Japan remains to be one of my most favorite countries. In fact, you might say I am a Japanophile to a certain extent. (Just take a peek inside my kitchen cupboards and you’ll see why.)
My recent visit to Japan was made extra special because I was with my Hubby and a couple of friends from work. This is in stark contrast with my first visit almost 10 years ago when I competed at the Japan Prize conference on my own. It was pretty lonely back then but since Japan is Japan, I was able to make the most out of that trip.
Although the main reason for our visit this time was to attend the Japan Prize as well, we were still able to explore Tokyo and see a bit of the countryside between sessions and after the conference itself. I will be sharing with you our itinerary but before that, here are some tips if you’re planning to go to Japan soon.
Preparing for your trip
Assuming that you’ve already secured your visa and booked your flight, here are some things you need to think about before your trip to Japan.
One of the major decisions you have to make is to choose where to stay in Japan. Of course, this largely depends on what you want to do and how much you’re willing to spend. Japan has one of the most diverse choices when it comes to accommodations: luxury hotels, budget hotels, hostels, traditional ryokan or inns, AirBnB, capsule hotels…name it, they have it. If you don’t mind sharing bathrooms and common rooms and you’re on a limited budget, you might want to try out hostels (just like what we did). If you’re into experiencing the uniqueness of Japan, choose a traditional ryokan or a modern capsule hotel. But whatever you decide on, here’s my advice: choose an accommodation that is near a metro station. Trust me, this will be the best decision you’ll ever make.
The current Philippine Peso to Japanese Yen exchange rate is 1:2.09. When paying for something, what I’d do is just divide the price in yen by 2 to get the price in peso. Exchanging money in Japan usually includes tax so it’s best to buy yen at the airport.
But this is not to say you can’t enjoy Japan on a tight budget. There are so many ways to save during your trip. For instance, some museums offer free entrance on certain days of the week. You can also book free walking tours in major tourist destinations. And you can even have free wi-fi access in public areas like the metro or shopping malls.
An average set meal would cost between 600-1000 yen (without drinks). A bowl of ramen would range from 800-1000 yen, depending on the restaurant. If you’re travelling on a budget, check out the convenience stores where you can find decent and surprisingly delicious meals for much less. Department stores and grocery stores also give 50% off on prepared meals at the end of the day.
Travelling to a non-English speaking country can be intimidating. But the Japanese, in general, are very helpful. Should you find yourself lost, just ask a local for directions and I guarantee that he or she will be more than willing to help you.
Still, you can get extra help in overcoming the language barrier by downloading translator apps like Google Translate, which incidentally, has helped us a lot during our trip.
Japan has one of the most efficient transport systems in the world. Taxis are quite expensive. But once you’ve overcome your fear of Japanese signages, it’s pretty easy to navigate your way via buses and trains. For our 6-day trip, we bought the 72-hour Tokyo Metro pass.
For getting directions during our trip, I relied mainly on Google Maps because it also provided metro and bus schedules as well as ticket prices. Downloading the Tokyo Metro app was also quite helpful.