Travel in Japan

Travel to/from Houston
Travel to/from Japan
Transportation in Tokyo During Orientation
Travel to/from Research Host Lab
Baggage Delivery Service in Japan
Daily Commuting to/from Research Host Lab
Travel to/from Kyoto for the Mid-Program Meeting
Independent Sight-seeing: General Travel Resources for Japan
Independent Sight-seeing: Accommodation in Japan
Independent Sight-seeing: Discount Rail Passes for Foreigners
Independent Sight-seeing: Religion and Temples & Shrines in Japan
Independent Sight-seeing: City and Regional Travel Information
Independent Sight-seeing: Final Weekend in Japan

Travel to/from Houston

The Nakatani RIES Fellowship will arrange and pay for domestic airfare to/from Houston for all students who do not live in the Houston-area. Travel must be made from within the U.S., we will not reimburse or pay for travel to/from Houston from an international location.

Airfare is typically purchased as a round-trip ticket from your home university however if your permanent address in the U.S. is different from your university address we may be able to purchase a multi-city ticket provided this is not substantially more expensive than the cost of the round-trip would have been. For example, if you attend the University of Texas, Austin but your home is in Washington, DC you may be able to request a flight from Austin to Houston at the start of the program and from Houston to Washington, DC at the end of the program.

More information on arranging domestic airfare will be provided to selected participants in late spring. Students will individually pay for all baggage and other airline fees.  Students will also be responsible for paying for taxi/shuttle transportation from the airport to Rice at the start of the summer and from the hotel to your departure airport at the end of the summer.

Return to Top

Travel to/from Japan

The Nakatani RIES Fellowship will arrange and pay for round-trip international airfare between Houston and Tokyo, Japan for all participants.   Shuttle transportation will be provided for international flight departure and arrival.  More information on the international flight will be provided to participants in late spring.

Return to Top

Transportation in Tokyo During Orientation

During the three-week orientation program in Tokyo, students will walk to/from their morning language classes and the afternoon seminars which will be held at the program hotel.  Otherwise, students will use the Tokyo Subway as their primarily means of transportation while in Tokyo. Students will use their meal/living stipend to pay for all Tokyo subway/metro transportation during the three-week orientation.

There is a Tokyo Metro stop, Azabu-Juban on the Namboku Line, which is just a five minute walk from the hotel making this very convenient.  Though it may seem overwhelming at first, the public transportation system in Japan is one thing that alumni say they miss the most and by the end of the orientation you’ll be successfully able to use it to get around in your free time.

Students must purchase a pre-paid Suica or Passmo card to use for travel while in Tokyo.  You can load funds on this card using cash or credit card (at some kiosks) and then you simply swipe your card when you enter and leave a station and it deducts the appropriate amount.  These cards are quite useful as they can be used in other cities in Japan too, making it easy to continue to use your Suica or Passmo during the research internship period. Do not try to just purchase tickets one-by-one while you are in Tokyo.  It will take a very long time, you will have to stare up at a fare map and block the ticket lines to figure out just how much to pay, and for group excursions during the orientation program this will may everyone late.  Get a Suica or Passmo and make sure you always have money pre-loaded on your card prior to any group outing or event.

JapanGuide.com has a helpful section on Access & Transportation in Tokyo that may be helpful for you to review.

Access and Transportation

However, be aware that the subway system does close. It opens at about 5 a.m. in most stations and the last train typically departs at midnight.  Its best to make it back well before the last train or you may end up having to take a very expensive cab ride home as Tokyo is a huge city?  How huge?  Just check out the website below for some comparisons to other major cities in the U.S. So, if you take the last train from station A at midnight but you have a connection to a different train at station B after that, you will be out of luck.  You’ll have to take a taxi back from station B to the hotel and may end up with a very large bill that must be paid in cash as taxis in Japan do not typically accept credit cards.

16 Maps Of Tokyo That’ll Make Your City Seem Insignificant

Tokyo City Guide

About the city of Tokyo, Japan.

