Guest Post – Kon’nichiwa Japan – Trip Planning

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Four months ago I returned from a 2.5 week trip throughout South East Asia (trip report upcoming).  I loved the trip so much that I knew I wanted to see more in Asia, even before the Cathay Pacific 777 touched down in the US.  I have a ‘book now and figure it out later’ mentality when it comes to travel, so before I even made it back to my apartment in Chicago, I had two award tickets booked on Japan Airlines to Tokyo.

I have been doing a lot of other traveling lately (here, here and here), so the trip planning for Japan has gone on the back burner.  Fast forward to today when the Japan Rail Passes and Lonely Planet book have both arrived. This is my indication that it is time to start planning as we head out in less than two weeks.


photoTrip Ideas

I am excited to try out Japan Airlines for the first time and also to see what Hyatt and Starwood properties offer for the 8 night journey. Secretly, I am very excited to see what the Platinum/Diamond breakfast spreads are at these high end Asian hotels. If they are half as nice as what I experienced in Southeast Asia,  I will be ecstatic.  I still have this image imprinted in my mind of eating a ridiculous breakfast each morning at the St Regis Bangkok overlooking the polo grounds and thinking this can’t be real.

Here’s to hoping this trip brings more ‘this can’t be real’ moments.  Trip report to follow.

Any tips or recommendations out there for a first time visitor to Japan?

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or suggestions expressed on this site are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed.

About alex

Alex loves to travel and does so a lot. Logging 100,000 flight miles each year over the past 4 years, Alex uses points and miles to power his passion. Alex is continuously striving to experience the far reaches of the globe. In his day job, Alex is a Management Consultant frequently on the road advising Technology organizations. I love thinking about, reading about, and talking about all things travel. Feel free to reach me at

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  1. I just hope you have a great time and write a great trip report so I can take more vicarious enjoyment in your travels

  2. JR Pass is the way to go for transportation around Japan. Get your pass exchanged at NRT, tell them your plan (cities or attractions) you’d like to go, they may have printed maps/info handy. Keep JR train/map handy anytime. If you are limited with time, have your meal at train stations which usually offer plenty of options. Limousine bus to/from airport/hotel also a good option if you don’t want to carry your luggages around while changing JR-NEX-other trains.

  3. Try to get to Nikko and the Toshogu Shrine if you can. It is stunning! I was there in June so I am not what it will be like in February but may be worth the trip via Japan Rail. Also, Lake Chuzenji is a beautiful site as well and it’s in Nikko.

  4. Find a yakotori (red paper lantern hanging outside) and experience food with the local businessmen at the end of the day. They are not usually open on weekends.

    Akasuka temple in Tokyo is great both for the temple itself and the markets around it. The Meiiji Shrine is also a good site and largest shrine in Tokyo.

    Kyoto is outstanding. One of my favorite cities in the world. If you take the train down there, get a bento box lunch at the station and don’t ask too many questions about what is in it.

    If you meetings with Japanese, bring small gifts. I have never had an initial business meeting in Japan without receiving a small gift.

    Roppongi is to be avoided unless you like being hassled by touts every few feet and rubbing elbows with ex-pats. If you want to see Tokyo, I think you can do better unless you are just dying for an Outback Steakhouse.

    Be prepared for a lot of bowing. Have a great trip!

  5. Have a wonderful trip. I have lived in Japan over 14 years in the 70s & 80s and it is a great place to have fun and enjoy yourself. Don’t just do the things that all tourists do. Try to get to Shinjuku train station at rush hour (just once is enought) and have a ramen soba noodle lunch. You will never forget it. Venture out a little. Don’t worry about getting off the beaten track. The Japanese people will help you if you need it. Enjoy and write it up when you get back. I am looking forward to hearing about your wonderful adventure. My next trip to Japan will be next year and will last at least 3 mos. Hope you love it as much as I do.

  6. Try the Japanese breakfast selections and baked goods like croissants. Both are usually fantastic at upscale hotels.

  7. Park Hyatt Tokyo. Most stunning hotel I’ve stayed at. I spent 3 hours sitting in my room watching the sunset over Mt. Fuji with Tokyo in the foreground! Captivating!

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