I am really sorry for being on hiatus for the past weeks, it has been a busy holidays for me and my family, because it was our first! Yes, it was our first Christmas and New Year together. Will be sharing our family stories in the coming weeks. ♥
For now, let me share you my first wander of the year…
Spending New Year in Japan can be a little unusual from other countries, since most of them are spending their holidays visiting their first Shinto shrine of the year, which they call hatsumōde (初詣 ). This was my first New Year outside of Philippines and since we live in the Greater Tokyo Area, we chose to revisit Tokyo’s famous entertainmentdistrict, Asakusa.
Most people in Japan are off from work and school starting December 30 until January 3. It is the time of the year when people are cleaning their houses, paying all their debts, buying new charms or omamori, visiting relatives and exchanging gifts.
Upon getting off the train station via Ginza Line, we were surprised that some roads were closed and there were hundreds or maybe thousands of people on the road. Discipline was observed despite the busy event – policemen and road officers were stationed in every corner.
Japan can be considered as one of the modernized country of this generation, however despite the dynamic growth of technology, they still preserve remaining pieces of their past. They value their own history that much and making it consistently sure to pass it on to their next generation.
Take a look at the Kaminarimon Gate or “Thunder Gate” (雷門) strikingly painted in red with giant lantern and two statues of guardian gods – Raijin (left, god of thunder) and Fūjin (right, god of wind).
* This structure was built more than once due to war and fire, take note that the current one was built in 1960 under Edo Period. (Oh yes, Asian History, love it. ^^, )
This will serve as thefirst gateto the main temple, Kaminarimon Gate.
TIP If you are planning to visit the shrine during the holidays, you really have to be patient. I mean it, because you have to walk with hundreds of residents and tourists while following their rules.
Their history, vivid as it may seem, signifies their practices and lifestyle. You will never question its visibility all over Japan. Someday, I am going to wear Japan’s national costume while roaming around the city! Yay! #AddedToMyOwnBucketlist ♥
After entering the gate, look what surprise we found… 👣
Before reaching the temple grounds, you will be welcomed by more than 50 Japanese Souvenir shops. This is one of the perfect spot to get your authentic gifts/memorabilia like magnets, chopsticks, green tea, biscuits, Japanese dolls, small figurines and the like. PS. This street was only 250 meters long but it took us 20 minutes to reach Sensoji Temple due to the massive crowd.
The second entrance gate is called Hozōmon or “Treasure-House Gate” (宝蔵門) which will lead you to the main hall of Sensō-ji. It features three large lanterns and the most prominent lantern is a red chōchin that hangs at the center.
On the left, you will see the five story pagoda or Gojūnotō (五重塔) that contains some ashes of the Buddha. I am totally amazed with the temple’s characteristics and ornament, impressively designed thousand years ago.
As I share more photos, I was reminded that patience is actually a great talent and it will go a loooooong way… 👌👣
Tokyo’s Largest Buddhist Temple
It was not in the photo, but at the side of this hall, you will see stalls selling Japanese ‘omamori’ or amulets, incense and ‘omikuji’ fortunes.
As we enter the Sensōji Temple or also known as Asakusa Kannon (浅草寺), we only spent few minutes to make our wish and prayers, so we can give way to other attendees. Please be reminded that the temple is quite dark and the air is covered with thick incense.
* I am not sure if they allow it or not, but whenever I visit temples, I don’t take pictures inside, to simply pay respect to their beliefs and sacred places.
Since Asakusa has a lot to see, let’s look around…
If you get tired or you prefer to take a break, Asakusa has a lot of food to offer – from fried snacks like chicken, long potato fries, takoyaki, mochi and noodles. (Price Ranges from ¥200-800)
However, I found something fancy…
For ¥200, you will enjoy this healthy coated banana with candy sprinkles and it is too cute to eat, right?
Cheers to JP for having cool and cute stuff! 😂
I got my ref magnet for ¥380.
You should also try getting your O-mikuji (おみくじ)or paper fortune available at the sides of the hall.
How to do it?
Drop ¥100 at the tip box.
