This is probably quite a boring post for many of you, but for people who like to plan like me and think they might want to have an itinerary similar to mine (emphasis Liz Lisa), then there may be a few tips or informational bits that you may find very helpful! (Hopefully.) Keep in mind that I'm not going to go into detail about activities since the focus of this post is simply planning for them. Future posts will explore the actual experiences.
Again, this is going to be one of those posts where this is just my opinion/my own way of planning for a trip to Japan. I acknowledge that there are many, many different ways to go about organizing a trip like this, and I don't claim for mine to be better than any other particular method, but this is what has been working for me, so I wanted to share it!
Planning the flight (airlines, days, times, arrival, departure) -
This is obviously highly dependent on each individual person so I don't think it would be helpful for me to walk you through anything related to this, but I just had a few notes about it. Personally, (from Hawaii) my family likes to use Hawaiian Airlines to fly into Tokyo HND.
Basically the key to taking away from your flight(s) is knowing what time you'll be arriving/leaving at what airport and using those as guides to help you plan for your first and last day in Japan.
If it's your first time in Japan or your first time flying into a particular airport, you may want to look up your access options. As an example, for Haneda, I look here.
My family's plan for transport is to use the train (versus airport limo, taxi, shuttle, walking). They've actually improved the website since my last trip and have now included pictures which makes catching the train even easier! They even have a video!
Picking a hotel -
This is also highly variable on individual priorities (convenience, cost, size, etc.), but just to share how my family usually picks...we have a price range we keep in mind, but our most important factor in picking a hotel is usually convenience and location relative to train stations. Our main mode of transportation in Japan are the trains and subways (versus renting a car or catching a taxi everywhere), so it's very important to us to pick a hotel that is near a train station. And not only that, but a train station in a easily accessed location. For example, in Tokyo, we usually like to look for hotels near stations on the JR Yamanote Line which is a loop line that hits a number of major stations in Tokyo that can also easily serve as connections to other lines.
We've stayed at the Prince Shinagawa hotel in the N tower previously and were very happy with its location despite the small size. Shinagawa is a major station, on the loop line, and we can even catch the shinkansen from there directly to Osaka. Not only that, but the Prince Shinagawa is a short 2 minute walk from the station and easy to find, so after a long day, we don't need to trudge through a neighborhood for 10-15 minutes to finally get back and rest. Tbh, anything farther than a 5 minute walk from the station wasn't extremely appealing to us and anything we had to walk 15 minutes for was out lol.
For reviews on the hotels I stayed at during my July 2014 Japan trip, the Prince Shinagawa (N Tower) in Tokyo and the Hotel Monterey Grasmere Osaka in Osaka, see this post.
Planning your daily route/transportation -
I mentioned this in my previous trip's "Getting around" post so I'm not going to go into detail about what it is in this section, but my family likes to purchase the JR Rail Pass for transportation, particularly because it pays for itself with a few longer shinkansen rides. Read more about it here.
here. [Note that you will be charged in Euro.] It is delivered to my house in the US in about 2 days.
If you're going to be catching the trains/subways and are unfamiliar with Japan's rail systems, it can be a little intimidating or confusing. It is definitely advisable to have a printed map of the train lines with you on hand to help you if you're not familiar with the layout of the stations, especially in relation to each other.
Google maps helps to an extent. I like to use it to give me a general idea of where a physical building is, but not to actually help me figure out the train route. For example, if I heard about this great restaurant in Saitama, I'll google to find the address and then put it in Google maps to see generally how far it is from the hotel, what its nearest station is and where it is in relation to that station. But I likely won't use the directions to route me. Instead, I simply note the station name and then hop over to Hyperdia.
It's not always easy to figure out which trains you should be catching to get to a certain location since many of the maps looks quite complicated to an unfamiliar viewer. Hyperdia makes it very simple. Start to type the name of the station you want to leave from and then which station you would like to go to, and it will search and tell you what your route options are, how long it will take, how much it will cost, etc.
You can also set the date and time if you know you want to be in Place B by XX:XX on MM/DD. It doesn't work too many months in advance, but it will still give you a very reasonable estimate if you wanted to start planning very early and then you can go back and double check the times, etc. later.
You can also set other search limitations (such as routes only using private railways or only routes using JR lines) and have it sort routes by time, price or transfers. This site has a lot of great options and features, and I highly recommend using it.
