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Shinkansen best practice 2019/6/9 01:25

I'm going to be visiting Japan for 12 days at the end of June (24th-6th), and on the Saturday (29th) I need to travel from Tokyo (Shinjuku) to Osaka.

I'm not sure what time I'm going to travel on the Saturday, so I have a few questions about the best way to deal with that:

1) Given I'm going to have a 2 week sized suitcase with me, is it worth even trying to take that on the train (especially considering I have to use the local metro before and after the Shinkansen), or should I just use a luggage transfer service? Given the distance it looks like it takes a day to arrive, so I'd have to send it ahead of myself the day before I check-out from my hotel in Toyko.

2) Given I don't have a fixed time I need to travel, what's the best way to deal with that? It looks like services run surprisingly frequently (every 10-20 mins), so is it worth buying a ticket in advance and trying to stick with it, or would I be fine just buying a ticket shortly before I travel (with or without a reservation)?

by TalkiToaster  

Re: Shinkansen best practice 2019/6/9 14:24
1) while it is more comfortable to ride without large luggage it is totally possible to ride with it. Both on local trains, subways as well as Shinkansen. In the Shinkasen there is some communal space behind the last seats in each car. You can try putting it there. Or youfd need to put it in front of your legs. Not ideal but totally doable. I am traveling occasionally with a brompton Golding bicycle and so far always managed to get a space behind the last row.

2) Assuming that you travel alone actually you could
a) just go to Shinagawa station and just get on the next Nozomi in the unreserved seats cars cars 1-3). I personally normally unless it is GW, year end, last train (or close to) of the day or similar, prefer unreserved when traveling alone. No waiting for your reserved train, just hop on the next. Plus itfs a few yen cheaper. (My colleague think I am crazy, specially as my company would pay me reservation in green car, but I prefer it quick and speedy)
b) buy the reserved seat once you are at Shinagawa (or possibly shortly before you depart in Shinjuku)

Enjoy your trip to Japan!
by LikeBike (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Shinkansen best practice 2019/6/10 08:24
My two-week sized suitcase is small (around 10kg) and many people travel indefinately with carry-on sized cases. However, even with larger cases people travel all over Japan all the time (including locals) without luggage forwarding. Seriously, those people that love it are simply bringing too much luggage.

For your travel, from Shinjuku get the Chuo Rapid to Tokyo and buy before you travel - you could do non-reserved or reserved, with the frequency of the Nozomi services you would not need to wait long.

You could go to Shinagawa to board the shinkansen, but it takes a little longer.
by JapanCustomTours rate this post as useful

Re: Shinkansen best practice 2019/6/10 08:25
Forgot to mention, if you buy your shinkansen ticket at Shinjuku the ticket covers the local trip.
by JapanCustomTours rate this post as useful

Re: Shinkansen best practice 2019/6/10 23:14
Thanks for the tips!

According to Google Maps, travelling via Tokyo or Shinagawa is comparable in terms of time. Does it really make a significant difference?

I may well be thinking of bringing a case larger than I need to, but at least then I'll have plenty of space for anything I want to bring back. My main concern was actually bringing enough clean clothes, but it looks like both my hotels have laundromats inside them; maybe that's standard in Japan, but it's not something I'm used to, and am more used to hotels offering a laundry service at a premium price.
by TalkiToaster rate this post as useful

Re: Shinkansen best practice 2019/6/11 00:33

I'm one of those people who brings larger bags. I like to shop in Japan. My young daughter and I specifically collect Japanese fashion dolls and unsurprisingly, the prices for Japanese fashion dolls are better in Japan. We've also been known to bring home a few play sets. I regret missing the conveyor belt sushi set.

I tend to bring one large suitcase, 1 carry on bag, 1 small personal bag or purse, and my child. I find I prefer to not have to deal with the larger bag when I can pay a small fee for someone else to transport it. I then don't need to look for escalators or elevators and can just use the stairs.

Just to warn you now, dryers in Japan are AWFUL, at least compared to ones I've used in the USA. You are better off going to a 100 yen store and buying one of those plastic hangers with clothespins to hang things in the bathroom to dry. I've noticed this between hotel brands and using dryers at individual's homes. Maybe someone here has had good luck, but I've not and I am talking about Summery cotton dresses and tops and bottoms, not jeans. I actually like buying those plastic hangers and bringing them home because I tend to hang dry my daughter's things here too.

