Japan- Riding the JR Train

I have to admit, Japan has never been a country high on my list of must visit places. Being called one of the most expensive countries to visit, it’s a place Louis and I decided to splurge for ten days on our way to visit family in China. The trip all started from Louis’s mom insisting we pay homage to his relatives in China after our wedding in the U.S. When I saw plane tickets to Tokyo for $700, I knew this was the perfect chance to loop in Japan during our mandatory family visit.The plan is to stay in Japan for 9 days before heading to Hong Kong and mainland China. Since I have been busy with work, I did not have enough time to plan the trip. We set out with a basic itinerary of visiting Kyoto, Hiroshima and Tokyo and getting around with the JR pass. I purchased the JR pass in Los Angeles through a Japanese travel agency, the pass is only for non Japanese citizens and it must be purchased prior to entering japan. The train pass comes in 7 or 14 days and allows the traveler unlimited rides on the Japanese bullet train. We opted for the seven day train pass at $268 per person for the first seven days of our Japan travel.

JR Bullet TrainInside the Shinkansen bullet train to Kyoto. Advanced reservation at the JR office is recommended for long distance traveling.

Day 1
We arrived at Narita airport and activated our JR pass. The JR office at the airport is  towards the exit of the luggage claim area, the staff at the office is friendly making this task easy to do, The Narita Express is reserved seating, therefore a reservation is needed at the JR office prior to boarding the train. This is something that can be done while you are at the station while waiting for the next train to arrive. Trains are prompt on their arrival, be ready at your car number a couple minutes before the train arrive because boarding is brief. If you do not have the JR pass, the train ride to Tokyo from Narita is around $30. Be sure to arrive before midnight as the last trains stop by then.

Our stop was at the Shinagawa station. Once we got off the train we were overwhelmed by the amount of people rushing out of the train. In one way it reminded us of the subway experience in Mexico City but it was more of an organized chao. Because this was a business district, everyone wore some shade of black or gray, there is no friendly chattering among the passengers we experienced in Mexico City or even eye contact between passengers, everyone had a destination and their only focus was getting there. the entire experience felt detached and very formal.

Japan, subwayPassengers lining up for the trains at the Shinagawa train station.

We met with our other friend Chris who traveled from Manila, Philippines outside of the train station. For our first night, we stayed right outside the train station at the Hotel Prince Sakura Shinagawa. This is a western hotel within walking distance of the train station. The hotel is mainly for foreign business travelers and has an excellent continental breakfast in the morning. We dropped our luggage off at the hotel and decided to take a short walk around the business district to see what’s around the area. We ended up at a Thai cafe right across rom the train station since most ramen places were closed for the night and spend a couple hours catching up with Chris before turning in for the night.

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