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Hi Robert,

I will be travelling alone to Japan on Oct 4- Oct 12.
Firstly, I am curious abt the weather during my visit. I have some questions abt getting around in Tokyo and Osaka. As this is my first time, I am not sure. Can I take the bullet train from Osaka to Tokyo or Tokyo to Osaka? How long is the journey? And I would like to know what are the places of interests that I should not miss when I am in Tokyo and Osaka. Is kyota and nara far away from Osaka itself?

Thank you and Best Regards,
Nish

Answer
Hi,
Autumn weather is by far the best in Japan. It is stable and often has clear weather. There is a small chance a few typhoons could come through at the start of October, but usually are finished by September.
Yes, you can take a bullet train - in fact, if you get a JR Rail Pass, you can ride to your heart's content. Going Tokyo-Osaka-Tokyo round trip with a short side trip will easily pay for a 7 day pass. You should be able to get the exchange order for the pass in any larger travel agency that sells tickets to Japan. You must get the order before you arrive in Japan, then activate it at a Japan Rail station. You can get more info at:
http://www.japanrailpass.net
You can use it on any JR train and bullet train, except for the fastest ones. The regular ones take about 25 minutes longer, which means about 3 hours from Tokyo to Osaka on the pass.
There are other alternatives however. There are also air passes you can get. See:
http://www.jal.co.jp/yokosojapan/
http://www.ana.co.jp/wws/us/e/wws_common/fare/special/airpass.html
http://www.ana.co.jp/wws/us/e/wws_common/fare/special/visit.html
http://www.ana.co.jp/wws/us/e/wws_common/promotion/experience_jp/
as well as a few low cost carriers in Japan. It is actually very inexpensive to fly to Okinawa and see all that is there, but few tourists ever find this out.
If you have a specific reason to go to Osaka, that is fine. Otherwise you can more or less skip the city entirely and focus on Kyoto and Nara, which are the cultural jewels of the country. If you still wanted to see Osaka, most temples/shrines close around dusk, so you could zip over to Osaka from Kyoto on the bullet train in less than 15 minutes for the evening.
Nara is a bit farther from Kyoto (about 45 minutes away) but well worth a full day.
Himeji is also nearby, and one of Japan's best castles. It's being renovated though, so you may prefer to see Hikone Castle instead.
Kamakura, near Yokohama, is also an excellent day trip from Tokyo, with some of Japan's best sites. You also might like Nikko, Hakone, and the Fuji 5 Lakes area.
If you want to find some cheaper places to stay, there are also many, even as low as USD30 a night. Look at:
http://www.wix.com/astroflight/accommodations
http://www.toyoko-inn.com/eng/
http://www.superhoteljapan.com/en/
http://www.kid97.co.jp/~jeh-group/jeh-group.html
And if you have never stayed in one before, I recommend you spend at least a night in a Japanese
Inn or ryokan. There are some inexpensive ones in Tokyo, like the Kimi, the Tama, the Taito and
the Tokyo Ryokan. See:
http://www2.dango.ne.jp/kimi/ryokan.html
http://www.tamaryokan.com
http://www.libertyhouse.gr.jp
http://www.tokyoryokan.com
There are of course more expensive ones as well, next to hot springs and so on.
As to what to see, a lot depends on your interests of course, but look at:
Tokyo:
http://www.gotokyo.org/en/index.html
http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/regional/tokyo/index.html
http://www.ar.jal.com/world/en/guidetojapan/city_information/tyo/see/akasaka/
Kyoto:
http://www.pref.kyoto.jp/visitkyoto/en/
http://www.kyoto.travel/
http://www.ar.jal.com/world/en/guidetojapan/city_information/uky/see/central/

Nara
http://www.pref.nara.jp/secure/79931/yukari_usa.pdf

and for comprehensive info, see:
http://www.jnto.go.jp

Enjoy your trip!

Robert

Japan

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General questions about tourism/travel and life in Japan, including shopping, visa issues, culture-shock, finding accommodations and employment, proper cultural etiquette, and common problems ex-pats in Japan experience. Bachelors Degree in Japanese Culture and Masters Degree in Marketing.

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