10 Days in Japan- Osaka, Kyoto, Nara Itinerary

If there is a country that I would love to see in all its forms and seasons, it will be Japan.  Culture, food, transportation are surreal, and beyond expectations. My 10-day visit in Osaka, Kawaguchiko and Tokyo were not enough to make the most out of my stay in Japan. It was really a dreamy vacation, and I will definitely go back.

For Filipinos, you need a valid visa to enter Japan. You may refer to my previous post for the step by step guide to acquire a Japanese tourist visa.

I was able to score a one-way ticket for my boyfriend through Cebu Pacific’s seatsale. I was able to buy it for only PHP 2000, MNL-KIX. On the other hand, I used my company benefit to fly in and out of Japan.

Our accommodations were booked through Agoda app and Booking.com, and I got to save a bit using coupons.

For train tickets and USJ entry passes , I have booked it through Klook, and I swear that I got to save a lot using their codes. On the other hand, I booked through KKDay our 4G sim card, Tokyo Disneyland passes and airport express tickets.

For this entry I will talk about Osaka, since it was our entry point in Japan (plus Kyoto and Nara). I will make a separate post for Tokyo as well.

 

Osaka, Japan in a glimpse of 4 days and 5 nights- 06.10-14.19

Day 1- 06.10.19

We arrived in Osaka at past 8pm (Japan is 1 hour ahead of Manila), and after passing through immigration and customs, my first agenda was to claim all the train tickets and sim card I booked online. To my dismay, I overlooked the disclaimer about the Airport Express Haruka. The booth closes at 7:45pm, and we got in late and I have no choice but to buy another express train ticket that could get us at Namba Station. The Suica card cannot be used in express trains, and Shinkansen trains (the bullet train that takes you to another Japanese region). Suica can be used in JR trains, subways, buses and even at convenience stores and selected restaurants. It is already pre-loaded when bought and can be reloaded at train stations. Suica is local to Osaka, however, you can use it also in Tokyo or any place in Japan for as long as you don’t use it when crossing another region. If you have plans to go back to Japan, keep it. It is valid for 5 years and you don’t have to buy another one when you visit Japan.

When we got to Namba station, we bought some snacks from 7-Eleven, before walking towards our hostel. It was a pretty long walk because according to Google Map, it is walkable. Should I known earlier that there was a nearby station at our hostel, I would not have walked. We passed through some quiet alley with nothing but light posts and several parked bikes, only to discover later on that we passed through beside a cemetery. Never again after finding out!

We finally got in our hostel, Hotel Ikutama Love. It’s an adult only type of hotel. It’s actually spacious and has complete supply of toiletries. Our breakfast was delivered daily in our room and I’m giving it a thumbs up. The servings were big and the salmon was fresh. There was also a vendo machine in our room, and upon checking, it contains adult toys and those kinky stuff you use. What I love most about this place is, it is within center and it will not cost you a lot. Boyfriend informed the front desk that I am celebrating my birthday, and asked for my passport to verify. When we were already in our room, they gave us a small bottle of champagne and some dessert, with a lingerie as a gift.

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View from outside, they’re actually rows of it.

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Hotel’s birthday gift for me

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Breakfast were surprisingly good

 

Day 2- 06.11.19

After eating breakfast, we prepared for our DIY trip to Kyoto. We lost our way going to Fushimi-Inari Shrine because Google Map said that we need to transfer platform, only to realize that we missed the train. Nevertheless, we still made it there. Before going to the shrine, we had our lunch at a ramen place called Hiwamatanoboru. The servings were big and it was a good ramen.

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2500JPY for 2 ramen and drinks. Worth it!

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KYOTO

Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine

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Once you get off at the train station you won’t lose your way going to the shrine. All visitors are walking towards it. You will pass by several souvenir and food stalls along the way.

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You use a ladle to cleanse yourself before entering temples

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Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine is a Shinto Temple. It is famous for its orange torii bamboo gates. The shrine is an hour or two hike, but we didn’t go all the way to the top because it was raining a little. After we got a bunch of pictures, we moved to our next destination.

