“Japan is a startling clash of the deeply traditional and the spiritual. The intensely current and the superficial. It’s ancient, but futuristic.”

Dizzying display in the airport
Pass, passport, & tickets: everything you need to ride the train
Interior of the Narita Express

After I finished final exams in Bangkok, I flew overnight to Tokyo for a weeklong break. Japan had been near the top of my list of places to visit for a long time, though I was hesitant because I expected it to be very expensive. It is certainly more expensive than Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, but it was not nearly as expensive as I feared: on par with what I would spend in Western Europe but not extravagantly so.

Tokyo Station
Tokyo Station
Tokyo Station

What helped the most was purchasing a Japan Rail Pass. I ordered a 7-day pass for about $250 and had it mailed to me in Bangkok. It’s not possible to acquire the pass once you arrive in Japan, so it requires some forethought. But it then provides unlimited access to the JR trains throughout Japan: most of the Shinkansen (bullet trains) plus regional trains. I found it to be easy to use and economical. When you arrive, you trade in your pass voucher, and they give you the pass itself. Then you show it at the ticket counter for reserved tickets or just show it on the train for unreserved cars. Japanese trains are very well-organised, and though every station is insanely crowded, it’s pretty easy to figure out where to go.

Most restaurants have examples from which patrons can select, even if you don’t speak Japanese
Yummy noodles
View from the train
View from the train
View from the train
Interior of one second class car

I had a lot of opportunity to practice this process during my weeklong adventures. I arrived in Tokyo’s Narita airport, took the Narita Express to Tokyo and transferred to a train north to Sendai. After visiting some friends in Sendai, I went back to Tokyo before heading south to Kyoto and exploring the many temples and other imperial sites there. Finally, I traveled on to Hiroshima to see the city and the Atomic Bomb Museum before returning to Tokyo. It was an action-packed week, and I will use the next series of posts to share my adventures with you.

Title quote: Robet Jung

View from the train
View from the train
View from the train
Spring rolls – Japan has some of the best carry-out food in the world
View from the train
Lines on the floor show you which car you’re boarding
Shinkansen trains
I took this photo for my Grandpa who was stationed in Yokohama after World War II
Markings on the Shinkansen train
Interior of one second class car


Conductor checking things out

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