Updates and news

Sadly the biggest update is that due to the COVID-19 pandemic Japan is closed to visitors from most countries in the world. We are delighted that the state of emergency has been lifted in several parts of Japan and very much hope that the country will open up again, though even if it does a separate issue is that people need to feel safe flying again. In the interim the updates on this page, in conjunction with the book, will help you plan a trip.

The updates below are all arranged in the same way the book is ordered so look for the relevant page number. Please note that they refer to the 4th edition of Japan by Rail. Sadly, if you have a copy of the 3rd edition you will find it is now very out of date. We therefore recommend buying a copy of the 4th edition!

On this page we will also share any feedback we have received about travelling in Japan. One of the advantages of receiving feedback is that it gives us ideas of places to include in future editions of Japan by Rail, but will also help anyone planning a trip.

We will also include any new museums or other attractions we hear about that we think will be of interest but which are not in the current edition of the book.

We will try to keep this website as up to date as possible, but if you find anything in the 4th edition that has changed we would very much appreciate hearing from you so we can put the update here for the benefit of everyone! Go to the Contact us page to contact Japan by Rail.

Introduction – colour pages

p13  Sample daily budgets

Both the yen/sterling (£) rate and yen/US dollar ($) rates have changed quite a bit since the 4th edition was published in July 2016 so the below is an update of the exchange rate equivalents based on those valid on 14th October 2020.

Low

Accommodation ¥3000+ (£22/$27+): dorm bed in a hostel, no meals; Breakfast  ¥600 (£4/$6): coffee and toast; Lunch  ¥600 (£4/$6): sandwich or snack and drink; Dinner  ¥1200 (£9/$11): noodles/pasta, or a hostel meal; Sightseeing#  ¥1700 (£12/$16): less if you mainly visit free attractions.  TOTAL  ¥7100+ (£52/$66+)

Mid-range

Accommodation ¥6000 (£44/$55+) for a single room, ¥9000 (£66/$83)+ for two sharing in a business hotel (breakfast is usually included); ¥8000pp (£59/$74+) in a minshuku (half board); Breakfast*  ¥800 (£6/$7): egg, ham, toast and coffee; Lunch   ¥1200 (£9/$11): lunch deal in a café/restaurant; Dinner   ¥1700 (£12/$16): set evening meal at a restaurant; Sightseeing# ¥1700 (£12/$16): more if you visit lots of galleries/museums.  TOTAL  ¥11,400+ (£84/$105+)

High

Accommodation ¥12,000+ (£88/$111+) for a single room, ¥20,000+ (£147/$185) for two sharing in an upmarket hotel; ¥16,000+ (£118/US$148) per person half board in a ryokan; Breakfast*  ¥2200 (£16/$20): buffet breakfast; Lunch  ¥4000 (£29/US$37): a three-course meal; Dinner   ¥6300+ (£46+/$58+): à la carte meal; Sightseeing#  ¥9000+ (£66+/$83+): guided city tours and entry fees. TOTAL ¥33,500+ (£246/$310+)

Planning your trip

p29  The Japan Rail Pass: Who can use the pass

Japanese nationals can no longer buy a Japan Rail Pass unless they have lived out of Japan for 10 consecutive years or more.

p29  The Japan Rail Pass: Buying the pass

The trial period during which the Japan Rail Pass can be bought in Japan has now been extended to 31st March 2020. The usual regulations regarding eligibility for the pass apply (see also Who can use the pass).

Passes can be bought at Narita, Haneda, Kansai and New Chitose (Sapporo) airports as well as at Hakata, Hiroshima, Nagoya, Niigata, Osaka Sapporo, Sendai, Takamatsu and Tokyo stations.

Ordinary Class:  7-day   ¥33,000; 14-day  ¥52,000;  21-day   ¥65,000

Green Class:  7-day    ¥44,000;  14-day     ¥71,000;  21-day   ¥90,000

As you can probably see the passes are more expensive if bought in Japan so it is still worth getting a pass before you go.