I think you can also use it from your phone, but sometimes you don't want to wait for wifi so I like to have this kind of information on hand and ready at a glance. You can obviously just easily write it down on paper, but I usually keep track like this -
Planning for Liz Lisa -
This sounds like a weird concept, but if you're like me and one of the big highlights of your trip is going to be visiting Liz Lisa store locations, I feel like it helps to be prepared, especially if you've never been to one before! And this is really the reason I'm writing this post. Whereas I'm sure there's a berth of knowledge about planning for hotels, transportation in Japan etc, I don't think many (travel) bloggers touch on specifically planning for shopping at Liz Lisa, so I wanted to share some of my tips.
|Liz Lisa Hep Five in Osaka, July 2014|
During my July 2014 Japan trip, I specifically picked travel dates around Shibuya 109's 7 days bargain/summer sale. They don't announce the dates months and months in advance, but what you can do is research when the sales occurred in the past and find a pattern. This goes for the same for just individual smaller sales/events/releases for Liz Lisa.
For example, I know I want to visit the Shibuya 109 Liz Lisa location so I go to their blog here. [All Liz Lisa stores and their blogs and addresses can be found here.] Then, I scroll down below the entries to find the archive list (by month) and use the drop down bar to navigate to the month when I'm planning on visiting from the previous year such as March 2014 (for my March 2015 trip).
Liz Lisa official blog for general stuff. Its archive by month or day can be found on the left sidebar below the topic tags.
If you want to give yourself the best chance of attending a specific event that happens annually, the topic tags in the sidebar on the official blog (as mentioned just before) are a good place to look. For example, if I want to plan the dates of my trip around the Liz Lisa x My Melody collab spring release, I want to make an educated guess on what dates it will occur based on when it occurred in the past. It is, of course, a risk to plan this way because if you're planning more than a few months out, there likely isn't even an official announcement that they will for sure be having the event, much less when, but if you want to give yourself the best chances, imo this is the best way to do it. Go to the LIZLISA×My Melody★ tag in the sidebar to view all entries related to that topic. It'll take some time and some scrolling, but essentially you want to find a post that tells you what dates the items were released in the past and even potentially what the event dates were like (although those are more variable year to year I think).
For spring 2014 and spring 2015, the vol. 1 release of LLxMM collab items was the last Saturday of March (3/29/2014 and 3/28/2015). The Yui Kanno collab in spring 2014 and 2015 also happened to fall on the Saturday prior. I can't guarantee that the spring 2016 LLxMM collab will even necessarily occur, but I feel if you had to make an assumption, I would guess that the spring 2016 LLxMM collab vol. 1 release would also be the last Saturday in March in 2016, and if the Yui Kanno spring collab were to also come to fruition, it would release the Saturday before that.
Obviously, please don't take what I'm saying here as law and plan your trip around my word alone. Please do make an educated decision based on what makes the most sense to you. I am only providing a few tips based on what I would do for myself, but please note that I not have any official knowledge about event dates or occurrences and should not be held responsible if the events do not happen as I have estimated.
Sometimes I do this research after I pick my travel dates and book my flight (since something else is mandating my travel dates that's more important) and sometimes I will use sales and events to plan my travel dates. So really, this research can be done at any time, but it may just be helpful to know that if you shift your trip a couple days forward or back, you may have access to a few more things if this is going to be a highlight of your trip.
Of course, in the preceding several weeks before your trip, it's advisable to continue to check the blogs of the shops you are visiting to see if they have any special events or store specific promotions going on (anniversaries, renewals, limited items, small sales etc). You won't necessarily see all of that in detail on the official blog which can be more general.
Another small tip is to add the blogs of the stores you are planning to visit to your bookmarks on your phone. Before you leave the hotel for the day, consider checking out the blog to see if they're running any time specific sales that you might want to plan your day around. This is especially true during the summer sales. For example, they might be having a regular 50% off sale, but if you're in the store and checking out from 14:00-14:30, you can get the items for 60% off!
Sorry if this post was a little dry, but expect actual trip posts in the next few weeks as I get my photos (and life) organized, lol!
Japan trip Spring 2015 posts
Part 1 - Pre-trip planning
Part 2a - March 21, Day 1: Liz Lisa Shibuya 109 Yui Kanno event
Part 2b - March 21, Day 1: Hawkeye Owl Cafe
Part 3 - March 22, Day 2: Kawatsura Strawberry Farm, Chiba, Shinjuku
Part 4 - March 23, Day 3: Tsukiji Fish Market, Yokohama, Machida
Part 5 - March 24, Day 4: Omiya, Ikebukuro, Takadanobaba, Asakusa & luggage forwarding
Part 6 - March 25, Day 5: Shibuya, Shinkansen & Osaka
Part 7 - March 26, Day 6: Tennoji MIO, Nara Deer Park
Part 8 - March 27, Day 7: Kobe (steak), Namba/Shinsaibashi & Keiko
Part 9 - March 28, Day 8: Kyoto, Berri & home
Part 10 - Hotels and Pupuru pocket wifi review
Part 11 - Liz Lisa shopping items/coordinates
Part 12 - Liz Lisa x My Melody 6th collab OPs and hand towel
Japan trip Summer 2014 posts
Japan trip Summer 2015 posts
Japan trip Autumn 2015 posts
Japan trip Spring 2016 posts