Ken Chin-Purcell

June 2, 2023

Japan day 19: Headed home

Well, that’s the trip. We’re at Haneda airport early. It’s raining 3-4 inches today so we figured we might as well head out. We had one last okanomiyake at the airport, this time Hiroshima style with noodles and an omelet wrap.


It was a great trip, I’m glad I wrote this travel diary to look back on. I have Yen in my wallet that I’m not exchanging - we plan to return!

Here are some notes for Future Ken on what worked well and what didn’t on this trip:

  • Knowing where we were staying and how to get there was good. It was challenge enough to navigate the plans we made once en route. Maybe younger me could be more spontaneous, but current me appreciates the planning.
    • Figure out hotels. Have printed out the phone number and the English and Japanese name and address. This will be very useful for Takkyubin.
    • Figure out trains, in particular Shinkansen and express trains with reserved seats. Print out the train info (e.g. “Hikari 650 dep 10:23 Nagoya”). Express and Shinkansen trains fill up a few days ahead of time. 
    • Navitime Japan Travel app had the best train time tables and knew about JR pass. I paid for a month’s premium access.
    • Hyperdia does not work well, skip
    • Google Maps is good but will suggest trains not eligible for JR pass
    • When you emerge from a station and are done with the train reset Google Maps directions to just walking, it works better.
    • Know the destination of your train. Google tells you this.
  • JR Pass
    • On this trip it was worth it compared to buying individual fares
    • JR Pass is supposed to get more expensive later in 2023
    • I would still pay $50 or so just for the convenience of being able to travel anywhere without having to book a separate ticket.
  • Suica Card
    • The Suica prepaid IC card is very useful for busses, subways and some stores.
    • It’s easy to add Suica to your Apple Wallet ahead of time
    • Your phone is the card. It’s worked on all busses and non-JR trains we’ve tried.
  • Cash is King. 
    • 7-Eleven ATM’s consistently work
    • There is a coin donation box at the first floor info desk at Haneda.
  • Michiko (a Japanese language teacher) suggested to learn common polite Japanese phrases and don’t worry about learning more. That worked fine.
    • But maybe knowing some more hiragana would be useful
  • Google and Apple Translate apps work well and are very useful
    • Google Lens camera handles vertical text, Apple does not.
    • Apple user interface is better
  • Takkyubin is wonderful
    • It’s near impossible to take big luggage on a rush hour train in Tokyo
    • Luggage spots on others trains can be limited
    • Have the hotel name and address printed out, and get hotel staff to fill out the takkyubin form.
    • In general it takes one full day to send luggage, about $20 a bag
    • Have a small duffle to carry one day’s worth of clothes and essential toiletries, then send your bag on one day before you do. It will be waiting for you, sometimes outside your room!
  • We rented a “pocket Wi-Fi”
    • It’s a dedicated Android phone.
    • It worked well, and was cheaper than daily AT&T international charges
    • But it was an extra phone to carry around
    • It ran out of battery by the end of the day
    • It was one more thing to recharge
    • If we weren’t together then only one of us had connectivity
    • I will look into somehow using AT&T roaming or an esim next time.
  • Umbrellas are the way to go in the city, as opposed to a rain jacket.
  • There is fish and dashi in almost everything. I think we smell a little like dashi.
  • Bring Kleenex and wipes. No paper towels
  • Bring a small garbage bag with you, zero public garbage cans
  • There are plentiful public bathrooms. Some take 100¥
  • So. Much. Salt.
    • Keep drinking water
  • Is there an Instagram Hot Spot map? If so, maybe avoid the hot spots.
  • Small/Medium town Japan can be beautiful. I think I could spend a trip here dodging big cities. Sado Island?
  • Walking here is good, but I’m not sure about cycling. The big cities look difficult for bikes, you see relatively few cyclists and they’re often on the sidewalk. Quiet towns like Tokoname would be better.
  • We should come back for a big matsuri.

Shishi is everywhere!