TRAVEL – TOM SMITH– There is not a safer country in the world to travel than Japan. And there is not an easier country to travel in. US citizens only need a valid passport to enter the country for a stay of not more than 90 days.
One of my main jobs is putting together independent travel arrangements for Japan. It seems that Americans do not go on group tours. The favorite way to travel is independently. This can be done easily in Japan. The people are friendly, helpful and trustworthy. I remember a time I left my camera sitting on a bench in the main train station in Tokyo. I walk away leaving it. I realized that I was missing it about 15 minutes later as I was getting ready to board my train. I raced back to the bench on the other side of the station. There my camera sat, waiting for me. No one would have thought to disturb it let along steal it. This kind of story happens all over Japan. A most trustworthy population. Try that in New York’s Grand Central Station!
Many of my clients want to travel to Japan during “Sakura” or Cherry Blossom Time. This is a time when these trees bloom from March thru May. The bloom starts in the south and moves north from Okinawa to Sapporo! This is a fun time to visit Japan. The weather is pleasant. But it is crowded with tourists of course. The trees are not just in parks but in the mountains and valleys…..all over the country. It is quite a site! There is another time to visit Japan and that would be for the fall colors, which begins in the north (Sapporo) and moves south. The maple trees are stunning. The fall is a wonderful time (weather wise) to visit Japan.
Travel in Japan is easy. The train system is extensive and where the train does not go, buses do. Travel is on time, clean and friendly. Many people purchase a Japan Rail Pass for 7 or 14 consecutive days in either Economy Class (Ordinary) or Green Class (First Class). Passes can only be purchased outside of Japan. The high speed trains are amazing. For example the 320 mile trip from Tokyo to Kyoto takes only 2 hours and 12 minutes!
Accommodations in Japan run the gamut from simple B & B or minshuku to the ultra-luxury of a traditional Ryokan. And of course there are many western style hotels to suit every taste. Reservations can be a challenge and I have learned the intricate process of reserving hotel rooms in Japan. It takes some patience. Reservations are usually essential in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. You can always find a place to stay by visiting the tourist information office at every major train station. These offices can book a pleasant place for you to stay and that will fit your budget.
So as you can see there are some things that need to be arranged before you leave home. Your rail pass and some key hotel reservations. Other than that you can also pre-arrange sightseeing tours and this might be important as you will want to have an English speaking guide