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Old 04-01-2016, 12:39 PM   #1
949
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Default need help on planning my trip to japan april 2016

hey guys I plan on going to japan this month of april 11- 16 2016.

I have no clue where to stay (city locations) and what to do as well as what to avoid.
all I know is to stay away from red light districts but I don't know which cities those are.


what should I bring or not bring?
how should I prepare?

any advice or help is appreciated.
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Old 04-01-2016, 02:22 PM   #2
TougeRenner
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I went last year for my honeymoon.

Pack light if you can, we backpacked it and it worked out as you will most likely be using trains and buses to get around. Have good walking shoes. Renting a car and finding parking for that car is not really practical. Besides public transportation is gonna get you almost everywhere you want to go. The google maps app is really handy on telling you how to get where you want to go.

In the major city's you will get by with English, as most people speak it or will help you find someone that can speak to you. Just be patient and thankful.

The train ticket machines have an English option, but since it's not always clear even in English some time the best thing to do is buy the cheapest ticket and get on the train then when you get to the your destination there will be a machine to pay the difference, that way you don't end up with a bunch of remainder yen tickets that are basically worthless.

Food is easy, most restaurants have like plastic food models of what they serve in the front window so it's as easy as pointing some times. Service is different, when you get seated you will have to hail a server(push a call button on the table, sometimes) to place an order they will not typically approach you be for that, then they will also give you the check once you get the food and when your done typically you get up and pay at the front. Most importantly DO NOT TIP, it is extremely offensive, they take great pride in their job and giving a tip is like saying you suck at your job and do better.

I would say sushi is not a popular as you would think but if you want to try a really good Omakase(chef choice), if you are in the toyko area I would say looking to getting a reservation at Sushi Rinda in Meguro, they are English friendly the head chef will speak to you in English and explain everything you are eating. Because, ultimately the chances of getting in to Sukiyabashi Jiro(the place from the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi) are very slim to none for non locals, we even tried to have a friend in japan try to get us a reservation to no avail, and I have herd its not worth the money, and they are not friendly to foreigners.

In Tokyo the roppongi neighborhood is the one to stay away from if possible for tourist from what I have been told.

The Subaru dealership of interest and STi's headquarters is located in Mitaka, a suburb of Tokyo. It's kinda hard to get to because once you get off the train you have to take a bus that runs infrequently. But they have a few of the STI race cars on display and a 22b. There are no tours unfortunately, and kinda uneventful because its just a dealership at the end of the day, and they will not let you go beyond the gates to the STi buildings.

Your US debit card will typically not work their or in their ATMs or store terminal, so be prepared to carry real currency. So you either have to find a Chase bank or any Seven Eleven will have an ATM that you can withdraw from, and 7-11s are in almost every corner. Don't carry a bunch of cash on you entering the country, just enough to get where your going initially, because to covert there you will lose your butt on selling the money to a 3rd party broker. If you withdraw from an ATM it's just the plain conversion rate.

Last edited by TougeRenner; 04-01-2016 at 03:17 PM.
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Old 04-02-2016, 03:43 AM   #3
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wow thanks. lots of great info there.

I have been searching and what is your take on the JR pass for foreigners? I read its good but would it be usefull as there is a 7 day pass for about $255 usd per person. as well as a 1st class version for about $85 usd more per person.
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Old 04-02-2016, 03:20 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 949 View Post
wow thanks. lots of great info there.

I have been searching and what is your take on the JR pass for foreigners? I read its good but would it be usefull as there is a 7 day pass for about $255 usd per person. as well as a 1st class version for about $85 usd more per person.
We did not buy any JR passes because its really expensive and you would have to live on the train to make it worth it, and to put in perspective you would have to ride the train at least 6 times a day for 7 days to break even on $255. Also the cheaper passes may only work in one area. Also the cheaper will not work for the Shinkansen(bullet train), and is also very expensive to take, but worth the experience.

So really when you go any where and you are unsure of the fair, buy the cheapest ticket to get on the train which is 80 yen(72 cents) IIRC, then whenever you get where you are going the ticket will not be enough to leave the station but you just put the ticket in the fair adjuster machine and you pay the difference. Most trips for us were around $2-5 USD per person unless we were going pretty far.

When you are on the trains in the major metropolitan areas I visited you don't have to worry too much about know knowing Japanese because they announce the stops in English and the monitors on the train cycle through English translation.

English is basically the best language to know in japan other than Japanese.

