The Joetsu goodo Travel Guide

A view of Japan (and beyond) from southern Joetsu, Niigata...

A travel guide put together for newbie Joetsu gaijin in 1995-7

by Nicholas Klar - author of 'My Mother is a Tractor'

and Welcome to Shin'etsu! (The unofficial English guide)

This guide is provided as a free community service. The original guide (Part A) was done by Jason Kaye as a hard copy only and is not available online. Part B (done on cold winter nights and lazy inbetween lesson times) is my expanded contribution as follows. Take note that it is now more than nine years old, so some information will be outdated and some will be just plain wrong. Any current residents wanting to help update or expand, or just to say it proved useful in some way, please contact me...

Many thanks to the following contributors:

Jason Kaye, Janice Lee, Yohei Kitamura

cheap accommodation for Myoko Kogen, Niigata and Naganocheap myoko kogen hotels , accommodation and places to stay

Staying longer? Useful links for living and travelling in Niigata and Joetsu can be found by clicking here 

See the bottom of the page for some other excellent travel links including the highly recommended Japan Travel Guide from Randy J.

Travelling in Japan - Hint number one:

One of the things about being a gaijin is that most times nobody wants to sit next to you! Maybe when travelling it's good because you (nearly) always have lots of space and privacy.

Travelling in Japan - Hint number two:

If you're coming in on a short stay make sure to pick yourself up a Japan Rail Pass before you come. Excellent value! Remember (unlike at least two lots of my friends) you don't have to book a seat. Just jump into a non-reserved carriage and wave your pass when the conductor comes around. Use this link to help you look up shinkansen time tables or here for other train times.

Local Buses

Get on the bus at the rear, collect a ticket as you get in. Get off at the front. Easy! Pay the driver with exact change. The amount is shown on a display near the driver. Most buses throughout Japan have this system. Look at the ticket for a number. If there is no number look at the fare schedule display for latest stop after you get on. You can get change at the machine by the driver. If unsure just watch what other people are doing. Don't use ¥1 or ¥5 coins.


In most towns you generally can't hail a taxi from the street, but must go to a taxi rank or book one on the phone. In the main part of Takada they will generally stop for you. Base rates start at around ¥600 depending on the time of day.


With a few exceptions the train service in Japan is great. Town trains (blue and white or orange and green - called futsu), stop at every station (eki). Buy your ticket at the departure station and give it to the attendant at your destination station. If you're not sure of the cost buy the cheapest fare, and it will be adjusted at the other end, or by the train conductor. Town trains are cheapest but stop every station. From Naoetsu you can go as far north as Nagaoka, as far south as Toyama, Kanazawa, or Fukui, north-east to Muikamachi and Echigo Yuzawa, and east to Myoko, Arai, and Nagano on a direct town train.

Limited Express trains (generally brown and white, or blue, orange and white - called tokkyu) usually stop only at major stations - Myoko, Arai, Naoetsu, Takada, Kashiwazaki and Itoigawa, but also stop occasionally at Omi, Kakizaki, and Nou. These trains can go as far as Osaka in the south, Aomori in the north, and overnight to Tokyo (Ueno) in the east. Occassionally there are semi-fast trains called kyuko. These are faster than futsu but slower than tokkyu. You only pay the same price as futsu - but I've yet to determine how to gauge if you're riding a kyuko! The overnight trains to/from Osaka and Ueno are kyuko.

There are always large schedule boards at eki, so once you know the kanji it's easy (not so easy when you're travelling around!). Hint - At large eki always check the board above the attendants booth that gives the time and platform. Occasionally times will change and they don't get around to updating the main schedule board straight away. When the conductor stands at the front of the carriage and makes an announcement it generally means that he is checking tickets. Try to make sure you sit in the non-reserved section if you don't have a reserved seat. Otherwise you'll cop a few hundred yen 'adjustment'. Reserved/Non-reserved are marked on the outside as such, and have a green (reserved) or blue (non-reserved) sign on the door inside. Generally the first or last car on a tokkyu is a non-reserved, non-smoking carriage.

