanese travel agency office, I recommend ordering JR pass online. JR pass will then be shipped to you by the online sellers.

8. Plan your trip AFTER you purchase JR rail pass.
Maximize the potential of JR rail pass while planning. Try not to purchase the JR pass after you already have your itinerary written out, you might end up sacrificing parts of your plan.

Japan Rail Pass Journey Itinerary May 2010
I finalized the itinerary after 1 to 2 months of revision. Hotels were reserved 3 to 5 weeks prior to my actual travel dates. 

Day 1: Fukuoka/Hakata and Kumamoto
Fukuoka/Hakata Street food stall. Tokyo Consult. TokyoConsult.
Fukuoka/Hakata Street food stall.
Route: Tokyo - Hakata (Fukuoka) - Kumamoto (Kyushu) - Hakata (Fukuoka)
Visit: Kumamoto Castle; Kumamoto Downtown
Food: Convenient store rice ball (Onigiri); "Sakura" Meat Curry; Hakata(Fukuoka) Nakasu area street food stall Ramen
Hotel: Comfort Hotel Hakata

Day 2: Nagasaki
Nagasaki Peace Park. Tokyo Consult. TokyoConsult.
Nagasaki Peace Park.
Route: Hakata (Fukuoka) - Nagasaki - Hakata (Fukuoka)
Visit: Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Site and Museum; Nagasaki downtown stroll; Nagasaki Chinatown; Nagasaki Inasayama Night Scenary
Food: Comfort hotel breakfast (included); Nagasaki Champon Ramen; Tenshinhan rice bowl; Beef bowl.
Hotel: Comfort Hotel Hakata

Day 3: Hiroshima and Miyajima
Miyajima Torii. Tokyo Consult. TokyoConsult.
Itsukushima Shrine Torii. Hiroshima Miyajima
Route: Hakata (Fukuoka) - Hiroshima (Honshu) - Miyajima Island (by JR ferry)Hakata (Fukuoka)
Visit: Miyajima Island; ; Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Dome; Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Park.
Food: Comfort hotel breakfast (included); Miyajima Oyster; Hiroshima OkonomiMura.
Hotel: Comfort Hotel Hakata

Day 4: Hakata and Osaka
Street vegetable vendor in Hakata/Fukuoka. Tokyo Consult. TokyoConsult.
Street vegetable vendor in Hakata/Fukuoka.
Route: Hakata - Shin Osaka - Doutonbori area
Visit: Hakata Morning and Traditional Market; Osaka Doutonbori
Food: Comfort hotel breakfast (included); Nagahamake Ramen in Hakata (original store); Kushikatsu (Osaka)
Hotel: Doutonbori Hotel

Day 5: Travel in time in Kyoto
Fushimi Inari Taisha. Tokyo Consult. TokyoConsult.
Fushimi Inari Taisha.
Route: Osaka - Kyoto - Osaka
Visit: Fushimi Inari Shrine; Arashiyama; Yoshimura RestaurantYasaka Shrine; Gion; Pontocho
Food: Kyoto cuisine Soba, Nabe boiling pot. 
Hotel: Doutonbori Hotel
Visit: Tezuka Osamu Manga Museum, Takarazuka area; Osaka Shinsekai; Jan-Jan Yokocho; Tsuutenkaku TowerShinsekai
Food: Moby-Dick plus Wan Bakery&Restaurant (Dog-friendly restaurant) Takarazuka; Japanese youshoku
Hotel: Doutonbori Hotel

Day 7: Kobe Beef in Romantic Kobe
Kobe Beef in Kobe. Tokyo Consult. TokyoConsult.
Kobe Beef in Kobe.
Route: Osaka - Himeji - Kobe - Osaka
Visit: Osaka Castle; Himeji Castle; Kitano Ijinkan Area; Kobe Rokkosan Night Scenery
Food: Kobe beef in Kobe; Shinseikai Kushikatsu
Hotel: Doutonbori Hotel

