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Old 03-02-2014, 07:22 PM
 
Location: Melbourne, Australia
9,781 posts, read 16,248,336 times
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This is a question I asked about Hokkaido in another forum:

I am planning to go to Hokkaido for 5 nights as part of a 16 night trip to Japan in October, and have a few questions.

I know Hokkaido is quite a large island and 5 nights isn't long, but I'm wondering what are the must-see places iyo. FYI I'll be also going to Kyoto and Tokyo in Honshu, to give an idea of what I'll already see. I will take the shinkansen from Tokyo to Sapporo...how long would you give Sapporo? I'm thinking maybe one full day? I want to go to Daisetsu NP in central Hokkaido for hiking, nature and to see the autumn colours. Is October a good time? I know it'll already be getting cold there, is snow likely? I think i might have time to go to somewhere else in Hokkaido, what are the most beautiful coastal areas iyo? Is the Wakkanai area worth seeing? I also definitely want to experience/learn about Ainu culture, even if it's in a 'cultural village' type setting, which places do you recommend?

Also I heard renting a car for rural Hokkaido is a good idea, but I'm a solo traveller, what do you think? Is it worth it to rent a car for at least 2-3 days to explore the countryside of Hokkaido? I'm Australian, 28, and have an automatic Western Australian driver's license, will that be sufficient? Any companies you could recommend? Or would you recommend taking trains/buses? What about day-tours? First trip to Japan so I'm fairly clueless about all of this.

Also, what is the likelihood of seeing wild brown bears? I'd like to see some (maybe not too close though), what are the best places to see them?

Thanks a lot, always had a fascination for Hokkaido for some reason, hope to explore this mysterious isle!

Did some more research, think I will rent a car in Hakodate check it out for a day, maybe spend a day in Sapporo before driving to Daitsetsu and Shiretoko national park. Does this sound good for 5-6 days? Is it easy to find ride-share/people to split the cost in Japan like it is in Australia? Are there a lot of hostels or cheap lodges/camping grounds in the national parks around Japan, or would you recommend staying in nearby towns? Would it be worth doing the drive up to Wakkanai? Partly just to see the far north of Japan.

How much would be a reasonable amount of money to pay for car hire in Japan and are automatics easily available?



Just wondering if anyone here, maybe eskercurve or tiger beer, is familiar with Hokkaido, or renting a car/visiting national parks in Japan in general...
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Old 03-02-2014, 11:13 PM
 
Location: US Empire, Pac NW
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Hakodate is a beautiful city with lots of interesting history and architecture That is a good choice!

Now, here is a map with the 2013 foliage changes per region. Looks like the north of Japan will be on the wane and Tokyo area will be changing in late October.

If you had time, I'd check out some Ainu villages. Little known fact is most Japanese people aren't native. Korean and Chinese tribes invaded Japan and settled from the 5th century BC. From that point on, the native Ainu and other tribes were pushed to the periphery. Now only Ainu villages are in the extreme north of Hokkaido. In fact, European explorers who first saw them in the 16th century thought that they were a long lost tribe of Europeans who got shipwrecked! They have more body hair and generally more stout than the normal population. Now we know through genetics that's not true, but still pretty cool history.

Autumn leaves in Japan: When do trees turn colors?

Renting a car .... not so much. Cars are very very expensive in Japan. One thing you may want to know is that driving in Hokkaido is going to be a pain in the butt in late October / early November as you have to remember that Hokkaido is like the Alaska of Japan. The snows come early and HEAVY. If you aren't experienced driving in conditions that can dump a meter of snow in 24 hours, I highly recommend against driving in Hokkaido. You will find many many tour companies who have buses who go to remote villages, and generally bus and rail access is excellent compared to other countries.

Even if the weather is nice, unless you plan on going to really remote villages and places like that, there's really no reason to rent a car in Japan. Here's an example.

Say you rent a subcompact car in Japan. That's $50 / day. Compacts run $75 and regular cars $100 / day. Gas runs $1.10 / liter (or about $4.40 / gallon). Parking is absurdly expensive, think around $70 / day in parking. At least. The hotel will probably charge that. So thinking you will drive a fair bit to go to some really amazing places, you will spend probably around $150 / day for a rental car.

Let's not forget that you need an international driver's license and people drive on the LEFT in Japan.

So unless you're willing to spend $150 / day, drive on the LEFT, and suffer through the disorienting alpine conditions of Japan, on top of the $100 / day budget you have, ... here's what I'd recommend you read first.

Car Rental in Japan


That website is very helpful and I would recommend you take a look at it for some good recommendations and whatnot.

