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Daimyo

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How are Foreigners Treated in Japan?
« on: April 24, 2011, 02:34:32 AM »

I have not been to Japan yet, but I plan on going some day.

One thing that I have always wondered about was how Japanese view foreigners, and by "foreigner" I mean more specifically half-Japanese foreigners because I am half-Japanese.

EDIT (I also put foreigner in the title for anybody who is wondering the same thing and are not necessarily Half/Full Japanese)

So if someone who has been there in recent years or knows someone who has been there in recent years could shed light on the topic I would greatly appreciate it!!  :)
« Last Edit: April 24, 2011, 03:10:37 PM by Daimyo »
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Haruka

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Re: How are Foreigners Treated in Japan?
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2011, 10:51:39 AM »

  Foreigners are treated like visitors.  Half-Japanese (or vaguely Asian-looking people) are treated as though they were Japanese. In other words, you will be expected to know the language, rules, etiquette, and how everything works.  Basically, you look like them and they will assume you know everything they know, therefore their patience with you may be limited.  Whereas, my friends and I were white, we were looked upon as cute little gaijin who are clueless as the day is long, so of course we don't know anything.  The people we encountered were shocked we could even understand basic Japanese, especially this chick my friend cussed out in a train station for intentionally ripping some of her hair out (long story).

     So my advice would be to do your research.  Know the language (if you don't already), work on your pronunciation, and read up.  There are tons of books on the subject and you can usually get them through the library for free.  You'll be amazed at how far a little research will take you and the people you come across on your travels will appreciate the obvious effort you've put forth.  Plus it reduces your culture shock and makes integrating into the society a little faster and a little easier.  If you would like, I can suggest some books titles to get you started.
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PyronIkari

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Re: How are Foreigners Treated in Japan?
« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2011, 12:46:38 PM »

I have not been to Japan yet, but I plan on going some day.

One thing that I have always wondered about was how Japanese view foreigners, and by "foreigner" I mean more specifically half-Japanese foreigners because I am half-Japanese.

So if someone who has been there in recent years or knows someone who has been there in recent years could shed light on the topic I would greatly appreciate it!!  :)

This matters where you go quite a bit. How foreigners are seen in Tokyo is very different than how they're seen in Kyoto or Hokkaido, or Osaka... etc. Even within regions what part you're in will treat you very differently. Atsugi which is very rural will treat you more respectfully and more patiently and less of "a tourist" than they will in Shibuya and Shinjuku. But if you go to more country areas like Fukui, prepare to be treated like utter trash because Japanese xenophobia is definitely not just a stereotype.

In bigger cities, you're treated as a tourist. What I mean is, they will pretend to be nice to you(and I really mean pretend) because you are giving them money, and you are getting the hell out of the country. There's a very big difference between people that are obviously tourist, and someone who is foreign living in Japan, and how they are treated is again, worlds apart.

You don't need to know the language at all if you're staying in Tokyo/Kyoto. These cities are very foreign friendly, and 90% of signs will be in English+JP. If you go outside of the main areas though, then knowing a little bit of JP is great, but having something to show people is even better. Having a map and/or printout to show someone will be the best way to get directions if you're lost, because even with very basic comprehension of the language, directions are confusing unless you have a pretty decent grasp of how language is. Also, City streets aren't so straight forward in Japan. The US works on a very gridlike map system, Japan doesn't at all. So streets curve a lot and angle every where. Again though, it's not difficult, and train stations are almost everywhere. A lot of people in train stations will be able to help you, and there is almost always at least 1 worker conveniently near you whose English is more than enough to communicate with you.

As a half-JP(What's your other half if you don't mind me asking) you are kind of at a disadvantage because happas aren't really well received in a lot of places. Again though "tourist" takes priority, but there will be some people that will blatantly show their racism to you.

Something useful, despite this, the JP are usually really meek to foreigners even if they don't like them. You can get away with all kinds of shit. Just scream a lot of English words and people will be scared of you.
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Daimyo

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Re: How are Foreigners Treated in Japan?
« Reply #3 on: April 24, 2011, 02:30:46 PM »

@Haruka

I do plan on learning the language, for reasons you said and also it would be really awesome to be able to watch anime without subtitles lol. I would also very much appreciate those books you can suggest to get me started too. Thank you for sharing your experience!

