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Consult your guidebooks for weather, exchange rate, and any other boring information like that. I recommend Lonely Planet. Them seem to be more complete and geared toward the younger more adventurous crowd. This guide is intended to cover where they leave off, basically Kofu. Since I live in Kofu close to the downtown area, this is the area this guide will cover for the most part. I included kanji for restaurant names, bus stops, etc. where appropriate.
Note to my coworkers: My recommendation for your first night is this. Get to the hotel and immediately go out for dinner or a beer. Do this for a couple reasons. You are probably hungry or thirsty. Also you want to stay up to get adjusted to the local time. If you want to get the most out of your trip and want to experience some of Japan, resist eating at the hotel. Go out and start your first adventure, even if it is only for an hour or two. You may become too busy at work to do this later. I suggest dinner and beer at either Alfie or Akiyoshi yakitoriya. Akiyoshi is convenient especially if you are staying at the Danrokan Hotel since it is right next door. The picture menus make it easy to order, and you will be eating in a true Japanese yakitoriya. Alfie is a complete different atmosphere. A classy and upscale jazz bar. A bit pricier, but there is live music almost every night with no cover charge. The menu is in Japanese with no pictures, but the master speaks English and will help if there. Whichever place you decide on tell the master Mark sent you.
This is some general information about Japan or Kofu initially intended for my coworkers on business trips. If this is not your first trip to Japan you probably know this already so skip to the good stuff! Almost everything in Japan is approx. twice as expensive than in the U.S. In general, credit cards will be accepted only at hotels. Taxis, restaurants, and train stations will almost always only take cash. I have heard a lot of different opinions about avoiding jet lag on the flight to Japan. This is what I do... Basically from the time I leave the U.S. I do not sleep until it is my standard bedtime on my arrival day in Japan. This means you will likely be awake for 24 hours straight. I suggest drinking lots of water and little or no booze on the flight, but even I break this guideline sometimes. You will find far less people in Kofu that speak English as you would in Tokyo so learning a few set phrases might be a good idea. There are plenty of Internet sights for this purpose. English newspapers can be purchased at Kofu station. The stand in the ticketing area as well as some of the stands on the platforms will have The Japan Times and a couple others.
There are a couple different ways to get to Kofu from Narita airport including a direct bus, and a couple of different train routes. The direct bus to and from the airport is probably the cheapest way to travel. Because the bus is direct you do not need to transfer lines like you do when taking the train. This is convenient especially if you have a lot of luggage since you don't need to drag your baggage up and down the train station staircases to the platform when transferring.
However, for the extra money the train may be worth the extra room and extra smooth ride you get on the NEX and the Chuo Line express trains. Not to mention the convenience of vending machines, smoking cars if you are a smoker, and a someone coming through the cars selling beer, coffee, food and snacks. Also the trains are slightly faster and since they are rarely ever delayed, and are not governed by the conditions of the roads, you can count on thier reliability.
If you are staying in Shinjuku at a large resort hotel like Keio Plaza or Century South Tower, you can exchange some money (approx. $200) at the airport and the rest of your money at the hotel where the exchange rate will be better. If you are not staying in one of the major hotels in Tokyo your first night then it's doubtful your Kofu hotel will provide these services so you should exchange any money you will need at the airport. The Kofu Fujiya Hotel in an exception to this and you can exchange cash and T/C there if you are a guest. Also usually the exchange rate for T/C (traveler's checks) is better than that of cash. Remember, everything is approx. twice as expensive than in the U.S. In general, credit cards will be accepted only at hotels. Taxis, restaurants, and train stations will only take cash.
The following information is dated May, 2004 and could change in the future. Use this only as a general guideline and always double check all time, bus stand numbers, and prices at the airport, bus terminal, phone, or Internet. The bus from the airport to Kofu and visa versa costed 4300 yen one-way in May 2004. Below is a map of Narita airport Terminal 1 and Terminal 2, from left to right respectively, with the bus ticket window location shown in red. At both terminals the ticket windows are located on the first floor. The black dot on the map shows the location of the bus stand. For Terminal 1 use bus stand #5, and for Terminal 2 use bus stand #10. The Yamanashi Kotsu Center phone number is 055-223-5711, and hours of operation are 6:20-20:30, 21:00-22:00.
Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 bus ticket window and bus stand locations.