Kiyomizu-Dera Temple

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Another temple that we got to visit is Kiyomizu-Dera Temple. You’ll be going through an uphill to go there. When we got there it was an hour before closing, so we decided not to go inside anymore. While having pictures, we set the camera’s timer and place it on top of something, and when we got back in our hostel, I found something creepy in one of the pictures. There is a white silhouette in a shape of a human right next to me. Don’t be surprised if you caught something in your camera. After all, temples were also  cemeteries. Spirits might be everywhere and they happened to be in my picture.

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It started to rain again when we were about to leave the temple. At 6pm, all shops have closed, and there was no place that we can stay for a while to wait for the rain to stop. When it was okay to walk again, we head towards the bus stop bound for Osaka. When we got into the stop, I was confused which stop heads towards Osaka. Google Map cannot clearly point it out. There were also no English translation in the sign boards. I chose whichever has more foreigners in it, and I ended up asking, “Going to Osaka?”, and the person I asked just nodded. When we got into the bus, we tapped our Suica cards, and found our seats at the back. I was observing everybody, how they hop on and hop off, and Google Map was on track again. Finally, I was doing it right. It took an hour and a half before we got into Osaka downtown.

OSAKA

Dotonbori

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The famous Glico man of Osaka

We finally got into the place where you’ll find the famous Glico man. I was overwhelmed with all the food stalls next to each other. I really wanted to try everything, but it was a bit expensive. Instead of having dinner, we bought several snacks such as takoyaki, kobe beef, and chicken barbecue. It was 11pm, and stalls were closing, and we decided to go back to our hostel. On our way, we passed by Lawsons, and bought some food again for our midnight cravings.

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Takoyaki for 790JPY

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This is the entry level kobe beef. Priced at 1800JPY

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200JPY per stick

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When it was our turn in the counter, all waffles have been sold out

 

Day 3- 06.12.19

NARA

Nara Park

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On my birthday, we woke up late again. After breakfast and self-prep, we went to Nara Park. It’s a 45min. train ride from Osaka. As we exit the station, I was starting to see the local deer, roaming freely around. You can feed the deer, but you have to buy their food. The deer can be aggressive, especially if they see you holding a plastic bag. Some deer tried to snatch the plastic that I was holding, and they are very strong. In fairness to the deer, when I tried bowing at them, they bowed back. Such respectful beings. The only downside of it was poops were literally around, so better be careful not to step on it.

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Warning though

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Todai-ji Temple

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We walked and walked until we reach the gates going to Todai-ji Temple. There was a small lake outside the temple, and many deer were roaming freely and resting under the trees. We did not go inside the temple, because the view outside was more than enough already.

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Kasugataisha Shrine

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We walked again towards the next shrine, and boyfriend’s feet gave up on him. Blame the Jordans for it! I just took pictures outside and didn’t bother to walk uphill. The forest where the shrine is located was so quiet, and there were even wild birds.

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Cleansing with water before entering

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Barrels of Asahi

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

I have always admired this place in pictures, so I was eager to see the place in person. It was past 5pm, and almost sunset, when we got at Arashiyama station. We pinned the bamboo groves, but we’re being directed to a hostel instead. When we finally found the right direction, it was so quiet, and there were no people. We still tried our best though, in fact, we reached the end, and i saw a bunch of tombstones. I turned around and walk faster and didn’t bother to look back.

OSAKA

Harukas 300

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View from top

When i booked the USJ passes, it was bundled with Harukas 300 Observatory. The place has a nice view of the city at night. We also got in here the passcode to enter USJ 15mins ahead of opening time, which unfortunately we did not use. As usual, we cannot get up early, and we ended up arriving in USJ past 9am.

Ichiran Ramen- Abenobashi

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2840JPY for 2 ramen

The very famous ramen place, where you’ll see long lines outside. For me, it was worth lining up. All the food in Japan will always be worth it. I accidentally saw this ramen place in Abenobashi, when I saw the familiar logo. Good thing, we only waited for 5 mins, as compared to the branch in Dotonbori where the lines were really long.

