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Gear Talk => Lenses => Topic started by: rmfagan on October 22, 2013, 04:38:54 PM

Title: January in Japan...Advice?
Post by: rmfagan on October 22, 2013, 04:38:54 PM
Hello All-

I racked up enough miles to cover flights and hotel for a trip to Japan from Jan 9-18, 2014. I'm flying into Tokyo. The main draws for me are the snow monkeys near Nagano and Tokyo itself. I plan to spend 2-3 days on the monkeys, and other than flying into and out of Tokyo I am flexible. Is Hokkaido even doable in this time frame? I considered Kyoto to fill the time not used in Nagano or Tokyo. Is there much to see in Kyoto at this time?

Also of interest to me is whether I should rent a lens. I will be bringing my 16-35II, 70-200II, and nifty 50 on my 5D3. I may own a 24-70II by then. Should I rent the 85 1.2 for the trip? Monkeys are like people, so portraits, right? Worth it to bring my 600EX-RT and ST-E3 RT to do a little off-camera flash? Or do you think the monkeys will flip out if I pop them with a speedlight?

How useful might a macro be on a Japan trip? I'm thinking markets, sushi, possibly even a tight shot of the monkeys' eyes.

I'll likely bring either a 1.4x or 2x bc why not, and of course my tripod.

So, what say you collective CR intellect?

Title: Re: January in Japan...Advice?
Post by: rmfagan on October 22, 2013, 08:19:03 PM
I could have sworn I saw some shot of the snow monkeys on this forum before. I'd love to hear what you used and recommend. I also wish I remembered who that was that posted it.
Title: Re: January in Japan...Advice?
Post by: vanshyosaka on October 22, 2013, 08:40:46 PM
i am no pro photographer so i will focus on the japan part since i live there.
visiting hokkaido in January gonna be great if you have no problem with freezing weather.
if you care about history and traditions, give kyoto a visit, if not just dont bother.

just google hokkaido winter festival to see if you like it .
googling photos of places in japan gonna give you a good idea.

 welcome to my planet .
Title: Re: January in Japan...Advice?
Post by: rmfagan on October 23, 2013, 01:49:26 AM
If by history and traditions you mean some of the serene temples and buildings, yes, I am absolutely interested. I've always wanted to go to Kyoto for the blossom in the spring, but I just wasn't sure if the same splendor is captured in winter.

Any weather is fine with me. I served in Iraq and I've lived in the mountains of Montana so I can handle it all.

Do you think Hokkaido is doable in 2-3 days? If I do 2 days in Tokyo, a day in Kyoto, 2-3 days in Nagano (monkeys), that leaves 2-3 for Hokkaido or something else. If I make the trip all the way north, I'd hope to see the red crowned cranes and whooper swans. Think that's doable in 2-3 days? Are there local tour operators to facilitate this or is it possible "self-guided" so to speak? Are there any particular places or "spots" you can recommend for either of these?
Title: Re: January in Japan...Advice?
Post by: Smurf1811 on October 23, 2013, 03:49:43 AM
I've spent two weeks in Japan this year (not in the winter-time  :'(). I think one day is enough for the monkeys. The monkey-park is not so big. The best lens for shooting them will be the 70-200mm (for me). Also i think you don't need the 85mm 1.2 and a Flash.

Here are some of mine:

http://500px.com/photo/34170658 (http://500px.com/photo/34170658)
http://500px.com/photo/34178694 (http://500px.com/photo/34178694)
http://500px.com/photo/34181308 (http://500px.com/photo/34181308)
http://500px.com/photo/34298678 (http://500px.com/photo/34298678)
http://500px.com/photo/40367860 (http://500px.com/photo/40367860)

But Tokyo is such a great place to be. I could have spent my two weeks only in Tokyo. In Kyoto there are a lot of temples and the Samurai-action-park  ;D.
Title: Re: January in Japan...Advice?
Post by: eml58 on October 23, 2013, 04:42:11 AM
I was in Japan late December 2012/January 2013 for 3 weeks.

