Help planning Japan vacation

Happy99

DIS Veteran
Joined
May 31, 2007
We have decided to visit Japan / Disney fall of 2022. Current dates we are thinking about is mid-October through Nov 1st.
We will of course visit TDR.

I am staring to read reports here and doing general research. We have travelled to Europe many times but never to Asia and getting a bit overwhelmed.

Here are some questions.
Anyone have any websites / trip reports they recommend reading.
Four people - parents / two young adult children (early 20's) Youngest child has been wanting to visit for many years, we are finally going.
Should we visit the Disney parks at the beginning of our stay or at the end? (I understand not actually owned by Disney)
Any good websites which explain the train systems in Tokyo and in general?
In Tokyo proper, not sure where to stay / which area. We will probably be in the city four nights then head to Kyoto / Osaka for 4 nights.

TDR, assume avoid weekends?
I can get a $10 per day international plan, only get charged if actually used. Or should I pre-order a pocket wifi or something similar?

Anything anyone would like to suggest, recommend, Required reading, not to miss, etc. Please do so.

Thank you
 
Last edited:

Haley R

With all the strength of a raging fire
Joined
Sep 3, 2017
Exciting about your trip! We went 2 years ago and have been wanting to go back ever since.

My favorite resource is Travel Caffeine. He has amazing blog posts about Japan and even some good daily itineraries. For Tokyo Disney I like TDR Explorer. He lives there so stays very up to date on what’s going on. We made some vlogs on YouTube if you’re interested. Our channel is called Wuz Travelin.

I would start with Disney if you can. That way the rest of your trip can be more relaxing and just exploring the cities.

I thought watching train videos on YouTube was super helpful. This website helped me a lot in planning too: https://www.japan-guide.com/ It has a lot of good info on different attractions, prices to get in, things like that. Honestly the trains are super easy to understand. Almost everything is in English and we used google maps to help us get around.

I can’t help much with where to stay in Tokyo. We stayed at an amazing Airbnb but it would be too small for 4 people. It was near yoyogi park and very residential so if you can find anything near that area I would! It’s very quiet and the park is pretty.

While you’re in the Kyoto area I would try to take a day trip to arashiyama. That was one of my favorite places we went. They have a scenic railway, bamboo forest, monkey park. It’s a really cool area.
 

trivan

Mouseketeer
Joined
Jul 1, 2014
Me and the family love Japan, we've been multiple times. Here are my tips in no order
  • We have alway stayed in Ginza, it makes taking the train from the airport very easy, no need to transfer. There are a number of hotels very close to Tokyo station and is a good hub to almost everything. Ramen street is also in Tokyo station!!
  • Hire a local guide in Tokyo. Its not that expensive and helps you navigate the transit system till you learn it. We love to snack so we hit a number of different places. Our guides have also help with shopping for things, I've picked up a couple of real Japanese knives from local vendor around the fish market, we visited the fish market and did out touristy things. Really up to you to plan the day. Many people don't speak english or very little but alway be very helpful and try to assist.
  • If you only have 1 day for Disney I recommend going to Disney Sea - its very different then Disneyland so we opted to go there our first time. We asked our local guide to help us buy the tickets too. They can be purchase at almost every convenience store from a vending machine. Train to Disney from Tokyo is very easy, there are a plenty of signs and it's quick. You will alway be following a group of kids so very hard to get lost. I think it would be hard to do both in one day.
    • Be food adventurous. Try the snacks in the park, some sound so strange, but we enjoyed almost all of them. Can you say Shrimp flavored popcorn.... it was really good.
  • Plan a meal from a department store, sounds weird, but department stores in Tokyo have really good food courts. We would grab a bunch of things and bring it back to the hotel room to eat.
  • If you like Sushi, do both a formal dinner and a casual one. The hotels typically can help with getting reservations at a formal Sushi place.
  • Most importantly, read about, learn and respect the local customs. Nothing worst then seeing tourist disrespecting the culture, which in my travels have seen a lot and typically from Americans (sorry but true).
    • Eg. if eating at a formal sushi place, don't drown your sushi in soy sauce!! just pick it up and eat it. The sushi chef has spent years learning how best to bring out the flavors, drowning it in soy sauce or wasabi is a no no.
 

Happy99

DIS Veteran
Joined
May 31, 2007
Thank you both. We were thinking of doing one day at each Disney park.

I heard you cannot make reservations at restaurants in the park unless staying at an on-site hotel. I will look through the websites suggested.

Fish market is definitely on our list and my husband would love the knives. He is an avid cook.

We were interested in hiring a guide. Any recommendations?

We are reading up on customs, we always do. My son has already started learning some phrases.
 

Haley R

With all the strength of a raging fire
Joined
Sep 3, 2017
Thank you both. We were thinking of doing one day at each Disney park.

