Aida Zabidi

I tend to be a bit OCD about things – and the same goes about travelling to places that I know nothing about. Every time I travel I spent months poring over TripAdvisor and reviews, trying to decide which places I should visit in the limited time I spend.

I usually plan an itinerary based on specific places that I wanted to go to and would build on from the places around the area, then work on a budget. It was my modus operandi of travel, and one that had kept me generally prepared.

Japan was one of those places that took my OCD to another level – the thought that I would be in a country where I was unable to speak the language, and one where communication would be a problem worried me to no end.

Trying to plan routes from getting one place to another was another thing that stressed me out.

Unlike a lot of other places, Japan didn’t have one integrated transport system ticket – it had several.

JAPAN RAIL PASS
Firstly, I wasn’t sure whether I should get a Japan Rail Pass or not – mind you, this cost almost RM1000+ and was not inclusive of subways and certain train lines.

If you’re having a similar conundrum, the rule of thumb seemed to be it was a worthwhile buy only if you were going to go several places, although you really can’t underestimate how expensive travel within Japan is, especially on the shinkansen. I decided to go to Kyoto, and the return ticket in itself was the same price as the actual Rail Pass. Added a day trip to Hakone after that and it made the ticket a worthwhile purchase!

Naturally you would get the most bang for your buck if you did one end of Japan to the other, but I didn’t want to rush the trip and Tokyo itself had a lot to see, but for anyone who’s up for the challenge that’s another option. 

Be warned - you have to buy this before you go to Japan (there are several websites that you can get this from and it might be worth comparing prices to see if you can get a better deal with the exchange rate) but the official website is http://www.japanrailpass.net/ and the 7 day ordinary ticket is 29110 yen.

INNER CITY RAIL

The rail systems within Tokyo look massively confusing at first glance, but the website www.hyperdia.com was a lifesaver. Key in where you want to go and it will tell you exactly which platform to get on at what times.

There's the subway and the inner city rail - so hyperdia was infinitely useful in trying to figure out which stations to switch across.

There are several options for inner city travel, but I found it easier to get a prepaid card (there's a Pasmo and a Suica) and top up as I went (I used a Suica card)- you could also use this at convenience stores to get food and other things. 

The best way was to divide travel into segments and based on neighbouring stations and travel the loop accordingly. 

This is a more simplified version of the loop (the first time I saw the actual integrated map I almost cried – there were so many colours and so many stations that it was very overwhelming), but you can actually find simplified versions of the transport loops that will help you plan your travel and the major attractions can be subdivided based on their different areas.

 

For instance, I took Shibuya, Harajuku and Shinjuku in one day and made my way from one to the other, which easily took about a day. As you can see from the train line, they're all on the same side ad just one station from the other. Another day I went to the Tokyo Tower and Asakusa, and spent another day at around Ginza and Tsukiji. 

Once you wrap your head around the different areas, it really makes planning your travel a lot more doable. It's best to visit places based on the subway lines so you don't end up going back and forth. Hopefully this helps a little bit with your travel in Japan and enjoy planning your trip!

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