Btw, I'm curious about the hair-ripping story if you don't mind sharing (you can PM it if you want).  Maybe I can avoid a similar misunderstanding when I go (even though my hair is short and I'm a guy) :P

@PyronIkari

Ya I was wondering about the different locations, I was thinking about going to Tokyo, Akihabara (I think thats what its called), wherever the gundam statue is and the eva bust, Otaku stuff, etc.

My other half: Portuguese, Chinese, Panamanian, Irish (smallest part)

That half-JP factor was the main reason for making this thread because I saw/heard on the internet and in RL about the possibilities of them looking down on being Half.  There is even a Facebook Group about being Half, and it LOOKED like there were Japanese users from Japan hating on the group saying things like "F---! It is like you are two different things and not a whole entity!"

That fear of English is weird.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge!
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PyronIkari

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Re: How are Foreigners Treated in Japan?
« Reply #4 on: April 24, 2011, 07:38:57 PM »

@PyronIkari

Ya I was wondering about the different locations, I was thinking about going to Tokyo, Akihabara (I think thats what its called), wherever the gundam statue is and the eva bust, Otaku stuff, etc.

My other half: Portuguese, Chinese, Panamanian, Irish (smallest part)

That half-JP factor was the main reason for making this thread because I saw/heard on the internet and in RL about the possibilities of them looking down on being Half.  There is even a Facebook Group about being Half, and it LOOKED like there were Japanese users from Japan hating on the group saying things like "F---! It is like you are two different things and not a whole entity!"

That fear of English is weird.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge!

To expand on this. There is a rising fetish for halfs in Japan, but it's a small percentage, and it's focused on halfs that are attractive and are fluent in JP. Outside of that, it pretty much goes with what I already stated. Generally you'll be fine and shouldn't have to worry about a thing. In the end, you're a tourist, and you're bringing money, so they'll treat you like a tourist.
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Daimyo

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Re: How are Foreigners Treated in Japan?
« Reply #5 on: April 24, 2011, 08:43:52 PM »

To expand on this. There is a rising fetish for halfs in Japan, but it's a small percentage, and it's focused on halfs that are attractive and are fluent in JP. Outside of that, it pretty much goes with what I already stated. Generally you'll be fine and shouldn't have to worry about a thing. In the end, you're a tourist, and you're bringing money, so they'll treat you like a tourist.

WOOHOO I'm already half-way there! (pun not intended) lol.  That's some comforting news, and even though its a small percentage hopefully it will increase significantly by the time I get there.  I'm definitely going to save up and spend like crazy over there too.

Thanks again for this valuable info. :D

EDIT: Btw, while the topic of attractiveness is still up, I was have also been wondering about how it seems that females in asia like males who look feminine?  Is that just a big generalization or is it significantly true?
« Last Edit: April 24, 2011, 09:23:26 PM by Daimyo »
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PyronIkari

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Re: How are Foreigners Treated in Japan?
« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2011, 02:04:56 PM »


EDIT: Btw, while the topic of attractiveness is still up, I was have also been wondering about how it seems that females in asia like males who look feminine?  Is that just a big generalization or is it significantly true?

It's a half truth and a stereotype really. It's not so much that they look female, as most of the popular males do not look female. What they have though is a "feminine beauty" instead of an overly masculine beauty. Eh, I'm not sure the best way to explain this as I only have 5 minutes while folders print out at work.

Johnny Depp for example, is not "masculine" by any means in terms of looks. But he doesn't look feminine at all. He has a beauty that can be described as "pretty" or "beautiful" and it's ok to describe him in those ways without being offending or making him seem female.

This is the beauty that most Asian cultures seek out in male figures. Masculine men, like Bruce Willis or  Brad Pitt are less seeked after over someone like Edward Norton, Johnny Depp, or Tom Cruise.  Again, all three of those are no where near "feminine" but have a more beautiful than rugged look to them.

