Japan Trip Feedback Based on OzBargain's Deals and Suggestions

Hi all,

A while ago, there has been many Japan related deals and information such as:

  1. NTT Docomo Japan Welcome SIM (LTE/3G) and Wi-Fi: XL 2GB 20-Day Plan JP ¥1950 / AU $23.70 (JP ¥1000 off) + View Ads for More Data (https://www.ozbargain.com.au/node/415094)
  2. Citibank Global Account and Transferwise - For those who are intending to use them (https://www.ozbargain.com.au/node/423098)
  3. KKday Osaka Universal Studio Tickets (https://www.ozbargain.com.au/node/403352)

I am here to provide feedback on my recent trip and responding to the above threads as I said I would.

Firstly, the NTT DoCoMo 20 day plan at JP ¥1950 for 2Gb was EXCELLENT. It came with access to NTTDoCoMo wifi hotspots which are essentially all available in 7-Elevens iHoldings convenience stores I visited. Using these hotspots don't count towards the Gb allowance. Never experienced drop off and worked everywhere even in Shinkansen where local wifi within the train is either non-existent or patchy at best. The price was excellent for 2Gb because if you buy over there, it would cost a lot more for less GB and less than 20 days. Furthermore, if you watch ads/short videos ranging from 2 to 5 minutes about Japan anyway, you can get up to 440mb bringing it to 2.44Gb.

As a suggestion if you travel long, try to use this sparingly and use like Bic Camera's wifi or 7-Eleven or your hotel's wifi as 2Gb is not a lot. Please also note, 20 days is literally 20 days down to the AM/PM so if you activate on 1 Jan at 2pm, it will become unusable literally after 20 Jan at 2pm.

Secondly, Citibank Global Account and Diners Club won BIG over HSBC Global Currency Account. Diners Club are literally accepted everywhere I visited except USJ and Mos Burgers (They accept 28 Degree Mastercards). Their rates are better up to 2-4 Yen vs Cash. If you have Citibank Global Account YEN account, then you do transfer from your Global Account AUD to YEN in seconds using internet and that YEN account is accessible in Japan immediately.

Transfer from AUD to YEN is instant and has BETTER rates than Transferwise (marginally) after fees unless you transfer like 100,000 YEN but in any case, you cannot use TransferWise to prop up your Citibank YEN account as Transferwise does not do SWIFT transfer to YEN (only USD). So hooray for Citibank.

Diners Club has better rates than 28 Degrees Mastercard. I compared this in my unbilled statement. I don't know why since they both Mastercard.

In Japan, ONLY 7 Eleven ATMs will give you money for free. UMFG, Mizuho, and JapanPost will ask you somewhere between 108 Yen or 216 Yen fee for withdrawal. With 7 Eleven stores everywhere in Japan, travelers should not have problem with fee-free withdrawal. Did not try SMBC Prestia and Bank of Yokohama. E-Net in Family Mart stores for some reason did not work.

So use Credit Cards if possible unless it dropped sharp like it did a week ago in which case, use cash. Do NOT forget to switch the Global Currency Debit Card to YEN before you depart otherwise, it will use AUD account instead of YEN.

You cannot use credit cards to buy Japanese Itunes / Nintendo Cards. They are called POSA and only cash can be used to buy them. You cannot use credit card to top up Pasmo/Suica but you can use credit cards for shinkansen or limited express rapit trains.

Thirdly, KKDay USJ that were available the other day, there were fears the vouchers may not be usable at the time. Fear not as it did work with no problem. Just need the same thing for Disneyland/Sea.

Otherwise, it is interesting to note that:

  1. Japan Rail Pass does not need to start immediately on your arrival date. You can choose when to start and cram your long distance days within those validity period. I counted 7 days are the only ones that are worth having if you cram long distance trips.

  2. Pasmo/Suica trips are cheaper than having to buy the tickets from vending and travel that way. Example. A 200 Yen trip on vending becomes 195 on Pasmo/Suica.

  3. Children under 6 are free to travel in public transport so Shinkansen trips are free for under 6s and they are mightily expensive.