Shake a box full of sticks.
The stick you draw shows the number of your omikuji.
Take a paper from the drawer with the corresponding number and see if you are 吉 lucky.
Of course, I tried it too…
My first omikujifor this year was a bit heartbreaking!!! I received a bad fortune which says the following:
“Thunder hit and sound is breaking the sky, it is really dark and terrible. A man of good sense of humor stay within a house closing the gate and doors. All looks really lonesome. There maybe some mistake and misunderstanding in writing a mail to others. Though you do your best with utmost care, troubles may be always your way.”
* Your request will not be granted. Patient will get well. The lost article is hard to find. The person you wait for will not come. Stop building a new house. Stop starting a trip. Marriage and employment are both bad. *
* WARNING *
Do not let this piece of paper decide for your choices in the future.
My simple wish may not come true but no one can stop me from taking wonderful trips and meeting the person I am waiting for. Honestly, there’s no wedding plans on the table. Haha! ♣
If you received a positive omikuji, you can keep it. In my case, since it is not a good one, I folded and tied it to the tree where bad lucks were collected
♦ PERSONAL NOTE ♦
We had the whole afternoon walking and checking some shops for authentic Japanese goods and it felt good to know traditional practices of this country. It wasn’t so bad to be accustomed to a new environment. More likely a breath of fresh air coming from the ancient times with modern clothes. Lels.
So if you’re looking for an authentic Japanese thing to do – do not forget to include Asakusa’s Sensōji Temple in your Tokyo itinerary! 🎌
HOW TO GET THERE?
Asakusa is served by different railway lines such as Asakusa Subway Line, Ginza Subway Line, Tobu Railways and Tsukuba Express.
I wouldn’t miss the chance of sharing tips on how to travel Japan cheaply.
Tourists may come from different cities, so I would recommend you to try Hyperdia, smartphone app that has routes and timetable for railway and aviation in Japan. 👌
This year has been so good since I was able to start my own blog to share my endless stories. Lately, I’ve been receiving tons of inquiry on how to travel around Japan and this December I will share you tips on how to do it! This post might be too long but surely it will be helpful on your trip to the Land of the Rising Sun. 🎌✈️
I listed all topics that are frequently asked and I ended up with 15 points for you to know before going to Japan, JaFUN! 😂 I promise to update this post as necessary. 👍
1. Travel off peak and you’ll save a lot. Plan your trip by starting to choose from the four seasons in Japan.
(1) New Year Holidays (end of December to January)
(2) “Golden Week” Holidays (End of April til first week of May & adjacent weekends)
(3) “Bon” Festival Season (weeks centering on August 15)
Winter (December – February)
Prepare to layer clothes during this season because the temperature can drop below zero degrees. It’s time to enjoy winter sports and hit the hot springs. Don’t forget to bring your overcoats, sweater, scarves and gloves.
Spring (March – May)
It also known as the“Sakura/Cherry Blossom Season”.A good sign that spring is just around the corner and most of the places are covered in pink. People enjoyed eating at park and drinking their local beers under the full bloom trees. Bring your lightweight jackets, sweaters, turtle necks.
Summer (June – August)
Summer in Japan is seriously hot and humid wherein temperature can be 40° C. People are visiting the beach and attending festivities from different cities. It is also the perfect season to climb up some mountains including Japan’s tallest, Mount Fuji.
Japan has numerous airports that you can choose from as your entry and/or exit points. In this way you can save time from going back and forth to the same city.
(1) Haneda Airport busiest airport in Japan that handles most domestic flights and less international flights. It is also closer to the city than Narita Airport.
(2) Tokyo’s Narita Airport mostly handles majority of international flights. It is located in Chiba, 60 kilometers outside of Tokyo.
(3) Osaka’s Kansai International Airport is one of Japan’s most important airports. Just like Narita, they have huge hubs that can serve domestic and international flights.
(4) Nagoya’s Central Japan Airport is Japan’s fourth most important airport that handles domestic and international flights form the former Nagoya’s Komaki Airport.
