The cost of getting around Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka can be eased by transportation passes.
In Tokyo there is the one-day open ticket that costs about $4.50 U.S. It provides unlimited travel on all subways.
Also, there's a Tokyo combination ticket that is valid on all subways, streetcars, buses and trains in the metropolitan Tokyo area. This ticket costs about $10 U.S.
Similarly, Kyoto has a one-day subway pass for unlimited travel for about $6.90. In addition, this pass includes some bus routes. Osaka has a one-day subway pass that covers some bus and tram routes for about $5.75.
The passes must be bought in these cities, and are good only on day of purchase. That means the earlier in the day that you buy a pass, the more you can use it. Subways and buses stop service at about midnight.
Despite a recent 3% tax on most purchases in Japan, the Japan rail pass still offers a good way to explore the country. The cost for unlimited rail travel on a seven-day pass is about $266 first-class and $200 second-class. Two- and three-week passes also are available. The rail passes, however, have to be bought outside of Japan.
Names of subways and train stations are in English and Japanese. Some offer computerized signs that show location and indicate directions. There are also special telephone numbers in Tokyo and Kyoto (as well as toll-free numbers for western and eastern Japan) where you can get information in English from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
For more information, contact the Japan National Tourist Organization, 624 S. Grand Ave., Suite 2640, Los Angeles 90017, (213) 623-1952.
If you want to see Japan by ship, a new line, Oceanic Cruises, is sailing its 120-passenger Oceanic Grace around the Japanese islands and Far East.
Through 1990 the line is offering complimentary round-trip, economy-class flights from major U.S. gateways, including Los Angeles, to Tokyo to pick up the sailings, which can be combined with other travel in the Far East.
The line also is offering a free one-night hotel stay until the end of this year, either before or after the cruise, in Tokyo or in any city on the cruise itinerary.
The cost of a seven-night sailing is $3,395, the same price levied in Japan, according to a spokesman. The price is the same for all cabins, which are identical.
Contact travel agents or the SMI Group, the line's agent in the United States, at toll-free (800) 545-5778.