23 May

Japan Itinerary

map_of_japanJapan is the last place to visit in our current itinerary. I say current itinerary because, although we have a plan as to where we want to go, the itinerary is certainly subject to change. A plan is only necessary to know what we are deviating from should we change our mind. 

Japan is expensive. Certainly far more expensive than any of the other countries that we’ll be visiting so, I imagine, that it will take some serious planning to be able to afford it. So this is just a loose idea of where we would like to go – in the end we’ll see what the budget allows.

Japan is also one of the countries that I am most interested in visiting. It offers such a dichotomy of technological advancement and ancient tradition. I think our route will show us both.

We’ll start with the technologically advanced portion of the tour…in Tokyo. Here, Shinjuku Station is the electronically-jazzed, neon over-loaded, crazy-busy Japanese version of Times Square. Two million people a day pass through this square – and they all seem to know where they are going!

Not that Tokyo doesn’t have its share of tradition too. The Tokyo National Museum is here and offers a budget friendly free guided tour. There is also the Imperial Palace to learn more about the Royal Family and plenty of temples and toriis to visit too.

Two food favourites will be visiting the Tsukiji Fish Market early in the wee hours of the morning and then one of the many yakitori-ya’s late in the evening for a bbq snack and a beer (Anthony Bourdain loves these back alley watering holes!).

And we haven’t even touched on sumo, Harajuku, Kabuki theatre, shopping, and baseball…all that only if we could possibly navigate Tokyo’s extensive subway system…wish us luck!

We’ll leave Tokyo (maybe by bullet train?) and head into the countryside to see the other side of Japan. The goal is Kyoto, but first we’ll head to Fuji-Hakon-Izu National Park where Mt Fuji looms in the horizon. It is possible to climb Mt Fuji!! I’m not sure the weather will be permitting in May but maybe we can get part way up anyway. The park itself is beautiful, complete with hot springs, lakes and plenty of hiking paths.

Kyoto is the old capital of Japan (and was the capital for more than 1000 years). It shows the more traditional side of Japanese life with traditional architecture, temples, shrines and palaces. Here, it is possible to visit the Gion District to see geishas on their way between teahouses and stay in a traditional Japanese ryokan inn with shoji screens and futons.

As I said at the beginning, Japan is expensive. If anyone has any suggestions, recommendations, hints, tips or tricks as to how to visit on a backpackers budget, please let us know.

10 thoughts on “Japan Itinerary

  1. In my limited experience of a two week visit (and on the Australian dollar), I found Japan to be much more affordable than I originally thought.

    The crowds in Shinjuku and Shibuya can be intimidating. While you can’t exactly meander across the crossing nobody is pushy or aggressive.

    Definitely see a baseball game. The atmosphere alone is worth the ticket price.

    Lake Ashi in Hakone is very beautiful. The ryokan we stayed in was cheap. Sadly the only open restaurants were not.

    The subway system looks daunting at first but English signs are prolific, the ticket staff are friendly and even if you do get on the wrong line it’s not so difficult to make your way back.

    Some tips on how to travel on a backpackers budget?
    Hostels are incredibly clean and inexpensive, but some do not allow males and females in the same room. I’d recommend staying in hostels or inexpensive ryokans in quieter wards rather than hotels in busier wards. We stayed in a capsule hotel in Asakusa which was one of a limited number (that we knew of) that allowed females.

    It’s also nice to wander around the quieter areas. I found Ueno very beautiful.

    Have you bought a JR pass?

    Entry fees to temples and shrines aren’t exorbitant. Try making up your own tours. Research places before you visit and act as unofficial tour guides for each other.

    Food in convenience stores, supermarkets and basements or top floors of department stores is affordable, and there are plenty of vending machines around. I still find myself craving MOS, a year later.

    One tour that we really enjoyed was a four hour tour of Kyoto by Johnny Hillwalker. His website is: http://web.kyoto-inet.or.jp/people/h-s-love/

    If you can’t manage to attend a sumo wrestling competition, you can watch it on television for four hours every day while it’s on.

    You’ll have a great time!

  2. Japan is my last stop too! I wonder if our schedules might actually coincide there? That would be great! I think I’ll be there in May of 2010.

  3. For Tokyo – stay @ a capsule hotel. Cheap and unique experience – provided sleeping in a space-age coffin isn’t a turn-off.

    The rail pass for foreigners is much cheaper than the equiv for JP citizens. I think you may need to buy them in Canada though, rather than on-site in Japan. Not 100% sure thought.

    You may want to try a night or two in a which is a traditional JP hotel. Usually (or often) they are built on a hot spring, and all include supper and breakfast. Some are cheap, and some are very high end so shop around a bit. But it’s very Japanese – including incredible service (you will be shocked at the level of service in Japan), traditional house / inn, traditional food, sleeping on a futon on a tatami mat etc.

  4. Oh the WIKI link states that Ryokan run up to 400 a night. True. But small town Ryokans are very reasonably priced, particularly if you consider the inclusion of supper, breakfast, and hot springs.

  5. We found that minshuku were really good value – like a family run guesthouse. Similar to a ryokan, but without the spa and therefore cheaper. Meals were sometimes included too and always really good. Like a ryokan you sleep on tatami mats and some of the buildings were old and lovely. The railpass is great and you do have to buy it outside japan. Japan is the last stop on our trip too!

  6. Japan Railpass will pay for itself with your trip to Kyoto, but must be purchased outside Japan. Japan was the only country where we found you really had to plan in order to save money on hotels or ryokans. We stayed at the Bola Bola Guesthouse (ryokan) in Kyoto which was about $50 a night, but again, you have to book ahead there-the Japanese do not wing it like we do. You will LOVE Japan. Eat everything!!

  7. I recommend attending a baseball game. The atmosphere alone is worth the price. It was one of my favourite experiences from when I was there.

    I found that staying at a capsule hotel was an interesting experience, but I preferred to stay at a hostel or ryokan in a quieter ward, like Ueno. Males and females are separated in capsule hotels (of course). While my male friend had a dozen people around him, I was alone in a room full of smaller coffin rooms. I almost started crying when I heard children giggling in the middle of the night and couldn’t stop thinking about The Ring. I couldn’t remember if she came out when the television was on or off and considered taking advantage of the adult channel for five hundred yen. The next morning I woke up (happy to discover I was so) to take photos of the Asahi Flame/’Golden Turd’ as its known. I never found out why children were giggling, but my friend found it funny (he was 500 yen poorer) and I liked how we bought our accommodation from a vending machine.

    The subway will be fine to get around. The train staff are really kind and helpful.

  8. Hey guys!
    Thanks for the comment – you leave so soon! We still have a few months and are really nervous, I can imagine how you feel. Anyway, as far as tips for Japan I have some posts on my personal blog about where we stayed and went:


    Places like pepper lunch and yoshinoya are really inexpensive for food (3-7 dollars per person) and really filling. We did go to some higher end places, but even those weren’t too overly-priced. Oh, and as far as the fish market goes – I would highly recommend sushi-dai. The Omakase (trust the chef) course is worth the extra 10 bucks – the cost in Oct 08 was 3670 yen

    I don’t know what kind of budget you have for accommodations, but The Oakwood (links are in my post) was really amazing and well priced. I hope some of this helps! Have fun in Peru!

  9. Pingback: Japan Itinerary (Redux)

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