(5) Fukuoka Airport handles domestic flights but they also have few international flights such as Korea, China, Taiwan, Singapore.
(6) New Chitose Airport is the main airport of Sapporo and considered as one of the busiest. Mainly domestic flights and few international routes.
(7) Kobe Airportoffers domestic flights only. The nearest international airport is Osaka’s Kansai Airport.
(8) Okinawa’s Naha Airport served as an international airport that caters to 11 cities (Hong Kong, Korea, China, Taiwan).
Listed above are the main airports in Japan, so you can plan where to begin and end your trip, or simply visit one city at a time.
For example, you can book a flight to Osaka then exit via Tokyo or vice versa. In that case, you don’t need to go back to Osaka for your return flight. ✈️
I would love to share budget airlines within Japan, however I am still researching about it and how it works for tourists. I’ll update this post as necessary. ✈️
4. Airline Ticket
In some cases, this will be the most expensive part of the trip. Personally, I haven’t tried budget airlines going to Japan because of ‘trust issues‘. I know it’s cheaper but I am more comfortable on big planes and usually I have check in baggages. Plus, it is my mother’s sole decision when it comes to this part of traveling.
Since traveling is a booming activity for the present generation, it is very economical to search for the cheapest airfare so you can put most of your money allocation in enjoying the country’s sightseeings.
List of Budget Airlines that has flights to Japan:
Simply wait for promos that is usually held every holidays and/or payday. They sell it for as low as 3,000 pesos ($65 per way).
Best Tip I can suggest is to BOOK EARLY.
Some tourists, book their own tickets as early as 6 months prior their trip to save bucks. And mind you, it is helpful!
Keep in mind…
To apply for the visa a month before the trip because single entry visa is only valid within 3 months from the date of approval.
5. Japan Rail Pass
As I said, traveling around Japan is not expensive as you think due to the release of Japan Rail Pass.
This is the sign that you can see at the train stations all over Japan. A group of privately owned companies that provide railway service to mass consumers in Japan. I am telling you that they are timely and efficient. If you will avail this pass, you can travel around Japan using shinkansen bullet train, non bullet trains and buses.
“JAPAN RAIL PASS
is a special fare ticket that is available only to travelers/tourist visiting Japan for sightseeing.”
* Please be reminded that Japan Rail Pass cannot be purchased in Japan.
You have to buy it from an authorized sales agent/office before going to Japan.
(a) A foreign tourist/visitor under the entry status of “Temporary Visitor” as seen on your passport. Upon entry in Japan, presenting your stamp will allow you to use the rail pass.
(b) If you are a Japanese National living outside of Japan who meets the following conditions:
a. who has permanent residence in that country
Person meeting this condition must provide written proof of the following:
・ Right of permanent residence
・ That they are living in a country other than Japan
b. who is married to a non-Japanese residing in a country other than Japan
Persons meeting this condition must provide written proof of the following:
・ That they are married to a foreign national
・ That they are living in a country other than Japan
・ That their spouse (a foreign national) is living outside Japan
If applicant failed to provide these papers, issuance of pass maybe denied.
Two Types of JAPAN RAIL PASS
(a) Green (for superior-class Green cars)
Each of these types is available at a 7-day, 14-day, or 21-day Pass.
The actual cost in local currency is calculated based on the Banker’s Selling Rate (BSR), etc.at the time the Exchange Order is issued. Please note that the purchase exchange rate may differ from the exchange rate in effect when you actually visit Japan.
* Children who are age 6 through 11 as of the date on which the exchange order is issued are eligible for child PASS prices.
* Prices are subject to change. The applicable price is the price valid on the date when an Exchange Order is issued.
The validity period of a Japan Rail Pass is the consecutive 7, 14, or 21 days period, beginning on the date of its first used.
Once a starting date has been assigned to the pass, it cannot be changed.
For steps inbuying pass, turning exchange order and making reservation, please click here.
