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Old 19th October 2018
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Simon Bee Simon Bee is offline
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Re: Going to Japan, help surviving Shinjuku Stn!

Originally Posted by AMc View Post
Hi Simon,

We went to Japan at Easter - Osaka>Kyoto>Hiroshima>Tokyo in two weeks.
It was an amazing and confusing place but absolutely brilliant.

Tokyo is crazy busy but also amazing. Kyoto is much calmer but when you arrive in the main station with it's multiple levels and thousands of people you'll be hard pressed to believe its quieter

Getting around was actually quite straightfoward. We accepted the £5 a day O2 surcharge for using our phone data in Japan and with Google Maps and Google most things went OK.
Google Translate text to text was only of limited use but the Camera translation and the speech to speech conversation worked and saved us in a couple of off the beaten track moments.
I'd strongly recommend the app.

If you don't use a contract phone that lets you use data for a flat fee then there are portable "hot spots" that you can hire to collect at the airport or delivered to your hotel that let you carry on using a smartphone on a local prepaid plan. The hotspot connects to the local 3G or 4G network and links to your phone using a WiFi connection.
Having some form of internet access out and about is strongly recommended. Google has a good understanding of Japanese public transport and got us to places and home again when we were pretty confused. Some stations have local, national and subway platforms operated by different companies which are colour coded but they overlap colours! Google showed us the way.

In terms of photography I mainly stuck to the EZ pancake 14-42mm during the day interspersed with the 17mm f1.8 and just the 17mm in the evenings.

I took my Panasonic 25mm f1.7 but it didn't get a lot of use. I also took the cheap Olympus 40-150 which came out at the Tokyo Government Observation Deck and the Kyoto Tower but not much anywhere else.
Finally I had the 9mm Fisheye body cap which I'd just picked up and used more than I expected.

These are the pictures I took.

Strictly limiting to what you have I'd be tempted to go 12 and 25 or even 12 and 45.

Given the cost of the trip I'd consider picking up a used 14-42mm EZ pancake zoom and taking one prime but if you're determined to stick with primes I understand.

Also on a photography related note... there is a chain of shops called Loft who have a surprisingly large array of reconditioned vintage lenses for sale and Polaroid cameras (if you have deep pockets) and masses of unusual straps, bags, one use cameras, vintage SLRs and modern Instax cameras and film. I was quite tempted by the Instax

It was a surprise as they also sold pots and pans and homewares.

Just North of Kyoto Tower which is just North of Kyoto Rail Station is Yodobashi Camera Multimedia. I have never seen so many floors of electronics and cameras in my life.

If you're tempted to spend then read up on the rules about Tax Free shopping before you go. You have to make sure the shop participate and they will fix the receipt into your passport and stamp across the edge. I was put off because the goods are supposed to be exported unused and the exchange rate wasn't particularly great.
We discovered when we flew out from Tokyo that there was no one on the Tax desk and no one checked the receipts in our passport so I could probably have walked out without a problem.
You'd then obviously be expected to declare the items in the UK but again nothing was checked when we got back.

Enjoy Japan. The food was amazing, the people were lovely and we saw some amazing things.
Thank you so much for all the excellent advice, it is very much appreciated. Vodaphone will charge me £6 a day to use my data/minutes etc, 20GB data allowance so should be OK, I shall download the Apps you recommend too.

I'll do my best 'NOT' to be tempted by the vast array of camera equipment I am bound to come across, I have more than enough already, however convincing myself of that when I'm confronted by a rare item I have longed after may be another matter;-)

I've decided that the two lenses I will take are the 12 & 25, they will cover just about all my needs. I could pop the 45 in the suitcase for 'just in case' but I'll see.

Your album on Flickr is superb, very inspiring, hopefully I will come back with some great images to remember the holiday too.

Thanks again for your help and suggestions. Kind regards,
“Sharpness is a bourgeois concept”
― Henri Cartier-Bresson
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Old 24th October 2018
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Re: Going to Japan, help surviving Shinjuku Stn!

