Beginners Guide to the Japan Rail Pass

One of the most amazing things about Japan is the public transportation. The train system connects all major cities throughout the entire country and buses run to almost every rural village.

Although having the freedom to be able to go anywhere with public transportation is nice, there is one downside: the cost. Tokyo has one of the most expensive public transportation in the world and other cities in Japan have similar transportation costs. 

Don’t cancel your travel plans to Japan just yet, because Japan is an awesome place to travel to and there are more affordable ways to get around!

You might have heard about the Japan Rail JR pass.

It’s a pass only offered to visitors of Japan and with it, you get unlimited rides on transportation by the Japan Rail group. This covers trains, buses, ferries, and most importantly, the bullet train (Shinkansen). 

However, the JR pass doesn’t come cheap either, and buying one can either save you over 100s of dollars or end up losing you money. 

Here, we’ll explain everything you need to know about the JR pass. We’ll show you what it is, where to buy it, and walk you through the entire process from how to purchase one, all the way to reserving and riding your first Shinkansen ride. 

This is a long guide that you may need to reference it many times throughout your trip so make sure to pin it for later!

What is the JR Pass?

As mentioned before, the JR Pass is a pass offered by the Japan Rail group that offers unlimited rides on their trains, buses, ferries, and the Shinkansen. Transportation is expensive in Japan and this pass gives tourists a chance to potentially save a lot of money. 

The pass is available for 7 days, 14 days, or 21 days and there are two ticket types: Ordinary and Green. They also have a children’s price for ages 6-11 and children below 6 can ride for free. Here is a price chart for easy comparison.

Duration Adult Child





7 days 29,650 yen 39,600 yen 14,820 yen 19,800 yen
14 days 47,250 yen 64,120 yen 23,620 yen 32,060 yen
21 days 60,450 yen 83,390 yen 30,220 yen 41,690 yen

As you can see, the JR pass does not come cheap and it’s not in the price range you’d expect from most countries. 

The advantages of the JR pass lies in the Shinkansen. Let’s look at an example to see how cost effective the JR pass is despite the high price range.

Example: Round Trip From Tokyo to Osaka

Let’s compare the cost of a round-trip ticket on the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka. 

A one way ticket from Tokyo to Osaka would cost around 14,500 yen. Buying a round-trip would add up to 29,000 yen. 

If you buy a 7-day Ordinary JR Pass, this would cost 650 yen more than buying the individual tickets. But if you add up the local JR train costs during those 7 days, not to mention the train from the airport, this can easily add up to more than 4,000 yen, which would make the 7-day Ordinary JR Pass the cheaper alternative. 

During those 7 days, you could even make day trips to Kyoto, Nara, or Hakone, to make the JR Pass even more worth its money.

This is why the JR Pass is so popular among travelers to Japan. 

Is the Green JR Pass Worth It?

E5 Shinkansen Green Class Interior


The next thing you may be wondering is what the Green JR Pass is about. 

The Green JR Pass allows you to ride in the Green section of the Shinkansen, aka the first-class section.

Here are some of the perks you get to enjoy by riding in the Green car. 

  • Wider seats
  • More legroom
  • Bigger windows
  • Less crowded
  • Hot/cold drink served

For some, these may be enough incentives to make the upgrade, but for most, they’d be satisfied with just the Ordinary pass (especially since it’s already much more comfortable than economy plane seats). 

However, you might want to consider upgrading during the peak seasons. 

  • New Years Eve
  • Golden Week (early May)
  • Obon (mid-August)
  • Sakura season (March-April)
  • Fall foliage Season (October-November)

During major holidays in Japan, the Shinkansen tickets get sold out months before and the Non-Reserved Seat section can fill up to 200% over max capacity!

Crowded train (160928169)

Imagine riding this for several hours!


Where Can You Use the JR Pass?

The JR pass can be used pretty much on any train that has a JR logo. This covers local trains, express trains, and the shinkansen lines. 

JR logo JRgroup


There are many different lines that the Japan Rails group operates. These are some of the most used ones.

  • The Shinkansen trains (except Nozomi and Mizuho)
  • Narita Express (connects Narita Airport to Tokyo)
  • Tokyo Monorail (connects Haneda Airport to Tokyo)
  • Yamanote line (Tokyo)
  • Chuo line (Tokyo)
  • Limited Express Haruka (connects Kansai Airport to Osaka)
  • Osaka Loop Line (Osaka)
  • Thunderbird Line (connects Osaka and Kyoto to Kanazawa)

Where You Can’t Use the JR Pass

There are only two JR trains where you can’t use the JR Pass: The Nozomi and Mizuho Shinkansen lines. These are the “express” shinkansen lines that only stop at the major stations and take you to your destination slightly faster. 

When you’re looking on the platform, be careful not to mistakenly ride the Nozomi or Mizuho trains or you will be asked to pay the full price

There are many subways and other train lines that operate besides the JR lines. These are the logo of some of those lines that you cannot ride with the JR Pass.

Tokyo Metro logo (full)
Osaka Metro Chuo line symbol
Meitetsu logo


You may have to use some of these lines in major cities like Tokyo, Osaka, or Nagoya. For that reason, we recommend keeping around a PASMO or a SUICA transportation card so you can save the time and hassle of buying individual tickets for these lines. 

Do I Need a JR Pass?

Not all trips are made equal and although the JR Pass offers great value, it may not be worth it for some. Here are some common scenarios where it’s better NOT to buy the JR pass. 

1. Staying in One Region of Japan

You’re traveling to Japan but staying within one region of Japan. Whether it’s the Tokyo and Yokohama area or the Osaka and Kyoto area, getting a Suica card and using local trains and buses will be a much more cost effective alternative to buying the JR pass.

2. Flying into Tokyo and Leaving From Osaka or Vice Versa

Many people take the route where they fly into one big city and leave from another one. In this case, you’d only need to buy a one-way Shinkansen ticket, which won’t be enough to pay out for the JR pass. 

