Monday, 16 December 2013

You can go too!

The most commonly asked questions when people know that we have just come back from Japan are:

Did you take a tour?
Can you speak Japanese?
Is it expensive?
Is it hard to get about?
How much did you spend in total??

The last question especially. Hahah.. I suppose everyone has the concept that Japan is expensive. I did too. One day Cs and I were surfing Air Asia website and just decided to fook it. Let's go. How hard can it be? We were umm..-ing and ahh-ing for quite some time before. I kept persuading him to go to Taiwan -it was safer. Less expensive and we knew the place already. But he was all for adventure! Yes, its more expensive than Taiwan and Hong Kong. But its still cheaper than going to Europe.

May I just add that the "adventurous" person left all the research to me! I did all the hotel research, places to go, trains to take, everything! Hmph.

Back to topic. I try and explain more or less, depending on who's asking. I suppose curiosity is normal. Especially since Japan is fascinating. We've all tried Japanese food, watched Japanese porn (hahaha), watched Cosplay and anime's, heard of their high tech toilets, and so on and so forth. So I suppose, a level of curiosity is normal.

The main point of this post is: I'm going to try and answer some of these questions now.

Disclaimer a bit. These are just my own personal opinions. I'm no tour guide. I could very well be wrong or mistaken. Feel free to correct me. I have only been to Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. And I only know really basic information. If you need more accurate information, Google is your best friend. 

First of all: no, we did not take a tour. I did a lot of planning (research and reading) beforehand. Wikitravel, Trip Advisor, Japan Guide, Cheesie's blog, and the random stranger's blog I found when doing my research. Some blogs proved to be really helpful.

When we visited Taiwan, at least we speak mandarin and our hokkien is similar to theirs so its easy to understand. Most people can read/write Chinese too so its easy. If you visit Hong Kong or Thailand, they speak English and English signs are almost everywhere.

In Japan, yes there are English signs. But not all. I think there are more English in Tokyo, due to all the tourists. In Kyoto, I had more difficulty taking the bus. You have to know where you're going (the name of the temple for example) so its easier to ask the locals for directions. Or ask the people at train stations. But still, like I always say: if I can do it, so can you.

The thing is, Japanese names are quite foreign to us and the names are often very long, like Higashiyama, Arashiyama, Shijoomiya, Omiya, Keihanyamashin and they sometimes sound more or less alike. Sometimes I have to read the words again and again to make sure I don't get two places mixed up!

Another reason is: I do not like tours. I like to customize my own itinerary: walk at my own pace, stop to buy an ice-cream, wake up at my own time, have breakfast then go out in the morning. I don't want to go to 5 or 6 temples in a day. Rather, 2 or 3 is better. Walk slowly, absorb the sights, give thanks for small blessings, and enjoy being on holiday.

Neither Cs or I speak Japanese. Unless you count Konnichiwa (hello), Konbawa (good evening), Sayonara (good bye), Arigatou (thank you), counting from one to 10, sugoii, or kimochi. Ahem. We're Malaysians through and through. Most Japanese speak really limited English. Unless you ask at proper information counters for help. Other people we stopped to ask for help mostly, we communicated by sign language - a lot of pointing. But they are still very helpful.

Inside the train, I asked the woman opposite me if we were going in the right direction. I mentioned the station name. She shook her head vigorously no, no, no. And started rattling off in Japanese. When she realized I couldn't understand, we stared at each other bemused. I smiled and told her its ok. But when we reached the correct station, she still got my attention, and told me to go out at that stop. And again, tried to help me but in Japanese. Very helpful. 

Is it expensive? Well, maybe I better break down the prices and you can be the judge.

Air Tickets

Our MAS return flight tickets cost about RM 1,200. (Matta fair promo - very good deal) From Kuching to Kansai Airport.


We stayed in two hotels this time. Kyoto hotel costs about RM 400+ Room was very big (for Japanese standards), location was good - close to bus stops and subway, and also comes with public bath. Oh ya, its a Japanese style room, meaning you sleep on futons and on the floor. Hotel Village Kyoto if anyone is interested. FYI - On average, Kyoto hotels are slightly more pricier than Osaka's. Tokyo, well there's a huge range to choose from. I wanted to try the love hotels just for the fun of it. But couldn't find any boo.

The futons were on the sofa bed actually. Very comfy!

Osaka - We stayed in Floral Inn Namba. Costs about RM 200 including tax. Good deal we found on Agoda. Love the location. Right smack in the entertainment district surrounded by food and shopping! Definitely stay here! Room was normal by Japanese standards but clean. No complaints!