You used to be able to get an English/Japanese train schedule from JTB for about ¥350. Look around any in big book stores to see if they are still available or ask a JTB rep if they come to your work/school. Remember that schedules can change every month so make sure to update it occassionally. To read the large JR books at the eki first look at the rail map in the front. Each line shows a page number. Go to that page and match up the kanji. Hard to do at first, but it gets easier. There should be copies of these kept at your school. I used to photocopy relevant pages, highlight them, and keep them in my bag.

Keep an eye out for discounted JR special fares (example: one day free kippu - anywhere on local trains in Niigata for ¥1,300 or two days ¥2,500). A good source for travel specials is the Niigata English Journal.

Cities - all times by local train from Naoetsu unless stated otherwise

Niigata -ken

Niigata - about 1 & 3/4 hours (by limited express)

Nagaoka - about 1 & 1/2 hours (local), or 45 minutes (express)

Itoigawa - about 40 minutes (local), or 30 minutes (express)

Echigo Yuzawa - about 1 & 1/2 hours (local), or 1 hour (express)


Toyama - about 2 hours (local), or 1 & 1/4 hours (by limited express)

Takaoka - about 2 & 1/2 hours (depending if you have to change in Toyama)


Karuizawa - about 2 hours (by limited express-change in Nagano)

Nagano - about 1 & 1/4 hours

Matsumoto - about 4 hours (via Itoigawa or Nagano)


Kanazawa - about 3 & 1/4 hours (depending if you have to change in Toyama)

Nagoya - about 5 & 1/2 hours (local to Toyama, Ltd Express thereon)

Tokyo - about 2 & 1/2 - 6 hours depending on trains - see below.

Getting to and from Tokyo/Narita Airport

There are several options.

TAXI: The most convenient is a new taxi service (as of early 2011) direct to Narita from Joetsu, Arai and Myoko. It's called "IM Taxi" and can be contacted on 0255-23-3188 or online. The cost is ¥11,000 and bookings must be made 3-4 days in advance. It can leave quite early in the morning though. Set that alarm (or just don't go to bed)!

TRAIN: The most expensive train is catching the tokkyu to Nagaoka or Nagano, then the shinkansen bullet train to Ueno (Tokyo). Another way is to catch an overnight tokkyu that goes to Ueno via Nagaoka and Naoetsu from Kanazawa, and a couple that return the same way. The tokkyu is cheaper than option one but about 2-3 hours slower depending on the train. Another is to take the Hokuhoku line from Naoetsu to Echigo Yuzawa via Tokomachi and Muikamachi. From there connect to a shinkansen. At present this is probably the best public transport option at reasonable cost, being only slightly more expensive than the tokkyu - but much faster.

BUS: Catch a bus from Joetsu City or Nagano (see Highway Bus section).

I'M IN TOKYO. WHAT NOW?!: To Narita the best option is the Keisei line. Follow the signs out of JR Ueno eki to Keisei Ueno eki. The Skyliner express is around ¥2000 and takes about 1 hour. The limited express takes about 80 minutes but is roughly half the price. Make sure you take a train that stops infrequently. If you get a 'local' it will take more than two hours. Make sure you get off at the right terminal. There are two terminals, so the one you get off at depends on the airline you are flying. At Narita there is a JR booking office if you want to check availability of trains ex-Ueno or book a seat

Getting to and from Osaka/Kansai Airport

This is a little more time consuming than going via Narita, but not too much. JR runs trains to Osaka very regularly from Naoetsu, Itoigawa or Toyama, then you can connect on the train from there. Overnight trains run from Nagano to Osaka, and there are also special trains from Osaka to Myoko (and vice-versa) during the ski season. The express from Osaka to Kansai is quicker, but only by about 20 minutes. The local train to Kansai costs around ¥1,200 You can book a ticket straight through from Joetsu or Itoigawa if you want.