88 things to do in Tokyo

For more on the development and funding of public transportation in Japan see:

 

 

Return to Top

Travel to/from Research Host Lab

At the end of the three-week orientation, all students will travel individually to their research host city to begin their research internship experience.

Students in the Tokyo area (including Chiba) will use the subway/train system to travel to the station closest to their housing and will pay for this individually using their meal/living stipend.

For students outside of the Tokyo area, including students in Osaka, Nagoya, Nagano, and Sendai, the Nakatani Foundation will purchase Shinkansen (bullet train) tickets for your travel to/from your research host city.  You will pay individually for transportation via subway to your the Shinkansen departure station in Tokyo and from your arrival station in your host city to the subway station closest to your housing.

Shinkansen

Return to Top

Baggage Delivery Service in Japan

In addition to the robust and efficient public transportation and train network in Japan, another thing that makes traveling so easy is takuhaibin or the baggage delivery services. From any airport, hotel, and most convenience stores you can easily ship your large suitcases and luggage to your arrival destination. This makes traveling on the subways and trains even easier as you only need to carry your smaller bags through the crowded train terminals. Its also important to know that though you will find elevators in most stations to/from the subway or train platforms they can be quite difficult to find, in an inconvenient location, or may simply not exist.

Just try picking up your large suitcase and carrying it (on your own) up and down a flight or two of stairs while you are also wearing a backpack with your laptop in it on your back. Unless you are a very light packer, it will probably not be the most pleasant experience. Now imagine doing that in a crowded train station with thousands of people around you when you aren’t sure exactly where to go. Subways and trains also have no or very, very limited storage space for bags or luggage. So your suitcase will take up the entire aisle and you’ll have to make sure it doesn’t roll into people on the train as well.

We strongly recommend that when traveling to/from your research host lab you ship your large luggage using the baggage delivery service. When leaving Tokyo you can pay for and ship luggage directly at the Sanuki Club Hotel front desk and will just need to confirm with your host lab what address it should be sent to. This is typically your housing or dormitory, but it may also be the research lab itself if your housing isn’t able to accept your luggage. When returning back to Tokyo at the end of the internship period, pay for and ship your bag from a nearby convenience store or your dormitory (if available) directly to the Sanuki Club Hotel. Even if you leave on Friday and don’t plan to arrive at Sanuki until Sunday, it is okay. They will hold it for you.

We’ll give you more information on using the baggage delivery service this summer, but if you are planning a trip to Japan definitely take advantage of this excellent service.

Takuhaibin Delivery Services

Return to Top

Daily Commuting to/from Research Host Lab

How you will get to/from your research lab during the internship period will vary by student based on the location of their housing and university. Most commonly, students will use the subway or bus networks in their host cities for daily transportation. In some cases, students may live close enough to the university to be able to ride a bike or walk. Students will use the meal and living stipend provided to pay for daily commuting costs and any amount over and above the stipend provided would need to be paid for by the individual student.

Transportation in Japan

Return to Top

Travel to/from Kyoto for the Mid-Program Meeting

The Mid-Program Meeting will be held in early July in Kyoto, Japan. For students outside of the Kyoto area, including students in Tokyo/Chiba, Nagoya, Nagano, and Sendai, the Nakatani Foundation will purchase Shinkansen (bullet train) tickets for your travel to/from Kyoto. Students will use their meal/living stipend for travel to/from the departure and arrival station in their host city and Kyoto.

Osaka Students: Students in Osaka will use their meal/living stipend funds to travel from Osaka to Kyoto via the JR Rapid Train service which is just 560 JPY one-way.

Travel While in Kyoto: While in Kyoto, students will use their meal/living stipend funds to pay for transportation via the subway or bus system for program activities and sight-seeing.

For more information see the Access and Transportation page for Kyoto.

