"Okay, so you're finally going to go on a solo trip. Check your email, there's your airticket."
I was like "What!? Are you serious?" And yes, it was true.
"The Bald Guy" had been pestering me to take a solo trip for a while now. I mean yes, I love travelling. But alone? I wasn't sure how I'd like it. Like most Singaporeans, I had this nagging feeling that it might be boring or dangerous. But with the tickets booked, and with all expenses paid (provided I didn't excceed 900 SGD in spending money), plus Japan being a relatively safe country, I agreed.
This post is written from "The Girl's" perspective. So, unlike previous posts, "I" refers to "The Girl" and NOT "The Bald Guy". However, the person writing this is still the "The Bald Guy", so if anyone is offended by my blunt style of writing, don't be pissed off at "The Girl".
The "Bald Guy" suggusts reading Here's Why Singaporeans Can't Afford A Holiday Every 3 Months to grasp the mindsets needed to understand how "The Girl" managed to travel Japan COMFORTABLY on such a budget.
Airtickets/ Getting There/ Transport: 650 SGD
Scoot, SIN-Narita Return, SGD 280
(There was a UOB credit card promotion at that time, thus the cheap $280. Because there are usually credit card promotions of some sort, it shouldn't be difficult to find a return ticket to Tokyo between 450-500 SGD )
JR Pass 7 days, (28,300JPY) SGD 310
The JR Pass settles your transport for 7 days including the Shinkansen for Tokyo - Kyoto - Osaka - Tokyo and transport within the Tokyo subway also to JR Nara Station, BUT NOT for travelling within Kyoto/ Osaka.
Miscellaneous Public Transport, SGD 60
For travelling within the individual cities (those not covered by JR), it's advisable to buy a DayTrip Pass (around 500JPY each) for unlimited rides unless your route is well planned out. (But whats the point of being so rigid? There's no fun travelling this way)
Well, getting to Tokyo is pretty straightfoward, so I won't have to eleborate on that. From Narita Airport, there are trains going to Kyoto & Osaka. You'll have to first take the train to JR Tokyo Station and change to the Shinkansen there though.
Food, Drink & "Happy Spending":233 SGD
(No, I didn't live on a diet of onigiri and cupnoodles)
This is one reason you should stay in hostels. Not only do you make friends, chances are they are on a budget too and wouldn't mind sharing the cost of more expensive items like Yakitori. After all, how many sticks can you possibly eat on your own?
"Wah, you going Japan? Expensive leh. How much you spending?" I can't tell you how many times i've heard that statement.
To be honest, Japan probably isn't the cheapest place, but expensive? Well, it's probably because you either can't be bothered to search for a cheaper restaurant, or you're a typical Singaporean who eats according to "recommendations" by food bloggers or because "so & so" said so.
Have you read "12 Days In Finland & The Baltics Under 2.5k SGD Nett!!"
Japanese Restaurant in Ikebukuro, a suupposedly cheaper part of Tokyo. The truth is, you can find Ramen for 500-650JPY EVEN in Shinjuku or Ginza.
I love my sashimi's, sushi's and yakitori's as much as the next Singaporean girl. But surely there isn't a need to have them for EVERY SINGLE MEAL? Just in case the picture (Above) is too small, you can find Soba for AS LOW AS 280JPY(3.1 SGD), Ramen or Don's as low as 450 JPY(5 SGD).
It cost me 50JPY (0.55SGD) for each Tamago, and 100JPY (1.10SGD) for an Ebi Sushi. I can't remember the exact prices for every dish, but yeah, you get the idea.
When dining in Japan, all I did was follow these "Two Rules".
I'm here to experience and enjoy EACH type of authentic Japanese cuisine, My parents aren't millionaires, and neither do I earn 10k a month, thus I DO NOT DESERVE to eat expensive food for EVERY SINGLE MEAL.
Affordable restaurants are everywhere. Probably just 10 minutes walk away from a tourist trap. If in doubt, OPEN YOUR MOUTH and ask a local. If he/she does not understand, move on to another person and ASK AGAIN.
I know what you're going to say. "Those cheap food is the plain and boring kind, thats why so cheap. Like that where got enjoy?"
This (Above) cost me 475JPY (5.30 SGD), at an eatery in Tokyo. Who says less than 600JPY got no meat? Mine has Ebi Tempura somemore!
See, I don't starve myself to save money. I can afford snacks too. (example of "Happy Spending")
Before I move on to the next part on attractions, let me re-emphasize for the last time there is good, authentic and delicious Japanese food at the cost of what we would pay at a coffeeshop or foodcourt back in Singapore.
(You may also want to read "Impossible! 800 SGD? For 19 Days In Europe?")
250JPY. Lunch is settled! Lucky i'm a girl, small was enough for me:)
Okay, so the last example wasn't a great illustration. This was in one of the really local (Singaporean tourists wouldn't go) places. But yeah, you get my point. Even in Tokyo, it is possible to eat COMFORTABLY in restaurants at Singapore food court prices or less!
