I wrote daily on my journal for my Japan trip, which is, I suppose, why it’s taken me a long time to actually start writing about my first trip to Japan. It was also my first fully-solo trip, so there was a lot of discoveries, both personal and of the country I visited.
Earlier this year, I was planning for a longer trip at a further-away country (oooh, so vague!). Unfortunately, I was gearing up for a big work project at around the time I was planning on, so I decided to postpone that trip and go somewhere else for a shorter, one-week vacation. I finally settled on Japan because of a couple of things:
- The country is very safe for solo female travelers. I did a bit of research about solo female traveler safety in Japan as I knew I was going alone for this trip. I reassured myself of this multiple times before I went.
- Transportation to most places look very straightforward via trains and subways, so I can plan my route. This is important to me, because I get lost easily, and because planning what I’ll be doing while I’m in the midst of the unknown soothes me.
- OMG, my colleagues wouldn’t shut up about Japan!
LOL, you know who you are.
So I found myself booking for a week at the tail end of October.
Initially, I thought about booking a small group tour instead of doing it alone, so that I could just show up and not worry about anything. But, yeah, my obsessive compulsive tendencies won the day and I ended up planning the trip in its entirety myself.
Half the fun’s in the planning!
There was a lot of planning, and a lot of breaking of those plans, too. Since the actual plans are pretty much the only useful thing at this point, here’s my final itinerary:
Day 1 Saturday
Check in at Sunroute Hotel Asakusa
Day 2 Sunday
Imperial Palace Outer Park
Day 3 Monday
Tsukiji Fish Market breakfast
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building’s North Observatory
Day 4 Tuesday
Transfer to Kyoto
Check in at Airbnb lodging
Day 5 Wednesday
Rest and errands in the afternoon
Day 6 Thursday
Fushimi Inari Shrine
Day 7 Friday
Transer to Kinosaki
Day 8 Saturday
Day 9 Sunday
Return to Kyoto
There are a couple things to note about this itinerary:
First, I meant to visit the Imperial East Garden on Day 2, but when I arrived, the gates were closed and there was some rather intimidating guards in front.
Second, my Kyoto stay looks VERY sparse. I developed a cold on Day 2; I don’t know if it’s possible, but I remain convinced it is due in part to my complete lack of knowledge that Sunroute Asakusa had no non-smoking rooms, and thus I was in a smoking room for my whole Tokyo stay. The cold resulted in me not at my 100% for the rest of my time in Japan.
Along with that, while I was in Kyoto:
- I got lost on the bus on Day 4; I wasn’t supposed to head to Nijo Castle, but hey I recognized it, so I got off and did that instead (also because Nijo Castle is close to a subway line).
- Kyoto was celebrating Jidai Matsuri on Day 5, which I initially planned to watch at the Heian Shrine. But I realized, after Arashiyama, that I was not going to be able to handle a procession crowd very well, at the state of my health and my feet. So I decided to take it easy, rest a while, and do nearby errand-y stuff like send postcards.
- Kiyomizudera is currently undergoing renovations, which did impact my decision to explore eastern Kyoto/sights near Kiyomizudera. There is always next time!
Cost breakdown: Pre-trip expenses
|1,491.00 SGD|| Airfare
Singapore Airlines, SIN-NRT + KIX-SIN
|49.60 SGD||Travel insurance|
|353.90 SGD||Tokyo lodging (3 nights)|
|385.00 SGD||Kyoto lodging (3 nights)|
|6,150 JPY||Pocket wifi rental|
TOTAL: approx 1875 USD
My airfare cost obviously skews this costing on the high end, and it’s not just because I am chasing after my Krisflyer miles. After experiencing six hours on the red-eye flight to Australia, I knew didn’t want to risk the seven hours between Singapore and Japan on a budget airline, either. Plus, I booked a bit later than I normally would for a trip like this, so the prices aren’t quite so low.
The pocket wifi I rented was a very invaluable gadget throughout my stay, especially once I was in Kyoto, Kinosaki, and Amanohashidate where I relied more on buses and walking rather than the trains and subway. I could just fire up Google Maps and see where I was and adjust accordingly; it was very helpful for sudden changes in plans due to rain/etc as well.
