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Thread: The Japan Rail Pass, one of the world's greatest sightseeing bargains ?

  1. #1
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Thumbs down The Japan Rail Pass, one of the world's greatest sightseeing bargains ?

    According to Simon Calder who writes for The Independent, The Japan Rail Pass is one of the world's greatest sightseeing bargains. I don't know who that guy is, but he is visibly new and not very well informed about Japan. I am surprised that such a reputed newspaper as the Independent would let him write such things !

    Let me quote a few passages from his article A fast-track travel plan

    But I quickly learnt that you need no platinum credit card to survive in 21st-century Tokyo. Low-cost accommodation is easy: if you prefer not to turn Japanese in your capsule hotel, you can check into a cut-price hostel. The next essential, eating, is easily negotiated thanks to the ubiquitous bowls of ramen noodles
    Any travel writer on Japan should know that hotels in Japan are in average cheaper than in Western Europe (and especially the UK, where his audience is) for the same quality. Japan abounds with cheap business hotels such as Toyoko Inn (with over 100 branches all over Japan), which offer very modern, fully equipped air conditioned rooms with free breakfast and free internet for just 8000 yen for 2 people (=40 pounds). For the same price, one cannot even get the simplest Bed & Breakfast in the South of England (rates usually start from 60 pounds without the same comfort and facilities).

    Capsule hotels ? That's a typical stereotype Westerners have of Japan. First of all, there aren't many of them. Secondly, I don't know anyone (Japanese or not) who has stayed in one, or would like to stay in one for more than a few minutes. They are normally for business people who missed their last train after s drinking evening, but there are enough alternative to that or an expensive taxi ride home. For example, the "Manga kissa" (place to read manga, but also use the internet, watch DVD's, sateliet TV, sleep, take a shower, etc. for about 500yen per hour). But many hotels also offer discount after midnight (e.g. Toyoko Inn has double/twin rooms for 5,000yen after midnight).

    Ramen as a cheap way to eat out ? Ramen usually costs 600 to 1000 yen a bowl in Tokyo, more than many other typical Japanese food, such as tendon (500yen in the chain Tenya), gyuudon or butadon (about 300yen), and especially the numerous bento sold everywhere (usually from 300 to 500yen).

    Seven days is the duration of one of the world's great travel bargains, the Japan Rail Pass, and I was determined to make the most of my £150 investment.
    Visibly his first 7 days in Japan ! The Japan Railpass is not good value at all. It is only interesting for people who want to travel hurriedly from one end of Japan (say Kyushu or Chugoku) to another (Hokkaido or Tohoku) using the shinkansen. People with more time and less money will use the seisshun 18 kippu , which allows unlimited travel inside Japan for one day for just 2300yen (but cannot use shinkansen), or use lang distance buses, which are Japan's real transport bargain (about twice cheaper than regular trains, and thus 4x cheaper than the shinkansen).

    You could easily while away a week on Hokkaido: taking the plunge at the hot springs resort of Noboribetsu, then taking the free tour of the Sapporo brewery in the island's capital.
    Yes, if you like onsen, you could spend a week in any good onsen anywhere in Japan. But if you don't care much about hot springs and are more into traditional sightseeing (historic buildings, temples, castles, museums, etc.), then one week is quite a lot for Hokkaido without getting bored - especially coming from history rich England. The oldest building in Hokkaido is from the late 19th century (a modern building by European standards) and is probably less impressive than many private houses in England. What about hiking in Hokkaido's nature, or see the flower fields in spring and summer or the snow festival in Hokkaido in february (although a bit overrrated and overcrowded) ?

    The Bullet Train was an icon of the Sixties: the first ran on the Tokyo-Osaka line on 1 October 1964, and this stretch of track remains the spine of the network. The fastest trains cover the 553km in two-and-a-half hours; these are 300kph Nozomi "super expresses". But even the ordinary Bullet Train services travel at speeds of which British train drivers can only dream. As you glide along through the cityscape and countryside, the nation is revealed in fast-forward.
    Has Mr calder already forgotten that the Eurostar is partly British (owed 40% by National express and 10% by British Airways) and indeed has its HQ based in London. Yes, Britain also has its shinkansen, and it is faster than the Japanese one. According to Wikipedia, in July 2003 a Eurostar train set a new UK rail speed record of 334.7 km/h. The average speed of the Eurostar on French soil is also higher than the average of the shinkansen.

