Just arrived from this beautiful country last week.. Japan absolutely is a country with its own beauty.. One of those country that I wanna be in my life.. miss it already! 日本を愛し! (nihon o aishi which means love japan)
I’ve been travelling for some countries but trust me.. Japan is something different! They differ in a lot of things. Thanks to my friends who care sharing some valuables information and read so many blogs and articles before coming to this country..
I traveled with wife and 2 kids (11 and 9yo). Travelling with them means I have to prepare myself double maybe more. I can’t just go to the wrong way and go back. They will scream at me!
Hotels are expensive stuff in Japan. Something like Ibis Hotel, budget hotel with very small space, costs around 20k yen per night. So the 4 of us, will need 2 rooms which make it 40k yen per night. It is way beyond our budget. Have read some articles and blogs about some nice cheap hotels, but they either quite far or super small. The only choice is find something in Airbnb. Another problem, I was too late to book.. mostly the best places weren’t available on the end of Dec.. I left with few choices.. I think about 15% of what available in the area was left (the percentage was shown in airbnb website).. I’ve been hosting airbnb for four years but never use it. It was my first airbnb travel experience.. and it was amazing.. both the apartment that I rented was good! Close to main area, bed comfortable and clean.
Place to visit
When travelling with kids, things got really slow. Probably 1 or 2 places in a day. So many blogs and articles to browse around for about the places to visit. Combining those blogs and articles, I got the idea which were the most suitable places for us..
From the articles and friends, taxi in Japan is so expensive. Public transport is the only choice. Before going to Japan, the most complicated subway system that I ever used was Seoul. The most difficult one is Bangkok since they didn’t have the latin characters on the station name. All the station name looked the same, I have to use google map when riding on the train to know if I was in the right direction and stop in the correct one!
When I looked at Japan subway system, especially the 1 in Tokyo.. omg.. shocking!! Good enough to know that they have latin characters on it. I bought 1 week JR Pass for around 90k yen (2 adults 2 kids) for travelling around osaka, kyoto, tokyo and yuzawa. Those bullet trains (shinkansen) really costly. If you are going to travel around a lot, JR Pass really worth it. For other days, I bought the pre-paid card to make thing easier: ICOCA for osaka and SUICA for tokyo. The card itself costs like 100yen.
For Kyoto, taking bus is better than train. Train doesn’t go to many tourist places in Kyoto, but bus does. We bought 1 day bus pass for 1 day unlimited ride just outside the Kyoto train station.
In Japan, foreigner is not allowed to have a mobile sim card to call or sms. Internet is the only form of communication to bring with us. For internet, the choices are sim card, mobile wifi, free wifi and paid wifi. Free and paid wifi are not an option for us. I will really depend on google map for the subway. Free and paid wifi are only available on certain places. Knowing that our airbnb host will provide us with mobile wifi, I chose the sim card. Bought it in http://www.bmobile.ne.jp/english/ and have it sent to the airport post office. It cost about 2500 yen for 14 days. It’s unlimited data but it slows down the speed if you use more 1 gig in 3 days which happened to me! I forgot that my google drive was still on when I connected my notebook to my phone. I think for normal use, it’s good enough.
Important to note
You can’t bring your big luggage to the train. There isn’t enough space on the train and lift is something very very rare in train station. You feel very lucky when you see escalator! Mostly stairs. Can you imagine bringing those big luggage climbing those stairs?
I was worried about language, but in fact, it wasn’t a problem at all. They rarely understand english, but I managed to get what I want. Most restaurants (in tourist areas) have the english menu or pictures of the food. I never ask direction, google map is a perfect tool there. It even shows the time when train is coming and it’s right on the minute! Train stations complete with japanese, korean, chinese and english sign.
Arrived on 9am in Kansai International airport. 1st thing to do is finding a way to send our big luggage. 2nd, get our sim card in the post office. 3rd, get on train to osaka city. We stayed near the Nippombashi train station. Just one train station from Namba. I glad I chose this area. Osaka has 2 big cities: Namba and Umeda. Namba is more to tourist area where you see a lot of markets and shopping streets, on the other hand, Umeda is more to office and elite shopping mall area I would say. First 3 days we spent our time in Osaka. Places such as Osaka Castle, Dotonbori and Kaiyukan Aquarium are the star. Universal Studio is quite pricey but worth a visit.
Karaoke bar is something very common in Dotonbori. It’s very small. I think about 4 x 8m? half of it is the bar and the other half is where the guest sit. I think maximum 8 people. There’s a small tv on the corner showing you the song and lyrics. So the bartender is the host for the drink, talking, choosing the song, making everybody happy basically.
The 4th day, we went to Kyoto. It’s good that we bought the bus pass. Thanks to our friend who recommend us to buy the bus pass as train didn’t go to several places in Kyoto. As time permitted, I decided to go to only 3 top places: Fushimi Inari Shrine, Golden Paviliun and Arashimaya Bamboo Groove. They were all amazing! We should have spend 1 night in Kyoto so that we 2 day to explore. One day absolutely not enough!
The 5th till 15th day we spent our time exploring tokyo. The star was Tsukiji fish market, Sensoji Temple with its Nakamise Street, Tokyo Skytree, Odaiba area where the liberty statue is, Shibuya crossing. I always love the market every time I visit some places. Market is the place that somehow showing the local culture. Sensoji is like another temples but the street market (nakamise st) on the entrance was somehow amazing. This is where we get most of our japanese gift.
We visited 3 high observation point in Tokyo: tokyo tower, daiba fuji tv and tokyo skytree. The tokyo skytree is the best, the latest and the highest. Not to forget the shopping mall below it. It’s so complete! I was under estimate about Shibuya crossing. I lived in sydney for a while. Sydney has a thing like this in the city, at qvb to be precise. All traffic lights go red, so people can go any direction on the intersection. I thought it was similar. But, it is completely different. I never see these many people crossing the street. It was full of people over and over again!
During our stay in tokyo, we went to fuji kawaguchiko to see mount fuji. Those glacier that crafting mount fuji at the top is so beautiful. We were lucky enough to see it for some times till the cloud covered them. We also went to Gala Yuzawa ski resort. Direct 70 minutes from tokyo station using shinkansen. Love love love the snow..