Cell Phones, taking one from America and using it in japan will be very expensive. This includes voice and DATA usage. The best thing to do is rent one in Japan and save money on your home phone. The service we have used is JCR and Global Advanced. These services will ship to the hotel or the airport depending on where you would like to pick it up at. They offer HotSpots and Cell Phones as well as just the SIM. Please review the page for details on what to rent. Narita airport has several onsite device rentals. For 2015 we will be renting a mobile HotSpot that we will pick up at a location on the departure floor. Be very careful with voice usage as even on rented phones can be very costly.
The hotel we are staying at is the Sakura Hotel in Ikebukuro. The cost for the room is very good and the rooms have everything you will need to rest at night. The hotel gives a 15% off discount on multi week stays or you can opt in for one of the special deals they have, but you cannot combine them. The “single” room is quite small and will cost JPY 6,800/night. Larger rooms are available and you can split the cost across all members that are staying in the same room. We will be taking the NEXt train directly to Ikebukuro and to the hotel 10 minutes away, you will need at least $35 to $45 for a ticket. Ticket sales accept credit cards for both the train and bus. Please remember to follow the rules for the hotel. We will be bringing a Wi-Fi router from America to make our own wireless network. This was less hassle than having to authenticate to the hotel’s wireless. Please be ready each day, we will not wait for you.
Another hotel resource is airbnb.com. We have been informed about this page and may use it for future stays in Japan.
Even though credit cards are accepted in Japan, they are not accepted everywhere. For the most part, credit cards are not accepted in many places. Most restaurants will not take credit cards and are cash only. The best place for foreign exchange of money is the airport. When you get out of customs there will be a currency exchange that will have the best exchange rate. Most credit cards charge an exchange rate along with any fees. Please check with your bank for options that reduce or remove these fees. Many places have ATM in them and they do take American debit cards such as 7 Eleven stores. These systems also have an English option so you can navigate the menus and not worry.
The train system is a monster on its own. Please be careful to what gates you pass into. Once you are in your ticket will not allow you to leave the same station. If you do get stuck like this the easiest way out is to take a train one station down the line then back. It will cost you the extra ticket but you will get back on “track”. Using a tablet or phone with DATA service will help a lot here. The web version of Google maps will show costs for tickets and will help with the color coding of all the tracks. all trains stations are color coded and have special marks to show if it is a JR or Metro line. These marks are reflected in the Google maps webpage.
There are multiple ways for getting tickets to ride the trains. The first way is to purchase a ticket at one of the kiosk that are outside of all train stations. These kiosks have a button to do all transactions in English, but finding the cost on the chart on the wall may not have English names. using Google maps can show you the cost and you can use that to purchase the pass. The second way to get on the trains is with the “suica” pass. the suica pass can be purchased for $20 at any kiosk at a train station. $5 will be placed into a deposit for the card and the rest is for you to use to enter the train system. At the end of your trip you should be able to return the pass and get the deposit back. A third way would be the JR pass. A JR pass would be a good investment if you intend to travel outside of Tokyo. A 7 day pass is about $267 and a 14 day pass is about $426.