Gifts I am Excited to Give this Holiday!

Sharing my 2016, Japan-inspired, gift guide.


I had a lot of fun buying presents this year, it was actually a little dangerous...


Is the Japan Rail Pass Worth it?

I always recommend for travelers coming to Japan to get the Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass). But recently I’ve been getting questions if it is actually worth the cost - around $300 USD for a 7-day and $460 for a 14-day (ordinary, not green). 

JR Pass Prices. Ordinary car is what I normally recommend for clients.

JR Pass Prices. Ordinary car is what I normally recommend for clients.

While I had a feeling it was more economical to use the pass, I wanted to double check. I picked four itineraries that I’ve made for previous clients and compared the prices for reserved-seat tickets, non-reserved tickets and JR pass holders*. 

Bottom line: For anyone traveling by Shinkansen to a handful of destinations around Japan (2+), the JR Pass is DEFINITELY worth the cost. 

Let’s take a look at a few different itineraries below:

Laura and Mike - Tokyo + Kyoto + Naoshima + Hiroshima + Yakushima

Laura and Mike are really avid hikers. They’ve been around the world on trails and spend most weekends, back at home in California, in the forest. For them, doing the Kumano Kodo and visiting Yakushima were huge priorities. They saved over $400 USD by getting the JR Pass.



Kathy - Hiroshima + Naoshima + Kyoto + Hakone + Tokyo

Kathy was starting in Hiroshima and working her way to Tokyo over the course of 7 days. Even though Kathy wasn’t buying a round trip ticket from Tokyo to Hiroshima the JR Pass was still worth it. By using the JR Pass Kathy was able to save around $70 USD. 



Erin and Brendan - Tokyo + Kyoto + Nara + Hiroshima

Erin and Brendan had basically planned out their trip by the time we got in touch. They were really interested in history and wanted to visit Kyoto and Hiroshima along with a little bit of time in Tokyo. For them getting the Pass saved them about $170 USD.



Kendra - Tokyo + Kanazawa + Yokohama

Kendra was coming to Tokyo for work and just looking to escape the city and see a different side of Japan. For her I recommended a long weekend in Kanazawa and a quick ½ day trip to Yokohama. With the pass she saved $58 USD. Even if Kendra chose not to go down to Yokohama, I can still imagine that the Pass would be worth it to cover the cost of her trips on the JR trains within Tokyo.



When the Pass isn't Worth it

The scenarios above all justify the cost of the JR Pass. But, I can think of situations where I wouldn’t recommend someone purchase it. For example:

  • Just visiting one destination during your trip (Kyoto for example)
  • Taking overnight buses/trains instead of Shinkansen
  • Traveling to a place like Okinawa or Hokkaido with the discounted airfare for foreign passport holders. Here is a list of carriers/discounts
  • Visiting places like Hakone from Tokyo - where there are other pass options (2-Day Odakyu Pass)

The scenarios are endless. If you are on the fence about whether or not to get the pass, take a quick look at the links below and example itineraries above and you'll be able to get a rough estimate if it is worth it or not.


Resources for Train Schedules, Prices, etc.

Google Maps - it's coverage of Japan is very extensive and you can explore the schedule to find trains leaving/arriving at certain times

JR Fare Calculator - Doesn't cover all stations, but gives you a good idea for major stations

Shinkansen Fare Calculator from TokyoCheapo - all fares originate in Tokyo


Tokyo Metro Fare Calculator - The Metro lines are not covered by the JR pass, so this can give you a better idea of what you may spend


*To make the price comparison I used prices from JR Websites, Google Maps and TokyoCheapo. Because the JR Pass does not cover travel on Nozomi trains, I only used Hikari and Kodoma trains for price comparison. Fares can change by day and time, so the stated prices above may be different then what you pay.

5 Fabulous Instagrams to Follow for Tokyo Inspiration

If you are planning a visit to Tokyo and looking for insight on where to go and what to do, here are 5 of my favorite Instagram/blog accounts.

Entrance to the Nezu Museum - gardens are not to be missed.

Entrance to the Nezu Museum - gardens are not to be missed.

Follow along and get inspired about art, design, dining and nightlife:



The best of art and architecture in Japan - hands down. 

Instagram & Website


People Make Places

Really delightful profiles of the humans that run Tokyo businesses. Also available as a book and an app.

Instagram & Website



Curated bars, shops, restaurants. Gorgeous art direction.

Instagram & Website


Design Made in Japan

Because the Japanese get good design and you can delight from it.

Instagram & Website


3331 Arts Chiyoda

An Alternative Arts Center, housed in an abandoned school in the heart of Tokyo. Love their lense into the local art scene.

Instagram & Website

Just what you need to get super excited about your upcoming travels.

Japan daydreaming abound!



It's currently sold-out, but if you can get your hands on the next run of Hello Sandwich's, Tokyo Zine, it has great recommendations for cafe's and shops in neighborhoods around Tokyo.

Pilgrims in Disguise - 人生とはカタチをかえたお遍路である

We Are all Pilgrims: Illustration by  Luis Mendo

We Are all Pilgrims: Illustration by Luis Mendo








私がこのお遍路旅の中で出会った人でもっとも印象に残っているのは、私が “coffee and compliment” カップルと呼んでいる日本人夫婦のことです。(私は彼らの名前を聞いていませんでした.)








でもそのあと、四番目のお寺にご夫婦がいました。 なんと彼らは私のことを待っていてくれたのです。









私がホテルに着いた時 、外にいたカップルに車を駐車場に入れるのに、他のものにあたらないように見ててとお願いしました。






















Notes on Japanese Translation

Translating this post from English to Japanese was a team effort. My tutor Akari Sensei and I went sentence by sentence introducing new vocabulary and sentence structures as they were needed. I would translate the sentence first and then Akari would show me where I went wrong and how to make it flow better. It was an incredible learning experience. Very different from the classroom setting in terms of the order they would teach something, but was a structure that suited me. Akari and I plan to record her reading the entire post and then have me listen and practice reciting. In the hopes that the vocabulary and sentence structures really sink in.

I am so grateful to have found Akari Sense, she is an incredibly talented teacher. Cannot recommend her enough for anyone looking to learn Japanese.

Here are links to her blog and Japanese lessons



About the Author:

Elizabeth moved to Japan in the Fall of 2015. Since arriving she's spent her time exploring from Hokkaido to Yakushima and learning the language. She founded Be Here Asia to help English speaking tourists find their way to amazing, but remote destinations in Japan. 

Would love to hear from you with ideas for future destinations to visit, email