  4. Almost everything in Japan is more expensive vs Australia except food (limited to Yoshinoya/Matsuya/Sukiya), Uniqlos/GU (see below), and arcade games.

  5. Uniqlo has a little brother called GU and they are cheaper than Uniqlos and Uniqlos are already cheaper.

  6. Each stores in Japan even in the same state (Tokyo) have different price on the same thing. Zojirushi flasks are found cheaper in one Bic Camera vs others.

  7. So many flavours of condoms and they are prettily packaged.

Hope this helps our fellow OzBs when in Japan. Any more tips are greatly appreciated as I intend to revisit Japan again.

Regards

Zz

TLDR: Japan is fantastic! Use credit cards, less cash but if need cash, use Citibank Global Currency YEN and take money at 7 Elevens for fee-free withdrawal. KKDays deals are awesome and NTTDoCoMo Wow Japan Sim is great despite many Ozbs saying they are crap. Under 6s are free to travel on PT, buy lots of Uniqlos and visit GU first before Uniqlos. Don't buy electronics in Japan except non-western released games (and "dating-sim" games). Use Pasmo/Suica for slightly cheaper travel. Eat at Matsuya/Yoshinoya for maximum savings. JR Pass should be calculated thoroughly before buying. Japanese condoms are pretty.

Comments

  • +5 votes
    1. So many flavours of condoms and they are prettily packaged.

    Did you taste 'em, bro?

  •  

    On the topic of Diners Club, you might find - as I did in Japan recently - that transactions were acquitted much later than expected, resulting in a different exchange rate than that of the actual day it happened. Typically, I'd see a transaction appear on the statement quickly, but within a few days or weeks later (even after I got home) the AUD amounts would change. In my case, things got cheaper but afaict it was because the Aussie dollar went up against JPY. Seems that although not shown as 'pending' the transactions were being finalised.

    The surest sign of this was a large Diners transaction that took over a month to finalise, well after I returned home. The rate I got was far better than what it was when travelling — luckily for me, the Yen had gone down even further when the transaction finally appeared.

    •  

      Citibank explained to me that Diners transaction does have a delay but the merchant can also cause the delay.

      Example. I purchased something "big" from Bic Camera on 30 December 2018 but only appear as Unbilled on 4th of January 2019. On 30 December 2018, the pending FX was 82.20 (impossible I know but that's the truth) and the Mastercard rate was around 78. But because the Bic Camera only "claimed" the money on 4th of January, my unbilled (no longer pending) transaction was using 76 Yen, causing me to lose 2 Yen.

      Ideally, Bic Camera should have claimed the money on 30 December 2018 and my pending to unbilled rate would be 78 yen.

      Citibank said this happens a lot in accommodation and restaurant business but should not have occurred at Retail as POS is meant to be live and usually settled daily, not a week later.

  •  

    Re Japan SIM Card, I found this deal https://www.ozbargain.com.au/node/374391 to be the best bet cos its 2GB/day data though it requires you to transit in Singapore or have someone from there buy/activate/send to you . But if you can get a hand on it, it gives you enough data to not worry trying to find wifi all the time. Also its great data pack for use in Singapore if you're stopping over there.

    • +1 vote

      I went to Japan using Garuda so this would be out of order but will consider if SQ or Scoot is cheaper.

  •  

    I ended up using Sachi Tours JR pass + 7GB sim package (https://www.sachitours.com.au/japan_sim_card.html##1) for 1 person and then bought just the JR pass for my travel companion. COMST was not as straightforward to set up the phone APN settings but the data was reliable. Ended up turning one of my spare phones into a pocket wifi for me and my travel companion too.

    OP, how was setting up the the APN settings for the sim? Might be worth to go for the 2GB next time if it isn't as complicated!

    •  

      I can confirm to you it was plug and play. I bought my spouse Note9 which is dual sim and we used that SIM card into that phone and it worked straight away with no mucking around.

      The only APN setting is if you want to access NTTDoCoMo Public Wifi then they want you to create a special SSID with specific encryption on it. This info is shown to you and completely optional.

