We booked a promo fare with Vanilla Air October last year, way before I decided to give our living room in Manila a face lift (our contractors are re-tiling as I write). I actually thought of backing out in January because of the expenses, but when I was able to set aside a portion of my bonus for my pocket money and still have more than enough left for the renovation, I didn't think twice. Afterall, the Taipei to Tokyo plane fare and our accommodation were at bargain price. So after getting our visa (which by the way, is gratis or free of charge here in Taiwan) and filing a 3-day leave, we were all set for 7 days of fun in Japan!
Breakdown of expenses
Before I share our itinerary, here's a breakdown of our expenses. I'm happy to report that 50,000 pesos (NT$30,000) was enough to cover our trip BUT this does not include our pocket money.
- Plane ticket NT$ 7500 (Php 12,000)
- Air b&b NT$ 8000 (Php 12,800)
- JR Pass NT$ 8000 (Php 12,800)
- USJ Ticket NT$ 3865 (Php 6,100) *we availed of the Express Pass 4*
- Data Sim NT$ 670 (Php 1,100)
I'm sure you can still make some adjustments- like the Air b&b we chose in Osaka was on the more expensive side, having 3 rooms and 3 bathrooms. We also had to purchase a 7-day JR Pass because we wanted to visit Osaka-Kyoto-Tokyo (plus Niigata for me, and Hokkaido for two of my friends). You can use this pass for all JR line trains anywhere in Japan. Such a good deal! You may also opt not to get the Express Pass for USJ if you are willing to wait in line for the rides. However, I do recommend buying the pass because it will save you so much time and energy. The data sim on the other hand was helpful for me since I needed to communicate with my mom (on renovation stuff) while in transit.
The amount you need to save for your pocket money will largely depend on your "traveling style"- the food you want to eat, the stuff you want to buy. This was the only trip in my lifetime (sorry for exaggerating but it's true!) wherein I didn't swipe my card. I think my mom sending me constant updates and photos of her purchases (cement, sand, tiles) did help a lot hehe!
Day 1: Taipei-Tokyo-Osaka
We left Taipei early morning and arrived Narita Airport around lunchtime. After a quick lunch we proceeded to Narita Terminal 2 to have our JR passes exchanged. When exchanging your JR pass, remember to reserve seats for ALL your train trips, including Narita Express. It will be helpful if you know the exact schedule of the train you want to take (check www.hyperdia.com) to make the reservation easy. You need to take the manned exits in all stations if you are a JR Pass holder.
NAVITIME for Japan Travel app to know how to get from one train station to another. It also prioritizes Japan Rail Pass routes and lets you know how much the ticket will cost if you take non-JR lines.
Dotonbori with the famous "Glico Man"
Ichiran Ramen for dinner and takoyaki, okonomiyaki for post-dinner
Day 2: Universal Studios Osaka
The highlight for me was none other than the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Even though I want to forget that I got very dizzy and felt like throwing up after the Forbidden Journey ride, it was all worth it! Nakakahiya somebody even had to assist me on my way out hahaha!
Upon checking out our Air B&B, we left Osaka and took the train to Kyoto. We left our luggage at the baggage deposit area located on Basement 1 of the Kyoto Station. The baggage deposit area is only open until 8:30pm so be sure to claim your things before 8:30pm. It is more cost-efficient to leave your things at the deposit area, instead of using the lockers (We paid only 500yen each for 5 pieces of luggage, while the lockers cost 750yen). We took the same JR line train to Fushimi-Inari Station. After taking some photos, we took a quick bite at the food street and found our way back to Kyoto Station.
From Kyoto Station, we boarded the train to Kitaoji Station and hailed a cab that will take us to Kinkakuji Temple. There are buses available, but since we're pressed for time, we had to take a cab. I really have no words for this golden temple! So beautiful!!! From Kinkakuji, we took a cab to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, before going back to Kyoto Station and take the bullet train to Tokyo. Please note that it is a 40-minute train ride from Kinkakuji to Arashiyama, and a stress-free 20-minute ride by cab.
Day 4-5: Tokyo/Niigata
I left early morning to Niigata to meet my church friends and goddaughters. They moved to Japan a over a year ago and the little ones made me promise that I come for a visit. While I was in Niigata, one of my friends booked a Mt. Fuji tour, and the rest took their own time and wandered around Tokyo. They also went to Tsukiji market and made good use of the JR pass by squeezing in a day trip to Hokkaido.
Day 6: Tokyo
I went back to Tokyo for some shopping in Shinjuku and Harajuku. I caught the Anello 'bug' and purchased a navy blue one on a whim. When I converted the price, the bag costs only NT$1000, it was 可惜 not to get it. Below is a collage of all the drinks I tried and loved in Japan. The Starbucks Sakura Latte tastes like a dream!!!
Day 7: Back to Taipei
We took the first Narita Express train from Shinjuku to Terminal 2 and it was time to say Sayonara. Ahhhhhhhh. That was a really nice vacation. Food, sight seeing, catching up. I wish I can have more days like these so I can stop thinking about life.
Until next time, Japan!