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  2. #2
    Five times to Japan. ArmandV's Avatar
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    I got the Rail Pass four years ago and found it very convenient. I used it thoughout Tokyo and took the Shinkansen to Atami and back. The key to it is USE. If you spend the $230 or so for a week's pass and don't use the JR trains or buses, then it is not worth it. But if you are running around and getting a lot of use of the JR facilities, then I would recommend getting it.

  3. #3
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArmandV
    I got the Rail Pass four years ago and found it very convenient. I used it thoughout Tokyo and took the Shinkansen to Atami and back. The key to it is USE. If you spend the $230 or so for a week's pass and don't use the JR trains or buses, then it is not worth it. But if you are running around and getting a lot of use of the JR facilities, then I would recommend getting it.
    It may be convenient, but it is useless to most short-term visitors who will visit Tokyo and Kyoto for at least a few days each and stick mostly to the Kanto and Kansai. For those who want to travel further away, ANA has seasonal promotions and birthday tickets for just 10,000 yen anywhere in Japan (no in fact, from Tokyo, Okinawa and Kyushu are 12,000yen). Long distance buses (especially small companies, not JR buses) have wonderful deals. I went from Tokyo to Kyoto and back for 9,000yen (70 euro), and from nagasaki to Fukuoka for 2000yen (15 euro) one-way.

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    I don't wish to argue with you Maciamo, but personally I think he's largely right and your criticisms are somewhat irrelevant or unwarranted.

    Firstly, he made it pretty clear that he was aiming to try and get around as much of Japan as possible in seven days - this was one of the purposes of his article - perhaps the title "A fast-track travel plan" should have given you a clue!? For this, the rail pass is fantastic value. This piece wasn't written to appeal to the traveller who just wants a 2 stop holiday in Tokyo and Kyoto.

    As for long distance buses, why if you want to get around quickly and have an intense experience in as many places as possible, would you want to take the slowest possible form of transport. Again I think you missed the point.

    You say that any travel writer should know that Japanese hotels are generally cheaper than those in western Europe. This may be so, but have you stopped to consider that perhaps a lot of people in the UK don't know this. There's nothing wrong with a writer reassuring the British public that Japan doesn't have to be as expensive as they might have previously thought. Furthermore your comments on English Bed & Breakfasts are wide of the mark. You can easily find a B&B in the south-east of England for less than 60 quid a night.

    I'd also take issue with your comments about Hokkaido. Of course you can comfortably spend a week in Hokkaido. Your dismissal of the island as a place where there is little to do other than visit onsens is (sorry) just plain ignorant. There is more to sightseeing than just looking at old buildings and Hokkaido has a great variety of places to visit and things to see. I'd feel sorry for someone who had such a short attention span, they couldn't spend a week here without getting bored.

    Finally, to your comments about the train network in Britain. Let me tell you quite categorically that British people would love to be able to "glide along through the cityscape and countryside" but can't because frankly the quality of the train network varies from shocking to disgraceful. The Eurostar you talk so highly of can't even travel at its maximum speed because the British side of the 'high speed rail link' won't even be finished until 2007 despite being commissioned by the government some 9 years ago. This story is repeated nationwide, with constant delays, cancellations to services, not to mention speed limitations being imposed on trains which in reality could travel much faster, because the track itself isn't up to the job.

    There are a number of other things I could disagree with you about, but I think you probably get my point. In future I'd be careful about picking holes in someone else's article, when so much of your own research is fundamentally flawed.

  5. #5
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Silverpoint
    Firstly, he made it pretty clear that he was aiming to try and get around as much of Japan as possible in seven days - this was one of the purposes of his article - perhaps the title "A fast-track travel plan" should have given you a clue!? For this, the rail pass is fantastic value. This piece wasn't written to appeal to the traveller who just wants a 2 stop holiday in Tokyo and Kyoto.
    But there is no point to go all around a country 3000km long in 7 days when all the most interesting sights and things to do are concentrated around Tokyo and Kyoto (apart from nature, but then why choose Japan in particular and not the US, Canada, Australia, Brazil, China or even Indonesia ?). That's a lot of wasted time, even using the shinkansen, and plenty of great places in Kanto and Kansai will be missed.