And just so it's clear, I got to experience and ENJOY a huge variety of Japanese cuisine this way. Also, to save money on breakfast, hunt for hostels that "Include Breakfast" as part of the room cost. For those that don't, there is usually a "Family Mart" nearby where you can get tasty Onigiri for less 1.50 SGD!
You think blogs tell you where the most delicious food is? Wrong. Locals tell you where the most delicious food is. "The Famous Chatterbox Chicken Rice" at Mandarin Hotel happen to be your favourite chicken rice? I dont know about you, but i've tasted better for $2.50 in coffeeshops.
Nara Park, one of my favourite places! I love the deer!
I won't go as much into attractions as I usually do because this post is about Japan, a typical Singaporean favourite holiday destination. Yes, i'm not kidding, I spent just $20 on attractions. There are a lot of attractions in Japan that are FREE.
(For example; Nara Park is free. Some temples in Nara Park have an entrance fee. So me, not the biggest fan of Japanese temples, didn't pay for entry to most of them)
Nara Park was one of the highlights of my trip
The deer insisted on closing its eyes when I tried to take a selfie. This was my 5th try. Eyes closed all the way!
I loved Nara Park and I would definately recomand anyone visiting Kyoto or Osaka to drop by this place. You can do it as a day trip from Kyoto. Besides the deer, there are number of temples. Unless you're a hardcore temple person, Kyoto has enough temples to last you a lifetime. There's no need to pay to see those in Nara.
Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) is one of the most iconic temples in Kyoto. It's easy enough to drive there (if you have a group of friends to split the costs), As I was alone, I had to take the public transport in what turned out to be a rather long journey. I guess the Pavilion was nice, but perhaps the long journey took some of the fun out of it.
The picture everyone comes to Kinkakuji to take
"The Bald Guy" had insisted I make the Fushimi Inari Shrine as part of my "Must Visit" list in Kyoto. Because it was way more accessible than "Kinkakuji", I enjoyed this alot more. (Oh, and it's free too)
Why is there a guy in my picture! Walk faster will you!
The most iconic thing about Fushimi Inari isn't exactly the "Shrine", but rather, the orange Torii paths that lead you to the "Shrine". I wouldn't say I felt like I was in a church service, but the peaceful, serene atmosphere walking through the orange paths wasn't lost on me.
For those of you whose idea of a fun holiday is a 2 hour walk, you'll be pleased to know there are trails going up the mountain to many other smaller shrines. If you start in the morning [which you should, so you can get clear pictures of the orange torri paths (above) without being photobombed], you should end in time for lunch,
Besides the usual temple sight seeing, I spent some time experiencing Japanese Traditions. I didn't convert to "Shintoism" though.
Have you read "18 Days In Africa & Europe Under 2.2k SGD Nett!"
Doing the "Purification Ritual" was a rather fun experience, especially if there are other tourists around for you to observe and laugh at silently. Some tourists skip certain steps, others look awkward. I think I was one of the awkward ones. Sometimes, solo travel shyness hits in once in a while as well. I didn't feel like bothering a stranger to snap a photo of me rinsing my mouth.
Ladles for rinsing your mouth and washing your hands. No touching your mouth though!
During my trip planning, I felt really excited that I would be seeing The Bamboo Forest. It looked so beautiful in pictures. Unfortunately, I think the colors weren't right the day i was there. Not to mention the huge number of photobombers.
Picture from amazingworldoffical.weebly.com
The above picture was what it was supposed to look like. Below is how it "really" looked like. I made the mistake of visiting both the Bamboo Forest and Fushimi Inari Shrine on the same day. This meant for at least one of them(in this case the Bamboo Forest), I would arrive at a timing where there were more tourists than trees and when the light wasn't as good to really evoke that magical experience of being surrounded by green bamboo trees.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed Kyoto very much. The "old world" laid back feeling really grew on me. It was in Kyoto where I really felt relaxed and on holiday. I have absolutely no idea why Singaporeans love Tokyo that much. I mean, I love the food and shopping, but Tokyo reminds me of Singapore; not exactly the thing you want to be reminded of when you're on holiday, else I would have just stayed at home.
I could practically imagine the samurai and kimono clad women walking the streets back in those days. wonderful cultural experience here.
Osaka is like a mix of Kyoto & Tokyo; Modern, yet Un-Modern (I don't think there is such a word, but yeah, you get my point) I didn't spend too long in Osaka though, just a couple of days mainly to see the "crab thing" everyone takes a picture with.
And of course, Osaka Castle. What else?
The truth is, Osaka Castle was kind of a disappointment. Perhaps i'm not really a "castle" kind of girl, but if you've visited Europe, you wouldn't be impressed. (I didn't like Draculas Castle in Romania either, so maybe it's me) To make things more fun (since I was already there) I decided to doll myself up and become a Samurai for a while.
Guess what? It's free!
They allow you to try out their outfits and post for photos with your own phone. It's your choice whether you wish to pay for a professional to snap photos of you. Being a Singaporean, I politely declined, free photos were good enough for me.