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p30  JR Rail Pass prices

The rail pass prices have changed since the consumption tax was increased to 10% on 1st October 2019. For clarity we have put the new prices and exchange rate equivalents on the relevant rail pass page on this website. The price changes for rail passes that are either new since the current edition was published or are shared between operators are here.

JR East & JR West

7-day  Hokuriku Arch Pass         ¥24,440* (£180/$226)

JR East & JR Hokkaido

6 days (in 14)  JR East-South Hokkaido Pass        ¥26,900* (£198/$249)

JR West

New pass: 5-day Okayama Hiroshima Yamaguchi Area Pass ¥13,700 (£101/$127), ¥14,700 if bought in Japan. The pass is valid for non reserved seats on the Sanyo shinkansen (Okayama to Hakata) as well as non-reserved seats on express trains and between Takamatsu (Shikoku) west and Hakata (Kyushu) and as well as north from Shin-Yamaguchi to Masuda including Tsuwano.

JR West & JR Central (Tokai)

5-day Takayama Hokuriku Area Pass  ¥14,260 (£105/$132); 5-day  Ise Kumano Area Pass     ¥11,210 (£82/$104)

JR Kyushu

3-day Southern Kyushu Area Pass  ¥7500 (£55/$69);

JR Shikoku

p32  JR Central (tourist passes)

JR Central now offers a selection of tourist passes: two with JR West (see JR West & JR Central) and two independently: Mt Fuji–Shizuoka Area (3 days; ¥4570/£34/$42). These are in addition to the Alpine–Takayama–Matsumoto Area Pass (¥17,830/£131/$165) already mentioned in Japan by Rail.

For full details see touristpass.jp/en.

p33  JR East & JR Hokkaido rail passes

JR East & JR Hokkaido have introduced a JR Tohoku-South Hokkaido Rail Pass (valid 5 days in 14; ¥19,750; see jreasthokkaido.com for details).

p36  JR Kyushu rail passes

There is also now a 3-day Southern Kyushu Area Pass  ¥7500 (£55/$69; up to 10 free seat reservations); see JR Kyushu rail passes for details.

Note that Japanese nationals can no longer buy JR Kyushu rail passes.

p36  JR Shikoku rail passes

The 2-day All Shikoku Rail Pass is no longer offered but a new 7-day pass has been introduced: ¥13,000 (£96/$120).

Travel to Shodoshima on services operated by Shodoshima Ferry and also buses on the island operated by Shodoshima Olive Bus Co are now included in all the passes.

JR Shikoku has also introduced a Kagawa Mini Rail & Ferry Pass. This costs ¥4000 and is valid for two consecutive days. The pass includes travel on: the JR Shikoku line between Takamatsu and Kanonji and also to Kotohira; the Takamatsu-Kotohira Electric Railroad line between Takamatsu and Kotohira and also to Kotodenshido and Nagao; Shodoshima Ferry and Shodoshima Olive bus services.

p48  Tourist information

JNTO has opened an office in Madrid (turismo-japon.es), Moscow (visitjapan.ru ), Hanoi (www.camnhannhatban.vn), and Kuala Lumpur (www.jnto.org.my). It also plans to open offices in Rome, Delhi/New Delhi and Manila

japanbyjapan.com is a new website developed by JNTO Singapore; it has articles on food, sightseeing, shopping and cultural activities.

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Japan

p79  Taxes and tipping

Consumption tax went up to 10% in October 2019.