I heard you cannot make reservations at restaurants in the park unless staying at an on-site hotel. I will look through the websites suggested.

Fish market is definitely on our list and my husband would love the knives. He is an avid cook.

We were interested in hiring a guide. Any recommendations?

We are reading up on customs, we always do. My son has already started learning some phrases.
We made a reservation for Magellan’s even though we were staying at the Hilton. It wasn’t easy to do though.

I don’t have any recommendations for a guide because we did all of our touring on our own. It’s honestly pretty easy to get around once you get the hang of it. So many things are in English.
 

wishing4PA

Wants to be in Pennsylvania or WDW or PA or WDW or
Joined
Nov 20, 2008
Our June 2020 trip was cancelled, so I can't give you much detailed advice. I think the suggestions above are good.
I've been listening to tdr explorer's podcast now and then when I'm driving. It's given me a bit of a feel of familiarity with the parks there that I don't actually have experience with. Not sure if that's good or bad, but I enjoy those podcasts. You're right on target with the "avoid weekends" idea for your park days, from all I've read and heard. Also, look up national holidays or check a crowd calendar before you pick your days. Of course, the pandemic sort of ruined the whole crowd calendar / crowd history usefulness, but presumably one day they might be useful again.
I'll also add that I stumbled across NHK World Japan on our TV provider's channel list, so now whenever I do have the TV on, it's either our news or that channel. I think watching it would be a nice way to pick up on a bit of the culture, as well as possibly to come across a show that might cause you to add a particular spot or activity to your itinerary.
And as far as itinerary, aside from avoiding weekends, my personal preference would be to end at TDR. That said, my planned 2020 itinerary had us starting there, only b/c ending there put us at the parks on the weekdays when I was working our flights around school schedules and also trying to avoid Olympic crowds. Weekdays vs. weekends to me trumped the first vs. last preference when setting up the itinerary.
 

nerdboyrockstar

here to change the world.
Joined
May 1, 2005
I left TDS and TDR for the end of my trip because it was the part I was looking forward to the most. So I did the city first for a full week before hitting the parks.

Stayed in Shinjuku near the train station at this hotel actually:

Also had to check out the Park Hyatt Tokyo because it's from Lost In Translation, one of my favorite movies:

Then when we moved to Disney, stayed at the Hilton Tokyo Bay as it's an official TDR resort and was way more affordable than any of the Disney hotels. It's also conveniently located to the Disney monorail line:

Also, not sure if you've ever heard of Rome2Rio, but it's one of the best websites that's helped me figure out how to get from Point A to Point B using trains. It's usually the most intimidating part of any trip for me but this makes it easy:
 
  • wishing4PA

    Wants to be in Pennsylvania or WDW or PA or WDW or
    Joined
    Nov 20, 2008
    Also, not sure if you've ever heard of Rome2Rio, but it's one of the best websites that's helped me figure out how to get from Point A to Point B using trains. It's usually the most intimidating part of any trip for me but this makes it easy:
    Just curious, did you try Hyperdia?
    I liked it better than rome2rio when browsing from home ... but I can't compare the two based on actual travel.
     

    nerdboyrockstar

    here to change the world.
    Joined
    May 1, 2005
    Just curious, did you try Hyperdia?
    I liked it better than rome2rio when browsing from home ... but I can't compare the two based on actual travel.
    Nope. Never heard of it. Also Apple and Google Maps have come a long way in recognizing train travel for directions too.
     

    wishing4PA

    Wants to be in Pennsylvania or WDW or PA or WDW or
    Joined
    Nov 20, 2008
    Nope. Never heard of it. Also Apple and Google Maps have come a long way in recognizing train travel for directions too.
    I think it's specific to Japan travel. Since I've not been traveling much in a long time and my only upcoming international trip was Japan, it made sense for me. But it makes sense if you use rome2rio elsewhere and are comfortable with it to use it. I don't do Apple stuff, but I also had noticed Google Maps seemed to have good train info too. Now I just need to get myself back to Japan one day and try those out!
     

    gelatoni fan

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 18, 2018
    I use Navitime for train info paired with google maps for walking to/from stations. Navitime is the only transport system I found that makes it clear when you need to walk between train systems owned by different companies which can happen a lot in Japan. I even check it when I already know the route because it's smart enough to show the train that arrives at the destination first as the recommended option. This can save time when going to TDR area from Tokyo station because you may arrive sooner by skipping the next train and taking an express train that departs later.
     