Taking a large suitcase on the shinkansen is fine, the newer trains on the Hokuriku and Tohoku lines even have suitcase racks for big bags in the front of cars. But honestly, people in Osaka don't like it when you take them on the subways. The city of Osaka and the city of Kyoto are constantly debating implementing various fines because the residents of both areas are being impacted by foreigners with huge suitcases on local transport. (This is according to the people I know who live in Osaka.)

If you don't have a reserved seat, it makes sense to get on Tokyo Station since it is an originating station. i personally like the dinning options more in Tokyo Station than Shinagawa Station, but that's a personal preference,

I would also just be careful the specific day you are going to Osaka because it's during the G20 Summit in Osaka, so a lot of world leaders are going to be in the area so there might be more luggage or travel issues than usual. I would avoid going anywhere near Cosmo Square on the 29th or 30th unless you are staying at that Hyatt Regency.
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Shinkansen best practice 2019/6/11 00:58
I think that's more to do with the fact that dryers in the US are amazing by comparison. I've used them when staying in our company apartments in the US, and they dry clothes far better than my own dryer in the UK (where I still hang the clothes after to air). Thanks for the heads up though :)

Annoying locals on the metro was my main concern (and similar concern when travelling to KIX, but I can't avoid it then), though I wasn't planning on travelling at peak time. My suitcase isn't overly large (78x48x38cm) and far smaller than you see some people with. I also have a slightly smaller one (67x42x31cm) but that would likely be too small for my needs here.

Thanks for the tip about the G20 summit, though it doesn't look like I'll have any reason to head over that way.
by TalkiToaster rate this post as useful

Re: Shinkansen best practice 2019/6/11 02:06

I honestly think anything above 56 cm is a little large for local subways, but this is just my opinion. I know Kyoto Station now has same day baggage delivery to hotels and it looks like Shin-Osaka does as well: I don't know how much it is from Shin-Osaka but in Kyoto it's about 750 yen which seems pretty reasonable to me.

When going to the airport, I'd just switch as early as possible to an airport line, since having bags on an airport line is normal. I'm not sure where you are staying in Osaka but there are quite a few airport lines.

In general, I think people in Tokyo or less bothered by bags on local trains and subways because I think there are just so many more options to get from one place to another so it's less disruptive. Trains are just also so much more frequent.

I'm from the US and I've not done laundry in Europe on past trips, so I thank you for that information as we're going to the UK at the end of the Summer. I thought Japan's were just appalling, I didn't realize the US is just above average.

The Aquarium can be popular, and that's a bit close to Intex where the Summit is. I don't know what other disruptions there might be as I'm starting my trip in Kansai and leaving for Tokyo on the 26. I find I like to start in Kansai where it is easier to take advantage of my jet lag.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Shinkansen best practice 2019/6/11 03:31
My 2 cents regarding Tokyo bs Shinagawa Station:
- Tokyo is better if you go unreserved. Then you are certain to get a seat and depending where you stand in the line of the unreserved seats car you can get a seat in the last row and keep your large suitcases just behind you.
But I find Tokyo Station more hard to navigate

- Shinagawa for me is much easier to navigate.
by LikeBike (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Shinkansen best practice 2019/6/11 04:02
Tokyo being the originating station is a great point if I'm not going to have a seat reservation.

I certainly don't like travelling on the metro with large luggage, and get enough ire from the people in London when travelling from Marylebone to Paddington for the Heathrow Express. I once travelled on the underground all the way to Heathrow, and the train was more full of cases than it was people (who had nowhere to stand... very miserable).

rkold, it's not actually very common in the UK to have a dryer. Utilities tend to go into the kitchen rather than a dedicated utility room, so there's only so much space available, and most people just dry clothes on radiators or by hanging (inside or outside). Those that do have dryers are typically washer-dryer combos, and that's usually just because they have no other means to dry clothes (like me).
by TalkiToaster rate this post as useful

Re: Shinkansen best practice 2019/6/11 05:26

Thanks for the lessons on dryers and clothes drying in the UK. I don't know what if anything my SiL has. She lives in Wales on a small farmstead near Anglesey, she works at the University in Bangor.

I personally love Tokyo Station and don't have a problem navigating it. I always try to go through it because the food and snack options are great for me, we are a dietary restricted family. However I personally get lost easily underground in Namba in Osaka. I have friends who don't have a problem there, but I've gotten lost a few times there despite having used it multiple times.

I've used OCAT from Osaka multiple times and I think only once had a little traffic. I had a few friends in the Kansai area who swore by it. I regularly took the limo bus to Wakayama Station from KIX and it was pleasant.