My friend Alex is a half, and he's gorgeous, I can say this completely heterosexually. The guy is absolutely beautiful and I can respect that completely as a guy. When he was in Japan, people treated him like a god. He's also fluent in JP and charismatic as all hell. He's not rugged, he's not manly (though at one point he was able to bench like 350lbs no problem but you would never be able to tell since he was always incredibly thin and lean looking) he has an elegance.

THERE WE GO, THAT'S THE WORD I'M LOOKING FOR.

Elegance. Females in Japan like ELEGANT looking men over manly looking men. So "female" or "feminine" is actually not correct at all.
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Daimyo

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Re: How are Foreigners Treated in Japan?
« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2011, 02:33:19 PM »

Elegance. Females in Japan like ELEGANT looking men over manly looking men. So "female" or "feminine" is actually not correct at all.

Oh wow!  That's interesting I did not expect that at all, sort of relieving in a way.  Thank you, I'm very grateful for this wealth of information! I was so confused before but now it seems more reasonable from the way you put it.
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Haruka

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Re: How are Foreigners Treated in Japan?
« Reply #8 on: April 27, 2011, 02:44:42 PM »

Unfortunately, Pyron is right about the xenophobe thing.  The further north we went from Tokyo, the more people were just fascinated by us.  The further south we went (s. of Kyoto) we were not welcome.  We were a nuisance to be put up with only because we had money.  It was a strange dynamic.  However, even in Tokyo we ran across some predjudice.  Our first night there a friend of mine treated us to dinner in Shinjuku and as we waited, this young couple came in and asked to be seated right away becasue the girl didn't want to wait near the "smelly foreigners."

That actually segues pretty nicely for the hair-ripping story.  Basically, my friend has extremely long blonde hair ( at the time, it was to her butt, now it's at the back of her knees).  She was wearing it in a looped ponytail.  As we were walking through the train station, this GAL went past her wearing a wide-lappelled jacket that had brass caps on the corners.  My friend's hair got caught on one of the lapels of this lady's jacket and instead of simply unhooking it, this chick just straight up tore it out and said something really rude (I didn't catch it).  All of the sudden, my usually quiet friend explodes!  She started flinging every cuss word she knows in Japanese and when she ran out of those, she just started yelling random sh1t!  Even the police looked scared!  It was funny as hell.  And that chick RAN!  I have never seen somebody run in 6 inch heels before.  It took all four of us to get my friend outside, but once she calmed down, we all laughed so hard, I couldn't breathe!
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Daimyo

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Re: How are Foreigners Treated in Japan?
« Reply #9 on: April 27, 2011, 10:36:51 PM »

@Haruka

WOW that is crazy!! and funny the police was scared too!

I guess I'll just stick North, I don't know how exactly I'd react to the fascination reaction but it might workout because I'll be fascinated with everything over there while they're "fascinated" with me.  I really like all the miscellaneous stuff like the design of their sewer caps, electric sliding doors that open with a button instead of detection, their different vending machines, "rotating" parking garage, etc.)

It sucks that you had to go through those inconveniences,
but I'm glad that event ended on a fun note (laughing till you couldn't breathe) :D
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PyronIkari

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Re: How are Foreigners Treated in Japan?
« Reply #10 on: April 28, 2011, 09:36:22 AM »

@Haruka

WOW that is crazy!! and funny the police was scared too!

I guess I'll just stick North, I don't know how exactly I'd react to the fascination reaction but it might workout because I'll be fascinated with everything over there while they're "fascinated" with me.  I really like all the miscellaneous stuff like the design of their sewer caps, electric sliding doors that open with a button instead of detection, their different vending machines, "rotating" parking garage, etc.)

It sucks that you had to go through those inconveniences,
but I'm glad that event ended on a fun note (laughing till you couldn't breathe) :D

Uh... North is relatively racist as well. Hokkaido is ok, but just South of there isn't exactly the most welcoming areas. Basically stick to the larger more populated cities/regions and you'll be ok. I don't know, I've never had trouble when I visit regardless of if I'm with or not with someone completely fluent. It helped that I understand basic JP and can communicate small things I need to, but I never really had to use it for anything. The 1 time I did(literally 1 time) was to understand how a mobile phone charging station worked because they didn't know how to explain that in English.  Rather, they didn't know how to explain the order and process on how to activate, lock, reopen and select your type of phone etc.

