My unperturbed desire for weekend relaxation has dominated me recently. I’ve been busy squandering my time on trivial stuffs. My willingness to write had been dwindling. I wrote a resolution this year to post an article in my blog at least once a month. The past two months had been successful. I don’t want March to disappoint.

It is almost a year since I backpacked in Japan–the same period I’ve been encouraging myself to finish my blog about my itinerary. A few of my friends have been waiting for it. Some have even done their travel. Others have moved on with their lives (I don’t know how this is connected, but it sounds nice) and my article remains in that folder, Draft.

I lost the interest in finishing my piece when the mobile app that I used to record all my expenses crashed. I was very diligent in keying all my costs that even the price of the water bottle from 7-11 and Family mart was there (and if you’re looking for a cheaper place to buy bottled water, go to Don Quijote!) Pocket Expenses was one of my reliable travel apps…WAS.

I spent 11 days in Japan. My itinerary was a result of online research and helpful JP friends.–all of them were backpackers. I went to the following cities:

  1. Tokyo
  2. Kamakura
  3. Kyoto
  4. Fuchu
  5. Mie
  6. Kobe
  7. Osaka

I spent almost $750 USD/$1000 SGD (or less) in my entire stay. This included the 7-day JR Pass (~$347 SGD) but excluded the flight from/to Singapore.

Budget

To keep it simple, I estimated my initial budget based on the following assumptions:

  1. Hostels – $23 SGD
  2. Meal – $14 SGD
  3. Transportation – will depend whether you use day-pass or not.
  4. Entrance fees to temples and other tourist attractions. The Japan Guide website helped me a lot to find out the fees.

Using the figures above, you can roughly sum up the pocket money that you need to bring.

I would say that this could have been one of the most expensive trips I’ve been to if not for the homestay and couchsurfing experiences. I had 3 days of free accommodation in Tokyo and 2 days in Osaka.

Tokyo

  1. Tokyo Tower*
  2. Senso-ji* – you have to visit this at night!
  3. Akihabara
  4. Shibuya crossing*
  5. Metropolitan Building*
  6. Tokyo Skytree
  7. Tsukiji Fish Market
  8. Meiji Shrine Gyoen
  9. Yoyogi Park*
  10. Walk around Harajuku

Since there’s a lot of places you can go to in Tokyo, I suggest that you group them based on their locations. The link below points to the edited google map that I used to plan my itinerary. Feel free to use it.
Japan Itineray Google Map.

Kamakura

  1. Sunset and Mt. Fuji view*
  2. Daibutsu

Although Hakone is a more favoured place to view Mt. Fuji, I wouldn’t replace Kamakura for it. This place had fewer foreign tourists. The trains were relatively old. The sunset at the beach was stunning!

Kyoto

  1. Daitoku-ji
  2. Kinkaku-ji*
  3. Arashiyama/Bamboo Path*
  4. Fushimi Inari Shrine*
  5. Kiyomizudera*

If I were to choose between Tokyo and Kyoto, I would choose the latter. Kyoto was a mix of old and new city. I should have stayed there longer. They had so many shrines and Zen temples.

Fuchu

  1. Suntory Beer tour*
  2. Kurayami Matsuri (Darkness Festival)*
  3. Night market*
  4. Fuchu Park
  5. The hill where you can see Mt. Fuji

I was lucky a friend of mine stayed in this town. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to watch their local festival Kurayami Matsuri (Darkness Festival). If your trip coincides with a town feast, try to go there. It is much more exciting than the tourist attractions in the city. It was in this place where I experienced the hospitality of a Japanese family–something I will never forget.

I remember during the Suntory Beer tour, the guide was speaking in Japanese. One time she noticed that my Japanese friend and I were talking in English so she asked me (in Japanese) if my friend is a foreigner. I think I can blend easily in Japan as long as I don’t speak.

Mie

  1. Ise Jingu**

If you had been mesmerized by the shrines in the city, I would suggest that you visit this remote place in Mie prefecture. It was closer to Nagoya than Tokyo. The trip took around 2 hours by train from Nagoya station (still not so near!) 🙂  I saw fewer foreign tourists here, which was a much better experience for me because it gave me the opportunity to mingle with the locals. I met two medical students and a Japanese backpacker whom I hosted in Singapore.

Kobe

  1. Kobe City Hall
  2. Kobe beef*
  3. Onsen Resort
  4. Himeji Castle*
  5. Capsule hotel

Aside from the famous Onsen, you have to try the Kobe beef. It literally melts in your mouth! I had it in Steak land. There were some other expensive places that offered Kobe beef, but they were beyond my budget. Besides, I had a good experience in Steak land. I think I was the only non-Japanese person at the table. When the two older ladies beside me heard me talking in English they asked where I was from…and the conversation started. They were surprised that I was travelling around Japan alone. They were really nice (and honest), they even told me that I looked so young and had a pleasant face (I told you they’re nice AND honest!). I believe it was destiny in motion because if it weren’t for them, I would have gone to Osaka castle rather than Himeji. They convinced me that Himeji is a much better attraction. I would advise the same thing to fellow travellers.

Osaka

  1. Dotonburi*
  2. Osaka Castle – although I didn’t go here, it’s in the list of “tourists”. If you have to choose between Himeji and Osaka, go to Himeji.

Aside from visiting Dotonburi, don’t forget to try Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki. I stayed in a couchsurfer’s house here for two days. It was my first couchsurfing experience. I had a pleasant stay not only because it was free but because the host had a lot of stories to share because he was a traveller too.

Eleven days is surely not enough to travel around Japan. If I had more time, I would have stayed 2 more weeks with a lot more focus on the local lifestyle and interactions with the Japanese people. Nevertheless, the trip was a good opener for me to go back (if there’s a chance!). I’ll probably do a short stopover there on my flight to Canada.

If you don’t have enough time, you can go to the places where I put asterisks (*). They are personal choices so they may or may not fit your taste.

Feel free to drop me a message if you have questions. You can visit my facebook page, Aldrin Mercado, or follow me in twitter, @aldrin002, and instagram, @aldrintravels.