There's also an overnight bus to Osaka from Toyama (and vice versa). It leaves Toyama eki at 11.00pm (arrives 5.00am), and Osaka at 10.10pm. The cost is around ¥5,200 (return ¥9,300) - but you need to pre-book through an agent like JTB. For the Toyama bus from Osaka you have to go to the Nankai bus terminal which is above Nankai Namba eki (not JR Osaka). The Nankai Rapi;t train (yes, that's how it's spelt) costs around ¥1,500 to/from Kansai. The cheaper 'express' train (which stops at every station!) is around half that. The first express train goes @ 5.24am arriving around 6.05am

Kansai International is a lot easier to negotiate your way around than Narita. Hint: If you want to avoid horrendous airport prices the cheapest eats are at Lawsons in the basement (which is not made obvious).

Highway Bus

The Highway Bus service is cheaper than JR, and quite often just as quick - but it's far less regular. Buses go from Itoigawa, Kakizaki and Joetsu to Niigata and Nagaoka, and you can also catch a bus to Osaka (from Niigata, Nagano and Toyama). There are a few daily buses to Tokyo (Ikebukero) via Takada, Naoetsu, Kakizaki and Kashiwazaki. This is cheapest way to Tokyo and not much slower than the train. It can be okay if you want to catch it overnight (leaves Takada at 10.30pm and arrives at 4.30am), and fly out in the morning. The Takada bus station is just up from the eki past Nakamachi-dori. Cost is around ¥5,200



There's a number that leave from Niigata. Ferries go to Sado Island from Naoetsu and Niigata-city. If you want to go to Kyushu the ferry is definitely the cheapest option and takes about 22 hours. There is also a ferry to Hokkaido.

Kyushu (return) - around ¥20,000

Sado Island (one way) - around ¥2,000 (bike ¥1,030 extra)



Rides up into the mountains around Joetsu are good therapy when the weather is nice, but you have to be reasonably fit. There are very picturesque rides to Ichiburi (3 - 4 hours) and Oyashirazu (2 - 3 hours) from Omi via the mountain road, but generally any road up will be a good ride (and often tough!). See here for the tales of some rides I have done. A day ride from/to Naoetsu/Itoigawa (about 50km) is also great - there is a bike track a lot of the way. You can generally con JR to let you put your bike on the train back, just plead ignorance. If you take the wheels off, strap it together, and carry it on there's generally not a hassle. However if you're going to do it a lot a bike bag is recommended. From Naoetsu you can also put your bike on the ferry to Sado Island (see below). The Japanese are not the best drivers and there are some crazy truckies - wear a helmet and be careful!


There is so much to see in this country you will never see it all. This is information on stuff I did. You can also check out my Tales of the Orient for more stories and pictures


Omi - Not a lot! The temple and park above Omi yochien is quite pretty with a good view of the town. There is also a natural history museum at Kirara Omi Hall. Apart from them the only other real attractions are the nearby mountains and beach where you can go fossicking for jade.

Oyashirazu - An old village with many older houses. Nice to walk around and just take it in. It has a pretty groovy beach during summer too with some happenin' beer stalls. Good for snorkelling or scuba. There is a nice youth hostel nearby, and camping sites up in the mountains complete with Indian tepees!

Ichiburi - This is a quaint little fishing village with still many signs of old Japan. Down by the harbour you will often find old fisherfolk sorting their catch, and mending their nets.

Itoigawa - Miyama Park is nice, and there's a great view from the gas tower. Also up near there is Fossa Magna museum which is pretty interesting. Parts of Shio no michi (The Salt Road) are good to see bit it's not very well defined and hard to follow. Maps in Japanese are available. Fudodaki waterfall (about 8km from the Himegawa Bridge - easily accessible by bike) is very pretty, especially in spring or autumn. The surrounding reserve is a nice picnic area. Hisui Gorge is quite scenic but only really accessible by car.

Nou - A pretty little fishing village. Nothing really 'to do' but going inland on your bike is a nice ride with lots of scenery, and an onsen and snow museum at the end. There's a great Italian restaurant on Route 8.

Nadachi - A bit before Naoetsu, there is a bobsled run and some nice views on top of a mountain with a windmill. By bike it's about an hour from Naoetsu, or about a 1/2 hour walk from the eki.

Joetsu - There is some good stuff here, such as Takada Park (especially nice when the cherry blossoms are out), Joetsu Aquarium, Kasugayama Castle, etc., There are shopping and amusement arcades on Higashi-dori and Honcho-dori, along with bowling, movies, and some good bars (which most English teachers become very familiar with - especially 'Memory' and 'Funai') on Nakamachi-dori. Click here for the latest social information. Great shopping at Jusco and Wing Market - catch the Number 6 bus from Naoetsu or Takada.

