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Travel Trains, Buses and Secrets

Rondsay

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My wife and I are headed to Japan in 6 weeks for a two week honeymoon! We have not been there and are so happy and so excited to see the cherry blossoms. It's a dream come true!

I know it's been asked before but...

We have booked all of our accommodations but need to coordinate the transportation. I realize the train schedules are google-able but please help us with any other ways to understand the best way to utilize and bus stations and schedules. It’s not easy understanding the travel time between cities, any assistance with recommendation would be appreciated. We are also trying to understand if we should use a 7 day or 14 day Japan Rail Pass.

Additionally, beyond transportation we are open to any other suggestions (restaurants, things to do, etc) at each of destinations below. Perhaps there are SECRET places that are not online or not well known.

Below is our itinerary.
March
25 - Los Angeles
26 - 28 Tokyo
29 - Hakone
30 - Osaka
31 - Koya-san
April
1 - 3 Kyoto
4 - Kanazawa
5 - Kanazawa - day trip to Shirakawago
6 - Takayama
7 - 8 Tokyo
9 - Los Angeles

Thank you in advance for your assistance!
 

nice gaijin

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Seriously, I've found that google does a great job and gives you times for transfers and arrivals; you can search for trains not just between two stations but any point on the map, so it incorporates walking directions and even offers bus routes. The buses are a little harder to figure out, so if you can I'd just stick with trains whenever possible. A lot of times, I would just tell google maps my destination and tell it to take me there from wherever I'm at.

If you want an app just for train searches, Hyperdia is a pretty standard one people use.

Hmm, if you're thinking about the rail pass, I would add up all the major legs of your journey and see if you're traveling enough in that week or two to make it worthwhile. It makes things a little easier, if you're on JR you just walk right through and show it to the station attendant without having to deal with the ticket machines, but I feel like that's part of the experience and if you have a charged suica/pasmo card you can just swipe through the gates in most stations (except for shinkansen/bullet trains or some limited expresses)

Here's your loose itinerary, I used google maps to calculate the price between the cities:
Tokyo > Hakone: ~2,000 local (4,000 shinkansen)
Hakone > Osaka: ~13,000 yen on shinkansen
Osaka > Koyasan: ~2,000 each way (NOT JR, can't use pass)
Osaka> Kyoto: <1,000
Kyoto > Kanazawa: ~7,000
Kanazawa >Shirakawa: ~2,000 each way (NOT JR)
Kanazawa > Takayama: ~4,000 (bus and JR)
Takayama > Tokyo: ~13,500 (on JR/shinkansen)

Total ticket value: about 46,500 (~36,000 total JR)

A 7-day pass is almost 30,000 yen, and a 14-day is 46,000. Really unless you're riding between cities a lot, an all-Japan rail pass might be just an expensive convenience. If you do get one, I recommend recording the trips you use it for so you can calculate whether you're getting your money's worth. I went a little crazy with mine and got about double the ticket value, but I was riding a LOT of trains for those two weeks.

West Japan Railway Company - JR-WEST RAIL PASS
You could look into doing a regional pass, which would be cheaper if you were going to be in one specific area for most of your trip, but check to make sure where the JR lines are, they may not service areas you're trying to get to (like shirakawago, you'll probably need a bus for that).

Have a great honeymoon!
 

Glenski

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Not really sure what sort of assistance you want. nice gaijin has offered some very good help so far.

Use Wikipedia to see what the kanji looks like for your destinations, and make a note of that before you come. Learn a couple of standard phrases or words so you can ask a station officer/clerk things like "When does it come here? Which platform number is it?" etc.
 

PatrickNZ

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Have you tried Hyperdia.com? It has a lot of information on getting from A to B (main by train). For your trip is appears sufficiently leisurely that a rail pass will not save you money.

When I look at regional passes I think they are poorly priced compared to the national pass, and as soon as you go between regions, you need that (although the Hohuriku pass covers Kanto and Kansai, but at Y24,000 isn't that great).
 

Lothor

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Not much to add to nice gaijin's very thorough reply. However, the trip from Tokyo to Hakone involves catching the Odakyu line from Shinjuku, which is a private train line not covered by the JR pass. Do get yourself a Hakone freepass from Shinjuku station, which will save you a lot of money if you want to do the standard mountain railway/cable car/boat trip around the area.
Hakone Freepass | Economical Excursion Tickets | Odakyu Electric Railway

Have a good honeymoon!
 

PatrickNZ

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the trip from Tokyo to Hakone involves catching the Odakyu line from Shinjuku, which is a private train line not covered by the JR pass.
But with a JRP you can get the shinkansen to Okayama and travel more quickly and comfortably than the Odakyu trains. That is my preference, but my last trip a transfer at Machida got me on the Odakyu train.

(Private train, no. Just not one of the six JR companies.)
 

Lothor

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Okayama - do you mean Odawara? Yes, that would be faster and more comfortable with the Shinkansen, although the Odakyu Romance Car is rather nice!
 

PatrickNZ

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Oops, sorry - yes. The Odakyu train to Okayama would take a while.
As an add-in, the castle at Odawara is nice and I hope to get some time to visit Okayama castle in May for a tentatively scheduled trip (otherwise sometime later this year.)
 
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