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Old Oct 14, 06, 3:17 pm
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Central California
Programs: Former UA Premex, now dirt
Posts: 6,318
Originally Posted by swise
...Any advice would be much appreciated!
You can help us help you by giving some more information about your trip. How long will you be in Japan? What travel plans do you have while in Japan? What sort of rail pass do you have in mind? Have you ever been to Japan before? What are your arrival/departure plans? Times?

Just to give you an idea why all that matters, there alternatives for arrival/departure points, depending on where in Japan you wish to travel and for how long. The JR rail pass must be purchased outside of Japan (with a few exceptions like the local Kansai area pass) and is valid for most but not all JR trains but not other trains - ie: the fastest Nozomi shinkansen is not covered. Nor are other companies trains. The rail pass is valid for a set number of days, so planning out the days you will validate for is important - if you need 7 or 14 days of long distance travel around the country, you may not want to validate the pass just for the ride into town from the airport. If the 7 or 14 days will include airport travel days, then you can validate the pass right in the airport and ride free on the N'EX.

My first suggestion is that your initial idea regarding subways is good. After arriving internationally with luggage, the subway, which might be an option for experienced Tokyo hands, is probably a bad choice for a first-time visitor. You can explore the subways when you are rested, not jetlagged and not toting bulky bags. The limobus is a good option for those who just want to let someone else worry about the navigation and who have lots of bags. My option is always the train+cab (or subway), but I never have much luggage and love to watch the scenery go by on the train. If your hotel is the last stop, the bus will take longer, but deliver you right to the hotel. On the train, you will need to transfer selves and bags to a cab. Each has advantages and you know how you travel best.

As for reservations, I've never felt the need to reserve anything except long distance shinkansen trips. I just grab the next airport train or local train as I need them and avoid the highest traffic times during the rush periods. For the shinkansen, I stop in at the first chance to reserve my seats and pay for them at that time. If your travel plans are locked-in before you arrive in Japan, you can make your reservations at the JR station right at NRT. Otherwise, just stop in to one of the larger JR stations during your stay to do the reservations a few days prior to travel. I'm pretty tall, so have used the green car on occasion, but don't really see it as providing much more for the money than ordinary reserved seating. You can specify a non-smoking car. For your general planning, the N'EX and other airport trains (to NGO or KIX) have luggage space in each car for bags as does the shinkansen. Locals and subways do not, for the most part. You probably already know this, but plan to be very punctual when catching Japanese trains, as they always leave on time - right on the dot. Better to sit on the platform and people watch for a minute than try to run to catch the train.

Give us a bit more information and the good folks here will have plenty of help to offer.

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