3. Traveling to Okinawa or Sapporo

Another scenario where the JR pass wouldn’t be worth buying is if you want to make a trip to the end regions of Japan, such as Okinawa or Sapporo. 

If you are going to Okinawa, the best way to get there is by flight from any major city in Japan. There is a JR ferry that reaches Okinawa from Kyushu but it takes an extremely long time. 

In the same way, if you are traveling to Sapporo or Niseko ski resort, we also recommend you take a flight instead of using the JR trains since it would be much faster. 

4. Long Term Japan Travel

If you plan on doing some long term travel in Japan, then we don’t think the JR pass would be worth it (at least for the whole duration). Since you have the time, it would be much more cost efficient to travel either by bus or plane, which are both cheaper alternatives to the shinkansen.

If you do feel that you need the JR pass but you already came to Japan, you can still make the purchase. When you buy it, have it send the tickets to your Japan accommodation and you can activate it as long as you are there with the tourist visa.


How to Buy the JR Pass

In order to buy the JR pass, the only condition is that you are not a resident of Japan. This means that you are traveling to Japan with a tourist visa and they confirm this when you pick up your pass. 

If you meet these requirements, you can purchase the JR pass through any vendor. 

Once you make the purchase, they will mail you the exchange tickets in a couple of weeks. The tickets are not use-able yet and you have to activate it once you arrive in Japan. Once you arrive in Japan, you can exchange these tickets for the actual JR pass. 

Activating Your JR Pass

(Antonio Tajuelo)

When you buy the JR pass online, you’re given an exchange voucher, which you can exchange for the JR pass in Japan. They will also need to check your passport to confirm that you are not a resident of Japan. 

Keep in mind that when they are confirming your passport, they don’t allow you to pick up the JR pass for somebody else. 

Once your information is confirmed, you can then select the date that you wish to activate your pass. This date can be up to 3 months after you purchase the pass. 

You can activate it at the JR ticketing office in most Shinkansen stations.

Using the JR Pass on the Local Train

Ticket Gate of JR Tsuchiura station, Jan. 2019


You can ride the local trains by showing your JR Pass to the staff member at the ticket office. 

The electronic gates can only be used with a normal train ticket or a transportation pass such as the SUICA or PASMO. 

Keep in mind that at some exits, there are only electric gates and you have to enter and exit through an exit with a ticketing window. 

Riding the Shinkansen

About the Shinkansen

There are 5 different Japan Rail Companies and 8 lines that make up the entire Shinkansen network. 

These lines connect all the way from Hakodate, Hokkaido down to Kagoshima, Kyushu and various major cities in between. 

Shinkansen map 20110312 en


For every Shinkansen line, there are 3 different types of speed: local, semi-express, and express. Every train has a different name depending on the line and the speed. 

With the JR Pass, you can ride on every Shinkansen except the Nozomi and Mizuho express trains running through the Tokaido, Sanyo, and Kyushu line.

The Shinkansen runs as early as 6am and the last train ends around 10pm. You can see the timetable on the Shinkansen website

Making a Seat Reservation

If you have the JR pass, you can only make the reservation in person at the Midori no Madoguchi (みどりの窓口) located in various JR stations.

At the office, you can show them your JR pass and let them know where you would like to go and they will help you find the right train. 

Make sure to specify your seat too if you want the nice window seat during your trip!

Riding Without a Reservation

If you forgot to make a reservation and want to catch the next train coming soon, you can still ride without a reservation. 

At the ticketing gate, you can just show them your JR Pass like you would to ride a local train and you will be able to ride in the Non-Reserved section of the Shinkansen. 

In the Non-Reserved section, the seats are first come first serve and you can sit on any seat that you like. If there are no more seats, then you have no choice but to stand. 

Reserving a seat on the Shinkansen usually costs extra but with the JR Pass, you can do it for free so we highly recommend doing so to avoid standing for several hours!


Extra Notes

Whether you decide to purchase the JR Pass or not, we highly recommend that everyone carry around a PASMO or SUICA card as well. 

This is the standard transportation card in Japan which you can use for any train and not just the JR lines. You fill up as you go and you can avoid the pain of buying individual tickets for every train ride. 

The Metro Pass

Tokyo subway map.PNG
Public Domain, Link

Similar to the JR Pass, there is also a Metro Pass that allows unlimited rides on the Tokyo Metro lines and the Toei Subway lines. 

There are more Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway lines than JR in Tokyo and it can be a great addition if you are exploring around Tokyo. 

It’s sold in 24 hour, 48 hour, and 72 hour time frames and comes at a much cheaper price than the JR Pass. 

Duration Adult Child
24 hour 800 yen 400 yen
48 hour 1,200 yen 600 yen
72 hour 1,500 yen 750 yen


Things to do in Harajuku

Harajuku is known to be the fashion central of Tokyo. On the main street is Omotesando Street, lined up with designer and upmarket brands while the parallel Takeshita Street is filled with unique colors, street art, and fashion. And then you have the back alley Cat Street with all the vintage goods. On top of being the home for various fashion trends, Harajuku is also a major tourist area and it’s one of the must-visit places for when traveling to Tokyo. 

Things to Do

Stroll Around the Unique Takeshita Street

Takeshita Street - Tokyo

When one mentions Harajuku, they usually have an image of Takeshita Street. Takeshita Street is the most famous side street of Harajuku and it’s filled with colorful shops, restaurants, and street vendors. This street is the birthplace of the Kawaii Harajuku Fashion and you can often see people dress in unique colorful styles.

Here, you can also find lots of street food, including crepes, handmade potato chips, rainbow cotton candies, and even rainbow grilled cheese!

Address: 1 Chome-17 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan

Cultural Events at Yoyogi Park

Yoyogi is one of Tokyo’s most active parks and it’s located right behind Harajuku Station. Yoyogi is very diverse and FULL of life, featuring a sports area, garden area, events area, and wide open lawns.