Tokyo was Cold, not exceedingly, but Cold, around +5 or 6 Celsius during the Day, we spent 6 Days there, could spend another 60.

Kyoto is worth doing, it's a lot more interesting if it's been snowed in, or if it's Autumn with all the Colours of the Leaves  to add, but it's still quite Beautiful.

Snow Monkeys are worth spending at least 2 days on, we had 3 days, one day snowed quite a bit which gave us our best shots, snow sitting on the Monkey's heads, it can be well below freezing so absolutely go ready for Cold, minus 10 celsius the day it snowed for us. You have a bit of a Hike to get in, not serious, but be aware of what your carrying in the Gear department, I took Tripods etc, never used them.

The monkeys you can get within a meter so the majority of my own shots were with the 70-200f/2.8 L II, 135f/2 L & 85f/1.2 L II, my best shots I feel came from the 85. But if it's snowing heavily, the 70-200f/2.8 is the go, weather sealed.

Hooping Cranes and Sea Eagles are a long way further North, you may not get the time to fit these in, always a good reason to go back, Love Japan, Beautiful Country, amazing Food and just about the nicest People you could Imagine.
Title: Re: January in Japan...Advice?
Post by: Ben Taylor on October 23, 2013, 06:17:28 AM
I was in Japan in January this year, mind you I only made it to Tokyo and up to Niseko for a snowboarding trip. In saying that, Tokyo is sensational and you could spend weeks there and never get bored. I wrote a blog post about Tokyo that might give you some ideas on photos or places to visit. Here's the link: http://methodicallymuddled.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/tokyo/ (http://methodicallymuddled.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/tokyo/)

Here's my two hottest tips for Tokyo in January:

1 - If there's a sumo tournament on, go to it.

2 - Take a jacket.

I don't think you'd need to rent any gear, you'll go ok with what you've got.

Have fun, Japan's a fantastic country.
Title: Re: January in Japan...Advice?
Post by: ZiggyDeath on October 23, 2013, 07:59:11 AM
Is there much to see in Kyoto at this time?
There are so many major temples and complexes in Kyoto that it would take at least a week to cover if you did 2 a day.

Quote
Also of interest to me is whether I should rent a lens. I will be bringing my 16-35II, 70-200II, and nifty 50 on my 5D3. I may own a 24-70II by then. Should I rent the 85 1.2 for the trip? Monkeys are like people, so portraits, right? Worth it to bring my 600EX-RT and ST-E3 RT to do a little off-camera flash? Or do you think the monkeys will flip out if I pop them with a speedlight?
Can't comment about the monkeys but be ready to haul all your gear around with you on foot. Public transportation is great in Japan, except during rush hours - you'll probably get some nasty stares if you're bumping into people during this time with a bag full of camera gear.

Quote
How useful might a macro be on a Japan trip? I'm thinking markets, sushi, possibly even a tight shot of the monkeys' eyes.
Great for food, there's tons of food in Japan that is photo worthy. But unless you need to have macro, a 24-70 lens will do in a pinch. There's a fish market in Tokyo which has auctions and many street vendors, you can even try whale there if you want to do so.

Quote
I'll likely bring either a 1.4x or 2x bc why not, and of course my tripod.
In Kyoto, the use of tripods in many temple complexes are forbidden, some even forbid the use of monopods - yes, there are "no monopod" signs. If museums are your thing, most disallow the use of photography anyways (the Edo-Tokyo museum being an exception).
Title: Re: January in Japan...Advice?
Post by: gfoulk on October 23, 2013, 09:18:53 AM
Awesome, you'll love Japan!

Hokkaido is technically doable in your time frame, but I wouldn't recommend it - you're going to spend 2 of your 3 days just getting there and back. Not saying Hokkaido isn't worth going (actually going there in February myself,) but with your tight schedule I think you should focus on the many great places closer by.

Kyoto on the other hand, I would definitely recommend. It's less than 3 hours from Tokyo by shinkansen. There are some really spectacular temples and shrines. I've been there many times but never in winter; I bet it would look fantastic if you're lucky enough to have snow coverage (I've got my fingers crossed for February.)

