As a Filipina millennial who grew up of the morning and after-school animes and jdramas, it has been always my dream to travel in Japan. But Japan is not a destination you can go without much preparation. Definitely, both funds and visa will always be the greatest factors but so as the limited 15 days given to Filipinos to tour should be planned thoroughly to fully enjoy the most awaited trip.
Below is the itinerary I had made during my 12-day trip from the capital, Tokyo, down to the third largest city, Osaka. I have also created a separate post here (A Thrift travel to Japan) for the specific transportation from and to different cities, and general tips for budget travelers.
Day 1: Arrival at NRT and Onsen at Chiba
After 10-hour journey from Davao City, Philippines, I arrived around 10am at Narita International Airport via Cebu Pacific Air and met with my aunt’s family. We drove 2 more hours going to an onsen resort in Chiba.
In reality, I was already tired and want plunge on water. But an onsen experience is not like your other bathing experience. It is an awkward but satisfying exposure and a tale on how I bared it all to other women publicly.
After dipping in a warm bath which generally removed all the pains in my body, my stomach was ready to indulge delicious food and it was a buffet feast. It was heaven! lobster, sushi, salad, shrimps, scallops and other traditional Japanese food.
I was really full and sleepiness was sinking. I was in shock when I got back that the bed futons were already ready to be slept in so gave in and called it a day.
Day 2: Chinatown, Yokohama
Actually, the highlight of this day was not the Chinatown in Yokohama but the mountain tunnels, bridges and undersea tunnel we passed by going back to Tokyo.
The Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line is an undersea tunnel that connects the City of Kisarazu in Chiba Prefecture and Kawasaki in Kanagawa Prefecture. I just can’t verbally express how magical and enthralling it was for me to experience the brilliance of Japanese infrastructures.
Day 3: Asakusa, Tokyo and Karaoke
The third day was the start to explore Tokyo. Even spending two full days here was not enough because there are tons to do and go to this modern yet partly traditional city.
Firstly, I explored Asakusa area where famous and colorful Sensoji Temple is located. From there, you can also shop for souvenirs from Nakamise-Dori and try different kinds of street foods which I found dreadfully tasty.
The Tokyo Skytree was also nearby so we decided to take a snap from afar.
At night, we went to karaoke to let loose and of course, it was yet another hi-tech experience to remember. Touchscreens!
Day 4: Tokyo Dome, Shibuya and Harajuku, Tokyo
In the morning, I traveled to Shinjuku Station to reserve a ticket bound to Hakone for the following day. Since I realized that Tokyo Dome is already nearby, I decided to drop by and see this stadium myself.
Tokyo Dome is where most major baseball games and concerts happen. It has a maximum capacity of 57,000 people and where my favorite JPop group, Arashi, hold their yearly concerts for 3 days. Generally, the stadium is a beautiful sight to see and if you’re a fan of an amusement park, there is available nearby.
My second stop is the Shibuya area. Grabbed a coffee at Starbucks Shibuya crossing and observed the scramble of pedestrians crossing the busy street. And just across the road, in front of the station, is where the statue of Hachiko is erected (on the rightmost tree on the photo below). You can literally see tourists swarm and wait for their chance to take a photo.
While one train station away is the “kawaii” capital of the world, Harajuku. In Takeshita street, you can find a long array of cute shops selling lacy, hip-hop, trendy and quirky clothes and if you are looking for unusual cafes, there are cat and owl cafes in the area.
After some fashion and modern look at Shibuya, few steps away from Takeshita Street is the Meiji Shrine wherein you can peacefully walk and be engulfed by nature.
Day 5: Hakone
After spending days in urban Tokyo, I never expected to love Hakone even I was rained for two days. This is a place I really want to go back.
From Shinjuku Station, traveled for 3 hours to reach the Gora area of Hakone. Even you spend two or three days here, you will have lots to do in this laidback town and if the weather is right, you will have a glimpse of Mt. Fuji from certain points.
I spent a half day in a museum. I know it’s long for a museum but Hakone Open Air Museum is different from all other museums I have been to. It is also the home of some artworks of Pablo Picasso; there’s an entire building dedicated to his sculptures, paintings, and ceramics. I also took time in my foot bath which is free in the museum.