One of the highlights of Yoyogi park is the cultural festival that occur almost every weekend. Near the Yoyogi Park Outdoor Stage, you may often see food trucks lining up the main sidewalk with authentic food from various cultures, music bumping, and people dancing. Here, you can really feel the diversity that lives in Tokyo.

Hours: 24 hours

Address: 2-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya City, Tokyo 151-0052, Japan

Cost: Free

Phone Number: +81 3-3469-6081

Visit Meiji Shrine


Right next to Yoyogi Park is the calm, serene entrance to the Meiji Shrine. The entrance path to the shrine is a cut path, shaded by tall trees and it’s the perfect place to be during Japan’s hot and humid summers.

Fun Fact: A lot of traditional Japanese weddings are held in Meiji Shrine, sometimes up to 15 a day! Tourists are not allowed to get close to the ceremony, but the wedding is still visible from a distance and you may be lucky enough to get a peek at one during your visit!

Hours: 5:00am – 6:00pm

Address: 1-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya City, Tokyo 151-8557, Japan

Cost: Free

Phone Number: +81 3-3379-5511

Visit a Smaller Shrine: Togo Shrine

Togo Shrine is a small, quieter shrine lurking in the back streets of Harajuku. This shrine is dedicated to Heihachiro Togo, a greatly respected Japanese admiral who helped Japan win the Battle of the Japan Sea during the Russo-Japanese War. This shrine is smaller than Meiji and it features a koi pond and a Japanese garden.

Hours: 6:30am – 5:00pm

Address: 1 Chome-5-3 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan

Cost: Free

Phone Number: +81 3-3403-3591

Step into a Life-size Kaleidoscope

Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku - Tokyo (17959762380)

At the entrance of Tokyu Plaza is a set of escalators with walls that look like a real life kaleidoscope. Inside, you’ll find various fashion shops and at the top floor is a rooftop garden terrace that’s accessible for anyone!

Protip: The bathroom inside can have an extremely long line sometimes! (even for the men’s!)

Hours: 11:00am – 9:00pm

Address: 4 Chome-30-3 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan

Phone Number: +81 3-3497-0418

Shop at Omotesando

Omotesando is known as the upscale shopping district and it’s home to many brand names and high end shops. Despite that, there are many affordable places mixed in here and there as well many fairly priced restaurants.

We recommend checking out the Omotesando Hills building for its interesting interior design and the Oriental Bazaar for traditional Japanese products.

Omotesando Hills

Omotesando Hills

Hours: 11:00am – 9:00pm

Address: 4 Chome-12-10 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan

Phone Number: +81 3-3497-0310

Oriental Bazaar

Oriental Bazaar - panoramio

Hours: 10:00am – 7:00pm

Address: 5 Chome-9-13 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan

Phone Number: +81 3-3400-3933

Wander Off into Cat Street

If you’re not into the colorful aisles of Takeshita Street, then perhaps Cat Street might be for you. Cat Street is like the hipster back street of Harajuku. It’s lined up with trendy shops where you can find wears for street fashion and vintage clothing. The area is much quieter as well, contrasting Takeshita Street and Omotesando, so it’s a great place for a date, or even just a small walk.

Address: 5 Chome-10-10 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan

Shop for Less at Daiso

Takeshita Dori

If brand name isn’t your thing, then perhaps 100 yen ($1.00 USD) items are. A small walk from Harajuku is one of the most popular Daiso stores in Tokyo and there’s no questioning why: 4 floors FULL of 100 yen items! There’s an incredible variety of selections and you’d be really surprised at how many different kinds of items are sold at 100 yen.

Hours: 9:30am – 10:00pm

Address: Japan, 〒150-0001 Tokyo, Shibuya City, Jingumae, 1 Chome−19−24 ビレッジ107

Phone Number: +81 3-5775-9641

Go to a Themed Cafe

Themed Cafes are a thing in Tokyo and there’s a good amount of them in Harajuku. Here are some themed cafes you can visit in Harajuku.

Kawaii Monster Cafe

Harajuku Kawaii Monster Cafe

Cafe filled with colorful and crazy artwork. Almost like a twisted Alice in Wonderland adventure.

Hours: 11:30am – 4:00pm, 6:00pm – 10:00pm

Address: Japan, 〒150-0001 Tokyo, Shibuya City, Jingumae, 4 Chome−31−10 YMスクエア 4F

Phone Number: +81 3-5413-6142

Hedgehog Cafe

Hours: 11:00am – 7:00pm

Address: Japan, 〒150-0001 Tokyo, Shibuya City, Jingumae, 1 Chome−13−21 原宿2号館 4F シャンゼール

Phone Number: +81 3-3404-1180

Shiba Dog Cafe

Address: 1 Chome-6-10 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan

Cat Cafe

Tom's Cat Cafe

Hours: 10:00am – 8:00pm

Address: Japan, 〒150-0001 Tokyo, Shibuya City, Jingumae, 1 Chome−14−25 クロスアベニュー原宿 4F

Phone Number: +81 3-6447-2665

Snake Cafe

Hours: 11:00am – 8:00pm, closed Tuesday

Address: Japan, 〒150-0001 Tokyo, Shibuya City, Jingumae, 6 Chome−5−6 サンポウ綜合ビル 8F

Phone Number: +81 3-6427-9912

Owl Cafe

Hours: 11:00am – 8:00pm

Address: Japan, 〒150-0001 Tokyo, Shibuya City, Jingumae, 1 Chome−21−15 原宿ATMビル4F

Phone Number: +81 3-6455-5081

Relax at the Beautiful Nezu Museum

Nezu Museum M2 Floor 2018

A small distance from Omotesando Station is the Japanese and Asian art Nezu Museum. This place is a nice place to stop by and relax. The building is beautifully made with minimalist, Japanese architecture and there’s also a nice garden area in the museum as well. Even if you’re not a fan of art, this museum can help relax your soul.