    As for long distance buses, why if you want to get around quickly and have an intense experience in as many places as possible, would you want to take the slowest possible form of transport. Again I think you missed the point.
    Night buses have the advantadge that one doesn't need to waste day-time hours in the train (and can save on hotels). I suppose that someone who would like to visit Japan is just 7 days is either tight on budget (so the bus is cheaper and save on accommodation), or is willing to have a hectic schedule, in which case using a lot of night buses is a gain of time on the shinkansen. What's more, the shinkansen doesn't go to many places, including most of Kyushu, the Sea of Japan coast and Hokkaido.

    You say that any travel writer should know that Japanese hotels are generally cheaper than those in western Europe. This may be so, but have you stopped to consider that perhaps a lot of people in the UK don't know this.
    That is not my point. He seems to be saying that only capsule hotels are cheap, while it is not the case. He gives a wrong impression by starting to say that he himself thought of Japan as an expensive country. This was true 10 or 15 years ago, but not anymore - especially compared to Britain. He should mention this, which he doesn't.

    Furthermore your comments on English Bed & Breakfasts are wide of the mark. You can easily find a B&B in the south-east of England for less than 60 quid a night.
    I was comparing double rooms with breakfast. I slept in Brighton, Portsmouth, Bournemouth and Oxford this year, and couldn't find anything under 60 pounds in this category. In any case, it was always less well-equipped and less comfortable than the business hotels in which I stayed around Japan that were all 50% cheaper.

    I'd also take issue with your comments about Hokkaido. Of course you can comfortably spend a week in Hokkaido. Your dismissal of the island as a place where there is little to do other than visit onsens is (sorry) just plain ignorant. There is more to sightseeing than just looking at old buildings and Hokkaido has a great variety of places to visit and things to see.
    I am well travelled. I have visited over 35 countries, including most of Europe and S-E Asia. I have been in most regions of Japan now (in fact I just come back from a 2-week trip to Kyushu, Chugoku and Shikoku). I have written a travel guide to Japan, England and Belgium. I can tell you that most Japanese cities outside Tokyo and Kyoto have very few "sights" in comparison to European cities. Hokkaido only has 3 notable sightseeing "cities" with virtually no history and no exceptional museum. The rest is nature, which is not "traditional sightseeing" as I said. Nature travelling is a different category of travelling, and indeed there are special, separate guides for hiking, camping, etc. I wouldn't call it "sightseeing" anyway.

  6. #6
    Five times to Japan. ArmandV's Avatar
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    It all depends...

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    It may be convenient, but it is useless to most short-term visitors who will visit Tokyo and Kyoto for at least a few days each and stick mostly to the Kanto and Kansai. For those who want to travel further away, ANA has seasonal promotions and birthday tickets for just 10,000 yen anywhere in Japan (no in fact, from Tokyo, Okinawa and Kyushu are 12,000yen). Long distance buses (especially small companies, not JR buses) have wonderful deals. I went from Tokyo to Kyoto and back for 9,000yen (70 euro), and from nagasaki to Fukuoka for 2000yen (15 euro) one-way.

    If a traveler is limited in the amount of days he/she can spend in Japan, they would not want to spend unnecessary amounts of time sitting in a bus when they can go on a Shinkansen for free by using their Rail Pass.

    The cost of the rail pass (back then it was $230) was very reasonable in my view as it was for unlimited use with very few restrictions. You mentioned prices. The ANA price is roughly $95.00 (give or take). The bus to Kyoto would be around $85.00. Those alone are around $160.00, which is roughly 3/4 of the price of the JR Rail Pass. Once a person gets to their destination, then they have to pay for the local transit.

    Like I said before, the JR Rail Pass is convenient for the traveler who will heavily use the JR lines as I did. I have no complaints.

  7. #7
    Banned Mike Cash's Avatar
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    The advantages of the overnight buses are obvious to anyone who has ever used one. I know I have, and I'm guessing that Maciamo has.

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArmandV
    If a traveler is limited in the amount of days he/she can spend in Japan, they would not want to spend unnecessary amounts of time sitting in a bus when they can go on a Shinkansen for free by using their Rail Pass.
    Not if one uses night buses. Shinkansen don't run at night.

