Sunday, 5 December 2010

We are off to Japan again!

We are off to Japan again! Japan is one of the few countries which makes me go back over and over again. Our driving itinerary this time looks like this:

Day 1 - Overnight flight to Tokyo Narita. Tokyo - Hakone 

Day 2 - Hakone - Lake Kawaguchi (Mt Fuji)
Day 3 - Lake Kawaguchi - Nikko
Day 4 - Nikko - Tokyo
Day 5 - Tokyo Disney Sea
Day 6 - Tokyo Disney Land

With the explosion of internet, planning for a self-guided tour has never been easier. This is especially true for my family of 4. Here are the few websites that i use for planning a trip to Japan.

Planning a trip

I always use to plan my Japan trip. Once i have an outline of my itinerary, I will Google for more specific information on the places i would like to visit. Sometimes i also use tripadvisor for some ideas of where to stay, see and eat. Everyone has different interests and ideas on what an ideal holiday should be. As such mine is catered for the following interests:

Adults - Good onsens (hot springs), good food, nice hotels, some light shopping, interesting experiences and scenic places.

Kids - Places to keep them entertained and occupied and thanks to Steve Jobs, ipads or iphones is a must for in-betweens and waiting.

I have included my itinerary here so that it can help serve like-minded travellers like me who detest joining a package tour. This is my first entry into the blog and i intend to upload all my travel plans and pictures over time. My travel plans are usually at a leisurely pace as i am travelling with kids.


Driving a rental car is amazingly easy and simple in Japan even if you don't understand a single word of Japanese. I drive because I do not have the luxury of a long holiday and would rather spend the time sightseeing than waiting for buses and trains. It may not be the cheapest travelling option but with an entourage of 4, it actually help a lot as you can just dump the luggage in the car boot. In fact, i think that it is cheaper than travelling by Shinkansen but for certain destinations, Shinkansen is a much faster option.

All you need to do is to know how to operate a few key buttons on the GPS in the car. To reach a new destination, key in the phone number of the place that you want to go and off you go.  You will need to learn how to 'toggle' among various options such as driving on 'toll-free' roads only to help you save some money. This is true only when you do not need to drive long distances and do not mind arriving 10 minutes later. If you don't mind paying around Yen1,000 more, you can have the luxury of a "English" speaking GPS and i will strong recommend it. However, English speaking GPS are usually available at the major airports serving international airlines.

I have only used one website so far for renting a car and i strongly recommend it. To plan my driving trip, i used Google Maps to plan the average time i need to drive from one location to another.

Ryokans and Onsens

One of the difficulty travelling in Japan is making reservations at small ryokans. I remember having to ask my friend to help me make reservations over the phone as they do not have an English website and do not speak English at all. With the advance of internet, you can actually email them or key in your reservation details using Google Translate. You will be amazed by the things which you can do nowadays. Thankfully you also have more enterprising companies catering to self-guided travelers now and you can book your hotels, ryokans using Japanican or Japan Online Traveller which i have used extensively. I have also used Japan Guest Houses before but have since preferred the 2 websites above. Based on my experience, Japan Online Traveller gives more options and is cheaper than Japanican. I also discovered one more good website for booking ryokans and accomodations called Try it! 

Happy planning! My 2 cents worth

"Planning for a self-guided trip is actually one of the most enjoyable part of the holiday as you ponder on where to go, what to eat and when to do it. And remember one thing, getting lost is part of the fun."

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