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rich
post Sep 28 2006, 04:34 PM
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Hi,

I'm going to Japan in February for at least 3-4 months, just wondered if anyone else has travelled around there already, and if so what were your impressions? Any advice/recommendations?

I've read a few journals on here but the majority simply involve a whistle stop tour taking in Tokyo and Kyoto, which surprised me as Japan looks like a fascinating place that deserves a bit longer.

Also, I have a Working Holiday Visa so I have the opportunity to stay longer than my initial few months and actually work, should I decide to go down that route. I've heard mixed reports about how easy it is to pick up teaching jobs on a WHV...anyone with firsthand experience?

Thanks,

Rich
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itsem
post Sep 29 2006, 01:18 PM
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hey Rich,

Some of my favourite places in Japan include Nara (just out of Osaka) and Nikko (out of Tokyo)- and Koyasan (day trip from Osaka) is definately worth a look. If you have time Shikoku (island) is also beautiful, much less modernised than the rest of Japan.

If you are in a city I can say its easy enough to pick up work teaching, not sure outside of a city as I have no experience in that but my friend and I both found work in less than two weeks teaching in Osaka.

Sounds like you will also be able to make Hanami season - a fun time in Japan!
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rich
post Oct 1 2006, 05:30 AM
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Hi itsem,

Thanks for your reply...just enjoyed reading your journal as a result! speak_cool.gif

How did you find the language barrier? I've heard differing reports about the extent of English in use over there. I'm not expecting many people to be able to speak English, but what about signs in train stations/on the street etc? How did you go about organising a trip to Shikoku where presumably English is even less common?

I've been learning hiragana and katakana and hope to have a decent number of phrases under my belt before February comes around (the most important being "I'm sorry, I don't speak Japanese!").

Thanks again,

Rich clapping.gif
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rbisset
post Oct 1 2006, 10:58 AM
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I really liked Japan but found it a real struggle with the language barrier, even in Tokyo. Some places it was impossible to get by without knowing some Japanese but I'm sure you can get by.

I really liked the southwest area near Kyushu. Hiroshima was my favourite city and would quite happily go back there some time.


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rich
post Oct 1 2006, 05:43 PM
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QUOTE(rbisset @ Oct 1 2006, 10:58 AM) *

I really liked Japan but found it a real struggle with the language barrier, even in Tokyo. Some places it was impossible to get by without knowing some Japanese but I'm sure you can get by.

I really liked the southwest area near Kyushu. Hiroshima was my favourite city and would quite happily go back there some time.

Thanks for replying rbisset...I'd actually read the Japanese part of your journal already! Did you know any Japanese at all when you went there? Did you have a phrasebook with you? I guess your experience has just emphasised that I need to do a fair bit of studying before I go to make it less of a problem.

I was reading my Japan Lonely Planet the other day and made the mistake of looking at Tokyo's subway map...how on Earth did you make sense of that? wacko.gif

Rich
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rbisset
post Oct 1 2006, 06:42 PM
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tokyo subway system was an absolute nightmare! when you consider that Shinjuku station alone has 60 exits it's very easy to get lost. luckily for us we just stood around for a couple of minutes looking lost and some friendly people came over and helped us out.

I had tried to learn a bit of Japanese before I left. I basically knew the Kana but when I got there I forgot them and the only characters I could remember were "ramen" because it was written on the red lanterns outside every restaurant, and I ate a lot of noodles. I also listened to about 20 odd Pimsleur tapes but apart from hello, thank you the only sentance I could remember was "my wife wants to drink water" which wasn't exactly very useful. 2 beers please was however.


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itsem
post Oct 2 2006, 11:33 AM
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The language barrier wasnít too bad, so many people want to practice English I cant even begin to count the number of times I was standing on a street somewhere looking a bit lost and someone would come up to ask if I was alright and where I wanted to go in English.

The only fun part of getting to Shikoku was organizing accommodation in advance; I ended up asking a Japanese friend to ring up and book for me at one place. Tourist information centres will also help out.