    The cost of the rail pass (back then it was $230) was very reasonable in my view as it was for unlimited use with very few restrictions. You mentioned prices. The ANA price is roughly $95.00 (give or take). The bus to Kyoto would be around $85.00. Those alone are around $160.00, which is roughly 3/4 of the price of the JR Rail Pass. Once a person gets to their destination, then they have to pay for the local transit.
    Let's talk in yen. The Japan Rail pass now costs 28,300yen for 7 days. Bus companies like this one have return buses between Tokyo/Yokohama and Kyoto/Osaka/Kobe for 9,800yen (5000yen one-way). I have used this bus and started sightseeing as soon as I arrived in Kyoto (6am) and left my luggage at the hotel. Regular trains around the Chugoku region (Okayama to Shimonoseki) aren't so expensive. Shinkansen don't run in Shikoku and most of Kyushu, and long distance buses there are cheaper and sometimes faster than express trains (e.g. Takamatsu to Matsuyama takes only 2h for 3900 yen by coach, but 3h to 3h30min and 6,000 to 7,500 yen by limited express train). Anyway, I still don't see the point of going to Hokkaido, Tokyo, Kansai and further west in only 7 days. That's a waste of time that cannot be justified by the quality of attractions outside Kanto and Kansai. It sounds a bit like the Japanese tourists who go 7 days to Australia and want to see Sydney, Melbourne, Ayers Rocks, Darwin, Perth and Cairns ! Or the American tourists that see London, Paris, Munich, Venice, Rome, Praha and Stockholm in a week ! What can you see of such cities in a few hours when there is enough sightseeing to hold the most jaded travellers for several days, and the most inquisitive for months ?! I am really shocked that a British travel writer should propose that for Japan (especially when considering the jet lag from Europe).

  9. #9
    Five times to Japan. ArmandV's Avatar
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    Talking

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Not if one uses night buses. Shinkansen don't run at night.



    Let's talk in yen. The Japan Rail pass now costs 28,300yen for 7 days. Bus companies like this one have return buses between Tokyo/Yokohama and Kyoto/Osaka/Kobe for 9,800yen (5000yen one-way). I have used this bus and started sightseeing as soon as I arrived in Kyoto (6am) and left my luggage at the hotel. Regular trains around the Chugoku region (Okayama to Shimonoseki) aren't so expensive. Shinkansen don't run in Shikoku and most of Kyushu, and long distance buses there are cheaper and sometimes faster than express trains (e.g. Takamatsu to Matsuyama takes only 2h for 3900 yen by coach, but 3h to 3h30min and 6,000 to 7,500 yen by limited express train). Anyway, I still don't see the point of going to Hokkaido, Tokyo, Kansai and further west in only 7 days. That's a waste of time that cannot be justified by the quality of attractions outside Kanto and Kansai. It sounds a bit like the Japanese tourists who go 7 days to Australia and want to see Sydney, Melbourne, Ayers Rocks, Darwin, Perth and Cairns ! Or the American tourists that see London, Paris, Munich, Venice, Rome, Praha and Stockholm in a week ! What can you see of such cities in a few hours when there is enough sightseeing to hold the most jaded travellers for several days, and the most inquisitive for months ?! I am really shocked that a British travel writer should propose that for Japan (especially when considering the jet lag from Europe).

    That's good and valuable information. Remember, a person pays for his/her Rail Pass in their home country and in their own currency. When I buy something, I want to know how much it will cost me in my own currency. When you buy a JR Rail Pass, you get a voucher that is exchanged for the Pass at the destination airport (in my case, Narita) in Japan.

    Generally speaking, a lot of people only have limited vacation time available to them. On one trip, they may want to just go to Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka. On another 7-day trip, they may plan to go to other places like Tokyo and Sendai (and points in-between).

    You raise valid points on the overnighter buses. Yes, you will save on hotel room rates, etc. If someone wants to see as much as they can on a limited budget, that's a good idea. (The average Joe Schmoe may not want to try to sleep on a bus and would prefer a nice cozy bed somewhere. They also have to deal with jet-lag as well.)

    This is a good thread that brings out many options. But I wouldn't pooh-pooh the JR Rail Pass right off the bat. I used mine extensively thoughout Tokyo without being nickel & dimed to death paying for transportation. The Pass had it all taken care of.

    While we're on the subject of transportation in Japan, what are the options of travel from Okinawa to Tokyo? I have friends going to Okinawa in November and they are wondering about going to Tokyo. I would imagine that they can do so by plane. Are there ferries from Okinawa? If so, any ideas on cost per person?

    By the way, I just bought my plane tickets for Japan. I'll be heading over October 15.

