Wednesday, December 7, 2016

[Japan 2016] 7D6N Osaka - Kyoto - Nara - Kobe Trip Itinerary + Overview


Photo By: Elin Chow

Japan has always been on the top of our travel bucket list for years. But my husband and I have been postponing our travel plans to Japan due to the high cost of traveling. For years, we have been pushing back our plans to visit Japan just because people told us that it is crazily expensive.

We visited Japan for the first time this autumn and fell in love with the country the moment our plane landed. Japan has become my favorite country to visit and I could not find a reason not to love the country. We have high expectations before our trip, which is not a good thing because usually, it can lead to greater disappointments. But Japan did not disappoint. In fact, it went way beyond our expectations!

Japan is amazing in every way - the genuinely friendly people, impeccably clean streets, consistently delicious food, incredibly punctual transportation systems and breathtakingly stunning landscapes. Even though Japan is really not a cheap destination to visit, it is not a prohibitively expensive country as everyone thinks. With some careful research and planning, I believe anyone can travel in Japan without breaking the bank. For anyone planning your first trip to Japan but have no idea where to start, you should read my "How To Plan A Trip To Japan" post.

While most foreign visitors head straight for Tokyo, we decided to focus our trip on the Kansai region instead. The Kansai region (also known as the Kinki region) consists of seven prefectures - Mie, Nara, Wakayama, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo and Shiga. For this trip, we will be visiting the cities of Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and Kobe.

Transportation

Malaysia Airlines + Japan Airlines

I booked our flight from Kuala Lumpur to Osaka 8 months before our. trip. After searching and comparing flights with Skyscanner, we decide to fly with Japan Airlines this time.



We intended to book our flight with Air Asia initially because we assumed that it was always the cheapest. But surprisingly, it was not.  After adding in the charges for extra baggage, seat selection and in-flight meals and beverages, the cheapest flight on Air Asia actually end up costing more than the cheapest flight on Japan Airlines. 

From Kuala Lumpur to Osaka, we travelled on Japan Airlines code share flight operated by Malaysia Airlines. But unfortunately, that was a very disappointing experience. Seats were cramped and uncomfortable with limited leg room. Service was lacklustre and food was awful. They ran out of one of the meal choices and I was "forced" to accept the only choice that was left.




We finally get to fly with Japan Airlines on our way back home and I must say that we are highly impressed. Seating was spacious and comfortable with sufficient leg room for one to stretch out and relax. Unlike other aircrafts, the one that we flew with Japan Airlines has no window shades which you can pull up and down. Instead, the window are designed to tint at a push of a button - either by the passenger sitting at the window seat or the flight attendant's control panel.

But the windows will never go completely dark. It was great to be able to still see out the window even when the window is at its darkest setting. This is probably the only flight that I can fly without having the sun shining directly in my eyes during take-off and landing. Other than that, we are surprised that the toilet is equipped with a Washlet!

From Tokyo to Kuala Lumpur, it was a 7 hours flight. Immediately after take off, warm towel, light snacks, bread and drinks were offered. About an hour after take off, we were served lunch. Food was acceptable and are served hot and nice. We get to choose between two options - beef rice or chicken spaghetti. Between the two, I chose beef rice, which comes with a piece of fish, potato salad, fruits and a bottled water. After our meal, we were served Haagen-Dazs ice cream for dessert.

Generally, we found the flight attendants very friendly, attentive and professional. In-flight entertainment was also adequate with a great selection of latest movies. Overall, we have a very wonderful and pleasant experience flying with Japan Airlines. I really look forward to my next flight with Japan Airlines!

Cost Breakdown

Below shows the breakdown of the expenses for our long-week trip to Japan. I have recorded and tracked every of our expenses in a little notebook, so putting together a detailed cost breakdown of our trip was not too difficult. Hopefully this will give you a rough idea how much money you will need for your trip to Japan.

Total Cost Breakdown For 2 Persons
Expenses
Japanese Yen
Malaysia Ringgit
(100 Yen = RM 4.03)
Flight
RM 3,011.80
Kyoto Airbnb * 2 Nights
RM 660.00
Osaka Airbnb * 3 Nights
RM 1,225.00
Osaka AirTerminal Hotel  * 1 Night
11,500.00 JPY
RM 463.45
Transportation
18,420.00 JPY
RM 742.33
Food & Beverages
47,889.00 JPY
RM 1929.93
Entrance Fees
950 JPY
RM 38.29
Misc (Pocket Wifi Rental)
RM 104.00
Misc (Baggage Service)
2,500.00 JPY
RM 100.70
Shopping / Souvenirs 
35,382.00 JPY
RM 1,425.80
TOTAL
RM 9,701.30

For our week-long trip to Japan, we have spent a total of RM 9,701.30. If you exclude shopping, that will be RM 8,275.50, which works out an average of RM 4,100 per pax. Well, obviously, Japan is not a budget travel destination, but it is also not really that expensive to travel around, especially considering the fact that we actually made very little attempt to travel on a budget. Although slightly over our initial budget, we both agreed that it was well-worth every penny spent.

