In 2015, I have my first solo trip out of the country and that country was in Japan. It happened from May 21 to June 8, 2015 (Japan+Hong Kong trip). I had several good memories and mistakes during this trip and it’s worth a life’s lessons treasure. How to prepare for your first solo trip to Japan? Japan is an expensive country to go to. My first solo trip was not perfect as I said I made a lot of mistakes due to a language barrier and being a first-time solo traveler in a country I am not familiar with.
Anyway, I am thankful to the people I met during the trip from the foreign students of Waseda University during my first night in Tokyo, the fellow backpackers I met in the hostel, with the Japanese guy who helped me when I was stranded in Shinjuku, the Japanese guy who showed me in Yokohama and to my cousin and her beautiful family in Osaka.
I am not even sure how to write this first Japan trip of mine because I have several stories to tell. But before this Japan trip happened, I almost wanted to cancel everything because my father was bedridden already and he was in the worst condition. Seeing my father that time I was also affected emotionally. The family was really in a bad situation as all of us, especially my mom, didn’t have enough sleep at that time.
I am just the only one working in the family and my mom and two siblings were the ones who looked after for my father. Couldn’t concentrate work at that time, but I have to be strong and pursue making money just to provide medications for my father. Even raised funds by selling my travel photos with the help of the nonprofit organizations I am involved with and using Facebook to post photos.
I told my Canadian boss about the situation in the family. He knew already in December 2014 that I was already planning for the Japan trip. My travel fund for Japan was running out for my father’s medication and so was the emergency fund. So being the kind boss as he really is, he sent me $500 to my account to pursue my Japan trip as I was super stress of the situation and suggested that I could get back to work after the trip. As selfish it may sound, I needed it because if I let myself affected what was going on I was really sure that I would lose concentration at work and not functioning properly, so the loss of earning money.
Alright, enough of the long introduction of this post, but just wanted to share how this first solo trip out of the country was an emotional roller coaster ride.
How to Prepare for your First Solo Trip in Japan?
After my Hong Kong and Macau trip in October 2014, I was able to find a flight to Japan in December 2014 just because my application for Canada visa got denied. I opt for Plan B which is to go to Japan. Was really excited and looking forward in 2015. Got my ticket for less than PHP 9,000 round trip during the May-June 2015 trip and less than PHP 4,000 during the November-December 2015 trip. The cheaper, the better. I told my cousin in Osaka as we discussed it already that I could visit her and the family for a few days. So I had 5 months to grow my travel fund for the Japan trip.
I got my ticket for less than PHP 9,000 round trip during the May-June 2015 trip and less than PHP 4,000 during the November-December 2015 trip. The cheaper, the better.
March 2015, I started to gather all my requirements to submit for my Japan visa application. I spent PHP 60 on the ID and PHP 150 for getting a bank certificate from a certain bank. Paid PHP 1,200 for visa application at Friendship Tours.
I spent PHP 60 for the ID and PHP 150 for getting a bank certificate from a certain bank. Paid PHP 1,200 for visa application at Friendship Tours.
Check out my blog post on:
New Update: I got my Japan Multiple Entry Visa (2019 Guide)
You can check out this article now: How to Get a Japan Visa Multiple Entry Without Income Tax Return?
Learn the Basic Japanese Language
I am not proficient with the Japanese language, but because of watching anime, I learn some basic Japanese language. Only simple words and phrases such as:
- Hello – Konnichiwa.
- for ‘Good morning’ – Ohayō gozaimasu.
- Good evening – Konbanwa.
- for ‘Good night’ – Oyasuminasai.
- Goodbye – Sayōnara.
- Thank You – Arigatō gozaimasu.
- You’re welcome – Dōitashimashite.
- Excuse me- Sumimasen.
- Yes – Hai.
- (Before eating) – Itadakimasu.
- (After eating) – Gochisōsamadeshita.
Source: Basic Japanese Course
Prepare your Japan Itinerary
Please follow my blog post about Sample Japan Itineraries You Can Follow as I prepared a 14-day itinerary to Japan, 7 days itinerary in Japan, 7 days in Kyoto, and Kyoto Osaka Nara Itinerary.