(Of course, having it around for Instagram purposes is great, too.)
I did have to apply for a short-term tourist visa, but it’s not shown in my pre-trip breakdown because there were no visa fees. I applied directly at the Japan embassy in Singapore and received my visa in three business days.
Cost breakdown: On-trip expenses
|36,340 JPY||Half-board onsen inn lodging (2 nights)|
|26,102 JPY||Food and snacks (9 days)|
|32,590 JPY|| Transportation, includes:
bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto
JR West Kansai Wide Area Pass (Kyoto, Nara, Kinosaki, Amanohashidate, Kansai Airport)
extra fees for Amanohashidate
|4,150 JPY||Entrance fees|
|3,872 JPY||TA-Q-BIN, luggage storage, coin lockers|
|3,825 JPY||Medicine, band aids, muscle pain patches, etc (LOL)|
TOTAL: approx 930 USD
I didn’t include shopping, because while I did not really “shop”, I did end up buying really…random things. Like a Pikachu stuffed toy. Like a cute umbrella (and yes, I did bring an umbrella, and no, I did not lose the umbrella…this was just cute, ok). Like a camera lens. So, no, no shopping estimate :P
I had initially budgeted more for food, but honestly, I was very happy with convenience store breakfasts while I was there; I would just buy a few things on the way back and put it in my fridge, for eating the next morning. There was a particular mochi I liked from 7-11…
I don’t have super slick packing photos to share for this trip. I initially thought about sticking to my backpack, but eventually decided that between the layers and the shopping I might end up doing, it would be easier to stick to a medium-sized rolled luggage and my backpack, especially since the roads should be good and my rolled luggage shouldn’t have a problem.
I did leave my luggage in Kyoto while I went off to Kinosaki, and brought only my trusty Minaal.
So here’s my list (including things I brought on my person):
- 2x jeans
- 3x tops
- 2x dresses
- 3x opaque warm tights
- 4x socks
- 5x pairs of underwear
- 2x sleep wear
- 1x spring coat
- 1x convertible shawl
- 1x ankle boots
- 1x flats
- 1x flipflops
- foldable backpack
- camera, camera lenses, camera battery, SD cards
- laptop, charger
- phones, powerbank, chargers
- small towel
- liquid detergent
- toiletries: shampoo, conditioner, facial wash, bar soap, powder deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, q-tips
- makeup: Tinted moisturizer with SPF, lip balm with SPF, eyeshadow primer, eyeliner
- first aid: band-aids, Betadine q-tips, chewable vitamin C tablets, paracetamol tablets
I did NOT learn my lesson from my last trip and bring muscle pain reliever pads. I never learn.
I also did not expect to need sunblock, but in retrospect, I should have brought sunblock. Angela, just because it’s autumn, doesn’t mean that the sun doesn’t shine.
The very first iteration of my itinerary included an overnight in Hakone, but I changed that out to have more time in Kinosaki. Most of the people I shared my final pre-trip itinerary with, kept asking why I wasn’t going to Hakone, and nah, never heard of that Kinosaki place. But it did turn out to be one of the high points in my trip, and I’m really glad I decided to spend two nights taking it slow and experiencing a small, traditional Japanese town. I think I could have opted to do Kinosaki in the middle of my trip to rest a while before attacking Kyoto, though.
As a first fully-solo trip, I do think Japan was a good choice for me. It was challenging because of the language barrier, but at no time was I worried about my safety (keeping in mind, though, that I don’t really have a “night life” and I stayed in most nights). The worst thing that happened to me was that cold, and tripping on the stairs. Totally my fault. I still have a pinched nerve to show for it.
I also need to learn to take it slower when I’m on my own. I tend to ignore my tiredness and hunger while traveling alone, always thinking “there might be a good cafe over there” or “this one’s near, I can still do this”. It doesn’t make sense, but I’m a lot more tired when I travel alone than with other people.
Nevertheless, I’m really happy I made Japan my first fully-solo trip. It’s an amazing place with fantastic food and oh-so-interesting odds and ends, and I was already planning to go back to Japan in the midst of my trip ;)