TRAVEL TIPS – GETTING AROUND

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A quick guide to domestic flights and train travel

JAPAN’S MAJOR INTERNATIONAL AIRPORTS

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NARITA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

Travelling to and from TOKYO

TRAINS

Narita Airport has two key rail connections operating between central Tokyo Station and the Narita Airport terminals. JR East’s Narita Express (N’EX) is the fastest option (60 min., ¥3020). The Keisei Sky Liner is the best choice for travel to Ueno (44 min., ¥2470).

BUSES

Airport Limousine buses stop at most major hotels and certain landmarks on the way to central Tokyo (75 – 125 min., ¥3100).

TAXIS

Taxis can be expensive depending on your destination. Travelling to central Tokyo costs approx. ¥20000 to ¥24000 by taxi.

A few domestic flights do leave from Narita, but most domestic flights leave from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport (70 min. from Narita by the Airport Limousine bus).

using public transport system

Japan has an extremely efficient public transportation system. Trains and buses service a large network, especially in metropolitan areas and between cities, and are clean and punctual.

TRAINS

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Most trains and train lines in Japan are owned by Japan Railways (JR). However, others are owned by a number of private companies, often sharing mutual tracks. The urban train systems comprise of shinkansen (bullet trains), limited express, express, rapid and local trains. Many are owned by separate companies, so it can be a little confusing. It’s a good idea to carry a route map (called rosenzu) with you at all times. You can pick one up from most train stations.

All individual tickets (including shinkansen, private railways and subways) can be purchased from vending machines or ticket offices. Individual ticket costs will be shown on the railway line map next to your destination station. Once you have checked the price, you can buy your ticket from one of the nearby vending machines. Children aged six to 11 pay half price and children under six travel free. Trains owned by different companies require different fares, so prepaid integrated-circuit (IC) cards such as Pasmo and Suica, are a useful way to simplify the system (see box). Passengers tend to form queues while waiting for the next train.

SUICA AND PASMO

Suica and Pasmo are rechargeable, prepaid integrated-circuit cards that can be used for all buses and trains (except shinkansen), regardless of the operating company.

Suica or Pasmo cards can be purchased and recharged at rail vending machines and ticket counters in Tokyo. The initial cost consists of a small refundable deposit plus an initial loading of ¥1500 (for Suica) or between ¥500 and ¥10500 (for Pasmo). When riding the train, touch the card to the card reader when you pass through the station’s ticket barrier. The applicable fare will be automatically deducted at the ticket gate at your destination. When riding the bus, touch the card to the reader when you board. If you are required to pay when alighting, make sure you touch your card to the reader when you get on and again when you get off for the appropriate fare to be deducted.

THE JAPAN RAIL (JR) PASS

The JR pass allows unlimited travel on JR-owned trains, buses and ferries for periods of 7, 14 or 21 days. JR passes are available outside of Japan (either online or through your travel agent) before your visit. See www.japanrailpass. net for more information.

BUSSES

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Many bus routes link train stations and residential areas. Each stop is announced and displayed on an electric signboard on approach. Push the button to alert the bus driver when you wish to alight. Tickets are purchased upon entering the bus, or when getting off, depending on the bus company and the bus route. Fares can be pre-paid or you can use cash or integratedcircuit cards (Suica or Pasmo) on the bus.

*It is considered bad manners to talk on a mobile phone in trains and buses, so they are best left switched off or muted.

Travel News – for Visitors to Japan

Tourist information you’ll want to know before planning your trip to Japan, and news on handy services for while you’re there.

*The information in this article is current as of November 2017

Looking ahead to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

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Preparations are now well underway in Japan for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The main stadium for the event, which is set to host a record number of 33 sports and 339 events, sprawls across the boundaries of the Shinjuku and Shibuya wards where the National Stadium in the outer gardens of the Meiji Jingu Gardens is being completely reformed into the New National Stadium. In addition to creating a new stadium with a maximum capacity of 80,000, selection of an official mascot, development of a schedule for the events, preparations for the opening and closing ceremonies and torch relay are all now fully underway, with work moving ahead on each of its venues. A policy to match a “hydrogen town” capable of providing power using hydrogen energy alongside the athletes village has also been drafted. The facilities are to be created in Harumi in Chuo ward, which is close to airports and allows easy access by bus or train. The steady increase in visitors to Japan from abroad in recent years is expected to boom in the coming years ahead of the event, and preparations to address the inbound market are also moving ahead rapidly.


Sales of the Japan Expressway Pass commence

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Otober 2017 saw the start of sales of the Japan Expressway Pass, a ticket that allows foreign visitors to Japan to travel on all expressways in Japan for an entire week without limitation. Where some regional expressway companies have produced their own regional passes from time to time up until now, this is the first pass to cover the entire country. Because the expressway network connects every corner of Japan, the pass was created with the objective of bringing tourists to and boosting regional destinations by helping draw
as many tourists from abroad to travel to regions of Japan above and beyond the golden routes. Payment is made via ETC (Electronic Toll Collection), negating the need to stop at toll booths and make payments, allowing even those unfamiliar with the Japanese language
to travel without needing to communicate. The price is 20,000 yen for 7 days, and 34,000 yen for 14 days. As an example, the fare for a standard car to travel between Tokyo and Nagoya would be 7,090 yen, which shows just how lost the cost is for travellers from abroad. Those with a non-Japanese passport or Japanese persons with permanent residency in a country outside Japan can apply. You also need a drivers license that is valid in Japan. Taking the expressways will let you cut down your travel time and also experience the thrill of a drive across the country.


World Heritage Listing of Okinoshima and Related Relics

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In July 2017, the Sacred Island of Okinoshima and Associated Relics in the Munakata Region in Fukuoka Prefecture was registered as Japan’s 21st World Heritage Site (17th cultural heritage site). Okinoshima is an island floating out in the waters some 60km northwest of the Munakata Taisha on mainland Kyushu, and is a strategic point in the waterways leading to China and the Korean Peninsula. It was worshipped as a holy site in the 4th to 9th centuries AD, and is the site of approximately 80,000 relics, earning it the nickname of, “the warehouse on the ocean”.

It is a holy site where no women are allowed to set foot even today, and only up to 200 men are permitted to visit once per year during a grand festival. Everyone can, however, visit the Munakata Taisha Nakatsugu, Munakata Taisha Okitsumiya, and Munakata Taisha Hetsumiya shrines, and the Shimbaru Nuyama Mounded Tombs that form part of the listing. Munakata Taisha Okitsumiya in particular is a place where you can worship Okinoshima from afar given that it is forbidden to visit the island itself. The listing encompasses historic sites and cultural assets related to the head priests of the Munakata clan and the faith of the Munakata Taisha shrine, which worships the three goddesses of Munakata, and is known as a spot where a faith in and festivals based around worship of nature have been passed on since the 4th century – it is this that earned its listing as a World Heritage Site.


New flights connecting Japan and Australia

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September 2017 saw Japan Airlines open two new routes to Japan in response to high demand from Australia’s second largest metropolitan area, Melbourne, and Kona in Hawaii. Both routes are direct flights leaving Narita with one flight in either direction (one round trip) each day. Japan Airlines is said to have created these new routes in addition to its existing Narita-Sydney route to accommodate an anticipated increase in people travelling between Australia and Japan due to the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement that took effect in January 2015. This schedule of flights departing Narita for Melbourne in the morning and for Sydney in the evening broadens the range of choices for all travellers in Japan, Australia, and Oceania as a whole. In July 2017, Qantas Airlines also announced a direct route between Sydney and Osaka. In addition to the existing Qantas Airlines direct route between Sydney and Haneda, Brisbane and Narita, Melbourne and Narita, and the Qantas Group, Jetstar Airways, direct route between Cairns and Osaka, this is the only direct route between Sydney and Osaka. The airline plans to operate three flights a week from 14 December, 2017. 2018 will see the 70th anniversary celebrations of flights between Japan and Australia.


DISCOVER A NEW SIDE OF JAPAN

The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) is an organisation that provides information on the attractions of Japan to those living in Australia and New Zealand. The JNTO homepage contains an exhaustive listing of handy information for those interested in traveling to Japan, from information on Japanese culture, art, food, skiing, shopping, hot springs, and other topics to travel agents and how to get about. The homepage is frequently updated with the latest details, and is worth a look before you plan your adventure.
https://www.jnto.org.au

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INDULGE IN AN AUTHENTIC RYOKAN EXPERIENCE IN SYDNEY

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Much like how younger generations of Aussies grew up watching Pokemon in the late 1990s and early 2000s, kids in the 1960s were crazy about the Japanese TV drama series, “Shintaro the Samurai”. Linda Evans, who runs a traditional Japanese ryokan in Sydney’s inner-west suburb of Balmain, was one of them.