So you see, its really possible to find cheap hotel rooms. There are cheaper ones still like inns, or hostels. And wayy more expensive ones costing up to RM 900+ per night. You just have to search properly.


For breakfast, we seem to frequent the convenience stores: Family Mart, Lawsons and 7-11. They are everywhere and fully stocked!

Here are some of the food they sell at convenience stores:

I always target these!

Cs' fav. Men food. Fried chicken!

Beer snacks or just crackers. I like Cheeza better.

Coffee and fruit beer.

Melon ice cream I think.

Also from their convenience stores: Starbucks coffee, sandwich and juices. Lots to choose from.

Some jelly thingy filled with fruits!

If you see rice balls, its mine. If its dessert, most likely its his.

 They sell all sorts of buns, to rice balls (onigiri's), bentos, yoghurt's, beauty drinks, coffees, beers, instant noodles, snacks and all sorts of stuff. Our typical breakfast/supper visit into the store costs about Y1,300/RM40. Just an estimate. We always buy different food and drinks to try.

Lunch - I'll give you some examples. A bowl of ramen normally costs about Y700/RM23. Slightly more or less depending where you eat.

A lot of ramen shops require you to order from a vending machine. This is obviously one of the easier machines. Only two choices! Other machines have way more choices. And you can add side orders too like extra eggs, kimchi, or drinks.

 If you choose to eat in a proper restaurant with proper menus, a set of meal normally comes to Y1,700/RM46 each. Again, an estimate only. It could be more or less depending on which shop you go to. Most shops have pictures of the food and price listed clearly outside the shop so you know before you walk in. 

Also, most shops do not have English menu's. I always randomly choose la. Or you can walk outside the shop and point to the waiter. That works too.

Dinner prices would be more or less like lunch. For budget restaurants, you can go to places like Yoshinoya.

A bit blur.

For a bowl of curry rice, it costs only Y330/RM10.  But still tastes so good. Only potatoes and carrots though - no meat. They have other choices as well. These shops can be easily found throughout Japan as well.

If we had one slightly pricier lunch that day, we balance it out with a cheaper dinner. Plus in Japan, there are soo many shops selling snacks like takoyaki, okonomiyaki, gyoza, fried chicken stalls, and so on and so forth that you can fill up your stomach just by snacking on all these.

To give you an idea of the food prices. This was at the food court of Takashimaya.

I had a hard time deciding which to buy..


This is one area you can save money on. I mostly only shop at Forever 21, H&M, 100 yen shops (for small everyday items), Daiso (for really cheap stuff), UniQlo, GU, and those small random shops.

 I don't buy any branded stuff at all. But these shops are already more than enough to rack up credit card bills please. They have so many more things than we do.


Taxi's in Japan are expensive. In Tokyo and Osaka, I used the trains and subways, but in Kyoto, I used both the buses and subway. If you plan your day properly, you can save a bit of money on transport fees. There are always those one day pass, or two day passes for tourists to take advantage of. In Kyoto, we bought the 2 day pass - unlimited usage of subway's and buses for how much I don't remember. That's okay. Not too pricey.

The more expensive option would be travelling from a city to another. For example  from Tokyo to Osaka: a single journey costs Y13,850/RM436. For two person this would be RM 800+ already. For tourists, there is an option called JR Pass. This is available for tourists only and provides discounted fares for domestic travel. Its a good deal if you're travelling longer distances like Tokyo and Osaka. It costs Y28,300/RM 891 for 7 days!! So you see its worth it if you're taking longer journey's. Go click the link to read more.

I hope this post helps for anyone who's planning on going too. 

Some websites which helped me a lot during planning include:

Hyperdia - very useful website for timetable and route search. For example, just key in from Kansai airport to Kyoto. And voila, they list it out nicely with travel time and price too. - This website is massive: it lists out cherry blossom/autumn reports, and a breakdown of each cities and their attractions, and there's a forum in there too where you can ask questions. Sometimes I go in just to look at other people's questions. You can learn from there. Go navigate yourself.

The rest you research yourself. Google is your best friend. 

I didn't even buy any English Japan guide book. Cs bought a few Chinese ones. They seem more helpful compared to the English ones. Too pricey. Me thinks.

There lots and lots of tourists in Japan! This time around, I see quite a lot of Taiwanese. Also saw some Malaysians. Can tell from their accent.

Most people (locals) assume we are Japanese until we open our mouths. Hahah.

OK bye.

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