The Rail Network

Tokyo

Sadly due to the COVID-19 pandemic the Summer Olympics due to be held in Tokyo in 2020 have now been postponed till 2021 (23rd July to 8th August), though even that is not certain. Clearly if this does go ahead and you plan to go to Japan at this time you will need to book early.

p104 What to see and do

Tokyo Station area  A guided tour of the Imperial Palace Tour can now be booked on the same day; for further details see sankan.kunaicho.go.jp/english/guide/koukyo.html. You can register for a tour outside the palace’s Kikyomon Gate near Tokyo Station. There is now an English-speaking tour guide.

p107  Diver City (Odaiba) A new Gundam statue has been installed and is approximately 20 metres (65ft) high (compared to the original which was about 18m high). A new feature is that it can change between ‘unicorn’ and ‘destroyer’ modes; this happens at 11am, 1pm, 3pm and 5pm every day. The statue is illuminated at night.

p108  Shijo-mae The new Tsukiji, now called Toyosu Market 豊洲市場, is now open here (Mon-Sat 5am-5pm). All viewing for visitors is now through glass-covered observation galleries. It is possible to see tuna auctions from the tuna auction observation deck (5.45-6.15am; 10 mins per group; group of up to 40 people at a time) but it is necessary to register in advance through the website: shijou.metro.tokyo.jp/toyosu.

p110  Harajuku  A new JR station has been built (for the Olympics) but construction work is likely to continue as the original station is now going to be revamped. (Sendagaya and Shinanomachi stations on the Chuo-Sobu line will are also going to be rebuilt.)

p112  Otsuka  Toei’s Toden Arakawa line now has an official nickname: Tokyo Sakura Tram 東京さくらトラム.

p112  Komagome  Rikugien is open to 9pm mid November to early December as parts of the garden are illuminated for the autumn leaves’ season.

p114  Ueno  The National Museum of Western Art was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list in July 2016 as part of the registration of The Architectural work of Le Corbusier, an outstanding contribution to Modern movement.

pp116-17  Tsukiji  The fish market’s move to Odaiba (by Shijo-mae station) has now happened. The outdoor market is still here so it is still worth visiting this area particularly if you are a sushi fan.

p118  Toden Arakawa Line  This tram line is now called Tokyo Sakura Tram (see note re p112).

pp120-1  Ryogoku  Sumida Hokusai Museumすみだ北斎美術館 (hokusai-museum.jp; Tue-Sun 9.30am-5.30pm; ¥400) has opened here. Hokusai was born in Sumida and spent most of his life there. The museum focuses on his life and has replica art works in the permanent exhibition but original works are shown in the temporary exhibitions. The museum is about a 9-minute walk from JR Ryogoku and about a 5-minute walk from Ryogoku station on the Toei Oedo Line (A3 exit).

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pp124-5  Station guide

A useful website for the facilities and services available in Tokyo Station is tokyostationcity.com.

The JR East Travel Service Center in Tokyo station has been expanded; the opening hours in the new Travel services/pass exchange area are Monday to Friday 8.30am-7pm, to 5pm on weekends and holidays.

pp128-9  Getting around  We are grateful to Pin Swede for sending us his experiences re using Tokyo Metro and Toei cards: I always buy these 3-days ¥1500 cards, eg ¥500 for a day of unlimited travel! And since this is Japan it’s always 24 Hours not “calender day” or something stupid (like in some European cities ). So if you clock in at 09.30 Monday the ticket will last to Thursday 09.30. You need to buy them at Narita or BIC Camera Shibuya for example + some other places and they must be paid in cash. And you need to show your passport.

Sadly the Asakusa Panda Bus service stopped in August 2016.

This website sangyo-rodo.metro.tokyo.jp/tourism/accessible/en has 10 suggested sightseeing routes for popular places in Tokyo; the details for each route include walking times, station exits and detailed maps including where there are toilets and accessibility for people in a wheelchair.

pp130-3   Where to stay

Two places to stay that have been recommended to us are:

Yanagibashi Business Hotel (www.hotel-yanagibasi.jp/en) ‘Location is excellent, staff are amazing, friendly, welcoming, and speak English well. Rooms are small but it’s a fine hotel.’ The hotel is a short walk from the East Exit of JR Asakusabashi station or the A1 Exit of Asakusabashi station on the Asakusa subway line.