Hours: Check Website

Address: 6 Chome-5-1 Minamiaoyama, Minato City, Tokyo 107-0062, Japan

Cost: 1100 yen, 1300 yen (special exhibition)

Phone Number: +81 3-3400-2536

Some Restaurants and Cafes to Try

Le Shiner

Rainbow grilled cheese, rainbow crepes, rainbow everything.

Address: 1 Chome-7-10 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan

Totti Candy Factory

Takeshita Street

Famous for their rainbow cotton candy.

Hours: Weekday 10:30am – 8:00pm

            Weekends 9:30am – 8:00pm

Address: Japan, 〒150-0001 Tokyo, Shibuya City, Jingumae, 1 Chome−16−5 Ryuあぱるとまん 2F

Phone Number: +81 3-3403-7007

Cafe Ron Ron

 All you can eat kaiten sweets.

Hours: 11:00am – 7:00pm

Address: 6 Chome-7-15 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan

Phone Number: +81 3-5468-8290


Our go-to cafe in Harajuku

Hours: 10:00am – 7:00pm

Address: 3 Chome-5-2 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan

Phone Number: +81 3-3478-6276

Good Town Doughnuts and Coffee

Best doughnuts in Tokyo

Hours: 9:00am – 7:00pm

Address: 6 Chome-12-6 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan

Phone Number: +81 3-5485-8827


Things to do in Shinjuku

Shinjuku has it all. 

In the east, you have shopping centers, bars, and restaurants while on the west, you’ll find lots of government and office buildings. In the north is the famous Kabukicho, filled with endless night entertainment, while in the south is the bus terminal that connects Shinjuku to the rest of Japan. 

With over 3 million people using the station each day, Shinjuku is one of the biggest transportation hubs in Tokyo and definitely has something for everyone. 

In this article, we want to guide you around Shinjuku and show you the various things you can do there!

Getting to Shinjuku

From Narita Airport

  • Option 1: Take the Skyliner to Nippori Station. Then take the Yamanote line all the way to Shinjuku Station.
  • Option 2: Take the Narita Express Train all the way to Shinjuku Station.

From Haneda Airport

  • Option 1: Take the Haneda Airport Limousine Bus all the way to Shinjuku.
  • Option 2: Take the Keikyu Airport Line to Shinagawa Station. Then take the Yamanote Line to Shinjuku Station.

From Tokyo Station

  • Take the Chuo Line all the way to Shinjuku Station.

Things to do

Spend the Morning at Shinjuku Gyoen Park

Shinjuku Gyoen(Shinjuku Imperial Garden) - 新宿御苑 - panoramio (18)

(Carbonium /CC BY)

Shinjuku Gyoen Park is one of the biggest and most beautiful parks in Tokyo. This 144 acre park was built on top of the land owned by a Feudal lord during the Edo Period and has various sections. 

There’s 3 different types of gardens, a botanical greenhouse, and various restaurants spread throughout the park. The park has an early closing time of 4:30pm so it’s perfect for visiting in the morning or afternoon.

The park’s scenery changes with each season, so if you’ve visited before, make sure to come again during another season to see the change of scenery!

Hours: 9:00am – 4:30pm closed Mondays

Address: 11 Naitomachi, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0014, Japan

Cost: 500 yen

Phone Number: 03-3350-0151

Hanazono Shrine

The Hanazono Shrine is a Shinto shrine located near the busy streets of Shinjuku. Despite being located in one of Tokyo’s most urban districts, the Hanazono Shrine is one of the oldest shrines in Japan, founded in the mid 17th century, before the Edo period. 

Throughout the year, there are multiple festivals held here, and when there’s no festival, you can go to the shrine to pray to the Japanese gods and purchase some good luck souvenirs!

Shrine Hours: 24 hours

Reception Desk Hours: 9:30am – 4:30pm

Address: 5 Chome-17-3 Shinjuku, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0022, Japan

Cost: Free

Phone Number: 03-3209-5265

Watch the View From the Tokyo Metropolitan Building

Metropolitan Government Building, Shinjuku, Tokyo

The Tokyo Metropolitan Building has a free observation deck, from where you can get a nice panoramic view of Tokyo. On a nice clear day, you can see several distinct landmarks such as Tokyo Tower, Skytree, Tokyo Dome, and even Mount Fuji. 

The Metropolitan Building has two symmetrical towers and the observation deck alternates between the two. It’s free to go up to the observation point and there are cafes and souvenir shops which help fund the government building.

The decks open at 9:30am and stay open until 10:30pm so we recommend going up to see a panoramic view of Tokyo during the sunset!

Hours: 9:30am – 10:30pm

Address: Japan, 〒163-8001 Tokyo, Shinjuku City, Nishishinjuku, 2 Chome−8−1, Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, 45階 第一本庁舎

Cost: Free

Phone Number: 03-5320-7890

Become a Ninja at the Ninja Trick House

Located just north of Kabukicho is the Ninja Trick House. Any fan of Naruto or any ninja related things would definitely love this interactive entertainment facility. 

In the Ninja Trick House, you can take a tour of the place and take part in ninja training involving swordplay and shuriken throwing. The whole experience lasts anywhere from 40-60 minutes and is kid friendly as well! 

Hours: 10:00am – 6:00pm, closed Tuesdays, Wednesdays

Address: Japan, 〒160-0021 Tokyo, Shinjuku City, Kabukicho, 2 Chome−28−13 第一和幸ビル

Cost: 1650yen per person, Free for ages 3 or younger

Phone Number: 03-6457-3337

Go Up Close and Personal with Godzilla


Located in the heart of Kabukicho is the Toho Cinema building with Godzilla peaking over one of the terrace. You may have heard about this famous Godzilla figure, but did you know that there’s a way to get up and close with the statue?

On the 8th floor of Hotel Gracery is Cafe Bonjour. The terrace of the cafe leads to the back of the mighty Godzilla figure and the cafe has a glass wall so the figure is viewable from inside as well. Don’t forget to take a memorable picture with Godzilla after your meal!

