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Travelling around Japan / The Toyota factory tour

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  • Travelling around Japan / The Toyota factory tour

    I am starting this post to provide general information about travelling in Japan and will include details of visiting some Toyota specific sites if interested in those. There is some information available on the net but ive found that its usually written by travel bloggers who have not actually been there. And this way you can ask questions as they arise. I’ll put the subjects under separate headings to make it easier to digest. Any questions just ask.
    No visa is required for Japan if your visit is less than 90 days and is for tourism purposes. The months of May to August are the most popular with all attractions open for visiting . Snowfalls can change this in the cooler months. Accommodation is plentiful in major cities but can be difficult to find in regional areas. It is best to avoid the Golden Week period ( late April / early May ) and public holidays as hotels are booked a long way in advance and there will not be any standby available.
    Use Trivago to find a hotel and try and go close to a subway station if possible. Most transactions in Japan are done by cash only , EFTPOS is not common especially outside the cities. ATMs are everywhere luckily.
    When travelling around it is best to hire a portable WiFi device for the duration which will allow you to track your location using Google Maps and display the best route to get there etc. Free Wifi is available in many railways stations and other places but its quite limited and short duration only.
    It is a legal requirement that all visitors to Japan carry their passport as ID at all times.

    Train Travel
    For visitors and locals the extensive city and rural rail / bus network run by JR Rail is an efficient way to get around. JR rail passes are much cheaper than buying individual long distance fares and are available from outside Japan for periods of 7 , 14 and 21 days. When you buy a JR Pass in Australia via your travel agent they will give you a voucher along with a guidebook and rail map . This voucher will be exchanged for the actual pass once you activate it in Japan. The name on the voucher MUST match the name on your passport .You have to work out where and what your travel will be to make best use of the pass – so for example you have 3 weeks in Japan and you fly in / out of Tokyo and you want to spend a week in Tokyo then you get a 14 day JR pass and only activate it after your week in Tokyo.

    Metro / Subway travel
    For those who are not used to big cities the size of the stations and numbers of people using the complex subway system can be quite daunting. Some stations can be 4 layers deep and require multiple escalator / lift rides to the bottom. Some of the subway system is owned by JR rail but there are numerous privately owned railways / monorails / trams as well. Sometimes the railway interchanges are in separate places but are joined by a complex pedestrian tunnel system. The rail lines are usually colour coded and can have names and numbers allocated. For most stations the name is written in Japanese with the English name below. Some places have names in Japanese translated to Korean / Chinese / English. Platform indicator boards and announcements are often in these 4 languages. If you are lucky the trains have internal message boards also in 4 languages.
    If you overlay a street map with the subway map you will find that the stations can have multiple entry and exit points and not all of them are linked. EG – a station may have exits numbered 6 and 7 but they will be across the street from each other. To change train directions you need to leave the station , cross the road then enter the station again. Luckily inside most stations and close to the exits there are street maps showing the surface streets with the subway map overlaid.
    For metro travel its best to enter a large station to pick up an English subway map and there will be a lot of relevant info on that showing the track names , colours , station numbers etc. Not all private tracks / stations will be listed though. Average fare on subway lines is 250yen ( $2.50 )
    While at the station purchase an IC card from a machine called Pasmo or Suica . ( these are similar to the Sydney’s Opal card ). These will allow you to travel and also buy small snacks from vending machines. Place 2000Yen into the machine and it will give you a card with 1500Yen credit. You can check balance or top up the card from inside or outside the station gates ( Fare Adjustment ).
    Shinkansen Travel – ( Bullet Trains) .
    I could write a whole book about this topic but will have to keep it simple for now. Shinkansens run on their own branch line system separate to metros and other narrow gauge train lines. They have separate platforms and stations in most cases . Most Shinkansens are owned by JR but there are private companies which own their own trains which use JR lines. The JR pass is only valid for the JR Shinkansens . Trains run at over 200kmh and around 30minutes apart. Tickets are issued at the JR offices just outside the Shinkansen entrance gates and staff will ask for your JR pass first. If you need to change trains for the destination the staff can give you a printout showing where you change and at what time the change will be. Make sure they write down which platform the train will leave from this is very important. The trains have reserved and unreserved carriages and you can ride without reserving a seat but its always best to reserve one just in case its busy on the longer sectors. The platforms will have signs on the ground indicating where the carriage number will stop and you need to make sure you are standing at the correct place for the correct train name. The ticket will display the departure / destination / train name / departure time / arrival time / car number / seat number but not the platform number. The trains don’t stop for very long so you need to be ready to board well before departure. Announcements inside the train are in multiple languages.