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    Banned Mike Cash's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArmandV

    Are there ferries from Okinawa? If so, any ideas on cost per person?

    http://tinyurl.com/99gss

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    Five times to Japan. ArmandV's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikecash

    Thanks! I'll pass the info on.

  12. #12
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArmandV
    But I wouldn't pooh-pooh the JR Rail Pass right off the bat. I used mine extensively thoughout Tokyo without being nickel & dimed to death paying for transportation. The Pass had it all taken care of.
    I haven't said that the pass was all bad. It can be convenient, but certainly isn't cheap, especially compared to similar train or bus passes in other countries (e.g. the Eurolines pass for all Europe is cheaper for 2 weeks than the JR pass for 1 week, and has further youth discount until 25 years old), or just compared to regular non-shinkansen fares in Japan.

    Another thing I dislike about the Japan Rail Pass is that metros and lines other than JR are not included, and most short-term tourists in Kanto and Kansai will use a lot of these non-JR lines (Tokyo metro, Toei Subway, Tobu line to Nikko, Keihan and Hankyu lines in Kansai, etc.). I'd say that the pass is especially good over longer periods (2 weeks or 1 months), as it gives enough time to visit Tokyo and Kyoto without hurrying, and/or enough time to go to more remote destinations. For 1st timers staying only 7 days in Japan, I'd recommend to stick to the Kanto (Tokyo, Yokohama, Kamakura, Nikko...) OR Kansai (Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Kobe, Himeji, and possibly Ise or Nagoya) - in which case the JR Pass is useless.

    I was piqued by the title of the article claiming that the JR Pass was great value for a "fast-track travel plan". It is not good value by international standard, and not good for most people for 7 days.

  13. #13
    Resident Realist nice gaijin's Avatar
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    when I was planning my trip I decided against the rail-pass, as it cost almost half of what I paid for roundtrip airfare to Japan, and only covered certain lines, and only for a week!

    In 4+ weeks I spent just a hair more on transportation, and that's including a shinkansen ride from Odawara to Shin-Osaka.

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    Five times to Japan. ArmandV's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    I haven't said that the pass was all bad. It can be convenient, but certainly isn't cheap, especially compared to similar train or bus passes in other countries (e.g. the Eurolines pass for all Europe is cheaper for 2 weeks than the JR pass for 1 week, and has further youth discount until 25 years old), or just compared to regular non-shinkansen fares in Japan.

    I was piqued by the title of the article claiming that the JR Pass was great value for a "fast-track travel plan". It is not good value by international standard, and not good for most people for 7 days.
    Too bad the article is 6 months old, then you could've responded to him and see what he had to say in reply.

  15. #15
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArmandV
    Too bad the article is 6 months old, then you could've responded to him and see what he had to say in reply.
    That's also strange it is 6 months old. It only appeared in our news feeds the day I posted the thread.

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    hahahha administrator showed him though? get him! get him!

    people only know what they're exposed to/what they have experience with? maybe he's only
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    But there is no point to go all around a country 3000km long in 7 days when all the most interesting sights and things to do are concentrated around Tokyo and Kyoto.
    I'd agree, but this wasn't the point of the article. Whether you think it's a good idea or not is irrelevant - other people might want to travel around, and the railpass is definitely an option if this is the case. In fact a friend of mine just did exactly that - he had a great time. You criticized the guy for writing an article which didn't share your opinion of what constitutes a good holiday to Japan. Not everyone shares your opinion.

    Dozens of travel guides to Japan get written every year. 99% of them cover the same ground. At least Calder had a go at writing something a bit more original than the usual 2 stop Tokyo/Kyoto visit.

    Night buses have the advantadge that one doesn't need to waste day-time hours in the train (and can save on hotels).
    I take your point on time saving (if you're the kind of person who can sleep well on a bus). However, I also think a lot of foreigners have a fascination with shinkansen. A large number of tourists who visit Japan want to use the 'bullet train' and given the ludicrously high cost of a ticket between any two major cities, the rail pass in comparison is relatively cheap. Given that you still have it for the rest of the week and can (if you want to) jump on a shinkansen again and head off elsewhere.