  • redleader74

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jul 10, 2019
    Sounds exciting! We went to Japan first time in 2016. We went with a small group tour (12 or so ppl) with a company called Inside Japan Tours. It was an amazing experience. Due to the small size, we didn't have a tour bus or pre-planned restaurants. The guide just led us by foot/train/subway/taxi, etc., it was as local/close to the ground experience as possible. The tour was 9 days and we spent another four exploring Tokyo on our own. Retunred in 2017 to Hokkaido and can't wait to go again. For Japan travel "inspritation" I highly recommend a youtube channel called "Only In Japan" by a youtuber named John Daub. He's an expact living in Japan and has tons of videos on his life in Japan, taking you on tours, etc. His videos are very down on the ground intimate look at daily life in Japan. He's in Tokyo so a lot of his material may be of interest to you.
     

    DaMayor

    Master Of His Domain
    Joined
    Aug 21, 2003
    We have decided to visit Japan / Disney fall of 2022. Current dates we are thinking about is mid-October through Nov 1st.
    We will of course visit TDR.

    I am staring to read reports here and doing general research. We have travelled to Europe many times but never to Asia and getting a bit overwhelmed.

    Here are some questions.
    Anyone have any websites / trip reports they recommend reading.
    Four people - parents / two young adult children (early 20's) Youngest child has been wanting to visit for many years, we are finally going.
    Should we visit the Disney parks at the beginning of our stay or at the end? (I understand not actually owned by Disney)
    Any good websites which explain the train systems in Tokyo and in general?
    In Tokyo proper, not sure where to stay / which area. We will probably be in the city four nights then head to Kyoto / Osaka for 4 nights.

    TDR, assume avoid weekends?
    I can get a $10 per day international plan, only get charged if actually used. Or should I pre-order a pocket wifi or something similar?

    Anything anyone would like to suggest, recommend, Required reading, not to miss, etc. Please do so.

    Thank you
    This is where I stayed in November 2019. Easy access to one of the more recognized temples in Tokyo + subway line is only a couple of minutes walk.


    As far as pocket Wi-Fi goes, that's the route I would take. I have Google Fi, which uses the towers in whatever country you're in. But aside from that carrier, I don't know of any others that include international data built in.
     

    lozzypop

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Mar 18, 2010
    We are thinking of a Tokyo trip for 2023.

    I will chime in and say that TDR Explorer is great (and he's a Canadian so, bonus!). Tom Bricker also has lots of information about Tokyo on his Disney Tourist blog. I really like CakesWithFaces on YouTube. She is based in the UK but obviously loves Japan and has lots of great videos. She has also written a guide book that ships internationally.
     

    Mapletree1

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Jun 22, 2015
    We visited Tokyo and Tokyo Disney Resort in summer of 2017 with our family of six - including four teenagers. We spent 9 days - 4 in the city, one day transferring to TDR, and four more days at TDR. We had done quite a bit of traveling around North America, but this was our first trip across the Pacific. My wife and I were very concerned about being able to get around Tokyo, the language barrier, and a Disney park that was different than what we were used to. We were quite relieved that all of these concerns were unfounded.

    We chose to visit the Disney parks at the end of our stay. At the time, all international flights were out of Narita, and TDR is closer to Narita than downtown Tokyo is.

    When we were looking for a place to stay in the city, Hilton properties were first choice, as we had a bunch of Hilton points to use. One thing we discovered - most hotel rooms in Tokyo are set up for two people. Based on your party size, be prepared to get two rooms. There are bigger rooms available at some hotels that might sleep 4, but they are crazy expensive. We ended up choosing the Tokyo Hilton in Shinjuku. It had easy access to the subway, and was relatively close to two places that we wanted to visit - the Shibuya Scramble and Meiji temple. The Tokyo Hilton also offered a breakfast buffet that included western favorites - a must for two of my picky teenage eaters.

    For navigation we used Google maps to get around on the subway. It worked fantastic. Just be careful around rush hour. We traveled right around 9am once, and the subway became very packed at one point. No personal space available. If there are any tall members in your party, they need to be careful in the subway. I'm 6'4" and there were some spots in stations where if I wasn't careful I could bump my head. And on the subway cars, some signs hang low enough to bump into if you are not paying attention. Everything (including the ticket machines) was available in English - even the voice on the subway cars was repeated in English. In touring around Tokyo, it seemed like just about everyone spoke English - and if they didn't, it was pretty easy to communicate what you needed. One caution - get some cash at the airport ATM. There were quite a few places that didn't take credit cards (including a quick stop at McDonalds) so having cash is important. When you do use a credit card, don't select the option to bill in your currency - that invokes a third party exchange, and the rates are terrible vs what your credit card will give you.

    We used a pocket wifi - in fact we rented two of them. Paying for international plans for six phone for nine days was a non-starter. The pocket wifi was about $70 each for the time, and we could use unlimited data, and have all six connected to one device if we wanted to. It came in handy to have two when we were at TDR and people wanted to do different things. If we only had one, then it would have been tough to communicate.

