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billbirchall

Re:Shore Excursions in Japan

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My Wife and I and two friends are cruising on the Diamond Princess from 3 April 2019 to 11 April, visiting Toba, Himeji, Nagoya etc., Looking at the excursions, they appear to be incredibly expensive. Can anyone, who has already done this trip, offer any alternatives. Are there any locations that you can stroll about, without being guided. We appreciate that it will be difficult if communication is involved, as we are told that not many Japanese speak English. If we have to pay these exorbitant prices, then so be it, but I would like to check with experienced cruisers, before committing ourselves.

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We are doing a celebrity cruise in Japan and korea. From the research that I have done (as well as others in our room call), you've been given some inaccurate information. We are doing Different ports, I suspect, but here is what we have learned:

 

  • Lots of japanese speak english.  Many WANT to practice their English.  In Tokyo, you'll even find people walking around with signs offering to help.  
  • Japan is one of the safest countries in the world.  You really have no worries about safety anymore than you would anyplace else.  Probably less!
  • Japan's public transportation system is widely held as the most efficient in the world.  And it's cheap.  Use it.
  • Some cities have VOLUNTEER GUIDES.  No cost except their travel expenses and any admission or lunch expenses.  Wonderful opportunity to spend time and learn from locals.  This is probably what I'm looking forward to the most.
  • We have found less expensive tours offered by Tours By Locals and Triple Lights.

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We spent time in Japan (Kyoto, Hakone and Tokyo) following a cruise and had absolutely no problem touring independently.  Public transportation is easy to navigate because buses and trains have boards indicating the next stop in several languages including English.  Older people tend not to speak English, but younger ones are keen to practise.  

 

We used a Goodwill Guide (volunteer) at a port stop in Hakodate and were very happy with the experience.  Don’t wait if you want to book one.  They are available in many places, but book up early.

 

Sheila

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4 hours ago, smtcan said:

We spent time in Japan (Kyoto, Hakone and Tokyo) following a cruise and had absolutely no problem touring independently.  Public transportation is easy to navigate because buses and trains have boards indicating the next stop in several languages including English.  Older people tend not to speak English, but younger ones are keen to practise.  

 

We used a Goodwill Guide (volunteer) at a port stop in Hakodate and were very happy with the experience.  Don’t wait if you want to book one.  They are available in many places, but book up early.

 

Sheila

 

note that many of the goodwill guide organizations do not accept request applications far in advance.  Usually 30 or 60 days prior to the date you are requesting.  IIRC, Hakodate is 60 days.

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Absolutely agree with the comments above. We are on Diamond for the second time this June and we plan to do all our port excursions DIY. Get Google Translate, a good Japan travel book, and learn a few simple phrases in Japanese such as hello, where are the bathrooms, do you have an english menu, and you'll do just fine. Don't be surprised if you are answered in English for any of those phrases! Japan is a remarkable country and well worth the trip.

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I do agree that Japan ports are easy to navigate. We mostly did our own things taking public transportation. They have volunteers and staff at ports with maps available making it an easy day visit at each port. Just google and research and know what you want to do before your cruise.

 

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Having been to Japan before and going again in a few weeks I must say that I didn’t find the tours to be expensive. I plan tours with 6-8 people and the cost PER COUPLE is somewhere between 80 and 130 USD, depending on the port and the transportation used.

 

Recommendable tour operators are ToursbyLocals.com and TripleLights.com. For more information just click on the link to our Japan review in my signature.

Edited by Miaminice

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On February 20, 2019 at 10:28 AM, jkgourmet said:

We are doing a celebrity cruise in Japan and korea. From the research that I have done (as well as others in our room call), you've been given some inaccurate information. We are doing Different ports, I suspect, but here is what we have learned:

 

  • Lots of japanese speak english.  Many WANT to practice their English.  In Tokyo, you'll even find people walking around with signs offering to help.  
  • Japan is one of the safest countries in the world.  You really have no worries about safety anymore than you would anyplace else.  Probably less!
  • Japan's public transportation system is widely held as the most efficient in the world.  And it's cheap.  Use it.
  • Some cities have VOLUNTEER GUIDES.  No cost except their travel expenses and any admission or lunch expenses.  Wonderful opportunity to spend time and learn from locals.  This is probably what I'm looking forward to the most.
  • We have found less expensive tours offered by Tours By Locals and Triple Lights.

