First Trip To Japan – Our 12 day Itinerary
A little background information about the plan for my trip:
For all the travelling I have done in the last 30 years, I somehow have never had the opportunity to go to Japan. Whilst my friends were returning to Singapore with stories about how wonderful Tokyo and Hokkaido were, I was eating cheap sushi from the supermarket here. That was until I read this article by Conde Nast Traveler in 2012. Focusing on nothing more than the Nishiki Market in Kyoto, it enticed me and lingered in my mind for the next couple of years.
Around September last year, I booked tickets when Singapore Airlines had a sale, planned out a rough itinerary and started looking at hotels online.
I’ll take you through our trip in this and the next few posts, with some explanations about why we chose this or that place to visit and not others. It may not be a “typical” first-timers itinerary, especially not for Tokyo (you’re not going to find Shibuya or Shinjuku listed here), but it was well paced and filled with a mix of activities. I hope this is comprehensive enough, but if there’s something I mentioned that I didn’t include a link for, you can probably find it online by google search, which is what I did to find out how/where/how much etc. If you’re undecided and have alot of time, buy the Lonely Planet book on Japan, I bought the e-book on Kobo.
Bit of pre-travel information first.
Who did I travel with: My boyfriend.
I did the suggesting on places to visit and research on hotels, he did the research on train tickets, subway lines and other techy stuff like wifi service.
There are some places I’ll list that are good for couples to visit, but also great if you’re travelling in a group or solo.
Just to let you know too, we are insanely organised planners , we use a seven or more page spreadsheet to plan everything from expenses to accommodation. Although we do not have a to-the-hour schedule, we know what our must-see places for the day are and we organise the visits by location.
Which cities did we cover: Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka
Which season was it: This was late winter, in February 2015.
How did we book our accommodation: After researching the areas that we wanted to explore, we looked for hotels to suit our budget on sites like booking.com. Some hotels we stayed in were “business hotels” that were part of a chain or group, but we did stay in a couple of independently owned hotels and ryokans too.
How did we book our train tickets: We used Japan Experience website to purchase JR Rail passes, which were priced around 10-20% less than if we were to buy it from Singapore travel agents. Before buying the rail pass you should plan your trip so that you can use it to it’s full extent for the days you are travelling via rail. We used an exact 7 day rail pass, activated from the day we went from Tokyo to Kyoto. The website sends us a voucher via Fedex, which we exchanged for the physical rail pass at the Haneda airport. We also bought a couple of prepaid subway/public transport/ vending machine cards (PASMO) to make up the price to get the free Fedex postage.
How did we get continuous WIFI: We paid for a pocket wifi also by Japan Rail Pass website, which was at a really good deal ($33 for 7 days), but looks like now it’s much more expensive. It was a really good investment to have wifi at our fingertips – finding our way with maps, answering my emails on the train, using Google translate. We collected it at a collection booth in HND airport, and dropped it off via post using the prepaid envelope included in the package.
How did we get to Japan: We bought a 2- to -go ticket on Singapore Airlines from Singapore to Haneda airport. We chose Singapore Airlines because it gave a generous 30kg allowance each for economy, had great timings (we arrived in Haneda mid afternoon, and left Haneda mid afternoon as well), meals on board, and all the other good things you hear about SQ.
Haneda was preferred over Narita because of it’s accessibility and fast connections to Tokyo.
Overview of the 12 day trip
*please click on the links to bring you to the expanded details of our activities, accommodation and restaurants in each city
Day 1: Arrival in Tokyo and getting to the city from the airport
Day 2: Electronics shopping in Akihabara (Akiba), Fashion shopping and eating in Gion
Day 3-6: Kyoto and Arashiyama *coming soon
Day 3: Shinkansen train to Kyoto, Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto Station
Day 4: Higashi Hongan-ji Temple, Southern Higashiyama, Maruyama-kōen, Gion, Shijo-Dori
Day 5: Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Onsen, Kyoto Kiseki Cuisine and Ryokan stay
Day 6: Kodai-ji Temple, Nishiki Market
Day 7-8: Osaka *coming soon
Day 7: Getting to Osaka from Kyoto, Osaka Bicycle Museum, Cat Cafe, Dotonburi
Day 8: Universal Studios Osaka, Fast Food Day
Day 9-12: Tokyo Part 2 *coming soon
Day 9: Getting from Osaka to Tokyo Ueno Area
Day 10: Tsukiji Market and Sushi, Bicycle store
Day 11: Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Ueno Park, Owl Cafe, Ikebukuro shopping and more Sushi
Day 12: Getting from Tokyo to Haneda Airport and Airport Tax Free shopping
This schedule gave us ample time to explore each city and it’s highlights. Please click the above links to bring you to each post for the detailled itinerary.