Monday, May 22, 2017
Before traveling alone to Europe or the United States for a month next year (2018), I needed a good travel experience and the best spot to start my training is in the Land of the Rising Sun - JAPAN!
By December I will be going to Australia for 7 days and Korea for another 2 weeks. Then, back again in Japan on April for the Cherry blossoms.
I guess that would be enough experience. Now, the travel...
My travel will cover the following places - Fukuoka - Hiroshima - Osaka - Kobe - Nara - Kyoto - Nagoya - Hakone - Tokyo - Sapporo - Hokkaido - Tokyo.
(Note - I am currently in Hakone and doing Day 7)
I started in Fukuoka, Japan last May 18, 2017. It was still a bit cold when I arrived in Fukuoka. The first thing I did was to find my stay.
It was past 8 pm when I arrived and good thing I did not get lost and was able to find my way to my hostel, Guesthouse Hokorobi.
Day 2 - Fukuoka
I was near the canal and I took an early stroll to get myself started. Afterwards, I took a nap and got my bag and went to my first spot.
I boarded the train to the Fukuoka Castle Ruins and explored the area. It was a huge place and I had to pace myself in order to finish the tour. I went to Hakata and part of my itinerary was to explore the city. But since the bag was quite heavy, I decided to leave. I had to save my energy. A long journey lies ahead.
From Fukuoka Station, I boarded the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Hiroshima. I paid around 8,400 yen for the ride. It took me only 1 hour and 10 minutes.
From the Shin station, I asked the Information Office about my hostel and I was told that it was very far from the city. I had no choice, it was booked and paid already. From the city, I boarded the local train and boarded another bus before reaching the spot.
The hostel was named Quel and it was quite different. Now, I know the reason why it says for adults only. But trust me, the room is great!
It was still early and I decided to walk around the area. This is what Japan looks like in the rural areas. The rice field is just beside the houses and the road.
Then, I went back to the hostel and stayed at the terrace and was awed on the view from my room. It was already 7 pm and the sun was still around and I woke up 5 am and the was already up!
Day 3 - Hiroshima
Mae Resma, my former student and now a resident of Nagoya was the one who prepared my itinerary.
I went back to the city and paid 400 yen for the hop-on, hop-off tour. There are two options - (1) Green Line and (2) Orange Line.
The Orange Line is the better option since it has the castle, dome and park.
The Hiroshima Dome is the number one spot to visit. This is the actual remnant and actual place where the WW2 atomic bomb was dropped!
From this spot, you can cover the museum, peace marker and the park.
The place is a reminder of the holocaust of the world war.
I strolled along the park, entered the museum, took pictures and then boarded the bus to my next destination.
When in Japan, it is a must according to my brother Jayson (he stayed in Japan for 6 months) that I must visit the castles. After the Fukuoka castle, the Hiroshima Castle.
I boarded the Shinkansen to Osaka but this time I bought my JR Pass!
This pass entitles the holder to so many privileges and amenities which I discussed in another blog. You only need your passport and 33,000 yen and the world of travel in Japan awaits you.
After the Shinkansen ride, I went to my next stay - Guest Bee Hive.
I did not bother to go out that night. We had an Okonomiyaki Party and played Uno that night.
Day 4 - Kobe and Nara
I transferred to another hostel before doing my tour, Drop Inn Osaka.
It took only 12 minutes using the Shinkansen and I was in Kobe. There was only 1 chosen spot among the several places to visit in Kobe.
I paid only 1,100 yen for this tour and I must say that it was one of my best tours in Japan, the Herb Gardens and Ropeway.
It is a must-place to visit in Kobe and different flowers bloom in the four seasons of Japan. Along the ropeway, you will see the falls, dam and the hiking trail.
I went back to Osaka using the Shinkansen and then used the local train to Nara.
At the Nara Station, I availed of the 500 yen unlimited bus ride to all the spots.
First stop was the Heijo Castle.
Second stop was the Nara Deer Park.