Sado Island - This is the jewel of Niigata, with lots of temples and historic sites. Take two or three other people and book a rental car, or else ride your bike - you'll see a lot more. Just make it back the ferry on time. I missed the last one on a Sunday night once, and had to sleep in the terminal building overnight! In August the 'Earth Festival' is held in Ogi, and a blues/reggae festival at Donden around the same time. They are always well worth going over for.

Myokokogen - Lots of great skiing here during winter and onsen all year round. Nearby is the beautiful Lake Nojiri. Mountain climbing, hiking and mountain bike riding during the warmer months is also recommended. Click here for more information (in English)

Sekiyama - There's a small fun park here called 'Sunshine Land' which is open in the warmer months. Catch the train to Sekiyama, then a taxi from there (about ¥1,000). A little expensive, but a fun day trip with a few others. You buy a book of ¥100 coupons. Most rides cost ¥400-500. The best one is the bungee chair. It costs ¥2,000 but it's a hell of a rush!

Yahiko - This is a pretty little town, with a nice shrine and gondola (¥1,100). Catch the Echigo Line to Yoshida from either Niigata or Kashiwazaki, then to Yahiko (two stops).

Niigata City - It's a city of fair size (500,000) with all the amenities you would expect in a city of that size. As for sights there's nothing up there that's really worth making a special trip for. Nihonkai Tower, the Art Gallery, the NEXT 21 building, and the (old) Prefectural Hall are worth a look. There's also some good shopping with a couple of foreign food stores + Tower Records, Eddie Bauer, etc. Joyopolis and the Rock'n'Roll Diner are good fun to visit too. If you want to dance Ezra's is the best club to go to (not that there's much choice). There's a library at the Niigata International Friendship Centre, plus you can also get free yukata (like kimono) which make great gifts for people back home. Actually, for a lot of Joetsu folks Toyama City and Nagano City are probably your handiest choices if you NEED to go to a city (see below).

Train trips: Niitsu - Aizu Wakamatsu - Koide or Nagano - Echigo Kawaguchi or Itoigawa - Matsumoto. If you're into trains these make for a very nice day trip through the rural scenery of Japan.


Toyama - This is a pretty groovy town, complete with trams. I liked it more every time I went there. There's lots of shopping, cheap bars, and western fast food outlets near the eki. A couple of nightclubs too, but they ain't that great! In CIC (near the eki) on the 4th floor is a really cheap Italian restaurant. In the street behind CIC is Irohan "antique pub" - a popular restaurant frequented by Toyama gaijin. Toyama castle is attractive. The view from the City Hall is excellent (and free). There is a Medie-ya foreign food store on Nishi-cho near the Sogawa St. shopping area. There are a couple of cinemas in this area too, which is about 10-15 minutes walk from the eki. Some restaurants and clubs are open till 4-5am so you can go partying till late and catch a 4.50 morning express back to Joetsu. The Modern Art Gallery is great (if you're into that kind of stuff). They even have several Picasso's, Klee's, and Lautrec's, plus a famous Warhol. The Science Museum is worth a look too.

Unazuki Onsen/Kurobe Gorge - Change trains at Uozu (not Kurobe!) for here. The scenic railway from Unazuki Onsen is nice. There are natural onsen at the end of the ride if you walk for a little bit.

Takaoka - Some civilisation, plus a very large Buddha.

Taira-mura - This is difficult to get to, so best get there with a car. (Otherwise it's a train to Takaoka, a train to Johana, then a bus to Taira). It's a very old traditional village with a world heritage designation. It's best not to go there on a holiday or weekend as it can get pretty crowded. About 10 minutes further on there's also a nice onsen overlooking the valley. Cost ¥500.

