Hyperdia – your one-stop-shop for planning transport across Japan. Planes, trains (Shinkansen and local), buses, trams, they’re all there and they are all accurate! We would have been lost without it.
For those with an Android device, there is also Hyperdia Lite, which is a free stripped down version of the Hyperdia website, but gives you the most important bits for when you’re on the move.
I noticed there is also an iPad app called Hyperdia by Voice available for a free trial, but it will then cost you for either a 1-month or 12-month English language licence. I didn’t use this app so unfortunately I can’t comment on its worth.
Japan Guide – the most awesome website that we came across for exploring the various regions, cities and attractions of Japan. There is also a forum where numerous answers are provided to the various questions posed by fellow travellers.
Trip Advisor – normally our ‘go to’ website for holiday planning. However, for Japan we found the Japan Guide website to be more useful, predominantly due to the website being written in English, whereas most Trip Advisor reviews are in Japanese.
Japanese Guest Houses – we didn’t use this group, but if you are nervous about booking your own accommodation then these guys are very helpful in sorting it all out for you at no cost. However, we did find that the room rates they offered were a little higher than what we were able to source online ourselves.
Lonely Planet ‘Hiking in Japan’ – a great little reference book detailing 69 hikes spread throughout Japan, ranging from the short, to the very, very long! It obviously can’t cover them all, but most popular hiking regions are covered adequately.
Northern Road Navi – written specifically for driving a car in Hokkaido, there is still a lot of information in here regarding road travel that is equally applicable to the other regions of Japan.
ToCoo! – a great website for finding the best deal on car rental in Japan.
The Keisei rail website, with instructions on where to buy tickets, ticket prices, and a railway network map.
Some discussion regarding the rail transit from Narita to Asakusa Station.
Hiking options around the base of Mt Fuji.
Trains are relatively frequent to Kamakura from Tokyo. If you have a JR Railpass all you need to do is get to one of the stations on the JR Yokosuka line such as Shimbashi or Shinagawa. As we were staying in Asakusa we walked across to Ueno station and then took the JR Yamanote line to Shinagawa and transferred through. From Shinagawa or Shimbashi you’re looking at just under an hour to Kamakura, while from Ueno it’s another 20-30 mins.
Nikko / Yumoto Onsen
The Japan National Tourism Organisation has a very useful pamphlet outlining the various transport options in the Nikko region, including ticket types, prices, bus stop information and travel time between stops.
If you’re interested in visiting the famous Ryuzu Waterfall or in completing the Senjogahara Plateau hike then you will need to take the Tobu bus from Nikko to the Ryuzu-no-taki bus stop. A bus timetable can be found on the Japan National Tourism Organisation website. There are a number of train, train/bus, and bus-only multi-day tickets offered by the Tobu railway company.
If you are interested in visiting the temples in Nikko then one of these passes will suit you well.
Alternatively, like us, if you are only interested in hiking and you have a JR Railpass, then you will be better off just getting the 2-day bus pass from either the JR or Tobu railways stations in Nikko for Y3,000. This will give you unlimited bus usage to and from Yumoto Onsen over a two day period. Please note that when we were there (Sept. 2012) you COULD NOT buy this bus-only pass from Asakusa Station in Tokyo.
Asahikawa / Sounkyo
The Dohoku bus company have a pamphlet outlining the prices and schedules of their buses between Asahikawa, Kamikawa and Sounkyo.
Getting to Asahikawa is easy from Sapporo, just take the train!
Getting to Sounkyo is not difficult, but the options are limited. Most people will be coming from Sapporo, meaning that you will probably be stopping at Asahikawa on the way. We took the train from Asahikawa through to Kamikawa using Hyperdia to work out the timetables. We then transferred onto the Dohoku bus (at the bus station right next to the Kamikawa train station) and took the bus all the way to Sounkyo (Y800pp one way, you can buy the ticket on the bus). This bus does also travel to Asahikawa (Y1,950pp one way), but it takes longer than the train, the train travels more frequently (you just need to make sure you don’t miss your connection at Kamikawa!), and you can also use your JR Railpass for this leg of the journey.
Accommodation in Sounkyo is expensive!! The cheapest option is probably the Youth Hostel at just under AU$100 per night, whereas you can easily spend up to AU$500 if you really wanted to. The average is around AU$200. I guess this is a result of the village being so far from everything and having a captive market. Personally, I think the rewards you get from the hiking in the region outweigh the cost, but be aware that it is steep (both the hikes and the expense)! We ended up staying at the Kanko Hotel. I have a review on Trip Advisor summarising our experience at the hotel.
The YakuMonkey website gives you fantastic information about everything you could ever want to know about Yakushima Island. Information regarding access to Yakushima Island from Kagoshima and other cities in Japan can be found on this page. The curator of the website also has a book that you can buy. While not essential, it provides more information than is provided on the website and was extremely handy during our time on the island, particularly for hiking.
Access and other information regarding Yakusugiland and Shiratani-Unsuikyo.
The Ishigaki-Japan website gives you everything you need to know about Ishigaki Island, including transport options, beaches, tours and sightseeing opportunities. Thoroughly recommended!