Know the Weather in Japan
Japan has 4 seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. I went to Japan twice on different seasons. The first time was in May-June 2015 which was after Spring is going Summer so I brought light clothes with me like shirts, sleeveless, jeans, skirts, pairs of stockings and socks. The second time was in November-December 2015 during the Autumn season going Winter although I wasn’t able to experience snow that time. Indeed, it was freaking cold for 12 degrees or less. I brought a jacket, lots of cardigans to layer, pairs of stockings, long socks, leg warmer, scarf, hand gloves and a lot more. I should create another blog post for this.
#Japan, Japan, Japan… Sagot sa kahirapan! You will always be my #favorite #country to #travel because it was my #first #solo #trip ever. My first night life ever in #Ropponggi, I met #TomFelton aka #DracoMalfoy, I missed my #bus to Osaka, I slept at McDonald’s for a night, I missed my plane going back to PH, I slept for 2 nights in the airport, booked a flight to HK instead, went to Japan the 2nd time around, I lost my passport the whole afternoon, first time to drink glass of beer and my first autumn experience. Once in a while, getting lost is a nice experience. #adventure #lostinTranslation #tokyo #autumn #autumnexperience #December2015 #throwback
Related Article: Photos – Autumn in Japan 2015
Accommodations in Tokyo
Ace Inn Shinjuku in Shinjuku
I booked my accommodation through Hostelworld.com and I found Ace Inn Shinjuku, which is really a near Akebonobashi station. Booked for 4 nights dorm-type room bed for JPY 2000 per night (JPY 8000 for 4 nights) and 1 night capsule bed for JPY 3240. I was able to stay here again during my second time in Japan.
I booked for 4 nights dorm-type room bed for JPY 2000 per night (JPY 8000 for 4 nights) and 1 night capsule bed for JPY 3240.
AirBnb Place in Shin-Okubo
Second time in Japan and it was the first time I used Airbnb. Shin-Okubo is the Korea-town in Shinjuku. It was a small apartment with 3 bunk beds good for 6 people. For 2 nights I paid PHP 1,841 as reflected on my credit card.
For 2 nights I paid PHP 1,841 as reflected on my credit card.
Asakusa Smile House in Asakusa
Second time in Japan I decided to transfer in Asakusa as I’ve never been to this area. I booked through Hostelworld.com. The train station near to my hostel is accessible to the train going to Narita Airport for my flight back to the Philippines. Lesson learned from my previous trip which the plane left me and stayed for 2 nights at Narita Airport that let me decided to fly to Hong Kong instead. For 6 nights I paid JPY 11,000 and I could say it’s cheaper than the two places I stayed in Shinjuku.
For 6 nights I paid JPY 11,000 and I could say it’s cheaper than the two places I stayed in Shinjuku.
Book your Hotel with Agoda
Other Fees before Japan Trip
In booking your trip, you have to decide if you should include baggage and have enough space for souvenirs. I got a mistake in my bag was over 7 kg just because it was a 2-week trip so I paid PHP 900 for paying the baggage at the check-in area. Inclusion of paying the baggage is half the price or better pack light as possible to avoid paying baggage fee. The terminal fee was PHP 700 from the Mactan Cebu International Airport. Currently the terminal fee now is at PHP 750 and make sure include the baggage fee for souvenirs which is PHP 900 with the round-trip fare.
Currently the terminal fee now is at PHP 750 and make sure include the baggage fee for souvenirs which is PHP 900 with the round-trip fare.