From either Nagano or Toyama you can do the Kurobe - Tateyama route over the mountains. This is a nice day trip, but only worth it on clear days. You start either in Toyama city or Shinano-Omachi (Nagano-ken) and take a series of buses, cable car, funiculars, and trolley buses over the mountains via the Kurobe Dam. With connecting fares and meals you can bank on spending about ¥15,000 for the day. Start early because it can be a long day. Closed from late autumn until early spring. Early spring is best because of the sheers snow walls on the road up/down.


Nagano - A very pretty city and site of the 1998 Winter Olympics. There are plenty of restaurants near the eki, plus a couple of nightclubs, along with a Tower Records store. Zenkoji temple is a definite must see (catch the Dentetsu line train to Gondo or Zenkoji stations and walk about 10 minutes). It's best to go there on a weekday or non-holiday.

Karuizawa - This is a must visit. Not a heck of a lot of sights to see but a very hip, rich and westernised town. Good for a weekend of ambling, cycling, and just hanging out. Autumn is particularly pretty.

Togura - The site of the January 1996 JET Mid Year Block Conference that was famous only for it's drunkeness, debauchery and Tim Houghton's knob. For more on this you have to buy the book! It's businesses (mainly hostess and karaoke bars) are dominated by the yakuza (Japanese mafia), and I can't say there's many compelling reasons for you to visit.

Matsumoto - There's a nifty castle here, but nothing much else to rave about. Good for a day trip up (train from Itoigawa or Nagano).

Hakuba - You can get here using the train via Itoigawa as well. This is one of the premier ski resorts in Japan. They held several of the Winter Olympic events here. In summer there are some nice hikes available.

Shigakogen - This is where the monkeys hang around the onsen. A good day trip. Can be reached via train/bus from Nagano city with a little difficulty.

Nozawa Onsen - Very nice town to walk around. Nice food. Nice people. Skiing and hot springs (some free!). From Nagano train station take the Iiyama Line to Togari Nozawa Onsen train station which takes 1 hour. From Togari Nozawa Onsen train station it is a 20 minute bus ride to Nozawa Onsen.


Kanazawa - Well worthwhile to make the trip here. It's like a 'mini-Kyoto' with lots of old buildings, pretty temples, and a famous Japanese garden (Kenrokuen). You can catch a local train there from Naoetsu. There are some cheap Japanese language schools, some good nightclubs and bars, Tower Records (of course), and plenty of shopping. The Shakyo (Social) Center near the garden has an excellent English library and newspaper collection. If you walk down the road toward the shopping district from the gardens you'll see a cheap second hand CD place on your left (not too far from Mr. Donut).

Noto Peninsula - There are a few temples and sights but it's main attraction is the scenery, especially around the far side of the coast. This means it's probably best done in a car, but the train trip would nice too. At the tip of the peninsula is an amazing onsen ('Lamp') that is perched on rocks overlooking the ocean. Cost ¥500

Further afield

Fukui - Awara Onsen is a great area to be based for exploring both Tojimbo/Mikuni on the coast (great seafood!) and Eiheiji Temple inland. You can catch a bus to both places from Awara.

Tokyo - What can you say about this place? There is so much to do but varies on your taste. Best thing is to consult your guidebook and ask other gaijin. My recommendations are Ueno Park and the museums nearby, Sundays at Yoyogi Park in Harajuku (though I did hear a rumour they had shut down the more bizarre activities), the lookout in Shinjuku, plus the temple at Akasusa. Akahibara and Ginza are really just for shopping. Roppongi, Shinjuku, and Shibuya are the places for nightlife. ¥700 will get you an all day subway ticket, but it's not good for JR lines. The International YH is a good place to crash, but you have to be in before 10.30. Not good if you want to party late! Other gaijin have recommended Kimi Ryokan (inn).

Nikko - A day trip from Tokyo. Some amazing temples/shrines set in a beautiful cedar forest. The waterfall is okay, nothing great. The lake cruise is meant to be good but it was too cold to do while I was there. Catch the Tobu Line train from Akasusa station.

Kamakura - A highly recommended day trip from Tokyo. Lots of great temples and shrines, plus (in summer) a nice sandy beach - with waves. Catch the JR train from Tokyo or Shinagawa, or the Odakyu line to Fujisawa and change to the Endoshima line.