Hours: 6:30am – 9:00pm

Address: 1 Chome-19-1 Kabukicho, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0021, Japan

Phone Number: 03-6833-1111

Window Shopping Around Shinjuku Station

Shinjuku has many department stores, each with their own distinct atmosphere. There’s so many that it’ll probably take longer than a day to go through them all. Casually walking around and window shopping as you go can be a great way to spend a nice afternoon or kill some time before your next plan. 

Buy Souvenirs at Don Quijote

Don Quijote Higashiguchi Honten

Right at the entrance to Kabukicho is a huge Don Quijiote selling all kinds of items from groceries to weird costumes. The Shibuya branch is the biggest one, but the Shinjuku one has a lot of interesting and unique choices for souvenirs. And the best part of it all? Tax-Free for tourists!

Hours: 24 hours

Address: 1 Chome-16-5 Kabukicho, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0021, Japan

Phone Number: 03-5291-9211

Museums to Visit

Samurai Museum

The Samurai Collection September 2018 1 (dōmaru tōsei gusoku and warabe tōsei gusoku armor)

Michael Barera / CC BY-SA

Located at the northern side of Kabukicho is the Samurai Museum. This place is a great stop for those that want to learn the history of Samurai and take pictures in real samurai outfits!

Hours: 10:30am – 9:00pm

Cost: Adults 1900yen, Children under 12 800yen, Children 3 and under free

Address: Japan, 〒160-0021 Tokyo, Shinjuku City, Kabukicho, 2 Chome−25−6 1F・2F 永和ビル 6

Phone Number: 03-6457-6411

Tokyo Fire Museum

The Fire Museum is an exhibit displaying the history of fire fighters in Japan. They have various displays that show the evolution of vehicles and  equipment as well as major fires that broke out in Japan’s history. 

The Fire Museum is located at Yotsuya Sanchome Station and is a bit of a distance from Shinjuku, but it’s a free exhibition and may be worth a visit!

Hours: 9:30am – 5:00pm, closed Mondays

Cost: Free

Address: 3 Chome-10 Yotsuya, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0004, Japan

Phone Number: 03-3353-9119

Night Time

Get Weirded Out at the Robot Restaurant

Robot Restaurant 2019b

江戸村のとくぞう / CC BY-SA

The Robot Restaurant in the streets of Kabukicho is a place that gets mixed reviews. The experience is so unique that some say they had a blast while others disagree. Once you go downstairs, you’ll see stadium-like seats where you can enjoy your meal while a parade of robots and exotic costumes bring you a hell of a show. You can check out their website and see if it’s right for you. 

Address: Japan, 〒160-0021 Tokyo, Shinjuku City, Kabukicho, 1 Chome−7−7 新宿ロボットビル B2F

Phone Number: 03-3200-5500

Experience the Streets of Omoide Yokocho

Omoide Yokocho is a small alleyway on the northern side of Shinjuku Station and has over 20 different izakaya. The name directly translates to “Memory Lane” because the alleys resemble how the area was during the post World War 2 period. Back in the day, it was also known as “Piss Alley” because many drunk people would relieve themselves  on the streets of this alleyway. Rest assured, it doesn’t smell like piss anymore. 

Hours: 24 hours

Address: 1 Chome-2 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0023, Japan

Go Barhopping at Golden Gai

Golden Gai, Shinjuku

After warming up for the night at Omoide Yokocho, head over to Golden Gai to experience another throwback of Japan. Golden Gai is another old landmark of Tokyo that survived through World War 2, major earthquakes, and economic crisis. 

There’s over 200 tiny bars squeezed into this small area and barhopping in this small town of bars is incredibly fun, but not cheap. Most places have a cover charge of a couple 1000 yen and drinks in most bars are quite pricey as well.

Address: 1 Chome-1-6 Kabukicho, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0021, Japan

Phone Number: 03-3209-6418

Finish your Day at the Mannekyu Onsen

After a long day of traveling and sightseeing, you can wind down Japanese style by soaking in a hot spring bath near the busy Shinjuku area. The bath costs less than 500 yen and comes with a towel. Hot springs in Japan usually don’t allow tattoos, but this bathhouse does and there is also wifi access. 

Address: 1 Chome-15-17 Okubo, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 169-0072, Japan

Hours: 3:00pm – 12:00am, closed Saturdays

Phone Number: 03-3200-4734

Restaurants to Try

There’s lots of restaurants in Shinjuku (too many to count!) but here are some places that we think are worth trying!

  • Momo Paradise – All you can eat sukiyaki and shabu shabu
  • Konjiki Hototogisu – Michelin star ramen restaurant
  • Kappo Nakajima – Cheap Michelin star restaurant
  • Shinpachi Shokudo – Set Japanese food
  • Bittersweets Buffet – All you can eat sweets

Where to Stay in Shinjuku

When choosing where to stay in Tokyo, Shinjuku is a solid choice. Not only is there a lot to do, it’s also super convenient and has easy access to a number of different places. Here’s are some places where you can easily access from Shinjuku:

  • Hakone
  • Kichijoji
  • Mt. Fuji
  • Yokohama
  • Shimo Kitazawa
  • Tokyo Tower

Budget Hostels

  • Imano Tokyo Hostel – Affordable hostel with wifi, cafe/bar, and both dorm and private room choices. 
  • Book and Bed Tokyo Shinjuku – Library themed hostel with capsule-like beds hidden in the bookshelves with a cafe and library. 

Budget Hotels

Mid Range Hotels

  • Hotel Gracery Shinjuku – Western style hotel located in the heart of Kabukicho, behind the famous Godzilla Statue.
  • Shinjuku Granbell Hotel – Hotel with clean interior design and a rooftop bar. Located a couple minutes from Seibu Shinjuku Station. 

Luxury Hotels

  • Keio Plaza Hotel – 4 star hotel with various amenities such as an outdoor pool, shopping arcade, and a gym. Located next to the famous Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. 
  • Park Hyatt Hotel – 5 star hotel with a clear view of Mt Fuji and an indoor pool. Famous for being the film location for the movie Lost in Translation.

