The guide to planning a trip to japan

Not an actual guide guys.

It has been a long long time coming and finally, I'm just weeks away from me landing in Japan!

The beginning

It started around Nov – Dec 2012. I was having dinner with Black Pao & Kill Kate when I just had to suggest going to Japan. BP travels there often but she's excited to travel with us.
We deem that since we are all now working and is old enough to warren a nod from our parents, this time, this trip might actually work! Plus the fact that all 3 of us is somewhat of a Japanophile, there was no hesitation to the answer YES!

BP suggest March 2013 but was turn down by both of us. You see, being poor like us, we simply do not have the funds needed by March. ( Yes, I hear things like hostel, budget airlines, cheap food but guys, it's my first trip to japan! I'm not going to torture subject myself on the 7+ hours flight on a budget airline! It's horrible. I know cause I bear the full brunt of it on a flight over to Australia. I want this trip to be relaxing and fun and as comfy as possible. Best scenario is I want to feel like I'm in paradise.)

So KK brought up that we can go in March 2014. That's 14 months. More then a year. We quickly work out a $6000 budget. 14 months. $6000. $430 per month. THIS COULD WORK. Plans were thrown about and around and we finally settle on 25th March and we would be traveling for no less then 2 weeks. Budget would be $6000, $2000 for air tickets and accommodations, the remaining $4000 is to spend.

WE ARE GOING TO JAPAN!!

The Addiction

Let me tell you that the first few days, weeks, months was the worst. It's like an addiction, you just can't stop craving for it. We started researching where in Japan we should go, what to see and where to play. We brought guild books, plowed through hotels, read blogs until we tire ourselves out while having an unsatisfiable itch to just fly there. And to add to that itch is that since the trip is a long way away, there's no information at all about the schedule for all airlines and if hotels rooms will be available for booking.

But all of this was good. Having 14 months to truly think about where to go, what to eat and where to play helps a lot in planning for the itinerary. And it gave us a goal to keep looking forward. Every month when we met, new ideas will up rise and discussed till death. Slowly but surely, everything is falling into place in making this a reality.

When it all started to be real

Around June 2013, information was given. Airlines started listing flights over to Japan at March 2014 and hotels are allowing customer to book the rooms for March. It's time to move. We looked at flights from Delta, as suggested by BP, then Cathay Pacific and more. Even Singapore Airlines that we don't think we can afford. Then we hit jackpot. ANA, All Nippon Airways. There's a flight at 25th, no stop-overs, it's ANA, there's food in flight, it's a midnight flight, and it's ANA!! Add to all of that is that the ticket cost lesser then $200! ( Although I should warn you that if you add in the taxes, it's going to be about 5 times of that amount. )

Our itinerary is as follows, we will be landing in Osaka, spend around 5 days there, go over to Tokyo where we are spending around 4 days before heading back to Osaka. Tokyo do not justify 2 weeks in the first trip, I want to see more! And when we are happily discussing about riding the Shinkansen over which is included, in the all-you-can-ride Japan Railway Pass buffet, ANA tops one up.

You see, all japan airlines do not fly directly to Osaka, instead, they land in Tokyo, either Narita or Haneda Airport, for a 1 – 2hrs stop-over before flying over to Osaka. Do you know what that means? No Shinkansan, we are getting a domestic flight over! And ANA allows a travel list where you can select whatever flights and time you want that fits into your itinerary! Perfect! We can simply do a 4 days stop-over before continuing with our flight to Osaka!

Singapore – Tokyo – Osaka – Tokyo (1 hr stop-over on the flight back – Last min dash for omiyage!) – Singapore = $1054.10 (everything included)

Although many wish to ride the shinkansen instead, for the experience, domestic flights are a lot faster. And since it's included in the tickets anyway. Besides, not riding the shinkansen means eliminating the need to get Japan Railway pass = money saved! Remember guys, check and calculate the transportation fees. It works out cheaper for us to simply get the Suica + Nex combo than the rail pass.