If you want to check out a castle, go to Matsumoto Castle, near Nagano. Most castles in Japan are post-war concrete reconstructions - still pretty cool, but not quite the same thing. Matsumoto-jo on the other hand is one of the few remaining originals and considered one of the most beautiful.

Nara and its Great Buddha is within spitting distance of Kyoto, though Kyoto might give you your fill of temples.

Nikko is a great day trip north of Tokyo. It holds the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the 300 year long Tokugawa Shogunate and the most powerful man in Japan's history. It's ridiculously over the top.

Get a JR Pass. If you're doing any traveling it's an incredible deal.

Around Tokyo, I recommend the Tokyo International Forum, something you won't find highlighted in most guidebooks but is photography candy. Go at night.

I also recommend riding the Yurikamome line - it's a driverless elevated monorail, which means you can sit up front and shoot directly out the front windshield, which gives you a really unique view of the city. Also better at night, though since they shut down all the nuclear plants there aren't nearly as many lights on in the office buildings (great for conservation, not so great for photography.) The Yurikamome takes you across Tokyo Bay to Odaiba, which was mostly developed in the last 20 years and looks like The City From The Future (by which I mean big buildings surrounded by lots of parks and open areas - almost no low rise sprawl at all.) There's also a life-sized Gundam there :)

I would say check out GCANS, the Tokyo municipal flood control system which has incredible mega-architecture, but they require you to have someone who can speak Japanese with you so that might not be an option.

Go to Tsukiji, the huge wholesale fish market. Take advantage of your jetlag at the beginning of your trip and go at 4am to catch the auctions.

Title: Re: January in Japan...Advice?
Post by: davidcampbellphotography on October 23, 2013, 09:27:06 AM
I don't think you need the 85/1.2 for the snow monkeys. 70-200 and 50mm will be fine for portraits. Especially if they are on the far side of the onsen. 16-35 will be good if they come up close.

Depending when you will be in Japan during January, you may be able to time your visit to see the winter illumination festival in Shirakawago (Gifu Prefecture). I highly recommend it.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidcampbellphotography/4343813400/#in/set-72157623535422839 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidcampbellphotography/4343813400/#in/set-72157623535422839)
This image is a stitch 2 rows x 3 shots at ~135mm then cropped. 20sec exposures.

Info about the location, festival dates, how to get there etc.
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5956.html (http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5956.html)

Nearby Shirakawago is a town called Takayama which is also nice.
If you are travelling through Nagano for the Snow Monkeys, Matsumoto has an original Castle that was not destroyed during the Meiji Restoration. I never managed to see it covered in snow but its black colour would look amazing with snow covered roofs and the red foot bridge hand rails.
This town also has a wood block print museum which has a rotating display. They also sell hand made reproductions of some of the famous Hiroshige and Hokasai series which make for nice souvenirs.
The mountain range in Hakuba from the top of Happo One ski resort is impressive. (you can get the gondala to the top with out skis/snowboard with a return ticket rather than all day)

If you are willing to travel north from Tokyo, there is the temple complexes at Nikko that have intricate wood carvings that are colourfully painted. South West is Kamakura. Here there is also a Great Buddha bronze statue (Outdoor).

Have a look through my old Flickr collection, it is organised in sets of the locations.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidcampbellphotography/collections/72157608783712689/ (http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidcampbellphotography/collections/72157608783712689/)

I also have most of the places on this google map. If you click the pins, it will show a photo of the location Red are missing photos, green are castles.
http://goo.gl/maps/6sT90 (http://goo.gl/maps/6sT90)

Hope this helps, enjoy your trip.

David
www.davidcampbellphotography.com.au (http://www.davidcampbellphotography.com.au)
Title: Re: January in Japan...Advice?
Post by: shashinkaman on October 23, 2013, 10:25:09 AM
Perhaps a geiger counter...?

