Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Trip to Japan, Day 3; Part 2 (Osaka)

Catching the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka couldn't be anymore simpler than it is. While you're at the train station, you just have to pop into a JR (Japan Rail) Ticket Office, purchase the ticket and reserve your seat, then board the train for your journey. If you're visiting Japan though and intend to travel all around then I thoroughly recommend you to get a Japan Rail Pass.

For this pass there are three options available. There is a 7, 14 or 21 days pass to travel all over Japan for a fraction of the cost of buying each journey separately at the ticket office. Pass prices ranges from ~¥28,000 to ~¥58,000 accordingly for adult pass for normal class tickets. For first class pass you'll be paying about ¥10,000 to ¥20,000 additionally on top for the various durations of the passes. Kids prices are about half of adult prices.

So how and where do you get one? Before visiting Japan, pop into your local travel agent/centre that sells "Exchange Order" passes. Once you get one, remember to take it with you to Japan. You will need it in order to exchange it for a Japan Rail Pass. If you forget, "GAME OVER DUDE!!!". LOL... Just joking. You can always get a refund but obviously only when you're back in your local country.


There is a disclaimer that is stated on the Japan Rail website and it reads:
Even if you visit Japan with an Exchange Order, to be turned in for a JAPAN RAIL PASS, the exchange cannot be made unless you have "Temporary Visitor" status; if you enter Japan under any other official status, such as "Trainee," "Entertainer," or "Reentry Permit," you cannot change the Exchange Order for a JAPAN RAIL PASS. Please note that according to strict interpretation of the Japanese Immigration Law, "Temporary Visitor" status differs even from other types of stays that are also for only short time periods.

If you don't meet the above requirement then you're stuck paying the full price. To give you a basic rundown of the ticket prices... An adult ordinary 7-day JR pass costs ~28,000 entitles you to travel all over Japan for 7 days. If you were to purchase the tickets from within Japan itself to say travel from Tokyo to Osaka, it would cost you ~¥14,250 for a single journey. Double that for return so in all in all you are better off getting a JR pass if you're eligible.

Right back to my post about Osaka. So boarded the train which was the Hikari N700 Series Shinkansen, which I believe may be the second fastest train in Japan? Slightly slower than the Nozomi even though it shares the same make and model but I think it is only slower because of the more number of stops it has to take to the Nozomi. The seats were very comfy and you don't even notice how fast the train is travelling until you look out the window. About 30-45 minutes in to the journey you'll cross a town where you can get a good view of Mt. Fuji. Well on a clear day that is. We were quite fortunate for good weather so quickly pulled out my camera and snapped a few pictures away. Everyone on the train was wondering what is this foreigner doing jumping from one side of the train to the other. Then as I returned to my seat they then realised what I was doing and so they quickly jumped to the same side to take pictures.

Mt. Fuji in the background.

The trip from Tokyo to Osaka lasted only 2+ hours which was great. The minute we got to Osaka, we were looking for our hotel, Hearton Hotel Nishiumeda to check-in to. I think after roaming the streets for a good half an hour and elderly approached us asking if we needed directions to get somewhere. Because of the language barriers, my very first impression was sorry, I don't want to take a taxi. Having in the past been taken for rides when visiting various countries I don't want to repeat the same thing in Japan. But after 5 minutes we realised what the local was saying and in fact guided and walked us to our hotel and never asked for anything in return. I was gobsmacked! If this was Europe you would have been done for. But yeah really caught me by surprise how friendly the locals are.

After checking in we rested, then headed out to find a place for dinner. On our way from the hotel to the train station there is arcade of restaurants and other shops along the way so we settled for a restaurant that served local cuisines. Luckily again they have pictured menus so didn't have any problems ordering our dinner.

Dinner in Osaka.

Dinner in Osaka.

After this we headed out for a walk around Osaka, ending up in a department store and have to say that it was fun. The basement floor is actually a food hall/supermarket. Selection is pretty good but also cost slightly more than home. It could be due to sales tax or import tax etc, I have no idea but yeah was generally higher than expected. Either way when you want quality that is the price you pay.

After this, we headed back to the hotel to rest and plan for our trip the following day to Kyoto!

For pictures taken in Osaka, click on the Osaka link by the Snapshots area on the right.

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