For years, visiting Japan had been on my bucket list. Due to it being a pretty pricey trip, plus needing quite a bit of time off in order to truly enjoy it, I held back. Well, this September I was finally able to check that off my never ending list of musts.
A month or so before our trip, I had tried to create several itineraries. Unfortunately, I'm not the most focused or organized person, so I kept restarting the lists and/or just forgot about them. Luckily, there is plenty of blogs that can help you with information as well as pre-made itineraries to your taste and time.
After reading a lot of material on Japan, the question about the JR Pass came up. Should we spend the money or nah? I should've done the math prior to purchasing it, but on a quick glance it made sense getting it. The plan also gave you an option for a pocket wifi, so we did the bundle. We wanted to hit the "musts" in Japan: Kyoto, Osaka, Nara & Tokyo, while hopefully also seeing other places along the way. We had 2 weeks and a lot of eagerness to experience a different culture.
The way I planned it was to fly into Narita Airport, from there go straight to Kyoto, stay 4 nights, visit Osaka & Nara and then go to Tokyo for the remainder of the trip. The JR Pass covered all of those trips for no additional cost.
We chose to buy non-stop flights from EWR, in order to get the most of our time. To be honest, the flight wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I tried to get up every 2-3 hours or so and stretch my legs and body. The ROUGH part was after we got off the plane. From Narita Airport we had to get a train to either Tokyo or Shinagawa Station to take the bullet train to Kyoto. Ooff, my body was ready for a shower and a bed, but we powered through it. This actually helped us with the time difference, since we were basically forced to stay awake. We got to Japan at 2PM, which meant it was 3AM Eastern US time.. aka WAY PASSED MY BED TIME. We ended up getting to out Airbnb in Kyoto around 7PM, when we subsequently and automatically passed out soon after we took a shower. Regardless, this was all worth it because the next morning we woke up at 5AM ready for adventure.
Kyoto was truly my favorite part of the trip. It was so peaceful and beautiful, I could’ve stayed there forever. Our Airbnb was 5 min away from Toji Station, which was perfect access to everything. We could also walk to the Kyoto Station, which was 20 min by foot. As a side note, we probably over did it on day two, since after adding everything up, we had walked a total of 16 miles. By day 3 we were beyond exhausted from walking all over the temples, markets and city. Our legs were truly dead (I don't work out, so it wasn't a total surprise... if anything I was shocked I actually lasted that long walking, heh.)
I love spending time in markets, I feel like that's where the essence of the country is. You have food, pastries, local people, noise and everything in between. Plus the best souveniers.
On day 3, we went to Osaka and Nara. I had read everywhere that Osaka and Nara could be done in one day while staying in Kyoto. While we only went to one place in each Prefecture, we did enjoy them both.
This place was truly magical. The deer and fawns were walking and chilling with humans all over the park/temple. It was a sight to see, and I was lucky to experience it. Next stop, Osaka.
In Osaka, we specifically went to Shinsekai, a town modeled after New York City and Paris. It was trippy and fun to see, but we didn't find much other than photo opps. We tried sake... not a fan (sorry -_-).
After spending 4 nights in the Kansai region of Japan, we hopped back on the bullet train straight for Tokyo (Kantō Region).
We stayed at an Airbnb 5 minutes away from Shinsen Station in Shibuya. Super centric to everything we wanted to see and do.
There is just so much to see and do in Tokyo... I couldn't possible post all of the photos I took there. You need MONTHS to see just Tokyo. It is such a fun and crazy place that you would never run out of things to do or see and experience. Here are a couple of highlights:
The day before we left Japan, we decided to try our luck with the #touristtrap, aka Robot Restaurant. We weren't sure we were going to get in, since from what I had read, it has become a pretty popular tourist spot. Well, we lucked out and made it to the 5:45PM show. To sum it up in one word: You can't. I don't even know how to explain this show, but it definitely isn't a restaurant... so eat before hand. Worth it? Yes and no. It depends on what you like. It's about an hour and a half of crazy shit. Ex: A parrot riding a lighted up unicorn, teddy bears fighting a monster. Sexy costumes, gorgeous dancers, crazy robots, a lot of lights. I've never done mushrooms, but I imagine that this is what it feels like. The show is divided in four parts, progressively getting crazier as the end approaches.
The end of the show is probably the most entertaining one, since it is jammed packed with visual stimuli from left to right, up and down. But again, not for everyone... specially if you are prone to seizures.
Japan was so good to us. Eventhough we didn't have enough time to see everything we wanted, this trip was an unforgettable one for sure. Arigatōgozaimashita!
// Plot twist: On our way back, the plane had to make an emergency stop because one of the wing engines wasn't working. We landed on Anchorage, Alaska. Really pretty sight.