We went to Japan in Spring 2019! We were excited to experience what the country has to offer, including:
- High Tech Cities
- Traditional Shrines & Temples
- Quirky Pop-Culture
In general, P and I prefer to explore new places via a loose method we call “walking around for hours and seeing what we bump into”. 😂 But, still, some advance planning is useful. What follows is our itinerary and links to all my Japan-related posts.
After doing some online research, we decided to buy a JRail pass to get around the country. We also got a Suica Card for subway and local transit. We picked up both items at the JR East office at Narita Airport. Note: the JR Pass must be purchased before you arrive in Japan.
I picked up a Lonely Planet Phrase Book and downloaded an app to learn some basic politeness words. We ended up using very little Japanese. Most service and hotel workers spoke a few words of English, and many menus were photo menus; you can order by pointing.
Our T-Mobile cell plan includes international data roaming through Softbank. It was slow but sufficient for navigation and basic look-ups. If we didn’t have an international cell phone plan, we would have rented pocket-wifi at Narita airport.
Japan is a very safe country, but according to the State Department website we had to take OTC medications like Sudafed out of our first aid kits, as they’re illegal in Japan.
Even with our careful bargain-hunting, accommodations ran approximately $155/night during Sakura (cherry blossom) season. Once you add in rail passes, sightseeing, and food, this trip stretched our budget.
Japan might be less expensive during other times of year, or if you were willing to stay further away from the main destinations (Osaka instead of Kyoto, for example).
First Stop: Five Nights in Tokyo
We’re stayed in the Shinjuku neighborhood, which is a busy entertainment and shopping district. We’ve got some touristy things planned, including a visit to a robot cabaret, a few minutes admiring Godzilla’s head, a walk across the touristy Shibuyu zebra crossing, and a shopping trip to the famed Don Quijote store. Also some day trips by train.
Here’s our maybe-do list:
- Shinjuki National Gardens
- Day trip to Nikko & Nikko Forest
- Take in Views from the Metropolitan Government Building
- Walk around Akihabara until I develop a case of anime eyes from all the signage.
- A Walking Tour including the major Tokyo shrines.
- Oh, and I wanna eat strange foods out of vending machines! According to our friend Elliott, the “can of coffee with the Soviet-looking guy on it is pretty good.” So we’ve got that tip to go on. 😂
We’ll be back in Tokyo at the end of our trip, so this first week is mostly about soaking up the atmosphere.
Second Stop: Two Nights in Takayama
We’ll spend two nights in a traditional Ryokan (Inn) in the Japanese Alps. We’ll sleep on tatami mats and futons, eat whatever our hosts cook us, and sit in the hot springs. We love cities, but we thought it would be fun to get out into the countryside for a bit.
Third Stop: Six Nights in Kyoto
In Kyoto we want to visit some shrines and temples (so many options!), take a walking tour of the historic Gion district, and make day trips to Nara, Hiroshima, and Himeji Castle.
While we’re in Kyoto, we’ll try out a capsule hotel just for kicks.
Fourth Stop: Four Nights in Yokosuka
Some High School friends of ours have been living in Japan for over a decade. When I reached out to see if we could visit them, they were kind enough to offer us their guest room for a few days. While we’re south of Tokyo we’ll take day trips to Kamakura and Yokohama.
I just learned that Yokohama has a Cupnoodles Museum!
Fifth Stop: Back to Tokyo for Four Nights
We’ll complete our loop back in Tokyo. Most likely we’ll take another couple day trips, and see some more sights, but because we’re booking refundable lodgings our plans are flexible.
That’s it for now! I’ll continue to update this as we go.
Last updated: 2/20/19