Nagoya - There are three ways to get here, change at Nagano to an Express, via the Takayama Line (over the mountains - change at Toyama), or stay on the Hokuriku Line (via the coast). All take about the same time but the Takayama route is cheaper and VERY scenic. In Nagoya there's not a hell of a lot to do. Nagoya Castle is quite good. The TV tower is an imitation Eiffel Tower with good views. There is also an amusement park down there somewhere but I never made it there. There is a Medie-ya foreign food store in the Sakae district, and a Tower Records shop not far from the station.

Kyoto/Nara - There is an amazing amount to see here which can take several days. Like Tokyo you have to decide what you really want to see. You can get 'templed' out really quickly. I also found that generally the most crowded places are the ones where you have to pay. It might involve kickbacks to the bus companies I think. In Kyoto I did some walks which were nice, stopping at some of the less popular shrines and temples, parks, and galleries. Early morning is the best time and I recommend the 'Heritage Walk'. You can can get walking maps from the information centre in the eki. In Nara it's worth seeing the big Buddha but the crowds are horrendous.

Himeji - This has the best original castle in Japan (most others are reconstructions). Walk about 15 minutes straight up from the eki. Allow about 2 hours to walk around. It can easily be done as a day trip from Kyoto (about 1 & 1/2 hours by rapid express)

Kobe - It's a nice city but not a lot to see. I highly recommend Wantage Books near the Shin-Kobe station. It's a real rarity - a second hand English book shop (cheap too). Kobe Grocers has a great range of foreign food. Of course there's plenty of shopping, bars, restaurants, and a Tower Records too.

Hiroshima - This is really great, but don't make a special trip for it. Combine it with a trip to Osaka/Himeji/Kyoto. You can get to the A-Bomb dome, Peace Park, and the museum via a 10 minute bus or tram ride from the eki.

Nagasaki - As per Hiroshima, but there's lots of other neat stuff to see. Don't forget to try some 'champon' noodles too. Oishi! 

Chiran - If you get this far SW it's well worth taking a trip out of Kagoshima to see the old samurai street here. There is also a kamikaze museum.  

Three famous sites - Matsushima, Amonohashidate and Miyajima. These are the three most famous sites to see for Japanese people. Interesting but hugely over rated in my opinion!

Mt. Fuji - It was the hardest thing I've done in my life. I can't say that the end result was worth the effort (and money) expended. My mate Todd and I went in June before the official season started which meant we missed all the crowds, but that was the only plus. Be well prepared if you insist on going - which we weren't.

Aizubange - I don't know too much about this little town in Fukushima-ken but the people sure are friendly and are happy to feed copious amounts of sake to lost gaijin stumbling in upon their matsuri. You can check out my travel supplement for the story

White water rafting

A good weekend group trip is white water rafting in Gunma prefecture. It's about a three hour trip from Joetsu by car, or catch the train from Naoetsu to Minakami (change at Muikamachi or Yuzawa). Best time is straight after winter when the snow is melting. They do two trips - a lower grade (2-4 depending on water), or a high grade (5). The guides should invite you back to their farmhouse for a party night. Niigata gaijin had a well known reputation with them during my time! Call/fax Outdoor Adventures 0278 728731.

International - Leaving Japan

Unless your Japanese is great you'll have to do any booking through English speaking agencies in Tokyo. This can still be an immensely frustrating experience. They often will only take bookings two months ahead, making it impossible to make firm plans. Also, it can take a lot of time waiting on the phone to Tokyo. It's best to try faxing or e-mailing first. Some reply, some don't. The top three listed below ALWAYS replied to me. Sometimes it will be better to try and contact a local agent in the place where you are going (see 'Overseas' below). If you intend to go away at Christmas or Golden Week make plans ultra early. Still, the keyword is persistence.

Some agents are:

Highly recommended!

Map Tours (Kanazawa) - 0762 623737 Fax: 623418

A'cross - 03 33406741 Fax: 33406760

Shinsekai - 03 34382899 Fax: 34596598 (accepts credit cards)

Also worth trying:

Just Travel - 03 33623341 Fax: 33623933

IJ Travel - 03 32955721 Fax: 32330845

No. 1 Travel (Nagoya) - 052 2431683 Fax: 2431681

STA Travel - 03 54858380 Fax: 54858373

ABC - 03 32331177 Fax: 32333030

Hit Travel (Tokyo)

Flex Travel (Tokyo)

Journey Travel (Tokyo)

OR, choose any other out of English language phone book or newspaper.


