The Japan Experience!

Yes, Japan!!! and all of it! Well, not all, but most. For my end of the year holiday, I decided to take a trip to Japan. This came about...
Yes, Japan!!! and all of it! Well, not all, but most. For my end of the year holiday, I decided to take a trip to Japan. This came about while looking up random places to go in August 2016. When I was searching around for different places to go, I realised Japan was somewhere I haven’t been yet so, I started my search. Through various search engines and platforms, I was able to score a RT flight from Singapore to Tokyo during the end of the year for US$350.00.

Before I bought, I talked with a few people who have already been and asked them about the average fare price during that season and they all quoted me with much higher costs. I knew I had to seize the moment and book right there. But wait, that’s not all that is needed for Japan; finding a flight is the easy part.

 

Japan is a place that is fairly spread out. With that being said, you have to find out what your goals are (only you can determine this but I will lend my advice about it). As I was able to take such an extended trip, 17 days to be exact, I wanted to venture around as much of the country that I could (and it was definitely worth it)! Because I was travelling during the Christmas holiday, that also allowed me to experience Japan’s seasonal affects in regards to different events that happen only during winter. So, I started to do blanket research on what to do and interesting places to go. Upon my search, I realised there were many places that were outside of Tokyo itself. This forced me to think about when and where I wanted to go and in which order. This is extremely important because of the way Japan’s transit system is. In my research, I learned that there is a bullet train called the Shinkansen.

As a tourist, you HAVE TO BUY THE RAIL PASS BEFORE YOU GET TO JAPAN!!!! You will be sorry if you don’t! In most countries you can buy them from a retailer in your home country but if not, you can purchase directly from their website and they will FedEx it to you, wherever you are around the world at www.jrpass.com. Depending on how long you are there, where you want to go and how many places you want to go will help to determine which pass to get. I ultimately decided to stay in Tokyo for my trip and travel to different parts throughout the extent of my trip. [Learn this phrase: {Kore (insert name of train stop) ni ikimasu, ka?} This means, Does this train go to (said train station?)] As many people struggle with the English language, this will surely help. I ultimately decided to get a 7-Day JR Pass for my trip.

When I went, I knew I wanted to go to Nara Park. This is the deer park where the deer roam free and you can feed them. But, the best part about this deer park is that when you encounter ANY of the deer, you bow to them, as in traditional Japanese culture and…. wait for it…… THEY BOW BACK TO YOU!!!!!! So cool!! As I am a person that loves experiences, this is one I simply couldn’t pass up. This is the tricky part about taking the bullet train from Tokyo to Nara city; don’t just take a trip to the park by itself. While you’re out there, take a two or three- day trip over to Kyoto city because they are so close to each other. Kyoto is full of culture and history (vastly because it was once Japan’s capitol city). There’s so much to do and see in Kyoto that you can find whatever fancies you to make that trip worth while. I would suggest to stay in Kyoto and just take a short train ride over to Nara for a few hours then head back to Kyoto because the majority of your time will be spent there and not Nara.
 
After a few days in Kyoto, Nara and Osaka, I returned back to Tokyo for a couple of days and met up with my ex-colleague and his girlfriend to show me places in Tokyo. The food, the people, the temples, the shopping, the sights are all amazingly unique to Tokyo. For food, I would recommend Shibuya and Asakusa (pronounced Ah-sahk-sa) because it is where all of the best local foods are. If you see a really small alley somewhere in these areas, go down it. They’re all filled with amazing local eateries even though they’re the size of a walk-in closet. I’m not one that really suggests eating at international eateries like McDonalds but you have to go to McDonalds in Japan; their menu is freaking awesome with my faves being the Egg Burger and Shrimp Au Gratin Burger.
Going to temple was an emotional experience for me because I am Buddhist (though I’m not a vegetarian). I cannot express to you what to feel when going as everyone has their own emotional connections to these temples (My favourite is in Harajuku right outside of the station in a park behind the train station) and you have to experience it for yourself. Speaking of Harajuku, you have to visit Takeshita Street. There’s a bunch of things to see and try there like their crepes and their giant cotton candies. Harajuku is also known for some of the best thrift stores in Tokyo (if you’re into that like I am).
 
When it comes to all other types of shopping, I suggest you venture off to Shibuya area (it’s also great for nightlife). There’s even an All- Men’s Mall there. Shibuya is also home to the Hachiko statue. If you don’t know who Hachiko was, I suggest you google and find out (I’m not going to give you all the answers, lol)
After my first week in Japan, I went to Nagano Prefecture to go skiing for two days. If you’re into skiing, you will definitely need to have a travel agent orange it for you in Japan because everything is in Japanese. My travel agent came in the form of a friend who lives in Singapore that is Japanese and reads/ writes/ speaks Japanese. If you want to know more about skiing there in general, just give me a buzz and I’ll give you more info on it. I will state, however, go to an onsen (public, nude, hot bath- think giant jacuzzi) but be forewarned that if you have tattoos, you can’t get in unless it’s private because the Japanese affiliate tattoos with the Yakuza (even in today’s day and age). After I returned back to Tokyo from skiing, I took a rest day (trust me, you’ll need it).
 
After my rest day, I went to DisneySea (the sea- themed Disney Park). Though I had a good time there and have made it a personal mission to go to every Disney Park around the world, it was honestly a bit lacklustre. I think it might have had something to do with the number of people there (it was a lot for even Disney) as the majority of rides had a 3-4 hour wait time. Even the food queues took an hour (Asians like queues- no, seriously, they really do)! If you do decide to make DisneySea or DisneyLand (right net door to each other) a part of your Japan trip, I really suggest you get the half- day/ after 6pm ticket to not have to wait in lines so long.

The rest of my trip, I just wandered to different places around Tokyo and took my time doing so around different parts of Tokyo. This leads me back to the JR Pass. I researched and learned that using the pass for the bullet train for the first 7 days of my trip was more financially beneficial for me and to just get a Suica Card to travel around Tokyo area for the second week. The good thing about this card is that you “top-up” the card like a prepaid credit card and can use it in many places like 7/11 stores and not only on the train. There’s even an entire mall that that accepts the Suica Card so you don’t have to carry cash (just don’t lose the card- keep it safe like your credit cards and ID). In total for my 17- day stay in Japan, including lodging (try a capsule hotel btw for the experience), train passes, flights and food and random shopping, I spent US$1002.51. All in all, was it worth it, YOU BET YOUR ASS IT WAS AND I’D DO IT ALL AGAIN!!!!!!!! Now, Get Out There!!!!!

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