Day 8: Nara and Kyoto
Kyoto Kinkakuji, Golden Pavillion. Tokyo Consult. TokyoConsult.
Kyoto Kinkakuji, Golden Pavillion.
Route: Osaka - Nara - Kyoto - Osaka
Visit: Nara Deer Park; Toudaiji; Daibutsu; Tezuka Osamu World (Kyoto Station); Kyoto Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) 
Food: Beef bowl; Hayashi Rice; Doutonbori Kinryu Ramen
Hotel: Doutonbori Hotel

Day 9: Nagoya and Gifu
Osaka Hokkyokusei Omu Rice. Tokyo Consult. TokyoConsult.
Osaka Hokkyokusei Omu Rice.
Route: Osaka - Nagoya - Gifu - Osaka
Visit: Nagoya Sakae District; Osu Kannon Temple; Gifu area
Food: Hokkyokusei Omu Rice (Shinsaibashi, Osaka); Izakaya in Gifu
Hotel: Doutonbori Hotel

Day 10: Sendai
Sendai Samurai statue. Tokyo Consult. TokoConsult.
Sendai Samurai statue.
Route: Osaka - Tokyo - Sendai
Visit: Sendai Downtown area; Sendai Castle Ruins; Kokubuncho
Food: Convenient store Onigiri and Japanese sandwich; Tasuke Beef Tongue Restaurant 
Hotel: Comfort Hotel Sendai West

Day 11: Romantic Otaru canal and delicious sushi
Masazushi, Otaru, Hokkaido. Tokyo Consult. TokyoConsult.
Masazushi, Otaru, Hokkaido.
Route: Sendai - Hachinohe - Hakodate - Sapporo - Otaru (9+ hours) - Sapporo
Visit: Otaru Canal; Otaru Sushi Street; Downtown Sapporo
Food: Convenient store Japanese sandwich ; Masazushi Chef's Choice Omakase Set and The Original Ika Somen
Hotel: Toyoko Inn Sapporo Susukino Kosaten

Day 12: Sapporo, Asahikawa, and Furano
Hokkaido Sapporo Ramen Yokocho Street. Tokyo Consult. TokyoConsult.
Different ramen restaurants lined up on Sapporo Ramen Yokocho (street)
Route: Sapporo - Asahikawa - Furano - Sapporo
Visit: Sapporo City; The Original Ramen Yokocho (street); Asahikawa; Furano; Sapporo Susukino Area
Food: Miso Ramen at Sapporo Ramen Yokocho (Alley); Shio Ramen at The Original Santouka Ramen restaurant.
Hotel: Toyoko Inn Sapporo Susukino Kosaten

Day 13: Million Dollar Night View in Hakodate
Hakodate Ropeway. Tokyo Consult. TokyoConsult.
Hakodate Ropeway for Million Dollar View
Route: Sapporo - Hakodate
Visit: Downtown Hakodate; Mount Hakodate Night Scenery; 
Food: Lucky Pierrot - Chinese Chicken Burger; Marukatsu Suisan Revolving Sushi Bar (Keiji Salmon); Hakodate Beer; Daimon Yokocho - RyuOu Ramen - Clear soup Ramen
Hotel: Comfort Hotel Hakodate

Day 14: Foot bath; Seafood Paradise
Hakodate Seafood Paradise Breakfast. Tokyo Consult. TokyoConsult.
Hakodate Seafood Paradise breakfast bowl
Route: Hakodate - Tokyo
Visit: Donburi Yokocho IchibaTraditional Morning Market; Public Foot Bath(Ashiyuu); Tokyo Shinjuku
Food: Scallop/Uni/Salmon Roe over rice breakfast; Baked fresh scallop; Potato with butter; Squid Ink Ice Cream; Yuumin Ramen - Clear Soup (Shio) Ramen
Hotel: Tokyo Shinjuku Hotel Wing International Hotel

To read about my 2015 Japan Rail JR Pass trip:
Japan Rail Pass Route 2015. Project Shinkansen Setonaikai Seto Inland Sea

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