Capsule Hotels



These are some of the many recommended or popular things to do in Shinjuku. We hope that our guide was helpful and that you have an awesome time when you come to Shinjuku!

What are you most excited about in Shinjuku? Let us know in the comments!


The Complete Travel Guide to Ishigaki

If you’re looking for a hidden tropical getaway during your next trip to Japan, look no further because Ishigaki is the answer!

Ishigaki is home to many unique beaches and is a popular travel destination among Japanese people, but not so well known by travelers from outside the country. We put this guide together to introduce this beautiful island to everyone and hope that you add it to your bucket list!

Don’t forget to pin it for later!

Best Time to Go

Typhoon season for Ishigaki usually occurs around June to October and ironically, that’s also the busiest season since it’s also summer break time in Japan. Therefore, the best time to visit Ishigaki would be right before summer, around April and May, when tourism and temperature are not yet at its peak. 

Winter is also a great time to visit if you’re looking to escape the cold. Ticket prices also tend to be cheaper around November to January and you can also enjoy Ishigaki without the crowd of tourists as well!

How Many Days to go

To see most places in Ishigaki, you’ll need at least 3-4 days, but to completely enjoy your island vacation, we recommend staying for at least a week. Ishigaki has beautiful beaches, awesome food, and stunning nature, but to get the most out of this island, you’ll need to fully immerse yourself with it. Jump into the waters, search for the local mom & pop restaurant, and explore the neighboring Yaeyama islands as well. 

How to Get to Ishigaki

Ishigaki has a small domestic airport with occasional international flights to nearby countries. In most cases, you would transfer at either Osaka, Tokyo, or Naha and then arrive at Ishigaki. Another option is to purchase a ticket to Ishigaki separately, which can potentially help you save costs. 

Note: Since the end of 2019, more LCC (low cost carrier) airlines have increased operations to Ishigaki, making traveling to this island much more affordable. Now is definitely the best time to explore what Ishigaki has to offer!

Transportation in Ishigaki

The best way to experience Ishigaki and it’s nature is through a rental car.  Rental cars in Ishigaki are also much cheaper than they are in mainland Japan and can save you a significant amount of time compared to taking public transportation. 


If you’re unable to rent a car, we recommend booking your accommodation near the urban area of Ishigaki since this is where public transportation is. There are buses that come every 30-60 minutes and allow access to popular areas of the island, such as Kabira Bay. You can check the bus schedule here.

Taxis are available as well but they’re often hard to come across unless you’re near a central area. If you’re ever in need of a taxi, try asking a nearby business or restaurant if they can help you call one!

If you booked an activity, you may also check if they provide transportation to and from your accommodation.






Things to do

Chill Out at Kabira Bay

With clear blue waters and small green islands floating in the distance, the breathtaking view of Kabira Bay is the iconic symbol of Ishigaki.

Take the stairs down to the beach, and you can feel your feet sink right into the soft sand underneath the crystal clear water. 

At street level, there are multiple souvenir shops lined up and restaurants that serve some amazing Ishigaki cuisine.

Short Hike Up Mount Nosoko Mape

Even for those that don’t like hiking, we recommend trying this one out because it’s one of the best hiking experience we’ve had thus far.

The hike up to the peak of Mount Nosoko Mape is a steep trail through a path in the forest, but it’s a short one and takes less than 30 minutes. Once you get to the top, the trees clear away and suddenly you have this amazing view of Ishigaki. 

Because it’s such a breathtaking spot, the top of Mount Nosoko Mape is often considered a “power spot” among Japanese people, a place where you can go for spiritual healing, and there’s no questioning why!

Explore the Ibaruma Sabichi Cave

What’s interesting about the Ibaruma Sabichi Cave is that you can experience 3 different landscapes within a couple minutes. The entrance to the cave is a lush, green forest. If you walk through the other end of the dim cave, it opens up to a secret, secluded beach. Unlike other sandy beaches in Ishigaki, this one is a rocky type one and is partially the reason why this cave is a must-see in Ishigaki. 

Gazing at the Stars


Ishigaki is said to be one of the best places in the world to watch the stars. 

You can see 84 of the 88 constellations and even a faint outline of the Milky Way Galaxy on clear nights. There’s even an observatory here which you can visit. 

The stars can be enjoyed from pretty much anywhere on the island, but if you want to watch from the best spots, there are many affordable tours available, some that take you out to sea to watch!

Buy Souvenirs from Euglena Mall

Euglena mall is a large arcade mall located in the urban area of Ishigaki, near the ferry port.

There’s everything from souvenir shops to local public markets with fresh local produce. There’s also many restaurants surrounding Euglena mall that serve traditional Okinawan food.

If you’re wondering what souvenirs to bring back home, here’s a list of some popular souvenirs from Ishigaki.

  • Shima zori sandals. Okinawan style sandals that are nicely designed and comfortable to wear
  • Black pearl accessories. Ishigaki is the only place in Japan to produce black pearls. 
  • Salt. Ishigaki is famous for salt, especially since the island is surrounded by corals
  • Beni-imo tarts. Beni-imo is a type of sweet potato grown in Okinawa. The tart made from this Okinawan sweet potato is one of the most popular souvenirs here!
  • Chinsuko. Traditional Okinawan shortbread cookie.
  • Awamori – Traditional Okinawa Sake.
  • Koregusu – Okinawa chili sauce made with Awamori.

Water Activities

Kayak or SUP in Kabira Bay & Snorkeling in Blue Cave

Once you’ve feasted your eyes onto the iconic Kabira Bay, the next thing you’ll want to do is jump into the clear, cobalt waters. One of the most popular water activities in Ishigaki is to explore the waters by either kayak or SUP (stand up paddleboard). From on top of the water, you can see all sorts of marine life that live here.

Book your activity here.

