Japan (Tokyo) for New Year

Discussion in 'Asia' started by Mike Reed, Oct 19, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. Mike Reed

    Mike Reed Gold Member

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    With the AA/JAL 50% off awards deal, we pulled the trigger on a SFO-HND flight that gets in late on December 28th, and we leave late on Jan 4th. We'll have Dec 29-Jan 4 to explore Japan.

    We understand that this is new year, and that many typical tourist attractions are closed from Dec 27 - Jan 3, give or take a day, and can work around that. I have several friends who have lived in Japan, mostly in Tokyo, and are offering advice on where to go and what to see, so I'm not too upset about missing some of the packaged experiences in lieu of actual Japanese culture and beauty.

    That said, one option I'd like to consider is three mini-vacations using a JR pass. Perhaps a few days around Hiroshima, a few in/around Tokyo, and a few elsewhere?

    Looking at that, I think I'd rather spend the money on a good rail pass vs. worrying about luxury hotels. I could be swayed either way, though, as we're definitely going to want to relax. Since we get into Tokyo so late, we'd probably consider spending time there FIRST, but again, I can be flexible in that thought.

    Leaving when we do, we can simply plan in train time from anywhere and ensure we end up at the airport.

    Thoughts? Ideas? Advice?
     
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  2. joejones
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    joejones Silver Member

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    Domestic travel really sucks around New Year's. It's the Japanese equivalent of the Thanksgiving weekend. Going out of Tokyo for New Year's is particularly bad because millions of Tokyo residents with family outside town are doing the same thing. If you get a rail pass to go out to Hiroshima, you will probably have to stand most of the way and deal with mobs of people at the station in both directions.

    So I would stick with the Tokyo area. There is a lot to do here even if places are closed -- and many places actually remain open. It's mostly mom-and-pop places which close so the proprietors can get a vacation. It isn't like, say, Germany on a Sunday. You will definitely be able to visit temples etc.

    Expect southeastern US weather (freezing cold, maybe some snow but not much). On New Year's Eve, the trains run all night (on other nights they will stop running just after midnight). The "traditional" places to ring in the new year are Meiji Shrine and Narita Temple, and they will both be very crowded. If you are into partying you'll want to go to Roppongi.
     
  3. Mike Reed

    Mike Reed Gold Member

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    Well, one other option would be using HND as a gateway and spending some time in Tokyo and some elsewhere in Asia. Not spending $9,000+ on the airfare to HND opens up quite a few possibilities, as does having more BA miles to play with than I know what to do with... :)
     
  4. joejones
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    joejones Silver Member

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    It will also be really hard to get international awards out of Tokyo during New Year's, though you might get lucky and find something to a more obscure destination. I flew to Guangzhou for the holiday a few years ago because it was the only place I could get to using ANA miles.
     
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  5. RichardInSF
    Original Member

    RichardInSF Silver Member

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    I think there will be plenty to see in Tokyo during that time. In particular, Jan 2 is one of the few days that the Imperial Palace grounds are thrown open to all and the Emperor and his family make appearances on a window balcony. The night of Dec 31 is the only night of the year that public transit runs all year Join a zillion Tokyoites and go the Meiji Jingu shrine on New Year's eve.

    I also don't recommend attempting to travel around Japan during this period as everyone will have off and will be travelling -- it will be the original travelzoo!
     
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  6. okrogius

    okrogius Silver Member

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    Went to Tokyo last year around Dec 27-31th - you'll still have plenty of fun things to do. From my trip the only things that I recall being closed were the garden/park just north of the Rainbow Bridge in Shiodome area and the Tokyo National Museum. Tokyo Tower was still open, and of all usual shops/restaurants/temples were operating as usual.

    Don't go with expectations of particular touristy things being open (if it's a museum, it probably won't be), but you can still have a great time and sample the city/food/culture/etc very well.
     

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