Return to Top

Independent Sight-seeing: General Travel Resources for Japan

Students typically work in their research labs Monday – Friday and on the weekends they often travel to areas near their host city or meet up with other Nakatani RIES Fellows who are living and working in other cities. The extensive train network in Japan makes travel quite convenient but students must carefully budget their time and money. Students must use their own funds to pay for all independent sight-seeing and travel and must also ensure that their travel plans do not conflict with the time they need to be working in their research lab. Particularly towards the end of the summer, you may need to put in longer hours to complete your project and prepare your final poster and presentation.

If you travel independently on the weekend, you are responsible for making all of your own travel and lodging arrangements. You should notify your research host lab professor, mentor, or secretary of your travel plans including when you plan to leave and when you plan to return. This is so they know approximately where you will be in case of an emergency and its also a good idea as they may have tips for you on what to see, do, eat, or buy in the city or region where you will be visiting. You should always have your Japanese cell phone with you and fully charged so that you can use this in case of an emergency or be reached by your host lab or the Naktani RIES program if needed.

We don’t recommend traveling outside of your host city every weekend, as that would get very expensive and tiring very quickly, but most students do make 1 – 2 trips to other cities in Japan that they would like to visit. It may be helpful to speak with your alumni mentor for their suggestions. The JapanGuide.com website is also an invaluable resource that provides information, including detailed travel and access information, for cities and regions all throughout Japan.

There are also special discounts on rail passes for foreigners and tourists in Japan. If you want to purchase a full JR Rail Pass, keep in mind you must buy this before you leave the U.S. There are also a number of special regional passes, such as the JR East or Kansai area passes, that you can easily buy while in Japan. Plan out where you want to visit and then review the rail pass options and look up round-trip prices on Hyperdia.com to see if the full JR Rail Pass saves you money or not.

The resources below may be helpful to you in planning but remember, there is a lot to see and do in your host city as well! Don’t forget to enjoy spending time living in your city in Japan and just spending time with your lab mates on the weekends too. Oftentimes, there are day trips that could be fun to invite your lab mates to join you on and these are typically less expensive too.

Japan Sightseeing Guide

Japan Budget Travel Guide – how to save money on a trip to Japan

Return to Top

Independent Sight-seeing: Accommodation in Japan

When traveling independently on the weekends you will need to make your own accommodation/lodging arrangements and pay for these individually. See the websites below for more information on accommodations options.

Accommodation

10 Cheap Accommodation Options in Japan

Japanese Business Hotels: The Frugal Alternative Used by Locals

Hostels in Japan

Meet the Unlikely Airbnb Hosts of Japan

Return to Top

Independent Sight-seeing: Discount Rail Passes for Foreigners

There are a wide array of discount rail passes that are available to foreigners in Japan. Rail passes are typically valid for a duration of time, say 7 or 14 consecutive days, and allow unlimited Shinkansen or JR train/subway line travel during the designated period for the region/area the pass covers. If you plan carefully, you can schedule your weekend sight-seeing trips to other cities for two consecutive weekends to get the most ‘bang for your buck’ from the pass. However, you should use as website like Hyperdia.com to check what the cost would be to purchase round-trip Shinkansen tickets to/from the city/ies you wish to visit and compare this with the cost of the rail pass.

It is important to know which city/ies you want to visit to decide which pass to purchase. For example, if you are in Tokyo and want to visit Nagano one weekend and Sendai the next weekend then you should purchase the JR East Pass. But if your host city is in Tokyo and you want to travel outside of the JR East area, for example to Hiroshima or even Hokkaido, then you would need to purchase the Full JR Pass that covers the entire country. The full JR Pass that covers the entire country must purchased prior to your departure for Japan and the exchange order for your pass can only be mailed to an address outside of Japan. Most regional passes can be purchased from within Japan.

For more on types of passes, duration, region/area of use, and prices see the websites below.

Rail Passes

Transportation in Japan

Shinkansen

HyperDia | Japan Train, Plan, and Bus Route and Timetable Search

This is a great resource to look up all travel option routes, times, and prices between two locations in Japan. You need to know your departure station/city and your arrival station/city and Hyperdia.com will give you a detailed results list of all possible travel options.

