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Question: JR exchange and activate at NRT on arrival day

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Question: JR exchange and activate at NRT on arrival day

We will arrive NRT at 3pm and assume can clear customs and be at JR office by 4pm. Next step is to exchange JR pass, activate it immediately and seat reservation for NEX to Shinagawa station, then change to Shinkansen to Kyoto. I have the following questions and hopefully I can receive some advices:

1) Few posts indicated that if the staffs at JR are busy, they will not make reservation - I assume that is true for pass holders who don't activate the pass. But if we need to travel the same day, they will make seat reservation, right?

2) The last NEX leaving NRT is around 6:30pm, not sure how long is the queue, will 2 hrs allow enough time? We will arrive terminal 1 on Sunday March 30 at 3:00pm

3) I am thinking to write down the train #, time, destination and passenger name on a piece of paper and hand it to the JR staff. Will this speed the process?

4) There are 10 in our group, should it be faster to do #3 for all of us or let everyone do their own exchange?

5) Will we be able to catch taxi around midnight at Kyoto to our rental machiya in Gion district?

6) It is safe to travel that late?

Thanks in advance for your reply.

Albi

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1. Re: Question: JR exchange and activate at NRT on arrival day

1) right

3) print out hyperdia result http://www.hyperdia.com/en/

4) I think one person should handle all the task.

5) yes

6)yes

Houston, Texas
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2. Re: Question: JR exchange and activate at NRT on arrival day

Nao H,

Thanks for your quick response!

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3. Re: Question: JR exchange and activate at NRT on arrival day

I doubt the line could be 2 hours long at the JR Travel Service Center. Of course, don't slow down to stay in line longer than necessary. With 10 in your group though, just processing your group's pass exchanges could take a while.

The last NEX train that lets you make it to Kyoto departs at 6:48pm.

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4. Re: Question: JR exchange and activate at NRT on arrival day

This is important:

Everyone must stand in line & personally do their own JR Pass exchange. They will check each passport & require each person to complete paperwork writing out their personal details & passport numbers & then sign the paperwork. It can be time consuming due to these procedures. I guess this will take at least 30 mins or more for your group of 10. It is better to have your group split the process amongst as many JR staff as possible, as everyone huddling in a big group with just one attendant will simply take forever. (I get frustrated with the length of the process with only the two of us! (It normally takes between 15-20mins for two.)

Then, comes the fast bit,

Once everyone has their Pass then you can do the reservation. Just tell them you want 10 NEX seats to connect with the Shinkansen to Kyoto that night using JR Pass. This part is very straight forward!

They won't need a list of your names to reserve tickets - but it is necessary to have all 10 JR passes in hand - in case the JR staff person is someone other who just processed your Passes.

JR Staff are experts at what they do. They know the train departures better than you, me or Hyperdia. They actually can see on their screen which trains are full or less likely to be full. They will try to reserve seats together for your group but I doubt it will be possible to sit in the same block of seats.

Also do you have a contingency plan if you can't get that last Hikari to Kyoto? You just never know, eg. flight delay or a rare train delay. What if some of your group are still stuck in the queue at the JR counter, or in the bathroom and the clock is ticking? Will some of you go ahead to Kyoto separately? Will you pay extra for Nozomi?

Trains are extremely punctional in Japan & they only stop briefly & you must be standing there ready to board.

Lastly, Japan has a low crime rate, hands down the safest country in the world in that regard. No problems about safety at night. You should easily get a taxi as Kyoto is a major hub in a modern city, the station is large & busy.

Edited: 4:00 am, January 07, 2014
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5. Re: Question: JR exchange and activate at NRT on arrival day

Thank you all for your inputs!

United airlines changed our arrival time from 2:10pm to 3:00pm. This time is coincide with all the incoming flights from the west coast such as San Francisco and Los Angeles. My gut feeling that it will be a congestion at immigration/customs as well as JR counter. Greatly appreciate your expert advice of our contingency plan.

1) Original plan

a. Activate JP pass and head to Kyoto on March 30

b. Return to Tokyo on April 5 (the last day of 7 day pass)

c. Stay at Citadines Skinjuku for 4 nights and leave out of NRT on April 9

2) Contingency plan

a. Stay one night at Hotel Mystays Asakusa-Bashi. Rate is very reasonable vs. Citadines and based on the review, it is easy to connect to JR line.

b. Activate JR on March 31, and take Skinkansen to Kyoto around noonish the next day

c. Return to Tokyo on April 6, stay in Skinjuku for 3 nights and leave out of NRT on April 9

If we opt for contingency plan, please advise us what is the best mode of connection to our hotel in Asakusa and then onto Kyoto.

Thanks

Albi

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6. Re: Question: JR exchange and activate at NRT on arrival day

I think Plan 2 is the more sensible. After a long flight from US to Japan, you really don't want to spend 4 hours plus (and longer with the pass exchange etc considering there are 10 in your group) taking the train to Kyoto. Much better to pick a hotel in Tokyo and stay one night and head to Kyoto the next morning or afternoon. That will be a much more relaxed way to do it.

Frankly I would suggest you pick a hotel at a very easy to reach location, yet one that is convenient for you to start your journey the next day from without a lot of local trains/transfers and luggage issues. Shinagawa area would be a good choice..you can take the N'ex direct to there with no transfers, and then again the next day start from go direct to Kyoto, again with no transfers.

Edited: 2:19 pm, January 07, 2014
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7. Re: Question: JR exchange and activate at NRT on arrival day

From NRT, take Keisei train (preferably the Narita Sky Access) to Oshiage and transfer to Toei subway Asakusa Line. It's about 10 minutes faster vs JR Sobu/Narita Line going with a transfer at Kinshicho. Costs are roughly the same.

Overall though, Asakusabashi isn't necessarily an ideal place to stay. The next morning, in order to get to Tokyo or Shinagawa to catch Shinkansen to Kyoto, you have to change trains one more time.

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8. Re: Question: JR exchange and activate at NRT on arrival day

Yes, you are correct. After more homework, Asakusabshi is not an ideal place. Appreciate any recommendation for decent and convenient place to JR station where we can take direct Shinkansen to Kyoto.

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9. Re: Question: JR exchange and activate at NRT on arrival day

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