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After 8 years lap, I have decided to visit Japan again. Travel period from 1st Nov to 14 Nov 2015. This time round, we are visiting Hokkaido. Our itiernary – departure from Singapore – arrive Narita and stay one night – leave for Hokkaido the next morning – stay for 4 nights – fly back to Narita – JR train from Tokyo to Kyoto – stay for 4 nights – JR train back to Tokyo – stay for 4 nights – home sweet home.
We flew ANA for the midnight flight from Singapore to Narita. Price was SGD 722.30 (include all taxes – return) per head. Economy seat was cramped and food served unappeatising.
Flew Vanilla Air from Narita to Sapporo. Though it was a budget airline, flight was smooth. About one and half hour flight. Price was about SGD 115 ((include all taxes – return) per head.
JR Rail Pass
Bought the 7 days JR Pass for this period. Never regret buying it. With this pass, we were able to visit many cities at our own time and pace. Hardly reserved seats except for long distance travel like Tokyo – Kyoto – Tokyo.
Bought the JR exchange order from Dynasty Travel Singapore. Price differs daily depending on the Yen exchange. An Exchange Order is valid for 3 months from the date it is issued. Take note you must turn in your Exchange Order within this time to receive your Japan Rail Pass.
A very useful top-up card for transport. Save me the trouble of having to purchase fare ticket for subway travels. To my delight, we could use it in Kyoto too. At the end of our trip, return the card and get back whatever balance minus 200 yen administrative charge. Can be purchased from any ticket machine in major train stations. We purchased ours from Narita airport
It is advisable to change your Yen back home. Difficult to find money changers along the streets in Japan. Basically, we exchanged about SGD 1 = 85 Yen during our travel period.
Price is more expensive in Tokyo. If you stay near to JR train station, price also goes up. Book early as most rooms are taken up as early as 3 or 4 months in advance. I booked all my accommodation via online. I like booking.com for its ease of usage and ample information of the hotel/guesthouse one is looking. Hotel reviews also help me to make my decision. Sometimes, booking through the hotel website can get you a better deal.
Hokkaido was cold with average temperature around 12C. it was pleasantly cool in Kyoto. We did not use our winter jackets in Kyoto. The day was short. Around 5pm the sky was dark as our 8 pm. In Kyoto, most shops closed at 8pm. I am speaking, of course basing on our travel period.
If you love Japanese food, there is no need for me to say much. On average, it is about SGD10 for a normal lunch of ramen or tempura don. Vending machines are everywhere. I was surprised to find my plastic bottle of green tea from the machine was actually lukewarm.
Infrastructure in Japan is world class. The accuracy of the departure and arrival time of the trains is phenomenal. It is a complicated and complex system to a tourist. However, I find the signs are everywhere to help commuters and are labeled in English. Train information is displayed on LED boards. Every other time, we were not sure, we asked help from the station officers who are friendly and helpful.
We had stayed in 5 different hotels and guesthouses for our 2 weeks trip. Basically, most of them are clean and comfortable though some rooms can be very small. Breakfast is always Japanese and Western versions. Mostly served from 7am to 9.30am.
Apa Hotel Keisei Narita Ekimae – nice and comfortable stay
Hotel ibis Styles Sapporo – the best stay for our entire trip
Piece Hostel – a well maintained hostel
Guesthouse Ga Jyun – a nondescript guesthouse
Sapporo to Hakodate by JR train
Useful links I use :
jprail – a fantastic website about Japan travel especially on JR trains. Lot of up-todate info and guide by founder – a Japanese
japan-guide – the official guide for travel in Japan
hyperdia – I use Hyperdia a lot to plan for JR train travel. Very useful
tripadvisor – Always read the reviews here before I book my accommodation