Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Japan Trip - Part I: Tokyo/ Kawaguchiko/ Osaka

So yes it has been a year since I last stepped into Japan (oh the horrendous backlog), but since I was going about planning my next trip in Spring next year, I decided to just throwback and record down everything about the previous trip before I forget all of it.

People have been asking me about travelling to Japan, so hopefully this post will be helpful, especially for those travelling to Mt Fuji and Osaka! I will attempt to give as detailed a breakdown as possible on the boring yet tedious details - transport, but do feel free to ask any questions that I might not have covered!

It was probably the 7th time I've been to Japan, but truly the first time that I had to do everything DIY. I know... but I can never get enough of the place! have been to Tokyo at least 4 times already but trust me, its never enough to fully explore the place! (and yes I am going back to Tokyo again next year hohoho)

General tips on planning

  1. Use Hyperdia to check out the specific subway routes/trains to take to get to your desired destination. It is my life saver. Train timings are accurate to the minute. Fares in Japan are crazy and will form the bulk of your expenses if you aren't good with planning. Each train ride starts from like 157 yen? Try to schedule sights in the same area in the same day.
  2. In tandem with 1., choose accommodation that are near the sights you intend to visit. They might cost a little more but will offset against the transport fees!
  3. Don't ever cab in Tokyo.
  4. Research on obtaining mobile data cards/rental as it will help alot. Even using the translator app needs data.
  5. If you are travelling long distance, get a Japan Rail Pass.
Our Itinerary

Duration: 13 days 
Airfare: ~$1200 (for SG-SEOUL-TOKYO multi city return, so this isn't accurate.)
Accommodation: Tokyo 5N - $180, Kawaguchiko 2N - $200, Osaka 4N - $190
Expenditure on shopping/food/hiking stuff: ~$1200
*All costs are on per person basis

We spent 5 days in Tokyo, 3.5 days in Kawaguchiko/Mt Fuji, 4 days in Osaka. Being students, we were on a really tight budget and we stayed in twin rooms. Hostel beds would be marginally cheaper.

We arrived in Narita Airport early morning, then headed to purchase our Narita Express (NEX) tickets. This is the most ideal way of reaching downtown Tokyo. There used to be a NEX+Suica package, which only costs 3500 yen but gives you 2000 yen credits in your Suica (something like our ezlink card), but I think they phased it out :( Either way, get and load your Suica from the train station as it is very convenient for getting around. 

We took the NEX to Nakano station, after changing at Shinjuku. Boy, shinjuku has got to be one of the busiest and most confusing stations. We got stuck inside with our mega big luggages for a while. Tokyo subway lines include normal, rapid, super rapid trains, so do be careful as not all trains on the same line stop at all the stations (i.e, normal trains can share the same tracks as rapid trains). But not to worry, the station staff are all really friendly and they will point you to the right route, or just ask another passenger.

In Tokyo, we stayed at Yadoya Guesthouse, which is a 15 min walk away from Nakano. The room was really small and squeezy, especially when both of us had humongous luggages! We could not even walk on the floor when our luggage were open.. oh well that's a Tokyo hostel for you! Nevertheless, it was really clean and the location was decent. One thing to note is that the walls are really thin so it does get quite irritating when other guests walk along the corridors at night!

Nakano is a pretty good location, close to most of the popular sights. Another location with more budget friendly hostels would be at Asakusa, but its almost right at the other end of the line.

Streets of Nakano

Also went to DisneySea! The queues were horrible but it was oh so beautiful I love Disney!!
Disneyland/Sea is slightly out of the way, at Maihama Station. There are plenty of routes to get to there from central Tokyo so just ask the station staff for the fastest way or consult friendly Hyperdia heh.

We tried to go to Tsukiji market, but it was closed! Dang. Thankfully some stores were still open so we still had our heavenly Kaisen and Salmon don.

AMAZING tamago only for 100 yen. MUST. EAT. THIS. STORE.

Also met up with my friends at Sensoji at Asakusa station! I can't believe we first met in like JC/High school and now we've graduated and are moving onto different professions. oh man time flies.

They also treated us to a seafood dinner at this AMAZING restaurant beside Sensoji. I googled that its called Tsukiji Sushi Ichiban Asakusa Sushiya-Dori haha. Totally made up for our disappointment at Tsukiji market being closesd that morning! The seafood was oh-so-fresh and their fish miso soup was DA BOMB. 

Of course we went to the typical tourist places like Shinjuku, Shibuya 109, Ueno (Ameyoko street), Shibuya etc etc since it was Cheryl's first time in Tokyo.

Sorry I don't have much recommendations for Ramen places, basically we just walked into any ramen store and they all tasted heavenly (Even if the store was empty). and the best part, they most were only 700-800 yen!!

Being the foodie, Cheryl also had a list of places that I had never been to before, so we went to hunt them down!

Weekend farmer's market at UNU. All the gorgeous fruits and home made produce!
Alilght at Omotesando station. You will pass by Pierre Hermes on the way (just saying ;))

246 Common! An outdoor area with multiple food stalls, including the famous Brooklyn Ribbon Fries. Unfortunately, we were there at noon so it was too hot, best to come around evening time? Walkable distance from Omotesando/Harajuku area.

After Tokyo, we moved on to head to Kawaguchiko for our next leg - Mt Fuji! To be continued in the next post ;)

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