Surprise – I’m going to Japan! Well, actually, if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you’ll know that I’ve already gone to Japan… I’m a little late on the train with this update. I still wanted to use my thrilling little intro, though, hope that’s okay with you (*attempted wink).
With my teaching contract through EPIK (English Program in Korea) I get an eight day vacation in the summer, not counting weekends and holidays. I stayed put in Korea for my winter break, so I decided it was all or nothing for this one. Everyone keeps telling me how expensive Japan is, but I feel like there’s no way I could live in Korea for a whole year and not see Japan. That’s just crazy, right?
So, here I am. Planning for this eight day Japanese vacation… on a budget. Is it doable? We shall see! And I plan on filling you in on all the things I did right, as well as all the things I did wrong.
I have to confess that I’m new to this whole pre-planning thing. I haven’t always been a great traveler. Alright, let’s be real… I’m still nowhere near great. However, my ‘just wing it’ mantra has started to fizzle over the years. I realize now that I’m not invincible. I also know that I shouldn’t carry a huge suitcase through foreign, cobblestone streets, like that one time in Greece (oops), and that I will be disappointed if I miss the highlights of Japan if I don’t do my research.
I found a lot of resources on planning for Japan for a budget. Here are my five favorite:
- Kyoto Itinerary (With Side Trips to Osaka & Nara)
- A First Time Itinerary for Japan
- The Budget Travel Guide to Osaka and Kyoto, Japan
- How to Choose Your Kyoto Temples and Shrines
- How I Planned My Trip to Japan
I’m also using my handy dandy Lonely Planet Japan Travel Guide. Thrifty Tip: The new Amazon Unlimited program is amazing. Every Lonely Planet book I’ve looked for so far has been free to download to my iPad through my Kindle app (which is a HUGE savings. Nearly $20 a pop).
My Wish List
I took this idea from the ‘How I Planned my Trip to Japan’ post I linked above, knowing that I really want to experience Japan… not just see… it for myself. My mini bucket list for Kyoto and Osaka looks a little something like this:[twocol_one]Visit at least three temples in Kyoto
See at least one world heritage sight in each city
See a geisha
Sing karaoke (Japanese style)
Try all the sake
Eat at a sushi belt restaurant [/twocol_one] [twocol_one_last]Try Kobe beef in Kobe, Japan
Play with deer in Nara
Stay at a capsule hotel
See the bamboo fields in Kyoto
Take a little time to shop
Drink beer at a Japanese Rakuten[/twocol_one_last]
This is where I’m a little bit stumped, and I’m hoping I can go with the flow once I’m actually in Japan without spreading my budget too thin. To be honest, there’s a lot of information out there, but I don’t understand half of it.
So, there’s a bullet train (also known as Shinkansen), but then there’s alsothe JR line (which I assume is Japan Rail). You can purchase a Japan Rail Pass for a decent price if you’re traveling long distances, but seeing as I’ll be staying in one area I don’t see a need for this.
The best guide I’ve found to break it all down is on Japan-Guide.
I’ll be in Japan for exactly 8 days, including the day I arrive and the day I depart. A friend from Texas is coming to meet me in Seoul, at which point we’ll sight see a bit and then head south to catch our flight in Busan. Since she’s coming early, she’ll be leaving Japan before me to head back home, which leaves me with a full two days to explore all alone. Here’s what my tentative itinerary looks like:
Day 1: Arrive at Osaka-Kansai International Airport and depart for Kyoto.
Day 2: Explore South Eastern Kyoto (Fushimi Inari, Sunjusangerido, Kyomizu-dera).
Day 3: Explore Western Kyoto (Arashiyama, Kinkaku-ji Temple).
Day 4: Head to Kobe and spend the day exploring Suma beach and eat a delicious Kobe beef dinner. Stay in Osaka for the night.
Day 5: Universal Studios Japan!
Day 6: Go to Nara, sight see, and stay the night.
Day 7: Return to Osaka, see Osaka Castle and the Aquarius.
Day 8: Depart Osaka for Korea.
I think it’s going to be a pretty memorable week in Japan and I’m so stoked to take a vacation after 11 months of living in Korea. Check back for an update on whether or not I was able to stick to my budget.