Narita -> Kofu Timetable
|Narita Terminal 2||08:15||14:30||15:50||17:30||20:30|
|Narita Terminal 1||08:20||14:35||15:55||17:35||20:35|
Kofu -> Narita Timetable
|Narita Terminal 2||07:15||08:35||12:50||15:20||18:10|
|Narita Terminal 1||07:20||08:40||12:55||15:25||18:15|
The NEX train described below is not to only train and not the cheapest train to Shinjuku. However all seats are reserved and roomy, the train is very clean, and announcements are in English which is not always true for other trains. If you still want to save a couple hundred yen and take a different route, then do not specify NEX when purchasing your tickets as described below.
You will land at Narita, which is approx. 3 hours from Kofu by train. You will go through immigration, then customs, and then exit into the lobby of the airport. If you land at Terminal 1, as you exit customs, to your left is the CURRENCY EXCHANGE booth, and directly in front of you is the train ticket window. While facing the train ticket window, directly to your right is the escalator down to the train platforms. If you land at Terminal 2, I don't know the layout, so maybe check the Internet first or ask someone when you arrive there. It should be very close to the customs exit as with Terminal 1. There is another train ticket window down the escalator just before the entrance to the platform. Use either ticket window.
At the ticket window, buy a train ticket from Narita airport to Kofu. This will contain two legs. The first, Narita airport to Shinjuku, and the second, Shinjuku to Kofu via an Express Train on the Chuo line. You need to specify NEX (Narita Express) if you want to travel the NEX as I have mentioned above. Although all seats on the NEX are reserved, you need to specify "Reserved seat" for the second leg from Shinjuku if you wish to sit in a reserved seat. I believe this is only 500 yen more. Next specify your smoking preference. A reserved seat ticket via the NEX from the airport to Kofu will cost about 7500 yen. If traveling researved and on the NEX, you will receive 3 tickets. The following examples are all for a reserved seat and travelling via NEX. The second line in the largest font on the 3 tickets will look like this. NOTE: I was told that recently (2006) the tickets are now printed in Kanji and romaji.
Ticket #1 is the general Narita airport to Kofu ticket. Ticket #2 is the express upgrade for Narita Airport to Shinjuku, and ticket #3 is the express upgrade for Shinjuku to Kofu. Ok, now continue to the platform. Look at ticket #2. It will look like this.
Narita Airport -> Shinjuku
The upper most line means "express ticket". The next line reads Narita Airport to Shinjuku. Line 3 from left to right reads the date (April 13), followed by the train departure (13:12 or 1:12 p.m.) and then arrival time (14:26). Line 4 from left to right reads "Narita Express", the NEX train number (21), car number (1), seat number (9-A). Look at the overhead signs to find the correct track for your train either by train number and/or train time. On the floor are painted signs that inform where each car will be located once the train has stopped. These are also located on the cars themselves. Get on the train onto the car also specified on the ticket and find your seat. After the train pulls in they may clean it before they let you on. If so just wait like everyone else until the doors open again. This train has a lighted map and shows you the train's location. The first stop after Airport Terminal 2 is Tokyo. Don't get off there; the next stop will be Shinjuku station. From the airport Tokyo is about 1 hour and Shinjuku is approx. 1.5 hours. Signs and announcements on this train will be in Japanese and English.
You will arrive in Shinjuku on platforms 3&4 in the south side of the station, which is the largest and busiest station in Japan. But don't worry, the Chuo line platform is very close. Go up the stairs to the station. Now go to the Chuo line, which is also in the south side of the station. The Chuo line will be on platform 5&6. This is where you will get the next train. The sign for the Chuo line will be dark blue. Other train lines have different colors. Now go down the stairs to the platform. Look at ticket #3.
Shinjuku -> Kofu
The "Shinjuku to Kofu" ticket reads the same as the other, train number, car number, seat number, seat letter, blah blah blah... Look at the overhead signs to find the correct track for your train by train number. On the floor are painted signs that inform where each car will be located once the train has stopped. Get on the train onto the car also specified on the ticket, same as before. This train will either be the Super Azusa, the Azusa, or the Kaiji. This train also should have English announcements. From Shinjuku to Kofu is also approx. 1.5 hours. If you have a lot of time between trains and will leave Shinjuku station, use ticket #2 to get out and ticket #3 to get back in later. Just insert your ticket into the turnstile. Hold on to ticket #1. When you arrive in Kofu, go up the stairs to the station exit, pass the ticket taker and give him tickets #1 and #3. After you pass by him, go to the left, down the stairs, and outside. This is the south exit. Right in front of you will be the taxis. Get in one and tell him your hotel, or better yet have it written down and show him.
The first problem in getting around is knowing where to go. Restaurants and bars are easy to find by wandering around downtown, and venturing into to small interesting looking places. But what do you do when you need to find a library, DVD rental store, or home center? The Internet can be a great resource for finding phone numbers, addresses, and even detailed maps even showing train stations and bus stops. Check out my tutorial for using Internet to find a business.
