Ginseng

Taking Family to Japan, any tips from the pros and natives?

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Yep, 

Starting to plan our late summer trip to Japan, centered on Tokyo and surrounding regions as our base. I'd love to hear what the travel pros and frequent visitors have as advice for things to see and places to stay. Tips for hidden gems from native denizens would also be greatly appreciated!

Wilkey

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Don't eat Western food. It is horribly overpriced.

As a novelty, try ordering food from a vending machine. Fast and good.

p5172360.thumb.jpg.cadd07f56e8f2c18d0f2c4de7f7ddafe.jpg

When I was there in '07, I pretty much just used the Yamanote line to get around and walk everywhere.

Yamanote-Chuo-Sobu-Line.thumb.png.f0ef004ca909eb5c955e275912207fc6.png

Go to Yamachan near Shinjuku for all you can drink sake.

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Consider getting Japan Rail Passes, you can only buy these outside of Japan, they basically let you get onto any train going anywhere with the exception of a few bullet trains on certain lines. Depending on how much you want to see and how much you want to travel these may work out cheaper, they will certainly save you a ton of hassle buying individual tickets.

You've said you plan on using Tokyo as a base, personally I would probably fly into Tokyo, checkout the city then head south to Osaka and use that as my base, from Osaka it's easy to get to Kyoto (should not be missed), Himeji (incredible castle) and Nara. Basically that part of the country has some really cool historic stuff all within easy travel of Osaka.

 

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Don't blow your wad for a super high end sushi place unless you're some kind of connoisseur. ALL the sushi is great. In fact the best we had was from a carousel in the Kyoto train station and it was less than $20 for both of us with drinks.

The Connoisseur cigar bars in Shinjuku and Ginza are great. Also stop by Chardonnay (it's underground so just look for the tiny Cohiba sign).

DO splurge on a drink , smoke, and snacks at night at the New York Bar at the Park Hyatt. VERY pricey (I think the music cover alone is like $50/pp) but amazing, especially if it's a clear night.

In Kyoto:

Go to Bar K6 (fancy for businessmen but great barttenders -- they sell a small $$$ selection of CCs but you can also BYO and smoke at the bar and its great.

Go to FISHBOWL bar for a "tiny japanese bar experience". Seats 18 and so fun. BYO cigars, all welcome!

Go to chao chao dumplings when there's no line.

Do not miss the Golden Pavillion, and don't miss the monkeys at the top of Iwatayama -- it's a HIKE but so fun!

In general:

The food is fantastic. We went to a 75 year old coffee house in Ginza where the 100+ year old proprietor still goes to work.

Eat at the food court of any big shopping mall -- especially in Ginza! You will not be able to decide what to eat, so just get a bit of everything :)

 

Also, it's hard to get around. Tokyo especially exists on several levels, above and below street level, and you will rarely know which level you are even on. Go with it. It's dizzying and spectacular. Google Maps is sometimes little help, as you may be standing above or below the thing you are looking for.

 

Have fun. Brink me back some Katsu!

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    I haven't been there, I only have stories told to me by the people who've visited.  And that's to be prepared for some WAY OUT  high prices there. They actually warn people who are going there against offering to pick up the check on dinner at the restaurants.  That's happened with generous friends who talk about being mildly unprepared for their buddies' caution and hesitation at letting them pick up the check...and when they insisted on it -were in for the shock of their life when the bill was over $340+ instead of what they thought couldn't be more than $40 to $80 at the most! But it sure looks like a swingin' fun place to be, though, so I hope you have the time of your life with your visit! :yes:

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Prices are comparable with the Average US big city for most things. It's not really "world class outrageous" as I would call New York or London. Pricey. But not scary.

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Yep I would back up Senor Perfecto's comments. Chardonnay Cigar Bar is great. 

Sushi at both Tsukiji Fish Market and in Roppongi tower are both excellent.  But every scrap of Japanese food I tasted was excellent....hmmm well apart from raw Monkfish liver

Try 'Yakiniku' indoor BBQ  and 'Shabu shabu', very tasty

I've been to Japan six times, and I can categorically say, that anyone complaining about prices, is probably sat in a western style hotel, enjoying western style drinks and food. 

Get out to suburbs like Shimo-Kitazawa (a kind of bohemian district). 

Unagi (Eel restaurants) are a wonderful experience.

If you get the chance spend a night in a Ryokkan (traditional Japanese Guest house) This website has some awesome places

https://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/about-ryokans/

It's one of my all time favourite cities, you'll have a blast.   Oh an make sure you try this combo 'Chicken Karaage' basically super tasty deep fried chicken and Yebisu All Malt beer.   It's pure heaven. 

Check out to see if there will be any festivals on whilst you're there, they have a wonderful family feel, and are super friendly. 

I'm massively jealous

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Thank you for all the great tips, folks! 

We leave in 2 days. The whole family is looking forward to a great trip, culture, and food.

Cheers!

Wilkey

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5 minutes ago, Ginseng said:

Thank you for all the great tips, folks! 

We leave in 2 days. The whole family is looking forward to a great trip, culture, and food.

Cheers!