+1  :) :) :)
Title: Re: January in Japan...Advice?
Post by: rmfagan on October 23, 2013, 10:59:28 AM
Wow! I'm so grateful to everyone! You guys should collectively start a site on Japan or host photo tours. Thanks so much for all the guidance!
Title: Re: January in Japan...Advice?
Post by: lion rock on October 23, 2013, 11:11:17 AM
The first week of January is a celebratory and vacation time for the Japanese, and just about every business, including shops and restaurants are closed.  The time you choose is fine.

One time when I visited Tokyo, we had a few hours to kill in the airport for family members who flew in later in the evening.  We took a transit ride to the small town of Narita (there was a space set aside in the airport to check in your luggage for a fee for a short while.) for a short visit. It was really enjoyable.

As for Kyoto, there are places to visit; places where modern geisha works, old temples and parks and even shops that sell antique katanas ($300 thousand for one!) and silk kimono stores.  One day there is probably not enough, especially considering the cost and time on the ride on the Shinkansen. A night at the traditional hotel is nice and an experience.

As for Hokkaido and Tanchos (red head cranes), it is highly recommended.  But, you'll either have to fly north of take the train there.  Once there at Sapporo, you'll have about 6 hours of car ride on snow and ice covered hilly highway (part of the highway is heated) to reach the Tancho village to see the congregation of the cranes.  And a couple of hours ride to see sea eagles.  I spent 5 days in Hokkaido and it was not enough, I want to stay longer.

While in Japan, be sure to have sushi.  I would not hesitate to try every street food. It is very good.  The Japanese are extremely clean.  Even those little food places inside the local subway stations in Japan (JR) are fantastic.

Hope you will have a grand time there.  I'll go back.  Definitely!

<pictures included --- Town of Narita - main street, Sushi House in Tokyo, sushi, and traditional hotel in Kyoto>

(a few more photos on the next post.)
Title: Re: January in Japan...Advice?
Post by: lion rock on October 23, 2013, 11:15:01 AM
A few more photos .
<Temple in Kyoto, map of Hokkaido (Google image), snow covered highway in Hokkaido, and Tancho in Hokkaido.>
Title: Re: January in Japan...Advice?
Post by: lion rock on October 23, 2013, 11:36:18 AM
As for camera gear, I went to Japan in 2005 and later in 2006 with a Rebel and kit lens   :-\.
In subsequent visits, it was with 40D, 24-70 f/2.8 and 70-200 f/2.8 II.  In 2012, I use 5DIII, same lenses plus 2XII.  The zoom telephoto with 2X TC was barely enough for Tanchos.  A longer lens would be welcomed.  My desire is the 200-400 from Canon  8).
<photo: cranes in flight>
-r
Title: Re: January in Japan...Advice?
Post by: Leejo on October 23, 2013, 02:08:46 PM
For good advice try contacting Martin Bailey -
martinbaileyphotograpy.com
He's from England - lives in Tokyo and has been running tours to see the snow monkeys, and Hokkaido for years.

He has a few old podcasts as well dealing with the trips, what to bring etc.
Title: Re: January in Japan...Advice?
Post by: csmithinva on October 23, 2013, 03:40:32 PM
I went to Japan in 2011 and 2012 during the January to April timeframe both times. The lenses I had were the 16-35, 24-105, and 75-300. I had the 5D and 7D camera bodies. The 24-105 stayed on my camera 90% of the time for the 5D. When I needed to go wider or use in low light, I switched to the 7D. I usually left the 16-35 on the 7D. When visiting the snow monkeys, I would use the 16-35 and the 24-105 or 24-70 if you have that lens. A zoom is best there as the monkeys move quite frequently if they are not in the water. Most of the ones in the water are docile and seldom move. I would keep the lens at least 2 feet away from the monkeys. They are quick and curious. Also, the place will be packed with tourists jockeying for position for pics. The area where the monkeys are in the water is quite small, probably less than a 1500 square foot area. I also recmmend YakTrax on your shoes as the path is about 1/2 mile to the park and most of it is snow and ice.

Kyoto is doable by bullet train. I did that for a weekend and didn't have enough time to see hardly anything as most temples and places close early (4pm-ish)

I HIGHLY recommend Kamakura. PLENTY of temples and architecture, and not so spread out like Tokyo or Kyoto. It's only an hour train ride from Tokyo (Shibuya or Shinagawa train stations).