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Fully-equipped

Dotonbori

We were in Dotonbori, almost every night because of food. On our second night, I lined up for the Melonpan. When it was my turn to buy, they have to close the stall because their waffles have been sold out. We tried our luck again on our 3rd night, we finally had it after lining up for 10mins. Apart from the waffle, we also had gyoza that night.

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400JPY for each

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240JPY for this gyoza

 

Day 3- 06.13.19

Universal Studios Japan

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I have been to Universal Studios Singapore, and it’s totally different from the one in Japan. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is very unique at this theme park. I was so giddy when I started seeing familiar things, that I only read in books or watched in movies. While lining up for our first ride, I bought a butterbeer for us. It was overpriced, but you cannot say no to this drink, especially that we, muggles, have been looking forward to this. The highlight of the Harry Potter was the tour inside the Hogwarts Castle, and we lined up an hour just for this. We tried our best to visit each section, and try out whatever is in there. We also got a chance to meet some characters, and to watch the parade at night. From time to time, we eat, and I have noticed that meals here were expensive than usual.

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The infamous flying car

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Line to Hogwarts

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Hogwarts Express

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650JPY for each butterbeer

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Cheers, muggles!

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Turkey leg and drink for 1220JPY

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Our dinner at Yoshinoya, near train station. Meal cost 2210JPY

Day 4- 06.14.19

On our last day in Osaka, we have to check out at noon. Since our bus bound for Kawaguchiko is still at night, I asked the front desk, if we can leave our luggage with them, and they were nice enough to allow us.  We went to Shinsaibashi, to check out some bags and watches, and a little bit of window shopping in Amerika-mura. I have been craving for some breakfast meals. We were looking for Egg N Things, and we didn’t find it. We ended up in a noodle house with such a big serving.

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We spent 2840JPY for our lunch at Kamukaru

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1185JPY for Pablo’s cheesecake. I tried this before, and I’m not sure why it tasted differently

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On our way to Tokyo, we have a 1 night stay in Kawaguchiko. This place is near the lake and it’s the surrounding towns of Mt. Fuji. We took a bus and traveled  for 9 hours. Normally, people will take a bullet train to transfer to another region, but I find this expensive, and I wanna save money from another hotel booking. It’s also a different route we took, because we came from Osaka going to Tokyo, instead of the reverse, which is the usual route. I tried my best looking for buses that operate Osaka-Tokyo, and to my dismay there was none, until I landed in a Japanese website. I clicked the translate and it worked in English. I found Fujikyuko Bus that travels from Osaka to Kawaguchiko. Just perfect for our itinerary. They have a terminal at Abenobashi, and we waited there until our bus arrived.

That’s how our adventure in Osaka ended. I am definitely going back to Osaka. I still need to see the Osaka Castle, Umeda Bldg, Denden Town, Arashiyama Bamboo Groves, Rinku Outlet, etc. For those who love food, I highly recommend Osaka. You’ll never go wrong, and after all, it has been tagged as Japan’s Kitchen.

 

BUDGET BREAKDOWN

For the total expenses in Japan: PHP 56 030.779/ head without shopping

Exchange rate- 0.4790PHP to 1JPY

Ikutama Love Hotel- PHP 9181.472/head for 4 nights with breakfast

Harukas 300/USJ Entry Pass- PHP 4731.3/head

Meal- PHP 6731.1475/head

Transpo-PHP 4530.2/head

Misc.- PHP182.02/head

Total Expenses in Osaka, Kyoto, Nara(alone)- PHP 20624.84/head  

 

Beijing and Beyond

Whenever I hear the word, Beijing, two things come into my mind, the Great Wall of China and the Peking duck. Beijing may be synonymous to plenty of words, but architecture and food come first for me.

Beijing is the capital of the People’s Republic of China, a country with a very aggressive economy, and a super power in the making. China has a very rich history and culture, starting from its era of dynasties, to its era of communism under the leadership of Chairman Mao Zedong. The legacy of each emperor/leader can be seen until today through many things.

