Tokyo-Osaka-Nara-Kyoto in 10 Days

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In the middle of the Shibuya

Tokyo-Osaka-Nara-Kyoto in 10 Days

Disclaimers:

  1. There are so many ways to go about this trip but due to some circumstances like our flight back to Manila leaving from Narita Airport, we couldn’t really maximize our time in Osaka as much as we had hoped.
  2. We skipped Hakone and other places one would normally go to during peak seasons of winter and spring in Japan (Mt. Fuji with no ice caps and parks without cherry blossoms).
  3. It’s not a must to get a JR pass if you can find or prefer other options to get from one place to another at a cheaper price such as low budget flights or overnight ride buses. But I have to say getting a JR pass is super convenient and I would recommend it. Will elaborate on it more later on (probably in a separate post).
  4. There’s no wrong or right way in planning a trip as it is really all about the journey and experience. I am sharing our itinerary as a guide but you can obviously deviate from it as you please. The itinerary can be found here.
  5. I’m iffy about sharing our budget but if you want a breakdown of expenses then you can message me personally and I will gladly give it to you. Keep in mind that Japan is expensive in general (usually in the top 5 of most expensive cities in the world) and it would help to really save up for it.
  6. Above all, I’m really just telling the story of our trip. Trying to balance the way I saw/experienced things and how they actually were, the best I can. All opinions/comments are mine. ☺️

We arrived in Narita Airport at around 11:30 am. Then we went to the basement level of the airport to get to the JR ticket office to trade our Exchange Orders for our passes. (We got the 7-day ordinary passes (¥29110 – adult)). Our first plan was to take the Narita Express to Shinjuku but unfortunately, it was out of service so we took the Skyliner (~¥2500) instead. It was an hour long ride; the same time it would’ve taken if the Express was functional.

TOKYO

DAY 1: We stayed at an Airbnb in Shijuku-ku near Higashi-Nakano station, 2 stops from Shinjuku station via the Chuo Sobu line. A quiet neighborhood not too far from the city center. Lucky for us, down the street was a Ministop and a supermarket inside a mall on the way to the JR line so we were able to buy whatever we needed.

Our home for 4 nights
Daily walk from the apartment to the JR line

We went to the famous Shibuya crossing, did a little shopping, took a photo with the Hachiko statue, ate in Ichiran Ramen and visited the Brooklyn Parlor.

Shibuya crossing in daylight
People of Shibuya
CarZee crossing ☺️
Tourists we spoke to doing a 2-hour Mario Kart activity complete with costumes and a guide. Would definitely try it out next time!

Shibuya is beautiful during the day but it is a whole ‘nother world at night. High-rise buildings. Bright LED signs. Chilly breeze. Walking from the crowded station and onto the streets was pretty surreal. The experience of the crossing with tons of people heading in all directions to be where they needed to be felt like a movie scene. Fast paced. Brisk walking. A small part of me likes the hustle and bustle of a city but probably not enough to make me stay there permanently. I’m more of an island girl but the city does have a certain charming flow.  

Immediately, I felt the change in culture. The sense of order and security emanating from the place and people themselves. It was all so fascinating. On escalators, you stand on the left and walk on the right. Upon entering a train, you wait for everyone to come out and wait at the corners (in a line) before going in. I’ve taken the metro in many other countries before but the extraordinary amount of effort they put into making everything so efficient by laying out clear guidelines with obedient, law-abiding citizens as proper effectors was something else. The Japanese are very polite and respectful, despite the rush they experience daily.

Ichiran at last!
Vending machine for ordering
BEEEST ramen 💛

I’m a BIIIIG ramen fan so imagine my excitement to finally eat in Ichiran. An order of ramen is¥890 for a large bowl, good for one person. Thankfully, the line wasn’t long. We were able to order through the vending machine, be seated and served our food in 15 minutes or less. When picking ramen, my preference is rich and flavorful soup so I was really surprised that it was the noodles that got to me. Went out feeling like a winner and insisted on doing more shopping. Haha.

Comfy basement café/lounge with brick walls & hipster af interiors

Brooklyn Parlor is a 10 minute walk from Shinjuku station. Apparently, it’s a popular hangout since it was packed even an hour before closing (11 pm). It was relatively noisy but the music was able to drown it out. Ended our day with Blue Note Tokyo Beer and Tinto (Red) Home Made Sangria which were both sweet and tasty. Food and drink prices were affordable.

DAY 2: We went to Ueno and Ameyayokocho, around 30 min away from Shinjuku. You take the JR Yamanote Line 各停 towards For Ikebukuro / Ueno (Clockwise) and get down at Okachimachi Station. We walked around Ueno Park for a while before going in the other direction (across Ueno station) full of establishments. Ameyayokocho is an open-air market and narrow street with over 500 shops. There, we drank coffee at a Coffee Shop and ate at a yakitori restaurant frequented by locals.

Entrance to the market
Carl buying seaweed and other food products
Quick coffee break
Yakitori and beer beside a wizard! Hehehe. We were the only foreigners there.
Yummy chicken thigh & garlic chicken & Asahi
Record store with old vinyls where Carl bought his Stevie Wonder record
Selfie in “Ameyoko” – what the locals call it

Afterwards, we went to Ginza to meet up with Vikki, our friend who’s currently studying and living in Tokyo. We dropped by Bar Evans, a secluded jazz-themed bar operated by a Japanese gentleman. It’s located behind Matsuya department store and named after pianist extraordinaire Bill Evans.