Interview and words: Taro Moriya Photography: Naoto Ijichi

jStyle: What got you interested in traditional Japanese culture at the start?

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Linda: We grew up watching “Shintaro the Samurai”. Influenced by the TV series, kids those days loved playing samurai and ninja, playing with imitation swords and papermade throwing knives (shuriken) and so on. Our generation of Aussies all remember “Shintaro” in the good old days. Apparently, when the actor who played Shintaro came to Australia, he was welcomed by more than 7,000 fans at Melbourne Airport. That was more than the number Beatles fans who came to the airport when they visited! Interestingly, the TV series doesn’t seem to be as popular in Japan. Whenever I talk about “Shintaro” to Japanese people of my generation, no one ever remembers it. Wooden houses, paper doors, samurai and ninja clothes, swords, shuriken… Everything in Shintaro’s world was totally exotic and a great culture shock to us. That was the beginning of my interest in Japanese culture.

jStyle: What inspired you to build an authentic ryokan in Sydney?

Linda: My love for Japanese culture as a child continued through to adulthood. My first trip to Japan was finally made possible in 2001. We decided to take a family trip there and stay at an authentic ryokan. The most amazing experience in the Japanese ryokan was their exceptionally warm hospitality. Since then, we have been obsessed with traditional Japanese culture and we have travelled to Japan seven times thereafter. It was then that I started to think about introducing world-class Japanese hospitality to Australia, and I came up with the idea of building a Japanese-style ryokan at home. Utilising our fifth generation home in Balmain, I was determined to start a new life by renovating the house and turning it into a ryokan. “If I am going to do it, I do not want it to be semi-Western and semi-Japanese styled. I will aim for an ultra-authentic Japanese style,” that was what I thought.

jStyle: It must have been a very difficult task to build a completely authentic Japanese house in Australia. How did you make it possible?

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Linda: The building was an early colonial style sandstone house built in 1855. While the original sandstone structure and walls were preserved as historical legacy, everything else was recreated. The foyer, two guest rooms, and corridor were all converted into an authentic Japanese interior with black timber and mortar. A separate room became a bathroom with an imported Japanese bathtub. Tons of soil was removed from the garden, and turned into a tranquil Japanese garden with pond carp swimming around. I wanted to reproduce the Edo-period (1603-1868) style exterior, interior, furniture and garden. Although it was impossible to purchase 100% genuine Japanese building materials and furniture in Australia, I did not want to make something that people would feel is “unauthentic”. Based on the architect’s plans, my husband and I DIYed every little thing with a local carpenter. While we sourced local products as much as possible — paint, timber and building materials from Bunnings Warehouse and repairing Japanese antiques available in Sydney, for example — I imported things that were not available in Australia, such as the Japanese cypress bathtub. It took two years for development approval, and seven years for construction and renovations. It was finally finished, just one week before the opening in 2013.

WOODEN HOUSES, PAPER DOORS, SAMURAI AND NINJA CLOTHES, SWORDS, SHURIKEN… EVERYTHING IN SHINTARO’S WORLD WAS TOTALLY EXOTIC AND A GREAT CULTURE SHOCK TO US.

jStyle: How is business so far?

Linda: Gojyuan has attracted many local customers as well as overseas visitors who want to try something different. Not only customers who have stayed in Japanese ryokans, but also those who have never been to Japan. Other than providing Japaneselevel hospitality, which was my initial purpose, I have been conforming to accurate Edo-period details as much as possible. I am also adopting the Japanese manufacturing way of kaizen to improve our service quality as well. Along with a unique ryokan experience in Sydney, you may also enjoy kaiseki (traditional Japanese style degustation) dinner at an extra cost, if you book more than two weeks in advance. At Gojyuan, we are also working on introducing Japanese traditional culture to Australians. Our Japanese instructors are regularly holding workshops in various areas such as: tea ceremony, flower arrangement, calligraphy, furoshiki (Japanese wrapping cloth), gift wrapping, mizuhiki (rice paper art), kimono dressing, temari (thread ball), shojin ryori (Buddhist cuisine), Japanese pickles, Japanese sweets making and origami.

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