    That is not my point. He seems to be saying that only capsule hotels are cheap, while it is not the case. He gives a wrong impression by starting to say that he himself thought of Japan as an expensive country. This was true 10 or 15 years ago, but not anymore - especially compared to Britain. He should mention this, which he doesn't.
    Firstly, his comment about capsule hotels was a throwaway one-liner. I find it hard to believe anyone else would extrapolate this in the way you did, into some major issue. Err, secondly how did you manage to presume that he thinks only capsule hotels are cheap when he said "Low-cost accommodation is easy" and went on to talk about cheap hostels. It really looks that by this point in the article you had clearly decided you didn't like his view and were just going to pull out anything you could find to have a go at. Thirdly, he says he thought of Japan as a cheap country and then found that it doesn't have to be. What on earth is wrong with saying that? Personally I'd find that reassuring if I was a tourist who had the same preconceptions about Japan and wasn't sure if I could afford the trip.

    I am well travelled. I have visited over 35 countries, including most of Europe and S-E Asia. I have been in most regions of Japan now (in fact I just come back from a 2-week trip to Kyushu, Chugoku and Shikoku). I have written a travel guide to Japan, England and Belgium. I can tell you that most Japanese cities outside Tokyo and Kyoto have very few "sights" in comparison to European cities. Hokkaido only has 3 notable sightseeing "cities" with virtually no history and no exceptional museum. The rest is nature, which is not "traditional sightseeing" as I said. Nature travelling is a different category of travelling, and indeed there are special, separate guides for hiking, camping, etc. I wouldn't call it "sightseeing" anyway.
    I don't really care about how well travelled you are. Your point was that it was virtually impossible to stay for 7 days in Hokkaido without getting bored. I've lived here for 3 years, and I still find new and interesting things to do and see on a weekly basis. On the assumption that you've actually been here, then just because you can't find something to do, doesn't mean it isn't there. Try looking a bit harder.

    p.s. I was a bit surprised to find you used the reputation system to inform me that you weren't happy with my views. Surely there are better ways to pass on your opinions about my reading ability in a public forum.
    Last edited by Silverpoint; Sep 5, 2005 at 20:57.

  18. #18
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Silverpoint
    You criticized the guy for writing an article which didn't share your opinion of what constitutes a good holiday to Japan. Not everyone shares your opinion.
    It's not even a personal opinion, it's an advice. Personally, I didn't leave the Kanto the first year I stayed in Japan. Now, I have seen quite a bit of it, but I don't think it is rationally justified in terms of finance, time-management and sightseeing satisfaction, to travel in the four corners of Japan in 7 days.

    Dozens of travel guides to Japan get written every year. 99% of them cover the same ground. At least Calder had a go at writing something a bit more original than the usual 2 stop Tokyo/Kyoto visit.
    Most of those I know (Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, Frommer's, Routard...) cover most of the country. In fact, I can only think of the French "Guide Bleu" which is limited to Tokyo and Kyoto (but the title is not "Japan Guide" either). Among online guides, both JREF and Japan-Guide cover all the country. So what guide books do you read to claim that 99% of them are limited to Tokyo and Kyoto.

    However, I also think a lot of foreigners have a fascination with shinkansen. A large number of tourists who visit Japan want to use the 'bullet train'...
    Does the word "foreigner" here mean North American, or people from developing countries ? There are "shinkansen" in many European countries and they have nothing to envy to their Japanese counterpart. In fact, I was quite disappointed by the Japanese shinkansen as it is less comfortable and slower than the Thalys, Eurostar, the French TGV or the Spanish AGV. I'd say that I was more surprised by some Limited Express trains than the shinkansen in Japan. But that's not something one would know from reading most guide books.


    Personally I'd find that reassuring if I was a tourist who had the same preconceptions about Japan and wasn't sure if I could afford the trip.
    Whether I can afford travelling abroad is mostly linked to the current currency exchange, not really the nominal cost of life in that country. When I came to Japan 4 years ago, many thing seemed expensive because the Euro was weak against the yen (1 euro = 98 yen). Now that the Euro has gone to to nearly 140yen, it seems 40% cheaper. A huge difference is such a short period (it actually changed a lot in just 2 years). Add to this a slight inflation in Europe and slight deflation in Japan, and the fact that I have become better at finding good deals in Japan (some of which are shared in this thread), it really shows how relative "cost of travelling" can be.

    Your point was that it was virtually impossible to stay for 7 days in Hokkaido without getting bored. I've lived here for 3 years, and I still find new and interesting things to do and see on a weekly basis. On the assumption that you've actually been here, then just because you can't find something to do, doesn't mean it isn't there. Try looking a bit harder.