You can explore the whole park and it will take you the whole day doing it. But I was in a rush and I just selected the spots.
The Todai ji Temple is one of the best spots to visit and there are various temples and I visited some of them. And then went back to the Nara station.
Arriving back in Osaka, I met Benj and Pao. We had ramen and exchange stories. I missed them already.
Day 5 - Osaka
The number one spot in Osaka (aside from the Universal Studio) is the Osaka Castle. Entrance fee is only 600 yen.
Next stop was the Shin-Sekai. This is the best place to enjoy good and affordable food while in Osaka.
Last stop was the Umeda Sky Building and entrance fee is only 1,000 yen.
From the observatory, you will have best view of the city of Osaka. You will enjoy a lot of things in this spot.
Osaka Access by Shinkansen or local train
1. 12 minutes to Kobe using Shin
2. 40 minutes to Nara using local train
3. 15 minutes to Kyoto using Shin
4. Nagoya and Hiroshima
Another Shinkansen ride to Kyoto. This time it took me only 12 minutes from Osaka.
Arguably, Kyoto is one of the best places (if not the best place) here in Japan. And the best place to stay is in Piece Hostel Kyoto.
Day 6 - Kyoto and Nagoya
Morning - KYOTO
I selected 4 spots in Kyoto and the first stop was Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. Kyoto has numerous tourist spots and temples but I promised myself that I will be skipping the temples in this tour.
Early morning I went back to the station and boarded the train at track 32. I alighted at Saga Arashiyama and walked for 10 minutes before I reached the forest. No entrance fee in the forest.
Afterwards, I went back to the station and asked for directions and I was given this simple note which I followed.
From the Nijo Station, I walked for 15 minutes and arrived at the entrance. I paid 600 yen for the entrance fee.
The castle is one of the popular sites in Kyoto. This used to be the place of the Samurai.
I explored the area and bought souvenir items and I went to my next destination.
I hurriedly walked back to Nijo Station and boarded the train at track 1. It was already 11 am and the weather was a bit hot.
Last destination for the day before my lunch break was the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine.
This is tagged as one of the best must-see places in Japan. After entering it, now I know why!
I was suppose to go to Gion or old district, but I was already tired. I went back to the hostel and rested.
Afternoon - Nagoya
With my JR Pass, I boarded the shinkansen ride to Nagoya. Travel time was only 55 minutes!
I alighted at Nagoya station and used the subway. The JR Pass was not available and I had to buy my ticket. I made two transfers and found myself walking to my last stop for the day.
Last stop for the day - Nagoya Castle
The Nagoya castle was not the reason why I had to go to Nagoya. It was some sort of sidetrip only.
I had to meet and extend my sincrest thanks and appreciation to the one who made my itinerary - Ms. MAE RESMA 👍
After the meet, I went back to Kyoto that night and called it a day.
Day 7 - Hakone/Mt. Fuji
Using the Shinkansen, it took me 2 hours to reach Odawara. Arriving at the station, I immediately went to the Odawara Sightseeing Office and bought the 2-day pass in all modes of travel in Hakone. The Hakone Pass is worth 4,000 yen and you should not forget to buy this pass.
I boarded the bus to Miyanoshi and looked at the fare (690 yen).
I went to Hakone Hostel 1914 and left my bag and started my tour.
I went to Lake Ashi and boarded the sightseeing boat. After 40 minutes, boarded the bus to another stop.
And there I saw Mt. Fuji! No words can explain of finally seeing it in person.
Day 8 - Tokyo
Now I am going to Tokyo and doing the tours, I will be updating this blog soon!!