 

It is unclear to me if "jkgourmet" has actually taken this trip or is researching one.  But just a few comments.  Other folks will find that their "mileage varies."

 

In Europe I find that "lots" of people speak English.  I thought that the percentage of Japanese who speak English was much less in comparison.  My husband has been to Japan on business trips, and he found that in more remote areas very few folks spoke Engllish and, as would be expected, English signage was much less than in more urban areas.  

 

We didn't find that we were approached by people who wanted to practice speaking English.  

 

We found the public transportation system to be efficient, and while stops will have English signage be in urban areas, the signs directing you to a certain exit for a specific street may not be in English (for instance when you have options for going either right or left when leaving a station).  

 

We spent five full days in Tokyo and didn't observe any people walking around with signs offering assistance.  Nor did we observe this in Yokohama.  I read a review which mentioned this but we didn't observe this ourselves.

 

 

 

 

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On 2/20/2019 at 10:28 AM, jkgourmet said:

We are doing a celebrity cruise in Japan and korea. From the research that I have done (as well as others in our room call), you've been given some inaccurate information. We are doing Different ports, I suspect, but here is what we have learned:

 

  • Lots of japanese speak english.  Many WANT to practice their English.  In Tokyo, you'll even find people walking around with signs offering to help.  
  • Japan is one of the safest countries in the world.  You really have no worries about safety anymore than you would anyplace else.  Probably less!
  • Japan's public transportation system is widely held as the most efficient in the world.  And it's cheap.  Use it.
  • Some cities have VOLUNTEER GUIDES.  No cost except their travel expenses and any admission or lunch expenses.  Wonderful opportunity to spend time and learn from locals.  This is probably what I'm looking forward to the most.
  • We have found less expensive tours offered by Tours By Locals and Triple Lights.

 

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We are on the Celebrity Cruise in October - maybe the same you are on. Have you booked any private tours where you are looking for other couples to fill out the tour? We are traveling with two other couples. Please email me at lbpfla1@yahoo.com

 

Thanks for your help.

 

Larry Pitt

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On 3/5/2019 at 12:41 PM, Northern Aurora said:

 

It is unclear to me if "jkgourmet" has actually taken this trip or is researching one.  But just a few comments.  Other folks will find that their "mileage varies."

 

In Europe I find that "lots" of people speak English.  I thought that the percentage of Japanese who speak English was much less in comparison.  My husband has been to Japan on business trips, and he found that in more remote areas very few folks spoke Engllish and, as would be expected, English signage was much less than in more urban areas.  

 

We didn't find that we were approached by people who wanted to practice speaking English.  

 

We found the public transportation system to be efficient, and while stops will have English signage be in urban areas, the signs directing you to a certain exit for a specific street may not be in English (for instance when you have options for going either right or left when leaving a station).  

 

We spent five full days in Tokyo and didn't observe any people walking around with signs offering assistance.  Nor did we observe this in Yokohama.  I read a review which mentioned this but we didn't observe this ourselves.

 

 

 

 

I want to echo Northern Aurora. We have cruised along Japanese ports twice now. In Kobe, our ship docked at Naha Port. We walked to the metro stop nearby. No signage was in English. I was in the process of using Google translate to figure out which train to take when a very nice older gentleman who spoke no English, stopped to help us. I told him that I wanted to go to Nishiki Market and he pantomimed which train to take, how much, etc. And even walked us to the right track, once in Kyoto, we found English signage at Kyoto Station, but we’re confused as to which train to take back to the port (even though I had it down on Googlemaps). Another younger person with minimal English helped us in that instance. Even though I had the directions on googlemaps and there was some English signage, the overstimulation of the train station was overwhelming. We have found some really nice Japanese who are willing to assist lost tourists, but even though they took English in school, their spoken English is poor. Google translate is priceless, even with the data charge.

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