When in Tokyo
Download the app Tokyo Subway Navigation for Tourists
Twice in Japan, but I haven’t used this app because I relied too much on the old school Tokyo Subway Navigation map which I could say it was a good thing. The advantage is I was able to study the map and got familiar with using the Tokyo Metro. On a solo trip to Ginza for a day, my sense of direction was taken in a test and I have to be specific on which Exit to get out. I got meticulous using the old school map and I got confident about getting around Tokyo. I just downloaded the app as of this writing. XD
A photo posted by Roxanne Tamayo (@itravelrox) on Apr 17, 2016 at 7:24am PDT
Free Wi-Fi at 143 Subway Stations in Tokyo
Second time in Japan and I was able to use Free Wi-Fi especially during the time I lost my bag that contains my passport and money. The funny thing was I have my DSLR camera with me and my iPad mini (with the Suica card inside) on hand, which I was able to send messages to my friends and update my Facebook that I lost my bag. It was a crazy experience. I am glad that Japanese people are really honest. This should be in a separate blog post about this experience.
Purchasing Ticket on Vending Machine
As a first timer in Japan, when I arrived at Narita Airport I went to the information table on how to get to Akebonobashi Station so I purchased a ticket from Narita to Motoyawata Station for 840 yen (Keisei Line Train) and switched to Metro Toei Shinjuku Line from Motoyawata Station to Akebonobashi station for 360 yen. Although the individual ticket is much of a hassle, I just wanted to experience on how to use the vending machine and getting familiar with the information being shown on the board.
Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway Line – All Day Train Pass
The All Day Train Pass cost 1000 yen, so it is also useful for getting around Tokyo using the Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway Line as it’s cheaper using the JR Line. I was able to use this during my 6 days in Tokyo. As a solo traveler getting around Tokyo, there were chances I missed the stop just because I was lost so I just had to get back to the previous station. The All Day Train Pass will expire at 12MN. I suggest getting out of bed in the early morning to visit places around Tokyo, get back to your hostel in between if you’re tired, then get out at night for dinner and get back to your hostel before midnight.
Source: Tokyo Metro
Get a Suica Card
I got my Suica card during my second trip to Japan, which is very convenient because all you have to do is to top-up the card. The sale price starts at 1000 yen, includes a deposit of 500 yen. You can use the Suica Card for JR East lines in the Tokyo metropolitan area, subways, buses and the Tokyo Monorail that connects Haneda Airport with Tokyo. I have also used the card for purchasing items at 7-11 and food vending machines.
Source: JR East Suica
Getting Around with a Bike
Twice in Japan, but I haven’t experienced getting around Tokyo with a bike. I really wanted to explore biking around, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to rent. I really appreciate how the Japanese people bike around the city and wish it could also happen in Cebu that the Philippine Government should give more priorities to bike lanes.
I use Narita Express every time I go to Narita International Airport to catch my flight back to the Philippines. I tried one from Shinjuku and the other one from Asakusa. It will cost JPY 3000.
Related Article: How I Wrote my Letter of Explanation for Japan Tourist Visa
Getting Around Japan
Book an Overnight Bus using Willer Express
My cousin booked me a bus to Osaka and back to Tokyo. The earlier you book, the cheaper you get the price for as low as 2,900 yen same pricing going to Kyoto. The price varies when going to Nagoya, Hiroshima and other parts of Japan. The overnight bus will take you 9-10 hours from Tokyo to Osaka and back. It is best to take the overnight bus and sleep in order not to waste time.
Source: Willer Express
Kyoto City Bus & Kyoto Bus One-Day Pass
I stayed with my cousin and her family in Osaka and they have a car just getting around Japan. For a day, we went sightseeing in Kyoto, with some of the famous tourist spots. Funny thing was we saw this card in Kyoto so we were able to save 500 yen for one person.
A photo posted by Roxanne Tamayo (@itravelrox) on Apr 17, 2016 at 7:41am PDT
Source: Kyoto City Web
Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass)
Twice in Japan, but I never tried the Shinkansen – the fastest bullet train to get around Japan. It is expensive and has validity for 7 days, 14 days and 21 days. This is cost effective for long distance train travel. JR Pass can be used by foreign tourists only, also offers unlimited use of JR trains for 1 week, 2 weeks or 3 weeks.
Source: Japan Guide
If you have a Couchsurfing account, you can use this to meet locals or getting a free place to stay but I haven’t used the app in Japan. Although it’s a nice idea to use it if there’s an event about language exchange.