Snorkel at Phantom Island

Take a boat and sail out to a close-by mini island made entirely of sand. On this island, the waters are shallow and the beach runs in a U shape. There are lots of diverse marine life in near the island and you can explore the waters with snorkeling gear by jump in straight from the island. 

Book your activity here.

Introductory Scuba Diving

What better way to enjoy the tropical island than to dive into the ocean? There are tons of marine life flourishing around Ishigaki island and one of the best way to experience it is by scuba diving. 

The waters are crystal clear and you may get a chance to run into some manta rays. In fact, Ishigaki is the most popular place to scuba dive in Japan. If you’ve never tried scuba diving before, don’t worry! There are plenty of places that don’t require a scuba certification. They teach you how to dive and make sure that nothing goes wrong. 

Book your activity here

Kayak into the Sunset

If you’re into unique, picturesque scenery, you can enjoy the golden hour on a kayak. The activity starts later in the day and lasts until the sun goes down. If you’re interested in participating in a calm activity, then we highly recommend this type of activity!

Book your activity here.

Food to Try in Ishigaki

Ishigaki Beef

Ishigaki beef is famous in Japan for being very high quality and tender and we highly recommend any dish made with this beef. Even common Japanese food such as gyudon and yakisoba taste nothing like the ones made in mainland Japan.

Restaurants that do use Ishigaki Beef usually have a sign up indicating so. If you don’t mind spending some extra money, try ordering the Ishigaki Beef Steak!

Yaeyama Soba

Yaeyama soba is a variation of the Okinawan soki soba with a seafood twist. Instead of using completely pork, the broth is infused with tuna and the dish is topped with minced meat and fish cake. 

Local Fish

As with many island destinations, fish is a very common ingredient. Any sushi or sashimi made with locally caught fish will taste incredible.

Sugar Cane Juice

Sugar cane is one of Ishigaki’s main produce and you can see sugar cane fields almost everywhere. Try a cup of freshly squeezed sugar cane juice from any smoothie shop in the island or even try some brown sugar snacks made from sugar canes!

Sata Andagi (Brown Sugar Donuts)

Speaking of brown sugar snacks, there’s one you must try. Sata Andagi is the Okinawan version of a donut and it’s in the shape of a ball rather than a ring. The natural sweeteners will make you feel less guilty when reaching for a second one!

Tapioca (Boba)

Ishigaki is known for its brown sugar and where there’s good brown sugar, there’s good tapioca drinks!

Ishigaki Restaurant


Ichibanza is the perfect place to try many different kinds of Ishigaki cuisines. Ishibanza is an izakaya located right outside of the ANA Intercontinental Hotel entrance and it’s the perfect stop from the airport to the city area. 

They serve everything from Yaeyama soba to Ishigaki steak. Whichever dish you choose, we highly recommend ordering a side of the mozuku tempura which is a type of seaweed, fried in tempura batter. 

Hours: 11:30am – 3:00pm, 6:00pm – 12:00am

Address: 354-5 Maezato, Ishigaki, Okinawa 907-0002, Japan

Phone Number: +81 980-83-5080

Kebab Kaboo

When arriving in Kabira Bay, Kebab Kaboo is one of the first restaurants you’ll see. They use Ishigaki beef in their kebabs, which automatically makes it a luxury kebab. 

They also serve Ishigaki beef sushi which won’t fill you up but is a great luxury snack.

Address: 917-1 Kabira, Ishigaki, Okinawa 907-0453, Japan

Phone Number: +81 90-1086-2413


Yuratic is a restaurant in downtown Ishigaki, located near Euglena mall, on the first floor of Hotel Cucule. Yuratic has a local vibe to it and serves a lot of traditional Okinawan food.

If you order any set meal, it comes with a piece of fresh sashimi on the side. They have great Yaeyama and Soki Soba, but their champloo was my favorite.

Hours: 11:00am – 10:00pm

Address: Japan, 〒907-0012 Okinawa, Ishigaki, Misakicho, 8−1 石垣島ホテル ククル1F

Phone Number: +81 980-88-7970

Banya Farm

Banya Farm is a smoothie shop located on the north eastern part of the island, and its an awesome rest stop on the way back from Mount Nosoko Mape or Ibaruma Sabichi Cave. 

Their smoothies are amazing but what’s more interesting is the shop itself. There’s a huge front yard with lots of greenery and various seating arrangements that can make for some great pictures!

On the other side of the yard is the shop owner’s residence, with lots of dogs, cats, and a sheep! And they sometimes let them roam around the area. In the back, there’s a short hiking path that takes you to an observation deck overlooking the coastline!

Hours: 10:00am – 5:00pm 

Address: 165-411 Tozato, Ishigaki, Okinawa 907-0241, Japan

Phone Number: +81 90-4490-7153


Papaya is another smoothie shop that’s located in the central north part of Ishigaki, a small distance from Kabira bay. At Papaya, it’s all about the taste.

They sell authentic, delicious fruit smoothies and sugar cane juice that they juice out on the spot. All of their flavor are natural and come from produce on the island. 

You can’t go wrong with any of their juices but we recommend getting the B blend, which is a magical mix of mango, pineapple, and sugar cane juice. 

Hours: 8:30am – 6:00pm

Address: 491 Fukai, Ishigaki, Okinawa 907-0451, Japan

Phone Number: +81 980-88-2583


Ishigaki is the hidden tropical island getaway that you definitely need to add to your Japan travel itinerary! Go and enjoy the island breeze, participate in water activities, and indulge on some authentic Ishigaki beef!


6 Best Ski Resorts for Snowboarding in Japan

Any snowboard enthusiast would know that Japan is world famous for snowboarding and winter sports; There’s over 500 facilities in the country and the snow quality in Japan is amazing.

But you don’t need to be a hobbyist to enjoy snowboarding in Japan and it’s an activity recommended to anyone that visits the country. However, with the 500 different facilities in this small island, it’s hard to choose where to go during your limited time here. 

In this article, I present 6 different snowboard resorts, handpicked by us and our friends, that are some of the best ski resorts in Japan. Make sure to read until the end to find out Tomomi’s favorite spot!

