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Going to Japan during Golden Week

HI
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Going to Japan during Golden Week

My family and I (2 adults and 1 two yo) will be going to Japan from April 27-May 7. We will travel to Tokyo for 4 days followed by Kyoto then Osaka. This is our first time traveling to Japan. I have a few questions:

1. Should we get the 7 day rail pass or just book destination to destination train tickets?

2. For the rail pass; is it possible to make a seat reservation prior to entering japan? I am concerned about seating as this is during golden week?

3. Do all hotels offer the luggage transfer svc? -I will be staying at the Keio Plaza in Tokyo, Grand Prince Hotel in Kyoto, and the Ritz Carlton in Osaka.

Thanks again for any advice.

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Illinois
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1. Re: Going to Japan during Golden Week

1. A point-to-point ticket is best.

2. You need to make your seat reservation in Japan -http://www.japanrailpass.net/eng/en007.html

3. Your hotels will arrange luggage transfer for you. It is a common practice.

Yokohama
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2. Re: Going to Japan during Golden Week

>> 2. as this is during golden week?

May 1st. and 2nd maybe OK to reserve.

May 3rd to 6th may busy but from Kyoto to Osaka takes only 30 min. by commuter train and there are many alternative train to move.

Tokyo
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3. Re: Going to Japan during Golden Week

1) Point-to-point tickets would be better in your case, as other poster suggests. A JR pass will let you into only Hikari and Kodama on the Shinkansen, not Nozomi.

Nozomi runs 6 or 7 times an hour between Tokyo and Osaka, while Hikari twice and Kodama once.

2) If you are literate in Japanese language, or you have a Japanese friend in Tokyo or around, yes.

http://www.tabi.eki-net.com/

Otherwise it's impossible. You could make reservations after having your pass validated in Japan.

3) All of your hotels seem to be willing to arrange a courier service.

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2278.html

Happy travels.

Tokyo
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4. Re: Going to Japan during Golden Week

In case you have decided you won't buy a 7 day JR pass, you might want to consider buying 'Suica and NEX' package for 3,500yen.

www.jreast.co.jp/e/suica-nex/index.html

This comes with a Narita Express ride to Shinjuku, a suica card (500yen deposit) and 1,500yen credit on the suica.

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2359_002.html

A normal NEX fare to Shinjuku is 3,110yen.

newport beach, ca
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5. Re: Going to Japan during Golden Week

Ahhh....Golden Week....I hope you won't get disappointed with your first trip to Japan as you have picked one of the worst time to travel domestically, unfortunately. :( I'm not saying this to discourage you but I wanted to be the first to tell you the bad news so that rest of your experience won't be so bad. ;)

Tokyo, in fact, will be quite empty during the Golden Week as most people choose to go visit their families and relatives in their home town (sort of like Thanksgiving and Christmas in the U.S.). You may be able to enjoy some parts of Tokyo in a less crowded (if that ever happens. :)) environment because of this.

To answer your specific questions....

1. JR pass is always a good idea in my opinion. The cost effectiveness of it always depends on your itinerary but assessing from your post, you will probably get your money's worth by simply making a round trip from Tokyo to Kyoto/Osaka. Are you flying in and out of Narita? If so, you should be able to use it for one of the trips to/from airport on NEX, also.

2. NO. You can only reserve seats once you get there and with a validated JR pass. You will only be getting a voucher when you buy it in the U.S. so you will have to exchange the voucher to the actual pass at one of the designated train stations. I always try to take care of this at Narita unless it's too crowed there or you don't have much time before your train to Tokyo. I always find this to be the most efficient way to eliminate that extra step. If you can, you might want to reserve your seats for some of your trip here, also. You can always change the reservation later (since there's no charge for you because this is covered under your JR pass usage) if your itinerary changes. Your concern is quite legitimate. Expect very few seat availability on all trains during Golden Week. You might be able to check the current availability on JR website. There really is no way to avoid crowd on trains during Golden week, unfortunately. I hope your experience won't be too bad especially with a 2 year old.

I'm not sure how much it will help but you might actually benefit from getting the JR pass for Green cars as Green car seats are normally the last seats to sell out because they are more expensive than Ordinary (reserved/unreserved) car seats. The seats on Green cars are much more comfortable than the ones in ordinary cars, also.