Good luck on your trip!
Title: Re: January in Japan...Advice?
Post by: eosuser1234 on October 23, 2013, 11:52:01 PM
Check out Takayama Gifu, Ouchi Juku in Fukushima, and Kusatsu Onsen in Gunma.
Although some tourists, way less than other places.   

Easily the best towns for winter photography in Japan on Honshu.

You can google them and see the scenery, but its spectacular.
Japan can be very cold, snowy, and you do a lot of walking so a good pair of boots is good advice.
Title: Re: January in Japan...Advice?
Post by: eml58 on October 24, 2013, 12:56:04 AM
For good advice try contacting Martin Bailey -
martinbaileyphotograpy.com
He's from England - lives in Tokyo and has been running tours to see the snow monkeys, and Hokkaido for years.

He has a few old podcasts as well dealing with the trips, what to bring etc.

Excellent advice, my trip last December/January was a Private 2 week Tour, Martin & His Wife showed us Kyoto, Osaka & Nagano, fantastic time, Martin doesn't do Tokyo, but you will find you can manage mostly on your own (we did, Train systems are at first confusing, even for Japanese, but it's good fun getting lost in one of the Worlds safest Cities) The Kids at Akihabara are a must, Sunday worked for us, the Tsukiji Fish Market is worth seeing but be aware you need to get there early, we arrived 0300 and they only allowed the first 75 People to enter for that Morning.

I'm again with Martin on one of his Monkey/Crane/Eagle tours in February 2014 (these are not expensive and absolutely worth doing at least once), looking forward to that, Martin is an amazing Photographer and a genuinely lovely Guy, been established in Japan for 20 years, Yoshiko his wife is Japanese and Martin speaks the Language with total fluency.

One word, or so, of caution, be prepared for few People speaking English, this initially surprised me, but getting around outside Tokyo needs to be prepared well as the further from Tokyo the less chance people speak English, Road Signs etc pretty well all in Japanese, we hired a 4 wheel drive for the Snow in the Nagano area, absolute must, 2 wheel drive won't cut it when the ice & snow forms, our vehicle had a GPS that was in English so that was a huge help. The local Ryokan Inns are mostly used by Locals but we stayed at a few and it was great, worth the effort, be prepared though to sleep on Futons about an inch thick, I loaded up two.
Title: Re: January in Japan...Advice?
Post by: eosuser1234 on October 24, 2013, 02:38:21 AM
For good advice try contacting Martin Bailey -
martinbaileyphotograpy.com
He's from England - lives in Tokyo and has been running tours to see the snow monkeys, and Hokkaido for years.

He has a few old podcasts as well dealing with the trips, what to bring etc.

Excellent advice, my trip last December/January was a Private 2 week Tour, Martin & His Wife showed us Kyoto, Osaka & Nagano, fantastic time, Martin doesn't do Tokyo, but you will find you can manage mostly on your own (we did, Train systems are at first confusing, even for Japanese, but it's good fun getting lost in one of the Worlds safest Cities) The Kids at Akihabara are a must, Sunday worked for us, the Tsukiji Fish Market is worth seeing but be aware you need to get there early, we arrived 0300 and they only allowed the first 75 People to enter for that Morning.

I'm again with Martin on one of his Monkey/Crane/Eagle tours in February 2014 (these are not expensive and absolutely worth doing at least once), looking forward to that, Martin is an amazing Photographer and a genuinely lovely Guy, been established in Japan for 20 years, Yoshiko his wife is Japanese and Martin speaks the Language with total fluency.

One word, or so, of caution, be prepared for few People speaking English, this initially surprised me, but getting around outside Tokyo needs to be prepared well as the further from Tokyo the less chance people speak English, Road Signs etc pretty well all in Japanese, we hired a 4 wheel drive for the Snow in the Nagano area, absolute must, 2 wheel drive won't cut it when the ice & snow forms, our vehicle had a GPS that was in English so that was a huge help. The local Ryokan Inns are mostly used by Locals but we stayed at a few and it was great, worth the effort, be prepared though to sleep on Futons about an inch thick, I loaded up two.

