If you have 10 days to explore Japan for the first time, what will your itinerary look like? How many cities can you visit? How will you squeeze all the activities in such a short stay in an amazing country?
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Japan! Japan! Japan! Japan has a reputation of being notoriously expensive which makes most travelers apprehensive to push their plans through. As the first country that I’ve chosen to go solo backpacking, I was nervous as heck whether my visa was going to be approved or not. But before that, I was able to score a really cheap round-trip ticket which just added to my anxiety because I don’t want to kiss my money goodbye without actually getting a glimpse of “The Land of the Rising Sun”.
I was full of what ifs just like any newbies. However, after months of careful preparation, my efforts paid off, and my visa was approved. Truth be told, I only had 3 things in mind before visiting Japan: to hike Mt. Fuji, go to Disney, and visit Harry Potter Museum in USJ. That sounded like a laid back plan, does it? In reality, I was able to visit 5 cities and crossed out everything on my bucket list (for now) by compromising my sleep most of the time (laughs). I know… I learned it the hard way.
Here, I’m going to share the cities as well as the cool activities that you should try.
My first stop was in Chiba. This city doesn’t get a lot of credit and attention, but Disneyland and Disney Sea are actually located here (however, to avoid confusion, Tokyo is much more popular and easier to recognize than Chiba that’s why they named it Tokyo Disney Resort). I felt like a local after staying here for 6 days. I got to explore the city by riding a bicycle. You will be amazed how disciplined Japanese are when it comes to abiding traffic rules.
Chiba’s location is ideal for those who don’t like living in a crowded city nor get bored in a rural area. If you happen to visit this city, try visiting Chiba University, play a simulated baseball game in a batting center, eat at a sushi restaurant which delivers your order right in front of you via mini train, and of course Disney. During my stay there, I chose to visit Disney Sea in order to deviate from the usual, and also I wanted to watch “Turtle talk with Crush” (a virtual underwater interactive show) which my Japanese friend recommended.
Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in Tokyo DisneySea.
Try some fruits that we Filipinos don’t get to eat back home due to its unavailability or massive price such as kiwi, peach, grapefruit, and plum.
Eat at Saizeriya – an affordable Italian restaurant that serves Escargot. =)
You can buy some really cheap hiking clothes at some local stores. I bought my thermal jacket and pants and other outfits for a total of 2500 Yen in preparation for the hike in Mt. Fuji. Pretty cheap, huh?
YAMANASHI and SHIZUOKA PREFECTURE
I stayed here for a few hours, but the experience was truly unforgettable, challenging, and grueling – in a good way. If hiking Mt. Fuji is on your list, then this is the place to go. Japan’s very famous Mt. Fuji is located between Yamanashi and Shizuoka Prefecture. I will never forget this experience since for starters there was a typhoon on that day and my friend and I arrived in Yamanashi at almost midnight. We stayed at Ryokan (a Japanese Traditional Hotel) to get a good night’s sleep before the hike. Also, equip yourself with proper hiking clothes because it can get really cold in Yamanashi even though it’s summer plus there’s a ravaging typhoon.
Hiking on a stormy day was not the main issue, but the fact that I was a beginner hiker made the whole experience a challenge. The mountain was extremely steep, rocky, and foggy. However, I’m glad I survived the hike. Moreover, you’ll be tired out after hiking, so I recommend that you take a dip at Onsen (Bath house). The next day, you won’t feel any body pains and you’ll be left wondering how therapeutic Onsen is. Just make sure that you’re okay with being naked and all before entering the bath house because once you’re in, there’s no turning back. Hahaha. Tattoos are not allowed in the bath house.
Mt. Fuji has 10 stations (I only got to 7th station)LOL!
Ride a bus until 5th station, then, begin your hike from there.
Mountain sickness is your greatest enemy.
EXTRA TIP: If you’d like to travel by train around Japan then you should get a Japan Rail Pass! Japan Rail Pass is a multi-use discounted ticket, valid for travels on all JR national trains in Japan, including Shinkansen bullet trains and Narita Express. You can select 7, 14 or 21 consecutive validity days.
It takes about 9 hours by midnight bus from Shinjuku station to Osaka. This is the most common transportation among foreigners especially when riding a Shinkansen is out of the question if you are on a budget. Shinjuku is a big city and the railway and bus station seemed complicated that I got lost for 2 hours just looking for the bus station. When I finally found the bus station, I was barely on time. The bus was comfortable enough, and sometimes you’ll end up having an extremely kind Japanese seat buddy who can sense what you need. In my case, this Japanese old lady helped me carry my backpack without me telling her since she noticed that I could use some help. Lucky!
Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in Osaka.
Anyway, my main goal was to visit Universal Studio Japan (USJ). There were so many exciting attractions and rides to choose from. Two things that stood out for me were Jetcoaster (Rollercoaster) and Harry Potter Museum. Don’t ever go back to Tokyo without getting inside Harry Potter Museum. The line for the 3D ride is out -of-this-world long, but it’s worth it. The 3D ride made me scream like a girl the whole time. That’s how exciting it was. In addition, do try Osaka’s two famous specialties: Okonomiyaki and Takoyaki. Related Article: Guide to Osaka, Japan
Be on time and make sure you have a screen shot photo of the location of your bus station in Shinjuku for you to avoid getting lost.
Stand on the right side when riding an escalator. Left side is for those in a hurry.
This countryside was a breath of fresh air especially when you had taken in the busy sights and sounds of the major cities. A car is a necessity for everyone to get around. If ever you’re going to drop by here, do try to check out Chikyuya – a doll store that is listed on Guinness World Record for its beautiful and curtain-like collection of dolls. Kabiya – a traditional café where some local movie shoots are made serves Kuzu Mochi (a dessert made of rice) which is really tasty and refreshing. There are also plenty of onsens, temples, and shrines to explore in this humble city. Meeting my Japanese friend’s family was the highlight of my trip in this city. They were very hospitable and excited to meet me. I was glad I visited this city and got to spend an enjoyable time with them.
Take Shinkansen going back to Tokyo. You’ll thank yourself for the experience.
Try persimmon and challenge yourself to eat Natto.
Shopping is more enjoyable in EON (famous mall in Japan) since it’s not crowded.
I think everyone had their fair share of this active, eccentric, and modern city. My first impression of Tokyo is it’s quite uptight compared to Osaka. Basic rules on the subway and public places must be observed for you to have a wonderful stay. First head off to Shibuya and meet Hachiko. Tokyo Imperial Palace is a must. The place is serene and a good backdrop for photos. Then go to Odaiba in the evening to see the breathtaking night view of the city lights, Rainbow bridge, Tokyo Tower and Sky Tree, and the replica of the Statue of Liberty all in one place.
Ginza is another place to check out since it’s famous for shopping malls and I really enjoyed the sample tasting of different Japanese delicacies. Everything is free. What a good place indeed! Try playing Pachinko and other stuff that are being offered in the street of Tokyo. Akihabara is for those anime lovers. Don’t miss getting inside a Maid Kisa (Maid Café). You’ll be treated like a master surrounded by kawaii maids. Wink!
Ride a mono rail train from Odaiba to Tokyo station.
No taking of pictures inside the maid café unless you’re up for the challenge that they’ve posted.
Stand on the left side when riding an escalator. Right side is for those in a hurry.
Visit Madam Tussaud’s Museum and Lego Land in Odaiba.
Japan will surely give you a run for your money. The food is delicious, healthy, and fresh. Not everything in Japan is expensive. Konbinis and Daiso are like havens for those who are on a stingy mode. You can almost find what you need in Daiso for 100 Yen. I had prepared 75,000 Yen for this trip and I ended up having 2,000 Yen in my pocket to splurge after the trip.
Everywhere you go; there are many helpful Japanese to approach when you get lost. They will really go out of their way just to help you read your map or explain how the transportation works and all. The language barrier is obvious, but hand and body gestures will get you a long way to be understood.If your budget permits, get a SUICA card for a hassle free transportation. And the best part is, the Japanese friends that are willing to accommodate and help you to the extent of making you feel like a local even for a span of only 10 days. Japanese kindness and generosity are legendary.
You’ll never really know where you’re heading next as long as you keep saying yes to your friends and their long list of plans for you. Nevertheless, I really had a good time meeting and spending time with my Japanese friends who had been the main reason why I pursued this trip.
About The Writer
Kristine Ann Lama is interested in finance, photography, and traveling. She is a newbie when it comes to traveling and she likes going to famous places on a shoe-string budget. She have been to few places such as Boracay, El Nido and Batanes in the Philippines, she also traveled to Japan . Her travel goal consists of at least traveling one local and international destination per year.
THIS IS AN ENTRY FOR THE 1ST YEAR ANNIVERSARY TRAVEL WRITING CONTEST OF TWO MONKEYS TRAVEL GROUP