Planning for Japan

Thursday, April 18, 2018

For retirees or anyone who can pack and go at a moments notice, there's bargains out there. I recommend signing up for price drop alerts on Trip Advisor. Currently a good fare is anything under 600 dollars, but check again as your travel date gets closer.

Visiting Japan seems to be an "in" thing right now. So, thinking of planning a trip there?

Let's start with Tokyo.

RHS'69 Steph Miwa, a world traveler, has hints that may be helpful to you.

Cheap Airfare

Buying Yen

You can't just show up in Japan without some yen. So start your trip to Japan with a trip to Waikiki.

On Royal Hawaiian Avenue there's Pacific Money Exchange. (Ask for the kama'aina rate).  

d'R Exchange is a tiny window next to a surf shop near Kuhio Avenue. Both are located on the left side of the street going makai.  Also in Waikiki is the Aloha Currency Exchange, 2238 Lauula Street, #1F.  Ask for the Kama'aina rate!

There is also a money exchange on the first floor of DFS Galleria, near the back of the store.

Parking is tough in Waikiki so it's a good idea to go with another person so you can hop out to get the yen while your friend waits in the car - double parked in a red zone hoping you hurry before the police drive by.

How much yen to bring?

Figure you'll spend an average of a hundred dollars a day per person for meals and incidentals. Big shopper, big eater, big drinker? Plan on LOTS more. Just remember, if you take too much there's a limit of 800 dollars per person allowed duty free when returning home.  

Also, no meat products (beef, pork, chicken, and broth/powder, etc.) allowed into the United States - eat your Tokyo purchased pork tonkatsu snacks in-flight as the beagle patrol at Daniel K . Inouye is very nosey.


If you're on your own, we have found that staying at a hotel near or where the airport limousine makes a stop is most convenient.  These hotels are typically near train stations, so it's easy to walk to the station and catch a train to other parts of the city.  Tokyo is BIG so you're not going to walk through it all. It also makes for a short walk back when you are carrying a whole bunch of shopping bags off the train.

Limousine (Bus/Shuttle)

Fire up Google and try "Google airport limousine (destination)" for a list of hotels that the limousine buses make stops at.  Then you can compare hotel rates.

From Narita Airport it's about 1-1/2 hours to Tokyo). Haneda is close to 50 minutes to Tokyo.  It's usually cheaper to buy a round trip ticket if using the same type of transportation to return to the airport.  For example, a limousine bus from Narita Airport to Shinjuku station may cost about $30 per person (one way) and $45 round trip, while a taxi would cost over 150 dollars, one way to Shinjuku.

Places to Stay

We recently stayed in the Shinjuku area at Sun Route Plaza hotel. (Sign up for their point card and get free late check out!)  It has those toilets that wash you along with small room and big rooms.

Hotel Century Southern Tower is also nearby and very convenient.  Both are about 2 blocks away from the train station.

We have also stayed in Ikebukuro at the Hotel Metropolitan and Sunshine Prince.  Both areas are very busy with LOTS of shopping and eating places. Hawaii folks love to eat and shop and eat some more.

WIFI router

If you want to stay in touch with your cell phone, you need a WIFI Router. It allows you to connect to the Internet and bypass those pesky roaming changes.

It recommended you rent one, unless your phone plan includes free WIFI in Japan.  You can either rent from here and return it to Honolulu, rent on-line and the router will be at your hotel, or rent at the airport. They work great. As of today, the price is around 800-900 yen per day.


If just staying in the Tokyo area, you will not need a Tokyo Rail Pass that can only be purchased outside of Japan.

But, if you plan to make many stops during the day, and plan to use mainly the JR (Japan Railway system), it might be better to buy a day pass.  

If exploring areas a little further out, and you want to use other train systems, it might be better to purchase passes for that system or purchase a Suica or Pasmo card (from the train/subway stations) that works like a debit card. There is a deposit to purchase the card (5 dollars) and money is loaded onto the card. Then swipe your card to enter and exit the train or subway stations and the fare is automatically deducted from the card.  It simplifies having to figure out the cost of a ticket from station to station.

Learn something

It's fun to take classes in Japan.  Check with the hotel you're staying at for some suggestions. We took a Kanzashi (making a cloth hair ornament) class in Asakusabashi and we had a lot of fun. The 90 minutes flew by quickly.

And there's always the opportunity to meet new people!

Save these tips for when you plan your trip and enjoy your trip to Japan!

Read Steph's other blog: Steph's Most Yummy Adventure