Another good travel advice is outside of the major cities, very few places take credit cards.  Even hotels, and inns in the countryside rarely take credit cards.  Even McDonalds and Starbucks in the big cities sometimes do not accept credit cards.  Most banks won't take your ATM cards, and the best bet to get your ATM card to work is going to be 7-11 ATMs or post office banks in major cities.  Bring and carry cash is your best bet. 
Title: Re: January in Japan...Advice?
Post by: vanshyosaka on October 24, 2013, 04:59:57 AM
If by history and traditions you mean some of the serene temples and buildings, yes, I am absolutely interested. I've always wanted to go to Kyoto for the blossom in the spring, but I just wasn't sure if the same splendor is captured in winter.


Do you think Hokkaido is doable in 2-3 days? If I do 2 days in Tokyo, a day in Kyoto, 2-3 days in Nagano (monkeys), that leaves 2-3 for Hokkaido or something else. If I make the trip all the way north, I'd hope to see the red crowned cranes and whooper swans. Think that's doable in 2-3 days? Are there local tour operators to facilitate this or is it possible "self-guided" so to speak? Are there any particular places or "spots" you can recommend for either of these?

hi again,

IMO kyoto is always beautiful specially in autumn, and i am sure its still stunning in winter too.

 i am sure martin bailey can provide you with more helpful information about your trip to hokkaido, give him an email on his blog :)

good luck
Title: Re: January in Japan...Advice?
Post by: shashinkaman on October 24, 2013, 09:47:47 PM
Check out Takayama Gifu, Ouchi Juku in Fukushima, and Kusatsu Onsen in Gunma.


With all due respect, you're 'off your trolley'!  ??? ??? ???
Title: Re: January in Japan...Advice?
Post by: rmfagan on October 25, 2013, 01:57:19 PM
I do plan to avoid Fukushima. I'm sure it's lovely and all, but to quote Jimmy Buffet, "I don't wanna see my skin a-glow"
Title: Re: January in Japan...Advice?
Post by: gfoulk on October 25, 2013, 04:42:40 PM
I'd love to see Fukushima - the abandoned villages and such would be very interesting. With some basic protective gear and a Geiger counter, it should be quite safe for an isolated visit. Of course it's a restricted area so I don't think "I wanna take pictures" is going to cut it :)
Title: Re: January in Japan...Advice?
Post by: Brand B on October 25, 2013, 09:34:16 PM
Ben to Tokyo about 60 times for work, including living there a couple years in 1999-2001.  I'd second (or third, didn't read all the posts too carefully) Kamakura as a good day trip from Tokyo, and Nikko as well.

In the Tokyo area, some interesting sights are Ueno park (museums, scenery, temples) as well as the rather interesting shopping area right outside the Ueno station off the Yamanote line (train that does a big loop around the Tokyo metro area).

On that topic, you might look at buying one of the JR (Japan Rail) passes that are sold at a pretty hefty discount for tourists.

Harajuku is cool, Akihabara is an interesting experience if not photographically desirable.

There some interesting futuristic architecture out by the bay in Lalaport/Divercity including a life size Gundam that makes an interesting spectacle at night.

I'll ponder other suggestions since you have a couple of months before you go.

Title: Re: January in Japan...Advice?
Post by: Mt Spokane Photography on October 25, 2013, 11:15:10 PM
For Kyoto, check out Jeffrey Friedl's Blog.  Jeffrey also produces export plug-ins for Lightroom plus lots of other neat tools, its a good site to be familiar with, he has a wealth of information about photography, even if he is a Nikon shooter ;)
 
http://regex.info/blog/ (http://regex.info/blog/)
Title: Re: January in Japan...Advice?
Post by: 87vr6 on October 30, 2013, 08:05:02 AM
I live in Okinawa, and travel to the mainland occasionally (I suppose that's an appropriate term)


I went to Hokkaido last year for the snow festival. I shoot with a 5D3 and during the day my 24-70 II was more than enough, and at night I used my 24mm both indoors and out. I brought a tripod but rarely used it as this was a vacation, not a photo safari.