Kinuya Honkan Hotel (www.ryokan.or.jp/english/yado/main/28000) in Ueno. The rate in a traditional room is ¥4650-5650. ‘You have a 7/11 four doors down as well an assortment of affordable eateries on the same block. Plus Ueno Park, Ueno Station, and Keisei’s Ueno terminus are all 5 minutes away. Overall great place to stay.’

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Osaka

p147   What to see and do  Tony Wasserman has kindly informed us that Universal Studios Japan was modelled on the original Universal Studios theme park in Hollywood, California not in Florida as stated in the book.

p153   Where to stay  Osaka Prefecture has introduced an accommodation tax: ¥100/200/300 per night for room rates of ¥10,000-14999/15,000-19,999/20,000 or more.

p158  Sides trips from Osaka: Koya-san

Where to stay and eat   We have been told that an English-speaking monk (who studied in Manchester) at Eko-In does interesting evening tours of the graveyard (Okunoin) in English.

Honshu

Central Honshu

p138 and p41 Odakyu (odakyu.jp/english) has introduced a Hakone Kamakura Pass (3 days; ¥7000) which provides unlimited travel on Odakyu lines to/from Shinjuku and in the Hakone and Enoshima/Kamakura areas.

p167  Side trip to Hakone  

Hakone Ropeway (Cable Car) reopened but in May 2019 closed again due to seismic activity around Owakudani. A replacement bus service between Sounzan and Togendai is provided and stops also at Ubako.

p168  Side trip by train to Ito and Shimoda  

The Izu Craile Joyful train (Mar-end Sep weekends and holidays; 1/day) now operates between Odawara, Atami and Shimoda.

p188  Tsumago

LR highly recommends Daikichi Minshuku: (www17.plala.or.jp/daikiti/english.html) ‘nice views, lovely old-fashioned tatami rooms and exquisite, outstanding traditional meals. ‘

p197  Nagoya – What to see and do

A Legoland theme park (www.legoland.jp/en; adult day pass off peak/peak days from ¥3400/3700)  opened in April 2017. The park opens at 10am but closing time varies between 5pm and 7pm so check in advance. To get there take the Aonami Line from JR Nagoya to Kinjofuto station.

Kansai

p152 & p204  Kintetsu Pass/Shimakaze luxury limited express  Kintetsu is operating daily return trips (except Wednesdays) on its new luxury limited express ‘Shimakaze’* meaning ‘Island Wind’ (with seating similar to Gran Class on JR East’s Hayabusa), one each from Nagoya and Namba (Osaka), to Kashikojima (seaside in Mie Prefecture) in the morning and back to those cities in the afternoon. It can be used with Kintetsu Pass*, with extra payment and could be joined from JR at either Matsusaka or Toba. For more information see: Kintetsu Pass.

Note: Japan by Rail has not used either the Kintetsu Pass or travelled on this new train but both come highly recommended.

pp247-8  Wakayama   Side trip by rail to Kishi (on the Tamaden)

A new female calico cat, Yontama, has been made a station master and is now on duty on Wednesdays and Thursdays (10am-4pm) at Idakiso station to give Nitama (Tama II) a break! Nitama is on duty at Kishi station.

pp250-62  Kyoto

p260 Where to stay  Kyoto City has introduced an accommodation tax; ¥200/500/1000 per night for room rates of ¥20,000/20,001-49,999/50,000 or more.

Ibis Styles Kyoto Station is opposite the south side of Kyoto Station. Rooms have free wi-fi and there are also coin-operated laundry facilities.

pp263-5  Side trips by rail from Kyoto

pp263-4  Arashiyama  LR told us that she ‘was bowled over by the vast and gorgeous stroll garden of Okochi Sanso’s villa’. The closest station to the villa (daily 9am-5pm) is Torokko Arashiyama but it can also be reached if you turn right after leaving the bamboo grove. The entry charge (¥1000) includes a cup of matcha tea.

pp265-70  Nara

p266 What to see and do  Todai-ji now costs ¥600 (¥1000 inc the museum).