Most train stations use bilingual signs. And the train systems arenít that bad, using the colour coding system makes it easy.

It seems a bit overwhelming at first but soon its second nature to have conversations using hands and a weird hybrid of Japanese and English. Knowing how to read a bit makes a surprisingly helpful difference so you are on the right track there! I had a Japanese phrasebook and tried to learn something new every now and then from it and occasionally would have to use it to point to things in the book for help.

My brother (user name vicked) came over to visit me and I sent him off for a week or so by himself and the only word he knew was arigato and he had no troubles at all Ė he even made it out of Tokyo station alive.

Keep an eye out too while you are there as many places offer free Japanese classes.
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rbisset
post Oct 2 2006, 11:37 AM
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There are some decent podcasts available for learning languages at the moment. I'm using Chinesepod but there is a very similar one at Japanesepod101


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stevejames
post Oct 2 2006, 02:44 PM
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QUOTE(rbisset @ Oct 2 2006, 11:37 AM) *

There are some decent podcasts available for learning languages at the moment. I'm using Chinesepod but there is a very similar one at Japanesepod101


Fab, thanks for that - I was about to look for a Learning Japanese podcast, you've saved me a job!

Japan is wonderful to travel around - make sure you get a Japan Rail Pass and get around on the Shinkansen high speed trains. Glorious! Sapporo is worth a visit in the north, also the alps in Winter are lovely, and Hiroshima's Peace Museum is essential. I travelled for a month - have a squizz at my blog below for inspiration!


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rich
post Oct 3 2006, 01:59 PM
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Thanks for the replies everyone...a big help!

There seems to be some conflicts of opinion regarding the language barrier, so I guess it's all down to personal experience. I just plan to learn as much as possible before I go, and I'm sure I'll be ok.

Everybody says that the Rail Passes are a must, but I think they are only for a month maximum, so I may well have to buy a couple of them along the way. I take it that the Passes in question end up saving you a lot of money? Can you just jump on any old train and show them your Pass?

stevejames...enjoyed reading your journal...certainly got me excited! I'm hoping to meet other travellers along the way and spend a bit of time travelling with them, although I'm happy being on my own as well. Did you find the hostels in the cities to be fairly busy in February, i.e. were there plenty of other backpackers around?

Thanks again everyone...feel free to add more comments and advice!

Rich punk.gif
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rbisset
post Oct 3 2006, 02:22 PM
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As far as I am aware the rail passes have to be purchased outside the country and have to be validated within a certain time period. Of course there's nothing to stop you buying a couple of passes with the start date a month or so apart.

They will save you a load of cash in the long run if you intend to do a load of travelling around. I abused my pass as much as possible in the week I had available. It was basically the same for a 7 day pass as a 1 way shinkansen ticket fom Tokyo - Fukuoka (Hakata). You can use almost every train apart from the fastest shinkansen (nozomi). Hikari is more than adequate and not much slower than the Nozomi. Out of all the times I took the train I only had to show the pass 3 times!

There are hostels around but not as many as other countries I travelled. Price always seemed to be around the 3,000 yen mark which would get you a bed/futon, probably with a couple of extra people in the room. Other options are low price Ryokans and hotels. I assumed we'd be able to turn up in some places and find beds in the hostels easily. This wasn't the case in Kyoto as they were all full and we had to ring around all the places in the Rough Guide trying to find a place. RG was pretty useless, Lonely Planet is probably better. Hostel wise I recommend the Guess T House in Azubu Juban, Tokyo. Great place for meeting travellers in the lounge upstairs and really close to Roppongi for late night drunken excess!