Return to Top

Independent Sight-seeing: Religion and Temples & Shrines in Japan

Shinto and Buddhism are Japan’s two major religions. Shinto is as old as the Japanese culture, while Buddhism was imported from the mainland in the 6th century. Since then, the two religions have been co-existing relatively harmoniously and have even complemented each other to a certain degree. Most Japanese consider themselves Buddhist, Shintoist or both. Religion does not play a big role in the everyday life of most Japanese people today. The average person typically follows the religious rituals at ceremonies like birth, weddings and funerals, may visit a shrine or temple on New Year and participates at local festivals (matsuri), most of which have a religious background.

There are two easy ways to tell Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples apart. Firstly, shrines have a simple gate, called a torii, that separates the human world and sacred ground, while the gates of a temple, called a sanmon, look more like a large house rather than a gate. Secondly, temples almost always have Buddhist images and statues, while shrines do not. Thus, to sum up the differences in a single sentence, gods reside in shrines, while Buddhas reside in temples.

Religion in Japan

Japan: The Most Religious Atheist Country

Etiquette at Shrines and Temples – Japan Travel – Tourism Guide, Japan Map and Trip Planner

Visiting a temple or shrine in Japan

Shrines and temples

Shrines and temples for budget travellers in Japan – Super Cheap Japan

Return to Top

Independent Sight-seeing: City and Regional Travel Information

Chiba Prefecture Guide

Chiba City is just outside of Tokyo, so it is easy to go back into the city on weekends too. Chiba City is still considered in the Tokyo-area.

Chubu Region Travel Guide

Chugoku Region Travel Guide

Hakone Travel Guide

Hiroshima Travel Guide

Hokkaido Travel Guide

Kamakura Travel Guide

Kansai Region Travel Guide – Kinki Region Travel Guide

Kanto Region Travel Guide

Kobe Travel Guide

Kyoto

Kyushu Travel Guide

Nagano Travel Guide

Nagoya

Nara Travel Guide

Okinawa Travel Guide

Osaka

Sendai Travel Guide

Shikoku Travel Guide

Tohoku Travel Guide

Tokyo City Guide

About the city of Tokyo, Japan.

Yokohama City Guide

Return to Top

Independent Sight-seeing: Final Weekend in Japan

Typically, the last day in the research lab will be a Friday and students will then have their final weekend free for travel back to Tokyo.  Oftentimes, a host lab will have a going away party or farewell dinner for you either on Friday evening or Saturday, so before making any travel plans for your last weekend in Japan be sure you ask your graduate student mentor or lab secretary if it is okay if you leave Friday night or if it would be better to stay and leave Saturday morning.

Throughout the 10 years of the NanoJapan: IREU Program (2006 – 2015) it became a tradition that students would meet up and hike Mt. Fuji their last weekend in Japan.  This is a student-led and organized activity and is optional.  Each year a group of students would chose to hike, others would choose to stay in their host city that weekend to spend more time with their lab mates, and others would plan a last trip or visit to another location in Japan. They key, is that you must be back to Tokyo by the designated time on Sunday evening.

For those who want to hike Mt. Fuji, you will need to have a group organizer and students would typically meet up at a designated location on Saturday afternoon and then hike through the night to reach the peak of Mt. Fuji as the sun rises on Sunday. They then hiked down Mt. Fuji Sunday morning and took the bus or train into Tokyo.

This means it will be dark and cold (very cold!) while you are hiking at night so you should prepare accordingly.  This is also a strenuous, long hike up a mountain (in the dark and cold) so carefully consider whether you are physically capable of this endeavor.  This is only one of many ways that you can spend  your last weekend in Japan.

Mount Fuji

A guide for climbing Mt. Fuji and enjoying Mother Nature

Official Web Site for Mt. Fuji Climbing

How not to climb Mount Fuji | The Japan Times

Return to Top

Print Friendly