Goin' to Japan in June- advice?

So, turn out the wife has some big deal of a family thing in June. She’s originally from Akita Japan so that means a trip abroad.

OK, I’m cool with that, we’ve had some good times when we went to Japan before. But in the past we always stayed with her family. We thought this time we’d get out to Tokyo by ourselves (Me, my wife and 5 YO daughter). We were thinking of renting a car for the week but I think parking in Tokyo must be a mint. We’d like to save our mony to do fun stuff.`

The problem is we can’t decide if we should rent the car (about $300 US) or get rail passes (about $480 US). At first the car looks good but we’d be driving from Tokyo to Akita for the Family shindig and then back to Tokyo, which I understand is about a 6 hour drive one way. So with gas and parking maybe the train is better. Any thoughts?

Also give me any advice you have for spending a week in Tokyo. My wife and daughter speak Japanese but I do not if that helps.

Thanks in advance!

From what I hear (especially if you are going to Tokyo) Get the rail-pass. The roads, I believe, are usually jam-packed, and it might be easier getting directions if you walk or generally use public transportation. I don’t have any direct experience with japan, though (Nutz!)

I’ve been to Tokyo, but it has been a while. Public transportation was amazing, and probably easier than driving. Plus, you can get a cool passport thingie and collect stamps at every station.

Everyone in Tokyo speaks english. Single individuals or whole groups will come up to you or behind you and say “english” or “American”- you will turn at the familiar sound, and the conversation is on!

One of the things that you have to take into account are the ridiculously expensive toll fees. Riding the highway from Tokyo to Akita will cost you 12,000 yen, about 100$. That’s 200$ for a return trip. Add to that gas (roughly 10$ for 100 km, for Tokyo-Akita that’s about 50$ one way) and parking (when you can find it) and the train pass comes out a lot cheaper.

A car will allow you to visit places you couldn’t easily visit by train and that’s one of the reasons that I do drive here. However, when I go to Nagoya, Osaka or Tokyo the car stays at home, there’s no way I’m taking my wheels to a big city unless I really, really have to. Driving in Tokyo is going to be a sure way to ruin your trip.

I’ve never been to Akita, but one option could be to rent a car for the time you’re there as it might allow you to venture into the countryside.

Actually, relatively speaking, very few people speak English in Tokyo (and even fewer in the rest of Japan) it’s just that the ones who do actively seek out foreigners.

OK: Good advice so far…
Any Tokyo Dopers want to get a drink?

I agree with what others have said about the car. It would probably be useful in Akita, but the Shinkansen will be much more convenient (and not much more expensive) than driving to Tokyo. In Tokyo, there’s no question: a car is ten times more trouble than it’s worth. Even if you’re willing to pay for parking, the time spent looking for parking and just sitting in traffic will eat up your vacation time and put you in a bad mood for most of the day.

By the way, the railpass sold outside Japan is only good for Japan Rail lines, IIRC, which won’t do you much good inside Tokyo. Almost every subway station inside the city will sell prepaid cards (1000, 3000 and 5000 yen) that are good on all the non-JR lines and will make travelling around much more convenient.

Thanks for the input!

Sounds like a car could be useful on Akita but not so much in Tokyo. I guess I’m just tied to my American viewpoint (having ca r = freedom to go where I want, when I want).

So would a car be a good option if we were spending more time in Akita? Should we rent one just for the trip and return it as soon as we’re back in Tokyo?

(OK I admit it, I have a bias towards getting a car for the trip; I just remember dragging bags and kids through train stations last time and it was a royal pain in the ass).

What should we see in Tokyo? Will the Giants be playing at home the second week in July? Can I get tickets without going broke? What about nightlife? Where are the good restaurants? Clubs?
What about Sumo? Is there a season or is it year round? Can We see it in July?

DISH! Give me the inside scoop on what to see!

Remember that the Japanese drive on the other side of the road than we do in America. I think a car in Tokyo would be a nightmare.

I’m with ya there - last trip I nearly killed us all trying to shift a manual transmission with my left hand.
If we do get a car this time we’re definitely talking about an automatic transmission…

If you really do want to drive in Akita, then I would suggest renting the car there instead of Tokyo.

The Giants are playing against Nagoya on July 4, 5 and 6, and against the Hiroshima on the 21rst, 22nd and 23rd.

Ticket prices range from 5900 yen to 1000 yen.

The sumo season is divided in six tournaments, three of which take place in Tokyo (the other ones being in Nagoya, Osaka and Kyushu). Unfortunately for you, the July tournament is held in Nagoya.

I’m sorry I can’t help you out much with things to do in Tokyo as I’ve only been there a few times briefly myself.