Beijing, China in a glimpse of 2 nights and 2 days. (02.24-25.19)

I arrived in Beijing around midnight as part of the crew operating for MNL-PEK-MNL. Our hotel is located right in the downtown of Beijing, accessible through metered taxi cabs, local MRT, Didi (local version of Uber in China). We were in the last week of February, and the season is still winter (although the snow was starting to melt). Since our crew were mostly first timers, we were planning to get around the city, and visit the famous landmarks. One of our seniors shared with us their local contact, who can speak good English, and who can take us around the Great Wall. It was in the wee hours when I tried my luck and called Mr. Qian, and to my surprise, he answered. He said that he will be picking us up from our hotel.

It was 8am, and Mr. Qian was waiting for us at the lobby of our hotel. I was joined by my 2 colleagues, and another 3 from the crew operating KLO-PEK-KLO-CEB, and together we took the van bound for Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China. The trip was about  an hour and a half from the city, and the temperature dropped at 1 degrees C. There are actually other sections of the Great Wall that is open for tourists, but this one is less crowded and most areas of the Great Wall are still intact and tourist friendly.

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As we arrived at the Mutianyu entrance, we have to pay for our entrance fees and transfer fees (shuttle, chairlift and toboggan). From the main entrance, we have to walk a little bit more, passing by some restaurants and souvenir shops, before we can take the chairlift that we will bring us to Tower 6.

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chairlift to Tower 6

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Bucket list check- Walk along the Great Wall of China

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toboggan ride down- slide away!

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Picture with the guards for 10RMB each

We had an ample time going around the Great Wall before we decided to have lunch and buy some souvenirs. For lunch, we had roasted duck (super crispy), dimsum, yang chao rice. The meal was quite expensive, although this is expected as the restaurant is located in a tourist area.

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Before finally calling it a day, we stopped at the nearby Frozen Lake. It’s starting to defrost as the climate rises. We were not asked to pay for an entrance fee (although the ones before us were charged)

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Frozen Lake

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the squad with Qian (guy in the middle)

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Since it was a 2 day layover in Beijing, we had another day to spend around the city. We started our day after brunch, to recover from yesterday’s trip to the Great Wall. We visited the Tiananmen Square, Forbidden Palace, and the Wangfujing Street. We had everything DIY. From the hotel, we walked about 15mins to the train station. From there, we took a train ride, and alighted at Tiananmen Square. Forbidden Palace and Tiananmen Square are just next to each other. The train ride was pretty easy to understand as long as you know where to go (there are English translations.) Going to Tiananmen Square on a weekend can be a little crowded, as you may have to line up to get in. When we were there, they never asked for IDs or passports, but a few months later, I heard from some crew that police are starting to do some random check, so it’s always best to bring your passport whenever going out (be sure that you won’t lose it). If you’re planning to really get inside the Forbidden Palace, it’s best to go there in the morning, so you can maximize your visit, and entrance comes with a fee. I was really looking forward to our stroll along Wangfujing, but to my dismay, most stalls are closed due to renovation. Wangfujing is known for its street food and the exotic food that it offers. I have no plans to eat it, but I just want to see it.

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Tiananmen Square

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Mausoleum of Chairman Mao

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I personally think that most Chinese are misunderstood. If you can only visit the mainland, and you’ll probably understand. I have several encounters with them, and based from experience, they’re really nice. They may not be fluent in English, but trust me they try their best to help you out.

TIPS

  • Before going to China, make sure that you have a VPN (at least 3, just in case that it fails to work or it has been blocked) to have an access to the outside world. All those apps that we use are forbidden and blocked in China, and they have their own.
  • Download Mandarin from the Google Translate. It works offline too. This will help you to break the language barrier.
  • China has a reputation of producing fake items, and that includes food. When in doubt, order from your hotel. (Although, I have eaten in decent restaurants, and food is yummy)
  • Don’t touch anything if you don’t intend to buy the item. The old ladies will shout at you and probably curse you.
  • Always haggle with the lowest price possible that you can imagine. Stick with your price until they give in. If they don’t agree, walk out, and they will run after you and give you your price.
  • It’s best to have your money exchanged at your hotel to avoid being scammed
  • Be careful when paying. Make sure that it’s the money that you handed. Some might trick you and tell you that it’s fake. (when in fact they have already exchanged it with another paper bill)

If you need a driver/guide around Beijing, you may contact Mr. Qian.

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