Of course, it is possible to travel to Japan on a much lower budget than ours. But again, it depends greatly on your travel styles and your preference. Please keep in mind that no two travel budgets are the same. Depending on your personal preferences, you might end up spending more or less for your trip. Fluctuating exchange rates could have a huge impact on your travel budget because it can either help you get great bargains or make your trip surprisingly expensive.

Accommodation

Accommodation are very expensive in Japan, especially when you are visiting the peak season. Price of typical 3-star business hotels generally range from RM 500 to RM 700 per night. Thus, finding the right accommodation to stay in Japan can be a daunting challenge, especially when you are on a limited budget.

During our 7 days stay in Japan, we stayed mainly in Airbnb apartments in both Kyoto and Osaka. Both the apartments were very clean and conveniently located within 10 minutes walk from major train stations. Our stay in Airbnb apartment has not only helped us to save about RM 1,000 on accommodation, but also gave us a chance to live like a local.

For our last night in Japan, we have no choice but to stay at Osaka Air Terminal Hotel located with Osaka Itami Airport as we have an early flight to catch. This was also the only hotel we have stayed in Japan.

Airbnb has become my top choice of accommodation in Japan because it is a cheaper option to hotels. This is definitely a great way to save money if you are traveling on a budget.

Transportation

Transportation is one of the most expensive aspect when it comes to traveling in Japan. You can travel to almost anywhere easily and quickly by trains, bus or taxi. However, the most efficient and convenient way to travel around Japan is by train. Just like any other foreign tourists visiting Japan, we relied heavily on trains to get around.



Trains in Japan are clean, comfortable, reliable and always on time. We did not purchase the Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) as recommended because it is not worth buying. As of October 2016, an ordinary 7-day JR Pass will cost 29,110 Yen (about RM 1,173.13) per adult. However, we only spent a total of RM 742.33 on transportation, which works out to be RM 371.17 per person.

Typically, the JR Pass will only pay itself off if we are planning to make multiple journeys (for example, Kyoto-Tokyo-Osaka) on the Shinkansen (Bullet train). But unfortunately, this is not the case for us. Since we are limiting our Japan trip to just four cities ( Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and Kobe) of the Kansai region, the cost of the JR Pass and regional passes will not pay off.

The major cities of Kansai are well-connected by inexpensive train lines, so you can travel around with ease. I recommend using Hyperdia to plan your route and work out the total cost of traveling based on your itinerary. This will help you to decide whether it is worth to buy a JR Pass or any other regional passes available in Japan.

Food

We never scrimp on food when we are traveling and we love everything we ate in Japan. Depending on your choices, eating in Japan can be an expensive affair. We ate so much on our trip and splurge on an expensive Kobe beef lunch and fresh seafood dinner - not cheap, but worth every penny we spent.

While eating is not cheap in Japan, it is probably not as expensive as what you have imagined. We try to eat inexpensively like a local most of the time when we were traveling in Japan. This is also how we managed to keep our travel cost down. However, eating cheaply in Japan does not mean you have to scrimp on meals, starve or survive on convenience stores onigiri rice balls. There are plenty of delicious and cheap eats available in Japan if you know where to find them.

There are lots of noodle bars selling huge hot bowls of Ramen, Udon and Soba all around Japan. It is one of the cheapest place to find cheap food in Japan. A bowl of noodle would cost between 500 Yen to 1,000 Yen, which usually includes a cup of hot tea or ice water.

Other than noodle bars, you will be amazed by the variety of cheap food options that you will find in all convenience stores too. There are a great selection of hot and cold bento boxes (a mix of rice, meat and vegetables), onigiri rice balls, snacks, sandwiches and even trays of sushi - all available at a fairly cheap price!

In total, we spent almost RM 2,000 on food and beverages, averaging RM 285.71 per day for two persons. Of course, it is possible to spent lesser on food, but with some many delicacies to try, we prefer to have a decent budget for that.

Pocket Wifi

In Japan, we rely heavily on Hyperdia and Google Map for directions. In order to access to Hyperdia and Google Map while on the go, we will need a stable and reliable internet connection. This is also why we decided to rent a Pocket Wifi for our Japan trip.