Once we weight all the options, we jot down the ticket fees and started look for hotel based on the date and time we landed. Since we set aside $2000 for air tickets and accommodations, we would need to looks for hotels as well to see if everything fits into our budget. Thanks to our research before hand, read : frenzy / addiction, I already had hotels in mind. We wanted a single room to house all 3 of us since splitting the bill 3 ways seems cheaper.

My initial plans is IBIS for Tokyo, Hotel Consort for Osaka as they both offer 3-person rooms at a really nice price (around $400+, 4 days in Tokyo, 10 days in Osaka). However, the room deal at Agoda was sold out for IBIS so we had to scramble for another choice that is around that $400 range. That's when we found Hotel Washington Shinjuku.

It was a good choice then, with the price range within our budget, rooms that can hold us 3, photos looks good and most importantly, the location and they have washing machine in their lobby! It was after a few months that I read all the bad reviews about the hotel. I guess it's going to be random, I can only pray to God that we have a good stay in there.

For reference, here's the deal :
Hotel Washington Shinjuku ( Tokyo, in case Shinjuku is not clear enough )
3 Person Single Room – Flexible Deal, free cancellation, triple use rate with 3 single beds (4 nights) = $1003.76 with taxes
( It might looks expensive but remember to divide it by 3 = $334.59 per person, not that bad actually )
Via EasytoBook.com. (First time using it, hope it's all right.)

Hotel Consort (Osaka, more specifically, Nishinakajima-Minamigata)
Triple Non-Smoking room for 3 person – 10 nights = $1274.40 with taxes ($424.80 per person)
Via Agoda.com.

Ain't bad isn't it? And that makes $759.39 for the accommodations which spares up $1240.61 for the air tickets! ANA confirmed!! We're stoked to learn that we have the budget for a good airline and are able to travel in comfort! Besides, the timing we chose is really good. We took the midnight flight at 12.55am which mean the day before, you don't have to take the day off as it does not affect the time in which you have to check in, which is around 10.55pm. and we can reach Tokyo by 9am which leaves us the entire day to spend. Lovely!

And we did all the booking at June 2013, which caused us to received comments about why the heck are we booking 9 months earlier for a trip. " I can never do that… I can't stand the wait. " gave one. It's true… The waiting is horrible and hard. But we busied ourselves by reading all about japan and also Japanese lessons. ( In case you are wondering, we are already having them for a while now. N1 is my aim.)

When shit hits the fan

Days… Weeks… Months flew past and finally, year 2014 arrived. " Its going to be 3 months from now! " Yes, we screamed. And then Jan. And Feb. Thats what shit hits the fan.

Okay, it's not actually that bad but it does cause minor panic and a lot of frenzy internet usage. You see, we are planning to visit both the Ghibli Museum and Fujioka Museum. Those 2 museums require you to get tickets in advance at Lawson. The plan was to get them the minute we touch down in Japan. Then I found out that the date we are in Japan collides with schools' spring break = crowds. Advice and tips all around says that we need to get the tickets 2 weeks in advance.

2 weeks = 14 days. Staying in Tokyo, 4 days. It's in the red no matter how you read the math. And when I check the tickets availability, they're selling like hot cakes. What to do? What todo? Whattodo?? It just so happens, I am following 2 singaporeans-living-in-japan blogs. Maybe I can ask for their help.. It's a tiny chance, but help they gave! I asked TripleRin and she agrees to help me get the tickets for a small fee as compare to professional Ghibli/Fujioka Museum tickets getters! And I can do the payment by POSB as well! Nice and simple. Thanks a lot, TripleRin!

So now, with that issue out of the way and everything else going swimmingly, I'm just sitting on the train counting down the days. 4 more weeks to go… No worries, I can do it… I can..

Itinerary

Here's my itinerary if anyone is interested.

Itinerary - Pg 1Itinerary - Part 2

Directions are taken from Hypedia.com where it also provides the timing of when the trains will arrive. I have a much more detailed itinerary but it's about 28 pages long to includes all the details so I'm not uploading it. I'm also a bit paranoid about people knowing when and where I am during this 15 days. After the trip though, if you want the detailed itinerary, just ask me for it and I'll send it over to you.

Whew. Wow. A ginormous post.

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