Western Honshu

pp272-4  Himeji (possible side trip)

Malcolm Fairman wrote to us about Takeda CastleThis the Japanese often refer to as the Machu Picchu of Japan and it is. To get to it you go from Himeji on a two-carriage train that leaves once an hour and the last stop before the destination is Takeda’. It takes about 80 minutes on a local train (JR Bantan Line; fare ¥1140); take a train to Teramae (41-47 mins; 1-2/hr), and then change to a train to Wadayama (1/hr), but there are two LEX services (Hamakaze; 57 mins; ¥2630 with reserved seat). ‘When you leave the station, turn to your left until you see a small passageway that goes under the tracks (a storm drain by any other name). You need to bend low as it is only 5ft high. On the other side turn left again heading back to the station and opposite the station is a small road that turns into a path on the right. That is the direct way up. It is a long climb up stony rocks which form a staircase. If you are healthy you will make it to the top, though several pounds lighter than when you started. Another way up is get a taxi that takes you to the car park near the top. That costs ¥1250 but saves time and masses of energy! For more information visit the Japan Castle website. Please see the picture for an idea of what is to be seen. The castle is famous for being above the clouds, as many mornings the surrounding clouds are actually below the castle. You have to be there early apparently to get this so good luck. There is a tourist office at the station manned by several people who sell books on the castle including a really good photo book put together by a photographer who filmed the place for a 12-month period. The book costs ¥2800 but the pictures are to die for. Bring food and drinks as the village doesn’t have a lot that I saw near the station.’

pp301-8  Hiroshima  

p304  What to see and do  The renovation work at the Peace Memorial Museum is now completed and the museum is fully open.

p304  Getting around  Visit Hiroshima Tourist Pass is now available in a variety of areas and validity periods from the small area pass (2 days ¥1500, 4 days ¥4500) which includes the tram/streetcar, buses inc the Sightseeing Loop bus and HD Nishi-Hiroshima (Bon-Bus), and the ferry services to Miyajima to the wide area pass (3 days ¥3500, 4 days ¥6500); the wide area pass includes the above as well as various highway bus routes. The 4-day pass includes Hiroshima Airport Limousine bus. Note that JR trains are not included in any pass. The main sights in Hiroshima/Miyajima can be seen in about two days but if planning to stay longer in the area these passes would be particularly useful if you don’t have a Japan Rail Pass.

p306  Hiroshima Carp baseball game  In 2016, after a gap of 25 years, Hiroshima Carp won the Central League Championship but came fourth in 2019.

Tohoku

pp323  Oyama/JR Mito Line and Mooka Railway

Louise Archer suggested we include Mashiko : ‘that’s a great place with a couple of pottery festivals a year’. The pottery festivals in Mashiko (www.mashiko-kankou.org/english) are held in Golden Week and early November. The easiest rail option is to take the JR Mito line from Oyama to Shimodate (23 mins; 1-3/hr; ¥230. Then take the Mooka/Moka railway to Mashiko (40 mins; 1-2/hr; ¥760).

p324 Side trip by train to Nikko

We are grateful to Barend Köbben for informing us that Frank Lloyd Wright was not the architect for the current JR Nikko station nor is it the original station building which was built in 1890, or one of JR East’s oldest wooden station buildings.
From research we have now done it seems that a one-storey station was built in Nikko in 1890 but the building there now dates from 1912 and was probably designed by a Japanese architect called Akashi Torao.

pp335-6  Shin-Hanamaki

We are grateful to Joe Pan for telling us that the SL Ginga operates from late April to early October (not April to June as stated in the book).

Joe Pan also says: ‘Riding SL Ginga is a lovely experience as your book suggested . Another way to enjoy the journey is to get off at Miyamori station (the train will stop and take a 20min break), walk 10mins to a bridge – a famous photo-taking spot when SL Ginga passing the bridge. The only disvantage is that you can’t carry on the SL journey that day. Apart from SL Ginga, Pokemon with You is a fun and colourful train that operates seasonally (summer weekends) between Ichinoseki and Kesenuma; it is also very popular for all ages.

