I never really thought of being interested to visit Japan few years back. Although, I am a little curious of their culture until I was able to try different Japanese food here in the Philippines. From Tokyo-Tokyo fastfood chain to Yakiniku restaurants to takoyaki foodpark booths to ramen houses, I became interested to explore Japan. Yes, my curiosity started with their food. Though, I’m not really a fan of raw foods like sushis and the likes.
So, I decided to visit Japan and went to an agency in SM Megamall in Shaw Blvd with all my documents ready. These includes my passport, birth certificate, 2×2 photo, bank certificate, income tax return, sample itinerary and application form. After just a few days, the agency phoned me and told me that my passport was ready for pick up. I was granted a single entry visa in Japan. My sister then also wants to go there so I also applied her a visa and got the same result. I immediately look for a roundtrip ticket in Tokyo without trying to do an actual itinerary and searching for places that I really want to visit. I should have booked a PH to Tokyo and Osaka to PH flight since I wanted to visit Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka in a week which I failed to do so because we didn’t have any plans and everything was on the spot.
Days before our flight, I thought we would be needing a wifi connection in Japan. So, I searched on the internet and saw wifi rentals ads here in the Philippines with home delivery or pick up at the airport but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get one because reservations must be made at least weeks or a month before your target flight. Many travelers are availing their pocket wifis since international travels are in demand in this generation.
On the day of our flight, we found out that some local networks here in the Philippines like the Smart Communications also has wifi rental booth inside the airport but we never availed their offer because we thought it’s a little pricey. Which seems to be another mistake on our part LOL. I will tell you later why.
The flight goes well. After a few hours of trip, we safely landed at Narita Airport in Tokyo. After passing the immigration, we saw the pocket wifi rentals in Narita but wasn’t able to avail them because they ask for a deposit via credit card. The night before our flight, I decided to add a baggage check in for our flight back to the Philippines and I forgot to put back my credit card in my wallet. We still stayed at the airport for almost an hour trying to figure out how their system works. We do not have any idea what train line or bus to ride so we can come out of the airport. They have these machines inside the aiport that you can navigate and it will tell you the directions and the train lines that you need to ride in order to get to a certain point in Japan. It still confuses us so we tried to look for the tourism booth hoping we can ask someone who can understand and talk to us in fluent english.
Thankfully, we found this tourist assistant and gave us the direction on how to get into our hotel which I booked on the same date of our flight using Agoda. Kangaroo Hotel is in Taito. From airport, opted to ride the train going to Minami-Senju Station which is the nearest station in our booked hotel. From there we were forced to ask the locals of Japan for direction because we do not have internet connections after not availing the pocket wifi rentals in the airports. We have to walk for about 15-20 minutes before we reached the hotel. After checking in, we decided to go to Ueno night market for a little foodtrip and dinner. We also took some time looking for pocket wifi rental but we failed to see a store. We went back to the hotel right after and browsed the internet using the hotel free wifi for some famous tourist spots in Tokyo. I found out that some of them are just near our hotel so we rented two bicycles in the hotel and decided to have our first night tour in the city using bicycle.
Our first stop on our bicycle city tour was the Sumida River followed by the Tokyo Sky Tree. It’s just amazing how it looks at night, when the lights are turned on and it shines bright and stands out among other buildings in the city. Then, we went to Senso-ji Temple which is just around 10 minutes from Sumida River. The place is very peaceful and even at night, you will encounter many tourist in the place taking pictures inside the vicinity and trying out their wishing belief. We never attempted to visit other temple. We never missed the chance to take some photos of course. It’s getting late that night so, we decided to head back to the hotel and rest.
The next day, we packed our things and checked out of the hotel. Bringing our baggages, we had our breakfast outside and directed towards Ueno Park which is one of the most famous parks in Tokyo. It feels like families gather in Ueno Park to bond. There were a lot of locals and tourists in the area. There were entertainers inside the park giving the park visitors something to watch for like the contortionists and living statues.
After Ueno Park, we rode the train to visit the Hachiko Statue and Shibuya Crossing in Shibuya. Hachiko is considered to be the most famous dog in Japan. Hachiko is a historical dog who became known and remembered for his remarkable loyalty to his owner. On the other hand, Shibuya became famous for it’s scrambled crossing and rumored to be the busiest intersection in the world. We saw another tourist information center just a few steps from Hachiko statue so we didn’t missed the chance to ask for help so we can get a pocket wifi.
Luckily, there is a store nearby the Shibuya Station who rents pocket wifi for tourists and the deposit can be in form of cash. We still have 3 days in Japan but it would be a conflict in schedule if we will give it back to the store on the day of our flight back to the Philippines. But we badly need it because we were thinking of going to Kyoto and Osaka at that night so, we decided to give up Kyoto instead and rented it for 2 days.
Again, we have consulted the internet thinking we might save some time if we go to Osaka via plane but the flights were so expensive. That’s why we looked for an alternative way to go to Osaka and found out about the night buses. Everything went easy for searching because we have an internet connection already. But since I still don’t have my credit card with me, it became hard to book a night bus. We went to Shinjuku Bus Terminal in Shinjuku via train hoping we can book a night bus over the counter so we can pay in cash. When we got there, we were told that all night buses from Tokyo going to Osaka were fully booked. Yas! Another tourist information center saves the day. They offer free use of gadgets including ipads. We met this tourist assistant who was very fluent in English and seemed to be having a half Japanese and maybe half European blood because of how he looks and how he speaks. I tried contacting my cousin back in the Philippines so she can give me the credit card number that I left at home and luckily she answered right away.
