Thursday, March 14, 2013

Japan Travel Tips

K's House Ito Onsen-a fabulous traditional ryokan for a great price.
When I was a kid, I had a paper route.  I walked those Wisconsin neighborhoods everyday but Sunday for about four years.  It wasn’t fun much of the time, but it was a great job for my child self.  One thing I usually hated was getting up at five am on Saturday to get the paper delivered by seven. There were times, though, that I did not mind the early morning walk.  Especially when I discovered (nerd alert) a great radio show on NPR called The Savvy Traveler.

As I walked my paper route, I would listen to people’s incredible stories from all over the world and imagine myself to be there: sipping a cappuccino on a tiny street café in Verona, riding a zip-line through the jungles in Costa Rica, hiking the Great Wall of China. 

Perhaps the seed was planted then.  The seed which sprouted into a great desire to travel everywhere, experience everything, and meet everyone.  I have been fortunate enough to nurture this desire and gain many experiences, though they are few compared to others.   

As someone who has lived, traveled, and worked in Japan for a few years now, I feel obligated to do my part in sharing things I have learned.  I’ve learned an incredible amount during my time here.  One such thing is how to travel. 

I’d been on a few major trips before moving to Japan, but these trips (one to China and one to Europe) were more or less group tours.  Not to knock group tours-they certainly have their own draw.  My point is that group tours are a certain type of travel.  Traveling solo, or without a guide is a totally different story. 

There are so many factors that go into planning major trips on one’s own.  First you have to decide what type of trip you want/can afford.  Japan is known to be an expensive country.  It’s expensive to get here, live here, and get around here.  (Though the exchange rate is now beginning to even out between the Yen and USD…which is bad for us, but great for anyone coming to Japan to travel.)

There are many things I could talk about or suggest for people who have a desire to visit Japan, but I only want to mention two here:

1)    Buy a Japan rail pass.  This is by far the most cost effective way to get around Japan.  You have to buy them outside of Japan though.  Find more information here.
2)    Don’t stay in hotels; Japan does the backpacker’s hostel very well.  I want to  specifically recommend K’s House.  They have eight locations across Japan and they are staffed by some of the nicest people I have ever met.  Also, the facilities are extremely nice and very clean.  They offer private rooms as well as the cheaper dorm rooms.

K's House Ito Onsen-street side.

These two things alone will help in planning a fantastic trip through Japan!  Happy traveling, everyone!

Side note: Unfortunately, The Savvy Traveler was taken off the air several years ago due to lack of listener donation during pledge drives.  Sigh. 

Anyone know of any great travel podcasts? 

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