In about two weeks, we are going to set sail to the land of the rising sun and truth be told, holiday planning can be quite a daunting task. Although our holiday is just for two weeks, we have a strong inkling starting from it being big budget to travel to the quirky maid cafes, suicide forest, Halloween trains ... which has my mind convoluted.
A little bit about Danny and myself. We are the savvy travellers embracing a "high/low" strategy. Think of it like room service while backpacking. Drinking 5$ wine in "these cost me a mortgage payment" shoes. Eating street food, even if you're sleeping between 5-star hotel sheets.
We believe that travelling does not have to an expensive affair. Experience cannot be bought. They are created. Your budget does not define the size of your imagination. If you gotta sell your couch for a plane ticket or miss a midnight train to fall in love, we don't judge
I have spent three laborious months reading plenty of blogs, shedloads of time scouring Tripadvisor and then rummaged through booking.com, Instagram and other travel portals, all in the hope of a closer-to-pukka experience of Japan. All of this while watching the pennies.
And I write today so that at least one of you can use some of my pointers in some way. And if you find it helpful!
Few hacks that I came across that might be of some help to you
Airline deals The preparation for this trip began the day Jetstar announced its "free-return" Japan sale. I am such a sucker for these gimmicks that I had to buy a ticket. The sale decided my dates for travelling and since we don't have any family commitments, we were fine with that. However, if you are not for the airline companies to decide your travel dates, I strongly suggest subscribing for deals on Jetstar and Japan Airlines. Both of them have some amazing offers. You just have to keep your eyes peeled and inbox read.
Guess this bit is the hardest. Two weeks in hand, flying into Kansai Osaka (apparently the cheapest airport to fly into) and first timers to this magical country, we had to come up with the best way to see the country. I haven't heard of anyone (yes, anyone) who has been to Japan just once. Call it the Nihon effect or whatever you want but apparently, one visit is just not enough. The country keeps calling you back for more!! Having heard of this charm, we thought of skipping the chaotic touristy Tokyo on this turn. (Many tell me that even two weeks do not do justice to Tokyo).
We love allowing a city to seep through our skin and wanted to have a soulful affair with Kyoto and Osaka. Again after sifting through numerous blog, things to do in a city and Tripadvisor, we came up with Osaka - 4 days
Kyoto - 4 days
Hiroshima/ Miyajima - 2 days
Kobe - 1 day
Okayama - 3 days
Will probably save what we did in each city for another blog. However a sneak peek of the highlights would be the visit to the rabbit Island, Ōkunoshima and getting lost in arty party island of Naoshima.
We haven't booked any of our art gallery/museum tours except for the Mazda Museum in Hiroshima.
We are normally the "fly by the seat of our pants" kinda couple. For hotel reservations, our mantra has been:
- Fabulous deals are found right at the front desk of the hotel.
However, after all that research, Japan doesn't seem like that. The country seems very orderly and not a fan of surprises. We have pre-booked most of our accommodation with the exception of a few nights.
However, a stark trend seems contrasting to many beliefs such as:
- Airbnb is not cheaper than a hotel.
- Dormitories are also not cheaper than Airbnb.
We generally love our hostels but this time we will be staying at mid-range hotels. Never had I imagined they would be cheaper than our favourite go-to's.
Also smaller towns like Okayama and Kobe seemed to have higher accommodation rates as compared to touristy cities of Osaka and Kyoto. The difference is almost twice.
To JR or Not to JR
Kept this biggie for the end. I was in a 'read calculate think repeat' mode for almost a month. My head still hurts just thinking of all that math. The personally recommended site - Hyperdia was of great help. As it is commonly known, the JR rail pass is expensive (Bye Bye 384 AUD!). Our itinerary has us travelling from Osaka to Kyoto, from there to Hiroshima and then making our way back to Osaka via Okayama, Onomichi, Naoshima and Kobe. The JR pass comes with a 7 day or a 2-week travel pass and since our single stay in a place was more than a day, it did not prove cost effective to buy a JR Pass. We do plan to do ride the famous Shinkansen (bullet train) from Kyoto to Amanohashidate. I hear that if you plan to do Tokyo and Osaka, then the single Tokyo-Osaka ride makes your 7 day pass worth it, not forgetting the day trips which you will get for free.
This one is very tightly tied to your itinerary and could be used to calculate the total travel expenditure.
Live like a local
Something that every traveller lives by. Live your short stay at a place as if you have lived there forever or bank on that friend who can give you that insider intel. By the end of your holiday, you just have that unexplainable cosmic connection going on with the city. I am constantly in pursuit of that enigmatic feeling and try to read up as much as I can, sieve through Instagram hashtags to ensure that only the authentic, non-touristy, bonafide encounters seep through. However, there are some touristy locations that also need a visit without which my holiday would be incomplete. Well, if you have to pretend like you've been there done that, you better know the main ones straight up. This would also include knowing local slang of Doom (Thank you) and Sumimasen (Excuse me).
I promise I will live to tell the tale of my travel to this interesting country.