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34 Days Solo Trip Help 2019/6/10 04:24
So, finally getting the time to travel and I've decided to go to Japan. Overall it's 36 days, but two of those are traveling to and from the country. I leave 29AUG and leave 03OCT. The only absolutely set times are the first nine days in Tokyo. The only issue is I'm not sure how I want to travel the rest of it. I definitely want to hit Sapporo (or the Hokkaido region in general), but then there's the issue of getting down south for Kyoto/Osaka/Hiroshima/etc... Have you guys traveled back and forth like that? What would you recommend? Should I just stay super flexible? There's just so much info and it's a bit overwhelming for even a loose itinerary on a first solo travel. Thanks in advance!
by CrowNostrils (guest)  

Re: 34 Days Solo Trip Help 2019/6/10 16:39
I guess it depends on your travel personality and how much time you are prepared to invest in planning BEFORE as opposed to DURING the trip. And the degree of flexibility you want to achieve.

I personally travelled 1,5 yrs ago for 2 months alone through Japan by bicycle. That needs more preparation as I also needed to understand how road conditions etc were which isnft important for you.

My advice for you:

- make a list of places you want to go. \> I found JG webpage very helpful for that. But you need to drill down a lot. Youfll probably need to invest a full weekend at least to get that done. I would also use some other resources such as a traditional guide book (I like rough guides) and other webpage like JNTO (https://www.japan.travel/en/).

- class them into your PERSONAL must-gos and nice-to-have

- I would NOT spend that much time with YouTube or pages with peoples opinions (TripAdvisor) or blogs (I am saying that although I have my own blog :-) http://bicycletraveljapan.blogspot.com/ ) Reason: I have lived in Japan for about 3 years and frankly a lot of the advice on the personal pages come from people who have been in Japan only on vacation and have not really an understanding of Japan. Plus somehow a lot of people admire kind of anything in Japan and find anything mind blowing. Including totally mundane things. While the problem with trip advisor is that it hypes those places where a lot of other foreign tourists go. Rather than giving off the beaten track advise.

- overall I would start in Hokkaido simply because of weather. Actually if you can move those first days from Tokyo to Hokkaido (ie start in Hokkaido) I think that would be better as it will still be soooo hot in Tokyo

- generally I would then work downwards from Hokkaido through Tohoku (an area often overlooked).

- one important decision for you to take upfront which will be a bit hard is if and if yes WHICH rail pass you want to buy. You can actually buy all of them in Japan. A few are however a bit more expensive than buying before. But for 5 weeks you can maybe work with regional passes. There is a lot of information on the many different passes on JG

- look at the weather forecast a few days out and reroute accordingly

- be prepared to drop some locations. Eg if weather isnft cooperating or if you just liked some other place more and spent more time there.

- reserve the accommodation for the next day latest the evening before (just my personal advice) I liked to know that I had a roof for tonight AND tomorrow before going to sleep. (I used Jalan webpage for my reservation: https://www.jalan.net/ ) but I am not sure if the English version has all the accommodation. You could try the Japanese version though, however there tends to be a lot of fine print (eg some capsule hotels are male only)

- consider if youfd ever be tempted to hire a car. If yes, prepare BEFORE coming to Japan what youfd need in regards to driving license (depends on your countryfs license) (However generally in Japan you should relay on trains. But in remote areas eg Shimokita peninsula- the location of Osorezan in the north of Aomori Prefecture) a car is of benefit)

- if during your planning stage you see that there is a festival somewhere that you absolutely want to attend or something else like that, get your accommodation there ASAP.

- but otherwise overall I would keep a certain flexibility as you are traveling alone but I wouldnft go totally on an adventure trip. But thatfs obviously my travel style and personality.

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

Re: 34 Days Solo Trip Help 2019/6/11 01:10
I've traveled solo a few times and I am planning my third solo trip for November as I speak. Japan is a great country to travel solo so here are a few things to consider (it might be a duplicate of the above respondent).

1. Assess your own travel style. I actually do very specific itineraries such as what train to take and how many spots I will visit. Do your research ahead of time because when you are alone, you might not have the luxury to ask for directions especially if you don't speak the language, and if locals don't speak English. However, if you are spontaneous then yeah don't be like me and have every minute counted for.

2. I always stay in Tokyo the first two days at least, to get accustomed to the language, culture, people, etc. Even as a veteran traveler to Japan I like the calm first few days before I hit the road.

