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Mike's Japan


landed in Fukuoka, rented a car and were in beautiful scenery within a few
hours.
Japan is mainly mountains. To borrow a phrase from Mark Twain: Japan would be
a mighty big country if it were ironed flat. We stayed in country inns when we could
find one and headed down into the valleys when we couldn't. The valleys are packed
with towns and there's usually a cluster of business hotels around the railway stations,
which are easy to find.
In the previous addition of this guide, I gave the price of a business hotel as about
10,000 yen (US$100) a night for two people. That has changed in the past two years.
Prices have come down. To our amazement we discovered perfectly acceptable
hotels at 6000 yen per night.
Country inns are more expensive but an evening meal is often included. The cost
per night for two was usually about 10,000 yen. Breakfast and evening meals cost a
very reasonable 1000 to 1500 yen.
On my wife's birthday we indulged ourselves and stayed in a hot spring spa which
we had previously considered outside our price range. The cost per night for two
people, including a lavish breakfast and evening meal, was 22,300 yen (about US230).
The cost back home in Australia would have been double that. Japan has become a
relatively cheap place to visit.
Car hire prices haven't changed and are about the same as in most developed
countries. Restaurants continue to offer good food at affordable prices. Traditional
cuisine is being replaced by a Japanese version of Western fast food in the big centres
but is still the norm in country areas.
My wife speaks fluent Japanese and we usually take a train to where we are going
to start our tour. We leave the railway station and shop around in the car hire places
that are to be found near most big stations.
If you don't speak Japanese, use the car hire counters at the airport and take a train
to where you want to pick up the car. An international driving licence will be needed
together with your national licence. The Japanese drive on the left and use the same
international road signs as in most countries. Drinking and driving is strictly prohibited.
If you don't speak Japanese, stick to hotels or use the inn groups that cater for
foreign guests. Major credit cards are accepted for the payment of bills in most places
but don’t place total reliance on bankcards to access money (whatever your bank
might say).
A few years ago we used our bankcards to draw out cash from ATMs in
convenience stores. That is no longer possible. Non-Japanese bankcards are no
longer recognised by ATMs in shops. And, ATMs in banks often refuse to accept
them. Two years ago we wasted a lot of time going from bank to bank to get money
and didn't succeed until we got to Tokyo.
My photograph (above) shows what to expect if you decide to take a Japanese style
room. Most inns have them in addition to Western style rooms. Western is the norm
in business hotels and most tourist hotels.
In Japanese style rooms you sleep on futons which are laid out on the floor at night .
You sit on cushions or low chairs, which are usually provided for foreigners . Tea and
biscuits are free and meals are often served in rooms as well as in the restaurant . If
you stay in the inns that advertise on the web pages listed below, you will usually have
a choice of both Japanese and Western food.
Inn groups that cater for non-Japanese speakers: Japaneseinngroup.com and
www.itcj.jp
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