So, 9 days, flying into Tokyo. I'd try to find the flights going into Haneda and not Narita for starters.

As mentioned, those monkeys only need a day, unless you really have something for monkeys, but IMO there is much better stuff to see around.

But like mentioned, if you're going to see them, you'll want some focal length. You have that covered with the 70-200. I doubt you'll be able to set up a off camera flash close to them... They might grab it and run off with it...

Seriously. Monkey's are azzholes!! Look at these guys on Ishigaki-jima:

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ronspics12345/10504049004/" title="5D3_1328 by volksron, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7316/10504049004_316c400dc7_c.jpg" width="800" height="534" alt="5D3_1328"></a>

I wouldn't bother bringing a macro, especially as you'll be in the colder regions, in January. Spring/summer? Sure...

The 50 you have will be great for the markets, though you might find it a little tight... I like my 24L...

This is a 3-street wide market right outside Ueno Station
<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ronspics12345/8460196012/" title="5D3_5374 by volksron, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8228/8460196012_138d2b026a_c.jpg" width="800" height="534" alt="5D3_5374"></a>

As far as travel, once you arrive in country, use Skymark or Peach airlines. They fly to all the cities, and cheaply...

There's so much I want to write here, but my mind wanders too much for it. If you would like to chat and discuss things in an easier manner, find me on FB (Ron Wroblewski), my profile pic is me with those monkeys, so I should be easy to find..


Title: Re: January in Japan...Advice?
Post by: AttackMonkey on October 30, 2013, 09:27:44 AM
I go to Japan every couple of years, I love it there. My most recent trip was last year, and I climbed Fuji overnight to watch the sun rise, it was amazing!

To give you an idea, we normally do a couple of weeks, with 4 - 6 of us, and manage to visit 4 or 5 major cities or so. It's a LOT of travel though.

If street photography is your thing, Tokyo is the best, but Osaka and Kyoto are good too. If you want historical stuff like shrines, Kyoto is where it's at, and Nara is good too. I can recommend a few really good places that I've been:

Miyajima Island, it's in the top 100 places to visit before you die, and with good reason. It's a beautiful island off the coast near Hiroshima. IF you go, stay overnight in one of the island's many traditional Ryokan. There's a mountain there you can climb too, with great views across to the mainland, as well as the famous floating shrine and Torii gate.

The peace gardens and museum at Hiroshima are beautiful, and very moving. I imagine, the Dome (the only surviving building), which is pretty eerie at the best of times would be even more striking in the winter.

If you go to Kyoto, check out the Golden Shrine, the Silver shrine, Ryoan-Ji, Kyoto Castle and Gion. There's also a fantastic giant Flea market once or twice a month at one of the temples not too far from the main station.

Osaka has the castle, and an excellent aquarium.

If you want a good day trip and you're in Kyoto or Osaka, consider a day trip to Himeji Castle. It's the best surviving original castle in Japan, and if you've seen a film set in Japan with a castle in it, the chance are it was Himeji Castle.

Kamakura is a good day out from Tokyo, it has a wonderful small town feel to it, and there are some beautiful shrines there.

I don't know if giant robots are your thing, but in Odaiba in Tokyo, they have a life sized Gundam robot, which is light up at night, and is very cool indeed.

As others have said, the street food in Japan is amazing, and the Sushi is awesome. I'd also recommend trying the regional specialities of any region that you visit!

As others have mentioned, the further away you get from Tokyo, the harder it is to get around if you don't speak or read Japanese. Do your research in advance, it'll make your life much easier! A lot of the other major cities are easier to navigate now than they were on my first visit in 2005. Most of the major bus stations will have bus schedules in English if you ask.

If you plan on getting around by train, consider a JR Pass, you have to buy them before you go, but they allow you unlimited travel on the JR trains, and some of the ferries as well. If you're doing more than one or two long journeys, you'll save a ton of money. You can't use the fastest bullet trains though. Driving is OK, but again, it can be a bit intimidating if you can't read any of the road signs!