I only had 1 week to travel around Japan, therefore, it is very important to plan ahead to maximize time. Good thing Japan has amazing bullet trains, called the shinkansen, that enables traveling to faraway places in a considerably shorter time. A trip from Tokyo to Kyoto, for instance, which takes around 7 hours by bus, can take only 2 hours and 40 minutes by shinkansen. However, shinkansen tickets are really expensive. Therefore, if you plan to visit several places in Japan, a Japan Rail pass is a must.
Below is my 8-day itinerary in Japan.
• Arrival in Japan at Narita International Airport
• Traveled to Kyoto and checked in to hotel
• Explored Gion
• Visited Fushimi Inari-taisha (morning)
• Visited Arashiyama bamboo forest (afternoon)
• Explored the streets around the Gion district
• Visited Kiyomizu-dera, Yasaka Pagoda, and Chionin Temple (morning)
• Visited Kinkaku-ji (The Golden Pavilion) in the afternoon (entrance fee: ¥400)
• Universal Studios Japan, Osaka (all day)
⁃ Entrance fee: ¥7900
And of course never miss out the chance to visit Hogwarts at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
• Traveled to Takayama, Gifu Prefecture, via Nagoya and bus from Gifu (bus fare: ¥2400)
• Shirakawa-go afternoon tour (costs ¥4400)
• Checked in to hotel in Takayama
• Explored the streets of Takayama
• Visited Hida Folk Village (Entrance fee: ¥700)
• Traveled to Tokyo via JR Hida Limited Express to Nagoya then Hikari Shinkansen to Tokyo
• Checked in to hotel in Shinjuku
• Visited the Hachiko statue in Shibuya
• Visited Ueno Park
• Explored the streets around Tokyo station
• Shopped for souvenirs at Lawson 100 store
• Flight back to Cebu from Narita International Airport Terminal 2
⁃ Took the Airport Express Bus from Tokyo Station (fare is ¥1000), note that the JR Narita Express to the airport costs ¥3100
Breakdown of Expenses (in Php):
15000 – pocket money (includes food, fares, entrance fees, souvenirs)
14000 – JR pass
5000 – hotel
3500 – USJ entrance fee
7400 – round trip plane tickets
1200 – visa processing fee
46100 – total expenses
I’ve only traveled to countries within Asia and so far Japan is the most expensive. In Philippine standards, Japan is a very expensive country. A pocket money of 15000 Php (equivalent to around US $300) for 8 days is very cheap, and I was able to manage it because I shared expenses with my two companions. We shared food most of the time. A meal usually costs over ¥800. Bus fare is ¥230. A subway ticket usually costs ¥220. We didn’t even bother riding a taxi. We would walk if walking is possible, for distances of up to 4km. We still walked even under heavy snow.
We were able to save on accommodations because we booked through Airbnb, which has accommodations that are significantly cheaper than hotels. Our apartment in Kyoto, for instance, was incredibly amazing for its price. We paid only around 1800 Php (almost US $20) per night. It has all the amenities of a house, and we were able to cook breakfast and dinner, even cooking oil was provided. There was a washing machine and laundry detergent was also provided. It was the best place we stayed at in Japan.
It is important to note how a JR pass can save you money. A 7-day ordinary pass costs ¥29,110. It is expensive, but it can save you a lot of money if you will visit different places in Japan. For instance, a one-way shinkansen ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto is ¥13,800, and a one-way JR Narita Express ticket from Narita Airport to Tokyo is ¥3,100. A JR pass can get you anywhere in Japan that has JR trains. We saved a lot of money since we went to four different places: Kyoto, Osaka, Takayama, and Tokyo.
Winter is very cold in Japan. It was the first time I traveled to a very cold place, and having lived in a tropical country all my life, it was a really huge challenge. I was lucky I was able to borrow a really good winter jacket from a friend and some winter clothes from another friend. Winter gears are so expensive and I won’t be able to wear them again. But I had to buy thermal base layers and they cost me a lot. When you’re in subzero temperatures price won’t matter anymore and all that matters is quality. I also spent a lot on shoes, since winter boots are very expensive, I bought high quality leather boots instead so I can still wear them. Then I found winter boots in a surplus shop, and I was glad I bought them since they were really useful in places with very heavy snow like Takayama and Shirakawa-go. When we were there the temperature dropped to -8 degrees Celsius, and there was a blizzard when we were touring Shirakawa-go. We could barely see anything due to the heavy snow coming from all directions. In spite of the bulky clothes, I was able to pull off traveling with a backpack. A vacuum bag would really be helpful. I don’t like traveling with check-in baggage, and a backpack is so convenient anywhere, especially in places where all roads are covered in snow.
I will be posting about my adventures in the next few days. A single post cannot give justice to such a wonderful trip to a truly amazing country. The beauty of Japan cannot be put into a few words. And if you want to see and experience the beauty, charm, and culture of Japan, do not stay in Tokyo. My favorite is Kyoto, which is a fusion of modern and traditional Japanese lifestyles. Try to visit remote villages if you can. Japan is very rich in culture and most of it is found in the countryside.