The awesome thing about the Google maps app is that it will tell you exactly how much the train tickets are going to cost for the route it is telling you to take.

Get a cheat sheet of phrases, like thank you and hello, even if you are butchering the pronunciation they absolutely love it for even trying to speak their language.

Oh also, your phone. To avoid getting charged mercilessly what we did was rented a pocket Wifi in some places, and have the phone connect to that to use the Google maps and messengers on data, or sometimes if you are using AirBnB the host will include a pocket WiFi to use in the city. Most free WiFi sucks just like here, and the hotel WiFi can be terrible too.

I hope you have fun, want to go back so much.

Last edited by TougeRenner; 04-02-2016 at 03:44 PM.
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Old 04-03-2016, 02:01 AM   #5
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thanks for that.

I wasn't too sure about the jr pass. I'm not 100% sure how much train rides we are going to be using so I guess it might not be worth it. we do want to go up the mountain which I heard requires the bullet train. not sure which one but it sounds like it better to just buy it as we go along. we do plan on going everywhere but in one day will it be 6 rides, maybe ???

as for the google maps, is it better to just buy a local sim card when we get there and use that?

we were planning on air bnb but decided to go with a hotel and airfair deal. which airline did you use?
would you recommend to use airbnb or get a hotel?
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Old 04-03-2016, 10:34 AM   #6
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if you are talking about Mt Fuji and getting to the Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station attraction, you do not have to take the bullet train to get there, we did not use the bullet train when we went from tokyo but you do have to change trains like 3 times and use a bus for drive up the mountain, from shinjuku(tokyo) you take the Chuo line then change to the Fujikyu line http://mtfuji-jp.com/directions/train. However, check to make sure it will be open in April as the mountain may still be under snow.

When I said 6 rides in a day, they would have to be fairly decent distance rides, small hops around toyko don't cost much, or another way to look at it is $255/7=~$36 a day you would need to spend on train tickets just to make the pass worth it. For example getting from tokyo to Mt fuji will cost 2240 yen which is about $20, however its not JR the whole way so the $255 JR pass will only take you so far then you will have to pay for the local train. Google maps example

I said the bullet train was expensive, and it is compared to the normal trains, when we took it from toyko to osaka we chose the "nozomi" which is the super express and only stopped once or twice, but the more the train stops the cheaper it gets, and there are three levels of stopping frequency. So that ticket cost us about $80USD, but you can think of it like taking a hopper plane from burbank to vegas.

Well, it depends if you have an unlocked world phone rather a foreign sim will work in it, but your US phones data messaging(non SMS) and VOIP will work connected to a pocket WiFi.

I fell like some of the best nights were airbnbs, and hotels were just hotels. we rented small apartments and the airbnbs were typically cheaper.

We flew air nippon(air japan) direct from LAX to Narita

Last edited by TougeRenner; 04-03-2016 at 10:55 AM.
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Old 04-03-2016, 07:25 PM   #7
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A few cultural things that helps to know, that might smoothen out your time there.

-make sure you have socks on you at all times, at some point you are going to be forced to take your shoes off to enter some place usually a temple. Going barefoot is not acceptable, so you will have to wear the communal slippers available, hence why you need socks at all times.

-if you can use use chopsticks. Do not pass food to another person with chopsticks, it's a bad omen, it comes from the dividing of ashes to family members at funerals. When eating a bowl of rice do not stab your chopsticks in to the rice and leave them standing up, it's also a bad omen.

-do not try and shake people's hands, bowing is shaking hands in their culture.

-the hot springs can be an interesting and relaxing experience, but if you have an issue with the rules just don't do it, and the rules are the same everywhere.
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Old 04-03-2016, 10:33 PM   #8
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I see. didn't think about those advices.

I was thinking of getting currency here first. is that a good or bad idea? my bank offers this service but I'm not sure if I am getting ripped off using them. should I just change my American money over there and hope its going to net me more yen?
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Old 04-03-2016, 10:56 PM   #9
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For money, I would not buy/exchange currency at your bank because the bank is always gonna give you less than the day's trading exchange rate. They give you less because they are essentially charging you for them to aquire and hold physical foreign currencies. The same goes for when you get there and try and exchange physical money at those counters in the airports. Literally the best thing you can do is carry only what you need to get to an ATM that accepts American cards. If you are flying in to Narita there should be a Chase ATM right when you get through customs. When you withdraw from an ATM you may get a few dollar services fee if you don't have chase but the ATM is just going to convert your money at the actual day's exchange rate. Really the same goes for any foreign traveling not just Japan.

From my experience japan is a very cash carry place, you will want to have physical money on you, especially when you come across a vending machine with something neat in it. At the hotels I was at there were beer vending machines, and the machine didn't even check ID! Speaking of that there is no open container laws, you can drink booze when and where you please.

Last edited by TougeRenner; 04-03-2016 at 11:02 PM.
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Old 04-04-2016, 12:06 AM   #10
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I love Japan. I've been there many times. I actually got married there and have family there.
Favorite spots: Kisu Valley, Kyoto, and maybe a baseball game. Definitely hit an Up Garage if you see one.
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Old 04-04-2016, 01:57 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TougeRenner View Post
For money, I would not buy/exchange currency at your bank because the bank is always gonna give you less than the day's trading exchange rate. They give you less because they are essentially charging you for them to aquire and hold physical foreign currencies. The same goes for when you get there and try and exchange physical money at those counters in the airports. Literally the best thing you can do is carry only what you need to get to an ATM that accepts American cards. If you are flying in to Narita there should be a Chase ATM right when you get through customs. When you withdraw from an ATM you may get a few dollar services fee if you don't have chase but the ATM is just going to convert your money at the actual day's exchange rate. Really the same goes for any foreign traveling not just Japan.

From my experience japan is a very cash carry place, you will want to have physical money on you, especially when you come across a vending machine with something neat in it. At the hotels I was at there were beer vending machines, and the machine didn't even check ID! Speaking of that there is no open container laws, you can drink booze when and where you please.
with your advice, for now ill still pick up maybe 100 usd worth of yen from my local bank in case I cant find a chase right away. ill open up a chase account tomorrow and deposit some cash in there for my needs. I assume there wont be any charge to get the money in yen when I get there from chase atm's? yeah?

as for drinking, I don't drink. I cant say that for my GF. she is a light drinker, usually taking what ever I order after I take like one sip just for taste.
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Old 04-04-2016, 03:26 AM   #12
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As tougerenner mentioned, cash is king. Make sure you always have some on you. I typically spent about 50 usd or about 5000 yen a day. JR pass is not worth it, just buy a ticket each time you get on. Pretty much every ticket terminal will have an English option, if all else fails just show the Google map of your destination to one of the station workers and they'll gladly assist you. The Japanese are very polite and helpful, be patient with them and they will repay it tenfold. Personally, I'd stay in Tokyo if I were you. There is plenty to do and see there. Many cities to enjoy. My favorite 2 were Akihabara and Odaiba. Make sure you grab a Tokyo guide book from the airport. It will help you map out your adventure. If you can, try to fly into Haneda. It's closer to the heart of Tokyo than Narita (not sure why so many people fly into Narita maybe cuz Disneyland Tokyo is nearby there lol). Touge Renner pretty much covered everything else. Just make sure to bring an open mind, be patient, pack light, have fun. Oh and if you happen to have tmobile or sprint, they tend to include free international roaming with most of their plans. So make sure you check with your carrier first to see if your plan has it. My tmobile plan has free international roaming included. It's limited to 2g speeds but that's enough to use Google maps to find your way around and to use Google translate if you are really stuck lol. Good luck have fun!
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Old 04-04-2016, 01:08 PM   #13
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wow another great set of advice.

i do have sprint and didn't know about the free roaming feature in other countries. it doesn't use the current sim card feature as its an older Samsung S3 cell phone.
i know i have free roaming and had no idea how that worked else where. ill need to call them about that today.

i think my GF got the plane ticket headed to Narita. I don't believe she planned it to be that specific airport other than to select a flight was non stop and it just happen to go that route. my thought is to bring a backpack for the daily walks and leave the suitcase at the hotel.

as for the cash, i wanted to clear it up as it sounded like your using American USD currency in some locations. am i misunderstanding that?

should i pack for cold weather or warm at this time? i looked at weather.com and it says its going to be raining over there, but is it cold rain or warm rain like we have here in socal.


I know there are some sites I should really try out that are famous or popular but I just cant seem to recall. any locations you guys recommend in particular?

Last edited by 949; 04-04-2016 at 01:27 PM.
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Old 04-04-2016, 03:01 PM   #14
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I just called to check on chase and Citibank atm fees.
they do not have banks there but they have co-op atm machines.


both have a 3% conversion fee on their atm machines.

