Tohoku Storm Chaser Logistics
Planning an international ski trip can be overwhelming; luckily, you have connections! This page is dedicated to where to meet, what flights to book, what to bring, and details about transportation and money on the Tohoku Storm Chaser.
Where to Meet
There are three locations you can meet the group on your trip; Hanamaki Airport, Morioka Station (bullet train access) or at the Daiwa Roynett Morioka Hotel.
Option #1: Meet the tour at Hanamaki Airport at 5:30pm
Hanamaki Airport (HNA) is a very small regional airport with direct flights from all major cities across Japan except for Tokyo. If you're coming from abroad, getting to HNA Airport will require a layover in KIX, CTS, FUK, or ITM.
Option #2: Meet the tour at Morioka Station South Exit at 6:45pm
Option #3: Meet the tour at our hotel
Meet up option #3 is for you to find your own way to our hotel lobby at 7:30pm, which is the Daiwa Roynet Morioka Hotel.
Coming to Japan:
You will need to book your international flights to/from Japan. You need to arrive in time to be at the meeting point at Hanamaki airport by 5:30pm or Morioka Station by 6:45pm on day-one of your trip. If you're planning on arriving on the day your trip starts, note that NRT airport is 2 hours from Tokyo Station. If you can't make it to Morioka Station in time, you'll need to arrive the previous day and spend a night in Tokyo.
At the end of the tour, we'll arrange for you to be back at Tokyo's Narita Airport by 3:30pm so you shouldn't get a flight out earlier than 5:30pm. Since the return trip is via rail, the chances of a significant delay are very small.
If you intend to go back to Tokyo at the end of the tour, you can expect to be arriving in Tokyo Station by 2pm. If you're planning on staying in Tokyo for a few days, note that you can mail your ski bag straight to NRT airport for about ¥2,000 (approx US$18)--that way you won't have to lug it around while you sight-see or travel around other regions.
Trying to figure out what trains to take? Use this route planner here.
Mailing your luggage
If you're planning on staying in Tokyo before the trip, you can mail your big clunky ski bag directly to the Daiwa Roynet hotel in Morioka for only ¥2,000 (approx US$18). If you're spending an extra day or two in Japan after the trip, you can mail your ski bag directly to NRT or HND airports. It only takes 48 hours from the time to mail your bag until the time it's delivered.
Arrive into Tokyo two days before the trip at 6pm and mail your bag to the Daiwa Roynet hotel in Morioka from the airport. Your baggage should arrive at the hotel before 9pm the next day. Before mailing your bag, be sure to confirm with them that it will be delivered by the night of the tour start date. In Japan, if they promise a delivery time, it'll be there when they say.
Just like that, if you mail your bag you won't have to lug it around Tokyo. It's a big life-saver, very reliable and incredibly reasonable.
For more information on mailing bags, checkout this great article about how it's done here.
JR East Tohoku Rail Pass
If you're planning on taking the train: Even with just one Tokyo/Morioka round trip, you'll save ¥13,000 (approx US$110) by buying a JR East Rail Pass for the Tohoku area. You can buy this train pass on arrival at NRT or HND airports, as well as major hubs like Tokyo Station. This pass gives you 5 unlimited days of riding anywhere on the JR East Rail Network, which is perfect for where the Tohoku Storm Chaser operates. As a bonus, you'll still have 3 unlimited days left at the end of the tour to use as you want! You can see full details on the pass here.
The currency in Japan is the Japanese Yen which is denoted by "JPY" or as "¥".
First, you should know that Japan doesn't really like credit cards. While they are getting to be more accepted, you should only count on your credit card for 20% of your transactions. The rest of the time you'll be dependent on cash.
Getting Cash in Japan
As a tourist, there are two main ways of getting cash in Japan: 1) bring your home currency with you and exchange it at the currency exchange window, or 2) use ATM's within Japan to withdraw your funds.
What you can expect to spend
Looking at the What's Included page is a good starting point to get an idea of what you'll need to spend money on. Other than that, the amount of money you spend in Japan largely depends on your preferences. Do you want to eat sushi every day? Are you going for the most expensive sake? Will you be buying lots of souvenirs or electronics?
Below is a cost estimate based on how much is spent daily on each item. Prices are in JPY. Over the 8-day trip, you can expect to spend ¥45,800 on the low end or ¥90,000 on the high end. Keep in mind that results will vary depending on your personal spending.
Currency exchange window. You can exchange your home currency into JPY after arriving in Japan. This is a very simple option as there is no bank to get in the way and decline your currency conversion. The simplicity has a price though because the exchange window doesn't give you the most advantageous rate.
Withdraw funds from ATM's. You should be able to withdraw funds from any Seven Eleven ATM in Japan. The conversion rate is great but sometimes banks have issues with Japanese ATM's which can cause them to block your transactions. Be sure to check with your bank before coming to see if they have a ATM withdrawal fee or currency conversion fee. If they do, it may be cheaper to just convert cash at a currency exchange window.
The best idea is to show up in Japan with a few hundred dollars of your own currency, convert it in to JPY, then use ATM's after that. Be sure to call your bank and let them know you'll be making withdrawals from Japanese ATM's so they don't block your account!