There are rude people in Japan, racist, xenophobic etc... but frankly, it's not that much different than the US. Hell I've seen more blantent and harmful stuff on muni in SF.

@Haruka

Not that it's expected for you to know this... but if you have really long hair like that, you're supposed to tie it up put it in a bun or do something with it. If it's that long... chances are it will get caught on something... someone's bag, someones jacket etc. especially during rush hour times.

I liked rush hour times on trains. I can sleep while standing, and everyones bodies will hold me up it's awesome.
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Daimyo

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Re: How are Foreigners Treated in Japan?
« Reply #11 on: April 28, 2011, 11:04:25 AM »

@PyronIkari

Ahhhh.. Well that's still cool because I enjoy the city atmosphere over here in the U.S. anyhow XD Thanks for the additional input! :)

WOAH! public cell phone charging station!?  Thats so awesome!

When you got in the train did you see this too? >>>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0A9-oUoMug
« Last Edit: April 28, 2011, 11:15:51 AM by Daimyo »
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Inuashley

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Re: How are Foreigners Treated in Japan?
« Reply #12 on: April 29, 2011, 03:42:55 AM »

What PyronIkari and Haruka said are very much true, although I hadn't known before that halfs were looked down on so much. I just came back last Saturday from Japan, and me and my somewhat Japanese-looking at times girlfriend were treated extremely nicely the entire time we were there. It helped that I speak a good amount of Japanese, enough to carry on casual conversations, and they seemed very impressed with our Japanese and honored that we were there during their time of crisis. I was actually blown away by random strangers' kindness, which ranged from helping us with our baggage when we kept having problems on the streets (some lady with a baby even tried to help us, and the owner of the ryokan we were staying at personally lugged our heavy bags up this steep hill to the train station), to just little things like moving seats while they were eating dinner so that we could sit down.

It definitely helped that we understand and respect their culture and customs, unlike some tourists we met who were from Mississippi who were rather rude and were thus treated not as nicely as we were. We were also wearing different Japanese fashions when we were in Tokyo and Kyoto, and several middle school and high school kids thought we were celebrities or something, because they kept asking to take photos with us, it was really cute. xD

Anyways, point being, you are inevitably going to get some people who are going to fake politeness or possibly act rudely to you, especially if you are going south of Kyoto or north of Tokyo, but as long as you maintain some respect and common sense, I think you'll be just fine. I find it hard to believe that anything someone could do within those areas could be any worse than any way people could treat you here.
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Daimyo

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Re: How are Foreigners Treated in Japan?
« Reply #13 on: April 29, 2011, 02:17:35 PM »

@Inuashley

The half-thing is alright now though because I'm considered a fetish :D haha

Thank you for sharing your experiences and for your confirmation! It helps ease the anxiety from the many "What-Ifs" that have been kicking around my thoughts.

Good to know you got back safely! :)
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Haruka

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Re: How are Foreigners Treated in Japan?
« Reply #14 on: April 29, 2011, 06:07:07 PM »

Yeah, the train thing is totally true.  We tried to avoid rush hour(s) and only timed it badly, like once.  I ended up with this very embarrassed-looking man completely pressed against me from behind.  If you have personal space issues, avoid rush hour.  If not, do it once.  It will give you funny stories for later.

Venture south, though, seriously.  Suck up the dirty looks and curt clerks.  Tourists generally avoid places in which they don't feel welcome and you might see a few things you didn't expect.  I asked for trouble.  I'm a history teacher so I went to Hiroshima.  Oooooh, got the dirtiest look from this tiny old lady (not that it was unexpected), but it was totally worth it.  That place, aside from being a fantastic city choc full of cool stuff (including the coolest arcade ever!) but the Peace Park still haunts me.  It was cool.

