Solo Travel Japan – To Plan or be Spontaneous

After a week of booking my flights for a 3-week first-time solo travel trip to Japan this April (that was a mouthful!), I spent at least 30 minutes each night planning my budget and itinerary. I made a long list of tasks to do in my last post, which can be found here, and I will update you on my progress!

Itinerary Planning

The main topic of this post is to talk about the planning and spontaneous side to planning my trip to Japan. I must admit, as a first-time solo traveller, I am quite anxious when I think about going halfway around the world and planning what to see and do on my own. Contrary, I’m very excited and I’m all in for getting out of my comfort zone, meeting new people and finding adventure. The question is whether I plan the whole of my trip and stick to a structured itinerary by the day, be spontaneous on what I go and where I go and stay, or use a combination of both to ease my way and gain more experience in this sort of travel. I’ve decided that I’ll pick option 3 and add a touch of spontaneity in the middle of the trip.

This is for many reasons for which I’ll explain with showing you my initial and updated route. In brackets include the nights I will spend at each location.

Initial route: Haneda Airport – Tokyo (1) – Ise (0) – Nagoya (1) – Takayama (1) – Kanazawa (2) – Kyoto (5, inc day trips to Uji and Nara) – Mount Koya (1) – Osaka (1) – Hiroshima (0) – Miyajima (1) – Nagasaki (2) – Himeji (1)  – Tokyo (5 including day trips to Nikko and Kamakura) – Haneda Airport

A pretty long journey, isn’t it? I will definitely be saving when using the JR Pass for sure, however, I do think that it will be rushed during a 3 week period as I will have to move around and stay in different locations every 1 or 2 days.

Although I’ll see many places, people, and cultures, I do not think I will gain the full experience of a particular area, having rushed from place to place and only seeing the main sites and not going off the beaten path. I like the idea of slow travel instead, spending an extra night or 2 in an area to get an idea and feel for the place I’ll be in.

So I’ve decided to spend longer of around 4/5 nights in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. These locations will be my central hubs and I will go on day trips to the other locations. Nagasaki is will be my furthest point and is somewhere I would like to go so I will need to plan the journey from Nagasaki to Tokyo unless I want to stop somewhere in-between.

As of today, this is the updated route. In brackets include the nights I will spend at each location.

Haneda Airport – Nagoya (2) – Kanazawa (2, maybe with a day trip to Takayama) – Kyoto (5, inc day trips to Nara and Uji) – Osaka (4, inc day trips to Mt. Koya and Himeji) – Hiroshima (0) – Miyajima (1) – Nagasaki (2) – Tokyo (4, inc day trips to Kamakura and Nikko) – Haneda Airport.

For this updated itinerary, I will travel straight to Nagoya than spend the night in Tokyo as I land in the afternoon which will hopefully give me time to get a 3-hour train to Nagoya to then relax.  I have increased the amount of time for my central hubs to allow day trips to the other locations without spending a night there. This means that my accommodation is more manageable and staying longer at the one hostel will help form relationships with other travellers.  I will also be going to Nagasaki which is the furthest point I will travel to and I will be taking an 8-hour train early in the morning back to Tokyo. (I will see if the JR Pass allows night travel and sleeper trains and maybe I can save an extra night on accommodation for a rise and shine in Tokyo!)

Please let me know your thoughts and do suggest anywhere else that I can explore. :)

Transport

This section is still in progress as I am still unable to purchase my JR Pass until next week. I will, however, continue to research the perks of the JR Pass and how much I can save if I do have one. A quick glance revealed that a single rail ticket from Nagasaki to Tokyo is just under £190 GBP (¥26,100 JPY)! That means I’m guaranteed to save if I stick to my route mentioned above. I’m still researching in these places and will see if I need to add an additional budget for any bus or private rail travel for other places worth seeing.

Accommodation

Since I found out that my last week of the 3-week trip is during Golden Week, I’ve decided to stay in Tokyo as it’ll give me a chance to unwind and explore the main sites and go off the beaten path for a bit. I’ve now reserved a bed at a hostel in the Asakusa district of Tokyo; it should be close to the main JR lines for me to explore the other districts of Tokyo too. I’m glad that my reservation has a free cancellation and no deposit because I can be as flexible as I want such as if I want to spend another day in or around Nagasaki, for example.

I also booked my first few nights accommodation in Nagoya and Kanazawa so that I can spend more time getting used to the rail travel and the logistics I have to do in Japan. After these first 4 nights, I should be able to be more spontaneous and be more flexible in my decisions when I reach Kyoto.

