Aug 24, 2015

Japan - preparing for take off!

In a few weeks, I'll be heading back to Japan and so this seems like an opportune moment to offer some travel tips based on my own personal experience. 
The iconic Mt. Fuji on a beautiful winter day (2014).
First of all, there's a plethora of guided tours organized by knowledgeable professionals. There are even tours geared specifically for quilters and textile enthusiasts.  Several tours options are centered around the Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival held annually in January. If you like tours, just Google quilt tours to Japan.

Personally, I am not a fan of tours. I like to go at my own pace and make my own decisions.

Japan is a very easy country to travel in, so if you're the least bit interested in planning your own tour - I assure you that you can do it. (Allow me to offer some data to validate that statement. I've traveled all over the world - 40+ countries for work and personal - Cambodia, Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, Russia, Italy, Venezuela, and many other locales.) 

So trust me when I say, traveling inside Japan is easy and safe.

Here's my most important tip --- Purchase a Japan Rail Pass before you go! 

I've found that most people are unaware of this option. The Japan Rail Pass must be purchased outside Japan! It is available only to foreigners traveling as tourists. The Pass is sold in 7 or 14 day packages (or longer).  

There are several authorized sites in the US and other countries to purchase these passes. Check the Consulate or Embassy websites in your area for a list of authorized sellers. Inside the US, you can purchase online from JTB USA

Once you land at the airport, stop at the Japan Rail Pass check point and get your certificate authorized. You can begin using your Pass immediately.

If you land at Narita airport in Tokyo, for example, you can use the Pass on the Narita Express that takes you to the heart of the city. (Without the Pass, the Narita Express is approximately $20 USD one way.) Once you get to one of the major stops inside Tokyo, you can transfer to a subway or take a taxi to your hotel - this can save $$. 

By the way, riding in a taxi in Japan is an experience in itself. The drivers wear suits and white gloves and are extremely courteous. If you provide your driver your destination in writing, they will have no problem putting the address into their GPS and delivering you there straight away.

Back to the Japan Rail Pass - if you plan to travel to more than one city, the Pass will probably cut your transportation costs in half, or more. So this is a huge cost saver. Plus, it takes the worry out of using the amazing public transportation system.

Another very important note, the public transportation system in Japan is mostly bi-lingual. Thank you Japan! Many of the signs in major areas and most of the announcements on the trains and subways are offered in English.
Grab a quick selfie on one of the bullet trains before the other passengers board!
As with any big city, the layout of these trains and subways systems can be a bit tricky, but if you can read a map, you can navigate the system! Truly. 

Just set aside a few minutes each morning and study the map and plan your route. If you do this, you can get from point A to point B quickly and easily.

I always travel with a pocket map that I refer to throughout the day. There are also apps with maps and other helpful info for your phone. I find that holding a piece of paper is sometimes easier than navigating a map on a small electronic device... but I also download the apps for backup.

Stay tuned for more to come... including how to rent an apartment for an extended stay in Japan, where to shop for textiles and museum info.


  1. I wish I was going with you! Teresa, is the trip business or pleasure or both?

  2. Safe travels. You'll be back with lots of stories and photos, I'm sure.

  3. Have a fabulous time!! Never been to Japan, but loved hearing the tips!