During that time, the tourist assistant were able to give us another bus line site where we can book a night bus. There were only 3 seats left and they’re a little expensive but we have to grab them quick because someone else might get the last slots. We just thought we were not forced to book a hotel that night so, we still save a little amount of money. The pick up location will be different so we have to rush in from Shinjuku Bus Terminal to Tokyo Train Station where we bought our dinner while waiting for the bus. We ate our dinner in the night bus before the lights went off. The night bus that we have experienced was good. Every seat has its own blanket, food tray, foot rest and curtains. The two-storey bus was also equipped with comfort room so it’s really comfortable for passengers.
After almost 8 hours of land travel, we have arrived at Osaka Station. For our third day in Japan, we decided to spend the whole day in Universal Studios because we didn’t had the chance to taste the Universal Studios when we visited Singapore. Before we went inside, we bought some foods in a convenience store thinking it might be the same in Enchanted Kingdom in the Philippines where the food inside the theme park are sure real expensive and we were not wrong. We also had a little clean up inside their big comfort rooms because we still don’t have a bath since we left the hotel the day before.
The feeling of excitement was always there even if the climate was not in the mood. It’s Universal Studios man! Who wouldn’t get excited especially when you know that Hogwarts was just a few meters away. Yeah! I am an avid fan of Harry Potter. We went there last week of October so it’s almost Halloween. Majority of the theme park goers were on their costumes. Whether it’s a food store or a ride or a show or another attraction, there were long lines everywhere. But it’s “sulit” especially the 4K3D Forbidden Journey ride inside Hogwarts. It’s like Harry Potter took you on his whole journey inside Hogwarts. The effects were world class. Two thumbs up for that. Late afternoon that day, we book another night bus so we could go back to Tokyo the next day because we need to return back the pocket wifi. If not for that, we could have spent the night for a foodtrip in Dotonbori and the whole 4th day in Kyoto before going back in Tokyo. That’s how that pocket wifi affected our whole trip. If I could go back in time, I would have rented the one in the Philippine airport so we didn’t have a hard time going to places in Japan. But we can’t change what has already happened. We just thought of visiting Japan again some time in the near future. At least we learned the lesson.
Going back! We rode the night bus again and we’re back in Tokyo in Shinjuku Station on the morning of our day 4 in Japan. It’s raining everywhere in Tokyo and the winds were strong. We cannot just sit and waste the time so, we did what we have to do – our ultimate foodtrip inside a mall. We encountered this big and spacious foodpark-like area inside a mall where in almost all of the Japanese food that we know were there. We tried the Japanese tempura that costs almost 300php for 1 piece, different flavors of onigiri, chicken dishes and many other meals. The food was quite expensive but it’s worth the taste.
After our foodtrip, we headed to the nearest Don Quijote to buy some pasalubong and then went to Shibuya to return back the pocket wifi. But before we return back the pocket wifi, I’ve searched for a hotel where we can stay overnight before our flight back in Manila the next day. I saw the World Travelers Hotel in Asakusa where the booking was online but the payment can be done once you reach the facility. The booking also included a free breakfast the next day. It’s still raining hard and we were wet all over when we found the hotel. The owners and staffs were very accommodating and the hotel was clean. Everything that you need was there. I truly recommend everyone to consider that facility in case you visit Tokyo. The next morning, they served our free breakfast. It’s a choice between a Japanese breakfast or a complete Western breakfast. The serving for 1 was big that it could serve two person. After we ate, we bid farewell to the staffs and head on to Narita Airport for our flight back in the Philippines.
Wondering what’s missing in my story? Yeah, I know. Why Japan amazed me bigtime? It’s the Japanese people. They are very disciplined. I barely saw trash cans during our whole trip but the roads and streets and the whole place in general was clean. We noticed that everytime we eat at a fastfood, the customers themselves segregates their trash and they were the one to put it in the trash bins. They are very kind. From the airport, the tourist assistant who helped us find our way out of the airport going to our hotel; to the airport staff who gave us free shirts; to the local man in Taito who navigate his phone’s directory and accompanied us and walk with us left and right of the streets, up and down the overpass, for about 15-20 minutes until we found the hotel; to the staff of the hotel who have helped us search for a pocket wifi rental store; to the tourist assistant in the tourist information center in Shinjuku bus station who have helped us find and book a night bus; to the Japanese mom and her son who lend us voluntarily one of their umbrella when we were in the long line inside the Universal Studios because it’s raining; and to the couple (who I still think up until now are famous Japanese actor and actress) whom we never asked for help but approached us and accompanied us inside the train station in Shinjuku going to Tokyo station (we probably look really confused on what train line to ride at that time, i admit).
We also met two Filipino couple inside the Universal Studios who offered to give us two umbrellas after the Forbidden Journey ride in Hogwarts. We were in the same line before we got to go inside the Hogwarts and they were in our back. The woman is actually from Sta. Ana, Pampanga. Shout out to you guys. Hopefully, I would be able to meet more people like you in my future trips. Hands down to the kindness and good-hearted people of Japan. I would defnitely go back and visit your country again, not too soon but surely will do.
Below is the summary of our expenses and the actual itinerary of what has happened during our trip. Note: Estimated prices are in Philippine peso denomination.
Comment below if you have any questions and reactions. Share your Japan travel stories with us.
– Echo (www.byahecho.com)