3. I agree with the above person, start in the north and come down to Osaka and Hiroshima. The weather is a factor, and it seems to "make more sense" to start in one end and end to the other side. Also, I would recommend flying to Hokkaido. National airlines like ANA have those "discovery passes" allowing foreigners to fly for deep discounts. I have traveled to Hokkaido via the Shinkansen which is a great experience too.

4. September will be hot but if you like it hot, perfect! Also, it is still typhoon season so be prepared for delays or cancellations, especially from Osaka south. Remember Kansai had that huge flooding when a typhoon hit. Just be prepared and know how to change plans.

5. I agree, I always use jalan for hotel bookings. The Japanese site is more comprehensive and includes many more hotel packages than the English version. Also, you can book much more than the 3 months that the English site offers. If you can find someone who speaks Japanese then try to book through the Japanese site.

6. I agree with the respondent above, Tohoku is grossly overlooked. Some of my favourite places is in Tohoku such as taking the Gono line and having an outdoor onsen in front of the Sea of Japan, or visiting Rikuzentakata, 4 years after the 3/11 Great East Japan Earthquake and seeing the recovery efforts. Or going to Mt. Haguro last year and seeing the pagoda in the middle of the forest. These are so overlooked which is good, no foreign tourists!!

7. Consider the Japan Rail Pass wisely. It is expensive and I do not recommend that if possible (my pet peeve is seeing foreign tourists holding onto the JR Rail Pass when I know they don't need it and there are other options). Regional rail passes such as the JR East - Tohoku Pass or the Hokkaido Pass are ones I recommend, especially when most of them are flex day passes (i.e. use 5 days within 14 day period). The JR Pass is consecutive so the clock ticks as soon as you activate it. Do some research and if money is tight, plan it around these regional rail passes. You might need the JR Rail Pass when you are on several Shinkansen lines through different JR Companies (i.e. Tokyo - Hakata). I do recommend buying in your own country if you can. You save a few thousand Yen but that is a bowl of ramen or two. If you are spontaneous then buy in Japan.

8. Bring lots of cash. Japan is becoming more open to credit card, but most small restaurants are still only accept cash. Also, the vast majority include taxes but some do not. You can do foreign exchange I believe at the ATM in 7-11 stores (can others confirm?)

9. I agree with the respondent above, you can get inspiration from YouTube videos and Tripadvisor, but I would use sites like this to get inspiration. This site is what I use for 85% of my research. It is unbiased and useful info.

10. DOWNLOAD a translating app!!! I had one experience last year where the machine "ate" my ticket and I had no way to get out. I used the app and told the ticket agent. He knew what to do and helped me. This is an example where the app helped a lot.

11. One word. Rugby. Hotels might be expensive so consider the price.

Just a few thoughts and have fun! The planning is half the fun.
by Villagemayor rate this post as useful

Re: 34 Days Solo Trip Help 2019/6/11 02:15
I traveled Japan solo for 8 weeks, 6 weeks, and 3 weeks. I am planning my next trip, more as a guide this time, as I write this. There are so much to see and eat, I just cannot get enough of it.

All my trips, I used some form of rail pass. Which pass to purchase depends on your itinerary. So, get a rough plan first, then map out the sequence, after that study which pass makes the most sense.

When planning for such a long trip, it is difficult to stay true to the plan. Flexibility is good, mostly in the form of cancellable and refundable accommodations. Renting a pocket WiFi (MiFi) or a SIM, together with learning an app to figure out how to get from A to B helped me a lot.

Use planning tools and guides this site offers, they are very good source of info and references.
by O92 (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: 34 Days Solo Trip Help 2019/6/11 03:25
I can confirm that ATMs at 7/11 work with overseas credit/ debit cards. There are bound to be others as well.

by LikeBike (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: 34 Days Solo Trip Help 2019/6/11 10:47
I sometimes do/organise longer trips (a month or more). While you are travelling solo and you might find it easier to get accommodation, don't count on it. I saw a nice programme a few years back of some guys trying to "wing-it". When they arrived in Tokyo they spent over two hours of their precious time eventually finding something double what their budget would normally allow. It was an expensive wasted day in Japan. Recommendation: plan your trip and book accommodation in advance. Use that hunting for somewhere to stay BEFORE you arrive, not wasting your time and getting stressed about it here (unless you are fluent in Japanese and happy to call random places.)

Also bear in mind there is a major sporting competition running in Japan for at least two weeks of your trip.
by JapanCustomTours rate this post as useful

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