My first foreign travel with Jayvee and law school buddy Lara is in the land of the rising sun. Konichiwa!
As we wanted to explore much of Japan, we squeezed Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka in 5 whirlwind days! Because why not?
So heads up! Our itinerary caused us too much exhaustion but anyway leveled with exhilaration.
DAY 1: TOKYO: DISNEY SEA
Straight from the airport, we left our luggage in one of the lockers in Tokyo train station. These lockers are the life-saver of backpackers like us.
Haha he’ll kill me when he sees this. So he’s surrounded by the lockers where we left our luggage. As you can see, the lockers are in different dimensions, each with corresponding prices.
From there, we went straight to Tokyo Disney Sea through this super cute train!
Welcome to Tokyo Disney Sea!
What’s peculiar, at least for me, in this theme park is that everything’s in Japanese language. (Tayo ang mag-aadjust, hindi sila!)
We lined up for almost an hour to get inside this huge ship for “talking turtle.”
We imagined we will tour inside the ship with a talking turtle guiding us. BUT NO! We were brought inside a theatre room inside the ship to watch a turtle…talking…in JAPANESE!!!! In certain parts, people burst out laughing and we absolutely had no clue why. Haha!
The same goes with Aladdin. They also have this theater inside, all narrated in Japanese language. So if you don’t want to look like stoic idiots in a sea of Japanese laughing, better skip these parts.
But with Under the Sea, where Ariel sings while gliding in the air, “Part of Your World…” also in Japanese, it was worth it. It brought so many feels and childhood memories of me and my sister singing the song.
We spent the whole day with the rides and theater hopping until the fireworks at night.
The night got chilly despite the summer season so be prepared to bring extra clothes
DAY 2: TOKYO
Our 2nd day in Japan is already our last day in Tokyo. I told you, it’s a whirlwind trip! So we started our day very early. We stayed in a house we rented via AirBnB.
From the area, we took a train to Shinjuku and spent the rest of the day walking from one location to another.
1. Meiji Shrine, Shinjuku
The Shinto shrine is dedicated to the late Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shoken.
The instagrammable barrels of sake or rice wine.
Just between Shinjuku and Shibuya is the buzzing renowned art and youngsters’ fashion haven of Tokyo.
Particularly popular in the area is the Takeshita Street. It is filled with cosplay stores, shops for quirky stuff, and eccentric clothing boutiques
Shibuya is the home of the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world. The diagonal crossing has approximately 2,500 pedestrians crossing it all at once.
Depicted in a movie that brought thousands or even millions into tears, Hachiko is a dog that devotedly waited for his master from work every day at Shibuya station… even until after the master died.
The statue was erected in honor of Hachiko’s implacable loyalty.
4. Ramen & Gyoza
I mean, who goes to Japan without eating Ramen??
We found this restaurant just few blocks away from Shibuya crossing. It’s not as expensive as how we thought it would be. And it was so good!!!
5. Sleeper bus from Tsutaya, Tokyo to Kyoto
We’re so travel budget junkies that we skipped the bullet train and instead opted the sleeper bus from Tokyo to Kyoto. It costs PhP 3,000 each. Bullet train costs triple the price. Not only is the sleeper bus cheaper but we even saved a night for accommodations.
After all, it’s Japan! The bus was so comfortable that every technology there is to secure your sleeping needs is provided.
We left at 10pm from Tsutaya, Tokyo, a bus stop for buses going to Kyoto and Osaka.
The next thing we knew, we were already in Kyoto (train) Station as early as 6am.
DAY 3: KYOTO
We stayed at Shiori-an Hostel. It’s a highly recommended place for backpackers and a few meters away from train station. Quite a walking distance to Gion. Yes we just walked to and from our hotel to Gion because Kyoto is a relaxing place to walk around.
1. Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
The natural bamboo forest is a must visit in Kyoto.
But make sure to visit early as it is often swarmed with tourists in the middle of the day.
2. Kinkakuji Golden Temple
The Zen Buddhist temple covered with gold leaf is a World Heritage Site.
It was built in 14th century to serve as a retiring residence of a shogun.
Gion is a district in central Kyoto filled with teahouses and is remarkable for being geishas’ enclave. In fact, it is the setting of the novel turned into movie, Memoirs of a Geisha.
Geishas are professional entertainers, performing and interacting with guests over dinner and occasions.
Did you know that geishas are thoroughly groomed in special schools through rigid trainings in traditional Japanese music and arts? These include flower arrangements, tea ceremony, and playing of musical instruments.
DAY 4: KYOTO – OSAKA
1. Fushimi-Inari torii gates
This is one of the oldest landmarks in Kyoto.
Toriis are traditional Japanese gates, usually colored painted in vermilion, used in Shinto shrines.
2. Shinkansen bullet train from Kyoto to Osaka
Our bullet train bucketlist was alternatively ticked off at a cheaper price when we rode one from Kyoto to Osaka.
For 1,000php, it took only 12 minutes to get us to the buzzing Osaka.
3. Universal Studios Japan
We arrived a little before lunch in USJ. It was too bitin! We missed some of our “must-rides” because lining up in long queues consumed much of our time.
Just like in Tokyo Disney Sea, most of their shows are in Japanese language. We again wasted hours of our limited precious time figuring out what’s being shown in the foreign theaters.
But of course, one cannot go to USJ without going to Hogwarts!!!
Ahhh the feels.
After the exhausting theme park day, we headed to Dohtonbori for dinner.
We didn’t have time to explore Dohtonbori as we needed to catch our sleeper bus going to Tokyo. It went stressful when we got lost and walked for hundreds of meters looking for the bus terminal. But then again, isn’t ‘getting lost’ a part of everyone’s itinerary?
5. Osaka to Tokyo sleeper bus
We rode the same bus going back to Tokyo and arrived in the capital at around 6am.
DAY 5: TOKYO
1. Arrival at Shinjuku, Tokyo
While we still had the whole day to explore other areas in Tokyo since our flight was scheduled at night, we opted to just rest and stay in Shinjuku until we left to catch our flight at Narita airport
2. Shinjuku to Narita Airport
Sayonara, Japan! What a short yet exhilarating experience it was! Definitely going back!