Around 5 pm, the rain poured so I went back to my hostel and the hostel itself is a good destination to go to. My accommodation at Hakone Tent included the use of private onsen and I really loved it. Before I arrived in Hakone, it was still around 20 to 24 degrees celsius in Tokyo but because of the rain, the temperature dropped to 14. It was really really cold, therefore, bathing and dipping in a warm, milky natural water felt really relaxing. I wished I could stay more but being dipped too long could make you faint.
Day 6: Hakone and Odaiba, Tokyo
The rain continued to pour heavily. I wanted to explore Lake Ashi via cruise and cable car which was included in my train ticket but I had to skip and only did a train and ropeway hopping but the train ride itself is an exquisite experience giving of a nostalgic feeling like you are inside a Ghibli movie.
Around noon, I started my way back to Tokyo to meet my high school friend, Lloyd. We headed to Odaiba which is an artificial island in Tokyo Bay. There, you can spot the gigantic newly revealed unicorn Gundam and step into Rome-ambiance mall – Venus Fort. But the highlight of the night was riding the all-glass gondola at the Ferris wheel. A beautifully frightening experience as it is one of the tallest Ferris wheels in the world.
An hour before midnight, I hopped on a willerexpress bus at Shinjuku bound south for my next destination.
Day 7: Nagoya
I arrived at Nagoya station around 6am and the first thing I did was to look for a coin locker to drop my heavy backpack. Japan is actually a good destination for backpacking because all major stations are equipped with coin lockers for different sizes of bags. My backpack fits in the smallest locker which costs ¥300(P150) for the whole day.
The hungry me ate breakfast and did some social media in time for the first trip of Nagoya Sightseeing Tour Bus at 9am. It is a hop on and off bus which cost ¥500(P250) valid for a day.
I went first to Nagoya castle because it tends to get crowded here as the hours pass. Next was electricity museum and the last stop was the Nagoya City Science Museum which houses the largest planetarium in the world.
At 5pm, I picked up my bag and boarded a Kintetsu train going to Kyoto. Tired and slept soundly.
Day 8: Kyoto
Kyoto is truly beautiful and the rain made it more magical. I never once wanted rain in any of my travels but this one is an exception.
On the first day in Kyoto, I visited two temples: Yasaka Shrine and Kiyomizu-dera Temple. Please take time to see the photos below. It was truly charming! Even the alleys and hills you need to climb to reach these places are lovely. You can actually squeeze in more temples in a day but I wanted to spend lots of time on each and truly observe and witness busy yet graceful vibes.
Though Kiyomizu-dera will need a lot of uphill walks to reach, you will be greeted by bustling stores selling food, souvenirs and more food that in the end you will not realize you’ve already walked a long way.
Day 9: Kyoto
On the Second day, I explored the west side of Kyoto, Arashiyama and the Fushimi Inari Shrine.
Arashiyama is 40 minute to an hour ride from Kyoto Station. Here, you can find the Bamboo forest and Togetsukyo Bridge. Togetsukyo Bridge is a very scenic place to witness autumn foliage and take an Instagrammable photo at the bamboo forest. I spent around 4 hours here looking around, splurging with food and met some owls in cafe.
After Arashiyama, I arrived around 4pm at Fushimi Inari Shrine which is now my second best temple (My first is still Bayon Temple in Cambodia). Following thousands of Torii Gates that felt endless but a sight to behold, I was already actually hiking the Mt. Inari. Sad to say, I was not able to reach the summit which will take 2 hours up and 1 down. Midway, I descended because it was already getting dark and the fog was starting to cover the trail and forest.
Day 10: Nara
Unlike Kyoto, Nara is a little town filled with lots of deer. The travel time between Kyoto and Nara would take an hour and a day could be spent here checking the Nara Park and nearby temples.
Day 11: Dotombori, Osaka
Okay. For me, Osaka means Dotonbori and Dotonbori means food. This place is the kind of nightlife I like – food stalls, window shopping, view and chill. I had my best Takoyaki here and just thinking of it while writing this makes me crave for it. And don’t forget to buy the jiggliest cheesecake from Uncle Rikuro’s still in Dotonbori.
At midnight, I felt a little hungry even after overeating at Dotonbori so I google for the nearest Sukiya and order a large bowl of Gyuudon.
Day 12: Departure from KIX
The twelfth day is the end of my Japan trip. From Osaka-Namba Station, you can catch a train to Kansai International airport which will take 45 minutes.
In reality, I only spent 12 days of my 15-day visa, therefore, this itinerary could still be extended for 3 more days exploring Hiroshima, Kobe and Fukuoka area.
See you again Japan!