@Pyron:
I did not know that.  I wore my hair in a bun or a braid the whole time and most of the time, so did my blonde friend.  This just happened to be one of those rare occassions when she didn't.  Now we know better for next time. ^,^
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Daimyo

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Re: How are Foreigners Treated in Japan?
« Reply #15 on: April 29, 2011, 07:28:21 PM »

Yeah, the train thing is totally true.... If you have personal space issues, avoid rush hour.  If not, do it once.  It will give you funny stories for later.
LOL!!  It would depend on who is around me if I cared or not ;) haha! jp :P

Quote
Venture south, though, seriously.  Suck up the dirty looks and curt clerks.  Tourists generally avoid places in which they don't feel welcome and you might see a few things you didn't expect.  I asked for trouble.  I'm a history teacher so I went to Hiroshima.  Oooooh, got the dirtiest look from this tiny old lady (not that it was unexpected), but it was totally worth it.  That place, aside from being a fantastic city choc full of cool stuff (including the coolest arcade ever!) but the Peace Park still haunts me.  It was cool.

Interesting suggestion!  I'll most likely be with my brother when I go to Japan, so it would probably not feel as bad being with company (especially if I get the chance to be with a group).  If the worst happens to be mostly dirty looks it may not come out as bad as my imagination makes it out to be.  The arcade definitely sounds appealing, and what happened in the Peace Park? (if you don't mind sharing, again)
« Last Edit: April 30, 2011, 10:50:17 PM by Daimyo »
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boots01

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Re: How are Foreigners Treated in Japan?
« Reply #16 on: May 09, 2011, 11:40:37 PM »

when i went a few years ago, i didn't have any problems except for maybe one comment at an onsen i stayed at one night - and even that was incredibly minor and not from the staff but another guest.  everywhere i went, i was treated with, if not warmth, at least courtesy.  thinking back, i suppose some of the people i dealt with might have been less than enthused to see a gaijin come into their establishments, but they treated us well anyway.  i know it always surprised them when i would at least make an effort to communicate in even basic jp and they seemed to appreciate it.  they will treat you differently though if you're a foreigner living in japan vs. a tourist though and they can tell.  a lot of the xenophobia comes across to those who are deemed to not be tourists.  they treat non-tourists with far less courtesy, they are more insulting (even if it is veiled in politeness), etc.  i would actually recommend talking to gilles poitras at the convention (or attend his panel at least) because he can give you some really good insights into how the locals treat foreigners in japan.

on the train thing, i was lucky and never hit rush hour when we were traveling.  i would highly recommend picking up a jr pass before you go though - it'll save you a lot of time in the train stations because you wont have to worry about tickets on any of the local trains.  it also allows you to ride the shinkansen (bullet train) for free.

i agree with the venture south suggestion.  kyoto was an awesome place to visit and i didn't get enough of it when i went.  it's beautiful and full of historical significance.  one place i also regret not making it to was osaka - amazing food from everything i've heard.  if you feel like taking a little side trip, heading out to nara is worth the trip - especially if you're there for the beginning of spring festival (early february) and so is himeji (the largest wooden samurai castle is there).  tokyo has a number of areas which are really worth checking out like akihabara (otaku capitol), asakusa (giant gray? market), harajuku (go on a sunday for cosplayers), and of course ginza and other fun sites but because it is so metropolitan, it loses some of the charm you'll find in the smaller cities.

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PyronIkari

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Re: How are Foreigners Treated in Japan?
« Reply #17 on: May 10, 2011, 08:45:50 AM »

on the train thing, i was lucky and never hit rush hour when we were traveling.  i would highly recommend picking up a jr pass before you go though - it'll save you a lot of time in the train stations because you wont have to worry about tickets on any of the local trains.  it also allows you to ride the shinkansen (bullet train) for free.

A JR pass is only worth it if you're taking the Shinkansen and staying somewhere not in Tokyo. Most of Tokyo doesn't use JR, so it'd be kind of worthless. Odakyu, Oedo, etc. etc. etc. is what you'll be taking around Tokyo which aren't part of JR. If you go to Kyoto or Hokkaido (basically if you take a trip to the Northern or Southern areas)then the JR pass is worth it. Buying a ticket to Kyoto is about the same price as getting a week JR pass.