If all fails (i.e. all reserved seat tickets are sold out completely), then you will just have to go to the train station early to queue up for the unreserved seats like many, many Japanese people would be doing during the Golden week.

3. YES. All hotels offer what they call "Takkyu-Bin" (literally means "Home-quick-delivery") services. For a nominal cost (usually from major city to major city delivery, it shouldn't be much more than a few thousand yen), your luggage can be delivered to your next destination so you can travel very light. This is one of the my husband's favorite features while travelling Japan. He was quite impressed with this system when he first went to Japan! If you can manage to ship you luggage by the night before you leave for your new destination, your luggage should be waiting for your arrival by the next day in your new destination. In some cases, you may be lucky and get your luggage delivered the same day. Then again...Golden week....same day delivery may be a wishful thinking.

I would recommend planning a relaxed itinerary. Don't pack too many things in a short time as you have a small child and this always makes it difficult to travel efficiently. Also, you might want to note that many trains stations (especially the smaller ones) are equipped with only a small elevator so if you are planning to bring a stroller, try to take the most compact and light weight ones if possible. Your back will thank you for this decision at the end of your trip. :)

In Tokyo, most sightseeing can be done on foot and by train and buses. You can choose to take one of those packaged tours available but with a 2 year old, I don't necessarily recommend joining a tour group for obvious reasons. (very strictly time scheduled)

In Kyoto, the easiest choice would be to hire a cab for 1/2 day or 1 day, depending on your itinerary, or if you don't have one, they can recommend an itinerary for you. Kyoto would probably be the worst place in terms of number of tourists during your visit. It is one of the most popular destinations even among Japanese tourists. So be prepared to deal with LOTS of people and expect delays to enter temples and shrines!

Although not 100% sure, Osaka would be a similar experience as far as the effect of Golden week. You may find some parts of town quite empty than normal.

Either way, I hope you enjoy your first trip to Japan!

HI
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6. Re: Going to Japan during Golden Week

Thanks everyone for the advice. Our itinerary is as follows:

Tokyo 27Apr-1May

Kyoto 1May- 4May

Osaka 4May- 7May

We will be flying out of Osaka.

Tokyo
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7. Re: Going to Japan during Golden Week

>>Our itinerary is as follows:

Tokyo 27Apr-1May

Kyoto 1May- 4May

Osaka 4May- 7May

We will be flying out of Osaka.<<

No doubt a 7 day JR pass 28,300yen makes no sense on your itinerary.

Narita Airport-->Shinjuku on the 'Suica and NEX' package: 3,500yen

Shinjuku-->Kyoto via Tokyo or Shinagawa on Shinkansen: 13,720yen for a reserved seat on Nozomi, or 12,710yen for a non-reserved seat on Nozomi or Hikari.

Kyoto-->Osaka Umeda: 540yen on JR Line, or 390yen on Hankyu Line.

Umeda-->Kansai Airport by the limousine bus: 1,300yen

Total cost: 19,060yen

For your info.

newport beach, ca
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8. Re: Going to Japan during Golden Week

Looking at this year's calendar, the "core" holiday this year is going to be from 5/3(Sat) to 5/6(Tue).

4/29(Tue) is a holiday so some people may decide to take 4/28(Mon), 4/30(Wed)-5/2(Fri) off to make it a long vacation. However, my guess is that most of those long vacationers would be going out of the country for their vacation so you might actually get lucky and miss the big crown in Kyoto and have a relatively nice visit in Tokyo and Osaka.

As for your JR pass, I'm inclined to agree with the other reviewer. You may actually benefit from purchasing tickets per your itinerary instead. Since you will NOT be making long distance round trip (i.e. between Tokyo and Kyoto/Osaka), if you get a JR pass, you may not get your money's worth.

Weather wise, it should be a very nice time to travel.

Happy travels!

newport beach, ca
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9. Re: Going to Japan during Golden Week

big "CROWD" not "crown" ! Sorry for the typo... :P

HI
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10. Re: Going to Japan during Golden Week

Thanks again to everyone for the comments. If I'm going to purchase an individual ticket to go from tokyo to kyoto, can I do that now? Again, I'm just concerned about being able to get a train ride down to kyoto on our departure date. I just don't want to get stuck in tokyo. Sounds like traveling from kyoto to osaka won't be much of a problem.