Originally Posted by Simon Bee View Post
Your album on Flickr is superb, very inspiring, hopefully I will come back with some great images to remember the holiday too.

Thanks again for your help and suggestions. Kind regards,

Hello again, thanks for the comments on my pictures

I posted a day by day account over at AVForums. I didn't repost it all here as that seemed to be overkill, there don't seem to be as many adventurers here!


I also picked up a lot of useful tips and help in this thread which I also posted in.

A couple more tips.
Japan doesn't really go in for Credit Cards and Debit Cards. You'll need a lot of cash for incidentals like meals, travel and entry to attractions.
The odd restaurant took cards but one of the large department stores couldn't process my Visa card to their intense embarrassment.

Even the Pre Pay cards to use public transport have to be topped up with cash in the machines!

Non Japanese cash cards will work in almost all the ATMs in the plentiful convenience stores (7 Eleven, FamilyMark, Lawson). They will also work in some of the cash machines in stations but probably not in the Japanese Banks.
We took about £500 in cash but I needed to make several more withdrawals. Japan is very safe so unless you're prone to losing things then I would take plenty of cash.

I was also recommended https://www.tokyofreeguide.org/
We were a bit trepidatious about this as we don't normally immerse ourselves when we travel but it was an excellent tip.

We had a fabulous day and met an interesting guide. I would whole heartedly recommend you try and book a guide.
We were wrong footed when she gave us a small gift and we had nothing to offer in return.
We registered well in advance but didn't get an offer until just before we arrived, presumably because people agree to guide when they know their own plans.
It was all free bar paying for a garden entry and buying a reasonably priced meal for our guide Kanae. We made a donation to the site when we got back as it's a brilliant idea.
I'm Andy from UK in their testimonial page

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Old 24th October 2018
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Re: Going to Japan, help surviving Shinjuku Stn!

Really helpful posts, many thanks. The images brought back a lot of good memories!

We're planning to go back in the next year or two, taking in some different cities (plus I'd really like to get in to the countryside up north).

Did you think Osaka was worth a visit? We only went through the airport.

Too much Oly gear.
Panasonic 12-32, 12-35, 15. Laowa 7.5.
Assorted legacy lenses, plus a Fuji X70 & a Sony A7S.
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Old 25th October 2018
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Re: Going to Japan, help surviving Shinjuku Stn!

Originally Posted by drmarkf View Post
Did you think Osaka was worth a visit? We only went through the airport.

We arrived in Osaka, in retrospect we could have gone directly to Kyoto as it was closer than we realised.

Our accommodation at Osaka was a large (by UK standards) apartment and really nice.
The Tower Hotel in Kyoto was really disappointing with 3 large singles stuffed into a room so you couldn't even move the chair from under the desk and had to stack the cases in the corridor outside the bathroom - not recommended for 3 people.
I think the Kyoto hotel would have coloured our trip if that had been our first stop so I'm glad it wasn't - though Kyoto the city was great and we didn't see everything by a stretch.

We arrived at 8am in Osaka and couldn't get into the apartment until 4pm so we spent time finding a left luggage place, wandering about like zombies and had a random Chinese lunch because we were a bit confused - none of us sleep on planes. So the first day was fairly uninspiring.

Second day we visited our first proper Japanese restaurant, Osaka Castle, a craft beer place and then another restaurant with great food.
Osaka is famed for it's eating so we should probably have done a bit more research on where to eat before we went.
I'd foolishly thought it would be fairly simple to find a nice place to eat, not realising that I might struggle to even identify a restaurant compared to a family house - being completely illiterate is really challenging!
Google and Trip Advisor were indispensable but we were still finding our feet.

Osaka Castle on a weekend in the middle of the Sakura was something I wouldn't have missed. It was absolutely stunning.

You could easily travel to Osaka as a day trip from Kyoto.
I'd definitely revisit Kyoto, I'm not so sure about Osaka.
I'd also like to explore a bit beyond the cities as the day trip to Miyajima from Hiroshima was brilliant.
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