Hokkaido

pp393-9  Hakodate

pp393-4  What to see and do  The diorama video in the Former British Consulate has been changed and no longer shows American sailors first meeting with Japanese people.

p407  Side trips from Sapporo  

The Sapporo–Otaru Welcome Pass has been discontinued.

p411  Side trip from Asahikawa 

(Sadly there wasn’t space for the Wakkanai text below in the 4th edition of Japan by Rail and rather than having it sit unread by anyone we decided to add it here.)

Trip to Wakkanai 稚内, the northernmost point in Hokkaido (© Andrew Picknell)

Taking the Sarobetsu LEX train (approx 4hrs; there is also a slower local train) from Asahikawa to the northernmost point in Japan at Wakkanai (www.welcome.wakkanai.hokkaido.jp) is an enjoyable excursion. Your train may even screech to a halt to avoid the many deer en route to this wilderness outpost.

The further north you go, the more sparsely populated and wild the landscape becomes with the line darting between hills, skirting the sea on the left, and revealing beaches, marshes and the sight of Rishiri Island nearby. Fauna lovers may also spot white-tailed eagles and red fox whilst visitors among the sand dune forests around Wakkanai may even glimpse the highly localised Zootoca vivipara reptile.

At Wakkanai station, the new spacious atrium has a variety of locker sizes and amenities. Turn left at the exit gates, you will find helpful staff at the Tourist Board Information Centre 稚内観光協会 (daily 9am-9pm) with maps, timetables and pamphlets to help you. Wakkanai Select Café (10am-6pm) doubles as a souvenir shop (9am-7pm) but also harbours a small soba restaurant (10am-7pm) serving a good-value tempura soba (¥430) and a delicious scallop ramen (¥980) if you are waiting for your train back to civilisation. The new building also accommodates a cinema.

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What to see and do

Cape Soya, Wakkanai

Cape Soya, Wakkanai (© Andrew Picknell)

Beyond the station, shop signs in Russian script suggest the close proximity of Sakhalin (Japanese territory until 1945) and the international entrepôt that is the port of Wakkanai. Outside the National Park, the main attraction here is Cape Soya 宗谷岬, the northernmost point in the Japanese archipelago, accessible by bus from Gate 1 at the corner of the station (6/day; 50 mins; ¥2500 return; last bus out 7.30pm, last back departs 9pm). Here, if you strain, you are meant to be able to glimpse the Russian island of Sakhalin in the distance (your eyesight will need to be very good). You can have your photograph taken at the Cape Soya Monument 日本最北端の地の碑 on the coast. Cross the road and ascend the path into the ‘Peace Park’ to discover the Cape’s military history via a moving assembly of US/Japanese WWII memorials. It also contains the poignant ‘Tower of Prayer’ monument commemorating the 269 victims of Korean Air flight 007, shot down in 1983 by a Soviet air-to-air missile off the coast of Sakhalin during the height of Cold War tensions.

Peace Park, Wakkanai

‘Peace Park’, Wakkanai (© Andrew Picknell’)

Back at the station, walk the 4km scenic shoreline road towards Cape Noshappu ノシャップ岬. Striding beyond the fishing boats and their outlaid nets, you may spot small herds of deer and the occasional inquisitive red fox before finally reaching the sunset viewing point out to sea (look out for the dolphin statue). Among a severe backdrop of military radar installations and the second highest lighthouse in Japan; stand here and admire the imperfect outline of Mt Rishiri rising from the deep, a roughened replica of Mt Fuji, its craggy slopes reflecting the physical extremes pressing upon this corner of Hokkaido.

Back in town, a challenging clamber past Hokumon Jinja Shrine 北門神社 leads you into Wakkanai Park 稚内公園, replete with local monuments such as the Peace Gate Memorial offering wonderful sweeping views of the town and sea. From there you can also see the impressive Wakkanai Port North Breakwater Dome 港北防波堤ドーム, a concrete columned wave-shaped edifice built to protect the port from the biting Arctic winds and thrashing seas that torment the city in winter. The summer season does not last long here, with some locals beginning to wrap up warm as early as September.