We rented our Pocket Wifi from Travel Recommends for RM 13/day, which totaled up RM 104 for 8 days. The Pocket Wifi comes with a red pouch with charging cable and universal travel adapter, and was usable the moment I landed in Kansai International Airport in Osaka.

Having a Pocket Wifi allowed us to stay connected with our friends and family and access to Hyperdia and Google Map at all times. Connection is fast and reliable with an impressive battery life of 10 - 12 hours (depending on usage).

Renting a Pocket Wifi is the best way to get unlimited internet connection in Japan. It is inexpensive to rent and allows multiple mobile devices to connect at the same time. I suggest booking your Pocket Wifi online at least a week prior your trip to ensure availability.

Entrance Fee

While some attractions in Japan are completely free to enter, others charge an entrance fee, usually ranging from 300 Yen to 1,000 Yen. Although it was not outrageously expensive, entrance fees can add up quickly to a considerable amount.

For our trip, we have limited our sightseeing to free attractions such as temples, shrines, gardens and wet markets instead of towers and theme park that often charge hefty admission fees. This has helped us to save a lot of money on entrance fees. The only attraction we paid to enter is Kiyomizu Dera Temple in Kyoto. It costs us 400 Yen per pax.

Misc

We usually leave our luggage with the concierge after we checked out of a hotel so that we do not have to carry them around. But unfortunately, this is often not an option if we stay in an Airbnb apartment. Most of the Airbnb hosts are not able to hold our luggage after we checked out. As a result, we have to temporary store our luggage at the baggage storage room in the train station  Most of the baggage services in Japan charge somewhere between 500 Yen to 1,000 Yen for each item per day.

8D6N Osaka - Kyoto - Nara - Kobe Trip Itinerary

The below shows the itinerary we have planned and covered during the 7 days we spent in Japan. Hopefully, this will be useful to anyone planning your first trip to Japan.

As usual, all the places on the itinerary below will be slowly linked to individual blog posts that will follow by in the next months. So be sure follow me on Facebook or Twitter to get the latest updates on my 7 days adventures in Japan!


Our itinerary includes the following:

Osaka > Kyoto > Osaka > Nara > Osaka > Kobe > Osaka > Tokyo

As mentioned earlier, we will focus our trip on the Kansai region, where we visited the main cities of Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and Kobe. The four cities are all located with close proximity to each other and are well-connected by the rail network in Japan. Basically, we spent 2 nights in Kyoto, and 4 nights in Osaka, which we used as a base to explore the nearby cities of Nara and Kobe.

Day 1: Osaka / Kyoto

Kuala Lumpur International Airport > Kansai International Airport > Kyoto Station (By JR Haruka Train) > Check In Kyoto Airbnb > Fushimi Inari Taisha > Nishiki Market

Day 2: Kyoto

Kyoto Airbnb > Kyoto Station > Arashiyama (Tenryuji Temple + Togetsukyo Bridge + Bamboo Groves) > Uji > Nishiki Market

Day 3: Kyoto / Osaka

Check Out Kyoto Airbnb > Kiyomizudera Temple > Yasaka Shrine > Maruyama Park > Osaka-Namba Station > Check In Osaka Airbnb > Dotonbori + Shinsaibashi

Day 4: Osaka / Nara

Osaka Airbnb > Osaka-Namba Station > Nara Park > Osaka-Namba Station > Dotonbori + Shinsaibashi

Day 5: Osaka / Kobe

Osaka Airbnb > Osaka-Namba Station >Nankinmachi / Kobe Chinatown > Meriken Park + Kobe Harborland > Kobe Beef Lunch at Steakland > Osaka-Namba Station > Dotonbori + Shinsaibashi

Day 6: Osaka

Check Out Osaka Airbnb > Osaka-Namba Station > Minoo Park > Kuromon Ichiba Market > Osaka-Namba Station > Itami Airport > Check In Osaka AirTerminal Hotel

Day 7: Osaka / Tokyo / Kuala Lumpur

Check Out Osaka Air Terminal Hotel > Narita International Airport > Kuala Lumpur International Airport

So, basically, this is my itinerary for my 7 days trip to Japan. I will be posting individual posts about the places we visited in Japan soon. So, be sure to follow me on my Facebook or Twitter to get the latest updates on my 7 days Japan adventures! Also, do not forget to share my blog posts with your family and friends if you find them helpful. In the meantime, you might also want to check My Wanderlust page for some of my other travel adventures.

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