Cute pandas on the Ginza line
I’ll tell you upfront that there’s a  ¥1000 sitting fee with their cheapest drinks starting at ¥1600
Lone bartender/expert mixologist
Cozy atmosphere with mellow music perfect for private conversations & secret sharing 😉

It was dim and comfortable. We observed Gen Y corporate workers come in one at a time and within a few minutes they were smoking a cigar, having a drink, and chatting up the bartender. Later on I would notice that it’s somewhat a norm for establishments to be run by a single person and of course, being in Japan, they’re guaranteed safety and security. It’s crazy to think that this is the reality for first world countries while back home it’s impossible to have this sort of set-up. The second you put a one person-manned stall — let alone a store inside an unguarded building (in the Philippines)— expect a robbery days after. It might be a slight exaggeration but I’ve witnessed firsthand that opportunistic tendencies are arguably prevalent in developing nations. Anyway…

Ginza is an upscale district. We joked that it was the BGC of Tokyo and rightfully so. It’s an expensive shopping area for luxury goods. Didn’t want to spend so much so we took the metro back to Shinjuku and ate in Ton Katsu Wako, Japan’s largest specialized Tonkatsu restaurant, which may have served as the inspiration of Yabu. For ¥1,000 or less you’ll get your choice of katsu, shredded cabbage and miso soup, plus a side of radish. Plus unlimited tea!

Located in Mylord shopping mall, close to Shinjuku station
Vikki, Carl and I at Shinjuku station 💓

DAY 3: We were supposed to go to Disney Sea but I wasn’t feeling well so we decided to go to Harajuku mid-day instead. Harjuku station is one stop away from Shibuya and can only be accessed through the JR Yamanote line. You can probably walk it from Shibuya but I wouldn’t really recommend it. Haha. Takeshita Dori (Takeshita Street), the main shopping area filled with boutiques, cafés, fast food and tourists, was lively and so kawaii. Crêpes left and right. Shades of pink on walls.

Entrance to Takeshita Street — main shopping area
Colorful crêpes
Crêpe city!

We stumbled upon street art that said ‘NOW IS FOREVER’ and like the millennial that we are, took a bunch of photos with it.

Harajuku is for lovers 💖
#OOTD

Harajuku was a lot of fun but I was a little bit disappointed because I expected to see maybe a few cosplayers or teens exuding unique and eccentric street style Harajuku was known for. I would have to agree with this article regarding the death of its creative spirit.

On the upside, we bought of lot of things in this 4-story Daiso a.k.a the Japanese dollar store. They sell almost everything for ¥100 + tax. They have a lot of neat things with cute, quirky designs. I’m a bit of a hoarder so I bought a lot of everything. Haha.

In Daiso heaven 😂

We then ate dinner at a Tendon place and got takeout takoyaki from The Gindaco. We got the traditional, classic version which has small chunks of boild octopus (tako) and costs ¥550 for 8 golfball-sized pieces.

Tendon night
The Gindaco, a popular takoyaki resto in Harajuku
Harajuku station was the only station that looked different. It has a more traditional vibe.

DAY 4: It was on this day that we chose to activate our 7-day JR pass to make the most out of it (It was our 4th out of 10th day). Vikki, knowing that I like the ‘underground scene’ recommended we go to Daikanyama. It’s dubbed as the ‘Brooklyn’ of Central Tokyo and one of the most hipster places I’ve ever visited. From Shibuya station, take the Tokyu-Toyoko Line 各停 towards Motomachi-Chukagai and get off at Dainkan-yama station. 

After a quick google search, we ate brunch at Blu Jam Cafe, a jazz & blues-inspired café that served mouth-watering food! Worth the price, too (~¥2000 yen).

It scored a 4.5/5 on Tripadvisor
Asked the nice waitress to take our photo. Carl had a burger & I had argentine steak. 👌🏼

Walking along Daikanyama center, I realized the Japanese (or at least a good number) are obsessed with French culture as evidenced by many French named and themed stores throughout this district — Plage, NÎMES and Bonjour records, to name a few. And when it wasn’t French, it was another foreign concept.

Downtown exploring
Spanish brand

Bonjour records is a lifestyle/music/clothing with a coffee shop inside. They also sell vinyl records, mostly from the indie pop/electronic genre. I regret not buying the Majestic Casual Vol. records they had! 😿

From across the street
Lifestyle/travel corner. Anyone know where I can get a Daft Punk slipmat just like this?

Afterwards, we went to T-Site (Tsutaya Books) a campus-like ‘library in the woods’/haven for book lovers and cinephiles. Definitely a great place to chill, read or study.

Cool looking building

Next, we had coffee at Mocha Coffee, which boasts of beans from Yemen. It was a quaint and peaceful place run by a kind Japanese lady. In the time we were there, she helped 3 lost tourists (including us) by giving them directions. Haha.

Hidden in between two buildings
A woman and her craft
We had the whole place to ourselves 💐

We figured it was possible to walk back to Shibuya station (a 10 min walk) and at the same time try to find street art — so walk, we did. We chanced upon some of them and had fun snapping some IG worthy shots.

😉😉 Feeling very Ramona Flowers
Caption from my Instagram post of this photo: I try my best to be as happy & positive as I possibly can but often times my anxiety & fears get the best of me. In a serendipitous encounter, the universe led me here. Courage found! Always thankful. ☄ Arigato, tiger! 🐯 #CarZeeJapan

This was the last day we spent in Tokyo before traveling to Osaka via Shinkansen. Congrats on reaching this part! Hope it was informative. I’ll be writing about the next part real soon! 👍🏼 Please use this form for any questions/suggestions!

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