I am lucky enough to visit Japan with my brother this year. We were in a rush and only had 2 weeks to prepare everything.
Yes, planning an overseas independent tour in only 2 weeks almost made my head exploded.
We were on a low – medium budget, flashpacking-style.
I bought some books about Japan travel guide and browse around the internet. The best websites for planning the trip are Japan Guide and Wikitravel for every essential things you need to know about Japan, and Hyperdia if you are planning to use public transportion as your main transport. Another good resources are the official sites of the sightseeing places.
Because this was a sudden trip, I haven’t booked any flight before. And there were no promo tickets from budget airlines. After a long exhausting browsing, I found out that Garuda Indonesia has a promo of Buy 1 Get 1 with Mandiri Debit and Credit Card (Jakarta – Tokyo round trip). This promo ends until December 2012 *hint hint*
After a little calculating here and there, it’s actually cheaper than budget airlines. We got a direct flight to Tokyo, and the arrival airport was Narita.
At first, I was aiming for Haneda Airport, because the transportation to Tokyo will be cheaper, and planned to depart to Jakarta from Kansai International Airport. Since the promo tickets is round trip Jakarta – Tokyo, I need to manage my itinerary wisely because I planned to visit 3 regions in Japan (Kanto, Kansai and Chubu).
Japan Rail Pass is a must for me because I planned for extensive travel within Japan. The interesting thing is many station staff were excited when they saw this pass and everyone suddenly speaks English. It’s like a magic English card!
Suica is my favorite prepaid card in Tokyo city. Since I arrived at Narita, I bought the Suica and N’EX (Narita Express) package. In Kyoto, I bought the 2-Day Bus Sightseeing Card for a free use of city bus in 2 days. I also bought the Kansai Surutto Pass because I planned to visit many areas outside Kyoto and Osaka. I bought the Manaca card for traveling around Chubu area. These cards really saved my time from queueing in front the ticket vending machines.
The special pass also very useful for me. The World Heritage Passes gave me lots of discount to the sightseeing place I want to see.
The first thing in my mind about accommodation is it must be near to a major station or bus stop.
The second thing is I want to sleep in ryokan (Japanese traditional inn), capsule hotel and shukubo (temple lodging). I want to experience all of the unique accommodation in Japan. I also want to try minshuku, but I haven’t got the chance to stay there.
After I finalized my itinerary, I started to do hotel reservations. I chosed the accommodation based on their location, the reviews on the internet, the recommendation from the travel guide books, and some just because I like the photos and the way they displayed their information on the website.
People usually booked hotels from hostelworld, hostelbookers or agoda, but those websites required credit card information. I don’t have any credit card (I’m not a fan of it) so I decided to try my luck by contacting the owners of the hotels directly by email or reservation form on their websites.
When I told them that I don’t have any credit cards, they still accepted and confirmed my reservation. Yay! The whole process was really hassle-free and easy.
All the ryokan I’ve stayed are run by lovely, nice and heartwarming families. And my favorite accommodation is shukubo (temple lodging).
I planned to eat onigiri everyday for breakfast (just because I love onigiri so much) and try every local dish I can for lunch and dinner.
I thought that I maybe packed too light (1 backpack and 1 small luggage, even my parents worried I might ran out of clothes in 5 days), but in the end, I overpacked. By using the coin laundry and dryer wisely, I can actually bring less clothes.
I depend solely on my Nokia Lumia 800 camera. The results? FANTASTIC!
And within that busy 2 weeks, to make everything more tense, I need to spend 5 days in Bandung to attend a medical symposium while my visa was still being processed.
But in the end, I had a wonderful and safe trip, and everything went according to my plan.
Even though I need to drop some sightseeing spots, I think of it as reasons to go back to Japan.
I will definitely come back to Japan after my Japanese language is far better than now, and within 10 years, before my Suica card expired :)