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JAPAN AS A CONVENIENT AND WORRY-FREE DESTINATION
One of the joys of traveling in Japan is its excellent and efficient transportation network. Whether visitors are being whisked through the countryside on sleek Shinkansen bullet trains or winding their way through mountain valleys aboard scenic railways, they can expect train service to be punctual, frequent, and dependable. An especially good bargain are Japan Rail Passes available only to visitors, which not only provide savings on train travel but also avoid the hassle of having to buy individual tickets each time one boards a train. Augmenting Japan's far-reaching rail service are buses serving the countryside, as well as long-haul overnight buses traveling between major cities. For travelers with little time, planes provide the fastest link between long distances. If they wish, travelers can even travel luggage-free, through the use of courier service called takkyu-bin. Available at larger hotels and from convenience stores, the service delivers luggage and parcels to domestic destinations within a night or two, at very reasonable rates. This is especially useful for travelers who wish to send a bag (filled, perhaps, with souvenirs and other purchases) to their last destination and spend the rest of their travels unencumbered by heavy bags.
Before and during their trip, travelers can obtain excellent English brochures and maps to aid them on their journeys. The Japan National Tourism Organization, which can be accessed through its website www.jnto.go.jp or through offices both abroad and in Tokyo and Narita and Kansai International Airports, offers a wealth of material that addresses everything from communicating to the Japanese to the etiquette of staying in a Japanese inn. Furthermore, virtually every city and tourist destination has its own local tourist information office, ready to provide visitors with maps, pamphlets on major attractions, and sightseeing advice. Most tourist offices are located in or near major train stations, making them a convenient first stop upon arrival at a new destination. Some cities also have dedicated tourist buses that provide easy access to major sights. But for visitors who desire more personal guidance or the chance to meet a local, nothing beats Japan's nationwide Goodwill Guide system, comprised of bilingual volunteers who are happy to guide visitors to their city's major sights for free. Not only is this a painless way for visitors to get around easily, but it also provides a great opportunity to meet local Japanese.
Even dining can be a snap, as many restaurants—especially those located near major tourist destinations—have display cases with plastic replicas of the kinds of dishes they offer, whether it's sushi or spaghetti. All diners need do is point to the displayed dish or meal they want. Otherwise, most restaurants offer lunch specials or set meals, a bonus for those who don't relish the idea of ordering separately for main and side dishes. Another bonus: set meals are usually less expensive than ordering a la carte.
In short, Japan's tourist infrastructure and its many attractions make it an excellent destination for even the most discerning traveler. Japan is safe and clean, and everything runs smoothly and efficiently. There aren't too many places in the world that can boast the same.