Last edited by 949; 04-04-2016 at 03:48 PM.
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Old 04-04-2016, 04:02 PM   #15
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Check some of the banks in Monterey Park/Alhambra (626). When I needed to get foreign currency I went to the BoA on Garfield and Garvey and they didn't charge me a service fee. Call them first to confirm.

Call your credit cards and advise them the dates when you will be overseas.

If you have an American Express card, look at buying the overseas medical insurance. I think its $9.00 for a month and it covers 50k. I used this overseas and it covered me in Philippines.

Pack light, you can get a lot of clothes from shops there. (i.e. socks and underwear from 7-11) But remember the sizes are different over there.

If you are flying business or first class and going to Narita on ANA. Go to the lounge and get some free ramen, udon and sushi.

Since you are going in April. Look for a park nearby where you are staying and see the sakura(cherry) blossom trees. I grabbed some beer/sake, snacks and a blanket and enjoyed the scene at night. The cherry blossom in Shibuya is lighter than in Tokyo. Below is a picture at Shibuya.


Bring a few pens to fill out the intake and return paperwork while on the plane.

Bring an unlocked phone and buy a sim card. Overseas is charge by use instead of monthly(restricted). Swap cards and go. I think I paid around $1 a day for unlimited everything.(includes tethering)

Download Google Translate at the play store. You can speak into your phone and it will speak back in whatever language you pick. It also does text to speech. I use this to speak to my gf's family.

It is pretty safe there. I would wander around (drunk) 1am-6am from food stall to food stall. If you are worried, wrap your wallet in a big rubberband. If someone tried to take it, the rubberband will get caught in your pocket.

Don't tip at restaurants. They will chase you down and give your money back.

Double check before getting a taxi, it could be down the street. Google maps showed a restaurant far away and when we took a taxi, it was down the street.

If it rains, some stores have throw away umbrellas or temporary umbrellas. They are see through and white plastic based. They will fall apart fast, but enough to get to a station or hotel.

Have an amazing and safe trip!
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Old 04-05-2016, 04:06 PM   #16
TougeRenner
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Quote:
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I just called to check on chase and Citibank atm fees.
they do not have banks there but they have co-op atm machines.


both have a 3% conversion fee on their atm machines.
That's odd.

I have a local credit union. I had a $3 dollar service charge but the total I took out always matched listed exchange rate online. Things could have changed since then.
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Old 04-05-2016, 05:30 PM   #17
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doing a calculation on the conversion rate percentage, I don't know which sites have the accurate numbers but I have been seeing rates differentiate from bank to bank.

the last rate I found for yen to dollars is:
0.009364
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Old 04-05-2016, 07:22 PM   #18
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[quote]as for the cash, i wanted to clear it up as it sounded like your using American USD currency in some locations. am i misunderstanding that?/QUOTE]

From my travels to Japan, you'd be hard pressed to find ANY establishment accepting US currency. A Pocket Wifi device is highly recommended as you can connect multiple devices simultaneously.. (for others traveling with you, they need to be close)

What areas are you staying in? Also, please keep in mind, Japanese rooms are very small compared to average US hotel rooms.

If this is your first time to Japan, you are in for an experience..
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Old 04-05-2016, 10:09 PM   #19
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You should PM Blarghman. He lives in Japan and also owns a Pocket Wifi Rental company
https://japanwifibuddy.com/

I'll be going to Japan tomorrow and renting a router from him. It'll be my 2nd time renting from him. Really smooth and easy. Japan has a lot of wifi spots, but it's easier to have a pocket wifi and just google map everything. Google map will bail you out because it'll tell you which train to take. If you can't read Japanese, just match up the characters and the sign. You'll be able to figure it out. Plus, Google maps will update you if you're running late and tell you exactly which train to jump on.
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Old 04-06-2016, 08:35 PM   #20
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I pm Blarghman but no response.

If I'm reading his prices correctly, its about the same as some other rental places I searched.

isn't google map the same one that is already on my cell phone? I currently use the maps by google on my android all the time. I'm not sure if your talking about a different one.
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Old 04-07-2016, 06:48 PM   #21
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do I need a power converter of some sort?
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Old 04-08-2016, 05:32 PM   #22
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Quote:
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do I need a power converter of some sort?
No. Some parts of Japan use 50Hz instead of 60Hz for their 115V power but that wont affect anything for the most part. If youre trying to use something with three prongs you may want to grab a 3 prong to 2 prong adapater. Be careful that that the two prong end doesnt have a "fatter" neutral. Something like this is fine:

Amazon.com: CableWholesale Cable Wholesale 3 Prong to 2 Prong Grounding Converter (30W1-32200): Computers & AccessoriesAmazon.com: CableWholesale Cable Wholesale 3 Prong to 2 Prong Grounding Converter (30W1-32200): Computers & Accessories

Lived in Japan for 3 years and just walking down the street to work every day was a trip because its just so different. I dont really feel like theres much to actually see though.