You can follow the ‘Northern trail’ up to the Northern Memorial Museum 北方記念館 and take the lift up to the viewing platform at the top of the Motoe Hiraku Centennial Memorial Tower 開基百年記念塔 (June-Sep 9am-6pm ¥400, 6-9pm ¥200; May & Oct to 5pm) if you wish to catch the sunset although historical exhibits are all in Japanese.

From Wakkanai, you can take a ferry (www.heartlandferry.jp; 2-4/day; approx 100 mins) to the two outlying islands of Rishiri-Rebun Sarobetsu National Park. Hiking the trails on Rishiri Island 利尻島 around the famous 1792m Mt Rishiri, is a popular pursuit for Tokyo salarymen, jetting in from Haneda. The marshlands there offer an abundance of birdlife, alpine gardens and natural mineral water sources. Only slightly more distant Rebun island 礼文島, known as the flower island, also offers an abundance of natural wonders for hikers and plenty of fresh local seafood such as urchin and atka mackerel (hokke) to sample.

Festivals

If visiting in the first two weeks of August, be sure not to miss the dancing and fireworks of the Wakkanai Portside Antarctica Festival which prides itself on its Antarctica connection via two Sakhalin huskies Taro and Jiro who helped in Antarctica’s exploration. Their statues stand in Wakkanai Park.

Where to stay and eat

Dormy Inn Wakkanai ドーミーイン稚内 (tel 0162-24-5489, www.hotespa.net/hotels/wakkanai; ¥5000/S, ¥8000/D, ¥9000/Tw), a 3-minute walk from the station, is a good budget choice for the traveller and offers an outstanding seafood-enhanced buffet breakfast (¥1500). There is a complimentary ramen noodle served (9.30-11pm) as well as an impressive rooftop spa to enjoy. You can also hire laptops for ¥1000.

A similar distance walk to the east from the station will bring you to ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel Wakkanai ANA クラウンプラザホテル稚内 (tel 0162-23-8111, www.anacpwakkanai.com from ¥6300/S, ¥9300/D or Tw). A more upmarket yet good-value alternative, you can also enjoy the scenic views over a cocktail from the 12th floor Astral bar (Mohito ¥1240). Across the street on the far west corner from the Dormy Inn entrance you can eat delicious grilled seafood at Megure Izakaya (Sanma Pacific saury ¥480, hokke ¥800).

You can also dine in ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel’s admittedly expensive, season-focused Teppanyaki Hamanasu restaurant (5.30-9pm), or choose the cheaper 1st/ground floor Unkai restaurant option serving traditional Japanese dishes.

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Kyushu

pp423-4 & p430  Side trip by rail to Mt Aso

The earthquake in 2016 is still having an effect. The JR Hohi Line between Higo-Ozu and Aso, and the Minamiaso Railway between Tateno and Nakamatsu are still closed. Aso station can only be reached by train from Beppu/Oita (p430; Aso Boy LEX 2/day), not from Kumamoto.

The Kyushu Odan Tokkyo LEX now operates between Beppu/Oita and Aso (3/day); all seats are non reserved. A rapid train operates between Aso and Miyaji.

In mid April 2019, the eruption level alert has raised and now operation of both the ropeway – and the Asa-San Loop Shuttle bus –  to see Mt Aso’s crater have been suspended.

p430 Side trip by rail to Yufuin

The Yufuin no Mori (2/day) now operates from Hakata via Kokura to Yufuin, not via Kurume.