These information are also available at http://www.japanrailpass.net.com, I just saved you from clicking another link. I also converted prices into US Dollars and Philippine Peso. You just have to check the rates again since it varies every day. 😊
6. Transportation around Japan
Aside from traveling around Japan using the JR Pass, you can also take advantage of their major highway buses like Willer Express. Book your tickets early and one thing is for sure, it’s CHEAPER as low as ¥1,700 – ¥2,000.
I did not recommend any use of cab/taxi because it is EXPENSIVE.
Aside from the airfare ticket, accommodation in Japan can be a little painful. If you are traveling with family and group of friends, hotels can be the best option without compromising your safety and comfort. However, there are options available wherein you can save money and stay on a limited space.
Cheap Hotels (These sites has budget/package deals for Japan)
When I visited Osaka last October, I tried using airbnb for the first time and it was way cheaper than hotels. I got an entire loft for three days for ¥8000 / P3,120 / $66. I can’t have room service or housekeeper during my stay but I can definitely manage my expenditures during the trip. I can also cook my own food and do my laundry!
You can choose from whole apartment, shared room or private room.
Will you still travel without Wi-Fi? Nah, it’s everyone’s way of communicating and sharing photos online is something we look forward to in every trips. It is also necessary when we get lost unintentionally.
Please be reminded that you don’t need to buy a new phone compatible in Japan because free WiFi is just around the corner. Mainly at the train stations.
Some cities has data limit but I think it’s better than nothing. 😄📶
Most overwhelming part of the trip is planning your itinerary. There’s so much you wanted to do but you have limited time and money. Let’s prioritize what we really want to experience in Japan without hurting our wallet/savings.
What are the activities can you try in Japan?
Open air bath (hot spring)
Yakiniku Festival in Hokkaido (February)
Illumination in Tokyo
Sapporo Snow Festival
Winter Sports (skiing, ice skating and sledding)
* List of ski and snowboards resorts in Japan, click here.
Celebrate tons of festivals (Hina Matsuri), White Day, Saint Patrick’s Day and Children’s Day
They also have cheaper tickets varying from 7, 5 and 3 must see attractions. Tickets for limited number of attractions is called Universal Express Pass.
There are numerous theme parks in Japan and I am still trying to explore some of their attractions. One at a time, maybe. 😊 For now, these are the famous theme parks that people, even Japanese residents, go to every season.
Warning: Always jam-packed.
11. FREE Things To Do(according to cities that I’ve been to)
Again, traveling around Japan is not as expensive as you think. You can add these activities in your list because these places are definitely for FREE! Plus it will give you the real Japanese vibe. As you can see, you can experience Japan’s culture at no cost. 👌
Balance your itinerary with these free places. 📝
Harajuku Lane (Takeshita Street)
Sensō-ji (famous Buddhist temple)
Pay a visit to the most loyal dog, Hachiko
Imperial Palace in Tokyo
Visit Parks (Yoyogi, Shinjuku)
Odaiba (Largest Gundam, Rainbow Bridge)
Otaku Haven in Akihabara
Attend a Matsuri Festival
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
Tsukiji Fish Market (You have to fall in line as early as 5 AM because they will only allow 120 tourists/day. (PS. It is closed to tourists since December 1, 2015 until January 17, 2016 – BUSIEST Time of the Year.)
Osaka Castle Park (going inside the castle requires admission fee)
Explore the elegance of Kyoto Station
Arashiyama’s Bamboo Forest
See a real Geisha
Kyoto Imperial Palace
12. Food and Drinks
It’s not Japan without trying their famous cuisine! To experience the Japanese dining culture, try to eat at their specialized restaurants like Izakaya(pubs) and yatai (food stalls). Most of the restaurants in Japan specialized just one type of food. 🍴
(a) Ramen (varies from different cities) ¥400-800 per bowl
(d) Yakiniku (grill it the way you want it) ¥500 – ¥2,500
(e) Takoyaki ¥300 – ¥700 (6-8 pieces)
(f) Meal Set ¥600 – ¥1000
(g) Mochi ¥100 – ¥150
(h) Drinks ¥80 – ¥160
Vending machines are almost available in every corner! It’s a little bit pricey tho, price ranges from ¥110 – ¥160. But if you are eager to save, I suggest you to visit big grocery stores like Yaoko, Homes’, Aeon, Maruetsu and Seiyu. Drinks are sold as low as ¥70 – ¥150 (500ml – 1L).