Finding a Business
When leaving from Kofu station and other large stations, check with the route map over the fare machine to see the line you need to take and amount of the fare. There are two lines that run through Kofu station. The Chuo line and the Minobu line. The Chuo line trains run like most trains in Japan. Some Minobu line trains run like the Chuo line trains, others run more like a bus. Purchase your ticket and check with the Chuo and Minobu line departure schedule to determine the time of departure and the platform number. The time tables in Kofu station are to the left of the turnstiles and are in English also. Instert your ticket into the turnstiles to enter the platform area.
If riding the Minobu line, purchase a ticket at the station. If leaving from a small station like Zenkoji Station, there may be no way to purchase a ticket ahead of time. Instead, board the train at the door indicated by the marking on the train platform. This is the train door that has a ticket dispensing machine. Board the train and take a ticket.
When getting off the train at a small station the train conductor will collect your ticket. If you purchased it at the station, just hand him the ticket. If you took a ticket on the train, hand the conductor the ticket and the fare amount. The fare amount will be displayed overhead similar to the city buses. The number on the ticket will corrospond to the number on the fare board which will display the fare in yen or in 1/10-yen units.
On some Minobu line trains, you cannot exit some of the train doors at certain smaller stations. The doors will read, "Not in use" in English and Japanese. The doors in use are usually at the front of the train. You need to exit from these door. Wait until the light on the door button panel is lit then press the Open button to open the train door. The door will not open automatically on trains with these buttons. If you are on a train without door buttons, then door will open automatically.
If you get off the train at a large Minobu line station, the conductor will not collect your ticket or your fare. Instead exit as you would a standard station. Use the ticket you bought at the departing station to exit the turnstile as normal. If you took as number ticket on the train hand this to the station worker along with the fare. If you do not know the fare, the station worker will tell you. This all sounds complicated, but you will get use to it. Just give yourself a few extra minutes on your first trips.
When riding a tokyu (express) train on the Chuo line, you can use the signs and marking on the platform to determine car numbers, reserved cars, and smoking cars. Above are a few examples of some of the markings on the platform. The first line of the first example reads, "tokyu azusa", or express 'Azusa' train. The next line in green means reserved seating car. The third line indicates that train car #11 is non-smoking and will align with this marking when the train stops. The last line in blue in the second example indicates a non-reserved car. The third example is similar to the first, except for the "Super Azusa" train.
Get on at the middle or the rear of the bus. The front door is for exiting and will not open to pick up passengers. Take a paper ticket from the machine at the entrance. If you are boarding the bus at the terminal (start/end point) a ticket may not be needed and may not be dispensed. The next stop is displayed on the screen up front. This may only be in Japanese so is is helpful to have your destination written down. Press one of the purple buttons to ring the stop bell when you want to get off at the next stop. Find your ticket number on the display up front. The number displayed is the fare will most likely be in 10-yen units. If so multiply by 10 for the fare in yen. The first box () displays the full fare (from start/end point). Pay this if you boarded at the terminal or somehow lost your ticket already. You must pay exact change. But there is always a change machine at the front of the bus. Get your change before the bus stops at your stop. Go up to the front and stick a bill or a coin into the front (not top) of the machine. You will receive change at the bottom. When the bus stops, you need to put the paper ticket and the exact bus fare into plastic opening in the top of the machine. Then exit the bus at the front.
If taking a taxi from Kofu station, go to the taxi stand and line up. If calling a taxi from the street, a taxi with the roof light on indicates nothing. It is just a roof light. If the taxi is available there will be a red light in the passenger side front window. This will read "available" in Japanese. Raise your hand to call the taxi when you see an available taxi. The back door opens and closes automatically. Unless there are 3 or 4 people, only the back of the taxi is used. Get in the taxi and tell the driver your destination or show them the Japanese written address of your destination. When you arrive at your destination, pay the charge indicated on the meter and get out. Do not tip. Most drivers don't speak English, so it is best to have the address of your destination written or have a map. When you call a taxi from a restaurant or other places, you will pay an extra charge but this is not too much more.
There is a small post office 30 sec. walk from the South exit of Kofu station. The post office has an ATM available during normal business hours. The ATM has taken my American debit card and also has English prompts. Exit the station to the right (towards the Shingen statue). Cross the street and turn right. The post office will be on the left. The post office sign is highlighted in the photo below.
This is a short list of some of the major hotels in the Kofu area.