Wilkey

Don't forget to check out the ROLEX watch dealers there! Try some on, take a bunch of pics! BTW, just bought my solid gold Sub last Friday. My holy grail watch. An awesome belated 50th birthday gift. Have a great time!

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Bring your own cigars. Selections and quality are limited and expensive. Don't take the last train. Overcrowded with lots of drunk businessmen. Don't forget to check out the infamous Yasukuni Shrine. Cash is king.

 
 

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11 hours ago, NYgarman said:

Don't forget to check out the ROLEX watch dealers there! Try some on, take a bunch of pics! BTW, just bought my solid gold Sub last Friday. My holy grail watch. An awesome belated 50th birthday gift. Have a great time!

Congratulations! I know you've been wanting that baby for some time. Do let me know when you've posted in TRF if you intend to.

I will take pictures for sure. As for what I'm wearing, given the temperature and humidity, I bought a Casio G-Shock Solar/Atomic for comfort and ease.

Wilkey

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Fly into Haneda instead of Narita, it's waaaaaaay more convenient.  Not as many international flights in, but do it if you can, it's much cheaper to the city by cab.

Amazing the differences in Japanese cities.  Tokyo and Osaka are like different worlds.  Try to squeeze in more than just Tokyo.

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Ramen is cheap and delicious. Izakaya are awesome and nomihodai (all you can drink in a set time limit ) can be fun. Get outside the city if you can and go to a shrine or temple. I also second getting a JR pass. Eat soba when in Japan as you get a quality there I haven't had elsewhere. Food places with lines are usually a good sign. Food isn't nearly expensive as one of the posters mentioned above unless you solely go to high end restaurants (which Tokyo has plenty of). There are tons of high quality and delicious hole in the wall places with affordable prices. 

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Safe travels. Have a great trip Wilkey!

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I went to Japan last August/September for my 50th birthday. I went with my missus. So, a bit different from your trip. Things I liked were the Izakayas - casual, small eating and drinking places where you can try all kinds of food on sticks mostly. My favourite was near Ginza train station I think. Look for the small washing line with dried fish hanging off it. I loved the beef with sea urchin sashimi there. There is always good places to eat around train stations in Japan. I also liked the famous 'memory lane' otherwise known as 'piss alley'. There is a lot of Izakayas there and a cool bar. We also enjoyed having a late brunch of ramen. We found you can avoid the crowds at ramen restaurants by getting there around 11am. For cigars I went to Connaissuer in Ginza which has been mentioned. We also stayed two nights at the end in The Palace Hotel opposite the palace. The bar downstairs was great for getting a cocktail or a whisky and you can smoke a cigar at the bar. Expensive but loved the freedom of smoking inside. You'll find some places allow it and others don't. Just look for ashtrays. Maybe a trip for the kids is to go to Harajuku. There is a lot of Manga style shops with some weird and wonderful fashions, t-shirts, games etc. We went to Kyoto for some culture and went on a bicycle tour of the temples. We caught the bullet train there and stayed four nights. The missus wanted to do some geisha spotting. So we got the tip to go to the 'Man in the moon' bar and look out the window across the road because geisha (also known as geico and meico) sometimes entertain in the hotel opposite. We saw quite a few. Some real and others ladies of the night dressed as geisha. You can tell the difference. Only went to Osaka for one day during a typhoon so only really saw the tourist area around the station which was adorned with statues of Biliken - The god of the way things ought to be. Hope you have a great time. It's a great place to visit. I found the people to be very nice everywhere we went, except for the occasional Izakaya where they refuse to serve westerners. It's also safe and although crowded, it's very ordered. One tip, the taxi doors open and shut automatically so don't shut or open the door it will mess with the hydraulics. All the best. Cheers

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A good general practice as a tourist in Japan is to make sure any questions you're asking on the street are open-ended. Many Japanese citizens are so interested in being friendly, polite and accommodating to strangers that they will tend to provide you with a positive answer to any 'yes or no' questions, regardless of accuracy. So, it's best to ask, "Which way is the Connoisseur cigar bar?" rather than "Is this the right way to the Connoisseur cigar bar?" because the answer you receive to the latter question will almost invariably be "Yes!"

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We had a GREAT time! Fantastic all around. And here are the Rolex photos as promised. Taken in the basement shop of the BIC Camera in Shinjuku.

36409174702_e7bbf51ef3_k.jpgIMG_4233_DxO by Wi Wo, on Flickr

And...notice what might be a platinum Day-Date for 5.4 million yen!

36180960180_2e759af2d2_k.jpgIMG_4235_DxO by Wi Wo, on Flickr

Wilkey

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Welcome back! Glad you had such a good time. Did you have any trouble getting around? I have some friends that went there last year. I think they ended up over paying for a ticket because they didn't realize that purchasing a ticket was for single use and not reuseable credit like some of the stations they have over here.

Also, how was the cigar life over there?

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Good info here guys.  My daughter and son in law are going to Japan next year for their honeymoon.  I'll be sure to pass on some of this information 

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Congrats on what sounds like a great trip. I love visiting Japan -  the wonderful people, culture, and history.

And as a bonus, you didn't even get nuked by the Norks !

 

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