Budgeting Your Time In JapanJun 18th, 2009 | By Shane Sakata | Category: Travel
Planning a trip to Japan or even travel within Japan is an exciting proposition that can easily get thrown into disarray once you are on the ground. One of the most common questions that we are asked in the Japan Discovered! weekly tweetchat goes something like this: “I have X days in Japan, can I fit in visits here, here and here?” It all comes down to the thorny issue of time…
In most cases people have realistic expectations of what can be done within their allotted time frame but other think that the Shinkansen (bullet train) is like a time machine that will whisk them from one destination to another in seconds rather than hours. They are fast, traveling up to 300 km per hour, but they are not that fast!
One thing that constantly surprises me is the amount of time that it takes to get from point A to point B in Japan, and even within Tokyo. I love the train system and it is one of the most economical and efficient ways of getting around in Japan but it may take you a little longer than you think to get from one place to another.
To give you an example of this let’s take a look at how long it will take you to get to and from the Top 10 Tourist Destinations in Japan using Hyperdia, one of the best tools to to use when planning your route about the country by train.
Japan Travel Timetable
* format used is travel time (includes transfer times between trains) /number of transfers – keep in mind that travel time may vary depending on the time of the day.
So let’s look at a typical day of sightseeing in Tokyo. If your hotel is in Shibuya and you want to go to Tokyo to see the Imperial Palace and then on to Ueno Park, where you can stroll about the temples, visit a museum or two or even rent a boat at Shinobazu Pond before heading back to Shibuya for some people watching and calling it a night you will have spend some time in transit.
From the table above your total time spent traversing the city would be 53 minutes and you would only have to transfer trains two times. Sounds pretty good right? But how long does it take to get to the station from the various points of interest on your Tokyo itinerary? On average you will have to walk anywhere from 5-15 minutes from the station to your destination and back. That will add another 30-90 minutes to your commute time.
That adds up to a total of anywhere from 83 – 143 minutes spent just getting to a from your destination – a total of up to 2.5 hours of your day that you could be spend just riding the rails.
You Have to Eat
Let’ assume for a moment that you eat breakfast before you head out for the day and dinner upon your return in the evening. You still need to budget some time for lunch, where you will hopefully dine on some of Japan’s regional food specialties in a great neighborhood restaurant or pick up a bento box or one of the other cheap eats in Japan to eat in a local park.
There goes another hour or so of your day…not wasted but you still haven’t wandered about much yet and 3.5 hours are gone…
Taking in the Sights
Now that’s out of the way we can talk about how much time it take to enjoy the sights at a leisurely pace. After all this is a vacation and supposed to be relaxing and enjoyable right? If you plan for an eight hour day (remember that’s excluding breakfast and dinner) then after commuting and eating you are left with 4.5 hours to take in the sights.
I know I could spend a that amount of time just exploring Ueno!
If you want to take in a museum that could take anywhere from an hour to two or more. Exploring the area around the Imperial Palace can take a similar amount of time, more if your want to stroll through the adjacent gardens. You will want to rent your boat for about half an hour and spend some time exploring the other sights in Ueno park that include temples, shrines and even a zoo.
As you can see your four plus hours are being used up at a rapid pace!
But don’t just pull out your guidebook or pick up a map from the local tourist office and start ticking things off and snapping pictures to show your friends. You want to take some time to really take in any area you visit and that involves stepping into that interesting alley and wandering past that small shrine or shop that caught your eye. Sure, take some pictures, but don’t forget to enjoy the experience and remember that photos fade but memories last a lifetime.
It all takes time – how long is up to you but don’t rush yourself and don’t over plan your days. Build some flexibility into your schedule so that your vacation doesn’t become like work.
You will spend a lot of time on trains and walking to and from the destinations on your itinerary and this can be exhausting. There is also the mental fatigue resulting from being in a new place where just reading the signs and figuring out which way to go can take its toll on your energy level.
Take advantage of your time of the trains to rest your feet and rejuvenate yourself for the next part of your day. Make sure to stay hydrated by stopping every now and then at one of the much talked about vending machines in Japan – they really are everywhere! Get yourself some water but be sure to try some of the other drinks as well. Some are quite tasty and you might even find a new favorite, or one that’s not so good. Either way, it’s another memory from your trip to Japan that you get to take home with you.
The End of The Day
If you have a limited amount of time to travel about Japan your days will be full, there is no doubt about that, but don’t overextend yourself and try to cram too much into your itinerary.
For inspiration take some time to browse through the Japan Regional Travel Resources but remember to give yourself some downtime – Japan will still be here if you want to visit again…
You can fit a lot into a short time in Japan but make sure to enjoy the journey!