Preparing for Japan – Have I done enough?

For the past couple of weeks, I haven’t put much thought on my solo travel plans for Japan this April. Perhaps that is a good thing as I can focus on the present moment and worry less about my upcoming plans.

Where will I go and stay?

I have confirmed my 3-week itinerary which I will show you guys below:

  • 2 nights in Nagoya, with a day trip to Ise
  • 2 nights in Kanazawa
  • 5 nights in Kyoto, with a day trip to Nara and Uji
  • 3 nights in Osaka, perhaps with day trips to Mt Koya and Himeji
  • 1 night in Miyajima, after spending half a day exploring Hiroshima
  • 1 night in Fukuoka, to explore the area on the way to Nagasaki
  • 2 nights in Nagasaki, with an opportunity to visit lesser-known areas
  • 4 nights in Kyoto, with day trips to Nikko and Kamakura

The price range of my accommodation is between ¥1120 (in Osaka) and ¥4060 (in Miyajima) per night. The average cost of my accommodation is ¥2520. This doesn’t seem too bad and I should be able to budget better with spending just over ¥50,000 in accommodation for 20 nights. Note that I have made reservations through Booking.com with no deposit required and free cancellations; this allows me to be flexible and adjust my plans as I see fit.

What will I do?

I haven’t planned out the key activities that I want to do when I go to these places, but this is because I want to be spontaneous – this is where the adventure happens. I will also like to tailor my itinerary with my interests to so, for example, apart from the sightseeing and temple-hopping I’ll do in Kyoto, I’d also plan to spend a day or two to go hiking as it seems to be a great spot in Japan to do it in. Also when I get to Kyushu, I’ll want to explore the lesser-known places and get a feel for the rural life of Japan before I head out to urban Tokyo.

How will I get to these places?

I will now confirm that I will purchase a 21-day Japan Rail Pass, but the question is – when? I have been procrastinating on this because I have been focusing on the exchange rate from the Great British Pound (GBP) to the Japanese Yen (JPY). On XE Currency, it’s stabilising at around ¥140 to the pound but I am waiting until it gets better. The Japan Rail Pass will also cost around £400 (¥59,350) so I have avoided buying this just yet because of the large amount that it will take off my bank account. I really do need to buy it soon, though.

The JR Pass will cover most of my route using the bullet train, however, I may struggle on using the JR Pass in Kyoto, on the way to Mt Koya, and visiting lesser-known places in Japan. This means that I may need to allocate additional budget for transport but I will need to see if it is worth it before making additional expenses on transport.

What else am I doing now?

Behind the scenes, I am learning more about the language and culture of Japan. I’ve bought the Lonely Planet Japanese phrasebook, but I decided not to but the guidebook as I’ve already done a bit of research into these places and I’d rather plan when I’m there than do everything in advance. I’m reading through my phrasebook for at least 30 minutes a day as I commute to work by train, and I am occasionally watching YouTube videos too so I get to pronounce the words better and form sentences with the phrases I learnt in Japanese. Using Memrise has also been of benefit, but I am trying to find Japanese learners and speakers at work or in the neighbourhood so I get a bit more practice.

I don’t want to think about this too much but I know I am diving into the deep end as soon as I arrive at the airport. This is because I’ve made a list of tasks to do once I land at Haneda Airport:

  • Exchange JR Pass voucher and activate it
  • Find and buy a data SIM card to last me the duration of the trip. (hopefully which I can do at the airport)
  • Find food
  • Get on the monorail to Hamamatsucho Station
  • From Hamamatsucho Station, board the bullet train to Nagoya

I will land at midday so hopefully, I will get enough time to do the above activities and relax when I get to Nagoya.

I’ve yet to apply for a Travel Credit Card and I will do this soon once I get a pay rise next month. I am also looking at alternative ways of paying and obtaining cash in Japan; a colleague advised me on his Post Office Cash Card that locks into an exchange rate when you buy currency and you get to withdraw it for free. This is a good option as I would not always want to rely on credit for the trip. I’m continuing to keep an eye on the exchange rate and buy my JR Pass and Japanese Yen at the right time – as long as I don’t exchange any money at the airport, I am better off anyway.

That’s pretty much it; I’m quite settled with my plans now as I count down the days until my departure. I’ll continue to keep planning and learning the language and culture – but no planning is ever good enough for I get there. Immersing myself in the culture and communicating with the people is one of my main objectives to grow and develop as a person, and to see things from an entirely different perspective.

I am looking forward to the adventures ahead and it’s only 66 days to do until the magic happens!

Thanks for reading and until next time,

-RGS

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14 thoughts on “Preparing for Japan – Have I done enough?

    1. Thanks :) I do have 10 hours before it is too late to check in my hostel but I want to get to Nagoya as soon as I can. Hopefully all will be fine but I’ll have to see once I’m there!

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    1. Thanks for the tip, the monorail ends at Hamamatsuchou so I will need to navigate my way to those stations to get a bullet train to Nagoya I guess. There are faster ways but I’ll be sticking to JR lines with my pass :)

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      1. I’m not sure what the monorail is. Are you landing in Narita? You can take the Narita Express with the JR pass (I’m pretty sure but check the website) and it takes you right to Tokyo station and also shinagawa.

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  1. I would take the Keikyu Kuku line from
    Haneda to Shinagawa, this will not be covered by the JR Railpass though. If you want to use your Railpass go to Hsmamatsucho on the Monorail and then the JR to Shinagawa station, frommthere it is easy to get the Shinkansento Nagoya. I would also advise you to reserve a seat for thr Shinkansen as there aren’t that many non reserved seats on the trains. I would also recommend to get a wifi dongle instead of a SIM card as you can use it on multiple devices.
    I think you’re trying to packa lot into your three weeks, sometimes less is more, you might regret not spending more time in one place. You can always go back. Japan is such an amazing country, there’s so much to see! I’m sure you will want to go back again and again…
    Vanessa

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  2. Sounds like an exciting itinerary – I visited Japan last summer and went to several of the places you’re planning to visit plus a few others. If picturesque olde-worlde villages are your thing, I’d recommend checking out Shirakawa-go (accessible by bus from Kanazawa). Caxton FX, like Post Office, offer a similar service to “lock in” a good exchange rate – your best bet for withdrawing cash in Japan is 7-Eleven stores (they’re everywhere). Have a great trip!

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    1. Thank you! I’ve looked at Kanazawa, Takayama and Shirakawa-go. When I planned to visit Takayama, coincidentally it was during the festival and all hostels were booked out haha, and the same goes for Shirakawa go. I’ll be in Kanazawa a day after the Takayama festival and it’s good there’s still availability there. I’ll have a look and see if I can fit in a day trip to Shirakawa-go. :) I’ll look at Caxton FX too, the rate looks good as far as I can tell. :) I heard 7-11s are great because they’re everywhere too. Hopefully finances and budget shouldn’t be a problem over there. :)

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      1. Shirakawa-go is easily seen in a few hours, though it’s advisable to book the bus in advance/ on arrival in Kanazawa as they do sell out. There’s definitely no shortage of convenience stores in Japan – ideal for a budget lunch and withdrawing cash! I found Japan wasn’t as expensive as I thought it would be, but it should be better value now as the exchange rate has improved (when I visited it was 125/128 yen to £1).

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