From Osaka, I made my way to Tokyo. Hello buildings! Hi Crowds! And of course, Shopping! (Unfortunately, other than cheap beauty products, I couldn't do any real shopping; more than half of "The Bald Guy's" $900 had gone by now)
I was in Tokyo for around 3 days. And trust me, if you're not on a massive eating/shopping spree, or planning to go on a side trip to perhaps Hakone (for hot springs and views of Mount Fuji), 3 days is a little too long to spend in Tokyo. Because i bought day passes. I went all over Tokyo to kill time. From Ikebukuro, to Shinjuku, to Asakusa, to wherever. I think I must have memorized the subway system by the end of my trip.
From the famous Shibuya Crossing........
To Takeshita Street (like our Bugis Street back in Singapore) with cosplayers dressed as anime characters parading around. Go on a Sunday though, there are a lot more cosplayers then.
Wow. I think I shared more about attractions that I originally planned to. I shall stop here. For more on what there is to do, just google Japan travel. There are loads of blogs on what there is to do there. A Girl & A Bald Traveller is a blog on "Exotic" Travel. If not because it was my first solo trip, "The Bald Guy" wouldn't have agreed to blog about Japan at all.
Have you read "11 Days Luxury Travel In Africa @2k SGD Nett!" (Including Airtickets)
One of the hostel's I stayed in Kyoto
Now, "The Bald Guy" and I usually don't book our accommodation in advance because we try not to have a rigid itinerary. If you book all your accommodation in advance, you lose out on the flexibility in travelling. This time though, it was a mistake.
The sky was darkening above me, and for the first time, I was starting to get worried. It was my first day in Japan, and I was turned away from my 3rd hostel in a row. "No more rooms" I was told repeatedly. I glanced at my watch. It was 8.3opm and I had yet to find a bed for the night. Not a great start to my 1st solo trip. I prayed.......
"4th time's the charm." At least it was for me. 9 Hours Kyoto had ONE last bed left. "Phew."
9 Hours Capsule Hotel
Before I left, I had told "The Bald Guy" I was not staying in capsule hotels. (I get claustrophobic when i'm squashed small places) Fast foward one day and everything's changed. I'd never been so happy to see a bed. I guess solo travelling really changes you. It forces you to adapt.
In my capsule. Relieved to be in bed at last
Anyway, it turned out that on the very weekend I arrived, it happened to be some Japanese festival held in Osaka & Kyoto, explaning the full house. If you can believe it, I was denied entry into a capsule hotel with had 437 rooms! That's how packed it was.
Despite this, I maintain that you don't have to book accommodation in advance when holidaying in Japan. As long as it doesn't happen to be a festival, or some major event, there will always be accommodation. (Applies in Europe, as it does for Japan)
Have you read 27 Days In Europe "COMFORTABLY" Under 2.8k SGD or 1.8k Euros! (Including Airtickets)
A hostel or capsule hotel will cost you anywhere from 28 SGD-40 SGD a night. As you can see from the pictures, hostels aren't that garbage dump or "outfield" experience Singaporeans assume they are. In fact, they are almost like hotels.
Why are you in Japan? To sleep? For room service? Or are you in Japan to soak up the culture, taste the food, or even to do shopping. I don't know about Singaporeans. They can spend 100 SGD a night on sleep if they want. Me? I'll take $33. (Average of 9 nights of sleep)
Just in case you missed out what I mentioned under "Food", remember to hunt for a hostel that "Includes Breakfast".
The dining area at one of the hostels in Kyoto.
As you can see from the breakdown of my trip, Japan doesn't necessarily have to cost an arm and a leg. ANYONE can have an enjoyable Japanese experience without compromising on quality and activities. No one's asking you to sleep at a train station or beg for free food. All Singaporeans have to do, is to be open; open to new experiences. Having an elitist mentality just hurts your bank balance.
(Of course, if your raking in 10k a month, sure, YOLO my friend! You deserve it. If you don't, well. You decide your bank balance then, and the number of trips you can take in a year)
Mandatory solo travel item. Selfie stick!
However, I wouldn't recommand Japan as a solo travel destination. Not because it's not a great place, I loved Japan; but because there are easier and probably more "engaging" destinations to visit.
Japan is still a quiet and reserved society. You are less likely to meet a fellow traveller and have a decent conversation at say, a bar or cafe. I did meet travellers at the hostels I was at, but let's just say in countries like Australia or Portugal. where the backpacking/hostel culture is more prevelant, it's a little easier to get by.
Still, my first solo travelling experience has been a blast. All Singaporeans (in fact, anyone!) should really get down to it. It's like Skydiving. Once you pay, you've no choice but to go through with it. When it's finally over, you'll be able to look back and savour how empowering the whole experience was.
C'mon! What are you waiting for? Book your solo trip today!
Transport (including airfare): $650
Food, Drinks, Happy Spending: $233
Still not cheap enough for you? Want to visit Japan but don't have the money? Here's how you can! Check out, So Cheap?! Taiwan + Japan Multi-City Airfare From 369 SGD?! (Including Taxes)
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