    Toyota museums-
    Now that you can get around you can start visiting Toyota specific places. There are 5 main places-
    Tokyo – Mega Web – Venus Fort.
    This is a car based theme park of sorts ,9 klm south of Tokyo downtown, it’s a dealer showcase with a history garage and test drive circuit on site. The showcase has all the new products as well as concept cars , cutaways etc. The History garage is close by in the Venus Fort shopping centre and has displays from the 50s , 70s and rallying. To get there you take the Metro line to Shimbashi Station and change for the Yurikamome private railway to Aomi station. You cant miss the giant ferris wheel just at the station.
    Nagoya District.
    2 hours south of Tokyo by rail there are 4 Toyota specific places to see. For all of these if you need travel advice go to the Visitor Information Centre inside Nagoya Railway station where the staff can give you English maps/ notes on which trains etc to catch along with walking or bus info.
    The Kaikan Museum / Plant Tour
    Located 40klm east of Nagoya at Toyota Global HQ site , near Mikawa Toyota railway station.
    This is another dealer showcase with all the latest cars and shows the latest tech used in the engines and production processes. It can be visited on its own or in conjunction with the free factory tour. For the factory tour you need to book online between 3 days and 6 months in advance. It doesn’t run every day and you need to get there at 930 to ensure you don’t miss out. You need to request an English speaking guide as they are not always available. The tour goes for 1.5 hours , but of that , there is a 30 minute bus ride each way to the factory. Only 20 mins is spent at the factory itself , where you walk along an elevated walkway and watch RAV4s being built below. You see the interior being fitted out and some engine bay stuff.
    The Toyota Automobile Museum
    This is an awesome museum about 20klm east of Nagoya and has cars on display from many worldwide brands on 3 floors. Located a short walk from Geidaidori Station on the Linmo private railway. Can remember admission price but under 1000yen I think.
    The Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology.
    Located about a 30min walk or short train ride north from Nagoya station .
    This is a really worthwhile place to visit , it’s a very large hall that shows everything from Toyotas early days as a loom company right to modern day manufacturing processes and engine / gearbox / seat / airbag / stamping processes , the lot. Admission was 800 yen which includes an English tour guide.
    Toyota Kuragaike Commemorative Hall
    This is located about 30 klm east of Nagoya amongst parkland , lakes and a zoo. A little harder to get to , you need to catch a bus or taxi from Shin Toyota station. Free admission, It is a hall dedicated to the history of the founder Toyoda and how the company developed from spinning looms to trucks then to cars. There are a few cars inside and the dioramas / signboards are in English and Japanese.

    When visiting any of these places do some research first on tour availability , opening hours , transport arrangements , etc. I’ll help you where I can and this is where its handy to have a Suica card ready to go prior. Some are on private railways where you cannot use the cards you need to pay cash .

    If anybody else can add to this topic feel free to do so , I’ll be adding to it as time allows.
    2019 GX , in White

  • #2
    Some other destinations-

    Mt Fuji.
    This place has some of the most magnificent scenery in Japan. Depending on the snowline and weather conditions , there are different stations that you can reach by road - the highest in summer is called 5th station. From here it’s a 6klm steep walk to the crater and as of Sept 2017 the track from 5th station to the huts has been closed to all due to an avalanche. Tour buses ( pre booked ) leave Tokyo and Shinjuku railway stations at 8am and take in 5th station and Lake Kawakugiko / Lake Hakone in one day , approx. cost is 14000yen. For those who want to spend more time at Mt Fuji there is a JR highway bus which does numerous daily scheduled runs to Kawakugiko railway station and from there you can take a public bus to 5th station. ( Kawakugiko is a major tourist stop and many local tours are available here also ). Some of these JR buses go all the way to 5th station so you don’t need to transfer at Kawakugico. Cost for public transport is around 50,000Y return to Tokyo. Tickets and timetables for the Mt Fuji buses are available at the sales desk , JR Highway bus terminal , Tokyo railway station , at Yaesu South Exit. You normally don’t need to reserve seats but its best to reserve one if its busy. JR Rail pass accepted ok . Once you get to 5th station there are hotels , souvenir shops , food outlets , information centre , lookouts ,etc.
    2019 GX , in White


    • #3
      They have a saying over there. A wise man climbs Mount Fuji but only a fool climbs it twice.
      Can you guys guess how many times I've climbed it?😅


      • #4
        awesome , i took one look and said - nah . how long did it take you Fortuner Cookie ? I was told 6 hours each way then longer to go around the crater.
        2019 GX , in White


        • #5
          I took the bullet train up.