I think from Juso, I would do the Hankyu to Umeda and then transfer for JR. Though I think if I hadn't booked non-refundable, I'd be looking for someplace more convenient since getting there from Shin-Osaka doesn't look fun. I think I would see what is available near Shin-Osaka or even Kyoto. I got a super good rate at the Kyoto in Vischio. I think I am paying only a little more than $100 a night for 2.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Shinkansen best practice 2019/6/11 05:41
My hotel in Osaka can be freely cancelled until the 25th, so I might take another look around the area.

Purely from looking at the transport links on Google Maps it didn't seem too bad (for someone pretty used to metro networks), but maybe that's naivety on my part, and it certainly seems that Shin-Osaka would be a better connected station for some of the other journeys I want to make anyway.
by TalkiToaster rate this post as useful

Re: Shinkansen best practice 2019/6/11 07:17
Washing machines and dryers are fairly standard in hotels in Japan. No need to bring a huge suitcase. I made this mistake on my first trip.

I only bring 5 days worth of clothes, and wash every 3 days. Since you are traveling in summer. You might pack items more for beach days etc. But no need to pack 14 days worth of clothes for a 14 day trip.
by hakata14 (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Shinkansen best practice 2019/6/11 07:55

Juso is a good station if you plan to use the Hankyu line a lot, but just as an example, from Shin-Osaka you will be taking a train to Osaka Station changing for the Hankyu and then going to Juso. You don't want to walk it because it's 3km and it's pretty hot and humid in the Summer. I personally would not want to do it and I'm pretty heat tolerant.

If it were me, I would look at a hotel near Osaka, Namba, Tennoji or possibly Shin-Osaka. Shin-Osaka is really quiet.. there is really nothing there outside the station, but it's safe. There is just nothing to eat there other than combinis really and no shopping.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Shinkansen best practice 2019/6/11 08:59
Yeah, I certainly wouldn't want to walk that far in the heat, but it did look like there were local buses/trains available.

Outside of Osaka itself, I was planning to visit at least Kyoto, Kobe, and Himeji, which are actually available from Juso via Hankyu... though are also available from Shin-Osaka via far faster trains (including Shinkansen), so I think reassessing my hotel choice wouldn't be a bad idea, as it will also make getting to KIX easier (re: my other thread):

If I'm going to end up using Shinkansen more (my friend also suggested a trip north of Tokyo that would require using one) then I may also reassess whether to get the JR pass, as it was borderline for 14-days and I prefer the convenience of using the automatic gates, and not being limited to the slower Shinkansen trains (Google Maps doesn't seem to let you specify which speed of train you need to use).
by TalkiToaster rate this post as useful

Re: Shinkansen best practice 2019/6/11 10:42
The coin laundry places I use the washer/dryers are great, but they are proper commercial machines. Some of the business hotel dryers take a while.

Interested in the comment about Kyoto/Osaka thinking about luggage on train fines - what are they going to do about all the Japanese people that also take huge suitcases on the trains because they do, and a lot/often. It is not just a foreigner problem. And what realistic alternative is there? Getting a taxi from Kansai International to Kyoto isn't practical.
by JapanCustomTours rate this post as useful

Re: Shinkansen best practice 2019/6/11 11:37
Hi @JapanCustom Tours,

Yes, it is not just a foreigner problem, but as I've seen in my doll collecting hobby, foreigners doing things the general population don't like get more ire. Last year Volks, a popular Japanese Ball Joint doll maker, released a limited edition doll in conjunction with Takashimaya in Kyoto. A Chinese collector paid people to get in line to buy up all 100 dolls for him. Japanese collectors were furious. The Japanese didn't blame Takashimaya or Volks (which is headquartered in Kyoto so could have easily had someone on hand for this or could have refused to sell the dolls) they blamed the Chinese man.

I've heard that they keep trying to pass laws to just fine anyone with a suitcase larger than carry-on size on the subways in Osaka, and this is specifically subways in Osaka. I think eventually it might come to pass, every year I go to Namba and Shinsaibashi it is more crowded and more unpleasant than the last.

And the alternative is if you are traveling with a bag larger than carry on is you takyuubin it. If you have enormous suitcases you use hands free travel for same day delivery from Kyoto Station or Shin-Osaka Station. Heck, I still remember the Australian family of 5 with 3 enormous suitcases roughly 110 -120 cm who planned to try to take those on a bus in Kyoto, but were having a hard time just moving with their 5 suitcases total and 3 children, one in a stroller out past the shinkansen gates. Kyoto buses are not made to hold bags that size. And whether people should be able to pack lighter or not is besides the point, there are many people who go to Japan with enormous bags, either because they are not good at packing or because they do a lot of shopping or both. This is not about 54 cm bags, this is about all the 90 cm+ bags.

