Firstly, do note that the initial itinerary was swapped around a little while on site. Some places were removed and some places were added. When I got down to the map of the locations, it was easier to re-plan a few things. If you are following my itinerary, do tally the locations on a physical map once you arrive. You can get those at main train stations. Then you'll see why I had to move a few things around.
So, how was the trip?
It was great! Since it was a long one, I'll summarize each day in a short paragraph.
Day 1: Arrived at Narita Airport, headed to Tokyo station, explored the station for food, waited to check-in, settled down before heading to Meiji Jingu and joined the congestion in Harajuku Takashita-dori. Had dinner at a ramen shop near the apartment.
Day 2: Disney Sea. Do not go unless you're a fan. The rides were backdated and the only thing to do is take pictures. Everything was in Japanese, including the park map.
Day 3: Headed to see Sensoji Temple, walked along Ameyoko, then checked out Akihabara. My brother enjoyed Akihabara, I'm sure.
Day 5: At 10am, our host drove us to Magome town where we started the Nakasendo trail. It was around a 3-hour walk through the forest, across roads, and into small towns. We reached Tsumago for lunch and was picked up by our host at 5pm.
Day 6: Left for Kyoto and checked-in around noon. Had lunch at a nearby restaurant before heading for the Arashiyama bamboo groove. Did a little sightseeing in Arashiyama and enjoyed the cool weather before heading back.
Day 7: The itinerary was roughly followed: Ginkakuji - Philosopher Walk - Maruyama Park - Historic Street - Gion.
Day 8: Travelled to Osaka and checked-in before noon. Headed to Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, which was extremely crowded. We could not fully enjoy all it had to offer as we shuffled through the crowd. Returned to our apartment in the evening and waited for the sun to set, before heading to Dotonbori for a good sushi dinner.
Day 9: Spent the entire day at Universal Studios Japan. Entered the park around 9am, left the park around 9pm. Experienced both the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Biohazard The Real 3. I'll write about the whole zombie experience in another post.
Day 11: Woke up early, took the Airport Express from Osaka, ate breakfast after checking-in, then said goodbye to the land of the rising sun. It was a sad day.
Did the budget work?
Yes. We had a huge left over in our food budget. Since we didn't consume 1000 yen worth of breakfast daily, we used the excess for transport and junk food. Still, we brought home 27,000 yen. That would be roughly RM200 off the initial trip budget per person. Which actually brings the entire trip budget (per person) to below RM5000! Yes, this was a cheap trip.
Were the apartments good?
Shinjuku: The toilet was, erm, leaking. It didn't look clean either. The room was fine, the toilet wasn't.
Ena: A unique stay. Spacious, comfy bedding, necessities all provided. If we needed anything, we just had to ask the host and he would provide it. Recommended stay.
Kyoto: Really cramp. Not the kind of apartment to hangout in. Toilet was clean, but the tatami mat had a very strong smell. Thank God for the windows.
Namba: Clean and spacious. Sadly, there wasn't basic coffee and tea.
How was shopping?
I bought 9 different flavours of Kit Kat: Strawberry Cheesecake, Cheesecake, Hokkaido Red Bean, Kobe Pudding, Halloween Season Pumpkin, Hojicha Roasted, Dark Chocolate, Green Tea, and Matcha Green Tea. I saw Wasabi, Sakura Green Tea, and Strawberry, but I didn't feel like buying them. I think I shopped well in this area.
I also got myself a measly Harry Potter loot. There weren't a lot of variety in the shops, which was very disappointing for a fan. I wanted a Malfoy Quidditch tee, but they didn't have it.
Aside from that, the variety of Attack on Titan t-shirts was close to none. I gave up looking at both Akihabara and Den Den Town, before trying a gochapon on my last day only to get the character everyone hates.
To sum it up...
It was a fun trip and a good escape from reality. Maybe because it was a longer one than my last, I felt sadder having to return home. Will I go back to Japan? Of course! I would love to see Hokkaido. But I probably won't do so in the near future. After all, there are so many more places to see.
Next stop, Tasmania!
Check out my other posts on Japan: