We are two twenty-something`s who have just graduated and decided to travel Asia for six months, on a very tight budget. We have travelled Japan, and in just under a week seen such a variety of culture. This is a rough guide of how we got through Japan both quickly and (relatively) cheaply!
We arrived late in Japan (Tokyo Haneda) from London Gatwick. We stayed in a hostel in Shinjuku, which was just what we needed, a good shower and a bed.
We began to explore! Shibuya was our first stop, we saw the infamous crossing, and wondered round the shops amongst the bright lights. We walked to yoyogi park from here, but didn't stay long as we were heading for the Meji-Jingu Shrine. Along the way we saw some ice-sculpting taking place which was very impressive, we would recommend visiting the shrine to anyone, but the ice-sculting may not be a regular thing. other than lunch we were yet to spend any money! That night we got on our first of three night busses with Willer Express. We bought a three trip pass which cost around 80gbp. We would really reccomend buying one of these passes to anyone who finds themself in a similar situation to us; with not a lot of time and even less money! However if we had a bit of cash to spare we may have spent it on the mnore expensive Japain Rail 7 day pass. We took a RELAX coach, which did only recline back to a 40 degree angle, we had had a very long few days and were exhausted so did fall asleep, but we weren't asleep for long, as it wasn't overly comfortable. Anyway, this was a budget friendly way to see more of Japan, by saving money on hostels, it also meant we avoided wasting what little time we had travelling. And so we headed for Hiroshima.
We jumped off the bus (slightly grumpy and tired) into a pile of snow. We put on every piece of clothing we had, and left eveything else in a coin locker at the station (nore reasonably priced than we thought, we managed to squeeze both our bags into a big locker for 700 yen for the day!). We made our way to Shukkeien park, which cost only 150 yen per person (with an international student discount card, only slightly more without!) The park was beautiful and full of (English and Japanese) signs describing exacly what we were looking at, from shrines to the only tree that survived the Atomic bomb, it was a history lesson set in paradise! (We also got 100yen off a drink in the gift shop which was just fab, so we like to think that the ticket only cost us 50 yen). We then moved on to Hiroshima castle, we didn't go inside as entry was a little pricier, and we wanted to save enough money to go to the museum. The building was very inpressive and well worth a visit! We then walked to the site where the A-bomb hit, the dome that remains kept part of it's structure miraculously. To find out more we headed to the museum. This didn't cost more than 400yen per person, and was worth every penny! It was very sad but at the same time enriching and gave you a real appreciation of the city that remains. We also tried the hiroshima specialty, okonomiyaki, which is a thin layer of batter, lots of cabbage, thick bacon, egg and soba noodles, well worth a try! Hiroshima was a beautiful city, one day was probably enough if you are under the same time constraints that we are! From here we got a night bus to Kyoto.
We arrived in Kyoto to even more snow already wearing all that we owned, like the common thieves we are, we stole the blankets from the bus (Sorry Willer Express, but it was neccessary!). We checked in at our hostel and had possibly the best showers of our lives, before we got on another bus (NOTE: We bought day bus passes for 500 yen that covered pretty much all of Kyoto, again such a good spend!). We travlled across to Arashiyama, which looked incredible in the snow. The streets were lined with noodle shops, where we warmed up with some chicken noodle soup. We walked through the bamboo walkway, the circit lasted around half an hour and was beautiful from start to finish. We imagine this town also looks wonderful in other seasons. We heard that the monkey park was also worth a visit but we ran out of time as it closed at 16:30. We then headed back to our hostel for a much needed long sleep.
We got another bus pass and headed to the Inari shrine, which is arguably the best sight to see in Kyoto (we completely agree). The orange gates were followed by the walk up Inari mountain (don't be put off by the suggested times on the signs, we think Japanese people must walk really slowly, we still stopped to take lots of photos!). The walk itself was beautiful as were the views from the photo points. There were many shrines along the way. NOTE: We couldn't afforfd kobe beef, and were dissapointed until we stumbled upon a dumpling stand selling hot Kobe beef dumplings for 400 yen each, we feel like we tried another Japanese speciality for a fraction of the price. We then made our way to the golden pavillion (which makes more sense to follow the trip from day 4, we just ran out of time as the temple closes at 5). This cost 400 yen, which was pricey for the short trip but the iconic view was made even better by the snow. We got onto another night bus and headed to Mishima.
We arrived in Mishima at 8:30am, grabbed breakfast and bought a Hakone free pass for 4000yen (sounds expensive but it took us all around Hakone, and gave us discounts along the way, Nat lost hers and had to buy another, not so cost effective!). The pass got us on a bus which took us to moto-hakone, and the tour started with a pirate boat on lake Ashi. We were so lucky with the weather as the sky was clear and we were able to see Mt Fuji topped with snow, apparantly a view that not everyone is as fortunate to see (weather dependent). From where the boat stopped, we took a cable car up a mountain, where the views only improved! Here there were shops and restuarants, and another speciality, these were black eggs. Legend tells that these eggs add 7 years onto your life. We then moved on to try the most daring of japanese traditions, an onsen. Being the nervous westerners we are this was completely daunting for us, as the man on the desk said, "naked, the Japanese way". We soon got over our shyness as we relaxed into the hot springs, males and females were separated, and the springs were generally quite quiet. There were five different pools all slightly different temperatures as well as a sauna. (NOTE: Tenzan onsen, 1300 yen, 100 yen off with hakone free pass, and the bus dropped us right outside, also tattoo friendly!) We then got a train back to Tokyo which took to Shinjuku station for 800 yen and took around 2 hours. We then checked in to our first night in Yadoya. We recieved the warmest welcome of any hostel, but sadly had just missed the weekly dinner party!
We woke up early after having the best sleep of the week on the super comfortable beds, and headed off for our final day in Japan. We had to try a conveyor belt sushi restuarant and found relatively cheap one, called Sushi Nova, with dishes from 108 yen, everything was delicious. We then went to a cat cafe, which again we researched and found cheaply. Nyankoto charges only 800 yen for the hour, and unlike any other we found served unlimited hot and cold drinks included in the entry price. This was such a relaxing hour which flew by! We then moved just down the road to try a karaoke booth, skeptical at first, we soon got into it and extended our stay by an extra half an hour. We went to the Uta hiroba booths, which were only 145yen per person per half hour, and also included unlimited soft drinks. This was such an unexpectedly fun experience, and one we don't think you will find cheaper anywhere else in Tokyo! For our last spot of tourism, we went to Tokyo tour, the view was great in the dark with all the lights and it could be seen for miles!
That's pretty much our mad week in Japan, we hope anyone who might follow any of our suggestions will enjoy it as much as we did!
Sophie & Natalie
*Dorm bed only 2300yen/night, Private 3700yen～, cheapest hostel in west Tokyo, Nakano.
YADOYA Guesthouse for Backpackers D (3min walk):
*Dorm bed start from 2500yen~3000yen/night.
YADOYA Guesthouse Tokyo for long stay:
*Dorm bed only 40,000yen/month(including utilities), private room from 45,000yen/month. It`s nice to live in Nakano, and we support your Tokyo life!