Room at the Toyoko Inn hotel
This is a new hotel that opened up in Kofu in 2006. All Toyoko Inn hotels use the same format. Rooms have Internet access, there are computers with Internet access in the lobby, A phone with limited (3 min.) access for local calls in the lobby, and a light Japanese breakfast is included in the price which is rice balls, miso soup, tea/coffee, and sometimes croissants. There are Toyoko Inn hotels in every major Japanese city. Also there is a "Cinderella" rate which rocks! If you check in after midnight without reservations (walk in) the rates are SIGNIFICANTLY lower. Of course you do run the risk of having them full which happened to my once. Toyoko Inn rooms are newer than rooms at other hotels like the Washington or Royal Garden. The great thing about this Toyoko Inn is that it is a 1 minute walk from Kofu station. When you exit the South Exit you will see the large blue neon "toyoko-inn.com" sign at the top of the building on the right side of Heiwa-dori (main road from station). It is about a 5-10 minute walk to the downtown area. See the English website below for more information and on-line reservations.
This is a new hotel that opened up in Kofu in 2003. Same as the "Eki Mae" Toyoko-Inn except it is about 500 yen cheaper since it is about a 5-10 minute walk from Kofu station. It is also about a 5-10 minute walk to the downtown area.
Fujiya is probably the nicest and the biggest in Kofu. The rooms I stayed in at Fujiya were business suites with desk, sometimes a FAX machine, and were the same size as suites in the US. Much bigger than the rooms of the other hotels and three times the size of my rooms in the Royal Garden and Konaya. I believe there is someone at the front who speaks English. It is a 10 minute taxi ride to Kofu station and the downtown area.
3-2-30 Yumura, Kofu City, Yamanashi
English website for the Fujiya chain of hotels
The Danrokan is probably the nicest after Fujiya. The rooms are smaller than Fujiya but a little bidder than the tiny rooms I stayed in at the Royal Garden and Konaya. The Danrokan like all the other hotels listed here (excluding the Fujiya) are within walking distance of Kofu station and the downtown area. Danrokan is in the downtown area and the closest to the station, about a 5-10 minute walk. Someone may speak some English at the front.
1-19-16 Marunouchi, Kofu City, Yamanashi
Other then Fujiya and Danrokan, the rest of the hotels listed here are slightly smaller hotels with smaller rooms. Konaya is in the downtown area and is about a 5-10 minute walk to Kofu station. Actually the Konaya is only a 30 second walk from the Danrokan. English is probably limited if spoken at all. You may have better luck with an sending an English FAX or email.
1-7-15 Chuo, Kofu City, Yamanashi
Like the other hotels, Royal Garden is slightly smaller with smaller rooms. Royal Garden was my home for 6 months before getting an apartment. It is within walking distance of Kofu station and the downtown area. Downtown is about 15 minutes walk and the station about 20 minutes. English is limited if spoken at all. You may have better luck with an sending an English FAX.
1-3-17 Aioi, Kofu City, Yamanashi
Like the other hotels, Washington is slightly smaller with smaller rooms. It is about a 5 minute walk to the downtown area and about a 10-15 minute walk to Kofu station. There is an inexpensive shyabu shyabu restaurant inside the hotel. English is limited if spoken at all. You may have better luck with an sending an English FAX.
4-3-5 Chuo, Kofu City, Yamanashi
The following are phone numbers to services provided in English.
Phone: 0332245583 (Tokyo)
AMDA Medical Info
Provides general medical information like English speaking doctor/hospital locations.
Phone: 0352858088 (Tokyo)
JR Line Info
JR service that provides information on JR trains like times, prices, destinations, etc.
Phone: 0334230111 (Tokyo)
Provides free English/Japanese medical related translations services over the phone.
Phone: 0353858185 (Tokyo)
Provides general information like phone numbers, etc.
Phone: 0332013331 and 0335021461 (Tokyo)
Depending of the phone, you can use coins or a prepaid telephone card. Since the cards are so easy to get and don't expire (I think), this is a good choice unless you only need to make a single call. The cards are also useful on trains with phones that do not take coins. Pick up the phone and insert a telephone card into the slot or insert coins. Dial the number you want. When you are using a telephone card, the phone indicates how much value is remaining. The phone will beep when you have almost used up the card value or coins. Add another telephone card or more coins. Your card will be returned when you hang up. You can also use you calling card but you still need a prepaid card or coins to get a dial tone first. Follow your calling card instructions for international dialing from Japan. In this case your prepaid card will not be charged. Use green phones for domestic calls and the gray phones for domestic or international calls. The gray phones have analog RJ11 jacks that you can use to dial from your computer if you still use dial-up. The gray phone will have a button for English instructions on how to do this. You will most likely need to set your computer so it does not wait for a dial tone before dialing.