One question that I haven't seen is, "How much Japanese do I need to know?" At least be conversational at the dangerous baby level. Many restaurants have pictures and helpful waiters and whatnot. Just be careful going to the smaller places with old men (always old men) tending them, they won't want to serve you if you don't speak Japanese and can't read Japanese numerals (have to remember that Japan was isolated till the mid 1800s and so weren't exposed to the Islamic numeral system the whole world uses now, and traditional holdouts still are quite common).

Spend the money for six months of Rosetta Stone online or study your buns off. You can do it I did.

Other tips: Convert all the cash you want to spend at the airport at Osaka, assuming the bank tellers are open (bankers hours, usually from 9-3 or something like that). Don't use Travelex they will rip you off. Use traveler's cheques, they get a better exchange rate. Don't worry about pickpockets ... just keep the money safe on your person at all times in an inner pocket or something. Japan is a very, very safe country with little to no crime.

You will gt the best exchange rate with the Japanese banks, bar none. Do use them and only use ATMs or exchange in your home country ONLY if the exchange rate is very good. It's been my experience that the Japanese banks save you hundreds, literally, in exchanges, when you have thousands as a budget.

You will likely be able to use 7-eleven money stations to withdraw money but you will be hit with 1-5% surcharges in exchange fees. It's really only if you're desperate. And, remember that while credit cards are catching on in Japan, it is still very much a cash society outside the tourist zones in Tokyo. Your credit card will likely not be accepted, especially in small stores.

Good luck!

Last edited by eskercurve; 03-02-2014 at 11:23 PM..
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Old 03-03-2014, 02:48 AM
 
Location: Melbourne, Australia
9,781 posts, read 16,248,336 times
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I will be in Hokkaido in mid October, so you think that might be a bit late? Maybe higher parts of Honshu might have more at that time of year?

Yes, although the Yayoi came from the mainland Japan's population had many sources, include Siberians, and Jomon/Ainu which are basically synonymous. I am interested in Ainu culture and checking out what is left of it.

Yes maybe I won't rent a car, it's a bit expensive. Driving on the left would be actually better for me because I'm from Australia.

I am planning to brush up on my Japanese ('learned' in school but never picked up much of it), to at least speak it basically. I have some Japanese friends in Japan as well. I learned the numerals and basic katakana/hiragana but it's all forgotten. Now all I remember is a few basic phrases and words.

Also heard there is a lack of ATM's in Japan, will that be a problem? But most 7-11's are open 24/7 though...wonder if the lack of ATM/lack of English will be even more of a problem in Hokkaido since less foreign tourists go there?
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Old 03-03-2014, 03:03 AM
 
Location: Florida (SW)
39,326 posts, read 18,825,873 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Postman View Post

Also heard there is a lack of ATM's in Japan, will that be a problem? But most 7-11's are open 24/7 though...wonder if the lack of ATM/lack of English will be even more of a problem in Hokkaido since less foreign tourists go there?
We found that every post office in Japan has an ATM machine and you can access your home accounts and the ATM gives the best available rate of exchange. We didn't carry cash or travelers checks at all....very convenient and available.
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Old 03-03-2014, 08:50 AM
 
Location: US Empire, Pac NW
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I think that the lack of english would be no problem because the once i used an ATM in Japan I had English menus. Though that would be a moot point if you exchange at the airport ,no?

The post office is another idea.

At any rate, don't worry about carrying $3000 in cash in Japan. I do similar levels when I travel and I am always safe carrying the day's cash and keeping the rest in a hotel safe. They are quite common.
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Old 03-06-2014, 06:19 AM
 
Location: Mount of Showing the Way
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Why did you come to Japan? 140106 - YouTube
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Old 04-10-2014, 08:51 PM
JL
 
7,352 posts, read 11,885,191 times
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Postman,

This guy recommends Tenmatsu restaurant in Tokyo...very decently price(12 USD)...check out his samplings of tempura...the way he eats already has me salivating...lol. You should try the restaurant if you're there. Let us know if it is good as advertised...lol.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwY4fWJMSLc
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Old 04-10-2014, 10:54 PM
 
Location: Melbourne, Australia
9,781 posts, read 16,248,336 times
Reputation: 2833
Quote:
Originally Posted by JL View Post
Postman,

This guy recommends Tenmatsu restaurant in Tokyo...very decently price(12 USD)...check out his samplings of tempura...the way he eats already has me salivating...lol. You should try the restaurant if you're there. Let us know if it is good as advertised...lol.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwY4fWJMSLc
Thanks, I'll try to remember to!
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