For OP, I've never used commercial laundromats in Japan. I've tried business hotels and "nicer" hotels like the Metropolitan in Nagano and the Hana Touro in Kyoto, as well as friend's houses through out the years and none of them had dryers that take less than an hour and don't still leave clothes damp even after the hour. I am American, so perhaps my expectations are too high, but my ordinary home dryer, in my house dries even blue jeans and towels in 30-40 minutes. It's not until I am drying pillows and comforters that I hit the 1 hour+ mark.

For trains, I tend to use Hyperdia. I usually have a pass so I can't take the Nozomi, and Hyperdia specifically lets you pick whether to include the Nozomi or not. It only becomes problematic if you're traveling in one day from the Tokaido line to the Tohoku or Akita lines, in which case you exclude Nozomi to get to Tokyo and then take that arrival time and click to allow Hayabusas, for the JR East section. I wish it didn't automatically exclude Hayabusas.

Juso is fine for Kyoto (either Kawaramachi or Arashiyama) and possibly a little faster depending on transfer time, but for Himeji, Hyperdia is recommending you transfer in Kobe to JR because the Hankyu to Himeji is slower. If you wanted to take Hankyu the whole way it is substantially, as in 40 minutes slower than a Special Rapid from JR Osaka Station to Himeji. Both JR and Hankyu will get you to Sannomiya in about the same amount of time. (I was not using the shinkansen or a JR Limited Express train for any of these comparisons) Hankyu is less convenient for the shinkansen and less convenient when going to KIX (But I believe more convenient if arriving from Itami, outside buses.) It is doable still, but a bit more convoluted. If it were me I would see what is available near Osaka/Umeda Station.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Shinkansen best practice 2019/6/11 12:20
I spent a while looking at hotels around Osaka/Umeda, however it's getting a bit too close to my travel dates and a lot of the more promising ones have sold out, leaving some that were okay, but either further away from the train station or lacking in certain features.

I ended up making a reservation at remm at Shin-Osaka, as I don't mind travelling into Osaka itself from there, and it seemed like a good place to travel from for most places I want to visit. This is also cancellable, and I've still not cancelled my reservation at Plaza Osaka yet either (should I change my mind, or have it changed).

Hyperdia looks really useful, and it seems the difference between the Nozomi and Hikari trains is mostly negligible (20 minutes for Tokyo to Shin-Osaka), so maybe I'll take another look at the JR pass to see if it pays off now.
by TalkiToaster rate this post as useful

Re: Shinkansen best practice 2019/6/11 12:35

Honestly, the big saver in terms of Nozomi vs. Hikari is frequency. There are 2 Hikaris an hour vs. 5 or 6 Nozomi. But yeah, a lot depends on what trips you plan to do from Tokyo. Going to Nikko... you can take Tobu and a pass isn't necessarily a huge savings, going to Matsushima, you will want some sort of JR pass unless you are planning to travel really slowly.

I think the Remm looks nice. My main complaint about Shin-Osaka is the restaurant choice, but then I'm not sure of restaurants near Juso either. You will have no problem getting to your hotel from Shin-Osaka and no problem taking a Haruka to KIX. It will be easy to get to Himeji, easy to get to Kyoto, and relatively easy to get to Kobe as well.

One thing I will note is different hotels are sometimes available on different websites. My daughter is still debating whether she wants to go to USJ again. So on a lark I looked at what hotels are available on Sunday the 23rd since I could then cancel one night in Sakurai and still have an easy enough time getting down there on Monday post USJ. On, the Park Front was sold out, on Rakuten it was not, and prices were different as well. Unless it's a hotel that only has booking on a specific site (The Grand Reverie chain in Kyoto and I think a few others are only on Booking) it's possible a different website has other availability. Though if you got a good price at the Remm, I would keep it just because it is convenient and if you are awake enough it's easy enough to go to Umeda or somewhere else for dinner.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Shinkansen best practice 2019/6/11 12:50
I did spend quite a while looking, and it wasn't so much that they were fully booked, but rather that the room types available were varied/unsuitable. remm is a bit more expensive than Plaza Osaka, but on-par (or cheaper) than what I'd have got around Osaka/Umeda, so I'll go with that :)

Sadly this hotel doesn't have self-service laundry, so I'll either have to find one, pay their cleaning charges, or ensure I take 8 days of clothes and wash everything else before leaving Tokyo.

Nikko was exactly where my friend had suggested, and I'm both impressed and scared that you got that from "somewhere north of Tokyo"...
by TalkiToaster rate this post as useful

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