March - April 2008, January and September 2010:
Three working visits on the radiation measurements in the transport of NORM and meetings with NIRS
Osaka, Miyajima, Hiroshima, Hikone, Yokkaichi, Himeji, Nara, Kawaguchi, Kyoto, Tokyo, Amanohashidate,       Sendai, Matsushima, Kanazawa, Kagoshima, Katsuura, Magome, Tsumago, Nagiso, Tazawako, Fukuoka,       Nagasaki, Nagoya, Takayama, Shinhotaka, Kamikochi, Matsumoto, Chuzenji, Nikko
September - October 2013:
Working visit on the radiation protection in oil and gas industry
Tokyo, Kamakura
Tokyo - 2 stopovers

Kamakura Lake Chuzenji and Nikko Hida River valley Azusa River valley - Kamikochi hiking trail in Japanese Alps Lake Tazawa hiking trail in Kiso Valley Nachi-no-taki waterfall Kanazawa Matsushima Bay Amanohashidate Tokyo - 2 Kyoto Lake Kawaguchi and Mount Fuji Tokyo - 1 Nara Hikone Yokkaichi Osaka Nagasaki Sakurajima Island Amanohashidate Himeji Hiroshima Miyajima Island Osaka
There are all together 120 photo and video albums - from my visits to Japan in 2008 - 2013. 'Trip summaries' and some individual pages contain some small notes that should be helpful to the people planning their travel. The itineraries are just an example - always check with this website for up-to-date train time tables, finding the information about local buses may be quite difficult - as almost none of it is in English.
Please also note that the suggestions and ideas are the product of my personal experience and, therefore, may not be appropriate for everyone.
There are several issues, I think, that are absolutely essential to consider:
  • Consider carefully where you would like to stay and if you can easily get to all the places you would like to. I found that Osaka is the best 'base' and Bay Tower Hotel there is most conveniently located. Of course, one cannot get to Hokkaido and back in one day - but otherwise all places of interest (at least to myself) can be reached from there on day trips. Also - booking the hotel is much easier using this website (instead of your local travel agent) and in many cases it would be cheaper as well.
  • The purchase of 'Japan Rail Pass' prior to arrival is essential (one can only buy those outside Japan). Not only it is very convenient and valid on all JR (Japan Rail) trains (except some 'Super Express' ones), but I would say that the travel in Japan would be very expensive if you do not have one. Each 'trip summary' page on this site has the relevant data and an example is presented below:
    All together I've travelled 18,275 kilometers and if I would not have had a 'Japan Rail Pass' the expenditure would be about ¥585,000 (~US$7,300) - or roughly US$410 per each day of travel. However, with the passes (that costed me about US$1300) and with occasional use of non-JR trains, taxis, buses and ferries the cost per day was just under US$100...
    The 'Green' JR Pass (that costs extra) is also very much advisable - in some cases you would have the whole 'green' (first class) car to yourself, while the other cars may be very crowded.
    Reserve and book your travel beforehand - particualrly for shinkansen (bullet trains), JR office at each station will happily do it for you. Sure, there are always 'non-reserved' cars - but finding out that you would need to stand for some hours as there are no seats is quite possible, particularly in 'high season' times.
  • Meticulous planning is required, particualrly in cases where you may need to have several travel connections - always allocate about 10 minutes or more between the trains/buses if you are not sure where the station is or from which platform the train is leaving. I would suggest at least 30 minutes for the change of trains in Tokyo if you have not been there before, in particular when you need to change from a shinkansen to a local line.
    It also helps a great deal at the JR Office (and not only at local rural train stations) if you have your travel plan written down: times, stations, trains, etc - then you could simply give the piece of paper to JR Officer. This makes life easier for everyone, and you would not look a bit silly and annoying to all the people in the line behind you trying to explain where you want to go and when (which will result in you writing it down anyway...)
    Another thing to remember: I have not seen a shinkansen being late - but travel locally may be quite a different story. In my experience one of local buses simply did not turn up (luckily it was not the last one...), one 'express train' was cancelled and, on average, one in five local trains was late by 5 - 15 minutes.
  • Consider what to do on long train journeys. I've almost always had a small laptop in my backpack (with iPod in the inside pocket), even going on the hiking trails. Sure, you can look out of the window, but half the time one cannot see much from the shinkansen due to the speed of travel and there is definitely nothing much to see during the night. Given the fact that you can book the seat in either first or a last row of a 'Green' car with the power point - I've had quite a lot of work done on the trains; and iPod is quite useful on long bus rides... And, to me personally, additional 1-2 kilos in the backpack do not make much difference.
  • Always double-check that the information you have is current and accurate and that you fully understand the meaning of all the signs, references and notes in small font in time tables, guide books and on the Internet. I found an error even in a 'Lonely Planet' book on Japan, not even mentioning numerous travel websites... Some of the actual examples (in my personal experience) are:
    — The temple, the castle or the museum is closed for restoration,
    — The time table that you think is accurate is applicable for a different time of the year,
    — The guide book says "1.5 km pleasant walk" and you discover that it is "2 hours climb",
    — The website says "1.5 hours rent bike ride" and you discover that it is "1.5 hours taxi ride / drive".
    In addition, do not overestimate your abilities, particularly if you intend to go for a hike that is beyond a 'pleasurable stroll'. During work I often have to walk about 25-30 kilometers per day in Australian bush, no matter what the weather is, could be over +40°C (+110°F), and do know perfectly well what I can and what I cannot do. As I do not have any experience in rock climbing - the hiking trails are perfectly fine for me, but even then you have to be sure that you have proper shoes, clothing, plenty of water and some means of communication. In my experience mobile phone reception is pretty much OK everywhere (except railway tunnels), but there may be some areas where the reception is quite patchy, like during the hike from Nishiho Sanso to Kamikochi where there was no reception at all until I've climbed down into the river valley.

  • Some basic knowledge of Japanese characters is also essential, mostly in rural areas. The names of the stations are always available in English - but you may find yourself in trouble on some hiking trails. One third of the trail I went on in Japanese Alps was signposted only in Japanese (so is almost the whole trail near Lake Chuzenji near Nikko) and if you do not know what the characters mean - you would not know where to turn...
  • Food is not as expensive as many people think. Of course, one can get into a high class restaurant and try some specialties (some of which are quite nice, actually) - but there are also plenty of small eateries where you can have a very decent and filling meal, together with a beer for about twenty bucks... Plus there are places like McDonalds, KFC etc... You could also get a decent breakfast/lunch to take with you on the train on many stations.
Please let me know if you find any information on these pages inaccurate, I would also appreciate if you could let me know if you find the information useful...
Hamasaki Ayumi site