    You definitely want to avoid TDR on weekends. We visited Monday through Thursday, just to avoid the crowds, and it was still crazy busy. If you stay on the TDR property, the 15 minutes early entry doesn't sound like a big deal, but it was a huge advantage to get out in front of most of the crowd. The crowd waiting for rope drop over an hour ahead of opening was huge - the parks are popular! If you do stay on property, just be aware of one weird quirk that I didn't see mentioned anywhere. Check in time was 3pm. That doesn't mean you can check in and your room will be ready after 3pm, that means that the desk to check in doesn't open until 3pm. Even then, once you check in you can't go to your room until you are 'called' and escorted by their staff.

    The Tokyo Disney parks are amazing, and that isn't just the park, its the park goers too. Everyone is super polite - nobody even thinks of jumping into a line. The staff is amazing, and in every interaction, was so excited to see Americans visiting their parks. At one point, we had won the ticket lottery to see Big Band Beat, and the attendant was so excited that we would have a chance to see it - knowing that we weren't likely to visit again soon. We ran into that attitude in the city as well. Such a change from other destinations where tourists are almost looked down upon.

    My wife and I left Japan feeling that all of our apprehension about a visit was unneeded - it was much easier to get around and interact than we expected. Tokyo is an amazing city, and we are looking forward to when we can go back again.
     

    cgattis

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 1, 2009
    One caution - get some cash at the airport ATM. There were quite a few places that didn't take credit cards (including a quick stop at McDonalds) so having cash is important.
    was so excited to see Americans visiting their parks.
    it was much easier to get around and interact than we expected.
    Well @mapletree took all my best ones! LOL Definitely keep cash on you, and not like $20. There are lots of places that don’t take a card (“kaado”) and not just snack type stuff. For example, the gift shop in the top of the metropolitan building (the big free overlook) did not. Not sure about within Disney, as my one trip didn’t include the parks (but my next one will!!).

    Another note about following local cultures/manners, it bears asking someone who’s been about snacking in the parks. Snacks seem like a big deal, but are there designated seating areas? Or do people walk and snack like in WDW/DL? I only saw one person eating while walking down the street in all of Tokyo.

    And to echo what others have said, the transportation is very easy to navigate just by the signage and Google maps. And really almost everyone seemed so genuinely happy to try to help you, even if you couldn’t understand a word the other was saying!! I had an amazing experience shopping in a rural “general store” for a yukata for my daughter—we used a LOT of hand gestures and finally figured it all out! It was just an amazing place.
     

    redleader74

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jul 10, 2019
    Snacks seem like a big deal, but are there designated seating areas? Or do people walk and snack like in WDW/DL? I only saw one person eating while walking down the street in all of Tokyo.
    In general, walking and eating in public is considered a bit rude. I'm sure there are exceptions, but this is just "in general". I suppose you can just follow that old travelers' axiom: do as the locals do.
     

    cgattis

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 1, 2009
    In general, walking and eating in public is considered a bit rude. I'm sure there are exceptions, but this is just "in general". I suppose you can just follow that old travelers' axiom: do as the locals do.
    So are there designated seating areas for snacking ? Or do they sit on walls and things? Just wondering what yo expect ahead of time.
     

    Mapletree1

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Jun 22, 2015
    The Tokyo parks are built for large crowds - there are places to sit (walls, benches, etc.) everywhere. Usually people were just sitting on the nearest surface having their snacks. No designated spots for snacking.

    And to respond to another comment - credit cards are accepted everywhere in the Disney parks. No need for cash there.

    And one other major difference - there is no tipping in Japan. The housekeeping staff, luggage attendants, cab drivers, etc don't accept tips, so you don't need any cash for that.

    Also, everything runs on time. We received profuse apologies that our bus back to the airport from The Tokyo Disneyland Hotel was running late. It left 2 minutes later than scheduled.
     

    Haley R

    With all the strength of a raging fire
    Joined
    Sep 3, 2017
    The Tokyo parks are built for large crowds - there are places to sit (walls, benches, etc.) everywhere. Usually people were just sitting on the nearest surface having their snacks. No designated spots for snacking.

    And to respond to another comment - credit cards are accepted everywhere in the Disney parks. No need for cash there.

    And one other major difference - there is no tipping in Japan. The housekeeping staff, luggage attendants, cab drivers, etc don't accept tips, so you don't need any cash for that.

    Also, everything runs on time. We received profuse apologies that our bus back to the airport from The Tokyo Disneyland Hotel was running late. It left 2 minutes later than scheduled.
    We went in 2019 and weren’t able to use a credit card when we were trying to buy popcorn and mochi at a couple stands. We ended up having to use an ATM at the front of the park
     


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