    It all depends what you expect. Justly because I have travelled a lot means that I get bored more easily because I can compare sightseeing from country to counyry or city to city. Coming from a history-rich region, I can only find that there are less historical attraction in the whole of Hokkaido than in some villages or towns in the countryside where I grew up. Nature ? I admit that Hokkaido has some nice natural attractions, but it is maybe too similar to the place I grew up to be so special for me. I think many British people would agree too.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    It's not even a personal opinion, it's an advice. Personally, I didn't leave the Kanto the first year I stayed in Japan. Now, I have seen quite a bit of it, but I don't think it is rationally justified in terms of finance, time-management and sightseeing satisfaction, to travel in the four corners of Japan in 7 days.
    Advice is advice, and always welcome. You say your comments were advice and not personal opinion, but advice is drawn from opinion - that's the whole point!

    However the main thrust of your original post was to say how much you disagreed with the article (and seemingly to inform everyone of how much more than the writer you know). You started by ripping into how 'new' the guy was and how he had never been to Japan before, an assertion you repeated later. Sounds a lot like personal opinion to me.

    You still haven't really addressed the fact that his article was written for a specific purpose (getting around as much of Japan as possible in 7 days using a rail pass). You felt that this wasn't what you or other tourists would want to do, but this doesn't make his article wrong. It's just a different perspective on travelling - one that you don't share, but valid none the less. Scoffing at someone who has a different opinion or gives a different focus on something, doesn't make for a good critique.

    Most of the French "Guide Bleu" which is limited to Tokyo and Kyoto (but the title is not "Japan Guide" either). Among online guides, both JREF and Japan-Guide cover all the country. So what guide books do you read to claim that 99% of them are limited to Tokyo and Kyoto.
    My point was about newspaper guides rather than books, however I accept that this may not have been clear to you. I concur that a travel guide book would be pretty useless if it only covered 2 cities from an entire country. From my experience of reading about travel to Japan in British newspapers, articles do tend to be very Tokyo-centric, which was the point I wanted to make.

    Does the word "foreigner" here mean North American, or people from developing countries ? There are "shinkansen" in many European countries and they have nothing to envy to their Japanese counterpart. In fact, I was quite disappointed by the Japanese shinkansen as it is less comfortable and slower than the Thalys, Eurostar, the French TGV or the Spanish AGV. I'd say that I was more surprised by some Limited Express trains than the shinkansen in Japan. But that's not something one would know from reading most guide books.
    In the intended context, the word 'foreigner' means anyone from outside Japan. It's of no concern that other countries have high speed trains. The shinkansen or "bullet train" is a symbol of Japan, is world famous (probably the most famous train of modern times) and is something that a large number of tourists wish to experience when visiting the country. Whether you like it or not is your own business.

    Whether I can afford travelling abroad is mostly linked to the current currency exchange, not really the nominal cost of life in that country. When I came to Japan 4 years ago, many thing seemed expensive because the Euro was weak against the yen (1 euro = 98 yen). Now that the Euro has gone to to nearly 140yen, it seems 40% cheaper. A huge difference is such a short period (it actually changed a lot in just 2 years). Add to this a slight inflation in Europe and slight deflation in Japan, and the fact that I have become better at finding good deals in Japan (some of which are shared in this thread), it really shows how relative "cost of travelling" can be.
    Again, how you do things is up to you - as you (frequently) point out, you've travelled a lot which doesn't make you the average 'man in the street'. Most casual newspaper readers who are considering their next holiday want to hear things like "it's cheaper than you might think", or "here's an affordable option for hotel accomodation". They're really not concerned about macroeconomics and exchange rates until they go to the bank to get some currency for their holiday.

    It all depends what you expect. Justly because I have travelled a lot means that I get bored more easily because I can compare sightseeing from country to counyry or city to city. Coming from a history-rich region, I can only find that there are less historical attraction in the whole of Hokkaido than in some villages or towns in the countryside where I grew up. Nature ? I admit that Hokkaido has some nice natural attractions, but it is maybe too similar to the place I grew up to be so special for me.
    So what you're saying is that it's you that would get bored. It seemed very much before, that you were suggesting most people would get bored. This is quite a shift of emphasis.

    I think many British people would agree too.
    Well I'm British, I don't, and I doubt I'm particularly unique.

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