pp434-40  Fukuoka

p435 What to see and do  We are very grateful to Peter Schmid for the following (sent in Dec 2016): ‘This year in November I visited Fukuoka and found an extension to a side trip you mentioned. On p383 (3rd edition) [note from Japan by Rail: this is on p435 in the 4th edition] you mention an alternative view of Fukuoka by a short train/ ferry excursion. The price is by the way now ¥440 one-way. But there is a wonderful extension to this side trip from the ferry station (Saitozaki). You can rent a bike and get a fantastic ride around the small hill at the end of the peninsula of Shinkanoshima. The rent is ¥3000 for 3 hours and ¥1000 deposit. (You can also rent a bike on Shinkanoshima). There are pamphlets (partially in English) with suggestions for rides of 1-3 hours. It’s worth every minute, with fantastic views. The ride is sold under the label “Great ride into the blue”. There is also a website with the offerings: www.cycletourism-fukuoka.com. I was there during light rainfall, but still it was worth it.

[Note from Japan by Rail: we were also delighted because Peter Schmid said: Japan by Rail is absolutely a must for every traveler to Japan, even in case you do not travel by train (would be stupid, but…) there are so many great tips and side trips not mentioned in many guides. I travel every year to japan and this guide is always in my hand luggage.]

pp441-8  Nagasaki

p444   What to see and do  Steven Wedema contacted us regarding the 3rd edition of Japan by Rail and mentioned two particular things: the directions for the Oka Masaharu Memorial Peace Museum were not clear and we did not include Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture. We have added the latter to the 4th edition of Japan by Rail and hopefully have made the directions to Oka Masaharu Memorial Peace Museum clear, but just in case we are adding the photo he kindly sent us here as well as Mr Wedema’s comments on the museums as there wasn’t space for those in the book.

Oka Masaharu Memorial Peace Museum

Oka Masaharu Memorial Peace Museum (© Steven Wedema)

Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture ‘is well worth visiting for anyone interested in Nagasaki’s history, particularly topics concerning that city’s close ties with Europe (which of course are mentioned in connection with Deshima in your book). The collection is very well laid out and has English labelling throughout. I was also lucky enough to be approached by Mr Ryuhei Yoshizawa, a museum volunteer who offered me a guided tour through the museum in his very good English. With his erudite commentary and humorous remarks he made the visit to this museum well worthwhile for me’.

‘My second comment concerns the Oka Masaharu Memorial Peace Museum, which you very commendably do mention. I can only encourage readers to visit this small museum. Its underlying message is that Japan will never normalise its relationships with its neighbours if it does not face up to its wartime crimes. This message is delivered forcefully, if by simple means. Its collection looks a bit jaded in places and the museum obviously does not have the funding or the status it deserves; the lady at the reception said that the city council “does not like this museum” and thus has omitted it from the official Tourist Office map. All the more reason for anybody with a historical interest to visit it along with the (very well funded) Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum.

pp448-54 Kumamoto

pp448-50 What to see and do  Most of the inner parts of Kumamoto Castle are still closed and reconstruction work may not finish completely for many years. However, a plaza in front of the main keep opened in October 2019 but on Sundays and national holidays only.  In late 2020 an elevated walkway may also open and the aim is that the main keep itself will be reopened to visitors in spring 2021. The Former Residence of Hosokawa Gyobu is closed till further notice.

pp454-5  Side trips from Kumamoto   

Kawasemi and Yamasemi D&S trains (3/day) travel between Kumamoto and Hitoyoshi. They are named after kingfisher birds that used to be seen on the line. Trains also designed by Mitooka and have a wood-theme design. Aso Boy (Kuro!) now operates between Beppu (1/day)/Oita (2/day) and Aso at weekends (Fri-Sun plus some Mon) between July and December.

Shikoku

pp423-4 The Shikoku Mannaka Sennen Monogatari is a new sightseeing train that operates from Tadotsu to Oboke via Zentsuji and Kotohira. The service operates on Monday, Friday, Saturday and in holiday periods. The Shikoku Rail Pass and Japan Rail Pass are valid for the train but there is an additional Green seat charge of ¥2460.

Appendices

pp509-10  Appendix C: JR service summaries  There are still four LEX services a day from Sapporo to Abashiri but for two of them you now have to change train at Asahikawa.