Avia Travel (San Francisco) 1.415.5364155 Fax: 5364158

Honeyworld Holidays (Singapore) 65.2215866 Fax: 2211706 (Att: Mike)

Just the Ticket (London) Fax: 44.171.2878952 (Att: Robin)

Cristal Travel (Bangkok) 66.2.2565570 Fax: 2538815

A'Cross Travel (Bangkok) 66.2.2384711-3 Fax: 2384710

A little advice

Recommended airlines (see - value for money)

Malaysian, United, Thai

Give a wide berth to (no matter how cheap!)

North-West, Air India, Garuda

Always check the conditions of your ticket before handing over your hard earned!

Example: I was shafted by North West in Thailand. I got sick and they refused to change my flight, despite me proferring a doctors certificate. After they stuffed me around for a couple of days I gave up and bought a new ticket (with United).

Note: NorthWest has actually been cautioned by the Japanese government for having the largest incident of reported problems relating to all airlines flying in/out of Japan. One in every 800 NorthWest flights (3x average) was cancelled or late because of aircraft defects (21 March 97).

Travel Tips for Asia:

Take a small bike lock so you can lock your pack to the overhead rack when travelling by train or bus - particularly on overnight trips. Also you can lock your pack to your bed if staying in less than secure accommodation. Put padlocks on your bags and carry important documents in a travel belt or necklace. Make sure you get the right vaccinations too! Travellers Medical Vaccination Centre in Bangkok has an ex-pat Aussie doctor and I highly recommend them from personal experience. They are at 8th Floor, Alma Link Building, 25 Soi Chidlom, Bangkok - not far from the British Embassy or Siam Square. Phone 655 1024.

Refer also to Jason's Top Tips in 'Part A' (hard copy)

My favourite places?

Japan: Sado Island and Kanazawa

Overseas: Palau Penang and Palau Perehentian (Malaysia)

Before you go!

Get a Lonely Planet update

Other very useful pre-travel internet sites:

Ski Japan

Diners Club Travel (exchange rates & weather)

Mt. Fuji

Randy's Complete Japan Travel Guide

Asian Dragon's Japan

TravelWeb (bookings and info.)

Hotels Online (hotels - worldwide)

Rakuten Travel (Some hotels in the area)

Japan Guesthouses

Japan National Tourist Organisation

Nagoya Hotels & Travel Guide

** see also Appendix II (hard copy)
Make sure you get a re-entry permit before you leave or else you can't get back into Japan. Cost is ¥3,000 single, or ¥6,000 multiple. Nearest place to get one is at the immigration office (Tokyo Nyukoku Kanrikyoku Naoetsu Shuccho-jo). It's near Naoetsu port @ 1-11-20 Minato-machi - about 20 minutes walk from the eki. Open M-F, 9-12 and 1-4. You'll need your passport and alien card. Fill in the application form, take it to the nearby PO and get a ¥6,000 stamp, then when you return they'll give you the permit. Updated info can be found via the Joetsu Living Guide

When you return from overseas don't get in the foreign passport line. You can go through the Japanese passport line which is MUCH quicker. Flaunt it while you can...

Ganbare and happy trails! Don't forget to order a copy of my book to read on the train/plane/bus/ferry.....

Nicholas Klar (EX Omi teacher 1995-97)


About the author:

Nicholas Klar has lived and worked in five countries in the last decade and a half. Whilst in Japan he was a regular contributor to the JET Journal, Niigata JOHO and other magazines, and was also editor of "The Joetsu goodo Travel Guide". He has recently completed a book about his two years in Japan entitled "My Mother is a Tractor" plus a website - Welcome to Myokokogen! (The unofficial English guide). Other works can be seen on this website - and he welcomes contributions or comments.

He and his Japanese wife are both presently living and teaching elsewhere in Asia

© 1997-2008

A Klar Books production

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