Hakone - Mt. Fuji
Tips when in Japan
1. Buy the JR Pass.
2. Use the Willer overnight bus if you want to save in hotel expenses by sleeping inside the bus at night.
3. Food is quite expensive. You can buy affordable ones in 7-11, Family Mart or Lawson Station.
4. Visit the castles and temples
5. Stay in hostels or dormitories.
6. Bring a coin purse for your loose change and there will be a lot.
7. Ask for directions either at the Information Center inside the train station or the Tourist Station.
8. There are various trains - local, Shinkansen, subway and street cars.
9. The Shinkansen station is different from the local train (example - Shin Osaka is the Shinkansen station and Osaka Station is the local train station)
10. Travel light and bring a water.
11. Try the local food.
12. Walk left and stay left in escalators.
13. Buy the JR Pass online, it is cheaper.
14. Be aware of the areas in the train station and inside the train.
15. Japan is safe but please stay safe and be street smart.
16. Observe trafffic rules.
17. You can leave your bag in the hostel and travel the whole day and then get the bag later.
18. Bring medicine. I eat a lot and sometimes, I ate something different.
19. Make your itinerary at night by asking the front desk if your itinerary is feasible.
20. Laundry is cheap and very easy.
21. If the train door won't open, press the open button
22. Secure a map, mark your destinations, know how many stops, remember your stop and listen to the train operator announcing the stop or look at the monitor inside the train for your station.
23. If you need discounted food, try buying before the grocery closes, they will sell the food 50% off.
24. Ask first for the price of the food before buying.
25. Be silent inside the train or elevator.
26. Keep your trash and do not litter.
27. Enjoy the toilet.
28. Know the weather and bring the appropriate clothing.
3 most important things
1. Never lose your passport.
2. Never lose your money.
3. Never lose your JR Pass.
Arigato gozaimasu for reading!
Traveling in Japan can be quite expensive but if you know the perks of having a tourist visa, then it can save you from incurring excessive expenses.
If you are going to Japan and staying for more than 3 days and/or with various destinations. The JR Pass is a very important pass that one must afford when traveling in Japan.
The JR Pass is very useful, affordable and accessible to almost all destinations in the JR system. In Hiroshima, the JR pass can also be used in the hop-on hop-off tour bus. Bus travel is not included.
There are several passes ranging from 7 days, 14 days and a lot more.
I bought the JR pass here in Japan for 33,000 yen and you can also buy it online. They have the green card holder and the ordinary card holder. I was given the ordinary pass since I am a tourist.
Let me give me you an example. Buying the Shinkansen from Hiroshima to Osaka is 8,000 yen. In just 3 days, I boarded the Shinkansen in 5 trips already. Aside from that, I have unlimited access to ALL JR trains whether local or subway. You can even have your seats reserved in the Shinkansen.
There are three kinds of the Shinkansen rides - the Nozomi (red, the fastest!), Kodama (black) and the Hikari (blue)
The yellow or Nozomi is off-limits to Ordinary card holder. The Nozomi has more schedules and fewer stops.
There are 2 kinds of Shinkansen cars - the 16 cars and 8 cars. Be sure what you are boarding.
Before having a JR pass, I boarded the Nozomi for 8,500 yen and it was really faster!
You can even use your JR pass from Hiroshima to Sapporo!
HOWEVER, the JR Pass is not available for the Nozomi and there are times you have to use the non-reserved section (usually cars 1-3).
There is another option in case you do not want to buy the JR pass and will be staying only in one destination. They have the Sanyo, San'in, Hokuriku and Kansai Pass.
For example in Osaka, they have the Kansai area pass (1-day 2,300 yen; 2-day 4,500 yen, 3-day 5,500 4-day 6,500) for Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, Himeji and Shiga. And it is also a lot cheaper.
Better ask the train station once you are in Japan and ask how you can get the the various train passes!
For more information about the JR pass, please visit their website and learn the conditions of use and eligibility requirements.
Why ride the Shinkansen?
1. It is the fastest and more economical than a plane ride!
2. It saves you time.
3. It gives you your deserved comfort in traveling.
4. It values your travel.
5. It gives you pride.
Why buy the JR Pass?
1. It saves your well-earned money.
2. It gives you access to so many travel opportunities.
3. It gives you access to local tours
4. No need to bring cash.
5. Riding the Shinkansen!
But the JR Pass is still the number one!