  •  

    great write up and happy to hear you had a good time. this will help many people in the year(s) to come. did you buy itunes and nintendo currency here? did it work regionally and was it worth it or more expensive?

    GU and uniqlo are awesomely priced, but its always a shame that seasonally when you visit its the opposite, so you wont find summer clothes during the winter.

    whats the highlight of your trip?

    •  

      Will write more on highlights but Itunes stuff and Nintendo games are generally more expensive to buy but they have greater range particularly japanese games which some are ahem… "dating sims".

      In my case I got extra 10% value on itunes as it is their promo. Nintendo cards have extra 10% if spent 5000 yens.

      •  

        About Nintendo/Itunes, I set up Japanese Itunes and Nintendo Accounts. Easy to set up. For Switch, create a new user and link it to a new Nintendo Account that has Japanese resident. Put in your hotel as the address and phone.

        We spent a lot of $$$ on Uniqlo/GU/KitKats. They have Sake Kitkats. Lol

        We spent on popcorn buckets from TDL/TDS.

        Odaiba is awesome place to be. They have 4 connecting malls, Venus Fort, DiverCity, AquaCity (Where Sega Joyopolis is), and Pallete Town where the Ferris Wheel and Toyota Showroom (with access to test drive, rally simulator, and games) are.

        Always eat Matsuya/Yoshinoya.

        "Experimented" on a few certain items we bought at a certain store in Akihabara.

        Shinjuku Kabukicho is an awesome place to be. Very lively during night.

        Those are my highlights!

  •  

    I've been using a Citibank plus account for my travels overseas for a few years now, is there an advantage to using the Citibank global account over the regular Citibank plus account debit card?

    • +1 vote

      Yes. You can stack up Yens before you travel and use it on your travel.

      Useful if your fx went shit after you bought the Yens so you can switch to cash based purchases (but no points earn though).

      This happened to us as AUD dropped 10% on 1 January 2019 in one day.

      Citi Plus means you can take out money at that day FX. Lesser control over FX fluctuation.

      Also you can be paid in Yens so useful if you have someone you know in Japan

  •  

    Hi all, sorry if this is a bit off topic. How often do flight deals to Japan come up? I have some leave for late June/early July, am I better keeping an eye out for a deal or booking early?

    I saw there was a decent deal in early December but I didnt know about leave by then. Thanks

    • +1 vote

      usually 3-4 times a year, the promotions fill up for the various seasons. june/july is summer in Japan, and it was also storm season last year.
      a few years ago, i remember sales at the end of january /beginning of february, but i wouldnt rely on it. you'll be fine.

  •  

    I'm going next week, actually saw the KKday Universal Studio deal via email before Ozbargain posted it. Thought it was such a great deal, but since I'm going in January 2019, I didn't buy. Kinda regret it now the ticket is open date and well through to the end of Jan 2019!!

  • +1 vote

    I used the Sim from Klook, Which was pretty great

    https://www.ozbargain.com.au/node/401869

    and hired a 4G modem from iVideo, which was even better, but I forgot that in Train and had to pay $200.

  •  

    I just forgot to mention that Japanese arcade games are effing fantastic.

    I literally just showed TimeZone/Playtime of these following games:

    1. Fate / Grand Order Arcade (card game RPG)
    2. Dancerush Stardom
    3. House of the Dead Scarlet Dawn
    4. Project DIVA (more like if you are into Hatsune Miku)
    5. Starwing Paradox (this is very cool Gundam-like game)

    Other noteable, Dragon Ball Heroes.

  •  

    As for credit card usage and cash withdrawal, won't ING visa debit card be an ideal choice as there is no intl transaction or ATM withdrawal fee? I used it during my recent trip to Singapore/ India and it was such a breeze not having to worry abt those fees, doesn't matter however many times I used ANY ATM or tapped my ING card in stores or reataurants. All fees were instantly credited back. Conversion rate was pretty good too though not sure if all banks follow 'similar' rates for automated currency conversion for international transactions. I assume that ING card should work in Japan with an equal ease. Any other caveats except the fact that we can't withdraw money using international cards from some ATMs?

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