Oh, I should explain. A JR Pass is basically an unlimited use train pass on the JR Lines. This pass is ONLY available to foreigners and you must buy it in advance before coming to Japan. You local travel agency or what not will have information on this.
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Daimyo

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Re: How are Foreigners Treated in Japan?
« Reply #18 on: May 12, 2011, 07:45:46 PM »

i would actually recommend talking to gilles poitras at the convention (or attend his panel at least) because he can give you some really good insights into how the locals treat foreigners in japan.

Cool, didn't know they had panels like that, I'll definitely try and make it.

Quote
i would highly recommend picking up a jr pass before you go though - it'll save you a lot of time in the train stations because you wont have to worry about tickets on any of the local trains.  it also allows you to ride the shinkansen (bullet train) for free.

Good point, I can't go to Japan without going on the bullet train at least once! XD

Quote
i agree with the venture south suggestion.  kyoto was an awesome place to visit and i didn't get enough of it when i went.  it's beautiful and full of historical significance.  one place i also regret not making it to was osaka - amazing food from everything i've heard.  if you feel like taking a little side trip, heading out to nara is worth the trip - especially if you're there for the beginning of spring festival (early february) and so is himeji (the largest wooden samurai castle is there).  tokyo has a number of areas which are really worth checking out like akihabara (otaku capitol), asakusa (giant gray? market), harajuku (go on a sunday for cosplayers), and of course ginza and other fun sites but because it is so metropolitan, it loses some of the charm you'll find in the smaller cities.

I don't know how well I'll be able to time my arrival, but I'll keep early February in mind anyways.  I've heard about Harajuku but almost forgot about it, great suggestions!

Thanks for sharing your experience and knowledge! :D

A JR pass is only worth it if you're taking the Shinkansen and staying somewhere not in Tokyo. Most of Tokyo doesn't use JR, so it'd be kind of worthless. Odakyu, Oedo, etc. etc. etc. is what you'll be taking around Tokyo which aren't part of JR. If you go to Kyoto or Hokkaido (basically if you take a trip to the Northern or Southern areas)then the JR pass is worth it. Buying a ticket to Kyoto is about the same price as getting a week JR pass.

Oh, I should explain. A JR Pass is basically an unlimited use train pass on the JR Lines. This pass is ONLY available to foreigners and you must buy it in advance before coming to Japan. You local travel agency or what not will have information on this.

Sounds like I may be venturing South a bit then, thanks for the valuable info!
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Inuashley

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Re: How are Foreigners Treated in Japan?
« Reply #19 on: May 13, 2011, 11:16:26 PM »

You're definitely correct on your first point, a JR pass is only worth it if you plan on taking the Shinkansen more than once (which I personally did), but it's definitely incorrect to say that it's worthless in Tokyo. I personally used it several times a day on the Yamanote line and Chuo line in Tokyo. The only time I didn't use the JR pass for my two weeks in Japan was when I took the Keio line once to an outlying area, and when I used my Odakyu free pass in Hakone. Otherwise, if you're in central Tokyo, I see no reason why you couldn't almost exclusively use your JR pass.




on the train thing, i was lucky and never hit rush hour when we were traveling.  i would highly recommend picking up a jr pass before you go though - it'll save you a lot of time in the train stations because you wont have to worry about tickets on any of the local trains.  it also allows you to ride the shinkansen (bullet train) for free.

A JR pass is only worth it if you're taking the Shinkansen and staying somewhere not in Tokyo. Most of Tokyo doesn't use JR, so it'd be kind of worthless. Odakyu, Oedo, etc. etc. etc. is what you'll be taking around Tokyo which aren't part of JR. If you go to Kyoto or Hokkaido (basically if you take a trip to the Northern or Southern areas)then the JR pass is worth it. Buying a ticket to Kyoto is about the same price as getting a week JR pass.

Oh, I should explain. A JR Pass is basically an unlimited use train pass on the JR Lines. This pass is ONLY available to foreigners and you must buy it in advance before coming to Japan. You local travel agency or what not will have information on this.
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