Tips for Travelling to Japan

Our trip to Japan was a DIY project. I researched on what sites to see, how to get to each destination, where to eat. Here is a compilation of the tips that helped us in this trip:

  1. Apply for your Japanese visa 60 days before your scheduled trip. Get the forms from accredited travel agencies. Complete all the forms and submit them. Make sure you fill in all the blanks. You will also need to submit your planned itinerary, copies of your tax returns, and certifications from your bank. Allot 6 – 10 working days from the time you submit your application to the time you get your passports back. Also make sure that your passport is not yet expired.
  2. Order Japanese yen from your bank. Some banks require a few days to a week.
  3. If you are going to take the Keisei Skyliner from the Narita Airport to Tokyo, it would be cheaper if you booked your tickets online.
  4. Consider getting a hotel close to most of your destinations. We always choose a hotel that is close to a major train or subway station.
  5. Get a Suica card or its equivalent. These are reloadable cards which you can use to pay for train/bus/subway tickets or even convenience stores. This saves you time since you don’t have to line up to buy tickets. Consume it to the last yen, if possible. Before leaving Japan, you can return the cards for a refund of JPY500. You are charged JPY220 if your remaining balance is more than that.
  6. Order a rental pocket wifi. I rented a unit from Pupuru. This will come in handy when you are trying to access Google Maps or any navigation guide. I had the unit delivered to the hotel so it was ready when we arrived. Before leaving, I placed it in an envelope that they provided and had the hotel drop it in the mailbox for return.
  7. Wear comfortable shoes. You will do a lot of walking.
  8. Don’t be afraid to try small restaurants in the side streets. Food is delicious and prices are lower. Even the sushi and onigiri sold in convenience stores, department store basements and train stations are delicious.
  9. Depending on your itinerary, you might want to consider getting a Tokyo Metro 24-hour pass for unlimited subway rides. I think there are also passes for multiple days.
  10. If you are a fan of outlet shopping, you might want to schedule a trip to Gotemba Premium Outlets. You have the added bonus of having Mt. Fuji as your backdrop while you shop. Prices are generally not as low as those in the US outlets, although there were some stores that offered great deals. You can get to Gotemba by bus or by train. I booked our roundtrip bus tickets online before leaving Manila.

Japan is a very nice vacation destination. We hope to return there someday soon.

In Love With Japan

Just recently, my family and I went on a trip to Tokyo, Japan. Like in our other previous trips, we did not join a tour group. We made our own itinerary based on what we want to do and see. We did not want to be confined to a pre-set schedule and preferred to do the exploring on our own. We got lost at times, but that was part of the adventure. From the minute we landed in Narita, we loved every minute of our stay in Japan. Here are some of the reasons why:

  1.  Weather

Coming from a scorching summer in Manila, the cool weather of Tokyo was a welcome breather. Days were cool and nights were chilly. Even during the early afternoon hours when the sun would be at its peak, it was still cool enough for a thin jacket. It rained on our second day there, but we did not let that get in our way.

day1b_Fotor

Going around shortly after arrival

2.  Efficient transport system

To get around, we took the subway, the train or the bus. Cabs are expensive in Tokyo. There is an extensive network of subways and trains, so there’s bound to be a stop near your destination. The trains arrive on time and leave on time. That way, you can schedule your activities more effectively.

traintoodaiba_Fotor

On our first day there, we got the Tokyo Metro 24-hour ticket (JPY 600) for each one of us. That allows unlimited rides on the Tokyo Metro for 24 hours. Aside from that, we also got Suica prepaid cards for everyone. Suica is a reloadable card that can be used to pay for train, bus or subway tickets. It can also be used in convenience stores. It is very easy to use and saves you time, since you don’t have to line up to buy tickets.

3.  Food

Everything we ate in Japan was delicious. Prior to the trip, I was not a big fan of ramen. But I became a convert after eating ramen in Japan.

ippudo8_Fotor

Ramen and gyoza in Ippudo

We also enjoyed the katsudon, gyoza, tempura, sushi, Harajuku crepes and Japanese cheese tarts. It didn’t matter where you got them – from big restaurant chains, mall food courts, department store basements, train stations, hole-in-the-wall restaurants. They were all delicious!

4. The sights

There’s much to see in Tokyo. There are temples and parks and gardens. There is a huge Gundam statue outside Diver City in Odaiba.

gundam1_Fotor

The highlight of our trip was seeing the majestic Mt. Fuji. We were really hoping to get a glimpse of Mt. Fuji while we were in Gotemba. Cloud forecast that day wasn’t very encouraging. So we were surprised that the peak of Mt. Fuji was visible throughout the day that we were there. Mt. Fuji is the highest mountain peak in Japan and is a famous symbol of Japan.

fujifam4_Fotor

5.  The lack of noise

Tokyo is a very vibrant city, with lots of tall buildings, cars, busy people walking along the streets, but it is relatively quiet. Even with all the tourists crowding around in Nakamise Dori or in front of the Senso-ji Temple, there is no shouting or yelling. There is no mad honking of horns or loud music in malls.

6.  Cleanliness

Tokyo is a very clean place. Most restaurants observe a “clean-as-you-go” system, where diners are expected to bring out their plates and utensils and wipe the tables clean after eating. The streets, train stations and even public bathrooms are clean.

7.  The Japanese people

Everywhere you go, Japanese people are very polite. Even if they do not understand English, they will try to help you in any way they can.

All of us enjoyed our stay in Tokyo. This early, the kids are already asking if we can go back.  There are so many other places in Japan that we’d like to see. Until the next adventure.