Why Japan for Snowboard?

There are two main reasons why Japan is famous for snowboard: the snow and the facility. 

Japan is made up of 73% mountain and there is constant snowfall in these mountainous regions during the winter. The snow that falls in these regions are powder snow, really soft snow and something that you can only get in really cold climates. 

To complement the perfect landscape for snowboarding, Japan has built incredible facilities to encourage winter sports. There’s tons of ski lifts, restaurants in the slopes, and great transportation and lodging in these remote ski resort areas (not to mention the amazing views you can get at just about any ski resort).

When is Snowboarding Season?

Specific dates for snowboarding season may vary from area to area, but in general, it starts around the second week of December and ends around the end of March. Off-season usually starts and ends one week before and after the the season. 

For specific dates for snowboarding season, you can confirm through each ski resort’s website.

What to Bring?

While you can rent the snowboard, winter jacket, and winter pants at just about any ski resort, these are some items you should consider bringing to your trip:

  • snow hat/ helmet
  • snow goggles
  • snowboard gloves
  • winter socks
  • warm inner layer (like Uniqlo HeatTech)

Mailing Your Snowboard

In Japan, if you’re bringing your own snowboard, you have the option to send it by mail to the hotel you’ll be staying at. When you make the reservation, accommodations near ski resorts often also provide a mailing address for this reason. 

For those that take public transportation to the ski resorts, it can help take some load off their hands and for those that go by car, it can help clear up some space in the car. It’s not a bad idea and relatively affordable. Yamaneko provides quotes on their website if anybody is curious about the prices.

Niseko in Hokkaido (Most Popular)


Niseko is one of the biggest and probably the most famous ski parks in Japan. This back-country ski resort is located in a remote location in Hokkaido and comprised of 4 ski resorts, each with fresh powder snow and its own unique courses.

How to get there

  • From Shin Chitose Airport: 3 hours by train or bus (reservation required)
  • From Sapporo: 3 hours by train
  • From Hakodate: 4 hours by train

Where to stay


  • Always Niseko – Modern hotel with great service and free shuttles to the ski resort.

Mid Range


Shiga Kogen in Nagano (Most Interesting)

Shiga Kogen is an awesome ski resort that’s less known amongst travelers. It is actually one of the highest ski resorts in Japan and is very close to nature. The Shiga Highlands, one of Japan’s 9 UNESCO biosphere conservation area, is located right at the base of the ski resort and the hot spring monkey park in Jigokudani is very close as well. 

The village area is very quiet and don’t often have English support, but for those that want to experience Japan’s nature in a more remote region, Shiga Kogen is a great place to visit. 

How to get there

  • From Nagano Station: 70 minutes by train
  • From Yudanaka Station: 35 minutes by local bus
  • From Narita/Haneda: 5.5 hour bus ride (reservation required and only during season)

Where to Stay


  • Hotel Mount Shiga – Simple hotel with snow gear locker and hot spring near the ski resort.

Mid Range


Hakuba in Nagano (Most Balanced)


Hakuba is where they held the 1998 Olympics and it’s been a popular snowboard destination since. Once you’re in the Hakuba valley, you’re surrounded by white-topped mountains in every direction and there are a number of hot springs and restaurants so you can enjoy your time before and after the slopes. 

How to get there

  • From Nagano: 70 minutes by bus
  • From Tokyo: 6 hours by bus (reservation required)

Where to Stay


Mid Range


Kusatsu in Gunma (Best Onsen)

The Kusatsu ski resort is one of the more underrated places for snowboarding. The Kusatsu Onsen Village is one of the most famous hot spring areas in Japan and the ski resort is within walking distance from here.

The Kusatsu ski resort is a bit smaller than others but it’s usually not crowded so it’s a good balance. It’s also very close to Tokyo and much cheaper than other resorts so you can even make a day trip!

How to get there

  • From Kusatsu Hot Spring: 20 minute walk or shuttle bus
  • From Tokyo: 6 hours by bus (reservation required)

Where to Stay


Mid Range


  • Hotel Ichii – Spacious ryokan with Japanese and western rooms overlooking the famous Yubatake. 

Yuzawa in Niigata (Most Accessible)


Not only does the area get tremendous snowfall every year, Yuzawa is also one of the most easily accessible ski resorts from Tokyo, with an expressway and a Shinkansen station running through the area. 

The place is also filled with sightseeing spots, onsen, and restaurants which make it a great travel destination as a whole. If you happen to be traveling around in Tokyo in the winter months, I definitely recommend making a snowboard trip out to Yuzawa!

How to get there

  • From Tokyo: 90 minutes by Shinkansen or 4 hours by local train

Where to stay


  • Sports Plaza Shirakiba – Simple tatami floor rooms and has a restaurant, equipment rentals, and communal bath. 

Mid Range

  • NASPA New Otani Hotel – Standard hotel with great amenities including a pool and relaxing hot spring.


  • Hotel Futaba – 4 star hotel with Japanese and western room options and upscale outdoor bath. 

Zao in Yamagata (Most Unique)


The Zao ski resort is most famous for the thick, snow covered trees called Juhyo or “Snow Monsters”. There is so much snowfall in this area that the snow completely envelops the trees, making them look like giant snowmen.

Even with thousands of snowmen guarding the mountain, there’s still lots of room to ride your board down the slopes as Zao is one of the biggest resorts in the area. Throughout the year, Zao is also famous for its onsen, which is a perfect relaxation after a long day of winter sports. 

Snowboarding in this snowman village is a completely out of this world experience and she highly recommend taking a trip out to Zao if you can!

How to get there

  • From Yamagata: 40 minutes by bus
  • From Sendai: 100 minutes by bus
  • From Tokyo: 8 hours by bus (reservation required and only during season)

Where to stay


Mid Range


  • Zao Kokusai Hotel – Relaxing hotel with great facilities and open air hot bath. 

What are some places you like to go for snowboard? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!