Take a GOOD umbrella. It can rain for days and I hope the forecast looks good but be prepared, it is April... EVERY convenience store sells cheap umbrellas if youre in a pinch though.

The food in Japan is great. They do EVERYTHING better in every way possible hands down. If I were to go back I could care less about seeing anything and just enjoy the food. Im not just talking Japanese food either.

Ive not had good sushi or ramen since being back to States, period. You can pay $10 for a insgle piece of fatty tuna that melts in your mouth or you can go to a "shushi go round" thats often $1 a plate for two pieces of fish thats still better than anything Ive had Stateside. $1!! PER PLATE.

After you eat sushi go to a convenience store and grab a Grapefruit Kirin Extra Strong Chu-Hi and muck about.

Someone mentioned a baseball game. I never did make it to one but the Yokohama Bay Stars have a stadium in Yokohama, ~30 minutes south of Tokyo. Also in Yokohama is this joint: http://www.sparta.jp/english

Not cheap but the "course meals" are several courses that are spot on. If you like metal music and beer you can out Trash Zone: http://www.beerdrinkinginternational.com/

They make their own beers too. VERY short walk from Yokohama station if you can find the right exit to use.

Damn. Eat, drink, and be merry.
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Old 04-08-2016, 07:30 PM   #23
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Quote:
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I pm Blarghman but no response.

If I'm reading his prices correctly, its about the same as some other rental places I searched.

isn't google map the same one that is already on my cell phone? I currently use the maps by google on my android all the time. I'm not sure if your talking about a different one.
Yah, use google maps on your phone. It's stock.

Let me reach out to him. I have his email, he may not be checking NASIOC.

Not sure about prices since I didn't shop around much. Last time I checked it was fairly spot on if not cheaper than the competitor. I can tell you that his wifi is pretty good and comes with an extra battery. I got confused on how to use the battery and emailed him. Got a response fairly quickly.
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Old 04-09-2016, 12:49 AM   #24
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thanks I just got a pm from him. I'm about to reply.

I also found out about a ghibli museum. that sound like a great place to see.

I wonder if there are others like that.

also is there a place to check out and buy jdm parts? maybe a place where all the vendor all sell their stuff. I would like to see rims to aftermarket part stores. I just don't know where they are or how to ask for something like that.
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Old 04-25-2016, 08:59 PM   #25
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I am back guys and want to thanks to all that helped out.

the trip was amazing but soooo short. 2 days up in the air and 4 days on the ground. ill need to go back again soon. I didn't get tickets to a few things I wanted to do but ended up just going everywhere and had a blast with the GF.

there was a lot of things that worked and didn't work for me.
I didn't end up getting the wifi. we used our Samsung note 4 from sprint. sprint has a plan that lets us add a $5.00/month japan roaming.
we didn't need to do much else but just switch the phone to GSM mode when we landed. then just used the phones google map app which is already in the phone and an app we currently use everyday here in the states. to avoid call charges we used googlevoice. it didn't charge us anything extra, well at least we are waiting for the cell phone bill this month to verify that but for now it doesn't say anything extra.

the people are amazing over there. they are very polite and nice. the cities are clean.

...and whats up with the no trash bins anywhere??!!! I had to keep my trash with me and I thought it was weird to walk around with trash on me.

as for food, ramen is the main stay of their diet. I always thought it was sushi and such. I tried new places every meal. I even tried out steak for $200.00 but it wasn't even kobi yet. it was like butter in our face. it was soo good. the fatty tuna at the fish market also melted in our face. so fresh.

walking to train stations was our main mode of transportation. I felt it saved money but also let us immerse ourselves into the culture. I noticed no one talks to each other on the train. all they do is look at their cell phones or take a nap. I'm not sure how many know when to get up when their stop is coming up but it seems like the norm to nap. we got the trains down and was just going everywhere. the only down side is my feet was soo sore by the 4th day of this I wasn't sure I can keep doing the 15miles of walking everyday and that wasn't including the train rides.

we may attempt to go back again soon or try hong kong.

thanks guys for all the help!

Last edited by 949; 04-25-2016 at 09:17 PM.
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