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itsem
post Oct 3 2006, 02:28 PM
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One thing with the JR Rail pass if you do decide to stay longer (and turn up with a WHVisa in your passport) you can't use one.. passes are only valid for those who intend to stay something like less than 3 months (not sure of exact time but its around that). They do check passports.
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rich
post Oct 3 2006, 03:18 PM
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QUOTE(itsem @ Oct 3 2006, 02:28 PM) *

One thing with the JR Rail pass if you do decide to stay longer (and turn up with a WHVisa in your passport) you can't use one.. passes are only valid for those who intend to stay something like less than 3 months (not sure of exact time but its around that). They do check passports.

itsem, I'll have to look into that, although I'm sure there'll be ways around it, i.e. saying my passport is in storage in Tokyo or something! Thanks for the heads up though...

rbisset, thanks again for the advice, particularly about the initial hostel in Tokyo. I do plan on spending my first couple of nights in a decentish hotel to get my bearings, but after that I want to meet others as soon as possible...plus the odd night of drunken excess sounds good (I've heard about Roppongi!).

I'm going to be there during Golden Week, which by all accounts gets fully booked months and months in advance! Going to have to think about that one as I haven't got any idea where I'll be at that stage!

Rich

p.s. I love this build up stage to going away somewhere! jump.gif
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rbisset
post Oct 3 2006, 03:20 PM
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Enjoy the build up excitement. I'm on the post trip depression stage and it sucks


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rich
post Oct 3 2006, 03:24 PM
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QUOTE(rbisset @ Oct 3 2006, 03:20 PM) *

Enjoy the build up excitement. I'm on the post trip depression stage and it sucks

Yeah tell me about it...the key is to have something to look forward to! Do you have any more plans in place?
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siscri
post Oct 3 2006, 03:26 PM
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I'd strongly recommend checking out www.couchsurfing.com - it's a great way to submerge yourself in a new country very quickly.

There are hundreds of people from Japan on it - some are people on working holiday visas and some are locals. They all would be happy to offer advice on anything in Japan, and most of them are willing to meet up and show you the place or even offer free accommodation.

Couchsurfing is brilliant, and in terms of places to do it I would say Japan must be in the top few.


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rich
post Oct 3 2006, 03:31 PM
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QUOTE(siscri @ Oct 3 2006, 03:26 PM) *

I'd strongly recommend checking out www.couchsurfing.com - it's a great way to submerge yourself in a new country very quickly.

There are hundreds of people from Japan on it - some are people on working holiday visas and some are locals. They all would be happy to offer advice on anything in Japan, and most of them are willing to meet up and show you the place or even offer free accommodation.

Couchsurfing is brilliant, and in terms of places to do it I would say Japan must be in the top few.

Brilliant siscri...will check that out. I met someone in Norway who was going around and staying with people for free, whilst I was shelling out loads on accommodation! Thanks...
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siscri
post Oct 3 2006, 03:40 PM
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Well worth looking in to. The people involved will happily show you a local side of the country that you might otherwise not get a chance to see.

I know I sound like an ad but couchsurfing changed the way I travel and the way I look at the world.

Just did a quick search of people in Japan and the first girl, from Okinawa, is a friend of a guy I stayed with in Tonga. Brilliant.


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post Oct 3 2006, 05:36 PM
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Just want to back up siscri's couchsurfing comment. I think you'll be very pleasantly surprised. It's amazing the lengths these people go to to make your stay memorable: many of them providing food as well as accommodation and even showing you around the place. While the accommodation aspect is beneficial, it's the bringing together of people and cultures that's the true hidden gem behind all this.

Have a look at the site and do a couple of searches. You'll get a very positive feel from it within minutes. Well worth it, and definitely the way forward.. thumbsup.png


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rbisset
post Oct 4 2006, 11:39 AM
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I met some hot bird from Okinawa in Tokyo during a "drunken night of excess" in Roppongi and she gave me her couch surfing card lol. Probably the same person.

As for my plans I really want to do the whole teaching in Asia thing. I was seriously considering China, probably Taiwan, but I'm edging back towards Japan. Just need a job for 6-8 months to help me sort out some debts before heading to Asia for a few years biggrin.gif

Does anyone recommend doing a TEFL/CELTA course or is it not really necessary?


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