My Mum also has a friend in the Philippines who lives in Kyoto, Japan, and another friend in Osaka, Japan so I will see if it’s possible to stay with them for a few nights or even hang out in those locations.

Insurance

I have insurance which I bought on Wednesday, costing £32 with 20% cashback. This amounts to £26 which meets my needs for any cancellations, delays, and medical emergencies.

Budget and Finances

I don’t think I spoke about my budget in my last post. Initially, I budgeted for around £1500 as I spoke to a person on a forum and he has spent around £1200 for 14 days in Japan, including flights. After budgeting for less than £850 on transport, that leaves £650 on accommodation, food, and activities, which doesn’t seem very possible. My calculated budget so far is £1850, which I think is a bit more reasonable, but I do not want to spend more than £2000 on the entire trip as this can affect and delay my future travel plans. If there is any advice that you can provide on this, it will be very much appreciated.

I am still looking into Travel Credit Cards and I have done research on the Halifax Clarity Credit Card. Still researching which ones are best for withdrawing cash and spending and this depends on in which payment methods the accommodation accepts too.

So, that’s all I managed to get up to this week which I think is a lot since I have 3 months left until I depart to Japan. Next week, I hope to be clearer on my chosen itinerary, add any other places that you guys recommend to explore, see if I will book the JR Pass, and think of what to pack on my travels.

Thanks for reading and until next time!

Only 87 days to go!!!

-RGS

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10 thoughts on “Solo Travel Japan – To Plan or be Spontaneous

  1. For Japan I think you can plan your trip but not all the sights day by day. Some people tend to cram too many sights especially for Kyoto and that’s how they end up talking about temple overdose. Or they take cabs in Tokyo because the restaurant they wanted to go to is really far away and don’t have time to enjoy the small streets or the charm of some Yamanote line stations. Kyoto is a great city to walk there are lots of charming sights.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed, I do not want to rush and burn out from seeing all of the sites. I want to go off the beaten path and create experiences for myself but take in the major sites as I go along.

      Thank you. I will adjust my itinerary and will take things at a slower and much more enjoyable pace. :)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a lot of activities in Japan, but you have some interesting points. Some of those activities are not part of the regular tourist destinations, so I think that’s wise of you because they are very nice. I’ve been living in Japan for the last five years, and I (most of the time) love it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, I do want to try to take the road less travelled sometimes. Hopefully its manageable to explore all these places. Wow, that’s wonderful. What made you decide to move to Japan?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheers, I know Kyoto can be a touristy place but rather than the main sites, I should also be able to go to some off the beaten path places and do a bit of hiking. Should be plenty of time and glad to make a long stopover there longer. Thanks, I’ll keep you all posted on my further planning and adventures :)

      Liked by 2 people

      1. By the way I got the Japan Rail Pass, which if you don’t understand much Japanese I think makes things much easier as you just get it stamped when you want to take a train. If you are still looking for accommodation in Tokyo I highly recommend Toco Tokyo Heritage Hostel. They have an authentic traditional style building and Japanese service but without the price tag of a Ryokan. Cheers – look forward to hearing more! Nikki :)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I plan to get a JR pass now so thank you! It’s a no brainer for the convenience and savings. :) That hostel looks so cool after visting their website! I can’t find availability on my dates unfortunately but I’ll keep looking. Thank you. :)

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Your trip sounds awesome. I’m going to Japan with 3 friends in April too and we’re planning some of the same things you are. We’ve only got 2 weeks and are there for peak spring blossom seasons so wanted to make sure we had accommodation in key places (Kyoto, Koyasan, Tokyo). We’re very much looking forward to it, but like you we think we are going to be very busy moving between places every few days.

    Regarding money, one thing I recommend is the Revolut card. You load it with cash and then it works like any debit card, but the key thing is that it is multi-currency and uses the inter-bank exchange rate so you get the best possible FX deal. I’ve used it for a couple of years and think it’s great! Though I think you need to be based in the UK to get one..

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s really cool! Glad you’re mixing between urban and rural places. I can justify moving around more because of savings being made with the JR Pass but Kyoto, Tokyo and Koyasan aren’t too spread apart from eachother so I think you’ll be fine. Thanks for suggesting the Revolut card, I did more research and there is a £200 per month free ATM withdrawal limit and 2% after so I’ll need to look further into considering Japan is a cash-based society. I like the idea of its competitive exchange rate though and I’ll take it into further consideration. Thank you and enjoy your trip! :)

      Liked by 1 person

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