Almost every week, we visit the grocery stores to buy our food so definitely I can share you an updated price of products.
Mineral Water ¥90-180 (500ml, 1L)
Coffee (to go / can) ¥130-180 (300ml)
Milk ¥150-180 (300ml, 1L)
Beer ¥90-200 (300ml, 500ml)
Sports Drink ¥100-250 (300ml, 500ml, 1L)
Sodas ¥80-160 (300ml, 500ml, 1L)
Fruit Juice ¥80-200 (250ml, 500ml, 1L)
Chocolates (bars) ¥60-300
Chocolates (packs of 12) ¥150-300
Bento (Meal Set) ¥200-600
Best TipGrocery items are mark down at NIGHT! Grab some bread and drinks for your breakfast/snack. 🙂
13. Convenient Stores
If I will define Japan’s convenient store in one word it would be A-W-E-S-O-M-E. It’s like a mini grocery store that has everything you need. Open 24 hours to make people’s lives convenient. They have variety of drinks including beer & wine, bento meals, fresh salad, rice balls, fried snacks, doughnuts, fruits, ice cream, chocolates, cookies, chips, supplies, books, magazines, make up, chargers, prepaid gaming cards, prepaid credit cards, toiletries and some stores has MUJI apparels. They also have ATM, fax machines, photocopying machine and clean restrooms.
What are the convenient stores “konbini” in Japan?
Almost every touristy place has souvenir shops, you just have to check the prices carefully. Save when you can! 👌
Let me give you some suggestions.
(1) Don Quijote houses a lot of products from chocolates, clothing, gadgets, bags, apparels, shoes, appliances, make up, and many more. Prices are always marked down. They also give discounts for tourists by simply presenting your passport and visa. Some stores are also open for 24 hours so you can do something even at night! As of June 2015, they already have 260 shops throughout the country.
(2)Hyaku En Shoppu / Daisohas everything for only ¥100 plus tax. You can find dining wares, toys, craft items, school supplies, Hello Kitty stuffs and a lot more!
(3)Tokyo KitKat Chocolatory offers unique Kit Kat flavors that is only available in Japan! Some famous cities has their own specialty flavor too!
(4)Starbucks Tumblers & Mugs are available everywhere but if you are looking for the collectible items marked with the name of the city, Starbucks at the airport has it. It is also available in their respectivecities.
* Each tumbler costs around ¥1,400 including tax.
(5) Buy & Send Postcards! They sell 10 cards for ¥350-500.
15. Lastly, you should be aware that tipping is not allowed in Japan without compromising the service.
I know it’s quite long and may looks boring with all the information, but hey this post is for everyone who would love to go to Japan someday. I also included useful links that you can read later on. For you to travel on a light budget, you should learn how to plan and prioritize.
Personally, I’m not recommending a travel full of things to do on a limited time.
It’s not fun at all and you will end up exhausted.
It might work for those who only want good pictures, but I will suggest you to go for the GOOD EXPERIENCE. Something that you will treasure in your wonderful journey in seeing the world because one day you will pick up a photograph and remember the story behind it. I wish it’s a remarkable story. Would you like to remember how tired you were on the entire trip? Tired in a sense that you forgot to enjoy while spending your hard earned money?
Think about it.
There are people who don’t need these and they are the spontaneous travelers. They like to be surprise of the things they will encounter. Such a provoking idea, however there are still people who are quite hesitant to travel around Japan because of the language. I also get worried at times when I travel around the city, but I would like you to know that people who works at the airport, train stations & famous tourist spots know how to speak business English. Just give it a try and they will try to help you the best way they can.
I therefore conclude that with thorough planning and preparation, you can surely save bucks in the Land of the Rising Sun. 👌 💰
Cheers to more adventures! 👣✈️🌏
PS. I don’t advertise any of these. I’m plainly sharing facts with you. 🙂