Related Article: First Couchsurfing Experience in Penang, Malaysia
Cities I Visited in Japan
I will create a separate blog post about my experiences in Japan and will update this from time to time for links of individual post.
Twice in Japan, I stayed here most of the time, 6 days (May-June 2015) and 9 days (November-December 2015). To be honest, there are still lots of things I haven’t visited and done in Tokyo. I create a separate blog post of what I’ve done during the first and second time.
First time in Japan and we visited some of the famous tourists’ spots here. Someday I want to visit Japan again and want to stay here for several days. Another separate blog post for this.
My cousin and her family live there. We visited a lot of places, including The Universal Studios.
We just went here to Nagashima Spa Land because I got addicted to the roller coaster ride at Universal Studios so more roller coaster rides here.
The highlight was to see the deer at Nara Park. Check out my blog post about Deer Feeding in Nara, Japan.
A photo posted by Roxanne Tamayo (@itravelrox) on Sep 12, 2015 at 3:44am PDT
After my 5 days stay in Osaka, I have to get back to Tokyo and got an invitation to get around Yokohama from the guy I met in Roppongi. 😀 You can check out my blog post about An Unexpected Yokohama Day Tour in Japan.
A photo posted by Roxanne Tamayo (@itravelrox) on May 31, 2015 at 4:44pm PDT
Second time in Japan in November-December 2015 trip so I decided to have a day tour in Saitama for the Little Edo.
Budget and Expenses
Daily Food Cost
My food cost in Japan is JPY 1500 which is good for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Sometimes I go for brunch (breakfast + lunch). I usually buy food at 7-11. There are lots of street foods and night market, you can buy at cheap price.
Daily Transportation Cost
As I mentioned before, in getting around Tokyo using Tokyo Metro and subway, the all-day pass is JPY 1000. So at least prepare a thousand yen of getting around Tokyo and if you want to get out of Tokyo visiting near prefectures.
Daily Accommodation Cost
Since I’ve stayed 3 places in Tokyo, my daily budget for accommodation should not be more than 2,000 JPY. I can stay in a hostel with a shared dorm room for the only purpose is just to sleep at night and get out all day. As long as it’s clean, has a hot and cold shower, safe area and access to food shops, train stations and places I am totally fine.
SOON: Free Things To Do in Tokyo
I will create a separate blog post of the free things I did in Tokyo. You can visit temples and gardens for free. There are also paid fees in visiting some spots for at least 500 yen.
SOON: 14 Days in Japan for under Php 30,000
This happened in May-June 2015. I stayed most of the time in Tokyo, but I am thankful that my cousin and her family paid everything during my stay in Osaka while getting around Kyoto, Kuwana, Nara and a bonus trip to Yokohama. I will create a separate blog post.
Check out this blog post – Budget Travel: 14 Days Japan with US$500 Cash on Hand
SOON: 9 Days in Tokyo for under Php 20,000
This happened in November-December 2015. In 9 days I was just in Tokyo and getting around Tokyo for free things to do and a day tour to Saitama. I will create a separate blog post.
Conclusion – How to Prepare for your First Solo Trip in Japan
Traveling solo is wonderful and I learned a lot of things. It’s fun because I have to get out of the comfort zone and I have to reach out to people or the locals in a certain place to talk in their language, at least the basic, asking questions about getting around. It’s more amazing when you met the locals and they will show you around their place.
I was able to meet people in person whom I just met online and befriended on Facebook. We got the chance to hang around, took a lot of pictures, eat a lot, talk about different things and exchange of travel tips.
The hostel is a good place to stay as a solo traveler as you will also go to meet other travelers from different countries. Hope you will learn on my blog: How to Prepare for your First Solo Trip in Japan.
Note: This article will be updated with photos and links to an individual blog post.
Check out my: Japan Travel Series!
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Roxanne is an aspiring digital nomad. A virtual assistant since October 2009. She is a hobbyist blogger, photographer and travels a lot.